Chapter 24: Trial One
After a day's rest and a few hours of contemplation, I finally come up with a plan. I know I should have rejected Suho's offer, but instead, I accept it. I know Yeonjun says I don't need to help him extract information from Suho anymore. However, the more I think about what he said, the more I know that I have to ignore his request. I can't leave Yeonjun aside. I don't want him to suffer further or crack under pressure. My gut tells me that he's at his breaking limit, and I'm scared that no one will be there for him when he falls.

Since Sehun is involved in this mess, I let him know that I'm only going to Suho's place in hopes of finding valuable information for Yeonjun.  In fact, I also tell Sehun about the deal I had with Yeonjun, and Sehun immediately points out: "Yeonjun wanted you to go with that ba.stard orginally? What the hell is wrong with Yeonjun? Huh? He should know just how awful that Suho is!"

"Well . . . Suho does look good on paper. You can't deny that," I explain.

"Honestly, what the hell . . . was Yeonjun thinking?" Sehun's vein on his forehead seems like it's going to pop in any moment.

Anxiously, I mutter, "He . . . did say that I didn't need to do this anymore . . ."

"Thank God." Sehun rolls his eyes.

"But  . . ."

"But what?"

"But . . . I still want to help Yeonjun out."

"Are . . . you out of your mind?" Sehun shrieks at me, nearly spitting me in the eye. "A lady going into a guy's place by herself . . . do you even . . ."

"I know. I know the dangers," I respond, "but I really don't think that he'd do anything to him. Suho is a gentleman."

"Acts like one," he corrects me.

"Honestly, don't worry about me," I utter. "If you're really, really worried, then you can be around the area. If I call you, then that means I need your help and that I'm in danger."

"No. You're not going," Sehun tells me. "It's too, too dangerous."

"If . . . you don't let me go, I won't forgive you," I warn. "I'll regret it all my life that I didn't help out Yeonjun when I could have."

Sehun inhales with all his might and then exhales rather loudly. "All right. Go . . . but . . . really, call me if you're in trouble."

"Thanks, Sehun." I grin nicely at him.

"I don't want you to hate me," he answers. "That's the only reason that I'm agreeing to this, and . . ."

"Yes?"

"Are we . . . really going to be trying this out?" 

Sehun raises one of his eyebrows at me. His lips are slanting to the side, and his teeth are gently gripping onto his lower lip. I can sense how uneasy he is. I don't blame him. I'm the one that claims that he and I are dating, so I have to be a person of my words. Plus, Yeonjun already wishes us well. I shouldn't sway anymore.

"Why not?" I beam a hopeful smile at Sehun while lifting my shoulders up.

"You're not doing this out of guilt are you?" He looks at me rather suspiciously.

"No," I tell him. "I genuinely want to give it a shot. I don't think it's fair that I didn't let you move out. I mean it's kind of cruel for someone to be around the person he or she likes but not be able to date that person?"

At last, Sehun relaxes his muscles, and sighs, "At least you have the heart to pity me to give us a go."

"Sehun . . ."

"Relax, relax." Sehun chuckles, patting me on the head now. "I'm taking your offer. I'll be fine even if your heart isn't with me as of now. I'm confident that I can win you over, and if that doesn't work, hey, at least I put out a good fight, right?" 

Sehun really has a way to pull the strings of my heart. I know it's bad for me to pity him. I realize that I still might be taking advantage of him, but at least, I'm trying to make this work. I'm not rejecting him. I'm testing a relationship out with Sehun. Maybe, we'll work out perfectly. Who knows? Fate is unpredictable right? I mean, I never thought I'd be friends with Yeonjun. I also never expected to be accepted within his circle of friends either. So . . . really, you never know what'll happen in life.

I have to take every chance I have. I can't be that stupid female lead in every drama that disregards other males in her life than that supposed lead number one. This is real life and not a fairy tale. I can't chase after a hopeless guy. I can't expect him to throw everything away just for me. Dreams are more important to him than relationships, and I respect that. I am making a reasonable choice, one that he respects as well. I'm sure that being with Sehun is what I should do right now. 

