18. ReadingBoy Next Door [ Hiatus ]
I’m encouraging him.
And I can’t stop. Why can’t I stop?
I press my palm against the front door, and my forehead comes to rest against it, too. I listen to his footsteps descend on the other side. They’re slow, unhurried. I’m the one making our lives harder. I’m the one making this friendship difficult. But he’s the one who won’t stop coming back. He’s smarter than that. He should know it’s time to move on and to stay away from me. I don’t want him to stay away.
What DO I want? The answers are murky and unreadable, though it’s clear I don’t want another broken heart. Not his and certainly not mine. He needs to stay away. I don’t want him to stay away.
“That Park boy grew up well,” Yoona says. I startle. She’s in the turquoise chaise longue that rests against the front bay window. How long has she been here? She must have seen us. Did she hear us? She watches him, until I assume his figure disappears, before turning her attention to me.
“You look tired, Miso.”
“Speak for yourself.”
“Fair enough.” But she’s right. I’m exhausted. We stare at each other. Yoona is blurry, but I can see enough. Her gray shirt hangs loosely against her chest, and she’s wearing one of Suho’s grandmother’s old quilts wrapped around her for warmth. Her long hair and her thin arms are limp. Everything about her hangs. It’s as if her own body has rejected her. I wonder what she sees when she looks at me.
“You know what we need?” she asks. I don’t like her use of the word we.
“Tea. We need tea.” I sigh.
“I don’t need tea. I need to go to bed.” Yoona pulls herself up. She groans as if her joints are sore, as if they were as old as the blanket around her shoulders. She takes my arm, and I flinch. The warm, comforting feeling of Chanyeol’s hand disappears and is replaced by hers, clammy and sharp. She leads me into the kitchen, and I’m too worn out to stop her. Yoona pulls out a chair at the table. I sag into it.
“I’ll be right back,” she says. I hear her climb the stairs, followed by the sound of my bedroom door being opened. Before I can get worked up, my door shuts again. She returns and hands me another pair of eyeglasses. I’m surprised.
” “What happened to the pair you left in?”
“They got stepped on.”
“Someone stepped on your glasses?” Now she sounds pissed.
“Not on purpose. Jeez.” I scowl. “Are my parents still on their date?”
“I guess. Why should I care?” She fills the copper teakettle with tap water and sets it down with more force than necessary. It shakes the stove.
“You had another fight,” I say. Yoona doesn’t respond, but the manner in which she roots through her cardboard box of tea is resentful and angry. Her box of tea
. “No!” I jump up. “You’re not reading my leaves.”
“Nonsense. This is what you nee—”
“You don’t know a thing about what I really need.” The bitter words spit out before I can stop them. She freezes. Her hair falls before her face like a shield. And then she tucks it behind her ears as if I didn’t say anything, and she removes something from her box.
“Fenghuang dancong oolong. Fenghuang means ‘phoenix.’ This is the one for you.”
“No.” Yoona opens our cabinet of drinking glasses and takes out a pink teacup. I don’t recognize it, so it must be one of hers. My blood fires again.
“You put your cups in our cabinets?”
“Just two.” She pulls out another, the color of jade. “This one is mine.”
“So where’s your crystal ball? Beside the television? Will I find your turban in the laundry room?” The empty cups rattle against their saucers as she sets them on the table.
“You know I hate that crap. A costume doesn’t signify meaning or experience. It’s a lie.”
“And what you do isn’t lying?”
“Sit down,” she says calmly.
“I’ve never let you read my leaves before, so why would I start now?” Yoona thinks for a moment.
“Aren’t you the least bit curious?”
“No.” But I say it too quickly. She spots a waver as the back corners of my mind answer differently. Who isn’t the least bit curious? I know fortune-telling is a deception, but my life has become such a struggle that I can’t help but hope for an answer anyway. Maybe the fortune will tell me something about Chanyeol. Maybe it knows something I don’t, or maybe it will make me think of something I wouldn’t have otherwise realized. Smugness on her lips.
I sit back down but avert my eyes to show how much I dislike being here. The kettle whistles, and Yoona scoops a spoonful of tea directly into it. The house creaks quietly while the oolong steeps. The longer we wait, the edgier I become. I almost get up to leave a dozen times, but curiosity has a strong hold on me.
“Drink,” Yoona says, when it’s finished. “Leave about half a teaspoon of liquid.” I sip the tea, because it’s hot. The flavor is light, and it tastes like a peach, but with something darker hidden inside. Like smoke. Yoona doesn’t mind the hea