I used up all the remaining hours until dismissal to ponder Minjeong’s condition. Though it may seem that the easiest route was to give my consent and get it over with, you could never know what was going on inside her head. She was a closed book that I could never read and the things she would do if I allowed her to do anything she wanted was quite worrying.
No, not those things.
When she said I wouldn’t have to worry about that, I believed her. She didn’t even need to assure me. I knew she wouldn’t do such a thing.
What I was worried about was way worse. Just thinking about it was enough to send shivers down my spine. Minjeong was more than capable of doing that and I knew she would if given a chance.
In the end, I decided it was best to hear the details first before I make up my mind.
“So, you are going to room 411,” Aeri said as we were walking along the deserted hallway of the fourth floor of the building. “That’s the office of the student council.”
The majority of the classrooms here were empty since we, third years were assigned on the third floor. The second years were on the second floor and the first years were on the first floor. The only classes that were being held on here were the make-up sessions for a subject one did poorly on.
“Minjeong asked me to meet her there.”
I somehow found myself having a wild imagination about an apparition of a dead person appearing in one of the windows of these classrooms with a scary face.
The thought made me inch closer to Aeri.
I really need to stop watching horror movies.
“And you agreed?”
“Because the other members could be there too,” she said as a matter of fact. “I thought you don’t want to be seen with her?”
“Well, she said it is only her and Yizhuo.”
She suddenly stopped walking, eyebrows furrowed.
“Yes.” I gave her a weird look. “She’s the secretary, remember?”
A look of realization crossed her face.
“I’ll go with you then.”
“Why?” I squinted my eyes suspiciously. “I thought you are going to play PS5 all day because your precious Sora is finally on Smash Bros.?”
She avoided my gaze, shrugging her shoulders nonchalantly
“Yizhuo’s there. So, I’m going.”
Why do I feel like I was missing something here? This girl bawled her eyes out both out of happiness and sadness when that Sephi guy was revealed to be on Smash Bros. Happiness because out of all the main antagonists in the entire franchise of Final Fantasy, he was her favorite. Sadness because she thought there was no way her precious Sora would be on the game anymore. But now, it appeared it no longer mattered as long as she was going to see Yizhuo.
There was definitely something going on between them. Especially since I knew Yizhuo liked my best friend.
When we reached the familiar black door, I knocked three times to have our presence known before sauntering inside, and saw the two quickly turning their heads in our direction.
Yizhuo was visibly surprised to see I wasn’t alone, probably not expecting Aeri’s presence at all. The devil, on the other hand, had her eyes focused only on me as if I was the only person inside the room.
“Hi, Jimin Yoo.” Yizhuo rose on her swivel chair to approach us, a shy smile looming over her lips when she faced my companion.“...and Aeri.”
“Hello, Yizhuo,” I said, smiling back in kind. “Aeri’s been wanting to see you.”
Aeri shoved me hard I almost stumbled on my feet.
“What the hell, Ri?”
“Deserve.” She stuck her tongue at me.
I shot her a glare before turning to Yizhuo again who was wordlessly watching us with a faint shocked expression on her face.
“Anyway, can you do me a favor and entertain this child for a moment? I need to talk to Minjeong.”
“S-Sure.” Yizhuo nodded; then glanced over Aeri. “We can wait for them on the sofa over there.”
“Okay, sounds good.”
Then they stared at each other as if in a trance.
I cleared my throat to catch their attention.
“We’ll be done in a short while.”
I gave both of them a knowing smile which earned a flushed Yizhuo and unamused Aeri before waddling over to the long rectangular table where the devil was waiting.
She was reclining comfortably on her swivel chair, sporting the usual y smirk that I had gotten so used to seeing by now it doesn’t irritate me as much as before.
I sat on the chair next to hers and leaned my body on the backrest.
“Have you finally made a decision?”
“I need you to elaborate your condition first.” I looked at her pointedly. “I just can’t allow you to do anything you want when you are Minjeong Kim.”
She seemed to want to laugh at what I said.
I frowned. “Don’t laugh.”
“I’m not laughing.”
“You were about to.”
Her brows lifted and the chuckle she was suppressing then escaped from her lips.
It was deep and warm.
“You worry too much, Karina.” I blinked, surprised to hear the nickname again. “I swear, it’s nothing inappropriate. I will not do anything that would make you feel uncomfortable.”
I held her gaze, searching for any minimal sign that she wasn’t telling the truth.
There was nothing.
Either she was really being serious or she was just really good at pretending.
Nevertheless, I chose to trust her.
“Fine.” I sighed in defeat. “I’m allowing you to do whatever you want in our date later in exchange for my favor.”
