acceptance.

This Thing Called Love
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"What happens when he's your Prince Charming, but you're not his Cinderella?"

— Anonymous

 

It’s hard to become angry without a reason.

 

It’s hard to comprehend what you don’t understand.

 

It’s hard to get hurt without the right to feel, and be hurt.

 

But isn’t it harder to love someone who sees you as…you have no idea how?

 

For the past few years, I've scoured for feasible solutions, and even to this day I'm still searching, but a single question still rattles my mind: how could I have attained the love of a man, who had wholeheartedly devoted his heart to another?

 

|| …………. ||

 

I watched him as he stared out the window of her favorite coffee shop, quietly sipping her favorite drink. His lenses, soft and longing, were glued to the falling cherry blossoms—to the small pink petals of her favorite flower, dancing freely in the wind with the orange sunset in the background.

 

I knew he was thinking of her. Like always.

 

Junmyeon changed the direction of his gaze towards me, and our eyes met for a few seconds.

 

As if coming back to reality—to this unwanted reality of his—his pair of dark brown became empty and gray.

 

But that was expected.

 

I forced a loving smile then lowered my gaze to her favorite dessert sitting in front of me, untouched. Without ever grazing a centimeter of my tongue, the strawberry mousse cake, sweet and wonderful, left a bitter taste in my mouth. And though it summoned the familiar tightness I had grown numb to, the pain it caused was more tolerable than the one I'd find in his vacant lenses.

 

I knew I couldn't look into his eyes without crying.

 

I knew I wouldn't be able to hold back the tears.

 

I just couldn't.

 

It had been two years since she passed, but her memories remained with him. He treasures them as if they are the world to him—as if he’d lose a part of himself if he didn’t.

 

I was leaving tonight and he didn't know.

 

I was leaving not because I got tired of being by his side, but because I knew she was, still, and will forever be, the world to him. She held, and will always hold the position I’ve wished to have even before the accident.

 

Besides knowing I may never see him again, the most painful part was learning to accept that no one could ever replace her.

 

Nothing I did, nor could do, would change how much she means to him.

 

|| Four Years Ago ||

 

Why is it that when you fall in love, you become stupid?


Is it because it becomes right even if it’s wrong?
 

Because you become weak even if you’re strong?
 

Is it because you give without asking for anything in return?
 

Or is it because you’re happy, even if it hurts?

 

“Kim Junmyeon!” I called excitedly to the guy leaning against the corner railing of the science department's rooftop—the only student who didn't bother with the romantic confession that just took place at our school's courtyard.

 

Hearing his name, Junmyeon turned his head slightly in my direction. He met my eyes for a brief second, then gazed into the distance once more.

 

I dashed towards him as fast as my legs could take me, and when I got there, I could tell from the gloomy expression on his face that he already knew.

 

With both hands on my knees, panting, I quickly caught my breath and straightened up. "Have you heard?" I asked cheerfully, flashing the biggest grin I could summon.

 

Junmyeon released a hefty sigh and looked at me, visibly uninterested with what I had to say. After a long pause, and realizing I won’t leave until I deliver what I crawled five flights of stairs for, he finally answered with a frigid, “What?”

 

Retaining my mocking smile, I clasped my hands together, pressed them against my warm cheek, and looked up at the clear blue sky, before setting my twinkling gaze back at him. “Yoo Mi-unni and Minseok-sunbae finally made it official!” I exclaimed with an added squeal, fully knowing it would cut him deep.

 

Junmyeon tightened his grip on the metal barrier and pretended to be ignorant of the fact. “Really?” he replied through clenched teeth.

 

There was anger, sadness, and disappointment in his voice, but I didn’t care. Call me selfish and cruel, but I wanted to see his reaction upon hearing the big news. I wanted to witness the pain in his eyes—to hear the shattering of his heart—when I told him the girl his world revolved around, had been swept away by the guy of her dreams.

 

Yoo Mi was a year older than us; she was a senior, and Junmyeon and I were both juniors. We all went to the same high school and had been close friends since we were kids. Junmyeon considered her as his first and only love, but she, on the other hand, only saw him as a little brother and friend.

 

Everyone knew he was in love with her, and that she’d never accept him. But even so, Junmyeon and Yoo Mi were still deemed “the perfect” couple, and I was the third wheel who always eased her way in between the two.

 

Many told me to stay away and just let them be. "Let them develop the same feelings for each other," they said. But I just couldn’t. His feelings for her rivaled the love I had for him—so how did they expect me to just back down, watch by the sidelines, and hope for them to be happy together?

 

|| …………. ||

 

As days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, Yoo Mi's and Minseok's relationship remained strong, while Junmyeon’s hopes began to fade away slowly.

 

I stayed with him throughout his healing process, praying that one day he would say those words I had been dying to hear—

 

And that day did come.

 

We were walking home from the restaurant where Yoo Mi's birthday party was held, and where Minseok got down on one knee and gave her the promise ring he had been keeping since Christmas. In his words, it was the first of three rings he vows to put on her finger—a declaration that made Yoo Mi unni jump into his arms and swear to love him forever.

 

It was pouring hard that day and instead of taking the bus, Junmyeon chose to walk home. I guess he figured the freezing rain would help mask the uncontrollable tears running down his cheeks.

 

Of course, I ran after him, and when I finally caught up, he stopped walking and turned to face me.

 

Without a word, he grabbed both my arms, pulled me closer, and kissed me forcefully.

 

My eyes shot open and I

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