Chapter 3

Shallow Hearts for Shallow Minds

Mingi showed up the next morning as if nothing had happened. When Wooyoung went to meet his friend on the doorstep, he had to pretend he didn’t nearly cry himself to sleep the night before. And, possibly a few tears of regret flew as he was getting ready for the day. 


Every hint of emotion was quickly wiped from his face, replaced with an empty expression, one void of thoughts. He didn’t feel the need to even look happy to see Mingi, silently hoping he would get the hint and off before Wooyoung had to tell him too.


What Wooyoung forgot was that Mingi was ing stupid. Mingi needed things spelled out for him, and that was something Wooyoung had no energy to do.


“What about that homework? I’m sure it’s due today.” Mingi commented, holding a hand up to the sun to block the rays.


Wooyoung wanted to grab his head and bash it into the wall. Who gave a about some stupid homework assignment? Never mind that Wooyoung had promised to complete it with San’s stolen notebook, but was the only thing Mingi thought of himself? Wooyoung hadn’t said a word during their whole walk, and Mingi had yet to question it. Some friend. 


“I didn’t do it.” He finally murmured. 


Mingi scoffed, “Dude, come on! I gave you that notebook cause you said you were gonna do it! You can’t just tease me like that. I would have loved to keep it for myself, a prized possession of a .”


Wooyoung’s body tensed up at the blatant evidence of Mingi thinking of no one but himself. The word being dropped again also sent a chill down his spine. “I didn’t have time.”


“What else could you possibly be doing? Other homework? If so, I’d like that too.” Mingi laughed as if everything was just a joke to him.


Wooyoung didn’t respond, only keeping his eyes forward, hoping the clearness of the sky would distract his brain from everything that was happening. Maybe he’d be transported to a time machine, though he wasn’t even sure of when he would be transported to. Maybe he’d secretly become a superhero. Who knew? 


All Wooyoung knew was that at no point in his life has he felt eager to wake up in the morning, especially in his recent high school years. Perhaps he’d take a time machine to the future, where he could experience a fresh and new lifestyle without the presence of high school.


“Damn, guess you’re not in the mood,” Mingi muttered, blowing out a puff of smoke.


Wooyoung was glad to finally break away from Mingi once the bell rang. Being in class felt like a godsend from the night he had. It was a sense of normalcy, as if things were back to the way they were. As if he didn’t have an impending issue hovering over him at any given moment. 


The hallways were full of people swirling around with everyone caught up in doing their own thing. It was refreshing. Wooyoung caught sight of one of the football guys from yesterday, standing with a group around a locker laughing, talking, and having fun. 


Wooyoung remembered the words that were said the day before. About how everyone knew of him, but not in a positive way. 


Everyone standing in the hallway knew him, knew his name. But they knew him as someone who was associated with peers who had a bad reputation in the school. People who were considered ‘popular’ because everyone knew them, but there was never anything positive to say about them. 


Looking around, would any random person he saw know who he was? Would they scowl and lower their eyes at the sight of him, just as the football players had done the day before? Thinking that in their minds that Wooyoung was an evil villain, someone with malicious intentions, someone who enjoyed terrorizing people.


His heart sank the more and more he walked through the hallway, suddenly feeling very visible. Though he wasn’t tall and blended in well, he could still feel everyone’s eyes on him, watching him, waiting for him to choose a victim to terrorize.


A coat of gloss covered his eyes as his heart started to beat. Retreating to the nearest bathroom, Wooyoung splashed some water onto his face to get some of the heat off of it. Stop crying. Why was he crying in the middle of the school day, in a public restroom of all places? He repeated that to himself many times. Stop crying. Stop crying. Stop ing crying.


Red eyes were what he was left with, as well as an unstable brain, worried he’d peek out the bathroom and feel like he was at the Met Gala; thousands of people with cameras, all whispering about him and what he’s done.


Wooyoung stepped outside many minutes after the bell had already rung. He’d miss his first class, but at least there would be nobody nearby. Wandering around in the hallway was what Wooyoung opted for. He couldn’t just stay in the bathroom all day, pitying himself. 


But the hallway was way less inviting than the bathroom, it seemed. Every door was a gateway for someone to walk through and get a full glance at him standing pathetically in the middle of the hallway.


A thought struck his brain, and for once he was grateful for his instinctive way of getting out of situations.


 Leave. Just, leave. Just walk out the door and be gone. He wouldn’t have to worry about anything anymore if just wasn’t there in the first place. He could even transfer! He could go somewhere else and get a fresh start, all new people, all new environments. Yes, that was perfect. He would do that.


“Young man, where do you think you’re going?” A voice was heard from behind him, seconds after he had opened the door handle and the cool air was already breezing into the hallway. The one thing he failed to consider, were the teachers and how he wasn’t allowed to just walk out of school in the middle of the day. 


“I just needed some fresh air, ma’am.” He replied a bit sheepishly, turning to look at her with a smile.


“Not you, son. I don’t think you do.” She stated with a hand on her hip, eyebrows raised almost with accusation. 


Wooyoung frowned, dropping his hand from the handle, “W-what do you mean?” He stuttered a bit, feeling the air around warm up. 


