(A/N: Seo Kyung's outfit is on my Polyvore lizzy-poo or Doctorholmes221 under "Ruining Our Childhood" or here: http://www.polyvore.com/ruining_our_childhood/set?id=188054130)
Chapter Twelve - In Between
“I’LL SEE YOU at home, Jongin-ah.” Seo Kyung grinned at him as she pulled on her coat. “I’ll be back at our usual study time so don’t worry too much.”
Seo Kyung joined up with her group of girlfriends by the door while waving goodbye to Jongin before she left with them. She only paused to tighten the silver and blue ribbon in her hair. Jongin lifted his hand to wave back, but she was already gone. Shaking his head, Jongin lowered his gaze back to his math book and sighed heavily. All of the work was done except for the one problem he couldn’t quite get. He told himself that if he got this problem right in the next forty five minutes, he would treat himself to an hour of dance practice on his next break.
“Jongin-ah, going home late again?” One of his friends, Sun Woo, plopped down in the empty seat next to him. Jongin only nodded. “Come on, man, the boys and I are going to play basketball. You should join us.”
“Yeah!” “Come play with us!” “Please? Come on, is that so important?” The other boys exclaimed and Jongin just shrugged.
“I want to get this done. I still need to practice before I head home to study.”
“Sounds like you’re just passing the time, eh?” Sun Woo grinned knowingly and the other boys groaned.
“What?” Jongin blinked a couple of times, turning his head to look at the well-built athlete sitting next to him.
“You just can’t wait to see Seo Kyung again, can you?” Sun Woo chuckled.
“No? I’m just really busy and stuck on this problem. It has nothing to do with Seo Kyung.” Jongin muttered, going back to scribbling in his notebook.
“Aigoo, will you guys just date already?” Another boy, Eun Taek, groaned.
“Yeah, it’s getting exhausting to watch.” Joon sighed, plopping down at a desk to wait for Sun Woo.
“What, Seo Kyung and I? Dating?” Jongin scoffed, turning to face the boys. Secretly, he really liked the idea of being able to touch her and kiss her whenever he wanted but he wasn’t about to admit that to anyone who could tell her.
“Yah, Jongin, when I first saw you two I thought you were dating. That’s why none of us have gone after her yet. So far only Do Hyun has had the courage to do anything.” Sun Woo explained and the other boys agreed.
“Sun Woo-yah.” Jongin sighed, lowering his pencil to the desk and sitting up straight. “Yes, I love her. That is no secret, but it’s not a romantic love. She’s my best friend, so of course I love her. If no one comes around in the next 25 years who I want to spend the rest of my life with, I might marry her. However, she isn’t my style. Seo Kyung is nothing more than a friend and there’s no way I would ever feel anything romantic for her. I mean look at her.” Jongin wrinkled his nose in disgust. “She’s not pretty at all. Her eyes are too far apart and her nose is too small for her face. Let me tell you, after watching a girl pop countless numbers of pimples, she’s not that pretty anymore.” The other boys were silent for a moment.
“Wow.” Eun Taek broke the silence.
“You really don’t like her?” Sun Woo ventured.
“God, no. I’d rather date an ostrich.” Jongin went back to his math problem.
“Harsh.” Joon whistled. “You’ve made your point. Come on guys, let’s go l play.”
They other boys were gone for less than a second before Jongin was up and running to the bathroom. He pushed the door open and checked all the stalls for occupants before moving to the sink and turning it on. He waited until the water was cold enough before splashing some on his face, doing his best to cool his face. He had never been very good at lying.
“Seo Kyung-ah.” Jongin whispered, looking at himself in the mirror. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean any of it. I lied to them. I lied. You’re the only one for me. I love you.”
“YAH, JONGIN. YOU should have told me we were going to a place like this. I would have dressed nicer.” I scolded him in a harsh whisper.
The restaurant was golden. The floors were golden, the walls and pillars were golden marble, the chandeliers were golden and crystal. Everything else was a rich, dark red. The carpets, the napkins, the ties on the waiters. Since it was evening, the lights were dimmed and the golden and red candles on all the tables were lit. Nothing on the menu was under 25,000 won (just over $20 US dollars). Even the menu covers were red and gold and the thick golden parchment within probably cost more than my paycheck. Somewhere, a white grand piano played a soft melody that would have brought tears to my eyes if I hadn’t been so humiliated.
