Hearing Joon-Jae say that they were good and finished with their food, Sun-Woo nodded before starting to gather some of the plates up. I mean, he was going to have to go and get the charcoal stick, so he might as well bring some dirty dishes out with him while he was at it. His mind was focused on stacking up the empty dishes when he heard Mi-Rae’s voice talk about… a burn? The dark-haired male paused for a moment before slowly looking up at the girl. A burn? What burn? His eyes followed where she was looking, landing on the fresh new burn on his arm. Oh! His burn! He had almost completely forgotten about it. Like mentioned before, this wasn’t the first time he was burnt. Not to mention, his mind was focused on working so it didn’t even take a moment to stop and think ah yeah, it’s hurting. But now Mi-Rae was bringing attention to it, it was almost like his body intentionally gave a wave of pain through his arm.
Just after Mi-Rae’s non-stop word vomit, which had left the boy slightly shocked at what was happening in front of him, Sun-Woo parted his lips to express to her that he was in fact okay. That yes, he held it under cold water. That yes, he put some first aid cream on it. And no, it wouldn’t hurt when lifting the charcoal grill. However, Joon-Jae was quick to speak before Sun-Woo could; stating that he would be fine. Feeling slightly awkward, Sun-Woo nodded in agreeance with Joon-Jae; and then when the other male asked for the check, Sun-Woo nodded once again. “I’ll get someone to bring it to you now.” he stated, picking up the plates, turning on his heel to head off.
However, it was Mi-Rae’s voice – once again – that stopped him from moving any further. He turned around slowly, the plates still in his hands, as she held out a small tube of gel. Sun-Woo’s brows rose out of curiosity, listening to what Mi-Rae had to say about the product. His eyes flickered down to the packaging of the gel – oh, lord. It was one of those expensive ones (well, probably not expensive to Mi-Rae and Joon-Jae – but it was expensive to someone like Sun-Woo). Sun-Woo was about to tell her that it was okay – that he couldn’t accept her kind offer as if was, after all, a very good brand. However, once again, Joon-Jae spoke up before he could. I am sure he has his own anti-burn ointments back at home, love.
For some reason, as soon as he heard it, Sun-Woo felt a wave of… well, sadness, I suppose? Because the fact was… he didn’t have any anti-burn gel of his own. And he didn’t have a home to store it even if he did. It was almost as if Joon-Jae’s words had brought him back to reality – to face the fact that he was homeless and living day by day off pay checks to ensure he could survive. He could feel his cheeks burn softly at the realisation that no matter what he was doing, it wouldn’t change the fact that he didn’t have anywhere to call home.
However, Mi-Rae persisted that he took the tube. His eyes travelled between Mi-Rae and Joon-Jae, before landing back on the girl once again. She was offering it to him. Like a gift. It would be rude of him not to accept it, right? Slowly, he placed the plates down on the table before gently taking the tube from her hands respectfully with his own two hands. “Thank you so much” He thanked her in the most polite and formal of speeches and softest tone, giving her a bow to show his gratitude. He then carefully placed the gel into the pocket of his apron before picking up the plates once again. “I’ll get you your check now” He said timidly before turning at his heels and finally making his way out towards the back.
Soft piano tunes flowed throughout the room along with a soft humming. Mi-rae was perched on her seat at her desk in her bedroom, books stacked to her right and a vast array of multi-coloured pens and markers to her left. But despite the air of serenity that lingered around her, the female had trouble maintaining a tranquil mind of her own. It was already the end of October, meaning that the date of Suneung was getting closer and closer, and it was safe to say that this CSAT downright terrified her. It was the test that Satan himself probably wouldn’t even dare try taking. One full day of absolute academic torture that was the sole determiner of your future? No thanks. Even those who were considered the aces of the school were nervous about this test, which was already the sole indicator that Suneung had a great chance of royally beating her ass.
Gosh, she hated exam season. Her stress levels had already spiked these last days when reality slapped in the face with the notice that there was less than a month left to prepare. It didn’t help that all her friends were faring way better in school and probably had no trouble passing the test. A heavy weight was added on top of her shoulders, a scenario plaguing her mind where Hana, Joon-jae & Dae-won got accepted into some prestige universities while she got left behind. Being lonely was never something Mi-rae had to worry about, being lucky enough to have friends like them, but now that their high school era was slowly ending, she could not help but fear losing them in the future. Soon enough, they would be attending universities and creating their own paths, paths that might not cross hers anymore. Joon-jae, undoubtedly, was going to attend some prestige college and- oh my god.. what if he came across a girl who was way smarter, prettier and more elegant than her and he would have the realization that she and him were no longer fitting together? What if Hana would find another best friend and their own friendship would start withering away?
Lonely was a feeling she only truly felt once in her life; right after her childhood friend cut her off without an explanation. It was like a vice on her heart, feasting on happiness and leaving behind a hollow being, save for anguish and memories she couldn’t seem to hold onto anymore. It felt horrible, enough so that she made a vow to never let it happen again. So maybe that’s why she was always on the hunt to enlarge her social circle. The more people, the less chance she was left alone, right? Except, deep down, she knew it didn’t work that way. Life was unfair in a way where stuff just happened and you couldn’t do anything about it. No matter how hard she could cling to her friends and boyfriend, they could still slip through the cracks of her embrace – and that frightened her the most.
It was then when a sequence of tunes snapped her out of her thoughts, and she blinked a couple of times, before realizing it was the doorbell. Wait…who? Oh, right! Sun-woo was coming today for another tutor session. Mi-rae shook her head, attempting to banish the worries and poisonous thoughts from the mind, before standing up from the chair. Alright, you need to focus real good today Mi-rae! She silently told herself as she started to make her way downstairs to the door. No weird distractions, no snacking breaks ( unless Sun-woo really wanted to-) and no zoning out! Her hand went towards the doorknob.. You can do it Mi-rae.. You can pass that exam if you really try your best. A breath was taken, and her lips curved into a bright smile, right before she opened the door.
“Sun-woo, hello!!” She greeted, expression as easy and cheerful as ever ( maybe she was a good actress after all), “thank you for coming here! Did you have trouble finding it? I know this neighbourhood can be a bit confusing for people who don’t come here often. Ah, please come in!”
Some would say it was raining cats and dogs. For Sun-woo, he wanted to say it was like God intentionally left the hose on while filling the pool and it was now overflowing at a rather disgusting speed and volume. The young male sat on the bus, his head pressed against the window as he watched the passing neighbourhood. People were walking with umbrellas covering their heads, or running at full speed to get out of the rain. A sigh left his lips as he gazed down at his phone. The maps app on his phone showed him that he was almost at the bus stop he needed to get off at, and then would have to walk another fifteen minutes to get to Mi-Rae’s house.
So… it was safe to say he was going to get saturated, right?
A huff of air fell from his lips as he gazed from the screen and back through the window. Luckily, he didn’t have a shift at the convenient store until eleven at night. Once he finished at Mi-Rae’s place, he could go to the closest twenty-four-hour spa to his work and have a clean-up and wash his clothes in the laundromat there. His clothes were already slightly damp from the manic run from his school to the bus stop. Lifting a hand, he pressed the bell to stop the bus at the next stop. And once the bus came to a halt and opened its doors, Sun-Woo was one of the ten people who exited the bus and into the rain.
Automatically, he raised the hood of his jumper that he wore under his blazer and placed it over his head. I mean, at least it would help a bit right? Hands in his pockets and head down, he knew exactly where he was going. It was almost like second nature to him. He had taken walked this route many times in his childhood. Seeing it all now in his teenage years, it was… well, it was odd. A part of him was feeling nostalgic, seeing the different shops that he could remember drooling over and declaring to himself that one day he would get enough money to buy rice cakes or a croissant to munch on. The other part of him was… well, sad. Everything around him was either the same as it used to be – just aged – or completely gone. What did he expect? The whole world to pause for him until he returned? No, that was silly and stupid.
Fifteen minutes later, Sun-Woo found himself standing in front of Mi-Rae’s house. It… felt familiar but the exterior of the place had something… I dunno, different? About it? Shaking the frown off his face, he pulled down the hood of his jacket and pressed the doorbell. As he waited for Mi-Rae to answer the door, he combed his fingers through his wet hair, hoping it would magically dry just a little bit. I know what you’re all thinking – why didn’t he just buy an umbrella? Well, he had an umbrella up until maybe… I think three weeks ago? It completely broke and to be quite honest, it just wasn’t in the budget at the moment to get an umbrella as sad as it sounded.
The door opened up and Mi-Rae was standing there like a classic big ball of energy. It was hard not to smile back at the girl as he watched her smile spread from one ear to the other. As she greeted him, he respectfully bowed in response. “It’s my pleasure” he responded. As she told him to come inside, his eyes dropped down to his shoes before he started to take them off. His school shoes were saturated as were his socks. Damn had it been raining or had there been a typhoon that he walked through?! Placing his socks into his shoes, he took hold of the shoes in his hands and offered Mi-Rae a bashful smile. “These are very wet, so I’ll place them outside” he informed her before placing the shoes down at the front, next to the door (but tucked away so no one would step on them). He then turned back around again, sliding his bag off his shoulders and looking back at Mi-Rae. “Ready to study?”
