theme: o45. Smooth
(Episode Three of the Campus Life series)
Spring Semester 1, May
Life was supposed to be easier.
Midterms were done, so, ergo, life was supposed to be easier. Midterms were hell and that was saying a lot for Sungmin who had always been good at the sciences. Throughout elementary, middle and high school, he had managed to get high grades in the sciences (and mathematics, the bastard) without having to study to hard. However, third year in honours science was proving to be more problematic than he had previously assumed. He knew that his course load was very heavy that year, but midterms had nearly slaughtered him.
But midterms were easy compared to his current problem.
For the fourth time in nine minutes, he opened up his wallet and looked inside, practically seeing the cobwebs begin to appear in the barren slit. He sighed heavily as he looked at his laptop screen. He was in the school library doing research for one of his many term papers and yet, he couldn’t concentrate because his wallet was lighter than usual. He began typing furiously, checking his bank account.
The ‘zero’ glared back at Sungmin and he barely resisted the urge to knock his forehead on the tabletop. It was only the middle of the semester and somehow – somehow – he had spent all of his funds that were supposed to last him for the entire semester.
Crossing his arms on the table, he buried his face into the circle of his arms. Idly, he blamed midterms. No, no… he blamed third year. They were worked so hard in third year that he had probably drank forty-eight cups of coffee a day.
That’s right, Sungmin… you drank two cups of coffee every hour, his mind mocked him, As if that’s biologically possible. You’d either become a caffeine addict going into withdrawal underneath this table, or your heart would have burst weeks ago because of the elevated blood pressure caused by the caffeine which acts as a –
Sungmin groaned softly, even his mind wasn’t giving him a break. Raising his head enough to lean his chin on a forearm, he reached for his laptop with his other hand. He opened up his email and a new composition. He chewed on his bottom lip for a moment before typing a message to his mother. His mother loved him, spoiled him… surely she would send him some more money to cover the next two months until he returned home for the summer break.
It seems I’ve spent all my funds for this semester. Is there anyway you can send me some more money to cover the next two months?
He sighed heavily as he clicked send. Absentmindedly, his hand moved from the keyboard to his open textbook and he began to flip the pages, despite being unable to read what was actually on each page since his head was still resting upon his forearm. He had flipped approximately thirteen and a half pages (after all, he was holding a page in mid-air between flips) when he noticed a new email on his laptop. He dropped the page and sat up in his chair, opening the new message.
Thank God! It’s from Mom! I wonder how much –
Sungmin stared at the screen. He blinked, rubbed his eyes with the heel of his palm and then reread the message. However, he knew it was impossible for three words to change, regardless of how much he wanted them to. He reread the message just in case he was suffering from selective blindness (‘There’s no such thing, stupid!’) and only seeing part of the message. However, there were only three words. Again.
‘ “Love, Mom”? Ha! That’s not love! If she loved me, she would’ve sent me money!’
“That’s not very fair,” Sungmin scolded bitterly,
Sungmin blinked and looked around. Just a few feet away, standing in an aisle of books, was another young man. He was holding a book in his hand while his arm held another two books,
“I didn’t know there was a limit of how many books I can take,” the other said confusedly,
“Oh, no, no,” Sungmin could feel his cheeks heating up, “I was just talking to myself.” Immediately, he felt his cheeks inflame even more. Talking to himself? Damn, maybe he was going crazy. He never used to argue with himself… aloud, anyway.
The other man tilted his head slightly before he laughed heartily, “You’re talking to yourself in your head again, aren’t you?”
Sungmin knew he could not – COULD NOT – get any redder, so he simply nodded guiltily. Sungmin opened his mouth to explain when his cellular phone rang. He glanced apologetically to the stranger as he picked it up, “Hello? Dad! I was just about to – eh? What do you mean no? I didn’t even say anything… Oh… Mom called you. But Dad~ ah! I am being responsible! Gah! Dad~!”
