I had liked Ryujin Kim for seven whole years.
It began as an admiration for the first person who approached me with genuine intentions and not because she knew she would gain something from me.
Also, she was attractive as hell.
It was a no-brainer that she would catch anyone’s attention.
I grew to like her over the years of watching her be the best version of herself from the distance.
I like how passionate she was.
The amount of effort and love that she puts into her dance was something that never failed to amaze me.
I like how hardworking she was.
Even though she was already born intelligent, she would still spend her free time in the library to do an advanced reading. There were also instances that I would see her walking along the hallway on the way to her classroom while holding a book.
I like how kindhearted she was.
She was the type who would smile at anyone even at those who dislike her.
If she knew a student was struggling to have passing grades, she was always there to tutor them without asking anything in return.
She was my ideal person.
Someone who I wanted to be my first in everything.
So, it was really ridiculous to think that I rejected her.
The thought of her reciprocating my feelings merely had me in disbelief.
My heartbeat picked up its pace, sure.
There was also joy.
She was Ryujin, after all.
But it was just that.
The butterflies were calm.
No unexplainable feelings were squirming in my chest.
Those dark brown eyes that bore into mine didn’t me in.
My body barely reacted.
It rendered me so confused.
Why did I hardly feel anything?
I initially assumed that the effect of her confession on me had only gotten delayed because it happened so out of the blue.
I was going to say yes.
And figure out the answer later on.
However, as soon as an image of a certain person popped into my mind, my decision crumbled into dust.
I had no idea why, but I was struck with an odd feeling that if I agree to date Ryujin now, I would lose her forever; that there’s no getting her back anymore.
That was something I would never allow to happen.
No way in hell.
The unexpected relationship that was founded over the course of our deal was something I would not trade for anything else.
“I’m sorry, Ryujin,” I said after a whole minute of remaining silent because I was too flabbergasted to process her question right away. “I-I can’t date you yet.”
Not until Winter and I made up, at least.
Which I wasn’t sure would happen.
“It’s fine, Jimin.” She smiled warmly, relief washing over her face. “I would wait for you, but that would be futile.”
“Futile?” I threw her a questioning gaze. “What do you mean?”
A mysterious smile adorned her lips.
“You will know why soon.”
“You are just like Winter,” I pointed out, rolling my eyes.
She looked at me, curious.
“What made you say so?”
“You both like being unnecessarily mysterious,” I said, pouting my lips unconsciously. “It is annoying sometimes.”
She chuckled. “I guess that is the result of reading mystery novels growing up. Though, Mj has always been hard to read.”
I bit my lower lip, reminded of a certain question that had been bugging my mind.
“D-Do you think she hates me?”
She stood up and walked up to me, her eyes gleaming in amusement.
I dropped my gaze on my feet.
I heard a rustle, the sound of her quiet footsteps heading away caused me to look up and see her near the entrance of the greenhouse.
“I doubt it.” She threw me a playful wink. “Mj is crazy over you.”
I swallowed thickly, my heart thumping loud upon hearing her response.
Winter was crazy over me...
“You think so..?”
“I know so,” she said as a matter of fact.
“But why is she ignoring me?”
Okay, that was a dumb question.
I know why she was ignoring me.
“Give her some time.” She smiled reassuringly. “She’ll come around.”
That morning, I was woken up by the loud banging on my door as if whoever on the other side wanted to destroy the poor piece of wood.
An annoyed groan rumbled in my throat as I dragged myself out of the bed.
It was only quarter to five.
A little earlier than my normal schedule.
I fell asleep around two o’clock in the morning earlier which means, I only had less than three hours of sleep.
I am literally a walking zombie.
“What the is your problem?” I snapped once I pulled the door open.
“Watch your language, Jimin.”
I frowned at the sight that welcomed me.
A lab coat.
A familiar stethoscope hanging on the neck.
“Jisoo?” I lazily rubbed my eyes while yawning. “What are you doing here?”
“Let’s have breakfast together,” she ordered flatly. “Hurry and fix yourself.”
My face crumpled in disbelief.
