19: It’s Real

Yooji: Love is War

               I thought it would take a lot more convincing from a third party in order for me to experience some sort of an epiphany and admit to myself that I was attracted to the person I used to hate until just recently.

               I would have never even imagined it would come so... easy like a walk in the park.

               It happened just like that.

               I didn’t even go through the state of denial where I would make myself believe anything to rebuff the idea.

               It was most probably because of that.

               Something stirred in me after our second kiss.

               That kiss was different in a way that I allowed it to happen not because I got swept up in the moment.

               I could make that excuse if that was the first time, but no, that wasn’t the case.

               I wanted it to happen.

               Then this particular question would come.

               Why?

               The answer was simple.

               I figured that out as soon as her lips left mine and showed me that smirk of hers that I grew to find so y over the time.

               I was attracted to her.

               That was the only rational reason.

               She was right about what she told me.

               I lack control over myself whenever our bodies were near.

               No one could really blame me.

               Minjeong Kim was irresistible.

               She possessed this kind of charm that could captivate anybody.

               Perhaps, I was aware of this glaring fact even before yesterday happened.

               It was just I was so focused on her negative personality traits to justify my hatred for her that I had failed to acknowledge everything that was positive about her.

               Only now was I realizing just what kind of a person she really was.

               ...and she was something.

               However, I would never admit this realization to her.

               My pride wouldn’t allow me to do that.

               Besides, it was merely an attraction.

               Something that was short-lived.

               It was nothing compared to what I feel for Ryujin.

               Hence, I had every intention to keep this attraction to myself until it disappears.

               The sound of the school bell indicated the end of today’s Science lesson. Due to the series of brain-wrecking equations, my classmates had been eagerly waiting for this moment which was evident with how they all simultaneously released an audible sigh of relief.

               Standing on the platform before us, our professor cleared their throat before giving us their parting words.

               “Before I go, I want to remind you about your project that is due a week after the school festival. Should you fail to submit it on time, you will automatically get a failing grade this term. Is that clear?” they said which earned exasperated nods from the majority of the class. “Class dismissed.”

               One by one, my classmates stood up while our professor was erasing the writings on the board. The equations were so complicated that a few of us had almost gotten a nosebleed just to get the correct solution.

               It wasn’t that difficult for me though.

               I was putting my notebook and pen in my bag when I heard our professor calling for me.

               “Miss Yoo, a moment please?”

               I stopped and looked up to see them giving me a pointed look which had me gulping in anxiousness.

               Did I do something wrong in the class that prompted them to call my attention?

               ...maybe they had noticed that I was spacing out the entire discussion.

               With hesitant steps, I approached the teacher’s desk where they were carefully tidying their stuff.

               “What is it, Prof?”

               They arranged the pile of books on the desk according to their height and width and turned to me. I couldn’t guess what was going on in their mind because of the expressionless face they were showing me.

               “I heard about your Mathematics project from your professor,” they began with a dull tone. “It was the talk of the faculty for days.”

               I took in a sharp breath.

               I didn’t expect they’d talk to me about that particular matter of all things.

               How was that even related to this subject they were teaching?

               “Ah, really?”

               It was the talk of the faculty.

               I don’t know if I should be happy about that.

               “I didn’t see the contents but I’m certain your professor has every reason to brag about it. It was probably a splendid project worthy of every award there is.”

               Oh, it was alright.

               I’d be more surprised if they told me otherwise.

               The one who made it was the top-performing student in the country, after all.

               “You are one of the best students of this school.” A glimpse of expectance was etched on their face. “And I am looking forward to the same result for your project in my subject.”

               My face fell.

               Ah.

               I see how it is.

               They really asked for a moment of my time only to put unnecessary pressure on me when they could’ve just kept their mouth closed.

               I couldn’t believe this.

               And here I thought I would only get this kind of treatment from my mentor.

               “I understand, Prof.”

               When they didn’t say anything further, I bowed my head and immediately took my leave. If only I could say I wasn’t the one responsible for that project so I wouldn’t have to deal with this high expectation I didn’t sign up for.

               The first and the last time I asked someone for help was now coming back to bite me in the .

               “You look like you’re in deep thought.”

               I raised my head and saw Aeri waiting for me in the corridor. It was subtle, but I could see a glint of concern in her eyes.

               “It’s nothing important, Ri.”

               “Are you sure?” she said before we began walking. “It has been a while since I last saw you looking so... distressed.”

                I crossed my arms across my chest and looked at the ceiling. It has been a while, indeed. I would only feel this way if there was an upcoming major piano competition that I must win, but never in academics; or at least, not anymore. The last time was when I still couldn’t accept that I was forced to take on the role of being the second-best.

