Chapter 58: The Winter Festival
Celebrations were supposed to bring joy, not to emphasize on other people’s miseries. With the circumstances given, it was, thus, expected for all of them to be contented, but most of them were not. Junsu should have been delighted that the boys and Naomi had created a surprise for his birthday. He would have been if he had not known of certain secrets of Naomi. Naomi too should have been overjoyed that she was celebrating her boyfriend’s birthday. She would have been if Junsu had not asked for a break in their relationship. Surely, Changmin, one of the organizers for this event, should have been pleased with his creation. He would have been if this had not reminded him of his departure. Shiori too should have been proud. She would have been if this had not reminded her of his departure. Placed in an awkward situation, Kannei, Jaejoong, and Rhett felt tension, rather than bliss. Kannei would have been cheerful if Rhett had not attended. Rhett would have been welcoming if Kannei hadn’t arrived with Jaejoong. Jaejoong would have been joyous if he hadn’t seen Kannei staring at Rhett like that. It seemed that only Yoochun, and Sanghyun were in high spirits. Yoochun thought it was appropriate to bring Sanghyun along and Sanghyun too was overjoyed to be out.

It was natural then that the group separated with each individual having his or her agenda. Actually, everything had been fine for Jaejoong until he and Kannei had bumped into Rhett. The three had been on their way to the concert that Changmin was hosting. Jaejoong and Kannei had already visited Changmin’s stall, where he was serving food to the customers. Jaejoong could still remember Changmin’s outrageous expression when he saw the two together.
“Yeah, it’s complicated,” Jaejoong explained before ordering their dishes. “Kannei is now my girlfriend.”
“Th-th-that’s just—“
“Yeah, Rhett knows, and no, we didn’t go behind his back,” Jaejoong continued to add. “Now, are you going to take our orders or are you going to make a weird scene?”
“Well, I will take your order, but . . . that press conference . . . so . . .”
Jaejoong interrupted, “Changmin, I’d advise you not to say your conclusions aloud. I’ll fill you in one day . . . if I feel like it.”
Changmin scoffed, revealing his infamous smirk, “You know I’m going to charge you double.”
“Knew you’d be—“
“Nah, I was just kidding,” Changmin butted in before handing Jaejoong his number and his change, “but you have to tell me all the crap that went on.”
As Jaejoong met with Kannei, who was waiting at the end of the counter for their hot dogs, he placed his arm around her and asked, “Missed me?”
She had almost shrieked, but once she turned her head to find Jaejoong looking at her with a soft gaze, she could only sigh, “You only went off to order stuff.”
Pouting his lips, he muttered, “So, you’ve never missed me before?”
“Jaejoong . . . it’s—“
“You’ll always miss him,” he stated. “That’s what you’re saying right?”
“That’s not what I meant. It’s just that—“
“Oh my god!” a girl shrieked. “You’re Jaejoong Hasegawa right? That guy who’s going to be playing alongside Yumi, right?”
Then, another girl rambled, “Ah! He is! Look at his hair!”
“Can you tell us if—“
“Run,” Jaejoong commanded while pulling at Kannei’s hand. “Run!”
They ran, and ran until reaching the top of a hill overlooking the school. Landing on the uncut grass, Jaejoong lay there with his arms spread out. He was panting and panting while staring straight up at the cerulean sky sprinkled with a few round clouds. Beautiful, he thought before glancing to his right. There was Kannei sitting with her legs stretched out; she was several inches away from him and instinct told him to pull her close to him. She looked at him with a hint of contempt mixed with shyness.
“Don’t,” she mumbled. “People are watching.”
“Nonsense,” he cackled. “There’s no one watching here. Besides, who cares if they see more? It’s not like we’re really a secret.”
            “I’d prefer to avoid the spotlight,” she whispered along with a sigh. “Funny how I used to dream to date a celebrity, and now that it’s happened . . .”
            He instantly sat upright with his legs crossed, grumbling, “What? You’re scared?”
            Looking at him with such uneasy, darting eyes, she answered, “I . . .”
            “I know how you feel right now, and that maybe I’m forcing us to be natural too much,” he interrupted, “but I think we’ll work, and . . . I don’t want you to be sad over him. I promise you that I’ll always love you.”
