After school I walk down to the outdoors basketball court and wait for Minhyun. I have been waiting for about ten minutes when I suddenly feel a pair of warm hands cover my eyes and I’m startled.
“Guess who,” the person says with a distorted voice. I know who the voice belongs to but he sounds like a character that I know very well.
“Hmm let me think.. Optimus Prime?” I say and the person laughs. “I’m flattered but no,” he says and removes his hands. Minhyun appears in front of me in shorts and a tank top. I need a moment to catch my breath.
“How do you know about Optimus Prime?” Minhyun asks and I roll my eyes. “Transformers. Duh,” I answer and Minhyun laughs. He is just so beautiful. And yes I said beautiful. No other word can describe Minhyun better when he smiles and laughs. But when he is serious he gets this piercing gaze and that is just so sexy. He always has that look in his eyes when he is playing in a basketball match. I can’t even imagine how I would react if he looked at me with that deep stare. I would probably get a heart attack or something like that.
While I was lost in thoughts about Minhyun he has found a basketball and started warming up. I watch as he runs around on the court and practice dribbling and shoots the ball in the basket. He looks very elegant and athletic at the same time. Fluent movements that blend together because of the speed. I don’t even realize an hour has past when Minhyun sits down next to me on the bench. He wipes his sweat with a towel and looks at me.
“What do you think?” he asks still out of breath. I give him a thumps up. “Daebak. Minhyun jjang!” I say and he laughs. “Thanks. Will you come watch me play a match this weekend?” he says and I immediately say yes. He smiles and stands up.
“Well then let’s go home because I really need a shower,” he says and I nod. I get up and we start walking home.
When we’re about half way I see something up ahead. It looks like to guys and they seem to be fighting. Then suddenly I realize that one of them is JR. I start running and when I reach them I try to pull JR away from the other guy. I know he is a lot stronger than me but because I surprise him I manage to pull him back. I look at him and am relieved when I see he isn’t hurt anywhere.
“What are you doing?” he hisses and I say I’m doing him a favor. “Do you need a girl to protect you now Junior?” the other boy asks mockingly and JR grinds his teeth. He pushes me aside but I grab on to his arm.
“Don’t,” I say and for just a moment JR hesitates. Long enough for Minhyun to appear on his other side and that stops him. The other guy doesn’t seem to want to continue the fight either.
“We have too many spectators now so I think we have to finish this some other time. I hope to see you again soon Junior,” he says as he turns around and leaves. As soon as the guy is out of sight JR looks down at my hand still holding his arm. I immediately let go and apologize.
“Next time stay out of my fights,” he says and it almost sounds like a threat. JR is about to leave but I won’t let him. “Why can’t you just fight with words?” I ask and he stops. He turns around and looks at me. “If you haven’t noticed I’m not very good with words,” he says sarcastically but his sarcasm doesn’t have any effect on me. “I have noticed. But that doesn’t justify you getting into a fight,” I say and he rolls his eyes. “Whatever,” he says and leaves. This time I don’t stop him. Instead I turn to look at Minhyun. “Who was that guy JR was fighting?” I ask and Minhyun looks at me. “Our school has some kind of rivalry with another school. We compete in every sport and the winner always makes fun of the loser. That guy is a boxer from that school and he wants to fight JR and beat him because he knows how good JR is,” Minhyun says and I tilt my head a bit. “Then what is the problem?”
Minhyun turns his head and looks in the direction where JR disappeared. “JR doesn’t compete.”
I raise an eyebrow. “Not at all?” I ask and Minhyun shakes his head. “No. He refuses to compete and just practices by himself. He has never hit someone because of boxing.”
I snort and find that fact kind of funny. “He just hits for every other reason,” I mumble and Minhyun chuckles silently. “You could say that,” he says and then he sighs, “but to him boxing is everything and because he is like he is, he wants it to himself. Boxing isn’t a team sport where you have to rely on others. He doesn’t even want an opponent or a coach. Just him and a punching bag is enough for him.”
I don’t have a hard time imagining that. JR seems like someone who doesn’t need anyone. Just him against the world.
“But that guy won’t accept that?” I ask and Minhyun shakes his head. “No. He is always provoking JR. He says that JR can’t fight in a competition because he can only play dirty. They often get into a fight and JR always wins. But that’s not enough. He wants to compete with JR in the ring and he will do whatever it takes to make it happen.”
So one of the reasons why JR often gets into fights is because of that guy. I feel a rush of anger towards him. JR already has a hard time staying out of trouble and he doesn’t need someone to provoke him.
I turn to look at Minhyun and I can see that he is getting a bit impatient. I smile and say let’s go home. He nods and we start walking.
As soon as I step inside the house I hear the sound of a piano. I immediately think that it’s JR. I kick my shoes off and rush to the room where our piano is. The door isn’t closed and I look inside. Just as I thought JR is sitting by the piano and is playing. I lean against the doorframe and watch him carefully. I think he hasn’t noticed me because he just keeps playing. I smile wryly and tilt my head a bit. I kind of like him when he is like this. There is warmth in his eyes instead of that constant cold stare. He seems more relaxed and carefree. I wish he could be like this all the time. And it would be a shame to disturb him now because I know he will freak out as soon as he sees my face. So I silently back away and leave without him knowing I have ever been there.
