you set down your four-years-worth of case digests on top of your thick law books, stacking them all together on the side of your study table.
then you sit down and stare, a hand to your chin.
it's still worth a try, you think. you've got three months to go through these cases again, rememorising articles and preparing yourself for the bar.
you know it'll be dreadful. but it's still worth another try.
besides, this is the best diversion you've thought of. the news of you breaking up with donghae spread quickly to both your parents, and even your churchmates. your mum and dad kept bugging you over the weekend, trying to make sense of what happened or what went wrong.
to them, donghae is the best partner you could ever find. giving them reasons like you don't feel the same way towards him anymore doesn't make sense.
they only stopped when you told them you want to focus on taking the bar and don't want any distractions.
it surely put you in a challenging situation, but at least your dad liked the idea.
now, all you need to worry about is passing that damn bar exam.
you are slightly bothered to see seulgi's empty chair the following week.
makes you wonder if her absence is related to that pretty girl you saw her with last friday.
you notice there's a pattern. whenever that girl appears, seulgi will be gone for days.
and your theory is proven right when wednesday came and seulgi's still missing. no word. not a single email or text message.
you want to call her, but you think you think that's too ty. everything between the two of you should be over after that night (and morning) you shared on her bed.
that's the silent rule of hook-up, right?
although, you don't want it to end like that because seulgi made you feel like you can be yourself with her.
but yeah, maybe that's just how seulgi is when it comes to her flings.
sadly, you're just one of those flings.
you are reminded that you are her professor, and you've got every right to know why she isn't attending your classes.
because of that, you tried calling her number only to get an unavailable prompt.
you found out from yeri that seulgi's missing their workout schedules and has been unresponsive for days.
you find it weird, considering it's seulgi. but she's done this last semester, a reason she had to retake your class.
you want to reach out to yuri through your taeyeon, but you're worried they might find it weird.
so, you plan to wait until friday to see if something or someone will come up.
"all set now?" eunwoo asks as he drops the last piece of box top of the other.
you are squatting on the floor as you count the boxes around. "yeah. it's all here. thank you."
eunwoo squats beside you. "this is nice. i like this one better than your old flat."
"you think so?"
"yeah. i don't see why your ex would disagree with you living here. it's strategically placed at the centre of the city. and there's a 7-eleven just across, in case you need something urgent."
you remember a certain person with that.
"new life. new flat. can't say i'm proud of what you're doing now, noona."
you smirk at your brother. "you're only happy because i finally broke up with donghae."
"eh. it's not just about that. for me, it's your first step towards your liberation."
"liberation?" you chuckle. "why are you talking like i am imprisoned?"
"you know what i'm trying to say." he nudges you. "anyway, you still need my help here? i've got a practise to attend to in an hour."
"all good here. thank you, eunwoo. appreciate the support." you bat your eyelashes at your brother.
he grimaces at you. "ish. don't get cheesy on me now, noona." he stands up. "call me whenever, okay?"
"i surely will."
'the number you are calling is unavailable. the number you are calling is unavailable.'
"just where the hell are you, kang seulgi?"
you finally decide to do something when seulgi didn't show up in class that friday.
you know it's a crazy move, considering you should be reviewing cases instead of going to your student's apartment to check on her.
but it's too late to think about it as you're already standing in front of her door.
but before you could even buzz, the door suddenly opens, making you jump in surprise.
"i will surely tell mum that-- oh." the pretty woman whom you saw last week stops when she sees you. "uh... can i help you, miss?"
the words feel stuck in your throat. "um. is... is seulgi there?"
"oh." the woman turns to look inside. "unni, someone's looking for you."
your brows fly up.
there are incoming footsteps from the inside, then seulgi's head pops out.
"oh my gosh." you cover your mouth with your hands after seeing bruises around seulgi's right eye, cheek, jaw, and the corner of . "what happened to your face?"
seulgi scratches her head, directing her gaze towards the taller woman. "well, it's, uh..."
"i should leave now, unni." the woman smiles before taking a few steps out. she bows at you. "hi, i'm park joy, seulgi's sister. it's nice to meet you, professor bae."
"bae irene." you bow in return.
joy smiles at seulgi. "i like this one, unni."
your jaw drop.
