Chapter 56: The Hidden Devil Goes Job Hunting and the Innocent Boy Observes
There was not much to do, except to move along with life. For Changmin, this meant job hunting. He had looked for openings everywhere from newspapers to online websites. Unfortunately, there was not much to choose from due to the influx of teachers. When he decided not to be selective, he realized that what the employers were looking for were only substitute teachers. A substitute teacher, for him, was an unsteady position. It was a temporary stepping stone, which he had already used before. He was looking for long-term occupations.

Desperation caused Changmin to be open-minded. Even in between his precious lunch breaks, he would be interviewed either over the phone or at another school. He was determined to start afresh; however, sometimes, determination was not sufficient to establish success.
“You keep sighing,” Shiori noted after one of the last meetings scheduled before the winter festival.
“I think I have every reason to,” he retorted.
Changmin twirled a pen in his hand. Whenever he was frustrated, he would twirl his pen. This practice began in high school. His teachers were always mundane and self-righteous, so he mastered the art of pen twirling. He didn’t need their lectures; he knew the material well enough from textbooks and from extra research. Who cared what his teachers were saying? This was part of his reason for becoming a teacher. He wanted others to be interested with learning. He wanted others to care. He didn’t want them to be like him.
His suddenly pen dropped, which was unusual for him. It had been years since he last dropped a pen. Out of balance. Out of focus. Out of sync, just like that time in high school.
It was his first time signing up for a tutoring academy, so he was required to take an entrance exam. Having trouble finding the classroom, he dropped his pencil case onto the ground. As he bent down, he heard her smooth, silky voice.
“Here you go,” she announced.
Their hands had touched together, and immediately, Changmin pulled his hand away, and almost stumbled onto the ground. He saw her sweet, somewhat childish eyes giggling at him. He could only blush, and look away. Someone that beautiful was taking notice on him, and that notion made him so distracted during his exam that he was put in a class that was much lower than he had anticipated. Luckily, though, she happened to be in the same class.
“I thought you looked like the sort that would jump ahead,” she teased the first day of their lessons while grabbing the seat beside him. “Guess not.”
He had never been this nervous before. He laughed and throughout the class, he tried his best not to rest his elbow on the border of their desks. He didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable even though he, himself, was feeling more and more antsy. What was worse was that she kept asking questions about him by writing down her thoughts on a sheet of paper. He felt compelled to respond, yet he didn’t want to seem stupid. His one-liners were enough though for a few chuckles to come out from her, Fuwa Chiharu.
 He thought he heard that chuckle again.
“You all right?” Shiori kindly wondered and picked up the pen, which had tumbled to the ground.
Once she placed it on his desk, he immediately snatched it and uttered, “Of course I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“I’m sorry,” Shiori apologized. “It’s my fault that all this had to happen.”
Changmin didn’t know how she managed to spot what was troubling him. Grateful that she hadn’t badgered him, he maintained, “Don’t blame yourself for this and don’t worry about me. I’ll be okay.”
“You sure?” she asked once more.
He stared at her with such sorrow and softness that Shiori felt her cheeks inflame. Changmin genuinely grinned, reminded of how he behaved before. Those were his silly days . . . with her.
 “Somehow, we always find a way, don’t we?” he scoffed.
 “Y-Y-Yeah, I-I’ll be rooting for you.”
Unable to resist a chance to tease another, he cackled, “Is that a confession I hear? I can’t afford another one you must understand.”
“Y-Y-yes . . . I mean, n-n-no. I-I don’t know,” she stuttered.
 “I’m just joking around. It’ll probably be one of the last jokes I’ll have here.”
Last was a depressing word, yet a most suitable one for Changmin’s situation. He had a time limit at this school. Long term was a variable expression. So, he laughed, hoping that at least he would have the last laugh this time.   
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Junsu didn’t enjoy any of the dates following his discovery. He couldn’t because he was too preoccupied with observations. He noted every reaction she expressed. All he could wonder was what was true. Was she smiling for him or was she simply smiling to distract him? Why was she still holding onto his hand? What did he mean to her? Was he a substitute or was he a toy?
“What’s wrong, babe?” Naomi at last asked after several encounters.
It wasn’t hard to identify Junsu’s gloominess. His face told everything about his mood. No secrets. No deceit. Still, he felt disgusted by that nickname now.
“Don’t call me that,” he argued. “I’m not your babe.”
 “I’ve been calling you that for the longest time, so . . . why are you mad at me now?”
How much did he aspire to confront her about his findings? Too much. How much did he not want to learn the truth from her? Just as much as too much. He wished to forget, yet he could never forget. Incised were his memories of him and her. Broken were his feelings for her. They could never be like before. Wrecked clay pieces could be glued together, but the blemished lines were evident. Those lines would never disappear or even mend. There was no beauty in the break down.
“I think we need to take a break,” Junsu announced.
“W-w-why are you suddenly saying such things?” she scowled while grabbing onto his sleeve as he was about to depart from the café.
“I’m not suddenly saying this,” Junsu brushed away her hand, remarking. “I’ve reached my limit, Naomi. I really have. I need some time by myself.”
“I don’t understand,” she kept muttering and tugging on his clothing. “I don’t understand you!”
Junsu gazed at her despairingly while nimbly placing his hand over hers. He unhooked her grasp from his. Perhaps, he was unaware that he had already selected what he would do with such diminutive actions.  
“I don’t understand you either,” he stated.
When hand holding seemed like a felony and conversing seemed like a chore, it was clear that their relationship was collapsing. She felt it. Junsu was leaving her. Again and again, the same scene vividly played in her head. They were all leaving her. Then, a single tear slid down her cheek. It was too late. Junsu had already left. If he had known precisely what he had caused, he would have returned. Because he was oblivious, he couldn’t know the extent of the dolor he had inflicted on her. Perhaps, this time, she would not recover.

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