(2nd Cycle of the Mourning Song series.)
2nd Cycle: Fading Light
Saturday; Third week of September 20XX; 2AM
You were so cold that morning
and I didn't know what to do.
You were in the arms of someone else
and they were the only one you saw.
You looked at them
and I wish I was the one,
Wisps of silvery clouds drifted slowly across the deep indigo sky, the stars trying vainly to sparkly through the occasional coverage. Seoul was a dim source of light in the background as the black car drove further into the country north of the capital. Slowly, the countryside became dense with towering trees as the car sped down the country road. After a few twists and turns in the journey, the car came to perhaps the densest part of the forest before approaching a gate, the walls hidden in the darkness and behind the many trees.
The driver rolled down his window to converse with the voice on the intercom. Slowly, the large gates swung open and the car continued down a long driveway that ended in a circular court before a large, four-storey building. The back door opened and a young lady stepped out. After calling back a few words with the driver, she closed the door and looked up at the façade of the building.
The large, expansive building had been her home most of the year for three years. But that was almost three years ago when she had been seventeen and a high-school student. The building before her was the prestigious school for those who were ridiculously smart or ridiculously rich – sometimes, a rare combination of both. Shim Jang Academy held many memories for her. A shame they were all tainted by the events prior to Christmas break during her senior year.
Pulling her pea coat tighter about her, she quickly sprinted up the front steps to the doors, the car still waiting to ensure her safe entry into the school. She pressed a button by the door, knowing that one of the school’s security guards would come and open the door. When the door did open and she slipped inside, the car pulled away and drove off.
“It’s getting cold out there, Kim-sshi,” the security guard said with a slight nod of his head in greeting,
“Lee,” she corrected as they began to walk a little ways down the entrance hall together.
“Ma’am?” He inquired confusedly,
“You called me Kim-sshi… My last name is Lee,” she explained simply, her soft tone and quiet words easily echoing in the dark atrium, barely lit by the small light sconces on the walls.
“But… when you were a student, you were Kim…” the security guard stammered,
She gave him a small smile, “Lee Seonsaeng-nim and I cannot marry, so I take his name instead.” Without further explanation, she turned right towards the east wing of the school and left the guard behind.
She walked the journey to the east wing’s fourth floor many times over the past three years, indeed, did so every Friday evening and then reversed her direction every Sunday evening – both were times that she knew would be hard for people to run into her. Her hand trailed along the familiar wood banister as she climbed the stairs slowly, steadily, allowing this time to gather her thoughts, to organize them before she had to vocalize them.
When she finally reached the fourth floor, she quietly made her way down the long hallway even though she knew she didn’t have to be quiet; a small handful of teachers stayed at the school during the course of the year and they often went home during the weekends. Reaching the end of the hall, she hesitated, glancing towards the right where a smaller hallway was branched off and the single room located there. It had been three years and, still, the hesitance, the ritual continued and she would remember the person who used to live in that room and what that person meant to her life, to others’ lives. She turned to her left, into the small hallway and to the single door located there. Slipping a key from her pocket, she unlocked the door and slipped inside.
The room was dimly lit by a lamp on a desk. Situated at the desk was a young man clad in just pyjama bottoms, his arms crossed overtop several opened textbooks as his head rested on his arms, his body slumped over in complete relaxation. The ends of her lips lifted at the sight as she slowly approached him, taking off her pea coat and draping it on the back of his chair. She leaned down, cupping the back of his neck with her small, slender fingers and pressing her lips to his exposed temple,
“Sungmin, wake up,” she murmured against his skin, her fingers gently massaging his neck.
“Mmm… in a minute,” he returned, his voice thick and low from sleep. He turned his head the other way.
She smiled lightly as she headed over to his dresser, opening a drawer and pulling out her own flannel pyjamas. She slept there every weekend, it seemed only logical to keep some of her clothes there as well.
“Fine, but in a minute I’m going to be in bed and asleep,” she said simply as she walked into the bathroom.
“I’m awake, I’m awake,” Sungmin said sleepily as he sat up slowly. He rubbed his eyes with the heel of his palms, “How was your day, Taeyeon?”
“Busy. I had an interview today,” she called from the bathroom, the sound of running water signalling she was washing her face as she always did before going to bed. When the sound of splashing water ceased, she continued, “They really got into the personal stuff this time.”
“It’s been two years since you debuted, I’m surprised it took them this long,” Sungmin replied as he stood from his chair, straightening his arms to the ceiling and allowing all his muscles to stretch and relax; “What did they ask you?”
“About my songs and their meanings. I’m pretty sure the cameraman focused on my left hand, even,” Taeyeon answered.
