Chapter 4: Confrontations

I want to understand you, but how can I when you keep closing in on me? 

He stopped shooting. 

That was the phrase that kept resonating in Jihyo’s ears. Throughout the whole day, Jihyo wondered why Sou would stop taking photographs. For a camera dork like him, he’d probably never give up photography. It was such a waste of his talent! She grew mad occasionally, grunting under her breath. How could he . . . be so foolish? How could he just be such a quitter?

And that was precisely why she glowered at him as they became the only two stuck with cleaning duty. All of the other students had already left for home or for cram school, yet they were still holding broomsticks in their hands. Well, it was more like Jihyo being the actual cleaner. Sou just leaned his hands on the wooden handle of the broom. He’d sigh from time to time, but usually he’d just stare at . . . nothing.

“What?” Sou blurted once he caught Jihyo’s infamous glare. “I am doing work.”

After a minute of silence, Jihyo shook her head, scoffing, “Right. Just breathing in and out is called doing work. Kobayashi-san, I don’t think you are a model right now.”

Sou suddenly straightened his back and his way towards Jihyo until they were only a foot apart from each other. “So you think that I could be a model? Wow, Jihyo, I never knew you thought so highly of me,” Sou scowled before turning around to return to his original spot at the front of the classroom.

“Why would I ever think highly of a quitter?” she roared out of fury.

There was that look of disgust painted all over her face and particularly pronounced by her furrowing eyebrows. That particular look made Sou’s blood boil until he felt a headache jabbing at the side of his head. That one stare from Jihyo also pushed Sou to storm towards Jihyo again. He didn’t care if she was backing away or defending herself with a meager broomstick. He pressed on until they could go no further. Jihyo had hit her waist against the shelves at the back of the classroom. She angled her back in hopes of avoiding his presence, yet he barred her body between his arms to secure her in place. One of his legs also trapped her steadily as it invaded the gap securing her feet to the ground.

Gazing directly at her wavering pupils, Sou retaliated, “Quitter? What do you even know?”

“I . . .”
 
“You what?”

“I . . .” She finally lifted her head and confidently stated, “I want to know why you’re not taking any more photos.”

Sou scoffed with a smirk that was too arrogant to be called handsome, yet Jihyo could feel her heart pounding faster and faster. He was too close. He was too close to her. “What?” he continued to tease. “You want me to photograph you now?”

So he remembered, Jihyo thought. He still remembered what she had said such a long time ago.

“I heard from people that the last photograph that you ever took was of me,” She bit her lip, mumbling.

“So?” Sou huffed out a scoff and shrugged his shoulders. “Does that make you special in any way or form?”

She looked away now, thinking how stupid she was being. She was the foolish one now. Sou was just enjoying the moment to embarrass her. He always liked to do that. Prove that she was wrong and that he was right, so that he’d have the last laugh.

She murmured in a hushed voice, “I just . . . I mean, I read that interview on the magazine that you gave a while ago after you won that competition using my photo that you said you would delete, yet lied to me about deleting it!”

Sou felt his headache subside, and loosened his arms, backing away from her. “Sorry about that,” he apologized quietly.

“Sorry?” Jihyo shrieked. “You didn’t even tell me that you won this award. You didn’t even share your reward with me and most of all, you still used me! Now everyone knows that—“

“I admit that I should have told you about this,” Sou interrupted, “but Itsuki was the one that put your picture into that competition. If you read the interview, you’d know.”

“Yeah, well, you could have . . .” Her voice was shushing. There was nothing more to add or to argue. Sou was right and she didn’t like any of that. “I-i-i-if you’re sorry, then tell me why. Tell me why you’d quit after that.”

“You really want to know?” Jihyo gulped before nodding quite slowly. “All right,” Sou declared. “The reason that I quit was because I realized that—“

The door of the classroom had slid open and there was Jun scurrying to his desk.

“Oh,” Jun chirped too happily for his own good, “don’t mind me. Carry along with your conversation. I just forgot my textbook here.”

Even after Jun left, Sou didn’t say anything more. Suprisingly, Sou actually started to clean the classroom. He wiped the windows with a cloth, swept the front of the room and erased the blackboard. It was Jihyo who did nothing this time. She just stood there with her hips still pressing against the shelf.

That was it, she thought.

She had lost this time, and there was nothing she could do about this.

“I’ve pretty much finished everything,” Sou declared at last, and left the room like that.
Without a care for the world, he left Jihyo by herself. He never even said goodbye, Jihyo thought. Then, she laughed at herself. What was she even thinking? It’s Sou. He had always been a jerk. There’s nothing else he could have meant to her.

--- 

When Sou finished his duties, he realized that he was already late for his appointment. It was going to be his first time at counseling. It wasn’t like he didn’t care. He just lost track of time accidentally, which worked to his advantage. When he saw the Mercedes that Frederick, his butler, was driving in, he gulped. It was going to be easy explaining to Frederick why he was late. Actually, Sou never liked being late. Frederick always gave him that nasty look that made him seem like the world’s worst criminal.

“Sou, late again,” Frederick muttered, as if he expected everything to occur.

“Sorry,” Sou panted a bit from all the running. He had run from the third floor to the parking lot. It didn’t seem that far away from each other, but their school was particularly large. There were tennis courts, a swimming pool, gardens, and basketball courts to go past before reaching his destination. “I didn’t mean to be late,” he explained as he regained his breath.

“So you used to try to be late?” Frederick’s eyes gawked at Sou through the rear-view window.

Sou bit his lips. “No?” he quivered.

Frederick let out a small laugh. “It’s okay. I’m just teasing you. I know you’re tired,” he noted.

