Chapter 5

Fallen Leaves

Sunday, June 15th, 2014


Areum flinched when a colorful sheet of paper was smacked down onto the mahogany table in front of her. She looked up at Minseok, who was still holding down the paper under his palm.


“Can I help you?” She asked enquiringly.


“I think you would benefit from this.” He finally removed his hand so Areum could read the text printed on the paper. “Photography club?” She tilted her head, taking in the various geometric patterns and designs stamped onto the flyer.


“Yeah, I thought you would be interested.”


“Let me guess, you’re trying to get rid of me, right?” She chuckled.


“Oh no, not at all!” His cat-like eyes widened in alarm.


“I was just joking, calm down.” She patted his hand. When he continued to stare at her in anticipation, she spoke again. “I think I’ll go, thanks for telling me about this.”

Following the detailed instructions that Minseok provided upon confirming her interest in attending the club meeting, Areum weaved her way among the flocks of passerby that roamed the streets. It was indeed a beautiful day for a photography outing, as the sun offered sufficient natural lighting. She could almost feel the heat bouncing off the cement under her flats with each step-it reminded her of the mass of sand that triggered Jongdae to hop around like a hare.


Smiling to herself at the memory, she came to a stop at the building that she assumed was the rendezvous location. She found herself looking through the glass doors of a small studio-a digital studio to be exact. It was clear that she had found the right place, as there were several people roaming around with cameras or editing photos inside. With a deep breath, she pushed the heavy doors open. The moment she set foot inside the studio, she was welcomed by the scent of used polaroid films and lens cleaning solution. A man greeted her at the front desk with an affable smile. “Hello, what brings you to our studio today?”


“I’m actually here to join the photography club.” She held up the flyer that Minseok had forced her to keep.


“Wonderful! They actually meet in the back room, so I’ll let you head back there. They’ll take care of everything else for you.”


Areum followed the man as he walked past various photo shoot sets and computers. Holding the door open for her to enter, he flashed her another smile before heading back to the desk. Several people-old and young- were milling around the room, socializing freely. Suddenly feeling rather self conscious, Areum wrote her name on the sign-in sheet resting on a coffee table.


She then noticed that people were beginning to take their seats around the round tables that were scattered across the room. A lanky, middle aged woman stood at the head of the space, with her thin hands clasped together in anticipation. Areum followed the other members and found a seat between two girls.


Once the quiet chatter died down, the woman began to speak. “Good afternoon everyone, welcome to the club! I’m glad to see so many faces today, old and new! I’m happy to say that the board members have produced new prompts and challenges for this week, but first I think we should go through last week’s winners, right?” The group nodded in agreement, and the woman whom Areum assumed to be the president started to project some images onto the screen from her laptop.


“Is this like a competitive thing?” Areum whispered to the girl seated to her left.


The girl turned to look at her, revealing a set of light grey eyes lined in heavy coal. “This is only my second time here, but from what I’ve seen they have competitions every week. It seems pretty friendly, though.” She directed her attention back to the screen when an image popped up.


The photo depicted the view of a kitten looking up at the camera, its baby pink nose pointed upwards innocently. The most stunning point of the image, however was the pair of large blue eyes that contrasted the cat’s duller grey tabby pelt.


The screen continued to skim through the other entries for the competition for the next few minutes. Areum was fascinated by the amount of variety evident in one relatively small club; each person had a completely different style and way of viewing the world.


Finally, the time came at which the winners were to be announced. The title of first place was awarded to a boy who had photographed a meteor shower above a prairie. Areum indeed believed that the said image deserved the top prize, as it was an extraordinary way to shoot a nature scene but make it look like fantasy at the same time.


After the top five winners were recognized, the meeting began to conclude as the president started to describe the photo prompt for the next week’s competition. “This week, the challenge is pretty open for interpretation. I want you guys to follow the phrase ‘Cherry on top’. You can think about this any way that you’d like, so don’t hold back!” She encouraged the club members who were already beginning to brainstorm ideas that could satisfy the challenge.