That's why I rush to Sehun who is walking down the corridor now and give him a hug from behind. "Sehun, listen," I whisper, "I admit that my heart belongs to someone else right now, but I'll do my best to make sure that I only have eyes for you."

Sehun turns around, snickering, "Silly goose! There's no need to hurry. We have all the time in the world." His large hand ruffles my hair again. "I'll wait. I'll wait for that day to come."

I say to myself that I hope that day will come soon. I don't want to hurt Sehun further. I don't want Yeonjun to be disappointed in me. Being with Sehun . . . makes sense now that there's a high chance that Suho is nothing but a jerk. I have known my friends much longer than I have with Suho, so I need to trust him. However, I have to see for myself what Suho is actually like, and I should apologize for making everything so complicated. 

I should not have lied. I should not have approached Suho with an ulterior motive either. These two reasons make me send a message to Suho letting him know when I'm free to meet, and of course, by then, we'll have a proper talk.

For now, I will try to see Sehun as a man and as a boyfriend.

"Sehun! Sehun!" I yell his name while scurrying to his room, which used to be the guest room. 

"What?" he hollers back.

I skid on my feet and hold onto the edge of the door frame to stop myself from sliding away. "Let's go on a date now," I rashly suggest.

"H-h-h-huh?" he stammers. I see him sitting on the edge of his bed, about to take off his socks and probably strip. "It's a Sunday . . . morning? We have work tomorrow?"

"It's not like we won't be sleeping," I utter. "I just want to . . . get some fresh air, turn over a new life sort of thing."

"All right," he agrees. "Let's go then."

"Where are we going?"

"Mm . . . since it is winter . . . I think I have the perfect place to go! Just bring your gloves and scarf."

I'm glad I did listen to him because we're at a skating rink and my ears are already freezing. Okay, my butt is feeling that chilly breeze from the ice. Sehun, as usual, is dressed to make a statement. He is wearing black leather pants, a punk star's jacket, and a burgundy beanie. I swear there are girls checking him out, saying how cool he is and how plain I am. Yeah . . . go away, little girls. This is my boyfriend . . . Wow . . . I'm surprised at how possessive I can be . . . I'm starting to think that the term "boyfriend" will make me mentally unhealthy.

"So, I got you your size sixes." Sehun brings a pair of white skates in front of me. "Hopefully they'll fit."

"Should be okay," I mumble while untying my shoelaces.

"You know how to skate right?" Sehun confirms.

I'm pretty sure the last time I skated was in elementary school. My mother wanted me to become some ice princess, but my flexibility and balance were awful. In the end, I became a bookworm instead. Do I really want Sehun to know how much I suck? Uh . . .

"Kind of. I think," I answer.

"Well, just hold onto my hand then if you need to," he tells me.

Sehun manages to put on his skates faster than me, but he still waits for me to finish. In fact, he is nice enough to help me tie my shoelaces properly so that I won't trip and crack my front teeth. During that moment, I catch a few girls or two admiring us or more like, wishing that he could be their boyfriend. Hehe. That makes me smile. 

"What's so funny, Leia?" Sehun suddenly asks.

"Oh nothing." I continue giggling. "It's just funny."

"You're such a silly goose."

With that note, Sehun extends his hand to me and helps me get up from the bench. We walk hand in hand towards the rink, and even when we're on the ice, he doesn't let go of me. I'm kind of embarrassed that he is so direct. I mean, there are people staring at us, mainly little kids and teenagers. Still, I'm not the experienced sort of girl, so I can't take heart skipping scenes that well. 

Bam.

I trip and fall onto my knees. It's really my fault for not even moving when we're supposed to go forward. I was in my Lala land while Sehun was actually trying to skate. I'm kind of scared of letting him know that I'm probably going to hate skating more and more. If I keep getting bruised, I don't think Monday is going to be extremely pleasant.

"You all right, Leia?" Sehun bends down to my level and asks.

