017

DERANGER
"there you go." seulgi places down the 7-eleven brown paper bag that contains a pack of sanitary napkins.
 
"thanks." you go to the toilet to put one on and wash your stained underwear.
 
you sigh. damn your period.
 
of all the days, why on a weekend when you can have seulgi all day and all night?
 
when you get back, seulgi's by the sink, washing the dishes from the meal you had when you cooked pasta for her.
 
she loved it, and you're delighted because of that.
 
"now i know why you're extra these past few days, huh," she says, hearing you pace around. "must be your hormones."
 
you scratch the back of your head. "aish. i was too occupied i forgot to check my period calendar."
 
she looks at you over her shoulder. "eh? you have a period calendar? everyone uses app now, ajumma."
 
"yah!" you stomp a foot. "so, what are we going to do now?"
 
"huh?" she turns to you, wiping her wet hands with a towel.
 
"i've got my period. which means no y time."
 
"so? i can still help you with your review."
 
"but are you fine with that even if we don't--"
 
she gives you an incredulous look. "irene, we've been alone so many times, and fifty per cent of that is not spent on . i am not here with the sole goal of getting you to bed. i'm here because i want your company."
 
there's this fluttering feeling in your chest that you try to ignore by maintaining a poker face.
 
"but i won't stop you if you want to do me." she lightly raises the hem of her shirt, showing you her toned abs.
 
you almost laugh, but you stop yourself as it's initiating an overflow. "stop making me laugh!" you wave your hand. "i'm not even sure if i'm doing you right!"
 
"you're doing me great, ma'am. i am very pleased every time." she bows at you, making you want to laugh again. "for someone who claims they've never been in bed with another woman before, you seem to know how to do stuff."
 
"of course i am a woman too, seulgi. and i've watched ."
 
"fair." she shrugs. "so, should we keep talking about or start with the review now?"
 
your shoulders fall. "fine."
 
---
 
"so, how's the review coming along?" your dad asks.
 
it was yet another dinner meal with your parents and eunwoo. your sister's abroad with her husband attending a conference.
 
"just... fine. my weekends are now reserved for studying," you answer.
 
"good. you think you could pass it this time?"
 
you swallow, knowing that your phase in studying isn't enough to warrant you a licence.
 
"i'll... i'll try my best, dad."
 
your dad places his chopsticks down. "by the way, mr and mrs lee went here yesterday to talk to us about donghae."
 
you meet eyes with eunwoo. it seems he's not aware of the visit himself.
 
"we told them you're preparing for the bar," your dad continues. "it seems they are still hoping you'd give their son another chance."
 
you open your mouth to speak, but your mum cuts you off.
 
"they don't mean harm, honey. you shouldn't feel obligated by it."
 
"but shouldn't noona and hyung talk about it themselves instead of you and his parents?" eunwoo says.
 
you kick him under the table. he shrugs.
 
"they said they understand if you want space," your dad says, unaffected by eunwoo's comment. "but they are asking for a little favour, irene."
 
you set your chopsticks down, knowing this isn't something you'd like.
 
"the thing is, unlike you, donghae doesn't seem to be taking everything lightly," your mum says. "they don't blame it on you, but they're hoping you could at least talk to him, to patch things up, maybe?"
 
"what? but i already told him i don't want to marry him!" you didn't notice you raise your voice a bit as panic surges through you.
 
these familiar feelings are creeping inside you. you don't like any of it.
 
silence hangs in the air. your dad clears his throat.
 
"irene, i understand if you want to focus on yourself. but donghae's a nice man. and you breaking up doesn't mean you should stop being friends too."
 
"but would it not be harder for him if i try to reach out?"
 
"his parents are worried. he's overworking and has been losing weight since your break up," your mum says. "they are not asking you to get back with him. they are only asking that you talk to him."
 
you glance at eunwoo, who's biting the inside of his cheek, obviously looking upset. then you look back at your parents.
 
if these dinner invites would always result in things like this, maybe you should say no next time.
 
---
 
it feels heavy to see donghae inside the cafe, waiting for you.
 
it feels heavy to see how he's changed. the charming aura from before is now replaced with stress and gloom hanging around him.
 
he's still handsome like what tiffany always claims--only less lively.
 
he looks thinner too.
 
he smiles upon seeing you. it looks natural, but it's a weighted smile. you can see the underlying things that come with it; nervousness, pain, hopelessness, misery, anticipation.
 
you never want to do this, knowing seeing each other will only rub salt to his still fresh wounds. but this is the only thing you can do to stop both your parents from worrying.
 
you keep praying and praying, sincerely hoping this talk would give a slightly good result--or the closure he needed.
 
because no matter how much you try to stay positive, this meeting would only break him in the same way as the last time--if not, even more.
 
