She wanted to say that it had been a hard day and that the pair of them were drinking their sorrows. She wanted to. But the truth of it all, Min-Ah had an amazing day. They had a surge of clients on their online shop and their Instagram page finally became verified. They had countless people emailing and messaging them, asking them if they would like to collab together or do some sort of partnership. Re:New was actually starting to get some recognition after finally having an idol wear one of their custom berets on Running Man. Within twenty-four hours, the hat was completely out of stock and the team were on a mission to fully restock as soon as possible.
So, Min-Ah was busy for the last few days; so much so that she had completely missed one of her Umma’s treatments (something that kept eating her up inside), and that she had poorly been neglecting spending some quality time with her best friend, Hye-Jin. There had even been a couple of overnight shifts at work, trying to figure out the marketing for the newest line of clothes which they were launching next month. All she could really do was text her friend in between her breaks (if she had a break, that was). Not to mention the craziness at home. With Umma going through treatment for her breast cancer, Appa trying to provide for the family while caring for his wife, and Mingyu on the other side of the world, things just seemed to be absolutely wild. Which was why she decided that tonight the pair of them needed a drink. No, not just one drink. They needed to get drunk.
Prior to leaving the house, she had already planned with her Appa that he would be their designated driver and would bring Hye-Jin and herself home at the end of the night. They had decided on a time and place, and just like that; the two twenty-eight-year-old females could drink as much as they wanted without the fear of not having a way home. So here they were; sitting in a pojangmacha, swinging back soju shots like no tomorrow, and the aroma of unique Korean dishes filling the air. Min-Ah swung back another shot, anticipating the burning sensation to lather her throat, only to realise that her excessive drinking throughout the night had already made her immune to any further burns. “Aiishh,” she hissed, placing her shot glass on the table rather too abruptly before combing her fingers through her hair and gazing up at her best friend. “Jinnie-ah,” she slurred, placing a pout upon her face. “Jinnie-ah, you are my soulmate, you know that?”
With as much elegance a drunk could muster, she gracefully took hold of her chopsticks to pick up a dumpling with intentions of eventually getting it into her mouth to eat. “You and I should just… run away together. Who needs men? Pffft – ” she waved her spare hand in front of her “Men are… Men are gross. You and I should run away together and live together and be happy together. Do I need to call your stupid boyfriend and tell him that he can’t have you any more?” Her attempts to take hold of the dumpling was too much to handle as it continued to slip past her metal chopsticks. “Or! Jinnie-ah, maybe I should just marry Hyunnie-ah? And then I can be apart of your family and if I say to your boyfriend hey, back off, he will have to listen because I am your family?”
broad wisps of darkness threaded across the heavens, the water droplets falling like they could not think of anything better to do. there was a certain laziness about them; as if they could barely be bothered to conform to the will of gravity - and without concern, they blurred the lights of the city into a prismatic haze. one could revel in the sound of those rain beads tapping against glass, could find some sense of comfort in the sight of those perfect spheres of water, but today, however, was not that day. instead, the tumbling greys of the sky only acted as a mirror of the mood below.
to say that hye-jin was having a bad day would’ve been an understatement. misfortune had selected its victim for the day it seemed, and held no mercy from the very moment of dawn.
first, hye-jin had woken up with a refreshing lack of fatigue, only to find out that her alarm had failed to do its one job and that she was embarrassingly late for work. next, apart from a berating about tardiness in general, she was unjustly subjected to a reprimand regarding a mix-up of legal files. it didn’t take long for the woman to discover that her snake of a colleague had pinned the blame onto her, utilising the finest tools of manipulation to frame herself as innocent. and even after a workday from hell, hye-jin was not yet freed from the cruel hand of adversity. back at home, a screaming match with her boyfriend awaited her, like some cherry on top of a twisted cake.
today was a day that could only be remedied by one thing: alcohol. strong, heavy alcohol that held only promise of a regrettable but hopefully amnesiac aftermath. luckily, and perhaps the only small sliver of light that cracked through the perpetual twilight of this day, hye-jin’s best friend shared the same sentiments and was able to relieve her from a lonesome night. getting drunk alone might have been treacherously amusing on its own, but nothing eclipsed the fun of drinking with your best friend. this night served as a testament to that, her morose spirit being slightly lifted again by just being in the company of her friend.
min-ah’s drunk words of affection were able to draw a smile on her face, laughter escaping the woman as her friend continued to express her distaste of men, before being broken up by a snort when the mention of her brother entered the conversation in the silliest manner. “in your dreams woman. he’s not into-“ the unspoken truth had almost slipped past her lips in the haze of inebriation, but even drunk hye-jin knew some things should be kept within the realm of the mind. it was a secret, one that she wasn’t supposed to uncover in the first place, though, in her defense, hyun-joo probably should not have left his browser open on the computer after being active on an lgbtq+ forum. to be honest, it hurt a little bit reading the questions her brother posed, asking if there was anything wrong with liking boys or how dangerous it was to be openly gay. hye-jin had thought that she had created a safe enough space for her younger siblings to be what they wanted to be, but could also recognize that this was not about her. all she could do was hope that her brother would find a time and place safe enough in the future to come out and be there to support him in the end.
“- he’s not into older women, you, you are too old meens” she finished with a shake of the head, before picking up the dumpling with her own chopsticks and feeding her drunk friend. “so don’t think about marrying my precious hyunnie! just run away with me. you are getting rich now right?? with your company?? in that case, i will let you snatch me away from my boyfriend meens-ah. “ hye-jin winked and sent hearts with her fingers. nevertheless, reality came crashing down as the image of her boyfriend seeped into the mind, coldly disrupting the warm, teasing ambience and bringing forth thoughts worth another shot. rapidly, she reached for the alcohol and swallowed another shot of soju, the burn sliding down her like the regret she feels when thinking about her relationship.
“ugh why can’t i just fall for nice guys? or even nice women?? aaaissh!” the glass got slammed down on the table in frustration, and hye-jin buried her face into her arms “ i am so sick of him min-ah… and my job …. and just…. everything! i want…” a sigh left her depressed form. “ i just want to go back to figure skating…” she whispered the words like she was confessing a sin in church. as if it should not have been uttered in the first place.
