Sungmin tapped his fingers against the cool surface of the windowsill. His face was so close to the glass that his breath fogged it up and made the world outside fuzzy and gray, though it was already covered with a soft layer of snow.
His eyes raked the walkway outside, on the alert for any sign that would indicate the arrival of Kyuhyun. He was excited and anxious. Today was the day. After three years of brutal studies and ongoing academics, they would be graduating high school and taking the college exams.
Sungmin let out a huge breath, got up, and started to pace. He couldn't sit still.
Kyuhyun, where are you...?
Exasperated, he shuffled back to peek out of the window once more, sincerely hoping that Kyuhyun would be just outside.
There was no one there.
"Hey," a deep voice came from behind him and Sungmin shot nearly a mile into the air. He had unconsciously let out a little squeak, irritating his throat and leading to a thread of violent hiccups.
Kyuhyun laughed, his eyes twinkling in delight at the sight of his best friend's momentary panic attack.
"Calm down. It's only me."
Through his hiccups, Sungmin glared at Kyuhyun and said, "Do you -hic- want to -hic- give me a -hic- heart attack?"
Kyuhyun didn't answer. He merely smirked and raised his eyebrows.
Sungmin straightened up and shoved past Kyuhyun to the door, swiftly grabbing his bag, only to smack right into his mom.
"Ah, Umma, we're -hic- heading off now. See you after the graduation ceremony."
Seeming not to notice Sungmin's hiccups, Mrs. Lee looked ready to cry as she grabbed her son and pulled him into a hug.
"I can't believe you're already graduating high school. Where did the time go? You know, you only made it through high school because of Kyuhyun. You wouldn't even be taking college exams if not for him. Kyuhyun-ah," she said, turning and releasing Sungmin, who was gasping for air after being suffocated by his mother's vice-like embrace, "I owe you so for much for keeping our Minnie alive through high school. I will be forever grateful. Always stick with him no matter what, okay? I don't know what I would do without you."
Kyuhyun returned her grateful gaze with an impish grin. "It's no problem, Mrs. Lee. And don't worry, I will definitely take care of him when we leave for college. I promise."
His tone was almost mocking, though Mrs. Lee failed to catch on. Sungmin, however, always knew when people , and this instance was by no means an exception. His eyes shot lasers at Kyuhyun.
"You boys should hurry up. You don't want to miss your high school graduation ceremony. Sungmin-ah, your father and I will be there. We'll wave so you know where we are!"
Sungmin opened his mouth, ready to protest, but Mrs. Lee had already shuffled out of the room, almost wriggling with happiness.
"You hear that, Sungmin? I kept you alive through high school You owe me." It took everything Kyuhyun had to keep from bursting out laughing.
"Shut up," Sungmin muttered. He was used to Kyuhyun making fun of him, but this time it was just too embarrassing. He quickly went to the door, slipped on his shoes and walked out the door.
The post-winter air was frosty and dry, as though all life had been out of it. The world was silent, as though time had stopped; as though nothing was moving forward.
I wish, Sungmin thought. I don't want to go to university. I want to redo my elementary and high school life with Kyuhyun. I don't want this to end.
He had often thought of what might lay ahead of him after graduation. However, it hadn't occurred to him until that moment that he and Kyuhyun might not be together after college exams and interviews.
He had spent his entire life with his best friend, and couldn't possibly imagine going through life without him.
Sungmin felt a hand grab his shoulder, and he turned to see Kyuhyun looking up at the sky, his eyes focused on something far away; something that wasn't in the present; something that resided in the future.
"You ready?" he asked, turning his brown eyes to Sungmin. "It's finally the end, huh?"
"It's not the end. It's a whole new beginning." I hope.
"Well," Kyuhyun sighed, and clapped Sungmin on the back, "in that case, let's go graduate."
The two of them set off down the street, walking to the end of that chapter of their lives, but also walking into a whole new story; a story filled with uncertainties and possibilities.
A new beginning.
Kyuhyun sat on his bed, flipping through his class's graduation picture book. It showed all of them from their childhood growing into adulthood.
How did yesterday pass so quickly? We've gone through three years of academic torture, drama, and all of those wonderful experiences everyone is supposed to have in high school. It took so long to reach this point, yet everything is over in a matter of a couple hours.
Kyuhyun and Sungmin's class graduation ceremony had passed in a blur. They listened to Principal Jung drone on for about an hour. They listened to the class officers' speeches. They received their diplomas. And with that, it was over. High school finally drew to a close.
Even though high school was over, this brought around a whole new set of things to worry about. Mainly, college entrance exams.
Kyuhyun had never been strong in school. That was Sungmin's job.
It will be a miracle if I even get in anywhere.