---
 
your hand is shaking when you buzz seulgi's door.
 
and when you see her sleepy figure open the door, you couldn't control yourself from sobbing anymore.
 
her sleepiness is gone immediately.
 
"irene? what happe--" she stops when you reach out to hug her, breaking down in her shoulder.
 
"seulgi..."
 
"what's wrong, love?" she asks, her voice gentle. "what happened?"
 
your knees feel weak, so you cling to her for balance as tears stream down your cheeks.
 
"i'm so mean... i'm so mean..."
 
---
 
you tell her what happened during your talk with donghae.
 
how he begged, pleaded, for you to take him back.
 
how he promised he'll make everything better this time around.
 
but you refused, telling him you can't.
 
your world then fell into shambles.
 
because despite him begging for the reason--trying to find what the missing link is, what went wrong--you couldn't tell him the truth.
 
you couldn't tell him you're not the person he thought you are. that you only used him--as mean as it sounds--to hide your true self, to fit, in fear of getting stigmatised.
 
that through the course of your relationship, you couldn't stop yourself from thinking of other women even when he's making love to you.
 
that there were times you'd wish he'd cheat on you so you would break up and blame it all on him.
 
you couldn't tell him the truth because you need to protect yourself too.
 
all you could tell him is that you don't feel the same way anymore, that you have grown apart and want to focus on yourself this time around.
 
that classic line of it's not you; it's me.
 
when you apologised to him for breaking his heart, you actually wanted to apologise for dragging this for far too long, for being a coward, for taking your time to get the courage to stand up for yourself, for fooling him all these years.
 
because the truth is you never loved him the way he loved you. you don't see yourself growing old with him the way he imagined you two would.
 
but you'd rather keep those to yourself. what he doesn't know won't hurt him.
 
instead, you told him he'll have a special place in your heart, that you'll always treasure the memories you had.
 
that you wish him to find happiness soon while you're trying to find yours too.
 
you left donghae at the cafe, feeling more broken not only for him but for yourself as well.
 
---
 
"hey."
 
seulgi's smiling face is the first thing you see when you open your eyes. she's sitting on the sofa bed beside you, staring at you for no-one-knows how long now.
 
your eyes shift to the window, and panic settles in when you realise it's midday.
 
". i have work!" you try to stand up, but seulgi stops you.
 
"relax. it's holiday today. have you forgotten?"
 
"oh." you slowly settle in as your body relaxes.
 
when you've calmed down, she leans forward to plant a soft kiss on your forehead. "morning."
 
you blush a little, distracting yourself by looking down instead. "did i cry myself to sleep?"
 
"you did." she reaches out to gently wipe your eyes with her thumb. "i am amazed at how you still look beautiful even with these massive gunks."
 
"yah." you push her shoulder. she laughs.
 
"how are you feeling now?" she asks.
 
you let out a pathetic wail and reaches out to wrap your arms around her waist, your head on her shoulder.
 
"i'm so mean, seulgi. i did that to him, and he doesn't deserve any of it!"
 
she comforts you by rubbing your shoulder. "hey. for what it's worth, i think you've done the right thing."
 
"you think so?"
 
"yeah. he may not get the chance to know the real reason behind your decisions, but letting him go is the best thing you've done for him and yourself."
 
there's still a pout on your face, but at least that makes you feel somewhat better.
 
"you know what, if you're not doing anything today, i would want to you introduce you to a very special person in my life," seulgi says. "i think he'll be able to give some insights into your problem."
 
you pull back to look at her face. "who?"
 
"my dad."
 
your eyes widen. "y-your d-dad? you'll introduce me to your dad today?"
 
"yeah. why not?"
 
"but i'm..." you gesture at yourself. "i'm a mess."
 
"you're fine." she stands up and pats your head. "take a quick shower and borrow one of my shirts. i'll buy you a tea outside and a kitkat chunky."
 
"wait!" you call when she starts walking away. "you haven't told me anything about your dad. w-what should i do? i mean, do i have to present myself in a certain way?"
 
she chuckles. "you worry too much. just be yourself, love."
 
you have to admit that endearment is starting to have its effect on you.
 
"well, i want your dad to like me, you know," you say without thinking.
 
the surprise look on seulgi's face makes you want to take back what you said.
 
but a second later, she's smiling sweetly and is striding towards you.
 
she kneels on the bed and kisses you gently, sweetly.
 
then she pulls back a little, lips ghosting over yours.
 
"don't worry. i'm sure he would have loved you."
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