Chapter 6: Missing Memories

It’s all in the past, I try to tell myself. But, telling isn’t enough when I keep remembering.


Thanks and credits to glamorousCHIC for the poster!

Jihyo had no idea why she was listening to Jou’s plans. Maybe it was just that she couldn’t get the thought of a mystery hanging at the back of her mind, like that dangling rack swaying back and forth in an unlocked closet. Jou had opened this forbidden room, and there was no way of shutting the door without the key, which he now possessed. She had lost to him inevitably. She had lost the key to her own room. No, she had handed it to him. She was the one that made Jou have the upper hand, which was pretty much why she was already minutes away from this café, Les Mémoires.
Les Mémoires was the place that Jihyo and Gyuri would frequent after school. Jihyo would purposely ask to try the latest drink that Itsuki concocted or would cause trouble for Itsuki. She remembered telling Gyuri all about their childhood stories and embarrassing moments of Itsuki’s. Then, she would scoff at Itsuki’s fan club, noting that they probably all hated her. There was good reason to hate her for Itsuki would always serve their table first.

“And here’s Gyuri’s favourite, macaroons with a hint of vanilla at the side,” Itsuki always handed Gyuri’s plate first as he explained. “And for the little troublemaker here, we have strawberry shortcake.”

“Hey! How’d you know that was what I wanted Nii-san?”

“I’ve known you for how long? Of course I’d know what you’d want to eat,” Itsuki always said and placed her dish in front of her. “You’ve been having too much chocolate these days anyways. I thought something light would do you some good.”

“Thanks, Nii-san!” Jihyo flashed him a sweet smile. “Now if only you could apply your skills to finding a woman,” she’d stick out her tongue to tease. “Any girl would be charmed by you if you knew them that well!”

“Yeah, Jihyo,” Itsuki ruffled her hair, scoffing, “you’re no better than me either. Who still hasn’t had her—“

“Nii-san!”

“Okay, okay, I’ll cut it out and leave you two girls alone.”


Indeed, Itsuki always left them alone until they had finished their orders. He’d pay the bill automatically by deducting it off of his pay. He’d also say good-bye to them at the door. He’d be standing there, waving at them with a bright smile. He’d be there just like . . .

“You’re late,” Jun uttered with his arms folded together. His back leaned against one of the glass doors while one leg crossed over the other. Looking at Jihyo with much disdain, Jun snapped, “What? I’m not going to open the door for you.”

“I was only late for five minutes.” Jihyo returned a glare and proceeded to pull at the metal handle of the large door. She had almost forgotten how heavy this was. It was Itsuki, who had always held it open for her.

“Time is precious, young lady,” Jun grumbled under his breath. “I think you’ve been too pampered to understand that.”

Jihyo probably would have argued with him if the manager, Takahashi Ren, had not announced with a bow, “Welcome to Les Mémoires. Table for . . . Jihyo? Heavens! How long has it been since I’ve seen you? You’ve grown taller and you’re prettier not that you weren’t pretty to begin with, but my, you have grown up to a beautiful young lady!”

“Th-th-thank you, Takahasi-san,” Jihyo felt her cheeks redden as she stammered.

Grabbing two menus, Ren directed them to Jihyo’s old table, the one found in the middle of the first row and also beside the glass windows. “So how’s Itsuki doing? Last time I heard, he was thinking of going abroad to study in Europe,” Ren remarked in an excited voice. “Did he eventually go?” Ren suddenly turned around once Jun and Jihyo settled down in their seats. 

Surprisingly, Jun didn’t make any remarks and just sat beside her. Instead, everyone’s eyes were on Jihyo, who couldn’t do much but gaze straight ahead. What could she say? It wasn’t as if she could tell the truth to everyone? Her parents already instructed her just to tell everyone that Itsuki was studying abroad for this year for now. The other story could come later, much later once Hyunjoong returned from boarding school at the States.

While Ren poured fresh water mixed with lemon into their glasses, Jihyo at last answered, “Yes . . . he did go.”

