17: Attracted

Yooji: Love is War

               There was nothing more enrapturing than when the person you’d been crushing on for so long had finally shown interest in you.

               This was what I found out after the surreal events that happened yesterday. Throughout the ride on the way to my house, it seemed as if I was floating on air. I remember Ryujin telling me about something that may or may not be of importance but I was too busy replaying the unexpected kiss in my mind on loop to pay attention. There was a tinge of guilt eating me away for basically ignoring her so I had decided I would apologize to her if given a chance.

               But first and foremost, wow.

               Yesterday really happened.

               It wasn’t just a product of my imagination.

               I really went on a date with Ryujin.

               And she even kissed me.

               If only I could preserve the feeling of her lips on my skin, I would.

               That was just amazing.

               After years of admiring her from afar, I think my affection was finally being reciprocated in a way. She wouldn’t have done what she did if she was just being friendly.

               Ryujin wasn’t that kind of person.

               I wasn’t just saying this because I liked her.

               The fact that she hadn’t dated anyone in all the years that I’d known her said a lot about her character.

               One would even assume she was aual.

               However, she asked me out on a date.

               That only meant one thing.

               She was interested in me.

               At least, that was what I think.

               I wanted to share the good news with Aeri as soon as possible, hence, I went to school at the time I knew she would be arriving which was an hour before our first subject.

               True enough, I saw her unlocking the door of our classroom with a key she likely borrowed from one of the staff in the faculty.

               “Good morning, Aeri,” I greeted zealously, causing her to flinch, looking as if she wasn’t expecting anyone at this hour.

               She snapped her head in my direction, relief washing over her face when recognized me.

               “Don’t scare me like that!” She pushed the door open; then turned the lights on. “I thought you were a ghost!”

               “That’s the result of your regular intake of caffeine,” I said.

               “Excuse me, I don’t drink coffee that often.”

               “You’re not fooling anyone here, Ri.”

               She made a face. “Why are you here so early, anyway?”

               My eyes followed her as she took long strides toward her table, hung her backpack on the hook on the side carefully before settling herself on her seat.

               I copied everything she did before pulling my chair near to her.

               “Ryujin and I went on a date yesterday, remember?”

               “Now that you mention it.” She leaned her body forward in intrigue. “What happened?”

               “I don’t think it’s necessary to tell you everything,” I uttered, abashed as I recalled the happenings in the ramen shop. “But there’s one thing you must know.”

               “And that is?”

               “She kissed me.”

               Her jaw dropped open.

               “She did what now?!”

               “She kissed me...” I trailed, trying to keep her on the edge of her seat. “On my cheek.”

               The expression on her face changed from bewildered to indifferent.

               “Oh, on your cheek.” She nodded continuously, the interest she had earlier was nowhere to be seen. “I see.”

               Now, why do I feel like something similar to this had already happened before?

               “What’s with the uninterested response?” I pried, eyebrows knitted together in confusion.

               “A kiss on the cheek is not really it, girl.” She sighed, shaking her head in feigned disappointment. “It could just be a friendly kiss for all we know.”

               I blinked.

               The possibility beginning to dawn on me.

               “But you don’t do that to me...”

               “That’s because I’m not the type to do that.” She rolled her eyes. “Though Ryujin is my cousin, I’m not sure whether or not she is the type.”

               I lost all the energy that I had earlier all of a sudden.

               “Is that so...”

               “What I said is only a probability, but still, don’t get your hopes up.”

               She was right.

               I got too ahead of myself.

               I’d been taught not to assume things unless stated loud and clear.

               These days, I keep on doing something I normally wouldn’t do.

               What’s wrong with me really...

               “I’ll keep that in mind, Ri.” I smiled at her. “Thank you.”

               “It’s nothing.” She waved her hand. “I’m curious about something though. Did you tell Minjeong about the date you had with her sister?”

               I stilled myself.

               Memories of what happened before Ryujin sent me home came rushing into my mind.

               The words she spoke.

               Her smile...

               Well, it wasn’t like I had forgotten.

               There was something in her that particular afternoon that I couldn’t quite pinpoint. So, I chose not to think about it for my own sanity.

               “I didn’t,” I said. “But she saw us.”

               “What did she see?”

               “The exact moment Ryujin kissed me.”

               Her eyebrows flew past her hairline.

               “For real? Did she do anything?”

