Chapter 4

Fallen Leaves

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

 

“Daedae? You’re joking, right? Only my mom uses that name!” Areum opened the front door to find the miffed boy sitting on the porch facing the street. It was barely 9 AM, but she had been awakened by the sound of the doorbell incessantly being pressed.

 

“How the hell did you find my house?” She screeched in response, ignoring his complaint. A man who was walking his poodle down the street gave them a judgmental glance before speeding up to pass by the house.

 

“I basically walked you home last night. I don’t have the memory of a goldfish; in case you haven’t noticed.” He fired back.

 

“Yeah, but it was dark.” She reasoned.

 

“Well to be honest, I low-key made sure I knew the way to your house in case.”

 

Areum was sure that they stared at each other for over five minutes straight after that confession. The only sound that ensured them that they weren’t stuck in a black hole was the constant chirping of the yellow finches that were flitting about in the garden.

 

“Why?” Areum asked, her voice on the verge of being monotone.

 

“Please be more specific with your inquiry.” He said as she sat down on the cement step next to him, their knees brushing lightly.

 

“Why do you care so much about a girl you literally met three days ago? From what I’ve seen, you have no reason to show me around, to cater to my boredom.” Her voice reached a hushed tone at the end of the sentence.

 

“Do you want me to be blunt about it?” He turned to observe the expression that she wore.

 

“Yes, please do so.”

 

“Is it wrong to want to be a nice person and take them out to places? You seemed like you needed a friend when I saw you on the beach that day, so I decided to take that role.” He paused to gather his thoughts. “And honestly, I thought I could use a new friend as well.” He smiled gently at the last sentence.

 

“That is so adorable.” Areum laughed.

 

“If you’re going to laugh, I might regret ever speaking to you in the first place.” He teased.

 

“No, no, don’t be offended. I just thought its nice how you’re probably one of the first people whom I’ve ever met that voluntarily want to be friends with me. All the people I’m used to don’t give a crap." She explained.

 

“Well at least I’m reassured that I’m on your good side for the time being.” He displayed his characteristic Cheshire smile once again.

 

“Have you ever tried photography before?” She asked randomly.

 

“If taking tourists' phones and taking their picture in front of a monument counts, then yes I am a highly experienced photographer.”

 

“In that case, let me return the favor and teach you something today.” 


For the first time, Areum took the lead as they walked around the spacious yard to enter the obscure path that led to the forest. She was overjoyed to have the opportunity to share her passion with another person for the first time; as very few of her friends took it seriously.

 

As they passed through her aunt’s home grown patch of vegetables, the awakening scent of chili peppers filled their noses, mixing in with a light airy scent of roses that lined the sides of the house.

 

“This garden gives me an urge to go grab some of those peppers in that plot. They look so pure; I could probably eat them raw.” Jongdae glanced longingly at the rows of small plants growing in the well-groomed plot.

 

“Trust me, you do not want to eat those raw. When I first got here, my aunt told me to go pick the fresh ones so she could use them for dinner. I picked them without any gloves, and I forgot to wash my hands. The moment I tried to rub my eyes, I felt like I had paid a visit to hell itself, came back to Earth, and the image was still burning in my eyes.”

 

Jongdae threw his head back in genuine laughter in response to her creative imagery.

 

Areum’s eyes widened when she saw his reaction. “I’m not even joking! It felt like Satan himself rose from hell and seductively my eyeball.”

 

“How do you know what Satan has eyeball ?” He raised an eyebrow.

 

“To use correct terminology, that’s called oculolinctus.” She corrected matter-of-factly.

 

Jongdae stopped in his tracks, his eyes widening to the size of a crater on the moon.

 

“How do you even know that stuff?” He gasped.

 

“The internet is a powerful resource.”

 

“Yeah, it’s a powerful resource when you specifically search for things on it.”

 

“Okay regardless, lets get back to the point. What I was saying is that based on what happened to my eye simply by physical contact, we can assume the reaction your mouth would get if you ate one of those peppers raw would not be so pleasant.” She spoke, trying to distract him from her strange display of knowledge. 

 

“Fine. But I’m still going to tell Minseok about what you said earlier.” He crossed his arms over his chest.

 

“Be my guest. From what I’ve seen, he’s just as much of a freak as I am.”

 

The pair fell into a comfortable silence as they entered the narrow dirt pathway into the woods. It was the first time Areum had walked there in the morning hours, and she found it rather calming. Almost every leaf and twig carried a miniscule dew drop, slightly pushing down towards the ground due to the seemingly small weight. Areum stopped to examine a newly sprouted flower that was peeking out from the damp soil. She let out a high-pitched squeak when a thick droplet of water slipped off a swaying tree and splashed onto her nose. The volume of the water exploded on impact, dripping down her chin.

 

“Are you okay?” Jongdae chuckled, amused by her expression of innocent surprise.

