I follow JR and expect him to go back to class. But instead he heads home and I hurry after him.
“Are you just going to leave?” I ask and he ignores me, “what about school?”
“Like I care,” he says and I frown. “You can get expelled,” I say and he snorts. “So?” he says and looks at me, “then I can just start at a new school. Closer to my house so I can move out of yours.”
I grab his arm and make him stop. I glare at him but it doesn’t seem to affect him very much. “Look JR I know that you dislike me and that’s fine. But don’t ever say anything like that. My parents took you in and treat you with respect and care. The least you could do is be grateful and stop acting like a spoiled brat.”
He looks at me for a few seconds and then he nods. “You’re right.”
He pulls his arm out of my grip and starts walking again. I quickly catch up with him.
“Is that it?” I ask. “What did you expect?”
“Oh I don’t know. An apology maybe,” I say and he looks at me out of the corner of his eye. “Then you don’t know me very well,” he says and at that moment we reach home. We walk inside and JR quickly walks upstairs. I follow him with me eyes and think about what to do next. I feel like I hate this guy. He really is a jerk and he never does anything nice for me. Or anyone else for that matter. So why is it that I still feel like helping him and care for him?
I sigh and then find the first aid kit. It’s already the second time I take care of JR because of an injury. I walk to his room and find the door open. He is sitting on his bed and doesn’t look up when I step inside. I sit down next to him and ask him to look at me. He doesn’t move and I put my hand on his shoulder.
“JR let me take care of your injury,” I say and he turns his head slightly away from me. “You don’t have to,” he whispers. “But I want to.”
I gently grab his chin and turn his face towards me. He is still not meeting my eyes as he talks.
“Why are you nice to me?” he asks and I remove my hand. “Because I’m your friend,” I say and JR snorts. “I don’t want you to be my friend,” he says and I nod. “I get that. And if you want to hate me then fine do so. It just won’t keep me away from you.”
JR is silent for a couple of seconds before he talks again. “I don’t hate you. Not really.”
Now it’s my turn to look away. I’m glad that he at least doesn’t hate me, but still I know that he doesn’t care either. He still ignores me and doesn’t want to help me when I need it. But I don’t really care about that. Like I said he can hate me. Because it’s something else about him that bothers me.
“Well I hate you,” I say and for the first time since I entered the room JR looks at me, “I hate that you won’t let me in. That you won’t let me care about you and help you.”
His eyes widen a bit and because I feel a little embarrassed I open the first aid kit and find the things I need. I carefully grab his jaw with one hand and start disinfecting the wound in the corner of his mouth. He grimaces but sits still. When it’s done I dress the wound and smile.
“Done,” I say and pack up the first aid kit, “be more careful next time.”
“You think there is going to be a next time?” JR asks and I nod. “I know there is,” I say and get up. I’m about to leave when JR talks. “Heejin-ah,” he says and I turn around to look at him. “I know what you want to say. And even though you would never really speak the words I understand. And you don’t have to say it,” I say and he looks away. “But I want to,” he says and hesitates for a long while. I choose to wait patiently because I actually want to hear him say it. At least just once. He takes a deep breath and looks me in the eye.
“Thank you, Heejin,” he mumbles and I can’t help but smile. “You’re welcome JR,” I say and tilt my head a bit, “that wasn’t so bad right?”
“It was torture,” he says and I chuckle. I could swear I saw him smile but he turns away before I can make sure.
“The atmosphere is getting way too friendly so please, get lost,” he says and I chuckle again. “Arasseo,” I say and walk to the door. I hesitate on the doorstep and call him ssagaji before leaving without looking at his reaction.
Saturday I get up early like usual. I expect everyone else in the house to still be asleep but when I enter the kitchen Minhyun is standing there.
“Morning,” he says and smiles when he sees me. I nod and look at what he is doing. Preparing breakfast apparently.
“Want some?” he asks and I nod. He gives me two bowls of rise and asks me to put them on the table. I do as he asks and sit down by the table. A few minutes later he comes in with a pot with some kind of soup in it. When he puts it down I smell it and smile. I’m normally picky with my food but this smells very nice. Minhyun sits down and pours some of the soup in a bowl and gives it to me. Then he pours some for himself and we start eating.
