006

DERANGER
the next monday, seulgi's back in your class. she acted like her usual self whenever she's in your class.
 
silent. unparticipative.
 
makes you think if what happened last week is real or not.
 
maybe it's better off as a dream than reality. for days you were ashamed of yourself, ashamed of what you've done.
 
you know you shouldn't have done that.
 
you feel incredibly guilty for doing that.
 
the fact that it felt so good and how she felt good makes you feel even worse.
 
donghae doesn't deserve any of this. he's been nothing but good to you.
 
you should put an end to this. you should stop whatever it is between you and her.
 
it's for your sanity.
 
---
 
wednesday came, and along with it are several bad lucks having fun trolling your day.
 
you don't want to keep tabs of how many unfortunate events occurred, but it started when you woke up. to your delight, it keeps increasing as the day goes by.
 
it doesn't help the term exams are near, and you're bombarded with deadlines and papers to review.
 
the urge to just quit your job and do something different occurs more often now than ever.
 
you sometimes tell donghae about this, in which he would respond by saying it's part of the adult life, and you have to live with it, that he's also doing a lot of tasks he doesn't like, but he needs to because it's his job and gets paid for it.
 
then he'll encourage you again to continue reviewing for the bar exam like what your father wanted because he believes everything will change for you once you become a lawyer.
 
the conversation would usually end with you saying you'll think about it.
 
it keeps happening repeatedly, and sometimes you don't tell donghae about it anymore, knowing he'll ask you to bear with it.
 
sometimes you imagine yourself blowing up into tiny pieces of stress spewed on the floor.
 
and no one would even notice.
 
---
 
your last string of patience is on trial when you come to your house after a dinner invitation from your parents.
 
your older sister, jihye, and her husband, seungheon, visited after attending a seminar. these occasional visits from them are always treated with celebrations from your parents.
 
it is not that you mind, but sometimes you ask yourself why they aren't they celebrating when you're visiting?
 
you set aside the thought when you see your younger brother, eunwoo, enter the house with a guitar strapped on his back.
 
"noona!" he greets you and ruffles your hair like a kid.
 
the two of you are called to the table where you see your sister and brother-in-law already waiting.
 
it's just dinner, that's what you tell yourself.
 
you take a deep breath hoping you'll get something nice out of this.
 
---
 
"so, how are you and donghae?" jihye asks you over dinner. "we haven't seen him in a while."
 
"we're good," you say. "he's mostly assigned out of town, but he makes sure to spend time with me every fridays and saturdays."
 
jihye nods. "he hasn't popped the question yet, has he?"
 
you shake your head. "we've talked about it casually once, but we're busy in our respective careers. we both think it's not the right time yet."
 
"when's the right time then?" your mum asks. "when you're already pregnant? do you know how the people in church talk about how donghae spends a lot of time in your apartment?"
 
you press your lips together and look down at your plate.
 
"i mean, i understand if you're doing it. but ion is a sin," your mum adds. "you two are already adults, old enough to get married. just get married already."
 
"but, mum, i told you--"
 
"i will talk to his parents about this," your dad says. "if he plans on proposing to you, he should transfer work here to make sure you're together, like what seungheon has done." he points at your brother-in-law. "he transferred hospitals so he could work with your sister. i mean, we all know being a doctor is tough. but he manages to make time for jihye. and even if they are busy, they find time to visit us here."
 
"donghae doesn't make much effort to spend time with us either," your mum comments. "he's always coming here only to visit you in your apartment. if you two live together like that, then he should marry you soon. it'll be embarrassing if you get pregnant out of wedlock."
 
you swallow a lump in your throat.
 
"no. i won't allow irene to marry donghae yet, not until she passes the bar," your dad says. "seungheon proposed to jihye only after they passed the board. above that, he asked for my consent before he even popped the question to my daughter. such a considerate man."
 
seungheon smiles and bows as he wipes his mouth with the table cloth.
 
you prevent yourself from rolling your eyes as you don't want to disrespect your parents or brother-in-law. but attacks like this make you want to leave the table.
 
you know it isn't intentional. you know your parents love you as much as they love your other siblings. but things like this are natural occurrences in your family.
 
you can't help but feel left out at times, like everything in your life is wrong while your older sister is the role model, and your younger brother can do what he wants because he's the baby and the only boy.
 
"you need to start reviewing again, irene. there's another bar exam in a few months." your dad stuffs meat into his mouth. "failing once doesn't mean you should stop trying. some lawyers took it twice, even thrice, before they passed. that's enough time before the wedding. i want you to be licensed as attorney bae, not attorney lee."
 
"we know it isn't easy. your sister had a hard time too when she was in med school," your mum adds. "you just have to bear with it a little more, honey."
 
you only nod in silence. deep inside, you think it's unfair. they supported your sister throughout her pre-med and med school while you got support only for your bachelor's degree.
 
you know law school isn't for you, but you still enrolled because your dad was persistent. problem is, you had to support yourself because your parents need a breather from your sister's expenses and prepare for eunwoo's college education as he's planning to get a degree in musical arts.
 
you didn't say anything when they converted your old room into eunwoo's studio because he needs it for school (you already have your apartment anyway) while your sister's room is left untouched so she and her husband and can stay for the night in case they visit.
 
the list would go on and on, but you don't want to think about that tonight.
 
your thankful the topic finally shifted to eunwoo. he tells how he's been getting extra money from playing in the bars with friends.
 
of course, your parents praised him for being resourceful.
 
---
 
"hey. you alright?" jihye asks.
 
the two of you are standing on the sidewalk, waiting for your cab to arrive. she and her husband decided to stay for the night.
 
(your mum was happy because she recently cleaned the room.)
 
"you don't have to always listen to them, you know," she adds, making you look at her. "i know mum and dad can be pushy sometimes, but it's because they care about you."
 
"i know." you sigh. "thank you, unni. it was nice seeing you tonight."
 
jihye pulls you into a hug. "awe. my baby sister missed me..." she pulls away when your cab arrives and opens the door for you. "call me when you need anything, okay?"
 
"i will. thank you, unni. goodnight."
 
she smiles one last time and waves before closing the door for you.
 
---
 
you tell the cabbie your address and leans back to rest your head.
 
you feel stressed more than ever. your head aches. you feel weak and depleted.
 
your phone beeps. eunwoo sends you a video of his recording as he promised during dinner.
 
your eyes catch the timestamp on your screen that says it's eight-thirty in the evening.
 
you remember a certain someone could be waiting for you tonight to meet her.
 
"dammit..." you say to yourself, chuckling and shaking your head. a lot of things happened today, and you want some escape.
 
an escape you know you can find in her.
 
you're about to make a stupid decision tonight, but you don't care. you're too stressed to think about the consequences yet.
 
you lean forward and motions to the driver.
 
"excuse me. please drive me to the barchs instead."
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