I return to my room and am surprised to find JR sitting on my bed. He doesn’t say anything and just looks at me. I close the door behind me and sit down next to him. He’s probably here to talk about something, but I doubt that he’ll start a conversation. I know him well enough to be aware of that fact.
“I just talked to Minhyun,” I say to break the silence. JR nods and looks at his feet.
“I know. He went to see you after talking to me,” he says and I raise an eyebrow. I wondered why Minhyun was somehow suddenly able to more or less accept JR’s and my relationship. He said he wouldn’t give up on me, but he didn’t seem like he wanted to separate us anymore either. Minhyun didn’t want us to be together because he was convinced that JR would hurt me in the end. Did JR say something to Minhyun that changed his mind?
“What did you talk about?” I ask while I try to sound as casual as possible. “You,” he replies and keeps his gaze fixed on his feet, “he wanted to know how I felt about you.”
My stomach tightens while I wait for him to continue. But he doesn’t say anymore and I fight against my curiosity. I want him to tell me by himself. We’ve been sitting in silence for about a minute when JR sighs and raises his gaze. He looks me directly in the eye and I hold my breath.
“I said that I like you so much that it scares me and that I refuse to let go of you no matter what,” he says as if it’s nothing and my heart skips two beats, “I also promised him that he could beat me to a pulp if I ever hurt your feelings. Then he left.”
I breathe out and just look at him without knowing how to reply to that. So instead of saying something, I put my arms around his neck and pull him close. I hold him like that for a while before I finally find my voice.
“Thank you,” I whisper and pull him even closer. He doesn’t respond but just returns my embrace. We sit like that for a while and I just enjoy the moment to the fullest. But I know there’s still one more thing left to do. I lean back so I can look at JR and ask: “Do you think Ren will ever forgive me?”
His lips tighten and he doesn’t look optimistic. “Ren is… well he’s Ren. It won’t be easy, but he can be nice when he wants to.”
That doesn’t really make me feel any better, but what did I expect. “We’ll talk to him tomorrow, whether he wants it or not,” JR says and kisses my forehead before he gets up. “Okay, goodnight,” I say and he nods as he steps out and then closes the door after him.
The next morning is kind of weird. Minhyun suddenly acts like nothing’s wrong and treats me like he used to. I’m not sure how to respond to that, since I’m very much aware nothing’s like it used to be. Aron still isn’t sure where to place himself in this mess and feels very caught in the middle, so he’s not sure how to act around me. JR talks more than usual and I think it’s because he tries to make me feel better. But it doesn’t help with how nervous I feel about talking to Ren today. I don’t really feel like doing it, because he’ll probably be really mean to me, but I also think it’s something that needs to be done. If I don’t at least try now, I might never be able to fix it. I don’t know if Ren will ever be able to forgive me. I imagine him to be the type that can hold a grudge for a lifetime. They say that when a woman holds a grudge, it can even snow in May. I think that can apply to Ren as well, but still I hope that he’ll forgive me some day. I really do.
I get more and more nervous as we get closer to school. For some reason I feel like the whole school knows about the incident. If the girls know about JR and me being together and Minhyun liking me, they will kill me on sight. But I don’t think Ren would tell anyone, though he might want to use it as an excuse to get rid of me. Is it possible he could go that far?
My stomach tightens as we step onto school ground but luckily no one comes to make an end to me. I just get the regular glares. So far so good. We step inside and walk down the hall towards Ren’s classroom.
“Are you sure you wanna do this now?” Minhyun asks and he doesn’t look comfortable about the whole situation. “It’s better to do it sooner than later,” I say and take a deep breath. “Do you want us to stay with you?” JR asks and tough he tries to hide it, he seems slightly concerned as well. It doesn’t exactly calm me down that they’re scared for me.
“It’s best if I’m alone,” I say and look inside the classroom. I quickly find Ren and while looking at him, I feel a little discouraged.
“But stay close. If he tries to strangle me, I could need rescue.”
Minhyun pats my shoulder before he walks away, while Aron just glances at me. JR stays behind a little longer than the others, though he doesn’t say nor do anything. Then he just nods and walks away. I take a deep breath through my nose and exhale through my mouth. Then I stick my head inside and call out Ren’s name. His head turns my way and as soon as he sees me, his eyes turn cold. I wanted to confidentially ask him to come out, but I feel very small when I, with a shaky voice, ask if I can talk to him.
“You’ve already go three of the boys, you can’t have Ren too!” a girl says and other girls in the classroom agree. Ren looks displeased but to my relief, he gets up and comes over.
“What?” he says in a hostile voice without looking at me. I spent all night yesterday going through what I would say to him and rehearsed it like a speech, but now that he’s standing in front of me, I can’t seem to remember any of it. I can barely find any words at all. My brain is completely wiped and all I can do is stand there and twist my hands.
“If you’ve got anything to say, then say it now. If not I’ll just go back to my seat,” he says and turns around to leave. “No wait!” I say and grab his upper arm with both hands. “Would you look at that, she found her voice,” he says sarcastically and then looks at my hands on his arm, as if they were gross insects. I immediately let go and look at the ground.
“I just… I just wanted to apologize…” I mumble without looking up. There’s a moment of silence but I’m too afraid to look at him.
“Do you even know what you’re apologizing for?” he eventually asks with a skeptical voice. I swallow and nod.
