Chapter Four - Jealousy
FIFTH GRADE was awkward for everyone, but everything really went to on White Day. White Day, our version of Valentine's day, was a traditional day where boys bought their wives and girlfriends flowers and chocolate. Often times girls would leave presents for the boys they liked, too, so I wasn’t surprised when Jongin’s desk was overflowing with candy and flowers from girls all over the school. He was a very popular ten-year-old, though he always denied it.
I rolled my eyes, passing his desk that was covered with gifts. I collapsed into my desk chair, hanging my backpack on the hook and pulling my first book out from the desk. I practically threw it on the desk and went to lay my head on the desk to listen to the pouring rain outside when something fell on my lap. Startled, I sat up and looked down, knocking the book to the floor. A carefully decorated box sat on my knees, my name written in beautiful silver letters. The box was carefully held shut with a gorgeous blue ribbon with silver flowers sewn into it. Perched on the top was a grouping of blue and silver flowers and various ornaments.
“Seo Kyung-ah,” Ah Seo, one of my classmates gasped, “Did you get a White Day gift?”
“Apparently.” I set the box on my desk just as Jongin skipped into class. The pile of candy on his desk didn’t faze him as he sat down at the desk ahead of me, straddling the chair backwards to face me.
“Seo Kyung-ah,” he pulled the gift closer to him, “Who is this from?”
“I don’t know.” I leaned over to pick my book up and paused mid ascent to see a letter on the ground, also with my name on it. Had it fallen out of the book?
“Is that a letter?” Jongin asked even though he knew exactly what it was, “Why don’t you read that first?”
His eager eyes flicked from the letter in my hand to my face, as if he was expecting a reaction already. Since he looked like he was going to jump out of his skin like an overexcited puppy, I carefully stuck my finger under the flap and tore it open. Inside was a carefully folded letter written on pink paper that smelled faintly of roses. I gently pulled it out of the envelope and set it aside. I began to unfold the letter when a dozen red and white rose petals fell all over my desk and lap. My eyes widened as I carefully unfolded the letter to reveal the note inside.
“You thought this was a love letter, didn’t you? Better luck next time, loser.” I read aloud and Jongin’s eyes widened.
“What?” his voice lowered, “What does it say?”
“Here, look,” I went to hand it to him, but he stood sharply and strode to the front of the room where Hwa Eun sat.
“You and I will talk later.” He growled before turning around and sitting down at his desk.
“Are you okay?” I inquired as he pushed his gifts and candy aside to lay his head down. All he did was grumble and I eyed the girl in the front row who was smirking triumphantly.
I figured I’d ask Jongin what was wrong this evening over homework, that is if he didn’t have a White Day date. I turned back to my desk and pulled the beautiful blue and silver box closer. Gently, I untied the ribbon and set it aside and carefully tugged on the lid. It slid off easily and I set it aside. Resting on top of a few assorted chocolates and a rather beautiful silver chain with a pendant I couldn’t see yet was a perfectly folded piece of blue paper. Lifting it out of the box, I noticed that the pendant on the silver chain was a gorgeous blue heart in a silver setting surrounded by diamonds. Surely, they were fake, but it didn’t take away from it’s beauty.
“Seo Kyung-ah, this White Day I decided I was going to gather my courage and finally admit my feelings for you. Since we started going to this school together, my feelings have been growing and growing. I like you a lot. Although I don’t have the confidence to tell you in person, or with my name on the page, I ask that until I am ready to come forward and admit my feelings for you that you wear this necklace so I know I can one day. Even if you don’t, I hope that you keep it with thoughts of this stranger with feelings for you. We are young and still blind to the ways of love, so I do not expect an answer from you. I will gladly wait and listen. Perhaps one day I will have the confidence to express my feelings to you and perhaps you will accept me. Until then, I am comfortable knowing that you know my heart. Until then, Seo Kyung-ah.”
As I read the letter my eyes widened and my head whipped around, searching for whoever could have written such a beautiful letter. Perhaps, since we were only ten years old he had enlisted the help of an adult. This handwriting was too fancy for it to have been written by a fifth grader. The classroom was loud and no one was paying any attention to me, aside from Jongin.
“What does it say?” he lifted his head.
“Someone confessed, but there’s no name on the letter.” I shrugged, setting the letter down and moving the ribbon closer.
“Who do you think sent it?” Jongin reached for the letter and I passed it to him as I lifted my hair into a ponytail, securing it with the holder on my wrist.
“No clue.” I took another look around the room as I lifted the ribbon and began tying it in my hair.
“You look pretty with that it your hair, Seo Kyung-ah.” Jongin grinned at me before turning his attention to the letter and his grin faltered as his eyes scanned the page. I decided I didn’t see that.
“What are you going to do with all of that?” I nodded to his overflowing pile of White Day gifts.
