Chapter 12

Fallen Leaves

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014


“Not to be blunt, but this is giving me a dose of déjà vu.” Areum bit her bottom lip nervously, eyeing the graying structure that stood several feet before her.


“Areum, it’s a tunnel. That cars drive over. I don’t think it would collapse on us.” Minseok impatiently tapped his foot on the ground.


“Insensitive much?” She retorted, still unsure.


“You know, I thought this through before bringing you here. I knew going under some kind of structure might give you some flashbacks, but I’m confident that you can see the beauty in it.” He placed a warm hand on her shoulder. She looked up at him to look into his pleading eyes.


“Fine. But if I actually die this time, it’s your fault.” Areum grumbled, forcing herself to shake off the remaining bits of fear.


In an instant, Minseok had gotten a hold of her hand and was treading on a narrow grassy path towards the tunnel. The dry yellow prairie flowers came up to her waist, and she found herself struggling to take careful steps forward. With each movement, a spiky weed or bug scratched at her exposed calves, making her flinch back. Sensing her slight discomfort, Minseok looked back, an apologetic expression gracing his face. “Sorry about that; but I promise you that the journey will be worth it once you get inside.” 


“What is in that tunnel that makes it so special?” Areum muttered, half to herself.


“I told you already! Just wait, so the surprise isn’t spoiled!”


“It seems like I’ve been in for a lot of surprises.” She chuckled.


Instead of shooting a retort back for her remark, Minseok came to an abrupt halt.  “Ta-ta!” He splayed his hands out in front of her face. When she moved his arms out of way, she was hardly amused by a cylindrical structure that boasted ever growing moss, constant water dripping, and the low grumble of cars as they passed over it.


“Okay, so it’s a tunnel that also serves as a flyover.” Areum deadpanned, subconsciously playing with the strap of her camera.


“Yes, but it’s not just any tunnel! Inside this tunnel rests an endless history of the people-specifically artists- who have lived in this very town! It’s like, a historical monument. Except without tourists. And nobody liked tourists, so you should be thankful.” Minseok rambled, his glazing over at sight of the tunnel. Areum quickly came to a conclusion that the tunnel stood of some significance to him, by the way he was gazing at it. His eyes showed hidden stories from his life - that she was not a part of before.

“Well, let’s take a look. We’ve come this far, anyway.” She smiled at him, feeling more optimistic about the trip.


Together, the pair ducked under the shade of the wide structure. Areum flinched, squeezing her eyes shut when a droplet splashed her nose. “Don’t tell me this water is contaminated.” She scrunched up her nose, eyeing the ceiling skeptically.


“Only God knows what’s in that, so just wash your face later.” Minseok suggested offhandedly. “But more importantly, the real beauty is farther down there.”


Without another word, they began to make their way down the tunnel. The only sound emitted was the light patter of their footsteps that echoed off the curved walls. “This is kind of creeping me ou-” She turned to say, but was cut short by the sight captured in her eyes. “Holy .”


“Told you so.” Minseok smirked, crossing his arms over his chest.


All around them, the rough surface of the tunnel was decorated with a plethora of drawings, paintings, graffiti, and even short messages. The individual works overlapped, creating a huge mess of color. But it was a beautiful mess. Some of the works were dark and eerie, while others depicted optimistic, cheery images. Others seemed to express the thoughts of the those who wrote them.


“Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.” She read one of the messaged aloud. The writing had begun to fade among the jumble of colors surrounding it, yet the message stood out strong.


“It’s ironic how they’re writing out such ideas in graffiti.” Areum smiled. After doing a full turn to take in all the art, she faced Minseok.


“This is…you’re so…” She struggled to find words to express her thoughts.


“Amazing? I know I’m grea-” He was cut off when a body slammed into him. Areum wrapped her arms around his waist, burying her face in his shoulder. Tentatively, he reciprocated the action. “Thank you, Minseok. This means a lot to me, especially after everything that happened last week.” She mumbled, her voice muffled by his shirt.


“You’re very welcome, Areum.”


They stayed like that for a few moments before slowly pulling apart. “Aren’t you going to use that talent to take some pictures?” He gestured to the camera hanging around her neck.


“Oh, right.” She laughed. “But today, I have a special request for you, since you’re the one who had the idea to come here.”


“Should I be afraid?” He raised an eyebrow.


“Be my model?” She tilted her head to the side.


“Seriously? Me?” His eyes widened. “I’m flattered, but-”


“Minseok, put that confidence of yours for some use for once. I need these pictures to show off to the Photography club this Wednesday.”


The next few hours were spent as Areum ordered Minseok to stand in various positions in front of the art. He was wearing all black, so she found many opportunities to exploit that.


“Areum. It’s getting dark outside.” The girl was interrupted when Minseok caught her wrist before she moved to take more photos. “I’m sure you have plenty right now.”


She sighed, although she knew that he was right. Her aunt would begin to worry if she stayed out any longer. “Yeah, we should get going. Thank for every-”


“Wait. Don’t thank me yet.” Minseok cut her off. When she gave him a puzzled look, he continued with a deep breath. “I need to say something. Something that I’ve been dying to say for a long time, but I didn’t.”


“Okay? Go ahead, then.” She motioned for him to continue.


“Areum, I really…” He looked down at his feet, brown strands of falling to brush against his forehead.


“I really like you. Ever since we became regular friends at the café, I found myself wanting to see you everyday. But I knew that it was too early, since I had only known you for like a week. And then, you seemed to like Jongdae a lot. So now I don’t know what to do-”


“Minseok.” Areum breathed. “I honestly don’t know what to say right now. I don’t even know If I can say anything. And to put it frankly, I had some interesting relationship experiences just a few months ago. This is just,” She took a breath, “It’s just a lot to think about right now, especially when Jongdae is out of touch.” She met his brown eyes that were shining with sincerity. “Please, just give me some time. I know you mean well, but I hope you respect my requests.”


Minseok swallowed, blinking a couple of times. “I understand. Let’s get out of here, then?” He proceeded to silently walk towards the end of the tunnel.


Areum followed, the lump in growing with each step.

Is everyone happy (or sad) with the inclusion of new drama~? It might have been something you all were expecting, but don't worry. Jongdae will be coming back, along with another mysterious character from Areum's past. 's about to go down,  yoooo


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