The waiters all wore suits that only presidents could afford along with red ties, bow or otherwise, that I would have to save up for a month to afford. The crystal china in front of me would have made my mother pass out and I barely wanted to touch my water glass in fear of smudging it. One of the waiters had come by and poured a rich golden champagne into tall crystal glasses I couldn’t afford to touch.
All this richness around me and I was wearing a denim skirt and converse with white high-socks.
I did match the interior, I prided myself on that, with my red cardigan, shoes and necklace but in no way did I look as rich as my surroundings. My outfit cost me half of the cheapest thing on the menu. I didn’t even feel comfortable with my hairstyle, which Ha Kyung worked on for me so I wouldn’t waste time. I tugged on the hem of my skirt and pulled on my cardigan to cover up my white and black striped shirt to see if the women a few tables down would stop staring at me. I even moved to hide my feet from them, but their judging looks continued.
“Seo Kyung-ah, don’t worry about them. You’re beautiful.” Jongin reached over the table and took my hand.
“It’s not just them. You should have told me.” I sighed, pulling my hand from his.
“Who cares? We’re just here for dinner and then we’ll be off. Besides, I wanted to treat you to something nice. Can you bear it for just a while?” Jongin pleaded. I had to admit that some of the things on the menu sounded delicious and my stomach hadn’t stopped growling embarrassingly since my sister caught us on the stairs, so I almost has no choice but to agree.
Even though the Jongin in front of me could have easily come right out of the pages of a storybook, I could still see the young boy I spent my entire childhood with. I could still see the faint scar on his neck from when he fell off the swing. I could still see the little boy who was begging me to go see Pirates of the Caribbean with him when the Korean subtitles came out. When he spoke, I could almost hear his high pitched voice calling me to come out and play before we went through puberty.
Now, even though he didn’t have a lot of makeup on, it was like someone had taken a pencil to the page and created a masterpiece. There were flaws, a scar or a freckle here and there, but they looked to be an artist's creation. His face was sculpted from the richest clay, his features designed and drawn by a team of artists. Perfection at it’s finest sat in front of me with his dark eyes watching my every movement.
“So.” Jongin took a sip of his champagne. “Tell me everything. How is everyone?”
“Um...” I trailed off.
“How are your sisters?”
“Busy. I mean, we all quit school so we’re not getting any smarter, but we’re also not getting any richer either. I think He Kyung is dating someone from work so when she’s not cooking for Mom at home or between shifts, she’s out with him.” I rambled on. “I know that Eun Kyung is dating someone. She’s always been praised as being the prettiest sister who gets the most attention. I don’t think she knows who to pick between her endless numbers of suitors all after her heart.”
“And Ae Kyung?” Jongin asked after a long pause.
“She doesn’t handle Mom being sick very well. She’s always working or at the hospital. She comes home to help cook and to sleep sometimes. Besides me, Ae Kyung took everything the worst.”
“What... what happened with you?” Jongin trailed off and I escaped into a long drink of water. “You don’t have to tell me.”
“It’s okay.” I set the glass down slowly. The golden champagne suddenly looked appealing. “Well... you left, Do Kyung left and Mom got sick in the same couple of months so I can’t say I did well. Food got less appealing and there were some weeks I only had broth and a bit of rice at dinner. My sisters had to help me eat sometimes since I could barely get out of bed. I mean, to me, my world was just falling apart before my eyes and I didn’t know how to handle it. Ae Kyung and Eun Kyung were always upset that I wasn’t working to help out but Ha Kyung recognized that nothing was going right.”
As I continued to tell my story, Jongin listened intently. His intense eyes watched my face carefully. I told him some of the story the night before in front of the swing set, but I had been blubbering and not as detailed. Jongin’s eyes widened when I told him about how I couldn’t go to school and it took me an extra year to finish high school. I got accepted into a few colleges, including Seoul University, I just didn’t have the money or the emotional stability to go.
I filtered through several awful part time jobs that never kept me on for long because it was difficult for me to work. It took a while to come out of my depression and I only came out of it enough to work when Mom got out the hospital cancer free. As soon as she was out, I went to school.
Jongin’s face softened as I told him about the eighteen months I could afford to go to school. Those months were happy. I was working part time, studying and going out with friends. One day my school friends and I had stumbled across Cha Hyun’s karaoke bar and we reconnected. When Mom went back into the hospital with her second bout of cancer, I dropped out of school and Cha Hyun offered me a job. Over the course of those busy years, I had heard of Exo here and there but I’d never knowingly heard a song or paid attention to their adverts or promotional pictures. When I stated this, Jongin’s face fell slightly but if anything he found it hilarious.