               I scowled as I remembered the insults she threw at me right after she caught us.

               Seriously, she was so confusing.

               She opened up to me and was even honest with her feelings during the training camp, so naturally, I thought our relationship was getting better.

               It was probably just the place that was making her think like a decent person.

               “Aside from making fun of me, no, she didn’t.”

               “She didn’t?” She sounded surprised as she said those words. “That’s weird.”

               “That’s just how she is.” I shrugged, dismissing the topic. “Enough about me. Let’s talk about you.”

               “And what is there to talk about me?”

               “I heard you’ve been hanging out with Yizhuo.” I wiggled my eyebrows at her.

               “Where did you hear that?”

               “Students, of course,” I deadpanned. “You know how they are with gossips.”

               “We’ve been hanging out, yes,” she replied, her lips pursing. “She’s a fun and loud person.”

               I waited for a bit for her to say something more, but she didn’t.

               “That’s it?”

               She grew confused at my apprehension.

               “Should there be more?”

               I couldn’t believe it.

               My god, Yizhuo Ning.

               You hadn’t made your move yet?

               Slow as a turtle!

               “Well, you see—”

               I was interrupted by the sound of the door opening following the arrival of a bunch of my classmates talking loudly with one another.

               “Here they are,” Aeri muttered. “That signals the end of our conversation, unfortunately.”

               Uh-huh.

               If we don’t want to be on everyone’s lips the next day and fuel the gossip even more, it was best not to let them overhear what we were talking about.

               “Let’s continue this later,” I said before dragging my chair back to my table.







               The last class for this morning ended a little later than usual. Our prof was so engrossed in the lesson they were discussing that the time was basically forgotten and nobody among us had the courage to remind them that they were extending that was why we were left with only thirty minutes to eat our lunch.

               I was in the middle of packing my stuff when the room suddenly was enveloped in gibberish murmurs.

               “What is she doing here?”

               “Is she here for Jimin?”

               “What is going on between them?”

               Curious, I turned around to see what was going on; only to stand frozen when the sight of the devil leaning on the doorway greeted me.

               “Hey, babe,” she mouthed, eyes gleaming with mischief.

               What was she doing here...

               “There goes your princess charming,” I heard Aeri whisper beside me.

               I bit my lower lip, ignored everyone around us who was probably already making up something in their malicious minds, and made my way toward the devil.

               “What are you doing here?”

               “Isn’t it obvious?” She grinned. “I’m picking you up.”

               I stopped myself from smacking her across the face.

               This just broke one of our agreements and she didn’t even look a tad bit guilty!

               “And for what?”

               She eyed me as if I said the weirdest thing she had ever heard.

               “Because we’re eating lunch together.”

               I inhaled a  lungful of air.

               “You could’ve just texted me!” I hissed. “Yesterday, we didn’t eat lunch together because according to you, you had important matters to attend to. You informed me through text message. I don’t understand why you couldn’t do it this time too.”

               She her heels, ignoring me.

               “Let’s go.”

               Oh god.

               She was really back to being an insufferable dip again.

               I followed her with a considerable distance between us to avoid suspicions of us being together. I mean, we were together, but no one had to know that. The people back in our classroom were enough.

               The devil wasn’t saying anything.

               She was just walking facing ahead.

               Every people who were passing by us would stop and stare which was normal. Though, none of them seem to think that the two of us were going to the same place which lessened my worries.

               The moment we stepped outside the school premises, she stopped and looked over her shoulders.

               “No one from our school is going to see us here,” she said. “You can walk beside me.”

               “Quit it with the lies.” I rolled my eyes. “We aren’t the only ones who don’t like the food in the cafeteria.”

               “Suit yourself.”

               My eyebrows rose.

               That was new.

               I thought she would go on and force me to do what she wanted.

               Maybe, I was wrong.

               She continued walking with me still trailing behind until we reached a narrow alley. There was nothing to see other than the exhaust pipes of the buildings on the side.  It was a little dark and the air was a bit warm.

               This was the first time I’d seen this place.

               “Where are we going?”

               “I want to introduce you to someone dear to me.”

                I would have spoken more if she hadn’t already proceeded to walk so I had no choice but to follow; not before cursing her inside my head though.

               It didn’t take too long before a small tteokbokki stall came into my view. There were a few customers dining in. All of them looked like workers in a nearby factory judging from the bold print on the back of their polo shirts.

