for him.

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he was a train wreck happening right in front of her and she found herself helpless to stop the carnage



I hated Oh Sehun. 

I loathed him. 

I detested him. 

I despised him. 

My dad would tell me that it’s dangerous to wish ill upon someone, that it’s risky to borrow trouble by thinking bad things about a boy who had the means to buy and sell us both several times over. But I couldn’t help it. I really, truly hated him, and every single day it seemed like he did something else to justify my complete and utter disdain. The boy was a year ahead of me in school. When I was in the sixth grade, my dad moved us to Sokcho, Gangwon. I’d shown up skinny, shy, and uninterested in the world and my new school. My world had flipped upside down, and though my dad viewed the move as a fresh start, all I felt was failure and loss. I wasn’t impressed by the tall, attractive, bleached blond boy who ruled the school. I wasn’t impressed by anything. I felt nothing when he smiled at me in the hallways. I was numb when that smile turned to a sneer. I didn’t want his attention or his scorn. 

I’d never been fond of his antics and total disregard for the rules, mostly because, even then, he got away with murder, since his family practically owned the entirety of this small Gangwon town. As we got older, the behavior that already bugged me got even worse and more outrageous. Sehun’s indifference to authority and apathy toward common decency spiraled out of control. When I was a junior and he was a senior, I realized the reason he always rubbed me the wrong way.

He was a user. 

He used his family’s status and wealth to do whatever he wanted; he wallowed in entitlement. He didn’t show up to class if he didn’t want to. He drove a car that was nicer than all of the teachers’ and parked it right out in front of the school—in employee parking—without any worry that it would be towed. He never adhered to the dress code even though the rest of us had no choice. I’d never seen anyone stop him from smoking as he walked across the campus, even though all tobacco products were strictly forbidden. There was no suspension or detention for the likes of Oh Sehun. There was no worry the school would pull his parents in for a meeting about his behavior. The principal went out of her way to turn a blind eye to the boy’s antics, and in return, she got sizable donations from the Ohs every year to improve and enhance the school. 

He used girls... an endless string of them. It turned my stomach the way my female classmates couldn’t wait to take their turn going through the revolving door that I was sure welcomed them into Sehun’s bedroom. He never stayed with any of them for more than a hot minute, and he acted like he couldn’t remember their names as soon as he finished with them. The dismissive and rude behavior didn’t stop them from rushing to do his homework when he asked, and it didn’t keep them from clamoring for his limited attention when he walked down the hallway. He was the closest thing our small town had to royalty, and he knew it. We were the peasants who existed in his kingdom, nothing more, nothing less. 

He used his friends... or the people who were foolish enough to think the bare minimum of attention and time Sehun offered was friendship. He wasn’t nice. Not to anyone. He was short-tempered and rude. He was always surrounded by people telling him how great he was, how interesting and fascinating his every action was in their eyes. He didn’t make a move without a horde of admirers telling him he was the coolest and greatest thing to ever happen to Sokcho High School. All they wanted was to be seen with him and score an invite to one of the legendary parties he threw every time his parents were out of town on business. The Ohs owned a sprawling seafood corporation on the outside of town that was opulent and ostentatious. Both of his parents came from money and had made fortunes on their own along the way. Everyone in my school wanted the chance to get inside the mansion Sehun called home to party, unsupervised, with unfettered access to his parents’ high-end liquor cabinet, heated pool, and unchecked debauchery. Several bragged they had even seen the real Kim Tschoon Su his mother had, and I was positive the only reason they knew it was a Kim Tschoon Su was because they had googled it for bragging rights. 

But the main reason I never joined the Oh Sehun fan club was that he was not only a user of people, but also used that which was scary and risky. He used in the literal sense. I don’t know if his teachers saw it, if the girls who couldn’t look away from him could tell, or if the boys who were so far up his they were looking at his brain stem recognized the signs.

But I did.

