Jongin came into his life like a firework; bright, sparkly and loud, illuminating his darkened world in shades of red.
Red and White
They met at age nine, on the playground at their elementary school, in a small town with a population of five thousand. The young full cheeked boy with circular brown eyes sat crying at the bottom of a plastic slide. His long sleeved baby blue button up was untucked and missing a few buttons, khaki pants doused in mud from evident bullying. With wobbly fingers, he wiped at his running tears, hiccups of misery echoed throughout the vast area.
Being a pastor’s son, upright and sanctified, made him an easy target. The kids found his lack of retaliation as a means to continue their violent acts and all he could do was cry after school in his lonesome. No one would help him through his breakdown, no one could understand his grief of not having a single friend in his entire class.
A sharp crunch of unsteady footsteps on the bronze autumn leaves, alerted him of someone’s presence and he attempted to hide his anguish. What would others think of him crying after being bullied? He was a big boy now, who had to wear a brave facade when faced with scrutiny.
“Cryin’ won’t solve nothin,” The pitchy accented voice said.
His accent was different than others, he clearly wasn’t from this town. His tone was not of ridicule or scorn, but of resolution and suggestion. When Kyungsoo’s vision cleared, he got a good look at the random strange boy. Auburn, scruffy tousled hair, a faded black t-shirt from years of washing that was a tad bit too small. His denim jeans stained with dirt, numerous patches of skin peeking through the uneven holes. He had an appearance of a wild child, the complete opposite of the sobbing boy.
“I wasn’t crying…” He sniffed, the humid air entered his windpipes wrongly, leading him to a fit of coughs.
“You wasn’t coughin’ too?” The boy laughed with a humongous smile which made the corner of his lips twitch upward. The boy’s laugh was contagious, causing him to chuckle through short whimpers. “Who did this to ya?”
“Everybody,” his breath hitched while striving to conceal his hiccups, “no one likes me…. I don’t have any friends.”
“I’ll be your friend.” The boy said.
He could no longer feel the cool slide underneath him as he planted his feet on the ground and sprung upward in apparent joy. “Really?” he shouted, his eyes twinkled with hope and elation.
The other candidly answered by nodding his head. The boy’s rough, tiny hands rummaged through his clean styled hair and a feeling of warmth grew in his heart. He’s never had a friend before, thinking no one would be interested in a mere church boy. His dreams had finally came true, his prayers had been answered.
“What’s your name?”
“Name’s Jongin, what’s yours?”
Jongin came into his life like a firework; bright, sparkly and loud, illuminating his darkened world in shades of red. Whenever he stood up for Kyungsoo during recess, he was a fiery scarlet. He’d yell at the bullies, fending off any insults using his own retorts. Holding Jongin’s hand became a habit, their palms perfectly interlaced together. Jongin would lead him to a place void of people where they can play by themselves.
The church boy didn’t mind following the uncivilized Jongin if it meant having someone who cared about him. It seemed as though Kyungsoo finally had someone in his corner who’d stick up for him. A person who didn’t judge him based on his parents religion. Someone who didn’t expect anything in return but a friendship, a friendship Kyungsoo cherished deeply.
Kyungsoo’s parents were uptight, strict and dictatorial. They’d never approve of him hanging around someone as hot tempered as Jongin. However, when he brought Jongin into his home one afternoon, surprisingly, they accepted him. They were pleased to find that Kyungsoo had made a new friend and trusted their son’s judgement of character. The two young boys became inseparable after that. Jongin would stay over on the weekends and wake up to attend the morning service on Sundays. They would travel everywhere together, from school to their homes, to an arcade or a park. Where there was Jongin, there was Kyungsoo. A set, a duo, a pair, nothing could break their bond.
It took three years for Jongin’s accent to dissipate, adopting a more proper style of speaking. Kyungsoo noticed it first, of course. It was due to his influence after all. The countryside where Jongin was born and raised became a distant memory. His time spent with Kyungsoo meant the world to him. It was refreshing to have someone who didn’t care about his way of talking or upbringing; a person he could confide in, free of judgement and unbiased.
Unlike his dear friend, the townsfolk would look down on his family since they are from a much smaller town. Though, their words never brought him grief since he had Kyungsoo. They sought solace in each other. Kyungsoo was his savior, a beautiful ivory pearl amidst all the weathered coals.
When he saw Kyungsoo crying on that playground those few years ago, he reminded Jongin of porcelain. An angelic soul free of impurities and saturated with forgiveness. How could such a kind person be mocked and bullied so often? It infuriated him back then. He knew Kyungsoo needed someone, a knight in shining armor, a hero. Luck was on his side the day he found Kyungsoo, a day he would never forget.
The tween years were finally over and high school was around the corner. It was during that time in which Kyungsoo reached a dilemma. None of the girls in his class were attractive to him. They were all beautiful in their own special way, yet, he didn’t find them appealing. He’d watch couples form, crushes being recognized and blossoming into puppy love. He swore to himself that he’d get a girlfriend in high school. That would be the time when everything would change, and change it did.
His freshmen year was plagued with insecurities and ambiguity. Jongin was still a constant in his life, but there were so many people surrounding his outgoing friend. He felt the need to branch out and try to be more talkative himself. To solve this issue, he felt a more dire need to dive into a relationship regardless of his shallow reasoning. He sought help from Jongin, a person he knew would understand his problem. Though contrary to his beliefs, when Kyungsoo disclosed his feelings about wanting a girlfriend, Jongin didn’t seem pleased at all. Jongin’s smiling face lacked radiancy, no twinkle of support in his eye. On that day, Jongin reminded him of a bleak mahogany, sad and dejected.
“When you get a girlfriend, make sure you don’t forget about me.” Jongin said, his voice calm and void of emotion.
“How could I ever do that? We’re bestfriends.” Kyungsoo said, smiling at him for reassurance.