Her lips protruded as the venom in her eyes only increased, “This isn’t the first time you’ve been involved in school offenses.”


What? When had he ever done anything of that sort? Wooyoung was at a complete loss, “No, ma’am I haven’t done anything, I think you’ve gotten that wrong.”


“Save it, Jung. Follow me to the principal’s office, we’ll see how your parents react to hearing about you skipping school.” She said waving a hand, motioning for him to follow.


Wooyoung widened his eyes, “No, please ma’am please don’t tell my parents! They wouldn’t be happy with me at all.” He stammered out, though his legs moved to instinctively follow her.


“If you don’t want them to know, you shouldn’t have tried it in the first place.”


Wooyoung’s head swam with more thoughts as he walked into the principal’s office. He slowly sat down on a chair nearby, feeling the room get just a bit smaller with every passing second.


During the small meeting, he was explained the rules of the school, but he was hardly listening to anything that came out of . The only concern in his mind was about what his parents would think of him. His proposition to transfer would mean nothing if the school informed them about his attempt to leave. They would only see him as a delinquent trying to get out of school.


“I will be in contact with your parents about this.” The principal finished speaking, dismissing him into the hallway to be alone with nothing but his thoughts that were even more crumbled than before. 


Staring at the paintings lining the hallways, Wooyoung felt his heart crumble just a bit more. Somehow, everything got worse so quickly. Because his parents were now involved. So he had a new fear of going home which was directly compared to the fear of staying at school. What was he supposed to do?


“What are you doing?” A voice behind him spoke, quickly making Wooyoung aware that he was once again standing in the middle of the hallway. The voice was curious as if he was genuinely looking for an explanation for the situation at play.


Wooyoung hadn’t even gotten the chance to process what had just happened, and how much trouble his parents would have him in. The uncertainty and overall stress from everything made his stomach churn, the fear of the unknown taking over in the form of stomach unsettlement.


“Wooyoung? Hello?” The voice repeated, causing Wooyoung to actually look at who it was.


His heart nearly stopped once he noticed who it was, “San?” He asked, squinting his eyes with confusion. With everything going on, San was just about the last person he’d like to see. Only serving as a reminder as to why he got himself into the whole mess in the first place. 


Because of fear. Fear of others.


“Yeah, it’s me. San.” He replied, a bit of humor laced in his tone. “Anyways, I’m glad I could find you, I wanted to apologize for…” His voice trailed off as he set his eyes on Wooyoung, taking a step forward, “Are you… crying?”


“What? No, no.” He stammered, quickly wiping his eyes with his sleeves to get any liquid that might have spilled out of them. The churning in his stomach quickly increased as San looked at him with wide eyes.


Within seconds, whatever he had for lunch was on the floor. Not only the floor, no, but all over the man also standing in front of him as well. Violent lurches in his stomach combined with the heated air made for an altogether very unpleasant experience. 


“Holy ,” San mumbled, taking a step back to let Wooyoung finish vomiting up his lunch. 


Wooyoung shortly ended up on the floor, hands placed perpendicular to his elbows as he heaved, feeling the swirl of the world around him. “.” He breathed out, putting a hand on his stomach. “I feel like .”


San immediately crouched down next to him, eyes trailing Wooyoung’s face, “Are you going to do it again?”


“No.” He said confidently.


“Okay, we sh—" He was cut off by another heave. Throughout the duration, Wooyoung was surprised nobody else had walked by and witnessed what was happening. Popular mean guy Wooyoung vomits on the innocent targeted student? Surely would be the talk of the town.


“You said you weren’t going to do it again!” San yelled, stepping back once more. 


Wooyoung had surely already ruined San’s clothes. That was just another thing he would have to apologize for later on. Though, instead of running off in fear, San placed a hand on his back while the other hand was on his arm, pulling Wooyoung up from his position on the floor. 


“Oh, thank you,” Wooyoung mumbled, a bit caught off guard by the sudden kind gesture. 


“I’ll tell a janitor, let’s go to the nurse,” San said with a nod, already leading his body in the same direction as the school office. 


Wooyoung, being in no position to object, just nodded and allowed himself to be pulled along. Once again, his thoughts were distracted by the immediate actions of what was happening in front of him. It seemed to be a common trend. If only his entire life could be filled with distractions.


The nurse didn’t do much but provide San additional clothes to wear and a packet of Pepto Bismol for Wooyoung, letting him lie down on the gurney. It was nothing short of a humiliating experience, vomiting in the school hallways, but at least the moment had passed and he felt a bit better in general. 


“So, you just decided to get sick in the middle of the hallway?” San asked, beginning the conversation by sitting in the chair next to the nurses' desk. After the change of clothes, Wooyoung expected him to leave, but San seemed to have a different thought in mind. 


Wooyoung shook his head, “No, I just… I tend to get sick when I feel a bit overwhelmed.” He spoke with a small groan, rubbing his stomach. 


“Oh. Then, are you overwhelmed with something?”


Putting a hand on his head, Wooyoung let out another groan, “Obviously.”


San shifted a bit in his position, eyes trailing around the room. 


