(A/N: Seo Kyung's hostess outfit is on my Polyvore (Doctorholmes221) under "Ruining Our Childhood")
Chapter Two - After School
THE PLAYGROUND in the complex wasn’t getting boring yet, but summer was right around the corner so we had the pool to look forward to in the next couple of days. It helped to have Jongin living a few doors down to cure me of any and all boredom, and most days I cured his instead. We made it a habit to hang out all weekend, whether it be on the playground or seeing a movie. Since we were only eight, we often had Ha Kyung’s supervision or one of our mothers would come along.
After school, Jongin had dance classes that he would have to go to in the city, so often times I would ride the bus to his class with him and then take a bus home just in time for my sisters to get home. When Jongin would get home from his dance class, grab a snack and we were off again. Looking back, the main reason we played together so much was simply loneliness. There was one else to play with and no one close to school, so we were left to be friends.
As eight year olds, there was plenty just in front of the apartment complex to keep us busy. Right across the street there was a park and a convenience store so there were many times when after school, we’d bypass home and have ramyun before playing at the park until our parents called us for dinner. Over time, Jongin and I memorized each others schedules so we would always know the right time to knock on each others doors so we could play or do homework together.
Five-year-old Seo Kyung and Jongin were naive, immature kids who didn’t think about anything except for playing and the readiness of their playmate. The person they were didn’t matter as long as they could pretend to be someone else. Eight-year-old Seo Kyung and and Jongin were still naive and immature, but they had a better idea of who their playmate was and they still chose to spend all of their waking time together.
Jongin was quite passionate about dancing and I often found him practicing when he thought no one was watching. He took dance classes and his parents often sent him away to learn taekwondo and piano so he was quite skilled in many things. Even if he wasn’t interested in them, he knew more than me. His passion, however, was dancing and he’d often teach me the dance moves he learned that day in class, always telling me how excited he was about it. He would ask me to learn the routine with him so he could have someone to dance with and I always gave in and helped him. In return, he’d have to sit there and listen to whatever I wrote that day, since I wanted to be a writer.
Surprisingly enough, we never got sick of each other, no matter how much time we spent together. Sometimes his older sisters would join him to hang out with my sisters while Jongin and I were off doing whatever it is kids do. Sometimes we would try to listen in to their conversations as if we thought they would be talking about something top secret or something humiliating that we could use against them. Instead, we heard them talking about school, boy bands, other girls at school and how they thought that Jongin and I would get married one day. When it got to that point in the conversation, Jongin and I would look at each other for a long time, wondering if they were onto something. It usually ended with us giving each other disgusted looks and going off to dance instead.
In the winter we spent most, if not all, of our time indoors in either his room or mine. In the early fall, spring and summer we were outside on the playground or at the pool in the complex. We didn’t really have anywhere else to hang out at that age, so it was never difficult to find us. Unless Jongin had a dance class at the institute he went to often, we were at the park eating snacks and doing homework together so we would have more time to play.
It was springtime and we only had one more month of school before summer break and I’d never seen Jongin so excited about summer break. He was constantly talking about the plans he had to improve his singing, dancing and acting skills because he wanted to audition for an entertainment agency as soon as he was ready. A lot of the classes were expensive classes in the city and he always talked about how he wished I would take the classes with him but he knew I couldn’t since we were tight on money.
After school, we took the same bus home and set up camp at our usual picnic table and Jongin ran off to get snacks for us so we could have a bit of downtime before we dove into our books. I gave him a few bucks so he could pay half of it with my money so I wouldn’t freeload. It didn’t matter if we were best friends or not, I hated to have someone pay for me. Jongin understood this to an extent, but something told me he never really used my money unless he had to.
While he was gone, I pulled my math book out of my backpack and skimmed the problems we had to do for class tomorrow. There weren’t many problems, but they were difficult enough where she wanted Jongin there to help me out. He’s the one who answered all of the questions right in class. I was grateful when I heard footsteps heading towards the table, figuring it was Jongin with snacks and his knowledge of math.
“Jongin-ah, did you-” I looked up to see a girl standing there instead, wearing our school uniform with her backpack on and she was fidgeting, playing with a pen cap in her fingers.
“Annyeonghaseyo.” she bowed in greeting, “I’m Hwa Eun. I transferred to your school today and I live in that building.” she pointed towards my apartment building, “Can I sit with you to do homework?”