Today’s unruly weather could be seen and heard even from the comforting place inside. The wintry droplets from the sky weren’t doing the already low temperature a favour and Mi-rae had been more than grateful for her mother’s reminder in the morning to bring an umbrella on her way to school, because knowing her own scattered brain, she most likely would’ve forgotten it. Sun-woo, on the other hand, seemed to be less unfortunate in this case. Wholly unequipped to battle the pour outside, his completely soaked form stood before her. A small pang of guilt shot through her body upon seeing his drenched .. well… everything, and Mi-rae started to feel bad for requesting him to come all the way to her house for a tutor session.
But if Sun-woo regretted his decision on coming here, his face showed no sign of it. Ever so sweet and polite was his response, making her partly even worse but also more motivated. You better make his time even more worthwhile here Mi-rae, otherwise, he walked fifteen minutes through the rain for nothing! Luckily, for both of them, Mi-rae could say she worked extra hard on her English skills this past weekend. It was imperative, really, otherwise, she might as well started planning a funeral for her grade, but she was proud nonetheless. Her grammatical skills weren’t kill-me-now bad anymore and she practised her English pronunciation a lot! She could not wait to show him her improvements but first-
Mi-rae blinked, surprised to hear him getting straight down to business. She supposed the tutoring was the reason he came here but he was completely soaked! Surely enough, he wouldn’t want to stay in those clothes for over an hour? “Eh? Don’t you want to get out of those clothes first?” The words slipped past her before she could properly think about how wrongly it was phrased. Alas, immediately upon hearing herself, her cheeks flushed a burning red. Oh my god, wrong words! Wrong words!! “I-I mean, your clothes are completely wet! I don’t want you to catch a cold - or worse, get sick!” It was squeaky yet passable save, and Mi-rae hoped her cheeks were losing its crimson colour. Think before you say, Mi-rae, think before you say...
it was true though; the last thing she wanted was for him to catch something when she could've done something to prevent it. So, she continued to push.
“I can’t let you stay in those clothes when we have an hour. Not only would I be a bad host, I would also be a bad friend. ”
Mi-rae gave him a smile, before turning around and starting to walk towards the stairs. “I’m sure you can lend some clothes from my appa, he wouldn’t mind. You’re free to use the bathroom to change. There are some towels there and you can even take a short hot shower if you want.” Mi-rae was already halfway on the stairs when she glanced over her shoulder. ” And I am not taking a no! Bathroom is second room to the right, towels are in the drawer under the sink. I will go and search for some dry clothes for you in umma and appa’s room!” and with that, the female hurried up the rest of the stairs and ran towards her parents' room.
“Don’t you want to get out of those clothes first?”
Sun-Woo could feel his face instantly burn at one simple question. His eyes widened and he was left dumbfounded, unsure of what to say to such a… risqué and forward question like that. She had a boyfriend, didn’t she? His brows furrowed slightly, feeling incredibly awkward. He didn’t want to be that guy who stood in the middle of Mi-Rae and her boyfriend’s relationship. However, it seemed like it wasn’t the case. Rather it was Mi-Rae – classic, typical Mi-Rae – speaking without thinking. A soft laugh slipped past his lips as he held onto his bag in front of himself. “It’s… It’s okay, seriously-” he began.
But it looked like Mi-Rae wasn’t taking a no for an answer. She was already walking towards the stairs, calling out to him that he could use the bathroom to have a shower and change. Well, now she was saying it like that… it would be nice to have a shower without freaking out that someone was about to stab him. Generally when he went to the spa at night, there were a lot… well, gang members? Well, a lot of old dudes with tattoos.
As Mi-Rae vanished before his eyes, Sun-Woo released a sigh. Well, I suppose it would do him good to have a warm shower, right? He began to walk towards the bathroom; his muscle memory coming into play as he barely had to think about where he had to go or which door to go through. Once inside, he locked the door and began to peel off his school uniform. Ugh. He was going to have to go to the laundromat tonight. Once he had removed all the wet items from his body, he made his way into the shower and turned on the water.
Holy hell. He was in heaven. Sun-Woo closed his dark eyes for a moment, feeling the warm water hit against his face. There was silence… there was just… him and this water… Oh god, he couldn’t remember the last time he had been able to experience anything like this before. Releasing a soft sigh, he combed his fingers through his wet hair before opening his eyes once more.
His eyes then slowly gazed towards the water that pitter pattered onto the tiled floor, feeling a fond memory flood his body. He could remember Mi-Rae’s Umma telling him that she bought some ‘superhero’ soap for him, showing it to him with a wide grin on her face. There had always been a rule, apparently, when he came over; that they had to clean themselves up and get changed into play clothes. They had to wash away all the thoughts and stress of the day in the shower and put on our ‘happy’ clothes. Being a child, Sun-woo never questioned it. He was happy that he got to have a shower and that he could go home with new ‘happy’ clothes every so often. His Appa was never happy about it though. But, as a child, Sun-woo saw nothing wrong with it.
Now, as someone who was about to travel into adulthood, he could feel himself being overwhelmed by the thought of… well, the thought of Mr’s Kang’s kindness. Because when he thought about it… the showers he had at home were never in clean water. It was usually rainwater or water from the river nearby. And he had to shower with his Appa to ensure they had enough. And then the clothes he wore? None of them were ever new; they were second and third hand clothes, given for free and riddled with holes or were two sizes too small for him. Mrs Kang had been kind enough to let him bathe, eat and clothe him. Heck, she even cut his hair for him once.
He had taken his time (well, it was five minutes; but that was three minutes longer than the other showers he had taken at the spas) to wash his body and rinse his hair. Once he had finished, Sun-Woo turned off the shower and made his way to get the towels from under the sink. A towel wrapped around his lower half and another for his hair, he began to rub the fabric against his wet locks in an attempt to dry them. Ah man, he felt like a new person.
May it be well-known to the world that thinking ahead of actions wasn’t exactly Mi-rae’s strong suit. Diving in headfirst with emotions as her pilot might be her weakness as much as it might be her saving excuse in various situations. In short, could anyone really be surprised that she extended a shower-invite to another male even when she had a boyfriend? (the answer was no). Characteristic to this was the momentum of delayed realization, followed by a sprinkling of fluster or downright second-hand embarrassment. And it was the moment she entered her parents' room when the whole scenario was truly registered in her mind, prompting the consequent reaction of a self-conscious heat flooding her cheeks, and alongside that, a new dilemma.
Sun-woo is showering in my house – my bathroom… oh no.. Jae is not going to be happy about this! Wait… how would he know? I can just lie if he asks about it – except he will probably see right through me..
What was she supposed to do? Apologize? Mi-rae couldn’t help but frown at the idea. It was not like there were any romantic motivations behind her offering; she did it mostly out of politeness and friend-based kindness. So, even if Jae was to discover about Sun-woo showering at her place, Mi-rae didn’t think an apology should be issued – at least not on the premise of having done something wrong. Shaking her head, she pushed the imagined predicament aside. Let’s worry about that later, first: finding clothes for Sun-woo.
Mi-rae walked towards the large closet in the room and opened its doors, revealing a vast array of men’s clothing on the left and woman’s clothing on the right. Stepping to the left so she was fronting her dad’s clothes, she began to browse through the different pieces that hung from their hangers. Most of it was on the formal side, considering her dad’s profession as a sales manager at a technology company. It had been a long while since she’d nosed through her father’s side of the closet, the last time being when she was but an eight-year-old child. It was upon finding a particular striped suit in the closet that the memory resurfaced, bringing her back to a moment filled with ungovernable laughter.
She and Sun-woo had snuck into her parents' bedroom and decided it would be funny to go through the closet and try on different clothes. After a while, another more hilarious idea popped up into young Mi-rae’s mind. Why not switch it up and have her wear a sterling suit and Sun-woo a pretty summer dress? It took some convincing but eventually, the trademark puppy expression won her flustered best friend over, and thus, Mr. rae and Miss Sunny were born. The image of Sunny in that bright pink dress was a sight to behold [ and laugh about] and Mi-rae could not help but smile fondly at the memory. A sigh left her lips as the thought of her old best friend lingered around, now with a sense of melancholy, and again, she got confronted with a worrying concept… Was she searching for clothes with present tutor Sun-woo in mind or childhood best friend Sun-woo? Could it really be that there were secret ulterior motives behind this…? That, perhaps, unconsciously, she was trying to substitute the missing Sun-woo with this Sun-woo?
Mi-rae bit her lip, growing more concerned about the fact that, even though her tutor was super nice and certainly friend-material in general, there was no definite no to that question. Was the image of Sun-woo she had truly tutor Sun-woo in identity, or had it become muddled with the history between her and the person who so happened to share the same name as him? Gah, this was all so confusing!
Mi-rae squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, hoping it would clear her mind for the moment. Let’s stop thinking about it, okay? Sun-woo is probably waiting on his clothes so focus! She inhaled and exhaled, before steering her focus right back to the clothes. Right. Clothes.
