Daegu, South Korea
"Where's your brother?" Mrs. Lee fixed her gaze on Naeun, who was seated across the table.
She shrugged her shoulders in response, concentrating on her favorite pancake in her hand.
Mrs. Lee surveyed the second floor, from the kitchen to the living room in one sweep, with her brown almond-shaped eyes, looking for the suspect.
Marching in full force, her brown skirt trailing behind her, she unbolted the door to Suho's room, which was surprisingly empty and clean. No trace of a human being existed.
"Where could he be?" crossing her arms, brows wrinkled.
Suho, Mrs. Lee noticed, had been acting weird for the last few weeks.
"Is he possessed? Should I bring him to a shaman?"
Sprinting towards the antic cabinet in the living room looking for a pamphlet.
"No. Maybe the gods have heard my plea." Mrs. Lee looked up, spread her arms to the heavens, clasping her hands in sincere gratitude.
Heaven knows how long she'd prayed for her son to snap out from his depression and be the vibrant and spontaneous young boy that he was.
Nothing mattered to her anymore.
As long as Suho was happy, she's all for it.
At last! She could focus on her daughter Naeun who desperately needed a tutor for her English class.
Faithful to Mrs. Lee's prayers, Suho transformed into a butterfly out of his cocoon and ready to fly.
Leaving his turf early morning, equipped with his old gym bag filled with his basketball paraphernalia.
He put his cap on and dashed outside before he was discovered. It was a secret that he and his friends, Kwang hee and Joo Ho, arranged for him.
Enlisting for the school's varsity team was a pipe dream that was taking shape.
He was willing to risk it all, even if it's against his mother's will.
The sun was out, but the cool breeze of spring splashed is in the air.
Cherry blossoms were in full bloom.
Every time the wind blew, thousands of pink petals burst into the air like white and pink butterflies on the loose. The streets were a sea of pastel hues as if walking into a wonderland.
Flowers and other plants broke from the ground, and the smell of earth tickled the senses.
Birds and bees sang in harmony, like music to the ears.
Suho closed his eyes and breathed in all the positive energy in his surroundings," I can do this! "he mumbled. He gave one sweeping glance, and when there was no one, he shouted at the top of his lungs.
"It's all mine. All mine," spreading his arms, mimicking an eagle flying in between trees and plants.
Right at the roundabout, he turned directly to the convenience store.
It was located right in front of the school and has a great view of the entrance where he can see everyone that came by.
It was a perfect place to hang out and eat breakfast while waiting for someone without looking like a stalker.
A big cup of noodles, triangle kimbap, and banana milk were on Suho's tray, ready to devour every piece. It was his carbo-loading fix to amp his day.
Escaping from his mother's morning preposterous speech was indeed a great move, shying away from negative forces.
And then, he saw her.
"Hi, I'm Hana," Suho vividly remembered how she introduced herself a month ago in their supplemental class.
He had no intention to attend the class but was forced to.
Because he knew he's about to do something against his mother's will.
No one would even think that it would make a pivotal change in his school life. For no one, not even their school headmaster was able to convince him to hit the books.
All he cared about was playing basketball. And getting through college as a varsity player.
For Suho, he doesn't need algebra or chemistry in figuring out how to shoot a ball. Thus, it's a total waste of time.
But Hana turned the table around.
As if a fire was lit up in him, he evolved to a different person.
Leaving his mother flabbergasted and sister sniggering the whole time.
The first time their eyes met, he was hit a Deja Vu as if they were destined to meet.
From what he gathered; Hana had to fill some lessons she might have missed after transferring from the Philippines. It didn't take long for them to realize that Hana wasn't just a pretty face.
Suho found himself drawn at her like never before.
Girls had never been an issue for him. He was still regarded as the son of the basketball legend that ladies swoon around him. Unfortunately for them, Suho didn't have any interest in girls, especially the "dolled up" ones.
But Hana was different.
She was like a magnet that was pulling him in.
He would sit behind her, staring at her long black hair that goes to the waste, breathing in her Angel's Breath cologne.
Reality hit him hard on the face.
They were two worlds apart and somehow standing on a parallel ground.
Hana was a smart cookie and not a hair out of place.
While he was a lad with a brain filled with noodles.
Yet despite all of these, Suho can't stop himself from watching her even from afar.
It only took him four minutes to know that he likes her.
Yet none of these seem to manner as he was still the average Joe pretending to be the cool nerdy guy in school. Suho couldn't beat the true-blooded smarty pants in class who were taking advanced lessons.
To Suho, if it wasn't because of Hana, those classes were a total bummer.
But there he was, looking like a geek wannabe, pretending to be cool.
But for Mrs. Lee, it was a miracle beyond comprehension.
She believed that her countless visits to the temple had struck a jackpot.
Suho's academic standing, to Mrs. Lee's point of view, was similar to shooting an arrow with eyes blindfolded -- sometimes a hit, most of the time a miss.
A struggle that he had dealt with through the years but eventually became worse right when Naeun was born.
That's why he has felt bad for his sister nor being able to meet their father and experience the good life he once had.
His father's sudden death, his hero, was a hard pill to swallow, changing his life trajectory.
He'd seen his mother transformed from Daegu's goddess to an average Daegu mother trying to make ends meet.
Like her mother, their lives have shifted from colorful to dull, forever praying for a revelation to their prayers.
Somehow, the gods must have heard his plea and sent an angel on earth.
And that angel was Hana Kim.
