The Force Between Us: CHAPTERS 2-4
These are chapters 2-4 for my the first book in my LGBT series The Force Between Us. Apologies because the format of this is weird being that’s I copied and pasted from my Google doc. I don’t have access to my laptop right now…Okay, fine. I just don’t want to boot that bitch up when I’ve been at the hospital with family all day. If you make it to the end please let me know your thoughts/feelings/critiques. Keep in mind that this isn’t already being professionally edited so I don’t need critiques about grammar or diction.
Mask if you’re wondering why there’s a picture of Korean ramen for this post…the main characters are Korean American so I found my picture from my fave Korean restaurant in town fitting.
My locker slammed shut after what felt like the fiftieth person had come up to me about Namjoon over the past week. Unlike all the others, I couldn’t paint on a courteous grin. Not that time.
Sandra jumped back a bit at my abrasive response. She was a nice girl. Her most notable trait was her afro space buns that complimented her deep chocolate skin. Her most well known quality was being at the top of her class, which used to include Namjoon. I’d met her in my grade school days at sports fundraising events and car washes on occasion when my Dad dragged me along to support Namjoon. I hadn’t ever really minded because it was rare that I'd get to hang out with him and his friends. Apart from Yeongi. Sandra had always had a role to play in school activities, she was a helping hand, and a very kind person. One that didn’t deserve my attitude.
Her brown eyes softened at my reaction while she pieced together my feelings. “You must be tired of hearing that,” She gave an understanding nod. “Sorry.”
I readjusted my backpack onto my shoulder. “No, I shouldn’t have done that. Sorry.”
“Have you heard from him?”
We fell into place side by side as we walked down the overcrowded hall.
My head shook. “Not yet.”
I didn’t dare tell her my fear of him not ever coming back.
She looked up at me from a considerable distance. “Well, if he writes, tell him...” She paused to collect her words. Her gaze fell ahead of us. “Tell him we’ll be rooting for him from the sidelines.”
Kind of an odd request, but I nodded nonetheless. “Okay.”
Her footsteps came to a halt when she took in the group of guys I’d been trying to avoid all day. “I’ll catch you later.” She veered right with more urgency than I expected from her usually calm composure.
I watched as a handful of the Lacrosse team headed my way. They had a presence in our school that hardly any other sports team had. A lot of those guys were likely to go to ID schools on scholarships. Most of them had always been pretty nice to me, by extension of Namjoon. During the past week, I tried my best to steer clear of them. Well, not necessarily all of them. Just Yeongi. He kept his promise so far and hadn’t initiated contact.
No one paid Sandra any attention except Yeongi. He stared after her with an array of emotions on his face. When he gathered himself, he reduced his pace to hang in the back of the group.
“Kookie,” Brin, the captain of the team greeted me with a friendly smile. “Where you been at this week?”
I scratched under my eye. “Oh, you know. Trying my best not to fall behind before the semester really starts.”
Brin glanced at his closest friend Johnny, who gave a single nod. Brin reached into his bag and handed me a brown plastic bag from a grocery store. “We all wanted to give you something. It’s kinda cheesy,”
All I could do was look at it.
He gestured for me to take it.
I grabbed it awkwardly. “Thanks.”
“Even though he’s gone, Namjoon’s spot will never be filled the same.” His voice rang in earnest.
The last thing I expected when I untied the bag was a replica of his jersey with all of their signatures on it. My chest felt tight, I looked up at them. “Thank you.”
“It was Yeongi’s idea.” Trent chimed in, his white teeth contrasted against his dark skin.
My eyes flashed to his.
He looked like he silently cursed Trent for outing him. When he looked back at me I couldn’t pinpoint what he was thinking.
My hand tightened on my backpack strap. I was reminded of the years of growing up together, of thinking of him as another older brother, of goofing off with him and Namjoon. I didn’t want to give him the cold shoulder but his absence had left me feeling abandoned. If my brother couldn’t be there for me I thought Yeongi of all people would be.
And I know I made him promise not to talk to me, but I didn’t think he’d actually accept so easily. Why had he gone down without a fight? Why wasn’t he around? Our house had practically been his second home over the years. So why was he so distant? Did he see Namjoon when he looked at me? Or was it something else?
We broke eye contact.
“Maybe you should try out for the team this year,” Trent suggested. He looked at Brin.
I grew embarrassed at the notion. “Give up my ball for a stick, I don’t think so.” I said jokingly.
They took it in good nature.
Brin stepped forward. “I don’t think that’s a bad idea.” His six foot frame was built more as a stocky footballer than most of the guys on the team. His presence demanded your attention. He held a quality that good leaders inherently had in them. So when he spoke people usually took heed.
The look he gave me rang in sincerity. Words wouldn’t come to me. I couldn’t give up Basketball. My Dad would kill me. He had a plan for me, mine had been all about Basketball until graduation, and then we’d reconsider where I’d go from there. Lacrosse had always been Namjoon’s thing. I didn’t even know how to touch it with a ten foot pole. Not in any serious way outside of goofing off in our backyard.
“See ya around,” He squeezed my shoulder in passing.
I stood there as they passed, my eyes met Yeongi’s. There was a longing that tugged at me when I watched him walk away. How did you get used to not having someone in your life that’s always been there?
My hands held the jersey, I didn’t know what to do with it.
The next period went by in a blur. I did my best to pay attention and interject appropriately, but my mind kept going elsewhere.
Thankfully lunch was a few feet away. I sat with my teammates. They talked about the same things they harped on for the past week, the girls they hooked up with over summer and their experiences at their camp of choice. Honestly, I wasn’t riveted by any of it at this point. It all just fell flat.
I picked at the mac and cheese on my tray with my fork, but I had no intention of eating it. My diet hadn’t been up to par lately. All I could do was chug protein shakes before and after my workouts.
“Earth to Kookie,” A hand waved in front of my face.
My attention returned to the table of guys I’d grown close with over the past two years. Some of them years before that. Jeno, my closest friend since fourth grade, waved his hand in front of my face.
I smacked it away. “What?”
He nodded in the direction that the cheerleaders claimed as their table. “Are you going to go talk to her?”
I looked at the table to find Fran Eyeing me. My mood soured.
We had ended things on a not so great note over the summer. Well, I ended things for us on a not so great note. I kind of ghosted her. Dick move on my part, but I didn’t know how to deal with our casual hooking up in the midst of my family drama.
“Have you even talked to her since your brother left?” Jeno asked, knowing the guys weren’t paying attention to me.
“Nope,” I half-heartedly threw the fork down onto the tray. “I’m an ass.”
He nodded. “Kind of a big one because you know she’s had a crush on you since like seventh grade.”
I took a swig of my gatorade. “Yeah, that was forever ago. It was her idea to keep it casual.”
His sandy brown curls fell into his eyes as he tilted his head, his greyish green eyes questioned if I was born this stupid. “You still believe that’s what she wanted?”
Our conversation had attracted a few of the guys to look our way.
Jeno lightly smacked Zach’s shoulder because he was next to him. “Dude, a girl says to you she wants to hook up with you with no strings attached. What does that mean?”
Zach’s squirrel like smile brightened. “What kind of girl are we talking about?”
Jeno glanced at me. “Smart, hot, confident. More sensitive than she lets on. Definitely not a girl that doesn’t deserve more.”
Zach looked between us, then settled on me. “Are we talking about you and Fran?”
I sighed with a nod.
His eyes shot me a look. “Fran is wifey material, dingleberry.”
“Who the hell is thinking about marriage?”
He rolled his eyes. “I’m just saying. She aint the kind of girl that just wants sex. Plus she’s been in love with since grade school.”
Jeno looked at him. “Thank you.”
A huff left me. “How am I supposed to know what a girl wants if she says the exact opposite? I gave her what she wanted.” Quite a lot.
“Maybe it’s because you’ve only been with Ashley up until summer, but you’re pretty dumb when it comes to girls.” Jeno jabbed.
I tried my best over the summer not to think about my ex girlfriend. Thinking about the only reason we broke up was because her parents moved wasn’t doing me any favors.
“Maybe that’s when she broke up with him.” Zach teased.
They high fived at my torment.
Even though the past was in the past, it still hurts to know that I couldn’t be with the girl I loved since pre-school. She knew immediately that long distance wasn’t going to work for us, so she didn’t want to be anything other than friends after having dated for almost two years. Perhaps some people were only meant to be friends. It could’ve been that the distance was an excuse, it wasn’t like we weren’t without our faults. In our case, I think I learned what not to do with the next girl. Whether that girl was Fran or not, I wasn’t sure. All I knew for a fact was that my mind wasn’t focused on dating right now. That didn’t mean that I couldn’t have something to pass the time and take the edge off.
My eyes lifted to Fran. I watched as she grinned along with something one of her friend’s said. Her long, wavy brown hair stopped right below her breasts that seemed perkier than normal in her tight top. Her smile was easily the most attractive thing about her. That and her legs that went on for days.