A wide grin adorned her face, pleased by my decision.
“That’s my girl.”
Nobody had to tell me.
I knew I was playing right into her hands.
I had nothing to lose.
Except, well, everything.
“I have a question though.”
“What is it?”
“Why do you call me Karina?” I’d been meaning to ask her about this. “Where’d you get that?”
Her lips twitched into an amused smile.
“I thought it was something of importance.”
I ignored her remark.
“I heard your father called you Katarina that one time I came over to your house. I thought it was beautiful, but too long for my liking so I made it shorter.” She looked proud for some reason. “Besides, Karina has a nicer ring to it.”
Just as I thought.
Though, I never imagined she was the type to come up with a nickname for a person.
“Katarina is my baptismal name,” I said, filling her in the details. “It’s only my parents who use that to address me.”
“Yeah, I figured as much. Nobody really calls you by that name in school. Even Uchi and your older sister call you by your birth name.”
“How about you?”
“What about me?”
“Is Winter your baptismal name too?” I asked curiously. “Yizhuo calls you that, right?”
“No.” She shook her head. “It is a name the members of the student council came up with for me. They wanted to be unique, they said.”
“Oh.” They were probably close with one another then if that was the case. “But why Winter? It’s not related to your real name at all.”
“Well, aside from the obvious reason which is my pale complexion that mirrors the color of the snow, it is also because I was born in winter.”
That made sense.
And maybe most people weren’t aware of this, but she also possessed this sort of a wintry aura when she wasn’t being her usual self.
She raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything.
It sounded cool—no pun intended, and it fits her image so well.
Perhaps, I would also join her members in using the season to address her.
“You guys done?” It was Yizhuo who was still on the sofa with Aeri. “As much as I want to stay in here for a bit longer and entertain this child, I need to go home now or I wouldn’t be eating dinner.”
“Why is that?”
“I’m the one who prepares our food.”
“For real?” I said, surprised. Yizhuo looked more like the type who would just wait in her room for the food to be served.
“Yep,” she answered, popping the ‘p’. “I live with my grandparents and being responsible for the house chores is the least thing I can do to be of help.”
A matured person, I see.
She was so different than my initial impression of her.
“Where are your parents?” It was Aeri who raised a question this time.
“They’re in China.”
In where now...
“China?” I had to make sure I heard her correctly. These ears had the tendency to malfunction at random times.
My eyes widened.
I looked over Aeri who was equally as shocked at the revelation.
I had a hunch that Yizhuo was Chinese based on her name but I would have never expected her parents were actually in China.
“Um, wow. That’s amazing,” came Aeri’s comment. Girlie was still in the process of digesting the information, it seemed.
“My parents migrated here in South Korea a year before I was born; stayed for at least fifteen years and went back to China around the beginning of the school term in my freshman year in high school saying they missed it there. No place like home, apparently.” She seemed casual about sharing this about us. I guess, she wasn’t mad at her parents for leaving her here. “I would’ve come with them if only I haven’t already grown to love this country.”
“Is it really the country?”
The three of us turned to Minjeong when she suddenly spoke.
“What do you mean?” came Yizhuo’s confused probing.
“I mean, is it really the country that you have grown to love?” She pulled her lips into a teasing grin. “Or is it something else?”
It was as if a bucket of icy water was poured on Yizhuo upon hearing the question.
She wasn’t able to provide a response right away as she was clearly caught off guard.
Minjeong observed as Yizhuo stood up from the sofa, too antsy to sit still when she was being cornered like this.
“If you say so.” She shrugged.
“Anyway.” Yizhuo faked a cough as she fanned her reddening face. “I’ll be going now.”
“I’ll walk you to the bus station,” Aeri presented as she took her place beside Yizhuo.
What was this that I was witnessing before my eyes?
Aeri shook her head. “I insist.”
Since Aeri didn’t seem that she would back down from her offer, Yizhuo could do nothing but nod her head. She appeared like she was at the verge of exploding with how red her face and neck were when Aeri grabbed her arm and lead her out of the room.
Those two, I swear to god.
They were so obvious.
I wouldn’t be surprised if one day I catch them making out in one of the secluded parts of the school.
“We shall head out as well.”
“Where are we going?”
“To my house.”
“You said you want to keep me as a secret,” she said as if to remind me. “Wouldn’t you agree having an indoor date is a good idea?”
Now that she said that...
“Well yes, but your parents and Ryujin would also be there.”
“My parents are busy people and Ryujin has to practice until midnight for the upcoming dance competition.”
She really left me with no other choice.
Since there was no traffic, it didn’t take long before we reached their house. We also didn’t talk much in the car because she was busy driving while I chose to listen to some music using the iPod she gave me.