“Share it with everyone.” Jongin shrugged, “I will look through it just in case, but most of it I’ll give out or give to you. I’m not one for sweets like this.”
“Wow,” I breathed, reaching for one of those massive red hearts that was surely filled with chocolate, “You’re just going to give it all away?”
“I’ll give the best stuff to you, of course.” Jongin winked, handing me the letter back, but sliding a stuffed bear with it.
“You’re the best.” I grinned, pulling the bear to my chest, “Let’s just hope it all fits in my backpack.” I matched his wink.
“Well, I know you don’t like coconut and most of this is coconut and dark chocolate.” Jongin smirked, gathering it up in his arms and passing it around.
As he gave out the chocolate and various chalk-like candies, I could only think how much the girls who gave it to him would be devastated. I sighed as I watched the candy I had set there go from his hands to Han Cha Hyun’s hands. The other boy would probably appreciate it more, but perhaps it was for the better that my little confession go unseen. Cha Hyun eyed the label on the top and looked directly at me and I held a finger up to my lips and he nodded silently and looked away.
When the teacher entered the room, all the students rushed to their seats and Jongin set what remained in his arms on my lap for me to hold until the period was over. I glared at him for putting me in an awkward position, but he just grinned and pointed to the teacher.
The school day went terribly slow, but during the breaks I managed to put all of the excess chocolate no one wanted and all of the stuffed animals the other girls hadn’t claimed into Jongin’s backpack and my backpack. By the time the last bell of the day rang, my backpack weighed as much as a small child and I was sure Jongin’s did, too, but he didn’t say anything. However, when the bell rang, Jongin threw his school supplies in his bag, swung it over his shoulder and stalked to the front of the room. He took Hwa Eun’s wrist rougher than he probably should have and pulled her up and out of the room. The other kids in the class oohed and wolf whistled at the two leaving the classroom together.
“I’ll meet you at the-” I called, but he was already out of the room, “Bus stop.”
I decided against worrying about what they were going to do, it was almost a regular occurrence for Jongin and Hwa Eun to pull each other out of the room in an angry huff to talk about something. Jongin never really told me what they fought about, but I didn’t want to know. I only cared that Jongin came out on the other end unscathed and with a friend to talk to about the iest girl in the whole school. The thought of them alone still made my blood boil, and today was no different. My cheeks flushed and my hands shook uncontrollably as I gathered my books. I gripped the straps of my backpack, hoping that the shaking in my hands would go away but somehow I knew that it was hopeless. It would only get worse when I went outside anyway.
Alone, I headed downstairs and paused at the door outside. Sure enough, the shaking in my fingers grew worse, making it almost impossible for me to keep hold on the zipper of my backpack. I rummaged through my bag for my umbrella, but it was rather difficult to find underneath all of those chocolates and stuffed animals. With a sigh, I decided that the run to the bus stop wasn’t bad and getting a little wet might do me good. Perhaps it would get the flush in my cheeks to subside. I pushed outside and the wind whipped right through my sweater and a chill swept down my spine. Carefully, I aimed myself towards the bus stop and did my best to prepare for a run. Just as I was about to take off, loud voices from around the corner cut through the wind and the rain.
“Where is the letter?” Jongin snapped and my eyes widened and I ventured towards the noise, making sure to stay out of sight as I got closer.
“What letter?” Hwa Eun’s stupid voice taunted and my fists clenched. I hated that she thought she could talk to him like that.
“You know what letter. I was finally going to tell her and I know for a fact that was your handwriting.” Jongin’s voice was low and threatening and it worried me, “Now, where is it? What did you do to it?”
“Ah, Jongin-ah, you just don’t get it, do you?” Hwa Eun sighed, “If I can’t have you, neither can she. It’s as simple as that. What I did with the letter doesn’t matter. What matters is that she doesn’t know your heart and since you’re too scared to even tell her in person, she may never know. Besides, she doesn’t like you. She doesn’t feel that way about you.”
“You wrote the other one, didn’t you?” Jongin breathed, “The blue one?”
What are they talking about?
“No, I swear.” Hwa Eun insisted as my knees turned to rubber, “I have no idea who wrote that, nor do I care. All I care about it you.”
“If you really cared about me, then you’d-”
“Seo Kyung-ah?” a voice from behind me spoke a little too loudly and I jumped and turned to face it. My heart nearly jumped out of my throat and a gasp fell from my throat. One of the boys in my class, Seo Do Hyun, stood there with his face contorted into a look of concern. One hand gripped a rather large umbrella while the other was outstretched, as if to tap my shoulder.
“Do Hyun-ah,” I breathed, clutching my racing heart, “You scared me.”
“Are you okay?” he followed as I hurried away from my listening place.
“Perfectly fine. I thought I heard something is all.” I laughed offhandedly, my racing heart already beginning to settle.
