037

DERANGER
it's been three months now since you move to hangjeon.
 
compared to the city, the weather there is tad colder--perfect for that brewed coffee and burger combo you serve to your patrons at double patty. there's also lesser bustle, pollution, and noise on the streets.
 
your apartment is located just above double patty. it's more practical, according to seulgi. she managed to turn the small space into a cosy flat, which you enjoy, especially during... well.
 
as you've previously mentioned to your sister, overlooking the burger place is now your full-time job. for someone who's doing this for the first time, you can say it's both exhausting and gratifying.
 
you feel happy that you're doing what you've always wanted, at the same providing work opportunities to residents there.
 
however, the tiring part is that you have to manage everything to keep the business running: from the finances, the inventory, even the suppliers.
 
makes you realise that starting a business is not for everyone.
 
luckily, seulgi's aunt minhee is always eager to help. she's constantly checking and giving advice. she said it's good to commit mistakes now while the business is in the start-up stage. that is how you learn how to do stuff better. she even joked that if you don't keep up, schindlee's cafe will put you out of business as she and seulgi are planning to start a franchise in hangjeon too.
 
---
 
eunwoo visits you there fortnightly while jihye stops by with her husband once in a while.
 
still not a word from your parents. your mum stopped sending you messages. you tried calling your dad on his birthday, but he seemed to have blocked your number.
 
your siblings say your parents sometimes ask them for quick updates on you--despite still refusing to visit you. your dad hasn't even opened the gift you sent him for his birthday.
 
"it'll take a while, but they'll come around," jihye says.
 
---
 
it was one of those busy days at double patty. it is inventory time. you are head down working on your laptop, making sure everything is itemised when the door burst open, making you jump in shock.
 
seulgi comes in, scratching her head.
 
"is that..." she points at the cctv monitor near your table. "is it just me or is that car parking outside your dad's?"
 
you look up, seeing that familiar black car backing up the parking space. you stand up from the chair to look through the glass from the door and sees the registration plate number. it's the same with your dad's.
 
you hold your breath for a moment when you see your parents step out, standing outside, looking up and around the area.
 
"are they going in here?" seulgi asks.
 
"i don't know. i've never heard from eunwoo or unni about this."
 
seulgi's question is answered when your dad turns to face double patty's front door. he pushes it open and hesitantly enters. your mum stays outside by the car, still looking around.
 
your dad is then greeted by the staff inside. he stood in line for the cashier, eyes up on the menu.
 
"okay. maybe they're just here to eat," seulgi says.
 
when it was his turn, your dad says his order to the staff, occasionally pointing at the menu to make sure the cashier gets it right.
 
seulgi looks at you. "you alright?"
 
you nod as you keep observing your dad. he pays the cashier and then steps out to join your mum again. seulgi enters the kitchen area and comes back in seconds.
 
"he ordered two burgers with drinks," she tells you. "for take-away."
 
"oh. so, they don't plan to stay," you whisper, eyes still out the window, looking at how your parents animatedly talk outside.
 
it didn't take long for their orders to be ready. seulgi goes back into the kitchen and reappears with the brown bag in hand.
 
"do you want to give it to them?" she asks you.
 
you stare at her, mouth ajar. "i... uh... i don't know..."
 
"it's fine if you're not ready." seulgi picks the black apron on the table and puts it on. she then fixes her hair after.
 
"y-you're going outside?" you ask.
 
"yeah. i'm giving their orders." she smiles at you brightly, and you wonder how she can act so cool about this.
 
"you sure this is okay? what if they make a scene?"
 
"it's going to be okay. but if they stab me, it means you should run for your life, okay?"
 
"ish!" you hit seulgi by her arm. she laughs.
 
"wish me luck." seulgi kisses the side of your head first before she turns away to leave.
 
you watch in anticipation as your heart hammers hard against your chest.
 
seulgi steps outside, making your parents turn. she approaches them with a quick bow and a smile. they look at her, quite surprised, and don't seem to know what to do or say.
 
they don't return seulgi's enthusiasm, but at least they did not scowl at her.
 
neither do they look like they are hiding a knife somewhere.
 
seulgi hands them the bag and steps back. you notice how your mum keeps craning her neck, looking inside the restaurant. seulgi tells them something and gestures a thumb inside.
 
your parents look at each other, then back to seulgi. they say something. a few words. seulgi nods and bows as they enter the car.
 
the car leaves, leaving you wondering what they went there for.
 
---
 
"they say they were driving around and thought of buying a meal since eunwoo has been bragging about the burger here so much," seulgi says once she's back inside.
 
"driving around? it's a three-hour drive from the city," you say.
 
"i know, right?" seulgi shrugs. "then i told them it's better if they eat while the burgers are hot, and that they can eat inside. but your dad says they can't stay long. and that's it. they left."
 
you stay silent as you stare at the cctv monitor, recalling how that familiar car made its way to your parking lot.
 
seulgi holds you by your waist. "how are you?"
 
you shrug. "i don't know what to feel."
 
"are you happy seeing them?"
 
"i am. i missed them."
 
"but?"
 
"but they don't seem to miss me."
 
seulgi chuckles. "you know that's a bull. they drove all the way here only to buy two burgers--from your shop out of all the places?"
 
you pout knowing seulgi's has a point.
 
"i guess i just don't want to keep my hopes up," you say.
 
"i understand. it's been hard these past few months, too hard even to make yourself believe that there is a chance everything will be okay."
 
still pouting, you wrap your arms around her waist and lean against her shoulder.
 
"you think there's a chance?"
 
she gently hugs you back. "i don't know. can't say." she kisses your head. "all i know is whatever happened there earlier, it's a good sign. they didn't end up stabbing me, did they?"
 
you chuckle. you bury your face into the crook of her neck.
 
"gosh. i'm so in love with you." you sigh.
 
"hm. what do you say about proving that to me by going upstairs for a quick break?"
 
"quick break?" you pull away from her, brows furrowed. "the last time we did that, i was so exhausted i fell asleep!"
 
"so? i took over double patty for you, didn't i?"
 
"still."
 
"so, are we just going to stand here, or should i go up alone and e on you instead?"
 
you grimace. "you're so gross."
 
"i don't care." seulgi kisses your cheek and pulls away to head to the door.
 
"where are you going?" you ask.
 
"just giving your staff a heads up that we will be having a conference meeting with aunt minhee upstairs."
 
you roll your eyes. "conference meeting. right."
 
"stop pretending you don't love it." seulgi smirks. then she steps out and closes the door.
 
you stand there alone, arms folded. when you glimpse yourself at the mirror hanging on the wall, you realise you're still smiling.
 
you find yourself wondering once again how seulgi does it--making you feel better despite difficulties.
 
and you think you're contented with that, even if some things in your life won't go back to the way they were.
 
at least you're free. at least you're happier.
 
yes, things might still be blurry with your parents. but what happened earlier is a good start.
 
and it doesn't matter to you if that would take time. you're ready for it.
 
as long as seulgi's there by your side, holding you tight, you'll be fine.
 
 
 
 
 
- fin -
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