Conditional love.

The Selfishness of Our Hearts.

Jonghyun had listened to it four times now. He just couldn’t believe it. He clicked on the button again, needing to hear it another time.

‘Jonghyun... it’s me. I know it’s been a long time and you probably don’t care anymore, but I ... we miss you. And we would love it if you could come by tomorrow for supper... Bye.’ Beep.

This time it hit him. It was very real. His mom had just left him a message. After so many years of silence, she had finally remembered his existence. He didn’t know how to feel about it. Part of him wanted to be angry and part of him just wanted to break down and cry.

As much as he had tried not to care, he always had and didn’t spend a day not having a thought for his parents. Even after everything. But with time, he had managed to make himself numb to the thought of them. Until now. That voicemail had just brought it all back up. All the hurt and the anger and the despair they had caused him... and that glimpse of hope that made him feel like there was a chance for them to start anew.

Moving away from the phone, he paced back and forth in the living room, trying to figure out what to do. Normally, he would’ve called Key immediately, but he knew how busy he was with helping for the upcoming fashion show of one his designer friends. It wasn’t a good moment to put more weight on his shoulders. The next logic move would’ve been to call Minho, but he already knew what his best friend was going to say. He would definitely tell him to not go to that supper.

But that’s not what he needed right now. He just needed someone to listen to him. And he already knew who he wanted to call, but he wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. Picking up his cell phone, he searched through the numbers until he found the one he was looking for. That had just been a way to push back the call; he already knew the number by heart.

After pondering for a few minutes, he made his decision. Phone pressed to his ear, he waited as his heart raced.

‘Hello?’ Jonghyun heard at the other end of the line. He could already feel his hands get sweaty.

‘Hey,’ he brought himself to say as he wiped them on his pants.

‘Are you okay? ’ Jinki asked with a voice laced with worry.

Jonghyun let out a nervous laugh. ‘I don’t know how you do it, but you always seem to know how I feel.’

‘Well, either I’m good at decoding people or you’re just not subtle at all,’ Jinki teased with a smile.

Jonghyun couldn’t help but smile back at that. He was already feeling better.

‘Honestly, your tone gave it away. Now tell me what’s going on,’ the blonde pressed. 

‘I just need to talk...’ Jonghyun sighed.

‘Do you want me to come over?’

‘Yeah. Please.’

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

‘Is Kibum home?’ Jinki asked as he came in.

‘No, he’s at work.’

Jonghyun took his coat and hung it for him in their entrance wardrobe. As soon as the other one had taken off his boots, they made their way to the living room, both taking place on different seats.

‘What’s going on?’ the older one lost no time to ask.

‘Um...’ Jonghyun ran a hand through his hair. ‘I got a call from my mom... well, I actually missed it so I didn’t talk to her, but I heard her voicemail and...’ He stopped.

Jinki didn’t say a word, he just waited.

‘And,’ Jonghyun started again. ‘And it just... I’m shocked.’

Trying to avoid the other one’s gaze, he looked down to his thighs. ‘I haven’t talked to her in years,’ he continued.

‘What about your father?’ Jinki asked.

Jonghyun felt a pang in his heart. ‘Same,’ he just said.

‘Same?’ the blonde echoed.

The younger one lifted his head up. ‘He’s the reason why we’re in this situation right now. He’s a ing bastard,’ Jonghyun blurted out.

‘What happened, Jjong?’

A sigh left Jonghyun’s lips. He wasn’t sure he was ready to dig up the past and lay it in the open.

‘Talk to me,’ Jinki persisted.

‘Okay...’ Jonghyun straightened up. ‘One day, I brought a friend home from school so we could study for some test. He and I had been spending a lot of time together that year. I really liked him and he obviously had a thing for me too. That day I brought him to my house, things kind of escalated and we ended up in my bed kissing...’ He cleared his throat. ‘I thought it was safe, because usually my parents didn’t get home at this hour, but that day they did. And my father found us.’

