When we finally reach home I help JR get to the couch and then I get an icepack from the kitchen. I walk back to the living room and want to give the icepack to JR. But he hasn’t seen me and is examining his ankle.
“Jonghyun-ah,” I say to get his attention and he freezes. I tilt my head a bit and ask if something’s wrong. He slowly turns his head and looks at me. “What?” I ask and he hesitates for a while. “It’s not very often I’m called by my real name anymore,” he says in a subdued voice and I smile. “I like your name. Jonghyun,” I say and JR looks away. “Thanks.. I guess.”
I throw the icepack down in his lap and he looks surprised. “What is that for?” he asks and I walk to the kitchen. “For your injury,” I say and find a cloth that I bring back to JR. “It’s fine, I don’t need that,” JR says and I roll my eyes. “If you really care about boxing and want to get back to it as fast as possible I suggest you shut up and let me do this.”
I sit down next to him on the couch and pick up the icepack. I wrap it in the cloth and then look at JR.
“Give me your foot,” I say and JR shakes his head. I raise an eyebrow and look at him with a pending gaze. After a couple of seconds JR raises his leg and puts his foot in my lap. I smile and examine his ankle.
“I don’t think it’s serious but you have to be careful the next couple of days,” I say and put the icepack on his ankle. JR jerks and tries to pull away.
“It’s cold!” he says and I chuckle. “What did you expect?” I ask and JR calms down. I look at him but he just looks at his foot. “How did it happen?” I ask and he shrugs. “Practice,” he replies and I nod. At least it wasn’t because of a fight. “Then you won’t be able to practice for a while,” I say and JR shrugs again. “Looks like it,” he says and I look down. I remember what Minhyun told me about JR not participating in boxing competitions. Once again I can’t control my curiosity. I want to know why.
“Jonghyun-ah,” I say and JR is startled again by the sound of his real name, “why don’t you participate in boxing tournaments?”
“Because I don’t want to,” he says and I look at his face. He doesn’t meet my gaze. “Is it really just as simple as that?”
He lifts his head and look into my eyes without blinking. “Yeah, it is,” he says and I’m convinced. But I wonder why he is like that. He doesn’t even want a coach and I wonder how he learned boxing. You don’t get as good as JR by coincidence.
“How did you learn anyway? Boxing I mean,” I ask because I want to know. I always want to know about JR because he seems interesting. He is mysterious and I don’t know much about him. But I want to. It’s just not always easy to get things out of him. Luckily he is willing to answer this question.
“I taught myself everything I know,” he says and I raise an eyebrow, “I watched movies and videos about boxing and read textbooks about it and learned like that.”
My eyes widen and I’m amazed. “No one ever taught you?” I ask and he shakes his head, “I’m impressed.”
He doesn’t seem affected or touched by my compliment. “Why don’t you want a coach anyway? Don’t you think you could get even better if you learned from someone?” I ask and something in JR’s eyes change. They turn cold.
“Why do you have so many questions?” he asks indifferently and the old JR is back. Once again he has shut me out and refuses to let me get too close. It is as if he is afraid of me getting to know about him.
“I’m just curious,” I say and he looks away. “You always ask so many questions and just expect me to answer. You act like we’re close and you want to know about me,” he says and frowns, “did it ever occur to you that I don’t want to be close with you? That I’m not interested in you. That nothing about you has anything to do with me.”
I don’t answer and just gaze at him. He turns his head and glance at me. He looks surprised that not even my facial expression has changed after all he said.
“Why aren’t you offended?” he asks and I shrug. “Well it’s not like you can hurt me more than you already have. Besides it’s nothing I haven’t heard before,” I say and JR raises an eyebrow, “I heard what you said to Minhyun. About me being unimportant and that you don’t care about me at all.”
JR looks unaffected when hearing that fact. “I didn’t know you were the type to eavesdrop. I’m disappointed,” he says and I roll my eyes. “Yeah yeah I know, I learned my lesson.”
