It’s as if my mind goes blank and all I can think is no. Just repeating no inside my head over and over again. I don’t want him to leave, he can’t leave. Wait, that’s not right. I completely forgot that this isn’t his home. I’ve gotten so used to all the boys living here, that I seem to have forgotten they have parents and other homes that they can return to. I didn’t give any thought to the possibility that one or all could move out at any moment since nothing holds them here. They’re here for convenience not need, so their lives can continue on as usual even if they move away from here. I guess I like them being here so much that I didn’t want to think about it. I erased it from my mind or just repressed it enough to “forget”. That’s probably why this information hits me so hard. I never saw it coming.
“Heejin? Hallo?” JR says and waves a hand in front of my face. I must have been out for a while ‘cause he looks concerned. I open my mouth and want to order him to take it back. Tell his parents he’ll stay here and not go back to them. I want him to stay with me and never leave. But I can’t do that. It’s not my place to make decisions for him and tell him what to do. I have no right to do that. It’s his life. Besides I have to see this from his parents’ side as well. It makes sense that they miss their son whom they don’t see very often and barely hears from. He’s 17 years old and finishes high school next year and might leave home then. This might be the last year they can have him home before he gets on with his life. JR always says he can’t wait to move away from home, get his own place and be independent. But the fact that he immediately agreed to come home, without having to think for a second about it, tells me that he isn’t ready to leave his parents behind just yet. He wants to spend time with them which is why he’s going home. How could I get myself to stop him from that? It’s simple, I can’t. So I close my mouth, bite my tongue to keep the tears at bay and finally take a deep breath.
“Okay,” I say in a surprisingly calm voice. JR raises an eyebrow and looks at me with the most expressive face I think I’ve ever seen.
“Okay?” he says confused and I nod. “Okay,” I repeat and he runs a hand through his hair while turning his back to me. I take a deep breath in through my nose and agree with myself that I did the right thing. Just as I’ve given myself a mental pat on the shoulder, JR turns around again.
“How can you just be okay?” he asks in a frustrated voice and I’m taken aback. “What do you mean?”
“I’m telling you that I’m moving out and you just say okay?”
“What am I supposed to say then?”
JR turns his back to me again and paces back and forth a few times without saying anything. I know I did the right thing by giving him my blessing and not making things hard for him. So why is he acting this way? I’m actually feeling a bit pissed off now.
“I’m letting you leave like you want to, so why are you mad?” I ask and sound more defensive than I intended. JR stops in this tracks and turns his head to look at me. The hostility in his face slowly disappears but his jaw is still tense. He looks like he wants to say something but no words come out of his mouth. I end up getting frustrated and harshly ask: “What is it?!”
“I’m mad at you because I love you, okay!” he yells and my jaw drops at his sudden outburst/confession, “I just wanted you to tell me to stay.”
I feel bad about my own outburst earlier, but how was I supposed to know. JR is always so hard to read and I felt that he was mad for no reason. But JR has his own reasons, though it’s hard for him to get his feelings across to other people. I’m really glad he told me, but now that he practically shouted out his feelings, he looks kinda vulnerable. So I step closer to him and take one of his hands in both of mine. He raises his gaze and meets my eyes.
“Would you stay if I asked?” I ask and he bites his lip. “No… I just want you to not want me to leave.”
I stare at him for a while until I can’t hold back a chuckle anymore. I’ve never seen him this cute before.
“You sound like a girl,” I tease and he frowns. “Oh shut up…” he says with a pout and I laugh. I think I see him smile, but only for a second. “Pabo,” he mumbles and opens the door. “Wait for me, Soohyun” I tease again and have to dodge a kick from JR as I follow him back inside the house.
JR announced to everyone that he’s moving and they were all bummed, but supportive. I kinda expected either Minhyun or Aron to follow his example, but both of them didn’t bring up the subject. So I guess they’re staying. For now. The days go on as usual even though I feel more and more down the closer we get to the day JR’s leaving. There’s nothing I can do and it’s for the best, but I just feel sad about it. I’m gonna miss him so much. It hurts a little inside to watch him pack away his stuff and for every time I enter his room, something has been packed, leaving the room more and more empty in my eyes. All the furniture that belonged to my brother are still here and they’re gonna stay here. But without JR’s stuff, it feels empty.
When the day of JR’s departure arrives, I don’t feel ready at all. I’ve had two weeks to prepare myself, and I really tried to get used to the thought of the house without him. But now that it’s happening, I realize I could never prepare myself for this. I’ll never be ready to let go. But I have to be strong, for him. I can’t show him how hard it is for me, because it’s probably already hard enough for him. I’ll have to send him off with a smile.
