Having to attend class the next day while pretending like she didn’t break down in front of her teacher over a lousy crush, was beyond imaginable. I am a walking embarrassment, she sighed. Yumi was so wrapped up in her own thoughts to even acknowledge her homeroom teacher across the hall. The two agreed to erase that night for obvious reasons, though it was harder said than done. Baekhyun slowed down, taking smaller steps just to match her pace. It was hard not to keep an eye on her when she walks around campus with her head pinned down aimlessly like this. Even so, all he could do was watch. Baekhyun lost his rights as her teacher a long time ago. If anything, he should be the one walking around with his head down, not her.
“Good morning, Mr. Byun!” His lively students beamed on his way in. If only they showed this kind spirit throughout the year instead of saving it until the last few weeks of school to showcase their excitement for class.
Fixing his position at the podium, Baekhyun scanned the room for any absences as a part of his daily routine. He proceeded to explain their lesson plan for the day, keeping his eyes strictly on the agenda he was reading off from. Although it wasn’t much needed since the pair of eyes he wanted to avoid kept hers locked elsewhere as well.
“You have today’s class time to practice for your group presentation,” he announced, immediately earning some sighs and giggles from those around. The contrast in reactions always had Baekhyun curious at what exactly would please these picky students. Then again, their mood changes way too often for him to keep up.
“If your partner is not here, you can practice with me,” he continued after noticing a missing number during his head count.
As the class scrambled to pair up with their partner, an unfortunate soul dragged her feet up to the podium. Even Baekhyun was starting to wonder if they were somewhat cursed in their past lives to be this inseparable. He gazed at the girl briefly, noting her eyes were still swollen over last night’s ordeal.
“Jaemin called off today,” his student muttered quietly.
Without much more to say, he instructed Yumi to pull a chair over. Neither one of them knew how to act at this point. Were they supposed to pretend that nothing happened and act completely oblivious? On the other hand, they could just avoid each other for the next few weeks and never have to the other person again once this school year is over. He sighed again, it was starting to become a habit now.
“I should be the one sighing,” Yumi added the sarcastic comment. Pushing the tension aside, her witty words had him cracking a smile in no time. Shaking off the grin on his face, Baekhyun tapped two fingers on his desk to keep her focused.
“You can sigh all you want after you present your project to me.”
Yumi did just that. She sped through the practice, reading word for word from the little index card she prepared beforehand. Anything to get her away from this distraction of hers. Beside the whole incident being in the picture, she couldn’t help but admire for a quick second, at how helpful Baekhyun was being. Pausing the girl multiple times to point out a few recoverable flaws then recommending different ways for her to deliver a smoother flow, he was quite good at this, she thought. Maybe Yumi did misjudge him because it seemed that Baekhyun had absolutely no problem being a phenomenal teacher— he was simply not comfortable enough to reach his fullest potential.
“Thank you…” she whispered, wanting to convey her gratitude thoroughly but nothing else came up at the end.
“I-I’d like to get back to my seat if we’re done,” Yumi stood up as she spoke, sparing him no chance to keep her. They wrapped up their session regardless to settle the uneasy atmosphere all together.
Carrying on the long day ahead of her, Yumi managed to keep her detention rate low as a last minute reach for the finish line. She stayed out of trouble, for the most part, by keeping shut. That wasn’t a problem for the girl; life proved to be a bit more ty these days than usual to maintain her vibrancy. On the way to her last class of the day, Yumi made a short detour to the restroom when a string of notifications unexpectedly went off. She quickly scrolled through the puzzling messages sent by Kyungsoo, something about an emergency with no further context. Giving up on his cryptic clues, she ended up calling her sibling to clear up the confusion.
“Yumi, where are you?!” Kyungsoo answered breathily.
“Look at the time, of course I’m at schoo—“
“Listen to me,” he cut her off sharply, his tone much more serious than usual. “I was away on a meeting today and your dad…he received a hospital bill. It was in a stack of mails sent to my office from your landlord.”
Yumi froze, trying to piece his information together on the spot. The mails, she cursed in her head. She meant to pick it up last night when she dropped by but it slipped her mind entirely. With the extended stay at her mother’s house, she left the mailbox untouched since and it must’ve alarmed the land owner.
“He called me earlier, fuming over the bill and declaring to take you back. He’s on his way to your mother’s house but I need you to stay where you are until I get there—“
The call went dead before Kyungsoo could finish. This can’t possibly be happening right now. The last thing that she wanted was for her divorced parents to have the same custody conversation they once tried to solve years back. It was way too messy to be reminded of. Yumi cut through all her secret spots to leave campus promptly, praying to make it back home before her father gets there.
Arriving by cab just minutes late, her heart sank at the sight of her father’s Porsche parked outside. Yumi sprinted in, expecting an earful from both adults, or perhaps a heated argument between the two. Instead, she found them seated across from each other at the dining table. Not the slightest bit of tension in the air, she noted.
“What’s going on?” Yumi eyed her parents suspiciously, they were way too calm for this to be real.The way they exchanged looks heightened her fear. She knew right away that they had discussed something prior and it didn’t look like good news to her either.
“Yumi…” her mother started out with that tender voice of hers, the one she uses to coax her daughter whenever she needed to deliver bad news. Yumi felt her feet retreating back on its own, wanting to desperately run off to avoid the ominous details.
“Your father and I talked,” she continued weakly, “…I need you to move back with him.”
Lowering her head to dodge her daughter’s distraught reaction, it didn’t take much for a mother to feel her child’s pain. The room became eerily quiet, Yumi have yet to process everything that her mother had just announced.
“What?” she asked in horror. Yumi stormed over to where her parents sat, palms slamming the wooden surface of their dinning table out of frustration to repeat the same lingering question, “What did you say?”
“Your father and I discussed—“
“No. No. You didn’t just have a five minutes conversation with him and decide to hand over your daughter as if you did not spend a whole year fighting for my custody back then,” she snapped, her eyes smoldering in resentment at how easy it was for the woman to give her up. Yumi peered over at her father, seeing him swerve his eyes made it clear to her that he was also in this.
He hung his head low, “Your mother needs help, Yumi…” her father spoke softly.
“She’s fine! She’s getting better!” The girl persisted, this time hanging on to her father’s arm in despair as she pleaded. An unpleasant sense of fear welled up in her chest, making no progress whatsoever.
Nearing the verge of tears now, a hand slowly reached out to Yumi. The apologetic mother pressed her lips together, forcing a smile on her face as she searched for her daughter’s eyes. She opened momentarily, only to have no words come out of it but a lump of guilt clawing at instead.
“There’s this really great rehabilitation center your father found,” she explained, “I’ll be staying there for a short while. It won’t be long, I promise.”
That promise was nothing more than just a white lie, Yumi predicted. She was old enough to figure out this much at least. Clenching her jaw tight shut, she held back her fight to respect the woman’s decision by all means— it was a good one, and she needed to understand that.
By the time Kyungsoo arrived, everything settled one way or another. He caught a glimpse of the afterm