Chapter 6

Fallen Leaves

Monday, July 16th, 2014

 

In response to the alarming sound of his voice, Areum whipped around to face the newcomer. “Why are you here?”

 

“I live here. Am I not allowed to spend my free time downtown?” Jongdae cocked his head to the side in question.

 

“I hate to interrupt, but care to fill me in?” Namjoo awkwardly tapped her fingernails against the smooth surface of the white table.

 

“This is my friend, Jongdae.” She motioned for him to take the empty seat on the empty side of the table. “And this is Namjoo.” She finished, gesturing to the other girl. 

 

The two greeted each other briefly before Jongdae brought up his initial question. “I saw you taking pictures of random people, could I be part of it too? I can’t believe you didn’t notice me for the past two hours.” He pouted. 

 

Areum rolled her eyes in response to his childish behavior and was about to respond when Namjoo beat her to it. “Before you do that, you should explain the idea for this shoot. You never really explained it to me.” She frowned.

 

When she found both of her friends looking at her expectantly, she launched into a monologue of her own. “The prompt was ‘Cherry on top’, right? When you think of this phrase, I assume most people would imagine a perfect ice cream sundae. But the cherry placed on top is what makes it perfect.” She paused to collect her thoughts, observing their facial expressions that insinuated their genuine interest. Pushing a brown lock of hair behind her ear, she continued. “This could be used as an analogy to people and our society. Every individual has a quality that makes them special and distinguished from all other people, which makes them 'perfect'. Therefore, I’m trying to capture these specific aspects of people to show diversity in our population.” Areum finished.

 

“That’s…” Namjoo attempted to form a comment, but let her voice run dry at the end.

 

“Are you guys judging me now?” Areum looked down at her lap when neither of them moved to say anything. 

 

“No, we’re just thinking.” Jongdae reassured her.

 

“You’d rather receive a well-thought out comment rather than something shallow right?” Namjoo added to his answer.

 

“That’s true, may be I’ll wait until you guys see the final product to ask for feedback.” Areum smiled lightheartedly.

 

When Namjoo got up to leave a few minutes later, Areum quickly fastened a hold on her wrist. “You should give me your number.”

 

After Namjoo hastily scribbled down her phone number onto a napkin, she slung her bag over her shoulder. “I have to go now, but I’ll see you around Areum.” She paused for a moment before waving goodbye. “Nice meeting you too Jongdae!”

 

They watched her figure shrink slowly as she walked away for a split second before turning to each other once more. “You said you wanted to be part of my project, right?”


Within fifteen minutes, they found themselves standing at the top of a hill. He had only brought her here once, but it seemed as if it were extremely familiar-like a second-home. The view was miles different that it's nighttime appearance; instead of the moonlight and stars glittering over the water, the sun’s beams cascaded onto the calmly rippling waves. The town itself was a work of art. Rather than boasting a glittery array of lights and bright colors, it looked peaceful as humans-that appeared to be the size of ants-walked around in bliss.

 

“What do you want me to do?” Jongdae questioned, following her gaze that rested on the lake.

 

“That part of the photo shoot is up to you - I can’t tell you about your inner self, can I?” She responded.

 

When he turned to look at her, she couldn’t help but think of all the things he had said to her in the past few days. They were compliments, but she couldn’t figure out what they meant, or the motives behind them. She almost built up the courage to ask him about it, but refrained when he spoke first.

 

“Singing. That’s what you need to capture.”

 

Areum scrunched up her eyebrows in thought, trying to come up with an idea that would work.

 

“Never mind, I just realized that would be hard to take a picture of. I can choose something diff-” He began to speak rapidly.

 

“No, I’ll do it.” Areum held up a hand to silence him. “I want this to be authentic as possible. So if that’s what you feel in your heart, I’m going to do it.” She eyed the surroundings, looking for an area that would suffice.

 

Pinpointing a slightly flattened out space in between the thick trunks of two weeping willows, she pointed at it with her index finger. “Can you sit there?”

 

He looked at her skeptically, but eventually sat down, crossing his legs.

 

“Now, you said the theme you wanted was singing, right?” She moved to a different position, testing out different angles. When she noticed his nervous expression, she set down the camera for a moment. “I really won’t judge.” She gave him a reassuring smile.

 

At that moment he opened his mouth and let the first note flow out freely-and Areum understood why she had been so drawn to his voice previously. She almost forgot what she was there for as she simply listened to his singing. She quickly set up her camera, and began to take the pictures she had planned out. Within a couple minutes, she found herself to be satisfied with her work, and placed the camera down on the grass before settling down on the ground in behind it. He wasn’t finished with the song, yet she didn’t stop him-either it was the fact that he looked so passionate at the moment, or that she was too selfish and wanted to hear his melodic voice for longer. The way he delivered the lyrics, how he eased into falsetto when necessary, and the passion in his voice all added up to create a beautiful sound. ‘Beautiful’ didn’t even come close to being a sufficient description. As he finished the ballad, she came to a conclusion. The feeling of his voice penetrating her ears was comparable to a rollercoaster-on the way down the steep drop, your heart is thrilled-but once its over you’re forced to take catch your lost breath.