Their first year of high school went as quickly as it came, and Kyungsoo still hadn’t found the right girl. He searched far and wide for someone to move his heart and not a single soul possessed that ability, except for Jongin. He couldn’t quite pinpoint the cause, but there was something in Jongin’s touch that made his insides boil and molded goosebumps onto his skin. The way his lips moved when he spoke would capture Kyungsoo in a trance. Often times, he’d catch himself merely watching Jongin speak instead of listening. His mannerisms became quite cute to Kyungsoo and he’d find himself chuckling at Jongin’s clumsiness. Yet, his favorite had to be the amount of facial expressions and the various sides of Jongin he was allowed to witness everyday. Having sparse knowledge on the subjects of love and passion kept him oblivious to his own emotions. He only knew Jongin was special and that no one could replace him.
Jongin hit a growth spurt when they entered their sophomore year, adding onto Kyungsoo’s list of insecurities. They weren’t the same height anymore and wearing the same size clothes was essentially over. Girls swooned over the zealous and tall country boy, his charming eye smile ensared everyone. Even the guys would avert their eyes from staring too intensely, not wanting to be presumed homosexual. Jongin could easily have anyone that he wanted, they only required his consent. Jealousy sprouted in Kyungsoo’s chest like a weed, unsought and unwarranted. He thought perhaps he should try to hide such negative emotions by adopting a nonchalant attitude. However, his envy seeped through the cracks of his apathetic glass wall.
“Why don’t you get a girlfriend too?” Kyungsoo asked one day. The fact that Jongin never had a girlfriend boggled him.
“None of the girls so far have interested me, they’re not what I want.” Jongin said, confusing the shorter drastically.
“Then what do you want?” Jongin never answered.
Junior year arrived in a flash and Jongin became an athlete. He joined almost every sports club there was, becoming an all-rounder. The coaches were notably impressed and had high hopes for him. He was sought by every team because of his agility and sportsmanship. Even though Jongin was already popular amongst his peers in their class, he became even more known outside of their school. Girls flocked to him like bees to honey and Kyungsoo absolutely hated every second of it.
He’d show up to school and witness crowds of people surrounding Jongin. That contagious laugh no longer an expression solely shared with him. Kyungsoo felt left behind, he assumed Jongin would leave him for better and more popular friends. His resentment surfaced involuntarily and his heart felt as if it were being poked with sharp needles. Jongin soon became a deep burgundy, like each drop of blood that blotted the pits of his soul.
Kyungsoo retreated into his studies, isolating himself from Jongin and the rest of his friends. Reading books allowed his brain to take a vacation, where he could forget about Jongin and his popularity for a brief moment. When doing schoolwork, he didn’t have time to worry about anyone but himself and he fancied the idea of being alone. Although, his whole friendship with Jongin began because he loathed that very idea. The irony was unsettling.
Subsequently, he became a math and science specialist with an inkling for drawing art. Achieving the best grades in his class was an easy feat, since all his focus went into studying. He’d ignore Jongin’s text messages and calls, and avoided him at school by taking the long route to class. His envy only grew stronger and eventually it began to change his thoughts about himself. Since when did he become this antisocial person who hid from his best friend? It was not as if Jongin had did anything wrong to Kyungsoo. His feelings just kept him away from the famous jock, he didn’t feel right standing alongside Jongin in all his glory. He shook the feeling of being remorseful toward Jongin and continued folding in on himself, consciously deflating into the person he used to be.
Unfortunately, avoiding Jongin couldn’t last forever. During test week, Kyungsoo was cornered in the nonfiction section while looking for a book on relativity.
“Why are you avoiding me?” Jongin asked as he grabbed Kyungsoo’s wrist, pulling him deeper into the aisle away from prying ears.
“I just want to be alone, Jongin. Go talk to your other friends, you don’t need me.” Kyungsoo said before he harshly pulled his arm from his grip, immediately regretting his action when he saw the pain in Jongin’s eyes.
“You know that’s not true. I will always need you Kyungsoo, we’re best friends!” he shouted with hurt lacing his tone. Jongin’s gaze could pierce through steel, his eyes reflecting rejection and agony. Kyungsoo has never seen this side of Jongin before, no words could suffice for the selfishness he has portrayed lately.
Kyungsoo’s heart tightens and his eyes begin to water. How could he avoid someone so precious to him? In all honesty, he missed Jongin so much that it caused him physical pain. “I’m sorry.” Kyungsoo said as he closed his eyes to stop the tears struggling to trail down his face,“I’m so sorry.” he whispered, his voice soft as fallen snow resting on a ground of remorse. Jongin’s features relaxed from his sincere apology and he embraced him in a tight hug.
“I’m sorry too. I’ll always be here for you, Soo.”
Kyungsoo could feel the vibrations from his diaphragm as he spoke. He nodded his head against Jongin’s firm chest, catching a whiff of his fresh, aromatic scent. He was no longer the country boy he used to play with, with a funny accent and a wild demeanor. He’s a teenager who plays sports, wears cologne and dresses stylishly. He longed to be touched by Jongin, to be close to him and share a personal bond with him. All the jealousy and rebellion finally made sense when realization shook him like an earthquake.
He was in love with Jongin.
Denial came in the most pragmatic form, Kyungsoo didn’t want to admit his feelings. Instead of attempting to sort out his emotions, he decided running from them was the better option. It was in his nature to shy away from hard decisions. He shoved his love for Jongin into a box buried deep inside the crevices of his heart. He locked in his emotions and threw away the metaphorical key so that he could continue living an ordinary life. He’d find someone else to date who he could potentially marry and start a family with. It was the only way, it was the easy way.
Near the end of his junior year, he met a girl named Luna and they instantly became a couple. Luna was a beautiful girl with black, wavy hair and clear pale skin. She wore very little makeup and sported a more natural look that worked wonders. Kyungsoo thought that if he were to spend more time with Luna, his feeling for Jongin would eventually disappear. Even though, he was a bookworm and extremely knowledgeable, he was quite dense in the field of love and compassion. While giving his best efforts to move on, he somehow forgot that feelings don’t change that quickly.
