[CONTENTID2]chapter twenty eight[/CONTENTID2]
Where have they gone?
Have they abandoned this house?
Have they abandoned me?
How could they do this, again?
Finally, a sound.
Something that occupies the space in an otherwise empty home.
"Soojung!" The collision of our bodies occurs when I carelessly spring my body onto hers and cement her into an embrace. I'm more than relieved to see something—to see someone.
Frankly, I have never been a touchy person; physical affection has just never come naturally to me. The death of my father had made a significantly indelible impression, and since his passing I have learned to appreciate the use of other senses to perceive the world around myself.
In fact I have always treasured these sensations more than physical touch because they allow me to create distance between myself and other people. And hence, it is particularly surprising that I bring Soojung's body close to mine like this, because if I were in my right mind perhaps I would only look and speak with her normally.
But I don't.
Because I'm desperate.
I'm frantically clinging onto her body because somehow, her touch is comforting to me. It anchors me to a reality I'm happy to give myself into; it's the only thing that feels real, feels material, feels tangible while my mind has begun to spin and tumble and jumble with conjured thoughts of terrifying scenarios. I thought I had been abandoned. I thought it had happened again. I thought… I thought they had left me.
But her touch is validating.
The warmth of her skin and the gentle patter of her heart against my chest is incredibly validating; as is the way her arms slowly lift to search their way to my back and her cheek presses against the side of my head.
I am not alone. Our home is not empty. My sister is here.
"Soojung…" I hold her tightly, reassuring myself while I attempt to blink my panicked thoughts away. "What the hell is going on?"
"Let's go, Juri…" she mutters vaguely, and I dig my head further into the space between her neck and shoulder, desperate to obtain more of her to touch.
Is this why people enjoy physical touch?
To affix themselves to reality?
To anchor themselves so they don't float into the insidiously dark depths of their minds?
Perhaps that's why people prefer touch over sights and sounds.
But with her next words I realise that despite the sight of her, the sound of her, or even the touch of her, Soojung will never be able to fill the void that she and my mother have created in our family.
The void they have created in our home.
"Let's run away, Juri."
The emptiness is fathomable.
And the silence is asive—even the descent of a paperclip would reverberate a sound akin to an atomic bomb. But what's most funny is that silence and desolation has always existed in our family. It isn't just this way because they've removed all possessions inside our home.
I have always been left out of the narrative.
My sister and mother have always made decisions without me; they have never heard me, and I realise now that today is certainly no exception.
"He woke up this morning," my sister reveals. The sensation of her racing heart accompanies her trembling voice. With the slight of her spine my sister accepts a shaky breath, perhaps because she and my mother are very aware of how I am programmed to react to something like this.
And the more seconds that pass, the more repulsive her touch feels.
The more it disgusts me.
"W-We need to run, Juri," she tries to justify having made this decision for me, "or he'll contact us again and we'll have to put up with all his bull—"
"Why didn't you ask me?" I finally push her off myself and manage a glare to her eyes, feeling the fury precipitate with a surge of heat to my face. "After everything, you're going to tell me this after you've packed every damn thing in this house? How long have you been planning this?"
Soojung's reaction is damning.
Her jaw tightens. There is something in her eyes that conveys frustration, but perhaps even guilt. Does she really feel ashamed for treating me this way? After everything?
She folds her arms to shield herself from me. "We did ask you. Mom asked you, and you said—"
"Exactly." I hiss back, emphatic on my hostility. "I said no. But that obviously didn't matter, did it?"
Her jaw slightly falls with the rounding of her eyes. And from this, I have already gathered everything I need to know about my family—they don't know me at all. They know nothing about me. They don't know what I like; what I dislike; what I absolutely loathe; and that there is nothing, and seriously nothing, I want more than to just be heard.
Running away has never helped me with anything.
Being heard is what I have always desired.
I always perceive the voices and sounds of others, but apparently the world is not the two-way street I have always thought it was.
"Why are you so angry?" Soojung tries to placate my fury when she unfolds her arms and reaches out to slide her dainty fingers across my skin. "This is what you've always wanted. Don't you want an out? I thought you wanted nothing to do with Sanghoon."
"Oh, I hardly think you of all people would have a good idea of what I do and don't want. How could you take all my belongings and expect me to disappear into thin air when I explicitly said no?"
I flinch when she tries to close the distance between us again, and insert an outstretched arm between us.
She emits a sigh. "We have always tried to hear you out. Don't let Sehun of all people set you off the path you had always intended to make. Let him pay for his own crimes."
"I'll make my own decisions," I tell her calmly, willing myself to not detonate from rage. My short fuse for a temper has always been one of my biggest weaknesses—it has always impeded my ability to properly articulate myself. And now, I want to be heard. I want her to hear me. Will it be easier for her if I remain calm and stern?