That was when Wooyoung suddenly shot up in the bed, eyes widening with a harsh realization. His mother, his parents, that was still an impending issue. What would they say? How would they respond? The thoughts suddenly came rushing back, “!” He yelled out, biting his lip. 


“What?” San asked in response. 


Wooyoung only shook his head, keeping his eyes focused on the white wall in front of him. “Nothing.” Everything was fine. It wasn’t like she would know instantly, right? He’d have a few hours or so of peace and quiet before finding out how long he’d be in trouble.


“Umm, Wooyoung. You’re shaking.” San stated.


Wooyoung looked down, observing the small involuntary movements in his fingers, “What? No I’m not.” For whatever reason, his body thought it would be a good time to shake. “I’m probably just a bit dehydrated and… sleep deprived,” Feeling proud of that excuse, he was disappointed to see a look of disbelief that was parched onto San’s face.


After a moment had passed, San sighed and stood up as if he was going to leave. That created a pang of confusion in Wooyoung’s heart. He had yet to process San even being there in the first place, yet he was about to leave? 


San his lips, “Whatever this is, Wooyoung, I hope you figure it out soon.”


“Figure what out?” He asked.


San seemed to ignore him, changing the subject, “Anyways, what I was trying to say earlier was that I wanted to apologize. I realized Yeosang was being a bit… harsh. I appreciate you giving the notebook back to me.”


Wooyoung blinked back, unable to think of what to say. When nothing came to mind, he only offered a small nod in response before San stalked out the door, letting it shut behind him. Wooyoung couldn’t blame him, though. It was the middle of the day and he most likely had to get back to class. That was something Wooyoung should have been doing, but instead, he was planning a stakeout to escape from everything that was happening. Accompanied by a load of vomit.


With his stomach feeling much better, he stepped off the bed and surveyed his options as to what the next step was. Either he could go to class or go back to the bathroom and sit on the toilet for the next few hours. Neither sounded like a good option, but returning to classes would probably be the best choice to avoid getting into any more trouble. 


Letting out a sigh, he stepped back into the hallway, noticing the janitor already getting to work on cleaning the mess his stomach made. He walked away quickly, hiding his face in shame. One more person to judge him was the last thing he needed. 


Luckily, the rest of the day felt a bit better, as Wooyoung decided nothing could be more humiliating than vomiting on the floor. He was given the option of going home by the nurse, but somehow, being in school outweighed the desire to go home. 


At the end of the day, Wooyoung was able to avoid the presence of Mingi. That action only earned him a few question marks in his text messages, but it was worth it to be free from Mingi. 


Mom was home, holding her arms crossed as he stepped into the house. Wooyoung wasn’t even allotted a mere second before the confrontation was set. Her long hair was styled, falling onto her crossed arms as she held a printed piece of paper in front of him. 


Cringing, Wooyoung knew exactly what it said. It was the email sent home from the school. She printed it out for physical proof, wanting something to confront him with as soon as he walked in, not even getting a second of freedom. Maybe he should have taken the long way home.


“Wooyoung.” She spoke.


“Mom, I know. It really wasn’t anything. They thought I was trying to leave school, but I really just needed some fresh air!” He said, saying the same lie he told the principal.


“You need to not lie to me, kid. What the hell has gotten into you? Your grades are declining too, not that they were any good to begin with, but they’ve reached an all-time low. Come on, Wooyoung. What’s been going on with you?”


He twiddled his thumbs trying to make an excuse on the spot. Leave it to him to be unprepared for what to say in confrontational social situations. With a sigh, he dropped his shoulders, “I wasn’t feeling well, mom.” He muttered. 


“You should not be lying to me.”


“But I’m not! I’m not lying!” Wooyoung quickly defended. I really didn’t feel well at all, I even puked in the hallway,” He said, leaving out the fact that it was most likely due to a sensation of feeling overwhelmed. 


Her eyebrow dropped, “If you were sick, you should have come home.”


“I wanted to, but I decided to stay at school at my own discretion. I didn’t want to miss any of it!” Wooyoung responded, hoping that the point would stick with her. Lie after lie fell out of his mouth so quickly, but there was nothing he could do about it. Getting in trouble would be nothing short of a nightmare.


“If you were feeling sick earlier, then you shouldn’t have gone to school, Wooyoung,” She spoke, but it looked as if her gaze was softening. 


Wooyoung fought back the urge to mention how he wouldn’t have even had to chance to inform her, as nobody else was ever home. He still had to tell her about the maid quitting, but there was another time for that. Through clenched teeth, he kept his gaze on the floor. “Okay, I’m sorry.”


There was a small pause before she responded, “Alright. I’ll let you off the hook this time. But if anything like this,” She waved the paper in the air, “Happens again, then I won’t be so kind.”


He only nodded in response, feeling a bit relieved to have escaped the situation. The lecture was only postponed for another day, not removed completely, as he knew there would certainly be another instance where he ed up. 


Walking to his room, Wooyoung played at the events in his mind. At the very least, he needed to talk to San again. He needed to apologize just as the ladder had, it was only courteous. That would be a mission for the next day. Find San. 

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