The first thing I notice is hair. Long hair. Long, curly hair. Not mine.
I sit up and am initially confused about my surroundings. A small room with white brick walls and matching furniture sets on either side of the room. Moving boxes, filled suitcases, and pieces of décor clutter the room from both sides. Not mine. Not my room.
I switched I realize with a deep exhale. I didn’t even think I would switch, I stopped caring a few years ago. Not being able to help it, I touch my—her—face. She has chubby cheeks and greasy skin, long lashes and soft lips. For a second, I am overthrown with a curiosity about what she looks like, but then the conviction hits.
A realization, followed by a twinge of guilt: Looks are not as important, or really, are they important at all? Yes, I want to be attracted to my own wife, don’t I? Instead, l take a look at the things on her desk.
A huge Bible with a beautiful cover, a small mirror and some make-up, and a cap and gown. On the Bible is an engraving of her name. Darla M. Kral. I open the Bible to a random page; it lands on Psalms 4. It’s adorned in pastel highlights and some notes written in black ink. Aside from the mirror, which is as big as my hand, are five make-up items. Finally, the cap and gown are purple. I don’t know if the color is vindictive of any honors or not.
Startling me, her roommate stirs. Yawning, she sits up in her bed. “Finally, we get to get out of this place.” She swings her legs off the bed. “Were you going to use the bathroom?”
Taken aback because I just realized I’m going to have to shower in her body, it takes me a second to answer. “No.”
“Great. I want to be ready early.” She grabs a sundress from the closet and leaves the room. Then a phone rings. I assume it’s her roommate’s until I see that the phone is next to her bed. Picking it up, I recognize my number and answer.
“Hello?” I sit down on her bed.
“You’re Park Taehyun, aren’t you?” Okay so she knows who I am, that’s one hurdle over with.
“Yes,” I say and brace for impact. I would hope God wouldn’t pair me with an obsessed fan, but it’s instinct at this point.
She gasps. “Okay. Honestly, I have to confess you’ve been my bias for years, so I’m kind of freaking out, but at the same time I know you’re just a normal person.” I can hear her pacing from the other end of the line. It sounds so weird to hear my voice talking back to me. I didn’t know I sounded this weird.
“Yeah, I’m just normal. I promise.” I rub behind my neck and adjust myself on the bed. “But, uh, it’s your graduation, congratulations.”
“Oh, right. Don’t worry, the party with all of my family is in a week because a lot of my family couldn’t make it this weekend, so you just have to deal with my parents and sister. I think it’s best not to tell them, because although they’ve heard of the switch, they don’t think it’s real. They believe God uses other ways to show someone their spouse.”
“Okay. Um, do I need to shower?” I ask.
“No, I showered last night. Just freshen up, put on the dress in the closet. Just go with the motions. You’ll be fine. Wait, how am I supposed to handle your schedule? I don’t know your choreos or whatever promotional work you’re doing today,” Her worriedness in my voice unsettles me.
“Don’t worry, I am pretty sure today is an off day. And regardless we don’t have any new dances right now. Hey, where are you from? Like where am I right now?” I look out the window, finding no indicator of what school this is.
“It’s NYU so, New York City.”
“So, it’s like night in Seoul, right?” I ask because I’m too lazy to do the math.
I walk over to her closet where only a few hanging clothes remain. I find the dress that is obvious for her to wear today. It’s a simple sundress design in a rich blue shade.
“Then fall asleep, I’ll call you when you wake up, or you call me, or something, okay?” I take the dress off the hanger and flop it on the bed.
“Okay. Just pack up the rest of my stuff for me okay. I’m moving back to my parents’ place until I move into my own place.”
“Okay.” There’s a pause in the conversation. I want to say I love you. I think she wants to say I love you. But we both know it’s too soon.
“Okay,” she whispers back, sending shivers down my spine. She hangs up. And I put on the dress.
I double-check to make sure her roommate isn’t coming back into the room. Then I pull the shirt off and quickly pull over the dress. To my gratefulness, it’s an easy dress to put on. For a second I think I am good, but then I see her hair. Wavy, blonde hair all tangled and a mess. I begin searching for a hairbrush.
