The next morning I get up and walk to the bathroom. After washing up I start brushing my teeth. Suddenly the door opens and Aron steps in. I look at him confused and is about to ask him to leave. But then he starts taking off his pants and I cover my eyes with my hands. I drop my toothbrush and start screaming.
“Don’t be so noisy in the morning,” Aron says and I flee from the bathroom before something worse happens. Just as I run down the hallway I suddenly bump into something. Or rather someone. I bounce back because of the collision and fall on my tail. I open my eyes and see Minhyun’s head above me.
“Are you okay?” he asks and reaches out his hand for me to take. “Not at all,” I answer and let him help me to my feet. I realize that he is just wearing a pajama and I look away. Then I remember that I too am only wearing a pajama and suddenly I feel shy.
“I better go change,” I say and am about to walk past him when he says something. “Please don’t get the wrong impression of us. We are not as bad as we seem,” he says and I turn to look at him, “I know that you’re not very thrilled about us moving in but I really want to get along with you.”
I look at his troubled face and I don’t want him to worry. “I just need time to get used to it. I grew up with two older brothers so when I get to know you better I can treat you like family and everything will get more comfortable,” I say and smile. Minhyun also smiles and looks relieved. “Thanks Heejin,” he says and steps aside. I walk past him and into my room. I close the door and lean against it while I for some reason feel out of breath. No wonder I used to have a crush on him. He is just so sweet and considerate. And athletic. And he can sing and play the piano. He is just too perfect to be human. That is the reason why I never confessed to him. He is way too good for me.
I move away from the door and sit down on my bed. Now that he is going to stay here I’m afraid that the feelings I used to have for him will blossom again and this time get stronger. I cover my face with my hands and sigh heavily. My peaceful life has definitely come to an end. I still need to figure out if that’s a good or bad thing.
Sunday we spend in the garden getting to know each other better. My parents, Aron, and Minhyun are talking about my father’s life in Canada. I don’t really listen because my attention is focused elsewhere. JR is standing in the middle of the lawn and is practicing his boxing. I’m watching him with amazement. He looks somewhat graceful while punching the air with his fists and avoiding punches from an invisible opponent. His eyes are sharp and his movements fast.
I get up and walk over to him. He turns around and throws a punch my way. I close my eyes and expect his fist to collide with my face. But when that doesn’t happen I slowly open my eyes and see his fist just a few inches from my face.
“What do you want?” JR asks with a cold voice as he relaxes his hand and lowers it. I swallow and ask if he needs any help. “Help with what?” he asks and picks up the towel which lies in the grass by his feet. “Practice,” I say and he raises an eyebrow. “Do you want to be my punching bag?” he asks sarcastically and wipes his face with the towel. “Not exactly,” I say and run a hand through my hair, “I can get a pillow and hold it while you punch it.”
JR looks at me with a piercing gaze. “No need. I’m done anyway,” he says and is about to leave. I step in front of him and he stops. “Can I get you some water?” I ask and he squints while looking at me. “No,” he says with a cold voice and throws the towel at me, “just leave me alone.”
He walks past me and I watch him as he disappears inside the house. I tried to be friendly but that didn’t work out so well. It looks like the whole “getting along” thing could be a problem.
The next morning I’m the first one up. I go to the bathroom to wash up and I make sure to lock the door. I don’t want any unpleasant surprises like the one I got yesterday. When I’m done I unlock the door and open it. Outside Minhyun is leaning against the wall next to the door. He turns his head and smiles at me.
“Morning,” he says and I smile back. “Morning.”
I step aside and he enters the bathroom. I’m about to go back to my room when Minhyun says my name. I stop and look at him over my shoulder.
“Do you have plans after school today?” he asks and I shake my head. His smile widens and he asks if I want to come see him practice. My jaw drops. I turn around and face him.
“You want me to come see you play basketball after school?” I ask and he nods. What I used to look at in secret from my classroom he now asks me to come see up close. Without realizing it I smile and say that I will come. Then I hurry back to my room because I suddenly feel shy. I press my lips together because I just can’t stop smiling. But then I remember something. Not just anyone can be around Minhyun in school. He is the Minhyun which means that a lot of eyes are on him. And those eyes belong to girls that would give anything for Minhyun to fall in love with them. If I’m by his side they will hate me. Or worse they will kill me. They shoot first and ask questions later. I won’t get a chance to explain and I don’t even know how to explain. And if that wasn’t complicated enough, my mother asked me to walk to school with the boys because they don’t know the way. But if I arrive at school with them people will wonder. Why would a nobody like me be around the three most popular boys in school? The only explanation would be that I just follow them around and I don’t want to be known as a stalker. But I can’t tell anyone that they live at my house either. No matter what I do I’m convinced that I won’t make it through the day in one piece.
