It’s been years since I’ve been here, but this Woods still makes me feel as if I’ve stepped into a fairy tale. It’s an enchanted forest, I’m sure of it. Amid the trees are devilish wood sprites and red mushroom caps with white spots and faeries tempting mortals with golden fruit. The redwoods have the same soothing effect on me as the moon. They seem as old as the moon. Ancient and beautiful and wise. And I need that right now.
The remainder of the drive was restless, but at least it passed quickly. The park is only forty minutes from home. After strolling the trail for a while, we split up. Kris and Suho, Chanyeol and me. We’ll meet back at the car in a few hours, and because it’s not Minseok, my parents don’t ask me to check in with them.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear they’re trying to set me up. Wait. Are my parents trying to set me up? No, they know I have a boyfriend. And Kris hates the idea of me dating anyone. They must see Chanyeol as the trustworthy friend he is. Right?
“Is it okay if I eat this in front of you?” Chanyeol sounds hesitant. We’re sitting beside the creek that runs through the park, half of the picnic spread before us. He holds up the sandwich Suho made for him. It’s smoked salmon with cream cheese and sliced avocado.
“Of course. Why wouldn’t it be?” He points at my hummus wrap. “You’re still a vegetarian, right?”
“Oh. Yeah. But it doesn’t bother me to see other people eating meat, I just can’t stomach the thought for myself.” I pause. “Thanks for asking. Most people don’t ask.” Chanyeol turns toward the bubbling creek and stretches out his legs. His pants are well-worn, faded pinstripes and frayed hems. It’s appropriate for the outdoors as far as his wardrobe is concerned, and once again, I find myself admiring his sense of style. God, he has good taste.
“I just don’t want to offend you.” He sets down his sandwich but picks at the poppy seeds on the bread. “I mean, any more than I already have.” A lump forms in my throat.
“Chanyeol.You’ve never offended me.”
“But I hurt you.” His voice grows quiet. “I wish that I hadn’t.” The words are tumbling out before I can stop them. “We were so close, and then you just dropped me. I felt like such an idiot. I don’t understand what happened.” He stops flicking poppy seeds. “Miso. There’s something I need to tell you.” The acceleration of my heartbeat is sudden and painful.
“What is it?” Chanyeol faces me with his entire body.
“When we talked at our windows that last night,” he says, “I knew something was wrong. I could tell you were hurt, when I thought I was the one who was supposed to be hurt. But I was so upset about the moving thing that it took me weeks to put the pieces together.”
I draw back from him. Why should he be the hurt one? He’d excluded me. There’s an excruciating pause as his fingers tense and flex.
“My sister lied. I didn’t know about the party until we got home and a crowd of people jumped out and yelled ‘surprise.’ Shin hye told me that she’d invited you, and that you’d turned her down. I believed her. It wasn’t until later that I realized you were hurt because she hadn’t.”
“Why would she do that?” Anger swells inside of me. He looks ashamed.
“She dodged the question, but it’s obvious, isn’t it? She claimed she was trying to do something nice—throw a party for me, not for her or for the both of us. Sometimes . . . I get overlooked. But she did it out of fear, because she thought she was losing me.”
“You mean, she did it out of spite, because she’s a .” My own fury startles me.
“I know it seems that way, but it’s not. And it is.” Chanyeol shakes his head. “It’s been the two of us for so long. Her career hasn’t given her much of an outside life. She was scared of being left behind. And I’m just as guilty; I let her get away with acting lik