“Aw, you must miss him!” Ren teased gently by nudging her arm with his elbow. “It’s okay. I’m sure he visits for the holidays!”

Once Ren placed her glass of water onto the table, Jihyo immediately took a great sip. Jun, on the other hand, cackled like an incarcerated patient. Jihyo knew too well why he was laughing like that. Without a doubt, he was mocking her inability to lie flawlessly. Still, Jihyo managed to croak, “Y-y-yeah.”

“Anyhow, I’ll leave you guys be for now,” Ren declared. “Just wave at me, and I’ll come by to take your orders.”

With that note, Jihyo was left beside Jun, who was still trying to recover from his laughter. He was almost falling off his chair. “H-h-honestly,” he stuttered in between his gasps for air, “y-y-you are ridiculous! That’s the worst cover-up I’ve ever heard of! S-s-seriously, could you get any . . . Haha!”

“I don’t know what you’re trying to prove here,” Jihyo scoffed, “but whatever you are doing is meaningless.”

“Then, why are you here?” Jun abruptly sat up with his back straight.

“I think it’s better if I ask why do you want me here?” Jihyo corrected him.

Clapping his hands together, Jun gritted his teeth to form a treacherous grin. “You’re good,” he pointed at her to admit. “You’re really good.” Then, he finished his water in one gulp, proclaiming, “But don’t worry, I’m just as good, if not, better than you.”

“What do you want, Thornby-san?”

“You don’t have to be so formal with me, Jihyo,” Jun reminded her. “Just call me Jun.” 

“Okay, what do you want, Jun?”

Jun opened the menu and lifted it almost too close to his eyes. With a squint, he murmured too casually, “Oh, I just want to know the truth.”

“What truth?”

“Don’t play dumb with me again, Jihyo,” he took a glance at her and sighed. “We’ve been through that route before and it got us nowhere.”

Jihyo snickered, “Isn’t that the point for me? To get you nowhere? To tell you what you are doing is pointless and that you are just being nosy?”

“Well, what if I told you that there was more to your brother than you thought?”

“What are you talking about?” Jihyo frowned at Jun, who was smiling too happily now. 

Jun looked at his watch and counted down with his fingers, “Five, four, three, two, one. Now, look who is at the front door.”

Instantly, Jihyo followed Jun’s instructions, which led her to witness Gyuri dressed in a waitress’ attire. She had the typical black vest along with a matching knee-length skirt. She even had a name tag pinned to her right chest. Gyuri worked here? How was that even possible, and why would Gyuri be here? She hated all sweets, except for macaroons. She didn’t even like coffee. There was no reason for her to be here.

“Ji-Jihyo . . .” Gyuri stammered upon meeting Jihyo’s gaze. “What are you . . . Jun.”

Jun puckered his lips and without a sense of shame, greeted, “Hi Gyuri! I thought I’d get two old friends reacquainted!”

“Jun . . . can I have a word with you?” Gyuri, out of the blue, requested and pointed to the door.

“We can just speak here,” Jun debated.

“No,” Gyuri demanded, “In private please.”

Jihyo watched Jun leave with Gyuri. Still, Jun was acting like his playful self. He even had the audacity to wave at Jihyo, which was like telling her that he’d be back really soon, that this was nothing. This, though, didn’t seem like nothing. From the way Gyuri’s eyebrows curved together, Jihyo knew that Gyuri was frustrated, if not, enraged. Jihyo could even hear what seemed like shouting coming from Gyuri, yet the glass windows blocked any signs of audible language. Then, there was Jun grabbing ahold of Gyuri’s wrist, pulling her towards him. Gyuri, however, swung her arm away from him. Clearly, she was struggling to free herself from him, yet in the end, Jun still managed to hug her. His hug was suddenly rough then excessively gentle. His arms were almost hovering over Gyuri’s back. He was whispering something in her ears, which made her push him away and shake her head. Just like that, Gyuri stormed back into the café with Jun trailing far behind her.

As soon as Jun returned to his seat, Jihyo couldn’t help asking, “What was that all about?” 

