Chapter 31: The Free Spirit Is a Babysitter and the Femme Fatale and the Hidden Devil’s Midnight Encounter
So, this was their home, Yoochun thought as soon as he had the time to examine his surroundings. There wasn’t much to see. The apartment was simplistic with its snow white walls and open-space concept. To the left of the entrance was a small kitchen and straight ahead was the living room. There were only the basic necessities: an old TV, a brown suede couch, a glass coffee table, a rug, and a dangling light fixture. Yoochun assumed that the one bedroom and bathroom were found along the short corridor to the left of the living room.
In his hand was the list of tasks that Junghwa had quickly written for him to complete. She had already strictly instructed him of what to do and what not to do. Yoochun had tried his utmost to absorb all of her orders, but he was never an auditory learner. The only part that he had actually recalled was that Sanghyun had a rare heart disease called non compaction cardiomyopathy.
Sanghyun seemed to know what to do already for he placed his knapsack on a hook on the wall, took out two books and his pencil case, and then sat on the couch. He flipped to the page where he had bookmarked and proceeded to finish his homework. Yoochun, thus, concluded that Sanghyun was probably always following his mother’s instructions. A docile child, one that Yoochun could accept. Feeling responsible for taking care of Sanghyun now, Yoochun walked over to Sanghyun’s side and first introduced himself, “Hi, Sanghyun. I’m Yoochun Park. You can just call me Yoochun.”
Sanghyun looked up and mumbled, “Hi.”
Then, he returned to work. Yoochun sensed some animosity and of course, awkwardness. He was a stranger after all. It was never simple when trying to earn another’s trust, but there was usually some reward for effort. Thus, Yoochun decided to sit beside the child and wondered, “So, what are you doing?”
“Homework,” Sanghyun croaked.
Coldness, Yoochun felt. He pondered why this child had become so indifferent. Sanghyun had shown interest in helping others. Then, what had caused him to change?
“What type of homework?” Yoochun continued to inquire.
Sanghyun kept on scribbling numbers onto his page. Yoochun, subsequently, did not continue to ask questions; he simply watched the child. Yoochun noticed that Sanghyun was quite intelligent. He was only four years old, yet he could add simple numbers. Moreover, he was meticulous, the sort who double-checked his answers.
“Oh, this one is wrong.” Yoochun pointed out. “Five plus six is . . .”
With tinted cheeks, Sanghyun grumbled, “I know. I know. It’s eleven.”
Eleven. Right. That was the number of instructions that Junghwa had given Yoochun. Immediately, he took it out of his pocket and read what had to be completed. The first thing on the list was to make dinner. He almost panicked. After all, he rarely cooked. With Jaejoong around there was no need for any of the boys to cook. Luckily, Junghwa had written in parentheses that there were leftovers in the fridge and that he just needed to microwave them. He checked his watch and realized that it was only 6:15 pm, a little too early for dinner for him. Then, he examined what was next on the list. It was for Sanghyun to practice writing. He decided to backtrack. He didn’t feel like watching someone write the alphabet, so he chose to have dinner much earlier than before.
As he opened the fridge, he noticed how bare it was, carrying the minimum, which included a couple of unopened beer bottles, the three quarters full fried rice, some bottles of water, and some vegetables. This was fairly different from his fridge, Jaejoong’s, to be accurate. Jaejoong’s fridge had a plethora of dishes, vegetables, and drinks. He made sure that no one was hungry and that no one was eating distasteful food.
Yoochun retrieved the fried rice, which he assumed to be dinner. Then, he searched a few minutes for the saran wrap, but was informed by Sanghyun, who was still doing his homework, “It’s on the counter, to your left.”
Yoochun felt amazed at the child’s perceptiveness. Smart kid, he thought. As he placed the now wrapped plate of food into the microwave, he suddenly remembered that this didn’t involve intelligence. It was part of a routine. This was Sanghyun’s routine.
“Hey, dinner’s ready,” Yoochun muttered after the microwave beeped. “I’ll get some bowls for us. Can you get some cutlery?”
“Forks, knives, spoons,” Yoochun clarified, “and maybe chopsticks. I’m not sure if they’re part of cutlery.”