She happened to catch my gaze, her eyes roamed over my face.
My brow lifted in suggestion.
She bit her lip in indecision, but if I knew her she already made up her mind.
Ten minutes later we were in her car. I leaned back in the seat all the way while she had me in her mouth. My eyes were on the lookout while I tried to enjoy what she was really good at doing. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it. I was just now perhaps regretful that I’d enjoy more if it meant something. For the first time in a while, I let myself think about Ashley in that way. Doing it while another girl was giving me a blowjob probably wasn’t the best time but I couldn’t help from picturing her wide hips and more than generous sized boobs. Her mouth had been my favorite thing about her, her lips were plump and pink more often than not. She had a mole above her lip that I always used to kiss. Those lips had also been pretty good at satisfying me.
My hips started to rise, my head tilted back. I wanted to feel guilty about doing it but I still pictured Ashley as the one orally finishing me. My moans filled the car as Fran kept me in her mouth. That was something Ashley never did.
Fran looked up at me with saturated eyes of need.
I pulled her into the backseat, slid her panties off, then went down on her until her moans were the one inside the car.
We finished with minutes to spare before lunch was over. We sat in the front seat in contemplation until I looked over at her. She was on the same page as me when I brought her to my lap. She grabbed a condom from her glove compartment, once it was on I slipped inside her. We worked together to achieve our goal before the bell rang. It was a wonder we didn’t get caught, but it made it all the more exciting.
Or so I thought. When I looked around us I saw Yeongi smoking from a pen while he noticed us.
I almost jumped to push her off but we were so close and I couldn’t bring myself to stop. Maybe I should’ve looked away. He should’ve looked away. But neither of us did. And then all of a sudden the condom was full and Fran sighed in satisfaction as she fell into her seat.
I quickly checked to see if Yeongi was still there, but the spot was empty. My face felt hot at the realization of not only him seeing us, but also that we kept eye contact. I had to shake it off.
When I got home, all I wanted to do was take a nap but I needed to study. The summer would’ve been a perfect time to get my license but I’d been focused on other things and then my life sort of emploded so I couldn’t bring myself to sit down and go through the manual. However, I need to learn how to drive. My Dad already said if I kept my grades up on top of Basketball that he’d get me a cheapo car. Now all I had to do was get my permit.
I hunkered down after I finished my homework to study. There couldn’t have been a span more than five minutes where my eyes didn’t wander to Namjoon’s Lacrosse stick in the corner. It sat there taunting me. After a while, I couldn’t take it, so I went to chuck it in my closet. For some reason, my hand wouldn’t let go of it. I guess I didn’t want to put it somewhere that I couldn’t see it after all.
My phone vibrated on my desk. I dropped the stick to pick up my mom’s call. “Hey,” I answered quickly as I flashed into the desk chair.
“Hey, kiddo. How’s school so far?” She asked, her voice sounded far away along with the wind from driving on the highway.
“Uh,” I ran my hand through my hair that probably needed a cut. “It’s fine, I guess.”
“Are you having any trouble in your classes yet? Don’t hesitate to ask for a tutor.”
This was the first time she’d called since Namjoon was sent off. I hadn’t heard her voice in almost a month.
My head shook. “No. Not there yet.” I absently picked up a pen and doodled on my notebook.
She cursed at someone, a honk followed suit. “Great, let me know if you need any new Lacrosse gear, sweetie.” She sighed. “Kook, I have to go. I’ll call soon. Love you.”
My thumb pressed into the pen. “Yeah, cool. Love you, too.”
She hung up.
I leaned back in the chair with a huff, I chucked the pen out of frustration. My eyes fell on the stupid stick again and my jaw clenched. There was a few hours before I wanted to call it a night, so I could get some of this tension out.
Fran’s contact brightened my phone while my thumb hovered in debate over texting her. Doing things with her was a nice distraction, but it was only that. A distraction. I guess I knew deep down that she did potentially want more, but she still hadn’t indicated it in some blatant gesture. She didn’t look at me with puppy dog eyes. No, she looked at me with fuck me eyes. As much fun as a two for one day appealed to me, I didn’t want to talk. Sure, that made me an ass, but we had nothing to talk about.
A few seconds later, I found myself staring a hole in Yeongi’s last message to me. We’re leaving in five, that was the day everything went to shit.
Should I text him? Was it worth getting into? I didn’t want to continue to blow up at him, not when I felt so much anger towards him.
I was about to lock my phone when I saw three little dots appear in our messages. Three little dots that indicated he was typing. So I freaked and got out of the message. I could feel my heart start to race for some reason.
Why was he going to text me? What did he want to say?
A message didn’t come so I quickly checked to see if his dots were still there. They weren’t. Until they were again, followed by a final silence.
“What the hell?” I fumed.
I couldn’t stop my fingers from working. You’re a fucking asshole. What’s wrong with you?, I typed, but ended up deleting immediately. He didn’t deserve a text from me. Fucking jerkwad.
Now I had no choice but to go workout.
The act of completing a rigorous workout gave you a momentary high. All I wanted to do was not think for a while. With my earbuds in, I ran my usual trail, but I still had enough energy to make my way to the school’s athletic gym.
Legs and chest were my goals today. My focus during the summer had been to get thicker thighs. The iron leg exercise along with weighted lunges were my favorites. To finish off legs, I did a few sets of the seated leg press. I managed to go from one forty to two hundred since the beginning of the summer. I had always been in the five, six range for the chest press. My goal was to get to a hundred by the start of school, I hadn’t quite gotten the number of reps I wanted in my set of two, but I was close.
As much as I liked to think that time spent exerting myself like this was mindless, it wasn’t always. The majority of the time I tried to work through my parental issues, but there was only so much a sixteen year old could do on his own without a licensed professional.
The draw of coming this late in the evening was that it wasn’t very full, not in the beginning of the semester anyway. I had worked up quite a sweat in my mission to rid my mind of resentment. Just a few more reps and I’d call it for the day.
I could show my mom that I was worth fighting for. I could show my dad that I wasn’t some predestined failure. I could show Yeongi that I didn’t need him to get by. I didn’t need his three little dots when I still felt like my world was crumbled at my feet. If I saw him, I don’t know what I’d do. In my anger, I’d forgotten about the awkward little scenario that happened with Fran in the car earlier. I don’t know what it was or why both of us let it happen, but I had to try my damndest to forget it.
“Shit, look who it is.” A familiar voice came from nearby.
My eyes opened to find some of the Lacrosse guys with their gym bags over their shoulders. Their hair was wet from fresh showers, their body wash and deodorant rolled off of them. I looked around because I felt unease in the pit of my stomach.
Yeongi stared at me in speculation, like I was the one that changed.
I took out my earbuds to greet them. “Hey, guys.” I stood.
Brin checked out my weight level, then looked at me with an impressive gleam in his eyes. “You’re really filling out, Kookie.”
The guys nodded or verbalized their agreement.
My face flushed under their appraisal. “Thanks.” My eyes wanted to fall on Yeongi, but I couldn’t bring myself to look at him. Because if I did, I was afraid I’d take a swing at him.
Brin nodded toward the door. “You want us to wait for you? We were going to grab dinner.”
I wanted to say no thanks but that’s not what came out of my mouth. “Yeah, okay. I didn’t bring a chance of clothes though.” I thought about my stomach and how I hadn’t wanted to eat much lately, then backtracked. “Actually, I’m not really hungry.”
“Next time,” He held his hand out for a fist bump.
My fist pounded into his. “Sure.”
“You should really consider trying out for the team. I think you’d be a good fit.”
The contents of my stomach, which was hardly anything, swirled. I didn’t think I’d be a good fit for anything Namjoon was good at. Or better yet, I didn’t care. Lacrosse was like his whole world. I didn’t even feel that way about Basketball. So, no. I didn’t think I should try out.
“Just think about it.”
I ended up walking out with them.
“Do you drive yet?” He asked.
“Not yet, I’m working on it.” I was. My studying needed to take precedent over anything else other than school work and training.
Brin’s thumb gestured to his car. “You want a ride?”
“I’ll take you.” Yeongi cut me off.
My eyes went to his. I wanted to punch him right in his face, but not with the guys there. Then I remembered once again the intimate scene that haunted me and I looked away.
“Home, I mean.” He added. His bleached blonde hair was pulled back by a bandana.
I should’ve said hell no, but I did have questions for him. So I went with, “Sure,”
As we headed toward his Jeep I started to regret my decision, but I suppose this needed to happen at some point.
We slid into the car, the doors slammed behind us. Not a word was spoken.
He started the car with more force than necessary, then pulled out of the parking lot.
I tried not to stare at his profile, but I couldn’t help but notice his insanely clear skin that looked dewy after his workout.