“But there’s nothing on your left hand for them to see,” Sungmin stated as he turned off the desk lamp, walked over to the bathroom and stood in the doorway, leaning a shoulder against the frame, hands in his pyjama pants’ pockets.
Taeyeon turned to face him, already dressed in her pink flannel pyjamas, which consisted of a button-up, long-sleeved shirt and shorts. She leaned a hip against the bathroom counter and held her toothbrush still in her mouth, “I know that,” she spoke past the bubbly foam of the toothpaste, “But it’s none of their business what I do in my personal life.”
“Sweetheart, you’re a popular singer, they’ll do everything they can to find out your personal life,” Sungmin reminded gently,
Taeyeon turned to spit into the sink, “They won’t get very far. It’s been two years and they haven’t figured out anything about me,” she said as she cleaned her toothbrush. After rinsing out her mouth, she continued, “A perk to taking your last name; they can’t find anything on me.”
Sungmin raised a brow, “The only perk?”
Taeyeon grinned as she placed her toothbrush by the sink and padded over to him before rising on the balls of her feet to brush a kiss to his lips, “One of the perks.” She turned off the light, took his hand and tugged him to the bed, “Okay, bed, you were already sleeping and I’m ready to collapse.”
When they were snug beneath the blanket, Sungmin on his back and Taeyeon huddled against his right side, her hand idly lying over his heart, “How’s the research coming along?” She asked quietly into the darkness of the room.
“Same as always,” he sighed heavily as he turned onto his side so he was facing her, “We have lots of research, have read and gained so much information over the past few years… but we still don’t have solid proof of how to recover Kyuhyun’s memory.”
“Especially since it wasn’t caused by normal causes, right?” Taeyeon prompted,
“Yeah. There’s so much on retrograde amnesia, about head trauma, post-traumatic stress amnesia… but there’s nothing on reversing the effects of a pure-blood vampire hell-bent on revenge,” Sungmin said in a caustic tone. He sighed as he closed his eyes, “I’m sorry for my tone, it’s not because of you –”
“I know, it’s the situation,” Taeyeon said, “It seems we both failed tonight.”
“You saw him again?” Sungmin asked,
“At the same playground,” Taeyeon confirmed, “It’s been days since he was last there, so I wasn’t hoping to see him again, but there he was with his sketch book like always.” Taeyeon sighed as she rolled onto her back, her hand rising to her neckline and idly fumbling with her necklace, a habit she had gained whenever she grew pensive.
Sungmin caught her hand, understanding the gesture immediately. He pressed a kiss to her palm, “It’s getting cold outside, you can’t keep waiting for him like before in the summer.”
“But we only just found him again in July,” Taeyeon replied urgently, “He was back in Seoul for an entire year and we didn’t know… I didn’t know and…”
“How could we know? All of his movements since he left Shim Jang Academy have been completely covered. We didn’t even know where he moved to all these years and all activity with Jo Shipping Company was dealt with solely by your uncle,” Sungmin said gently, “It was pure and complete luck that we found him again, but I won’t have you risking your health when all you do is watch him anyway.”
“If I felt that talking to him would get his memory back, I would have talked to him by now,” Taeyeon scowled, “But I already knew that wouldn’t work after my time with him in the nurse’s office during senior year.”
Slowly, they drifted into a comfortable silence, each ruminating over the events that led them to that point in their lives, each reflecting over the motivation for their actions the past three years. Absent-mindedly, Sungmin had fingered Taeyeon’s necklace until he held the object on her necklace in his fingers, his thumb idly stroking the smooth metal.
“You know, I could always start wearing the ring,” Taeyeon suggested quietly, her voice and words pulling him from his reverie,
“Too many questions will be asked and, eventually, you’d have to answer them,” Sungmin said, “And you said you didn’t want anyone knowing about your personal life.”
“I don’t want them knowing about my personal life,” Taeyeon confirmed, “I don’t want my career to be a burden on you.”
“Then don’t wear it,” Sungmin said simply as he carefully tucked the silver band with its small diamond back beneath the neckline of her shirt;
“But we’ve been engaged for years and –”
Sungmin silenced her with a swift kiss, his lips firm and warm against hers. When he pulled away, his forefinger was still beneath her chin from when he tilted her lips to his. His thumb slowly caressed back and forth over her bottom lip, “You have my name, that’s enough.”
“I have what no other Korean man has: his love taking his last name,” Sungmin interrupted, “It’s enough, Sweetheart.”
Taeyeon snuggled closer to him, burying her head beneath his chin, “I’d marry you now if you let me,” she muttered resentfully,
Sungmin laughed lightly as he pulled her closer against him, “You and I both know that you want Kyuhyun to be there when you marry. Your parents may not understand, but I do and I won’t let you marry without him there.”