              When we got closer, my companion immediately approached the old woman inside whose face brightened up upon seeing her.

               “It’s a fine day, Grandma Sol,” she said before leaning in to hug the old woman.

               Huh?

               Grandma?

               As in her biological grandmother?

               “You came here again today, sweetheart.”

               “Of course.” She smiled warmly. ”I wouldn’t miss your tteokbokki for the world.”

               The old woman laughed before her gaze fell upon me.

               “And who is this beautiful young lady?”

               Minjeong turned to me, then wrapped her arm around my waist.

               “This is Jimin Yoo,” she said, introducing me in an enthusiastic manner. “The girl I’ve been telling you about.”

               Blood rushed up to my face.

               Why does she have to be so bold...

               “H-Hello.” I bowed my head respectfully.

               “Really?” The old woman’s eyes widened as she stared at me. “Your description of her is so accurate, sweetheart. She is truly pleasing in the eyes.”

               “I know, grandma.” She pulled me even closer that I could almost feel her skin through the thick fabric of my uniform. “She is beautiful.”

               The old woman nodded her head to agree, her eyes still fixated on me. I couldn’t help but feel conscious for some reason.

               “Is she your girlfriend?”

               I almost exploded in embarrassment.

               This old woman was so straightforward!

               I knew now who Minjeong took after.

               “Unfortunately, no.”

               “Why is that so?” The old woman appeared puzzled. “You two suit each other really well. It’s a shame.”

               “Isn’t that right?” The devil pouted, looking like a child telling on her bullies to her grandmother. “But Jimin right here doesn’t find me interesting.”

               “Is that true, dear?” She looked at me with a surprised expression on her face “Our Minjeong here is not only beautiful, but she also has the kindest heart. I don’t see any reason as to why you aren’t interested in her.”

               What...

               That devil?

               I knew I already admitted to myself that she could be kind at times but to say she had the kindest heart was a bit too much.

               “Tell her, grandma!”

               I just wanted to disappear like a bubble.

               This girl was so embarrassing.

               “She helps here whenever she doesn’t have anything important to do without asking for money in return. I used to refuse her before, but she was so persistent that I gave up and allowed her to do as she pleases.”

               I perked up at that.

               Really...

               Minjeong was that kind of person, I see.

               It was kind of hard to believe since I heard she was a brat as a child and now that she was a teenager, I wonder which was worse.

               “That’s right!” Minjeong boasted. “I’m so kind!”

               I pinched her side, earning a loud yelp from her.

               She soothed the assaulted skin with her fingers before shooting me a glare.

               “Stop it!” I faced the old woman and with a low volume of voice, “I understand what you are trying to say, ma’am.”

               “Call me Grandma Sol.” She gave me a soft smile, melting my heart in an instant.

               “You should,” Minjeong butted in in a whisper. “It’ll make her happy.”

               Shyness suddenly crept in me.

               I wasn’t used to calling anyone grandma since both of mine died before I was even born.

               But seeing as this old woman emitted nothing but warmth, I knew it wasn’t going to be a problem for me.

               “Okay, Grandma Sol.”

               She seemed really satisfied with that.

               “Take a seat, you two.” She gestured her hand to the chairs. “I’m going to make your tteokbokki extra special.”

               There was still a spare of cooked tteokbokki on the corner, but grandma still went and prepared another two orders for us. Minjeong must be someone really dear to her if she was willing to trouble herself.

               “Her tteokbokki reminds me of my older sister,” Minjeong said, catching my attention. “That’s one of the reasons why I am so fond of her.”

               Oh.

               But I’m still curious about something.

               “Is she your real grandmother?”

               “She’s not, but I treat her as if she is.”

               I mentally facepalmed.

               Of course.

               They were a family of doctors.

               Her biological grandmother was probably one as well if ever she was still alive.

               “How did you find this place?” I asked. “You don’t strike me as someone who eats street food.”

               “I normally don’t since I have this impression that they aren’t good for my health. My sister’s tteokbokki was an exemption, however.” She peered over Grandma Sol who was still busy preparing our food. “But when I was walking aimlessly during that one particular afternoon, I came across this place and the smell of grandma’s tteokbokki was so nostalgic that I just had to have a taste. Since then, I would always come here when I have time.”

               “That’s why Grandma Sol and you are close?”