For once, Jun’s face was flustered as he retorted, “What’d you think it was about?”

“Looked like a lover’s quarrel or more like someone suffering from an unrequited love,” Jihyo threw a guess. “Clearly, Gyuri is not interested in you.”

“Ha!” Jun clapped his hands joyously. “I like the way you think.” 

“So I am assuming that I am right.”

Flashing an omnipotent smile, Jun answered, “I won’t confirm your answer unless you tell me what happened.”

“Isn’t that too easy for you?” Jihyo scoffed while backing away from Ren, who had automatically served her favourite sort of drink, earl grey tea. “You’re supposed to be the mastermind. And did you really think that letting me see Gyuri here would affect me in any way?”

Jun took the chance to request, “Can I get an espresso?” Then, he nudged Jihyo by the elbow and asked, “Don’t you want to know why she’s here?”

“Why?” Immediately, her eyes narrowed to form an icy glare. 

“Never mind.” He cocked his head to the side, noting, “I promised her just then. And you were right. It was pointless of me to bring you here.”

Taking a small sip of her tea, Jihyo remarked, “You’re a really weird guy.”

“Oh, I’ve been told of that a lot. Not news anymore.”

With another sip, she naturally uttered, “And you like Gyuri a lot, I can tell.”

“I guess I’m still not good at hiding my feelings.”

“You can’t hide who you love, Jun.”

“That’s not true,” Jun corrected her. “You can definitely hide whoever you love. I know for a fact that you are hiding something too.”

“Wh-what are you talking about?” She almost choked on her third gulp and had to cough it out a few times.

“I haven’t gotten that figured out yet, but you are hiding a lot.”

“Like what?”

“What actually happened to Itsuki and you, your feelings, your whole life story.”

“Now you want to be my biographer?”

“Oh thank you,” Jun announced while receiving his drink from Ren. “No, I have no interest in that but if it’ll help me solve this mystery, then sure.”

“Why do you want to know so much about this, Jun?”

“Why do you want to hide so much then?” There was that pause between the two of them before Jun shrugged his shoulders and said, “See? Same thing then.”

There came the impending silence that dominated their conversation. There was nothing more to add to Jun’s statement. There was nothing new that Jun wanted to introduce either, and so like that, the two just focused on finishing their drinks. Once Jun’s glass was emptied, Ren came over to ask, “Would you like a refill?”

“Oh no,” Jun declared. “I actually have to leave now. Can I get the bill please?”

“Sure. Just yours?”

“Yes,” Jun answered before facing Jihyo. “Sorry about that, but I promised my little brother that I’d practice baseball with him.”

“Oh.”

“See you then.”

Odd, Jihyo thought. What a weird, weird guy. Jun was the one that told her to be here, and now he was leaving earlier? This was so idiotic, Jihyo grumbled in her head. He was playing her and making a fool out of her. He was just as . . .

“Wow, Jihyo, I had no idea you and Gyuri dated the same guy.”

Jihyo turned her head to find Ren staring at her curiously. His eyes were too large for his own good and his wiggly eyebrows meant no good. He wanted to hear about gossip.

“He’s not my boyfriend,” Jihyo clarified in an unsympathetic voice. “And . . . what did you say?”

“What? He isn’t your boyfriend?”

“No, he’s not, but what did you say before? Gyuri . . .”

“Oh, she never told you?” Ren’s jaw was almost wide enough to fit an apple. “Jun was her ex.”

--

The two men were standing in front of the gates of a small house. There were a few steps leading to Sou’s mother residence. Compared to his father’s mansion, this was like a small cottage or maybe a shack. There wasn’t much to this building except for the odd flowers planted here and there. In fact, he was surprised that his mother was letting the garden grow so wildly. There were even weeds and patches of odd plants filling the patches of overturned dirt. These imperfections should not have been tolerable for her. She would have tugged off all of her hair by their roots before, but that was before. He had no idea what became of her now. I guess, he thought to himself, that it was time to find out. 