‘Oh,’ Jinki voiced out of surprise.

‘Yeah... and then it all happened so fast. I remember my friend getting out of my room right after my father starting beating me up. And then it was just pain and... and tears. I couldn’t stop crying. My mother tried to stop him, but it was no use. At some point, he stopped and I cried myself to sleep. When I woke up, my stuff was packed and he pushed me out of the door. Nothing I said at that time mattered. He didn’t care.’

‘Oh my god, Jjong...’ Jinki was clearly shaken up by his story.

 ‘It’s okay. It’s all in that past,’ the younger one reassured.

‘Even if it’s the past, it’s still horrible. I’m sorry that happened to you,’ the blonde said.

Jonghyun looked at his saddened face. ‘I’m sorry you had to listen to my sob story. I shouldn’t have-‘

‘No, I’m glad you called me,’ Jinki cut in as he watched the other one’s eyes widen. ‘And I’m glad you trust me enough to tell me all this,’ he added as their eyes locked.

Jonghyun suddenly felt warm all over. Before he could gather his thoughts, the older one asked, ‘But how did you manage after that?’

‘I was lucky,’ he replied quickly. ‘My best friend’s parents accepted to take me in that night, even though I didn’t go into the details of why I had been kicked out. I think they already knew.  I ended up spending a few months there. It was nice at first, but then I started to feel like a burden so I got a job and saved my money to get an apartment. My best friend wanted to move out too so he did the same and when we both had enough money, we got our apartment. All the while, we managed to finish high school and then we just worked all the time to be able to get by.’

‘Is that friend still in your life?’ Jinki inquired.

 ‘Yes, he is’. The thought of Minho brought a smile on Jonghyun’s lips. ‘I don’t think we’ll ever stop being friends. He’s helped me through so much...’

‘It’s good that you have a friend like that... I’m just asking this out of curiosity, but why didn’t you call him instead? I mean he could help you much more than I can,’ Jinki pointed out.

‘Minho hates my parents for what they did to me. He would’ve just told me to forget about her call and move on.’

‘And I’m guessing that’s not what you want to do.’

Jonghyun sighed. ‘I don’t know what I want to do.’

‘Actually, I think you know,’ Jinki observed.

The younger one just nodded, feeling his stomach knot.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

‘Thanks for bringing me here,’ Jonghyun said as he unfastened his seatbelt.

‘No problem,’ Jinki replied. ‘Are you sure you’re going to be okay?’ he then asked.

‘Yeah,’ the other one simply uttered. His hands were shaking and his mouth was dry. He wasn’t even in and he was close to a breakdown. But he needed to go through with this.

‘Good luck, Jonghyun,’ Jinki encouraged.

‘Thank you.’ He stepped out of the car and closed the door behind him. His steps were slow; he was dreading the moment when he would see his parents again. Just the sight of the house made him nauseous. He could still see his past self banging on the front door to get his father to let him back in. And now, almost eight years later, that door was finally going to be opened for him.

His finger pressed on the doorbell button. He could hear footsteps from the inside which made his heart beat faster. ‘This is it,’ he thought. And suddenly the door opened, revealing his mother. It took every ounce of strength in him not to start crying as he felt her arms wrap around him. He returned the hug, letting himself enjoy the warmth he had so long craved for.

‘Come in,’ she said as she pulled away.

Jonghyun did just that and took off his coat as she closed the door behind them. From what he could see, everything was exactly how he had remembered it. And he knew that if he were to look into each room, every little thing would be in the exact same place. Except for his stuff, of course.

‘Come, your father is waiting in the dining room,’ she indicated.

He followed her, giving himself words of encouragement as they walked through the hallway. When Jonghyun finally set eyes on his father, he felt his strength leave him. The man still had the same stern expression on his face. And he kept it as he looked him up and down. No word left his mouth. He just sat there.

‘Hello, father,’ Jonghyun uttered meekly.

‘Sit,’ was the older man’s only response.