“We could always hold a second ceremony like Kyuri and Kibum plan to do,” Taeyeon suggested,
Sungmin laughed again, “Sweetheart, they actually have the funds for two weddings. I think you forget that I’m a teacher and, even if this school is expensive, so are weddings.”
“I’m just saying… we could have our wedding night if you let me marry you already,” Taeyeon stated,
Sungmin ignored the racing of his heart at her words, “Sweetheart, I waited seven years to be with you and we’ve been together for over three years. I am the epitome of patience when it comes to you and the steps in our relationship. Besides…” He cleared his throat, trying to stop it from being so dry; “There was that one night a few weeks ago. I did intend to wait until we were married.”
“Yes, well, that was one time and I wasn’t talking for you, I was talking for me,” Taeyeon muttered as she closed her eyes.
Sungmin stared wide-eyed into the dark. Had she just… did that mean she…
“Don’t get any ideas, I’m mad at you now,” Taeyeon interrupted his thoughts.
Sungmin chuckled softly as he closed his eyes, held her tight and allowed slumber to overcome him again. Before he was complete immersed by sleep, he felt a slight puff of air against his chest, heard the quiet intonation of his name.
“I wrote another song after I left the playground,” Taeyeon revealed tentatively,
“It’ll be a hit like all your other songs,” Sungmin encouraged easily; indeed, all of the singles Taeyeon had released had all become popular and in the top ten on music charts.
Taeyeon turned his words over in her mind before she countered quietly, “I only care that Kyuhyun chances in hearing it.”
Sungmin raised his hand to her cheek, his fingers knowingly brushing away her silent tears.
But one day I hope
that you'll be with me again.
That when you look into my eyes
you'll see your love reflected there.
You'll hold me tight
and I'll never, never let you go.
The next morning, Taeyeon left the room with Sungmin. They walked leisurely towards the nurse’s office of the school. Upon entering, they found the nurse sitting behind his desk dressed in black scrubs. He turned a page of the large tome propped in his lap as his ankles were crossed atop the table. He brushed back his fringe from his eyes, his hands raking through his short, black locks.
“Morning, Heechul,” Taeyeon greeted,
Heechul glanced up before looking back at the book before him, “Don’t you have a perfectly fine home to live in during the weekends?”
“Yes, I have a house but unfortunately my husband isn’t there, so my home on the weekends is wherever he is,” Taeyeon said brightly, brushing off the nurse’s blunt words.
“He’s not your husband,” Heechul stated simply as he turned a page.
Taeyeon glanced at Sungmin, at a loss for words. He squeezed her hand comfortingly, “I have some reading to do with Heechul, why don’t you go perfect that new song of yours, hmm?”
Taeyeon shot a furtive glance at the quiet nurse before nodding. She turned and headed towards the other end of the long room to a door, which led to a single room used for isolation purposes. As the door closed softly behind her, Sungmin plopped down in a chair before Heechul’s desk and pulled a book towards himself,
“Well, you’re just a ray of sunshine this morning,” Sungmin stated sarcastically,
“Look, I stayed on campus this weekend because you needed help going through this book because of the medical terminology. So don’t get mad at me for being a little less than pleasant at spending more of my free time with my nose in a boring book!” Heechul spat as he angrily flipped another page, almost ripping it out.
“Heechul… if you don’t want to help me –”
“I’m already here, so just shut up and let me read in peace,” Heechul interjected, his voice waspish.
Sungmin looked across the desk at the older man. In the four years he had known Heechul, the other man had changed drastically over the latter three years. The nurse had been flippant and sarcastic, but deadly serious about his job as the school’s nurse. With the school’s doctor only popping in once every few days, he had taken it upon himself to be the school’s main health provider. But, that was before, when he had insisted the students call him Heechul; when he had long hair that he occasionally braided or pulled back into a ponytail.
Now, however, he was quiet and withdrawn. He hardly left the nurse’s office and barely talked to anyone. His hair hadn’t grown past his ears in years and Sungmin was sure the older man had stopped conditioning. He was often brash and cutthroat. Before he would let a kid lay in bed when he knew the student was faking an illness, now, he threatened to poison them if they ever faked an illness again. The Headmaster had spoken to him several times about his none-too-subtle threats. In response, Heechul had quit every time and the Deputy Headmaster had to stop him every time.
Sungmin leaned back in his chair, crossing his ankle over the opposite knee and propping the book in his lap; “Taeyeon saw him last night.”