“Really? Never?” Jongin managed through laughter.
“Not... not really.” I went for a sip of champagne but the glass paused halfway to my lips. The glass was empty, save for that one drop that always hides in the bottom. Jongin reached out and used his fingertips to lower the glass back to the table.
“Are you okay?” All of the humor in Jongin’s voice vaporized, turning into the low mumble of concern.
“I don’t know.” I answered truthfully. “These past few years have been hard and I’m not just going to sugar coat it for you, or me, or anyone else.”
“I understand.” Jongin nodded, reaching out and taking my hand. I let him this time, sighing as his large, warm hand enveloped mine. “Is there anything I can do to help you now?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“That’s okay. I’ll be right here until you figure it out, okay?” Jongin assured me with a soft smile tugging on his plump lips.
“It might be a while.” I met his warm eyes and something warm spread over my body. It started where his fingers made contact with my skin and spread over my arms, through my chest and legs.
“That’s okay.” Jongin repeated. “Seo Kyung-ah, you’re my best friend and I lo- I care for you.”
“That really means a lot to me, Jongin-ah.” I smiled softly.
“I’ll always be here for now. I’m not leaving your side anymore.” Jongin promised.
“I really hope so.” The waiter came around the corner and I pulled my hand from Jongin’s. My hands fell into my lap and Jongin pulled his off the table slowly.
“Are we ready to order or do we need a few minutes?” Our waiter inquired, tilting his head slightly and purposefully not looking at me.
“Ready?” Jongin eyed me and I nodded.
As soon as Jongin and I ordered, the waiter vanished into the kitchen to relay our orders to the cooks. Jongin kept his eyes on me as our waiter returned to refill my champagne. Jongin whispered something to the waiter, who nodded and set the bottle of champagne on the table before turning on his heel and walking away. Jongin carefully refilled his drink before setting the bottle to the side so he could see me.
“Jongin-ah.” A spark of conversation came to me. “How is your sister? I know she got married in 2013, I went to the reception for about twenty minutes before work but I don’t know much about her now.”
“My noona is doing really well. She runs a store and she takes care of my dogs. About a year after she got married, she had a daughter.”
“Really?” I exclaimed.
“Mm.” Jongin beamed. “I’m an uncle. She’s adorable and I love her so much. I’m pretty good about visiting my angel on all my breaks.” Jongin was gushing, his entire face lighting up and pure joy radiating off of his body.
Something I had forgotten about Jongin was the fact that he was easily excitable. Yesterday it was his dogs, today it was his niece. Jongin rambled on and on about “his little angel” and how bright the girl was. The way he talked about his dogs was nothing compared to how he gushed about Rahee. He giggled and grinned like a 5-year-old telling you about his really cool dinosaur book. Jongin told stories about how much Rahee adored him and he adored her in return. He rambled on with a glint in his eyes that was blinding.
When he paused for breath, I slipped in small comments like “I’d love to meet her” or “I haven’t seen your sister in forever” or “This bread is really good, how’s yours” but he was too lost in his adoration for her. He raved about “his princess” and I wasn’t sure he even noticed when his food was set in front of him. I sat back in my chair and grinned as Jongin continued to ramble on and on. For the second time in two days, I watched as Jongin talked about something he loved. He was so into talking about his niece, Rahee, that he didn’t even noticed the bread and olive oil that was set in front of us. I had to thank the waiter for him.
I had forgotten how much I loved watching Jongin talk about things he loved. I loved watching his face light up and the red in his cheeks get darker. His eyes would brighten considerably and in them I could practically see images of the memories he was reliving. His endearing laugh made the candles burn a little brighter and those around us paused what they were doing to appreciate his beauty. The piano’s music faltered to make room for the real music coming from Jongin’s mouth. The women paused their chewing or their drinking to look over their shoulders to find the source of the angel-like noise. I got to see it head-on and I wondered if those women who didn’t like my outfit choice were now the ones envying me.
“Jongin-ah.” I grinned and Jongin paused to look at me, but there was another story about Rahee bubbling up from his throat. “Aren’t you getting tired?”
“No...” Jongin trailed off, lifting his wrist to see the time. His watch glinted in the candlelight- it looked expensive- but it was gone under the sleeve of his suit jacket only a moment later. “It’s not late... did I miss something?”
“No.” I couldn’t help but to giggle at Jongin’s cluelessness. “You were talking for a while and I was wondering if you were beginning to tire out.”
“Oh, I’m sorry if I annoyed you!” Jongin jumped at the thought of me being even remotely uncomfortable.