As soon as I feel his hand on my shoulder, I quickly answer, "Yes. Yes." I pick myself up only to tumble onto the hard, cold floor again. "Ouch," I moan. 

"Here," Sehun offers his hands to me again, "just keep holding onto me."

Really, the scene that we are displaying isn't all that pretty. Sehun literally has both of his hands out while I use them to guide me along. He's sort of like a pylon with wheels. We're not even chasing each other around and playing tag like other couples here are. Rather, Sehun is more like that father over there trying to teach his little girl how to skate. I sigh to myself at how stupid I seem. I really have a way of messing things up huh . . .

"Sorry that I took you here when you don't seem to be . . . enjoying this," Sehun, out of the blue, states.

I look up to find him with despondent puppy eyes. Feeling guilty, I sputter, "It's fine. I had no idea that I'd dislike skating still . . ."

"Ah," Sehun continues to apologize, "I'm so sorry! I had no idea! I should have asked."

"No. No. It's fine. We're trying something new together right?"

"I suppose, but next time . . . you decide where you want to go then?"

"Mm . . . I'm really indecisive though . . ."

"If that's the case then . . ." He places one of his fingers on his lips, and because of that, I lose balance. I don't know where to fall, except forward, so I end up toppling over him. 

"Are you okay, Sehun?" I wonder as I realize that he has landed flat on his back.

"Y-y-yeah . . . I think I'm . . . Maybe you should get off of me?"

"Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry!" I repeat and back away from him. I'm on my knees now with my head hanging low. I can't bear seeing him directly after injuring him.

Sehun wraps his arms around me and leans his chin on my head. "Mm . . . I'll take this as an apology instead," he teases.

I'm pretty sure my ears and cheeks are red, especially after seeing an old lady chuckle at the two of us. One chubby kid even rolls his eyes at me. He probably thinks we're a silly couple, and . . . we probably are.

"Or . . ." Sehun chimes.

"Or?" I ponder.

Staring right into my pupils, he declares, "Or you'll let me kiss you?"

"K-k-k-k-k-k-kiss?" I stutter. 

"I guess that's a bit too soon, huh? You're still trying to get over Yeonjun . . ." 

Sehun is about to stand up, but I holler, "Wait! Let's just . . . try it out . . ."

"You sure?" he verifies. I nod away and close my eyes. I'm waiting for his face to inch closer. I feel my eyelids shutting harder. All right. Any time now . . . he'll kiss me. Any time now he'll . . . 

Pinch.

He . . . pinched my nose?

"Wait? What?" I open my eyes, questioning.

"I said before that we can take things slowly," Sehun remarks. "Don't pressure yourself to doing things that you don't want to do, and don't do them just because you think they'll help you forget about someone. People aren't that easy to forget."

"But . . . if I don't try to forget then--"

"I'm not asking you to disregard Yeonjun completely," Sehun interrupts. "He's one of my closest friends, and he is one of yours as well, so of course, we'll still be in contact with him. I'm just suggesting that it might be better for you to let time take its course. Over time . . . things will change, and feelings will too."

"And what if they don't?"

Getting up now and offering his hand to me, Sehun replies, "Then you frigging go after them and make sure you don't regret a damn thing in your life . . . which is essentially what I've been doing."

"Why do you even like me?" I hold onto his hand, asking.

Sehun shrugs his shoulders and answers, "I don't know. Probably like why you like Yeonjun? It's hard to explain . . ."

As Sehun and I make our way to the exit of the skating rink, I think about why I am so fixated on Yeonjun. How long have I liked him? When did it all start? Was I trying to mask my feelings for him through our friendship? I really . . . don't know. Yeonjun has always been there for me, whenever I bombed a test, couldn't read an email about the results of an interview, bickered with some friends or got tricked by others. He was there, but so had the other guys been there for me too. Yet . . . I always seemed to go to Yeonjun before any of the guys for help. 

Why? Because I had feelings for him? Why do I even like him?

