Chapter 1A Summer with Superman
“Do you believe in fairies?”
We were riding his bicycle on our way to our school, with me sitting behind him while holding on to his waist. It was never a silent ride, with me always doing the talking while he does the listening and the driving. And this day is one of those days.
It just came out to me in a sudden; like it was the sanest words to speak as of the moment. It was probably because of last night, when I listened to my mom when she told stories to my little sister. I was quickly enthralled by it, I didn’t know how could those simple stories hit me like a bullet train; leaving a great mark in my mind that until now, I could still feel the giddiness that’s tickling my insides.
What would it be like to have my own fairy godmother? One who will, with just a flick of her finger, make me wear a very beautiful dress with matching glass slippers; or with just a sprinkle of her magic dust, would make me fly and could be in anywhere I want to be. And one who will, with just a wave of her magic wand, would bring me towards my prince charming and have my happy ending.
I couldn’t believe that in my eighteen years of existence, it’s only today that I see myself imagining about these things. And I couldn’t believe that I am blushing thinking about my own fairytale.
His cold stern voice suddenly interrupted my thoughts. And just then, the wide sweet curve on my lips got replaced by a pout; totally displeased upon hearing his negative feedback. I had expected that blow; he was always like that, breaking my fantasies by giving me the reality through his cold treatment. But I couldn’t make myself to dislike him, because for no reason at all; I really love that side of him.
Kwon Jiyong. Has it already been eight years? No, I think it’s more than that. We’ve been friends like forever; we had went through a lot being together as always, I just can’t see myself doing things without him, since that one summer day when he rescued me and Tamtam from those bullies way back when we were still kids, I started to forget the meaning of independence and lonesome.
It was a bright day. I was playing with Tamtam, my violet plush toy at the park of the neighborhood, and unfortunately for me, it was one of those days when the bullies in my neighborhood would attack kids along their way and steal their toys.
One of the bullies got Tamtam from me. I tried, with my weak arms get Tamtam from them, but one of them just shoved me away. They were big and I was small. All I could do was to helplessly cry, as if someone just died. And honestly, the feeling was worse than that. Having your only friend taken away from you without a fight, with you cannot do anything to stop them from doing it. I was totally devastated.
And as I was being laughed at by those heartless bullies, just then I heard his cold voice for the first time. He was stuttering a bit, probably because of fear or because of his toothless front.
One of my knees was wounded. And I was kneeling on the cold ground, crying my eyes out when I felt his warm hand touched my head and made me look up.
“Don’t cry now little girl”
Those were the only warm words I could remember him spoke. My lips were still trembling, my vision blurred from the tears that continuously trailed down from my eyes but I could clearly see him smiling down at me. And as if his words were like magic, my tears suddenly stopped. I would laugh about his toothless front, but right there all I could feel was the security and the warmth he gave despite his cold eyes and voice. I would laugh about him who’s wearing a superman costume in the middle of summer, but all I could feel was the gratefulness that finally, someone was there to help… and fortunately for me it was superman.
I didn’t know how he managed to beat them all with his small frame. But thinking, he’s superman; of course nothing’s impossible for him.
My tears had dried. I was still kneeling on the ground when he came back from his fight. I felt my heart jumped a bit as a clear bruise was seen on the side of his lips. But despite that, he was smiling at me; holding on to Tamtam, he came to my aid and even helped me to stand up. I gasped in pain. He heard it and probably noticed the wound on my knee.
He gave back Tamtam to me and without a word from him, I just felt myself being lifted up. My eyes widen in surprise; until I found myself being carried by him on his back. I tried to put myself back on the ground but he held me tight, I blushed in shame when he squeezed one of my bottoms to make me stop from struggling. I pouted for a while, until it was replaced with a smile. I could only thank him, only to earn silence in his response.
The next thing came out as a blur to me. I fell asleep on his back, it was very unusual for me to fell asleep but I did; especially on a stranger’s back. And honestly, it was one of the most comfortable sleeps I had in my life. I didn’t even know how he found my house but he did, after all he’s superman. My mom just told me after I woke up that superman had brought me home. And all I could do was to smile back and look forward to tomorrow to see my hero again.
That’s probably the reason why I didn’t get to enjoy the beauty of fairytales when I was a kid. For when that day that “toothless” superman helped me, I started loving superheroes instead of fairies. I preferred playing with him and Tamtam with those burglars versus superheroes types of games instead of playing dollhouse and cooking.