We’re all gathered in the living room and JR’s saying goodbye to everyone one at a time. I stand a bit away from it all and watch. I know that I’ll start crying when it’s my turn to say goodbye, so I prefer to stand in the corner where it’s harder to see me. When JR has said goodbye to everyone but me, he takes his suitcase and walks straight to the front door. Walks right past me without looking my way and I’m stunned. But before I can feel mad or sad about him leaving without saying goodbye, he calls my name. I look around the corner to the front door and JR asks me to follow him. I quickly do as he asks and he closes the door behind us.
“This has become a preferred place for our dates it seems,” I say and try to lighten the atmosphere. But I should know better than trying to make JR laugh with a joke. And when I look at him now, it looks like he has something he needs to get off his chest, so I keep quiet and wait.
“Are you okay?” he asks and I didn’t really see that question coming. “Uhm… Yeah. Yeah I’m okay,” I say as convincing as I can. But apparently not convincing enough for JR to believe me.
“What are you worried about?” he asks and I bite my lip. I didn’t really think about it until right now, but there actually is a reason why I really don’t want him to leave.
“Now that we’re not gonna be in the same house, I’m worried about what will happen when we graduate high school,” I say in a subdued voice while avoiding his gaze, “then we won’t go to the same school anymore and you say you want to move.”
I feel the tears coming and I fight to keep them back. I don’t want him to see me cry. But when JR starts caressing my hair, I just can’t hold it anymore. The tears start falling and I hectically try to wipe them away. I’m afraid my tears will make JR pull away and put him in an awkward situation. But in fact the opposite happens. He pulls me in for a hug and holds me close.
“You worry too much,” he whispers and puts my head on his shoulder, “trust me, we’re strong enough. I won’t let you go, ever.”
The tears fall harder now but I can’t wipe them away because of the hug, so I’m probably gonna leave a wet spot on JR’s shirt. He doesn’t seem to mind though.
“What we have is not something I want to throw away,” he says and hesitates before he continues, “for many years I’ve been like a locked door. Nobody could get in no matter how hard they tried and I couldn’t even get in myself. I tried a lot of keys and so did everyone else but nothing could open the door. Until you came around. This whole time you had that special key. The only key in this world that can open the door to my heart, so please use it. Open it up and walk inside. And once you’re in there, make sure you never leave again. Or else the door will close and probably never open up again.”
His words shock me, because I never expected him to pour his heart and inner thoughts out like this. It must have been really hard for him to tell me this. I try to pull away so I can look at his face, but he tightens his grip so I can barely move. He’s probably too embarrassed to meet my eyes now and that’s why he does this. I’m not sure how to react to it, because if I say something very serious and heartfelt now, I don’t know how he’ll react. It can probably get to deep and emotional for him to handle, so I decide to take it more lightly.
“So you’re saying I’m the keymaster of your heart?” I say and immediately regret it. Too light. JR lets go of me and takes a step back. His facial expression tells me that he feels like I just ridiculed his feelings.
“Do you have to make my confession sound like something from Dungeons and Dragons?” he says in a hard tone. “No that wasn’t what I meant!” I say and reach out for him. “Doesn’t matter. You already ruined the moment,” he says and starts walking down towards the street with his suitcase. I must have really fucked up this time.
“Mianhae! Jonghyun-ah!” I shout and quickly follow him. “I’m not listening!”
When I reach him, I get in front of him and make him stop. He looks at me with an indifferent expression and I swallow hard. I can’t just let him go like this.
“I’ll protect it well. The key. I’ll enter your heart and never leave again, so don’t regret what you just said. Because from now on you can’t get rid of me,” I say as bravely as I can and honestly I don’t know what reaction to expect from him. But what happens, I could never have imagined. The corner of his mouth lifts up in a slight smile and he has an amused look in his eyes. And suddenly I realize what he just did.
“Did you just act mad to scare me for fun?” I ask dumbfounded and he nods, “Kim Jonghyun, I’m so proud of you!”
The smile widens and he even holds it for a while. Then we hear a car honk and I turn around to see JR’s parents’ car parked by the curb. I look back at JR and his face looks a little sadder now.
“I have to go,” he says and I nod. He steps closer and plants a kiss on my forehead.
“I’ll see you in school,” he says and I nod again. He waves to his parents and just as he walks past me he whispers: “Take care, my heart’s keymaster.”
I can’t help but smile and in that moment I decide I don’t want to see the car take off with him. It’s simply too painful to watch him go. So I just walk back inside the house and close the door shut.