It was an unfamiliar situation because she was often talkative when it was just the two of us together. Though curious, I didn’t interrogate her.
She was probably deep in thought.
As we entered the house, I immediately caught sight of the large family portrait above the chimney. Minjeong resembled her older sister so much it was uncanny. If I didn’t know them, I would surely assume they were just the same person.
It was a shame she passed away before I get to meet her.
True to her words, there was no one else in here.
It was quiet.
Too quiet that I could almost hear the blood flowing throughout my body.
The lights were also turned off.
Only the ray of sun outside was giving illumination inside this lifeless house.
“Would you like to eat first?”
“I’m still full,” I said. “What are we going to do here?”
“The typical stuff.”
“Could you be more specific?”
“We’ll watch a movie.”
I halted my steps.
“Please, don’t tell me you are thinking of watching a horror movie.”
“Amazing!” She clapped her hands. “How did you know?”
“No, we aren’t going to watch a horror movie.”
“Why not?” She raised an eyebrow. “It’s going to be fun, I assure you.”
“I said no, Winter,” I firmly opposed the idea, the nickname slipping off my tongue. “You’ll let me be the one to choose what we are going to watch or you can just forget about all this and take me home.”
She jutted out her lower lip like a child who didn’t get what she wanted before turning around and made her way toward her room on the second floor.
I couldn't help but laugh because of the attitude she had just shown.
She’s such a sulky puppy.
“Have it your way then.”
With a big smile on my lips, I followed her upstairs.
The cabinet that was full of trophies was really attention-grabbing and was the first thing one would notice upon walking inside her room.
Then there was her violin.
I suddenly had this need to hear her play for me.
“You can choose a movie now.” She handed me the remote. “And please for the love of god, spare me the lame ones.”
I rolled my eyes at her.
Actually, I already had a movie in mind, but it wasn’t available on Netflix for some reason. So, I tried Prime Video which fortunately was streaming the movie.
I saw her leaving the room without saying a word as I sat down in the middle of her bed.
I never thought we would be doing this.
It was too normal and Minjeong was far from it.
When she returned, she was carrying a bowl full of popcorn.
“Done choosing?” she asked as she placed the bed tray in front of me so she could place the bowl on it.
She then went to her closet and rummaged through her clothes. That was when I realized we were still wearing our uniforms.
“I’ll just change,” she informed once she was done picking what to wear. “Wait for me.”
I watched as she strode towards the bathroom.
It was unfair thar she got to change into a more comfortable attire while I was stuck in this sweaty uniform.
I wonder if it would be fine if I borrow her some of her clothes...
While waiting for her, I chose to explore the room with my eyes to entertain myself.
On the bedside table, two photo frames were displayed along with an alarm clock and a moon lamp.
The one on the right contained a picture of her with her older sister.
She was still so young here.
I was guessing, she was probably around six years old while her older sister looked like she was already in college.
The left one was with Ryujin.
The picture was recent based on their appearance.
Ryujin was smiling broadly at the camera while Winter’s expression was just blank. She seemed to not like getting her photo taken.
I couldn’t help but laugh.
She was like a child who was forced by her mother to pose for the camera.
Speaking of her mother.
I had noticed that she had no photos of her parents.
I wonder why.
I spun around when I heard the sound of the bathroom door closing.
Minjeong who was raking a hand through her hair came into my view.
She was wearing a black muscle tee that was a little too big on her and black sweat shorts.
I swallowed thickly as my eyes went down to her exposed left arm.
She had a tattoo.
It was a cluster of different kinds of snowflakes swirling around her upper arm up to her shoulder, clawing on the left side of her chest and down to her elbow. The ink was in a shade of blue which made it so pleasing in my eyes.
...she looked hot.
I kinda wanted to— you know— like— touch.
I was brought into reality when I heard her voice.
“Shall we begin?”
I internally slapped my face.
Get yourself together!
Don’t allow yourself to be a slave of her charm!
I sat on her bed while she chose to sit behind me. I don’t know if she could see the screen from there but I didn’t bother to ask. Maybe she was just going to sleep because we’re not going to watch a horror movie.
“What are we watching?”
I pursed my lips. “10 Things I Hate About You.”
She chuckled. “Now, isn’t that a bit too... relevant.”
That was the reason why I chose this movie in the first place.
Because it somehow reminded me of us.
Our dynamic specifically.
The beginning of the movie started and my attention was focused solely on the television. I had already watched this before, but it was too long ago I could no longer remember the details.
The female lead here was actually kind of a savage.
I love her personality.