               “I am fine,” I replied in the most convincing way possible, “I’m just thinking about some things that, well, I can’t tell you.”

               She stared at me, intrigued.

               “And why is that?”

               “I don’t want to bother you, Ri.” I smacked my lips out of habit. “Besides, it’s something I can manage on my own.”

               I heard her mumble incoherent words.

               “What?”

               “I said, I’m just here if you ever change your mind, Yooji.”

               That had me curling the side of my lips upward.

               We parted ways when we reached the staircase.

               Aeri went downstairs to meet with the members of the chorale while I went upstairs to the fifth floor where the music club was located.

               One thing I noticed upon stepping inside the room was how almost all of the members were looking in the same direction. They were visibly flabbergasted as if they’d seen an apparition.

               “You are probably the reason why she’s here.”

               I jumped out of surprise when I heard a voice behind me. Turning around, I saw Yeji’s curious gaze and her lips pursed. She seemed to want to say something more but was holding herself back for some reason.

               “W-What do you mean?” I asked.

               Her expression remained the same.

               “Minjeong Kim has joined the club.” She clicked her tongue. “I know it’s normal since she is a musician; a gifted one, no less. But we both know the recruitment week has already ended a couple of months ago.”

               I stood frozen.

               Minjeong what...

               “She has never shown any interest in our club all these years. The fact that she suddenly changed her mind is highly suspicious. I’m sure it has something to do with you, cupcake.”

               I bit my lower lip.

               Oh my god.

               Panic slowly bubbled up in my chest as I followed my clubmates’ line of sight until I saw a person who was not supposed to be here fiddling with the awfully familiar violin.

               “What the hell...”

               I was probably dreaming.

               This couldn’t be real.

               There was no way she would be here in this place.

               “You seem to be in disbelief,” Yeji noted as she gazed upon my face in scrutiny. “You weren’t informed beforehand then.”

               I wasn’t.

               We were with each other yesterday for hours and she never mentioned anything nor had she displayed any signs about wanting to join the music club.

               She appeared perfectly normal as if she wasn’t brewing something evil in her mind.

               “How long has she been here?”

               “I can’t say for sure,” she said. “She’s already here when I arrived and that was almost an hour ago.”

               I see.

               It was possible that she has been here for more than an hour now then.

               My breath was caught in my throat when she caught me staring. A horrific scenario played itself before me. Minjeong behaving friendly towards me which would for sure fuel the suspicions the members already had about us since the “truce”.

               However, it never happened.

               Didn’t even show me her infamous y smirk.

               Didn’t even bat me an eye.

               She flat-out ignored my existence.

               I should be relieved.

               This was what I wanted in the first place.

               For everyone to think we weren’t associated with each other.

               But why was I feeling the same emotion that I felt when she did the same thing back in the training camp?

               Why was I grinding my teeth together?

               Why was I clenching my fists?

               Why was I glaring at her?

               Why do I hate it?

               “Ohhhh.” I heard a low whistle. “Did you guys fight or something?”

               “Shut up, Yeji.”

               She held her hands up in mock surrender as she stifled a laugh, so amused for some reason.

               Ugh.

               Okay, calm down.

               Don’t let this get into you.

               This was nothing you couldn’t handle, Jimin Yoo.

               Yes, that’s right.

               I inhaled a lungful of air through my nose and then exhaled through my mouth.

               I continued for a minute with my eyes closed.

               Once my breathing went back to normal, I began to march my way to my keyboard and dropped myself on the monoblock chair, eyes never leaving the accursed devil who was on the other side of the room.

               She was spinning a pen with great expertise using her free hand while her eyes were riveted on the music sheet on the stand. Seeing her look so focused was such a sight to see as she was like a whole different person. I guess, she takes being a musician seriously.

               I found myself drowning in my thoughts as I stared at her.

               I wasn’t sure what to think, really.

               Her reason for joining was unknown.

               I would say she did it on purpose to annoy me.

               However, I knew her a bit better now.

               She was a woman of her words.

               ...and she wasn’t that petty.

               She said she’d do what I asked of her and she would without doing something as mischievous as joining the same club as mine just because.

               There must be a reasonable explanation for her unexpected decision.

               But what could it be?

               My eyebrows furrowed when I saw her put the pen down on the nearby table and pull her phone out from her pocket before tapping continuously on the screen and then placing it on top of the music sheet after.

               Then I felt my phone vibrate.

 

               1 Message: Cruella de Vil

 

               Oh, look what we’ve got here.

 

Cruella de Vil:     Take a picture. It’ll last longer.

Jimin:     What are you saying?

Cruella de Vil:     You are staring.

