4. Park ChanyeolBoy Next Door [ Hiatus ]
He’s sitting in his window. Literally sitting in it. His is on the windowsill, and his legs—impossibly long and slender—are dangling against the side of his house, two stories above the ground. And his hands are folded in his lap as if spying on his unsuspecting female neighbor was the most natural thing in the world.
I stare, helpless and dumbfounded, and he bursts into laughter. His body rocks with it, and he throws back his head and claps his hands.
Park Chanyeol laughs at me. And claps.
“I called your name.” He tries to stop smiling, but his mouth only opens wider with delight. I can practically count his teeth. “I called it a dozen times, but your music was too loud, so I was waiting it out. You’re a good dancer.”
Mortification strips me of the ability to engage in intelligent conversation.
“I’m sorry.” His grin hasn’t disappeared, but he visibly squirms. “I only wanted to say hello.”
He swings his legs back inside of his bedroom in one fluid motion. There’s a lightness to the way he lands on his feet, a certain grace, that’s instantly recognizable. It washes me in a familiar aching shame. And then he stretches, and I’m stunned anew.
“Park Chanyeol, you’re . . . tall.”
Which is, quite possibly, the stupidest thing I could say to him. Park Chanyeol was always taller than most boys, but in the last two years, he’s added half a foot. At least. His slender body—once skinny and awkward, despite his graceful movements—has also changed. He’s filled out, though just slightly. The edge has been removed. But pointing out that someone is tall is like pointing out the weather when it’s raining. Both obvious and irritating.
“It’s the hair,” he says with a straight face. “Gravity has always been my nemesis.”
And his dark hair is tall. It’s floppy, but . . . inverted floppy. I’m not sure how it’s possible without serious quantities of mousse or gel, but even when he was a kid, Park Chanyeol’s hair stood straight up. It gives him the air of a mad scientist, which actually isn’t that far off. His hair is one of the things I always liked about him. Until I didn’t like him at all, that is. He waits for me to reply, and when I don’t, he clears his throat.
“But you’re taller, too. Of course. I mean, it’s been a long time. So obviously you are. Taller.”
We take each other in. My mind spins as it tries to connect the Park Chanyeol of the present with the Park Chanyeol of the past. He’s grown up and grown into his body, but it’s still him. The same boy I fell in love with in the ninth grade. My feelings had been building since our childhood, but that year, the year he turned sixteen, was the year everything changed. I blame it on his pants. Park Chanyeolhad always been . . . nice. And he was cute, and he was intelligent, and he was older, and it was only natural that I would develop feelings for him.
But the day everything fell into place was the same day I discovered that he’d become interested in his appearance. Not in an egotistical way. Simply in a “maybe baggy shorts and giant sneakers aren’t the most attractive look for a guy like me” way. So he started wearing these pants. Nice pants. Not hipster pants or preppy pants or anything like that, just pants that said he cared about pants. They were chosen to fit his frame. Some plain, some pinstriped to further elongate his height. And he would pair them with vintage shirts and unusual jackets in a way that looked effortlessly cool.
So while the guys in my grade could barely remember to keep their flies zipped—and the only ones who DID care about their appearance were budding homouals—here was a perfectly friendly, perfectly attractive, perfectly dressed straight boy who just-so-happened to live next door to me. Of course I fell in love with him. Of course it ended badly.
And now here he is, and his dress habits haven’t changed. If anything, they’ve improved. Both his pants and his shirt are still slim-fitting, but now he’s accessorized. A thick, black leather watchband on one wrist, a multitude of weathered colorful bracelets and rubber bands on the other. Park Chanyeol looks good.
He looks BETTER.
The realization is surprising, but the one that follows stuns me even more. I’m not in love with him anymore. Instead, looking at him makes me feel . . . hollow.
“How’ve you been?”
I give him a smile that’s both warm and cool. One that I hope says, I’m not that person anymore. You didn’t hurt me, and I never think about you.
“Good. Really, really good. I just started at Incheon, so that’s where my things are. You know. In Incheon. I stopped by to help my parents unpack.” Park Chanyeol points behind him as if the boxes are right there. He was always a hand-talker.
“Incheon?” I’m thrown. “As in . . . ?” He looks down into the alley between our houses.
“I, uh, graduated early. Homeschooling? Shin hye did, too, but she’s skipping the college