Jeong Mingyu had been in Seoul for less than five hours and he was already on his second iced Americano from Starbucks as he aimlessly strolled around the streets of the city he had missed so dearly.
It had been four years since the last time he had stepped on Korea soil. Four years of non-stop basketball training, studying and working. But it kept him on his toes, and it kept him motivated as the NBA trials grew ever so closer with each passing day. So… if he was so focused on his basketball and American studies, then why did he fly over fourteen and a half hours to come back to Seoul? It was quite simple; his Umma.
He had received a phone call about a month ago from his Umma and Appa, saying that his Umma found a lump on her breast and it was confirmed to be cancerous. His Umma continued to tell him that she was fine. That she was getting treatment and she was going to be okay. That the doctors were looking after her and she would be okay. That was her signal to tell him to stay put and to keep up with his studies. However, a week later, his Appa face timed him and began to express his real concerns for his wife. That things weren’t fine and that his Umma was downplaying it all.
So, after talking to his university and basketball coach, he made arrangements to return home to help his Appa care for his Umma. Now, he knew that Min-Ah was trying to help as much as she could. But she was a full-grown adult who was trying to make a living. She had her own worries to care for. His Appa needed to work to make sure that they could make payments on bills and the apartment. That left no one to care for his Umma during the day when she was feeling sick from treatment or to bring her to her appointments. And that was where Mingyu decided that he needed to step up and help.
However, the only person who knew about it was his Appa.
He didn’t want to stress out his Umma or his sister, knowing that they would tell him to stay in America for his NBA trials. But he also knew that he needed to be there for his Umma and nothing was stopping him. So, around three in the afternoon, Mingyu met his Appa at the front of Incheon airport and embraced him for the first time in four years. In that one single hug, he saw his childhood flash before his eyes and embraced those nostalgic memories. His Appa brought him back to their family apartment where he made his first surprise announcement to his Umma. She practically fell to the ground crying before proceeding to lazily hit her son, cursing at him for being here instead of America. However, after a few moments of the pair of them cuddling and crying tears of joy, she finally caved in and admitted it was wonderful to see him.
And so, he was now currently on his way for his second surprise announcement. After putting his things into the spare room and having a shower and a bit of a rest, he decided that he wanted to surprise his sister. His Appa had been sneaky and arranged with Min-Ah that he would walk the two girls home at the end of the night; but really, it would be Mingyu doing the walking. Once his Appa gave him the instructions on how to get to the said place Min-Ah had planned on eating and drinking at tonight, Mingyu was on his way. It really didn’t take him long to find the place as he finished off his second drink. Chucking it into a nearby bin, he crept his way through the crowd and into the eatery.
The smells. The sounds. His mouth was watering and his heart was full of joy. Oh, he was glad to be home.
Narrowing his eyes, he began to look around the area to see if he could find his older sister. No… No… ah, bingo. He recognised the back of her head any day, even if it had been four years since he had last seen her. It was the same head that he would nudge with his foot as she sat in front of the television on the floor and blocked his view. And the same head that he would poke awake in the morning as their alarm clock blared and she continued to snore like a hippopotamus in hibernation.
A wide grin formed on his face as he approached her from behind. He knew what he was going to do. He was going to annoy the crap out of her as he used to when they were kids. Mingyu had a habit of pinning his sister down and placing kisses all over her face after his parents would often tell them to love each other. Well, it was his way of loving her while also annoying her. And so, standing directly behind her, he quickly and firmly placed his hands upon her cheeks and tilted her head backwards so she was staring at the roof.
And that’s when he quickly attacked.
He began to peck all over her forehead, leaving her in a state of shock and confusion. Mingyu moved so fast that the poor girl probably had no idea who he was. That he was just some random stranger coming up and kissing her face. And so, he finally pulled back with a large, cheeky grin on his face as he stared down at his older sister.
“You fall for idiots because you’re too nice” Min-ah slurred, picking up a fresh bottle which they had ordered moments prior. She gave it a twirl, causing a miniature tornado to form within the alcohol beverage. “Hye-Jin… you know I’m your best friend, right? And as your best friend… I will tell you everything.” Min-ah began, placing the bottle back onto the table before placing her hands upon her chest “And I am being one hundred per cent honest here… your boyfriend is an asshole. An absolute cock head.”
And now, that sentence followed with a long line of slurs and swears as Min-ah continued to express her dislike for her best friend’s boyfriend. Had they been on some television drama, nothing but a long beep would echo in the air as Min-ah’s mouth continued to mouth. After all, she was not one to hold back from her feelings. She was going to be completely honest and in reality, she had always been with her friend. The only reason she stopped her swearing and ranting was due to catching a glimpse of a nearby couple with their child who wERE throwing her ill looks and covering their son’s ears.
Offering a drunken smile to the couple and their child, she brought her gaze back to her friend before picking up the bottle once more. “What was I saying…? Ah yes…” she began again, cracking the lid of the bottle and smiling sombrely at the aroma of soju filling her nostrils. “I have always thought he was an idiot, and he will forever, for the rest of his life, be an idiot”. Now that wasn’t a lie. From the moment Min-ah met him, she had nothing good to say about him. Of course, she was civil. But whenever the girls got drunk together, she would just let it all out. This wasn’t the first time a drunk Min-ah had been casting slurs onto the man that was nowhere to be seen.
Pouring out a shot for herself and her friend, Min-ah released a soft sigh as she placed down the bottle onto the table once more before speaking once more “Aishh. You just… get rid of him. You don’t need him. I know plenty of men. Some of them are athletic too-” However, her words were cut off at the feeling of someone grabbing her cheeks and pulling her face upwards. And then… What the hell?! Someone was kissing all over her forehead?! What the hell was happening?! Panic set into the girl’s body as she automatically began to wonder what the best way to kick this pervert’s ass would be.