My high school life has completely changed since the boys moved in. I used to sit by myself at lunch but now all five of them keep me company. Even though Ren still dislikes me at least he only glares at me. While the girls on the other hand are a lot worse. I have found my bag in the trash can three times this week. They have poured water all over my books and they have written nasty and mean things on my desk. I haven’t told the boys about this. Especially Minhyun would feel bad and think that it’s his fault. And they haven’t done anything yet that I haven’t been able to handle. So for now I will keep this to myself and don’t let my parents or the boys know.
At home it has been a lot different too. Since my older brothers left it has been very quiet. But now it’s very noisy which my parents enjoy. Minhyun often plays the piano and the beautiful music fills up the entire house. Aron often plays video games in the living room and he competes with whoever dares to challenge him. I have tried several times but lost every single one. Another sound that you often hear in the house is the sound of someone jumping rope and someone hitting a punching bag. Wednesday afternoon JR got his punching bag that he had at home brought over. It’s now hanging from the ceiling in his room and he uses it frequently.
Another thing that changed after the boys arrived is that I get my homework done on time or even early. Aron offered to help me and even though he flirts with me I still accept his help. Because I really need it. I have warned him about not getting too close and he actually respects that and he hasn’t touched me inappropriately. I have actually started to care about him now. I see him as my friend and I’m sure he feels the same way about me. I have started to enjoy my new life with these boys. And apparently they like being around me too. Especially Minhyun wants me around. Which is why he invited me to his basketball match that he is playing today.
When I enter the gym I see that a lot of people are already gathered in the spectator seats. I look around and I spot Aron in the crowd. He waves and I run to him. JR, Ren and Baekho are there too. I sit on the empty seat next to JR. He doesn’t even look at me but I have already gotten used to his indifferent personality. I don’t even feel offended anymore.
On the row behind me I hear some girls giggle. They are talking about JR and I hear one of them say that his cheekbones are to die for. I turn my head and look at JR. He looks at me out of the corner of his eye.
“What?” he says and it’s obvious that he is irritated because of my staring. “I’m evaluating your cheekbones,” I say and he raises an eyebrow. “If you say so,” he says and looks at the court just as the players enter. I also look at the players and quickly find Minhyun. He gathers with his team and then start warming up. I lean over JR and whisper to Aron: “I have no idea how basketball works. I don’t know the rules.”
“It doesn’t matter. Just cheer when we do and sit quietly the rest of the time,” he whispers back and I nod. “Got it.”
I lean back in my seat and wait patiently for the match to begin. When it does I try to understand what’s happening but I only understand one thing. And that’s when a team scores. I cheer when the guys cheer and the rest of the time I just focus quietly on the match. But it’s hard to stay calm because according to the scoreboard our team is losing.
During the halftime Minhyun suddenly leaves his team and runs over to where the guys and I are sitting. We are sitting next to the stairs and when he reaches us he is out of breath and he is sweating but still with that characteristic smile on his lips.
“Heejin do you have a handkerchief?” he asks and I raise an eyebrow. “Yeah I do. Why?”
“Can I have it?” he asks and I hesitate for a while before I pull it out from my pocket. I hand it to him and he asks me to tie it around his wrist. I do as he asks even though I don’t understand a thing. When I have tightened the knot he smiles. He raises his hand up next to his face and points at the handkerchief.
“For good luck,” he says and then runs back to his team. “Interesting,” I hear Aron mumble to himself. I choose to ignore him and watch Minhyun as soon as the halftime ends.
As the game continues on our team is still a few points behind. We’re losing. When there’s only one minute left Minhyun is knocked over by a player from the other team. The referee calls a foul or something like that. In any case Minhyun gets a free throw. Aron tells me that if Minhyun scores it only gives the team one point. Which means we will still be short of two points.
Minhyun bounces the ball a few times and then looks at the basket. He has the ball in the left hand and his right hand he puts on the left side of his chest. Probably right above his heart. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. Then he opens them again and raises the ball up in front of his face. With a very elegant flip with his wrist he shoots the ball and it goes in. The game is back on and so is the clock. The other team has the ball and if they score we won’t have a chance of winning. Thirty seconds left. The other team shoots but one of our players grabs the ball before it goes in. Twenty seconds left. He starts running down the court with the ball and then plays it to Minhyun. Ten seconds left. Minhyun tries to get past the other team players and I can see time running out. But just then Minhyun gets free from the other team and shoots. While the ball is in the air the clock announce that time has run out. Everyone holds their breath while the ball is heading for the basket. If it goes in we win with one point. The ball hits the basket and bounces once before it goes in. Everyone from our school jump up from their seats and cheer loudly. Minhyun’s teammates run to him and they celebrate together with their coach. I hear people call what Minhyun did a buzzer beat. I’ll have to ask him the details about that later. Suddenly he turns around and meets my gaze. He smiles and points to my handkerchief around his wrist. Is he trying to say that he succeeded because of that? No way. He then waves and I shyly wave back. People have started to leave the spectator seats to either congratulate the team or go home. I look at the boys and I’m guessing they want to celebrate with Minhyun. But I would actually just prefer to go home. So I pull Aron’s sleeve and he turns to look at me.
“I’m gonna leave,” I say and he looks disappointed. “You sure?” he says and I nod, “okay. See you at home.”
I let go of his shirt and follow the stream of people on their way out. When I’m finally outside I take a deep breath of fresh air.
“That was about time,” I hear a voice say behind me. I turn around and see a little group of girls. I recognize them as “fans” of Minhyun. They always look at me as if they want to kill me. And now that they are approaching me it can only mean one thing. I’m in so much trouble.