A moment later, Sungmin hung up his phone and let his head drop to the desk, his forehead making solid contact with the wooden surface. When he murmured an ‘ouch’, he realized he heard a sad attempt at hiding laughter. He turned his head so his cheek lay on the table, his fox-like eyes narrowing at the stranger,
“Are you laughing at me?” He scowled,
“Sorry, sorry, it’s just that you were so cute when you were on the phone,” he laughed. When Sungmin continued to scowl, he sobered up slowly.
“Well… I am cute, so I’ll forgive you,” Sungmin murmured as he turned his head so his forehead was against the table again, “But still, not nice to laugh at a stranger.”
“Okay then, so what’s your name?” The stranger asked,
Sungmin sat up and looked at him, “What’s your name?”
“Shin Donghee… but everyone just calls me Shindong,” He said as he approached the table, holding out a hand.
Sungmin tentatively shook it, “Lee Sungmin.”
“Sungmin? I’ve heard that name before,” Shindong murmured as he put down his books on the table, the weight fatiguing his limb,
‘Because I’m the only ‘Sungmin’ in the world,’ he thought cynically,
“That’s not a very nice thought,” he murmured, causing Shindong to look at him quizzically, “Sorry… apparently my inner-self is mean. Very… dry and… cynical?”
Shindong laughed, “I have a friend who talks like that. Oh! That’s where I heard your name! Do you know Kim Yesung?”
Sungmin nodded, “Yeah, used to work with him at the billiards club.” Sungmin paused a moment before stating, “You know… the voice in my head does talk like Yesung. Dear God, I have an inner-Yesung!”
Shindong shuddered visibly, “Scary.”
Sungmin laughed melodically, “Knowing Yesung is scary enough. Having him play around in my head all the time is just petrifying.” He shook his head for a moment then looked at Shindong, “How do you know, Yesung?”
“Ah, I go play billiards from time to time,” Shindong shrugged, “And he tutors me math whenever he gets a chance.”
Sungmin’s ears perked up at the word ‘tutor’. He leaned forward, “What program are you in? Not math if you’re getting tutored in it.”
Shindong shook his head, “No way – me? In math? I’m in the culinary program, but for some reason or another, I have to take at least one mathematics course to get my degree.” The older man scowled, “Although the math in cooking is simple addition and whatnot… not all this integer and derivative junk.”
“How did you do during midterms? If you don’t mind me asking,” Sungmin inquired,
Shindong shrugged, “I passed… I guess. Yesung usually only gets time once a week to help me out, so it means I’m on my own the rest of the time.”
“What if I knew someone who would be willing to tutor you whenever you wanted?” Sungmin asked,
“For the right price… I’d say give me their name,” Shindong stated, “Yesung will be even busier when final examinations come and I know he wouldn’t be able to help me out at all. I wouldn’t need help everyday, just maybe… twice a week? After my mathematics class, just so I understand what happened in class and I can apply it to the problems.”
“Sounds reasonable,” Sungmin nodded, mentally calculating how much money that would be each week.
“Great, who is it?” Shindong grinned,
Tutoring, to Sungmin, was easier than he thought it would be. For two hours every Tuesday and Thursday, he met Shindong in the library and they would go over what Shindong learned in that day’s class. Shindong was smart, Sungmin learned. He had problems with math not because he was stupid, but because it took him a little longer to understand the concepts. He just needed more one-on-one teaching to fully grasp what each equation did and why anyone would need it.
Fortunately, he actually liked hanging out with Shindong. The older man was funny and made him laugh so easily. At the same time, when they were studying, Shindong was serious, paying attention to him wholeheartedly. Sungmin liked that, the way Shindong stared at him directly when he was talking, the way Shindong sat completely still when he explained something, as if all of his concentration, all of his thoughts were focused on him.
“I can’t believe I finally understand what that professor was teaching,” Shindong sighed as he pushed away from the table, rubbing the back of his neck wearily, “I really do appreciate all of this help.”
“No problem,” Sungmin insisted as he helped Shindong pack up his textbook and belongings. It had been a two weeks since he first began helping Shindong. Slowly, his wallet was being filled with bills once more and, this time, he was saving them.