“Heading to the bus?” he inquired, looking out into the rain.
“Thinking about it. This rain isn’t letting up anytime soon so I might have to make a run for it.” I peered up at the gray sky, wishing that the clouds would part so the beautiful blue underneath could shine through.
“I could walk you. I take the bus, too.” Do Hyun offered and I perked up immediately.
“Would you?” I clutched my hands together and he nodded with a soft smile.
“Of course. This umbrella is big enough for two, I think.” With a grin, Do Hyun held out his umbrella and we started out into the rain, “Your hair ribbon is pretty. Where did you get it?”
“Oh.” My hand moved up to protectively touch my hair ribbon, “I got it on a White Day gift earlier. Thank you very much.”
“It looks pretty on you.” Do Hyun shot me a smile and a blush rose into my cheeks.
“I suppose I’ll wear it more often, then.” I decided, lifting my hand to hold the umbrella as well, my fingers resting over his.
I couldn’t look at him, but I didn’t really need to. Instead of retracting his hand, Do Hyun parted his fingers to let mine rest comfortably between them. My face was burning and with every movement of his fingers the fire in my cheeks rose in temperature. It was no secret to my girlfriends that I had quite a thing for Do Hyun that had started last year.
Despite being young, I’d always thought myself to be a hopeless romantic. I had always been one for romance and I was desperate for a romance of my own. I knew that I wouldn’t get a romance until I was older, but it didn’t stop me from practically drooling over the boy with the fastest track record in our class. Seo Do Hyun. He was funny, sweet, athletic and incredibly smart. He had the second highest grades in the class behind the class president. He was incredibly crush-worthy, so I had a crush on him.
Now, I was walking through the rain to the bus stop with Do Hyun, our fingers somehow touching on the handle of the umbrella. Do Hyun had been in my class for several years but I had only really taken notice of him last year. We were as close as classmates could be, having been in the same classes and put on projects together for years.
“Couldn’t train today?” I inquired, realizing that usually he stayed after school to run around the track a few times, but today it was surely raining too hard.
“I could have trained in the gym, but Dad wants me home so we can all do something nice for Mom.” Do Hyun shot me a grin and my knees quivered, “Are you okay?”
“Hm?” I looked up, “Oh, yeah, I’m just cold.”
“Oh,” Do Hyun paused and pushed the umbrella into my hand so he could slip off his jacket.
“No, Do Hyun-ah, I-” I tried to protest, but he cut me off.
“You said you were cold. You can borrow my jacket until one of our busses shows up.” Do Hyun slipped the jacket onto my shoulders, adjusting it so it covered me entirely, buttoning one button in the front to hold it in place.
“Thank you, Do Hyun-ah.” I blushed when he took the umbrella back and we started walking towards the bus stop once more. Do Hyun’s bright grin was like the sun shining through the clouds, bringing light into the gray, rainy day.
“Where’s Jongin?” Do Hyun inquired, “Usually you two are connected at the hip.”
“He’s, uh,” I looked around only to find him trailing behind us getting thoroughly soaked by the downpour, “he’ll be following at some point. We take the same bus.”
Do Hyun and I reached the bus stop and a bus rumbled passed, nearly splashing us with water from the road. I flinched as it passed by, as if it was telling me I’d just thrown my best friends under the bus. He’d be here momentarily, but deep down I felt like I’d betrayed him. He would be at the bus stop soon enough, but it didn’t make me feel any worse. I’d apologize to him when we got on the bus, but since he knew that I really liked Do Hyun, I could only imagine he’d be okay with it.
On my way home on the bus, I pulled the necklace from my pocket and stared at it for a good long time. My heart fluttered as I gazed at the blue pendant. Someone had feelings for me. I looked over at Jongin who was standing next to me, holding onto the bar on the bus, soaking wet and slightly bitter. It wasn’t him who had sent it, but either way I wanted to accept his feelings. So, without realizing Jongin was watching, I put on the necklace and it didn’t come off for a good long time.
THE THOUGHT OF being in the same room as Jongin after a good six years of separation wasn’t sitting well in my stomach. Nausea slipped up my throat, but I pushed it down. It was silly to be nervous, I knew that well, but after what happened I had to wonder if I could bear to see him again.
I wasn’t even sure if he’d recognize me after all of these years. Had I not had eyeliner so sharp it could cut a man or makeup to hide my true face, I wouldn’t have worried. Had I not been working at this bar where I sold my entertainment and my alcohol, I wouldn’t be worried. If he figured out that it was me, what would he think? He sure never would have expected me to be working in a place like this.
There was almost none of the Seo Kyung he knew left in me. All of the innocence and purity had slipped down the drain the moment he walked out the door, leaving me to fend for myself. We had been each others strength for almost twelve years until he waltzed out of my life and into oblivion. I’d always wondered where he went, and now here he was. In my workplace. Expecting young, attractive girls to entertain him. Except... he wasn’t expecting me.
