Have I ever been hurt before?
The answer would be, yes, I have.
All because of my parents’ negligence and shortcomings.
The first time was when I was six years old; when they failed to show up in a major competition I was competing in.
I remember playing the piano like a programmed robot; a human metronome who strictly followed the music score sheet without fail—without any emotion to draw in the crowd because I was too occupied drowning in the ocean of sadness for the apparent lack of support of the people dear to me.
Jisoo was there to cheer me on, even had that look of pride when I was announced as the victor, but even that wasn’t enough to erase the pain away.
The second was my first family day as a primary school student; they were too busy to accompany me and participate in the activities the organizers prepared.
I was forced to enjoy the event with only Jisoo as my family while trying to ignore the envy gnawing inside my chest seeing my classmates happily bonding with their parents.
The third was when I spent my 9th birthday alone in our deserted house because my parents thought I was already a big girl who doesn’t bother with parties anymore and chose to work at the hospital all day instead; no calls nor messages.
Jisoo would’ve celebrated my birthday with me if only she had no thesis to work on that would require her to spend the entire day in the public library nearby; promising to make it up to me the next day which I really appreciated.
They just went on with their lives as if nothing happened; as if they did not just hurt their youngest child by acting nonchalant about my special day.
That’s when I finally drew the line.
I ultimately decided to just stop caring and all.
I had enough.
Ever since then, I chose to put up sturdy walls around my heart, swearing to myself that I would never let anyone hurt me again; not even my so-called parents.
I would have never imagined that it would only take one Winter Kim — the same person I had sworn to hate all my life — to smash those walls that guarded my heart for years into smithereens like nobody’s business.
God was it painful to see her regard me as nothing when she used to look at me as if I was her everything.
I hate it.
I hate it so much.
She was supposed to be in love with me…
I shouldn’t be mulling over this at this moment; not when I am in the middle of the mall.
“I’m sorry about Mj,” Ryujin spoke, bringing my attention back to her. “I have no idea what’s running in her mind.”
After purchasing the book that she wanted, we decided to roam around the mall to while the time away before we return to school since there’s still an hour left before the festival begins.
If I was still the Jimin Yoo from months ago, I would definitely see this as a romantic date; however, after all, that had happened for the past weeks, that was the last thing on my mind.
“It’s fine.” I sighed. “I probably deserved it, anyway.”
“I won’t argue with that,” she said, smiling playfully. “I may not know exactly what happened between you two, but I have a feeling that it has something to do with your inability to come to terms with your own feelings.”
I lowered my head in embarrassment, finding the bland floor suddenly interesting.
Come to terms with my own feelings…?
Was that really why?
“Do you really think it’s possible for me to like your sister?” I queried, timidly. “You do realize how much I hate her before, right?”
Ryujin hadn’t responded right away; instead, she continued walking at a slow pace until we reached a bench placed behind a pillar, facing the small garden filled with bushes and flowers.
“Human emotions are tricky,” she finally replied after taking a seat. “The way it works, more often than not, is incomprehensible. You could be swimming in the clouds in ecstasy one minute, and then drowning in despair the next minute. Having said that, I think you should be focusing more on what you are currently feeling and disregard the fact that you used to hate her in the past. You will surely reach a conclusion beyond reasonable doubt to your dilemma that way.”
I had fallen silent over that as I carefully took in everything that she had said with an open mind.
Disregard the past, huh?
I wonder if it was that easy.
To just forget and move forward.
“Don’t allow the past to ruin your present and future, Jimin Yoo.” I returned my gaze at her when she spoke again. “Or you will regret it.”
I meekly nodded my head, understanding what she was trying to get across, and yes, she made several points.
“I get your point. But it’s not just that, you know?” I sat on the space beside her, avoiding her eyes because of what I was about to say. “I l-like you, Ryujin.”
There was a brief silence; then she was chuckling.
“Why did you reject me if that is the case?”
I bit my lower lip, a bit hesitant as to whether to reveal the reason why or lie my way through it again. Then I realized, lying wasn’t going to solve anything.
“Because I feel like I would lose Winter if I agreed to date you…”
She stared at me for a while, seemingly trying to guess what was going on in my mind, and I shrunk a bit, feeling conscious.
“So, you don’t want to lose her?”
“O-Of course, I don’t.”
This question again...
“I just don’t.” I drew in a breath, fiddling with the hem of my blazer. “I-I want her in my life.”