Shindong pulled out his wallet, opened it and paused, “Oh shit, I forgot to withdraw money this morning.” Shindong slipped his wallet back into his pocket, “Okay, do you have time to come with me to an ATM? There should be one by the billiards club.”
Sungmin nodded, “I only have a night class today.”
“Great, sorry about this,” Shindong apologized, slinging his bag onto his back, “I usually remember but I woke up late this morning and was rushing… I guess I just forgot when I was on my way here.”
“You don’t live at residence?” Sungmin asked, eyebrows raised.
Shindong shook his head, “I live quite near, so I just walk over. When I found out this school had a culinary program, it was like a sign from above. I mean, how lucky is it that I live right by a school with the program I want? Saved me a lot of trouble and money, I’ll tell you.”
Sungmin nodded as they left the library.
‘If I think about it… I don’t know that much about Shindong,’ Sungmin thought as they walked across campus towards the main entrance, ‘I spend four hours a week with him at school and I never even knew he lived off-campus.’
When he looked at Shindong, he was startled to find the other man staring at him, a grin on his face, “What?”
“You were talking in your head again, weren’t you?” Shindong laughed,
Sungmin’s face pinked immediately as he muttered, “Maybe.”
‘It’s not like I’m the first person to think to myself, right?’ Sungmin thought, ‘He’s probably thinking to himself right now even though he just laughed at me… but he doesn’t argue with himself… I don’t argue with himself… damn it, I just argued with myself, didn’t I?’
“So you’re in culinary, right?” Sungmin asked suddenly wanting to change the subject. At Shindong’s nod, he prompted, “I guess that means you want to be a cook, huh?”
“A baker, a pâtisier… maybe a chocolatier,” Shindong listed, “Baking, desserts – those are my passion. Although last month I tested myself with cooking chocolates and that proved successful.” Shindong paused a moment, presumably thinking about all the things he would create in the future. Then, as they walked out of the campus’ main entrance, he glanced at the younger man, “What about you? You’re in science, what are you going to do with your degree?”
“Doctor,” Sungmin answered swiftly, immediately, as if it was a reaction rather than an answer. Without looking at Shindong, he explained, “Since I entered high school, all I heard from my parents was med school, med school, med school.” After a moment, he shrugged, “I’m good at the sciences, so them pushing me to med school isn’t such a bother as it must be with other kids.”
They walked in silence for about a block before Shindong spoke up, “Okay, new question. Before high school, what did you dream to be?”
Sungmin blinked in silence, staring at the sidewalk before them. He was silent for a long while, trying to remember what his childish aspirations had been before his parents began showing him medical school brochures. After a moment, he said honestly, “I don’t remember. I don’t think I ever wanted to be anything when I was a kid.”
“Nothing? Nothing at all?” Shindong prompted, but Sungmin merely shook his head.
He saw the drop in expression on his companion’s face and rushed to say, “Don’t feel sorry for me! I can’t miss anything I can’t remember! Really, it’s fine.”
Shindong’s face scrunched up in thought as they neared the billiards club, “It’s just… sad. Kids are supposed to dream, supposed to hope. Life is about reaching those dreams, of keeping that hope alive.”
Sungmin laughed lightly, “That’s a pretty sunny world you live in Shindong, but I hate to break it to you, the way the world’s changing, holding on to dreams as children is going to get harder and harder for the younger generations.”
“I shudder to think of the world my kid will grow up in,” Shindong sighed as they reached the ATM vestibule right next to the billiards club.
“It won’t be so bad,” Sungmin insisted, suddenly wanting very much to lighten his mood, to make the other man smile and happy again, “There’ll be other things to look forward to.”
Shindong merely nodded as he entered the vestibule to withdraw money. Sungmin leaned his back against the glass walls of the front of the vestibule and sighed heavily. He was speaking what he honestly thought, he didn’t mean to make the other so… sad. He felt a twinge at guilt, remembering the way Shindong’s expression had changed so suddenly, became so shadowed and worried. It was as if he had taken Shindong’s hope, crushed what dreams he still clung on to. He had done that and, suddenly, he very much wanted to reverse it.
