008

DERANGER
you're not sure what she has done to you. you can't even remember when it started.
 
but you find yourself constantly yearning for her presence.
 
it may or may not have something to do with finding out how she's trying to live a minimimalistic lifestyle--she had to buy you disposables as she only has one of everything in her dining; spoon, fork, plate, and a glass.
 
you find it intruiging when she said she doesn't see the need to have a television when she's got a laptop and a reliable internet connection.
 
everything she's saying adds more to your growing interest in her. the idea of you parting ways after breakfast to go back to your student-professor life in the confines of the classroom makes you anxious.
 
will you see her again outside the university after today? does she even want to see you? it's always a one-time thing for her, isn't it?
 
during breakfast, you want to bring up the topic of meeting again, but your brain tells you that's too ty.
 
so you stay silent, wishing she'd do something to at least give you a hint she wants to see you too.
 
it's not about for you. it's about what you are when you're with her. you like yourself more when you are with her.
 
you feel at ease, more comfortable, like you don't need to be perfect in front of her. you love how she listens to you attentively without contradicting, like she understands every bit of you.
 
yes, maybe she really wants to get into your pants, but you don't care. if being with her means getting trapped in this solace, then you're willing to give it to her.
 
you feel a little sad when it's time for you to go. she walks you down the building and hails a cab for you.
 
she hands you a card before closing the car door.
 
she holds her pinky finger to and her thumb to her ear and mouths, "call me."
 
---
 
"kang seulgi, digital marketing and communications major," says eunwoo, tilting his head to read the test paper on your fridge that hangs along with some bills to pay. he turns to you. "a favourite student of yours?"
 
hearing that name somewhat moves your heart. you're glad you're busy pouring the sauce into the pasta bowl, and your brother won't see your blushing face.
 
mental note to yourself: put that paper back in the folder before donghae sees it on friday.
 
"ahh. yeah. i was checking the test papers and found something in her answers worth taking notes," you say.
 
eunwoo stands straight, his hands in his pockets. "learning something from your student, aren't ya?"
 
you secretly smile as you approach the dining table with the bowl of spaghetti. "well, the world of digital marketing evolves rather quickly. what works today might be obsolete next month."
 
"absolutely terrifying." he sits on the chair across from you and pours a serving on your plate first before his. "if something changes that fast, i don't think i can keep up with it. at least a musical instrument is played in the same way generations after generations."
 
"that's undebatable."
 
"that's the reason i think your career choice seems to fit you, noona."
 
you look at your brother. "you don't think i fit being a lawyer?"
 
his face contorts. "you were a zombie when you were studying law. why don't you forget about mum and dad and stick to what you want? it's your life you're living after all, not theirs."
 
you stare at your brother in awe, wondering when or how he become like this.
 
"and it's about time you try doing something for yourself," he adds, gesturing a hand to you. "you always take into consideration dad's or that donghae's opinions. don't let them influence your decisions. just do it on your own and screw it."
 
you chuckle as you twirl the pasta with your fork. "you really don't like donghae, do you?"
 
eunwoo sighs and leans on his chair. "look. i don't hate him. it's just that i see a lot of dad's character in him."
 
"like?"
 
"he's a bit of a control freak, always wants to be the macho man in the relationship." eunwoo flexes his arms, making you laugh. "i mean, he can give you a bit freedom to decide for yourself, can't he? and have you told him about that apartment you want to transfer to?"
 
you shake your head. "i didn't even bother to open it up. i knew he'd say no because he thinks it's better here."
 
eunwoo shakes his head, letting out a loud sigh. "if i can control things, i'd pick a better partner for you."
 
"oh how ironic." you smile. "and who do you think is a better partner for me?"
 
"someone who's going to push you to be great on your own, not someone who's another version of dad who thinks they know everything that's best for you." he scoffs before putting a roll of pasta into his mouth. "mmm. this is great. maybe you should consider opening a cafe or something too."
 
you let out another smile as you silently munch your food.
 
you don't know why, but seulgi's image pops in your head when eunwoo said that.
 
---
 
seulgi went in and out of your classroom like any other typical student would do. she didn't do anything to get your attention; neither did she make you feel uncomfortable when you're discussing in front of the class.
 
everything just went back to like how it was before.
 
you think it's better that way. but as the days pass, the urge to call her grows even more.
 
you find yourself staring at her card longer.
 
you know the ball is already in your court the moment she handed that card to you. but should you bite the bait?
 
and if you do, will there be a point of return after you cross the line, or will it just end there?
 
somehow you don't want that.
 
you don't like the idea that she'll dispose you after using you--just like her other girls.
 
you groan.
 
damn that kang seulgi.
 
