020

DERANGER
the week of the bar examination finally arrive.
 
the weight on your shoulders is heavier.
 
you take a week-long leave to focus on your studies, trying to cover up as much as you can.
 
you even asked seulgi not to visit you for a week, knowing that her mere presence is the perfect distraction for you.
 
although she whined like a kid at first, saying and promising she will be silent and won't disturb you, you had to be firm.
 
you leave a pouting seulgi that sunday night, finding how cute this side of her is.
 
you need this alone time. because this bar examination means a lot to you more than ever.
 
---
 
"i'm glad you took a leave. your substitute professor is younger and hotter :)"
 
you frown at seulgi's message and plan to respond with a 'yah!' but another message comes in.
 
"just kidding. she's the complete opposite of you :/"
 
you laugh.
 
---
 
the bar examination is a two-day event set that weekend.
 
you go there alone, reminding everyone from your family--even seulgi--to not bother going there as you want to focus on your exams.
 
you're glad they respected your decision. everyone wished you good luck and told you you could do it.
 
seulgi tells you to do what you can and accept with open arms whatever the result would be.
 
that was the last message she sent you. you think it's her way of respecting the space you asked for.
 
saturday come. it was dreadful. but you survived it.
 
you barely got sleep. still feeling pressured and probably missing seulgi at the same time.
 
but you stopped yourself. just one more day and then you can take a rest.
 
---
 
you are able to finally breathe that sunday afternoon as you step out of the exam room.
 
you feel excited, already thinking of calling seulgi and spending the night with her.
 
but to your surprise, donghae is waiting for you outside the building, roses in his hand.
 
despite the shock, you greeted him nicely and told him he shouldn't have bothered himself to go there.
 
that's when you read a text message from your dad saying he sent donghae over to pick you up for dinner at your house.
 
at that point, you know it'll be futile to resist.
 
so you walk along with donghae to the parking lot, silently hoping nothing unfavourable would happen tonight.
 
---
 
"can't meet up tonight. dad invited me over for dinner." you sent seulgi a message while you're in the car.
 
her response is quick. "oh. sure. enjoy the night with your fam. and please take a good rest."
 
"thank you. you too."
 
you let the phone dangle in your hand for a moment before you type in another message.
 
"i miss you--" you delete the message and lock your phone.
 
you sigh. there's this heavy feeling in your chest. why do you feel like you owe seulgi something when she's not even asking for anything?
 
"are you alright?" donghae asks.
 
"yeah. just tired."
 
"how's the exam?"
 
"just fine."
 
"i'm sure you nailed it--"
 
"can we please not talk about it?" you say, and you regret it immediately. "look. i'm sorry--"
 
"it's okay. i understand. like you said, you're tired."
 
you prop your head against your arm, feeling worse now than earlier.
 
the rest of your ride is spent in silence.
 
---
 
your dad looks happy when you arrive.
 
you don't know how he can celebrate when the result is still to come out in months. it seems he's confident you'll pass this time.
 
"to our attorney bae!" he raises his soju glass for a toast. everyone in your family, even your sister, and her husband joined in.
 
eunwoo had to join in out of respect, but he's been on guard the entire time. when you arrive, he quickly ushered you to sit at the end of the table and drops next to you before donghae can do so.
 
"sleep here tonight, noona. take my room," he whispers to you while the other members of your family are engrossed in a conversation. "i don't want him driving you back to your apartment."
 
"but where would you sleep?" you ask him.
 
"in my studio. that's your old room, remember? i can also take the couch. just don't go home with him tonight. i don't trust him."
 
you sigh. you tap eunwoo's thigh as a gesture of your appreciation.
 
you're glad he's there trying to protect you.
 
despite the happy mood in your parents' house that night, you still can't take seulgi off your mind.
 
---
 
"so, how's that student of yours, irene?" jihye asks.
 
"which one, unni?"
 
"the one i've created a medical certificate for. kang seulgi, right?"
 
you notice how donghae's head shot up from his food to look at your sister.
 
.
 
"ahh. that's noona's favourite student!" eunwoo playfully elbows you.
 
donghae's looks at your brother.
 
. . .
 
"uh. well. i think she's fine." you focus on your plate, trying to act casual. "she's one of my students who needed help with a medical certificate."
 