Ryujin hummed, looking in deep thought for a second before saying, “Let me ask you this then.”
I glanced at her, curious.
“What is it?”
“Are you fine with her having different girls every single day?”
My eyebrows furrowed in displeasure.
Images of Winter’s arm wrapped around that unknown girl’s waist was sending me in a whirlwind of
“I’m not, what the hell!”
I didn’t expect the teasing grin that formed in her lips upon hearing my answer, as if she knew something I don’t.
“And why is that?” She asked in a sing-song tone. “It’s not like you two are girlfriends.”
That rendered me caught off guard.
A reality check.
She was right.
Winter wasn’t my girlfriend.
She never was.
I shouldn’t be feeling this odd possessiveness that I have for her.
But I do.
Ryujin gently shook her head, a patient expression etched on her face she raised a hand to pat my head. “You’re confused, and that’s okay. You’ll figure things out eventually.”
I averted my gaze from her, letting it fall on the garden instead, and pondered the last sentence that she had said.
I hope so.
Because I feel like I am already running out of time.
“Shall we go?” she quipped in, taking a glance at her wristwatch. “It’s almost time.”
I was too occupied dealing with my thoughts to provide a verbal response and settled on just nodding my head.
Upon returning to the campus, the festival had already commenced, and wow, they really went all out this year.
There was a small Ferris wheel, carousel, variety of food stalls — including the ever-popular cotton candy, dozens of carnival games, and that was all within the space I could see from where I was standing.
I peered over my companion, and couldn’t help my lips from curving into an amused smile at the sight.
Ryujin’s eyes were sparkling, a thrilled look adorning her adorable face, and it seemed like she wanted to try everything at once if only that was humanly possible.
“Oh, not really.” She rubbed her nape, grinning coyly. “It’s just that it never gets old.”
I looked away, feeling my blood rushing all the way up to my face to color it red.
God, was that so endearing.
“Anyway.” She cleared ; then gave me a broad smile. “Thank you for accompanying me.”
“Don’t mention it,” I replied, returning the smile. “It’s my pleasure.”
It proved to be a little of a wise decision, anyway, since I got to encounter that person, albeit doing her usual monkey business, and made me feel like .
“I need to get going now. Chaer is probably looking for me already.” Then, she started walking towards where the crowd was before spinning around to walk backward. “See you later, Jimin.”
I nodded and waved my hand, following her with my eyes until she disappeared into the rowdiness of the festival.
I found myself heaving a deep sigh.
That was that, huh?
I guess, today’s not the day where we would talk about her unexpected confession yesterday.
Oh, well, maybe another time.
I was about to make my way toward the main building, meaning to stay in the music club in the meantime, but stopped when I felt a soft tug on my uniform, causing me to turn around to see Aeri who looked like she had run a marathon.
Their practice ended just in time, it seemed.
“I’ve been looking for you everywhere!” she hissed, catching her breath. “Where were you?”
I unconsciously scratched my brow, almost forgetting about our unspoken tradition to always spend the school festival together.
“Uh, well, I was with Ryujin.”
“Huh, why?” She asked, puzzled; then she was shaking her head. “Never mind. Let’s go ride the carousel! I’ve been looking forward to it!”
I rolled my eyes when she giddily skipped her way toward the said ride, before starting to drag my feet to follow after her, eyes wandering around the exuberant swarm of students.
There was conversation among friends, having a world of their own, some held a hand against their foreheads to shield themselves from the sun as they queue for which that caught their interest, and those who were just watching the scenes unfold before them on the sidelines.
“Where’s Yizhuo?” I asked once I caught up with Aeri who was now walking at a normal pace.
“She’s busy with her duties as the secretary.” There was a hint of disappointment in her tone, lips pouting childishly. “Though, she said she’ll be free later in the afternoon.”
That person was probably also busy then.
Unless she decided to skip her duties and be with her chosen girl today instead to do god knows what.
“I didn’t know you were the clingy type,” I teased, poking her side. “You like her that much?”
She crossed her arms, glaring at me.
“While it is true that I like her that much, no, I am not clingy.”
“Sure, you are not.”
I held back a chortle when I saw her huff, looking so annoyed at my faux nonchalance, but the blush tinting her face didn’t go unnoticed.
A slow smile worked its way across my face and into my eyes.
You’ve got it bad, Ri.
After a few more swerves, sidesteps and gentle pushes, we finally found ourselves in front of the carousel. One thing that caught my attention was the neon signage displayed hastily on top of the ride. Inside the mini booth — which I assumed was where we would buy a ticket — stood a senior student who politely smiled upon seeing us approaching.
