Chapter 13: Stolen Heart

I’m actually being very good. I walk as often as I can, and I have cut down on my sweets. Dieting cannot be even more painful. Less meat and more vegetables. No more cookies too. No more free pizzas from staff or stupid clubs. The only reason that I like helping out club events where there are guest speakers is that I get to munch on free pizza and pop. No more. Sob. Sob. Sob. So, I go by this week being very healthy, and then that day comes again. That day to work out.

I meet Suho at another park, the one that Yeonjun and the others don’t frequent. I really don’t want the other guys to be there. I even pick a time that’s extremely odd and hot: 12 pm. It’s that time where you’re not sure if you should eat or not before some sort of meeting. Fortunately, I informed Suho that we’d be eating before working out. I do want to burn off some calories. Plus, I have shades and a cute workout outfit. To let you in on a secret, I bought a pair of blue short shorts, black tights, a cute t-shirt and a set of blue and yellow Nike trainers. I can’t let Suho see that other set I used for last week’s workout. That was really, really ugly. Moreover, since Suho is quite cooperative, I can’t make him see an ugly me. He agrees to whatever suggestions I have, and I feel bad so I let him do his normal workout routine. I doubt it would be as crazy as what I experienced the previous week, but . . .

“Hey Leia!” Suho waves at me while waiting at some bizarre statue. Sometimes I really don’t understand the government, where they commission an artist to do some abstract work. I mean, I don’t mean to be rude, but seriously, what does a cut-off body mean?

“Hi, Suho!” I call out and wave back at him. When I walk closer, I realize that Suho is dressed pretty plainly. He is just in a pair of black shorts and a t-shirt he got from an annual run in this city. Okay . . . I think this means some bad news.

“Are you ready?” he asks. I nod nervously, which makes Suho announce, “Don’t worry. I thought we’d do something easy since you said you’re out of shape?”

“Yeah.”

“Let’s power walk then!”

“P-p-power walk?”

Suho stares at me with much surprise. “You don’t know what that is?” I shake my head, and so, Suho starts to show me. He walks really quickly with his butt waddling back and forth. I swear that he looks like a penguin. As soon as Suho turns around to face me, he witnesses my snickering face. Uh oh, I think. Suho is going to tease me or pull some prank. Instead, Suho nicely comments, “I know . . . it looks kind of silly, but power walking has less impact on your joints and lets you work out other parts of your body other than your legs.”

Feeling rather embarrassed about my immature reaction, I just nod. Then, I try my best to mimic his moves. To be serious, I do feel like a baby penguin chasing after its father on the ice. Suho is just incredibly speedy, but unlike Yeonjun, Suho is much nicer and gentler. He looks back quite often to make sure that I am behind him, and he doesn’t yell at me for being slower than him. If it were Yeonjun, he’d be squabbling like crazy, probably commenting on how my grandmother could walk faster than me. Yeonjun might have even started to throw acorns or sticks at me.

Now, because of my wandering mind, I end up tripping and falling on my knee. I wince in pain as I pull myself up. Out of the blue, I hear Suho worriedly holler, “Are you okay?” 

Within a few seconds, he is on his knees, looking at my wound. I have my black tights under my shorts, so I can’t really do much at this point. I can only answer, “I think I’m . . .” I take a few steps but groan, “Ugh.”

I can’t believe that this is happening to me, but Suho shows me his back and instructs, “Get on. I’ll carry you back.”

I swear . . . I can almost cry right now. I’ve never had a guy treat me so well before. I have always been the type to carry my own backpack, get up by myself after tumbling, ice my own bruises, and figure out my own problems by myself. It was always my older sister, Lara, that stole all of the guys’ attention. Every guy that I invited over for some group project or what not would always ask about Lara. They would want her number or some form of contact. Then, there would be the crowd of men constantly pursuing her. She’d tell our family all about their pursuits and conquests. The only thing that I love about her is that I have learned much about men in general from her. I know I should have mentioned that I had a sister, but she’s not in Seoul anyways. She is happily married and living in LA. Plus, my sister is eight years older than me. There really isn’t much for us to bond over, and she was always only concerned about her own life. Whatever she told me to do, I’d obey. I think that’s sort of why I say yes to Yeonjun so easily. He sort of has a similar aura as Lara. Both of them yell around, and I’m not the sort to argue or raise my voice. Yeonjun, though, is much better than Lara; Yeonjun, at least, cares about me and has fewer female issues. Females tend to be rather sensitive and gossipy. Yes, I’m a lady, so I know just how bit.chy we can be.