His eyes glanced at mine for a few seconds and I never thought I’d see the same irritation thrown back my way.
I stared back at him in surprise. What the fuck did he have to be angry about? Because I didn’t take his fucking present? One that I still hadn’t opened and had no intention of opening. I should just throw it in the trash.
“I know you’re mad at me, Kook. I’m mad at me too.”
My eyes narrowed in interest.
“So just say whatever it is the fuck you have to say and let’s get this over with.”
My head shook. “You already know why I’m pissed. Why do you want to hear me say it?”
He let out a ragged sigh that bordered on a groan of pleasure. He stopped at a red light, his eyes landed on me. “So I don’t think I’m going crazy.”
What the hell?
“Why are you angry with me? Why me and not Brin?” He stared at me hard as he waited for an answer.
Put on the spot, I sort of froze, but I gathered myself quickly. I let out a humorless laugh. “Because I didn’t grow up with Brin. He didn’t ghost me either when shit hit the fan.”
“I wasn’t trying to ghost you, Kook. I jus-”
“Don’t call me that.” My jaw clenched. “You don’t get to call me that anymore. We’re not friends. I don’t even know you anymore, Yeongi.” I faced forward.
The light turned green.
He sat there, his gaze all but burned a hole in the side of my face.
“You can go,” My voice was low with anger.
“Not until you look at me.”
Something in his voice made my eyes turn to his even if they didn’t want to.
His brown eyes held a lot of things, but the most prominent emotion was regret. “I’m sorry.”
A car honked from behind us.
“You can go.” I repeated.
His head tilted. “You don’t want to forgive me, why?”
I gave a fed up laugh. “Wouldn’t I be an idiot to forgive you?” My eyes burned into his.
Another honk sounded.
“You don’t have to forgive me, Kook. You shouldn’t.” But his voice sounded as if he wished otherwise.
Then why were we having this conversation in the first place?
The car from behind us sped past in annoyance.
“We should go.” I muttered.
Finally, he made his way to my house. I hadn’t expected a full on brawl in his Jeep but I did expect for me to yell obscenities at him the whole way. Color me shocked when neither happened.
He stalled in front of my house. His thumb ring tapped on the steering wheel.
“Thanks,” I grumbled. My hand reached for the handle.
He wrapped his hand around my wrist. “Wait,”
I looked back at him, then down at the warmth on my skin. “What?”
He removed it and sat back. “Look, I’m sorry how things played out. I wish they were different, that I could go back and stop...” His words trailed off. “I shouldn’t have let him...” When he looked back up at me he had heavy eyes. “I’m sorry, Jaekook. I’m sorry we failed you.”
Emotion tumbled in me, I felt the need to flee the car. “Why?” I fought through it. “Why didn’t you stay? Why didn’t you come around?” For me.
“Because I was scared,” He said plain and simple.
“Of what?” I was surprised by how soft my voice was.
His eyes ran over my face before he answered, “That you wouldn’t look at me the same. Or that you’d hate me.” He looked down. “But I ended up causing the thing I was afraid of.” He gave an ironic laugh.
My forehead creased. “Why would I hate you, Yeongi? You were like my brother.”
His eyes snapped to mine, something foreign crossed his face, like he didn’t understand it either. “He didn’t tell you what went down?”
I leaned forward, trying to absorb as much info as I could. “Did you two have a fight? Is that why you disappeared?”
He didn’t know how to answer. “You should talk to your brother, ask him what happened.”
“I’m not asking him, I’m asking you.” I caught his eyes with mine.
His head shook. “I can’t give you what you want. I’m sorry.”
I sat back to gather myself. All he ever seemed to say was ‘I'm sorry’. My anger rose again. I opened the door forcefully. “Thanks for being just like everyone else in my life, Yeongi.” I hopped out and slammed the door shut without a look back. I marched up my driveway with a brand new tension that coursed through me.
My dad had fallen asleep on the couch, a beer in front of him on the coffee table. His briefcase was open with his files.
I stalked past him, up the stairs, and into the shower.
How could one person shift my mood so much? I wasn’t generally an angry guy, but Yeongi fucking hurt me. After seeing him again I realized it wasn’t only my mind that resented him. It was my body too.
I stood under the hot water of my shower while I tried to think of peaceful thoughts. Nothing worked. So I gave in the growing erection and got rid of the problem.
I grabbed my skateboard before I headed to the kitchen, my book bag slung over my shoulder. “Morning,”
My Dad looked up from his newspaper, he took a sip of his coffee. He wore his usual suit and tie for work, something that had always been a priority over his family. Maybe that’s why Mom wasn’t here. “What are your plans for the day?”
Why? Did you want to spend time together?
“Going to Jeno’s. We have some homework to work on.” I grabbed a banana and bit into it. “I’ll probably eat over there later.”
“I’ll most likely be at the office late.”
He spent a lot of time working with this contract company for ex military. We weren't entirely sure what he really did, but I wasn’t too concerned. As far as I was, as soon as I graduated I wanted as far away from this family as possible.
“Be home by ten.” His phone took up his attention.
I finished my banana, then made my way outside with my music in my ears. I texted Jeno that I was on the way. Five minutes later I was at his front door.
His home, like mine, was a cookie cutter suburban home. His home, unlike mine, had a perfect family. Well, not perfect. They were just there.
He opened the door in sweats. “Did you bring it?” He whispered.
I looked around, then nodded.
He let me pass. “Let’s head up to my room.”
We were halfway to freedom when his Mom poked her dark head around the corner. “Jaekook,” Her warm disposition always made me feel at ease, even as I had contraband in her home.
I turned to greet her. “Hi, Mrs. Ries.”
She smiled brightly. “Don’t just stand there. Come give me a hug.” She held her arms open in expectation.
Embarrassment should’ve colored my face, but I really wanted a hug from her then.
She’d always been good at sensing my troubles. But it wasn’t like the majority of people in town didn’t know about the drug scandal that tore my already shabby family apart.
Her loving arms squeezed me. “You need to come around more often. I started to think you didn’t like us anymore.” She teased in good nature.
I laughed against her. “Not possible.”
When she let go, her soft hand patted my face. “Well, you know you’re welcome any time.”
I tried not to look at her with lost eyes, but I was sure she could see that I was a mess inside. “Thank you.” I offered a kind smile. Guilt set in for what we were about to do to this kind lady. I jogged up the steps.
“I was about to make myself some kale chips. Would you guys like some?” She looked between us.
We stilled. “No,” We said together too eagerly.
Jeno turned around. “Uh, no thanks. I’m not hungry.”
I nodded. “I just ate. Thank you though, Mrs. Ries.”
She grinned. “If you change your mind, let me know.” She went off presumably to the kitchen.
Jeno and I looked at each other in luck. We rushed to his room and locked the door.
“Okay, don’t hold out on me.” He rubbed his hands together. “I’ve been going crazy.”
I sat on his bed to dump my backpack out. Candy bars and junk food fell into a pile.
He sighed at the sight. He sank down to his knees, his hands ran through the packages. “She’s driving me crazy. I don’t know how much longer I can do it, Kookie.” His voice held defeat.
I laughed. “Maybe you should tell your Mom that you don’t want to be Vegan and Gluten-free.”
His eyes widened. “And break her heart? I don’t think so.”
I picked up a snickers and waved it in front of him. “You don’t think she can handle it?”
“You’re an enabler.” He snatched it from me and tore into in two seconds flat.
“You were the one that begged me to bring all this.” I laid back on his bed. “Now, let’s get into Math.”
Halfway through the worksheet he cleared his throat in a way that meant he wanted to talk.
I looked up with the twizzler I’d been working on in my mouth.
He pursed his lips in thought. He began to speak, but nothing came out.
“Spit it out, Jeno.”
He huffed. His blue eyes were as serious as a heart attack. “Why didn’t you tell me about your brother? Why did I have to find out about it from my Mom who found about it from the local news?”
My eyes diverted to the equations that seemed to have an easier answer than his questions.
“You didn’t have to be embarrassed. I just-” He gathered himself. “I just thought we were closer than that. You didn’t tell me about Fran at first, then your brother. You didn’t want us to do anything for your birthday.”
I looked up at him in worry at where this was going. “Jeno,”
“You’ve always been more private about your home life with others, but not me.” He shrugged. “What’s going on with you?”
I sat up and leaned against his wall with a heavy sigh. “I don’t know. Things have been crazy lately. I didn’t want to talk about it with anyone.”
He gestured between us. “But I’m not just anyone. We’re supposed to be brothers, Jaekook. Sometimes it feels you forget that, that you only consider Namjoon and Yeongi family.”
My back stilled. “Don’t bring them into this.”
His head shook. “No, that’s why you’re like this!”
“Like what?” I grew upset. My hand went to my absentee sea glass necklace, then immediately dropped.
“You have no interest in things anymore. You don’t talk about anything important. You don’t think I’ve noticed you haven’t been eating?”
