01
It’s like what they always say. It’s only after you’ve lost something do you understand its importance in your life, but I don’t think that way. I’ve never even lost Jikyung in the first place. There was no beginning, no middle and not even an ending. We were friends and still are. She’d probably say that I’m wrong. I use this term too lightly, but I think everyone is a friend. We just have to focus on their positive parts, and that’s what I like about Daeun. She’s always smiling, reminding me of the good things in life. And then, there’s Jikyung. She’ll never smile. She’s cold, too cold to touch and too far to reach. She probably has no idea how many guys actually secretly are infatuated with her. There’s just something about her that draws your attention towards her. It’s like a stage is built upon her in a room. Even the women are interested in her, particularly by the way she dresses. Jikyung is by no means simple. She’s unafraid to dress the latest fashions that might not be popular here yet, but every time, I’m beside her, I find myself slowing down. Her footsteps are faster than ever, and I can’t keep up.



I’m tired.


I’m tired of it all. All the chasing, all the thinking, all the analyzing . . . everything about her makes me feel tired.


“Taeyang, honey.” Daeun wraps her arms from behind and leans in to nibble at my ear. “I love you, baby.”

I let out a smile, a breath of relief, and utter, “I love you too.”

This seems too easy. Those words just slip out of my mouth without much thought. Is this natural, I wonder. Even if it’s not, I still feel safe in her arms. I know she’s here to stay. She has all her attention on me. She’s not off dreaming about another world or worrying about her next assignment’s marks. She’s worried about me and only me. 

I feel her arms wrap tighter around me. I’m a bit suffocated, but I know she means well. So, I give her a kiss on the cheek, and tell her, “Let’s move in together.”

“Really?” Daeun’s eyes grow as bright as she can, and once I nod, she gives me a deep kiss. It feels good, too good to be true, but somehow, it feels empty. I deepen the kiss, and lull her towards me. I want more. No, I need more. 

----
It’s the middle of the night, and I’m awake. I can’t sleep when I’m nervous. I don’t know why I’m nervous at all. My hand reaches for the phone. I’m tempted to send a text, but luckily, I deleted the application. There’s no way I’d find her again or she’d seek me once more. This is better. This is good, I think. This is healthy. This is how friends are supposed to be.

I get up from bed, leaving Daeun to snuggle against a pillow. I go to the kitchen to pour myself a drink. There’s a half-opened wine bottle just on the counter and a glass nearby. Daeun is like her; they both like wine.  Since this is Daeun’s place, I just settle with this.
I let the drink air for a bit before taking a huge sip. It’s bitter, which is perfect for me. I find myself finishing the bottle, hoping to make myself oozy. However, I’m even more tempted to play with my phone and send out a message. I’m too bored, I think to myself. I’m so bored that I want to text her. To stop myself, I go on Facebook. Funnily, she has a post. She’s rarely awake at this time. She’s talking about the awful drumming coming from the floor above. I can’t help but chuckle at her stupidity.

“Tae?”

I suddenly turn around to find Daeun groggily wiping her eyes. She’s wearing my baggy t-shirt and her makeup has been washed off. She looks like an angel; a smile creeps from the corner of my lips. “Sorry,” I murmur. “I just couldn’t sleep.”

“It’s okay.” She laughs weakly. “Let me drink with you then.”

Her words don’t match her expression. I know she’s upset that I left her by herself. I know how she’s feeling: insecure and desperate. I can relate to those feelings too well, and I don’t want her to feel that way. So, I finish the drink and place the glass into the sink. “No, it’s okay,” I reassure her. “I feel like sleeping now.”

“You sure?” she confirms with her eyebrows mushed up together.

“Yup.” I grin. 

I think I can sleep, and I should be able to by her side. It used to work like a charm. If she lay beside me on the bed, I’d close my eyes and off I’d dream. I’d dream of miraculous, pleasant adventures and when I’d wake up, at least, she’d be by my side. Now, I don’t dream at all. I don’t feel ready to sleep. My eyes just can’t close.

I don’t even know what’s bothering me.

I have everything I need. I’m not missing anything, and I don’t need much. 

But, something is missing.

Something has always been missing. I feel what I haven’t experienced in a while. I’m going backwards. I know I am.

-----
The walls are caving in on me. It’s so dark, too dark for me to bear. I feel that I’m trapped with every breath I take. I want to fight back, but there seems to be no use. The ground is starting to crumble beneath me. The whole world is breaking. Everything is falling apart, and I’m just holding on . . . for nothing.

“Excuse me, but you dropped this.”

Tap.

I look up, and there’s an angel smiling in front of me. She has my pen in her hand and places it gently in my palm. She has soft fingers, very soft ones that I want to cherish. She even has cute, timid eyes, but her actions prove her otherwise as she leans back beside me on the bench.

