Chapter 50: The Leader Tries to Forget
Before Rhett had to face his uncle, he had already scheduled a date with Kannei. She had wanted to watch this movie that Jaejoong had recommended to her, and so, Rhett had agreed to take her there. This was perfect for him to relieve his stress, and just to forget about everything. He would tell her later on, after this already planned meeting. Being with her, somehow, brightened his spirits. Now, usually, people greeted one another with a wave, a hello, a hi, a hey, a bow or courtesy, or even a hug. However, the first thing that Kannei said to Rhett, who was approaching her with a friendly wave, was achoo. She had sneezed, almost on him, but hadn’t thanks to his fast reflexes. Rhett had managed to dodge her attack by taking a leap to his right.

“Sorry,” Kannei apologized as her hand reached into a jacket pocket for some tissues. “I have a cold mixed with some allergies.”
“Oh, that’s . . . bad,” he mumbled.
“Yeah, it sucks,” she grumbled and blew her nose with a Kleenex. “But, it’s all right. I’ve been sick for a few days now, so I don’t think I’ll be contagious. Plus, I’m used to this. I’m always sick.”
“You need to be fit to stop getting sick,” he lectured and kept his distance from her.
Noticing the lengthy space between the two of them as they entered the theatre, Kannei muttered, “Don’t be such a coward, Yunho. It’s not like I’m a walking virus. You’re supposed to have empathy, not apathy.”
“I can’t afford to be sick these days,” he notified while showing the pre-ordered tickets to the worker. “With Christmas coming along, I’m going to be as busy as a bee and I also have to come up with a good marketing scheme.”
“Say, what do you even do?” Kannei asked and ascended the escalator.
            Rhett laughed, uttering, “I’m in charge of the marketing department of Jō.”
“Y-you mean that huge department store with 20 floors?”
Nodding away, he explained, “I basically come up with the ads, and figure out what discounts we might be offering.”
“Ugh, you never tell me important things!” She turned to mope.
“You never exactly asked,” he professed. “Well, now’s your chance to ask away. What would you like to eat?”
They were reaching the top of the escalator and ahead of them was a fast-food joint. Rhett had a habit of eating popcorn or snacks while watching a DVD or a movie. This act seemed to allow him to focus on the screen ahead. It almost came as instinct for him to slip his hand into a bag of food, normally popcorn, and then gobble up the contents from his hand. During this process, he still had his head glued to the screen.
Rhett had assumed that Kannei followed this manner, except to his dismay, she declared, “I don’t really eat when I watch a movie. I usually just bring along a few hard candies, like Ricola, and then at the start of the film, I’ll pop one in my mouth. When I get thirsty, I’ll just pop another one in my mouth.”
“Ricola as in the sore throat candy?” He scratched his head.
 “What else?”
He wasn’t entirely sure how to respond to her habit. It was too bizarre, but then again, she was not exactly normal.
“I suppose you’re sick often,” he murmured.
“Yes, but I love the taste of Ricola. Well, only the lemon and the original flavoured ones are good.” Too engaged with the thought of Ricola, she even suggested, “Why don’t you try out my way? It’s pretty refreshing, I think. Oh, if you really want to have a minty blast in your mouth, you should first place the Ricola in your mouth and then take a sip of water with the Ricola on your tongue! It’s such an invigorating feeling!”
Her hands were clapping together in sheer elation.Unable to eliminate her joy, Yunho decided not to purchase any snacks. Instead, he decided to take her advice. Before the beginning of the film, she handed him a Ricola and carefully reminded him not to chew on it, but to let it melt. Once he placed the Ricola on his tongue, he experienced brisk and icy tingles that were reaching his whole mouth. Surely, he was awakened and felt more rejuvenated. He could focus on the movie now.