I waved the twizzler in the air as my objection.
He snatched it away. “One fucking twizzler that you’ve been sucking on doesn’t mean shit.” He angrily whispered. “I’m worried about you.”
My head shook. “You don’t need to be.”
“Well, I am.” His eyes almost brimmed with tears. “So do me a favor and don’t shut me out like everyone else. Okay?”
In my own little world, I hadn’t taken the time to think about my best friend. I’d been so wrapped up in the betrayal I felt for Yeongi that I’d kind of done the same to Jeno.
“I’m sorry,” I meant it.
He gave a tiny nod, then went back to Trig.
The rest of the evening we got sick on sugar and binged Netflix. It was what I needed to feel more normal again, but in the back of my mind I knew that things would never go back to how they were. This was my new normal.
When I got home my Dad wasn’t there, making the already empty house feel like a ghost. I debated about going to sleep but knew it wouldn’t come, so I went to the backyard to shoot some hoops.
My mind tugged at the many memories this backyard held.
Summer had been hot as hell, but the nights sometimes held a breeze. We took the chance to run around in our backyard for a friendly game of Lacrosse. I was against Yeongi while Namjoon kept the goal. The best part about these nights was that it was always in a playful spirit. I wasn’t that great for it to be anything but. They would always go easy on me, but sometimes I would get fed up with their babying so I’d try my hardest.
Yeongi opposed me with a smug grin, his stick at attention. His sweaty dark hair fell into his face. “What? Do you think you’re going to get past me?”
I shifted to my right, but he followed. “I know I am. You have a soft spot for me.” I teased. I moved right.
He blocked me. “Is that so?” His brow lifted.
“Oh, I know so.”
“Are you ladies going to keep flirting or is someone going to make a pass?” Namjoon waited impatiently behind us.
I grinned as I faked to my right again, knowing he’d follow, but I quickly switched direction to my left to follow the throw through.
Of course Namjoon easily caught it.
He stood upright. “Not bad, Kook.”
Yeongi pushed my shoulder. “Good tactic.”
“It wasn’t a tactic.” I grinned.
He rolled his eyes. “Yeah, whatever.”
We joked around for who knows how long before we showered up and ordered pizza in the living room for a movie marathon.
Those were some of my best memories. Now it seemed as if they didn’t mean anything. I wasn’t in the mood for Basketball anymore.
The next day I finished up whatever else homework I had, then studied for my permit test until I couldn’t study anymore. I couldn’t study anything in this house with my Dad arguing on the phone in his office with Mom. He thought he was being quiet about it but sound traveled well in this house. They thought we didn’t know the reason she was always on the road with work was because they wanted to separate, but they were too afraid to do it because of us. They should just get a divorce already and stop trying to save a family that didn’t work.
I shoved my Macbook in my bag, rushed down the stairs, then rode off into town. Jeno’s words came back to me, I wanted to take care of myself so he wouldn’t worry. So I decided to treat myself to the pizza spot most townies frequented.
I got a large pepperoni, then went to fill up my cup of soda. All of the flavors were good, so I did a line of each, something I used to get teased for. A reminiscent smile took my face for a few moments and I let it.
When I turned around I spotted Fran in one of the booths, her books around her. She chewed on her pen while she concentrated on the textbook in front of her. I didn’t want to disturb her but perhaps it was a good time to clear the air.
I stood in front of her table.
Her head bopped to whatever she was listening to, it was most likely Kpop.
She looked up at me in shock, she took off her headphones. “Hey,”
“Hey,” I stood there awkwardly. “How you been?”
She looked off to the side, then back up with a cheerful disposition in her green eyes. “Good. Busy.” Her headphones blared what I knew was a Kpop song. Her eyes widened, she quickly tapped the spacebar. “What about you?”
I slid into the seat adjacent to her. “Hmm,” I shrugged. “Listen, I wanted to apologize about before.”
Her dark eyebrows lifted into her bangs.
My elbows rested on the table top. “About not letting you in.”
She looked confused, adorably confused.
“I mean when things happened with my brother, I shouldn’t have ghosted you. Jeno recently told me that I hurt his feelings and I thought that I probably hurt yours too.” I rambled.
She leaned forward. “Jeno’s pretty smart, you should listen to him more.”
That was solid advice.
I made a face. “He also said that I shouldn’t assume that you were okay with how things were between us, are. Um,” I gestured between us and lowered my voice. “I took you for your word about not wanting this to be anything other than what it was, but if that’s not true anymore do you want to talk about it?”
She bit her lip in thought, then let out a soft laugh. “I’m happy that you apologized and made an effort to bring it up. It’s just that I don’t want that with you.” She admitted.
I was a little confused. I know I’ve seen her looking like she wanted more before, but now that she denied it to my face maybe I just wasn’t who she pictured that with.
I sat back. “Oh,”
Her hand came forward. “Did you think I wanted...Did you want that?”
“No?” I wasn’t sure why I said it with a question. “No.” I said firmly. “I’m glad we talked about it.”
She offered a teasing grin. “So does this mean we’re still on for pound town or are you worried about your undying love growing?”
I chuckled. “Oh, you wish.” I truly felt like a dick for mistreating her. Sometimes I forget how cool of a person she was. Or why I never thought of her in that way when she was friends with Ashley.
She laughed with me.
“Look at you two lovebirds.” Trent came out of nowhere with his girlfriend and Yeongi by his side.
Yeongi wouldn’t look at me.
“You two feel like joining us for some pizza?” Raven asked. She’d always been extra friendly.
I looked back at Fran to see her nodding. “Yeah, I guess so.” I helped her gather her stuff so we could join them at a bigger table. “I didn’t mean to interrupt your studying.”
She waved it off. “I was working ahead, it’s fine.”
Yeah, she was one of the smartest people I knew. A 4.0 was an understatement. How someone juggled all AP classes and cheerleading was an amazement to me. Sports was time consuming as it was, so she was an expert at multitasking.
We sat down next to each other.
When I said yes to hanging out with them I didn’t take into account how potentially awkward it would be. I could see Fran was a bit nervous, probably worrying about what they thought of her with me. I was confronted with the memory that kept making an appearance with us in the car and Yeongi present.
My face heated up. I tried not to think it, but I could feel my pants stir. I swallowed the lump in my throat. When I looked up I didn’t expect to see a repressed smirk on Yeongi’s face as he looked at me. He clearly remembered as well as I did.
He stood to go put in their order.
I tapped on the table while I tried to calm myself down.
“So what’s the plan this year?” Trent asked. “Are you still doing Cheerleading, Fran?”
She nodded. “Initially, yes. Now I’m thinking about switching things up. Maybe Volleyball or something.”
Raven leaned forward, she tucked some of her red hair behind her fully pierced ear. “What about the Soccer team?”
The thought of seeing her in Volleyball shorts didn’t help my current situation.
“Really? I hadn’t thought about it.”
“If you have any questions let me know. Here, give me your phone.” Raven reached forward for it.
My eyes went on a search for Yeongi.
He was leaning forward on the counter to order. The guy behind the register laughed at whatever he said. I could make out the grin on Yeongi’s face.
I narrowed my gaze at them.
It wasn’t a secret that Yeongi was Gay. He wasn’t waving the pride flag around town or anything, he was just him. I’d seen him run game on plenty of dudes, but this time it felt different. I didn’t want to call it jealousy that he was paying someone else's attention, but that’s exactly what it was.
My number was called for pick up. My chair scraped back against the floor, I advanced toward the counter, and almost pushed into Yeongi. “Can I get my pizza, please?” I asked the guy.
Why can he flirt with that guy but not hang out with me?
Yeongi turned to me while he still leaned on the counter.
I glanced at him. “What?”
“Everything okay, Kook?” He acted as if he knew the answer already, a bit of smugness dripped from his voice.
“Why wouldn’t it be?” I looked at him, aware that he could easily pinpoint my annoyance.
He looked back at the cashier who now held my pizza. “You were giving me your number,”
My eyes widened. I fixed the look on my face while I grabbed the pizza.
The cashier didn’t even give me a glance, he was too wrapped up in Yeongi. Was he that good looking to warrant this kind of customer service?
I headed back to the table while I pretended not to notice the possible hookup brewing not too far ahead of us. I offered Fran some.
She gratefully took a piece. “You okay?” Her green eyes assessed me.
I nodded. “Why would-” I didn’t want to get shitty. “Yeah,” I offered a half grin. “So why the sudden change in extracurriculars?”
Her hand moved some hair from her mouth. “Um, I don’t think it’s sudden. Over the Summer I was wondering about a lot of things. Cheerleading was one of them. I didn’t feel like it was apart of me that I couldn’t part with, that was a sign.”
I leaned closer. “What do you mean?”