I remove the icepack and look at his foot. “I think that’s enough for now,” I say and gently pushes his foot aside. I get up and put the icepack back in the fridge. On my way back to the living room I take the first aid kit. I sit down on the couch again and find the bandage. I start dressing JR’s sprained ankle and I’m surprised that he doesn’t resist at all.
When I’m done I look at him and smile.
“Now you’re free to go,” I say and he looks at me for a short while and then gets up. “I won’t apologize for what I said,” he says without looking at me, “but because you did this for me I will try and treat you a little better.”
Then he walks towards the stairs and I can’t help but smile. I guess it’s his way of showing his gratitude. And because I don’t want to hurt his pride I just let him go without saying anything. The important thing is that he is grateful. Then I don’t care how he shows it.
The guys have been staying for over a month now and it already feels like they have been here forever. By now it just wouldn’t be the same without them. Minhyun’s cute nagging, the sound of JR practicing boxing and even Aron’s flirting. It kind of grows on you. I guess you can get used to anything. Without them the house would just be quiet and boring. The boys spread warmth and laughter. At the moment I don’t want to be without them. They have become like family.
Even JR is starting to accept me. I’m always the one to approach him and at first he pushed me away. He said anything that could hurt my feelings so that I would leave. I have been mad at him so many times that I have stopped counting. I often feel like hitting him or curse at him. Sometimes I actually do and that surprised him the first time. But the reason why I get mad is not because of what he says. It’s the fact that he won’t let me in. So I have been persistent and now he doesn’t resist my presence as much anymore. He even lets me watch him when he practices after school in the gym.
On Thursdays he always stays after school and practice. Today is no different. JR’s last period ends an hour earlier than mine so I rush down to the gym as soon as the teacher says we can go. When I reach it I hear the familiar sound of shoes stepping on the gym floor. I open the door and enter. I can see JR in the corner and he is practicing his steps and punches. His foot is completely healed and it hasn’t been bothering him.
I sit down near him and watch. JR is always so graceful when he is boxing. His steps almost make him look like a dancer and his punches are precise and there is no sign of hesitation. No matter how many times I watch him box I’m fascinated every time. I don’t think I will ever get tired of it.
Suddenly he stops and takes a couple of deep breaths. I can see the sweat run down his face and for some weird reason I find it.. sexy?. His bangs are wet and stick to his skin. He bends a little over and shakes his head lightly. I look at him and feel a weird warmth in my chest. Why do I find him very attractive all of a sudden? I have always known that he is good-looking but this is different. Is it just because he is more attractive when he is boxing?
My thoughts are interrupted when I suddenly hear my name being called.
I look up and see that JR is watching me. “Can you pass me the towel?” he asks and I look around. I see the towel next to me and I throw it to him. He catches it and wipes his face with it.
“Have you been practicing for an hour?” I ask and he nods. “I have been skipping rope and practiced with the punching bag,” he says and is still out of breath from the training. “Are you going to stop for today?” I ask and he shrugs. Suddenly he looks like he got an idea and he looks at me with a mischievous glimpse in his eyes.
“What?” I ask and fear what he has come up with. “Do you wanna try?” he asks and I look at him confused, “boxing. Do you wanna try?”
My eyes widen and I shake my head hectically. “I’m gonna pass,” I say and he raises an eyebrow. “Are you afraid?”
“Yes I am,” I say and don’t even feel embarrassed by it. But I will feel embarrassed if I show him my nonexistent boxing skills. He snorts and throws the towel over his shoulder.
“Come on just one punch,” he says and I shake my head again,” come on. I promise I’ll behave.”
I bite my lip and hesitate for a while. Then I get up and ask what to do. JR raises his hands and asks me to punch with my right hand. I also raise my hands and clench my fists. I take a deep breath and then punch his left hand with my right fist. But he surprises me by grapping it. I try and get it free but he won’t let go. Then I pull really hard and in that same moment he lets go. I lose my balance and fall to the ground.