Heechul looked up then, eyes wide and with more emotion than Sungmin had seen in a long time; “What? Kyuhyun? Where?”
“At a playground near his childhood home,” Sungmin answered as he casually turned a page, forcing calm into his voice,
“When did he get back to Seoul? Do you know?” Heechul questioned,
“Apparently he’s been in Seoul for a year now,” Sungmin replied, “But we only found out in July.”
“A whole year? Wait… you’ve known since July? You’ve known for three fucking months and you never said a thing!?” Heechul demanded,
Sungmin looked up then, “What? Would it have prompted your motivation?”
“Perhaps!” Heechul exclaimed as he shoved his book onto his desk and stood up, glaring down at the biology teacher, “We have spent three years trying to find an answer, a solution – anything – to help Kyuhyun. He moved away two years ago, we had no idea where he was or if he was even still in Korea. He could’ve been in the damn army this entire time and we wouldn’t have known!”
Heechul paced behind his desk, fingers raking through his hair; “He was already gone from our lives mentally and then he left physically and yet…”
“Heechul, we know where he is now –”
“And what? Huh? What, Sungmin?” Heechul questioned; “It’s been three years since Kyuhyun’s lost his memory. Three years since we’ve even been in the same room with him. We don’t know if he’s changed, if he’s still the same Kyuhyun we remember. For all we know, he could be an exact copy of that idiot father of his!”
“He’s still the same.”
Heechul and Sungmin turned their gazes towards Taeyeon. She had walked halfway from the room towards them. She walked closer until she was standing at the end of Heechul’s desk,
“He’s still the same,” she repeated,
“And how are you so sure?” Heechul questioned,
“Because every time I saw him, he was drawing,” Taeyeon explained,
Heechul barked out a laugh, “He was drawing? Oh, that’s brilliant. Of course, he’s still the same Jo Kyuhyun. And why? Because he still draws.”
“Drawing was important to him –”
“I don’t even know if what we’re doing is still worth it,” Heechul confessed, voice harsh and cold; “Three years is a long time to hope that he’d get his memory back, Taeyeon. Just because he still draws does not mean squat!”
“When Kyuri and Kibum saw him two years ago, do you remember? It was the day of Sungmin’s birthday party but I wasn’t there because I was in China,” Heechul reminded, “But you guys told me… She had seen Kyuhyun in a park and what was he doing?”
“D…Drawing…” she murmured, barely audibly,
“That’s right, he was drawing,” Heechul said, voice cynical, “And he had walked right past them both. He was bare inches away from his own damn twin sister and nothing, nada, zip, zilch – he didn’t even have some subconscious urge to look towards her or look back as he was walking away. Even biologically speaking, twins have an innate urge to be drawn towards one another and that never happened to him.”
Taeyeon’s hands fisted at her sides, fighting the burning feeling behind her eyes; “Even so… Despite how long it’s been, he could still… as long as we keep trying, I’m sure –”
Heechul grabbed the back of his chair and slammed it into the desk, slouching forward so he was on eye-level with the singer, dark eyes narrowed as his fringe fell forward to brush his brows; “Just because you feel guilty, it doesn’t mean the rest of us have to keep living in the past concerned with something that happened three years ago!”
Taeyeon felt her outrage, her words clog in her throat with her tears. Her mouth opened and closed several times, but she couldn’t find the ability to speak. So, her hand slowly rose to cup over her lips to stop a cry from slipping past her unsaid words.
Heechul straightened, gaze towards the ground. He cleared his throat, his voice low and rough, “I… sorry. If you’ll excuse me,” he sketched a slight bow before walking around his desk, giving himself a wide berth around Taeyeon and strode out of the room.
“Sweetheart, come here,” Sungmin said quietly, holding a hand out to her.
Taeyeon took his hand and allowed herself to be tugged to his side. She knelt by his side, his hand cupping her cheek. She closed her eyes as she pressed her cheek into his warm palm, allowing the tears to line her lids and slowly slip down her cheeks.
His thumb brushing at tears as best he could with a massive book still in his lap, he shifted as much as he could in his seat to face her, “You know how last night you suggested to start wearing your engagement ring and I stopped you? It wasn’t the first time.”
“I know,” Taeyeon murmured,
“Do you know why I stop you?” Sungmin asked quietly, “Do you remember when I told you why?”
“You said you felt guilty that you had asked me to marry you even though Kyuhyun wasn’t around. You said that you felt guilty for making me choose between wearing the ring and not, felt guilty that I had to constantly hide a secret from the public just because I wanted to protect you,” Taeyeon said, “So?”