She leaned an elbow on the table to prop her head up. “I guess, when I thought about Cheerleading, I wasn’t filled with this great sense of belonging or joy that I feel like the girls have. You know, it’s Sophomore year so I have time to figure something else out.” She nibbled on the pizza.
Lacrosse tugged on my mind.
“What if you’re wrong?” I asked. “What if you really do love Cheerleading and you feel like you made the wrong choice afterwards?”
She gave me a knowing look, then answered, “Well, if I had a friend who was thinking of the same thing, I’d tell him or her to consider themselves two years from now. Would they live in regret from not having tried something new? Or would they be just fine if they stayed where they were?”
The rest of the evening went almost without incident. We all laughed and chatted between all the pizza we scarfed down. I could admit that it felt nice to have this sense of friendship, of togetherness for a few hours. Even if it wouldn’t last, it still felt nice. I learned more about Fran in those two hours than in our two month stint of hooking up on and off. It was all stuff that I felt like a jackass for not knowing. Like the fact that she writes her own music, she was even trying to record it at some point. Or that she wasn’t okay talking about her parents that died nearly two years ago. And that she could simultaneously be cute, sexy, and cool all at the same time. How didn’t I know all of that?
She caught me staring and made a face.
I placed the last slice of my pizza on her plate.
Her soft grin made her eyes crinkle up.
Yeongi cleared his throat. “I’m heading out. Jaekook, ride with me.” It wasn’t a question.
I arched a brow at his clenched jaw. “Yeah, okay.” I rose with him. “Thanks guys. This was the most fun I’d had in a long time.” I looked around at all of them, but stilled on Fran. “See ya.”
She waved with a grin.
I followed Yeongi out to his Jeep, wondering what he wanted to talk about. When we got situated inside, I asked, “So do you want to tell me what happened that night?”
He cast a look my way. “I told you, ask your brother.”
My eyes rolled in annoyance. “Then why the fuck am I here?”
He hesitated before answering. “I heard what you said last night.” He chanced a look my way. “I didn’t mean to be one of those people that let you down. And I know that I did now, so I’m trying to make up for it, but I don’t know how.” He turned out of the parking lot.
I tried to evaluate if his words were true, but I already knew that he wasn’t the duplicitous type to begin with.
“Why?” I questioned.
“Why do you think, Kook?” He started to say something but cut himself off. “Fuck it, I miss you.” He flat out said.
I was pretty sure my mouth fell open.
He glanced at me, then laughed. “Relax. I’m not confessing my eternal love for you. I just miss hanging out with you.”
“And Namjoon.” I added.
“Namjoon’s not here.”
I thought over his words, I didn’t know how to decipher them without the dirty context that came to mind. There was a good chance I needed to get laid and that’s why I was getting worked up again. I should’ve gone with Fran instead, not that she’d always be in the mood. Nine times out of ten she was though.
“Are we ever going to talk about that day in the parking lot?” I blurted out.
He cocked a brow up at me with a glance my way. “What is there to talk about?”
I hadn’t thought that far, so I fumbled with my words. “I just-I shouldn’t have...I don’t know what to say.”
A grin stretched over his face. “You embarrassed you got caught?”
My face was definitely cherry red.
That wasn’t what I meant though. It wasn’t like he caught us and immediately got lost. He stared at me while I stared at him and it felt good. I hoped I wasn’t being homophobic about this, I just didn’t know how to process it properly.
“Maybe you should be more careful with your girlfriend.” He advised.
I looked out of the window to have somewhere to look at. “She’s not my girlfriend.”
“Does she know that?”
A tiny smile pulled at my lips but I resisted it. “Now who sounds jealous?” I could practically hear his smile at my words.
“So you do admit you were earlier?” His tone full of teasing.
My eyes rolled. “Oh, fuck off.”
He laughed lazily.
We idled in front of my house. It felt so nice to kind of clear the air, but I wasn’t sure if I should fully let him back in or if that’s even what he wanted. Things couldn’t go back to how they were. Quite honestly, I did probably blow things out of proportion. Yeongi and I had never hung out without Namjoon, not really. Not on purpose. I didn’t know what I was asking of him. I didn’t want to go with this feeling of uncertainty.
I turned to him. “I think I’m going to try out for the team.”
He stilled. “What? Why?” He didn’t sound as excited as I imagined.
Why wasn’t he excited?
Affronted, I got defensive. “Why not?”
“I just don’t think it’s a good idea.”
I balked. “I didn’t ask for your permission,”
His jaw hardened. “Like I said, Namjoon’s not here. He would say the same thing.”
“Who the fuck are you to say what Namjoon would’ve wanted?”
He sighed. “Why do you have to make things so difficult?”
My head shook. “Good question. Why did I even bother?” I moved to get out.
His hand on mine stopped me, he quickly moved it.
I looked at him, wondering what he could say to make things between us better?
There was clear indecision in his dark eyes, but all he said was, “You should go.”
A moment longer, I stared at him and let his words sink in, then I jumped out with my skateboard with another slammed door. I really shouldn’t have been surprised how things turned at this point, that didn’t make it hurt any less. But I wasn’t going to let him know.
For some reason, he didn’t want to talk about what happened that night. He didn’t want to be available to talk about it. It wasn’t like he had to protect Namjoon, he was already paying for his mistake. Whatever he was hiding, whatever he didn’t want me to find out couldn’t be worse than what happened.
He turned to look at me as he pulled off. Even from my porch I could see the fear in his stare.
I was going to find out the truth and I was going to use Lacrosse to do it.
Fran ran her fingers down my abs while we laid on her bed and caught our breath. “Are you nervous for tomorrow?”
Was I nervous to try out for the Lacrosse team? Or was I nervous that if I did get on I might be able to get the truth out of Yeongi?
“Nah,” My thumb ran circles into her bicep.
She looked up at me through her bangs. “It’s good to be nervous, it means you care.”
My eyes ran over her face in appreciation for her presence and her mind. I caught her chin in between my free finger and thumb to tilt her head up more, my mouth took over hers.
Each day I spent with her I wanted more than she wanted to give me. This wasn’t a change of events I expected or even wanted a week ago, but we’d been together in some version every day since. It had been a much easier week than the last few. However, she wanted us to remain as we were. I didn’t know how to go about changing her mind.
It was easy to want to spend time in her room because of how decked out it was, the very opposite of mine. She had an old record player with a display of albums in the corner. Cheerleading and music posters littered her walls. There was no hiding her interest in Kpop. Her desk had mounds of books on it, balled up sticky notes, and a few energy drinks lined up for use. She wasn’t a messy person, but there were a few clothes in a pile by her closet. The thing that caught your eye the most was her makeshift recording studio by the record player. I wondered how it must’ve felt to be able to express yourself that much.
She pulled away with a grin. “I need to finish my song.”
I pulled her back with a grin. “I thought it was homework?” I teased. My lips were hungry for hers. I let my hand cup her face so I could deepen it. Maybe if she could feel my feelings for her it would chip at her resolve. I let my hand trail down in between her legs.
She stilled, her moans filled our kiss until she reached her climax. She grinned lazily as she basked in her afterglow. “I still have to finish my homework.” Her eyes turned to mine.
I took the cue to get dressed. “Are you going to come watch me tryout?” I stepped into my jeans.
She pulled her satin floral robe on, then flipped her hair from underneath it. “Are you going to come watch me tryout?” She eyed me up and down.
“Is that an invitation?” I used my abs to the best of my ability.
Her green eyes got distracted before she answered, “I’m not saying I need you there, but it would be nice to have some support. The girls are pretty ticked that I left the squad.”
My brow arched. “Still?”
She nodded. “Not all, but most. I think the upperclassmen are bullying the few to not talk to me.” Her exterior was tough when it needed to be, but I could tell she was just as soft as the rest of us.
“Well,” I brought her to me, my arms wrapped around her. “I think you don’t need people like that in your life anyway, especially when you have me.”
She laughed against my chest. “Is that right?”
I nodded with a cute grin.
Her gaze softened from desire to compassion. She brought her hand to my face. “You’re sweet.” She leaned up on her toes to kiss me.
On my way out her cute little brown dog came up to jump on me.
I picked her up for a few kisses.
“Pebbles seems to like you,” Fran’s older sister and guardian came to scoop her up with the leash. “Have a nice night, Jaekook.”
Even with moments like that under our belt, I didn’t know why Fran wasn’t open to a relationship with me? I wondered what happened to her crush on me? Had it evaporated as soon as we slept together? Was I not what she imagined? I didn’t want to feel insecure about it but I didn’t know how else to feel.
I spent the rest of my night practicing shoots in my backyard with Namjoon’s gear. As the last several days have passed, I wanted to do well at this. Not only to find out the truth but because it started to feel like I was diminishing some of his tarnished reputation.
My Dad stood in the doorway when I grabbed a swig of water. I hadn’t officially told him I was trying out for Namjoon’s sport, but I was sure he saw me practicing at some point.