Indeed, Sou was exhausted. He would have slept through the car ride if he could, but that expression on Jihyo’s face kept surfacing in his mind. That odd, odd curious look of hers was like a newborn kitten’s. He had no idea why he’d almost reveal everything to her. Ugh, he thought, what the fuck is going on with me?

They were just supposed to be childhood friends, but there she was complicating things again. He wanted her to take photos again, and that . . . was unacceptable. He’d already promised himself that he’d never touch that machine again. This was for the better, he reminded himself. Hobbies were meant to be hobbies.

“Sou,” he heard Frederick calling as the car slowed to a halt. “We’re here.”

“All right,” Sou murmured gently, stretching his arms out ahead of him. This was it, he told himself. Time to face some bullshit, he reminded himself as he opened the car door. The cold air blew past him. It was really too sunny today. The sun’s rays were almost blinding him. How fucking annoying.

Even the walk to the hospital was bothersome. The path was too long and side by side, there’d be trees. Honestly, he didn’t care much for nature. His mother used to tend to the garden too much, and he knew why. As clichéd as it seemed, his mother had an affair with their landscaper. Not surprisingly, he had caught her in the middle of the act at one of their many gardens. This one was a tropical theme along with an indoor pool. He had wanted to take a shot of one of the butterflies to show his mother, who was supposedly tending to the exotic flowers. Instead, he saw from the vines that she was naked on all fours with the gardener moving back and forth into her. He hadn’t understood what they were doing then, but he kept hearing her scream, “Fuck me! Fuck me harder! H-h-harder!”

He remembered running back the house and crashing into his own father, who was on the phone with a business partner. “Jesus Christ Sou!” his father hollered. “Watch where you’re going!” As Sou continued to dash off, his father screamed, “What? You’re not even apologizing? Who taught you those bad manners? Your mother?”

He remembered looking back at his father, wondering, “Father . . . what does it mean to ‘fuck me’, ‘fuck me harder’?”

That was the one and only time that his father had dropped his phone and dashed to Sou’s side. His father wrapped his arms around the little child, uttering, “It means nothing. Just forget about it.” Then, his father released him, murmuring ever so quietly, “That goddamn whore. Fucking around in broad daylight.”

Still, Sou heard everything and no later, he asked Frederick to explain everything to him. “Your mother was probably lonely,” Frederick tried to reason. “Sometimes . . . adults do these things to hide their problems.”

“What problems would Mom have?” Sou recalled pondering aloud. 

“I’m sure, though, that even with any problems, your mother would always love you,” Frederick reassured and patted the young man’s head.

“Really?”

“Really.”

“Okay then.”

That phrase, though, was completely and utterly false. If she had loved him, then why did she leave? That question had always haunted him. Parents were supposed to unconditionally love their child or children, yet his mother abandoned him. She didn’t even let him chase after her. She just disappeared without a note, without a trace, without a sound.

“Sou, we have arrived,” Frederick declared to Sou, who was now standing in front of a half-opened office. This office was too clean to be true. There was a special seat that looked too comfortable to be normal. This was the patient’s chair.

“Thanks, Frederick,” Sou muttered briefly.

Frederick took a bow, responding, “I’ll be waiting outside then.”

“Sou,” Dr. Ahn turned around in his leather chair to welcome, “I’m glad to see you here.” Sou didn’t say anything, but he walked towards the red lounge chair and lay down. “So, how are you feeling?”

“Okay,” Sou answered coldly. There was nothing better else to say. Words could be muddled up in other people’s minds. Language had always been a sensitive topic with its ability to mask any emotion.

Dr. Ahn sighed as he made his way to the black leather chair in front of Sou. In his right hand was a beige folder with a tacky red strip on the side that read, Kobayashi Sou. “I think I’ll go straight to the point. I know you hate it when people beat around the bush. Why did you do it, Sou?”

“Do what?” Sou pretended to be dumb. His arms crossed together tightly and his eyes darted away.

Dr. Ahn slightly his head and responded, “I know that you understand what I’m referring to, but since you do not want to answer the question. I will ask you again: why did you try to commit suicide?” Sou lay there for a while and just blinked his eyes from time to time. There was nothing to say. No, he didn’t want to share anything. Talking never helped him solve his problems. “In order for us to make progress, you should try to talk,” Dr. Ahn urged.

Sou chuckled scornfully while stretching his hands in the air. “Right,” he scoffed. “Talking works well. Say, if you’re a doctor, tell me why I did it then. You must have some theory.”
“Well, according to your folder—“

“Just say your goddamn theory!” 

“Okay,” Dr. Ahn said. “I believe it was because of love.”

“You got, perhaps, a quarter right.” Sou laughed. “You know, I just felt like it was my time. We all have the dates of our death already predestined. I’m just speeding things up and putting matters into my own hands. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have other matters to attend to.” 

So, Sou stood up and as he was about to leave, he saw another folder on Dr. Ahn’s table. The name was Song Jihyo. What was she doing here? Still, he decided to ignore the thought for now and just leave. Frederick was already in the hospital’s waiting place, reading the daily newspaper. When he heard Sou’s footsteps, Frederick immediately jumped up and announced, “That was quick!”

“Yeah,” Sou muttered. “I prefer it that way.”

“So,” Frederick asked, “where do you want to go now?”

“You know where I have to go, Fred. It’s home,” Sou answered coldly paired with a demeaning glare. “It’s probably the last place I’d want to go, but you know what they say? Duty calls.”

As Sou marched ever so silently out to the car, Frederick couldn’t help, but notice his young master’s sad presence. Poor boy, Frederick thought. What a poor boy.
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