"I told her no. Regardless of whether or not you agree with me, shouldn't we talk before you remove all my belongings? Where's Mom?"
"She's with Yixing. And if you cared enough to ask, you'd know that he has recently moved out of town. We're going to live with him before we find our own place. We can't just stay in Sanghoon's house forever. Don't you think you're being a little selfish with Mom?"
"I'm not upset about moving out!" I slam my eyes shut, again forcing myself to take a deep breath to manage my anger. But it's hard for me to not lose my cool, especially when she's making allegations that stray far from the real root of my frustration. "I'm upset because you made this decision without me. You don't have my permission to—"
"We're family. We don't need your permission." I in a deep breath when she says this but she defensively raises her palms with haste. "Okay, sorry, I didn't mean it like that. I misspoke," she back-tracks. "All I'm saying is that we're done here. We have no business here anymore. Let that Oh Sehun boy fend for himself."
"This isn't about Oh Sehun," I counter. "This is about you making a decision, and a very important one, without me. Does that not make sense?"
Soojung's eyes soften against mine, and from this I already know that she has no intentions to concede. "No, this is about you being attached to a self-imposed responsibility that frankly has nothing to do with you. Sanghoon's a piece of that has ed over you and Mom and our entire family way too many times. Enough times for us to justify getting the hell out of here. Do you think he'll be nice when he discharges and comes looking for us?"
"Soojung!" I cry, feeling aggrieved. "So what if I want to get involved in some business that might not concern me? So what? How does that change the fact that you've made this decision without me?"
"Because I'm not going to let Mom stay here any longer if it means you're getting involved in that we have told you time and time again should mean nothing to you," she hisses. "Juri, that boy is incarcerated for his own actions. That has nothing to do with you. After everything you've been through, I thought you'd want nothing to do with any of them anymore. You need to learn to walk away."
The paper crumples in my fist.
Cool off first. I hear Soojung's voice echo in my mind. Call us when you're ready, and Yixing will come pick you up.
Call her when I'm ready and her boyfriend will pick me up.
Like I'm the problem.
I cannot believe this.
I'm not sure how this has happened, but my life has reached a new low. Candidly speaking I must have been happier locked up in the facility because at least I had a roof over my head. My mother and sister probably expect me to contact them within the next following hours, but I have no intention of the sort.
I am not moving.
I am not running away.
Perhaps it has taken me a while to learn this lesson but I'm tired of chasing pavements; I'm especially tired of being strung along by a bunch of old men. If I run now, how long will it be until I have to run again? To what end? Frankly I do not give a if I remain on the receptive end of my mother's disdain for the continuation of my life, but I will not leave this place until I finish up my business here.
And if Sanghoon wishes to resurrect himself from a comatose state, then so be it. Honestly he's better off glued to a hospital bed for his remaining years because the next time I see him I will not hesitate to beat the out of that old man. Finish off what Sehun started. Of course, given his good fortune and professional knack for ruining the things in my life, I expected him to wake up eventually.
But anyway… I have confidence in myself to fix things.
I have always been a self-sufficient, independent person. I mean, I have definitely never been homeless, that's for sure, but I guess life is full of surprises. I have no money and my only friend is a phone that's bound to disappoint me soon. The state of this desolated bus stop certainly isn't helping either.
Minji has not been answering her phone. I have been trying to reach out to her for the entire day only to be met with silence. She must be busy, so there is only one other person I think to reach out to at a time like this.
Though my confidence in her ability to help me wanes, I'm hoping some result will come into fruition here. I have nothing to lose—it's not like matters can get much worse from here.
Yes, Juri, that's the way to think…
After having deliberated this decision for quite some time, I'll admit that I am accompanied by a nervous heart and trembling hands when my fingers reach for the contact details I had saved that time. I hope she picks up. I am really at my wits' end here, and am determined to exhaust all options before crawling my way to Yixing's house.
The tea is warm.
Actually, no, the tea is…
I often wondered how lofty of a height from which Baekhyun had been dropped as a child, only to discover that his horrifically poor culinary skills were actually inherited.
It must be genetic.
I'm convinced it runs in the family.
But of course, I don't have the audacity to verbalise these thoughts and instead I gulp down another mouthful of this salty milk tea, begging my own facial muscles to not betray me.
God, I know I'm no chef myself but how hard is it to not put weird in food? Were these people born without a single taste bud? I thought Baekhyun's spicy hot chocolate had been the end of it, but his Grandma, or Grandma Byun as I like to call her, gets even more creative with her culinary recipes.
"I'm so glad you called, dear," she tells me kindly as I watch her slip into the seat across from mine.
We're seated on her intimate di