In the end, she settled for a set of comfortable clothes; a soft sweater and some pyjama pants you could adjust with strings. With the set in her arms, Mi-rae walked back to the bathroom. “Sun-woo?” she called out as she knocked on the door, before opening the door enough so her arm with the clothes could fit through the gap. “Here are some cloth-“ Mi-rae had sworn not to look lest he was still, uh, completely undressed, but all it took was a split-moment of lifting her gaze to have that completely backfire. Her eyes widened at the sight of his bare chest, the temperature of her face shooting up, and her heart felt like it jumped straight to her throat and doesn’t know how to fall back down.
Flushed, Mi-rae averted her gaze, all while trying to save herself.
“A-ah sorry! I really didn’t want to look! Oh, but not because I find you ugly or anything!! You are quite good looking!! Ah uh, objectively I mean- but again, not that I don’t think you are good-looking-” Oh god, this was going horrible. Abort mission! Abort mission!“Anyways, what I wanted to say was here are the clothes, go ahead and try them on! I will be downstairs!!” Mi-rae opened the door further - without looking at him- and put the clothes on the bathroom floor, before practically fleeing the scene.
Why was her heart racing??
A few moments ago he had been waiting for Mi-Rae to return with some clothes and drying his hair. Next Mi-Rae was indeed there but staring at him with wide eyes and stammering on about… well, he hadn’t been quite sure. She mentioned something about looking and then about how he wasn’t ugly but good looking? And then something about her not thinking he was good looking? And then finally there was there ‘here are your clothes, I’m gotta here’. To be honest, it all happened so quickly that Sun-Woo was left shell shocked and wondering what the hell just happened. And then it hit him –
Had he offended her by being topless? Was that why she ran off in such a scatter? Sun-Woo knew that there was a bit of a stigma walking topless around women. I mean, it wasn’t something his Appa had shared with him. If anything, the pair of them spent most of their time at home walking around topless. It meant less washing to do. And when he visited the Ajummas in their community, he could remember feeling free to take his shirt off so he wouldn’t get any food on his shirt and make it shirt. I suppose he had grown used to the thought of being topless around people that he didn’t think that it would be an issue?
He would often get changed in the back room of the shops he worked in and every night he was at a spa where he would be naked in front of other men. Not once did he just stop to think that maybe Mi-Rae wasn’t comfortable with him being topless (despite the fact he had no clothes to change into). Ah, he was going to have to apologise.
Releasing a sigh as he combed his fingers through his wet locks, Sun-Woo squatted down to his bag and began to seek for a pair of fresh underwear (luckily, it was a few days away from his scheduled clothes wash so he had plenty dry). Once he removed the towels, he placed the underwear on and began to dress in the clothes that Mi-Rae had thrown onto the floor before fleeing. And good God… these clothes were so soft! Sun-Woo closed his eyes for a moment, inhaling deeply before releasing his breath in a slow exhale. Fabric softener. He couldn’t remember the last time he had the opportunity to use fabric softener. It truly was a luxury item, believe it or not.
Once he folded up the towels, placing them into the laundry basket, and folded up his own clothes, Sun-Woo gathered his items and began his journey out of the bathroom. With each step, he could feel the soft cotton of the clothes rub against his skin and good gravy, he was in heaven. He couldn’t remember the last time he wore something that didn’t make him itch like crazy. So, he took his time to bask in the glory of these clothes as he walked down the stairs to where Mi-Rae said she would be.
Apologise, you ding bat, he thought to himself as soon as he saw her. You made her feel uncomfortable – in her own house too! What kind of loser does that?! Well, his inner thoughts were right. He felt like he had made Mi-Rae very uncomfortable in her own house. What jerk does that? And so, he cleared his throat softly in hope that it would get her attention.
“Uh… Mi-Rae…” He began. Wait, dude, your manners! She’s paying you to tutor her – she’s your boss! “I mean uh… Miss Kang… I’m sorry if I made you… feel uncomfortable just… you know… just before…” Wow, didn’t he just have a voice and courage of a tiger (not). He could feel his cheeks beginning to flush as he tried to grasp onto his train of thoughts. “Please umm… Please forgive me.” he managed to stammer out before respectfully bowing to her. After all – she was his boss. She could fire him in a heartbeat, couldn’t she?
Mi-rae did not know how, but it suddenly felt like the temperature had risen in the house. It was hot inside. Really hot. Or was that just her?? She placed her hands against her cheeks, feeling as if there was a searing heat blossoming through them. Oh man – why was it so hot in here?? She pulled her vest down her shoulders, welcoming the cool air against her skin, and took a deep breath. While the heat was slowly going away, she could still feel – no, hear – her own thunderous heartbeat. She waited for it to cease its racing and thumping in her chest, waited because it had to happen soon enough, right? There was no reason for it to continue after the initial ‘view of surprise’.
It was over.
The image of Sun-woo’s bare chest?
Totally not burned into her mind at the moment – and it shouldn’t be; it was not like his chest was unique or anything nor was it a rare sight. Mi-rae had seen numerous bare upper bodies from the opposite sex in her life, having been to pools and the beach a fair amount of times. So, there was definitely no credible excuse for that image to keep lingering around. Yup, it should just be forgotten, dispelled into the realm of oblivion…..Why wasn’t it leaving her mind?! “Come on, Mi-rae. Think of something else,” she murmured to herself, while patting herself on the cheeks, hoping it would gain her the power to erase that memory somehow.
That didn't happen.
Ugh, it shouldn’t be a big deal, really… yet… she couldn’t help but feel slightly ashamed of herself. The peek was by accident, of course, but continuing to think about it…? Oh god…..did this classify as cheating? The thought of having betrayed Jae’s trust was enough to make her panic and, consequently, the irrational questions followed. If Jae found out, would he be mad at her? Or even worse, break up with her? Should she keep this a secret? Or would it make things worse if she didn’t tell him?
Her train of thoughts were interrupted at a voice that called her name. She jumped slightly, before turning around to come face to face with a, luckily, fully-dressed Sun-woo. She half-expected him to pretend like nothing happened and start the tutor session but then he started to ….. apologize? Mi-rae furrowed her eyebrows in confusion as his apology trailed on, slowly registering the words.. Discomfort? Askance for forgiveness? What was he talking about? “Eh? Forgiveness for wha-“ then it hit her, and her eyes widened, “oh no - please don’t apologize! I should be the one apologizing instead. I walked in on you and uh-“ talking about the subject brought her mind back to that moment and a certain image resurfaced..
Mi-rae shook her head, unwilling to let it inhabit her mind for the second time, before clearing her throat. “Really, no worries. I must have startled you too in that moment. So, sorry about that,” she gave him a smile, whilst hoping her cheeks didn’t look as red as she felt them to be. Just play it cool, Mi-rae. Play it cool and move on.
“Anyways, should we start the tutor session?”
“I practiced a lot! And-“
Her sentence was cut off at the sound of the front door opening, followed by her mother’s voice.
“Mi-rae-ya, I’m back home!”
There was the noise of plastic bags crinkling from a swaying movement and the clinking of keys.
“I bought some of those snow pears you like so much, come and-oh!” Her mother’s eyes widened in surprise as she walked into the living room, gaze immediately landing upon her daughter and Sun-woo. Mi-rae watched as her mother's jaw dropped slightly at the sight of Sun-woo, noticed how there was a flicker of something in her eyes [ huh, weird?], before it vanished in the moment of speaking up again.“Ahh, you must be Mi-rae's tutor, right?”
Well, he was just glad that they could put the whole thing behind them. Offering her a soft smile, he nodded with agreeance about getting into studying. His smile only grew warmer as she insisted to him that she had been practising. He placed his bag upon the chair he was planning on sitting on, opening it up to find his study books before looking up at Mi-Rae with a grin. “I think I’ll have to start carrying stickers around to reward you” he joked lightly before -
“Mi-Rae-Ya, I’m back home!”
There was something about the way that voice echoed in the house. The voice continued to talk but all Sun-Woo could hear was white noise. Things were slowing down in his mind and if this was some k-drama, then Heize’s “Round and Round” from Goblin would be playing in the background. There was just something about that voice that just brought a wave of different emotions to him. Because he knew who it was.
Mrs Kang stood before them. Her eyes landing on Sun-Woo and there was something there. Something that was screaming I know you, don’t I?. But the look she gave him, he wanted to cry. He wanted to cry tears of happiness and sadness. Everything was just flooding through him right now. He could remember how she used to treat him as one of her own. How she would feed him, played with him and Mi-Rae, bathe him, clothe him – and just loved him like he was her son. She made sure that he was safe and would often help him with his homework because Lord knows his Appa wasn’t the smartest man in the world. She was literally the Umma he never had.
And then… the sadness. Because how could she had just left him with his Appa? Why didn’t she fight to see him or to help him anymore? It was beyond Sun-Woo’s understanding and as a child, he didn’t grasp onto the fact that his Appa was embarrassed that he couldn’t provide for his own son. That he forbid Mrs Kang and Mi-Rae from ever going near Sun-Woo again and if they did, he would call the police and put a restraining order against them. In Sun-Woo’s child mind, the Kangs just abandoned him. Like his Umma had. Like the rest of the world had because he was poor.