Upon paying for our tickets, we immediately entered and mounted our chosen horse and waited for it to move around.
I leaned my head on the metal pole, opting to eye the crowd that was shining in the morning light, moving like enchanting shoals of fish to entertain myself when I noticed a familiar face a couple of meters away from me.
Standing proudly with both of her hands shoved inside the pockets of her blazer, head turning back and forth as if to observe if the festival was going smoothly, she was attracting quite the attention because of the strong, authoritative aura that was surrounding her.
I boldly fixated my gaze on her expressionless face, knowing that she would not waste her time giving me even a single glance considering her behavior toward me after our deal.
But then, she did the exact opposite as her seemingly gloomy eyes meet with my surprised ones.
I let out an audible gasp, and immediately averted my eyes when I realized that she had a plan on having a staring contest with me.
What was that?
What’s with that expression?
Why does she look so sad?
Why did she look back at me as if what happened earlier and for the past few days were just a dream?
What’s with her, really?
We did everything that we found interesting, even those we ignore in the previous school festivals and enjoyed the event to our hearts’ content.
Aeri was the one who had fun the most, especially when we were raiding every game booth there was, playing seriously as if her life depended on it to win as many prizes as possible to give them to Yizhuo as presents later on.
“Aren’t those enough?” I asked before throwing a popcorn in my mouth.
We were now resting on one of the benches scattered all over the campus, varieties of food placed in between us to regain the energy that we’ve lost.
“The next booth will be the last.” She reached over to grab the corndog and took a huge bite that it was almost gone. “You can go home after that.”
“Alright, fine.” I sighed, consuming another piece of popcorn. “I won’t play though.”
She shrugged, finishing off her corndog with a loud crunch.
“By the way, have you already thought about what I said to you the last time?”
My brows knitted together, absolutely clueless as to what she was pertaining to.
“What do you mean?”
“The Minjeong situation, Yooji.”
I pressed my lips together.
Way to ruin my mood, Aeri.
“Let’s talk about it later.” I hopped off the bench and threw our trash in the nearby trash bin. “We should be having fun.”
Aeri was up and on her heel faster than the speed of light. “Right, let’s go!”
Then, she made a mad dash toward the last booth like a raging beast chasing after her prey while I trailed a step behind to take the opportunity to be left alone with my thoughts.
Now that she brought the matter up, there was just no way I could just disregard it and go on my day.
For the nth time today, I let out a sigh.
I had feelings for Winter, huh?
Honestly, if I listen to Ryujin’s advice, the idea doesn’t seem too far fetched anymore.
Even though I had been denying it, I knew it wasn’t impossible deep down inside — I wouldn’t be this affected if it was.
However, the notion that I was in love with her lied on merely a probability, not on an absolute certainty.
It could also be because I came to deeply care for her like a close friend that was why I don’t want to lose her; why I want her in my life.
I mean, I would kill just to have Aeri by my side for as long as I was alive.
Does that mean I see her as more than just a friend?
If I really was in love with Winter, I want to realize it myself; to have the oh moment I had been seeing in romance movies, and not because someone else told me so.
When I reached the booth where Aeri was, she had already began playing and was so focused she didn’t even notice my presence.
This time, it was the milk bottle game. The mechanics were simple; knockdown all the bottles in just a single throw to win a prize.
From the sight of it, Aeri had yet to win anything, and was now desperately throwing the softball with a decent amount of force, but with questionable accuracy at the bottles, hitting the student in-charge as a result.
“, this game is rigged!”
Here she goes again.
“Ri, don’t make a scene again.” Only then did finally look my way wearing a frustrated look on her sweaty face.
“But it’s really rigged, Yooji!” she argued as she pointed an accusing finger at the bottles. “There must be a sand or something inside those!”
I rolled my eyes before walking up to her to grab her arm. “Let’s go. Fun’s over.”
“No wait, I need to win at least one stuffed toy!”
Oh, for the love of god.
“Aeri Uchinaga,” I called out sternly, causing her to stop flailing around. “Let’s go—“
“Oh! This one will be easy!” said a very annoying feminine voice behind us. “Let’s give it a try!”
“Sure, I guess.”
I froze on my spot.
That monotonous timbre of voice, I would recognize it anywhere.
I spun around, jaw clenched in anxiousness.
For what reason, I had no freaking idea.