"she asked you for your help?" you dad asks. "how did she know you have a doctor sister?"
 
you don't like the way donghae is looking at you now. you can practically hear the gears clicking.
 
"no. it's not like that, dad." you shake your head. "i was pulled into a meeting by her other professors, asking about her absences. we reached out and talked to her about it. it turns out she's got a huge family problem. she still wants to finish the semester, but the only way for us to go around the university rule is to present a medical certificate to justify her absences--which i offered."
 
"you all went that far to save one kid?" your mum asks. "why can't she just talk to the dean or the management and tell them what really happened?"
 
"it'll be a long process, mum. the easiest route is to get a doctor's letter."
 
"but that's illegal. you're also putting your sister's licence on the line," your dad comments. "you should never meddle with your student's personal life."
 
you hung your head low. "i'm sorry. it won't happen again."
 
"it's just once, dad. don't worry," jihye says. "at least we were able to get the kid back on track."
 
your dad only sighs and shakes his head.
 
---
 
"is it... is it because of her?" donghae turns away from his car to look at you, keys in his hands.
 
you are somehow expecting he will bring this up when your dad asks you to walk him outside after dinner.
 
but what you didn't expect is how it'll make you feel when you're presented with the question itself.
 
how are you going to lie your way out of this?
 
"who?" you say instead, stalling. you fold your arms over your chest.
 
"that... that kang seulgi..."
 
"what about her?"
 
"she's the reason you broke up with me, isn't she?"
 
"what?" you scoff, as if what he said was something absurd. "what the hell are you saying? where did you get that?"
 
"it's... it's just all coming back to me, you know..." he narrows his eyes, thinking. "if i connect the dots, it makes sense somehow..."
 
"somehow? so, you're not sure about it yet."
 
"no. but there's something. i'm sure of it." he takes a step closer to you. "you might not have noticed, but i recall how you started acting weird that day you told me about her. and then when i mocked her after we saw her with her girlfriend, you got mad at me."
 
you raise an eyebrow. "so, that's your basis? are you even listening to what you're saying now?"
 
"no. you listen to me, irene." he grasps your shoulders. "i've been with you for fifteen years. i know if you have the slightest trouble over anything, and i can tell something's changed since that dyke entered the picture."
 
you stare at him, trying your best not to act on emotion as it'll only expose yourself further.
 
"she seduced you, didn't she?" he asks, shaking your body. "did she ask you to break up with me?"
 
"what?" you push his hands away, taking a step back. "look at how you're trying to blame this on someone. don't you think that's pathetic? she's my student, and she's only a kid."
 
"i'm not--"
 
"i was the one who broke up with you. why can't you accept that i don't feel the same way anymore? that i am not ready to marry you?"
 
"but you can't have a relationship with her!"
 
"who says we're in a relationship! gosh, donghae! you're making up stories!" you run your hand through your hair.
 
"i'm making up stories? then how would you explain what jihye told us about dinner, huh? you went that far to secure a medical certificate for your student, who by the way is hot and is good with getting girls to bed!"
 
"but that doesn't prove anything you're accusing me of!"
 
"oh. really?" he scoffs. "then why was she in the testing centre earlier, huh? was she waiting for you too?"
 
your eyes widen.
 
"i saw her in the parking lot holding purple tulips. beautiful." he chuckles. "was that for you? or was she--coincidentally--waiting for another girl in the same testing centre?"
 
your brows furrow.
 
"i can't believe it." donghae looks up at the dark sky, cackling. "so, you're her now?
 
you make an audible noise of dissent through your nose.
 
"is she better in bed?" he prods further. "do you like how skilfully she your--"
 
you slap him.
 
then you slap him again, harder this time.
 
then you push him, shoving him against his car.
 
your eyes are brimming with tears now.
 
"you can come up with any reason you want to fit your narrative of why we didn't work out!" you point at him. "but i swear, i am not in a romantic relationship with her or anyone else right now!"
 
donghae stares at you, eyes shock.
 
"if your little brain can't accept that fact," you hit him again, but this time he guards his face with his arms, "then i don't give a damn anymore!"
 
he stays silent, chest heaving, still in complete shock as this is the first time you've burst like this in front of him.
 
"never, ever, come back to this house again," you say, turning on your heels and stomping back into the house.
 
"i hope you're telling the truth, irene," you hear him say. "because it'll be a shame if everyone finds out."
 
you don't spare him another glance.
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