Inhaling deeply through his nose, Sun-Woo simply nodded his head at the female. He could feel his eyes beginning to sting as they watered ever so slightly. Mrs Kang looked exactly how he remembered her. That same friendly smile and the warmth that was radiating off of her. Get it together, Sun-Woo his brain began to holler at him. Introduce yourself. She probably doesn’t even remember you. After all, they left you. They could’ve rescued or helped you but they decided not to. It’s probably for the best that she doesn’t remember you; otherwise, they might not keep you on as Mi-Rae’s tutor.
“It’s… wonderful to meet you… Mrs Kang…” Sun-Woo managed to wrestle out, giving the female a deep, respectful bow before standing up once more. “I’m Sun-Woo”. He paused for a moment. How bad would it really be if he revealed to her his full name? What was the worst that could happen? He would lose this job, right. But at least he could find some sort of closure? He was sick and tired of pretending that he didn’t know Mi-Rae just because he didn’t want to embarrass her. But now that Mi-Rae’s Umma was here, maybe it was good to have a good clean start? Releasing a soft sigh, his eyes (which were slightly glazing over no matter how hard he tried to push back the emotions) connected with Mi-Rae’s Umma’s eyes. And finally, he spoke.
Her mother dropped her bags in response, an unmistakable gasp of shock leaving her as she stared at the tall boy standing right in front of her. It’s a revelation that was lost on Mi-rae ( she has never been quick to catch onto things.) and all she could do was watch in confusion how her mother’s hands began to tremble. All she could do was feel how the silence that fell afterwards was charged with an unfathomable emotion, as if an unspoken truth had been spoken at last. It was the puzzlement that drove the cogs in her mind to turn and slowly, pieces began to unveil themselves. Ho Sung-ki’s son… Ho Sung-ki – where did she last hear that name.. Wasn’t it from…?
And in the breadth of a second that felt like an eternity, Mi-rae was no longer a part of the world. Her heart had stopped, her soul had vanished, and all sounds were conquered by silence. It was like someone had pulled her out of her body, out of phase with time and reality.
An electric buzzing that seemed to be far more acute than anything she had ever felt built up inside her chest, enough to make her breathe hitch and her hand to be involuntarily placed over her heart. Her mind panicked, her whole being now beset with memories and feelings she thought to have made peace with… yet… they all came crashing over her like an unstoppable force, desperate to be acknowledged and felt. A swirling tempest of raw emotions consumed her, overwhelmed her, and Mi-rae found herself incredibly short on breath.
The word hung in her oxygen-addled mind.
She closed her eyes and tried to focus on her breathing; one slow inhalation through her nose, and one long breath out of her mouth. Over and over were lungfuls of oxygen sucked in and blown out, and she felt the fog of hyperventilation subside, clearing her eyes and sharpening her mind.
Opening her eyes, Mi-rae gazed at the Sun-woo; now only noticing the stark similarities in him and her childhood best friend. But it all felt so surreal, like this was a fever dream she had trouble waking up from ( though, if it was a dream, did she even want to wake up?).
But her mother had pulled Sun-woo into a brief yet tight hug, whispering; “It’s so good to see you again my dear..”
Which meant this could only be real…
Which meant that Sun-woo was indeed-
And in the whisper of his name, the last vestiges of her endurance left her. Mrs Kang had stepped aside, just in time to leave room for her daughter’s attack. Mi-rae wrapped her arms around his frame and pulled him into an equally crushing hug. She found herself burying her face in his chest ( maybe to keep her from doing something embarrassing like bursting into tears), breathed in the scent of him like it might be the last time she is this close ( because maybe it will be). Maybe he would decide to disappear again after revealing his identity, maybe he does not want to be friends like before…
Mi-rae inhaled all the unbridled emotions, and hoped to all the gods that when she exhaled and spoke, her voice wouldn’t crack.“Why didn’t you say anything?” The burning question left her lips and she looked up at him with a confused yet pained gaze, “why did you disappear?” because, beneath the shock and elation of seeing her childhood friend again, there was hurt too. A hurt that had never properly healed, fuelled by memories of pain caused by the abrupt ending of their friendship.
Mi-rae wanted to know, but most of all; she wanted to understand.
“If you keep on asking, I will give you a smack! So stop it right now!”
The two Ho males walked up the slight elevation of the path that lead to their house. Darkness had fallen over the town with night blanketing them. Sun-Woo’s watering dark eyes gazed up, hoping that he could see a star; almost like it was a sign of hope. Alas, the night sky was star-less. Thanks to the light pollution from the busy city which they lived in. That was it. That was the confirmation. There was no more hope. The only people in this world who he trusted and loved, apart from his Appa… were no longer allowed to be in his life. And his Appa wouldn’t tell him why. It was frustrating as hell!
So, acting out of frustration, the ten-year-old paused on the spot. His Appa turned around with a frown, about to growl at his son to keep on walking. However, the tears began to fall from Sun-Woo’s face and the boy crouched down into a squat, covering his face and letting the tears come out. If the neighbours came out… Oh, dammit, Sun-Woo his Appa thought before quickly making his way to his son’s side and placing a hand on the boy’s shoulder.
“Sun-Woo-ah,” he said in a deep, comforting voice. “Don’t cry… please.”
“Why can’t I play with Mi-Rae anymore?” the small boy sobbed, looking up at his father with his face covered in a combination of tears and dribbling tear-boogers.
Sung-Ki inhale and exhaled loudly. What could he say? Tell the truth and say that he didn’t want him going there because his pride was hurt? That it felt like their family was rubbing it in his face that he couldn’t provide the essentials for his own child? No… Sun-Woo wouldn’t understand that at all. “Because… they don’t like you…” the older male lied “They… they’ve been trying to steal from us. That’s why they pretended to be your friend.” He could see the frown on Sun-Woo’s face. The boy wasn’t stupid. He knew that there was possibly nothing in their house worth stealing. “Remember Umma’s necklace? We keep it in a very special place at home because it’s very expensive and special?” – Sun-Woo slowly nodded – “Well… I heard them talking about wanting to take it. I’m just trying to protect you, son. Okay?”
Embraced in the arms of Mrs Kang, inhaling her scent, all Sun-Woo could think about was the day that his Appa tore him away from the Kang family. How they walked together, and how he told his son that the Kang family hated him and had only wanted to be friends with him for his Umma’s necklace. He could feel his eyes continuing to water as he returned Mi-Rae’s Umma’s hug with the same intensity. As it came to an end, it seemed as if he was brought into another intense, tight hug. This time, by his old best friend.
Sun-Woo had been slightly startled by the sudden hug coming from the girl. As she buried her head into his chest and embraced him, he slowly brought his arms around the shorter girl, and rested his cheek upon the top of her head. And then… she began to ask questions. He lifted his resting head so she could turn to look up at him. The first question had his mouth slightly agape, unsure of how to answer it considering how confused and pained she looked. But then she came out with that second question. Why did he disappear?
He inhale deeply, feeling his throat becoming incredibly tight, as he looked down at the floor. “My… My Appa told me your family hated me… and that you… You were only friend with me because you were trying to steal my Umma’s necklace…” – to which he hoped that Mi-Rae could remember far enough to all the times Sun-Woo would talk about his Umma and how he wished his Umma was still alive – “He told me I wasn’t allowed to go looking for you… And then…” He paused, taking a large gulp and feeling his eyes stinging. “And then no one came for me…” He raised his hand, pushing the corners of his eyes to ensure his watering eyes wouldn’t realise any tears. “So… I thought my Appa was right… That you guys did hate me….”
outfit: ❁ mood: that is not true-
There was a moment, just seconds after those words tumbled out of her mouth, when Mi-rae regret asking Sun-woo those questions. It was not because she felt his answers would not speak the truth, but because she was afraid his response would confirm her inner fear. The fear that Sun-woo left because he got tired of her, that he really did not see their friendship as something worth holding onto (that he did not view her as something worth holding onto..) Mi-rae might have been wondering about the motive behind his disappearance for a long time but now that she was standing in front of him, seeing him, she suddenly couldn't help but to question whether or not it is truly worth revisiting the old wounds.
But then he began to speak and her breath stilled. Her mind rallied an alarm yet her heart implored for him to continue.. Mi-rae listened attentively to every word, but grew more confused as his explanation progressed. It did not make sense. Them wanting to steal his umma’s necklace?? Them hating him??? “W-what… That’s not true-“ she stammered while shaking her head fervently. A multitude of sensations washed over her, and Mi-rae did not know which emotion she was feeling more strongly; anger at his dad, for crafting up such a lie and consequently driving a wedge between them? Hurt that Sun-woo truly believed she would hate him? Sorrow, because Sun-woo had been under the impression that, all this time, they abandoned him?
“It’s not true. I don’t hate you, I- I have never hated you-“ she insisted, her voice wavering in desperation. Mi-rae needed him to know she had never thought to abandon him, that he never once left her mind completely. Their memories were something she could never throw away, no matter how many new remembrances her present and future would bring. He was her forever in a temporary world; he was her Sunny.
He needed to know that she tried.
That she tried to fight for them.