When Shindong came out of the vestibule, he had his cellular phone sandwiched between his ear and left shoulder, “Yes, yes… I’ll be there soon. Hold on a second,” he momentarily lowered the phone as he counted out the bills and handed half of it to Sungmin, “Here’s your pay for today. Sorry about making you come with me.”
“Uh, no problem,” Sungmin replied as he tucked the bills into his wallet, mentally calculating how much his savings had just increased, “Is there a problem?”
“Eh?” Shindong looked at him confusedly. Sungmin gestured to the phone but Shindong shook his head, “No, no. I’ll see you next Tuesday?”
Sungmin had barely nodded before Shindong turned and left, holding his phone to his ear as he ran down the block towards the campus. Sungmin watched Shindong until he turned a corner and disappeared completely from sight. Confused, he walked the few steps to the billiards club and tried the door. The first door opened, but the second door was locked. Cupping his hands on the glass, he peered in, catching sight of a shadow moving within. Tentatively, Sungmin raised a fist and knocked on the door.
Kyuhyun appeared at the door and let him in immediately. After locking the door again, Sungmin followed him back to one of the tables where balls were scattered on top. Kyuhyun picked up his cue and paced the tables, his eyes on the coloured balls.
“Um… Kyuhyun, what are you doing here?” Sungmin asked hesitantly, ‘Playing pool, obviously… Oh, shut up will you, Yesung? Oh no… don’t tell me I really do have Yesung in my head… Ugh, stop talking to yourself, Kyuhyun’s talking to you!’ Sungmin subtly shook his head, “I’m sorry, what?”
“I said that I have a competition next week so Yesung gave me the keys so I could practice when I don’t have classes,” Kyuhyun said as he leaned over, aimed his cue and hot a ball.
It hit a coloured ball, causing the ball to bounce off two walls, slip behind a ball with a blue stripe and sink perfectly into the corner pocket behind the striped ball. He straightened and glanced at Sungmin who was still staring with awe-filled eyes where the coloured ball had sank,
“Um… what are you doing here?” Kyuhyun countered bluntly, “You know the billiards club isn’t open until five.”
“Sometimes Yesung would cut class to come here to study,” Sungmin shrugged, “When I saw someone in here, I thought it was him.”
Kyuhyun raised an eyebrow, “Yesung cuts class? And he made me promise only to come practice when I don’t have class?” He walked around the table before leaning over once more and aiming. He muttered, “Hypocrite.”
Sungmin watched as Kyuhyun sunk three more balls perfectly in the most difficult positions without disturbing any of the other balls. After a moment, Kyuhyun straightened, cocked his head as he considered his next move,
“Oh, I think I met a friend of yours,” Kyuhyun stated without moving his gaze from the green-felt table,
“Well, considering there was a picture of you two on the cover of his binder, I’m pretty sure I’m right,” Kyuhyun said dryly, a small smirk tugging at his lips.
‘Sometimes I want to strangle that smirk from his face… I could do it, no one’s around! Yesung, shut up! Wait… the voice in my head can’t be Yesung…’ Sungmin glanced at Kyuhyun who looked up at him during the silence, “He wouldn’t want to strangle him.”
“Who wouldn’t want to strangle who?” Kyuhyun blinked at him confusedly,
Sungmin blushed at having been heard. Sometimes thinking to himself made him forget to not actually speak aloud. “Nothing,” he muttered, rushing to change the subject back, “So who’s this friend of – wait… you said there was a picture of us on the cover of his binder?”
Kyuhyun nodded, still watching him oddly.
“Ryeowook, right?” Sungmin chuckled, “Man, I can’t believe he still does that. I bet I even know what picture it is.”
“Glad I was right. Who is he?” Kyuhyun asked baldly,
“A friend of mine from my hometown. We’ve been neighbours for as long as I can remember,” Sungmin shook his head as images of his old friend flashed in his mind, “Weird that he’s here though, his school’s across the country.”
