It had been a few weeks since he had given a lecture to both Jieun and Minah. He was sure that he was hated by them since they wouldn't come to the store. Even the guys didn't come, but Jiyong thought that Jiho was dragging them along to cram school or some other kind of event.
Eventually, the place resumed to being a drama-free zone for Jiyong, and for some reason, he was contented with that. It wasn't like he wanted some kids to be involved in his life. After all, his goal was to remain quiet and have a low profile.
"Oh, I almost forgot." The manager finally made eye-contact with his employee. "My youngest son recently took part of this give-away online and won four tickets to the movie theaters. He doesn't go out to watch movies, and I don't watch a lot of them myself. Here, take these."
The manager handed Jiyong four movie tickets. Jiyong stared at them, hesitating to take them.
"I don't really have anyone else to go with, sir. I'd rather not take them," Jiyong said.
"Nonsense! A good-looking guy like you should have tons of people to go with! Plus, it's only watching a movie. Who knows, maybe you can pick up some girls and find yourself a wife or something. After all, that's how I met my wife…" The manager's face fell into a solemn expression. "But then later we got into a fight and things tumbled down from there…"
"I'm sorry to here that, sir," Jiyong said, unsure of what else to say. "Anyway, I really can't take these. I have no one else to go with."
"Then give it to someone else. My friends are too busy to watch movies, and my son doesn't want them. Take it," the manager encouraged, shoving the tickets into Jiyong's hand.
Eventually, Jiyong accepted the tickets and thought about who he should give the tickets too. The easiest choice would've been giving the delinquents the tickets, but they didn't seem to be the movie-goers. Rather, he was afraid that they might go watch a sad movie and purposely make strange noises just to annoy the audience.
Let's see, he thought, who's a good choice to give these tickets to?
* * *
"Who's that man?"
"He looks really cool!"
"Is that guy a ?"
Jiyong awkwardly waiting outside the front gates of the school. He glanced at his watch, which read past five in the afternoon. He planned to give Jieun, Minah, or Jiho the tickets when he saw them, but then after thinking a while back, he realized that he wouldn't be seeing them at all for quite some time. So, he got the strange idea to take his break and walk up to the school, waiting for either three to come to the gates.
As I thought, Jiyong said in his head, glancing at the high school students who gave him funny looks, it's weird for someone like me to wait like this.
He pulled his scarf up to his nose, covering himself from the cold. He dug his hands deeper into his pocket, trying to warm them up as much as possible. He wished that he had brought some kind of hot pack, but he had thought that he wouldn't be waiting too long. He stomped his feet against the snow, moving around while earning more stares from the students.
Jiyong looked up and raised his eyebrows when he saw Chanyeol and his friends. He looked behind Chanyeol's shoulders, and saw Jieun hiding behind him, her face covered with her long hair. Minah stood somewhere behind the group, and she was obviously hiding from Jiyong. The girls wouldn't look at him, mentally telling him to go away.
Instead of going away, Jiyong looked away from their stares. He looked past the group, trying to find Jiho or any of his friends. Right now, his main priority was getting rid of the tickets. He didn't care about who had them anymore. He just didn't want to stay at the school longer. For some reason, even though he had never attended this school, it made him feel sick inside.
Chanyeol seemed to have realized that Jiyong meant no harm. He slowly began to walk past him, and his friends followed. Jieun scurried close to Chanyeol, unsure of what to do in her situation. Minah followed, trying to avoid Jiyong so that she didn't have to talk to him.
"King Kwon!" Three voices echoed in Jiyong's ears as he saw Wooshik, Changshik, and Kyungsoo approached him with upmost glee.
Jiyong smiled at them, reaching into his pocket to quickly deliver the tickets. "Hey guys. I haven't seen you in a while."
"King Kwon, we would've visited, but then Jiho was being annoying and didn't want us to hang out at the store," Kyungsoo said.
"Cram school sucks! It's cramped and people just study," Wooshik whined.
"But King Kwon, why are you here?" Changshik asked. "Boss is doing good, if you were wondering."