The pervert’s face pulled back and Min-ah was about ready to rip him into two pieces. Her angered face and frown smothered upon her features gazed up at the crazy idiot – but only for a second. Because even though he was upside down, she knew that face. Instead of panic, shock now entered her body. There was no way… No way in hell…
And that was all it took for Jeong Min-ah to burst out in tears. No, not just normal tears. This was Jeong Min-ah tears; they were loud, sobbing, and ugly as all hell. Mingyu always teased her when they were children that she was an ugly crier – and by God, she was. “Mingyu!” She sobbed in a drunken mess, attempting to stand up quickly to wrap her loving arms around her baby brother. He’s defiantly taller, that’s for sure she thought to herself as she buried her face into his chest and Mingyu wrapped his own arms around her frame. The little twerp has grown so much since the last time I saw him
Pulling back from the embrace, she automatically placed her hands upon his cheeks, squishing his face. What came next was a long string of unrecognizable drunken, crying words. He’s grown so handsome, she thought to herself as she tried to get the words out too. I can’t believe my little baby brother is all grown up! The puberty stick must’ve hit him when he flew over to America! Wait – why is he here? Why isn’t he in America?
There were a thousand and one questions that she wanted to ask him, and he could tell from the look in her eyes. “Noona,” he said calmly with a grin. “Let’s sit down and have a drink. Come on” Guiding his older sister to sit back down again, Min-ah looked over at her best friend with that ugly crying smile on her face. Was she happy or in pain? There was no way to really determine it really.
“Hye-Jin-ah,” the girl sobbed, reaching over to hold her friend’s hand “Mingyu-ah is here! I’m not drunk – he’s really here, isn’t he?” She turned back to her brother before using her other hand to whack his shoulder “Why are you here!” she drunkenly barked at him “You’re meant to be in America!”
min-ah’s slurred and profane rant fell on drunk and half deaf ears as hye-jin’s focus waned by the minutes, the last couple of soju shots finally seeming to settle in. truth was, she did not even need to cognize every syllable that slipped past her best friend’s lips in rapid manner; they have been here all before. no drinking night with the two was complete without meens losing her filter in between the last few shots and loudly informing her (and half of the bar) how horrible her boyfriend was. it usually went from emphasis on their own friendship to creatively insulting si-hwan and ending with the offer to become her wing-woman. and guessing from the scandalized expressions of the bar’s fellow patrons, min-ah was currently well performing in the second phase.
now, one must wonder why one would let their best friend malign their significant other like that. couples were supposed to be a team, right? the insult one, fight two kind of a deal. hye-jin wished that she could be that kind of girlfriend for si-hwan, had hoped that the years together would still feel like that infinite waltz of romance as it was in the beginning, but reality was never that enchanting, was it? instead, she found herself dancing with the devil as the bowels of hell slowly stole the ground beneath them. hye-jin might have been foolish then, believing that the chances were finally in her favour again and that si-hwan didn’t harbour anything else under that pleasant mask of his - but there were no false notions blinding her any longer than a year. every single insult that meens might spur in the night, she could not quite rebuke. her boyfriend was indeed an asshole, a cockhead, and they were a hopeless pair.
yet.. it changed nothing - no, couldn’t change anything - not when the future of her brothers depended on the financial aid this relationship brought. was it a superficial and pretty dumb reason to stay? maybe, but sometimes having a choice was not within the realm of possibilities. sometimes you needed to let the cards fall where they may and deal with the pawns of life has given you. it did not matter how much of a different scenario your dreams have spurred; everything between fantasies, desires and fears blend together to be buried beneath the artifice of reality. they could mingle and twist, but they would yield. hye-jin might know that the best – so she doesn’t bother fighting. maybe after her siblings had both graduated she could allow herself to dream of a life single and independent. or maybe a marriage and a kid would have become the new anchor tethering her to this awful relationship (because let’s be honest, one could only use the focusing on career excuse for so long.) she did not know, and maybe she was too tired to care.
admittedly, hye-jin had only been half listening to her friend, so maybe that’s how her gaze was able to catch the unfamiliar figure approaching them earlier than min-ah did. her eyebrows unconsciously quirked as the light illuminated the person’s face, a drunk thought seeping into the mind without much caution. damn he’s handsome… but just as some semblance of discipline returned to scold herself for letting such an inappropriate thought travel through her head, shock nearly doubled her over. hye-jin was not quite sure what possibly could happen in the span of the moment, but she was certainly not expecting for the stranger to ladder her best friend with kisses! what the hell??? her hand immediately moves to the purse on the seat, ready to grab and utilize it against the assaulter. he might be devilishly good-looking, but he got a black eye coming for him if he thought she was going to let him kiss her friend like that!
“ya, get your face away from-“ the threat had barely left her lips when the guy suddenly stopped and exclaimed a surprising word. n-noona??? her eyes lowered towards her best friend, who was suddenly full-on sobbing and uttering an all too familiar name. hold on – mingyu?? mingyu as in jeong mingyu? as in mini minnie??? hye-jin’s jaw dropped in realization, eyes widening like she just witnessed a phenomenon in itself. though, even her inebriated state and this bombshell of a surprise was not enough to halt another more mortifying realization from materializing; she just thought of min-ah’s younger brother as handsome.. hye-jin did not know whether to be embarrassed or disgusted at herself. sure enough, he was indeed very handsome (she could recognize that by the amount of girls that were currently stealing glances at him and subtly adjusting their look), but him being her best friend’s little brother altered the propriety of that thought. not to mention that she was awfully taken.
yeahhh, let’s just pretend it never happened for everyone’s sake you drunk bitch.
hye-jin was able to kick her thoughts and feelings back into the suitable prudent kind of ethos in time to bring a warm smile to her lips, her hand finding min-ah’s and squeezing it tightly in support.. “yes he’s really here meens-ah,” her eyes travelled back to the surprise of the evening and she nodded in greeting,“ it’s good to see you again mingyu! you have grown so much since i last saw you,, and here i was holding onto the hope i could still call you mini minnie.” her lips formed a slight pout as she shook her head in feigning disappointment. “but yes, why are you here? my hyunnie didn’t pull some crazy stunt to get you here for something silly, right? if so, tell him he can expect his dorm door to get kicked down tonight.”
“Hey!” Mingyu groaned, holding onto the shoulder that his sister had just attacked as she barked at him. He knew that this would be her reaction to all of this. After all, he really was meant to be in America right now with his basketball scholarship. There had been a reason why he hadn’t been home all these years, and money was a factor. However, the other factor was how much they trained and were expected to keep up with their physical activity.