The more time he spent with Luna, the greater Jongin’s absence became noticeable to Kyungsoo. Luna was an amazing girlfriend, positive and supportive, kind and sensible. Yet, they didn’t share a past together nor did they know each other very well. Luna couldn’t finish his sentences. She wasn’t aware of his favorite flavor of ice cream, or that he preferred studying in the nonfiction section of the library. She didn’t know his habit of furiously rubbing his nose when he gets nervous or sleeping with the lamp on because of his slight nyctophobia.
Jongin would finish his sentences. He would bring Kyungsoo strawberry ice cream on the weekends. Jongin would come visit him after school in the library before his basketball practice. Jongin would hand him a piece of tissue when he had a speech to give or an oral presentation. Jongin would wait until Kyungsoo went to sleep before turning off the light. He knew everything there was to know about Kyungsoo. He was perfect.
It was only a matter of time before their relationship ended. Luna was no fool, she knew Kyungsoo was in love with someone else. She was but a minor detour on a route that Kyungsoo would inevitably travel down once again.
“This isn’t working out Kyungsoo, your heart…your heart isn’t here.” Luna walked out of his life as though she was never there. Kyungsoo didn’t utter a word of objection. The guilt he endured wouldn’t allow him, the love he felt for Jongin wouldn’t abandon him.
It was in that very moment that he knew his feelings for Jongin weren’t going to diminish. This new realization introduced a thousand other problems, his parents being one of them. A homosexual relationship was bound to fail, it was not a possibility with his father being a pastor of a church. If they were to ever know of his preference, he’d be disowned and shunned. Kyungsoo didn’t want to let his parents down regardless of their strict behavior. All of those years being ‘the perfect son’ would be for naught if his parents knew about his attraction to his best friend. Which gave him one option, to be alone for the rest of his life or until he could live out in the world on his own.
The moment Kyungsoo mentioned he broke up with his girlfriend, Jongin’s heart exploded with elation. His love for Kyungsoo developed over the years, ever since he discovered him on that jungle gym. In fear of being rejected, he kept this secret to himself. He thought watching over Kyungsoo would be better than leading him down a road of sin. There was absolutely no way Kyungsoo would return his feelings, it was purely unrequited. To withstand the heartache, he delved into sports and popularity, surrounding himself with other people to fill that forsaken void. He felt as if he got his best friend back, and it was only them two in their bubble of happiness, no one else.
Kyungsoo thought otherwise. A week after his relationship blew over, Kyungsoo showed much effort to exempt Jongin from any physical contact. Jongin didn’t quite like the way Kyungsoo fled from his touch, shying away from their side hugs or attempting to stand a few inches away whenever they engaged in conversations. Kyungsoo was adamant about keeping their skinship to a minimum in fear of something happening, something he wouldn’t be able to control. His feelings for the athlete ran deeper than the Mariana Trench. Love was but a mere word that relatively identified his feelings concerning Jongin. It could never capture his true desire for the athlete, nor did it describe the sacrifices he was willing to make for him. He was everything to Kyungsoo.
During their senior year, a new transfer student came, his name was Baekhyun. A rather interesting fellow who wore thick black eyeliner, had thirty tattoos, ten noticeable piercings and drunk buckets of mountain dew. The piquant odor of cigarette smoke surrounded him like a thick fog, evidence of his bad habit of chain smoking. Baekhyun didn’t care about others’ opinions, society was one big contradiction to him anyway, filled with hypocrites and the like. Contrary to what everyone assumed, Baekhyun was highly intelligent. His grades were always within the top ten percentile, but his lack of socialization made it difficult for him to garner friends. His ghastly appearance kept others away easily, they wanted nothing to do with him. However, there were always exceptions. When those exceptions approached him intending to start a conversation, they’d receive silence in return accompanied with a face of disinterest.
He only showed a slightly different expression when he met Kyungsoo. It was a Friday afternoon and the last bell of the school day rang. The hallway instantly amassed with drained teens ready to leave for the two day weekend. Baekhyun happened to leave something in his locker and while walking toward it, he witnessed Kyungsoo staring directly at Jongin. It wasn’t any ordinary look in Kyungsoo’s eyes, it held the fondest of care, a sparkle of affection and a trace of captivation. A smirk crept onto Baekhyun’s face. Finally, something interesting in this mundane, monotonous place called school. Maneuvering through the hall, he wandered over to Kyungsoo who was oblivious to his approach.
“Staring won’t get you very far. Why not tell him how you feel?” Baekhyun said as he leaned his back against the locker shoving his hands into his jean pockets. Kyungsoo’s eyes widened in surprise, he stared at Baekhyun for moments before those words registered in his mind. How could someone he had never met before know about his feelings regarding Jongin? Was he that obvious?
“I guess the lack of response means I’m right, don’t worry,” Baekhyun leaned downward to whisper in Kyungsoo’s ear, “I’m gay too.” he said, before turning his back and walking toward the exit, leaving a stupefied Kyungsoo in the middle of the hallway.
They soon became friends after their atypical encounter. After establishing that Kyungsoo wasn’t his type and vice versa, the church boy felt relieved that he could have someone to talk to about his unrequited love. It felt great to have it off his chest, and sharing his troubles with someone who understands. Baekhyun turned out to be a pretty funny guy, opposed to the initial seriousness he emitted. They fell into a comfortable cloak of security and companionship. In no time at all, they began to hang out more and talk openly about relationships. It was a turn of events that Kyungsoo wasn’t expecting, giving him an ounce of courage and reaffirming his infatuation.
Of course Jongin didn’t take kindly to this new friend Kyungsoo made so quickly. He felt Baekhyun had an agenda and was attempting to trick Kyungsoo or take advantage of him. He honestly didn’t want to admit that he dislikes anyone who became close with Kyungsoo, threatening to come between them. He began to make a conscious effort to hang out with the two on a daily basis. Which made him even more envious at the amount of inside jokes they’d share and just how chummy they’d become with each other. It felt as if he was losing his best friend and fast, so he had to take drastic measures.
