(A/N: How are you guys liking the story so far??? I have a lot planned for up and coming chapters and I would LOVE to know what you guys think. I know I'm not the BEST writer in the world, so let's stick to plot feedback if at all possible. I, like many others, need some sort of outside opinions. Anyway, I'm sorry for the long delay! Be sure to let me know what you think. Without farther delay, chapter sixteen)
Chapter Sixteen - Picture Perfect
I WAS LATE but that wasn’t my fault. The bus got stalled because of traffic, so I decided to just get off and run home. Last time I was late to the study session, Jongin refused to let me have his math notes and I really couldn’t do without those. On any other occasion, I wouldn’t be late to something as important as a study session but at least fifteen people from school stopped me on the way to the bus stop with something to ask of me.
“Do you have those notes from Social Studies?”
“Student, where is your name tag?”
“Seo Kyung-ah... Can you get me Jongin’s number?”
“Seo Kyung-ah, can I borrow some money for snacks? I’ll pay you back next week!”
“Can I borrow your English homework? I don’t understand question three.”
By the time I made it to the bus, I knew I would be at least ten minutes late. As soon as the traffic hit as soon as they were over the bridge, I knew there was no way I’d be back in time. After a long debate with the bus driver, I finally got him to let me off so I could take off running home. It was faster than the bus was going to be anyway.
When I got to the complex, Jongin was waiting for me under the pavilion in the park. His books and notebooks were spread out over the picnic table in an unorganized mess. His eyebrows were furrowed in frustration and I knew I was in for it. I hurried under the pavilion and dropped my bag on the bench. I wasted no time in unloading my books and notebooks and highlighters on the table, only contributing to the mess.
“Jongin-ah, I’m so sorry.” I rasped. Every breath hurt my throat. “I tried so hard to get here on time. Please don’t hide your math notes from me.”
“Seo Kyung, there’s a reason we actually have a set time to study three times a week.” Jongin didn’t look up from his book. “Now that I’ve been going to the institute after school, we don’t have a lot of time together and this doubles as quality time and study time. Especially with my trip coming up.”
“I know, I know.” I apologized, frowning at the thought of Jongin leaving for two whole weeks. “I hate being late, I promise.”
“Did you lend your Social Studies notes to Sun Woo again?” Jongin looked up from his book for the first time.
“No.” I spoke too quickly and I winced away from Jongin’s sharp gaze.
“I told you not to do that anymore. It’s his fault for getting distracted in class.” Jongin snapped and I winced. “Did you give In Ha my number?”
“No.” I shook my head. “Why would I do that?”
“Good answer.” Jongin handed me the notebook labeled ‘math’.
“Thank you, Jongin-ah!” I snatched the book away from him before he could change his mind.
Jongin went back to studying and I opened the notebook. I used his notes to finish the math homework, which took longer than I would have liked. Just like Sun Woo in Social Studies, I was distracted. I was distracted by Jongin’s furrowed eyebrows and the tapping of his pencil on his book. I was distracted by the cool smell of rain that was blowing in from the west. I was distracted by Jongin’s pursed lips and his quiet humming that he was completely unaware of.
Tomorrow afternoon, right after school, Jongin and his family were leaving for Jeju Island for three weeks, visiting family. I begged my mother to let me go with them, desperate to leave the tiny apartment I have been raised in, even if for a few days. Neither of our mothers were terribly excited about my going on the trip, even though Jongin did his fair share of begging as well. We came to the conclusion that the airfare was too much for our parents and we were forced to stop the begging.
I wasn’t sure what I’d do without my best friend for three whole weeks, but Jongin promised he would call every night. He offered his pinky to his tearful best friend and I linked pinkies with him. I could never say no. With the trip looming, Jongin’s shoulders were tense and his eyebrows furrowed. There was no hint of a smile in his eyes today, when that was really all I wanted to see. A matching frown twisted my face and I turned to my books, though I really couldn’t concentrate.
As if the sky could sense the heaviness under the pavilion, it released. The rain started as a steady, light trickle that would make falling asleep more enjoyable, but it didn’t stay that way for long. Soon, all hell was released and a steady torrent of spring rain descended from the heavens. A few cars drove by and from the rushing sounds of water, the rain was already beginning to accumulate in the streets. I looked up from my books just in time to see Mrs. Go from next door running from the bus to the apartment building with her bags of groceries above her head and her three year old son in tow. The two were soaking wet, but the boy was giggling and enjoying running through the puddles. His mother was laughing as well, delighted by the sounds of her sons excited shrieks. Jongin, on the other hand, scowled and buried his head deeper into his homework. With a sigh, I decided that something had to be done.