Unlike Suho and the other students, Hana would sit in silence and try to get the best seat in the house -- middle, in front of the teacher -- which kids avoid. During breaks, when students chatter, play or escape to a convenience store, the new girl buried herself in the books. Her voice is precious as a diamond, a rare commodity. Her effort to distance herself from others was futile. As boys would hover around her like bees trying to score nectar from the most beautiful flower in the garden. At night when the classes were over, she'd often walk the streets from the center to her house. Suho would pedal his bicycle tortoise-like, matching her pace. Sometimes she'd take the bus, and he'd follow the bus until the next bus stop. Days passed into weeks. The excitement and agitation crept through every vein in Suho's body. Downcasted at the thought of not seeing Hana every day to melodramatic anticipation of the new school year's promise. Suho wasn't after the academic com
"I am not fine. I know I said I was, but I'm not." Suho stared at the glass windowpane next to his study table. On his windowsill was an array of potted ornamental plants from his mom's garden. From Aloe Vera, Peace Lily, Lavender, and English Ivy, which Mrs. Lee explained how they cleansed the air he breathed. But none of those were creating any difference for him at that moment. All framed with a lace curtain, no one will guess the room was his. And no one could tell what he's going through either. That wasn't cool at all. Of all the people who could see me that day, why has it to be her? Cursing in between breaths. Across the street, he has a clear view of his neighbor's window, covered with a cerulean curtain. At night, the bright light in the room gave a silhouette of the enigmatic figure, dancing under the moonlight in the soothing song of The Swan Lake. In the morning, the curtains were drawn, and the owner grooved to the hit music of the 90s. Ace of Spade, MJ,
"Naeun, Naeun," he barked in between the door gap. "Come here for a second."
“Look at these pictures, unnie! This was Oppa when he was my age.” Nauen giggled as they browsed through old albums in the living room. “Oh! This is in Luneta Park, I’ve been there multiple times.” “Really?” Mrs. Lee asked. “Suho liked going to that park.” “Look, imo! This is me!” showing the picture of a small behind their family picture, holding a toy plane. “So, you’re the little girl Suho was talking about when he was younger. He kept looking for you whenever we went there.” “Me too. Cause I wanted to give him back his toy. It seems precious to him.” “It is. His father gave that to him.” “What a small world.” Hana left around 10 in the evening, carrying several Tupperware of food that Mrs. Lee packed for her. Suho watched the window across his room lit up. That’s when he knew she was home safe and sound. Filled with inspiration, he took out his sketchbook and began drawing what transpired that evening. Sketching Hana in full details as she smiled, played with Naeun
Autumn of 1996 Daegu, South Korea Time had hastily changed from weeks to months, from one period to the next. Evenings have a nip in the air as summer took a back seat. The temperature plummeted to 14 degrees Celsius as September kicked in. From the green scenery, hues of browns and oranges sweep the landscape to some extent, preparing its days for those long cold nights. Suho Lee had his hands full, as one astray dog increased to 6 in the last six months. At that rate, the spot under the stairs can no longer put up with their growing tribe. Hana and Suho scoured the entire neighborhood searching for a suitable place until they chance upon an abandoned old shack near the park, two stops away from where they live. They have also enlisted a temporary little helper, Naeun, Suho’s sister. With the help of their newest member, they named their small animal sanctuary Wonder pets. The bungalow-type house was deserted a few years back. After inquiring around, Suho and Hana
“Ya! Let go of her,” the young woman’s cry reverberated in the narrow alleyway. Suho flinched.He recognized her voice. And he can’t turn away because he promised to protect her at all costs.Shaking his head, he swung his bike around, searching for the sound. In the middle of the narrow lane was a schoolgirl with long wavy hair falling below her shoulder.Her purple backpack stood out, he can easily see it from afar. A dreamcatcher dangling by its side.It was indeed Hana. Not again, he whispered. No one was in sight as the alleyway was situated in the midst of two abandoned buildings. It’s an ideal location for a felony. Suho couldn’t identify who she was screaming at.So, he pulled down his cap, hiding his face from possible onlookers.He glided to where Hana was.Even from afar, he realized the danger she’s in. The situation crushed at him like a raging bull. In the middle of the pathway were 4 people — 3 boys and 1 girl.The group was notorious in wreaking havoc to their
As the mist settled down in the crisp night, stars twinkled in the calmness of the evening. Suho wondered if he was the fog or star in Hana’s world. But one thing’s for sure, he could do everything for her. Protect her and make her happy no matter what. And that unsettling emotion Suho had been struggling to figure out has become clear. Yet, he doesn’t have the balls to even shout it out. He often pondered what had happened to Suho, the basketball charmer and chick magnet, as Kwanghee put it. But Hana was extraordinary, she’s special. They have this invisible string that connected them, pulling each other every single time. And he admired her more than any young woman he met. That’s besides his eomma and sister. Days passed by.It was down to five days before Hana’s surprise birthday party and three days before Chuseok. Suho didn’t have much time left to finish the gift he was prepping up for her. “Woah! This is very stressful. How can things be cropping up all at on
Suho whistled in satisfaction at how he ditched the inquiring look of his classmates.For the first time, he felt a surge of relief after hearing the school bell ring. It was unheard of, and his buddies would make fun of him if they found out.Nothing exciting in their classroom. Same old.But he’s grateful to get a throne next to the window. It gave him space for his mind to wander off from the four corners of their room. Suho can imagine his eomma pinching him or whacking his head to bring his astral body back.“What are you grinning about?” Kwanghee leaned back, turned around, glaring at his best friend. “You’re keeping a lot of things from me lately.”“No. Of course not,” Suho retorted, lips tight, leaning further away from Kwanghee.“Well? So what’s the deal between you and the new girl?” Kwanghee inquired, popping a lollipop in his mouth.&l