His arms were folded, a hard look on his aging face. “Since when is Basketball not the dream anymore?”
I wiped the sweat from my brow while I faced him, I caught my breath. “Your dream or mine?”
He rushed forward. “Don’t get smart with me, boy.”
“I’m not trying to be.” I stood my ground, but I was quaking in my boots. “I just want to try this for mys-”
“You want to try it for yourself?” He gave a cold laugh. “What happens if you get on the team and midseason you decide you’re done trying it for yourself?”
I held in my sigh. “Dad. It’s not like that.”
His forehead was heavy with wrinkles. “Are you planning on reimbursing me for all the camps, the gear, the paraphernalia I invested in you and Basketball?”
Surely, he was joking.
“Dad, it’s not that big of a deal. I just want to do this for me, for Namjoon.”
He looked about ready to explode. “So you think jeopardizing your sports career is helping Namjoon?”
I wanted to scream at him that I was only a teenager, that I had choices, but I knew it would fall on deaf ears. To him, I was just an investment. He didn’t want to listen to a word of what I had to say if I wasn’t agreeing with him or if it didn’t follow his plan for who he wanted me to be.
Before I could stop them, tears filled my eyes. I missed my brother so fucking much.
He stood there and watched me as tears rolled down my face.
“All I wanted to do was make Namjoon proud of me. I didn’t think it would be this hard for you let me do that.”
He had the tact to look like my words affected him.
I gathered my stick and rushed upstairs to cry for only a moment. Now wasn’t the time to break down. I had shit to do.
After I showered, I sat at my desk with Namjoon’s letter in my hands.
I don’t really know how to start this off so I’m just going to say that I miss you. I miss school. I miss the team. Things are tough here, I didn’t think it would be because of how Dad raised us, but it doesn’t even come close to our regulations here.
There’s a few guys that seem cool. I hope you remain friends with Yeongi, I told him to look after you. Be patient with him. You’ve never seen the darker side of him, that’s because he didn’t want you to see it. Like you, he’s going to be going through a hard time.
How have things been for you? Is Dad doubling down on you? Endure for two more years, then you can come live with me wherever that may be.
I’m also not really sure how to end this so I’m just going to remind you that I love you. Keep me updated on Basketball.
I’d read and reread that letter dozens of times since I got it in the middle of the week. I wanted badly to write him back but everytime I sat down to do it I got stuck. His words were heartwarming but also confusing when it came to Yeongi. Why had Yeongi made it seem like him and Namjoon were at odds about that night? If it were true then surely Namjoon would’ve told me to stay away from him. That wasn’t the case, still Yeongi was trying to distance us. Just how badly was he hurting?
When I saw him at school the next day I wanted to ask him if he’d gotten a letter as well, but the moment was gone as soon as Eric, the pizza cashier guy, came up and planted a kiss on his mouth. I should’ve realized that he went to our school because I had definitely recognized him with further inspection.
They hadn’t been annoyingly gross since they presumably started dating, it was just that I seemed to run into them at every turn. Nowhere was safe, not even the grocery store. I was supposed to be happy for them, I even wanted to be, but their relationship reminded me that Namjoon had specifically asked Yeongi to look after me and he couldn’t be bothered. Instead he was sucking Eric’s face off every chance he got.
I watched them a moment longer before I closed my locker and headed in the other direction.
Sandra intercepted me.
“Woah,” I backed up.
She offered a smile that bordered on worried, her hair was in one bun today instead of two. “I heard a little rumor that you were trying out for the Lacrosse team?”
My forehead creased. The only people I told were Yeongi and Fran, neither of them had big mouths. “Where did you hear that?”
We started for the lunch room.
“Just around.” She looked up at me. “Is it true?”
I nodded. “Yeah. Why?”
There was unmistakable worry in her eyes. “You seem like a good kid. Namjoon was very proud of you. Just be careful.”
I stopped where I stood. “What do you mean be careful? Is there something I should be worried about? Or someone?”
She lowered her voice as she stepped closer. “Not everyone on the team is who you think they are. Please, watch your back.” She walked away.
Her words sat with me for the first half of lunch. I said my goodbyes to my friends. Unlike Fran’s ex squad members, my friends weren’t petty about my trying out for Lacrosse. Sad yes, but still supportive.
I found her tucked away in the back of the library, her big headphones plugged into her Macbook while she mouthed the words to whatever she listened to. Her attention was glued to the screen so when she didn’t register my presence behind her at first she jumped forward with enough force that her headphones came out. As a result, the song played. It was soft and melodic. As little as I knew about music, I knew that much.
She turned red as people turned to us. She rushed to hit the no audio button. Her big, black framed glasses clearly displayed her not so happy expression with me.
I sat down adjacent to her. “Was that you?” I peeped over to get a good look at the screen to find a music producing program running.
Her cheeks seemed plumper when they were flushed. “Sort of.” She avoided eye contact.
“Can I listen to it?”
She shook her head. “It’s not done yet.”
I gave her a trusting look. “Maybe you should let someone without any musical background listen to it to give you notes.”
She cocked her head to the side, her eyes held a sarcastic gleam. “If you don’t have a musical background, how are you going to give me notes?”
I simply grinned. “I hadn’t thought that far ahead.” I leaned forward. “Come on, Fran. I really want to hear it. It sounded really good.”
The hesitation weighed my words before she gave in and passed me her headphones. She played it from the beginning.
There wasn’t an artistic bone in my body, but as I sat there with her lyrics and beats in my head, I wished that I was creative like that. Her song wasn’t very long, but it didn’t need to be. It had me planted in spot with a heavy heart full of loss and love. Her words expressed what twists and turns life took you through. A year or even three months ago I wouldn’t have connected with this song as much as I had recently. I wanted to hear it once more.
My eyes sought hers. “Again,” I mouthed.
Her shoulders relaxed a bit, a nervous smile turned proud. She blinked away the tears she didn’t want me to see.
I gave her my honest opinion, that it moved me and that people would want to hear it.
She bit her nail in nervousness. “Really?”
“I wouldn’t lie to you, Francesa.” My hand rested on hers.
Her palm turned up, her fingers entwined with mine. “That means a lot.” She still looked a bit unsure.
“Do you have time for me at four?”
She eyed me. “I guess so,” Her smile was playful. “It would be really embarrassing if you were shit.”
I fake laughed.
Sure, I was still nervous, but I was also gifted at sports. I guess it runs in the family. The odds of my not making Varsity was heavy but at least I’d be JV. I may not be first string by the first game but I would still make the cut. Therefore, I could still hammer away at Yeongi’s resolve. I needed the truth or I would go insane.
“Namjoon would be proud,” She spoke softly.
I stared at her while I tried to hold in my emotions, it was my turn to blink away the sting of tears.
The locker room was filled with testosterone and dudes projecting confidence by being louder than necessary. I sat with my elbows on my knees while my eyes were glued to the clock on the wall. My stomach danced in uncertainty.
Was this the right move? Was I on the wrong path? And what the hell did Sandra mean by not everyone on the team was who I thought they were? I remembered her staredown with Yeongi and I wondered what history they could have.
With a few minutes left until four, the room emptied out. I thought I was alone until a presence behind me made me turn around.
Yeongi stood with his arms across his chest, making him seem shorter than me than he already was.
I almost smiled at how cute he looked even though he was trying to be intimidating.
“If you’re having second thoughts take that as a sign.”
I stood up in an amused manor. “Are you discriminating against me because I’m straight?” I knew that wasn’t the case but I thought I’d lighten the mood.
He didn’t laugh at my bad joke, but I saw that he wanted to for a second. “You’re real cute, Kang,” He nodded behind us. “This isn’t Basketball. These guys check you and you could be out for the season. That’s a whole year down the drain.”
Lacrosse couldn’t be that different than Basketball. Sure it was a higher contact sport. There was risk in every sport so I knew he was trying to come up with excuses for me not to play.
“Nice of you to worry,” I neared him. “But I think they should be the ones worried about me checking them.”
He tried to keep his eyes on my face, but they ran down my body quickly before they met mine again. “You think because you put on ten pounds of muscle over the summer that it makes you qualified to play on that field?”
I glanced at the clock.
He did as well.
If we were late then that would be an automatic no tryout for the both of us. Was he really going to risk his spot for me not to try out?
I closed the distance between us easily. Not that it mattered, but I hadn’t really paid attention to the fact that I was a few inches taller than him, something that had only happened recently. “What’s your issue with me being on this team?”
His brow arched. “I don’t want to have to babysit your ass all season.”
My eyes let him know that I was serious.
He licked his lips, a nervous habit of his that he hadn’t broken.
I felt my eyes follow his tongue, I quickly looked back up.
“You were perfectly fine with how your life was, this team isn’t for everybody. I just don’t want to see you get hurt.” His eyes ran over mine. “Now will you quit?”
