I was currently inside the library together with the members of my group for the upcoming research in one of our major subjects which were due a month from now and all of us had decided that before anything else, brainstorming must be conducted first and foremost to determine who was going to be in charge of what.
Now, this was something I always looked forward to every school year because of one reason:
I found arguing against the terror panels extremely elating. Seeing them seethe in anger as I smugly deflect every question they throw with accurate answers was just so satisfying it became the highlight of my student life.
Don’t get me wrong.
I wasn’t that kind of student.
It’s just that some profs need some serious reality check and I happened to be kind enough to give it to them through a battle of cleverness.
“I think research about religion would be really nice.”
“How does research about technology sound? If technology truly causes a gap between generations to be specific?”
“We should go for a topic about social media since it is relevant nowadays.”
“How about a topic regarding if self-image and stress are predictors for eating disorder?”
I opted to observe them toss ideas around with occasional debate here and there as to why this certain idea must be picked for a while.
All of the mentioned topics were sensible enough to invest my time in, but of course, only one must prevail and I already had something in mind that would get all of my members’ agreement.
“How about music?” I said, causing their attention to focus on me. “Majority of us here chose to enroll in Seoul High which is home to several successful musical artists because we want a career in the field of music, am I right? Shall we choose this topic, then carrying out a research about it would be like a walk in the park because it is something we all have a genuine interest in.”
I unconsciously gulped as I await their reactions. As confident as I might have come off, I was actually nervous they might reject my proposal.
“Hey, that’s actually the perfect topic for us.”
“Music it is.”
“As expected of Jimin Yoo!”
A small smile worked its way on my lips.
“Then, we should discuss the specifics of the topic next time. Is that alright?”
When I heard their collective affirmative responses, I finally called it a day and began to walk out of the library.
It’s only the start of the week, but our profs really thought it was a good idea to suddenly dump workloads on us at the same time without warning.
And here I thought this month would be stress-free.
I clutched my chest to ease my heart when a familiar face appeared out of nowhere.
A familiar face I hadn’t seen since Friday.
When she said she would be busy, I didn’t expect that she would disappear on me for two days. Something I would never expect from her since she was so adamant about taking every chance she could get to be with me.
After sending me home that day, she never showed her face again over the weekend. The only thing that kept me from thinking she must’ve died was her occasional messages.
Seeing her again today stirred something unfamiliar inside me.
“How many times do I have to tell you don’t call me baby when we are at school?” I looked around to see if someone’s watching us. “Also, didn’t I tell you we couldn’t be seen together?”
“And how many times do I have to call you baby when we are at school for you to get used to it?” She scooted closer before wrapping her arm around my waist. “Also, I told you to stop worrying about trivial matters. I always make sure not a single soul will see us every time we are together.”
Would I ever win against her?
“You know what? you.”
“Thanks, babe.” She grinned. “I’ll be waiting for you on the rooftop. Don’t take too long.”
I made a face, earning amused giggles from her.
“Don’t order me around.”
“Hmmm, I’ll think about it.”
When she disappeared from my sight, I turned around to go back to my classroom.
There was less than an hour before my next class begins.
I found Aeri fixing her belongings upon arrival. They probably just finished discussing the research as well.
“Are you having lunch with her again?” she asked when I passed by her.
Having lunch with her on the rooftop meant I wouldn’t get to admire Ryujin from afar in the cafeteria for the second time this month.
Speaking of, after the wonderful events in the library, I hadn’t gotten a chance to be alone with her again which especially now that busy days were coming.
“I’ll go with you.”
My hands automatically stopped shoving things inside my locker.
“I’ll go with you,” she repeated with emphasis this time. “There’s something I want to say to her.”
My eyes narrowed to slits.
Something to say...?
I trailed behind Aeri on our way, thoughts of what could it be that she wanted to say to Minjeong flooding my mind.
I don’t remember them being close since as far as I knew, they only got to know each other because Aeri was my best friend and I was always with her every time Minjeong would pester me.
Or was there something going on that I wasn’t aware of?
“Uchinaga?” Minjeong was obviously surprised to see her with me. “I didn’t know you’d come too.”