“ I… I went to your house, you know..” She bit her lip, eyes averting as soon as they started to water. Goddamnit, Mi-rae don’t you dare cry... “I went to your house after you suddenly stopped coming over, because…. because I wanted to know why I never saw you again.. ‘’ Her voice involuntarily cracked and she had to use her arm to quickly wipe away the tears that threatened to drop. She had not realised that there were so many emotions she had been compartmentalising up until this moment, but just as they resurfaced, they were pushed aside as well. It was for the sake of finishing her story, she convinced herself. ( or maybe it was for the sake of not falling apart...) “but I only saw your dad and he told me that you did not want to be friends with me anymore.. ” her eyes met his again and she took a shaky breath, “ So I left, thinking you indeed did not want to be friends anymore… but that is not true, is it?”
There was it again: that hint of desperation. Mi-rae felt quite like the fool with how she sounded, but she needed to know. Needed to know that, if his father had not interfered, their friendship would have lasted…
It was this moment in time that Sun-Woo began to feel a vast array of different emotions flood his body. The first emotion that was he was relieved. He was relieved to find out that he had done nothing wrong. That Mi-Rae and her family didn’t hate him nor did they attempt to steal anything so precious to him and his Appa. He was relieved that they didn’t try to throw him out of the house and yell at him for even thinking about taking a step onto their property.
The next emotion he felt was guilt. Mi-Rae looked so upset. Had she truly thought all this time that her best friend in the whole world had hated her? That he didn’t want to be friends with her? Because it was far from the truth. The time he had spent with Mi-Rae as a child were times he held very close to his heart. Times which he thought back on quite regularly and smile to himself as she fell asleep at night. They were the warmth in the icy reality of his life and something that he never wanted to forget or let go of.
And finally, the last emotion he felt; upset. He was upset that his Appa had lied to him all these years. That his Appa took that lie to the grave and never once attempted to tell him the truth. Had he known that his Appa had been a stupid, foolish proud man, then he probably would’ve guessed that maybe something like this had of happened. But he had always seen his Appa as a well-respected man who tried everything for his son. Heck, he even idolised him. He thought he was the best person in the whole world. And now here he was, questioning everything he had ever known about his father. We’re going to have to have a talk later on today, he thought to himself.
Hearing Mi-Rae recall how she went to his house to try and see him, and how his Appa didn’t let her, made his heart begin to shatter. He could remember his Appa getting very heated at the door one day and when he asked who it was – cause he could’ve sworn he had heard Mi-Rae’s voice – his Appa yelled at him and told him to go to the bedroom. He couldn’t understand exactly what he had done wrong – but he listened to his Appa. Sun-Woo’s dark, watering eyes gazed into his friend’s eyes, seeing all the hurt in her own. Her voice was shaky and he knew that all these years of hurt was unravelling right before his eyes.
Sun-Woo had to purse his lips together to hold back any sob that wanted to make its way through. No, he couldn’t cry. Not over something like this. He brought his hand back up to his face, rubbing his eyes to get rid of any tears that were on the verge of spilling. “It isn’t…” he said in a soft voice before dropping his hand and looking back at his friend again. “I missed you every day… I missed your family every day… It… It was like a piece of me had died… but my Appa kept on getting angry every time I mentioned any of you… and kept saying that I couldn’t be friends with criminals… and…” He felt his lower lip quiver. “I’m… I’m sorry… for all of this…”
With that final sentence, his arms wrapped around Mi-Rae’s body and pulled her in close once again. He never wanted to let go of her again.
outfit: ❁ mood: I missed you too !!
interactions: Sun-woo, eomma
Mi-rae has always been a person to wear their heart on their sleeve; someone that breathes emotion, a face that almost always tells. Mi-rae could not fake feelings even if she wanted to, the discovery dating way back to toddler age when Mi-rae had to fabricate a smile for a photo with someone she did not like, and knows that she could not hide her emotions even if she tried. But she tried nonetheless. Tried her damn best to stem the tide of despondent tears from welling in her eyes. And she did well convincing herself it was working, that she was certainly not looking like an emotional mess (even though she was, most definitely, an emotional wreck).
But then there were arms around her, pulling her into a hug worth a thousand words, and the tears fell without permission. Mi-rae found herself burying her face in his chest again, savouring the moment like it might be the last. His hold was so tight he might not even notice the way she practically crumpled against him, how she hugged him back like to let go might mean falling (apart). His words had brought a new wave of conflict, her mind once again stuck in a limbo, unknowing which emotion to process first. She wanted to yell at the audacity of him, because this was most definitely not his fault yet he was apologizing anyways. She wanted to smile, because Sun-woo missed her every day, and that meant something. But above all, she wanted to keep him here, in her embrace, and to never disappear again.
“I’m sorry too,” she croaked in between the tears, before looking up to him. Sorry for not fighting enough for you was the finishing thought, though purposely left unsaid. It would only cause more guilt, and that, was a feeling to be saved for his father. Instead, she opted for something else; a clarification that was much needed too. “I swear I am not this emotional” a pause. “ usually.” Mi-rae sniffed and rubbed her eyes, not wanting to seem like someone weak and melodramatic. Her open expressionism regarding emotions had driven people away before and the last thing she wanted was to lose Sun-woo just when she had found him again. “It’s just that….” a breathe of relief ran into the air, followed by a smile warm and content,” I am very happy to see you again.”
She took a step back and grabbed both his hands, giving them a squeeze. “Let’s not dwell too much on the past, okay? What matters is that we are here now – and that we now know it was not our fault.” Was Mi-rae still angry at Sun-woo’s father for fabricating a lie to keep the two apart? Absolutely. But she did not want that to become the riding emotion during their reunion. The fact that he never meant to break off their friendship was the most important and for that, she was over the moon.
Mrs. Kang had been watching the two with a mixture of emotions. At one hand, the older woman was delighted to see Sun-woo again ( and could not help but note that he had grown into a fine young man). However, something like guilt ripped through her as well. Guilt that she had never told her daughter the real reason why the boy never visited them anymore – because she knew. She knew, and even though it was heartless of Sung-ki to tear those two apart, she understood the pride factor behind it. It was the kind of pride born out of love for a child, the pride that it was their kid and not someone else’s. A pride that easily accompanies the shame when they can’t perform the duties as a parent while someone else can.
It’s truly a sad occurrence that happened, but Mrs Kang could not blame Sung-ki. (maybe because she didn’t know if she’d choose otherwise when in the same position).
But Mi-rae’s mother pushed those thoughts away, forced herself to focus on the sweet reunion in front of her, and smiled at the two. “She’s right…” the woman spoke up, taking a step forward. “What’s most important is that we got to see you again after all these years.” Her eyes trailed the young man’s features. “And you look well.. Quite handsome too, if I might add.” She winked.
“Mom!!” Mi-rae flushed.
“What? I am just saying he has grown up well!”
Mrs. Kang turned her head back to Sun-woo, expression turning into a serious sincerity. “I….” she paused, lips pursed into hesitation, “… I hope your father is doing well too..?”
While Mi-Rae had been that type of person who wore her heart on her sleeve, Sun-Woo was quite the opposite. He saw crying as a sign of weakness; that there was no need for it and nothing could be fixed from it. Mi-Rae expressed her emotions while Sun-Woo bottled them all up and pushed them down into his core so no one could see. And as they stood there, holding each other’s hands, Sun-Woo kept those emotions from being released. Yes, he was happy and the tears forming in his eyes were probably tears of happiness. But he was also sad – utterly and incredibly sad. Because of the revelation that his Appa had lied to him for so long. That Mrs. Kang had only been trying to help him by bathing him, feeding him and giving him new clothes. And for some reason his Appa saw that as being wrong?
As Mrs. Kang spoke up, he gazed over at the woman whom he had almost considered like a mother to him. At the mention of him being handsome and Mi-Rae flushing, a wide grin spread across his face and breathy chuckle fell from his lips. He had never been told before that he was handsome. Well… I suppose there was a first for everything. However, that smile slowly dropped as he heard Mrs. Kang’s next statement.
“I hope your father is doing well too…?”
He wasn’t sure what it was, but at that moment… Sun-Woo felt a wave of emotions hit him. He just wanted to cry. Just curl up into someone’s arms and just let it all out. Because as soon as he asked that question, all he could picture were the final remaining days of his Appa’s life. How he was hooked up to so many different machines. How he didn’t even look like his Appa anymore. The life was drained from him and he was close to slipping from the edge of existence. He could remember lying on the couch in the hospital room and hearing the sound of his Appa’s death rattle echoing through out the place. And as he heard that sound, he knew that it was close to the end.
“He’s…” Sun-Woo began, wondering how he should explain the situation. Should he tell the truth? That his Appa had been dead now for almost a full year? That he ended up with cancer and lived in the hospital until the day he passed away? But then… if he did, they would probably hound him and ask him what he was doing. Where he was staying. Why was he working so much when he should be focusing on school. So, it was at that moment that he decided that the best option was to lie. Lie so he could protect those who he loved and missed. He pushed back the emotions – like it was second nature and he had learnt to do so with ease – and offered Mrs. Kang a small smile. “He’s doing well.”
