" I'll be fine. You just take care of your mom. I'll try and let you know when the date of our audition is. Just...do me a favor and take care of yourself, okay? There's no need to worry about me. I'm stronger than you think."
I couldn't pull my mind away from the memory of Luhan's face, trying so hard to look strong; trying so hard not to collapse in on itself and dissolve into tears. His voice echoed in the back of my head. I felt the muscles in the back of my neck constrict as my eyes wandered the landscapes that whizzed past the fogged surface of the train window. The vibrations of the moving train car made it impossible for me to fall asleep, as much as I wished I could escape reality; the reality where I was heading back to square one - poor, hungry, life devoid of anything but work.
I wanted so badly to escape from my past. The words of my uncle came flowing back into my mind, and in spite of myself, I realized how right he had been. Back at home with my mother, I had no one; I had nothing.
I closed my eyes, blocking out the world. I didn't want to face the facts that hung limply over my head. Soon, I would once again be going endless nights without sleep, living off of two small meals a day, constantly on the lookout for those all-too-rare customers that happened upon my mother's hole-in-the-wall restaurant. At the same time, though, I had to prove my uncle wrong. I had to show him that I didn't need the "support" he claimed he so willingly provided. I had to show him that I could live my life without the helping hand of anyone, let alone him. I opened my eyes to glare at whatever they landed on first.
The anger that bubbled up within me was unprecedented. The chatter that emanated from around me, accompanied by the roar of the train, was unable to wipe away the that invaded my mind. I felt my hands ball themselves up into fists of their own accord, my knuckles cracking loudly. My left foot tapped agitatedly upon the cold, hard floor of the car, earning me several annoyed glances from fellow passengers. I ignored their irritated looks, the speed at which my foot collided with the surface of the floor increasing with each thought that whizzed through my brain and took root in my mind.
You're so selfish, leaving Luhan behind just to get beat up by Kyungsoo and his friends.
Your uncle was right all along. Without him, you'd still be stuck in that with your useless mother.
You think you'll make it through the audition? Keep dreaming, . You have no talent, you almost failed out of school, and you're ugly as . Don't kid yourself.
I inhaled and exhaled rapidly, concentrating hard on preventing myself from yelling out loud in frustration and cursing the world. I wrapped my hand around the underside of my seat, channeling all of my anger and self-hatred into squeezing the life out of my seat cushion. It was obvious my temper wasn't going to be reigned in that easily.
Go to your happy place, I thought to myself, making a conscious effort to calm my rapid breathing. Forget the crap people say about you. Just go to your happy place.
It was a relief to sink into the depths of my own consciousness and escape from the poisonous thoughts that spread through me like a contagious disease, insisting on infecting every inch of me. I slowly immersed myself into the strumming of the bass that existed in my head, let my heart beat in time with the syncopated rhythm that pulsed through my veins, and let my soul drown in the beauty of the music I imagined flowing, dancing through the air, twinkling above my head like luminous stars.
Up until the moment the train made its final stop in Seoul, I lost myself in the bliss of the music that wrapped itself around my head. Only the painfully shrill blow of a distant whistle brought me back to the present. I reluctantly pulled my mind away from my fantasies; fantasies full of the peaceful feelings that flooded my senses whenever I sang, the warm hands of harmonic notes cleansing my mind of all worries; the comforting, familiar movements of my body as it moved perfectly and effortlessly along with the waves of smooth melodic chords and energetic synthesizers.
"You have now arrived in Seoul. We wish you a safe departure. Thank you."
The robotic monotone that echoed throughout the length of the train pulled me completely out of my reverie. I stood up almost on command, holding back a groan as my stiff muscles were stretched out from their various motionless positions. Trying to avoid the crowds of people that flowed into and out of the train car simultaneously, I slipped my bag over my head and maneuvered my way out of the crowded gathering of passengers.
As I stepped off the train, my heart gave a jolt, a feeling that I only ever experienced when I nailed a high note during practices or perfected a move during rehearsals. The familiar, welcoming smell of home invaded my nostrils, sending tendrils of tentative excitement up my body. Forgetting the venomous words of my uncle; ignoring the quiet, nagging doubts that filled my head, I couldn't help but feel relieved to finally be somewhere where I felt whole; complete; where I felt I could truly be me. I wasn't being held back by anything or anyone. I was home.
"Jongin! Jongin!" A faint, over-excited, all-too-familiar voice reached my ears. My eyes searched the sea of heads that littered the platform. One head, covered in a tuft of curly, graying hair, stood out from the rest. It bobbed in anticipation as its owner slipped in and out of packs of tourists and weaved her way around multiple reuniting couples.