“Sometimes, people do and say things that they don’t want to because they feel guilty,” Sungmin explained, his words causing Taeyeon to open her eyes and look at him confusedly, “Despite Heechul’s words and attitude… he’s probably the most guilty-feeling out of all of us.”
“I don’t… but why?” Taeyeon inquired,
“Because Kyuhyun was his student, his patient. Aside from you, Heechul has been there since the beginning of Kyuhyun’s predicament. Heechul has cared for him, seen to his health more than any of us. Because of that and because Kyuhyun still couldn’t be helped…” Sungmin shrugged simply, “He hates it that he couldn’t do anything, that he couldn’t stop Kyuhyun from being sent to his parents, that he couldn’t figure out a way to bring Kyuhyun’s memory back sooner. He hates it and he hates himself for allowing all of it.”
“I… I didn’t know,” Taeyeon murmured,
“It’s hard to notice it,” Sungmin admitted, “But I spend quite a lot of time with him when we do our research. Things he says, well… I’ve been able to piece it together,” Sungmin explained, “It doesn’t excuse what he said, but I wanted you to understand him a little bit.”
“I… I’ll be back,” Taeyeon said as she stood up, brushing a kiss on his cheek as she did so,
“Where are you going? Do you want me to go with you?” Sungmin asked, moving to sit up.
Taeyeon put a hand on his shoulder, keeping him down, “No, it’s okay. I’m just going to visit my cousin.”
“Are you going to call the car or do you want to take mine?” Sungmin inquired,
“Can I take your car? I’m slightly paranoid that the public is starting to know what my town car looks like,” Taeyeon said tentatively,
“Of course, the keys are on my desk.” He grabbed her hand before she could walk away, “You’re okay, though?”
Taeyeon nodded as she brushed away the last of her tears, “Yes, I’m just being emotional. I’ll be back tonight… did you want me to pick up dinner?”
“Yes, please,” Sungmin grinned, “I appreciate the cooking staff here, but a change would be appreciated.” He pressed the back of her hand to his lips, “Take care, Sweetheart.”
She leaned forward and kissed his forehead, smoothing his hair back from his face, “I will. Don’t get any paper cuts while I’m gone.”
Sungmin smiled, watching her leave, letting go of her fingers only at the last possible moment.
You were so cold that morning
and I didn't know what to do.
I wanted to shake you,
wanted to yell at you,
anything to make you
“I’m sorry; you’d think I would’ve learned by now.”
Taeyeon grinned as she flipped the sandwich on the pan over and the sound of the butter sizzled in the large kitchen, “I don’t understand how you failed at making a grilled-cheese sandwich.”
Her older cousin glanced at the nearby wastebasket where a completely charred sandwich now laid to rest, “I don’t know either. I swear, if Kibum wasn’t around, I and the children would starve to death. But I clean.”
Her cousin hadn’t changed a lot in the past three years. Dressed in black, fitted jeans and a black, three-quarter-sleeved shirt, her cousin’s taste in clothes was the same as always. The only difference in appearance that Taeyeon could tell from three years ago, was her long ebony hair was now cut short, the strands layered wildly and the ends flicking out just below her jaw.
“Considering how expansive your apartment is, it’s a godsend you can clean. Where are they, by the way?” Taeyeon inquired as she took the saucer Kyuri held out to her and transferred the perfectly browned sandwich from the pan. She turned off the stove and handed the small plate to her, “There, now you can eat your lunch.”
“Thanks,” Kyuri sighed as she led the way out of the kitchen to the space saved as a dining room, sitting at the large, black, wooden table, Taeyeon taking a seat adjacent to hers; “Kibum took them to the park while the weather is still reasonable. I was working last night, so he let me stay in and sleep more. And, I think our apartment is too big for just four people, especially when two of those people are tiny little sprites.”
“It is as big as a bungalow… You only went back to work last year,” Taeyeon said, “Do you guys hire a nanny while you’re both at work?”
“God, no,” Kyuri said as she bit into the sandwich, “This hits the spot,” she murmured before swallowing; “No, I’m too paranoid to leave my children to a stranger. Either they come with me to the Council or they go with Kibum to the school.”
Taeyeon blinked, “How does that work out?”
“Well, when I’m at the Council, I spend most of my time in my room. Hunters would come in to show me their missions, but they’d leave me to figure out the tactics, so the kids can just play in my room while I work. When they go to SJA, Kibum says they stay with Heechul,” Kyuri explained,
“Really? With Heechul?” Taeyeon gaped,
“I know he’s a little rough around the edges now, but the children love him and… Kibum says he glimpses the old Heechul sometimes,” Kyuri shrugged, “If I can facilitate Heechul to returning to his old self, then sending off my children to spend a few hours a day with him won’t hurt.”