Suho shifts his gaze towards me, wondering, “You all right? Does it hurt a lot?”

I bite onto my lower lip, unsure of how to respond. I have never been faced with this situation before. A guy . . . actually . . . concerned about me is just plain foreign. I think this circumstance is too surreal like some Korean romantic comedy. What would a typical female protagonist do then? Pretend to be strong and then moan in pain after taking another step. Then, the guy will lift her up and tell her to stop being so stubborn. There is another route too, where the girl starts crying and the guy comforts her with a hug. Mm . . . I’m not sure what to choose. A or B?

Never mind. I’ll just be truthful.

“Hang on,” I tell him before trying to walk again. “Okay. I think I’ll take your piggy back. I’m kind of on the heavy side these days though.”

“No. No. You should be just fine.” Suho chuckles. 

“Okay . . . if you say so.” 

I rush to his back and hop on. Suho loses his balance because of my sudden attack. I sort of jump forward and land on my already slit palms. What is worse is that I think I have stretched my waist way too far. I’m screaming in pain while Suho mumbles, “Lei-Lei-Leia . . . M-m-my face . . .”

I glance at him from my side and notice that his face is squished to the pavement. My legs are caught around his neck too, most likely choking him. Jesus. What is this? How can I screw up this moment so badly huh?

“I-I-I’m so sorry!” I shout out. “H-h-h-how should I move?”

“T-t-t-try . . . b-b-backing up?”

In a very inelegant manner, I sort of slither backwards until my feet are well-planted on the ground. Suho sits on his butt and wipes the dirt off of his face. Okay. I know I should offer him a handkerchief, but who really carries those around these days besides my dad and other guys around his age? Sadly, I’m wearing these new clothes, so I don’t have my normal pack of Kleenex tucked in one of my pockets. I do what I can only do and just apologize: “Sorry. I didn’t mean to . . . you know. It’s just that . . . I haven’t had a piggyback ride since elementary school, so I really don’t remember how you’re supposed to—“

“It’s okay.” Suho lifts his head up to glimpse at me. “It was sort of funny anyways,” he adds with a sweet smile. His smile makes me melt a million times. On a scale of how touching Suho is, I must give him a near perfect score. Suho is just as sweet as ripe strawberries on a fresh summer day. He is such a nice change from the grouchy Yeonjun, who’d probably force me to pay for his medical fees if this were to happen to him. 

Instinctively, I head to his level and grab onto his hands. “Suho!” I declare. “You’re such a nice guy! I haven’t met anyone like you before! You’re really a gentleman!” Perhaps, grabbing onto his hands without warning him is a bad idea because Suho is blushing quite a bit. His hands are kind of sweaty too, but I think it’s rude if I let go now. So begins our staring contest. Let the camera circle around us in slow motion and let there be magical, romantic instrumental music. I think this is the time that we fall for each other. I’m pretty sure that’s how things go or maybe, this is the moment where we kiss. I think it’s better that I ask for permission. “Suho . . . you can kiss me if you want right now,” I blurt out. Suho’s jaw gapes and his hands tremble between my grasp. “Really,” I squeeze his fingers and emphasize. “You can take my first kiss. I don’t mind. I kind of want to get rid of it anyways.” 

At this moment, I can say that I finally understand what people mean by sexual tension because right now, I am definitely feeling a splurge of lustfulness creep into my heart. I sort of want to plunge towards him and crash my lips on his, but Suho, instead, loosens his grip and shakes his head. “No,” he mutters with his eyes cast low. “As cheesy as this sounds, I still think . . . you should kiss someone you like.”

“But,” I argue, “I don’t mind you!”

Suho stands up and pats his legs clean of dirt and pebbles. “Not minding someone and liking someone are two different things,” he explains before offering his hand to me. I accept it willingly, yet unexpectedly, Suho lifts me up, carrying me like a knight would to a princess.

“Wh-wh-what are you—“

“Easier this way,” he utters with a grunt.

I’m speechless and wholeheartedly shocked. No guy has ever . . . treated me with so much kindness and carefulness. I feel blessed and grateful to know Suho, and as I steady my hands around his neck, my gut seems to be telling me that it is quite possible to fall for Suho. You are supposed to choose the guy that treats you well right? I mean, I don’t want to make the same mistake as other drama leads, where the girl picks the guy who doesn’t love her as much. I want someone that’ll be good to me, and in this case, Suho seems to fulfill this requirement of mine. Plus, it’s not like I don’t enjoy being in his company. Suho might not provide as much entertainment as hanging out with the gang, but there’s a sense of tenderness to his presence. I think he is the type that can warm someone’s heart just by being there. Throughout the trip to the restroom, he doesn’t complain at my weight or the whole situation. If it were Yeonjun, he’d be grumbling at me for making such a stupid mistake, saying something like who would even trip on flat ground?