He wondered if she bought the lie. Hell, he didn’t believe in the lie but that was because he knew the truth. But Mrs. Kang always seemed to have a knack of picking up things about him even when he was a child. And so, it hopes that it would help derail the conversation and change the topic off of his Appa, Sun-Woo released a loud sigh. “I think uh…” he paused, looking back at his friend “I think we need to start studying if you’re mentally capable of it now… I have another appointment in about an hour and a half.”
outfit: ❁ mood: I want to know everything!!
interactions: Sun-woo, eomma
Mrs kang had spent enough time around children to know when there was another truth hidden behind their words. She could almost see the debate happening in Sun-woo’s head and whatever it was about, she could see it was serious enough to push a lie. A little voice of worry arose inside her head, her motherly instincts kicking in once again now that she was reunited with the boy she’d looked after like it was her own all those years ago. Her heart pushed to ask further, wishing to know the truth and the severity of it, but her mind called for rationalism. If Sun-woo wanted to speak about it, then he would. There was no need prying into sensitive matters, not when it probably was not even her place to do so anyways.
Just like her daughter, Mrs Kang had yet to fully realize that while fate had made them meet again, it didn’t erase all those years without. The strong bond of the past did manage to alleviate a significant amount of the emotional distance between them, but Mi-rae’s mother was old enough to know that things were not as before and wouldn’t be. So, despite her own well-intended care, the woman merely nodded in response and smiled back at him.
“That’s good to hear.”
Mi-rae nodded in response, her face graced with a bright smile of her own as well. Even through the welting anger at Sun-woo’s father for ruining their friendship those years ago, she knew that the older man was invaluable to Sunny. It might even be what added some additional hurt regarding the situation. To think that, through it all, her best friend’s father held such a low opinion of her and her parents to fabricate such a lie to end it all. It puzzled and hurt her all the same. Questions were flooding her mind, starting with ‘’what did we do wrong?’’ followed by: ‘’ what did I do wrong” and sequentially: “ does Sun-woo’s appa still hate us?” along with: “would he try something again if he finds out we met again?” All of these questions pinged around her mind like an old-fashioned pinball machine, till disrupted by her friend’s voice.
Mi-rae blinked, her mind pausing for a moment before an imaginary light-bulb lit up at the mention of the tutor session. Oh, right ! He was actually here to tutor. It had completely slipped her mind once Sun-woo had uttered his full name and to be truthful, she much rathered to catch up with him instead of doing awful grammar exercises, but something inside told her Sun-woo wouldn’t allow the tutorship to be set aside either way. Oh well, she guessed they could still converse in English. “Ah, yes! Let’s go to my room.” She beamed, before grabbing his hand once again and leading him upstairs to her room.
“ I practised a lot!” She told him with pride as she entered her room. Releasing his hand, she went over to her desk and grabbed her notebook along with her English textbook. “ Look, I did a mock exam and almost got a D+!” She leafed back a few pages in her notebook, before ending up at the right one. With a bright smile, she picked up the notebook and handed it to him to peruse.
“ Well? What do you think? Not bad, huh! I – oh, I suppose I need to speak in English now. Uhh,” Mi-rae had to take a moment to switch from Korean to English, still finding it difficult to change languages on a whim, “I…uh know grade is not good, but it is not bad either, right? I am better than before.”
Mi-rae glanced at him in anticipation, slightly nervous of his judgement. Her eyes traced her face for any hint of expression that indicated whether or not she had succeeded, met or failed his expectations of her, but upon doing that, new and old questions barraged her mind. Now that they were alone with a newfound knowledge about their intertwined past, she wanted to know even more about his life than before. She wanted to know how he was doing now, what his hobbies and dreams were. She wanted to know about him, wanted to grasp every piece of information that was lost in the time without each other. Above all, she wanted to know if he still felt the same way about them as she did. That, no matter how long it has been, they were still best friends.
Biting her lip in contemplation, she battled against wording her inner queries or to keep quiet for now. Even though she did, in no way, wish to bombard her old friend, her heart pulsed with intense curiosity. There was a thirst that desperately sought to be quenched, a longing to make up all those years of separation within an hour despite the improbability.
“Sunny,” she started, being unable to help herself,” do you think… we can talk? In English, of course.. but I want to know about you-“ oh gosh, that sounded creepy. “ Ah, I mean, know how you are doing. I missed a lot and am curious! For example, you made any other friends? ” Mi-rae smiled at him, eyes glinting with curiosity.
Mi-Rae’s display of enthusiasm brought a warm smile to Sun-Woo’s face. Ah yes, she was still that eccentric person he had grown up around. Some things never change, do they? Before she took hold of his hand, he quickly turned to Mi-Rae’s Umma and gave her a respectful bow. He was going to say something nice to her too but the firecracker took hold of his hand began to lead him up to her bedroom. He barely had to use his feet as the girl practically dragged him up there without much stress or energy needed.
That warm smile that had been on his face only grew into something wider as his friend began to show off her book with pride. Okay, a D+ wasn’t the greatest. But considering where she had been before, it was progress. He took hold of the book that she had handed to him and began to slowly flip through the pages to have a look at the different things that he needed to work on. Well… there was a lot of things that she needed to work on. But she was also doing very well considering how many tutoring classes they had had together.
Hearing her switch from Korean to English, Sun-Woo gazed up at Mi-Rae with a soft smile. She really was trying her hardest. “You’re doing very well,” he responded in English, nodding his head as he agreed with the pair of them. “Much better from our first study” he added with a toothy grin. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he was beginning to feel more… comfortable around Mi-Rae? Maybe it had been the fact that they had grown up together and shared so many memories. That the shadows of the past were now being cast away by the morning sun. Whatever it was, his heart and soul was beginning to become content with life.
His gaze had dropped back to the book, looking over more of the answers that she had seemed to struggle with. As he looked at the pages, he began to make mental notes about what they needed to work on for either this study session or the next one. However, he was brought to a pause as he heard his nickname. Wow… it had been a long time since someone had called him that name. Upon hearing that nickname, Sun-Woo slowly gazed from the book to his old friend. At her question, his mouth hung slightly. She wanted to know more about life after her, didn’t she?
He took a moment to think about it; his eyes blinking furiously as he thought (something which indicated that he was thinking very hard. It was almost like a nervous habit of his, having done it since he was a child). I suppose he was a bit afraid that she would ask questions and he would just have something that sounded rather depressive. But… speaking in English sounded like a good activity to do. Not to mention, he could get her to do most of the answers. He could ask most of the questions.
“Sounds good” he responded in English along with a slow head nod. His eyes moved around the room to see where he could sit for the time being. He didn’t want to make himself too comfortable and sit on her bed (like they had done as children). So, instead, he prompted for the study desk chair. Mi-Rae could sit comfortably on her own bed, right?
As Mi-Rae sat down, he took in a deep inhale as he thought about her question. Had he made any other friends. Sun-Woo scrunched his face lightly at the question as it ran in his head. “I’ve been… Very busy.” he responded “I tutor. And I work. And I study too. So… I don’t have a lot of time to make or be with friends. It uh… It sounds really sad. But I’m happy. Because it means I have money and the grades for the future.”
Okay, that was enough about him. “How about you? Can you tell me who your three best friends are, and why they’re your best friends?” he asked with an encouraging smile on his face. Yes. This was how he was going to get her. She might struggle for a bit, but at least she was practising her English, and he didn’t have to feel like he had a sad and lonely life.
outfit: ❁ mood: I want to know everything!!
Mi-rae’s smile widened in excitement when Sunny entertained her wish in talking about their prospective lives. However, among the uplifting buoyancy of the heart, there was a sense of anxiety as well. Don’t get her wrong; she wanted to know all about the events in his life that she’d missed up until now, but she also wondered how the time without might’ve changed him. It was a fearful wonder, one she could not quell the curiosity over yet also one she might not wished to know the answer of. Back then, the two worked together so perfectly, like two puzzle pieces that were meant to nestle together in harmony for forever.. But those times were different, and Mi-rae could not help but to anxiously wonder if the time spent apart from each other made it so that they no longer were fitting together. Born from insecurities she’d desperately tried to bury away was a fear of disappointment, a fear of not being able to measure up to the Mi-rae back then. Inside her was a fretfulness that Sunny would somehow grow disappointed in the person she had become, or even worse, decide that their friendship was something be left in the past instead of rekindled.
Of course, Mi-rae tried her best in expelling these negative thoughts from the mind and instead focus on the positive. 1. She had Sun-woo back ( even though it might be for a limited time). 2. She now knew that the ending of their friendship had not been her fault. 3. She could get to know him again. 4. He had… “No friends?” It was not until Mi-rae heard her own voice that the realization washed over her. Oh no, she had actually pondered that out loud. A blush of embarrassment coloured all the way across her cheeks and she immediately dove in for the save, “Not that that is wrong! Focus on school and money is good! Focus on future is good!” Was this aiding her or digging her a grave? Mi-rae did not know to be honest, but it was also not stopping her from adding a ‘it’s very smart!’ comment as a cherry on top, along with two thumbs up.