Taeyeon chewed on her bottom lip, “I’m sorry I can’t watch them –”
Kyuri waved her hand in the air, silencing her cousin, “You’re busy and I think, for both of our sanities, we’d want to keep them away from the public eye.”
“How about for my sanity, we agree never to bring the children to the park?”
Kyuri and Taeyeon looked up to find Kibum standing in one of the dining room’s doorways. It had two, one leading to the kitchen and the other leading to the hallway. Kibum stood in the doorway coming from the hallway, one arm each holding a small child.
“Did they tire themselves out?” Kyuri smiled brightly at him,
Kibum slanted a look at her, “Before we even left the park. I’ve been carrying them since.”
“I did warn you to bring the car,” Kyuri said solemnly before taking another hefty bite of her sandwich.
Kibum’s face didn’t react at all at his wife’s smugness. Instead, he turned his attention to Taeyeon, “How are you doing, Taeyeon? I’d come and greet you properly, but my lovely wife is busy eating a sandwich that – telling from how decidedly not-burnt it is – you cooked.”
Taeyeon laughed, “It’s fine, I’d come and greet you also, but I’d be scared of tipping you over if I hugged you.”
“These children could be full-grown adults and I still wouldn’t fall over,” Kibum insisted, “Love, would you like me to cook you more food after I put them down in their beds?”
Kyuri nodded even as she devoured more of Taeyeon’s sandwich.
“I’ll be cooking for you, too, Taeyeon, so you better be hungry,” Kibum monotonous voice warned as he walked away, disappearing into the hallway.
“What a generous husband you have,” Taeyeon teased,
“Yes, and you’d have one too if you just married him already,” Kyuri shrugged,
“I tried last night!” Taeyeon defended, “But he said that I would be upset because Kyuhyun wouldn’t be there.”
“That would be true,” Kyuri nodded, “And as much as I care about my brother, I lived eighteen years without him, so it was pretty much natural for me to marry without him present.”
“Regardless of that, it would cost too much to have two weddings,” Taeyeon stated, “Regardless of my career, Sungmin is a teacher and two weddings would be a burden on us.”
Kyuri waved a hand at their surroundings, “Don’t let the size of our apartment mislead you, Kibum and I are saving every won we have for our second wedding.”
“But Kibum has two jobs!” Taeyeon exclaimed,
“He’s taking jobs from the Council less and less. As much as he wants to protect turned people like Kyuhyun, he’s finding that he likes teaching more than he previously realized,” Kyuri explained; “Besides,” she lowered her voice, “He likes to spoil the children.”
“I like to spoil them? Who wanted to buy them separate beds instead of a bunk bed?” Kibum droned as he entered the dining room again, bending down to give Taeyeon a one-armed hug,
“One of the beds could fall and crush one of them!” Kyuri argued, an affronted look on her face;
A slight twitch of Kibum’s lips told Kyuri that he was secretly laughing at her. He dropped a kiss to her crown before walking towards the kitchen, “We could’ve just bought them one bed; they prefer to sleep beside each other anyway.”
“Do they ever climb into bed with you and Kibum in the middle of the night?” Taeyeon inquired,
“Sometimes,” Kyuri said as she watched Kibum disappear into the kitchen. She hesitated for a moment before adding quietly, “It’s… it’s scary how much Kyuki looks like Kyuhyun.”
Taeyeon straightened in her seat, “Really? I… I never saw it.”
“It’s his eyes,” Kyuri shook her head as if breaking a spell from her mind, “When I look into them, I see my brother.”
“That’s because you have the same eyes as Kyuhyun,” Taeyeon replied simply, “I’ve always seen you when I looked at him.”
Kyuri smiled sadly at her cousin, “Thank you…”
“I… I saw him again last night,” Taeyeon admitted quietly.
Kyuri’s gaze dropped to her plate, “How did he look?”
“Fine, I think,” Taeyeon answered, “Hard to tell when it’s after midnight and I’m ten metres away.”
“Thank you for telling me,” Kyuri said softly, “It’s weird how much a person can mean to oneself in a short amount of time.”
“You’ve had to miss him longer than the rest of us,” Taeyeon replied simply.
They fell into a comfortable silence when a distant cry interrupted them. Kyuri stood up when Taeyeon surged to her feet,
“Please… can… can I go see to them?” Taeyeon asked, “I haven’t seen them in awhile and I don’t want them to forget me.”
Kyuri nodded, watching Taeyeon exit the dining room. Kyuri picked up her small plate and headed into the kitchen.