Kannei and Rhett were too engrossed in the film that neither of them spoke a word to each other. They didn’t even adjust the way they sat. Rhett, however, was the one to break free from this pattern. This was all because of Kannei. She had removed the wrapper of another Ricola and the noise that she made prompted him to glance at her. There were many glances that followed after one. It wasn’t due to Kannei’s allure that drew him towards her. It was due to her behaviour. He couldn’t help noticing her blow her nose, gawk at the screen with a slightly opened mouth, or lean her cheek on the palm of her hand and then sigh.
Hence, when Kannei asked him what he thought of the movie after it had ended, he wasn’t able to properly answer. There were several scenes that he had missed because he had been observing her, so he settled on posing, “What’s your favourite line from the movie then?”
Kannei confidently replied, “I’d have to say when Jake meets Sara again and the first thing he says to her is, ‘I think this belongs to you.’.”
Thankfully she had selected as scene from the ending. Rhett had definitely watched the ending.
“When he returns the lost pen to her right before she leaves?” he confirmed.
“Why do you like that line?”
 “Because that’s like saying he loves her even though he’s letting her go.”
“But, in the end, she didn’t even know that he loved her.”
“Sometimes . . . you don’t need the one you love to know that you love him or her,” Kannei muttered, leaving Rhett puzzled.
He never agreed with such a statement, so he shrugged it off and they hurried to his car. He was to send her back to her residence. At first, they chatted some more about the movie, but soon, there was not even a whisper. Rhett, paying too much attention to his driving, didn’t notice that someone had fallen asleep in the passenger seat with that person being none other than Kannei. He should have known that she would be a victim of sleep since she kept yawning and leaning her head by the edge of the window. He would have known if he were attentive to details. It would be no surprise then.
“We’re here,” he declared while placing the car in the parked mode.
Since there was no answer, he looked to his left and noticed Kannei, sleeping with her mouth wide open. He chuckled upon this sight. He stared for a while, unsure of what to do. He didn’t want to disturb her sleeping because people who were ill needed rest. He didn’t want to stay in the car with her and wait for her to awaken. In the end, he chose to do what he thought was right. He turned his car in the direction of home, his home. She had no idea what was happening for she was still asleep.
Rhett could have done many things, yet he chose to bring Kannei to his family's home. Privacy was what motivated him to make such a decision. Although his parents would joyfully giggle at this sight, they wouldn't formally confront or tease him. They would let Rhett rest. Kannei in his arms. Kannei, being a deep sleeper, was unaware of what was happening in the real world for she was too busy dreaming. Rhett, on the other hand, was too aware of his surroundings. He was being observed by his father, mother, and sister as he now climbed up the stairs with Kannei still under his care. He could hear the high-pitched shrieks from Julie, who was too excited that he was willingly bringing home a girl. Quickening his pace to avoid their clamor, he reached his room, which he hadn't lived in for a while. When he turned on the lights, he realized that the room was still in the same condition as before, except cleaner.
Rhett used to think that the arrangement of furniture in his room was hideous, especially with the queen-sized bed directly facing the door and his study desk to the right of the bed. However, today, he thought it was perfect. He could just place Kannei onto his bed and then finally have a sigh of relief. Fit as he was, he still found it difficult to transport her here. It wasn't because she was heavy though she was a bit heavier than she appeared. It wasn't because she was uncooperative; in fact, she was too cooperative when unconscious. It was because he wanted to be careful. He didn't want to awaken her or to accidentally injure her during this process. Too worn out, he groggily staggered to an empty spot beside her. Then, he covered his large, quilted blanket over both of them. He closed his eyes, thinking, finally, I can rest.
With too much rest, Kannei surely was not meant to be surprised. Unfortunately, this surprise was exacerbated by her poor sleeping habits. During her sleep, she loved to roll around or to sleep diagonally. It wasn't unusual for her to be in a completely different position the next day. It was unusual for her in this case. Flipping to her left, she snuggled beside a sturdy figure by planting her cheek beside what she presumed to be either a pillow, the mattress itself or a blanket. The object shifted to the left. She too followed its move; she didn't like the feeling of coldness on her face. Again, the object moved leftwards. Frustrated with this disobedient object, she used her arms to briskly pull the object towards her. She then finished her move by wrapping her arms around the object to lock it in place. She placed her cheek on the object and even adjusted her spot for a softer area. When she at last found the perfect place for her to rest, she began to hear something. Ba-bump. Ba-bump. Ba-bump.
