Catch Taemin If You Can; [five]
Taemin held the chocolate bar between his teeth and stuck his hands into his pockets. The wind was icy and Taemin sat on a bench, moving his lips and tongue to find a way to eat his candy without taking his hands out. Jongin sat down next to him, all the excitement he had in the morning completely drained out, and lowered his head to fumble pointlessly with the pink envelope. Feeling like he should wait until Jongin started talking, Taemin continued to wriggle his mouth. He couldn't really start a conversation at the moment anyways.
“What are you doing?”
Jongin asked, when he raised his head and found Taemin squirming his mouth like an idiot. He pulled the chocolate bar from his friend's mouth.
“My hands are cold…” Taemin complained, and Jongin shook his head.
“Your mouth hurts when you eat too, right?”
He commented sarcastically and stuck the candy bar back into Taemin’s mouth. And Jongin stared at the pink envelope in his hands before handing it to Taemin. Reluctant to take his hand out, Taemin stared blankly but eventually received it.
“What, you want me to read this for you?” Taemin asked in confusion, and Jongin kicked up a soccer ball from the ground and rolled it around in his hands.
“It’s yours.” He replied. “She assumed I could give it to you since I’m your best friend. It’s ing embarrassing so don’t make me say it again.”
Not knowing what to say, Taemin stayed queit.
“Dude, I'm okay.” Jongin smirked and playfully punched Taemin in the arm.
“…Want a piece?”
Taemin offered, holding out the chocolate bar. Jongin snickered and broke half of the chocolate before popping the whole thing into his mouth. Jongin chewed slowly, chomping on it with more ferocity than necessary with each chew.
“." Jongin finally spat. "She was like all ‘Oh, you’re so cool when you play soccer’ and . It’s all sugar-coat and in the end…”
“So what did you say to her?”
Taemin asked cautiously.
“What do you think I said to her?!!”
Jongin yelled, and Taemin jumped in his seat, startled by Jongin's sudden outrage.
“, why are you yelling?”
“Then what, should I be smiling? Should I be laughing right now?!”
Taemin took the rest of the chocolate and shoved it in his friend’s mouth. The yelling becoming a stuffed muffle, Jongin quieted down as Taemin rubbed his sticky hands against the bench.
The know-how to a ten-year old friendship between Taemin and Jongin were sudden bursts of meaningless arguments that cooled down nonchalantly in a matter of seconds. Like now. The two continued chewing, tasting the caramel melting on their tongue. Jongin broke the silence.
“She didn’t have to lie. Why couldn’t she just confront you directly?”
Taemin obediently agreed, considering the bad mood that Jongin was in, but only to receive a vicious glare in return.
“W, what?” Taemin frowned, scared that Jongin was going to burst into another fit.
“…Forget it.” Jongin said, loosening his tense gaze.
“You need to get a grip.”
“If you start yelling again-”
“Don’t you ever lie, at least not to me.”
Jongin cut him off, and Taemin closed his mouth. The cold wind caressed through his hair, and Taemin blinked.
“Well, answer." Jongin urged, "Don't lie. I hate liars."
“…What about the ones I told so far?”
Taemin responded after a minute, and Jongin thought about it for a second before narrowing his brows to a frown.
“Wow, I knew it. That thing you talked me into last time, that was a lie too, wasn’t it-”
Taemin said, and Jongin’s words hung in the air. Taemin continued.
“And I’ve never slept with a girl.”
Jongin stared at Taemin in surprise. Feeling his face getting hot, Taemin crumpled the letter into a ball. Resisting the urge to turn his head, Taemin looked straight into the distance.
“I don’t lie to you.”
It was true. Taemin never lied to Jongin. And he'd never slept with a girl.
“Explain to me exactly why I have to pay for these.” Jongin asked, scrunching his brows as Taemin threw another box of chocolates into the cart.
“I gave you my chocolate.”
Taemin answered like Jongin asked the stupidest question yet, but Jongin was too busy taking cookies, chocolates, and candies of different kinds out of the cart to retort back. Since both boys weren’t having the greatest days of their lives, they had decided to skip their afternoon classes and stopped by the market on their way home.
“So Baldy wants your parents?” Jongin inquired, as he snatched a box of brownies out of Taemin's hands.
“But they’re not here. What are you going to do?”
Jongin reached for a few chocolate bars in the cart and Taemin slapped his hand away.
“I'll have to tell her to come.” Taemin replied casually, putting the brownies back into the cart.
“It won’t be that easy. She hasn’t come to Korea in three years.” Jongin said, grabbing the brownie box again.
“Then it’s about time. I’m her son, and she's my mom.” Taemin snatched the box out of Jongin’s grasp. "Baldy wants mom."
“A home visit in three years… To find out that her son has been caught smoking in school, huh.” Jongin stole the box back.
“…Put it in the cart, Jongin.” Taemin ordered.
They approached the cashier and Jongin put box of brownies away from the counter. Taemin gave up, disgusted by his friend’s irredeemable act of neglecting chocolate. The cashier lady stole glimpses at Taemin as she scanned the items and put them in a plastic bag. Disturbed by her blatant stares, Taemin buried his face in the scarf. Beep- Stare. Beep- Another stare.
“Do I have something on my face?” Taemin blurted, and the lady chuckled as if that snapped her awake.
“Oh sorry, I was just trying to figure out if you were a girl or a boy." She smiled apologetically. "You're a really pretty boy, by the way.”
“Him? Pretty?!” Jongin gaped in disapproval, and the lady turned to Jongin this time.
"And you're very handsome. Kids these days are so pretty and good-looking, makes my job so much more enjoyable..."
Her last comment would've freaked Taemin out if she hadn't offered the box of brownies for free as 'a gift to the pretty and handsome youth.' Taemin flashed the lady his signature charming smile.
Hugging the box of brownies against his chest, Taemin walked up the street to his house as Jongin carried the bags.
“Do you ever miss your mom?” Jongin suddenly asked. Taemin turned around and frowned.
“...I’m not a child.”
Jongin scoffed a hollow laugh at this and held up the plastic bags in response.
“Which is why you purchased fifty dollar worth of junk food, right?”
Taemin ignored his friend and unlocked the door to his house. He stepped into the threshold, knowing that Jieun wasn't home. It wasn’t pleasant when Taemin stepped inside the house to find it dead and empty, but it was much better than having his parents here with their stupid fights and arguments. Besides, his mother’s four divorces and his father’s three remarriages have trained him to become indifferent about almost anything.
Affection or love, these 'things' weren’t supposed to be begged or desired for. Taemin learned this when he saw his mother leave the house with a carriage in her hand and a stranger’s hand in the other. Taemin was only fourteen when he realized what his mother still hadn’t. He might not have an exact idea of what his mother was looking for through countless accounts of divorce and remarriage. But whatever it was, it didn’t exist.
Jieun could be seen as a perfect example of a parent-less delinquent, but she was tough enough to maintain decent grades and chased after her dream as the vocal in her school band. Nothing was going in the ‘wrong’ direction. This probably proved that one didn’t need another person, much less a parent, in his or her life to learn and mature. It was your own mistakes that you learned from.
“I don’t believe this. We spent fifty dollars and all we can have for dinner is bean sprouts.”
Taemin didn’t bother to respond as Jongin scrambled through their 'grocery' bag and held up a container of bean sprouts. Taemin opened the fridge and took out a big radish and a few carrots. He placed it on the kitchen counter and Jongin raised his eyebrows suspiciously.
“What are you doing?”
“I can probably make soup with this.” Taemin replied firmly, and Jongin shot him a look of disbelief.
“What kind of soup can you make with radish and carrots?”
Taemin offered cautiously after a few minutes of hard thinking.
“Ugh, you’re so difficult to please.” Taemin grumbled.
Jongin was washing the bean sprouts at the sink while Taemin cut the radish into thin slices. Murmurs of conversation and laughter from the television brightened the house as the pot boiled on the stove, although Taemin had no idea what it was going to turn into. Warm steam wrapped around his body and Taemin tried to remember the last time when this house actually felt like home.
“So are you going to tell me?” Jongin spoke up as he ran the water through the vegetables.
“Oh, you mean girls.”
“Didn’t you hear the lady?" Taemin smirked proudly. "It’s all thanks to my beautiful face…”
Jongin interrupted in annoyance.
Taemin scowled, but Jongin looked not the least bothered by his threat.
“Lee Taemin.” Jongin said instead. “You have a habit of saying ‘wanna die?’ to me every once in a while, and seriously, who do you think would die first if we actually had a fight? I can probably knock you out in one go, you live on chocolates for christ's sakes…”
Taemin blinked blankly and went back to slicing his radish, suppressed and ego-crushed by his friend’s factual words.
“It’s in my blood.”
Taemin spoke after a minute.
“My mom filed four divorces and my dad had three remarriages. Fancy, isn’t it? I’m the result of them put together so I can’t possibly be normal. I inherited it, it’s in my blood.”
It was stupid, Taemin had just come up with it on the spot to shut Jongin up. Surprisingly, Jongin did for a while until he averted his eyes from him.
“Stick with the beautiful face theory.”
Jongin said as he ran the bean sprouts under the faucet for the final time.
“Put 'it's in my blood' crap away and just stay conceited.”
Realizing what Jongin was saying, Taemin smirked playfully and raised the knife he was holding.
“I just realized I have a knife in my hand so I can probably kill you if we had a go right now… Wanna die?”
Jongin snickered and punched his friend in the arm.
The knife deviated the wrong way as Taemin’s body swayed to the side. The blade grazed against his thumb, and Taemin frowned at the sudden flash of pain. Blood dripped onto the cutting board and Taemin watched in frustration that his radish was no longer edible. He glared at Jongin, who looked even more alarmed than he was. Suddenly, Jongin grabbed Taemin's hand in panic, not knowing what to do next. The cut didn't look so deep, but the entire scene looked way more aghast than it should as the blood marinated the white radish with is vile colour. Heaving a sigh, Taemin tried to run his thumb under the faucet when he felt something warm wrap around it.
“…?!!!!" Taemin blinked in horror. "What are you doing, Kim Jongin?!”
To Taemin's utter shock, Jongin had his thumb in his mouth. Taemin flailed, trying take his finger out of Jongin's mouth but failing to do so. Jongin gripped onto Taemin’s wrist even harder, Taemin's thumb thoroughly as if it was a totally natural thing to do. Taemin felt the cut tickle as Jongin rolled his tongue around it.
“You said it was in your blood.”
Jongin said, once he took Taemin's thumb out of his mouth. Taemin stared at his friend in disbelief as Jongin his bottom lip.
Are you ing kidding me?
Taemin wanted to shriek but the burning heat on his cheeks was his first priority. He took a bio-hazardous free radish slice and slapped the cold vegetable onto his cheek.
The sudden incline of temperature was confusing enough and Taemin wasn’t going to need Jongin to tell him that his face was the exact colour of the ruined radish.