            “Jaejoong, that’s so—“
            “Sudden? Maybe, but it’s the truth,” he confessed and held onto her hand. “You make me feel whole again.”
            Kannei didn’t say anything to Jaejoong’s disappointment. He thought she would have been happy with his promise, yet she grew more distressed. She had that frown, where the wrinkles on her nose bridge would form and her eyes would squint in the process. She even looked at her watch once before finally uttering, “I think we should go. It’s almost time for Changmin’s show.”
            “Right,” Jaejoong said.
            In fact, Kannei stood up first and began to walk away from him. He was the one, who was increasing his pace to keep up with her. Just as he was about to reach for her hand to slow her down, she had halted at her heels all of a sudden. Jaejoong would have teased her, but there was nothing to tease or joke about in the end. After all, it was Rhett standing ahead of her, and the two had seen each other.
            It was at that moment that Jaejoong didn’t walk forward. Instead, in awe, he stayed behind and watched her move towards Rhett. Like always, she would go for Rhett, he thought. Heaving a long sigh, he buried his hands deep in his pockets and walked the other way. He didn’t need to see or hear them interact. He didn’t need to face them at all.
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There she was. Of all people, Rhett had to come across her. This was surreal, almost dreamlike to him. Maybe, he had an inkling that she’d be here with Jaejoong, yet she was here by herself. She was looking at him the way a long, lost friend would have done. Soon, though, she turned the other way and dashed away.
Without thinking, he was already chasing after her. Even while brushing and crashing into people cruising in the other direction, he kept sprinting. Then, he reached his hand forward and captured one of her arms.
“Why are you running away from me?” Rhett hollered.
He had done this right in the middle of the festival’s path. The festival was held outdoors despite the slight snow fall and the harsh coldness. There were booths running alongside a wide path created. It was crowded, yet Rhett didn’t care. He still pulled her backwards, enclosing her body with his sturdy arms to protect her from the pushy mob.
“Why . . . why are you being like this?” he now whispered.  
Kannei tried to resist his clutch, but she was too feeble compared to him. She wanted to ask him why he was being like this, why he was tormenting her in this fashion. She didn’t voice her thoughts and instead, voiced her actions. She thrashed her fists at him, punching his chest again and again.
She kept muttering, “Leave me alone! Just let me go!”
“No!” Rhett firmly declared, which caused several heads to turn in his direction. “Just tell me why you’re acting this way and then I promise I’ll let you go. Are you even happy with him?”
Kannei now tilted her head upwards to stare at him.  In a hoarse tone, she uttered, “That’s none of your business.”
“It is my business,” he argued, holding onto her even tighter.
“Are you happy with her then?” she questioned.
“I . . .”
She laughed in between her words, “Why am I even asking you this? You know what, never mind.”
“You’re mad at me, aren’t you?”
Kannei placed her arms on top of his, which to onlookers was an affectionate move. Her intention was only to reassure him, meaning to stop him from questioning further.  From her look, though, he felt the despair and sadness seeping through her eyes. He wondered why she was feeling this way. What could have caused her to be so depressed?
“I’m not mad at you,” she remarked. “I . . . just don’t know what to do with you. You’re like a bad habit. I know I shouldn’t be having a midnight snack, but I still do. I know I shouldn’t be procrastinating, but I still do.”
“I don’t—“
“You don’t understand what I’m saying right? It’s okay. What I’m saying . . . is for myself. I know that in time, I will overcome this bad habit,” she clarified.
At the sound of her words, Rhett released her from his grasp, allowing her to roam free. She foolishly grinned before turning in the opposite direction, evidently strolling away from him. Rhett was left standing in the middle of strangers, who were moving by him. He watched her leave all too easily. Her words were resonating in his ears like a song on repeat. He needed it on repeat for he was trying to find meaning within her words, the lyrics. He didn’t know what to do with her too. Perhaps, she was also his bad habit. If that were so, then why didn’t he want to overcome this bad habit? He ran in her direction, but there was no use. She was already lost, lost in a horde of roaming people. All he could picture was of her last expression, her dreary smile.
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