“Oh, he even told me that,” Kyuhyun said. He glanced at Sungmin, “He talks a lot,” he said at the same time Sungmin expressed the same sentiment. Smiling slightly, Kyuhyun eyed the pool table once more, “Anyway, he said that he transferred schools. But the process took so long that he wasn’t able to get here until after midterms. It’ll be hard for him to catch up, especially if he’s in the science program.”
Sungmin blinked, “Really? Ryeowook hated science. Even before I graduated before him, he hated science.”
Kyuhyun shrugged, “Well, he’s here now and taking science.” He aimed a shot.
Sungmin watched as Kyuhyun shot more balls, sinking them into pockets as if it were the easiest thing in the world. His thoughts flashed to his childhood friend. He was older than Ryeowook and had always looked out for him when they were kids. Now, Ryeowook was at SJ University and in a program Sungmin never thought he would be in. Why? Tentatively, he wondered if perhaps Ryeowook had been pressured into the same situation he had been living since high school.
Slowly, his thoughts drifted back to Shindong. He had spoken about his future with such liveliness, such passion that Sungmin could see it happening for Shindong. He could see the other man graduating and owning his own store, baking and creating delicious treats. Shindong knew what he wanted and was passionate about it.
Sungmin felt a twinge of envy.
He knew what he wanted, but was he passionate about it? Could he see himself being a doctor? Most certainly. He had been aiming for the profession since his first year in high school. He had been researching schools and medical schools since he was fifteen – he knew he could be a doctor. He thought of the prospect and he felt… well, he felt happy at the thought of helping people, truly he did but…
‘What if that isn’t enough? What if I want to help people in a different way?’ Sungmin sighed heavily as his eyes absent-mindedly followed the white ball around the table as his thoughts followed their own path. “Damn, what if Yesung is right.”
Kyuhyun straightened, “What if Yesung is right about what?”
Sungmin blinked. Feeling the heat creeping up his neck he shook his head, smiling sheepishly, “Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I… I have to go. Bye, Kyuhyun!”
With that, Sungmin turned and left, practically collapsing against the door once he was outside again. He really needed to stop talking to himself.
The next Tuesday when Sungmin usually would be heading to the library to meet Shindong, he was, instead, heading off campus and going to Shindong’s house. The other man had called him that morning and said something had come up and he wasn’t able to leave his house and if it was at all possible for Sungmin to tutor him there. Sungmin agreed and so, he left the campus with his eyes darting between the houses and the scrap piece of paper in his hand where he had scribbled down Shindong’s address.
House after house passed as Sungmin continued to walk and, belatedly, he wondered if he had taken a wrong turn earlier. However, just before he was about to turn back and retrace his steps, he came across the house he was looking for. He double checked, triple checked – okay, he even quadruple checked – the address before walking up the little stone path from the sidewalk to the front door. Tentatively, he rang the doorbell.
He was beginning to wonder if he had written the address wrong when the door open and Shindong appeared, a wide smile on his face, “Sungmin! I’m glad you made it.”
“I almost didn’t,” Sungmin admitted, “I kept thinking I was getting lost.”
“That’s how I feel every time I go home. If I feel I’m getting lost, then I’m going in the right direction,” Shindong laughed as he closed the door behind Sungmin, leading him towards a small dinning room, “We can study in here.”
Sungmin followed him, his eyes taking in everything. The house wasn’t big, but it still had a second floor – perhaps even a basement – and everything was neat and clean. As he entered the dinning room and sat in one of the cushioned, mahogany chairs, he dropped his bag to the ground and looked around.
Shindong laughed knowing, “As if I could afford this place. This is my parents’ house, but they’re off on vacation until June.”
Sungmin nodded as if that was what he had thought from the very beginning. Before he could dwell more on it – or his inner Yesung could also – Shindong pulled out his text books and laid them open on the table, “I missed class – obviously – so I just started reading the next chapter.”
Sungmin nodded and slowly, they began the next lesson.
They were well into the chapter, Shindong stopping to try one of the questions on his own, when Sungmin spotted something in the doorway. He blinked and it blinked back. Slowly, he raised a hand and prodded Shindong’s arm.