A couple of minutes later we are all gathered around the table eating breakfast. I get more and more anxious with each passing minute. I try to figure out how I can stay out of trouble at school and still watch Minhyun practice. It’s hard and I haven’t come up with anything yet.
“You look troubled.”
I raise my head at the sound of Minhyun’s voice. He looks at me with a concerned look. I force a smile and say that it’s nothing. He obviously doesn’t believe me but he chooses not to ask more. When I’m done eating I get up and the boys do the same. We all put our shoes on and take our bags.
“We’re leaving,” I tell my mom and she says bye.
We are walking down the street and I’m leading the way. Minhyun and Aron talk in the back while JR walks right behind me. I can almost feel his presence and I want to talk to him. But just as I’m about to turn around Minhyun runs up to me and walks by my side.
“You still want to come after school right?” he says and I bite my lip. “Well..” I say and look away. “Why, what is it?” he asks and I sigh. “Well honestly I’m afraid of what people will say,” I mumble and look at him, “you know when they see us together.”
He looks confused and I wonder if he doesn’t know just how popular he is. “A lot of girls will probably get mad and people will wonder what I’m doing by your side,” I say and Minhyun realizes what I’m trying to say. “Don’t worry I got your back,” he says and smiles. “I don’t think we should be seen together. People will ask questions,” I say and Minhyun snorts. “Let them. If they don’t have anything better to do than talk about us then it’s their problem not mine,” he says and I stare at him. “What?” he says and I shake my head lightly. “I’ve just never seen you like this. You’re always so.. well nice. This is new.”
He laughs and scratches the back of his neck. “Yeah. I guess everyone can have a bad day,” he says and I raise an eyebrow. “Is today a bad day?” I ask and he smiles at me. “Not if you promise to come see me practice.”
I chuckle and for some reason I suddenly don’t care what other people think when they see us together. Minhyun is treating me really well and I don’t want to let him down.
“Fine. I promise,” I say and can’t help but smile. Just as I made my promise we reach school. As soon as the boys step onto school ground they make a lot of heads turn. A lot of girls wait for them every morning and they smile as soon as they see them. But then they realize I’m there and their smiles stiffen.
“I’m so dead,” I say in a subdued voice as we pass by them. “Relax I won’t let them hurt you,” Minhyun says and I’m surprised he heard me. Suddenly Aron is by my side and he puts his arm around my shoulder. “Yeah don’t worry Heejin I got your back too,” he says and I frown while looking at him. “Sure,” I say as I remove his arm as if it’s something very disgusting. I don’t know if I will ever get used to his constant flirting. Even though I know he’s not serious it still makes me uncomfortable.
We step into the school and walk towards the hallway where our classrooms are. Suddenly two boys step out in front of us and I immediately recognize them.
“Who’s that?” Ren asks as he looks at me with an indifferent gaze. “It’s Jung Heejin. The girl whose family we moved..”
I put my hand over Minhyun’s mouth and stop him midsentence. “Don’t say that here! People could hear you,” I whisper and Minhyun looks at me with apologetic eyes. I remove my hand and he says sorry. Suddenly Ren steps forward and grabs my chin with two fingers. He turns my head from side to side and studies my face from every possible angle. Then he lets go and squints.
“I don’t like her,” he says and the boys all sigh, “she’s pretty and I’m convinced she will try and seduce all three of you.”
“Relax princess,” Aron says and puts his arm around Ren’s waist, “you sound like a jealous girlfriend.”
Ren turns his head away and looks offended. “Bear with him he is actually really nice when he wants to be,” Minhyun says and Ren snorts before he frees himself from Aron and walks away. I must look really confused and with good reason. I don’t understand anything.
“Ren thinks that a girl is someday gonna come between us and ruin our friendship,” Aron says and looks in the direction Ren disappeared, “so he doesn’t like when we are close with pretty girls.”
He turns his head, looks at me and smirks. “He feels threatened by you and is afraid you’re going to tear us apart.”
“That’s not my intention at all!” I say and Aron nods. “You just need to convince him. Then he will like you,” he says before he turns around and leaves. In the meantime Baekho and JR have disappeared too. It’s just me and Minhyun left and I look up at him. He meets my gaze and smiles reassuring.
“It’s gonna be fine. Trust me,” he says and starts walking. When I don’t follow him he stops and looks at me over his shoulder. “You coming?” he asks and I hesitate for a while before I follow him.