It started sometime during my freshman year when Sehun was a sophomore. He’d always been moody and quick to fly off the handle, but almost overnight his behavior became even more erratic. The mood swings got dangerous and unpredictable. He took a swing at his history teacher, and while anyone else would face immediate expulsion, Sehun got the week off from school and was welcomed back with open arms as soon as his parents offered to buy the school a new scoreboard for the football field. His man-whorish behavior also started around that time. He was searching for something inside someone else over and over again. The harder it was to find, the angrier he became. Which in turn made him callous to the person who he deemed lacking whatever it was he was looking for. There was always a new girl crying over him in the hallways, and each time I walked past her, I was so thankful I’d been immune to him that first time he smiled at me. My broken emotions had nothing to do with Sehun, and as long as I had a say in the matter, they never would. 

The way he looked also started to change that year. Sehun was tall for a teenager. If anything other than a good time and the frantic need to escape from himself motivated him, he would be perfect for our school’s y basketball team. He was long and lean with shaggy, bleached blond hair and the brownest eyes I’d ever seen. He was good looking in an unreachable, aristocratic kind of way. But that year and the next, his put-together appearance turned gaunt and ragged.

He lost weight. His dark eyes started to take up his entire face as his cheeks hollowed out and his jawline sharpened. Instead of being intense, forceful, and furious, he became twitchy and paranoid. It didn’t happen overnight, but the changes were significant and scary. The further away he drifted, the more I wondered why someone who loved him didn’t try and catch him before he was too far gone. I recognized the trip Sehun was on and knew the final destination wasn’t anywhere I’d ever want to be again. 

I mentioned my suspicions to a friend of mine when Sehun appeared even worse at the start of his senior year. She looked at me like I was crazy and asked me why someone like Sehun would need to use drugs to cope with the crap the rest of us had to deal with daily. He was privileged. He was beloved. In her mind, someone who had everything wouldn’t risk any of it by succumbing to something as common as addiction. 

I knew from firsthand experience that addiction didn’t discriminate. 

Addiction didn’t care about the square footage of your house or the kind of car you drove. It didn’t care about your pedigree or your GPA. Addiction was an equal opportunity life-ruiner, and I was positive that Sehun was deep in the throes of it. I hated him, and I hated how he was carelessly tossing away his picture-perfect life. I shouldn’t care. 

But I did.

I cared because I couldn’t not care. I’d had a front row seat to the kind of destruction addiction wrought, and there was no way I could stand idly by and let it get its grubby, gross, insidious, infectious hands on someone else in my orbit. Even if that someone else was someone I wanted to dropkick and throat-punch on a regular basis. Anyone rational would point out that I had no reason to loathe Sehun the way I did. He’s never outright attacked me, embarrassed me, or victimized me. All he’d done was notice me when it was the last thing I wanted. It might not make sense to anyone, but it made perfect sense to me. I’d wanted to hide, but he had no trouble finding me. In my mind, that made him my enemy from day one. 

I’d never said a word to Oh Sehun. In all the years we’d been in school together, never, not once had there been an occasion where I needed to converse with him. I watched him from afar and judged him endlessly. I watched him because he was impossible to ignore and because I knew I was on his radar. I was always waiting for the day he would finally try his luck, test the waters, even though he knew I was a shark that could tell he was bleeding out from a mile away. Sehun wasn’t nice to the people who liked him; there was no way I wanted to find out how he treated the people who detested him. I had a couple of years left before graduation, and I wanted to get through them as quickly and quietly as possible. I did not doubt that Sehun could shred the ease of my remaining high school days with minimal effort. So, I stayed out of his way until I felt I had no choice but to throw myself directly in his path. Someone had to say something to him before he slipped so far down the rabbit hole there would be no reaching him. Someone had to try and save him before it was too late. 

It took a couple of days for me to work up the courage to approach him. I didn’t want to do it while his entourage surrounded him. I didn’t want to do it when he was in the center of his female fan club. I didn’t want to do it where anyone could overhear what I had to say to him. It was like trying to get close to a celebrity or a member of a popular boy band. Frankly, it was ridiculous that I had to put so much thought into it, that I had to plan out my attack precisely and carefully, but I did, and finally, toward the end of the week, I saw an opportunity. 