When I wake up, I don’t expect to wake up on a super comfy mattress or not to feel my hair on my face. Or the weight of my boobs.
With a swift movement of my hand over my body, I shoot up in horror that I am now a man. A man in a strange room. I’m panicking when God sends me a realization of peace. I switched. This must be my husband.
Scared, I hesitantly plop onto the ground and find the bathroom. Turning on the light and looking into the mirror, the air escapes me. I’m Park Taehyun! My celebrity crush, the person I’ve been trying so hard not to idolize. I can’t help but feel his face in astonishment. Thank you, God.
I take a minute to process, leaning over the bathroom counter and examining him. Finally, I get over my initial shock and go back to his bedroom and find his phone. It’s 9:36 and outside it looks like sundown. He must have been taking a nap.
Resisting the urge to go through his phone, I find the phone app and dial my number. I stroll about his room, looking at his obscure artwork choices and his clothes sprawled near the closet, while I wait for him to pick up.
After we finish talking, I settle back into bed, grateful that he is already wearing comfy clothes. Then I remember my new job that I start in a month. Essentially, my dream job. I don’t want to give that up.
Goodness, does it feel nice to be back in my old body. I felt so out of place in Darla’s skin, living her life. I feel bad that she missed her graduation. At least her mom recorded most of it.
I wanted to tell her parents, but I also wanted to respect Darla’s suggestion to not tell them. Although I think it will limit credibility when we tell them, it will be best to tell them when we’re together.
We’ll probably not tell my parents. They’ve never heard of switching, forget believing it. It’d just make things more complicated.
Seeped in sweat after spending hours practicing a dance, I check my phone for texts. Darla’s text is at the top. I just got off the plane. When and where should I meet you?
Too excited to wait to meet her, I forwarded her some money so she could afford a plane ticket, since I’m too busy to fly out myself.
I tell her to take her time, it’s only 2 p.m. After, I give her my address and tell her I’ll text her when I’m there.
Minjoon, my friend and bandmate, looks over my shoulder and notices I sent a girl my address.
“Hey, who are you texting?” He asks, speaking Korean. My other bandmates gather around. I start to panic. What do I tell them?
“Um, okay. Honestly, I met this really special girl,” I admit, preparing to share the details.
“When?” Eunjeon asks. At this point, they’ve all encircled me and my anxiety is building. I breathe.
“A few days ago; when we were on break.”
“How is she special?” Minjoon asks.
“Okay, I know this sounds crazy, but have you heard that thing Christians talk about called Switching?” I ask.
“Yeah, but I bet no one’s actually done it.” Yoonmin and Eunjeon say at once.
“Well, it’s a real thing. I was in her body for twenty-four hours and she was in my body for twenty-four hours. And all that is possible by the mighty power of God.” I look at their different faces, some of understanding and some of utter confusion. My face heats up and I start sweating. Lord, give me the courage and wisdom to explain it to them.
“Are you okay? Are you sure it wasn’t a dream?” Minjoon, the oldest and leader of the group, asks with concern. Our choreographer notices us in a huddle.
“Hey! Back to practice,” He waves a hand, directing us to move.
“I’ll give more details later, okay. I promise it happened.” I back up and take my place, giving a prayer to God that He’s the only one who can open their eyes.
After a twenty-hour plane ride, all I want is a comfortable bed and sleep. However, my excitement to see Taehyun overseeds that desire a bit. Since he hasn’t texted me back after arriving at the airport, I let the taxi driver drop me off in Hongdae. To pass over time, I plop into a café and order a coffee.
In the middle of an intense scrolling through Instagram, Taehyun texts, I’m almost home. I text him back, letting him know where I am and that I’m leaving now.
On the ride there, I’m reminded of my job of being a writer for my favorite magazine. I applied for the job with aspiration, not thinking I would actually get it. Now that I have it, I don’t want to give it up. I’m just so confused why God would offer me the job but then place me with someone on the other side of the world.
It doesn’t take long to get to his apartment. It’s one of two towering, shiny buildings. After getting past security, I follow his texted instructions to his door. It’s on the twelfth floor and door 326.