“You didn’t. Not in the slightest.” I assured him. “I would love to meet Rahee and see your sister again sometime. It’s clearly been too long.”
“We should go together!” Jongin exclaimed, finally noticed the bread and taking one of the pieces I left for him. “Though... I don’t exactly know when my next day off is. Tomorrow is a half day so I don’t have time to go... next month...”
“It’s okay.” I giggled. “I can just go myself the first time. I would actually get time with her then, since I can’t imagine you’d let me have her.”
“Perhaps that’s true.” Jongin’s cheeks turned a shade pinker. “I do hog her a bit.”
“I think I could make time next week. Could you ask your sister if it’s okay that I drop by? I don’t have her number.”
“Oh, of course.” Jongin reached to pull his phone out of his jacket. As he typed into his phone, I took a couple of sips of champagne. A moment later my phone buzzed in my purse. “I sent you her number as well. Noona said she would love to see you.”
“Thank you for asking, Jongin-ah.”
“Aigoo, I’m so hungry. I wonder why our dinner is taking so long.” Jongin looked around for our waiter, perhaps with the hope that he would be bringing food to our table.
“I don’t know. I’m hungry, too.” I mused, taking a quick look around as well.
It took all of two seconds for Jongin and I to turn our heads in the exact right way to end up looking right into each other’s eyes. Jongin gazed at me over the table and partly through a pair of candles. His curious look softened into one of calm satisfaction. After all this time and all of this resentment between us, though it was mostly from my side, I was surprised he could still look at me that way. His eyes were open doors and nothing less of adoration was behind them. His thick lips were slightly parted and curved into a satisfied grin.
Jongin was the first one to break the gaze to turn to someone approaching our table. For a moment, the air was out of me like someone had taken a vacuum to my lungs. A wave of oxygen and relief came to me when I saw that Jongn had only broken his gaze because our waiter was standing at our table with steaming plates of food. The young waiter stood there for a long moment with a look of utter discomfort on his face. Jongin shot him a dazzling smile and thanked him as he set our plates in front of us. Our bow-tie clad waiter mumbled something like “I’m sorry for intruding” before hurrying off into the kitchen.
“Mm, that looks good.” Jongin peered over the table at my plate. “What did you get?”
“Seafood pasta.” I my lips as I twisted my fork in the noodles. When I looked up to ask Jongin what he had ordered, I found him distracted by something on my face. His eyes lingered there for only a moment before returning to my eyes.
“Hm?” Jongin hummed distractedly.
“What did you get?” I pretended to repeat words that I hadn’t actually spoken.
“Steak.” My mouth watered just at the word. I had originally wanted to get meat like him, but the pastas were cheaper and they did provide some meat as well.
“It looks good.” I distracted myself with a bite of pasta that overwhelmed my taste buds the moment it touched my tongue. The creamy richness of the white sauce coated my tongue and a moment later a hint of crab crept into the cream. “Mmm.” I hummed.
“From that look on your face I assume it’s heavenly.” Jongin spoke a moment later, pulling me out of my incoherent thoughts.
“It is. How is yours?” I sighed and took another bite. I could understand why this was so expensive. With taste this refined and perfect, it had to be expensive.
“It’s good, but I’m not sure if it’s as good as yours. Can I try it?” Jongin’s puppy eyes came out and his mouth opened. He leaned across the table a little and waited.
“Really?” He nodded. “Well, okay... as long as I get to try yours.”
Jongin sat back in his chair and we both prepared small bites for the other to try. I never turned down meat and the fact that Jongin’s was so expensive made it taste just that much better. Juicy, savory and positively delicious were words that might be used to describe what Jongin offered me on his fork. I couldn’t really take in how Jongin was feeling about my pasta; I was too focused on the bite he gave me. I didn’t really want to swallow, but when I did I could finally focus on other things. Like my pasta, champagne and Jongin.
“Yours was good.” Jongin grinned and I agreed. “So, tell me.”
“Tell you... what?”
“About yourself. It’s been seven years. Who are you now?”
“I’m not really... I don’t know.” I trailed off slowly. “What do you want me to say?”
“I feel like I’ve only talked about myself and my dogs. You have only talked about me being gone.” Jongin began. “I want to talk about you now. I told you that I wasn’t done with you and I’m keeping right on that. Please, tell me.”
“I... I don’t even know where to start.”
“Then let’s start with this.” Jongin laced his fingers together and leaned forwards. “How long have you been in love with me?”