"I'm here just to give these to you guys," Jiyong said. He handed them the tickets. "Go and have fun."
Changshik took the tickets with glee, but his facial expression fell. He frowned, and returned to tickets with his shoulders sinking. The other two glanced at the ticket, but when they realized why Changshik was handing them back, they also pouted.
"We're sorry, King Kwon, but we can't take this," he said. "The some of the first-years have electives and are going on a trip, and we don't have time to watch a movie until the ticket's expiration date."
"Well, then give it to Jiho. He's still in his first-year, right? You told me that he had to repeat," Jiyong said.
"Jiho already left. I'm sure that he's going to the convenience store right now. He said that he had to buy something there," Kyungsoo informed him.
So I came all the way here for nothing? Jiyong thought, slightly irritated. He shivered in the cold, and took the tickets. "Okay, thanks. Have fun on your winter trip!"
"Goodbye, King Kwon!" the three delinquents said in unison, earning some more strange looks from their fellow peers. Jiyong chuckled at them, then quickly walked away after he waved. He jogged back to the store, hoping to catch Jiho in the time.
However, as he made his way back to work, he ran into Chanyeol's little gang. The group was rather large, and they took up the entire street. In order to get pass them, Jiyong would need to squeeze in between them or ask them to give him some room to go. He slowed down his pace, eventually walking with a few feet spaced between him and the group. It wasn't like he was lazy or he was afraid of asking. It was more like there were people he knew in that group, and he didn't want to bother them. After all, they didn't want to deal with him, either.
Jiyong pulled out the four tickets while he continued to walk behind the group. A thought suddenly crossed Jiyong's mind: If he gave the tickets to Jiho and his friends couldn't go, then who would Jiho go with?
Did Jiho have other friends? Jiyong wondered. He recalled the event where he had to threaten Chanyeol to stay away from Jiho. Then, he concluded that the poor teen had to other friends, and was a hopeless case just like Jieun and Minah.
"Are you a stalker or what?" a voice behind him asked. Jiyong turned around, and was delighted to see Jiho standing behind him. Despite the rude look Jiho gave to Jiyong, Jiyong was perfectly happy to see Jiho. "What? Stop smiling, old man."
"I was just thinking about you!" Jiyong exclaimed.
"Ew. Gross," Jiho muttered, walking.
"I wasn't saying it like that. I was… Never mind. Anyway, I have something to give you," Jiyong said, showing Jiho the tickets. "I was going to give it to the other guys, but they have a school trip and you're the only one I have left to give this away."
"Four tickets? I can't go alone with four tickets," Jiho said, implying that he had no one else to go to the theaters with.
Jiyong stared at the tickets' date. "You know, I can get a day off on this date. Why don't you go with me?"
"With you? Why would I go with you?" Jiho asked.
"You're naturally embarrassing to be around with," Jiho tried to explain.
"Well, that wasn't very nice."
"Was it supposed to be?"
Jiyong kept quiet and frowned as he followed Jiho, who walked behind Chanyeol's large group. He noticed that Jiho wanted to get through them, but no words would come out whenever he tried to open his mouth. Seeing this, Jiyong could only smirk.
"You really are the same as me," Jiyong muttered to himself.
"I didn't hear you," Jiho responded, annoyed.
"Anyway, forget about not going to the movies. Go with me."
"Then we have two tickets left over."
"Well…" Jiyong cleared his throat, raising his voice so that the group in front of them could hear him. "I was thinking of inviting an employee from work! Oh, wait, I think I see her now! Hopefully she notices me, or I'll have to shout to her in an embarrassing manner!"
Jiyong noticed Minah flinch. He took a deep breath, ready to call Minah's name. However, she clearly took action, stopping her group when she called Chanyeol's name.
"What's up?" Chanyeol asked.
"I-I got to go this way," Minah said. "There's something that I need to do."
"What? We'll go with you—"
"No, no, no!" Minah exclaimed, pushing him gently away from Jiyong and Jiho. "You guys go first! We see each other tomorrow, anyway. Plus, your girlfriend is right here. I'm pretty sure that you want some of that couple moment, right?"
