In a sick way it comforts me. When I smile at someone else, make a flirtatious remark towards a friend and his face practically turns green with envy. It comforts me when he says I am his and no one else’s. I don’t mind the yelling, don’t mind the bruises he gives me.
It didn’t start like this, and I fail to see how it has gotten to this stage. The bruises and cuts are all I have to comfort me, and that is why I take them willingly. I never thought we’d be together, never thought he would love me the way he did. That is why I embrace anything he will give me.
“It is better than being alone...” I always say to myself, and when he makes love to me it is easy to forget how many times he hit me that day. It is easy to forget how he spent the whole day at work or studying and only acknowledged me when I didn’t fix his dinner. I can forget how he hit me and then how he told me he was sorry as he kissed my neck and pushed me towards the bed, but I choose not to.
I sat on the ledge of the large window, staring out and down to the city streets bellow. I pulled up the sleeves of my thin sweatshirt, letting the rays of mid day light fall across my abused skin, bringing warmth where his cold hands had clung.
Why was I here? Why had I let him drag me to this foreign city like his pet? I didn’t even want to go to University, but Yun Ho wouldn’t hear of that. I just couldn’t let go of him...
I jumped lightly at the sound of the front door being opened, keys jingling in the lock. I heard the rustle of shopping bags and rushed across the apartment to help him inside.
“Need help with those?” I asked Yun Ho, smiling lightly as he stood in the doorway, hands over loaded with groceries. I took a few bags and placed them on the kitchen counter, Yun Ho bringing over the rest.
“Thanks,” he said, pecking me slightly on the cheek and moving to put things away. I walked slowly back across the apartment and resumed my position on the window seal, eyes following the traffic that sped past.
I didn’t notice him walking towards me and so when I felt his cold fingers on my arm and his hot breathing on my neck I jumped slightly.
“Are you alright Jae Joong?” he asked, wrapping his arms around me and also looking out of the window. “Yeah, I’m fine...” I managed to get out, smiling lightly as I removed his arms from my waist, turning to go somewhere else. I didn’t really want his company at that moment.
He sighed, moving backwards to let me get past. I slowly walked towards the bedroom, feet dragging. Perhaps I could take a nap... I took one last glance back at him, arms crossed and staring out the large window. I turned back, almost at the bedroom door.
“Jae Joong?” he asked lightly. For a moment I thought he was going to say it. Like all those times before he...
“Yes?” I asked breathily, eyes meeting his from across the room.
“Have you finished unpacking?” he continued, turning back around to look out of the window, his voice colder than it had been to begin with.
My heart fell for the first time that day, shattering on the cold polished floors of the apartment as I struggled to compose my words.
“I...uh...no.” I sighed.
I had thought he was going to say he loved me. It used to be such an easy thing for both of us to do. I still felt it, still felt the love we shared. So why was I the only one who could verbalise it?
I knew he was going to be angry with me. He always got snappy over the slightest things, especially when I didn’t listen to him.
“Do you not listen to me?” he asked through clenched teeth, not turning around. “I asked you to be finished by the time I got back.”
He said everything very calmly, but I could sense the edge in his voice, the slight tinge of anger that I had learnt to recognise.
“I’m sorry Yun Ho... I-I just got sidetracked...” I stuttered, looking down at the floor.
He took a deep breath, turning around and walking over to me. I tried not to cringe back in fear as I could feel his hot breath on the side of my neck.
“My Joongie was always such a day dreamer...” he breathed, placing a large hand on my face and cupping my cheek, leaning in for a kiss as he looked straight into my eyes.
I flinched out of his touch, trying not to make eye contact. He was going to be angry but at the moment I didn’t really care.
“I need to take a rest, I’m sorry.” I sighed, looking up into his eyes and momentarily freezing in fear before turning back around acting as though I hadn’t noticed.
He was angry.
“Jae Joong... don’t just walk away from me!” he said, raising his voice.
His eyes had shown that familiar coldness, the look he reserved only for me. It used to be something that would happen infrequently, when he was having a bad day and I said something off colour or we argued over where to eat out. I can’t exactly remember when my reaction changed from a smile and an apology to a sharp intake of breath and sudden feeling of fear. The first time he actually hit me is still deeply imprinted in my mind; that was the first time I didn’t smile. The first time I didn’t apologise but instead I sneered, too upset and angry to bother with his shit. I wasn’t going to sit down and be passive anymore, and a hit was what I got for it.
I knew what to expect now, exactly how to act. When he hits me, I can’t just take it. I can’t just stare at him in fear or cry either, because that would get me another round with the back of his rough hand. I was the one who had to say I’m sorry Yun Ho, I love you Yun Ho, it won’t happen again, Yun Ho. But it always would.
I turned back around, the words “I’m sorry Yun Ho,” barely out of my mouth before I was knocked back by a stinging slap, the red outline of my boyfriend’s hand flaring up across my cheek.
