Lemon Heart

As time goes on, Lee Kikwang slowly begins to break the walls of his solitude and gains something positive at the end of his struggle.

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2. Part II

When I had finally woken up, I was greeted by an unfamiliar sight. I looked around the room I was in, and it definitely wasn’t my own. I got up off the double bed, which was surprisingly very comfortable and stretched my tired limbs.

I peered over at the bedside table next to me and stared at the digital alarm clock. It was 2:37am and I really didn’t know where the time had gone. All I knew is that I was going to be in serious trouble when I got home. I wondered for a moment where exactly I was, and slowly left the bedroom I had been sleeping in to find out.

I walked through to the end of the dim lighted hallway until I reached the humid kitchen. On the right hand side of the room was the living area occupying a tan coloured sofa and a 32” LCD TV. The floor was coated in soft black carpet and the walls were painted beige. I glanced back at the kitchen which looked quite inviting. At the white marble worktop sat a man on a stool with his back facing towards me. It was ironic that I already knew that the man was Dongwoon.

I cleared my throat and watched Dongwoon swivel around on his stool to meet me. He was holding a white mug in both hands of what smelt like green tea.

“Sorry I brought you back to my apartment,” He said solemnly.

“But you fell asleep at the reception, and you wouldn’t wake up, so I thought I’d bring you here.”

I nodded, having not listened to a word he had said.

“Your father knows though,” He continued.

“I rang him and his seemed pretty all right with you staying here. All he said was to bring you back in the morning.”

I frowned for a while. Was my father really okay with me staying out? It seemed awfully odd for him to let me do something like that. But I guess he trusted Dongwoon, so I decided not to think too much of it.

 “Come sit here.” He suddenly said to me, pointing to the stool next to him.

I silently made my way over to him and accepted his offer to sit down.

Once I was finally settled down on the stool, he spoke again.

“Do you want something to eat?” He asked generously.

“You must be hungry after sleeping through dinner.”

I nodded, not wanting to say anything to him.

He got up off his seat and walked over to the black electric oven. He pulled it open and slid out a tray of homemade pizza. He placed the tray on the kitchen counter and took out a dinner plate from the cupboard above him. I watched him carefully as he finally put the plate of pizza into the microwave. After he had done so, he turned back to me and smiled.

“What do you want to drink?”

I thought for a short while and finally answered him.

“Hot chocolate.”

I suddenly wanted to leave Dongwoon’s apartment. I didn’t know why, but something was telling me that I should go home, or something bad would happen. I stared down at the table below me and stumbled back into my daydreams.

When he handed me the hot drink, Dongwoon noticed that I was feeling anxious and nervous and tried to comfort me.

“Kikwang, are you all right?” He asked, rubbing my back soothingly.

I flinched from his touch and groaned in pain. My wounds still hadn’t healed properly and my skin was now on fire.

I looked at him, my eyes begging him to stop, but I said nothing.

“What’s wrong? Are you hurt?”

I didn’t want to lie, and I didn’t want to tell him the truth, so I let the silence answer for me.

He looked down at me with dark eyes and a sincere facial expression.

“Take off your shirt.”

I obeyed him, like I obeyed my father and unbuttoned my black ¾ length shirt. I didn’t want to argue with him. I knew he wouldn’t give in so easily and trusted him. Even if it was just a tiny bit, I trusted him.

I slid it off my arms and revealed to him my tainted back. I could feel his fingers ghosting over my broken skin, making me shiver.

“Your father did this to you, didn’t he?”

It was obvious he knew the answer, so I didn’t bother to reply. Instead, I could feel tears welling up in my eyes, and Dongwoon noticed that. He took a seat next to me and pulled him into his arms, into a warm, much needed embrace. My fingers clung onto the front of his shirt as I wrapped my legs around him and let myself cry. He put one arm around my waist and he used his other free hand stroke the back of my head and pulled my face closer towards his chest.