Putting my hand on the doorknob, my stomach flutters and my breath catches. Biting my lip, I twist the knob and walk inside.
I’m met with Taehyun trying to get two pillows to balance on each other in an attempt at an awesome couch fort. I also notice a few candles and take-out on the kitchen counter. His apartment is clean, though not entirely tidy. With an eccentric carpet matched with a long, black couch, his living room was well put together.
Finally, he notices me standing there. It’s such a surreal experience seeing someone you know is your love and also someone you looked up to for so long. Even after being in his body, seeing him in the world, in this room, feels swaying. Yet, when he finally looks at me and comes closer, I get a sense of calm and my fluttering goes away.
“Hi,” I say softly. He takes my hand and kisses it.
“It’s so nice to meet you, Darla.” With my hand in his, he leads me to the pillow fort and gestures for me to sit down. “I don’t know what kind of food you like, so I went with my favorite.” Bringing it over, he hands me a plastic box and sits down.
“Thank you,” I say before I take a bite. It’s sweet and tangy. I like it. For a moment we just stare at each other, not sure what to say. Then I remember.
“Hey, um, I’m not sure I can stay in Seoul.” I put my plate down and place my hands in my lap. He looks surprised at this.
“Why not? I thought you just graduated, what do you have in America that’s holding you back?” he asks mid-chew, so I can barely understand him.
“I applied and got my dream job, to be a writer for my favorite magazine. It’s in New York. I just don’t understand. I don’t understand why God would do this. Granted, I applied, but still.” I sink in my palm. Suddenly, everything feels so tight and tears are pooling in my eyes.
“Hey, I don’t mind long-distance. We’ll make it work,” he comforts me, putting his hand on my arm. I sigh.
“I don’t know how long I could do that though; we can’t be long-distance forever, can we? Who knows, maybe I’ll get fired in the first month.” The tears start to drop and I bury my face in my hands. He comes over and gives me a hug.
“Hey now, don’t talk like that. I’m sure God gave you that job for a reason. It’s just that His plans don’t look like ours. He’ll sort it out.” Taehyun’s embrace is comforting and encompassing. With his words, I settle down.
“Yeah. Who knows, maybe it was the devil who gave me that job.” We give a small chuckle, Taehyun now resting near me with his hands in mine.
We continue eating for a bit, chatting about our families and education. When we’ve finished, he throws away the trays and comes back over.
“Do you maybe want to meet the rest of Soldier Boys? They saw me texting you earlier and I started to tell them about the whole switch thing, but it didn’t really go through to them,” Taehyun explains.
I nod. “I’d love that.” Though, I’m a bit nervous about explaining the whole switch thing to them. When I tried to explain it to other people before I switched, they never believed it.
“Great, I’ll text them.” He slides out his phone from his pocket. I can hear the keyboard typing. After he gets an abundance of texts from them, we’re left waiting till they come over.
I observe him, while he observes me. He has a spot on his jawline that I never noticed before. I wonder what he’s noticing about me. Are they good or bad things, or perhaps neutral things? I smile.
“I know I just met you, but I can tell I love you already,” he says oh so casually. I get shy, hiccupping and hiding behind my hands. We’re seated on his couch, legs tucked under each other. He takes my hand. “I mean it. I love you.” I look into his eyes and see his seriousness and admiration for me.
“I-I don’t know if I can say the same thing back yet.” I quiver. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, take your time. We have eternity together anyway.” He kisses my hand again.
Startling us both, the door opens and the three other Soldier Boys come in. I must admit, I’m a tad starstruck seeing them all here, in front of me. Yoonmin comes over to me first. “So, you’re the girl that has Taehyun’s heart. What is your name?”
“Darla,” I answer. Eunjeon and Minjoon jab at Taehyun.
“You really met him while switching bodies? What is it like?” Minjoon asks. I’m not sure whether it’s directed at me or Taehyun, and I can’t understand all of the question.
Seeing my confusion, Taehyun tells me, “he’s asking you if we really switched bodies.”
