Chapter 3

Fallen Leaves

Friday, June 13th, 2014


Areum pushed open the clear doors to welcome the soothing aroma of coffee into her nose. Though she had only been there for a couple days, the café had become her second home.


As if on queue, Minseok lifted his head to look at her from behind the counter- it was almost as if he had telepathic powers. His mouth stretched into a smile at the sight of the girl, and she willingly returned it. When she reached the front of the line to order, Minseok greeted her buoyantly. “And what may the lady be having today? I’ve noticed that you’ve been ordering something different everyday.”


“New city, new tastes, right? What’s the special today?” She tilted her head to examine the day's menu selection freshly written in rainbow chalk on the blackboard above the counter.


“Café com limao.”


“Coffee with what?” Areum's eyebrows quirked upwards in interest. 


“It’s from Brazil; It means coffee with lime. You should try it.” Minseok explained.


“That sounds interesting, I’ll have a regular size.”


“Great, that’ll take a few minutes. You came a bit early, but I’ll just bring it over to you once my shift is done.” Minseok said while sliding her card through the machine.


Areum took her usual seat by the window and began a session of people-watching. Everyone there looked so contented - perhaps it was the mood that the town constituted itself, or the fact that it was summer. But she had a feeling that the town naturally radiated positive vibes to whomever set foot inside it’s borders.


“I guess you’ve finally figured out why this town has a relatively high populationn for it's geographic size.” The voice she had been subconsciously waiting to hear ever since the moment she woke up sounded next to her ear. 


“Why is it that you always seem to know what I’m thinking, despite only knowing me for two days and interacting with me for slightly less than 12 hours?” Areum accused light heartedly.


“I don’t know; I've grown to recognize that look of peacefulness that newcomers wear once they stay here for some time. It doesn’t help that your ever-changing emotions are practically etched onto your face.” He shrugged.


“What do you mean, ‘etched onto my face’? Is that bad?”


Jongdae laughed at her cluelessness. "In simple words, you're easy to read.”


“I always considered myself to be a deep thinker.”


“Yes, a thoughtful person but easy to read.” He shrugged again. Minseok’s voice entered the conversation before Areum had a chance to form a rebuttal. “Here’s your special order,” He said while handing her the warm foam cup that contained the freshly brewed coffee. She cautiously took a sip from the little slit at the top, giving heed to the hot wisps of smoke that escaped through the lid. “So, what do you guys usually do here during the summer? It seems like I’ve been preoccupying both of your afternoons lately.” She started a conversation while taking in the extrinsic flavors of the coffee.


“We have our hobbies, and of course we prepare for the upcoming year since we’ll be enrolled in harder classes.” Minseok replied, his chair creaking quietly as he leaned back.


“But we balance out work and fun.” Jongdae added to the other male’s answer.


“This year it’s been a little less stressful since we’re going into our last year of schooling. I’ve got most of my life under control, surprisingly.” Minseok chuckled.


“I should probably learn how to do that at some point,” Areum replied, thinking about the hectic school year that she had finished barely a week ago.


“Yeah, big city life seems a bit too chaotic. From my perspective, it looks like a game of sharks and minnows.” Jongdae replied, shaking his head at the mere thought of having to survive in a major city. 


“To be honest, that pretty much sums it up.” Areum admitted. When the trio began to sink into a bubble of silence again, Minseok decided to do something that both of his friends might appreciate, whether they realized it or not. Pretending to be startled by a notification on his phone, he exclaimed, “Oh sorry guys, I think I’ll have to bounce out of here. My mom called me home.” He rose from his seat while the other two looked looked on in surprise.


“Oh, okay. I’ll see you around then?” Areum eventually replied.


“Yep, you guys have fun.” Minseok shot Jongdae a meaningful look before leaving the café.


“I guess it’s just us now.” Areum sighed. Not that she minded.


“Are you judging me?” Jongdae suddenly spluttered out of the blue.




“After yesterday…and the day before…”


“You have done nothing to provoke judgmental thoughts to occur in my mind.” She reassured.