“Young master, are you sure you’re going to do this?” Frederick abruptly interrupted Sou’s thoughts. 

Frederick had always been Sou’s best friend although it was weird being with Frederick at first. Frederick was an English man, who had married a Japanese woman; thus, he came to Japan to live with her. Within a few months, she had died in a car crash, leaving him, depressed and suicidal. He wasn’t too wealthy, but he had a reasonable amount of money probably from a family inheritance. He drank away his money through alcohol. He was determined to die of alcohol poisoning at the side of some street and that was where Sou had met him at the entrance of a dark alley.

“What are you looking at?” Frederick gritted his teeth and took another slobbering sip from the bottle of vodka. 

Sou examined the man further. Frederick, leaning his back on the graffiti-covered wall, was filthy. His once clean, handsome face was now covered with an uneven beard and brown stubbles. The hood of his ocean blue hoodie tried to hide his tired aqua eyes. Heavy eye bags lay under those eyes, and from the way his gaze pierced at Sou, it felt like he had been awakened from a long cry. Underneath the hoodie was a navy baseball cap that again wanted to conceal his grief. The bottle of vodka now drifted from his hand and rolled to Sou’s feet.

“Why are you here?” Sou asked nicely and bent down to pick up the now empty bottle. His hand extended to hand it back to Frederick, who snatched it from the child hastily. Sou had caught a glimpse of the blonde hair tucked beneath the cap. He couldn’t help, but stare.

“Would you,” Frederick coughed. “stop looking at me? It’s f.ucking annoying.” 

He still attempted to drink from the empty bottle and once he had realized that he had finished the bottle, he threw it away, causing the bottle to smash into a thousand pieces.

“My mom told me that you shouldn’t swear,” Sou replied quietly and sat next to the man.

Frederick cackled. “Where’s your mom then?”

“She left this morning,” Sou responded coldly as his hands clasped together.

“How come?” Frederick’s voice had softened.

“Father said that she was being a bad mother and not doing her duties. Mom said that she was tired.” Sou monotonously said and looked down at his feet. 
Frederick felt sorry for the child. It was the first time that he had felt that way ever since she had passed away. There was someone who was also in pain. The child was innocent, just like she had been. He looked at the child. His vision was a bit blurred from drinking many bottles of liquor, but he felt that the child was like her. His arm reached out and patted the child’s back a few times.

“You’ll be okay,” he muttered as Sou started to sniffle. “It’s okay, you can cry. I’ve cried a lot too. Real men cry.” Then, Frederick hugged the child close to him. 
“I don’t want to go home!” Sou sobbed as his tears stained Frederick’s hoodie. 

“Your father will worry,” Frederick reasoned. “I’m sure he didn’t mean what he did. People say a lot of things that they never meant.”

“I don’t want to go home!” Sou shouted again. 

Before Frederick could say anything, a tall, sturdy man in a black suit ran towards the child. Examining closer, Frederick noticed that the man was only in his early-30s, just like him. He was in fact well-dressed, sporting an Armani suit and Prada shoe, but what didn’t match his attire was how he screamed in fury, “Kobayashi Sou! I have been looking all over for you! You are in so much trouble, young man!”

Sou hid behind Frederick, who had subconsciously moved his back forward from the wall. “No!” Sou shrieked as the man pulled Sou’s right arm with a strong jolt. Sou’s whole body was being lifted up in the air and now, his body was being dragged along the hard concrete. His knees were bleeding terribly, and his fingernails were digging hard into the ground. He kept crying, “No! No! No! No!”

Frederick was amazed at the child’s perseverance and he was also shocked at the way the man was treating the child. “Stop!” Frederick’s voice echoed in the breezy air. The man, taken by surprise, let go of Sou, who ran with bloody, scratched knees to Frederick. 

“Hand my son over!” Sou’s father demanded. Sou, once again, hid behind Frederick, who now was determined to protect the little boy.

“I will if you promise not to hurt him,” Frederick stated boldly. “He’s only a child.”

