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Red Carnations - My heart aches for you


 

He stares at her, wondering whether to move forward or run away. Her gaze is as piercing as ever, and he curses that habit of hers. She can see right through him, like nothing. Like she’s reading a book that he’s placed at her doorstep.

But instead, she offers a small smile, “Want to come in?” Like it was an offer. Like he hadn’t just shown up at an unimaginable time for a teenager to be out – and at her house, of all places. Like he wasn’t standing on her doorstep with only the clothes on his back and the feelings bottled up inside.

So, he nods. Because honestly, he can’t speak right now.

 

He dares to look around her room. He thinks about how they could have stayed downstairs, then unthinks that thought because now is not the time to start daydreaming. That’s what being with her is like. A daydream at night. A pleasant hope at a time when you are lost. That was putting it kindly.

Being with her was that one moment playing over and over, never letting you sleep. Okay, he loved every bit of it. Just like he loved every part of her.

“Here,” And there she goes, cutting through him, “Have something to drink.” He stares at her like she offered him a million dollars, and what’s the difference anyways? He’s never been more glad that she isn’t asking questions.

He takes a small sip of the coffee and winces. Too hot. And too bitter for his liking. “Hey, Lee Eun Bi, there’s no sugar. No cream!” She rolls her eyes at him and scoffs. A part of him sighs because now things seem normal.

As normal as this situation can be.

She hits him with her pillow, “You’re such a child.” He offers a wide grin like she praised him and she hits his nose.

“Hey!”

“Who puts cream in coffee? What’s so fun about that?”

“Hey, you old woman. Coffee is nothing without cream.” She gives a half-smile, like he’s just a kid who she has to humor.

He buries his face in a pillow and dares to peek out from a small slit. She’s staring at him and God, he’d swear he might faint but luckily he doesn’t. And then her fingers are playing with his hair.

He freezes, and she doesn’t notice. She hums a small tune as she gently combs his hair, and he notices a bit too much. He pretends to be asleep, earning a laugh and a small squeal.

“Your hair is so soft,” She whispers enviously, still toying with it. He scrunches his nose – was that an insult?

At one point she tugs at his hair a bit too hard, “Hey! Ow, you monster. Just because you envy these good looks doesn’t mean you can harm me!” She scoffs and hits him. He sighs, because finally his hair is free from that torment. A sweet gesture, he’ll admit, but she isn’t the best at fixing tangles.

She grabs him by his collar and yanks him up so he finally has to look her in the eye. He’s about to joke with something along the lines of ‘Have you finally fallen for me’ but her gaze stops him. It’s time. He gulps and suddenly it’s like he’s being interrogated.

He looks up like a guilty child when she asks, “Why are you here?” But even he can’t play around. Not when every muscle, every bone of his body is aching to just get it out. He can still hear his father’s voice. He can still feel that lump in his throat. And most of all, he can remember the pain shooting through him.

He wants to say that he just felt like it, but both of them knew he was a terrible liar. So, he says, “I wanted to see you.” Which isn’t a lie, if you think about it. He really did want to see her, but not in this way. Not when his feelings are so bare and open and she can see them laid out before her.

“Okay.” He looks up, shocked. Her smile is softer than before, “But you have to sleep on the couch.”

“My back hurts a lot, you know. Ah, this bed is so fluffy!” He covers his head with the blanket so she can’t see his smile. He’s glad he showed up, after all. No one could handle him the way Lee Eun Bi could.

“Gong Tae Kwang, you’re an old man.”

“You call me a child one minute and an old man the next? You’re the old woman here.”

 

After a few small bickerings – and he swears he’s going to sue her for physical injury – he ends up on the couch. What’s going to happen when her mother wakes up, he wonders, and then decides to leave it aside. That’s an issue for tomorrow.

He wonders what it would be like to wake up every morning to the sound of laughter – her laughter – and to sit at a breakfast table bathed in warm sunlight. Because God, she lights up every place she is in, and he’s an idiot. And he doesn’t ignore that small thought – doesn’t want to.

 

He smiles, because she likes her coffee bitter and because being with her is better than any daydream he’d wish for.

Chapter Text

Lily of the Valley – You’ve made my life complete.

 


 

He’d admit it to himself later that kissing her wasn’t as bad as he thought. God, it was everything he had imagined it to be and then some. Well, it was only on the cheek and meant nothing anyways, but that didn’t stop him. Even now, the very thought of his lips brushing against her skin made him turn red.

It was just a quick peck on her cheek. Nothing more than that. A little, childish gesture. But that was all her fault. She made him forget everything and become a child. Maybe that’s love, he wonders, and then laughs because God, he’s so cheesy.