Even though I realized that he really doesn’t want to play those kinds of games; that, the day he was wearing that superman costume was when he attended a birthday party near the park. And that he would always tell me to find another playmate for he prefers to read books instead of playing those lame games. How could an eight-year-old kid prefer books over games? In the end, he would always still be my playmate. He would shake his head and come to me telling me how annoying I could be. How could he be so cold at such a young age? Apart from that day when he helped me and Tamtam, I never saw him smile at me again, probably it was because of his toothless front, or probably he’s just too annoyed at me. I could careless about his coldness, for all I could feel is the gratefulness that I finally found my friend in the person of a toothless superman.
“But I do believe in fairies”
I retaliated back and squinted my eyes as I looked at his broad back. And as usual, he gave silence in response. I rolled my eyes in annoyance and pouted my lips as I continuously stared on his back, he has grown big, the back that I fell asleep on back then has grown broad and firm. Just then, the pout on my lips slowly vanished as realization came to me. Why would I ask for a fairy godmother and a prince charming if I already have superman here with me?
“Hold on tight Dara, I’ll go fast.”
Why is it that whenever he would speak of my name, it would always sound so beautiful? His deep voice, some would find it scary but for me it is like music to my ears, his cold looks would be of arrogance to others but I find the security in him and his undying patience to a childish like me.
I woke up from my deep thoughts when I felt his hand reached for one of my arms and let it wrap along his waist. I looked up to him and saw him glanced at me before turning back to the road.
“Why do you keep on spacing out? You might fall, I told you to hold on tight.”
He was still holding tight on my other arm. I saw him took a glance on me again and just there when I decided to obey him. Just when I finally wrapped both of my arms around his waist, he slowly let go of my arm and went in full speed.
We’ll probably be late. It’s my fault that’s why. But he never scolded me about it, instead he scolded me about my newly cut skirt; telling me how would I ride his bicycle with my now shorter skirt. I told him it was because my friends told me it’s a new style but he only gave me a displeased look before handling me his jogging pants that he brought for his PE class. That’s the reason why I am now wearing his jogging pants under my skirt.
“Jiyong-ah. Sorry for making us late again.”
I told him as I rested my cheek against his back. And as usual, it’s his silence that I got from return. Being a hard-headed person that I am, I pulled myself away from him a bit. I smiled at his back as I pulled one of my arms away from his waist. I felt him instantly slowed down the bicycle.
“What are you doing?”
I heard him asked me only for me to extend my arm at the side, closing my eyes; feeling the warm breeze brushed against the palm of my hand and between my fingers. I smiled in contentment, before I slowly opened my eyes and looked up to see the back of his head.
“Jiyong-ah. It’s summer once again.”
And it didn’t escape my eyes the slight smile from the side of his lips when he glanced to the side before completely slowing down his bicycle.
Despite that we both arrived thirty-minute late in school, I was the only one who was punished by the teacher and was tasked to clean up the grounds for the whole period, unfair may it seemed, but the teachers love Jiyong too much to punish him for just a simple tardiness; the perks of being one of the top students.
From now on, I will never throw my trash anywhere I want; for it’s not really easy to pick up these little pieces of wrappers in the middle of summer. I couldn’t whine in protest since no one will hear and help me plus it will consume more of my energy if I will do that. Superman wasn’t able to help me this time. He just ruffled my hair earlier as he passed by me when the teacher told him to go on to his class; as if he already knew what in store for me.
“Don’t stay too long under the sun”
That’s the only thing that he told me before he left me alone facing a wide front yard to clean.
And now, here I am all sweaty and tired. And thinking about the backyard which twice the size of the front yard of our school that I needed to clean next, it makes me more tired. How am I supposed to clean it all by myself? For a lazy person like me, being able to do these things is quite a miracle; but really, this isn’t an easy task as I may say.
I was cooling myself down; resting my aching back against the wooden bench I am seated at when suddenly, out of nowhere, a bottle of cold water appeared in front of me. I was a bit taken aback, almost jumped from the bench not until I realized that someone was holding the bottled water in front of me. I followed the extended arm; shifted my head to the side and startled to find a familiar face smiling right at me.
“Hello, are you Sandara Park of class 4-C?”