This sound was too familiar, but her brain was too fatigued to connect this sound to her past experience. Ignoring the sound, she continued to sleep until the object began to move again.
“Argh, stop moving,” she grumbled.
“Stop holding onto me then!” a deep, rustic voice hollered. “Stop drooling on me too!”
Kannei had to think. Objects weren't supposed to move by themselves, unless they were robots or machines. Objects weren't supposed to speak, unless they were robots again. She didn't own a robot, so this had to be a . . . person. This voice . . .
“Ah!” she screeched upon her discovery.
Instead of backing away, she accidentally did the opposite. She held him tighter to the point where she was squeezing his ribs, causing him to whimper.
“I-I s-s-should be the one who's screaming,” he struggled to say.
For Rhett, her presence hadn’t come as a surprise. What shocked him was her sudden hug. He generally didn’t mind hugs, but he minded this one. This was because he never expected intimacy from her. Hence, he found it nearly impossible to believe that she had been snuggling beside him. He could feel her everything from the warmth of her skin to the echoes of her heart beats against his back. These had been too much for him to accept, so he had inched away, reinforcing the boundary between him and her. This was to protect each other. He first moved out of shock. He moved again out of anxiety. He was scared that it would be too much for her to be there. He was also worried that he would be growing too fond of her company. When her arms had enclosed him, he knew he had to wake her up. They were supposed to be friends still. There was supposed to be a distance between close friends.  
She released him from her grip upon realizing his pain, “Sorry, but . . . did we by any chance . . .you know?”
“No, I don't know what you're saying.” He turned around to look at her with confusion.
“You know . . .”
“No, I don't know,” he repeated while rolling off the bed. His feet planted firmly on the hard wood floor before standing up. 
“Have sex,” she muttered as quickly as possible.
“Oh, so that's what you were wondering about.” He now chuckled at her thought. “I think you've watched too many dramas. You can't exactly sleep with someone who happened to be dead asleep.”
“You seem to have a lot of experience in that . . . area.”
“It's just common knowledge.” He proceeded to his closet for a clean suit. “Besides, we’re just friends, so there’s nothing to worry about.”
Kannei then sat upright, supporting her back with the bed's headboard. “So if this were to happen with Hana, you'd sleep with her?”
With his arms full of clothes, Rhett turned around to give her a perplexed look. “Why are you asking me this?” he harshly questioned.
“I'm just curious,” she mumbled and pulled the blanket closer to her body.
“This situation would never have happened with Hana, so there's no point in asking that. Hana wouldn't have dozed off in the car and even if she did, she'd wake up and be embarrassed about sleeping,” he explained.
“You can't blame me for screaming! I was freaked out,” Kannei added, “and who said I wasn't embarrassed?”
“Let's not dwell on this subject, okay?” he continued to say and quickly slipped into his blazer. “This is a small thing and I have to go to an important meeting soon, so just have breakfast with my family. Okay?”
“Yeah, you're right. I do care too much about these small things. Thanks for letting me know that I’ve been stupid all this time.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“It doesn’t matter anymore.” She waved a good-bye. “Bye . . . Rhett.”
“I’ll see you later then.”
He exited, leaving Kannei there. She forced her eyes open and quietly laughed at herself. At the end of it all, there was always disappointment. Expectations for herself were simple to achieve; however, expectations for others were simple to disintegrate. She must have been a fool, a fool to believe in him or rather a fool to believe in hope and optimism. She would rather not be a fool, but she was already one. She knew that she was always foolish to hand out chances to unlikely candidates. It was déjà-vu on a loop. She had to stop this repetitive sequence, so she got out of bed, opened his door, and walked out of his room. When the time was right, she would leave. For now, she still wished to fulfill her promise and his expectations of her. Promises were meant to be promised, and she had already promised another.