I gripped the railing and pulled myself to a shaky stand. My knees were like butter and I could no longer feel the tips of my fingers. My lungs burned as I tried to intake air, but nothing was going in through my nose. I wondered if Min Ah felt the same way; uncontrollably excited and nervous all at the same time.
Would Jongin even recognize me? Of course he would, we were best friends for twelve years. What would I even say when I saw him? What would we talk about? Would he apologize for how he screwed me over? For vanishing into thin air? For everything?
When my knees felt less like rubber and more like bone, I continued my venture down the stairs. Of course, this wasn’t about me. This wasn’t about him. This was about the fact that if I didn’t go inside, we would lose electricity and water in our apartment and it would get harder to support my mother. Perhaps I could get through this night without speaking a word to him. Perhaps he wouldn’t recognize me until it was too late, and by then I’d be gone and I’d never have to deal with him again. Yes, of course. That’s exactly what would happen. These next couple of hours would be a breeze.
I approached the group of about six girls, including Min Ah and bowed in apology for being late. Some of the girls rolled their eyes, but two of them noticed that the color had all but drained from my face and I was barely holding it together. Min Ah asked if I was alright, to which I responded that I was. She didn’t believe me, but she told me that if I had to leave because I wasn’t feeling well at any point during the night that she would cover for me.
Eventually one of the girls got tired of waiting and knocked on the door to the karaoke room before sliding it open and slipping inside. The girls filed in, turning into characters and party animals as they stepped over the threshold. My stomach lurched, but I swallowed it down again.
No. I will not let this get the better of me. I will be perfectly fine.
I let Min Ah go ahead of me in line, and when I was the last girl outside, I only faltered for a moment. I slipped inside the dim, loud, alcohol-smelling room. Nine boys sat on the huge U-shaped couch, most with drinks in hand, watching a tenth boy completely botch a Girls’ Generation song. They laughed and sang along with the lyrics, messing up just as much, if not more, as the singer. The girls found empty spaces on the couch and plopped down, grabbing themselves a drink. Min Ah fit perfectly between the boy who had winked at me earlier (oh look, he’s doing it again) and the one and only Kim Jongin.
He didn’t notice the girls when they walked in but he adjusted his position when Min Ah sat next to him. He was laughing and smiling along with the rest of his boyband and my god did he get hot. If it wasn’t before, now his jawline was even sharper than I remembered and even more devastating. His dark eyes twinkled with joy and excitement at the spectacle before him. His smile was just as intoxicating as it was lovely. He reminded me of Prince Charming and I was just going to look away when I realized something else. His somewhat longer hair was a pink color I never would have expected to look good on him. Jongin’s hair was a sight to be seen, with it’s pink color and somehow styled to look not styled and messy. Though he wore some messed up jeans, a styled t-shirt, ratty shoes and a leather jacket he looked clean and sophisticated. The part that really stood out about him was... he was happy.
“Aren’t you going to sit?” the one who had winked earlier had pushed one of the other boys out of the way and was signaling for me to sit with him.
This second boy was not unattractive. Not in the least. Bright smile, glittering eyes, and cheeks you just wanted to pinch. My gaze flicked from Jongin to this new person and I made a rather snap decision and settled in next to him. His arm easily slipped around my shoulders and I moved into him. He was warm and he smelled fantastic. Somewhat floral, but in an odd way that it was mixed with his manly smell. Even I scoff to explain it.
“What’s your name, beautiful?” he whispered in my ear, so I whispered back.
“Seo Kyung. Yours?” my lips grazed against his skin and he shuddered under my touch.
“Baekhyun. Byun Baekhyun.” he whispered back.
“Nice to meet you.”
Although I was talking with Baekhyun, who was something more than charming, my eyes never left Jongin. Even if I wouldn’t have known he was going to be in here, I would have picked him out right away. He had barely changed since we met, but even with the changes he was easy to pick out. He had been my best friends for twelve years. It would be silly for me not to have recognized him.
My ex-best friend laughed and joked with the other boys in his group, calling them ‘hyung’ and ‘chingoo’ which seemed to annoy some of the older boys. Min Ah continued to encourage him to put his arm around her, but he was calmly refusing. Everyone sighed when the shortest one in the group picked an Ed Sheeran song to sing, but they oohed and ahhed as he sang in perfect English. Although his voice and his English were captivating, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of Jongin.
He must have felt my eyes on him, because he kept reaching up to rub the back of his neck. His head turned towards me multiple times, but he would never look at me. He checked his phone a couple of times, as if he was anxious to leave. But why? Wasn’t he supposed to be celebrating a comeback?
Just when I was about to give up and turn my full attention onto entertaining, Jongin’s dark eyes met mine. And held on. Tight.