“You sure?”


“Why would I judge you?”


“You saw me singing, and then the hill we went to…” He trailed off.


“Shouldn’t this conversation be going the other way around? I literally took a picture of you like a stalker.”


“I don’t know, its just weird that you never said anything before about my lonely singing on the beach.” He said, a hint of pain tainting his voice.


“Why would I? I barely know you.” She stated flatly. She began to wonder, what had happened to the confident guy that had presented himself to her before? But then again, it wasn’t her place to question.


“Yeah. You’re right. Just disregard everything I just said, okay? We’re going to do something fun today. And by fun, I don’t mean sightseeing.” His bubbly tone arose once more. His mischievous tone worried her, but also peaked her interest. What could he have possibly planned?  


“Well, come on then!” He urged her, getting a firm hold of her hand to lead her out of the café. Areum felt her face heat up like a stove in response to the contact. He looked back at her and smiled apologetically. “Am I making you uncomfortable?”


Her eyes widened, and she contemplated the consequences of the possible responses she could give him. If she said yes, he might feel hurt. But if she said no, then she might sound shallow. When she noticed him still looking at her expectantly, she just replied hastily, “No, it just surprised me. Let’s go.” She urged him to continue walking, as a few passersby were beginning to give them curious glances.


“We’re almost there; we won’t be observing nature or anything today. I never really asked you formally before, but I think you’ll enjoy this.”


“You’re going through this blindly, aren’t you?” Areum laughed.


“It was just a gut feeling, to be honest.” He admitted with a sheepish grin.


“Just because I seem like a certain person doesn’t mean I am,” She warned, half joking.


“And that’s exactly why I’m beginning to reconsider my decision to do this before asking.” He replied.


“Let’s see how good your personality judging skills are then.”

“Perfect timing, this is it.” He breathed, releasing his hold on her hand. The pair stood before a large home-like building that sported a bright yellow sign above the doorway.


Sinfully Sweet, the title read. 


“What is this?” Areum asked.


“A sweet shop, of course!” Jongdae exclaimed.


“So, we’re buying candy?”


“Not candy, but something else. It’s your choice, really.”


When she didn’t reply, he continued to justify his choice of activity for the day. “What makes this shop different from any other store is that you get to make the sweets yourself; its completely customized.”


“I don’t know how to though!” She finally replied, her eyes widened.


“You think most normal people would know how to either? C’mon, they’ll obviously help us.” He walked up to the door, and Areum had no choice but to follow. The moment the sliding doors opened up to them, Areum’s senses were put into overdrive by the chaos of scents and flavors circulating in the shop. “It looks and smells like a unicorn sneezed all over the place.” She muttered, observing the multitude of shelves and tables stacked with sweets. Candy, cookies, chocolate, ice cream, cakes, and more than she could even take in at once were on display in every corner of the store. They even had other foreign sweets in addition to the Korean and Western goods.


“If you find this impressive, I’m already telling you that this is only the foremost section of the store. There’s a whole new world waiting if you keep walking.” Jongdae’s commentary interrupted her thoughts. 


“We’re going to the part where we can make stuff ourselves right?”


“That was the plan.”


They walked up the the front desk to meet with an old woman clad in a colorful sweater covered in candy patterns. “What can I do for you two lovebirds today?” She asked, eyeing the two of them with a playful smile.


Areum mentally hit herself in response, but Jongdae didn’t seem to have any reaction to the woman’s words. He simply smiled back, and said, “We would like to try making our own sweets today.”


“Oh of course! Here, let’s go to the workshop so I can show you a few things before you get started.” The woman arose from her wooden stool and beckoned them to follow her as she wound around the store. They entered another set of sliding doors that opened to a large kitchen, with various supplies and ingredients lining the counters and shelves. “As you can see, most of the ingredients you would need are already mixed or set out for your use. If you wish to bake something, you will have to wait an hour or so after putting it in the oven before you can retrieve it, so please plan accordingly. The charges are determined by what you make and what you use, and the prices are displayed over everything so you shouldn’t have any problems.” She blew through the instructions in a flash. When they nodded in understanding, she left them to return to the front desk. “Have fun-and try not to make a mess!” She added before disappearing through the doors.


