036

DERANGER
the the next few days have not been kind to you. if you're going to be more honest, it got worse.
 
your parents seem to have taken your coming out hard to the point they are blaming your closeness with taeyeon for it. they feel like taeyeon "influenced" you to be gay like it's something they can coax you to do.
 
you hear from eunwoo too how your mum went to her sister--taeyeon's mum--and blamed her for tolerating her daughter in living a sinful life.
 
it doesn't stop there as your mum keeps sending you messages with verses, asking you to turn back and repent for your sins before it's too late. you are kind enough to respond to one or two of those, explaining how you didn't choose to be like that and that you're happy with what you're doing now.
 
her rebuttal is that it's only a temporary pleasure, and you'll surely suffer for the rest of your life after.
 
you are beyond embarrassed at what's happening. you even went to taeyeon and tiffany to apologise to them personally. as you've expected, they were all cool and were nonchalant about it--like it's something they are already used to. they also said that you might experience the same thing from time to time if you're going to be as public as they are.
 
it makes you sad to hear things like that, how people think they have the right to look down on others just because they don't follow a certain standard.
 
contrary to how your mum approaches things, your dad is the silent one. you never hear from him. there is not a single message in your inbox, not even a call. eunwoo says he's too mad and hurt even to mention your name around the house. your mum says he's willing to forgive you and forget about everything if you leave your lesbian lover for good. he would no longer force you to do anything, as long as you dismiss your homoual life.
 
it was all embarrassing and tormenting at the same time. most nights you're crying yourself to sleep, waking up in seulgi's embrace the following day.
 
you still feel that you've made the right decision of finally standing up, yet you can't get yourself to hate your parents for what they did. this is the first time you've done something to disobey them deliberately, but the pain you've caused your parents is something you know you could never move on from.
 
you're just thankful that seulgi's been your sanctuary. even her mum and joy welcome you like you're their own family too.
 
having them around helps, but they can't take the pain away.
 
---
 
jihye looks at you from across the table, arms folded.
 
"so, after avoiding us for two months straight, you went here to my clinic today only to tell me you're leaving?"
 
you nod.
 
"when and where are you going?"
 
"we found a place in hangjeon. we're living tomorrow morning."
 
"hangjeon? that's three hours drive. i know you have this unsettled beef with mum and dad. but do you have to get away that far from us?"
 
you don't speak, eyes on your sister's nameplate on the table instead.
 
"what about work?" she asks.
 
"we're opening up a small restaurant of our own there."
 
"branching out one of seulgi's cafes?"
 
you shake your head. "it's going to be a new one--a burger place. it's more of my personal restaurant. seulgi made sure i get to express myself through that--from the menu to the interior. everything. i will be the one taking care of that while she would be working full-time with her business partner to manage their existing branches."
 
"a burger place, huh? what would you name it?"
 
you your head to the side. "mmm. i'm thinking of calling it double patty."
 
"hm. catchy."
 
you smile.
 
jihye reclines and fiddles with her hands. "so, you're doing this now? are you sure about this? about her?"
 
you press your lips together and give your sister a nod. "this is the first time i was given the liberty to do something on my own. i admit i'm scared, but i'm excited too. if this fails, i've got no one else to blame but me. at least i won't disappoint anyone."
 
jihye in a deep breath and blows air through . "look. i'm sorry for what happened. for everything..."
 
"unni, you stood up for me too, despite you not agreeing with my decision. i'm forever thankful for that."
 
"it's not just about that. i just feel like contributed a lot to that pressure in your life."
 
"you didn't. it was not your fault that you're pretty, smart, and everything. even i wholeheartedly admire you for that."
 
jihye flatly smiles, shaking her head. "as much as good as it sounds, that's the reason you felt left out as a kid. and i'm sorry for that. i'm sorry that you have to go through that... pain... all that hiding. but i hope you're not taking it against mum and dad. sometimes things happen out of their control. that is the reason there is this thing called the middle child syndrome. because it happens, and parents are unaware they are contributing to it."
 
"i'm not mad at them," you say quietly after a moment. "but it pains me a lot to hurt them for being who i am. as much as i want to stay, i can't anymore because i might go crazy."
 
jihye nods. "for what it's worth, i think you made the right decision."
 
you look at your sister, couldn't believe you hear that from her.
 
"don't get me wrong. i still don't agree with your relationship with seulgi." she gestures a hand to you. "but setting aside morality, i seriously think that's what you needed, sis. you need to take this huge step in your life because you'll only ruin yourself if not. besides, you're old enough to make your own decisions. just do it. make mistakes. have fun. by the end of the day, it's your life you're living, not mum's, neither dad's."
 
hearing that from your sister overwhelms your heart with intense emotions. eunwoo has been supporting you since day one, but your sister has a different point of view on things. and hearing her talk like that gives you a feeling of pseudo-acceptance--something you've been yearning to receive from your family.
 
as the emotions become unmanageable, you begin to tear up.
 
"ugh. don't go crying on me now." jihye pushes a tissue box to you. you can tell from the crack in her voice that she's tearing up as well.
 
"it's just so painful, unni," you say, pulling out several tissues and dabbing your eyes with it. "i'm happy that i'm freed now, but i feel like i can't be fully happy because i hurt you. i hurt mum and dad. i'm sorry if i'm like this..."
 
"shh. stop that." jihye stands and walks around to hug you around your shoulders. "you don't have to apologise for being who you are, irene. that's something out of your control. just do whatever you want. as long as it's not illegal, go for it. mum and dad will learn to forgive you someday."
 
you continue crying as jihye pats your back affectionately.
 
"did you know that night you came out, i silently blamed seulgi for everything?" jihye says. there's a tinge of smile in her voice. "i already felt something strange the first time you came to me for that doctor's letter. but i chalked it to you being you. always helpful and kind. after your blow-out last time, my mind blamed seulgi for everything. i thought she was the bad influence, someone who deranged you from the right path. she might be younger, but we can't deny that she has this irresistible charisma, right? i thought she's only using you to get something.
 
"but after hearing your story and seeing where things are going now, i realise i was wrong," she continues. "i should be thanking her. she helped you realise your potentials and step out of your comfort zone--something that i should have done. and the fact that she's giving you a chance to start on your own, it tells me how much she cares for you.
 
"i hate to say this. and i'm sure mum and dad will be mad at me for saying this," she adds, smiling again, "but no matter how wrong i think your relationship with seulgi is, i'm glad you have her to comfort you during these times. i'm glad she's there for you, taking care of you, looking after you like a real family. i'm glad she pushed you to stand on your own, to be a person of your own."
 
you couldn't speak anymore as your sister's words keep making you cry.
 
jihye hugs you tighter. "i want to commend how brave you are, baby sis. unni's so proud of you."
 
that made you cry even more.
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