Chanyeol stared at her, then shrugged his shoulders. "Sure, whatever. It's not like we needed you anyway. Come on, guys! Jieun, stay close."
Minah stood still and faked a smile as she waved to her friends, who walked on ahead. When they turned to a corner, Minah whirled around and glared at Jiyong with hot cheeks. She gritted her pearly white teeth, crossing her arms.
"Was that really necessary?" Minah asked.
"Yes, yes it was. Besides, you haven't been coming to work. The manger is planning to contact the police about it," Jiyong lied. He saw Minah's face pale. "Don't worry, I've been covering up for you. Anyway, in exchange, why don't you come and watch a movie with us?"
"Me. Oh, and Jiho. He has no one else to go with," Jiyong said.
Minah froze and cautiously glanced at Jiho, who looked away from her gaze. Her lips slightly trembled, but she wasn't afraid. In fact, it seemed as if she was more troubled and sad when she saw Jiho. She looked away from both boys and cleared her throat, pondering on Jiyong's offer.
It didn't take long for Jiyong to realize that Jiho and Minah had something going on together. At first, he was sure that Minah was just afraid of Jiho for being a delinquent or stranger, but as he continued to examine her actions, she seemed to be longing for something, or in this case, longing for him. He wondered if Minah liked Jiho, but he confirmed in his head that she didn't when she said that she wanted to date Chanyeol last night.
"No, it's okay," Minah said. "I don't want to go. Movies aren't my style."
"I insist. I told you, you owe me," Jiyong replied.
Jiho continued to keep quiet. He averted his attention to something else like the sky and ground, looking like he was more fascinating with the objects above or below him rather than the person standing in front of him. This seemed to have intimidated Minah since she awkwardly bit her bottom lip and struggled to avoid looking at Jiho and only stare at Jiyong's clueless expression.
"I have plans on that day," Minah said.
"What day? I haven't even mentioned when we're going," Jiyong pointed out.
"I-I…" Minah became flustered. Her fingers tightly wrapped themselves around the straps of her backpack. "I just don't want to go! I hate staring at a big screen and watching pictures move."
"You should just go," Jiho said, rubbing the back of his neck in annoyance. "Besides, I wasn't going to go anyway."
"I was going to invite Jieun, though," Jiyong mumbled, looking at the tickets. "I was hoping that it was going to be you, me, Minah, and Jieun…"
Jiho kept quiet for a few minutes. "Did you…ask her yet?"
Oh, Jiyong thought, raising his eyebrows in amusement. I used the right bait.
"W-Wait!" Minah managed to stutter. She looked away from the two boys. "I-If you really have no one else to invite, and if I'm really you're last resort, then I'll go." She nervously looked at Jiho. "That is, if it's alright with you…"
"Why would I care?" Jiho said a bit too coldly. The boys saw Minah's face fall into a small pout. "Anyway, is Jieun going or not?"
Hold up. Isn't this a perfect situation? Jiyong thought to himself. If I invite Jieun, then Jiho would come, making Minah join us. Then Jieun and Minah can get along, and maybe the bullying will stop!
"Well?" Jiho repeated. "Old man, I don't have time to stand here all day."
"Yes!" Jiyong said proudly. He made a mental note to himself to beg Jieun to join him on the event. "Yes, she is coming with us!"
* * *
When Saturday evening came, Jiyong almost regretted scheduling to meet at the theaters. The three teenagers were already gathered at the front of the entrance, wearing whatever fashionable clothes they could wear.
Jieun had an adorable white Lolita winter coat with black laces around the rim of the outfit. She had on a pair of white leggings, making her look like a tiny snowman. She covered up her feet with a pair of brown fur boots. A leather shoulder bag hung on her shoulder, completing her outfit. The only part of her body that wasn't attractive was her facial area, where she continued to cover her round face with her long, messy hair. From afar, Jiyong noticed that she was using concealer, as bruises that should've been on her face were covered with a messy touch of powder.