“Oh.” The child formed a big O with his mouth and then walked over to the dishwasher to retrieve what was needed.
When Yoochun grabbed the two clean bowls next to the sink, he recalled asking, “So, where do you usually have dinner?”
Sanghyun struggled to grasp two pairs of chopsticks and a spoon in his small hands while he pointed, “There, of course.”
Where Sanghyun pointed was what Yoochun considered as the living room. Yoochun felt pity once again; this was not how a child should spend his or her dinners: eating alone. He knew too well how that felt, and so he vowed that he would try his best to brighten Sanghyun’s childhood. Despite Yoochun’s promise, there was still silence over dinner. Sometimes, Yoochun would attempt to initiate a friendly conversation, but Sanghyun would only answer with concision and simplicity. It resembled more of an interrogation than a discussion. So, Yoochun decided to follow her instructions, instead of deviating from her plans. He would take this one step at a time. Patience, he had realized, was what determined success.
He watched Sanghyun practice writing. Then, he brought Sanghyun’s medicine in the form of pills. Sanghyun seemed to know which ones to take and swallowed them effortlessly. Yoochun had never met a child that was unafraid of pills. He still remembered how he couldn’t swallow pills until the age of ten. He would always have to crush them and chew on them while enduring the bitter taste swirling on his tongue. Yoochun was even more amazed by Sanghyun’s eagerness to take a bath and then head off to sleep. There was nothing that Yoochun really had to do on the list; Sanghyun had completed everything on his own. For some reason though, Yoochun still felt that there was something missing. He was, at first, unsure of what was lacking, yet when he saw Sanghyun enter a bedroom, he knew what to do.
“Say,” Yoochun declared as he followed Sanghyu , “why don’t I tell you a story before you sleep?”
“Oh . . .okay,” Sanghyun murmured and hopped onto the queen-sized bed.
Turning on the lamp beside the bed, Yoochun searched the room for a chair, which he eventually found placed in the corner. He lifted the white, wooden chair towards the bed and placed it slightly closer to the light. He took his seat and cleared his throat before asking, “So, what type of story would you like to hear?”
“I-I don’t know.”
Sanghyun, who had wrapped himself in the blanket, hopelessly looked at Yoochun. His eyes were truly like hers. They were full of anguish and clueless. Yoochun too had no idea which story to pick. The only one that came to his mind was Cinderella, but was that suitable for a boy? It seemed quite feminine, but Sanghyun really needed to hear all sorts of stories. This was to prepare Sanghyun for girls in the future.
Yoochun concluded, “Then, I’ll tell you of a classic fairytale called Cinderella. Have you ever heard of Cinderella?” Sanghyun shook his head, causing Yoochun to sigh before giving a grin. “This may seem girly, but you have to know this. Every kid knows this,” he clarified. “I promise you that next time, I’ll tell you a story of great adventure! Okay?”
“I’m going to start now,” Yoochun then adjusted his voice to imitate that of a narrator’s, deep and engaging. “Once upon a time, there lived a girl . . .”
It must be true then that stories were a source of entertainment for even a romantic fairytale could capture a little boy’s attention. Yoochun preferred to believe that it was the storyteller, who further shaped the stories. Words were effective, but sounds to him were even more valuable. Words could stay on a page forever, but voices gave a sense of safety, which attributed to his love of music.
As Yoochun watched the sleeping child, he felt a sense of accomplishment, which was followed by fatigue. Looking after a kid had never been easy. No wonder babysitters were hired, he thought. While he sunk into his chair, he felt his eyes struggle to stay open and his head burdened with dizziness. Sleep, it was for Yoochun.     
The two of them were so sleeping so deeply that they hadn’t noticed the sounds of Junghwa returning home. The door creaked loudly and her heels clacked on the tiles. She was surprised by the silence and the fact that Yoochun’s shoes were still there. She hadn’t expected him to stay for the whole time that she was away. It wasn’t as if she had paid him to do this. Carefully checking on her son, she peeped through the door crack. She saw their sleeping figures and breathed a sense of relief. When she witnessed Yoochun’s slumber, she felt sorry for him. He didn’t need to do all this. He didn’t need to be responsible.