We sat together, for what seemed like hours until I had finally stopped crying. I shifted away from him slightly, and looked up at him with sore, puffy red eyes. He looked back at me with a sympathetic smile and wiped away my last tears.

“Please don’t tell him you know.” I whispered loud enough for him to hear clearly.

He nodded understandingly. I guess he kind of figured what would happen if my father found out and left it at that.

 

Once I had finished eating, Dongwoon handed me a black v-neck t-shirt to wear and started setting up his bedding on the sofa. After I changed into his clothes, I looked in the full length mirror in his bedroom and noticed how I had gotten skinnier. I then stared in amusement at his clothing I was wearing. It was baggy and warm, and fell just above my kneecaps as if it were a short dress. I went back out to the living room to give Dongwoon a hug before I went back to bed.

I still wasn’t prepared for tomorrow, and I was dreading having to see my father once again.

 

I arrived home the next morning feeling refreshed but disappointed. I told Dongwoon not to walk me to the door as I didn’t really want my father to see him. I hesitantly knocked on the door and was approached by one of the young maids who I didn’t know the name of. She bowed before me and led me inside towards my father’s office.

“Master Lee would like to see you.” She said and left me alone outside his study.

I gulped and tried to brace myself. But there was worse to come.

I knocked on the door in front of me, and opened it when I heard my father grunt as a signal to enter the room. I avoided my father’s piercing gaze as I stood before him.

“Didn’t I make it clear that you’re not to stay out late?” The man hisses angrily.

I merely nodded.

“Then why did you disobey me?”

I really didn’t know how I would explain my situation without saying anything about Dongwoon.

My father sighed and grabbed the belt from the coat rack. The belt was his weapon, and the rack was its home. There was no escape, not until Lee Tae Jin dies.

Just as I was about to undo my shirt, my father grinned bitterly, making me stop half way.

“There’s no need for that now.” He chuckled.

“It’s obvious this isn’t working. It’s obvious that my message isn’t sinking into your thick, useless brain. So I might as well try something else and see whether it will work well enough.”

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who this man was anymore. He could’ve been capable of anything, even murder. He was rich, well-known and respected by most, so he could have killed me and it would’ve been all right.

I backed away as slowly as I could, in hope that he’d realize what he was doing was completely wrong, but that thought never hit his mind.

Before I knew it, I was lying on the floor underneath him with his belt wrapped around my neck, suffocating the life out of me.

“Why won’t you listen to me?!” He bellowed, tightening the belt, centimetre by centimetre.

“What do I have to do to make you to respect me and realize what I’m doing is only for the best?”

I stared at his furious face before laughing, laughing at the ‘almighty’ Lee Tae Jin.

“’For the best’!” I mocked.

My father’s face straightened as he tried to comprehend what I was saying. I seized my chance and struck him with a blow to his nose, earning a much loved painful crack. Out of shock, he grabbed me by the neck and began pounding my head into the dark parker flooring.

“How dare you!” Each word was delivered a painful punch in the face.

“I have been looking after you for the past 9 years by myself, and this is how you thank me?!”

I grinned at him with a bloody mouth and spilt lips.

“No,” I replied.

“This is my thank you for reducing me to a lonely, depressed, little fuck. This is my thank you for forcing me to live an insecure life, for making me feel like a worthless piece of shit. This is my thank you for making me wish I was dead instead of my mother.”

That enraged him even more, making his hits harder and inflicting more damage. Before my body gave in, and my eyes began to close, I heard my father whisper something I was sure I’d never forget.

“You’re a disappointment. I really wished that it was you who had a brain tumour, not my wife.”

 

Although Dongwoon had given me his phone number 3 years ago after I stayed with him for the first time, I never did get round to calling him. I never went back to Cube Entertainment again either. That was the last I saw of Son Dongwoon.

I was 19 years old now, and I was pretty certain that the man had forgotten me over time. Either that or he would’ve changed his number at some point. I decided it was best not to bother him or burden him with my problems.