“Oh, sure!” I grinned, moving down the seat of the picnic table and pushing my stuff out of the way so she could sit next to me, “My best friend, Jongin, is getting snacks. We can share with you if you want.”
“Mm!” she nodded, sitting next to me with a smile, “I’m hungry.”
“I’m Seo Kyung, Kang Seo Kyung.” I greeted her, “What class are you going to be in?”
“They said my teacher was going to be Mr. Yeo.” she said slowly.
“That’s the class Jongin and I are in!” I exclaimed, “I’ll help you get settled in. The kids in our class are super nice. Ah, Jongin!” I saw him hurrying towards the table with a full bag and two bowls of steaming ramyun.
“You didn’t get started without me, did you?” he called.
“How did you get the ramyun?” I inquired when he set one of the bowls in front of me and the other at his place, along with the bag of chips and cookies.
“The ajusshi there gave me two bowls for free because we’re his favorite customers.” Jongin beamed proudly, sitting at his spot before he noticed Hwa Eun, “Who...”
“This is Hwa Eun.” I introduced her before digging into my ramyun, “She’ll be in our class starting tomorrow.”
“Annyeong!” Jongin greeted her before turning to me, “Did you look over the math homework?”
“Annyeong.” Hwa Eun’s voice was quiet as she took in Jongin’s features. For an eight-year-old, he was good-looking. Often, when we would walk up to the movie theater, old ladies would stop us to marvel at how handsome he was.
“I did, it doesn’t look too difficult. This shouldn’t take much time at all. Hwa Eun, you can-” I looked over at her, but she had switched sides to sit next to Jongin.
“Can I share your book with you, oppa?” she asked innocently, looking up at him and batting her eyes, “I won’t get mine until tomorrow.” Oppa? Was he really older than her or was that just flattery?
“Mm, sure.” he nodded, pulling his book out of his bag and offering it to her, “Seo Kyung-ah, give me your book. I did the first two problems on the bus home.”
“Thank you.” I pushed my book across the table and he started working. Surely the teachers were going to catch him, but if I did the rest of the problems based off his work, they would assume I had simply asked him for help.
“Oppa,” Hwa Eun cooed and Jongin turned his gaze to her, “I don’t get it could you explain it to me?”
“Sure.” Jongin shrugged and started explaining the math homework.
Hwa Eun looked only at Jongin and paid no attention to the work he was doing on the page. It was a waste of his time for him to explain this to her. Her doughy eyes and lack of attention on the homework was enough to get my blood boiling. Somehow she had gone from a timid girl who looked like she was too scared to talk to me to a girl who was warming up to Jongin real fast. I figured since Jongin was giving her nothing then she would get bored with him quickly, but that didn’t mean that I have to sit there and watch.
“Jongin-ah,” I stood, setting my half-eaten ramyun aside, and he looked up, “I’ll take my book back. I’m going to go inside and do homework. I have a headache.”
Without waiting for his response, I pulled my book out of his grasp and my heel. I scooped up my backpack and slung it onto my shoulder. I said a half-assed goodbye to the two as I walked away, but only Jongin responded. As I waited for the cars to pass so I could cross the street, I turned my gaze back to where Jongin and Hwa Eun sat. Even eight-year-old me was satisfied when I saw that Jongin was still looking.
THE TIME was ticking slowly towards 6pm, which was when the other hostesses came to relieve Min Ah and I. I wasn’t complaining, since every cent I earned was another cent off of Mom’s hospital bill. Min Ah’s company wasn’t unwelcome, either. Mostly, she gushed about her music and TV and I was just happy listening. Since I wasn’t exactly in tune with pop culture, Min Ah was my line to current events - entertainment version.
Mostly she talked about Exo and their spectacular comeback. The new concept was incredible and her bias was the iest person currently alive on this planet. When I asked who it was, she gave me an unfamiliar name and showed me an unfamiliar face on her phone. I agreed with her, he was incredibly attractive but before I even had a chance to say that I wished there was a chance for them to meet, Min Ah showed me the reservation planner.
“Seo Kyung-ah,” Min Ah pulled the book from a shelf in the podium, “I’m surprised that I’m as calm as I am.”
“Why?” I inquired, flipping to today’s date before immediately knowing why, “They’re coming here tonight.”
“They are.” Min Ah in a breath, “Exo will be here. In the VIP room. I haven’t looked to see who’s assigned to the VIP room yet, I’m too scared.”
“I’ll look for you when we go back to change.” I offered.
“Would you?” she exclaimed, “I’m so nervous.”