“I won’t take long,” she said. “I just need to talk to you about something.”
I curiously observed as they distance themselves from me before proceeding to talk in hushed voices that I couldn’t hear from where I was.
Just what was it that Aeri wanted to say that she didn’t want me to hear about it?
After what felt like an eternity, Aeri finally came back with a teasing smile now on her face for some reason, fueling my curiosity even more.
“What?” I grumbled.
She shook her head. “Nothing.” Then she suddenly leaned forward and whispered, “Girl, a wholeass diamond is already presenting itself on a silver platter to you. If you continue being blinded by that fabricated reality you made in your head, then I’m afraid you would lose them.”
The unexpected speech rendered me unable to formulate a response right away.
“I’ll get going now. Enjoy your lunch, Yooji.”
Before I could even react, she was already closing the door shut, leaving me with the devil alone.
I stood frozen in my place, staring at nothing as I tried to decipher Aeri’s odd behavior just now.
What the hell was she talking about?
“Here’s your lunch.” I felt a solid object being pushed to my hands, bursting me off my bubble.
I looked down to see a blue lunch box.
“What is this?”
“A lunch box.”
“I know.” I glared at her. “What I am trying to say is why did you bring a lunch box instead of taking out from the nearby food chains just like the other day?”
“I wanted to cook for you,” she replied dismissively.
I turned my neck abruptly, genuinely shocked at the new detail about her.
“You know how to cook?”
“Of course.” She wore a proud smile. “Do you find me amazing now?”
I pretended not to hear the question for my own sake.
Seriously, what could she not do?
“You didn’t have to.”
“Hush.” She plopped herself on the ground while holding her yellow lunch box and then tapped the space beside her. “Come.”
I made sure there was enough space between us before making myself comfortable on my spot.
“Go open your lunch box now,” she ordered.
And I did just that.
“Is this... a crab?”
“Crab in oyster sauce.” I looked up to see hers mirroring the contents of mine. “I already shredded the meat for you. I know how much you despise doing it yourself.”
My eyebrows shot up.
“How did you know...”
“Because I pay attention more than you will ever know.”
Suddenly, the air around me felt heavy for some reason.
“A-Anyway.” I cleared my throat. “What did Aeri say to you?”
She swallowed her food.
“She asked me not to tell you.”
She was keeping secrets from me now?
And with Minjeong?
“Don’t think too much about it,” she followed. “It is something you shouldn’t worry yourself about.”
Albeit still skeptical and very much curious, I decided to let it go for now.
“I didn’t know you two are close.” I carefully put the spoon filled with rice and crab meat inside my mouth.
“Are you jealous?” she asked, tone innocent, but the shimmer in her eyes implied otherwise.
“Are you dumb?”
She laughed loudly, her head thrown back.
I couldn’t help but stare.
I think this was the first time I had seen her laugh this hard.
Was what I said that funny to her?
“We aren’t exactly close,” she clarified after she calmed down. “But since we are cousins, we kind of get along.”
Oh, so that was why.
They were cousins.
“You two are what...?”
“Cousins, Jimin.” She eyed me weirdly. “First-degree cousins — her mother and my father are siblings.”
I blinked, processing the information.
“Why didn’t I know about this?”
She raised her shoulders.
“Did you ever ask one of us?”
“W-Well, I didn’t,” I stuttered. “But that’s because it never even grazed my mind that you two might be blood-related.”
“Surprise,” was her dull reply.
I rolled my eyes.
Her apparent indifference was making me assume what she said was no big deal.
Was it really?
It was quiet for a while as both of us were busy consuming our lunch to say anything.
It was a good thing that we were seated on a spot where the sunlight couldn’t reach and the wind up here was a bit cold or else, I'd be burned to crisp.
“How is it?”
“My cooking,” she said. “How is it?”
The dish actually tasted so good, but of course, I would never say that out loud.
She smirked. “You can say it is good, you know?”
I raised my middle finger.
“I could do this for you every day.” She put her lunch box down to drink on her tumbler. “That is if you like my cooking.”
That actually.... was not a bad idea.
Free food that tasted better than most of those well-known five-star restaurants, what was there to reject the offer?