A warm Saturday it was when Jongin stopped by Kyungsoo’s house with his favorite ice cream. They hadn’t made any plans, but Jongin insisted that they have a movie marathon. Kyungsoo couldn’t say no, having missed Jongin’s presence for awhile now. They began the movie in Kyungsoo’s room huddled up on his bed, wrapped in his pororo covers. It was going well until Jongin asked him an unexpected question.
“Why do you keep hanging out with that Baekhyun guy?”
“He’s pretty cool,”
“Yeah but have you seen him? He’s a weirdo, Soo.”
“You shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover Jongin,”
“I just want to know why he’s always around now. I don’t even feel like I’m your best friend anymore.”
“You’re still my best friend, nothing can come between us.” Kyungsoo said with a charming smile. Jongin had to surrender this battle because it was as clear as the sky that day, he’d be losing. He could only accept that Baekhyun was now a part of Kyungsoo’s life even if he didn’t really prefer it.
Baekhyun visited Kyungsoo’s home every Friday, which was becoming a force of habit. They simply lounged around in the living room, nestled on the beige couch with drinks in hand while watching the Discovery channel. The end of senior year was quickly approaching and it was time for Kyungsoo to make a final decision. His dejection was shattered the minute he met Baekhyun and hope began to arise. Witnessing Baekhyun’s relationship with a college student name Chanyeol gave him courage that maybe he could do the same.
“Soo, graduation is in a month, what are you going to do about….you know?” Baekhyun asked, letting the rest of his question fizzle out. Kyungsoo heard his mother in the kitchen and decided the living room wasn’t the proper place for such a conversation. When they made it to his bedroom, Baekhyun raised an eyebrow anticipating a pleasant response.
“I don’t know what to do, should I tell him? Should I confess?”
“You may never get a chance like this again.” Baekhyun said as he sat on the edge of Kyungsoo’s bed, watching the scholar pace feverously back and forth while torturing his bottom lip.
“I know, I know….it’s just,” Kyungsoo plopped down on the mattress beside him, “I’ve liked Jongin for such a long time now, that I’m used to being by his side. I don’t want to mess up the friendship that we already have.”
A muffled gasp rippled through the crack in his bedroom door, a slither of light peeked through revealing his mother on the other side. She opened the door with a fierce expression and Kyungsoo knew his secret was no longer theirs. Baekhyun made a swift exit without looking into his mother’s eyes, leaving his friend behind in the heart of an erupting volcano.
“I don’t think I heard that correctly, would you tell me who is it that you like?” his mother asked, arms resting across her chest. The tone of her voice was as dry as the dessert, the sternness of her jaw indicated her clenched teeth. Kyungsoo admittedly hung his head low, there was no denying it now. It was times for his mother to know of his preferences and he would face the consequences. With a deep breath, he stood from his bed taking a few hesitant steps in her direction.
“…I’m in love with Jongin.”
The pang from the slap was predicted. However, the second slap was far worse, her nails leaving streaks of pink across his cheek. Violent tears swelled in his eyes, a large lump was caught in his throat. The message from his mother was unbearably loud and clear. He could never date Jongin if he wanted to continue being their son.
After the confession, he was to attend school and come straight home. Jongin was no longer welcomed into their house and the sheer utter of the athlete’s name made his parents stiffen. They decided after graduation Kyungsoo would attend college in Germany where his aunt lived. Kyungsoo could only oblige to their final decision.
On graduation day, as he watched Jongin cross the stage, he felt proud that they had both made it this far. All those years of uncertainty and doubt, anger and content, was all for this very moment when they are released into the world as young adults. Jongin was a glistening ruby while receiving his diploma with a smile that could rival the brightness of a supernova. Kyungsoo would indeed miss that smile.
He disappeared into thin air, leaving no traces behind. After a few days of calling and texting Kyungsoo non stop, Jongin visited his home only to find it empty and not a hint of human life in sight. He felt blindsided and hurt to the pits of his stomach. He leaned over to puke in the grass, and swiped his stained lips with the back of his hand. Rage settled in soon after, it was his only way to cope with the sudden disappearance of his best friend.
He sprinted to Baekhyun’s house making the front door his personal punching bag. Baekhyun’s initial reaction was anger toward the person madly banging on his front door, until he saw the desperation in Jongin’s eyes and heard the urgency hanging off the end of every word he sputtered. He kept asking where Kyungsoo was, his voice cracked as his question faded into the muggy air of summer. Jongin’s knees hit the coarse concrete in front of the opened door. The floodgates opened allowing the tears he’s held inside for so long to come pouring down like a shower. His best friend was gone.
Kyungsoo was an opaque ray of sunlight becoming smaller due to the gray clouds closing the brilliant gap. He soon became a memory.
Five years later
Life had been a rollercoaster since he began his college life in Germany. A different language and culture gave him a startle. With the help of his aunt and cousins, it became easier to adapt although, still rather difficult. During college, maintaining good grades was his main focus and nothing more. Girls didn’t interest him in the slightest, similar to back when he attended high school. He just needed to graduate college and move back to Korea. Those were the terms his parents gave him along with attending church every Sunday. They were simple rules, however, his heart wasn’t truly there. Even after five years, his feelings for Jongin hadn’t dissipated and were steadily growing stronger instead.
Each night over the years, he stayed up thinking about his dear friend who he left in Korea without a word. He was only allowed to contact his parents through their house phone and no cell phones were allowed. He attempted to send a letter one time but it ended up in the trash bin when his aunt discovered it. If his memory would serve him correctly, it would grant him Jongin’s email since he had no idea what it was, so that notion was immediately dropped. He had lost total and complete contact with Jongin, and Kyungsoo’s only way of meeting him was in his dreams.
Graduating with a degree in Business Management, he headed back to Korea with a focused mind and a solid plan. He would find an apartment, then get a stable job and only after acquiring those two things, search for Jongin. The job hunting was longer than he intended, having attended several interviews after filling out countless applications. It seemed hopeless with the amount of effort and time he’d spent solely trying to find a steady source of income.