His Umma and Appa wanted him to excel with his scholarship, so never pressured him in coming home for holidays. Now, of course, he got homesick from time to time. He missed his Umma’s black bean noodles and helping his Appa with fixing things. Heck, he even missed having a good wrestle with his sister. But he also knew that in coming back home, there was a strong chance that he would financially struggle to get back to America. This time, however, was different. He knew his Umma was sick and knew that his family needed more help than they were leading on. So, in his mind, if it meant never going back to America, so be it. He needed to make sure his family was safe and happy first.
Hearing the voice from across the table, Mingyu gazed over to see that it was Hye-Jin speaking. Man. It was like she never aged a day. Instantly, he felt his face burn. After all, it was always hard to get over the fact that she had been his first crush. As a child, he could remember getting so shocked whenever he saw her that he could barely speak. Into his teenage years, he gained some confidence and thought he could impress her by wearing older clothes or doing his hair as his Appa did. You know, to look older for her. Even when they said their last goodbye before he graduated and travelled over the United States, he was always trying to look cool in front of her. Did he forget about her during his time in America? Of course not. Facebook and Instagram are wonderful tools. But to see her, right before him, he was almost star-struck in that moment. For the last however long it had been since he had last seen her, all he had were images and videos from over the social media platforms. But now she was right before him and addressing him.
“Good to see you too, Song Hye-Jin-ssi” he said to her politely, bowing his head slightly to show respect. Dammit, man. You’re an adult now and still acting like a teenager with some stupid high school crush.
“Why are you hereee~” Min-ah cried once more, wrapping her arms around her little brother’s bicep, swaying back and forth. She stuck out her lower lip and pouted profusely at her brother, causing him to snort.
“Well,” he sighed softly “I came home to help Umma.” Mingyu could see Min-ah’s drunken, tear-stained eyes soften up. Her mouth began to part, and he knew exactly what she was going to say. Therefore, stopped her before she could say anything. “And before you say that she is fine, don’t you dare lie to me. I know you and Umma have lied to me a lot about how she’s been. Appa has told me everything that has been going on and I know that she’s struggling. Appa is struggling too with the bills. So, I decided to come home to help look after Umma so Appa doesn’t have to worry too much.”
Slowly, he turned to Hye-Jin. Oh shivers. Courage! Build courage, man! he thought to himself as he looked at the girl. “Hyunnie doesn’t know I’m here yet either. We uh… It was very last minute when we organised everything. I only had my flights confirmed a day and a half ago. I didn’t want to tell him just in case everything didn’t work out and I didn’t end up coming.” he explained to her before a grin slipped across his face. “Besides… This way I can surprise him myself, right?”
“Ahhh, Minnie!” Min-ah whined, placing her head against his shoulder “You are a little turd, do you know that?!” she gave him another slap across his chest before resuming to cuddle tightly onto his arm. “Jinnie-ah!” she called out to her friend, pressing her cheek against Mingyu’s arm “We need more drinks! I have never had a drink with my little brother! Now we can finally have a drink because he is an adult!”
the longer hye-jin’s eyes rested on the towering figure next to min-ah, drinking in every detail his features offered in all of its roguish beauty, the more this felt like some feverish dream instead of reality. disbelief still reigned within as past and present images crashed against each other in a fight to become the truth, the other one bound to evanish like a memory to be forgotten. it was surreal to witness such a metamorphosis, hye-jin’s mind almost unable to grasp that this face belonged to the same boy who accidentally got his head stuck in the opening of a recycle bin, or the one who her younger brother dressed up in cheap, silly costumes with during halloween. this mingyu just looked so mature, so … ok, no - let’s not go there again, you weird noona. hye-jin silently scolded herself, before letting out a snort at mingyu’s addressing.
“oh, please leave the full name and ssi behind mingyu, you are making me feel way too old!” her nose scrunched up at the echoing formality, and she shook her head. “besides, i watched way too many of your and hyunnie’s shenanigans to be treated so formally - just call me hye-jin or noona.” hye-jin leaned slightly over to the side while she spoke, hand grabbing the bag on the vacant seat and pulling it off so that he would have a seat to sit on, while also retrieving some tissues for her sobbing best friend. her expression sobered as he began to explain the reason he was back in korea, heart thudding and descending into the stomach, like a stone sinking to the bottom of a pond.
unsurprisingly, min-ah had confided in her about her mother’s condition, and hye-jin could not have more empathy for them. the jeong family had been such pillars in her life when the accident took away her parents; they don’t teach you about the loss side of love, don’t warn that when the dirt would hit the wood, part of your soul would be buried too -- but whenever the world seemed too dark and the breathes started to feel shallow in the chest, it was the jeong family that brought back frays of light and zephyrs of oxygen. whether it was in the form of warm meals or financial aid, min-ah and mingyu’s parents supported the song children in ways hye-jin could barely fathom. the loss of a parent before it was supposed to be their time was something she did not wish upon anyone, let alone the ones held dear to the heart.
but when the subject changed to hyun-joo, the shrouds of elegiac empathy cleared, her lips curving up into a smile as she nodded, understanding. “that’s a great idea. i am sure hyun-joo would love the surprise. i will keep my lips about seeing you here sealed then.” what exactly possessed her to wink and place a finger against her lips afterwards, hye-jin didn’t quite know, but in the most embarrassing scenario, she guessed she could always blame it on the alcohol. gosh, mingyu could not have picked a more inopportune moment to show up, her mind swaying forth and back like the tide. it was a blessing to not have lost complete control over her sea of thoughts yet, lest she might do something as embarrassing as admitting that he looked way too handsome to be her best friend’s younger brother.
alas, with retaining most of her responsible psyche, hye-jin was also quick to shut down another round of alcohol. “i don’t think drinking more is smart min-ah, you, woman, are one soju shot away from another sailor’s rant about someone and i rather not get kicked out from another bar. how about we order some more food instead? are you hungry mingyu?” she had already raised her hand to flag a waiter, before using her other arm to swat her best friend. “ also, let the poor boy sit down meens-ah! he must be tired from traveling all day.” her gaze switched back to the boy, expression altering from admonishing to welcoming. “please sit down, mingyu. oh, and tell us some more about your time in the US. is it true that your university has one of the best basketball teams of the country?”
