"Luhan, pick up your damn phone! I have to talk to you," I all but screamed into my phone. How many calls would I have to make before he finally realized that whatever I had to say was urgent? At this point, my life revolved around and depended on that audition. If we had no way to get together and practice, we were pretty much ed. I opened up my recent calls and scrolled through.
X Dialed: Luhan #2456545543
XDialed: Luhan #2456545543
XDialed: Luhan #2456545543
XDialed: Luhan #2456545543
I had made seventeen calls in the past hour; all to the same person; all going unanswered. The previous night, he had seemed so determined to talk to me immediately the day after, but that hunch was soon forgotten as my eyes scanned my recent calls list once again. I let the phone fall from my hand and land in the slick, black duffle bag that sat at my feet. The dull thud that met my ears reverberated through the wooden floorboards.
I lifted my head to look around the familiar dance studio that still remained the haven of my youth. I smile crept its way onto my face as I noticed the small wall of coloring book pictures that hung on the studio mirror that stretched across every surface of the room's walls. I walked over, curiosity getting the best of me. My incredulous laugh of amazement bounced off the walls as my eyes scanned the various drawings and pictures that hung there. The pastel colors that had been splattered on the page were fading, mixing in with the off-white of the paper. At each corner of every page, the same name was written in a child's hand-writing: Kim Jongin.
"After all this time, I can't believe I still keep those up there."
I whirled around, searching for the source of that deep, gruff, strangely familiar voice. My heart nearly exploded as my gaze locked on the relatively young, warm face of my former dance coach.
"Mr. Kim!" Before I realized that I was now the same size as him, I ran forward and jumped on him, swinging my legs up and wrapping them around his waist. My arms wrapped themselves around his neck and grasped onto each other, creating a never-ending human loop that ran around his body. I felt the vibrations of his laughter as he struggled to support my weight. Our joy of being reunited filled the empty dance studio with laughter. I could feel Mr. Kim's strength begin to give out, his legs trembling slightly under my weight. With one last delighted yell, I propelled myself backwards and let him massage his arms as he eyes me with a stern expression.
"Kai, I'm not as young as I used to be. And you're obviously not as small as you used to be. You don't want to be the cause of my early death, now do you?"
I grinned, my smile widening at the use of my old nickname. Kai. Mr. Kim had given me that nickname back when he still coached me and helped me develop my dancing. According to him, the Chinese character kai meant 'open', the Japanese kanji kai also meaning 'meeting.' He told me that from our very first meeting, I was always open to learning; always open to improving my skills and trying new things. The nickname became our thing; the one motivational inside joke that we were able to share.
"When did you come back to Seoul?"
"Yesterday," I replied sheepishly, shoving my hands deep within the pockets of my sweatpants. Mr. Kim should have been the first person I called when I got back. After my dad died, he was like a second father, always there for me - ready to talk about anything, arms always open wide. Looking into his face, warmth and comfort settled over me. Since returning to Seoul, it was the first time I finally felt at home.
"Why? You didn't fit in with those Incheon kids?" Brewing underneath his joking tone was genuine concern, which I was grateful for.
"Not so much the kids as much as," I paused for second, looking down at my feet, "my uncle."
He nodded in understanding. He knew all too well the kind of person my uncle was and what kind of relationship existed between us. Knowing that, he changed the subject immediately. His eyes twinkled with his next words.
"So...what have you been working on lately? Are you still determined to do that audition?"
I brought my head back up to meet his friendly, curious stare. Without opening my mouth, I nodded, grinning in spite of myself.
"Wow. I remember when you first came up to me and told me you wanted to audition for SM. How many years ago was it? Six? You were only eleven. You came running up to me and said you wanted to audition for SM and become an amazing dancer like Eunhyuk. What band is he in now? SHINee?"
"Super Junior," I corrected him. "I set higher goals since then, though. Now, I want to be better than him. And you know Taemin from SHINee?"
"Of course I know Taemin. That kid is a genius. I was watching a video of him the other day. It's been a while since I've seen moves like that. You want to be better than him?" His voice was almost apologetic, as though he didn't think I was up for my self-set challenge.