“Winter?” I called out when a certain part of the movie came up. This was when things were about to get entertaining.
So, she was still awake.
“Would you do what Patrick did?”
“Pretend to be interested in a girl for money?” She scoffed. “No. That’s just ridiculous.”
She was rich, after all.
I fell silent again and turned my attention back to the screen. We were already in the middle of the movie where the male lead seemed to be falling for the female lead already when I felt her hands snaking their way around my waist and her chin resting on my shoulder.
I took in a deep breath.
This was nothing.
We were girlfriends.
This was normal.
I grabbed a handful of popcorn and stuffed them in my mouth, willing myself to focus on the movie so that I could ignore the heat that was beginning to spread in my body because of our proximity.
When I felt her lips on my nape, that was when I completely lost it.
Oh my god.
I tried to control my erratic breathing.
Then, she was planting feather-light kisses on my nape towards my shoulder, both her hands carefully caressing my arms which sent a thrilling shiver down my spine.
The butterflies in my stomach finally broke free.
They were waiting for this.
They yearned for her.
I no longer knew what was going on with what we were watching.
I can’t think of anything else aside from how good her lips felt on my skin.
However, even if I wanted to prolong this feeling, it was just not possible for I was going to explode if this went on.
And she did just as I told in a heartbeat.
She laughed slightly before pulling her face away from me.
I released a breath of relief.
I tried to watch again.
The movie was about to end but I didn’t understand a single thing.
This devil was the only one to blame.
I didn’t know why I couldn’t protest when she’s doing something... different to me.
It felt like the butterflies would get mad if I did that.
Minjeong had already gotten their hearts, it seemed.
I turned my attention back to the movie when I heard the voice of the female lead reading her own version of William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 141 in front of the class.
As I listened, I found myself enumerating the things I hate about the person I was with in my head.
10 Things I Hate About Minjeong Kim.
One, she was too intelligent.
Two, she was too arrogant.
Three, she was a slacker.
Four, she was cunning.
Five, she was selfish.
Six, she was manipulative.
Seven, she was an .
Eight, she was too attractive.
Nine, she was too y.
And the tenth thing I hate the most about her was how she managed to fool me into thinking that she was really all the negatives I listed above when she was actually not.
She was so good at pretending.
When the movie ended, I immediately turned to face her; the sudden movement surprising her a little.
“Do you hate me?”
“What?” Her forehead creased. “What’s with the question?”
“You know how I am towards you,” I said lowly. “It’s not surprising that there is a teeny bit of hate that bloomed inside your heart because of it.”
She stared at me for a while; then she was chuckling.
“So you are aware of how awful your actions are toward me.”
It took all of my willpower not to punch her face.
“Just answer the question.”
She scooted her body closer.
I in a breath.
Here it goes again.
The reaction of my body whenever she was near.
She had this kind of effect on me.
“No, I don’t hate you.”
With her eyes locked in on mine, she leaned her face close enough that I could practically count the strand of her eyelashes.
I wasn’t sure my heart had ever pounded this fast.
I could feel the adrenaline enter my veins, heat rising from my stomach to my chest.
“Not even close.”
I noticed a small scar on the side of her nose.
For a fleeting moment, I wondered how she got it.
I wanted to know everything about her.
And more than anything, I wanted to feel her lips on mine.
“Not even a little bit.”
I bit back a smile, catching on to the reference.
Her gaze flickered from my eyes down to my lips, then back up again.
The air conditioner of her room was on, but my body was burning.
“Not even at all.”
Just as the tension became unbearable, Minjeong’s lips crashed into mine. The warmth of sent a current running through my body.
I threw my arms around her neck as I lost myself in the sensation only she could give me, kissing her back with the same vigor.
Her lips were soft, almost silken, and pillowy against my own. I could feel the soft tickle of her breath under my nose, fingers digging into my waist as we breathed each other in.
A moan rumbled in my throat.
God, I never imagined I would say this.
But I missed this.
I missed her.
I parted my mouth and felt her washing over like a wave of warmth, curling my toes, unfurling all my senses as the taste of her nearly sent my thoughts in haywire.
Damn her lips.
Damn her tongue.
Her hand reached to hold my face, rubbing up and down, pulsing warmth as her tongue conquered every corner of my mouth, hungry, consuming, pulling me into a world only we knew.
I recalled her saying I was like a drug.
And she was high on me.
I could say the same.
She was so addicting it’s scary.
Then she was pulling away.
I had to stop myself from chasing her lips because , I wanted more.
She probably noticed it, for a mischievous smirk was beginning to plaster itself on her face.
“You loved it, huh?”
I knew it then.
I admit it.
Maybe I indeed am attracted to her.