When people slowly began to file out of the room while chatting animatedly about their new ideas, Areum turned to the girl she had spoken to previously. “So, what do you think you’re going to do for the competition?” She asked, playing with the leather straps on her bag.


“I don’t know, I kind of just think of stuff on the fly.” The girl shrugged.


“That’s pretty cool, it makes it more creative too, I’m guessing?”


“I would like to think so,” She laughed. When neither of them spoke, Areum broke the silence. “I’m Areum, by the way.” She held out her hand.


“I’m Namjoo. Nice to meet you, Areum.” 

Monday, June 16th, 2014


The next day, the two girls were completely immersed in photography. After spending nearly the entire day in each other’s presence discussing their interests and telling funny stories, it was safe to say that they had hit it off together.


“Have you come up with an idea yet?” Namjoo asked, twirling a strand of light brown hair between her fingers.


“I don’t know, but I’m trying to decide whether I want human models in it or not.” Areum sighed, thinking about the plethora of ideas that she had come up with-but none of them had seemed worthy. 


“You could always just do some blind experiments; I mean its not like digital files cost you money.” Namjoo suggested.


Areum gasped. “I think I have an idea!” She turned to face the other girl excitedly.


“Enlighten me.”


“Before I tell you, is it okay if we take a trip downtown?”


“Sure, but I’m going to have to be back home before dark.” Namjoo raised an eyebrow in curiosity.

When the pair reached the town square, Namjoon shot the other girl a judgmental glance. “How is standing in the middle of the busiest part of town going to help?”


“Trust me, we’re going to need a lot of people for it to work.” Areum eyed every corner of the square, examining each person for a split second before moving towards a cozy diner with outdoor seating. Namjoo quickly followed behind, curious as to what she had planned. Areum stepped onto the raised platform of the deck that extended outside the diner. There were several various round white tables with large umbrellas shading the customers from the penetrating rays of the sun postioned across the wooden floor. Her eyes landed on a young woman sitting across from a man as they enjoyed a meal together. “Excuse me,” Areum stopped in front of them, shyly smiling. The couple looked up in surprise, but Areum didn’t give them time to say anything. “Do you mind if I use you guys as models in my photo shoot?” She held up her camera for them to see.


“That’s really cool! I wouldn’t mind at all.” The woman’s lips curled into a genuine style. On the other hand, the male looked slightly skeptical.


“Before I take your picture, I just have one question.”


When the couple nodded, she took that as a cue to continue. “I personally believe that everyone has one or two aspects about them that distinguishes their character from everyone else in the world. There can only be one copy of an individual in this world, so my question is: What makes you different from everyone else?”


“Man, that was pretty deep…” Namjoo murmured behind her.


“Does it have to be an aspect of my personality, or…” The male finally spoke.




“In that case, I think what distinguishes me from other people is this scar on my hand.” He held out his palm to reveal a faint jagged scratch that ran along his index finger. “I got this in an accident, and its definitely something that shaped who I am today.” He finished.


“Perfect!” Areum smiled at his effort.


The two girls ended up photographing people for the next two hours, capturing several individual’s unique traits and features. They met a variety of people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and countries and the amount of diversity they were able to get was amazing.


When they finally took a seat at the same diner after wandering the streets for a few hours, Namjoo sighed. “You seem like you have a lot of good ideas.”


“I’m sure there are photographers a hundred times more creative than me,” Areum flushed.


“Okay, at least you’re one of the most creative people that I myself have met.” Namjoo corrected herself. She looked like she was going to say more, but paused abruptly as her eyes focused on the space behind Areum’s seat.


“Are you okay?” Areum’s eyebrows pulled together in concern.


Before the girl could respond, another deeper voice entered the conversation.


“How come you didn’t stop to take my picture all this time?”



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