Sitting down at the table with the pair of them was… surreal. Of course, he was used to talking to his sister as they face time talked with each other every week. But the fact he had been gone for so long, and this was the first time in years he had been able to physically touch her, was unremarkable. And Hye-Jin! Oh man, the last time he saw her was probably graduation. Sporting his stupid bowl hair cut and outdated suit which his parents had forced him to wear. He was basically a child back then, unable to look at Hye-Jin for more than five seconds without his face burning up. But not anymore. He was a man now.
Or so he thought.
Hearing Hye-Jin just so calmly ask if he was hungry, and question about his time in America, instantly made his heart stumble. He could feel the redness heat up his cheeks. Someone get some marshmallows over here to make some smores off this poor guy’s face. “It’s okay, I ate before” he lied when asked if he wanted some food. Well, he didn’t think he would be capable of eating right now. He was struggling to even talk directly to his best friend’s sister (who just so happened to be his sister’s best friend). Ah! That was right! She wanted to know about the US?
“Oh… ah… Well… yes, I suppose.” he began, stumbling over his words. “I mean… the school I attend… they’re well known for their basketball team, the Trojans. Uh… they’ve number one in the leadership board for the Pac-12 Conference. A lot of players in the Basketball Hall of Fame – like Bill Sharman and Alex Hannum – were apart of the team in their younger years. My couch is actually Andy Enfield who coached a lot of NBA teams like the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics. He even - ” Mingyu turned his gaze from Hye-Jin to his sister to see that typical face she pulled.
Now, this face was one that his sister was unaware of, but growing up alongside her, he had developed to understand that the face she was pulling meant she had absolutely no clue what he was talking about. Which was… fair enough. Not everyone was as passionate at basketball like Mingyu was. Even Hyun-Joo had to draw the line sometimes with him and express that he had no clue what he was on about. So, clearing his throat slightly, he tried to figure out a way to dumb it down even more for his empty-headed sister. “Um… he’s a very famous basketball coach, and really good” he informed Min-Ah.
“Ooohhh!” she overdramatically responded, lifting up her shot glass (one that she had filled up whilst her brother and best friend were in the middle of speaking) and quickly swung it back before anyone could protest. “Aiishh.” She hissed, scrunching her face before reaching over for the half-empty bottle. “Come on Mingyu. You need to have a drink.” she slurred, beginning the process of pouring out the soju into the shot glass with… well, quite amazing precision. “I’m your noona. You can’t say no to me. It’s rude” she added on, placing the bottle down and swooping up the shot glass, handing it out to him.
Mingyu chuckled, taking hold of the shot glass. Did his sister forget that he was a twenty-two-year-old male now? That his little lips had never tasted alcohol before? Turning to the side and covering up the glass with his hand respectfully, Mingyu brought the glass to his lips and swallowed it whole. Min-Ah’s eyes widened, a bright smile forming on her face. “Aishhh! Jinnie did you see that! Ahhh! Mingyu is all grown up now.” she squealed towards her friend before smacking her brother’s arm. “You’re not a little baby anymore! Jinnie - do you remember when we were little and have baths together? Ah, I see Mingyu and all I can think of are those pictures our parents took of all of us in the bathtub together. I bet you don't look like those pictures anymore, Mingyu”
admittedly, eighty percent of the words following the question entered one ear and instantly exited the other. the basketball lore mingyu spoke about far extended the limited knowledge hye-jin had collected about the sport from bystander conversations between him and her younger brother. though, even with majority of the information flying over her head, she could not help but smile at the boy turned man. the way his eyes twinkled just right in the moment and how the words tumbled after the other in unadulterated ardor -- it was the kind of passion hye-jin could recognize very well. for once upon a time in the past, that exact same exuberance made up the bones in her body and the spark in her soul.
oh, how she missed the way the cold would greet her upon entering the ice rink, like a companion extending its arms and embracing you in its familiarity. how she longed for the sensation of entering that realm in between worlds, where nothing else existed except the fond feeling of thin blades guiding you across the ice and an air of serenity. hye-jin, while undoubtedly happy for mingyu, could not help but to feel envious as well. to make one’s passion their life’s occupation was a fortunate rarity, and one who had slipped right beyond her reaches. she had been there, had received the keys to the golden gate, had been blessed with an opportunity rare as a glimmer of a comet across the sky and yet…she had to give it all up. her passion died in order for her family to survive, and even though hye-jin can’t say she regrets abandoning her dream, the mourning might have never ceased. figure skating was her star in the sky, the light in the universe -- so when it fell, there was no more dawn or day, only twilight.
alas, hye-jin had accepted the reality of her situation, knew the truth in her heart that if she really wanted to, nothing was stopping her from entering the ice rink again. why it hadn’t happened yet was a conundrum she perhaps wasn’t ready in solving yet. so for now, melancholy or not, all hye-jin could do was to vocally support her best friend’s brother in his endeavours.
“wow, I didn’t know that. it sounds like you are in very good hands there then.” her gaze narrowed to her best friend as a flash of movement got caught in the corner of her eye, lips slightly turning downwards in disapproval as min-ah downed another shot. that sneaky bitch. it was no true girl’s night out without min-ah sneaking a few more drinks in despite both of them knowing that the woman had already exceeded her alcohol limit. in prediction, it would only be a matter of time till min-ah would lose her last sliver of sobriety and be as mobile as bambi on ice and with the emotional poise of a toddler. her eyes travelled back to mingyu when her best friend urged him to take a shot with her, her head shaking in feigned chastisement.
“ I hope you know what you are getting yourself into mingyu. the more alcohol this woman has in her system, the less shame she has about shouting every embarrassing moment of your life for the world to hear.” and almost in perfect anticipation, min-ah continued to gush about some classic memories that were boxed into that exact category. a soft laugh escaped hye-jin’s lips at the timing, her eyes sparkling in amused glint that conveyed the ‘I told you’ sentiment.