 

Areum looked up to see Jongdae looking at her with his half-moon crescent eyes, anticipating her words. For a moment, she just admired the way the rays of sunlight peeking through the generous swaying branches of the willows hit the curvature of his face, casting small shadows to enhance the sharp lines of his jaw.

 

“Did they come out well?” Jongdae asked abruptly, turning to look at her from under the shady covering of the leaves.

 

Areum blinked a couple times to refocus herself and moved to pick up the camera that was sitting idle in front of her. As soon as she turned it on, the screen displayed a shot of the boy with his eyes closed as he sang his heart out under the cool shadows of the tree. “Yes, they turned out really well.” She responded confidently.

 

“Can I see?” He rose from his spot on the ground, but Areum hastily flicked the power button off before he had a chance to take a peek.

 

“You can’t see until make the final products.” She explained.

 

“Fine.” He pouted slightly while pulling out clumps of grass from the ground. 

 

“I once heard that patience is the companion of wisdom, so you should probably stop complaining.” Areum stated, nudging his arm.

 

“In that case, I have high expectations for this project.” He responded in a fake-threatening tone.

 

“I won’t fail to impress, don’t worry.” She smirked back.

 

As the sun was beginning to fall into the arms of the horizon, the pair found themselves walking through the familiar doors of the café. Minseok was long gone by that time, but that didn’t stop their craving for something sweet after a lengthy day filled with walking.

 

“Croissants, right?” Jongdae asked as they neared the head of the line.

 

“Yeah, how did you know?” She asked, eyes widening in surprise.

 

“You were practically stuffing your mouth with one a few days ago when I met you with Minseok.” He chuckled at the memory.

 

Areum’s face flushed as she realized how ridiculous she must have looked in his eyes.

 

Luckily, he didn’t have a chance to comment on her reaction as the cashier was beckoning them forwards. “We’ll have two chocolate filled croissants, please.” He pointed at the freshly baked pastries on display behind the glass case.

 

“Is that for here or to-go?” The woman asked while punching the order into the computer.

 

“To-go.” He replied after handing her some cash.

 

When they got the croissants, Areum turned to Jongdae as they walked away from the cashier. “To-go?” She questioned.

 

“Yeah, we’re going to-go somewhere.”

 

“How specific.” She muttered under her breath.

 

Ignoring her comment, Jongdae led her out of the café and out into the open streets that were cloaked in long shadows as the sun made it's last appearance for the day. 

 

They walked in comfortable silence for several minutes before they reached a shoreline. It wasn’t the same one that she had visited behind her house, but one that was much smaller. Rather than setting foot on a hot plane of gold sand, the soles of her feet were met with the crunch of miniscule shells. “This is so cool!” She bent down to pick up one the shells and examine it's eccentric patterns. “I feel bad because every time we move we crush some of the shells.” She murmured, setting it back down.

 

“If it makes you feel better, animals don’t usually live or hide in those shells unless it rains.” Jongdae commented, watching in amusement as she compared two shells in awe.

 

“It still sounds like I’m crushing someone’s bones underneath my feet though.” She bit her lip in response to the sound that echoed over the ground with each step.

 

“You don’t have to suffer anymore, there’s a bench right here.”

 

Indeed, they stood in front of a worn down wooden bench. Its base was buried deep into the ground to prevent it from moving around with the water or strong winds.

 

Areum gave the cold surface a light brushing with the palm of her hand before taking a seat on it. Jongdae followed suit, taking the place next to her. He handed her one of croissants, which she eagerly bit into. The two simply enjoyed the cool breeze while enjoying the contrasting warm pastries; no words were needed.

 

Areum was thinking about how to bring up the questions she had about all those vague things he had said to her over the course of the past week, but she couldn’t find a way to phrase her tangle of thoughts without offending him. Though she would like to say that she had spent a good amount of time with him in just a couple days, that clearly wasn’t enough for her to establish boundaries for what was okay to say-and what was not.

 

It seemed as if he could tell that she was thinking about something, so she decided to go with a straight forward route.

 

“Jongdae, can I ask you some-” She was cutoff by the obnoxious tone of her phone ringing. She cursed under her breath at the bad timing, and pressed the green button to pick up. “Hello?”

 

“Areum, you need to come home now.”

 

tightened at the sound of her aunt’s unusually tense voice, and she simply told her that she would be home in ten minutes.

 

“Sorry, but I have to go.” She said apologetically.

 

“It’s fine, go ahead. It’s getting dark anyways.” He smiled at her reassuringly.

 

“Thanks for the food, I’ll make sure to pay you back tomorrow, okay?” She got up to leave, and waved goodbye as she didn’t have much time to waste as she didn't want to take more time than needed to return home. The last thing she saw was his bright smile before turning around to run home. 

 

It was a rare occurence for her aunt to speak using such a stern tone, which is what scared her the most. 

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