“There’s a kid in the doorway,” Sungmin stated,
Shindong put down his pencil and turned in his chair, “Shinwoo, what are you doing out of bed?”
Immediately the little boy – who could be no older than four – dressed in blue-striped, flannel pyjamas, walked to Shindong’s side, instinctively grabbing one of his hands, “Cold.”
Shindong easily pulled the boy onto his lap. With one arm wrapped around him, the other moved so his hand lay over his forehead, “You’re still hot as chilli paste,”
“Silly,” Shinwoo murmured before falling victim to a fit of coughs. When his little body stilled, he leaned against Shindong’s body, “Can I sleep here for a bit?”
Shindong glanced at Sungmin, his books and then back at the little boy, “Yeah, sure.” He watched as Shinwoo closed his eyes, his face flushed red. Slowly, slowly, his breath evened out and he knew the boy slept. He looked up at Sungmin apologetically, “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, don’t be,” Sungmin insisted,
“He’s the reason why I couldn’t meet you at the library,” Shindong explained, “He woke up with a fever and I didn’t want to leave. Usually he has a nanny, but when he’s sick I don’t like leaving him. Besides, his mom would kill me if I did.”
“His mom?” Sungmin raised an eyebrow at the peculiar wording.
“My ex-girlfriend,” Shindong explained, “We’ve been apart for years, but when I found out she was pregnant, well…” he shrugged, “We were always better as friends than as boyfriend and girlfriend.”
“Takes after me, doesn’t he?” Shindong grinned as he watched the boy’s sleeping face, “He’s my number one critic, you know? Whenever I cook something if he doesn’t like it, then I know it’s not good.”
Sungmin nodded his understanding even though Shindong wasn’t look at him.
‘He cares so much about his son… that’s why he got so down when I mentioned the future – he obviously wants the most and best for Shinwoo. Really? You’re just understanding that now?’
Sungmin’s eyes swept over the little boy’s face, seeing small resemblances before his eyes slowly rose to Shindong’s. The other man’s face showed affection, simple pride as he watched his son sleep. The small furrow between his brows showed that beneath his love and easy manner, Shindong was worried about his son’s health.
‘I’ve seen so many different sides of Shindong, but this side is really… really… I could fall for him. You mean you haven’t yet?’
Before he realized it, Sungmin was saying his name, “Shindong, I…”
Shindong looked up at him, “Yes?”
Sungmin blinked, suddenly realizing what he was about to say. ‘Yeah, real smooth, Sungmin.’ He subtly shook his head as he forced his lips into a smile, “Nothing, I just thought maybe we should cut the session for now? I’ll see you again on Thursday, okay?”
“Are you sure? Shinwoo’s asleep, I can bring him back to his room,” Shindong said,
Sungmin shook his head, “Don’t worry about it, just take care of your kid.”
“Oh – your money,” Shindong said, helpless to move with Shinwoo in his arms,
“I’ll get it from you next time, okay?” Sungmin stood from the chair, picking up his bag.
Shindong looked uncertain but nodded anyway. He gingerly stood up, adjusting his son in his arms so he could carry him easier, “Can you let yourself out? I’m going to bring him back to his room.”
“Yeah. I’ll see you later,” Sungmin watched as Shindong went up the stairs and then turned and left.
He closed the door firmly behind him and began walking down the path to the sidewalk. As he did so, a car pulled into the driveway and a young woman stepped out. She glanced curiously at Sungmin before shaking her head as if clearing her thoughts and then dashed into the house, surprised to find the door unlocked. Sungmin was sure she probably looked at him again, wondering about the unlocked door, but he had already turned onto the sidewalk and refused to look back.
She had looked beautiful.
Sungmin didn’t see Shindong again until the following Tuesday. Shindong had phoned him Thursday morning and had explained that Shinwoo was still sick. Before Sungmin could even offer to cancel the lesson for the day, Shindong expressed his regret that they couldn’t meet up that day. When Sungmin got off the phone with the other man, he felt regret for not getting to see him, too. However, Sungmin wondered if his regret meant something different from the other’s.