“yes, I can still remember when….“ her voice slowly trailed off as the words slowly seeped into the mind, her brain starting to paint a picture that starred adult mingyu with no clo- nope. nope nope nope nope - begone imagination ! hye-jin’s cheeks were set aflame in equal embarrassment as horror at the wayward dwindling of thoughts, the prospect of even finishing that picture causing an additional streak of shame to colour her face. oh, she was so going to blame this on the alcohol. there was no way otherwise for an old noona like her to let her mind wander beyond the walls of propriety. yeah, it was definitely the alcohol. hye-jin weakly finished the sentence: “-when we were that young…” a wistful sigh then left her figure at the old memories. “I can’t believe it has been so long ago. time does fly fast…” her hand reached for the bottle of soju and hye-jin poured herself the two last remaining shots, quickly downing one after the other. after the burn of the last one was sitting warmly in her throat, she placed the shot glass down and curved her lips into another smile.
“anyway, I think it is best to wrap this night up for now. I will go and pay. mingyu would you mind helping your sister with her coat and bag? If we hurry, we might make it halfway before miss alcohol here loses her ability to walk.” hye-jin was standing up from her seat, hands both grabbing her coat and bag. her face continued to burn as she made her way towards the counter, but truth was, she didn’t know whether it was from the alcohol or…. well.
As Hye-Jin suggested that he should tend to his sister by helping her place her coat on and grabbing her bag, Mingyu automatically nodded before rising to his feet. After all, Hye-Jin was older. He wasn’t going to tell the lady that it was a bad idea. But also… it wasn’t a bad idea either. Mingyu had only ever been at the receiving end of seeing his sister drunk. Never had he had the opportunity to actually watch her in action. Normally it was a drunk video call at three in the morning, staggering her way back to the family house; Mingyu would often spend most of the time trying to explain to her for the twentieth time that the reason it was light where he was, was because he was in America where it was ten in the morning already. But to be so up close with his drunk sister was… well, eventful, I suppose.
“Come on, Noona” he spoke to her softly, trying to coax the girl to stand up from her seat. His hands took hold of the warm fabric of her coat, stretching it out to open it for her. With some difficulty, they managed to wrangle her arms through the sleeves. Once on her arms, Mingyu turned her to look at him so he could button her up. This task would’ve been quite easy on any other circumstance, but Min-Ah was trying to make it hard for him.
She pouted like a poor child who had lost her dog and slouched with heavy arms. She began to mumble and whine something incoherent. Knowing Min-Ah, it was probably something along the lines of wanting more to drink. “We can drink at home” Mingyu chuckled at his older sister, taking hold of her handbag and placing it across his body to ensure some random stranger wouldn’t come and steal it. This, apparently, was the funniest sight in the world to his dear older sister. Intense, obnoxious laughter spilled from his lips as she pointed at her brother wearing her handbag. Her face, already tinted red from her alcohol consumption, was practically scarlet from the roar of laughter coming out of her.
“Jinnie-ah!” screamed the drunk girl, looking over at her best friend who was paying the bill. “Look! Look!” she bellowed, trying her absolute hardest to keep her drunken pointing as still as possible. “Ahhh, Mingyu-ah is a girl! He’s wearing a girl’s handbag! Mingyu-ah! Do we need to go and buy you a training bra? Your tits might be coming in soon” she cooed at her brother, turning to him and attempting to flick his torso upwards with her fingertips.
Apparently saying her name and trying to cover his chest with his arm wasn’t going to stop Min-Ah’s little show of trying to embarrass her baby brother. “Oh! Are you on your period? Do we need to go and buy you some tampons? I think Jinnie has some – Hey, Jinnie-ah!” she once again turned to look at her friend, her voice rising even more so. “Jinnie-ah! Do you still have those tampons? Mingyu has his period. It’s a heavy flow and he nee- hey! What the heck? You think because you got tall you can treat me this way?”
“That’s enough now” That was more than enough, actually. Mingyu wrapped his arm around his older sister’s neck, pulling the girl alongside him as he made his way towards the exit. In the process of it all, Mingyu made sure to give bows and apologies to those in the tent that were giving him a deadly glare. Man, thank God Min-Ah had someone like Hye-Jin who would put up with her crap; and to help to drag her drunk ass home too.
by the laws of distance and distraction, hye-jin should have not become a target of embarrassment at the hands of drunk babbling -- but blitzed min-ah didn’t do laws, and certainly had a talent in embarrassing her company at least once on the route from the drinking establishment to home. hye-jin had only hoped that perhaps this time, mingyu was able to serve as the teasing monolith for the night. oh, and did meens not pull back on that one. part of her felt for the poor boy and the girl gig he became victim of, but another part of her was thoroughly amused by it as well. her lips had curved up into a smile, laughter building up in her throat as she captured mingyu’s utterly mortified reaction to his older sister. karma arrived swiftly, though, and hye-jin soon found herself dragged into the next embarrassment skit. her cheeks instantly began to burn along with the tips of her ears, and she promptly regretted getting distracted by the jeong siblings instead of swiftly paying and booking it out of there as quickly as possible. though, in that case, her sanitary possessions might as well would’ve been aired to many more korean citizens who would be ambling through the street outside. yeah… there was really no winning here, was there?
hye-jin offered the person behind the counter an awkward smile while hurriedly paying for the drinks and food. then came the first walk of shame for the night, which was following the other two out of pojangmacha. at the very least, most of the other patrons were decent enough not to stare after the trio, lessening the burning abashment of the situation somewhat. nevertheless, hye-jin felt properly flushed by the time she stepped outside the bar, much so that the cold air came as cooling kiss from the dark heavens above. the water droplets that had fallen in translucent reflection of the dreary majority of her day had ceased by now as had most of the desolate weight to her mood. rolling grey still ruled the skies, but everything looked just a bit lighter -- as if there was still a chance to witness the twinkling of stars and luminescence of the moon. it looked just a bit more hopeful.
