Chapter 37: The Free Spirit Protects the Little Boy and the Mom is Enraged
It had become a routine for Yoochun to take care of Sanghyun. Yoochun would pick him up from pre-school, and babysit him until Junghwa came home. During the weekend, Yoochun would spend a day to teach Sanghyun piano. Yoochun would again select a day where no one was at home. He wasn’t ready to explain everything to the boys for now. He and Sanghyun also lied to Junghwa that they just played games with Junsu’s consoles. Well, occasionally, they would do that during piano breaks.
It was supposedly typical for Yoochun to come after school for Sanghyun. Yoochun, however, never expected to be at the principal’s office. He entered the room of terror and saw Sanghyun, another boy, and an upset mother sitting on a couch across from the principal’s desk.
 “Are you the father of Sanghyun?” the pudgy, freckled woman sitting in a dramatic, leather chair demanded.
Yoochun wasn’t sure how to answer that simple question. By blood, he wasn’t. By heart, he was beginning to feel like one. What difference did it make? A lot. He was nowhere legally close to being Sanghyun’s father, so what authority did he have in Sanghyun’s life? Then he remembered that there was no one that was always present for Sanghyun; he was probably the one that most often saw Sanghyun.
“I’m . . .his ugh . . . guardian,” he gingerly answered.
“Then sit please.” Her palm showed him to the spot beside Sanghyun.
Yoochun asked, “So, what happened today?”
“Sanghyun hit Minwoo during play time. According to his homeroom teacher, Ms. Choi, Sanghyun has been frequently releasing his anger towards his classmates,” the wrinkly principal recited. “This isn’t the first time Sanghyun has been here, but his mother never comes.”
“I apologize for his behaviour.” Yoochun placed a hand behind the little boy, pressuring him to bow. “I assure you that this will not happen again. I will, of course, inform his mother what he has done.”
The victim’s mother screamed, “Look at what he did to my son! I won’t accept an apology!”
“Then, what do you want us to do?” Yoochun posed.
“I want him out of this school!” the mother publicized. “He’s nothing but bad influence on my son! He’s a monster and so is that wild mother of his! Like mother, like son!”
Yoochun frowned, resisting the urge to slam the table. He argued with all his might, “Sanghyun is not a monster and his mother is a great woman, who works hard to provide for him. Please just give Sanghyun another chance. He’s just troubled that’s all.”
The principal stroked her chin before answering, “I have to agree that he has caused enough trouble, and . . .”
“Please,” Yoochun urged.
He had never felt so pressed to argue for someone. Sanghyun was definitely the innocent one in the end. There had to be a reason behind Sanghyun’s behaviour. Yoochun had never seen Sanghyun throw a tantrum. Sanghyun was always so obedient, and quiet.
“Fine,” the principal concluded. “Sanghyun can stay on one condition. He will never use violence to resolve his problems. If I ever receive another report about Sanghyun, then unfortunately, you’ll have to look for another school for him to attend.”
“Thank you,” Yoochun kept saying while nudging Sanghyun to do the same.
Once the two were walking towards Yoochun’s car, Yoochun questioned, “So, tell me what really happened today. I know you’re not a violent kid.” Sanghyun refused to talk, so Yoochun pressed on, “Just tell me the truth. I promise I won’t be mad . . . you know, I won’t hit you.”
“They called my mom a slut. They said that she played with men and that that was why my dad didn’t want me!” Sanghyun suddenly hollered, almost bursting into tears and choking on his saliva. “They called me the son of a whore!”
Immediately, Yoochun bent down to Sanghyun’s level, and looked him straight in the eye. “So, you hit them because of that?”
Sanghyun nodded, to which Yoochun sighed as his hands now grasped the boy’s tiny shoulders. Yoochun continued to lecture, “Don’t hit them next time. Just ignore them. If you hit them, then they’ll think your mom didn’t raise you properly. Now, you don’t want that right?”
Sanghyun shook his head.
“Good,” Yoochun noted. “Now, if you promise never to hit anyone, then I can teach you what to do if they hit you first. You can only hit back to protect yourself okay?”
Sanghyun bobbed his head.
“You just defend, okay? ” Yoochun confirmed.
Yoochun lifted his fists and also pointed to his feet. Sanghyun still nodded, but in a rather reluctant manner. Sensing Sanghyun’s unwillingness, Yoochun proposed, “I promise I’ll teach you taekwondo. Now, give me a high-five if you promise to do what I’ve said.”
So, Yoochun had another task, actually two. He first had to ask Junghwa about Sanghyun’s behaviour, and then he had to secretly teach Sanghyun taekwondo. The things I do, he thought. The things he did . . .
Jaejoong was the featured makeup artist in a fashion magazine, and so, today was his turn to have his photographs shot. Generally, he hated having his pictures taken; it was unnecessary for memories to be captured on paper. Often, the best memories could simply be guarded in his brain, and the worst ones didn’t need to be printed permanently. Luckily, this photographer was one of his closest friends, Atsushi, who also happened to be his high school classmate.