On the other hand, Minah went for a more classic approach. She wore a white, fluffy jacket over her black sweater. She wore a light brown skirt that barely reached her knees, but she covered up her bare legs with a pair of black stockings. What tried to come up to her knees were her leather boots, which had heels attached to them. From the way Minah nervously held onto her purse and stood still like a statue, it was clear that she was having trouble walking in them.
Jiho also fancied himself, dressing less like a delinquent and more like a proper boy. His navy blue trench coat almost hugged his grey-and-blue-striped polo shirt. Although he was wearing lots of blue (his blue jeans killed his fashion), he balanced the colors by wrapping his neck with a knitted gray scarf. His hands were deep into his pocket, and he clearly didn't want to talk to anyone who tried to approach him (except for Jieun).
Jiyong looked down at his casual clothes: he had a plain sweater in the inside and a typical ugly jacket on the outside. He didn't even have jeans on; they were a pair of sweatpants he found somewhere in his room. He had sneakers like Jiho, but his sneakers were just plain white sneakers, while Jiho's shoes were converse shoes.
"You guys sure know how to make a scene," was the first thing Jiyong told them when he approached them.
Minah looked up and down at Jiyong, then shuddered. "Ew! What's with your fashion taste?"
"It's called being casual," Jiyong said calmly. However, he was ashamed of what he was wearing, too. "Anyway, what movie are we watching?"
"Any. As long as I'm not sitting next to you, I'll be okay," Minah said, rolling her eyes towards the list of movie posters.
Jiyong slightly frowned. "Well, I'm sorry for not dressing myself up. I didn't think there was a reason for me to dress up. I mean, we're going to be sitting and watching movies for two hours. Might as well be comfy."
"Whatever. Anyway, if we can't find a movie, I'm good with watching horror."
"Horror? You guys can handle horror?" Jiyong asked.
"Rather than horror, can't we watch something else? Horror movies suck these days. I like action movies," Jiho said.
"Chicken," Minah muttered under her breath.
"Please, everyone knows that you want to watch horror 'cause you want to act like a boring old d—"
"Okay," Jiyong interrupted, stepping between the two. "Obviously, you guys don't get along. So, horror and ation movies are out." He turned to Jieun, seeking for some kind of answer from her. "Jieun, what do you think?"
"Me? I-I'm okay with whatever," Jieun said, avoiding eye-contact.
"Whatever? Okay, we'll watch a G-rated movie—"
"Heck no!" Jiho exclaimed, scowling. "I'm not going to watch some kid's show!"
"Me either!" Minah agreed.
"Well, Jieun said whatever, so I'm okay with picking a little cartoon. Besides, the tickets are in my possession," Jiyong pointed out.
"But those tickets are useless if they're not used," Jiho countered.
Minah nodded her head, her pony tail bouncing up and down. "Yeah! You can't make us go in, either. We can make a scene."
Damn it! Why are these guys like little brats! Jiyong asked himself, gritting his teeth. He ran his fingers through his hair and sighed. He looked across the lobby, and an idea struck him like lightning. "Hold it. Stay right here. I'll be right back."
He dashed into the crowd of couples and friends, disappearing from the three teenagers' sights. They patiently waited for him, wondering where he ran off to. In a matter of minutes, they saw Jiyong approach them, but the tickets were gone. Instead, the tickets were replaced with money.
"I sold our tickets, so we're not going to watch anything since we can't agree on anything," Jiyong said. He smiled at them. "I don't understand why I didn't think of this before! Anyway, instead of movies, how about we get something to eat? My treat."
The trio glanced at each other, shrugged their shoulders, then nodded their head towards Jiyong when they quietly agreed that eating a meal was better than watching a cartoon on a big screen.
* * *
"Ma'am! Please give us four udon noodle bowls with a plate of spicy rice cakes!" Jiyong requested, taking a seat next to Jiho, who sat next to the window. Minah sat across from Jiho, while Jieun hesitantly took a seat besides her. The old woman across the room answered Jiyong's order with a positive request and got to work. When Jiyong watched the kids settle into their seats, he smiled. "Isn't this a nice place?"