Jimin:     I’m not!

Cruella de Vil:     It’s alright, babe.
                                  It must be difficult for you to take your eyes off me.

Jimin:     Lol. You are so full of yourself.

Cruella de Vil:     I’m just stating the truth :p

 

               I looked up to see her staring at me with an arched eyebrow along with a faint smirk on her lips.

               On normal days, I’d probably be annoyed and give her a nasty glare.

               However, seeing as she wasn’t actually ignoring me and even showed me what I was expecting to see earlier had me releasing a sigh of relief.

               I assume, she was just probably being cautious because we were in public.

               Everything she does was well calculated, indeed.

 

Jimin:     Why did you join?

Cruella de Vil:     Let’s talk about it in my car later.

 

               Might as well.

               I didn’t reply anymore and proceeded to play the songs we learned in the training camp so we could finally start rehearsing together next week.

               It’d be an exhausting and fun week at the same time.

               Minjeong plays the violin which meant she’d be added to the vibraphone section. I wonder how it would affect our band as a whole.

               A prodigious violinist joining a high school music club. No one in their right mind would miss the chance to show her off and promote our club in the process.

               If the world finds out that the Minjeong Kim would perform in the school festival, thousands of people would come rushing to our school to watch her personally. After all, that kind of opportunity doesn’t happen very often.

               I’m sure major changes would have to be made.

               Various musical tunes were heard inside the four walls of the room. Everyone was so focused on perfecting their parts. This was one of those days I was glad I was a member of this club. Every single member was so passionate in what they do. It was so contagious that I found myself pushing myself to do even better.

               My eyes would wander her way from time to time since she was the only one who wasn’t holding an instrument. I was actually waiting for her to perform a piece before us since that was what new members do on their first day. It was a tradition of our club.

               I was thrilled.

               I’d been wanting to watch her play the violin personally.

               Unfortunately, she didn’t

               I guess, she was an exemption because she was Minjeong Kim.

               There was nothing to prove.

               What a shame.

 

 

 


               An hour later, we were both inside her car, driving furiously for their house. She was alone again today for the same reason. Hence, she was bringing me in there for the second time around this week.

               She didn’t say it was a date.

               Maybe she just wanted my company.

               Reminds me.

               I haven’t seen Ryujin since our date in the ramen shop.

               Even in the cafeteria, there was no luck.

               I hope she was doing fine.

               From the corner of my eyes, I could see her bobbing her head to the beat of the music coming from her car’s stereo.

               “So, why did you join the music club?” I said, bringing forward the topic that needed to be addressed as soon as possible.

               “They’re good.”

               “Huh?”

               “The members of the music club,” she clarified. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d assume they were professionals.”

               Ah.

               I see what she was trying to do.

               Diverting the subject to avoid answering my question.

               Oh, well.

               Let’s humor her for a bit.

               “I know.” My lips twitched into a proud smile. “That’s one of the reasons why I joined in the first place. They are all amazing in their own ways.”

               She gave me a nod of acknowledgment.

               “I noticed how different you are when you are with them,” she remarked which earned my curiosity. “I reckon, the music club is your safe space. You were glowing back there, Karina.”

               That brought a blush to my cheeks.

               I didn’t know that...

               Was I really glowing?

               “Ah...”

               “I’m certain you guys will dominate the school festival.”

               Hold on.

               “You aren’t going to perform with us?”

               She shook her head.

               “No.”

               “What?” I threw her a confused look. “Then what is your reason for joining?”

               “Simple.” She briefly gazed upon me before focusing back on the road. “So, I’ll see you more often.”

               I covered my face in dismay.

               That was just a Minjeong thing to do.

               She would take full advantage of her privilege to get what she wants.

               I should’ve known.

               When we arrived at their house, I expected us to watch a movie again in her room so I prepared myself to stride on their kitchen to rummage their refrigerator for snacks. Movie was so much better if you have something to munch on.

                However, it seemed like she had other plans for today.

               “Follow me,” she said as she began ascending the staircase. “There’s something I want to show you.”

               She lead me to the last door on the second floor.

               It was a large square room, looking all the larger from the absence of furniture saved for the table and a chair in the middle. Small chandeliers hung above us to illuminate the area. On the walls were numerous humongous bookshelves that go from floor to ceiling.

               My eyes twinkled at the marvelous sight before me.

               It was a freaking library!

               “Every shelf is filled with Mystery novels from all over the world,” I heard her say. “Amazing, isn’t it?”

               I unconsciously nodded my head.

               My feet moved on their own to approach the nearest shelf to scan each spine of the books while my heart was pounding against my chest in excitement.