Ever since that argument with my father, we never saw each other the same. Now, regardless of what I did, he just didn’t care anymore. I dropped out of college, he didn’t care. I decided I didn’t want to go to university, he didn’t care. I even paid a woman with his hard earned money to become my mistress, and still, he didn’t care. Life had become more enjoyable since I received my freedom, yet I was still being forced to attend business meeting with him. He was still convinced that I would be taking over his investment banking business once he had died. Truth is, I had already secretly made plans to sell it and move abroad.

 

I sat next to my father, opposite one of his business partners in a posh, Italian restaurant. Instead of paying attention to the men talking, I shifted my gaze to the place I was in. The colour scheme of the shop was made up of dark shades of pigments. The tables were made of crystal glass and the walls were papered in gold, black and red patterns. I turned back to the men who were indulging in laughter and some sort of amusement while I was just left out, as usual, as an outcast.

The man in front of me, Mr Yoon suddenly stopped his conversation with my father and decided to talk to me.

“So Kikwang, tell me about yourself.” He began.

“How’s studying? You should be in university. Am I right?”

I looked at my father who had a stern facial expression and then looked back at Mr Yoon.

“Incorrect.” I replied.

“I decided not to attend a university, and ended my education after college.” That was half a lie, since I was a college drop out.

“I see.” He nodded.

“Now why did you do that?”

In the corner of my eye, I could sense that anger was building up inside my father.

“Since I would be taking over my father’s business, I thought it was best to get the experience directly from him, rather than having to go out and study. It would seem that my father is more of an expert in this area of business than just some university lecturer who teaches people.” I shot my father half a smirk and looked down at my plate. Over time, lying had been something I was perfecting.

My father sucked in his cheeks and sat silently. I felt proud that I had put that miserable bastard in his place.

“Hmmm, I see.” Mr Yoon continued.

“Well that was a very wise decision you made. Your father’s a great man, a kind man, who knows his stuff.”

I wanted to laugh in Mr Yoon’s face and show him the scars that my father engraved in my skin, but I knew that by doing so, I could create a lot of trouble.

The two men soon got back to talking about business, leaving me to delve deep into my thoughts. After a while, I excused myself from our table and headed for the toilets to freshen up a bit, not knowing that someone was following me.

Once I had gotten into the bathroom, I let out a sigh of relief when I found out it was empty. Just as I was about to head over to one of the sinks, I was grabbed by the shoulders and shoved me into the nearest mirror. The glass cracked when it made contact with my head, smashing into pieces and cutting parts of my face. I kept my eyes tightly shut as the blood ran down my skin. I blindly tried to hit the person hurting me, and succeeded when I heard a grunt from the other man, a grunt so familiar, yet so surreal. It was my father.

He clutched onto my neck, squeezing down on my Adam’s apple and forcing my head into the floor.

“Do you know how much you just humiliated me in front of one of my colleagues? Now there’s a high chance of him rejecting my offer just because of my prick of a son!” He snarled in my ear.

With all the strength I could muster up, I pushed my father off me, making him collide with the wall. I stood up and walked over to him, placing my foot on his throat.

“Why don’t you just put us both out of our miseries and disown me? I know you don’t want me as a son anymore. I can always find another place to live, and you can always find another heir. Just do yourself a favour.”

My father nodded underneath me.

“Pack your things and leave. I won’t stop you.”

 

Instead of heading home, I walked over to the nearest phone booth and pulled out a piece of paper from my back pocket. I never left the house without that number, even if the owner ever did move on. He was older now, but what his age was, I didn’t know. All I knew is that he probably had a wife and some nice children. Yet that didn’t stop me from making that call.

“Hello?” The man answered. His voice was still as husky as it was the first time I met him.

“Dongwoon, I need your help.”