"joy! what the hell!" seulgi says in shock. "just leave already!"
joy cackles before waving and skipping away to the lift area.
"what a bother." seulgi sighs. she looks at you. "wanna come in?"
your eyes almost popped out of their sockets.
"what? you had a fistfight with your sister's dad? that's a crazy move, seulgi!"
"i know. but i won't tolerate him insulting my father." seulgi grunts as she pours juice into your glass and sets it down the small table. then she leans back on the sofa bed, draping an arm over the backrest.
her stretched arm touches your back. you lean into the comfort, observing her face and imagining what those bruises looked like when they were fresh.
you can already tell it hurts.
"have you reported him yet?" you ask her.
she shakes her head. "no plans. and why would i report him if i was the one who initiated the fight? it just happened he was drunk, so he fought back."
"but he shouldn't just fight back. he should be punished for what he did."
"just because he hit a woman? isn't that double-standard?" seulgi asks. "i mean, as i've said, i initiated the fight. i broke my damn phone after throwing it at him. why is it that women can hit men many times and can get away with it. but if a man hits a woman just once, he's in a lot of trouble?"
"well, the man can still file for charges if he can prove he was physically abused," you say. "it just that the law usually favours women because clearly, men have the advantage here."
"so, if i report him and he sues me back for hitting him, will that put me in trouble?"
you nod. "if you're proven guilty."
"of course, i am guilty." seulgi laughs, which then turns to a groan. "ow. ow. ugh. ."
"hey. you okay?"
"yeah. it's just laughing or smiling too much stresses the cuts." she runs a thumb over the dried wound on her lower lip. "at least it's no longer bleeding."
you cup her cheeks to make her face you. "so, this was the reason you're missing classes, huh?"
"can't go to school with these. it'll chase the girls away."
"yah! your professors are close to dropping you from their subjects, and all you think about is sleeping with women?"
she looks surprised. "you talked with my other professors?"
"no. but i assume they are thinking of the same thing. were your absences last semester related to this?"
"well... sort of. it's a... a family matter."
"you could have at least told us." you pull back a little, but her arm slides down the backrest to your waist, keeping you closer. "we can excuse you and give you special exams instead of failing you or dropping you."
"but i can't go to a doctor. they will surely ask me to participate in an investigation. i don't want that. i can't put joy's dad or myself to jail only because i started a fight with him."
"then what do you plan to do?"
"nothing. just try my best to stay calm whenever i visit mum."
you exhale. "fine. i'll help you out just this once, but you have to promise me you'll talk to your other professors."
she looks at you and waits.
"my unni's a doctor. i can ask for a doctor's letter from her, saying you're injured and needed to rest for days," you say. "that'll give your absences a valid excuse."
she blinks at you. "are you seriously going to do that?"
"wow." she looks away, still blinking. "just wow." she turns back to you. "but isn't that illegal? won't your sister be in trouble for that?"
"i'll talk to her. if it's once, she'll agree. but you need to make sure this won't happen again."
"ooh. should i give your dear unni some good time as a payback?"
"yah!" you slap her leg.
she laughs. "why are you doing this, anyway?"
it's hard to maintain eye contact when she's giving you that look.
you cast your eyes down instead. "i guess, i don't want you dropping your subjects without a fight. i mean, you've got a valid reason. it'll be a whole lot of wasted time, money, and effort if you won't do something about it."
"okay. still, why are you doing this?"
"well... let's say this is payback for helping me these past few weeks with my problem. i want to return the favour by helping you back."
"i didn't help you. i only listened."
"yeah. but... it means a lot to me..."
she smirks. "especially the ?"
you glare at her from the hood of your eyes.
she leans towards your head and plants a soft kiss on your forehead.
"thank you, irene. thank you. you don't know how much this means to me."
the sincerity in her tone gives a warm fuzzy feeling in your chest. not sure how to take it yet, you hover a thumb over the wound on her lips instead.
"does this still hurt?" you ask.
"are you sure?"
"yeah. i'm sure." she kisses your lips once and pulls back. "it doesn't hurt anymore."
relieved, you cup her cheek and press your lips with hers.