Suho now places me at the entrance of the woman’s restroom. “You’re okay to clean by yourself right?” he asks. Not wanting to create more fuss, I nod. Suho subsequently utters, “I’ll be right back then. I’ll go buy some medicine. Call me if you need me. I have my cell with me.”

“Okay.”

Let me stress once more that because I wanted to look good in front of Suho, I wore an outfit I saw on an online magazine. I know that wearing tights underneath short shorts is very annoying at times. You have to take extra steps to reveal your legs, so I do those just to see how my wound is doing. As expected, I have to strip off my tights and freeze in bare legs. It’s nearing winter for Heaven’s sake! I can’t catch a cold like this, so I clean my wound quickly by using some soap and water to rinse off the dirt. Then, I dry it with some paper towel and wait for Suho to come back.

“Leia! Sorry for the delay!” Suho bursts into the washroom while panting deeply. He marches over, and in his hand is a white plastic bag. Without saying anything else, he gets out the needed materials to treat my cut on my right knee. As he rubs some ointment on me, I whimper and grimace at the same time. “Sorry,” Suho apologizes again. “I know it’ll hurt, but it’s to help you.” Once he places the Band Aid on me, he glances at me and grins delightfully. “There! All done!”

I think I’m too caught up in my emotions that I’m not sure how to behave normally. I know that I should thank him, but somehow, that doesn’t feel like showing enough gratitude towards Suho. Should I treat him to some snacks then? I’m on a diet though, so that’s no good. If I buy him a gift, I’m not really sure what he’d like. Maybe, I should bake him something? Does he even like sweets? Would cooking a meal better? But would I have to invite him over to my place? That means I have to clean up. If I go to his place, then . . .
“You okay, Leia? Does it hurt too much to walk?” Suho disrupts my thought process by inquiring. “I can carry you to my car, and I can send you back?”

Oh. Damn it. I can’t believe this, but I’m starting to tear up. I rarely cry in real life. I only cry for the fictional world, the world of movies and dramas, and on a few occasions, I cry because of setbacks in my life like not being accepted for a position for some club. Am I pitying myself so I’m crying or is Suho just too nice that I’m completely touched by his actions? Years of being romantically unpopular among the guys has made me feel that it’d be impossible for any guy to fall for me. I’m one of the guys after all. I’m not exactly a womanizer. I’m not graceful like some lady slowly savouring wine; I’m the type that gulps down an alcoholic beverage like juice. Champagne is done within minutes. According to my mother, I’m like some savage, and I need to have some ladylike manners. She keeps emailing to tell me that I need to look into settling down and even threatens that she will set me up with someone if I don’t find a boyfriend soon. Of course, I just delete those mails without even reading them. I don’t need her to remind me of my loveless, hopeless situation. I’m sure if I stripped from head to toe, some guy would embrace me and take me for a fling. I just choose to be clothed. This time, however, I might even consider stripping to captivate Suho. Sadly, my body isn’t attractive enough right now to be appealing. Let me just put that plan on hold and go with a simple saying: “Thanks, Suho.”

I can’t believe this, but I sniffle a bit. Suho instantly poses, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” I feel his palm on my cheek and his thumb even brushes away a droplet of tear trickling from my eyes.

“I-i-i-it’s just that . . . no guy has ever been so good to me,” I stammer.

“Really?” I feel Suho’s fingers tingle under my eyelashes. I stare up at him for his lips. They look rather tasty. I wonder . . . what it’s like to kiss this guy. Would I feel fireworks exploding? Would my heart jump at a rate that I have never experienced before? Would I want to push him down and make out with him? Maybe, I’m feeling rather curious, but I just go for it. I tiptoe, lean forward towards Suho and pout my lips. Instead of accepting my kiss, Suho steadies me by holding onto my arm. “You okay?” he pretends to play dumb and asks me.

I force myself to smile weakly at him. “Yeah.” I stick my tongue out and giggle. “I’m okay. J-j-just a bit clumsy. Aha.” I know I’m laughing on the outside, yet inside, I sort of want to teleport to another place. I want to hide in my blanket and sob all over my pillow. I might be taking his reaction too seriously, but I’m pretty sure that Suho has no romantic feelings for me. I should have expected that coming from a guy. I’ve never had much luck with guys anyways.