“Oh. Yes. Yes, we did.” I smile at the memory of seeing his face for the first time. Taehyun translates for me and Eunjeon says,
“So, if I believe in God, will I switch bodies too?” He says it in a joking matter, but I know he’s seriously asking the question.
“It’s very likely, though you have to keep in mind that might not be what God has planned for you,” I respond.
“What are you all saying? Taehyun, why’d your girlfriend have to be a foreigner?” Minjoon says in a frustrated tone with a smile on his face. Taehyun and Eunjeon laugh and Minjoon and I join in.
The next morning, I find Darla searching my fridge, probably for something that appetized her. It was too late last night, when the boys left, to let her out into the city alone. So, I lent her a pair of my pajamas and let her sleep on my couch. And the next morning, she got up before I did.
“Hey,” I say to her in my morning voice.
Slightly startled by me coming around the refrigerator door, she gives a soft gasp. “Hi. Good morning.” Despite just being scared, her voice is cheery and light.
“I hope you slept well.” I squeeze next to her in the fridge for my overnight oats.
“How did you sleep?” she asks. She closes the fridge and lingers next to it with her fingers dangling onto the handle.
“You answer first,” I say after sitting down at the counter and taking a small bite of my breakfast.
“I slept as well as I could on a couch, so pretty well. Now you.”
“I slept well, thank you.” She sits next to me with no food.
“I have time to make something for you if want,” I offer. She considers it for a second.
“No, I’ll just get something later; I don’t normally eat breakfast anyways.”
For a moment, there are no words between us.
Then I ask, “Did you always want to be a magazine writer?” At this point, I’m almost done with my oats. She puts her elbow on the counter.
“Not really. I didn’t even like writing until high school. But even then, I didn’t think to write for any magazine until I saw the job posting online.”
“What did you want to be before then? What did you get your college degree for?” Pushing my finished bowl away from me, I also prop my elbows on the counter and plop my head in my hands.
“I wanted to be some kind of researcher, though I never looked into careers for that. I went to school to be a journalist because I found an interest in writing. But if I’m being honest, I always had doubts if it was going to be the right fit for me. It was just the best viable option.” She sets her chin on her fist. “What about you?” What did you think you were going to be before an idol?”
I breathe a chuckle. “I thought I was going to be a news anchor, like the one my mom used to watch on TV. I would even practice in front of them when I was, uh, like nine or eight years old.” She chuckles softly.
“Oh wow. Maybe we would’ve worked for the same news channel, somehow.” We both laugh. I go to link our fingers together.
“That would be a dream.” I say, “Maybe we meet that way in an alternative universe.”
In the middle of the afternoon, as I have just gotten back from exploring the neighborhood Taehyun lives, my phone buzzes. It’s my mom. And it’s a video call.
Answering the call after I sit on the couch, I see Mom and Dad in their dining room. Dad standing behind Mom, who is sitting on one of the chairs. “Hello, sweetheart,” my mom greets. Dad waves.
“Hi,” I say.
“We wanted to check in with you on your vacation. How are things doing?” Her voice is slightly louder than it needs to be, but I don’t mind.
“Things are good.” Should I tell them now about Taehyun? Or should I wait till I come back home? I think it would be best if I just got it over with. “Um, I need to tell you guys something.” Adrenaline starts to build in my chest and my forehead begins to sweat.
“What is it?” Dad asks. He leans forward.
“The reason I went on a last-minute trip to Korea, um. You know about soulmate switches, right?” I do my best to remain calm, I don’t want to freak them out. They’ve said in the past that they think the whole ‘God switching bodies’ prospect is a false reality.
“Yeah, what about it?” Mom asks with a smile on her face.
“Well, it happened to me. I switched bodies with my soulmate. His name is Taehyun.” I bite my lip. Their expressions shift.
“How do you know you really switched and it wasn’t just a dream?” Dad asks, leaning back again.
“Because I met him here and he says he was in my body too. I’m even in his apartment right now,” I explain, trying not to raise my voice in frustration.
“Then when was he in your body?” Mom says, slightly concerned.
“During my graduation.” They nod in realization.