I blinked my eyes for a couple of times, trying to wake myself up, thinking that the hotness of summer finally went up to my head and made me hallucinate things. It just couldn’t happen that Choi Seunghyun, the team captain of our school’s football team was standing behind the bench I am seating at, spoke of my name and even handling me a bottle of water. But it’s all true, he was really there. And he knows my name.
“Ah… yes. I am”
I could only force out a slight smile, stuttered a bit from my words; feeling the wariness slowly creeping up on me. I saw his smile grew wider before he walked around the bench and casually sat right next to me. I tried to scoot a bit to the other side, embarrassed that I would smell like the sun, because of all the times he could approach me, why does it have to be now?
“Here. I’m sure you’re thirsty for doing all those work.”
After hearing his deep yet gentle voice, I felt myself completely cooled down. Was he watching me all this time? I could only reach out for the bottle and slightly bow at him in gratitude. And as soon as I felt the coldness of the bottle against my palm, I quickly turned to the other side and hastily opened the bottle and gulped down the water. Nothing beats the cold refreshing feeling in the throat of a newly bought bottled water.
I heard him chuckled behind me, and that’s when I snapped back from my moment and quickly turned back to him. I wiped my lips with the back of my hand as my head was slightly bowed down in embarrassment. I heard him cleared out his throat, that’s when I looked up and saw him looking directly at me. His deep dark eyes are beautiful especially now that I could see it clearly. Just then, I felt the sudden warmth on both of my cheeks, and a sudden tickling sensation inside my stomach. How could a man be this wonderfully handsome? Those deep dark eyes and his plumped cheek bones were all clear to my eyes. I bet the girls in our class would shout with both delight and envy once they knew about this.
Our eyes locked with each other for a while, before I swiftly shifted my gaze ahead, fanning myself; blaming it all to the hotness of summer for making me feel this weird.
“This coming Thursday, we’ll be having a game. I hope you could be there and watch us play.”
I turned back to him again and wondered why he was looking at me with those serious eyes. I could only nod in response before I saw another smile crept on his lips. He suddenly stood up which startled me again, I saw him got his handkerchief from his pocket and without another word; I felt it touched my forehead.
“I’ll see you on Thursday Sandara…”
With that, he reached for my hand and placed his handkerchief on it before he turned around and left, waving back at me. I was dumbfounded for a while, recollecting my thoughts of what just happened. Thinking if those things were just some sort of hallucination, but when I looked down on my hands, I saw the bottle of water and his white handkerchef, enough proof that Choi Seunghyun was really there and even invited me to watch their game.
I just found myself wearing an unexplainable smile on my face and still that warm feeling on both of my cheeks were there, confusing me if it’s really because of the hotness of summer.
I was still in a bit daze when I reached the back yard of our campus. But then quickly shook my head for me to focus on the bitter fate that was in store for me. But upon seeing the grounds that I am supposed to clean, I felt my one of my brow rose up in confusion.
I asked myself but couldn’t even finish my sentence as puzzlement filled my entire mind. I could only blink in amazement as my head turned from right to left.
The wide backyard was free from any garbage. Even the dried leaves were all swept off and had already been disposed, leaving a long clean shaded pathway.
After a while, I gasped. Remembering Seunghyun’s sentence from earlier; with him knowing about my punishment, was it him who cleaned this whole area?
Both of my hands covered my mouth as my eyes widen in much surprise. Why would he do that? I asked myself; only to feel that weird feeling inside of me and the burning feeling on both of my cheeks again.
It was my first time to feel the oddness going on inside my stomach, it felt like my intestines were being tied into knots, was it what they call “butterflies in stomach”? Why would Seunghyun know about me? Why would he bother to give me that bottle of water? Why would he bother to invite me to their game when it’s in fact a requirement in our PE to watch it? And especially, why would he help me to clean up the yard?
I felt my cheeks burned once again just by thinking about the incident from earlier. I didn’t tell anyone about it, for I am saving it to tell to Jiyong. He’s smart and intelligent; he would probably be able to figure out the reasons why Seunghyun would do such things.
Another thing that bothered me was the unstoppable giddiness I feel inside, I couldn’t erase the smile on my lips even until after a couple of hours had passed after that incident; and still, when I was about to go to Jiyong’s room to tell him those things, the smile on my face was still clearly seen.
