"Kim Jongin, would it kill you to pay attention in class? Or are you determined to fail out?"
I ripped my eyes away from the window and turned back to the front of the room, spinning a little too quickly in my seat and falling onto the hard, tiled floor, breaking my fall with my left hand. A painful shock ran up the length of my wrist, and as I clutched it tightly, I felt the warmth that flooded my cheeks betray my embarrassment. I heard muffled giggles and coughs of amusement as I picked myself up and bowed, still cradling my hand, to Mr. Ok, who stood at the head of the class.
"Sorry, sir," I spoke immediately, bending my body at the waist into an awkward ninety-degree angle. I could feel my ears begin to turn bright red as I hurriedly straightened up and resumed my seated position. I ignored the continuous giggle of girls that rang out from the back of the room. It wasn't worth the irritation.
"Sorry for failing to care about your studies, or sorry for making a fool out of yourself?" The condescension that colored his tone left me seething. I closed my eyes and took a breath.
Wanting to keep a firm hold on my remaining dignity, I lifted my head to look Mr. Ok straight in the eye and replied, "Both."
He raised an eyebrow at me and I turned away once again, hiding my face from my amused audience.
"Well, then," Mr. Ok muttered, almost to himself, though I knew he meant for the rest of the class to hear, "I suppose you aren't completely hopeless."
Whatever force which kept me from jumping up and punching the old man in the face, I was thankful for. My hands were clenched, balled up so tightly into fists, that the white of my bone was visible through my pale skin. I was so tired of old-man-Ok constantly picking on me. I was by no means the smartest in the class, but I wasn't the dumbest either. Why me?
Because you're his nephew.
I rolled my eyes. Sure, just because I was his nephew, he had the right to bully me in front of my classmates. What a joke.
"Jongin, meet me after class," he croaked at me, the glint of his thickly-framed glasses giving his glare an even more menacing look.
More giggles and titters followed the dismissive nod of my head. As Mr. Ok turned away to resume his lecture, I let my head collapse miserably upon the desk. Was it simply inevitable that with each and every time I walked through the doors of Incheon Arts Academy, I would be instantly barreled into by the insults of my own teachers?
"I hope you were all paying attention," Mr. Ok said loudly over the bell that signaled the end of class. "This," he continued, pointing at me, "is the ultimate example of what not to do if you wish to accomplish anything in life."
The classroom emptied quickly, though some people hung back to give me annoyingly degrading glances. I ignored each and every one of them, not moving from my hunched position at my desk. Luhan caught my eye as he walked past me toward the door, raising his eyebrows in an unspoken inquiry. I nodded my head ever so slightly in confirmation, my eyes trailing after him as his face relaxed and he left the room. I buried my head back in my arms, waiting for the onslaught of lectures that was bound to come.
"Jongin, I'm seriously worried about you. Your mother keeps sending me emails asking how you're doing in school. What am I supposed to say to her? That you're not paying attention in my class? That you're this close," he raised his hand to show the half-inch of space that existed between his index finger and thumb, "to getting kicked out?"
"It doesn't really help that my own uncle insists on being a total jerk to me in class. Just because you're my guardian does not mean you have the right to do that." I lifted my head to meet his gaze with a cold stare. The stern expression that had coated his face during the previous period had disappeared, only to be replaced by a reproaching look of disapproval.
"If anything," he retorted, "that gives me more of a right. I'm hard on you for a reason, and that's because I know you can do more than this. The work you are putting in now is only a fraction of what you are actually capable of. How do you think I feel, looking at how you're slacking while knowing you can do so much better? It's honestly painful."
I forced my laugh to turn into a cough at the last moment, staring at him incredulously. was he being serious?
"Since when do you care? Since when do you give a damn what I do with my life? Do you even know what I want to pursue? Do you even know what my plans are for the future. No, you don't. That's because you only started caring when Dad died and Mom was left to care for me on her own. Don't pretend to care when you're actually just looking for excuses to pick on me in front of my friends and classmates. I'm not an idiot. I see through you."
The venom that infiltrated every aspect of my voice was evident. I ignored the shocked, offended expression that crossed his wrinkled face as it slowly turned into one of anger and frustration. I watched him in silence as he attempted to control the feelings that rolled across his face.
"Then enlighten me, Jongin." His voice had once again adapted that teacher-like voice, full of fake understanding and degradation. "What is it you want to do with your life, if you don't want to follow your father's wishes and become a lawyer?"
"My father's wishes?" I asked in disbelief, raising my eyebrows until they reached the edge of my hairline. Was he kidding me? "My father wanted me to do whatever made me happy. You're the one that wants me to become a lawyer. And, guess what? I am going to follow my father's wishes. I'm going to be whatever I want to be, and you're not going to stop me. You don't even care enough to try and figure out what it is I love doing. So don't try and fool me into thinking I'm not honoring my father's wishes."
"Jongin, I just want what's best for you," he told me carefully, letting a pseudo-tone of understanding escape his words. I was careful not to scoff openly. It would just give him more of an excuse to boss me around and force me to do his bidding.