               “Yeah.” She nodded. “She’s fond of me as well, you see. I talk to her about the things that bother me and she is more than willing to comfort me or provide me useful advice.”

               I see.

               So, they were like real grandmother and granddaughter then.

               I’m somehow glad to know that.

               That she had someone to talk about her feelings to.

               Minjeong wasn’t as lonely as I thought she was.    

               “Anyway, I didn’t like what you did earlier.”

                I met her gaze and saw the confusion that crossed her features.

               “What did I do?”

               “Picking me up in the classroom.”

               “What is wrong with that?”

               “Didn’t I tell you no one in our school should see us together?”

               “After what happened in the camp?” she scoffed. “I don’t think that rule still makes sense.”

               Her sentiments silenced me.

               She wasn’t wrong.

               Maybe my clubmates were talking about us as we speak.

               The truce agenda never really made sense in the first place.

               Especially since there were already rumors about us since that one time in the library.

               Then again, at least it was only them who saw us together for the second time. If they decided to spread the events in the camp, then people would find it hard to believe if they wouldn’t see us two interacting with their own eyes.

               And I knew exactly what I had to do for that to happen.

               “Please, don’t do that again.”

               She cocked an eyebrow.

               “Why?”

               I huffed. “The whole school thinks Ryujin and I have a thing,” I began to explain carefully even a baby would understand. “I wouldn’t want them to think the same about us if someone sees us together."

               “Then deny the gossip about you and my sister,” she said. “The two of us are the ones who are actually dating, after all.”

               “But I don’t want to.”

               No answer.

               She looked away and stared into nothingness as if she was in deep thought.

               I studied her face.

               Aeri said she was good at hiding her feelings.

               I think she was right about that.

               Just as when I thought she was going to keep her silence longer, she suddenly spoke the words I wasn’t expecting to hear.

               “So, you prefer people to know about you and Ryujin more than you and me?”

               Nervousness made its presence known in my chest.

               The question was somewhat uncomfortable.

               It should be easy.

               It had always been her.

               “Y-Yes.”

               Her face darkened, teeth clenched.

               “So, I’m a secret, huh?”

               This was the part where I should be retorting something to leave her speechless.

               Isn’t that how it is from the start?

               I never intended to be associated with you in the first place.

               However, I couldn’t find it in myself to say those out loud.

               It felt wrong.

               I could imagine what her reaction was going to be and I don’t think I’d want to see that.

               “It’s not that...”

               “All my life, I’ve always been flaunted around like a damn trophy, and here you are, so ashamed of me.” Her shoulders shook as she laughed without humor. “It’s a nice change of pace, I guess.”

               I gulped, not knowing what to say.

               It was really hard to deal with her if she was being like this.

               “Alright, Jimin. I’ll do as you say,” she said. “But in return, you will go on a date with me later.”

               I sighed in relief.

               That wasn’t so hard to do.

               I thought she’d asked for something extreme.

               Like, you know...

               It was fortunate it was only a date.

               “I understand.”

               “And...”

               Okay.

               I may have spoken too soon.

               “You will let me do anything I want.”

               My arms instinctively covered my body.

               She gave me an amused look.

               “What?”

               “!” I pointed an accusatory finger at her.

               “You don’t have to worry about forced ,” she muttered. “I am not that kind of person.”

               I squinted my eyes, unconvinced.

               “Moreover, I don’t see the need to commit such an immoral act.” She inclined her head forward, her lips ghosting over my ear. “Because the day you would beg for me to touch you will certainly come.”

               Hold on.

               I think I went deaf there for a second.

               “What?”

               “What I’m saying is, you should be worried more about your lack of control over yourself every time we are a strand of hair away from each other.”

               My face crumpled in protest.

               The nerve!

               “What lies are you blabbering about?”

               “Hey, it was not me who pleaded you to kiss me in the indoor batting cage,” she said. ”It was also not me who eagerly touched your abs because I was feeling bothered at the sight of it.”

               My cheeks burned.

               Oh my god.

               To whoever possessed me and made me do those atrocities, I hope you rot in hell.

               “Admit it.” She smirked up at me. “You are attracted to me.”

               I shook my head and turned away.

               Me?

               Attracted to her?

               I chanced her a glance.

               I don’t really know...

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taglamig
Won't be able to update for a while. PH election is draining tf out of me. Not really in the right state of mind to write anything. Thank you :)
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