 

“This reminds me; I already have an idea for what could be a good photography idea.” She said, ignoring his question as she wiped her face with the back of her hand. “The whole forest is practically covered in dew drops, right? If you look closely at each one, you can see how distinct they are from each other.” She walked over to a large leaf drooping onto the ground, with several droplets clinging to it’s hydrophobic surface.

 

“It’s like another universe within each single droplet.” Jongdae finished her thoughts for her.

 

“Exactly. That’s the type of idea I look for when I practice photography.” Areum smiled. She reached into her camera bag to pull out a leather pouch that contained a second lens.
 

“That’s a macro lens, right? To capture tiny things.” He asked, carefully observing her movements as she locked the new lens into place.

 

“You know a lot for someone who claimed to be clueless.” She commented before clicking the shutter. “Look, you can see that just this individual droplet contains a galaxy of it’s own. Beautiful, isn’t it?” She angled the display screen so he could take a good look at the photo.

 

He simply smiled in satisfaction in response to the photo, and Areum knew that she didn't need words from him to understand his expression. 

 

“Let’s keep going before it gets too sunny. I’m practically itching to take more pictures on the beach.” She urged him to continue down the damp path.


When they reached the sandy landscape of the beach, the sun was beginning its journey across the expanse of the clear blue sky, and the glittering waters reflected the golden orb like a thousand sapphires hidden underneath the surface tension. Areum took off her slippers before stepping onto the soft sand, not wanting to face the uncomfortable situation of small grains poking at her soles. Jongdae followed suit before they both set foot on the silky texture of the beach.

 

“I think you were wrong about those peppers, Areum. This is definitely what it feels like to have Satan himself lay his hands on your body.” He gasped, jumping around a few times before adjusting to the new temperature under his bare feet.

 

Areum didn’t reply, as she too was struggling to maintain her composure under the intense heat that shot up her legs. She eventually sat down to rid herself of the burning pain. Jongdae proceeded to take a seat next to her, crossing his legs to avoid unnecessary contact with the sand.

 

“Okay teacher, what will I learn today?” He asked brightly, leaning back to bask in the gentle rays of the sun as it beat down on his skin.

 

“Today, we’ll start with the basics. The first thing I learned was exposure, which simply refers to the brightness of a photo. This is one of the most essential steps in taking good photos; if you don’t adjust the exposure, you won’t capture the shot that you want.” She set her camera down on her lap, and flicked the power button to turn it on. “You see this little dial here?” Her finger rested over a small circle displayed on the screen. “You have to select this option in order to adjust it.” After showing him how to adjust the exposure settings, Areum moved on to teach him the other basics.

 

Once she had declared that she was done with explaining the basics, Jongdae made an effort to repeat what he had learned in the past 15 minutes. “Okay, so the first step is to adjust the exposure. The second step is to choose a shutter speed so you don’t take a blurry picture.” He paused, uncertainty evident in his eyes.

 

“Keep going, you’re doing fine.” She gave him an encouraging nod.

 

“And lastly, we choose aperture and ISO.” He stopped again, only to burst out with another piece of information. “Oh, selective focus and depth of field is also important!”

 

“Perfect! Since you seem to be a fast learner, why don’t you go try out your new skills?” She said while placing the camera in his hands once again.

 

“Are you going to help me?” He asked nervously.

 

“No, I want you to use your new knowledge and implement it into your creativity.”

 

“I’ll try my best.”


While Jongdae left to wander the breadth of the beach, Areum let herself run across the sand once again towards the water. Her feet had adjusted to the scorching heat, but she still longed for the cool waves lapping against the shore, sweeping the individual grains of sand back into the depths of the sea. Areum stuck her toe in the water to check the temperature, and was pleased to feel a cool sensation covering her foot. She tentatively made her way deeper into the body of water until it came up to her mid calves. She found herself reaching into the shallow waters and cupping a volume of water in her small hands. The water was so clear; she could see every line of her palm through it. Areum threw the water into the air, and watched as it separated into individual drops against the hot sun. They sprinkled over her body like dust, tickling her legs slightly.

 

“Areum! I think I just got some good pictures.” Jongdae called to her from the shore.

 

“Great! Let me see them.” She said ecstatically before running back to shore, creating a rift in the water with her rapid movements.

 

Areum came to a stop next to him as he began to scroll through the various images saved onto the memory card. He had used a wide range of styles; pictures of the beach against the gleaming sun, small grains of sand on a rock, and other images of little caterpillars crawling on thin twigs. But there was one picture that left Areum feeling awestruck.

 

Jongdae had subtly managed to take a picture of her while she was playing in the water. It was a mid-action shot, as it captured her arms thrown in front of her as she launched the water into the air. The falling drops looked like glitter against her body, almost like a fairy.

 

“That’s…” She trailed off, unable to form words that expressed her true feelings.

 

He smiled lightly at her, before finishing her sentence with his own thoughts.

 

“Stunning.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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