He had already resigned himself to the fact that he wouldn't make it into any could colleges. He was not superior to anyone in anything...except singing.
But what was the ability to sing well going to do for him? It definitely would not get him anywhere. It wouldn't get him a full ride to any university and wouldn't shape his future.
A sharp knock at his bedroom door jarred Kyuhyun from his thoughts.
"Kyuhyun-ah! Do you want to miss the exams? Or are you not planning on doing anything with your life? Hurry up!"
Kyuhyun winced and covered his ears. He always wondered how his mother was able to make her voice pierce people's ears like that.
"Okay, okay, I'm almost ready!"
Sighing, Kyuhyun got up from his bed and ran his hand through his thick brown hair. He shut the picture book and threw it onto his desk.
He hadn't even wanted to take the exams at first, but Sungmin had made him promise to show up at the testing.
That Sungmin...he knows I'm hopeless. I don't know why he bothers.
Kyuhyun grabbed his bag, and slouched out of the room.
He didn't want to face his mom. Not now. She had always wanted him to do well in school, but that had never been on the top of Kyuhyun's list of priorities. He didn't even want to think about what her reaction would be when it turned out that he didn't get into any colleges or universities.
Even so, he wasn't planning on trying too hard. What would it amount to? The chances of him passing the exam let alone getting an interview were slim.
As quietly as he could, Kyuhyun opened the front door, walked out, and gently shut it behind him.
A chilly breeze set in as soon as he started walking, and he shivered.
"Kyuhyun-ah! Get in, you're going to be late if you try to walk there!"
Sungmin's high, cheerful voice came out of nowhere. Looking up, Kyuhyun saw that Sungmin had pulled up beside the sidewalk in his car and rolled down the window to stick his head out.
"Hurry up! I'm not going to let you miss these exams!" Sungmin's eyes were wide and earnest.
Despite himself, Kyuhyun grinned.
Sungmin had always been a cute kid. He always reminded Kyuhyun of a small mouse, maybe even a rabbit. Even when driving a brand new silver Hyundai, he looked like a little kid. What always stood out about Sungmin though, was the way he always thought positively and walked through life with a smile on his face. It was impossible to dishearten such a naturally happy person.
Without hesitating, Kyuhyun walked over, opened the passenger side door, and got in. The car smelled fresh and it helped to clear Kyuhyun's mind of worries.
"Are you ready? You have to do well, okay? So we can go to the same university."
Sungmin was almost bouncing in excitement. It blew Kyuhyun's mind how anyone could be that giddy on the day of college entrance exams.
Unsurprisingly, because of his excitement, Sungmin pressed down on the gas pedal alittle too hard, making the car jerk forward. Kyuhyun held out his hand to keep from smashing his head on the dashboard.
"Ya! Do you want to kill me??" His question came out a little harsher than he had meant for it to.
Pouting, Sungmin said, "Sorry, I'm just really excited. I promise I'll be careful. We should really hurry. If we're even a minute late, they won't let us in."
They set off, Sungmin happily chatting about what colleges he applied for, Kyuhyun listening while also sulking.
When they arrived, Sungmin grabbed Kyuhyun's hand and pulled him through the doors of the main building. They checked in at the front desk and got ther testing room assignments.
"What? We don't have the same testing room?" Sungmin looked horrorstruck at the idea of being separated from Kyuhyun.
Kyuhyun rolled his eyes, exasperated. Why did Sungmin always insist on being paired up with him for everything? They weren't in first grade anymore...
"Does it matter?"
"Because you're by best friend."
"How is that relevant?"
"It is to me."
"You make no sense."
"Do I have to?"
They bickered like this until they reach room 304, which was Sungmin's testing room.
"Just go and take your test. At least you have nothing to worry about. You're a genius."
"That's not true. I just try hard. You should do that, too. Now it's a little too late, isn't it?"
Sungmin's mood had soured after their spat, so he refused to meet Kyuhyun's eyes. Kyuhyun was shocked. Sungmin never talked back to anybody, not even his closest friends. He stared at Sungmin, who turned his back and walked into the testing room.
Great, Kyuhyun thought. Now by best friend is mad at me. Great way to start a new chapter of my life.
Making his way to room 406, Kyuhyun ran through math equations in his head. Even if he knew he wouln't do well, he figured he should at least try for Sungmin, his mom, and his father, who passed away the previous year.
Kyuhyun's walked in and took a seat towards the back of the room, right next to the window.
He checked his watch. He had made it just in time, with only a minute to spare.
"Welcome. I hope you all had a relatively easy time getting here. I am Park Seung Jin and I will be your proctor for the exam. You will begin by taking a short evaluation on what your interests are. This will help the colleges and universities identify who is right for their school," her eyes scanned every person in the room, "and who is not. You will get half an hour for this portion of the test. As soon as I have handed out all of the papers, you may begin."