“Then why are you crying?” Suho’s words pierce through my aching chest even more. My throat even feels fuzzy and itchy. I can feel those tears dripping down my cheeks. I don’t want to be weak. I don’t want to admit that I have been rejected, but . . . it hurts. It hurts more than I ever imagined, and so I cry aloud like a child lost in a forest. If this is how love feels like, then I wish I had never experienced it in the first place. Where’s the sweetness? Why do I just feel the bitterness? Is this also why I’m in love with dark chocolate or aged cheese? There’s that lingering bitter taste that’s ever so addicting. I can’t stop eating, and in this case, I can’t stop feeling this sensation. That’s when I feel a delicate press against my cheek to drink away a tear of mine. In a raspy whisper, Suho mumbles, “It’s okay. It’s going to be all right.” Then, I feel his sturdy set of arms enveloping me. I’m afraid of holding on too tightly because I don’t want to hurt him or scare him. I’m also worried that I’ll become too indulged in this warmth. I don’t want to go on a Suho diet. I don’t want to categorize him as one of the addicting junk foods I must avoid. After all, the more I consume, the worse my health becomes. So, I’m praying that Suho will be a healthy vegetable that I can eat every day. Broccoli? Cauliflower? Carrots? I’m quite certain that my mentality is abnormal, but . . . at least, let this moment last a bit longer.

“Hey!” A mother of two little girls screams at us. “If you’re going to be intimate, then do it in a private place!”

Suho and I scurry away even when I’m sort of limping. The pain diminishes as the two of us laugh together once more. I think we’re always encountering these awkward situations, but we always end up laughing and I like Suho’s smile. I actually don’t mind being with Suho. In fact, I think I may like hanging out with him quite a bit. 

Suho now releases a sigh. “I’m glad you’re smiling now,” he remarks. He is about to take a step ahead, but he remembers to turn around to ask me, “Do you need a hand walking?”
Without considering much, I stretch my hand out to him and request, “If . . . kissing isn’t acceptable, then is . . . holding hands okay?” 

I have no idea where I have the courage to ask him this. Frankly, I’m too ashamed to even make eye contact with him right now. I prefer staring at my own feet. Thank you very much. Just when I think all hope is lost, Suho accepts my offer. I feel his fingers curl around my hand. I know my face is probably super rosy and hot. My feet are dragging by themselves.  Even though every step I take is filled with much pain, I think I can forget about whining. All I can focus on Suho holding my hand. He agreed. He didn’t reject me this time. I wonder . . . why. 

After a walking for a while, Suho stutters almost spontaneously, “It’s not that . . . I didn’t want to kiss you. I was just . . . unprepared, and I wasn’t sure if you liked me.”

“Wait . . .” I halt, forcing Suho to stop with me. Our hands are still joined together though. We’re doing an awful stretch, but neither of us seems to want to let go. “Are you . .  . saying you like me?” I question.

Suho’s ears magically turn red. Glancing away, he mumbles, “W-w-well, m-m-maybe. I don’t know. I’ve never felt this way before.”

“Me too!” I exclaim. “I feel like I’m not myself anymore. I mean, I’ve never cared about a guy’s lips. I’ve never wanted to touch them, but when I saw yours—“

Suho’s other hand covers my mouth. “Shh,” he instructs. “Not so loudly.”

“Oh . . . sorry,” I murmur. Then, I speak softly, “I just wanted to kiss you, but . . . you didn’t want to kiss me back.”

“L-l-like I said . . . I was surprised,” he explains. All this time, he is showing me his side profile. I guess he is really timid to face me. “But . . . I’d like to try.”

“But you said . . . you should kiss people that you like?” I verify. “So . . . you like me then?”

He doesn’t answer me with words. He decides to respond by stamping his lips onto mine. My chest is thumping and rising. There’s an electrifying, warm sensation passing throughout my body. Time feels much slower than usual. This is really different from Yeonjun’s kiss. Yeonjun is much more powerful and demanding, whereas Suho is smooth and blissful. I can’t say which I prefer more, but I think Suho’s is genuine. I can actually feel that he likes me from his kiss, and . . . as much as Yeonjun might not like to hear this, but I think Suho probably has seduced me first. There’s this part of me that doesn’t want to help out Yeonjun anymore because I don’t want Suho to misunderstand me. I don’t want him to believe that this is all an act when it’s not. I actually . . . kind of . . . want Suho . . . to be my boyfriend.
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