I tore a page out of whatever notebook was closest and I tore those into smaller pieces. I folded up one piece into a small little square and I tossed it towards Jongin. It landed on his notebook and he wordlessly pushed it aside. I tried again and this time Jongin looked up at me, but all I could do was shrug. He went back to work and I groaned and dropped my head on the table. I pulled my hair out of it’s ponytail, tossing the hair tie and blue and silver ribbon aside in frustration. Jongin was unfazed.
“Jongin-ah, what are you doing?” I looked up just in time to see Jongin shrug. “Yah!” I hit the table and Jongin jumped, looking up at me with those wide eyes.
“Yah, what are you doing?” Jongin practically yelled back at me, but I didn’t even blink at his harsh words.
“We have less than three hours left together for three whole weeks and you want to spend it studying? You can do that at school or on your trip. I’ll sure have nothing to do while you’re gone so I might as well just master it. Come on, Jongin, we don’t have a lot of time. Play with me.” I threw my remaining wads of paper at him, my eyebrows furrowing in frustration and my lips sticking out in a pout. If nothing else, that would get him. At this, Jongin’s tense eyebrows softened and an amused smile appeared on his lips. A soft chuckle fell from his lips and he moved his books aside.
“Come on, Seo Kyung-ah.” Jongin sighed. “Let’s just study. We have a test tomorrow and you have one next week.”
“I don’t want to.” I crossed my arms.
“We have to, so let’s just- What are you doing?” I reached over the table and grabbed one of his notebooks and stood.
“Quit studying. Play with me.”
“What are we, six years old?” Jongin scolded, but I was already on my way to the edge of the pavilion.
“Play with me or your English notes bite it.” I threatened, holding the notebook at arms length near the pouring rain.
“You wouldn’t dare.” Jongin’s voice lowered and he stood.
“Don’t test me.” I shook my hand and Jongin jumped towards me.
“Don’t do it.”
“I’m going to miss you.” Jongin paused at my words.
“I’m going to miss you, too.” He softened. “Just give me my notes and we can do whatever you want.”
“Just give me the notebook.”
Jongin held out his hand, his eyes pleading. Somehow, in his eyes, I could see that he wanted to study the time away. Almost as if it was the best thing he could be doing right now. Didn’t he realize that we didn’t have a lot of time left? The minutes were ticking away and he was wasting those seconds memorizing dates and names of political leaders. There was a time and a place for that, but today was not that time. None of my usual things to get him to pay attention were working. He still was going to spend the ever-shortening time we had together completely ignoring me.
“Jongin.” I spoke and my voice cracked. Jongin’s eyes widened. Mine stung with sudden tears that I wasn’t expecting in the least.
“Don’t.” Jongin’s voice lowered. “Don’t you dare.”
“I’m going to miss you, you idiot.” I dropped my hands to my sides and my eyes fell on my tennis shoes. The first tears made their way down my face, falling off my chin and staining the pavement.
“Seo Kyung.” Jongin whispered. “Are you crying?”
I couldn’t answer him. I thought after all of the crying I’d done this week, I thought I had no more tears left. However, when the thought of being alone for three weeks came to mind, I couldn’t keep my tears in any longer. The notebook fell to my feet and my hands rose to my face, immediately getting covered in my sticky tears. I didn’t exactly mean to start sobbing in front of Jongin, but there I was, shaking uncontrollably with tears pouring down my cheeks at an astonishing rate.
“Hey, hey, don’t cry.” Jongin jumped forward, reaching for me and pulling me into his arms. “I know, I know. I’m sorry.”
“I wish you didn’t have to leave.” I sobbed, clinging onto his shirt for support.
“I know, me too.” Jongin tightened his grip on me, pulling me against him tighter and I wrapped my arms around his neck. “I won’t be gone long, but I know that doesn't change anything.”
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” My fingers played with the cheap fabric of his school tie. My face was still sticky with tears, but they were receding.
“What do you want to do?” Jongin pulled away just enough to look at my face. “What would make you feel better?”
“Dunno...” I trailed off, my mind was running a million miles a minute. “Maybe...”
In one swift motion, I pulled his tie off from around his neck and leaned back, a playful smirk rising onto my lips. Jongin’s arms still held me close, but I had enough room to lean back and look at him. His eyes widened in confusion and he reached for his tie, but I held it out of his grasp. He sighed heavily and tried grabbing it with his other hand, but with no luck. Now free from his arms, I bounded away from him with his tie wrapped around my fingers.
“Are we really going to do this?” Jongin leapt for his tie, but I easily dodged his advances. “Come on, Seo Kyung-ah, we’re not six.”
“Why can’t we be?” I chided, wasting no time in leaping out into the rain. “Why can’t we be young and immature for a little while?”
Jongin could only smile, that dazzling toothy smile that never failed to make my heart skip a beat. Jongin started out into the rain after me and I dashed away with his school tie clutched tightly in my fingers. Cold droplets of water landed on my face and in my hair. I couldn’t have cared less as Jongin chased me through the cold rain. I kept Jongin’s tie well out of his reach as he chased me around the playground where we spent so much time as children.
I nearly slipped on the damp mulch a couple of times as I dodged metal poles and Jongin’s hands. My ponytail was cold and wet with rain and some drops trickled down my spine, making me shiver. The cold rain wasn’t doing a thing to deter me from my mission of keeping Jongin’s tie away from him. He called for me to stop a couple of times, but I never did.
Jongin was hot on my heels as I dashed up the slick metal stairs of the playground. I nearly slipped and fell flat on my face, but Jongin’s warm hand found my waist and kept me from falling. When I reached the top of the stairs, I came to a halt before I could run into the slide. I turned around and I lifted the tie above my head just in time for Jongin to run into me. One arm wrapped around my waist for stability and his other hand that was reaching for his tie grasped onto my wrist. My eyes widened and I dropped the tie, which fell down the metal playground and onto the mulch below. I moved to get out of his grasp, but Jongin pulled me against him harder.
“Y-yah, let go.” I tried to wrestle out of his grasp again, but the hand that was grasping my wrist moved to around my shoulders.
He pulled me closer and he rested his chin on my shoulder. A breath of a relief later, I wrapped my arms around my cold, wet best friend. Jongin’s hot breath warmed my neck and calmed my racing heart. Despite his rain-drenched clothes, Jongin’s skin was warm. Jongin’s grip tightened for one last moment before loosening to let some space between us, but just enough for us to look at each other.
“I’m going to miss you.” His voice was barely a whisper.
I was going to say something back, but something kept me from speaking. My lips parted to respond, but something in the air changed. Something in Jongin’s eyes kept me from speaking. Slowly, so slowly I almost didn’t notice, the air between us got thinner as Jongin closed the space between us once more. His eyes flickered from my eyes to my lips and back again and suddenly I wasn’t sure what to do. My gaze lowered from Jongin’s questioning eyes to his plump pink lips that were waiting. The space between us was disintegrating and there was a finite amount of time to make the decision.
ICE CREAM HAD never tasted so good. Perhaps it wasn’t necessarily the ice cream itself, but the time and the place and, most of all, the fact that he hadn’t forgotten. The Han River park was green and golden lights lit our path. Black water flowed down the river, illuminated by shimmering multicolored lights that created a glowing rainbow on the water. The moon was out, only half full, and there were no stars in the sky. At least none that I could see from all of the lights around us. The taste of strawberry danced along my tongue, which overshadowed the cold. Next to me, he sighed and the grip on my hand tightened, which I reciprocated.
I looked up at him just in time to see him look away. Heat rose to my cheeks, but it cooled with my next bite of ice cream. I watched as Jongin lifted his banana mellona to his lips and stick it in his mouth for a couple of seconds. His lips were red with the cold of the ice cream and his cheeks were a shade darker. His dark skin was smoother than I had ever seen it and I had the sudden urge to touch him. I wanted to run the tips of my fingers over his cheeks, his jawline, his eyelids, his nose, through his hair. More than anything, I wanted to outline the shape of his lips.
“Why don’t you take a picture?” Jongin joked. He looked over at me, a smirk playing at his lips. “It’ll last longer.”
“If only I had a camera.” I sighed.
“If only.” He chuckled.
“I have a dream, too, you know.” I stuck my ice cream back in my mouth and let the sugary strawberry-flavored treat melt on my tongue.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jongin offered a laugh, but I didn’t smile.
“We spent a lot of time and energy on your dream to be a dancer. So much that we forgot to wonder what mine was.” I mumbled around the pop.
“So.” Jongin pointedly stopped walking and took a deliberate bite of his ice cream. I stopped as well and copied his actions. “Do you have a dream, Kang Seo Kyung-ssi?”
“Yes, I do.” I took a pointed step towards him and he grinned, which I also matched.
“Tell me, Kang-ssi.” He paused for dramatic effect. “What is your dream?”
“I want to be a photographer and a writer. Maybe a journalist, maybe a novelist, maybe both.” I nodded decidedly and took a bite of ice cream.
“How did you decide to do that?” Jongin cocked his head to the side.
“Trial and error. Many, many clubs in college.”
“I didn’t know you went to college. How did you find photography?” Jongin’s playfulness was dwindling enough to let his curiousness slip through.
“My favorite sunbae in the Communications department.” I grinned. “Yoon Taekie. He dragged me to the photography club one morning and I only decided to go because he bribed me with cookies. As soon as Sunbae put that camera in my hands... that was it.”
“Why did you stop?”
“I had to drop out of school. Because of Mom, you know. Since I couldn’t afford a camera and I couldn’t use the ones at school, I was kind of stuck.” I shrugged. My heart was beginning to sink. “I have my phone camera but I can only do so much with that.”
“How long has it been?”
“Four years? Five years?” I mused, taking a quick bite of ice cream.
“How can you stand it?” Jongin’s voice was quiet, but his fingers kept a tight hold on mine.
“After a while, you kind of make yourself forget what it was like to hold a camera.” I shrugged again.
“Why did you have to sacrifice it?”
“I was the last one to drop out of school.” I explained. “We hoped that we had enough money for me to stay in school, but there was no way. As soon as the semester ended, I left. I don’t mind, though.”
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” I moved to continue walking, but he pulled me to a stop. He tugged lightly to pull me to stand in front of him, making me look up at his sparkling eyes.
“We’ll make your dream come true. We’ll both work on it, just like we both worked on getting me to where I am. Okay? I promise. Pinky promise?” Jongin held the hand with his ice cream, refusing to let go of my hand, and offered me his pinky. “Mm?”
“Really, you still do this?” I raised an eyebrow at his outstretched finger.
“Come on, for old time’s sake. Hurry, my ice cream is melting. Mm?” He repeated with a wink that sent shivers through my body.
“Mm.” I agreed, lifting my pinky to link with his, ignoring the cold drop of my strawberry ice cream that landed on my hand. “We can’t stamp.” I commented, wiggling my thumb which was supporting my ice cream.
“That’s okay. We can stamp it a different way.”
Jongin used both hands to tug lightly, pulling me a step closer to him. I watched as his face got just that much closer to mine. I watched as his lips parted ever so slightly before they vanished out of my eyeline. His cold lips pressed firmly against my forehead and I winced slightly from the cold. It wasn’t the first time he’d kissed me in the last 48 hours, but it didn’t shock me any less when he did. He had said that he wasn’t going to wait any longer, I suppose that implied that he wasn’t going to hold back either. By the time he pulled away, my skin was like fire underneath his touch. My cheeks were burning and I was certain that my hand was sweating. I almost expected him to let go.
“Your turn.” A smirk played on his lips as he bent down to my level.
“O-oh.... right.” I trailed off, but I decided to play his game.
I still had to stand on my tiptoes in order to kiss him, which I know he did on purpose. I pressed my lips to his forehead for a second or two before pulling away and lowering down to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground. Jongin’s lips were curved into an aggravating smirk and if my hands hadn’t been full I would have smacked him.
“Your lips are cold.” Jongin bent lower.
“So are yours.”
“Do you want me to warm them up for you?”
“I don’t think that-” The air between us thinned when he moved closer to me, his pink lips advancing too close for my liking.
“Don’t think what?”
“That...” His lips were way more distracting than I would have liked. “Oh, forget it.” I tried to move away but he had an iron grip on me and I jumped, making me drop my ice cream. Luckily, there wasn’t much of it left.
“I told you that I wasn’t done with you yet.” His eyes glinted and my heart skipped a beat. It had been so long since we’d seen each other and yet he could still affect me in this way. He could still make my body do things against my will, and he didn’t even have to touch me.
“A-a-and, I assume this is a... a follow up?” I tried to keep my voice steady but from the smirk playing on his lips, Jongin could hear it quivering.
“I just don’t know how much longer I can hold back.”
“You’re holding back?”
“I want to hold you. Touch you. Tell you all the things I haven’t been able to tell you. I just...” He paused, pulling back. “I don’t know when it’s appropriate during a date to say these sort of things. Especially since it’s the first date and-”
“Jongin, we’ve known each other for twenty years. We’ve been on countless dates. I think you can say anything you want to me.” I assured him.
The hand that was holding mine shifted and I thought he wanted to pull away. I pulled my hand out of his grasp, but he reached for me again. This time, however, he laced his fingers with mine, interlocking them so I couldn’t pull away anymore. His thumb lightly ran over mine, warming my skin. However, his eyes never left mine, keeping me on the spot.
“Seo Kyung-ah. Kang Seo Kyung. I-” He took a deep breath.
“Oppa?” A shrill voice cut through the air and both of us paused. “Kai Oppa?”
It took less than a second for Jongin to drop my hand and straighten his back. Distance was suddenly between us. Too much distance. The surprise blast of oxygen made me dizzy. He searched for the owner of the voice with his bright, startled eyes. Out of basically nowhere, five or six girls all wearing school uniforms crowded around us. Well, around him. He smiled politely, but when he turned to me I could see the fear in his eyes. Each girl had their phone out and the camera was pointed right at Jongin.
“Kai oppa, what are you doing out?” One of the girl asked and the others murmured in agreement.
“I... I was out for a walk. Just... out. Today and tomorrow are my only days off for a while.” Jongin tried to explain but I was sure they could tell he was lying.
“Oppa, could we get a signature?”
“Or a picture?”
“Did she get one yet?”
“Oh I’m so jealous of her.”
“Who is she?”
“I thought I saw them holding hands.” The girls turned to me suddenly, their accusing eyes making me want to slink into the darkness and hide.
“No, we weren’t holding hands! She was handing me her pen so I could sign something for her.” He spoke, but I wasn’t sure who was speaking. “Do you have something I could sign, then? Who should I make it out to?”
My blood froze. My veins iced over and I could feel my heart in my chest trying to beat. Instead of Jongin, Kai stared at me with his hand outstretched waiting for me to give him something to sign. He was smiling, all of the fear having left his eyes. For a moment, I couldn’t tell if he was acting or not. Was he seriously standing there expecting me to let him sign something for me? Suddenly, the man called Kim Jongin was gone. Instead, Kai stood in his place. He smiled at me with an unfamiliar smile and a twinkle in his unfamiliar eyes. His unfamiliar hand was stretched out to me expectantly.
“Well, miss, what should I sign for you? Do you want a picture, too?”
That was the last straw. Wordlessly, I my heel and walked away, unable to look at his face any longer. Behind me, I could hear the girls clamoring closer to him and he was laughing and telling them to be patient. I stopped briefly to turn and see Kai in action, something I almost wish I’d never done. He was laughing and flirting with each of the girls as they each handed him something to sign. A wink here, a dazzling smile there, the brush of fingers as they exchanged paper.
“Oppa, is there a chance you’ll be doing any more concerts soon?” One of the girls asked.
“Of course! I wish I could tell you more about what we’re preparing.” Kai ran a hand through his pastel pink hair and all six of the girls sighed.
“But you really are going to do another one soon, right?” Another girl pushed forwards eagerly.
“I wouldn’t lie to you!” Kai grinned. “We’re doing another concert in the next six months, but you can’t spread this around, okay?”
“Okay!” The six girls squealed.
“Do you promise, Oppa?”
“Yeah, promise us, Oppa!”
“Pinky promise!” Kai held out his pinky and shot the girls a wink, which in turn made them all squeal. My heart sunk through my feet into the ground and I feared I would have to leave it behind. Of course.
“We promise, Oppa!”
I didn’t stick around to watch as Kai pinky promised each of the six girls, letting them each have their turn. I didn’t stay to watch as he took countless selfies with them. I didn’t stay to watch him sign “With Love” on every autograph. Instead, I kept my back to the scene and hurried off to find a payphone. My time with Jongin had come to an end, and it was all Kai’s fault.