               Arthur Conan Doyle, Osamu Dazai, Edgar Allan Poe, Ranpo Edogawa, and many more popular mystery writers’ works were all here for me to admire.

               “You bought all of these?”

               I was in awe.

               This was the first time I’d seen so many mystery novels in one place.

               It was a feast.

               A heaven on earth!

               “No,” she answered. “Taeyeon, Ryujin, and I are the owners of this library.”

               I see.

               All of them shared the same love for mystery.

               That’s so adorable.

               “Here.” I turned around to see her cradling something in her arms. “This is what I want to show you.”

               It was a book.

               And not just any book.

               The 100th anniversary edition of the Mysterious Affair at Styles

               “Oh my god...” I whispered, mouth agape.

               “I knew you’d be surprised.”

               Surprised was an understatement.

               God, I’d been meaning to get myself a copy for a while now, but it was always out of stock!

               This devil was so lucky.

               “I thought you prefer Arthur Conan Doyle more than Agatha Christie?” I queried curiously. ”Why would you buy a special edition of one of her works?”

               I watched as she stood next to me and grazed her fingers on the books in the shelf, a small smile on her lips. Her expression was fond as if she was looking at something so precious to her and maybe it really was.

               “I came across this book while I was aimlessly scrolling through an online shop.” She peered over her shoulders. “It reminded me of you. Remember that day when my family held a party for our hospital’s grand opening?”

               I blinked.

               “Yes...”

               “It was this book that you were reading.”

               I remember that quite well.

               That was the first time someone called me stupid, after all.

               “And it became your favorite book because of that one time?” I provided. “That’s the reason why you bought this?”

               “Don’t be stupid.” She scoffed, looking so offended.“The Sign of the Four will always be my favorite.”

               I disregarded the insult to avoid violence.

               “Then why are you showing this to me?”

               “Karina...” she regarded me in disbelief. “Are you actually really stupid?”

               My eyebrows twitched in annoyance.

               “What?!”

               “It’s a gift.”

               “...a gift?” I repeated, puzzled. “But my birthday has already passed.”

               “Did I say it’s a birthday gift?”

               Now, I was becoming more and more confused.

               Why couldn’t she just get straight to the point?

               What’s with the suspense?

               “Then what is this for?”

               “Nothing.” She shrugged. “I just want to give you a gift.”

               I eyed her, dumbfounded.               

               You’re telling me she spent a huge amount of money to buy me a book for no reason?

               I don’t believe this.

               “Why are you doing this?”

               “Doing what?”

               “This.”

               I motioned the book in her arms to get my point across.

               “I’m afraid I don’t know what you are talking about.”

               I rolled my eyes.

               She’s still feigning ignorance.

               She must really think I’m stupid.

               “Quit it with the lies,” I spat out. “You know exactly what I am talking about.”

               She stared at me with an unreadable expression on her face.

               Then a pause.

               She didn’t provide me with an answer right away which made the air growing awkward.

               “Must there always be a reason?”

               “Of course,” I retorted. “For every action, there is a reason. Even if one is not aware of that motive; we cannot act without an emotion motivating an action.”

               Her footsteps didn’t make a sound as she walked around the room, her hands behind her.

               “Well, haven’t I already told you several times?”

               Oh.

               She must be talking about that.

               “That it’s because you are in love with me?”

               “What else?”

               “So, you are doing this because you are in love with me.”

               She stopped near the window and peeked at their garden outside.

               “That is what I have been saying.”

               “How do you even know that it’s love?”

               She craned her neck to stare at me intently.

               Though I could never guess what was going on in her mind, I had a strong feeling that she doesn’t want to answer my question.

               “Karina—”

               “How are you sure that what you feel for me is real?”

               A dead silence ensued.

               The temperature of the room dropped all of a sudden.

               “Are you seriously asking me that?”

               I nodded.

               There was no harm in asking.

               “You are still doubting my feelings, I see,” she said slowly, emphasizing the third word.

               “I am not doubting your feelings,” I corrected her. “I am just curious. You are the kind of person who doesn’t do feelings. I know because I’ve seen you play around with women.”

               I must’ve hit a nerve.

               She heaved a sigh as her head hung low and her hands balled into fists.

               “So, how? How do you know you are in love with me?”

               It took a while before she raised her head.

               What I saw rendered me speechless.

               She was looking at me ever so affectionately with glazed eyes that seemed to speak to my soul.

               The look on her face was akin to how she looked at the books earlier.

               A smile showing her dimple that had me holding my breath because wow that was something I don’t see everyday. 

               Minjeong Kim without her mask on was so beautiful.

               “If you could love someone, and keep loving them even without being loved back, then surely, that love has to be real, right? It hurts too much to be anything else.”

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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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