Jonghyun sat in front of him and watched as his mother brought the food on the table. He cocked an eyebrow as he realized that she had made his favourite food. After everything was set, they started eating as silence filled up the space.

Jonghyun wasn’t really hungry but forced himself to eat. He was waiting for one of them to break the ice, but neither said a word. So instead, he stole glances at them. Despite some wrinkles, they hadn’t changed at all. It was almost like no time had passed and it was just another regular family supper.

‘How are you doing?’ his mother suddenly asked.

‘I’m doing good, mom,’ Jonghyun replied as he forced a smile.

She smiled back. ‘Are you working?’

‘Not at the moment. I’m focusing on school.’

‘Oh, what are studying?’

‘Communications,’ he answered.

‘Oh great,’ his father sneered.

Jonghyun put down his fork. He could feel his anger rise.

‘Sorry I am not going to be a lawyer like you wanted,’ he retorted.

‘It seems like your life goal is to disappoint me,’ he said with a calm that just infuriated Jonghyun even more.

‘Excuse me?’ he fumed.

‘The only reason I accepted that you step back into my house was because your mother said that you had put a stop to your deviations,’ his father exposed before he took a sip of his drink.

Before Jonghyun could say a word, he felt a hand on his thigh. He looked to his right, only to see his mother’s pleading eyes. Her hand pressed harder, but it was no use. He wasn’t going to play along.

‘I can’t believe I thought you two wanted to make things right.’ He got up to leave, but a firm grip on his arm rendered him still.

‘Please let us be a family again. Please,’ his mother begged.

‘Oh, but I’m the one who needs to change, huh?’ he scoffed.

‘Honey... I just miss you so much, please understand...’ Her voice cracked as she started crying.

Jonghyun looked away, his eyes setting on his father who was eating as if nothing was happening.

‘I’m sorry, but I can’t. Not for you, not for anyone. That’s who I am and if you can’t accept that well I guess you won’t ever see me again.’ He could feel the tears coming. But he couldn’t cry. Not here, not in front of his father.

‘Get out of my house,’ the latter ordered.

Jonghyun didn’t need to be told twice. Ignoring his mother crying out his name, he made his way to the entrance where he put on his coat and boots.

He was met with a cold gust of wind as he stepped out. A tear fell down his cheek and another one followed. He wiped them off with the back of his hand. He needed to call himself a taxi quick so he could leave this place. As he was about to dial, his phone started ringing. Seeing who it was, he wasted no time answering.

‘Hi,’ he answered.

‘Look straight ahead,’ Jinki said.

Jonghyun did and frowned as he saw a familiar black car across the street. He was definitely confused.

‘It’s me,’ Jinki specified as he noticed that the other one wasn’t moving.

‘What, but...’

‘Just come,’ the blonde interjected.

Jonghyun stepped down the stairs and crossed the street. As he made his way to the passenger’s seat, he finally saw Jinki’s face. He got in and closed the door.

‘Why are you here?’ he immediately asked.

‘I was worried about you and thought I should stay close just in case,’ the older one explained.

Jonghyun stared at him, surprise written all over his face.

‘You didn’t stay in long... what happened?’ Jinki asked.

‘They haven’t changed...’ Jonghyun started with a quivering voice. ‘I’m their son... They should love me unconditionally,’ he continued as tears blurred his vision.

Jinki wiped them off with his thumb as they fell down.

The gesture unsettled Jonghyun, but he didn’t stop him. ‘I don’t even know why I’m crying. I should’ve known it was too good to be true.’

 ‘Anyone would’ve been hopeful in your situation. They’re still your parents after all,’ Jinki pointed out.

‘Unfortunately.’ He stared out the window, his eyes setting on his parents’ house.

No words were said for a few minutes as memories replayed in Jonghyun’s mind. All he had ever wanted was the love and support of his parents, but it was now clear that he would never get it. It was time for him to accept it.

‘Let’s go, he finally said. 

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