“I’m Shim Daeun, and I’m in my first year of med school! Nice to meet you . . .”

“Park Taeyang,” I muster a reply. “I’m in a grade higher than you.”

But that’s only how we meet. That’s how I fall in love with her within an instant.

“If you don’t cut all your ties with Jikyung, I’m going to break up with you!” Daeun roars once she sees my phone.

That’s how our fights begin after a few weeks of dating, and I don’t fight back because there’s no reason to argue. A guy shouldn’t be so close to another girl other than his girlfriend. Girlfriends are more important than other friends that are girls. 

Even Hyomin tells me something too shocking and almost creepy.

I think Jikyung is in love with you, but she just doesn’t know it. I think you should do something about it.

I try to push back this fact, but every time I think of Jikyung, I can hear Hyomin’s voice echoing in the background. I’m not going to lie. I’m disgusted. I don’t want to hear it. There’s no way that Jikyung would like me in that way, and to receive a look of admiration from her is just weird.

So to solve all of my problems, I leave her with this message: I updated my phone’s OS, so now I can’t use that app anymore.

Jikyung responds over email, almost begging me for another way for contact. I’m even more frightened. I don’t reply in the end. There isn’t much to say anyways. That’s how Jikyung and I simply become friends. Daeun is happier, proud that I am loyal to her. I reassure her that I love her and tell her when I miss her. I do miss her when I’m alone. If she’s not there, it’ll just get darker.

That’s how I live day by day until . . .

“Sorry,” I apologize after accidentally bumping into a shorter girl who looks at most a freshman student. Then, she shoots a harsh stare at me, and I know who it is. I can’t seem to greet her without stuttering, “J-J-Jikyung . . .”

Somehow, she can steadily utter, “Taeyang, what a surprise.”

“Y-y-yeah.” I chuckle nervously while placing my tray of food onto the table.

She takes a seat across from me before asking, “So, how’s life?”

I glance at her and realize that she hasn’t aged at all. Her hairstyle is the same: slightly wavy, long hair to her shoulders. She’s wearing makeup though, and I wonder when she became a master of it. She looks even prettier than before. I can even sense several guys frequently gazing at her. I’m sure she has no idea what’s happening though. She’s dense like that.

Again, she repeats, “I asked you, how’s life?”

“It’s good,” I automatically answer.

“That’s good,” she mutters sternly and has her eyes fixated on her French fries. I’m watching her pick out a fry and dip it into one of the many sauces she has acquired. She’s still as weird as she can be, and I suck in my urge to laugh.

“How’s yours then?” I ask her this time.

She’s thinking hard. That’s unlike her to take so long to build a conversation. Still, I wait for her to fill that silence with some rambling, except she hands me a short reply, “Good. Busy, but good.”

“That’s good to hear,” I find myself saying.

I don’t ask her for more information. I never ask. If she doesn’t want to tell me, then so be it. If she wants to tell me, then sure. Nothing really matters to be honest. It’s her life, not mine. Jikyung never seemed to understand that point. I know what she expects of me. She expects too much from me. Her eyes now tell me that she wants me to press on and be interested in what has happened in her life. I won’t give her what she wants. It’s unnecessary.

“I’m here for an exchange,” Jikyung begins to explain, “but I think I might be staying for good.”

The second part of her phrase makes my heart skip an extra beat. I breathe a little deeper. “Oh,” I mutter. “That’s good.”

She wants me to say more. I just know from how she’s biting her lower lip. I know moments from now, she will erupt, and she does, “Yeah, Taeyang, that’s all you know how to say? That’s good? What kind of friend are you? Seriously! A good friend is supposed to . . .”
I tune her out. She’s rambling again, and whenever she does that, I just nod and make occasional tones of agreement. By the time she’s out of breath, I utter, “Well, don’t expect too much from me.” 

Instead of arguing, she agrees, “Yeah, you’re right. I shouldn’t expect so much from you. You’re a loser anyways.” That hurts more than I had anticipated. Loser. That word rings in my ears. “Sorry,” she mumbles, “I was being too harsh on you.” 

That’s better, but that doesn’t clear everything. I still feel that stabbing in my chest. My eyes wander at her clothes. Once she said, I was bad at remembering what she wore. So, I stare now, and memorize in case she quizzes me. She’s wearing a long, rose dress, and black ankle boots. No wonder the girls are looking at her too. No one else in this room is wearing anything like her. They’re afraid, but she isn’t. I’m afraid for her though.

I’m feeling that burden over my shoulders that are aching. I must have not slept well last night. That’s probably it. I just didn’t sleep well.
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