The thing was, this was Minjeong Kim, my archenemy and I don’t want to say anything that would further inflate her ego. That was the last thing I would ever do.
“Do whatever you want.”
She straightened her back, right hand raising up to her brow and a playful smile on her lips.
While going along the hallway on the way to the parking lot, I thought about what Aeri and I talked about a couple of minutes ago after our last subject for today was dismissed.
See here, no matter how serious the devil appeared when she revealed that she and Aeri were cousins, I still had some doubts that she might be just pulling a prank on me.
That girl was infamous for deceiving people, after all so I asked my best friend herself about it to make sure.
“Yes, she’s my cousin.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“, you never asked.”
Would I ever get a proper answer to my question?
I saw Yeji on the other end of the hallway together with two unfamiliar girls heading in my direction.
“Yeji, hey,” I said in a low voice when they halted in front of me.
I could feel curious gazes directed at me, making me shift uncomfortably.
“Are you going?”
My attention went back to my clubmate.
“Going to where?”
“You haven’t read the message yet, it seems.”
“We are going to be having a training camp for the upcoming school festival. The location and the exact date aren’t fixed yet, but pres said it is going to last for at least two days.”
A training camp?
Out of nowhere?
I don’t remember us having one in my first two years in the club.
“I’ll think about it, I guess.”
My schedule was already jam-packed with all these requirements I had to fulfill before the term exam. I’m not sure if I could find a way to squeeze that in.
“You should come,” she urged. “I heard you can bring your friends with you and oh—by the way, these are my friends.” She pointed a finger at the girls who were wordlessly listening to our conversation.
“I’m Minju,” said the smaller one who had a pretty smile on her face, giving me a certain look that was making me want to avoid having an eye-contact with her.
“Yuna here.” I tilted my head a bit to get a good look at her face as she was considerably taller than me.
Yeji sure had hella attractive friends.
“I’ll bring them in the training camp,” she said; then mumbled in a teasing tone, “I’m sure you’ll get along with them, especially with Minju.”
The three of them already left while I remained motionless, thinking of what did Yeji mean by what she said.
What’s with her?
When I spotted the familiar black GTR, I hurriedly opened the door of the passenger seat, closing it with little to no sound once I was inside.
“Where are we going?”
“Lotte World to watch a movie.” She took out something inside the compartment and held it in front of me. “Here, drink this.”
My eyes twinkled at the familiar sight of barley tea in a bottle.
“Gimme that.” I snatched the said tea from her hand and twisted the cap open to guzzle back a swig. “Are you sure no one’s gonna see us there?”
I almost spit the drink at her nonchalant response.
“What do you mean?”
“Chill.” She slowed down to give way to the car at the intersection. “Don’t worry about trivial matters, babe.”
“This is not a trivial matter.” I frowned. “This is included in our agreement.”
“Jimin.” She called out in a firm voice. “Just trust me, okay?”
I slumped back on my seat, sighing as I had no other choice but to entrust my fate to the devil.
The moment we set a foot inside the mall, all heads quickly turned our way, specifically to the person who had her arms tightly enclosed around my waist; a habit of hers that I noticed.
I cocked an eyebrow when I saw a bunch of girls shrieking silently, hitting one another while looking at u, silly smiles on their faces.
What was their problem?
People nowadays were so weird.
When I glanced back to my companion, my face immediately crumpled in realization and irritation.
So, that was why those girls looked so constipated.
The devil was smirking their way, purposely running a hand through her hair while appearing indifferent at the reaction she was getting.
“Could you please stop that?” I couldn’t help myself saying.
And she even had the guts to pretend she didn’t know what I was talking about?
“You are such a womanizer.”
I heard her let out an amused chuckle.
“Babe, don’t be jealous.” She pulled me even closer. “I have eyes only for you.”
“I-I’m not jealous!” I was quick to deny as I tried to push her off me but to no avail. “It’s just annoying to see people flirting in front of me.”
“Sureee, you are not.”
Lord, why was this person so annoying!
Give me the patience to last through the rest of our day together, please.
“What are we watching?” I asked instead to change the subject.
We made a turn when the cinema finally came into view, stopping just behind the last person in the queue and patiently waited for our turn.