"It looks like a run-down building. Seriously, who has a restaurant hidden in an alley?" Minah muttered, scowling at the lack of decoration.
"Do you come here often, Jiyong?" Jiho asked, glancing around. "It kind of gives off your kind of vibe."
"Me? No, I don't. I came here only twice: once when I settled into the neighborhood, and the other time when I made extra money to buy some good food. Wait until you heat the food. It's amazing!" Jiyong exclaimed, getting all excited.
"Jieun? What do you think?" Jiyong asked.
She only responded with a shrug.
"You don't like it?"
She shook her head. Her silence made Jiyong force an awkward smile. Even though it was tiring to handle Minah and Jho, who kept yapping and complaining about his choice of restaurant, it was even more tiresome to strike a conversation with Jieun, who continued to remain silence.
Alright, he thought, rubbing his hands together. Let's see if I can get Minah to apologize to Jieun.
"So, how's school?" Jiyong asked.
The three stiffened their shoulders as they awkwardly sat in their seats. They were suddenly aware of who they were hanging out with: enemies.
The waitress came over, handing them their side dishes. "The food will be out in just a few minutes!" She smiled and looked at the teenagers. "They seem to young to be your friend, sir."
Jiyong gave her a cheeky smile. "Well, they might be young, but they can certainly eat a meal! I'm treating them today."
"Oh? What's the occasion?" the worker asked.
"Nothing special. I had movie tickets, sold them, and we decided to eat lunch here," Jiyong explained.
"That's nice. Though from my eyes, it doesn't seem like these guys are too close."
"We're talking… Well, at least I'm talking. These two are complaining and this one's just quiet." He pointed at Jiho and Minah first, then gestured his chin towards Jieun. "We were just talking about school, that's all. I was just asking them how high school is."
"High school? How nice! Ah, I wish I was younger. Going to school was the best part of my life. I didn't have to work and struggle with business," the woman joked. She laughed, while Jiyong chuckled a long. She stopped laughing when she heard a bell ring across the room. "Oh! That must be your food. I'll be right back."
The woman scurried away, continuing her job. Jiyong focused his attention back to the kids, who quietly looked down at their lap or out the window. They showed no signs of wanting to participate in Jiyong's conversation.
"Oh look, there's Chanyeol," Jiyong lied, pointing at a random stranger out the window. If they weren't going to talk, then he thought that he might as well get some kind of reaction from them.
Unfortunately, he got too much of a reaction. Minah gasped and hid below the table, while Jieun panicked and hid her face in her arms. Jiho reacted more agreesively, standing up from his seat with his fingers curled up into a fist. The three anxiously looked around, searching for where the dispicable man.
Geez! the adult thought, blinking his eyes. I'd hate to see their reaction at school!
"Here you go! Here's your food—What happened?" the old woman asked, widening her eyes when she saw the kids.
"I played a little joke on them," Jiyong said, faking a laugh. He turned to the trio. "Guys, he's not there. It was a joke. Calm down."
"Why would you joke about that?" Jiho asked angrily, glaring at Jiyong. "What's so funny about saying that?"
The old woman quickly placed the food on the table and ran away, understanding that this was a personal problem between the group.
"Well, you guys aren't telling me about school, so I had to say something!" Jiyong defended himself. "Anyway, is Chanyeol that scary? What's your relationship with him?"
"Jieun's his girlfriend and I'm one of his best friends," Minah said. "Jiho's just jealous of Chanyeol, that's all."
"Best friend? More like fake friend," Jiho muttered, sitting down.
Minah glared at him, raising up from the floor to the chair. "Take that back!"
"What? Everyone knows that. The only reason why you're part of that group is because you suck up to them and do whatever they want you to do. Seriously, everyone's just waiting for you to jump off the building just because Chanyeol told you to do so," Jiho retorted, glaring back at Minah.
"I do not! I do what I want! Take it back! Take it all back!" Minah demanded.