I grabbed my face, closing my eyes as I felt his body against mine, his breathing agitated. “No you’re not!” he yelled as I squeezed my eyes shut. I could feel his grip on my bare wrists and his chest against mine as he continued the abuse. “You just sat around sulking all day while I was out busting my ass at work and you couldn’t do one simple thing?” he spat, letting go of my wrists and instead grabbing my shoulders. “What’s with you lately?” he asked, tone softening slightly, and I swear I saw a hint - just a hint - of concern in his eyes.
I could only look away, tears in my eyes and sliding down the side of my face. “I’m fine,” I choked through the tears, looking up again just in time to catch his face switch from concern to anger.
He stared at me with a mix of disgust and anger as I continued to cry, letting out small sobs as I stared straight back. He stepped back, letting out a small sigh as he folded his arms.
I had to get out of there. I needed air. I rubbed my wrists gently, knowing that there would be bruises there later. I took a deep breath, lowering my head and trying to make my way past him and out of the apartment. I needed to take a walk or something...
“One last thing Jae Joong,” Yun Ho said to my back gently as I was almost at the door.
“Yes Yunnie?” I said meekly, not turning my body but titling my head to the side to show that I was listening. I knew what he was going to say anyway.
“You are mine. No one else’s. Just remember that.”
I wandered aimlessly around the streets of the city, not bothering to familiarise myself with the names of places or streets but simply wandering, my mind racing as it analysed my current situation.
I somehow ended up at the doors of the University’s library, a small building on the outskirts of the campus that was a few blocks away from Yun Ho’s and my apartment. I stepped forward as the sleek glass doors slid open, taking in the quiet atmosphere and brightly lit rows of shelves that lined the walls and formed aisles across the room.
I noticed groups of tables and chairs, probably used for group study I assumed as I saw a group of three young men sitting there. As I walked past, I tried not to notice how one of the boys looked up, smirking, and instead dived into a row of books, pretending to be interested in something called “You and Your Horse.”
I looked over again and saw them whispering enthusiastically, occasionally throwing a glance in my direction. Damn... they were all really hot! I blushed and smiled to myself imaging what Yun Ho would do if he knew I was thinking like that.
I quickly scanned the shelves for a book that would be useful and made my way back over to the group of tables, doing my best to ignore the boys as I sat at the table opposite.
I sat reading the boring book on the history of the English language and my mind started to wander. They probably went to this University right? Maybe they would be in some of my classes... maybe I could make friends with them. I smiled at the thought as I skimmed through the pages uselessly. Looking up slightly I noticed them still looking in my direction and talking. I smiled widely, feeling my cheeks turn a rosy red as I lowered the book and stared plainly back at them.
“Can I help you?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.
This seemed to startle one of the boys quite a bit and the others laughed at him, the one with his back to me turning around a flashing a bright smile. I smiled back, chuckling lightly as the boy on the right with the short black hair turned about as bright red as me, stumbling over his words.
“I... uh, w-we...” he started, soon getting cut off by the boy to his left, who had longer, auburn coloured hair.
“We were just wondering if you were a new student,” he said seriously, standing up and walking over to my table, offering me his hand. I shook it gently as he introduced himself and his friends.
“I’m Jun Su, this is Yoo Chun, and this is Chang Min,” he said, motioning to the flustered boy and then the younger looking one with the bright smile.
“I’m Jae Joong,” I said standing up to be polite. “And yeah,” I said turning to Yoochun. “I’m new here. I’m starting tomorrow.”
“Oh,” was all Yoochun could say, still blushing profusely. I started to notice that it was Junsu that did all the talking in this group.
“Don’t mind him... he’s just afraid you overheard him saying how hot he thought you were.” Junsu chuckled, not noticing the look of utter horror now upon Yoochun’s face.
This didn’t really put me off, rather it amused me how Junsu could be so straightforward with someone he had just met. I mean, he didn’t even know if I swang that way... and they were complimenting me! I didn’t think my face could get any redder, but I smiled, bowing slightly and mumbling a thanks.
My mind suddenly flew back to the apartment and my boyfriend. What would happen if he even saw me talking to these guys? I felt the colour drain out of my face as I turned around. I needed to get back to the apartment and apologise... what was I thinking? No... screw him. He can wallow in his guilt for a little while longer. I don’t care if it costs me a few more bruises.
“Hey... aren’t you going to join us? Maybe tell us a little more about yourself?” Junsu smiled, and I felt as if he was being a little too friendly.
I cleared my throat, bowing politely.
“No... I, uh... I’m fine... maybe I should just go...” I trailed off, forcing a smile.
Before I could get much further the boy named Chang Min piped up.
“Don’t mind my friends, Jae Joong,” he said politely. “Junsu is very out spoken and well...” he turned to look at Yoochun. “Chunnie isn’t normally this flustered. I can understand why though.” He stood up. “How about we go and grab a coffee or something?”
