Chapter Eight:  Strictly, a Family Affair


As expected, Jaejoong would interrogate Rhett, and as expected, no one could escape Jaejoong’s probing. Rhett just didn’t expect to be questioned when Jaejoong was preparing dinner. That had to have been the worst time as Jaejoong could possibly use kitchen utensils to threaten the respondent.


“So,” Jaejoong sniggered loudly with his hands covering his cheeks, “how was the date?”


 

Rhett let out a long sigh before answering heartlessly, “Weird and tiring. She asked all these questions. It felt like I was answering a super, long survey.”


Jaejoong gave Rhett a bright smile and proclaimed,“Survey? Surveys are awesome!” 


Rhett rolled his eyes, stating, “That’s what she said too. I think you two can be best friends or something.”


“Cool, maybe you should introduce her to me some time then.” 


Jaejoong then scooped a bit of soup with his ladle. He had recently taken an interest in experimenting with various soup recipes after the boys had complained that they were tired of drinking miso soup every morning. Not exactly paying attention to Jaejoong, Rhett sat in his usual dinner seat with a hand over his mouth, thinking pensively until . . . 


Rhett suddenly leapt from his seat and shouted, “Hey! That’s not a bad idea!”


“W-what?” Jaejoong had almost dropped his ladle in the pot. 


“Jaejoong, you’re a genius! Pure genius!” 


Rhett leapt forward and gave Jaejoong a hug. He could introduce Kannei to some friend of his. That ought to distract her.


“Careful, careful! Burning hot ladle here!” Jaejoong uttered hopelessly with his arms extended ahead.


Just as the two shared a hug, Junsu and Changmin had entered the kitchen. “Oh, I didn’t mean to intrude,” Junsu quickly murmured while shuffling away. 


Changmin just snickered, “About time.”


“Shim Changmin!” Rhett shouted. 


He was prepared to hunt that kid down. He hated how people, particularly Changmin, made fun of male affection. Rhett would always argue that the Spartans and Thebans were cool and close with one another, but today, he felt like implementing some Greek violence. Changmin scurried and soon, sprinted to Junsu’s room. 


Only Jaejoong was left tending the soup in the kitchen. While scooping fat droplets from the soup, Jaejoong had a trifling grin because he was faintly nostalgic of the far away past, when he used to secretly admire a certain best friend. Childish infatuation, he concluded, that had brought Ami and him together.


Jaejoong remembered too clearly how he and Ami had first exchanged words with one another at a library in Rhett’s university. Rhett had left earlier for a date with the editor-in-chief of the school’s newsletter, which meant Jaejoong was forced to study by himself. 


He should have at least told me that he had a date, Jaejoong thought.


“I can tell that you like your friend of yours.” A girl sporting a pair of black skinny jeans and a royal blue poncho had taken the now empty seat beside Jaejoong. “Your friend has a warm butt.”


“Who are you?”


“I’m Suzuki Ami. I’m studying fashion.” She flashed a sweet smile. “I know who you are. You’re Kim Jaejoong. You know, you’re building quite a reputation in the industry. You’re very talented and I admire that. It’s too bad . . . that your friend doesn’t share my admiration.”
 

“You know nothing.”


“I know you like him . . . in a different way.”


“No, I don’t. He and I are just friends.”


“That’s great. If you don’t like him that way, then you can date me! Don’t worry. I’m not looking for anything serious. I just need a guy from time to time, you know?”


“So, no strings attached?”


“Right.” 


The end of a crush was the start of another romance. Jaejoong had realized that his feelings for Rhett were only out of admiration. He wanted to be someone like Rhett: reliable, responsible and diligent. Unattainable qualities had been alluring, but after being with Ami, he was fine with staying as Jaejoong. Jaejoong was good enough for her, and that was enough for him.


“Junsu, shut the door!” Changmin beckoned while tumbling to the ground. 


Junsu, who was too busy daydreaming, sat cross-legged on his bed. He had been spacing out these days. Even during work, his father had to pinch his ears and drag him for a few metres before Junsu could focus again. This was primarily due to his excitement for his upcoming date with his girlfriend. He kept imagining what he would say to her and how she would respond to him. If she smiled, then he would smile back. If she . . . 


“Junsu! Why aren’t you closing the door? He’s . . .” Changmin bellowed urgently, hoping that Junsu would save him. 


It was too late, however. 


Rhett had entered the sanctuary. He howled in an unusually cavernous voice, “ Shim Changmin! I’m going to kill you!” 


His fist was about to pound Changmin’s face. Changmin, still vulnerably lying on the ground, stared fretfully at the angered Rhett. Changmin needed a plan, yet he lacked the time to make one. He could have just apologized, but it wasn’t even his fault. To Rhett, however, this was not a laughing matter for he knew that Jaejoong would be somehow hurt. Rhett didn’t like it when his friends suffered.     


Luckily, Yoochun stepped in and asked, “Do you want to go buy some popsicles with me?”


“I thought you would never ask, Yoochun.” Changmin quickly followed Yoochun to the door. “Man, you should have asked earlier.”


Yoochun reminded, “And you should have just kept your mouth shut. I have to say, it was a nice scene to watch. Maybe, I should have finished that film. Maybe we should cancel—“


Changmin placed his arm across Yoochun’s shoulders. “Ah. Why don’t we focus on what’s important? You know, buying popsicles?”


Yoochun sighed, remembering how Changmin was an intractable problem, never appreciative of saviours and only wary of adversaries. Yoochun wondered how Changmin would mature. After all, maturity was not innate; it was only cultivated with persistence and conscientiousness. Changmin, though, never cared about much.


After an hour, Junsu blinked and then asked, “Oh no! What happened to Changmin?”


After being with her, Yoochun had developed a habit of rotating his head close to the edge of his right shoulder and then reaching his hand out every time he walked with another friend. She used to whine how he walked too hastily. At first, she had to call his name several times before he would turn to find her a metre or so away from him and almost engulfed by the crowd. Then, she would mope about his inconsideration until he remembered to lovingly hold her hand. 


“Yeah,” Changmin noticed Yoochun’s odd behavior, “you should really stop looking back at me. You’re giving me the creeps. It makes me think you like me or something.”


“Sorry,” Yoochun muttered and sped his steps to the entrance of the grocery store. He waited for Changmin to catch up before actually entering the store. The two then went straight for the section with ice cream and popsicles. “So, what flavours do you think we should get?” Yoochun addressed with his hands in his pockets.


Changmin pressed his index finger to the temple of his forehead. “Tough question. It’s like choosing your mate. Oh, but for you, choosing mates is simple. You always have an influx of women waiting for you.”


 “Hurry, we don’t have all day,” Yoochun murmured.


“Yeah, I know. You don’t have to remind me.” Changmin furrowed his eyebrows. 


Reminders were what she used to say to him. She used to tell him not to forget to do this and that. Now, he had become the reminder. He hardly dismissed any chores and even insisted to work at a faster pace. Indeed, her departure had transformed him. He wished, though, that he didn’t have to change. Change meant a shift in affairs and situations. A change meant a break, but then again, they were broken already. Maybe that was why he was so lethargic. Sometimes, he wondered what the meaning to life was, and then, he would force himself to stop, to disregard. It was at that precise moment where he felt he understood why he was still living and that was to scour for an indeterminate answer. 


Changmin shattered the discordance in Yoochun’s mind. “I got it! We will be getting sesame, blueberry, and lime popsicles!”


 “Okay, if that’s what you want.”


If that was what she wanted, then he would give that to her. 


Harmony.


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