It was a chilly day in October when Kyungsoo stumbled into a cafe after another long day of job hunting. His tired feet dragged him to a confined booth, nestled in the corner of the small, yet fancy restaurant. The smell of freshly baked goods and roasted coffee beans caressed his nostrils, gradually calming him down. He doesn’t recall this cafe ever being here actually, glancing around his surroundings which he remembered vaguely.
He doesn’t know what compelled him to enter this place, he’s not even hungry, but his footsteps led him here as though they knew something he didn’t. He thought perhaps why not try the croissants or cookies since he’s here anyway. He waited patiently for the line of people ordering their food to lessen before advancing toward counter. After obtaining his food, he hurried back to his seat and took a doubtful bite. The world didn’t prepare him for the utter euphoria bursting inside his mouth, it was like tasting all the purities of heaven.
Being so absorbed in his food, Kyungsoo missed the chime of the bell hanging above the door notifying them of a new customer. He didn’t look up from his plate until he felt he should. His breath escaped him, words died on the tip of his tongue and his heart throbbed brutally inside his chest. No coherent thoughts forged in his mind as he drew blank after blank and anxiety settled in. Somehow, time slows into a stop, pausing in this very moment; a moment that came sooner than he anticipated. He couldn’t let this opportunity pass, he’d be a fool to do nothing.
The man hadn’t noticed him at all as he came through the door and beelined straight to the counter. Not looking at the menu, he ordered his food. Kyungsoo concluded that he must be a regular here who knew exactly what he wanted. He wore fitted jeans and a navy t-shirt, brown tamed hair with bangs that swept his forehead resting just above his eyebrows. The features of his face have aged a bit, nothing too noticeable except the growing bags underneath his eyes. This man in front of Kyungsoo looked well put together, an ordinary guy in his everyday life as though nothing is missing or nothing had changed. He was a velvety maroon in color, having aged and matured wonderfully.
Kyungsoo’s hesitant steps came to a stop beside this man, his eyes fixated on the delicate crevices of his face. He waited until his presence was acknowledged before any words could slip from his mouth. The man turned his head to his right and froze upon seeing Kyungsoo.
“Jongin,” he said, just above a whisper. How could a name sound so foreign and so familiar at the same time? Kyungsoo’s eyes wouldn’t break away from their intense stare until guilt slammed into his chest making him find the floor more appealing.
The soft scrape of a shoulder touching his own willed him to lift his gaze, and he witnessed Jongin quickly heading out the door with nothing in his hands. Kyungsoo found it hard to move, the silent rejection pinning him to the glossy overcoat. Yet, he couldn’t let it end here. He had finally found him, he had finally seen him again. Kyungsoo could never let Jongin go.
His paralyzed feet began to move, each step weighing heavier than the last. Kyungsoo’s hurried steps crescendoed into long, fast strides. He needed to catch up to Jongin, he absolutely had to express just how sorry he was and tell him with all the sincerity of his being that he had been in love with Jongin since he saw him through blurred vision on that slide.
“Jongin!” he yelled shamelessly in the middle of the street garnering quizzical looks from those who passed by.
“Jongin! Jongin, please…” he pleaded with ragged breath coming out in strenuous puffs from the abrupt sprint. Jongin slowed into a stop not facing Kyungsoo. He stood completely still for a brief minute as if he was about to turn around and grant Kyungsoo forgiveness. Kyungsoo’s hopes were too high he thought while he watched Jongin’s retreating figure disappear into the lonely night.
It had been an entire week since Jongin appeared. The cafe was now his second home and the staff had grown accustomed to seeing Kyungsoo linger around every day. Some people gossipped about the desperate looking man, while others pitied him. Kyungsoo could care less, he finally found the person he could only dream about until now. He’d stay at the cafe for hours waiting for a glimpse of his former best friend. Even when his faith staggered and it seemed like a hopeless wager, he continued on since it was the only lead he had. He prayed each night that Jongin would miraculously walk into the cafe and he could meet him once more.
Prayers are soon to be answered.
There, Jongin stood one day while he was strolling through the entrance of the cafe. He halted his steps and gulped, his mouth felt as if he had swallowed cotton. It must have been a dream because Jongin was walking directly toward him before he stopped with a few inches between them. He grabbed Kyungsoo’s wrist and pulled him out the restaurant onto the streets of Seoul.
Kyungsoo’s heart grew rapid, his mind was hazy, and he took a sharp breath before speaking. “I’m sorry,” he said hastily, “Jongin, I’m so so sorry.” Tears began swelling in his eyes as the harsh expression plastered on Jongin’s face didn’t budge.
“Is that all?” Jongin asked, his tone raw and bitter, reminiscent of an angry crimson. Kyungsoo recoiled from his question, because no, that was not all he had to say. Why couldn’t he express himself in the very moment he should? What was holding him back? He searched Jongin’s stifling gaze and saw remnants of hurt and sadness, and for the second time in his life, he broke down.
“I love you Jongin! I’ve loved you for as long as I can remember. But I couldn’t tell you, I couldn’t tell anyone. My parents wouldn’t accept us. I knew they wouldn’t understand so I kept it bottled inside from everyone until….until Baekhyun came. He saw through my lies and all the pretending, I told him I liked you and one day my mom heard me. I confessed to her, telling her I loved you and they sent me away and didn’t allow me to contact you,” he sucked in a wavering breath, letting the cool air calm his nerves, “I didn’t want to go, I didn’t want to leave you. You were my best friend but I didn’t know how you felt about me….I was scared of rejection, so I’m sorry for not telling you.”
Jongin stared. Kyungsoo’s eyes shifted left and right searching for an answer. He didn’t know that he was holding a breath until Jongin spoke. “Kyungsoo, you left me without a word and didn’t talk to me for five years, how could you possibly think I would instantly forgive you. Even if you say all of this now, what good will it do? I loved you too!” he yelled.
Kyungsoo’s eyes grew large in surprise, and he so desperately wanted them to begin again and start all over.