This is clearly not going well. It was supposed to be Minah and Jieun talking, not Minah and Jiho! Jiyong thought, scratching his head. "You know what? Forget about school. Let's just eat—"
"Not until he takes back what he says!"
"Oh, boo-hoo! Stop whining. You're in such a denial, it's pathetic!" Jiho fought back. He gritted his teeth and stared at her in a hostile manner. "You always asked yourself for a better life, but maybe you should get a reality check, dimwit!"
The boy's eyes widened when he realized how out-of-control the situation became. Tears swelled up in Minah's brown eyes, and they fell to the table when she blinked. Her lips trembled, and she was unable to say anything else. She got up from her seat, grabbing her bag and looked away in shame.
"This was a stupid idea," Minah mumbled to herself, her throat scratchy. "Why did I even bother…"
"Wait, you're leaving?" Jiyong asked. "You haven't even touched your food!"
"I'm done here," Minah responded. "I can't stand this. This was stupid."
"Hold it!" Jiyong reached across the table and managed to stop Minah when he caught her wrist. "I don't like seeing food wasted. I ordered one bowl for everyone. Sit down and eat. I'll allow you to cool off in the bathroom, though." He turned his attention to Jieun. "Jieun, do you mind going with her?"
Before Minah had her chance to say anything else, Jieun got up and gently pushed her towards the bathroom. At first, the crying girl hesitating, but when she realized that her make-up might be ruined, she reluctantly followed Jieun. The two girls left, leaving the boys to start eating.
Jiyong rolled his eyes over to Jiho, who grabbed his chopsticks and began eating his noodles. He continued to stare at him until Jiho made eye-contact with him.
"What?" Jiho asked, irritated.
"You got to apologize to her for that," Jiyong said. "She might be a 'dimwit,' but she certainly is human."
"So? She deserved it," he argued.
"Does anyone deserve a mean comment? I argue not," the adult replied.
"You just don't get it, so why don't you back off, huh?"
Jiyong, surprised, continued to look at Jiho as he stuffed his mouth with some spicy rice cake.
The girls came back, with Minah all fixed up. Although Minah came back in almost perfect condition, Jiyong was even more shocked to see a red mark on Jieun's cheek. It wasn't blood, but it definitely looked like it would hurt. When he realized that Minah might've slapped Jieun at the bathroom (for reasons he coudn't find out), he remained quiet and watched the two girls pick up their utensils and eat like notheing big ever happened.
So, here I am,Jiyong thought, quietly shaking his head, spending time with people who can't apologize or who can't learn their lesson.
A Flyer, A Guilt
"What's wrong, young man? You seem upset over there," the manager commented, noticing Jiyong's solemn expression. "Do you not like work? Did something bad happen?"
Jiyong stared at his manager. He had been keeping up with a fake smile during the entire day, and he was surprised that out of all the people who noticed, it was his manager who found out first. His initial response was to tell his manager that he was just feeling a bit sick, but he later thought that he could receive some advice from the old man.
A week had passed since he had taken the kids out to a terrible lunch. The day had basically ended with them finishing their lunch and walking away on their own separate paths. They wouldn't even look behind them just to see if the other was heading home safely. No one had said a word; they had only gave each ther silent goodbyes.
"Sir, what do you think of—" He was just about to talk about teenagers. Teenagers. Didn't the manager despise teenagers? Then what would he know about them?
"Think of what? Jiyong, don't keep me hanging," the manager said, giving him a small smile.
"I was just…The weather. It looks like some kind of warning," Jiyong said, changing the topic.
The manager looked out the window. "What? It's cloudy and snowing. I see nothing bad."
"But everything looks gloomy. Christmas and New Year's Day is over. Everything is just…white," Jiyong pointed out, resting his chin against the the handle of the mop.
"You see all that? I just see snow."
"That's what I said. Everything's white."
"Jiyong, snow and white might be related to each other, but they aren't the same thing." The manager looked up at the sky with a soft smile. "Valentine's is coming in a month. Maybe that's why you look at this whether with such a negative attitude." His expression faded. "So that day is already coming, huh…"
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