Kibum stood at the stove, watching several slices of meat cook. Kyuri placed the plate in the sink before walking over to Kibum and wrapping her arms around him from behind. Kibum covered her hands with his to protect her revealed skin from any stray bursts of oil from the pan.
“How did you know I was craving pork?” Kyuri murmured, her cheek pressed beneath his shoulder blades,
“Because pork was your number one protein when you were pregnant with the twins,” Kibum said simply as he removed one of his hands to grab a pair of tongs to flip the meat slices.
“What? What are you … how do you always know?” Kyuri demanded,
“I’m just that good,” Kibum shrugged as he lay the tongs down on the counter once more, “When were you going to tell me?”
“Tonight. I only took the test last night, but I was too tired to tell you this morning,” Kyuri muttered resentfully, “You should really let me have the joy of telling you.”
“I prefer the surprise you experience when I tell you I know first,” Kibum replied, “And how along is Taeyeon?”
“What!?” Kyuri questioned,
Kibum transferred the cooked meat to a serving dish, turned off the stove and turned in his wife’s embrace to hug her; “Your cousin, Taeyeon, is also pregnant.”
Kyuri glanced to the door towards the dining room before looking back at Kibum, “Really? How do you know?”
Kibum offered her one of his rare displays of emotion and smiled, “Darling, I’m just that good.”
But has it been too long now
for second chances and second beginnings?
Can't we go back to how it used to be?
It was Sunday evening and Taeyeon knew that the few students who stayed on campus during the weekend would be engrossed in their dinners. She was dressed and had a few clothes packed to bring home and wash. Instead of drawing attention to her weekly retreat from the school, she never called the town car. Instead, Sungmin would drive her to their home just outside of Seoul.
Before they left, Taeyeon snuck away to the front of the school, slipping out the front doors and walking to the side of the front porch to one of the tall, thick columns found at the front of the school. Leaning against it discreetly was a shadowed figure; the only true giveaway of their presence was the slight hint of a red glow and the occasional wisp of pale, grey smoke. Taeyeon slowly approached, leaning her back against the cold column, a foot separating their bodies.
“You were right, you know… you didn’t have to apologize yesterday, it should have been me,” Taeyeon said quietly.
Heechul inhaled slowly, deeply of his cigarette. After a moment, he removed it from his lips to exhale slowly the delicious toxin into the cool, autumn night, his breath like a hiss as it passed through his teeth. He waited a moment to reply. His clarity and acuity of thought had been jumbled for some time now when it regarded Kyuhyun and the effort to restore his memory. He felt two ways about everything: motivated to find an answer, to save him; hopeless, constantly believing all to be futile.
Secretly, deep down, he wanted to blame Taeyeon and he wanted to blame Sungmin. He wanted to hate them for their strength of will, their unwavering hope. He wanted to hate their perseverance to find an answer, to make a solution. He wanted to hate their belief that there was a happy ending to all of this. So, because of these constant desires to hate them and all they stood for, he remained silent a bit too long, wanting to make her squirm and suffer just a bit more.
“I thought you smarter than that. Don’t apologize,” Heechul snapped. Apparently, he couldn’t be as cruel as he wanted. He took another drag of his cigarette, his puff of smoke whipped away before he could even assemble the rest of his words; “I was being an ass, Taeyeon. Don’t apologize when I was at fault.”
“Damn it, can you let me finish talking before you start doing what I already told you not to do?” Heechul questioned waspishly.
He took a few more drags from his cigarette, the taste like a peculiar smoky flavour that caused his tongue to tingle. He allowed his cigarette to do its job and completely clear his mind, relax every inch of his body, practically collapsed against the column.
“It’s been so long since I last saw your cousin. Day after day, when I have free time, I have my nose in a book trying to find answers that don’t seem to be available,” Heechul said quietly, his voice a bare whisper, carried to her ears on the cold wind; “For my entire career, I’ve based everything on scientific proof and theory. Everything medical was logical with set rationale. Then your cousin came along and everything changed. Whenever it came to his health, I did my best, but I was navigating down an unknown path with a blindfold on.”
“You did your best, more than any of us could do,” Taeyeon insisted,
“Be that as it may, even now, I’m still doing the same thing. Sungmin and I, we don’t even know what we’re looking for anymore. So many cures to amnesia are theoretical, not successful all of the time and… well, nothing we’ve come across even comes close to the effects of a vampire with psychic control,” Heechul sighed heavily. He took one last, long drag of his cigarette, stunted the end against the column and then flicked it far away after he was sure it was put out.
“My motivation wavers because my confidence in the matter is basically shattered, has been shattered since Kyuhyun was bitten by the pureblood vampire,” Heechul confessed as he hugged his arms tightly about his torso. “In all honesty, I envy you and Sungmin.”