with a small smile, she turned to mingyu and outstretched her hand towards min-ah’s bag. “here let me carry that for you while you support our lovely drunk.” she offered, “ we wouldn’t want her to start addressing your boobs and period again, right?” she then teased, the left side of her lips curling up in humour. what? no matter the impropriety, it was impossible to not build on top of min-ah’s admittedly funny commentary. not to mention that seeing mingyu with rosy features was equally endearing as it was amusing. nevertheless, karma was setting to be constant in deliverance tonight, and just as the teasing left her lips and her hand moved to take the bag, their fingers briefly brushed against each other. this wasn’t that much of a big deal in itself, or shouldn’t be, but with the way this particular action heralded a spread of electricity inside…...fuuuuck.
for a moment, time had frozen and hye-jin was rooted static in the course of its reaction. for a moment, she tracked the path of sparks, starting from her fingertips up to the length of her arm and ending right somewhere too close to the heart. her breathe was lodged in her throat, unwilling to come out or descend back into the lungs, and the woman had to mentally will herself to release that puff of air again. and once that breathe was released, reality returned, bringing two facts with it. one, that was possibly the most weird experience to have with a best friend’s younger brother. and two, she was way too drunk to handle any of it. yeah, this was so going into that handy mind box of this-never-happened-what-are-you-talking-about. albeit more awkwardly than intended, the woman pulled her best friend’s bag to herself, before clearing her throat.
“well, let’s go before this drunk social media guru decides to broadcast more, uh, interesting commentary to the nightlife on the street. i assume you know the way?”
thank god that min-ah’s house was not too far from the bar, or else the two might not have any dignity left by the end of the route. after twenty minutes or so ( it could have been fifteen if min-ah didn’t lose her ability to walk half-way and poor mingyu had to carry the older, blubbering sibling on his back) they all arrived at the given apartment complex. the good thing? min-ah had also lost most of her ability to speak coherently so the two had been spared mostly from further embarrassment. the bad thing? in those twenty minutes, the last shots or so had definitely been kicking in too and hye-jin was starting to have some real trouble in being conscient. it didn’t stop her from planting a kiss on min-ah’s forehead, smiling drunkenly back at her best friend as she slurred her goodbye, though.
“I love you drunk biiiitch ~ thanks for making this day not that shitty.”
and it certainly did not stop her from turning towards mingyu and spouting the following: “it was so good to see you again too mingyu. next time, come visit me and haneul at the house. oh, and don’t be shy to bring your new handsomeness again~” while lazily waving, before starting to walk away. as if she was totally sober enough to find her own way home.
Ever since he was a child, his parents would often make fun of him and his harbouring crush for his sister’s best friend. Of course, it was quite obvious from the way he’d be quiet as a mouse around here, and then next minute he’d be flexing his skills and abilities around her. After all, it was just a stupid childhood crush, right? Children always had little crushes on older people growing up as they were learning about their bodies. So, why was he any different? Even as he raced through high school, he showed zero interest in any of the girls in his school. But when it came to Hye-Jin, there was just something about her that made him forget how to breathe every time he was around her.
Since moving to America and focusing all of his time on his studies and basketball, there was simply no time to think about Hye-Jin anymore. There was no time to think about how her silky hair pooled at her shoulders and spilled down the sides of her arms. No time to imagine running his fingertips over her soft, delicate lips as he traced God’s masterpiece of a woman. There was no time to get carried away with silly childhood crushes and dreams of sweeping her up in his arms and running away together. After all, it was in the past, and it was nothing more than a silly childhood thought. So, he just simply didn’t think about it anymore. He pushed it to the back of his mind, out of sight and out of worry.
That was until he felt her hand brush against his own.
As soon as he felt that velvety skin graze so carefully and gently across his own, he was a child again. She made him feel like he was twelve years old again, pretending to be interested in some K-Pop idol that she really liked just so he could spend an extra five minutes sitting with her on the couch, watching the music video clips. Memories came pouring back into his mind of the days he would spend daydreaming about Hye-Jin in class rather than focusing on his exams, and the nights pining after her in his dreams. For so long, he had taught himself how to breathe again. And within that microsecond – within that single touch – she took away any memory that would help his lungs expand with air.
She took his breath away.
Even the annoying groans and complaints of his sister in his ear as he proceeded to bring her home, carrying her piggy-back style, wasn’t enough to drown out the thoughts running through his head as they walked. It felt like years before they arrived at their parent’s house. Thankfully, he could see his Appa noticing them through the window and was beginning to make his way over to the door to meet them. And I say thankfully because Hye-Jin announced that she was going to go on her way. She also called him handsome but his fear that she would hurt herself walking home completely shook that keyword out of his head.
“Song Hye-Jin-ssi-” Mingyu began, his hand automatically reaching for the girl who was attempting her getaway. Long fingers wrapped themselves around her small wrist, bringing the girl to a halt. Had he really just done that? Once he was certain that Hye-Jin had stopped in her spot and wasn’t about to fun off, he released a soft sigh after reminding himself to breathe. “I’ll walk you home. I don’t feel comfortable knowing you’re walking by yourself” he finally announced to the girl before noticing that his father had emerged to help with the older Jeong sibling.
“Min-ah! What have you gotten yourself into?”
“Oh, you stink! How much did you drink?”
Slowly, Mingyu released his grasp on Hye-Jin’s wrist, lowered his sister down and helped to maneuver her so his Appa could help her inside. Once settled, he then announced to his father that he was going to walk Hye-Jin home to which the older man thanked him and told him it was a good idea. Within a couple of minutes, Min-ah had gone from a whiny mess upon Mingyu’s back to being safe and sound in her home with her parents, where she could continue to drink as much as she wanted or just pass out on the couch. With the knowledge that his sister was secure, his next thing to stress about was Hye-Jin.
Cautiously turning towards the girl – no, not a girl. She was a woman now – that he had spent most of his childhood dreaming about, he offered her a warm, inviting smile. “I’m assuming you still live in the same place I’ve been sending Hanuel all those American candy packages?” He questioned her with a child-like grin evolving on his face as he did so.
confirmed. i will die of a heart attack before I'm 30.
yeah, she was drunk drunk. hye-jin could feel it in the way her cheeks burned despite the cold air trying to steal its warmth. she could catch how this was the beginning of something inevitably regrettable -- because even with the call to hold onto that last piece of sober control, all she could think of was the beauty of the night sky and the freedom at her fingertips. it was like a weight had been lifted, the heavy shackles life had handed her laying somewhere broken and abandoned. the dutybound hye-jin of tomorrow was undoubtedly going to regret the mayhem drunk hye-jin might cause tonight - a vow to firm sobriety wating for her at the break of dawn – but the kind of care about anything slipping past sunrise had long been forsaken by the mind. her head was now a place too muddled, too bold, and too capable of terrible, good things.