I took in a breath as I leaned down in his face. “See you out there,” I headed for the door. A satisfied grin played on my face.
When I thought we were done with drills, there were more drills, and more drills. I hadn’t expected an easy time with this, but I also hadn’t expected for it to go on this long. Coach was running us more like a practice than a tryout.
I looked up at the bleachers on a water break to find Fran sitting with Jeno. I jogged up to them deep in conversation.
They jumped up as they noticed me.
“What are you doing here?” I asked Jeno with a grin. I dapped him up.
He pushed back his sandy brown curls that started to look like strings of gold from the Sun. “To see you fall on your ass, why else would I be here?” He teased, but he was excited for me.
“Is your Dad not coming?” Fran asked.
We looked at her and laughed.
“Have you met his Dad?” Jeno looked at her.
She shook her head. “Is he...?” She was nervous to offend me.
“A douche.” I supplied. “Yes. Yes, he is.”
“Yo, Kang!” Brin called me.
I looked down at the guys, then back at my friends. “I gotta go. Wish me luck.” I reached up to place a quick peck on Fran’s cheek, then I made my way back down to endure the rest of the treatment designed to weed out the weak.
The second half of tryouts actually consisted of shooting, having everyone run the same plays to score a goal, and passing the ball back and forth with a partner for a few minutes without letting it fall out of the net. When my sore muscles want to quit on me and my breathing felt impossible I pulled strength from my brother and my friends, it had really meant a lot that they came to show their support.
With Coach’s whistle that sounded the end, I collapsed on my back to catch my breath. It hadn’t been the hardest thing I’d been through, but it had been up there. Perhaps it felt that way because I had so much at stake for it.
I grinned to myself because I finished without breaking.
Brin walked into view, he extended a hand down. He grinned big at me. “Good job, Kookie.”
My hand wrapped around his to help me up. “Thanks.”
He smacked my back. “Let’s go celebrate.”
I gave him a lifted brow. “Isn’t that a little premature?” Not that I didn’t believe in myself, but how awkward would it be if celebrated and I was so terrible that I didn’t make shit on the team?
“I saw what you could do, I know Coach did too. Don’t worry about it.” He sounded sure that my spot was secure on the field and not as a benchwarmer.
I couldn’t muster up the energy to protest.
We all ended up at Brin’s house, sans my friends because they had responsibilities that I was neglecting for the day. It paid to try to stay ahead.
Brin’s house made mine look like a trailer. It was that nice. I hadn’t figured him to have so much money, you could usually spot those kids a mile away. His Dad was upstairs with some buddies, drinking as well. He seemed okay with us in the pool house because he had all of our keys. Metro Boomin and the like played in the background. A weed pen was going around.
I was passed another beer from one of the upperclassmen. I didn’t want to be rude so I worked on my third.
“Maybe you should slow down, Kook.” Yeongi commented from his chair across from me.
“Boo,” Trent teased him. “What are you, his mom?”
“Fuck off.” He grew irritated.
The pen was passed my way. For a second, I thought about taking it. Only for a second.
Brin blew out a puff of smoke and coughed a little. “It’s pretty good shit.”
Yeongi came over to grab it from his hand, he hit it himself. He didn’t cough like Brin had, his eyes warned me of getting in too deep. He passed it to someone else.
Brin leaned forward. “You don’t have to baby him, Yeongi.”
“He’s Namjoon’s kid brother. He’s like my brother. What do you think Namjoon would do if he was here?” He opposed him.
“Well, he’s not here.”
They stared each other down before Brin looked away to shake off the serious tone that filled the atmosphere.
I watched Yeongi carefully. Quite honestly, I felt like a kitten amongst lions. That had never been the vibe I had with them before, but something was different now. Peer pressure was always going to be a thing, I didn’t feel that now, but I wanted to bond with these guys. It was hard to do with him leering protectively over me like I was having my first sip of beer. Technically, I was.
At some point girls arrived to really make it a party. As hot as they all were, like really hot, I didn’t feel right coming onto them, which was what the guys probably wanted me to do.
“Sorry, I didn’t call any dick for you, Yeongi.” Brin joked with him. “Call up Eric.”
Yeongi rolled his eyes, but I could tell he wasn’t mad. Not at that.
Moments later, a sexy, mocha skinned girl sat down beside me.
My mouth went dry.
She had little on in the way of a skirt and tube top. Her cleavage was very on display and very pointed at me. She spread her glossed lips into a confident smile. I recognized her as one of the Seniors, she was on the cheerleading squad with Fran. Past tense.
I wasn’t desolate of game, but she was very out of my league. And anyone with eyes could tell. So when I spoke, I fumbled out a ‘Hi’.
She brought a hand to my chest, she looked almost impressed. “You’re Jaekook, right?”
Her hand trailed down to my abs. “I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“You have?” My face felt hot.
“He has a girlfriend, Candace.” Trent informed her with Raven by his side.
She didn’t seem phased. Her hand snaked down the very obvious hardon in my jeans.
Her soft lips took mine.
It wasn’t like it wasn’t good, I just didn’t want to kiss her. I mean, I should want to kiss her because she was, you know. But I didn’t want to kiss other girls. Getting up the energy to push her away seemed impossible. A feeling of panic set in because I didn’t want Fran to find out about this.
A hand wrapped around mine and pulled me up.
I met Yeongi’s eyes, they weren’t very in focus. They were usually nice even though they didn’t look it right then.
He turned them onto Candace. “He’s drunk and not able to resist your charms.” He gave her a warning look. “Sexual assault can go both ways.”
She scoffed at him.
“Chill out, dude.” Someone said, the voices started to merge.
I tilted to the side.
Yeongi caught me, he brought my arm around his shoulders. “Let’s go.” He carted me away from the protests.
Before we even reached the car I was blowing chunks on the ground.
“Dude,” He looked down at himself.
And apparently on his shirt.
“It was an ugly shirt anyway.” I muttered.
He let out a laugh, but I could tell he didn’t want to be doing this. For someone that didn’t want to keep an eye one me he kept making a habit of it.
We made it to his Jeep without another incident, but he cursed once he remembered his keys were hostage in the main house.
He sat me against the tire. “I’ll be back, don’t go anywhere.”
I nodded my head felt heavy.
He ran off.
Somewhere between him coming back and lightly smacking my face I’d fallen asleep. I came to in his passenger seat at the side of the road.
He stood in the open door on my side with a tall bottle of water held out expectantly. “Drink this.”
My hand struggled to wrap around it.
He huffed, but proceeded to press the bottle to my lips himself while his other hand held my head back by my chin. “You need to sip this until you’re sober. There’s no way I can return you to your Dad like this.”
I wanted to freak out but I couldn’t even keep my head upright. So I laid it back on the headrest. “Hmm, he’s going to kill me.” I rested my eyes.
“Not if you drink this. I got you some food too. I advise you to eat it.”
My eyes opened to find his, they were full of concern even if they didn’t want to be. “This isn’t fun. Why do people make it seem fun in the movies?”
“Because they’re acting.” He looked around us at the passing cars before he shut the door. He jogged over to his side to drive off. “Sip.”
I did as instructed. Amazingly, I didn’t spill anything. I look at his shirt, it still had my vomit on it.
“I don’t have anything else clean in my bag.” He added to quench my curiosity. He drove for a few minutes, he pulled onto a side dirt road that could’ve gone anywhere.
I downed half of the bottle to quicken my sobering process, I was quite sure that he had better things to do than babysit me. “Help me take off my hoodie. You can wear it.” I had a shirt underneath.
He looked at me, but something made him hesitant.
“Come on,” I held my arm out. “It’s either that or you continue to stink up the car.”
“You’re one to talk, your breath smell heinous.” He shot back.
Well, what are you gonna do?
He helped me shed my hoodie, then hopped outside to get rid of his tainted shirt.
Things had stopped spinning so I was able to watch him change, it fell big on him. I always had admired his body. I used to be so much smaller than him, lanky and awkward. Now I was just awkward to him.
He pushed his head through my black hoodie, it offset his bleached hair nicely. He came around to open my door to let air in.
I grabbed at his shoulder.
He looked back at me, his tiny mouth was forever in a moody pout.
“Thank you,” I didn’t mean for it to be this big, heavy thing but it came out that way.
He took a moment before he nodded. He reached down for the McDonald’s he bought me. “Eat it all.”
I dug in while he sat on my left. There was a good chance we’d argue if I brought it up, but I blamed it on my tipsy state.
“Why didn’t you invite Aaron?” I nibbled on a fry.
He stared at me until I looked at him. “His name is Eric. Maybe I would’ve if I wasn’t too busy watching you.”
I blinked a few times.
“Watching over you.” He felt the need to clarify. “Shouldn’t this be your girlfriend’s job?”
My head shook and I regretted it. I downed more water. “She’s not my girlfriend.” I offered some fries. “She won’t date me.”
