My Life Next Door

(Fitzpatrick) The Cha's were forbidden from the start. But that's not why they were important.

We were standing in our yard that day ten years ago when their old car pulled up to the low-slung shingled house next door, close behind was the moving van.

"Oh drat." My mom exclaimed, her arms crossing and a displeasing look upon her face. "I so hoped we could have avoided this."

I furrowed my brows, my eight year old self not understanding. "What's going on Mom?" She just shook her head, sighing as she got back to planting new flowers in our front garden.

Walking quickly to the fence that divided our house from the one next door, I perched on my tipy toes and peered through the slat, an act I knew my mom would frown upon.

I watched in amazement as two parents and five children spilled from the worn sedan, like a clown car at the circus. My mom tsked.

"This kind of thing. There's one in every neighborhood. The family that never keeps up with the house, never mows their lawn, toys scattered everywhere. The messy family who lowers real estate values and has one to many children. Here they are...right next door." (Fitzpatrick)

I didn't understand then why it bothered my mom so much, and honestly, even now, as I perch upon my rooftop on this sunny summer day, watching the now 8 children play in the backyard and swim in the pool, I don't understand.

The Cha's were the exact opposite of every family in this neighborhood, especially mine. My mother's pristine, white colonial with black shutters and a perfectly mowed lawn with precise vertical patterns contrasted vastly to the modest ranch next door.

As I watched the family carry on, I couldn't help but become envious.

It was summer and I was home alone. My older sister, HeeYoung, was away at an least, that was what she told our mom, though in reality she had snuck off to be with her boyfriend in New York.

She'd sworn me to secrecy and of course I wouldn't betray that, but it didn't make me any less lonely. She was having a whirlwind romance while I pathetically stalked my neighbors.

You might be wondering where my parents could be. How could they possibly leave their 18 year old girl alone?

When I was five, my father walked out on my mother, abandoning the three of us. My mother is and always has been a politician. She's been our districts congress woman for a long time.

Our family is a little famous, you could say. And with that, my mother is always on the go. If it's not a re-election year, then it's countless charity events and gala's. Meaningless dinner engagements and a lot of fake smiles.

I feel like my mother is here but she isn't. Because even when I do have her attention, she's harping on how dirty the house is or about my summer job and extra circulars, as if her house could be anymore perfect then it already is and I could be any more compliant then I already am.

You see unlike most of my friends this summer, enjoying their last bit of freedom before college, I'm working as a waitress at the local touristy bar, Oak & Embers. Ironically, it's an American bar located smack dab in the middle of Koreatown.

I live just outside New York City. I was born and raised in America but I am 100% Korean and can speak it fluently.

Anyhow, my mother absolutely insisted that I spend my time being productive as opposed to lazing around and be tempted to "get into trouble" as if I'm some horrid delinquent.

Being the youngest does have it's disadvantages, despite what the elders may say.

I glanced down at my watch. It was 2:30 on a Wednesday afternoon and I'd yet to do anything productive. I chuckled and realized if my mom was around she'd be having none of it, probably run the vacuum over our pristine white carpet while she ranted about her day.

I was used to perfection, you see. I'd grown up around it since young. I cherished moments like these greatly, the moments when I could do nothing.

Where I could just quietly observe to myself.

I laid down on the roof, closing my eyes, soaking up the sun. A loud thunk suddenly startled me, as I heard something roll down the roof and get stuck in the gutter.

I peaked one eye open and lifted my head slightly, not wanting to move from my comfortable position.

Boy did I get the shock of my life.

There, climbing up the trellis of my house, was one of the Cha boys. If my mother was here she'd have an aneurysm. This was entirely uncharted territory. Even though I'd watched him all my life, I've never actually talked to him.

I'd hardly call cordial waves and polite hello's conversation.

So here he was, perched on my roof, retrieving the baseball from the if it was normal to climb up the side of your neighbors house.

He tossed it up and down in his hand, baseball cap half covering his eyes. He turned around and gave a boyish smile. I noticed the way his black jeans clung to his legs and the blue and white baseball t-shirt that accompanied.

He looked good. Too good, if you ask me. He always looked good from far away, but up close, well, I wasn't really sure what to even say.

"Sorry about that. I didn't know you'd be up here. You didn't get hurt did you?" Why yes, I am indeed hurt. Your good looks have absolutely wounded me.

"Oh,'s fine. I was just enjoying the sun. Haha." The awkward chuckle was so appalling. I must have looked like an idiot. But more importantly, which Cha was this? There were eight. Five boys and three girls.

YiAn, Hakyeon, Joon, DaHae, the twins Yewon & Yerim, DongJu, and baby Goeun.

I know he definitely wasn't YiAn, YiAn is the oldest and went off to college. The only other two boys around my age are Hakyeon and Joon. But which one?

"You look like you could use some rescuing."

I furrowed my brows, shrinking back slightly in confusion. "Rescuing?"

He gave that boyish smile again, coming to sit down beside me. I was now sitting up, studying his facial features. They were perfectly proportioned. It was like God himself carved his features.

"It's Summer vacation and you're alone." Ugh. I already knew that. He didn't need to remind me. I felt incredibly pathetic.

He looked at the baseball in his hand then back at his home. "Well, I better get back to the twins. They'll get antsy if I'm gone much longer. It was nice to finally talk to you Jieun. I'm Hakyeon, by the way. My friends call me N, though."

I smiled slightly and grabbed his extended hand for a shake.

"It was nice to talk to you too, N." I gave him a smile this time, unconsciously rubbing my hands down my upper arms. He tipped his baseball cap and just like he came up, swiftly climbed down the trellis and back over to the fence.

I sighed and grabbed my white slip ons, heading back into my room. The air conditioning hit my skin like a slap, a stark contrast to the toasty 80 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

I sat down at my vanity and stared at my reflection. I thought back to my surprising yet short encounter with Hakyeon.

The Cha's were forbidden from the start, yet I can already feel the want inside me growing.

You could hear a pin drop in the silence of my house. I could hardly take it, so I my Bluetooth speaker and my Spotify playlist. I brought out my sketchbook and charcoal pencils, turning to a blank page.

A certain boyish grin came to mind, and before I knew it, my hands were drawing the handsome face of Cha Hakyeon.


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