---
 
it was one rare occasion when your dad calls you himself to invite you out for a simple family dinner.
 
of course, you were ecstatic. you've declined taeyeon and tiffany's night out invitation even after they said it'll be the usual gang--yuri confirmed bringing seulgi and yoona with her.
 
you know this is your chance of hanging out with her, but you don't want to disappoint your dad either.
 
so, you clocked out on time and called a cab to drive you to the restaurant. your eyes linger at taeyeon's bar when your cab passes by the area.
 
you sigh.
 
how come every cell in your body is missing her when you've been alone for like a handful of times only?
 
how come you're feeling like this when you don't even know much about her yet?
 
and why is she giving that vibe that she feels the same?
 
or is it just you who's thinking of it?
 
"she sleeps around, irene," you tell yourself. "what you're feeling now is normal. she's good at making women feel like that."
 
you push the thoughts away when your cab arrives in front of the restaurant.
 
you step out after handing over a few bills to the cabbie.
 
you stare at the front door and take a deep breath.
 
hopefully, this turns out good.
 
---
 
eunwoo stands upon seeing you, immediately pulling a chair beside him for you to sit on.
 
you bow at your parents from across the table and sits after sending a little thank-you-smile to your brother.
 
"are we celebrating something today?" you ask, noticing the effort they put into this dinner. they even choose a private room.
 
"well, your mum and i realised it's been so long since the four of us went out like this," your dad says, smiling and reaching out for your mother's hand on the table. "we still should go out as a family even if it's only the four of us."
 
family.
 
it rings in your head over and over.
 
but your dad's enthusiasm over this dinner makes you feel something's up.
 
he looks at you. "we may have a little surprise for you, irene."
 
"me?" you look at your brother, couldn't believe what you're hearing. he shrugs.
 
"yeah. but it'll be," he pauses and looks at his wristwatch, "in a little while. why don't we order food for now?"
 
something's up with that smile. your brother taps your leg under the table. you look at him. he nods.
 
whatever it is that will happen, at least you know he's got your back.
 
---
 
it was an hour later when the surprise arrives... in the form of your boyfriend.
 
"donghae?" you stand up, surprised to see him enter the room with flowers in his hands. "i thought you'd be working--"
 
"ssshhh." he signals a finger to his mouth as he walks towards you. "i missed you." he kisses your cheek and acknowledges your parents with a bow after.
 
eunwoo tilts his head to the side, and you can already imagine him rolling his eyes.
 
you don't miss the knowing look your parents and donghae share. you turn to your lover. "w-what's happening?"
 
"relax," he assures with a smile. he puts the flowers down and produces a small box from his coat pocket.
 
"oh my god." you cover your mouth with a hand as donghae bends down on one knee.
 
"i know we have discussed prolonging this before. but your dad and i talked, and i realised that there's no one else in the world i want but you," he says sincerely. "so, bae irene, will you do this honour of becoming my wife?" he opens the box, and the ring presents itself to you.
 
you hear your brother hiss.
 
you're too surprised to speak.
 
donghae reaches out for your hands, still down on one knee. "once my contract with my current employer ends, i'll quit my job and will be helping my dad with his business. in that way, we can be together. and you, you can quit your job so you can focus on reviewing for the bar exam." he looks your dad's way. "i promised your dad we'll get married after you pass the bar."
 
words are stuck in your throat. so, this was the reason your dad is happy.
 
you look at your father, who sends you an encouraging smile. your mum seems to be happy as well.
 
you look back at your lover, still feeling overwhelmed with what's happening.
 
you were starting to feel this sense of freedom these past few days. but now he's asking you to marry him and has already made plans about your lives?
 
you feel the urge to reject his offer, but your dad is finally giving you that look of acceptance, the acceptance you've been longing for since you were a kid.
 
you are pulled out of your thoughts when your brother stands up, making his chair screech across the floor.
 
"this is crazy! how can you do this to her!" he shouts at your dad. "you don't have the right to decide for her own sake!"
 
"you ungrateful kid!" your dad stands up too, furious. "how dare you talk to me like that!"
 
"this isn't about me. this is about my sister!" eunwoo turns to donghae after. "and you, did you ever think of considering what my sister wants?"
 
you grab your brother by his arm, afraid he'll start a brawl. "eunwoo--"
 
"did you ever think of asking her what she wants?" he spats at donghae, who seems taken aback. "did you ever consider what she's feeling?"
 
"stop this, eunwoo!" your mum shouts. "we did not raise you to be this disrespectful!"
 
eunwoo presses his lips together and shakes his head. "i'm sorry. but i want to talk to my sister alone."
 
the next thing you know is you being dragged out of that place, leaving your parents and donghae still in shock.
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