The next few minutes consisted of them arguing over what to make.


“Wouldn’t in be unique to make rainbow brownies? It would be like eating unicorn food!” Areum argued.


“No, when there are so many resources right in front of us, why would you go with something so mundane? You could bake brownies at home, but here we even have the capability to make Jello statues!” Jongdae fired back.


They glared at each other for about 10 seconds, until an idea popped into Areum’s head.           


“You know, what if we made rainbow brownies with mini jello bears mixed inside it! Then its like eating brownies and feeling the Jello bears being squished with every bite!”


Jongdae stared at her in mock horror. “I never knew someone like you could come up with something so cruel! You’re basically suggesting that we create the Jello bears, drown them alive in viscous brownie mix, and then bake their dead corpses to a crisp. Does that kind of thing appeal to you?”


“Yes, I would like to feel their bodies being crushed one by one under my sharp canines.” Areum replied with an evil smirk.


“Wow, you must be fun at parties. Death is such a savory flavor, isn't it? Let’s start our operation, shall we?” He moved to grab a box of red jello along with a plate of molds.


After another twenty minutes, they found themselves in yet another quarrel. “Stop trying to eat the batter!” Areum smacked his hand away from the bowl she was using to stir the brownie mix. “It’s my favorite dark chocolate mix though! Don’t I deserve at least one taste? Plus, I already finished bears. They’re chilling in the fridge ready to be dipped.” He complained.


“We need to make sure there’s enough batter to drown them.” She explained.


“If we keep using words like ‘drown’ or ‘kill’ people might overhear us and think we’re planning a murder in here and get scared.” He responded, glancing at the door.


“Yeah since you’re in here, they have a reason to be scared.”


“Was that a compliment or an insult?” While she was contemplating an answer, he snuck a spoon of the batter into his mouth.


“Hey!” Areum shrieked. Without thinking twice, she grabbed a handful of white flour that had spilled on the counter and flung it at him like pixie dust. When it settled over his face and shirt, she let out a laugh. “You look like a sad snowman” She managed to say between incessant bursts of laughter. Within moments, she had managed to snap a photo of his powdery face. 


“Yeah, well guess who’ll look like a brown bear soon?” He snapped before smearing some leftover melted chocolate across half her face. the side of her lip, she smiled. “Mmm, this tastes really good. No wonder you wanted a taste.”


“Yeah, all I wanted was to have a little taste and then you turned me into a monster!”


“Stop complaining and let’s get this batter into the oven.”


“These are…interesting.” Areum’s aunt smiled lightly after biting into the brownie.


“They may be weird, but just remember that I made it with love, which is the most important ingredient.” Areum placed her hand over her chest. 


“Didn’t you make these with a new friend? Did you pay them back?”


“Yes, don’t worry. It took a while to convince him but I did pay half the bill in the end.” Areum explained.


“It was a boy? I thought usually girls would like doing these kinds of activities,” The older woman laughed.


“Well, he just thought I would like it.” The girl defended.


“Oh, so a date? Wow, you must be very charming-”


“No! I’ve only known him for two days, I’m not that crazy!” Areum frantically tried to correct her.


“Okay, but I’m telling you, things can happen pretty fast. Your uncle and I…”


“Oh gosh, not this story again…” Areum attempted to stop her from repeating the same old story about the way she had met her uncle. It was most likely the cheesiest, unrealistic relationship in human history, but it surprisingly worked out.


Before she could get trapped into listening to the lengthy romance tale, Areum excused herself to her room.


Did she like them? A text lit up her phone screen.


Depends what you consider “like”. She typed a response.


For my standards of cooking, as long as she didn’t spit it out then we’re good.


In that case, we did well. Good job DaeDae~


She knew she was in for a major interrogation session the next day due to her bold use of that newly made up nickname, but it was worth it.  

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