“That would make sense. You weren’t really yourself then,” Dad reflects, stroking his chin.
“But if he’s in Seoul, what are you going to do about your job? Is he coming to New York?” Mom asks.
“Um.” I think about what to say. “No, he isn’t. I haven’t really figured out what I’m going to do about that.” I sink my head into my shoulders.
“Oh. Well, I hope you make a wise decision,” Mom says.
“I hope I do too,” I reply.
I’m praying in my studio, praising God for bringing me Darla, and asking Him what to do about her job. I ask Him what I should do, specifically. I listen. There’s no answer.
After work, my bandmates and I are riding home in the same black van we always use. However, this time, the van breaks down. Our driver pulls over and starts to call for another ride. We’re all a little disarrayed for a moment, questioning what’s going on and how long we’ll be stuck here.
Looking out of the window, I see a jewelry shop and get a strong desire to go inside.
“Hey, how much longer until our new ride gets here?” I ask to clarify.
“About fifteen minutes,” Eunjeon answers.
Unbuckling my seatbelt, I say, “You guys sit tight, I’m going to look at something.”
“What are you doing?” Minjoon questions while I put on a face mask.
“I just need to do this, I’ll be quick.” I open the car door and walk over to the store.
When I walk inside, I see my prayer has been answered. A simple gold band, a diamond ring in a princess cut. I just know what to do. It doesn’t make sense to me yet, but I can sense it in my bones.
I’m trying to fall asleep on Taehyun’s couch again, but I can’t find it. A tug-a-war is going on in my mind on whether I take the job, or let it go and find one in Seoul. Finally, I get to the point where I have to pray.
Dear Lord, I need help. I don’t know why You gave me the job in New York, but I need You to tell me what to do. I thank You for giving me Taehyun, but I really don’t want to do a long-distance thing.
After praying, I have a strong thought; Be honest.
At first, I’m confused about how to, but then I realize. Double-checking the time in New York City, I dial the number of the HR department that hired me. After two rings, they pick up.
“Hello, how may I help you?”
“Hi, this is Darla Kral, you recently hired me as a writer for your head magazine.”
“Oh, yes. Hello Darla. Is there something you need?” she asks.
“Yeah, I’m thinking about moving to Seoul now, so I’m not so sure I can take the job.”
“Oh, okay.” She does some typing and says, “Would you be interested in a position at our company based in Seoul?”
“There’s the same job in Seoul?” I ask, confused.
“It would be for our Seoul magazine, and it’s actually more of a researcher role than a writer one. You’d be the one searching for topics to write about, though it does require a certain fluency in Korean,” she explains. I can’t believe it.
“Yes, I would be interested in it.” Excitement rushes through me and I praise God for this. I can’t believe there is a job that I like here, even one that I might like better than the one I had. I will have to brush up on my Korean speaking skills, but I think I know enough to get me through.
“Okay, I’ll send in your resume left over from your previous interview with us. Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“No, that will be fine. Thank you.” She hangs up, and I give a soft squeal. Despite trying to be quiet, Taehyun walks into the living room anyway.
“What’s going on?” He mumbles tiredly, rubbing his eyes.
“I just called the company I was hired at. They had a job in Seoul,” I whisper excitingly. He perks up. Smiling, he rushes over to hug me.
“That’s amazing. Do you have the job yet?” He’s squeezing me so tight that I can barely respond.
“No, they just sent my resume in, but hopefully I get it.”
Stopping hugging me, he says with his hands on my shoulders, “Hang on, I have to ask you something.”
He leaves the room and I’m left confused until he comes back with a small, wooden box. Coming close, he takes my hand and says, “Darla, I don’t know all of you yet, but from what I know, you are fun and determined. You have a strong standing in faith and you remind me every day of the kind of person I want to be. I know we’ve only met each other a few days ago, but as God as our witness, who so graciously set us together, I want to know,”
He kneels and opens the box, looking up at me, “Will you marry me?” I gasp.
Without hesitation, I answer, “Yes. I will.” He stands and wraps me into another hug. “I love you,” I whisper.
“I love you too.” He kisses me for the first time. “And I will love you forever.”