“You said you would behave,” I say reproachful and he shrugs. “I lied,” he says and I glare at him. “Yah sekiya you better help me up,” I say and he bends over to look closer at me. “I don’t think so,” he says and then turns around to walk away. “Yah Kim Jonghyun!” I shout but he just keeps walking. I get up by myself and clench my fist by the sight of his back. “I hate you!” I shout but he just waves over his shoulder, “ssagaji.”
I run and quickly catch up with him. “Why did you do that?” I ask and he shrugs. “I kinda like you when you’re mad,” he says and turns his head to look at me. My eyes widen and I try to figure out what he means. But he doesn’t say anymore and I choose not to ask. Maybe I won’t like the answer.
The next day I sit in class and don’t really pay attention to the teacher. I’m still thinking about what JR said yesterday. I know it doesn’t really mean anything so I wonder why it’s bothering me so much. It’s not like he confessed to me or anything like that but still I can’t figure out why he would say that. It’s not like him. He teases me often but never like that. He has never said anything like that to me before so I wonder if anything changed. If he changed.
I turn my head and look out the window. I’m surprised to see JR come out from the school. He is walking towards the alley with containers where the school kitchen always throws out their trash. I have a bad feeling about this. I turn my head to look at the teacher and raise my hand. I ask for permission to see the school nurse and my teacher just nods. I hurry out of the classroom and as soon as I’m out in the hallway I start running. I run as fast as I can all the way out of the school and towards the alley where JR was heading. I slow down as I get closer and I can hear voices. I recognize one of the voices and feel terrified when I realize it belongs to a teacher. I know JR is there which means he could be in serious trouble. I can hear the teacher scold JR because he was fighting and I bite my lip. JR got a warning because of fighting a week ago and this time he could get expelled.
“If you have a good explanation for why you were fighting I’ll let you go,” the teacher says and suddenly an idea pops up in my head. I step forward and the teacher looks surprised.
“Heejin. What are you doing here?” he asks and I hesitate. I see a boy standing next to the teacher and I recognize him as a student from third year. I think he is in Aron’s class. In front of them is JR and he still has his back turned to me. I assume that JR was fighting the other boy and I know what to say to get him out of this.
“Jonghyun protected me,” I say and point at the other boy, “he tried to assault me and if Jonghyun hadn’t helped me I don’t know what would have happened.”
The teacher looks at the other boy that suddenly looks very frightened and confused at the same time. “I don’t know what she is talking about,” he says and the teacher raises an eyebrow. “That’s what they all say,” he says and then looks at JR, “I’ll let you go this time but don’t let me catch you fighting again. Next time just protect her with words instead of fists.”
Then the teacher leaves while dragging the other student behind him. I let out a sign of relief and look at JR. He still has his back turned and I walk up in front of him to see his face. My eyes widen when I see that he is bleeding from the corner of his mouth.
“Are you okay?” I ask and reach out to touch his face. He grabs my wrist but still with his eyes looking at the ground.
“You didn’t have to,” he whispers and I almost can’t hear his voice. “But I wanted to,” I say and try to touch his face again. JR tightens his grip around my wrist, lifts his head and looks at me. I’m taken aback by the fire that is burning in his eyes.
“I don’t need help from a girl! I had everything under control!” he growls and I frown. “I just wanted to help..” I say and don’t understand why he is so mad. I’m not surprised that he doesn’t exactly thank me or anything like that. But I didn’t expect him to get so mad.
“Well next time, don’t,” he says and lets go of my wrist before he bumps his shoulder hard and aggressively into mine as he walks past me. I turn to watch him as he walks away. What he said the other day definitely doesn’t mean that he is interested in me. Quite the opposite actually. No matter what I do I always end up pissing him off. It’s as if my mere existence pisses him off. He hates me. He must really hate me.