 

By around 11pm, Dongwoon had finally picked me up from the pavement I was sitting on near the phone booth. He took one, long look at me and let out a sigh. He held out his right hand and helped me stand up. He held me by the shoulders when he noticed that I was about to fall. I got in the front passenger seat of his gleaming white Lexus IS 250. I turned my face straight away to the windows, because I just couldn’t face Dongwoon right then. I was glad the windows were tinted; I hated people staring at me.

I heard Dongwoon settle down in the driver’s seat and turn on the ignition. I was guessing that we were going back to his place, so I relaxed a bit.

The silence surrounding us didn’t last as long as it usually did. Dongwoon didn’t always seem to want to talk about something; rather, he always wanted to ask questions about me. I guess he cared for me just enough to think that he should know everything, and I understood that.

“How’s your face?” He asked me, as I predicted.

I turned my head towards him. I couldn’t avoid him forever.

“Eh, I’ll survive, could’ve been a lot worse though.”

He nodded, still looking at the road.

“I should’ve left a long time ago.” I continued. I really just needed to let it all out.

“I could’ve stayed with distant family, or used my savings to rent out a place. I waited too long.”

He took his left hand off the gear stick and placed it on my shoulder.

“At least you’re here now, and you didn’t leave it any longer.”

I lightly held onto his fingertips, massaging them with my own.

For some reason, I turned myself and looked at the back seats. One of them was occupied by a baby’s car seat.

“Dongwoon, do you have a child?” I asked nervously. I knew that I couldn’t stay with him if he had family.

He looked into his mirror and let out a small laugh.

“It’s my little brother’s.” He said.

“My parents died a year ago, so me and my sister take it in turns to look after him, me one week, and her the next week.”

I sighed and tilted my head back as the silence began to indulge in us both as it usually did.

“Dongwoon?” I whispered.

“Yes Kikwang?”

“You don’t mind if I smoke in here, do you?”

He chuckled and shook his head.

“Do whatever you want.” And so I did.

 

It was when Dongwoon stopped the car, that I noticed we were nowhere near his house. In fact, we were at a small beach, in the early hours of the day. He got out of the car and signalled me to do the same.

He stood next to me and breathed in the cold, salty air.

“You’re not going to kill me and dump me in the sea, are you?”

He smirked and ruffled my hair.

“I brought you here to enjoy the night, to wash away yesterday and embrace tomorrow.”

I raised my eyebrows at his words. I didn’t understand what he meant, but I was sure that I’d find out sooner or later.

I watched as Dongwoon began stripping off each piece of his clothing and dumped them in a pile on the sand until he was only wearing his underwear. I had to look away to stop myself from laughing like a child.

“Come and join me.” He grinned.

I slid off my black leather jacket and placed it on top of his clothes. I rolled up the sleeves to my elbows and my trouser legs to my knees. I shuffled closer to him and rested my head on his shoulder, letting the cool breeze wash over me. Dongwoon wrapped his arms around my side, so I snuggled closer to him.

I reached over to the breast pocket of my waistcoat and pulled out my half empty box of Black Devil cigarettes.

“Dongwoon, I think I’m going to give up smoking.”

I thought it would be a good idea to do so, after all, it was time to move on.

He smiled at me, and removed his arms. I took a few steps towards the sea and screamed my lungs out.

“To a new beginning!”

I laughed and threw the small box into the water, watching it sink deep down.

Dongwoon joined me and pulled off a ring from a necklace around his neck which I hadn’t noticed before.

“For the both of us!” He chuckled as he kissed the ring and flung it into the sea, just as I had done.

He looked at me, and I looked at him. And then we laughed, together, for the first time.

Without warning, Dongwoon grabbed my arm and raced off into the sea. I didn’t want to go too far in, because I couldn’t swim, and I didn’t want to tell him either, because I didn’t want to look stupid. So I pulled back my arm, and smiled at him innocently.

“I’ll just stay at the edge of the water.” I said, not wanting to follow him.