It took me about 30 seconds to weigh up the pros and cons of my current situation and decided to try something new. Besides, Yun Ho wasn’t around.
As I followed Chang Min out of the back exit of the library I turned to wave at Yoochun and Junsu, who were both watching us leave in disbelief.
An hour later found Chang Min and I sitting in one of the many parks surrounding the campus, having drunk our coffee and pretty much learnt the basics of one another.
He, Jun Su and Yoo Chun had been friends since High School and were all majoring in English at this Uni, just like Yun Ho and I. Jun Su and Yoo Chun had been dating for the better part of four years.
Every time the subject came up, I somehow failed to mention that I had a boyfriend. I don’t know why. Maybe it was the way that Chang Min smiled, the way his eyes bored into mine as I talked or the enthusiasm with which he described his interests and friends. He just seemed so genuinely nice and willing to make friends with me. I didn’t want to bring up the subject of my boyfriend and somehow alienate him.
We sat close on the bench, drinking up the dying rays of the afternoon sun and shared few words, just enjoying each other’s company. We seemed so close for two people who had met only hours before.
It was there, sitting in my bliss that I realised what time it was. Where I should be. I quickly pulled out my phone from my pocket and flipped it open to find that I had three missed calls. God. Yun Ho was going to kill me.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” Chang Min asked, noticing the change in my face and sudden sense of urgency.
“I uh... I have to go, it was nice to meet you Chang Min!”
“Am I going to see you again, Jae?” he asked, grabbing my arm, smiling widely.
“Yeah! I’ll probably see you tomorrow, okay?” I was just about ready to start jogging back to the apartment when I heard a voice call out.
“Ya! Kim Jae Joong!” It was Yun Ho, and I was in trouble.
I spun around, looking past Chang Min’s confused face to see my boyfriend standing by a tree, arms crossed and sour expression on his face.
“I’ve been trying to call you!” he hissed as he made his way over to the bench.
“I know... I just realised. I’m sorry.” I said weakly.
“Who is this?” Yun Ho asked, turning to Chang Min with a cold glare.
“Chang Min.” I said plainly, crossing my arms. “We met in the library.”
I wasn’t going to let Yun Ho start a fight in the middle of the park in front of a guy I had just met. Luckily Chang Min stepped in, feeling the tension.
“Shim Chang Min.” he said, bowing. “Nice to meet you.”
“Jeong Yun Ho.” Yun Ho managed to grit out, then adding with a slight sneer, “Jae Joong’s boyfriend.” to emphasise he snaked his arm around my waist and squeezed lightly. “Let’s go home, hun.”
“Alright,” I smiled gently, delighting in his affectionate touch. “Bye Chang Min!” I called over my shoulder as Yun Ho and I walked hand in hand down the path and out of the park.
I felt bad leaving a confused Chang Min without any explanation, but I couldn’t help it when Yun Ho was near. No matter what he did to me, I still loved him, lived for him and that was the way he wanted to keep it forever.
Back at the apartment, Yun Ho hardly said a word and that was what bothered me the most. I didn’t even apologise and he didn’t even make me. We ate dinner in silence, his warm hand rested on mine as we avoided looking at each other. It was something he used to do, a little gesture to show that he was thinking about me even when he was eating.
It made me wonder if he knew what he was doing. If he felt guilty and it took the second time I had resorted to wandering city streets to realise that he was hurting me, physically and emotionally.
Or maybe he knew the way to manipulate me, and it was that thought that made the tears form in the corners of my eyes. He knew how to get his way with me. I was sick of loving him with all my heart and not getting love in return. Just shouting and jealously and hurt.
I stood up abruptly, pushing away his hand. “I can’t do this anymore.” I sobbed, running to the bedroom, tears streaming down my face.
“Jae Joong?” he called after me, genuinely confused.
I made it to the bedroom, not bothering to close the door behind me as he followed in, racing to my side and sinking to his knees as I sat on the bed, letting the tears fall.
“What is wrong with you?” he shouted, grabbing my knee.
“I...I-I can’t...” I struggled, sobbing uncontrollably.
He moved up onto the bed next to me, wiping away my tears and sitting back for a moment, just looking as I hiccuped and fought to get the words out of my mouth.
“Why do you...?” I started, shaking my head and letting my words trail off hopelessly. Yun Ho took a deep breath his mouth thinning and eyes narrowing.
“Is this about before?” he asked, bringing his hand up to wipe away the other tears that had fallen since, and lightly kissed my cheek.
No. He wasn’t going to do this to me.
“Before?” I asked lightly. “When, Yun Ho? In the park? When you got home? This morning? Yesterday? The day before? Last week? Last month? Last year?” I rattled off quickly, bitter, shaking and scared.
“Don’t you dare talk to me like that!” he shouted, springing up from the bed and towering over me.
“Or what Yun Ho?” I spat. “You’ll hit me? You’ll kill me?” I could sense his anger rising. “GO. AHEAD.”