"You're doing a wonderful job of showing it," I said, standing up abruptly and slinging my bag over my shoulder. I walked to the door of the classroom, turning back at the last moment to glance back at my uncle. Before I opened my mouth to express my last bitter thoughts, he spoke, interrupting whatever sentiments I had ready to aim at him.
"Don't think I haven't heard about your dancing stunts."
The way his voice wrapped regretfully around the word "dancing" left a twist in my gut. His thoughts were crystal clear, reflected by his disapproving tone.
"It's not a stunt," I said, by no means trying to hide the acid that infected my voice. "It's what I love to do."
"So is that it? Is singing and dancing like a clown really what you want to pursue? Do you really want to throw away everything your father and I have given you?"
"Given me?" The anger that welled up within me was reaching its . Once it exploded, it would be difficult to reign it back in. "You haven't given me anything."
"I've given you everything," he growled, taking a threatening step forward. "I've given you a place at this school. I've given you a sturdy place to live. I've probably even helped you make friends, because I know you never would have been able to manage that on your own."
My knees almost buckled under the weight of his bull. I laughed humorlessly, eyeing every surface of his old, passive-aggressive expression. I imagined myself walking forward with no hesitation and wringing his fat neck. Who was he to tell me that he gave me everything? If anything, I was merely a nuisance that he had to deal with. I was only a trifle that he had to be bothered with.
"I'm done talking. If this is how you treat me while saying you've given me everything, you're obviously in denial. You have given me nothing."
"Nothing, huh? Then what if I send you back to that dump that you call home? Where your own mother can't take care of you. Where you can't afford to get even a half-decent education. Where you really have nothing and no one. Where no one gives a damn about you."
Finally, he was letting his true colors rise to the surface. I had waited so long for him to reveal his true character, and at long last, he was showing me what a twisted, evil bastard he really was.
"Please do," I said, repositioning the bag that remained slung over my shoulder. "At least I'll be safe at home where I don't have to see your face every day."
With that, I walked out of the classroom, ignoring his yells about how I was "wasting the efforts of my father" and how "ashamed I should be of myself." As soon as I was free of the weight he had so carelessly dropped upon me during that short time, I let the thick, burning tears gather in my eyes. I was careful to keep my head bent down low in an attempt to hide my feelings from the student that flitted about the halls, rushing to get to their classes and avoid any possible tardies.
"Hey, what did Ok want?"
Luhan's voice appeared, and I focused my gaze to see his raggedy sneakers walking alongside my own. I turned away in the opposite direction, quickly wiping away the wetness that had inconveniently decided to spill over at that moment.
"Jong, you okay?" My insides softened in response to his warm, concerned voice. The worry that saturated his question was enough to minimally heal the hurt that my "uncle" had inflicted upon me.
"Yeah," I replied, lifting my head to shoot him a forced smile, hiding an expression of gratitude underneath the surface of my grin. "I'm totally fine."
Luhan's face was clouded with doubt, but he knew me well enough not to question me. I would open up to him sooner or later, most likely later.
"Luhan," I said, my gaze fixed on the far exit of the building. "I'm leaving."
Silence followed my words. Only footsteps filled the deserted halls of the building. I could hear his breath grow rapid, the way it did whenever he was starting to get panicked and worried.
"W-What do you mean, leaving?" I could tell he was already beginning to cry. After how many times of lecturing him on how being too sensitive wasn't good for his image, the simple words "I'm leaving" had too much of an effect on him.
I tried not to feel too regretful as I replied, "I mean I'm leaving. Going back home to Seoul. To my mom. I don't want to stay here anymore. This isn't where I belong."
"But what about our dance group? What about the auditions? We've been practicing for over two years." His voice was starting to tremble. "Plus, you're my best friend. I don't want you to leave."
Guilt washed over me, making its way into every corner of my mind. Luhan was probably the sweetest, kindest person I would ever meet again. It would probably kill both of us if I really left. I cursed my selfishness, only then remembering how Luhan's brother had just been shipped off to military training. His brother had been his best friend, alongside myself. With me gone, Luhan had no one.
I was always the one to beat up the guys that had the balls to pick on him. I was always the one to try and boost his self-esteem when he would get taunted and teased for looking like a . He was dangerously vulnerable without me. How could I leave him?
It's not about him. He's going to have to learn how to fend for himself. You're not always going to be there for him. It's not about how weak you think he is. It's about following what your heart wants.
The words of my uncle returned, echoing in my head.
"...you really have nothing and no one...no one gives a damn about you..."
"I'm sorry," I said to Luhan, keeping my expression stoic and free of emotion. "I can't stay here anymore."
I imagined the face of my mother; the beautiful, loving face I hadn't set eyes on for the last two years. Happiness and longing spilled over me as I contemplated being by her side again. It was my turn to take care of her, not the other way around. It was my turn to give back everything I had stripped her of. It was time for her to get her beloved son back.
Mom, I'm coming home.
here's the first chappie!
i didn't expect it to be this long haha
enjoy and don't forget to comment
and tell me what you think!