Another week or so went by before Haerim and Baekhyun saw one another again. He was busy; she was hiding out. Or maybe she was busy and he was hiding out. Either way, Haerim kept herself busy.
With Donghwan’s debt all paid—and, oh, what a liberating feeling it was finally to put that whole sordid business firmly in her rearview mirror! —she had real money in her bank account for the first time in months. Money with which to get back to turning her crumbling little house into a home.
And, like a woman who’d been kept away from chocolates for months, and then been given the key to the Cadbury factory, she might have binged. Just a little.
Furniture. Paint. Fixtures. Tiles. Her house smelled like a hardware store. And she couldn’t have been happier!
It was a rather chilly weather with an occasional downpour, and that gave Haerim the excuse to start a fire in the brand-new fireplace she’d helped fit the day before. Music played softly through her new wireless speakers. And she switched on a couple of her new lamps: leadlight and seriously romantic. She’d fallen in love with them at first sight.
Looking around at the eclectic, bright, functional, vintage pieces mixed in with state-of-the-art electronics, emotion swelled in .
The truth was she couldn’t have done it without Baekhyun. For that—for him—she’d forever be thankful. As for the fact that she wondered where he was and what he was doing several times a day and dreamed of her raunchiest wishes into existence at night…that was something she’d have to hope would fade in good time.
She downed the last of her coffee, covered her usual attire of multi-coloured tights, oversized sweaters and ugg boots with a smock, and was halfway up a ladder in her bedroom when her phone beeped.
Chinese or Indian?
Jimin had been fixing a client’s website on site all day and was coming for dinner.
Whatever goes best with the scent of paint thinner. Haerim quickly typed in reply.
Indian then. See ya about seven.
With Jimin out, Haerim had painted the bedroom earlier that day. The wall above her bed was now dry, so she measured for the picture she’d had leaning against a wall for months. Tape, spirit level, pencil in hand, she measured vertically, horizontally, then stood back and looked at the dot with a view to the wall as a whole. Her tummy gave a happy flutter. Symmetry was a wonderful thing.
Yin and Yang. Balance. Not just in art, but in life. In love. She was an active participant in her relationships, drawn to people who were more content to be more passive. It made mathematical sense. At least she’d always thought so.
The taking of all her things had been a pretty proactive thing for him to do. The hurtfulness entirely deliberate. As evidenced by the note he’d left on her kitchen bench. In ten short lines, including three spelling mistakes, he’d taken apart everything she’d done for him and thrown in back in her face like a bucket of acid.
‘Emasculating,’ he’d called her. ‘Bossy…stubborn…a pain in the .’
She’d only been trying to help. Believing that was what he’d wanted. What he’d needed. Believing he’d love her for it. If he’d just told her, asked her to back off…She’d probably have been so shocked her brain would have short-circuited.
Had all the men in her life thought that way about her? That she was stifling? Unbending? That she was so used to taking care of herself she didn’t know how else to be?
She was still staring at the dot on her wall, the pencil in , when there was a soft knock at her door.
Cursing softly around the pencil, she rid herself of the smock, washed her hands then, with one final pointless run of her hand over her hair, which was curling madly in the heat of the now roaring fire, she opened the front door with a flourish.
And there stood Baekhyun. A few sparkling drops of rainwater stuck to his dark hair. A few more dried on the grey shirt stretched across his chest. A casual jacket gripped his shoulders and faded jeans clung to his legs, showing of his form in a way that Haerim couldn’t allow herself to notice in fear that she’d start hyperventilating.
For the first time since she’d known him, he look…ruffled. And boy, did it suit him. It made him seem more accessible, somehow. Her erse heart gave a happy little thumpety-thump.
Then Shakespeare bounded out of nowhere and stuck his nose in Baekhyun’s crotch.
“Easy,” Baekhyun said, laughing, surprise crinkling his eyes.
“Shakespeare!” said Haerim, lunging for his collar.
But Baekhyun was down on his knees at that stage, rubbing behind Shakespeare’s collar in the spot he liked best.
“He must smell these,” Baekhyun said, tossing her a small blue box which—miraculously, considering her lack of dexterity—she caught.
She stared for several seconds at the box of Oreos. Then at Baekhyun. Then at wiry Shakespeare, who was by now staring into the middle distance, tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth, back leg slapping against the floor in ecstasy.
“You’ve done that before,” Haerim said.
“I’m a man of hidden depths.”
Don’t need to tell me, she thought, while trying not to appear as flummoxed as she