“Any plans for today?” I ask and he nods. “I think I’m gonna play some basketball,” he says and eat a spoonful of rice. There is a playground near the house where you can play basketball. There is a basketball hoop but for some reason it doesn’t have a net. That doesn’t stop Minhyun from using it though.
Minhyun looks at me and asks if I want to come. I nod and he smiles. As soon as we’re done eating we put away the dirty bowls and then head out with Minhyun’s basketball. The playground is only a five minute walk away and we reach it quickly. Minhyun starts warming up and I sit down on a bench next to the court. Suddenly Minhyun stops and turn to look at me.
“Do you want to learn?” he asks and points at the ball. I actually have wanted to learn for a while but never had the courage to ask. I’m afraid of making a fool out of myself. But Minhyun and I have gotten pretty close and I’m sure that he won’t make fun of me.
So I get up and nod. He smiles as I walk over and then hands me the ball. He explains the basic rules of basketball and how the point system works. Then he wants me to try and get the ball in the hoop. I throw and miss by far. Minhyun chuckles silently as he goes and gets the ball. When he comes back he gives the ball back to me again. Then he surprises me by getting behind me, reaching his arms around me and putting his hands over mine.
“Hold the ball like this,” he says and guides my hands to the right place. He then makes me raise my arms and explains how to throw. I can feel Minhyun standing very close to me. I can actually feel his heartbeat against my back. But I try to focus and throw like he explained. And I’m surprised when it actually goes in. I smile widely and expect Minhyun to let go of me now that I scored. But he doesn’t.
“Minhyun-ah?” I say and he shushes me. “Just a little longer,” he whispers and I bite my lip. I wonder what he is thinking. But I choose not to ask and just stand completely still. After a while he finally lets go and I turn around to look at him.
“What was that about?” I ask and he smiles secretively. “I’ll tell you some other day,” he says and walks over to pick up the ball. “What do you say about a match 1 on 1?” he asks and I roll my eyes. I decide to let him change the subject.
“As if I stand a chance against you,” I say and he shrugs. “I’ll give you an advantage,” he says and bounces the ball against the ground, “first one to reach 10 points wins. But you start with 7 points while I start from 0. Okay?”
“Call,” I say after having thought it through, “if I start with the ball.”
Minhyun smiles and throws the ball at me. “Whenever you’re ready.”
Five minutes later the match ends and I lost. I didn’t score a single point and didn’t touch the ball even once except for when the game began. But still I’m out of breath from chasing Minhyun all over the court trying to get the ball from him. Minhyun on the other hand isn’t tired at all. Quite the opposite actually he is full of energy.
I collapse on the court and struggle to catch my breath. Minhyun crouches down next to me with a big smile on his face.
“Cheer up you only lost with 3 points,” he says and I try to laugh but end up coughing instead. “But I didn’t score a single point,” I say and Minhyun shrugs. “That doesn’t matter. People only care about the end results,” he says and I slowly sit up. I look at him and say: “I thought the important part was the journey not the goal.”
Minhyun chuckles and helps me to my feet. “That’s true. Just not when it comes to sports,” he says and brushes dust and dirt off of my clothes. Then he suddenly realizes my shoelace is untied and he crouches down to fix it. I watch him as he ties them and I bite my lip.
“Mmh,” he mumbles without looking up. “Thank you,” I say and he freezes. He sits still for a couple of seconds before getting up.
“For what?” he says and looks at my face. “Everything,” I say and he raises an eyebrow, “for being nice to me and my parents. For spending time with me. For protecting me and standing up for me at school when someone is bothering me. For treating me like a friend. Well, just for everything.”
Minhyun looks at me for a while without saying anything. Then he suddenly reaches out and pulls me in for a hug. It feels nice being in his embrace. He kinda reminds me of my best friend Sehun. They are the same height and being hugged by Minhyun suddenly reminds me of Sehun and how much I miss him. I hope I will be able to see him again soon.
Minhyun lets go of me and looks really pleased for some reason. I can’t figure out why though.
“Let’s go home,” he says and picks up his basketball. I nod and while we head back to the house I can’t stop thinking about Sehun.