“You disturbed my sleep just for that?”
“I have work at seven, Jimin.” Her stare was stern. “I woke up early to spend time with you since I won’t be able to visit you this coming weekend.”
I scratched my nape, sighing in frustration.
Jisoo coming over to our home whenever she could was something I had always appreciated; except this when I had to sacrifice my sleep.
“Whatever.” I turned around. “I’ll be downstairs in a few.”
I headed for the bathroom to rinse my face and brush my teeth.
Today’s Wednesday; which was the start of the school festival.
For the first two days, several booths and food stalls would occupy the school grounds. There were also some programs indoors that the student council organized for those who do not enjoy festivities.
The last day was reserved for the school clubs.
This was what the majority of the students were looking forward to the most—especially those who were performing such as myself as we were finally going to be able to show off the fruit of our hard work for the past weeks.
Ah, this was exhilarating.
Our cook was still in the middle of preparing our breakfast when I got in the kitchen.
I could smell the scent of kimchi fried rice, fried eggs, sausages, and tofu lingering in the air, causing my stomach to rumble in hunger.
Jisoo was nowhere in sight.
I made my way out toward the living room to see her sitting comfortably on the sofa, observing me with keen eyes.
I sat across from her, putting my feet on the table out of habit.
She leaned forward, propping her elbows on her knees.
I internally scoffed.
The common starter for our every conversation, of course.
“Nothing much is going on because of the school festival,” I replied lazily. “Rehearsals are taking up the majority of class hours.”
Jisoo stared at me with newfound interest.
“When’s your performance?”
“I’m not sure what’s the exact time, but it will be on Friday afternoon.”
“Okay, I’ll be there,” she said, cheerily.
I raised an eyebrow. “Don’t you have work?”
It displeased our parents when they do not see Jisoo in the hospital during work hours. To them, every minute of slacking was every minute of patients dying. It was true, but humans were no superheroes. We deserve to rest from time to time.
“I’ll take the day off.” She shrugged. “I can’t miss your club’s performance.”
I looked over her incredulously.
Is she serious?
“You know the old hags won’t be happy if they find out what you are planning, right?”
She waved her hand as if to dismiss my concern. “I’ll take care of it.”
I stopped myself from arguing any further.
It was going to be her problem, anyway.
We headed straight to the kitchen after we conversed about her work.
It was just a series of complaints that she could hardly sleep these past few days because she had so many things to take care of.
I just didn’t pay much attention to her because I knew she very much liked what she was doing.
I also sent a message to Ryujin that she didn’t have to pick me up since Jisoo offered to be my driver for today to prolong our “bonding”.
Initially, I refused because it was still too early to be going to school when the first day of the festival would begin at ten. However, she was so persistent and even provided an excuse that it wasn’t often that she could do be a good older sibling to me, so I had no other choice but to give in eventually.
As soon as we were done eating, I went straight to the bathroom to wash myself thoroughly; then donned my school uniform that our maid ironed neatly afterward.
On the way, Jisoo played some classical music in her car’s stereo while I had my head turned away, staring into space while thinking of a certain short-haired girl who was still ignoring me.
I had to come up with a different approach.
It couldn’t go on like this.
Should I be forceful?
Would that be fine to do?
Or listen to Ryujin’s advice to give her time?
That was probably the best choice.
But what if I would become too late by then?
What if she realized she deserved someone better?
Someone who wouldn’t hurt her?
I mean, yes, she deserved that kind of person but...
...I could be better.
I flinched at the sudden intrusion in my train of thoughts.
“I didn’t know Minjeong and you are close now,” she said, playfully. “I thought you hate her?”
Oh, she must be talking about the scene we made during Mrs. Kim’s birthday celebration that no one seemed to make a big deal of.
Not a single soul in and out of our school was gossiping about the matter since it happened for some reason.
It was a good thing, of course.
Still, it was strange.
“Things happened,” I replied.
I pressed my lips together, a bit hesitant to confide in her for two reasons. First, telling our problems to each other wasn’t our thing. Second, I had a feeling she would just tease the hell out of me once she knew what was bothering me.