“There’s an ongoing special rerun of the films of Studio Ghibli. You like them, right?”
She knew even my movie preference?
Was she actually a stalker in disguise?
Should I be scared now?
“Aeri told me,” came the answer to the question in my mind as if she could read what I was thinking.
I pursed my lips.
“Yeah, I like them.”
“Good.” She softly smiled, her dimples on full display. “We’ll be watching Spirited Away. That okay with you?”
Though I had already seen that film numerous times before, it would never get old. Such a classic work of the best animation studio would surely transcend time.
We chose a spot from the upper middle section of the cinema in order to get the best view of the movie. Since this was just a rerun of an animation movie that was originally released twenty years ago, only a few people were occupying the seats.
I tore my gaze away from the screen when I felt Minjeong raising the partition between our seats.
“Babe, if you were Chihiro’s parents, I’m sure you would’ve turned into a pig too.”
“You always eat like there’s no tomorrow.” She moved closer until I could feel her warm skin brushing against mine and then proceeded to lean her head on my shoulder. “I’m sure you would’ve eaten those foods too.”
I pinched her arm, causing her to let out a soft yelp.
“Excuse me? I will never eat somebody else’s food without permission!”
Actually, in the movie, that wasn’t what Chihiro’s parents had done exactly. Since they thought the owner of the restaurant stall was only temporarily away and would come back soon, they decided they would just pay later and proceeded to gobble up a variety of foods.
That was when they made a mistake.
They didn’t take into account that they were in an unfamiliar, isolated location—a creepy forest to be specific. They couldn’t just go around and assumed things were the same as where they used to live.
Minjeong’s laugh interrupted my thoughts, reaching for my hand to intertwine it with hers.
“But you, in some way, remind me of Chihiro.”
My ears perked up.
“What do you mean?”
“You are quick to adapt to any kind of situation.” She untangled her hand to place it on my left thigh. “Amazing in every way possible.”
My mind went blank.
Her hand... on my thigh.
She wasn’t doing anything.
It was just there.
But the warmth of her palm was burning.
I wanted to remove it, but at the same time, I don’t.
For some reason, I liked to enjoy the unfamiliar sensation she was making me feel for a bit longer.
When we reached the part where it was revealed that Chihiro and Haku had already met in the former’s early childhood, I found myself turning to my companion who had her eyes focused on the screen.
It was kind of funny to think that while we also met each other in our early childhood, the relationship that had formed between us over the years up until now had turned out entirely different compared to the protagonists’.
Though I guess, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Do you think they’d meet again?”
The ending credits had began rolling on the screen and we were just waiting for the other people to leave the cinema to avoid the eventual traffic at the exit.
“I hope they would.” I sighed dreamily. “They clearly love each other. The least thing the universe could do was to let them meet again some time in the future.”
She threw me a look as if I said something disgusting.
“You are such a hopeless romantic.”
I rolled my eyes, folding my arms over my chest.
“ like you would never understand.”
She snorted, adorning a look that I couldn’t quite decipher.
It was already seven in the evening when we arrived at my house and the exhaustion that piled up since the beginning of the day up until now was finally taking a toll on me. All I wanted to do was to throw myself on my bed and sleep.
“Thanks,” I said once I stepped out of her car.
“You should go now.”
She momentarily disappeared from the window.
I heard some rustling inside.
It seemed she was looking for something.
When she appeared again, she was already holding a white box.
What was that?
I didn’t notice that earlier when I was there.
“And that is?”
“iPod nano,” she answered. “I already downloaded songs in there, don’t worry.”
I hesitantly took the box and willed myself not to open it in front of her.
“Why are you giving this to me?”
She shrugged. “When you connected your phone in my car’s stereo the other day, I noticed we share the same music taste. I figured you would like a device containing my personal playlist.”
I was at a loss for words.
I never expected her to be someone who liked those kinds of songs.
Somehow, I kind of liked that part of her.
“I’ll be going now.” The window to her side slowly went up. “I’ll pick you up again tomorrow.”
I could only nod my head as I watched her drove away, mind buzzing with thoughts of someone I was just with.