5. Kiwi PieBoy Next Door [ Hiatus ]
Minseok picks his black shirt off his apartment floor and pulls it on. I’m already dressed again. Today I am wearing a sweet red dress and a long necklace of tiny black beads. My boyfriend playfully bites my arm, which smells of sweat and berry lotion.
“You okay?” he asks.
He doesn’t mean the bite. I nod. And it was better.
“Let’s get burritos. I’m craving guacamole and pintos.”
I don’t mention that I also want to leave before his roommate, Exo’s drummer, comes home. Oh Sehun’s a decent guy, but sometimes I feel out of my depth when Minseok’s friends are around. I like it when it’s just the two of us. Minseok grabs his wallet.
“You got it, Mi-ssi-le,” he sings. I smack his shoulder, and he gives me his signature, suggestive half grin. He knows I hate that nickname.
“That’s your last warning,” I say. “And you just bought my burrito.”
“Extra guacamole.” He seals his promise with a deep kiss as my phone rings. Suho.
“Sorry.”My face flushes.
He turns away in frustration but says softly, “Don’t be.”
I tell Suho we’re already at the restaurant, and we’ve just been walking around. I’m pretty sure he buys it. The mood killed, Minseok and I choose a place only a block away. It has plastic green saguaro lights in the windows and papier-mâché parrots hanging from the ceiling. Minseok lives in the neighborhood beside mine, which has no shortage of amazing restaurants. The waiter brings us our food, and I tell Minseok about school, which starts again in three days.
I’m so over it. I’m ready for college, ready to begin my career. I want to design costumes for movies and the stage. Someday I’ll walk the red carpets in something never seen before. Minseok asks about the Park family. I flinch. Their name is an electric shock.
“You haven’t mentioned them all week. Have you seen . . . Shin hye again?” He pauses on her name. He’s checking for accuracy, but, for one wild moment, I think he knows about Chanyeol. Which would be impossible, as I have not yet told him.
“Only through windows.” I trace the cold rim of my soda. “Thank goodness. I’m starting to believe it’ll be possible to live next door and not be forced into actual face-to-face conversation.”
“You can’t avoid your problems forever.” He frowns and tugs on one of his earrings. “No one can.”
I burst into laughter. “Oh, that’s funny coming from someone whose last album had three songs about running away.”
“I’ve never claimed I’m not a hypocrite.” Minseok gives a small, amused smile back.
I’m not sure why I haven’t told him about Chanyeol. The timing just hasn’t felt right. I haven’t seen him again, but I’m still a mess of emotions about it. Our meeting wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it was . . . unsettling. Chanyeol’s uncharacteristic ease compared to my uncharacteristic unease combined with the knowledge that I’ll be seeing him again. Soon. He didn’t even mention the last time we saw each other. As if it didn’t matter. More likely, it didn’t affect him. I’ve spent so many dark nights trying to forget about Chanyeol. It doesn’t feel fair that he could have forgotten about me.
It’s too much to explain to Minseok. And I don’t want him to think Park Chanyeol means something to me that he doesn’t. That chapter of my life is over. It’s over, unlike my conversation with Mirae the next day, the same one we have every time we talk now.
“I like Minseok,” I say. “He likes me. What’s wrong with that?”
“The law,” she says.
It’s the last Friday of our summer break, and we’re squished together on my tiny front porch. I’m spray-painting. Mirae supports my relationship for the most part, but she’s relentless when it comes to this one sticking point.
“He’s a good guy,” I say. “And our relationship is what it is.”
“I’m not saying he isn’t a good guy, I’m merely reminding you that there could be consequences to dating him.”
Her voice is calm and rational as her eyes perform a quick scan of the neighborhood before returning to the Park house. Mirae never stops examining her surroundings. It’s what she does. My best friend is pretty, bordering on plain. She wears practical clothing and keeps her appearance clean. She’s short and has had the same haircut since the day we met. Black, shoulder length, tidy bangs. I laugh. Sometimes it’s the only option with her.
“Consequences. Like happiness? Or love? You’re right, who’d want a thing like tha—”
“There he is,” she says.
“Minseok?” I swivel mid-spray, barely missing her sneakers in my excitement.
“Watch it, Miso.” She slides aside.
But she’s not talking about my boyfriend. My heart plummets to discover Park Chanyeol waiting to cross the street.
“Oh, man. You got it on the porch.”
“What?” My attention jerks back. Sure enough, there’s an unsightly splotch of yellow beside the newspaper I’d spread out to protect the wood. I grab the wet rag I brought outside, for this very purpose, and scrub.
“Kris’s gonna kill me.” I groan.
“Still hasn’t forgiven you for dyeing the grout in his bathroom black?” The splotch smears and grows larger. “What do you think?” She’s staring at Chanyeol again. “Why didn’t you tell me he was so . . .”
“Tall?” I scour harder. “Unwanted?”
“. . . colorful.”
I look up. Chanyeol is striding across the street, his long arms swinging with each step. He’s wearing skinny pants with a red stripe down the side seam. They’re a tad short—purposely, I can tell—exposing matching red socks and pointy shoes. His movements suddenly become exaggerated, and he hums an unrecognizable tune. Park Chanyeol knows he has an audience. There’s a familiar clenching in my stomach.
+“He’s coming over,” Mirae says. “What do you want me to do? Kick him in the balls? I’ve been dying to kick him in the balls.”
“Nothing,” I hiss back. “I’ll handle it.”
“How?” I cough at her as he leaps up the stairs with the ease of a gazelle.
“Miso!” His smile is ear to ear. “Funny meeting you here.”
“Funny that. You being on her porch and all,” Mirae says. “Your house?” Chanyeol stumbles back down the top steps and widens his eyes dramatically.
“They all look so similar.” We stare at him. “It’s good to see you again, Mirae,” he adds after a moment. Now there’s a touch of genuine embarrassment.
“I just passed your parents’ restaurant, and it was packed. That’s great.”
“Huh,” she says.
“What are you doing here?” I blurt.
“I live here. Not here-here, but there-here.” He points next door. “Occasionally. On the weekends. Well, my parents told me they set up my bed, so I assume it’s a go.”
“They did. I saw them move it in yesterday,” I say, despite myself. “There still aren’t any curtains on your window,” I add, not wanting him to think that I’ve been purposefully watching his room. One hand fiddles with the bracelet