He's not sweet. He puts work over everything else. He is selfish and selfless at the same time. He is too direct. He makes fun of me. He is passive aggressive. He likes to act like nothing is bothering him. He is all the things that I said I'd never look for in a guy, but I probably thought that way to convince myself that he isn't right for me. He is my best friend, and I can't ruin our friendship.

I often remind myself that it'd be great if he were a girl because then we could really be close. We could . . . actually . . . just be friends.

Is that why . . . Sehun acts so feminine sometimes in front of me? He's trying to keep our distance apart, but then . . .

I realize now that the two of us were in the same boat. He wanted to protect our friendship too. He wanted to stop his own feelings as well, yet he failed. I understand what Sehun means now by making sure that you won't regret a thing in life.

I'm not going to regret giving up on Yeonjun right?

. . . Right.
-----
I should call Suho's place a castle. He lives in the suburbs of the city, but his house is like a modern mansion. Imagine Snow White and the Seven Dwarves' house but much, much taller and wider. There's that classy, historical element to it mixed with a touch of modernism in the actual house. His rooms are all decorated in shades of black and white. Everything is just so clean and chic that I almost forget the purpose of coming to Suho's place. In fact, I spend around twenty minutes squealing like a little kid who is going to Disneyland for the first time. My eyes are twinkling to the point where I think I might grow double eyelids. I'm making those "Oo" and "Ahh" noises.

Really, Suho's house is amazing. I'm almost tempted to ask if he can adopt me into his household, so I can stay there for a lifetime. Fortunately, he says the first words: "I'm glad you like my place. I was worried that it'd be too masculine for you."

"No!" I turn around to tell him as we're venturing the kitchen at this point. "This place is absolutely brilliant! I love it! I mean, Look!" I point to the stainless steel appliances surrounding me, and already, I feel my heart skipping a few extra beats. "And a granite counter! Ah! It's in black too! Ah!" I shriek in happiness. "And then . . ." I rush off to the open living room area. He has long, white leather couches placed in front of a fireplace, where a plasma screen TV is hanging from. I plop my bottom onto one of the seats, and I end up moaning, "Ow . . ."

"Yeah . . ." Suho mumbles. "I forgot to warn you that most of the furniture here aren't very comfortable, at least the ones in the public areas aren't. They're really just for show."

I press one of my fists down onto the seat, agreeing, "Yeah . . . it is . . . very hard . . ."

"Come on," Suho beckons. "I wanted to show you some place else."

We walk down the hall and then out the back door. As he opens the door for me, I see what appears to be a magical forest. There are tall, coniferous trees with many bushes and vines running all over the place. I immediately step out in my socks and mutter, "Narnia . . . the spring version of course . . ."

"Haha." He chuckles and then hands me a pair of flip flops. "This is where I like to think and relax." 

"I would too!" I note.

"But there's something even better," he tells me. As he guides me further into the forest, I see a small glass building. At first glance, it seems like a green house, but then upon closer examination, I realize that it's a study room. From the outside, I can already see all of the furniture inside, They are extremely minimal, yet very representative of the future. I can picture space shuttles having this type of configuration, and as my mind is filled with images of the universe, Suho pulls the door open for me, asking, "So . . . what do you think?"

"Mmm . . . interesting," I reply. "It's really a man's place."

Again Suho laughs at my response, making me wonder if I'm really that funny. No way . . . 

"Well, I do use this place to think, reflect, and to work," he tells me. I scan the room very quickly and notice that there is a glass desk with tons of papers scattered all over. Could those be . . . the product designs? Pretending to be an organized person, I rush to the table to arrange the sheets of paper into a pile. "Wait!" Suho yells. "Don't touch those!"

His voice sounds too pressing, and he even hurries to where I am standing to grab the sheets from me. To prevent myself from getting a paper cut, I purposely drop everything that I have in my hand onto the ground. "Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to--"

"It's fine," he kneels down to pick up what has been scattered. As I help him collect everything, I realize that these are really the product designs for spring. These are drawings of bottles with the list of ingredients beside them. I try my best to memorize what I've seen, but Suho swiftly remarks, "These are confidential."