“I’m not going back!” Sou screeched as his hands clutched tightly onto the back of Frederick’s hoodie.

Sou’s father shook his head, yelling, “Sou! We are going back home whether you like it or not!”

Frederick thought quickly. He had the obligation to ensure the kid’s safety. He just needed to do that. There was no way that he would let the same thing happen again. She had died because he had not made sure that she was wearing a seatbelt. It was all his fault and if this child were hurt, he would suffer even more from guilt. “How about this? I can work as a butler and look after him. He told me that his mother left, so I can help by being his babysitter,” Frederick suggested. It was a wild and unconventional proposal, but if the Father were desperate to find someone to look after the child later on, he would accept. 
“All right,” Sou’s father gave in. Sou clung onto Frederick’s neck as Frederick followed his master’s footsteps to the black Mercedes. The driver came out and immediately, opened the door for the master and for the other two.

Once they were in the car, Sou whispered to Frederick, “Thank you . . .”

“Frederick,” Frederick replied and smiled bashfully.

Frederick had smiled for the first time in two years. He felt at home. However, Frederick soon discovered that the new home could be regarded as a torture chamber. When they entered the grand mansion, the master instantly dragged the young child to a room. Through the entire night, Frederick could hear the screams, shrills, and begs of a child. He couldn’t sleep at all. The cries of help haunted his ears, but he couldn’t’ do anything. He buried his face in his pillow, hoping to muff away all the noise. It didn’t work. It only made it worse. 

He had promised that he would protect the child, but he had already proved to be unsuccessful. When he felt the noise die down, his eyes almost closed, until there were several knocks on his door. “Come in,” he mumbled impatiently. The footsteps of the person were nearly silent. Frederick sat up and looked down. It was the child.

It didn’t resemble a child anymore. There were cuts all over the child’s face and once Frederick lifted the child up to his bed, the poor child yelped. Frederick turned on the lamp, resting on his dresser next to his bed and was horrified. There were bruises everywhere, especially around the arms and legs. Then, there was a deep incision on his cheek and another painful cut on his forehead. He hugged the child close to him; his arms could feel the numerous cuts on the child’s back. 

“It’s okay. You’re safe now,” Frederick breathed a sense of relief. The screams would be gone now. “Let me get a first aid kit,” Frederick said quickly and jumped out of bed to go to the washroom. After searching for about five minutes, he found a first aid kit hidden under the sink. “We have to make sure each cut has been sanitized so you won’t get an infection of some sort,” Frederick responded nicely and began unbuttoning the child’s pajama top. “Lie down, face flat. I’ll need to clean the wounds on your back,” he instructed. 

Sou followed Frederick’s instructions willingly. As Frederick dabbed some cotton ball with alcohol, Sou held tightly onto a pillow. Once, Frederick applied the alcohol on a wound, Sou barked with a muffled cry. 

“You were very brave,” Frederick tried to mollify Sou’s throbbing aches. 

Frederick knew that not only did Sou suffer physically, his heart was broken, and this derelict heart would never be healed. No matter how many times one could piece it back together there would still be the scars. The scars of a heart were the most devastating and overwhelming. He had endured too much for a six-year-old child. Even though his mother had returned a week later then, Frederick soon learned of the couple’s tumultuous relationship. Sou’s parents would argue and argue until his mother would pack her bags and leave without saying much. Eventually, this cycle ended a week before Sou’s eighth birthday. Already, the age of innocence was withering away and in came the carving of abhorrence.


Sou had a heart-warming look in his eyes. He gave a sad smile at Frederick and answered softly, “I think I’ll be fine.”

Frederick nodded and bowed. Then, he exclaimed with a screech, “If you need me, just call me. You know I’ll always be rooting for ya!” 

Sou laughed as he watching the aging Frederick do a thumbs-up along with a wink. Despite how ridiculous Frederick seemed, Sou couldn’t resist beaming a bright smile. This was the first time he had had a true laugh after the break-up.

Maybe, he thought to himself while ascending the stairs to this unfamiliar household, maybe, this will be home.
Reactions: