Chapter 12: The Mom Critiques the Child and the Innocent Boy Takes Initiative

Jaejoong pinched the flimsy part of Yumi’s bicep and poked her tummy. He then declared after a sigh, “You’re too fat. Lose some weight, will you? I don’t understand why I even bother to work for you.”

She would have yelled back, but she wasn’t sure how to argue with Jaejoong. Her mouth would fail to remember how to speak, yet her ears would always know how to listen. His words were enunciated too clearly that they were stabbing every inch of her soul. 

God, at this rate, we're gonna have to take you to the butcher's for some trimming. I bet you like being fat so you can get attention from people like me, Jaejoong scoffed.

“It’s hard!” she at last retorted. “Have you ever tried to lose weight?”

“No, I don’t need to. My BMI has always been around 19 or 20. You, on the other hand, have much to work on.” 

He jabbed her stomach again, causing her to squeal. She backed away this time after learning her lesson. “Don’t poke me!” she warned.

“I’m just trying to show you that you have to lose some pounds if you want to be famous. No one wants to watch a singer sing with wiggly arms.” 

He pretended to wave his floppy arms before attacking her a third time.
“Don’t!” she shouted so loudly that her throat had grown sore. “Get away!” 

Although she had shoved him, he still ignored her pleas and clasped her wrists to stop her flailing hands from hitting him. He stared at her with such harshness that she had to peer away. 

“Well . . . try harder to lose all this fat, if you don’t want to be known as a pig. If you think photoshop will work, well, it does work. The problem is what’ll come after we photoshop you. All the fans will know that you were lying and then—“       

She managed to break free from his grip and slapped him hard in the face. His cheek had begun to swell into a ripe tomato. Grazing his hand over his wound, he harked, “Can’t handle constructive criticism? Who do you think you are?”

“Who do you think you are? Judging me like—“ 

Her voice had suddenly cracked. She knew what would happen, but she did not want it to happen all over again. The tears . . .

She immediately turned around and bit on her bottom lip until a fresh wound meshed with flesh. Once the tip of her tongue had tasted iron, tears flowed down her cheeks. She remembered how cold tears were, yet every time she cried, she would be stunned by how cool they could be and how fast they could flow from her eyes to her chest. Tears were like meandering streams that would eventually converge to a larger body of water, her heart. Although within minutes, tears would evaporate or seep into her clothing, what caused them to surface would never disappear.

Jaejoong could hear her trying so hard to swallow the sobs down her throat. Did her cries touch him, disgrace him, or anger him? No, they did nothing to him. Instead, he believed that crying was a waste of time. No problems would be solved from crying; crying actually exacerbated issues. Crying was an act to him. He had become tired, tired of the emotional clients he had. They cried over simple, yet dramatized reasons.  They cried for attention. His attention. He had already decided that he was not a therapist and he would certainly not ask them what he believed to be an overrated question, “So, how does that make you feel?” 

So, he said, “There’s no need to cry here. I’ll give you a few minutes to calm yourself and when you’re ready to work again, come and find me.” 

Then, he shut the door to his office and strolled down the corridor to buy a smoothie to ice his bruised cheek. At least that was a two-in-one deal. Ice then gobble. He scoffed at himself. I’m becoming more and more like Changmin and damn it, I better not meet someone . . .

“Jaejoong! Oh my goodness, what happened to you?” 

He felt a soft palm stroking his cheek and he smiled once realizing that it was Ami. He pulled her hand away, directing it around his neck. Wrapping his hands around her waist, he chuckled. 

“Just got a bitch slap . . . and I thought you were going to be too busy to see me?”

Ami folded her arms, panting, “I’m on my way to a studio to work on some editorials with a new celebrity—“

“What’s that celeb’s name?”

She cocked her head to the side and answered, “Mhm, she’s pretty new, so I think you won’t know her. I think it’s Yuka?”

“You mean, Yumi?”

“Yeah, that’s right!” Ami then frowned before shifting her body away from him. “Wait, how do you know her? Is she your new toy?”

“Ha!” Jaejoong snickered. “More like my victim. So, why are you asking? I thought we agreed that we’d never ask each other about others.”

“You’re the one that mentioned her name first.”

“Doesn’t mean that you’d need to know her status in my life,” Jaejoong argued.

“So, she means a lot to you that she has a status in your life?” The ridge between Ami’s eyes deepened.

Jaejoong, lulling her closer, kissed the top of her forehead and muttered, “Someone’s jealous here. Am I going to get a beating tonight?”

“You don’t even deserve a beating.” 

Ami winked and pushed her way past his embrace only to be stopped by his wandering hands, one that groped her bottom and the other that slithered down her neck. Jaejoong slipped his tongue in her open mouth while gently grazing her tongue just the way that she liked it. Then, he withdrew once he heard her groan.

“I’ll see you tonight then?” 

He smirked ever so devilishly, making her murmur, “Fine, fine, you rascal.”

At last, Jaejoong could tend to his wound. He had his smoothie pressed against his cheek and then, he winced. Maybe, he shouldn’t have teased Yumi so much. Who knew her hit would be so powerful? Who knew she would actually slap him? 

No one dares to lay a hand on me! Not even my father.

“I think we should get to work now. My manager didn’t hire you to waste my time.” Jaejoong lifted his head to find Yumi grimacing at him as if he had committed murder.

Biting onto the straw with the edge of his teeth, he retorted, “You’re the one that wasted my time in the first place with all that complaining—“

“Like you’re any better, fondling some woman—“

“Oh, so you were spying on me?” 

He leaned back in his chair, spreading his arms across the seat.

“I didn’t mean to intrude, but it was a public place anyways,” Yumi scoffed and folded her arms.

An impish smirk crept from Jaejoong’s lips. 

“I take it you heard everything too, so now you’re mad at me?” Yumi refused to answer his question, and so Jaejoong continued on saying, “You know, I should be the one that’s angry. You’re the one that threw up on me, gave me a slap, and now you’re—“

“When did I throw up on you?” 

Yumi’s frown grew deeper, marking a deep scar between her eyes.

“You were intoxicated one night at the bar, and then you turned to the side and threw up on my shirt,” Jaejoong finally explained.

“And so I’m your victim because of this?”

“Precisely.”

“That’s . . . stupid.”

“Hey!” Jaejoong had blurted and kicked the table, almost causing it to topple over. “That Armani suit was not meant to be ruined! Okay?” 

He could sense his blood pounding and his head throbbing. How could she even say that? Stupid? She’s the one who was stupid.

Surprisingly, Yumi answered, “Okay, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything.”

“Wh-what? Say that again?” 

This time, Jaejoong almost fell over his chair, and had to grip onto the sides of the arm rest to balance himself.

“I said that I am sorry and I know you probably still hate me, but that’s okay. You can hate me, but I just want to do my work well. So, there’s a photo shoot for my album in a week. We already have a concept in mind, but we’re not sure about the make-up,” she noted before taking the seat across from him. 

To be honest, he hadn’t expected Yumi to be so strong. He had seen her as a meek lamb, easy to tease and easy to victimize, but at least, she wasn’t crying anymore. Looking at her reddened eyes, he wondered if crying was something unusual for her. If she could regain her composure, then surely, she could have stopped herself from crying. Maybe . . . just maybe, she wasn’t so annoying after all.

“Jaejoong, were you even listening to me?” Yumi asked.

“Are you looking for a truce?”

“Huh?”

Jaejoong reaffirmed, “I’m sure you don’t like me either, so I’m asking you, are you looking for a truce?”

“If that’s what it takes for you to help me succeed, then yes.”

“Meaning that you’d do anything to be successful?”

“Yes.”

“That’s stupid,” Jaejoong scoffed, shaking his head in the process.

“Life isn’t all about work—“

“And it’s not all about play.”

Jaejoong guffawed, “I didn’t finish my sentence. It’s about working hard and playing hard, but most importantly, it’s not about success.” 

With his hands in his pockets, he began to march off.

“Where are you going?” Yumi ordered.

Turning his head back, he declared, “I’m not working for you now. Come back when you know what you want.”

Success. Boy did he ever hate that word. It reminded him of that old hag, of why he had resided in Tokyo as opposed to London, his city of birth, and of why he had become a make-up artist. He remembered thinking that one day he would become so successful that he would meet her, and he did, unfortunately.

“Mrs. Reynolds, this is Kim Jaejoong. He will be your—“

“You don’t look very Japanese,” a beautiful, curvy woman, who reminded Jaejoong of the woman portrayed by Botticelli, remarked. Of course, with his blonde hair and blue eyes, how could he have looked Japanese? 

“Mrs. Reynolds, I was adopted in Tokyo,” Jaejoong explained while setting his brushes on the table. “My birth mother was British, and my father was—“

“I think I don’t need to listen to your life story. We’re here to work, aren’t we?” 

She had one of the sweetest smiles, but Jaejoong knew what that meant. She wanted him to forget, to deny that he even existed. A smile was her way of warning him not to bring up the past. There was a reason that the past was the past and the present was the present. Nothing in the past mattered.  

------
Junsu had become attached to his cell phone that he regularly hit his pant pockets to make sure that his phone hadn’t just disappeared. The only reason for this habit? His girlfriend. The couple had, with time, become accustomed to texting each other. They texted to say hello, to ask what each was doing, to make a happy face, and to blurt whatever pestered their minds. Calling, however, was still a challenge, particularly when Junsu hated his voice. His voice revealed every bit of nervousness in his body. He still remembered when he refused to buy a cell phone, and all the boys kept complaining that he was so hard to reach.

“Wes, you can’t be that cheap,” Jaejoong moped and even twitched his right eye, his signature look of disapproval and disdain.

“Heck, I’d even chip in to get you a cell phone, so you’ll stop saying that we never invite you out,” Changmin sputtered with a shrug.

“I think we have the birthday gift for this kid!” Yoochun exclaimed, placing his arm over Junsu’s shoulder.

Rhett was the only one who argued, “That’s a good idea, but Wes has been living without his own phone for years now. Seems to be doing fine, and it’s not like he talks much on the phone.”

That was because only Rhett had known Junsu’s secret hatred for his own voice, and Rhett had only known because Rhett had confronted him just when cell phones were becoming the must-have item for high school students.

“Hey,” Rhett had asked one day, “how come you never answer your home phone? It’s always your mom or your brother that picks up. Last time, it was so damn embarrassing when I accidentally told your mom that the pretty senior girl had almost slept with me.”

“Slept with you?” Junsu wondered, scratching the back of his head. “You mean, she almost violated you?”

“Well, she confessed to me about a month ago, and I thought maybe because she looked a bit like Jamie . . . that it’d work out, so I said yes,” Rhett explained, “and, after a few dates, we were at her house, and ugh .  . . we were watching a movie. We started kissing, and then, she felt like doing it, but . . .”

“But?”

“Hey!” Rhett jammed his elbow at Junsu’s ribs and grumbled, “You didn’t even answer my question!”

“Just finish the story, and I’ll answer you.”

“Okay,” Rhett sighed, “I thought for a bit, and then realized that it wasn’t . . . biologically safe, and it . . . just didn’t feel right, so I just went home. Now . . . explain away.”

Yes, now, he had to explain, but this time for why he had to call. He had to invite her to Jaejoong’s party to introduce her to his best friends, who would surely welcome her. Junsu felt that he had found his ideal lady and he was positive that the five would agree. His judgment wasn’t as poor as Yoochun’s. Moreover, all of them would continue to pester him about her unless they met her. Actually, he would never have introduced her to them until their relationship was stable, yet Jaejoong’s party provided the perfect setting for a gathering. She wouldn’t need to be subjected to a police interrogation, especially from Jaejoong and Changmin.

After much contemplation, Junsu opted to surprise her by waiting for her after school at the school’s front entrance. From one of their text messages, Junsu had learned that she was also working at the same school as Changmin, so he knew where to find her. Thus, he sat there in his Lexus, waiting for her to pass through the gates. When he saw her, he immediately yelled her name. 

“Junsu,” she questioned as she walked towards his car with her arms crossed together. “W-what are you doing here?”  

This reaction was not what Junsu had expected. He had anticipated for her enchanting smile and maybe even for her to jump into his arms. Instead, her slanted eyebrows wrinkling her forehead, her tense stare, and her discontented frown all validated her irritability. Junsu felt his stomach twist into knots and his breaths were shallower and faster. 

“I . . .” His tongue became disobedient, so he just voiced, “I thought you’d be h-happy.”

“I . . . don’t like surprises,” she stated while still standing in front of the passenger seat. “You should have called beforehand or at least texted me.”

“I’m sorry,” Junsu rambled. “I just thought you’d be happy to see me and I wanted to invite you to a party that one of my best friend’s is hosting at our house. I live with my four best friends, so I wanted to formally introduce you as my girlfriend.”

She exhaled a breath of air before explaining, “I don’t think . . . I’m ready for that.”

“I promise that they won’t bite. I can’t guarantee that about Jaejoong and Changmin, but I’ll—“ 

 “I’ll be there then. I know you mean well. I’m just . . . scared.”

Junsu switched off the car engine and hopped out of the car. He walked just in front of her and then delicately requested, “Is it o-okay for m-m-me to hold your hand?” 

Right after she bobbed her head up and down, Junsu reached for her hand and held it with much care.

“Y-you don’t need to worry because I’ll be by your side. I-if you w-want me to hold your hand, then I c-c-can always do that for you.”  

She gazed into his eyes and stroked his cheek. 

“Why do you have to be so sweet?” she almost whimpered.

Junsu just smiled back and opened the car door for her. He should have been overjoyed for her compliment, yet he could see past the words’ meaning. He could see the melancholy in her eyes and he could hear her tiny sigh in between the syllables. He only wanted to ask why she seemed so depressed, and why she bore that grim smile. 

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