Then again, Jisoo could be of help.
After all, she was my sister.
“Have you ever fallen in love, Jisoo?”
The car stopped all of a sudden, sending me almost crashing on the dashboard if it wasn’t for the seatbelt keeping me in place.
“What the ?” I blurted out. “Do you really know how to drive?”
She glanced at me, wide-eyed as if I just told her a top-secret that would trigger the third world war.
“Are you seriously asking me that?”
I palmed my forehead.
I am already regretting my decision.
“You know what? Never mind.”
“I have already fallen in love.”
Now, that was quite a surprise.
I stared at her, perplexed.
Jisoo was the type who prioritized studies over anything else.
She doesn’t even go out of our home unless necessary.
I never would have imagined she kind of had an experience in romance.
“Can you tell me about it?”
The smile that she had worn didn’t reach her eyes.
“Let’s just say, I was too late to realize I was in love with her,” she muttered, tone melancholic. “When I did, she was already in love with someone else.”
I stiffened, the words too late ringing in my ears.
A sense of urgency to talk to Winter suddenly grew immense.
whatever she was playing.
It had to be today.
Jisoo left after dropping me off the school in a hurry; Mom was already demanding her presence in the hospital, apparently.
That woman really had no chill.
There were barely any students scattered around the campus saved for the ones who were setting up their stalls and booths. Some members of the council were also there to make sure everything would go on smoothly.
I wonder if Winter was already here.
I made my way toward the music club to pass by the time. We had no rehearsal today to give us enough time to rest, so I’m sure no one would be in there.
However, upon opening up the door, I spotted Yeji on the corner, mindlessly plucking the strings of her bass.
It appeared that she was in deep thought.
This was new.
She looked up, smiling a bit when she recognized me. “Hey, cupcake.”
Yeji was good at masking her own emotions, but right now, I could clearly see that she’s got something on her mind.
“You okay?” I pulled a chair beside her, settling myself down with a soft thud.
“Yeah, don’t worry.” She set down her bass on the nearby table. “What’s up?”
Swerving the subject smoothly, I see.
That behavior reminded me of a certain someone.
I shook my head.
Now’s not the time.
“Excited for our performance,” I said. “This is our third and last year in the music club.”
Time really flies.
I felt as if it was only yesterday when I became a member of this club; when it was so difficult for me to socialize.
Ah, what a journey it was.
“Yeah.” She chuckled. “Who would’ve thought we were going to be friends? You were so closed-off back then.”
I laughed along with her, remembering those days when I wouldn’t even look at the other members’ faces.
“I could say the same to you,” I said. “You were so rude.”
“Yeah well, I still kind of am,” she replied with a nonchalant shrug. “You couldn’t blame me. People are hella lame.”
She used to say that a lot, alright.
Though, upon learning a piece of information about her, it left me wondering.
“How did you become friends with Lia Choi if you believe people are lame?”
Her face fell.
...okay, maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned her.
I was about to retract my words, but she was speaking again.
“We are childhood friends,” she shared monotonously. “And she is one of the few people I don’t find lame. Hell, she is the best person for me even.”
I stared at her closely as I processed her words.
The gentle tone of her voice.
The twinkle of administration in her eyes.
The warm expression on her face.
I bit back a sly grin.
You ain’t so slick, Yeji Hwang.
“Best person, huh?” I quipped, fishing for more details about her “best friend”.
“Yeah, that’s why it annoys me how she is so head over heels for that Minjeong Kim who doesn’t give a flying about her.” She clenched her jaws. “She deserves someone better.”
“Someone like you?”
“Yeah,” she replied, absentmindedly; then a scandalized look flashed across her face upon realizing her blunder, “Shut up, Jimin Yoo!”
I broke out into a fit of laughter while pointing a finger at her.
Who would’ve thought she would have a slip of the tongue just like that?
So, that was the reason why her hatred for Winter was that deep.
The devil used the girl she was in love with for her own benefit and discarded her once she grew bored of her.
Anyone would be mad.