“Atsushi, how are you?” Jaejoong asked and flung his arms around Atsushi to give a pat on the back.
“Good, good,” Atsushi replied.
Jaejoong backed away and pondered, “How’s your wife and your kid?”
“Arisa and I . . . are going through a divorce,” Atsushi quietly chirped.
“What? No way! Wh-what happened?”
“It’s hard to explain,” Atsushi muttered. “I’ll tell you when we have time. We’re here to work, aren’t we?”
Reluctantly, Jaejoong didn’t ask anymore. He was too shocked that the perfect couple had split. He would have never expected Atsushi and Arisa to have an argument. The last time he had seen them, which had to have been a few months ago, the two were still lovingly dining with each other. Atsushi fed Arisa a bite and Arisa wiped the crumbs off of Atsushi’s mouth. Their kid, Hitomi, was stabbing her green peas with her baby fork. This couple had to have been his last hope for true love. Too endorsed in his own thoughts, Jaejoong hadn’t noticed Atsushi calling him to focus until he felt a palm on his shoulder.
“Jaejoong,” Atsushi stated, “I know what I just said is distracting you, but don’t let it get to you. My failed romance doesn’t mean that your relationship would end that way in the future.”
“Then, why?” Jaejoong boldly interrogated. Seeing Atsushi’s darting eyes, Jaejoong knew the answer. Whenever Atsushi was ashamed or guilty of some act, he would never directly face his confronter. “You . . . cheated on Arisa?” Jaejoong verified and once Atsushi refused to speak, Jaejoong gripped Atsushi’s shoulder and extended an arm backwards, about to throw a punch. “You bastard!” Jaejoong yelled. “Arisa trusted you. She loved you so much and—“
“Aren’t you overstepping your role?” Atsushi scoffed, leading Jaejoong to loosen his grip.
The photoshoot, thus, ended in complete awkwardness. Jaejoong only listened to Atsushi’s commands so that he wouldn’t have to see this jerk again. Arisa didn’t deserve this, and he thought she was in good hands with Atsushi. If he had known what would happen, he wouldn’t have easily let go of Arisa. He would have confessed to her then even if he was simply known as the younger brother of Mari or Atsushi’s close friend.
“Jaejoong! Was that your sister’s friend?” Atsushi asked one day when they were studying magazines together at Jaejoong’s house. They had walked by the living room to find Mari and Arisa chattering while munching on some cookies. Mari had grumbled a rough greeting whereas Arisa had shyly waved at the two sophomore adolescents.
“Y-yeah,” Jaejoong murmured with his eyes still glued on the page about eyeshadow.
“She’s hot!” Atsushi proclaimed, only to be smacked by Jaejoong on the head. “Hey!” Atsushi groaned. “What was that for, man? It’s not like you don’t have these thoughts.”
“Sh-she’s not like that,” Jaejoong argued.
“Oh . . . you like her?” Atsushi covered his mouth and snickered.
Jaejoong rolled his eyes and flipped the next page. “No,” he jeered, “why would I like someone so ugly and so stupid? You know, I heard from my sis that Arisa almost failed her geography midterm and that subject is supposed to be fricking easy in university!”
“Jaejoong, Jaejoong,” Atsushi reminded and uneasily winked.
“Wh-what? I’m just telling you the—“
Once Jaejoong had glanced at the doorway, he knew he shouldn’t have denied anything. He knew he should have apologized. Instead, he watched Atsushi pursue Arisa, who seemed to be sobbing.
When Atsushi returned to Jaejoong’s room, Atsushi confirmed, “Jaejoong . . . you . . . don’t mind if I . . . go after Arisa, right?”
Jaejoong gulped before mumbling, “Wh-why would I mind? Didn’t I say before that I wouldn’t like someone like her?”
“Okay, good,” Atsushi breathed a sigh of relief. “For a moment, I thought we’d be competitors.”
“No way, man!” Jaejoong chuckled. “She’s all yours. Just treat her well, all right?”
“Yeah, yeah, I will.”
No, Atsushi didn’t, in the end. As Jaejoong strolled down the corridor, he couldn’t stop sighing. He was so unfocused that he had bumped into someone around the corner. “Ouch,” he heard a girl whimper.
“I’m s-s-so sorry,” he instantly uttered and offered his hand out. “Are you all—“
“What’s that look for?” Yumi harked.
He released his hand before saying, “Didn’t expect you here. That’s all.”
“I’m here for a shoot,” she clarified. “Anyhow, I better go now. I don’t want to be late.”
“Okay then—“
Suddenly, she turned around and hollered, “Oh yeah, I want to apologize for my behavior last time. How about I treat you to dinner tonight?”
Jaejoong almost created an excuse, but remembering how all the other boys were out, he said, “All right. I’ll meet you at the parking lot at eight.”