"Ma! Over here!" Even I was aware of the tender excitement that saturated my voice.
"Jongin! Oh, my Jongin!" I barely had time to let the beautiful sight of her sink its way back into my memory as her hug engulfed me, smothering me in her warmth and love. "Jongin, Jongin..."
Her voice trailed off into violent, teary gasps as she began to cry into my denim jacket. Her body shook with her cries, sobs - thankfully - muffled, limiting the number of weird looks we received from the many judgmental passers-by. I hugged her back, preventing my own tears from spilling over. I inhaled deeply, rememorizing the wonderful smell that would forever accompany her presence. Peace and calm stole over my heart as she finally released me to look up at my face.
"Jongin," she said proudly, tear tracks staining the sides of her aged face, "You've gotten so handsome."
I laughed and bent down to kiss her withering cheek softly. I didn't realize how tall I'd gotten.
"I think you've gotten younger, Ma," I said jokingly, joy spreading its wings within my heart as a smile flashed across her face. The curve of her lips, the shadow cast by her broad nose, the soft wrinkle that bordered her eyes - everything was exactly the same as I remembered, their perfection exaggerated by the length of time we had spent apart.
"Don't tease me," she said, wrapping my hand in both of hers and leading me towards the back of the crowded station. I had to strain my ears to hear her over the noise of the people getting ready to board the next train. "I only wish I had gotten younger. Oh, and Jongin," she said, her voice trembling in excitement. "I have a surprise for you!"
"Food?" Though my voice adopted a playful tone, I was more serious than not. My stomach rumbled pitifully as I was lead by my mother towards the exits of the station.
"That, too" she replied, glancing at me with a raised brow.
Something about her was...different. Her face had something hidden behind its expression that had never been there after Dad died. It glowed; it was happy. This wasn't the mom I remembered. The mom I had left behind when I left for school was dull and depressed. The mom I had grown used to since the center of our household passed away wasn't this new, cheerful woman that now led me into the warm, sunlit streets of Seoul.
I was just about to open my mouth to express my thoughts when she lifted her hand and waved to someone in the distance. I attempted to follow her gaze and find whoever she was waving at. My eyes merely fell upon a middle-aged man dressed in a suit, waving to someone. He couldn't be waving to my mom, so my eyes passed over him aimlessly.
Only then did I notice the clothes Mom was wearing - slick black slacks, a perfectly ironed, white blouse, and dark grey shoes, branded with a logo of some big-shot clothing line. Realization made its way slowly into my mind as she led me to the man who had been waving. As we approached, I felt my face freeze into a stony grimace, my jaw locked tightly. I looked down at my mother in disbelief. She met my gaze with a painfully joyous smile.
"Jongin, meet Park Taekyung," she said proudly, letting go of my hand to stand alongside the man, who smiled down at me kindly. "Your new stepfather."
I almost choked on the air that whistled up my throat. I relaxed my face into a politely confused expression as I said, "Sorry, did you just say stepfather?" I saw something flash across her face at my question. "Like, you two got married?"
My mother's face grew uncommonly stern as she mouthed, "Bow." I didn't move an inch. The instinct to punch the guy in the face was almost overpowering. I simply looked up at him, forcing passive look to steal over my features.
"You must be Jongin," he rumbled, sticking out his hand confidently. "I've heard a lot about you and your dancing from your mother. My own son, Chanyeol, enjoys singing. Rapping, too." The man chuckled. I still refused to shake his hand, forcing him to let it swing pathetically to his side.
"Good to know," I finally replied, after receiving an icy glare from my mother. I tried not to let my voice become too sarcastic, though I doubt I succeeded. The twitch of a corner of his mouth confirmed it.
"I'm sure you're very tired," my mom cut in, placing her hands gently on each one of our arms. I jerked my arm away from her touch, looking at nothing but the ground. The familiar burning sensation that entered the edged of my eyelids was like a warning bell, signaling the countdown until I would finally blow up.
I was offended; disgusted; horrified that my mother, the one person whom I thought I could trust, had gone behind my back and found herself a husband while I was going through so much at hell high. The betrayal I felt was more powerful than the anger.
I wanted you to be happy, Ma. But not because of this bastard. I wanted you to be happy because of me.
here is yet another chappie!
jeez, there's already drama
and yet another member of exo!
do you guys think he's gonna be the
evil step-brother? or kind-hearted, loyal
best friend? we'll see...
comments are loved! <3