“What? Why?” Taeyeon inquired, truly confused.
“You’re both so determined to continue on with the research and attempts to bring Kyuhyun’s memory back. For the past three years, Sungmin has read so many biology, psychology, and medical textbooks I’m surprised he doesn’t go for a master’s degree. And you,” Heechul laughed softly, “You put out songs with the touch of Midas, and yet you don’t give a damn about the awards or the chart-topping numbers. You write to call to Kyuhyun.”
“We don’t even know if he hears my songs,” Taeyeon insisted, “For all we know he doesn’t even know who I am in the public eye.”
“But you still keep going, you still keep writing. Heck, even yesterday morning you were in the isolation room finishing a new song,” Heechul shook his head as he leaned it back, tilting his gaze to the cloudy sky; “As much as I loathe to admit it, there are days when I want to leave SJA, get away from everyone and forget about the research.”
“You can stop,” Taeyeon suggested quietly, tentatively, “We wouldn’t hold it against you… no one would think differently of you for it.”
“I would. I would hold it against myself, I would think differently of myself for it,” Heechul replied quietly; “I would hate myself for abandoning him…”
Again, he thought to himself.
“Despite what you think, Heechul… I lose hope often,” Taeyeon confessed, leaning her head against the column, closing her eyes as she fought the tears that threatened; admitting one’s weakness was never easy, especially for her. “Almost every day, I would stop and think how easy it would be to give up my career, slip into public oblivion and stop my course to bring Kyuhyun back.”
She paused, the night wind swirling around them, embracing them. She inhaled deeply, allowing the crisp wind to fill her lungs, causing every inch of her body to feel the chill, feel alive. When she exhaled, she slowly opened her eyes and looked up at the cloudy sky.
“But then, I would think of Kyuhyun, see a picture of him or, recently, watch him from afar… Then, I would realize that regardless of how I felt, regardless of how hopeless the situation seemed, even if I tried, even if I put everything I had into giving up,” she shrugged even though she was aware that Heechul wasn’t looking at her; “It would still be impossible to give up the chance of having Kyuhyun in my life again.”
“But you have Sungmin,” Heechul reminded simply,
“I do and I have my family and friends. I love Sungmin and I would marry him in a heartbeat if he let me,” Taeyeon said easily, each word full of warmth, conviction of her love and dedication; “But he knows me too well, eventually, I would come to regret to marry without Kyuhyun present. It sounds selfish, I know and it’s why I deny Sungmin’s knowledge of me in this arena… but Kyuhyun was a large part of my life, indeed, he was the centre of my life for a long time.”
“And now that he’s been gone for three years?” Heechul asked hesitantly,
“There’s an emptiness that even Sungmin cannot fill. I love him with all my heart, but my love for him is different from my love for Kyuhyun. His place in my life is different from Kyuhyun’s previous place in my life. As such, he cannot compensate for Kyuhyun’s empty space,” Taeyeon admitted, “And as cruel as that may sound, I know it’s the same for my place in Sungmin’s life. Regardless of our dedication, devotion and love for one another, Kyuhyun was a mutual link and played a big part in both of our lives. Kyuhyun was… is, Sungmin’s oldest friend, his best friend and a brother to him. I cannot fill that role as much as I wish to do so.”
“I was taught to keep myself distanced as a nurse,” Heechul said then, his voice taking on a different tone, a quality she had never heard from him before; “To be able to wipe the problems from my mind and not take them home with me. With your cousin, however… With Kyuhyun… he was always my precious patient.”
“Regardless of what you said before… I am sorry for any problems I may have caused for you,” Taeyeon said as she pushed away from the column, “I have to go before the students start leaving the dining room for their dorms.” Taeyeon moved to leave when she paused, “Heechul… there’s one thing I wanted to ask you.”
“When did you start smoking?” She asked tentatively, her voice like a soft song on the cold wind;
Heechul’s entire body froze, each muscle locking as another cigarette awaited him tucked behind one ear. Suddenly, he felt the cold more than before. He plucked his cigarette from behind his ear as he pushed away from the column. Slowly, he began heading towards the front steps,
“Whatever keeps a person going,” Heechul called back.
He didn’t look back, didn’t check to see if she was still there. He placed the filter between his lips and pulled out his lighter.
Whatever keeps a person going, he thought, Even if it sends them faster to the grave.
And I don't know
if you'll be with me again.
Don't know if you'll look into my eyes
and is your love even still there?
Don't know if you'll hold me tight.
Oh, why did I, why did I,
why did I let you go?
"One day"... I hope it comes.
(3rd Cycle: Glimpsing Memories)