I woke up the next morning on the cold floor of the living room, body aching and vision blurred. I knew Yun Ho was working today and I didn’t have any classes. I would have some sort of freedom.
I struggled to stand up, rubbing my jaw and picking up my bag and books that had scattered across the floor, luckily none of the blood reached them. I carefully placed them on the kitchen table and decided to take a shower.
I tried not to act surprised as I saw how Yun Ho had changed my appearance for today. I stripped off my clothes, running the shower and turning to stare in the mirror.
Dark bruises blossomed from my shoulder down to the middle of my stomach, large and blotchy and some foot-like. I winced in pain as I ran my fingers along the abused skin, moving next to my arms and neck and thanking god it was winter so I had an excuse to wear something that would cover the marks up.
My face would be harder to hide though, dark black and blue surrounding my left eye, scratches down the side of my face and down my neck. I hadn’t needed to use the concealer in a while and absent-mindedly wondered if I had any as I stepped into the hot shower.
Sometime after lunch when the house was spotlessly clean and I had finally finished unpacking, I decided to check out some of the city, maybe do a bit of shopping and buy Yun Ho a present or pick up some fresh ingredients and make him a nice dinner.
I stepped out into the cold, looking both ways before quickly crossing the street and ducking under the cover of the small strip of shops. I looked around with interest, noticing a nice Green Grocer, small café and various clothing boutiques. This was such a nice area. We were very lucky, especially since we lived so close to the University.
I walked for almost half an hour, breath misting in the cold air as I hugged myself and quietly window-shopped my way towards the city centre. With a grumble my stomach informed me that it was hungry, and I decided to grab something to eat before heading home again.
I stepped into a bright modern shopping mall, following the signs to the food court. This place was nice, I would need to remember to come here again. I finally settled for some fresh sushi and was in the line when something caught my eye.
Jun Su, Yoo Chun and Chang Min were walking right towards me, talking happily to each other. Oh god. I noticed Yoo Chun slap Chang Min on the shoulder, pointing in my direction. Our eyes met from across the line of people and I noticed the colour drain from his face. His mouth opened to say something, but I turned around, briskly walking in the other direction. I didn’t need to talk to him or them... I didn’t need them...
I broke into a run, not noticing the looks I was getting from the people sitting at the tables scattered around the court. I needed to get out. He wouldn’t let me go...
“Jae Joong ah! Come back!”
I woke up that morning, thinking about him, how he had poured out his soul to me as we sat huddled together in the corridor. It had disturbed me how he managed to say that he loved that monster... the one who hurt him. If I ever saw Yun Ho again...
I checked my phone, noting that it was already 9:30 and the fact that I had two messages from Jun Su.
Yo, Minnie! Wanna come with me and Micky to the mall? Maybe grab a movie and lunch? Then you can tell us where you disappeared off to yesterday...
Time: 8:55 am
Min? Are you awake? Get up you lazy bastard we want to go!
I groaned, pulling myself out of bed and scrounging around on the floor for some decent clothes. I was about to step out the door when my phone rang. I didn’t bother checking who it was and simply answered with:
“I’m up, I’m up!”
“Good, get your ass to the mall now.”
“What is wrong with you people...” I muttered as he hung up and I shoved my phone in my pocket, locking the door behind me. Damn impatient friends...
I couldn’t believe that they wanted to see a movie this early in the morning. There were later sessions... or maybe they had plans for later...
I shuddered at the thought.
Half an hour later I met them at the entrance to the cinema, Jun Su’s arms weighed down with several shopping bags. I raised my eyebrows and Yoo Chun just giggled.
“He couldn’t wait for you...”
“Whatever,” I said rolling my eyes. “Let’s just go see this movie.”
“So...” Jun Su started once we were inside the theatre, feeding Yoo Chun handfuls of popcorn. “Did you read my message? Where did you disappear off to yesterday?” he inquired, perfectly shaped eyebrow raised.
“I...uh... nowhere.” I mumbled, mind replaying what had happened that afternoon in my head as I stuffed some popcorn in my mouth.
Truthfully, I had followed Jae Joong out of class, wanting to know why he had so blatantly ignored me. His eyes were red and he seemed distressed. I stared at his back the whole lesson; not once did he look back. I had felt something like a mix of jealously and anger brew in my stomach.
“You followed Jae Joong didn’t you?” scoffed Jun Su. “So why did he ignore us?” he asked innocently, letting out a small gasp as Yoo Chun licked the remnants of popcorn butter off of his hand.
“Look... I’m not going to stay here if you guys are just going to fool around the whole movie.” I said, trying to change the subject, shifting uncomfortably in my seat.
“Don’t try and change the subject!” Jun Su laughed, slapping me upside the head. “So what’s up with Jae Joong? He looked kind of sad.” he quickly turned to Yoo Chun and snatched the bucket of popcorn back. “Save it for the movie.” he whispered.
“He... uh...” I sighed, not knowing if I should tell them or not. “He’s been having problems with Yun Ho...” I said, not really lying. Yes. That was a good way to put it. “Oh... that’s too bad...” Jun Su said eyes now focused on the screen that was starting to play the previews. Yay, he had dropped the subject.