On Tuesday, Shindong met him at the library as usual. When they found an empty table and sat down, Sungmin watched Shindong get his things out of his backpack before asking,
“How’s Shinwoo doing?”
“Great,” Shindong said happily, dropping his bag to the floor when he was done and sitting in his chair. He handed a few bills to Sungmin for the previous Tuesday; “His temperature didn’t budge, but Thursday night it finally started going down. By Saturday night he was right as rain.”
“That’s good to hear,” Sungmin smiled, the glow on Shindong’s face causing a warmth to spread in his body, beginning in a place just left of his breastbone. “Shindong, there’s something I wanted to say. I’ve always thought that feelings should be expressed, because they do no good when they’re bottled in. And, I don’t expect anything, I just wanted – needed – to say this. You see, I –”
Sungmin was interrupted by the sound of a phone ringing. Sheepishly, Shindong pulled out his cellular phone and answered it quickly,
“Hello? Yeah, he was fine when I left him this morning… Yes, I checked his temperature before I left… 36-degrees. Of course his nanny is with him – what, you think I’d leave him alone? You need to learn to trust me if we’re ever going to make this work again,” Shindong paused and sighed heavily, “I know… I know… I know, I was scared too, but his temperature’s down, has been down since Saturday and he was even playing normally last night. Okay. Yeah, I’ll see you tonight. Bye.”
Sungmin had listened – it was difficult to not listen to a conversation happening in front of him – but his ears had perked up, had focused on one part of Shindong’s words.
You need to learn to trust me if we’re ever going to make this work again.
Make this work again.
When Shindong put away his phone and began apologizing, all Sungmin was able to say was, “Are you getting back together with your ex?”
Shindong blinked, startled at the question before nodding and smiling, “Yeah. Shinwoo’s fever really shook us, especially when it didn’t go down. She stayed at the house and we talked every day. At one point, we even broached the subject of us. We want to try to make it work. Shinwoo doesn’t deserve to be tugged here and there.”
“But… but what if it’s better for you and your ex to stay apart?” Sungmin asked, ignoring the guilty twinge in his conscience,
“We won’t know if we don’t try,” Shindong shrugged, “It’s not like we had a bad break-up or anything, or as if we fought all the time. We broke up because she was moving away and going to a different school. In truth, we’ve been pulling together for years. When she told me she was pregnant, I used to drive to see her once a week, even though it was eight hours back and forth.”
Sungmin couldn’t ignore the peculiar light that entered Shindong’s eyes when he spoke about his past with his ex-girlfriend. It was warm and comforting, akin to the way he looked at his son, but different. Sungmin couldn’t ignore the wave of jealousy that clenched his heart as he desperately wondered what it was like to be looked at with such eyes, to be talked about with such an expression.
“Oh, what did you want to tell me?” Shindong asked suddenly,
Sungmin blinked, suddenly pulled back to the present, ruthlessly reminded of what he was about to say. Subtly shaking his head, silently scolding himself for the stupid act he could have made. He managed a smile and managed to make it look relaxed, easy.
“I think you’re really grasping math. I’m hardly helping you these days,” Sungmin stated.
His words weren’t lies, but they weren’t the words he had wanted to say. Shindong smiled at him and he knew he had done the right thing. He had already talked down Shindong’s belief of childhood dreams and hopes. He couldn’t attempt to destroy Shindong’s prospects for a happy future, too.
When they left the library later that day, Sungmin watched as Shindong headed straight for the main entrance. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the bills Shindong had given him. Pulling out his wallet, he slipped the bills in. Slowly, his eyes went returned to Shindong’s retreating back.
‘He has a family… I can’t say anything to jeopardize that.’ He slipped his wallet into his pocket, ‘This has to be enough.’
He turned and walked towards the residence buildings, belatedly wondering if he was still thinking of money or something else, something more.
‘But what if I’m tired of “just enough”?’
(Coming soon, Episode Three)