“Darn it, cupcake.” She pursed her lips, refraining herself from smiling. “I don’t even have anything to say for myself.”
I threw an arm over her shoulders, bringing her close to me. “So? Does she know?”
“Nah, no way.” The way she said it, it was as if the idea itself was absurd. “I do not plan on letting her know.”
Yeji doesn’t strike me as someone who would make the first move, anyway.
“It’s complicated, cupcake.” She shook her head, a bitter smile across her lips. “Besides, some things are better left unsaid.”
We left the music club around nine o’clock with Yeji heading for the school chapel to watch the chorale’s rehearsal. Apparently, her best friend was also a member of the chorale along with Aeri and Yizhuo.
I would join her, but Ryujin called me earlier, asking me I was free to accompany her to the mall because there was a book she wanted to buy.
Since there was still an hour before the festival, I agreed to come with her. Moreover, I had to speak to her about the unexpected confession yesterday.
That damn confession was one of the reasons why I had a hard time falling asleep earlier.
I walked along the corridors past the students and staff members. Some of them were following me with their eyes, probably wondering why I was alone.
I continued walking until I was out of the building. It was quite a cloudy day, and the sun could barely make its presence known. The wind was also a bit strong, swaying the gigantic trees surrounding the school simultaneously.
People had begun pouring in the school grounds by now, chattering by themselves with apparent enthusiasm; there were those who were lining up the stalls already, thrilled to try out what the organizers prepared for them.
I stopped in front of the main gate where Ryujin was waiting, looking so effortlessly attractive so early in the morning.
Her face brightened up as she was me before jogging my way.
“Hey, Jimin,” she greeted, joyously. “Let’s go?”
I nodded. “Let’s.”
“What book are you going to buy?” I asked as we rattled through the almost deserted floor of the mall.
It was probably too early for the public to roam around the air-conditioned shopping building.
Ryujin seemed to not be behaving out of the ordinary as if what happened yesterday was just a figment of my imagination.
It had me wondering if I should even bring it up at all.
Maybe not today.
“The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly,” she returned as we took the escalator leading to where the book store was located. “I heard the story is amazing.”
The mention of the title caught my curiosity.
“A mystery novel?”
“Yep,” she said, popping the ‘p’. “Interested, are you?”
I am interested, of course.
It had been a while since I’d been to a bookstore.
“I’ll have to read the synopsis first before I decide whether to get a copy or not.”
I am quite picky when it comes to things that I had a lot of love for.
A half-assed storyline is a big no.
As we were nearing our destination, I caught sight of something that caused my face to distort in utter annoyance.
What a freaking coincidence.
She was with a girl.
A new face, again.
As if seeing Winter’s arms around the girl’s waist—which was her favorite move to do to me—wasn’t enough, the unknown girl also had several bags of designer brand hanging on both her hands.
I just knew it was Winter who bought all of them for her.
That was part of the reason why girls were lining up for her.
She spoils them without limitations.
Money wasn’t important to her.
Not at all.
I internally scoffed.
So, she was just here; playing around like the freaking womanizer that she was.
“What’s up?” Ryujin said, casually.
“We’re about to go back to school.” Her gaze was cold—piercing even—that I had chills even if it wasn’t directed at me. “How about you?”
“About to buy the book I’ve been telling you about,” Ryujin replied. “Want a copy for yourself?”
“I’m good, thanks.” She tugged her fling who was just quiet, looking down on her feet throughout the sibling’s exchange. “Come on, sweetheart.”
How ing cringy!
“You shouldn’t waste your money on people like her,” I mumbled as they were passing by me, causing her to halt her steps.
She chuckled humorlessly, her face devoid of any human emotions.
“What I do with my money is none of your business.”
“See you around, Jimin Yoo.”
They were already out of my sight, but I was still staring into space, beyond dumbfounded at what had just happened.
The frigid treatment she had just shown me had me hearing a faint sound of something fragile breaking in the distance, though, I hadn’t the slightest idea what was it that was making that noise.
Yes, it surely wasn’t the sound of my heart shattering just a little.