“Are you an idiot?” He whispers, but only half-heartedly. He can’t be angry right now, can’t think of anything but her eyes as they stared into his. Amidst horrified cries of ‘I’m an idiot’ he admits that yes, her eyes really did shine like the night sky, and then argues that he isn’t falling for her.

“Gong Tae Kwang,” The maid calls, “Can I come in?” He grunts his approval and she enters with a cup of coffee. With his favourite cream, of course.

But instead of taking the cup from her, he groans and rolls around in bed.

“Are you feeling ill?”

“Help,” He groans from underneath the sheets, “I’m already whipped.”

 

Maybe he was just over-reacting.

Yes, that must be it, he tells himself at school. He was tired and possibly drunk and that’s it. He wasn’t really drunk, but being around her wasn’t much different. He dares to glance at her seat – Go Eun Byul’s seat, he corrects himself – and can’t help the twinge of disappointment that she isn’t there.

It’s not that he misses her, of course not. He already sees her every day. It’s not that he misses her smile, those tiny glances she made his way when she thought he was asleep, the way she squeaked a little when she was discovered. It’s not that he misses her smile, her gentle smile that was absolutely nothing like her sister. He didn’t miss meeting on the rooftop – once stupidly called their rooftop – and he definitely doesn’t miss her annoying him and messing with his toys.

Not at all.

Go Eun Byul barely glances at him, a trait that he had been used to, but now it leaves him unsettled. He can’t come to school every day and be ignored by a person who looks exactly like her. He’d rather die than admit it, but he calls her after school to remind himself that she’s there, she’s still there, Lee Eun Bi is still here. That she wasn’t a passing dream.

God, he really was whipped.

“Oh my god, he’s smiling!” One of Eun Byul’s friends squeaks and he curses. He was lost in thought and then suddenly remembered the kiss and smiled like the idiot that he was. And somehow he was staring at those girls. An honest mistake.

“Hey, Gong Tae Kwang, do you like me?” She asks, a teasing smile on her face. He wants to shout at her that she isn’t the one he likes, but that would make it worse. That would make him have to admit that he was thinking of her all the time, it would make him have to tell these girls that he liked someone. A part of him wanted to keep it secret, like something sacred that only they shared.

So, he grunts and storms out of the classroom. He collides into someone on the way there, it’s that Han Yi An, and suddenly he doesn’t mind anything. He glares at the boy, the boy who had her heart and stepped on it, and now wants it back. Like he had any right. Then he stops himself. Lee Eun Bi doesn’t belong to anyone. But he’ll be damned the day he lets Han Yi An have his way.

“There is someone I like.” He says, loud enough that only the other boy can hear. He watches him stiffen and can’t help that small smile that comes on his face. “Remember what you said about not hurting her? Well, right back at you, buddy.”

Maybe he had started it. Or maybe the perfect boy wasn’t as perfect as he thought. Either way, he found himself hitting Han Yi An only to get punched once, twice, thrice until his entire body burned. Damned ex-swimmer. He gets up and lands a punch to his face. He could have gone further, he bets, if the teachers hadn’t stepped in. Yes, that was it. He was winning.  

 

She meets him later that day, and he can see the damage in her eyes. A cut lip, black eye, and bruises like constellations all over his face. She gasps and takes out a handkerchief to wipe the small trickle of blood coming from his lip. He closes his eyes to her touch, and hopes that she’ll be too busy with this to remember that kiss.

When he opens his eyes, she leaning close to him, eyes concentrated on his swollen eye. She brushes her fingertips on it and he leans into her touch, feels the ache being pulled out. She’s his drug, his remedy, his everything.

But soon she presses a bit too hard and he flinches. She jumps back in shock and he grabs her hand, helping her up. She’s turning a bit red, and it’s not the sunset, and he smiles a bit too much which earns him a small punch on his shoulder.

He cries in pain, dramatically leaning over. She panics and tries to check his shoulder. He smirks and flicks her forehead. Soon they’re bickering again and he’s so glad for it because that means that they can still be together, still be friends or whatever this is. He really is a child with her. Falling in love with her did that to him.

He laughs, because she isn’t perfect and God knows he isn’t either. But maybe they could help each other, fix those tiny holes and dents left in their armour. She’s a girl who’s been bullied, attempted suicide, has identity problems. He’s a boy who’s lost his mother, his father, been caught up in fights.

It’s almost funny how they seem to be perfect for each other in that weird way that fate plays with them. It’s almost funny how he thinks to himself that this is the face that he wants to see every day, the laughter he wants to hear every day, the person who occupies his thoughts and maybe doesn’t even know it - the stupid girl, she doesn’t even know it.

He thinks about how they could help each other. How maybe he could become a part of her life the way she was part of his. But God knows they were far from perfect, and so, he decides to take one step at a time.

And so, he takes the first leap. He takes it for her.