“I waited for weeks, no – months for a word from you and got nothing! I had to let go because holding on hurt so much worse. I knew you were gone, and I didn’t know if you were ever coming back and I didn’t care!” Jongin spat with clenched teeth, his jaw became rigid in resolution, nails digging into the palms of closed fists.
It took all of two minutes for Kyungsoo to speak next, “But you do care,” he boldly stated, “otherwise, you wouldn’t have come back here.” that sparkle of hope flashed in Kyungsoo’s eyes softening over to compassion, “Allow me to make it up to you Jongin,” he grabbed Jongin’s palm and the taller man flinched before relenting, “allow me to show you how much I love you and I will never, absolutely never leave you again.”
“How can I trust you? How can I be sure you won’t leave me without a word and disappear?”
Almost, was the only word Kyungsoo could think of. He almost had Jongin back into his life once again; his knight in shining armor, his hero.
“Give me a chance, please. I’m sure you will trust me again.” Jongin simply nodded in confirmation and Kyungsoo couldn’t suppress the smile that spanned across his face. Although this wasn’t the reunion he had envisioned, this was a beginning and he could accept that.
They started things slowly due to Jongin’s skeptical behavior. Going out on short dates and calling each other every day was all they did for two months. They’d talk for hours at night catching up with each other and Jongin gradually began to come around. Day by day, the iron wall built around his heart dissipated as they fell into a routine.
Jongin couldn’t fully blame Kyungsoo, he himself had pent up emotions that he never acted on because he was also scared of rejection. Even though he was angry with Kyungsoo for leaving him for all those year, he was proud that he stood up for their relationship. He could only imagine the courage it took for him to come out to his parents, knowing they wouldn’t approve of their relationship. Perhaps, he should take a lesson or two from Kyungsoo on fighting for what you believe in. For that alone, he knew he could forgive Kyungsoo. He admired the church boy for his unwavering heart and perseverance, and somewhere along the line, that admiration blossomed into love once again.
Time was definitely on their side this time around and Kyungsoo wasn’t going to let their relationship remain stagnant forever. He decided to up the stakes on their 100th day anniversary. He brought Jongin to an elegant restaurant and allowed him to order whatever he wanted. He had found a nice office job a few weeks back and it paid him generously. Throughout dinner, they chatted about everyday life, nothing about the near future much to Kyungsoo’s dismay. Nonetheless, he didn’t let that discourage him and thought optimistically about his decision.
When dinner was over and before the bill was brought to the table, Kyungsoo pulled out a small box from his pocket. He pushed it across the off-white clothed table and Jongin gave him a questioning glance.
“What’s this? I thought we agreed, no gifts.” Jongin said.
“I know, I know, but it’s not really a gift…really.” Kyungsoo smiled shyly.
Jongin opened the box and there sat a small piece of shaped metal that oddly resembled a key. Jongin peeked at Kyungsoo and back at the gift not knowing how to respond. Was he ready to take that next step? It was a great gift, however, his mind wanted to hold him back from accepting it. Instead, he decided to follow his heart which was beyond grateful.
“Thank you, Kyungsoo.” he said while holding the key between his fingers. Kyungsoo nodded before waving over the waiter for their bill.
Kyungsoo almost regretted giving Jongin that key. If he’d known that said man would be at his condo in the early hours of the morning, he would’ve kept the key for himself as a spare. Jongin would whimsically burst in without warning as though he owned the place. Don’t get Kyungsoo wrong, he was thankful that Jongin was coming around more often. However, he wasn’t a morning person and there was frankly no need for him to be up at five in the morning when he didn’t have to be at work until nine.
Their days became months, months into years and eventually, their love found them once again, only this time it was much stronger. Time had proven to be the perfect antidote for them, and has gifted them so many memories, both old and new.
It had been four years since they met at the cafe and revisited their dwindling flame. In that time, Kyungsoo had been promoted and Jongin was working as a Veterinary Assistant since he loved dogs and other animals. They rented out a new apartment with more space and chose to live together. Kyungsoo visited Jongin’s family a few times over the years during the holidays. They were beyond ecstatic to see him again, hugging him tight whenever they came, and always asking the kids to stay over for a night. Most of the time, they would agree since it’ll be awhile before they returned, and it felt good to be around a family that accepted their relationship.
They weren’t free of all their problems, though; the toughest being Kyungsoo’s parents. Of course, he saw them from time to time, but he didn’t mention his and Jongin’s relationship. He only informed them of his promotion and that he moved to a different building. Kyungsoo was well aware that he’d have to tell them some day for he wasn’t ashamed nor guilty about their new found love. With a genuine smile and a nod goodbye to the people that raised him, he decided that talk was for another time.
There was one person he kept in contact with all those years, a person he confided in and told all his secrets to. Baekhyun helped them move into their new apartment and he couldn’t have been happier for the two. Deep down, he knew they’d get back together, it was only a matter of time. He was living a peaceful life with Chanyeol and adopted a healthier lifestyle as well. When Kyungsoo first laid eyes on Baekhyun after five years, he took a double take. There were no more piercings, he covered his tattoos with stylish, expensive clothing and his scent was citrusy and fruity, no longer smelling like a pack of menthols. He poked Baekhyun’s arm as if making sure he was real and Baekhyun amusingly rolled his eyes before squishing him in a bear hug. It had been far too long since they’ve seen each other. Although distance kept them apart, their friendship never faltered.
As they joyfully paced along a sidewalk in the middle of summer, Baekhyun asked him an intriguing question, “So have you thought about what you and Jongin will do now that you’ve moved in together? What’s the next step?”
“I don’t know,” Kyungsoo said as a soft breeze tickled the strands of his bangs, pushing them back, showing his forehead.
“I think you do.” Baekhyun said while playfully giving him a slight push on the shoulder.
“I’ve thought about this for a few months now Baek, and I can’t tell whether I’ll be successful or not, but I think…..I think I want to chance it,” he looked at his friend with conviction, “I’m ready.”