[like watching mingyu but seeing a spark perhaps worth reaching for despite the possible burn.]
past and present blended together in a walk on clouds of memories yet with a path not completely determined. a sense of comfort lingered between the two, a golden string of familiarity bridging the two worlds together. but there was something new too: a change hye-jin wasn’t sure she was ready for. these images told stories of a young boy made of shy smiles and clumsy actions, pictured teen moments in sepia shades, because, while dated, time had yet to strip them completely of colour. everything was vivid now though, dazzling the world in a new kind of chroma. the remembrances no longer matched with reality in a way it felt like this was the beginning of a new epoch but also the falling of an existing one. down went the last fragment of an era, the final sand grain dropping in the hourglass that was the past catching up to the present. the young boy in those memories had become someone hye-jin would’ve had trouble recognizing if it wasn’t for that same gentle disposition. mingyu had become a handsome man [and hye-jin didn’t quite know why that unnerved her the way it did].
“aishh” hye-jin uttered, frustrated at her own thoughts. even under the influence of alcohol, some faux-pas remained in existence, including thinking about how handsome the younger brother of one’s best friend was. she quickly patted both her cheeks in attempt to rein in some sense, before turning around and trying her best to steer the focus towards mingyu’s words and not his awfully cute grin. the…. same place? american candy? hye-jin tried to recall whether that was her auntie’s home or her home, but the mind was a whole void. ehh whatever. she drunkenly smiled back at him, nodding fervently.
“yes that is definitely the home i’m living in. the home where haneul got all those package… my home… packages… ah!” there was a loud snap of the fingers, eyes widening as if a bigger realization had fallen upon the woman. she turned fully to mingyu and placed both her hands on his shoulders, bringing him closer. “I can finally thank you in person for those american packages. really, thank you for sending those. if a person could combust out of glee, i would’ve had to carry my little brother in a jar now. he loved it -- that boy has been obsessed with anything USA lately, I tell you. you might have to check your suitcases before you leave for US again for any unexpected boy-shaped luggage.” a chuckle escaped her lips and she slowly shook her head, before looking up and…. wait when did he get this close?? hye-jin’s lip parted slightly, startled by mingyu’s features hanging so close near her face. her then gaze lowered to the rather firm grip on his shoulders and she noticed how she had pulled him closer.
embarrassment would have been the right emotion in this scenario, retreating and apologizing the appropriate action. alas, all of that was tied to the sober version of hye-jin, leaving the drunk woman with a plethora of other possible reactions. there was a giggle born from an intoxicated mind, before a blanket of fatigue kicked in along with the grand desire to just....sleep.
“ah… i need to go home..” she stated, perhaps more so to herself than mingyu. there was an attempt at commanding the body to move, to gather some ounce of energy, but all hye-jin could do was flutter her eyes closed and let her heavy head fall against a nice, warm wall.
“…..home…” was the last thing uttered in a whisper, before the drunk woman drifted off to slumber.
All words that were coming from Hye-Jin’s mouth was nothing more than fragments floating into space, attaching themselves to dust particles. Sure, she was speaking. Mingyu could clearly see her mouth moving and could feel the vibrations of her voice tickling his ears. But his receptors were not connecting to his brain, and everything was being said was being spoken to the universe.
He didn’t mean to be rude. He didn’t mean to just stand there, mouth slightly ajar and staring down at the girl before him. But the moment she placed her hands upon his shoulders and with that tight grip began to pull him closer to her, it was all over. He was melting into a puddle, struggling to keep his composure. He couldn’t remember a time ever being so close to Hye-Jin. Sure, there had been those times as a young teenager where he might have had the opportunity to find her asleep on the couch as he came over to play video games with Hanuel. Sure, he might’ve been a bit creepy and watched the girl in her peaceful slumber (and maybe finding the fact that her mouth was slightly ajar as she slept was cute). But watching her filled him with an warm sensation of happiness.
Right at this moment, as he gazed down at her and her words falling onto deaf ears, he could feel that warm sensation flooding through his body. His dark eyes couldn’t help but swoop over her face. Of course, Hye-Jin had changed since the last time he had seen her. Her naturally black locks had been dyed to a tint of caramel dark brown. Her eyes which were once full of mischief now showed the world the weight that she was carrying and how tired she really was, even if her words tried to cover it up. Her skin, once smooth to perfection and lightly blushed, was starting to show signs of aging and cracked blemishes. But none of it deferred him. In fact, it only continued to bring in continuous waves of radiating heat through his body. She wasn’t the same girl that he grew up pining over during his high school years. No, she wasn’t a girl anymore. She was a woman. A woman who was showing her wisdom through her smile, all the while hiding behind it.
He was stuck in such a trance that the moment Hye-Jin began to move once more, he had to mentally kick himself in the face to get the gears turning once more. Blinking hard, he watched as the girl had decided that the best spot for her to fall asleep was… against his chest. Dear Lord, he was praying that she couldn’t hear his heartbeat as it thrashed around in his chest like a three-year-old, banging pots and pans and demanding attention. He was left standing there completely and utterly speechless. What was he supposed to do now? Mingyu gazed around himself as panic began to set in.
Okay. He knew where he had to go. However, how was he going to get there with a passed out girl? Had it been one of his college friends, he would’ve just flung them over his shoulder with a fireman carry. But Hye-Jin was wearing a dress and under that dress was – ok, he wasn’t going to think about it. So… the way to go was… a cradle of sorts? It took him a few moments, and a slur of muttered curses, but he managed to maneuver the girl into his arms and into a cradle position. With a slight grunt as he repositioned her into a more comfortable position, they were finally ready to start their journey back to the home he assumed (well, she had said that was where she lived. Why would she lie?)