Maybe to her saving grace, Sunny directed a question back to her, shifting the focus away from the embarrassment. “Ah, my best friends” she echoed, a bright smile occupying her face as her thoughts wandered to the three people she cherished most in life ( aside from her family that is). “I will show you,” she said while grabbing her phone and browsing through her gallery to find a picture with them all in it. Soon enough, she came across a picture that she took at her last birthday party. Mi-rae stood in the middle while her boyfriend stood on her right with his arm lounged around her frame. Hana was smiling brightly on her left, linking arms with her, and Dae-won stood next to her boyfriend, arm leaning on jae’s shoulder. It was a perfect evening treasured in one picture and Mi-rae was practically beaming when she showed Sunny the picture. “ Picture of my birthday,” she explained, before pointing at Hana. “She is Hana, long best friend. She is very sweet and supportive. Met her when I spilled drink over her.” Her finger then moved over to Dae-won. “ Dae-won. He is very funny, makes lot of jokes. Very nice too. Met him through Jae since they are friends.” At last, her finger hovered over the face of her boyfriend. “- and you met him already. He is Joon-jae and kind of different because well.. you know.”
To be honest, Mi-rae often separated Joon-jae from her other best friends. She did not count him as not a best friend, but at the same time, it was not the same kind of relationship as with the others. There were things she could not talk about or do with Joon-jae, knowing that he did not like doing things such as going to an arcade. So, it was just different, but that did not make it wrong.. right?
“ So these are my best friends - with one missing of course.” She grinned, before lowering her phone and sitting back on the bed. It was when her answer had been finished when her mind returned to the many questions that were still whirling around in her headspace. Mi-rae wondered if he was still living in the same neighbourhood as he did back then. As a child, she had yet to truly grasp how poor Sun-woo was, only knowing that they didn’t have as much money as her family did. However, now that she thought back on it, it truly weighed in on her how much less money her childhood best friend had. Her curiosity implored her to ask, but a small part halted the question from forming in her throat. It might be a sensitive topic to talk about and Mi-rae did not wish to make him uncomfortable or think that their wealth mattered to her. Well, it did, but not in the way that she would judge him for it. It was more like she would feel sad for him because he deserved better.
In the end, however, Mi-rae decided against it and instead focused on another topic.
“I got impression you study a lot. Do you have university plan?” she asked.
mood: she's still the same old mi-rae, i see. location: mi-rae's bedroom outfit: clothes mi-rae gave him tag: @neon reverie
Staring down at the photos was a bittersweet moment. He was happy that she had friends. No, overjoyed. Completely and utterly overjoyed that she managed to have moved on from the heartache of how their friendship came to an end and decided to make new friends. Hell, she called them her best friend. Just like the Mi-Rae he had grown up with and been friends with, she had a heart of gold. And as he looked down at the smiling faces on her phone, he couldn’t help but feel a prang of jealousy. Sun-Woo wondered if Mi-Rae’s friends realised how lucky they were to have a friend like her in their life.
Looking from the picture to his friend’s face for a moment, he could see that brightness in her face. The warmth shone as she beamed with pride and joy over the picture. Had it been that easy for her to continue to make friends after everything that had happened? Well, Mi-Rae had always been the type to be able to talk to anyone or to stand up for others. I mean, they had met because the older boys in his village had been picking on him. Had she never stood up for him, then he probably would’ve had a friend to begin with.
But making friends never came easy to Sun-Woo. At school, he was seen either as ‘that poor kid’ or a ‘teacher’s pet’. No one played with him during their breaks and the other children would fight over seats so they wouldn’t have to sit next to or near him. It only grew worse in high school which prompted him to just stay to himself and out of everyone’s way. And then there were the other children in his village. They would often make comments about how his Umma hated him so much that she killed herself just to get away from him.
So, I suppose that’s why he felt a pang of jealousy as he looked at those photos of Mi-Rae. She had found it so easy to find new people to friend. As for him, he had been hurt. And he didn’t have anyone to process that hurt with. So, it just harboured and grew, and whenever someone from the village or at school made a comment about him, he just buried it down with the hurt. What about those people who had attempted to befriend him? Well, he was too scared. Scared that they too would leave him or that they too would eventually hurt him.
All the sudden, the topic of friendship was whipped away, and the topic of studying was brought up. A soft smile came to his face as she asked about going to university. Ah, he had it all planned out in his head. He just needed to make sure to get the best grades and to have enough money saved up, and nothing would be able to stop him. Well, maybe the loan sharks if they kept on putting up their interest rate. But apart from that, nothing could stop him. So, Sun-Woo nodded with that smile upon his face before explaining his plan.
“I want to go to Seoul National University to study medicine. If I’m unable to get into that University, then I’d like to go to Sungkyunkwan University. To learn medicine, of course.” he explained before letting out a small huff of air from embarrassment. He couldn’t remember the last time he had talked to anyone about his plans for the future. Maybe it had been with one of the teachers as they called him into the office.
One of the teachers had noticed that he was always in the library during mealtimes, and he never had any food with him. They asked him if his guardian had given him enough money to get a food card for the canteen (what with Sun-Woo having informed the school that he was staying with a close family friend – not that he was jumping from place to place). When he revealed to them that he often ate food from home rather from the canteen, the staff didn’t seem to believe him. Therefore, they gave him a free food card which would be topped up by the parent committee. He did feel bad that he was using donated money, but oh God. It was heaven to actually have food at school and eat it too.
He wasn’t used to this whole ‘talking about himself’ thing. In fact, it had actually been a very long time since someone had asked about his personal life, I suppose. “Which University are you planning on applying for?” he asked her, bringing the attention back to her. After all, he was fluent in English. It was her that needed to practice, not him.
Mi-rae was wholly unsurprised when finding out about her childhood best friend’s future ambitions. Judging from the mere fact that he was tutoring multiple students it was already apparent that Sun-woo belonged to the category of top class student. Pride swelled within at the thought of her friend getting A+ grades and being able to get into the top ranking university of South Korea. “Seoul uni? Woah, that’s amazing!”she gushed with a bright smile. Giving him the thumbs up, she winked, “you can do it. I believe in you, you are very smart and hard working.”Her words were coated in faith, eyes sparkling back at him.
It spoke truth.
Mi-rae really could not imagine him not being able to attend Seoul National University, being a firm believer that everyone could achieve whatever they wish as long as they put hard work into it. And knowing Sunny (or well, past Sunny), he was probably being very humble about his own academic performances. Chances were he could even beat some of the top students of her own high school! No, the only thing that could hinder him from entering that university would be money – which in retrospective might form a teeny weeny problem - but they did grant scholarships, right? Yeah, surely Sun-woo would be a student promising enough to be eligible for a scholarship. He was going to attend that university and become a doctor, she was certain.
While happily thinking about the bright future that he had in store, Mi-rae almost missed the question that was redirected to her. “Me?” She questioned, before biting her lip in serious thought as she dwelled over the response. Which university did she plan on applying to. Well, truth to be told, she had no answer to that question. It was kind of a bridge she was hoping to cross when she would get there, pushing those thoughts away into a realm of fake oblivion whenever they arbitrarily popped up in the head. Why? because the possible scenarios scared her.
Her heart had a clear aim, shooting for the same universities that her best friends were planning to go to, but her head played for a different outcome. Mi-rae might be naïve but she was no fool. She saw the differences between her grades and theirs, and while she wished to be able to live in that fantasy forevermore, knew it was time to burst that bubble sooner or later. Mi-rae was far from an academic prodigy, ranking as a below-average test taker in this society, and this led her to a different path.
A path that veered away from her friends.
Her stomach churned at the thought, her heartbeat accelerating in anxiety. It was the scenario she could not quite face yet – the one that most likely ended in painful loneliness. You see, Mi-rae could be unapologetically herself and confront many matters, but those that forced her to delve deeper into her own insecurities were different. It required a battle against herself, one that she was not sure she could win. So she concluded it was best to avoid it to keep it all together rather than risking crumbling away in the process. Do not think of it and it won’t happen.
( tell this lie enough times and you will believe it)
Mi-rae could lie to him, breathe some air into the flame that keeps her dreams alive and warm, but something stopped her. Perhaps it was the history between them, the old sense of trust that still lingered around from their old friendship, but she felt like she could be honest with him. “ I uhm…” she started, eyes lowering to her lap, “ I say I want to go to universities my best friends go to. So Seoul National University or Yonsei… but I know that not possible with my grades…” For a moment, Mi-rae let reality sink in, along with the dreadful feeling that came with the probable scenario. She let out a soft sigh, shaking her head, before looking up. “ So maybe Kyung Hee? I will see.”
Mi-rae gave him a small smile, hoping it would bring the mood up again. There was no reason to be down in the dumps yet. She still had time to work hard on her grades, still had time to try her best and finish high school with the best she could do ( still had some time left clinging to her wishful thinking). “ But let’s talk about other thing! I wanna know your favourites – like movie, food, animal! All silly things !! I will start -”
And just like that, any sign of internal conflict was gone – like it had never been there in the first place. Mi-rae could blabber on about everything as long as it meant having the attention elsewhere, and blabbering she did.
I hope the night doesn't come
Even when morning comes, it's not bright
playing: hard to say goodbye by bae jinyoung
He was counting down the minutes until midnight.
Sunwoo sat behind the register counter, his study books open and ready to be read. However, the young male couldn’t focus tonight. Was it the fact there were so many people out and about tonight because of the Halloween celebrations? No, it wasn’t because of that. Was it because he kept on getting waves of people dressed upcoming in to buy more alcohol? No, it wasn’t that either. Or maybe it was because it had been almost twelve hours since the last time he ate. Oh, no, it couldn’t be that. Well, the rumbling of his stomach would beg to differ.