I was sitting in my Korean lit class, and I just happened to be gazing out the window that overlooked the front of the school. There was no missing Sehun’s long-legged lope as he slipped out the front doors, cigarette dangling from his lips as he headed toward his flashy sports car. It was early in the afternoon, we hadn’t even had lunch yet, and he was leaving for the day. It annoyed me enough that I asked for a bathroom pass and hit the front doors running so I could catch him before he reached his car. 

I caught him just as he was opening the driver’s side door. I was winded, sweaty, and more than a little belligerent when I caught up with him. All the carefully constructed concern and gentle censure I’d been working up to vanished. I put a hand on the door and narrowed my eyes at him as he glared at me over the metal and glass that separated us. This close, I noticed he smelled like expensive cologne and tobacco. The cigarette in his mouth wasn’t lit and bounced in irritation between his lips as he snapped, “Can I help you with something?” 

His narrowed eyes were bloodshot and his dark eyebrows pulled into a V over his nose. There was a red flush staining his throat and the blade of his cheekbones. He was always ready to snap, but I’d never been close enough to see just how near to the edge he was. Everything about him was sharp, pointed, and dangerous. 

I let go of the door and crossed my arms over my chest. I could hear my dad’s voice in the back of my head telling me to walk away, to let sleeping dogs lie, and I could practically see my best friend, Hara, shaking her head and telling me I had no business bugging Sehun about his habits. There was no denying that this was a bad idea, but I couldn’t stop the words that tumbled out of my mouth as we stood there in the world’s most uncomfortable face-off. “My mom was a drug addict.” I in a sharp breath through my teeth. “She died a month before I moved here. She overdosed. My dad wanted to start over, to get me away from the loss and pain of losing her, but it never goes away. All of that hurt followed me here, and it will follow the people who love you if you don’t do something about your problem.” 

His pinched eyebrows shot up so high on his forehead they almost touched his hairline. “What in the actual ? Who are you? Do I even know you?” 

It shouldn’t sting that he had no clue who I was, but it did. That was my fault. He looked at me and I looked away. I tried to keep my head down and blend in; all I wanted was to bide my time until I could put Sokcho in my rearview. I guess I had done a good job. Our school wasn’t massive, and Sokcho was a relatively small town, so even though our paths never crossed and I never engaged, he should still know my name.

“Who I am doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I know what’s going to happen if you don’t get help. You need to talk to someone about whatever it is that you’re using and why. Get in some kind of program, Sehun. If you don’t get help, everything you have, everything you love, is going to go away. Addiction takes and takes and keeps on taking. It’s the most greedy and selfish thing in the entire world.” My voice broke a little, and he continued to stare at me like I’d lost my mind... which I might’ve. I couldn’t believe I laid all my baggage concerning my mom open at his feet like that, scattered between us, messy and ugly. 

“I haven’t ever spoken to you. I don’t know you, and you sure as know nothing about me. Who are you to stand here and accuse me of having a drug problem?” I expected fire and fury. What I got was low questions and quiet contemplation as he continued to stare at me with that unlit cigarette dangling from his lips. 

“I’m someone who lost someone I loved to addiction.” I blinked back the sudden rush of tears that burned in my eyes. “That’s who I am.” 

He shook his head and reached up to pluck the cigarette out of his mouth. His blond hair fell over his forehead, and his dark eyes seemed to get even darker as he did what he did best... dismissed me. “ for you, but I’m fine. I have a good time ing around. None of it is serious, and none of it is a problem. It’s not a big deal, and it definitely isn’t any of your business.” 

Whenever I told someone about my mom, I usually got the standard sympathetic look followed by awkward condolences. It was hard to hear she was gone, but it was even more difficult when they realized why she was no longer in my life. We got into a car accident when I was four where she had injured her back. What followed was years and years of addiction to painkillers, followed by an unstoppable addiction to heroin that resulted not only in the loss of our house, but also in her custody of me. Dad left her after her second failed trip to rehab when I was six and fought tooth and nail for full custody of me. He was too nice of a guy to pull me completely out of her life, which is why we stayed in Burim after they split. After she died, he decided there was nothing for us there, so he packed us up and moved us to Sokcho where his family had spent generations making families and building lives. But, like I told Sehun, no place was far enough away from lingering ghosts of the damage from my mom’s addiction. 