He replied with only a shake of the head and caught my wrist, dragging me in, regardless of the fact that I was still wearing my clothes and I had none to spare.

When I felt my feet floating in the water, I panicked slightly. I had never been in such deep waters before, and I didn’t want to drown anytime soon. I clutched onto Dongwoon’s shoulders and steadied myself, and when I was balanced properly, I wrapped my legs around his waist so I wouldn’t sink in.

“You can’t swim?” He asked, holding onto my back.

“Nope, I never did get the hang of it.” I grinned sheepishly.

He chuckled and rubbed my back in reassurance.

“It’s okay, I’ll look after you.”

When I had finally eased up slightly, I unbounded my legs from Dongwoon’s waist and let out a sigh of relief. He scooped up some water in the palm of his hand and began to clean my cuts that my father inflicted earlier on. I winced when the salty water stung my wounds.

“Hold your breath.” He murmured, before bringing us both down into the water.

I gasped and flung my eyelids open when we descended. My body was being pushed back, but I managed to grab onto Dongwoon’s shoulders again. My cuts no longer stung, and it was clear that they had been cleaned properly.

I watched Dongwoon enjoying himself. He had puffed out his cheeks and his body was bobbing up and down very gently in the water. I could tell that he wanted to swim, but I was in the way, so he was reduced to just floating with me in the water.

Once we surfaced back to the top, I let go of Dongwoon and stared at him. I wanted to ask him about the ring, but I was unsure of how he’d respond.

“Dongwoon?” I asked hesitantly.

“Hmm?”

“That ring…Are you married?”

He looked down and laughed quietly.

“I was, but she’s gone now, so it’s time to move on. I'm 24 years old, I have my whole life ahead of me.”

I nodded. I didn’t want to cause Dongwoon anymore pain, so I decided to brush it off and leave him alone.

After spending around half an hour messing around in the sea, I had gotten pretty tired. My eyelids were growing heavier by the second and my mind was running away with the wind. The humid air wasn’t making things better either; it was only making me feel even sleepier. My arms made their way around Dongwoon’s neck. It seemed like I enjoyed touching him in this way. He pulled me closer towards him, into a soothing hug and before I knew it, we were both out of the water.

We walked over to the public showers at the beginning of the beach and separated from each other to wash off all the salt residue and sand. I headed, dripping wet, over to the car, where Dongwoon already was and collected the towel that he was holding for me. I wrapped it tightly around my body and took my previous seat back in his car.  I strapped myself in and leaned back so that my body was more comfortable. Within minutes, Dongwoon had started the car, and then I didn’t know where the time had gone.

 

I woke up in the same place that I was in 3 years ago, in Dongwoon’s bed. By now, the sun had just begun to rise, and his room still looked the same as it did then. Everything was the same. I guess he didn’t really change. The rays of sunlight that invaded his room were irksome, and it took me a while to adjust to the dim light, regardless of how weak it was. I looked under the covers, at my body, and realized I was wearing only one of Dongwoon’s baggy t-shirts and my underwear. It was pretty ironic how it seemed as though history was slowly repeating itself.

I rolled over onto my other side and saw Dongwoon lying beside me, sleeping peacefully. I watched as his chest rose and dropped every time he breathed in and out. I smiled and gently caressed his cheek, causing him to stir in his sleep.

In no time, his eyes had slowly opened and his lips curved into a small grin. He yawned and rubbed his eyes.

“Slept well?” I smirked.

He laughed quietly and nodded, draping his arm over my side.

“You should smile more often.” He teased, leaning forward and kissing my forehead.

“You have a beautiful smile.”

I frowned, thinking of what I looked like when I had a smile on my face.

My eyes would crease into tiny crescents, as if they were actually closed, and my bright teeth would always stand out. I didn’t care very much though. After all, someone actually liked it, Dongwoon actually liked it, and I guess he also cared about my feelings.

Then I guess I should. After all, if smiling made Dongwoon happy, then in time, it would make me happy too.

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