"Oh sorry. I really didn't see much. Plus, I wouldn't understand anything that you have here," I answer.

"Actually . . ." He suddenly pauses as he sets his work aside on the table once more.

"Yes?"

"There is one thing that I could show you . . . or rather, I want your opinion on something . . ."

"Oh?"

He sifts through his notebooks and also through those drawings. Then, he picks a few from the stack and hands them to me. "Tell me which design you prefer," he requests.

I stare at the three sketches in my hands. There's one with a blue, rectangular glass bottle that reminds me of the sea. The other is like a treasure box with a couple of pearls sprinkled across it. Then, there's one that is cylindrical, but seems like a flower in a way. There is a vine swirling around that bottle, and immediately, the name of the company he works for clicks in my mind: Hana Cosmetics. Hana means flowers in Japanese.

"This one." I point at the flower shaped bottle. 

"Nice choice," he remarks. "I was leaning towards that one too."

"What is this for? A perfume?" I wonder.

"Yup!" he tells me. "You want to take a sniff of it? I have a sample of it right here."

"Sure."

Suho reaches for a glass vial that is in a rack on one of his bookshelves. Then, he opens the lid of the vial and wafts the scent to my nose. One sniff, and I already guess, "Roses?"

"Yes," Suho answers. "We have been known for our rose cream, toners, and other makeup, but we had never tried developing a perfume before."

"I think it'll be a hit," I inform him. "I'm sure a lot of women would like this."

"Hopefully," he murmurs. "We just have to be prepared for what La Reine's plans."

"La Reine?" I pretend to act stupid.

"The one where Yeonjun works for? I'm surprised you wouldn't know the name of his work place . . ."

"Oh." I stick out my tongue and fake a smile. "I tend to forget everything about my exes after a relationship."

"I see," Suho answers. "Anyhow, enough about my work, I'm sure it's boring you. I have something else prepared for you too!"

That something else happens to be . . . Suho cooking for me. It's the first time that a guy has offered to make a meal for me, and I'm elated. Okay, I know, I know that I should not be swayed by his actions, but honestly, this is really sweet. He's too sweet that I don't even know how I can break it to him that I can't see him anymore. I guess I'll let him know after a week or two. I'll slowly stop seeing him and replying to his texts. He'll get the message soon.

"How do you like your steak, Leia?" Suho asks me while he is just about to pan fry my steak.

"Medium rare, more towards the rare side," I tell him. I'm honestly just sitting in a chair, watching him do all the magic at this wondrous kitchen back at his actual house. I feel like a spoiled princess, and I am. Sigh. I guess I am a little b.itch eh? Who would know that I'd reach this moment too? 

"What sort of side would you like? Mashed potatoes? Green beans and carrots? Or?"

"I'll have the vegetables," I order from him.

"All right then! Coming up in a few minutes!"
  
I can already smell the fleshy meat doused in some red wine. Yum. Suho knows how to cook too. Goodness, can he get even more perfect? Then, I'm suddenly reminded of what the guys told me about Suho. There's that crazy past of his, his insane dating with that 
virgin count of his. Am I on that list then?

"Ah!" I accidentally scream aloud.

"Wh-wh-what?" Suho swiftly faces me, questioning. "What's wrong?"

"It's just . . ."

"Yes? Are you allergic to something? I promise I didn't put any mussels in here . . ."

The fact that he still remembers that I'm allergic to mussels actually makes my heart soften. Maybe . . .Suho has changed. Maybe . . . "It's nothing." My mouth starts blabbing away on its own. "It's just that . . ." I stare right at him, interrogating, "Do you do this often to other girls?"

Setting aside my cooked steak onto a clean plate, he relieves a sigh. "Your friends were talking about me huh?" he verifies.

"They told me about . . . your wild past . . ."

"I thought . . . I told you that that was the past," Suho reiterates. He doesn't even make eye contact with me. Instead, he focuses on washing, cutting, and then sauteeing the vegetables.

"What . . . I don't quite get is . . . I mean, I thought you really liked Jessica?" I ask.