I had to laugh at her fangirling but I was sure that if Lee Min Ho or Won Bin came through, I would be the same way. I didn’t have a lot of free time to watch dramas, but when I did I took advantage of every moment. Most of the free time I had I either ate or slept, but there was no reason not to watch dramas and eat at the same time.
6pm came and went and the girls came to relieve Min Ah and I and we ran to the girls room to change and apply makeup and get to work. I wasted no time in peeling off my hostess uniform and into something a little different. The dress was bluish turquoise with a loose, flowing skirt that brushed comfortably against my knees and black sash that wrapped around my entire torso, tying tightly at my hip, but allowing room for the skirt. The dress complimented my body from my bust to my legs in every way possible. With black jewelry to match and black lace high heels, I was all set to go.
Once Min Ah was dressed and ready, she grabbed me and pulled me to the schedule. She couldn’t look at it, terrified to see where she would be put. Was there an actual possibility that she would be put in the room to entertain Exo? What about me? What was my fate for this long night?
I scanned the rooms to look for her name and found it right where she wanted. I grinned and told her to look. When she did, she screamed and hugged me so hard I found myself forcing air into my lungs. I used the air I did have to laugh with her as she could hardly believe her luck. She turned back to the schedule and stared at it in disbelief. I stood next to her to next find my name and we saw it at the same time.
“Oh, hey. Look, you’re working with me!”
Their reservation was set for 8pm, so Min Ah and I decided to head to the kitchen to play waitress for a couple of hours. The waiters and waitresses were always happy for the help of the entertainers, especially on Friday’s when the place was the most packed and they were swarmed with customers. I kept myself busy by going from room to room, giving them their drinks and food. Often times they would ask for more as soon as I stepped in the room, so I gave orders back to the cooks and bartenders. A few times the guys would beg me to stay to entertain them and sing with them, but I would have to politely refuse and duck out of the room before they became an angry drunk.
Since I wasn’t exactly sure who Exo was, I wasn’t nearly as excited as Min Ah. Sure, I knew who they were since their band was everywhere and their music played often in the karaoke rooms and in the world but I couldn’t put names to faces or titles to songs. It’s not that I wasn’t interested, it was simply the fact that I didn’t have any time. On the other hand, Min Ah looked like she could hardly breathe. She kept checking the front door to see them walk in. She asked me how she looked at least thirty times in those two hours before 8pm. Every time I would have to reassure her that she looked just fine and her bias would be swept off his feet.
8pm rolled around and they hadn’t shown up. Min Ah was about to jump out of her skin and I just wanted to get to work. I was sure that if I did my job just right, I’d get an incredible tip and my sisters and I might be able to take the edge off the bills a little. I silently hoped that the boys would actually pay attention to the girls a bit because the last time a boy band came in they ignored the girls to the point where we all went home five hours early because it was like we weren’t even there.
The rule was that if the person who had rented the room didn’t show up or contact our establishment to let us know if plans had changed within an hour, we let out the room to whoever was willing to pay. Usually they showed up on time, but this time the time was creeping past 8:20 and Min Ah looked positively ill. She kept muttering to herself that they weren’t coming and she started to believe it. Defeated, she turned her gaze from the door and grabbed a few beers to take up to one of the rooms when outside, earsplitting screams cut through the air and she froze.
“They’re here.” she managed through her tight throats, “Let me know when our manager tells us to go up to the room, I’ll be right back.”
“Araso.” I grinned as she slipped out into the hallway.
Min Ah vanished up the stairs and only moments later, a crowd of about ten guys descended. It was almost in slow motion as they descended towards me. Each boy was wearing something fashionable and hip that was still nice enough to go out in and the ones who were wearing ties got points with me. All of them had something on their person with Exo’s name on it, whether it was rings, a jacket, necklace or even pants. I recognized the boy Min Ah pointed out as being her bias. He was even more beautiful in person. A few of them winked at me as they passed and I managed a dangerous smile, letting them that I was up to no good.
However, someone else in the group was familiar and it struck me right in the face. I’d seen him before in real life and I had no idea where. My eyes found his face, but I averted my gaze as he passed, scared that he would look at me and somehow figure it out. As he brushed past, his smell hit my nose and I had to sit down once they were all past. He was familiar but I didn’t have a name or an idea of who he was. I was sure Min Ah would know the answer, but she had vanished.
As I found a chair in the kitchen to regain my breath, I wondered if I would be able to figure it out before the night was over.