I happily hopped my way, excited to tell my best friend about what happened when he was not around. It was lunch time, students were all out to eat, and when I reached his room and about to enter and shout out the happenings of earlier, my steps were held back. I was immediately went rooted on the ground and felt the smile on my lips slowly vanished. I saw Jiyong inside their room, seated on his table with his back facing me as he was talking with another girl. It was supposed to be an ordinary scene, but what held me back from my steps was when I saw the clear bliss on the girl’s beautiful face. And when Jiyong looked to his side, it didn’t escape my eyes to see that sweet smile on the side of his lips. My mind instantly went blank. That same warm smile when he rescued Tam tam from those bullies back then. It’s my first time seeing him this close to another person, especially with a girl. It’s my first time seeing him smiling this way, especially when it’s not with me.
Weird things immediately filled my mind. Superman was smiling at another girl. Just then, that weird feeling topped the bliss inside of me. I found myself stepping back, away from his room, until I realized that I was running away from it and back to my building. It’s weird, it’s just so weird. This day was all weird. Has summer given me what they call “summer sickness”?
The ride going home was awfully quiet. I too, felt the strangeness in myself for being this quiet. I was still seated on the back of his bike, holding on to him for support, while he drove us along the riverbanks with the sun setting down on us.
“Are you sick?”
I heard him ask, but all I could do was to sigh in response. I don’t know what has gotten into me for being this way but seeing him with that girl earlier, really bothered me. True, we had grown big; he’s not the toothless superman from back then anymore. He’s now Jiyong, one of the popular guys in school; my best friend shouldn’t be my caretaker anymore, I am not his only playmate anymore. But thinking about these things saddens me, for it entails that we should grow apart as well and thinking about him leaving me was even worse.
For days it was like that, with me being quiet all the time. With me seeing him with that girl. With me hearing some girls in my class talking about him and that girl. How could I be so blind not seeing what was happening? Has superman finally found his Lois Lane? I could only stay in silence and be drowned by my unexplainable sadness that I too was figuring out why should I feel that way. Was it because he has never told me about it? Or was it because I am afraid that my superman wouldn't be there anymore when I ask for him?
“Dara-ah. You must grow up. It’s not that Jiyong will always be there to do things for you.”
I remembered my mom always telling me that, but no matter how I try, I’ll always end up depending on Jiyong. I always end up looking for him. From my school works, with him always accompanying me to everywhere, with him fixing things that I always failed to do; I even plead him to study at the same high school because I was too stupid to pass the school that he passed first. How can I stand by myself when I know that all this time he had been my feet?
He never asked what’s wrong; he never complained about the deafening silence I am giving him, after all it’s probably what he has wanted for right at the beginning. I was such a nuisance, while he was so patient listening to me all the time, I never asked what he wanted while he gave me every of his attention just to aid up all of my whines, I had been selfish all this time, while he never complained and just stayed by my side.
“Dara-ah… Let’s go to the summer festival this weekend”
I was a bit startled when he suddenly invited me. Usually, it is me who will remind him of these things. But today, I even forgot that it’s finally the festival this weekend.
My eyes widen as I realized something, my brows furrowed in worry. Last Thursday, after the football game, Seunghyun approached me, which again surprised me, he invited me to the festival, and it slipped out from my mind that I forgot to tell Jiyong about it.
I bit on my lower lip. Of course, I want to go with Jiyong, it’s like a tradition for us to go there together and try out all the booths, how could I easily accept Seunghyun’s invitation without even thinking about my best friend?
“Are you planning on doing something else?”
Jiyong broke my thoughts. I heard myself sigh in guilt before telling him the truth, it was silent for a while before I saw him glanced back a bit and smiled.
“Ah. It’s okay. It’s good to have someone else to join you just for a change.”
Hearing him say that added more to the sadness I am feeling inside. Was it really for me, or for him? Nothing’s good about it. But I couldn’t do anything but to just nod at him in response.
“Just for a change”
I didn’t understand what he meant by it, rather I don’t want to understand it. For if the change he was talking about is having him not in it, I’d rather not to accept that change. But it’s all too late now, I myself even forgot about our ‘tradition’ for I have been swept off by the tickling giddiness inside my guts, just because of a guy, how can I clearly tell myself that I will still need Jiyong all throughout that ‘change’.