He declined my offer with a shake of his head, he made a noise at the back of his neck.
I looked at him. “What does that mean?”
“Nothing. Finish your food.”
He couldn’t have picked a better spot to get my shit together. The rolling hills of our small California town beautifully held two lane roads below us. The highway was lit a goldish orange by the light posts. Purple gradually faded into navy blue in the sky with undertones of pink further away. I didn’t think I’d ever seen this sight but it was a beautiful one to behold. Not a single car drove by for a few precious minutes. It was an easy spot to forget about things, so I let myself forget that I had to go home at the end of all of this.
“How have things been at home?” He asked after a while.
I faced forward as I said, “Can we talk about something else? Anything else,”
“Where are you going to college when you graduate?”
I glanced at him.
He had his hands in the pockets of my hoodie. “I don’t really get a say. Wherever has the best scholarship.”
“Pfft, you can go to any D1 school you want. I’ve seen you play, you’re great on the field.”
He shrugged it off. “No more than the other guys. Besides, it doesn’t really matter where I play. As long as I can major in Psychology.”
I looked at him in shock. “You’re into Psych? Why didn’t I know this?”
“Maybe because apart from hanging out with Namjoon we didn’t ever get to that part.” He glanced my way.
He was right. When I thought about it, all I really knew about him was that he played Lacrosse with my brother, he loved to read, and he hated scary movies. There had to be a lot I didn’t know about. It was crazy to realize you could know someone your whole life without really knowing them.
“So why Psych?”
He took a few moments to answer. “There are a lot of messed up people in this world. I want to know why they’re messed up. Maybe somehow I can help them.”
My eyes stared at his profile. “How do you think you can help them?”
“That I haven’t figured out.” He turned his head to look at me. “What about you?”
“What about me?” I got a bit shy.
He held in his grin as best he could. “What are you going to do when you graduate?”
My mind came up blank. I didn’t know much of anything, but I did know that I’d still be under my Dad’s thumb in some fashion.
“What if you could do anything, be anyone without worrying about what anyone thought. What comes to mind?”
I thought of the thing farthest from the expectations set for me. “A barista.”
His mouth ticked up in a smile. “A barista?”
“Paint me a picture,” He seemed intrigued.
I bit my lip in thought, it wasn’t often I used the creative side of my brain. “I’m in LA. No, New York city.” I raised a finger. “Connecticut.”
His stuck grin encouraged me to go on.
“I’ve got a two bedroom apartment that I struggle to pay for while taking classes at a community college, but I feel proud of it because I’m doing it on my own.” I turned my head to talk to him directly. “I’ve got a cat because they’re low maintenance and chill.”
His pouty lips pursed. “What are you doing in your free time?”
“Yeah, free time. As a hobby.” He gestured for me to come up with something.
I bit into my lip again. “Hmm,” I thought back to how talented Fran had been with her music and how I envied her ability to create art. “Art,” I answered but it sounded more like a question.
His body had turned toward mine. “Can you even draw?”
I grinned. “No,” I hadn’t tried.
He laughed. “But you’ve mastered all things artistic by then, huh?”
I laughed with him. “I guess so.” I turned all the way to him. “So apart from being in the Psychology field, what does your life look like then?”
He pouted in thought.
My lips pressed together to hold in my smile.
“Uh, I’ll probably stay in California to be close to my mom. I don’t really want to leave her alone very often.”
That was another thing I knew about him. His mom worked at the hospital, she worked long hours, often pulling two days in a row to provide for them. Namjoon swore me to secrecy when he told me that she had a few issues. He didn’t go into detail about what, but it explained why Yeongi was at our house often growing up. Once he was able to take care of himself on his own he stopped needing to sleep over as much.
I caught his gaze. “What if you could go? Would you want to?”
He stared at me for a few beats, then answered, “I’d want to travel the world. It would be nice to absorb different perspectives before I have to hit the real world.”
I could picture a worldly Yeongi in a few years. His hair would revert back to its original dark brown. He could have some facial hair, his Mom’s brother did. He’d likely come back with a ponytail and bracelets. I laughed at the imagery.
He arched a brow, curious about my amusement. “Are you laughing at my what if?”
“No,” I grinned. “I was just picturing you with a ponytail all Johnny Depp like.”
His eyes closed as he laughed at the ridiculous comparison. “If I have that many bracelets I need you to stop me at all costs.”
“Even if I’m in Connecticut?”
He nodded. “You’ve never even been to Connecticut. Why was that on your list?”
I absently played with the water bottle in my hand. “It doesn’t have to be Connecticut, anywhere that my Dad isn’t will do.”
The lightheartedness in his eyes faded. He looked down at his lap. “I’m sorry I left you alone to deal with him.”
I waited for him to look up at me. “We’re not really brothers, you didn’t owe me all that I asked of you.” I sighed. “I was really angry with you. It felt like you abandoned me, but I didn’t take into account how you must’ve felt. I was being childish.”
“How adult of you,” He complimented. “I was hurting, but I should’ve been there for you. I wanted to be, I was just scared.” He looked me over. “A lot was happening all at once. You were the last thing that I wanted to be involved in that whole mess, but I didn’t do a very good job of telling you that.”
My chest felt lighter. “Did you get a letter from Namjoon?”
His head shook. “No, did you?”
I sighed. “Yeah, I don’t know how to write him back.”
“What did he say?”
I paused, sure he’d feel awkward had he known it’s contents. “What if you didn’t know? Would it change anything?” I posed.
He looked out at the windshield. “It’s a what if now?”
I needed to change the subject. “So tell me about Eric. What’s his story besides being the pizza cashier guy?”
“Pizza cashier guy?” He seemed entertained by it. “Is that what you’ve been calling him?”
My shoulders shrugged. “He didn’t seem that important at first. Now he’s off making eyes at you.”
His forehead creased, a look of intrigue on his face. “Making eyes at me?”
I realized how dumb that sounded, old fashioned even. “You know what I mean. So how’s that going?”
“Are we really talking about boys?”
I gestured that I didn’t feel any sort of way about it.
He reached forward to put on some classic rock radio station.
“Stop stalling, grandpa.” I sat up.
His eyes narrowed, a grin danced on his lips. “I’m only two years older than you.”
My arms folded across my chest.
“Fine, I guess things are good. I wasn’t really planning on seeing anyone my last year, what with college around the corner.”
I could understand that logic.
“Now what? Do you think you’ll go the distance?”
He chewed on it. “It hasn’t been that long, but I don’t think so.” He looked over at me. “Some people you just know you’d be willing to make it work for.” His elbow pointed at me. “What about you and Fran? You said she didn’t want to start dating.”
A grin planted on my face. “I was completely wrong about her when we started hooking up at the beginning of the summer. At first, it was just something to take my mind off of Ashley dumping me and moving away. We’ve been hanging out the last few days.”
He looked happy for me. “Why doesn’t she want to date you? Surely she’s got eyes.”
I took it with a grain of salt and thought about what he said. “You said you know that some people you knew you’d be willing to make it work for no matter what,” I gathered my thoughts. “I don’t think I’m that person for her even though I think I want to be. Or maybe I’m trying to rush into things to have some part of my life not so shitty.” I shrugged. “I don’t know, but I do like her.” I looked to him for advice.
He licked his lips. “I think you should wait it out if you feel that way. You’re young, it’s not like you have to fall in love just yet.”
Again, he was right. There wasn’t a rush on things. Taking a look at Namjoon’s record, he hadn’t experienced much in the way of love, a girlfriend here or there but nothing worth mentioning. I didn’t want to follow suit.
We sat there a while longer until he started the engine. “You seem fine to go home.”
All too soon, we stalled in front of my house.
Yeongi leaned over to look out my window, his gaze on the house. “It doesn’t look the same without Namjoon.”
“Tell me about it,” I blew out a breath. My eyes went to his that were closer than they had maybe ever been. “As much fun as I’m sure you had tonight, I appreciate you taking care of me.”
A rueful grin tugged at his lips. “Well, I had some ground to make up for.” His eyes searched mine. “I really am sorry, Kook.”
I nodded. “I know,” My fingers tugged on my hoodie. “That’s why I threw up on you.”
His laugh crinkled his eyes, making him look really Asian. “In that case, I’m keeping the hoodie.”
The hoodie and I had no particular history, so I didn’t mind. I hadn’t quite gotten to the clothes sharing stage with Fran. Yeongi and I had probably shared clothes when we were younger, it wasn’t a big deal. More accurately, it shouldn’t have been a big deal. I was a little freaked out that it was.
I turned to opened the door, his stare felt heavy on the back of my neck. “See you later.”
I got out and dragged my pace. By the time I was in bed I realized I hadn’t stopped smiling. Now that it felt like I had a different version of Yeongi back.
A/N: I’m planning to post a few more chapters next week. If you’d like to reach me via social media my Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are linked on the side bar. Thanks for reading!