“Yoochun,” Junghwa whispered.
“Yeah?” He rubbed his eyes.
Junghwa uttered, “You don’t have to do this. You’ve done enough already. I mean, it’s better if you don’t do anymore before Sanghyun becomes attached to you.”
“I have to do this,” Yoochun now firmly explained. “I don’t want this kid to live without a father figure.”
Yoochun desperately wanted Sanghyun to have a father, a father Yoochun never had.
It was the middle of the night when all the good children and responsible adults slept. Changmin, however, was out, out of the house. He was utterly cantankerous about this situation, how he had to leave his comfortable bed at night just to see Naomi. He was so frustrated that he didn’t even bother to change out of his pajamas. Although he agreed to her many demands, he was certainly not her slave. Think of pleasant thoughts, he tried to brainwash himself as he walked to the park nearby. At least, she was thoughtful enough to meet him at a park close to his home. Still, she shouldn’t have had the audacity to demand him to come to her. Junsu, you owe me so much man, he cursed.
When Changmin arrived at the park, there was no one. The swings were empty. The sand pit did not house any children. The slides only had bits of dead leaves in them. He was only surrounded by trees and man-made objects and this discovery infuriated him. He was not in the mood for jokes. He was only in the mood for two things: anger and sleep. Seeing a world of barrenness, he instantly headed in the direction of home.
Out of nowhere, he heard rattling from the bushes and Naomi suddenly jumped out. “So, you won’t even wait,” she noted in a semi-translucent nightgown. 
Changmin, reminded of the shooting games that Junsu played where the enemy would just appear, began to laugh. “Why would I possibly wait?” he cackled.
“So you don’t even care about me?” she verified.
She thought after the start of a relationship, he would naturally begin to care about her. That was how many of her previous relationships occurred, except in the end, all of the men left her, claiming that she didn’t love them. It was true that she didn’t love them; she loved him, Changmin. She always assumed though that they wouldn’t care, that they would stay just for her. They, however, didn’t. They ended up leaving like him.    
He denounced, “No, I don’t care about you. I thought that I was quite clear about that. Let me see, am I the slow one or are you the slow one? That is a very tough question. Perhaps, you could enlighten me with your wisdom.”
“Do y-you hate me that much?” Her voice echoed. “Do you have to be so rude to me?”
“Gee, I never considered the word hate. I guess you weren’t worth the effort to hate and wow, I never knew I was being rude,” Changmin jeered. “I always thought I was being honest. I thought that’s what you were looking for, for an honest person. I guess not.”
Changmin’s words seemed facile, yet the damage that they inflicted on Naomi was detrimental. She wanted to cry once more. Why did she always feel like crying when speaking to Changmin? Why did she feel so useless?
“Even after all I’ve tried . . . it’s never enough,” she murmured.
They were separated by several hundred steps and it seemed as if the more she chased after him, the faster he walked away from her. There were many ways to capture a man’s heart. What was the way to capture his then?
Changmin did not understand nor did he want to her understand what her words implied. He was quite positive that she was digressing, and therefore, wasting his time as always. He decided then to leave her alone. He needed to sleep. Sleep was a priority. Conversation was not. Turning away from her, he steadily marched home.
She, thus, shrieked, “If you leave right now, I will break up with Junsu tomorrow!”
With his hands in his pockets, Changmin laughed, prodding at her silliness. She had clearly lost at her own game for she had lost her equanimity. Game over, he played in his head. He shifted his gaze towards her and scorned, “You know, maybe that’s better. Junsu deserves someone better anyways.”
He finally recognized what type of opponent she was. She was the emotional, fanatical sort. He didn’t play games with those people. What a bore and what a potential aftermath he would acquire.
“Then, I’ll never break up with him!” she hollered.
Her decision validated his suspicion. He shrugged his shoulders and continued to walk away. “Do whatever you please. I’m sick of this stupid game.”
He was leaving her too. Even he was leaving her. She couldn’t understand any of this, so she voiced her deepest concern, “Why won’t you love me? Why?”
“Why won’t you love Junsu?” Changmin simply retorted.