I spent my entire childhood watching addiction steal my mother away from me, and all this boy could say to me was, ‘ for you’? I wasn’t sure how it was remotely possible, but I hated him even more at that moment than I did the moment before. 

“You’re not only hurting yourself, Sehun. You’re hurting the people who care about you. You should let them help you.” I took a step back and waved him off. “Not that you care about whom you may or may not hurt. From what I can tell, you don’t seem to care about much of anything or anyone.” 

He cocked his head to the side. “What’s your name?” 

I shrugged. “Does it matter?” 

“You seem to have some pretty strong opinions about me for someone who won’t even look me in the eye when we pass each other in the hall. You might want to worry a little bit more about you and less about strangers.” He circled a finger in the air in front of me and sneered. “Get a haircut. Go buy some clothes that are from this century. Put on some damn makeup and maybe practice smiling in the mirror. Maybe you should work on yourself before trying to save the rest of the world.” 

It took every ounce of self-control I had not to wince. I knew I didn’t spend enough time obsessing over the way I looked or the image I presented to the people who I spent my days actively avoiding. I was too busy doing everything I could to make it out of this town to worry if the wing of my eyeliner was on point or if my jeans were skinny enough. My hair was shades darker than his and straight as an arrow. I kept it chopped in a messy bob so that I didn’t have to do much other than wash and dry it. I wasn’t interested in being a knockout, but that didn’t mean I wanted this boy, or any boy, to give me fashion and makeup advice. I didn’t want him to see me, and I’d never given him, or anyone, a reason to look. 

I took a breath and let it out slowly. We stared at each other silently for a long minute until Sehun broke the tension by sliding into his open car and dismissing me, the same way he did with everything he deemed unworthy of his time. 

Before he had the door closed I told him, honesty and sincerity heavy in my tone, “I hate you, Oh Sehun.” I felt it like a weight in my chest. 

Our eyes met through the window as he reached forward to grab the door handle. “Join the club.” 

He shut the door, cranked the engine, and peeled out in a shower of gravel. It was so very him and so very disappointing. I don’t know why I expected him to admit he had a problem or what I hoped to accomplish by letting him know he was not alone in his struggle against something that was so much bigger than him. It felt futile and silly after it was all said and done. I’d wanted to help him, and I’d wanted to help my mother back then. My dad warned me about losing myself in lost causes, but I couldn’t seem to help myself. 

Later that night, I sent an anonymous email to Sehun’s mother after asking my dad to find her work email address for me. She was indirectly my dad’s boss, so he had a million questions in his eyes when he handed it over, but he didn’t ask them. And I didn’t offer any answers. We’d been through so much together he trusted me to steer clear of the things that left wounds that never healed. We’d both been burned, but I couldn’t seem to stay away from the fire. 

I warned Sehun’s mom that her son was on a perilous path, and if she wanted to save him, she better intervene on his behalf. It was reckless and crazy, but I couldn’t let it go. 

She never responded, but Sehun wasn’t in school the following few days, and rumors started to swirl that his parents were pulling him out of school and shipping him off to a prestigious boarding school in Europe. 

I was breathing easier, patting myself on the back for making a difference, when something happened that made it clear I’d done too little, too late. That weekend the entire town of Sokcho finally stopped pretending its golden boy wasn’t tarnished. They had no choice other than to face the truth because it was a bloody, brutal mess right in front of them. By the end of that weekend, everyone decided they hated Oh Sehun just as much as I did, and I regretted that those were the last words I said to him.


Author's Note:

This is a contest entry for Shoes of a Unicorn Writing Contest. You can access the contest by clicking here. Please check it out if you can! 
Prompt Used: all of my life - park won


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