Kyungsoo’s palms were sweaty and he could have sworn someone upped the heat in their apartment without his knowledge. It was time for the question of his life. He had planned it perfectly, how this day would play out. Over and over, he visualized how this would go since it was all he could do to appease the nausea in his stomach. His phone vibrated in his pocket, a message from Baekhyun stating that Jongin was on his way up. It was showtime for Kyungsoo. He grabbed his keys and left the room quickly before Jongin could make it to their shared condo.
Jongin unlocked the door and pushed it opened while humming one of his favorite songs. “Kyungsoo?” he called only to receive silence in return. He was puzzled, Kyungsoo is usually home at this time. He checked his phone for any missed calls or text messages. In the midst of strolling through the log, his peripheral view caught sigh of a note on their living room coffee table. He picked up the note and read its contents.
In life, we make mistakes, but those mistakes allow us to grow and become closer. We learn to forgive, but sometimes forgiveness takes time and effort. We continue to pray, but sometimes our prayers aren’t answered without a small push or without taking action.
I’ve decided to take action.
Come to where you found me, where it all began.
Jongin thinks for all but a second before he bolted out the door, heading to that jungle gym in which he’d never forget. He welcomed the playground with an affectionate smile as the love of his life came into view. There, sat Kyungsoo with a baby blue button up and khakis. The only difference now though, is that there was no mud or missing buttons.
The soft tap of smooth, confident steps alerted him of someone’s presence and a radiant smile graced Kyungsoo’s face. A comfortable silence greeted them as they both looked around their old playground before Kyungsoo awkwardly coughed, grasping both of Jongin’s palms in his.
“Jongin,” he started, gaining the other’s undivided attention, “For many years, I’ve loved you and this is where it started,” he paused for dramatic effect, “and even though it began here we took a short break, but inevitably ended back here again. This time I would like to make a new beginning, one that last for an eternity and more, one in which there are no breaks even through death.” Jongin’s heart swelled tremendously as a single tear slid down his face that was swiped by the pad of Kyungsoo’s thumb.
“Jongin, allow me to love you forever, will you do me the honor of being my husband?” Kyungsoo bit his bottom lip, waiting on Jongin’s response with every fiber of his being aching to hear the word yes. Tears began to parade effortlessly down Jongin’s face and Kyungsoo’s eyes started to water as well. He wiped Jongin’s cheeks with his fingers before softly stating, “Cryin’ won’t solve nothin,” causing Jongin to cough ever so lightly before his lips stretched into a smile that reached his eyes making them form small crescents.
“Yes.” he unattractively croaked out between small sobs.
“Yes?” Kyungsoo asked excitedly as if he wanted to confirm once more. Not trusting his voice to come out without cracking, Jongin nodded his head. Their lips met in a hungry, passionate kiss letting all of their emotions spill into the intimate air. Kyungsoo sprinkled pecks all over Jongin’s face while uttering the word yes, in turn making the other smile into their next kiss. It was a perfect proposal, one that neither would forget. Jongin reminded him of a soft blush that day, embarrassed and sweet but also incredibly endearing.
After the proposal, it was time to plan the wedding, and it was also time for Kyungsoo to face his parents. He knew that this conversation had to happen if he wanted to live peacefully with Jongin. A part of himsefl, also wanted them at his wedding for support, it’s always good to have family around. Kyungsoo marched into their living room with certainty. Whether they liked what he had to say or not, he was going to be proud of his and Jongin’s relationship even if it was claimed morally wrong by society and the church. He asked both of them to sit down before he gave them the news.
“Mom, dad, I have been dating someone for five years now,” he began and both of his parents were shocked to hear this new information, “and I have proposed to this person.”
“That’s great, honey!” his mom said, smiling from ear to ear.
“Who is she, son?” his dad chimed in, curious to hear about this girl who his son was willing to settle down with. Kyungsoo took a heavy breath before continuing.
“I must tell you this first…I would like for you both to be there at the wedding even if you can’t give us your blessing, I want you to come and support me. I’m a grown man with my own apartment and a stable job, I think I can make decisions in my life that I know will make me happy,” he peered into his parents’ eyes, “the person I’m marrying is Jongin.”
The silence was suffocating.
“Get out.” His dad said with so much venom that Kyungsoo could only stand and leave with his head held high. He wasn’t expecting them to have an open mind but he intended to tell them, and he did what he came to do.
“So, how’d it go with your parents?” Jongin asked as Kyungsoo walked through the door of their apartment. The shorter man only shook his head,
and Jongin sighed.
“It’ll be alright, Soo. I know you wanted them to be there, but you can’t make them change their beliefs. We’ll still enjoy our wedding day and go on our honeymoon.” Jongin stood from his seat and embraced his fiance. Kyungsoo rested his head in the crook of Jongin’s neck, grasping tight at Jongin’s shirt until his knuckles turned white as silent tears trickled onto Jongin’s collar.
The fateful day had finally arrived and it was going wonderfully. Thanks to Baekhyun, they were able to find the perfect venue for their wedding, a lovely banquet hall that wasn’t too big nor too small. It wasn’t heavily decorated but enough for people to know something special was happening. Most of the guest who arrived were from Jongin’s side of the family. Having already guessed this would happen, they didn’t split the seating for the two sides of he family and arranged it so they could sit anywhere.
In the dressing room, Kyungsoo missed the opening of the door being too engrossed with fixing his tie. Baekhyun slid inside quietly, tiptoeing to his friend and yelled, “Boo!” making the groom jump ten feet in the air clutching his chest attempting to calm down his already accelerated heart.
“Baekhyun! What the hell!” he screamed, and Baekhyun doubled over in laughter.
“You’re too uptight Soo, calm down,”
“Well, I am getting married in less than an hour, excuse me for being nervous,” he said, going to the mirror again fighting with his tie. He despondently sighed, giving up on the slender piece of cloth around his neck.
“Here, come here,” Baekhyun called him over as he stood from the ground. He began fixing Kyungsoo’s tie for him and the groom sniffed a bit.
“What’s wrong, Soo?” he asked as his hands worked with the knot.