“I’ve come between close friends and made you fight. I ended up doing exactly what you feared and I don’t blame you for hating me. I just wanted you to know that it was never my intention and I feel so bad about what happened,” I say and after a short break I finally look up to meet his eyes, “but what I won’t apologize for is falling in love with JR and being with him now. I don’t regret that even one bit and I don’t plan on staying away from him from now on either. You might view that as selfish, and maybe it is. But I’m standing firm on this one. I’ll stay with JR.”
Ren looks taken aback by my confession, but he quickly gets his expression under control. He looks at me with a stern look for a few seconds and then he responds.
“Then I won’t apologize for hitting you either. Actually I wouldn’t have apologized for that either way, because you deserved it,” he says and I don’t protest, “and even though I initially wanted to ask you to go to hell, I realized, to my biggest regret, that you might actually be good for JR. He has changed a lot since you came along and it’s for the better. So because of that I’ll go easy on you this time, and let’s hope for your sake that there won’t be a next time.”
I can’t help but smile and I’m just about to thank him when he raises his hand to stop me.
“Let’s get clear on some things. I haven’t forgiven you, we’re not friends and I don’t like you. I just accept your presence near my friends for the time being and I can change my mind any time so enjoy it while it lasts,” he says before he turns around and walks back to his seat. I still smile because despite what he said, I feel like I succeeded. Because he’ll let me stay with JR.
At lunch I tell JR and Minhyun about my conversation with Ren and they both seem relieved at the outcome. But when Ren and Baekho enter the cafeteria, they still sit at a different table and ignore us. So there’s still some way to go before the guys can all hang out together again. Minhyun and JR don’t look bothered though so I try not to think too much about it either. I guess I had hoped things would improve quickly even though that’s a stupid thing to hope for. I just want everything to be fixed.
As the days pass I notice that Ren and Baekho move closer and closer to our table. Every other day they move a table closer to us, until they eventually sit at the table next to ours. The first day nobody talks, everyone just eats. But the next day they start talking a little bit and I can’t stop smiling all through lunch break. About three weeks after my conversation with Ren, the group is once again seated at the same table and talk comfortably. I’m so happy I can’t even begin to describe it. Ren still looks at me with caution as if he expects me to screw it up, but I’m okay with that. He can hate me as long as he’s getting along with the guys. Besides me, Aron looks to be the most relieved, because now he isn’t caught in the middle any longer and he can be relaxed around his friends. And with me.
The atmosphere in the house has improved as well, though some tension still hangs in the air. JR is still not comfortable with me being alone with Minhyun and I still feel a bit awkward around Minhyun as well. Especially because he acts like he’s fine with all this. But I know he’s not, he can’t be. Yet I can’t get myself to talk to him about it, because the one who’s causing him pain is me. His feelings for me can’t just have gone away overnight and seeing me with JR can’t be easy. But I doubt I can ease his pain even one bit since I’m the source. I wouldn’t even know what to say and I fear I would only make it worse. So I’m keeping a comfortable distance without avoiding him. Hopefully we’ll be able to maintain a friendship when he has moved on.
It’s Saturday and for once I wake up early. I walk to my closet and look for something to wear, but nothing really appeals to me. Just then I remember that mom bought me a new shirt yesterday and I look around for it. I find it on the desk and put it on. It’s loose around my shoulders and I can’t figure out if it’s supposed to be like that or if it’s too big. In any case I decide to wear it and go downstairs. It appears that I’m the only one up and it’s fine with me. I walk to the kitchen and pull up one side of my shirt a few times because it keeps sliding down over my shoulder. As I enter the kitchen I start looking around for something to eat. I discover that a certain someone (JR) has eaten all the cereal without telling mom, so that’s not an option. And I don’t really feel like cooking something up right now. So I’ll just have some toast. I’ve just put the bread on the toaster and I sense someone’s presence. Before I can turn around, someone puts their arms around my waist and pulls me close. Then I feel a pair of soft warm lips on my exposed shoulder and a shiver runs through my entire body, which means it can only be one person. He also gently kisses my neck and cheek before he lets go. I’m frozen for a couple of seconds, but when I finally turn around, I see JR walking back up the stairs. I can’t fight the smile that’s spreading across my face and now I’m even happier about the fact that no one else is up. Or else he would never have done it. I don’t know how long I’ve been daydreaming, but I’m pulled back to reality when I smell something burned. I quickly turn around and realize I completely forgot about my toast. I pull the plug to the toaster and remove the bread. Completely black on one side. I guess I’ll just eat when mom gets up…
About an hour later everyone is gathered around the table eating breakfast. Well , everyone except JR. He got a call from his parents a while ago and went upstairs to talk. He’s actually been up there for quite some time now. I hope nothing’s wrong. A few minutes later JR comes back down and I try to read his facial expression, but as always I’m met with a whole lot of nothing. He’s wiped of all expression as he sits down next to me and starts eating. I really wanna ask about the conversation he just had, but I know he won’t answer me anyway. I’ll have to wait for him to come to me. And I don’t have to wait for very long. When we’ve finished eating and the others are clearing out the table and doing the dishes, he pulls me aside.
“I need to talk to you,” he says and drags me outside. He closes the door after us and for a long while he just stands there, holding the door handle and staring into the distance.
“It was my parents who just called,” he says, and even though I had already guessed that, I’m not gonna rush him. He pauses for a few seconds before he talks again.
“My dad said he and mom missed me a lot and that the house was empty without me,” he mumbles and I get a weird clenching feeling in my stomach. He sighs and finally lets go of the door handle.
“They asked me to move back home and said I could think about it, but I already gave them my answer,” he says and looks me in the eye for the first time since we came out, “I’m moving.”