My heart leapt to my throat when I saw her lean form standing not so far from me, arms folded over her chest, sporting an uninterested expression.
How could she stand there, breathe, and look so ing attractive?
“Hey, Kim,” Aeri said.
A look of surprise flash across Winter’s face when she saw us; then she avoided my eyes to look at Aeri. “Uchi.”
She was planning to continue to play the stranger role.
Aeri paddled over her cousin to do their usual weird handshake. “Damn, a new face again?”
Winter’s smirk was sly, shrugging her shoulders nonchalantly. “It can’t be helped.”
I made a face.
Blah, blah, blah.
Can’t be helped my .
“Who’s she, babe?” asked her fling in a pretense demure manner.
I stopped myself from scoffing.
What an eyesore.
“My cousin,” Winter answered, coldly. “Go ahead and play. We can’t be here forever.”
This was how she speaks to her flings?
It was as if she wasn’t interested at all.
I don’t know why, but the newfound knowledge had me smirking inwardly.
You all do not have the Jimin Yoo privilege.
We all turned our attention to her fling who was now preparing to play the game, stretching her arm vigorously as if she was going to throw a pitch in a baseball game.
She probably doesn’t even know the trick to defeat this game, and was just planning to put on a show to impress Winter.
After a few more seconds, she sent a wink over her shoulder to Winter before she threw the ball, launching it forward with a normal speed and force, sending a single bottle toppling over.
This time, I wasn’t able to contain the snort from coming out my nose.
The girl frowned, subtly peeking over Winter who obviously doesn’t care about
her what’s happening in front of her at all.
That’s how you should behave, Winter Kim.
You should only show interest in me.
The girl released a sigh of relief before gazing at me again, with malice this time.
“You try it then if you think it’s so easy.”
Did she just challenge me?
Oh, she was making a big mistake.
“Good luck, Yooji.” Aeri squeezed my shoulders, grinning mischievously. “Send her home crying.”
Oh, you watch and learn, Ri.
This was a piece of cake.
I stepped up, positioning myself to the counter and picked up a softball, fiddling with it for a while then pulled my arm back; my lips pressed together, closing my left eye to heighten my aim.
Okay, this should be right.
Taking a deep breath, I tossed the ball toward the stack of bottles, hitting the one in the very bottom right in the middle.
The bottle shook before falling over, the rest on top crumbling down after it.
“Holy !” Aeri yelled along with the cheers of the crowd around us. “That was amazing!”
I glanced at Winter’s fling who had her jaw wide open, eyes bulging in disbelief.
Oh, that expression was so darn satisfying.
“That’s how you do it, Miss.”
Although, I couldn’t see my face right now, I just knew it was brimming with smugness.
You could only dream to defeat me.
Her nostril flared, eyes sending daggers toward my way, and looking as if she would explode any second now out of anger.
I stifled a scornful laugh.
What a loser.
From where I stood, I could see Winter staring at me with a smile on her face; it was small — barely noticeable, but it was there.
My heart began racing.
After a couple of days ignoring me, her attention was solely on me again. To say I was ecstatic was a gross understatement.
The butterflies were wreaking havoc.
This effect that she had on me, I missed it.
I missed her.
it, Winter Kim.
The things you do to me…
I was about to approach her to take advantage of the rare opportunity when her fling suddenly grabbed her necktie and pulled her down aggressively.
My eyes widened in complete horror.
What came next knocked the air out of my lungs: she stole a chaste kiss on Winter’s lips, leaving the latter flabbergasted out of her mind.
The cheers came into a complete halt.
All surprised at the sudden display of affection.
I stood there dumbfounded for what felt like an hour, the scandalous scene playing in my mind on loop as if to rub it in my face.
My entire body trembled in fueling rage.
My chest heaving up and down rapidly.
“How dare you…” I whispered under my breath, taking a lurching step forward with each word, intending to slap this across her face for touching what was mine.
However, as a certain conversation came flooding in my mind, I abruptly came to a stop like deer caught in headlights.
“It’s not like you two are girlfriends.”
We were not girlfriends.
Winter could kiss whoever she wants.
And I have no right to be jealous.
The problem was, I am.
I am jealous.
I want to pull Winter close to me and kiss her senseless to send a clear message to her nameless fling and everyone else who want to get into her pants to off because she was mine.
That her lips, her body, her heart, and everything that was her were all mine to claim.
This feeling, this strange possessiveness, I knew all of these all too well.
I think I really do like Winter.