"I know I can be better than him. That's the only way I'm ever going to get anywhere. I need to set my goals high. That's my motivation." I felt my confident smile falter as I remembered Chanyeol. I furrowed my eyebrows, frustrated that I had almost forgotten my real competition; my real motivation to be the best I could be.
"Hey, Kai, what are you thinking about?"
"Oh," I started, not realizing we had gone a full minute without talking. "Nothing..it's just...did you hear about my mom getting married to Greas-I mean, that Park Taekyung guy?"
"Yeah, yeah I heard about that. Didn't get an invitation to the wedding, though. I hear he's some big-shot business guy that likes helping out the less fortunate. I heard he has a son, too. Did you meet them yet?"
"Oh, I met both of them," I replied darkly, steel saturating my hard, bitter voice.
"And?" he inquired, lifting his eyebrows.
"They're both a pain in the ."
Mr. Kim must have really pitied me then, because he made no effort to reprimand my bad language. He simply looked at me. I turned my head, avoiding eye contact. After another moment of painfully tense silence, he patted me on the shoulder and nudged me teasingly.
"Come on, Jongin. Let's see what you've done with your talent these past few years."
The pressure from his hand disappeared as he walked to the DJ setup positioned in the far corner of the studio. I looked up once again. He drew an iPod out of his pocket and plugged it into a small, black chord that protruded from one of the enormous speakers that hung from the wall. The familiar beginning notes of TVXQ's "Mirotic" filled the practice room with rhythmic thumping and smooth voices, which found my foot tapping in time with the consistent beats of the bass that blocked out reality.
Before I had time to think, my foot slid smoothly across the floor, leading my body along with it. I twirled on the spot, completing a smooth rotation before lifting my arms. My movements obeyed my thoughts, executing every perfect detail which my mind ordered be put into action. In perfect synchronization, my hands slid down my body, stopping at my waist in time for my torso to swoop down to the left and curve gracefully into an open arc. As I straightened up, I once again lifted my hands, this time my right foot following their path and coming to a stop at the height of my knee, where I dropped it gracefully and let it slide back into its original position. I made my hands circle around each other, moving the top half of my body in an equally circular motion. My eyes were closed, soaking in the relaxation that accompanied every movement that my body made.
I wasn't just dancing. I was flying; soaring on the wings of my dreams. I had worked so hard to get to this point, and I was so close to finally reaching up and touching the perfection that smothered my utmost goals. I lost myself in my movements, the blissful feeling of flight completely taking over my consciousness. As the song ended, I was drenched in sweat, breathing deeply, but steadily.
I glanced over at Mr. Kim, looking for any feedback. I found him sitting against the back wall, his expression one of confusion and concentration.
"How was it?" I asked hopefully, my voice higher than usual. His verdict was always the final say. If he said I , then I . There was no arguing with truth of his opinions. In Mr. Kim's case, opinions were always fact.
"You said your goal was to be better than Taemin," he began, speaking slowly. I nodded, coughing softly and wiping the sweat from my forward on the sleeve of my white, cotton shirt.
"Yeah. If not better, then as good as."
"Kai, I can't believe I'm actually telling you this," he said, bending over and rising to his feet unsteadily. I waited in anxious silence as he drew closer. I couldn't decipher the emotions that churned beneath his features. Behind his pure black bangs, his eyes were lit with an unfamiliar blaze of some feeling I couldn't pinpoint.
"I can't believe I'm saying this," he said again, "but...I'd choose you over Taemin any day. That was some pretty insane dancing. I can't believe you improved this much. You will, without a doubt, make it into SM if the audition rides on your abilities, because that was seriously...wow. I can't even...my mind is blown."
I smiled, celebrating triumphantly on the inside, unable to suppress the joy that filled me at as a result of his long-awaited praise. Back when I still took private lessons from him, there would always be something to work on; always something I was missing. It was different, but refreshing to hear him compliment me so openly. Those two years of "goofing off," as my uncle so rightly stated, really had paid off.
In your face, Park Chanyeol, I thought smugly as Mr. Kim enveloped me in a tight, sweaty hug. You and Kyungsoo are going down.
okay you guys
here's a longer chappie!
i kept getting interrupted today,
so it took me a while to finish...
i did it in the end though!! hope its
alright :P comments are encouraged,
as always! <3 enjoy your day!!