“You know my dad…my dad used to do my ties on important days like these,” he said. Baekhyun’s hands stopped moving and he patted down Kyungsoo’s three piece designer suit.
“Kyungsoo, your parents are fools for missing a day like this. Don’t beat yourself up for doing what makes you happy,” he cupped Kyungsoo’s cheeks, “smile baby Soo, because today you’ll be marrying your best friend and today you guys will become one. Be happy, and make this the best day ever!” Kyungsoo hugged his friend tight thanking him for being by his side all this time.
They’re both trapped in their usual bear hug, swaying back and forth until someone knocks on the door, opening it slightly. “Um…I didn’t interrupt you guys, did I?” Chanyeol asked with a chuckle causing the other two to smile, “It’s time.” he informed the two friends and Baekhyun left the room, but not without giving Kyungsoo a reassuring pat on the shoulder.
Kyungsoo took one last longing look in the mirror before opening the door and heading to the main hall. This was it, this was where his new life would begin and it was going to be amazing. The doors flung open, and what greeted him sent his body stumbling back a bit. He froze as his heart began to palpitate harder and a smile so bright, that could cause someone to go blind, grew on his face.
There stood his two parents and more of his family members, Kyungsoo couldn’t believe his eyes. His pupils scanned over everyone, shortly pausing at a winking Baekhyun before they stopped on the man in the very center looking exceptionally handsome. He gracefully walked down the aisle, coming closer to his husband-to-be. With each step a memory of their life together flowed through his mind. He had never been so sure in all his life, and he could tell with a single glance that Jongin felt the same.
When they both said “I do,” exchanged rings and kissed to seal their marriage, the whole room erupted in applause and everyone stood to their feet to welcome their union. Baekhyun was caught wiping a few tears while Chanyeol smiled humongously which creeped Jongin out a bit. It had turned out even better than Kyungsoo could imagine, and for that, he was grateful.
They headed on their trip to China for their honeymoon which lasted only a week because they had work to attend to. While on the trip, they took numerous pictures, ate loads of foreign food and visited many museums and historical monuments. They also didn’t forget to consummate their marriage with rough, hot, steamy sex, that left Kyungsoo with sharp pains in the morning and Jongin with bruised shoulders from being punched. It was fun and relaxing. So many new memories were made as newly-weds and life couldn’t get any better. That was, until Jongin proposed an idea as soon as they set foot onto Korean soil.
“We should adopt.” He said, totally surprising the shorter with his declaration.
Kyungsoo couldn’t have agreed more with Jongin’s spur of the moment idea. He’s always wanted children, even though they couldn’t biologically produce one of their own. Adoption was the option they chose and he knew that they would love the child with everything they had. So without much hesitancy, they both began looking into orphanages with kids between the ages of newborns and preteens. They searched for a child who they could connect with from the start. They’d visit the institutions and talk with the staff and play with the children there. It took them weeks to find a child that seemed right, a child who simply clicked.
On a rainy Sunday evening after church, Kyungsoo decided to check out an orphanage near his old house where he grew up. It had been a decade since he visited this neighborhood, yet, it was still familiar in every sense. As he walked in the door, a child almost mowed him down zipping past him at light speed. He chuckled at their playful nature and searched for an elder to talk to about adoption. As he traveled through the resident, he came across a little girl silently drawing, a hobby he was fond of as well.
A smile etched onto his features as he watched her. She was humming a simple melody while drawing in her own colorful world. Brunette straight hair, tan skin and brown, almond shaped eyes met Kyungsoo. She was perfect, reminding him of Jongin. He sat on the floor next to her and began talking to her while picking up a piece of paper and pencil himself. Together, they simply doodled as he talked and she listened. The girl was incredibly shy at first since he was a stranger, but after awhile, she began to reply. They hummed a song together, they shared crayons and he made her giggle. It was the cutest giggle he’d ever heard and then he knew, she was the child he wanted.
In a brisk action, he grabbed his phone and dialed Jongin’s number. He told his husband about the girl and that this was their child, there was no doubt in his mind. Jongin was ecstatic, he couldn’t wait to meet her. If Kyungsoo was this absolute about it, he was certain he’d approve as well. He grabbed the keys to his car and headed to the orphanage to meet his new daughter.
Kyungsoo played with the girl for an hour or so before he went to talk with the head of the facility about adopting her. He finalized the papers himself, signing all the necessary documents. In a weeks time, he could be taking their child back to their apartment where they would become a loving family. He grinned at the man in charge, gratefully shaking his hand before leaving his office to go say goodbye to the girl.
She stood by the door waiting for him to come out with tender, hopeful eyes. Kyungsoo crouched down so that they were the same eye-level and explained that he couldn’t take her home today, that the paperwork had to finish and he’d come back soon. She nodded her head enthusiastically in understanding and he granted her a heartfelt smile.
A buzzing in his pocket interrupted their sweet moment and he pressed the answer button, his smile still lingering on his face. But as a new life was brought into his world, another life was taken from his grasp.
The scattered crunch of varied footsteps over the colorful autumn leaves disturbed the breezy and arctic September day. Where two pairs of shoes, one significantly larger than the other, made their way through the uneven yard of grass and blotches of concrete. They halted when they reached their destination.
“Hi Daddy,” the girl said, with a lovely white flower in her palm. Kyungsoo kneeled down on one knee, wrapping his arm around her in a gentle hug.
“Jongin, this is our daughter,” he introduced her and she curtseyed like the young lady she is before placing the flower on his tombstone. The stone before them read in italic letters:
Jan 1987 – Sep 2015
Loving Husband and Father
“Her name is…” He looked at her and smiled, kissing her forehead delicately.
Rose – adj: a warm pink or light crimson color.
A/N: This wasn’t supposed to be tragic at first but it kind of ended up being that way. My first shot at a simple romance I suppose. I’m not very good at this tbh… Hope you enjoyed the read. Comments are very much appreciated.
Also, I titled it Red and White because together they make pink and together they have Rose, even though it’s only Kyungsoo at the end.