Placing his hand upon his cramping stomach, Sunwoo’s eyes remained on the food on the countertop in the little basket. The expired food basket. Once the clock struck midnight, he was meant to throw all the food into the bin because it would be considered as ‘off’. Throw it out? Hah. He was going to eat it all. He was eyeballing that chicken Kimbap and chocopie for the last two hours. Now, sure, he had enough money to buy some sort of snack for him to munch on. After paying the loan sharks, placing money aside for university and other bills, he was often left with enough money to buy one or two snacks during the week.
It was his Appa’s 60th this weekend.
His plan was to buy a nice meal for his Appa to bring to his gravestone. Some flowers too. Heck, when Sunwoo purchased the grave spot, he also purchased a tree to go with it. Therefore, whenever Sunwoo visited, he liked to do a bit of gardening or hang some food for the birds. He really wanted to get some nice decorations for the tree to celebrate his Appa’s birthday. But for all of that, he would need money. Which meant he was skipping out on any meal that he had to pay for. Sure, he ended up going close to twenty-two hours with no food yesterday. But he was willing to go through it to show his respect for the man who had raised him to who he was today.
A group of costumed customers entered the store; Sunwoo quickly stood and called out with a ‘welcome’ and a small bow towards them before sitting down once more. His dark, tired eyes watched as they hovered around the small convenience store, gathering drinks or snacks. As they approached the counter, one of the male customers – dressed as the Joker – reached into the expired basket and took the Kimbap which Sunwoo had been eyeballing. Aww… man… he thought before telling himself to re-group. Putting on his best smile for them, he stood to his feet and began to scan their items for them. Once the transaction was complete, they were on their way and Sunwoo was left wanting to… well… he felt like crying.
The damn boy had been in such an emotional wreck these last few days. A couple of his tutoring students had cancelled on him last minute, and the spa that he regularly went to were beginning to ask him questions. This meant he was going to have to find a new spa place to go to at night. It was all just… frustrating. But he did what he did best; he pushed it all deep inside and pretended that it wasn’t there. Swallowing thickly, he sat down on the chair once more and gazed at the computer screen.
Some nights were so perfect, so filled with pure joy and laughter, that you wanted to find any way to immortalize it. To bottle it up and save it again for when the sky is cloudy and the atmosphere is blue. To transport you back to that moment in time where everything was right in the world. Some nights were a night to remember, and this was definitely one of those.
It all commenced back at Mi-rae’s house where she and Hana prepped themselves for a night of Halloween fun. Already two months in advance, the group had decided to dress in a common theme for Halloween and Mi-rae had spent many hours browsing cute group costume ideas. At first, she wanted to dress up as a Disney couple with Jae, but her boyfriend pointed out that it might be awkward for both Hana and Dae-won to pursue that particular theme. Slightly disappointed, Mi-rae dropped her dream of becoming Rapunzel for the night and resumed her search. In the end, they all settled for a 50’s/Grease themed group, where both Mi-rae and Hana took on the style of the Pink Ladies and Jae and Dae-won took on the greaser aesthetics.
Hana had crafted a little surprise for both of them and entered the house with two custom pink ladies jackets that looked as if they came straight from the movie. To say Mi-rae was over the moon would be an understatement. After spending at least ten minutes gushing over the jackets, Mi-rae managed to finally veer her focus back to the actual task at hand: getting ready.
It was around half-past nine when Jae and Dae-won came to pick them up, both brandishing their trade-mark biker jackets and 50’s style hairdos. Mi-rae’s cheeks burned at the sight of her boyfriend’s appearance, knowing very well that fourteen year old her was shaking in her boots right now due to the bad-boy aura that radiated off of him. ( okay, it was not exclusively her fourteen-year-old self). Her heart pattered like falling rain and with a half flustered smile, she accepted the hand that was extended towards her.
Mi-rae quickly bid goodbye to her parents, before leaving the house, onwards to Itaewon.
And that’s where the real fun began.
Now, it is still somewhat a mystery how she and her friends ended up stumbling into a 7/11 store that totally wasn’t in Itaewon. But here they were, laughing at a stupid joke that Daewon made while entering the convenience store. Mi-rae’s gaze immediately travelled towards the snack aisle, though it briefly passed over the person behind the counter and - hold up a fat second.
Mi-rae blinked, suspicious of her own vision. Was she tripping or did that person look identically to her childhood friend? Taking a few steps closer, she squinted her eyes, as if that would somehow alter the face. Nope, it still looked like him. Well, this left either two options: Sun-woo had a twin he’d never told her about or this was, in fact, him working at the convenience store. For some reason, Mi-rae opted for the latter.
“Sunny??” she called, surprised. Immediately, she abandoned her plan on raiding the snack aisle and marched over to the counter.“ I didn't know you worked here too!” In her mind, Mi-rae counted the jobs she had seen him doing up until now. Tutoring was one, being a server was two… and now this? Where in the world did he get time to do three jobs!
A gasp left her lips. “ Wait….” she leaned a bit over the counter and placed a hand near her mouth, before whispering” you did not get fired from the bbq place, right?”
It was at that moment when the rest joined her by the counter and a snapping noise could be heard from Hana as she snapped her fingers, recognition dawning onto her visage.
“Hey! I know you. You are that guy from the sauna right?”
Mi-rae’s eyes widened and her gaze switched between the two.
“Wait what? You two have met?”
Hana shook her head. “No, no… I just saw him the other day,” a thoughtful hum left her lips and her friend tilted her head, eyebrows slightly furrowing, " come to think of it… I have seen you multiple times already I think..”
I hope the night doesn't come
Even when morning comes, it's not bright
playing: hard to say goodbye by bae jinyoung
It was getting closer to midnight.
Ah man, he could taste that chocopie on the tip of his tongue already. Sun-Woo kept his head down, focused on his study book before him. However, that didn’t stop his wondering eye from slowly moving towards the chocopie in the basket. I mean… it was fifteen minutes before midnight. Surely he wouldn’t get into any trouble if he ate it fifteen minutes before it’s expiration date? His dark eyes remained locked in on that glorious piece of chocolate, mentally preparing himself to reach over and snatch it. In doing so, he would be in big trouble if his boss found out. But he didn’t care. He was hungry as hell.
However, it seemed that someone was trying to stop him from eating today. Because just as he had pumped himself up to reach over for it, he heard the sound of the doorbell ringing and laughter falling from the door. Standing up from his seated position, hands by his side, he gave a small head bow and called out a “Welcome” to the new customers like he was meant to do. And then someone said something that took him by complete surprise; someone said his name.
Looking up to where the voice came from, his eyes widened slightly to see Mi-Rae standing before him… dressed up? His brows furrowed slightly, trying to figure out what she was dressed up in. To be completely honest, he had never seen Grease before. In fact, the only times he had ever seen any movies or television shows had been as a child in Mi-Rae’s house. They didn’t have a television at his house growing up as it just cost way too much for electricity.
As she stated her surprise, how she didn’t realise that he worked here too, Sunny gave a small shy smile and nodded. “Yeah…” he responded bashfully. Well, now she knew that he had three jobs. Seeing her lean over the counter, placing her head near her mouth like she was about to ask some deep dark secret, Sun-Woo leant forward with a curious complexion. Her whisper, however, resulted a small chuckle to slip past his lips. “No,” he responded, shaking his head and standing up straight once more. “I haven’t been fired, don’t worry.”
The sound of a snapping fingers was loud enough to distract Sun-Woo from his conversation with Mi-Rae and to gaze over to the girl that caused it. Curiously gazing at the girl, he couldn’t help but think that he had seen her around before. But where…? He couldn’t put his finger on it… Her face seemed so… familiar. It was the moment that she opened her mouth and commented on how he knew her, the smile on his face dropped, his eyes widened slightly and he felt sick to his stomach.
Oh God. She worked at the sauna.
And she recognised him. And recognised the fact that he had been there multiple times. Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. Not in front of Mi-Rae. Not in front of Mi-Rae. For some reason, the thought of his best childhood friend finding out that he had been jumping from sauna to sauna to bathe and sleep there gave him a heart attack. He knew Mi-Rae. If she found out, she would be demanding for him to stay with her and her family. That was just something he didn’t want to do because he felt like it would be putting pressure on her family. He didn’t want to be a burden to anyone.
“Ah… King Lion Sauna, right? You work there?” he finally spoke up. “I thought you looked familiar too… Ah…”
Quick, think of a lie. Anything. Quickly!
“Our ah… hot water system at home is broken at the moment… We’re waiting on a part which has taken a couple of weeks to come… And I hate having cold showers so I’ve been going to the spa after work to have a nice hot shower. Usually I get really sleepy after a good shower and I’m very lazy. So… I just sleep at the spa. Much easier than walking.” he explained, his gazed flickering between Mi-Rae and Hana; praying to God that the girls would at least buy his lie.
God dammit. Now he was going to have to find a new sauna to attend. But after being kicked out of five in the area after being accused of squatting (well, really, he was), his pickings were becoming very slim.