The proctor started to make her way around the room. Kyuhyun let out an internal groan. Did they really have to do this?
What a waste of time. It's not like it will make any difference to me.
Kyuhyun scanned the top of the paper as soon as he received it. He filled out the basic information - his full name, age, birth date, area of residence, elementary school, high school, the usual.
His eyes dropped down to the first question:
Out of these following professions, circle the one you would rather pursue and below, explain why:
Doctor Scientist Teacher Engineer Company Worker Singer
Kyuhyun froze. It was only the first question of a simple evaluation and he had no idea what to write. He had never really thought about what he wanted to be. He figure he could figure out what his major would be later, if he even got into any schools.
He looked out the window, immersed in his thinking. What would he choose?
A tree branch lightly brushed against the glass, sending snow sprinkling down onto the ground. A bird landed on the branch, fluttered its wings, and flew away, sending more snow fluttering through the air.
Looking back down at the evaluation, Kyuhyun circled his answer, and began to write.
Sungmin's mood was hitting the floor. After walking into the testing room, he hadn't known what to do with himself. His argument with Kyuhyun had taken a toll on his concentration and confidence. His previous excitement was completely gone.
Now, Sungmin was sulking on a park bench. Having finished before Kyuhyun, he had left the building for a while to think.
Despite his previous frustration with Kyuhyun, Sungmin felt completely regretful. He never said those kinds of things to anyone, let alone his best friend. His conscious kept knocking, telling him that he was wrong to say anything cold to Kyuhyun.
"He better do well on that test. I don't know what I'll do if we end up getting separated for college."
Sungmin realized he had spoken out loud and quickly glanced around, worried that someone had heard his quiet ranting.
He got up from the bench. He had been sitting there for twenty minutes already. Kyuhyun would be waiting for him by now.
Underneath his internal babble and worrying, Sungmin was extremely relieved. Even though he did not do his best, he had gotten through the exam. All there was left to do now was the interview. After that, he had to endure week and weeks of waiting for an acceptance or rejection letter. He didn't want to think what he would do if he didn't get in anywhere.
Walking back to the parking lot, Sungmin looked up at the sky.
No matter what happened, however, Sungmin knew that Kyuhyun would be right there, walking with him towards what might lay ahead; towards everything that he didn't know; everything that was waiting especially for him.
• • •
"Sungmin-ah! Sungmin-ah! You got a letter from Seoul University! Get over here now!"
Sungmin opened his eyes. What was going on? He jus wanted to sleep.
"Ya! Get up! Come here, you have to open it! Seoul University!"
He could barely register the meaning of his mother's shrill, piercing words. Seoul University? That had been his first choice when applying for college. There was just no way he could have made it in. After all, he thought he had done terribly on the exam and barely made it through the interview.
"Sungmin-ah! NOW! Or else I will open it myself!"
He jumped out of bed, completely awake now. He wrenched open his bedroom door and sprinted to the kitchen where his mother, shaking in anticipation, was standing, holding a large yellow envelope in her hands.
Without a word, Sungmin snatched the envelope from his mother and ripped it open. A letter came out first, which he hurriedly read out loud.
"Lee Sungmin, we are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to Seoul University. We have identified you as an exceptional student with incredible academic potential and would be honored to have you part of our student body."
Sungmin was frozen.
"I made it," he whispered, his voice barely audible.
Mrs. Lee let out a shriek and threw her arms around her son, who was still in shock, mouth gaping open.
"I knew you could do it! Oh, congratulations, Sungmin-ah! I'm so proud of you! Now I have to go brag to all of my friends. My son is going to Seoul University..."
She left the room, her excitement revolving around her like an aura of happiness.
Without hesitation, Sungmin reached for the phone and dialed Kyuhyun's number.
"Kyuhyun-ah, it's me."
"I know. What is it? You sound kind of...startled. Did something happen?"
Kyuhyun's voice was flat, absent of all emotion. Sungmin could barely control his voice when he said, "I got an acceptance from Seoul University!"
"Did you get your letter today, too? Are we going to be in the same dorm? Or should we get a house?"
"Sungmin-ah...I didn't get accepted to Seoul University."
"No, you should have...you definitely should have..."
Sungmin's voice started to tremble.
Kyuhyun's voice seemed clipped as he said, "I did get accepted somewhere, but not Seoul."
"Where?" Sungmin couldn't even hear his own voice.
There was a long pause in which Sungmin felt his heart might stop beating.
Finally, after what seemed like ten minutes, Kyuhyun replied.
"...Juilliard School of Music...in New York."
With that, Kyuhyun hung up and the phone went dead.