His hand rubs his nose as he responds, "Yeah. I did like her for a long time."

"And that was during university?"

"Yes."

"And so while you liked her, you still went and fooled around with other girls?"

Suho sets the beans and carrots beside the steak. Just as he passes the plate to me, he utters, "Look . . . that's just the past. Let's not talk about it."

"I actually thought, at first, that you had no experience in love," I mutter. "I guess Yeonjun was right about you."

"Oh . . . so you still have contact with him?" Suho harks. "I thought you were the type to completely forget about your exes?"

"We're just in the same group of friends. That's all. One of our mutual friends said that Yeonjun--"

"You mean that Sehun?" Suho interrupts me.

"He isn't 'that' Sehun," I correct him, "and yes, you are right. I was referring to Sehun."

Leaning against the counter close by, Suho announces, "He likes you. You know that right?" Caught by surprise, I kind of just hopelessly look at some object. I'm not sure if I should admit that I know about Sehun's feelings for me. If I do, then I would have to break the bad news to Suho as soon as possible. "So . . . you do know that," Suho claims, "yet you're pretending to be dumb about it. I wonder what else you're pretending to be . . ."

"What about you?" I counter. "You won't even talk about your disgusting past, and you know what I'm talking about, your virgin counts!"

"What else have you heard about me?" he barks.

"You sleep around too often. You rate girls on a hotness scale. You treat love like a game," I spew away.

Suho inches so close to me that I can smell his woody cologne. "It is a game, isn't it?" he poses.

"Who . . . are you?" I ponder with my eyes still glued to his pupils.

"I think that's a question that I should be asking you," he comments. He backs away, and then crosses his arms together. "To think I was going to play along with you until you showed all your cards to me . . . guess we'll cut to the chase." He lets out an arrogant scoff, "Now, Nam Leia, who are you working for exactly?"

"Wh-wh-wh-what are you talking about?" I stammer.

"You know exactly what I'm talking about," he remarks. "You see, Leia, I've seen you before hanging around with Yeonjun and his crew. This circle is small, you know? Rumours fly here and there. People know more than you'd think, and I know for a fact that you and Yeonjun are close even now. Plus, according to Sohee, you're engaged to Yeonjun?"

"Y-y-y-you--"

"You didn't think I'd ask right?" Suho pops that gentle smile that he has constantly used on me. Now, I feel goosebumps forming along my spine. I have a bad feeling that I need help. I need to grab my cell phone. "And there's no way that you'd even be engaged to Yeonjun," he continues to say. "He's with Haneul anyhow."

"What . . . do you want from me?"

Marching towards me, he lifts my chin up forcefully and states, "I want the truth, and I want news of Yeonjun's work."

"There is no truth," I argue.

"You are trying to protect him still?"

"What . . . are you . . . saying?"

I feel his fingers tighten along my jaw to the point where I wince. "You want to live don't you?" he threatens.

"What are you even saying?" I retort. "Are you trying to . . ."

"I don't mind hurting you."

"You . . . You've hurt other girls, haven't you?" I croak.

I see a creepy smile form from his lips. Now, I'm panicking. I know that if I don't leave any second now, he might smash my head against the glass and kill me. No, actually, he wouldn't kill me. He would torture me until I confess everything to him. Then, he'll black mail me with something else. Quickly, I push him down, grab for my purse and run for the door. 

"Go ahead," Suho announces. "Run. Run all you like. It'll take you at least an hour or two to get back to the city anyways." Once I reach the door and push it open, I hear Suho add, "You know I'll get you either way . . . sooner or later."

Then, my heart sinks, and my stomach churns hard. For the first time in my life, I'm actually scared. I'm actually so scared that I might pee on myself. His eyes show that he has the urge and the ability to do anything he can to get what he wants, and by that, I mean that he has the capacity to kill. Yeonjun was right about not extracting information from Suho anymore, but I need to warn Yeonjun. I need to tell him that Suho is planning something crazy.

Doo. Doo. Doo. Doo. Doo.

"Yeonjun?" 
 
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