“Well that was crap...” Yoo Chun mused as we stepped out of the movie almost two hours later.
“You might have understood it more if you weren’t lip-locked with Su here the whole time...” I said grinning and receiving a slap to the shoulder for my cheek.
“Whatever,” Yoo Chun said. “I’m starving... let’s get lunch.”
“But you ate that whole thing of popcorn in there!” Jun Su protested. “How can you be hungry?”
“I didn’t eat it all!” Yoo Chun fired back stopping in the middle of the mall and crossing his arms. “Besides... who was the one who fed me it? Huh?” he poked out his tongue, smiling when Jun Su made a face back and they linked arms, catching back up to me.
They could be such kids but it just showed how in love they were with each other. I wish I had someone like that...
We made our way slowly down the mall, stopping here and there to check out a store, Yoo Chun buying a couple of CDs and I buying a new pair of sunglasses. By the time we got to the Food Court my stomach was rumbling in protest and my friends nodded in agreement as I pointed out the sushi. We continued chatting happily until Yoo Chun patted me on the shoulder and pointed to the people lining up for sushi.
My shopping bag dropped to the floor with a smashing sound as I met his eyes through the crowd of people. I shuddered as I noticed his face, the dark bruises and red scratches running down the left side.
“Oh my god, what happened to him?” Yoo Chun asked lightly, picking up my things.
I moved forward, but he walked away before I could get to him. What was wrong? Had Yun Ho done that to him? Why? I needed to talk to him...
“Jae Joong ah! Come back!” I shouted as I ran after him through the crowded shopping mall.
He didn’t once look back and neither did I for fearing of loosing him in the crowded mall.
“Please Jae Joong!” I called out again. “I just want to talk to you!”
We made it out into the cold afternoon air, Jae Joong running in the direction of the park by the university. I lost him for a moment, stopping to catch my breath.
Yun Ho had hurt him again and I needed to help him... he needed help. Why wouldn’t he accept my help? My phone vibrated lightly in my pocket, startling me as I walked towards the park. I was greeted with Yoo Chun’s voice.
“What the fuck dude? What was that? Is Jae Joong okay?” he said quickly.
“I don’t know...” I said, gasping for breath. “I haven’t caught up with him yet.”
“Well, where are you? We’ll come help.” he said enthusiastically.
“No...I need to handle this on my own. You wouldn’t understand.” I said firmly, sliding the phone closed and putting it back into my pocket as I broke into a brisk jog.
Would he have gone to the park? Or would he have gone home? I had no idea where he lived...
My heart felt as if it was going to burst out of my chest at any moment. I felt so many different emotions for this one person and I had just met him. I needed to find him... help him before it was too late...
I sat on the park bench, the same place Chang Min and I had talked two days before. I don’t know why I went there... why I didn’t just go home. Maybe a part of me wanted him to find me.
I looked down as I thought of Chang Min, absent-mindedly stroking my abused face. I could tell he cared for me. I could tell by the way he had held me tight as I cried into his shoulder, could tell by the way his face had paled so suddenly at the sight of me.
I took a deep breath, leaning back against the bench and pulling my coat around me tighter.
“Cold?” a gentle voice asked.
I looked up to see Chang Min standing across the path, hurt in his eyes and body shaking.
“What did he do to you?” he asked, rushing to my side and tentatively taking my face in his hands. I shuddered under his touch and tried to turn away but his gaze held me fast.
“Why did you run away from me Jae Joong ah?” he sighed, hands dropping to his sides but not moving any further away. “I can help you Jae Joong I can-”
“No, you can’t Chang Min,” I said feeling my chest tighten. “I love him... there’s nothing we can do.”
“You love him?” he shouted incredulously, jumping back as if stung. “How can you love him when he does this to you? What else has he done? Why?”
“You don’t know me Chang Min. You don’t know us. Please just leave me alone.” I stood up abruptly, wincing in pain and falling back onto the bench. Running all the way here hadn’t done me any good.
“Oh my god Jae Joong... are you okay?” Chang Min said, grabbing me and propping me back up into a sitting position.
“Fuck! That hurts!” I cursed, grabbing my side. Chang Min sat back and watched as I lightly lifted the two layers I was wearing, wincing in pain as I revealed the extent of the abuse to him.
I saw the tears well up in his eyes as he shuddered lightly, hands reaching out to dance along my chest. “Why do you let him hurt you?” he gulped, trying to breathe calmly and not cry. I didn’t understand why he was reacting so...emotionally.
“You are so much better than this Jae Joong,” he said quietly, pulling down my shirt gently. “I...” he said, leaning forward.
Before he said another word I brushed my lips against his, pressing lightly against the soft skin and closing my eyes. It had been so long since I had shared a gentle, loving kiss with anyone. I felt Chang Min loosen to the feeling, moving in closer and placing one arm around my neck.
After a few seconds I pulled back licking my lips, eyes twinkling.
“H-Hyung...” Chang Min murmured, taking his hand from my neck and bringing it up to touch his mouth.
“I have to go Chang Min...” I said, standing up and walking away. This time he didn’t call out for me or follow me. Which wasn’t what I wanted at all.