Chapter 1: The Rose
"Seunghyun... Seunghyun... hurry or you'll be late for school. It's the first day and..." Ae-jung stopped dead in her tracks at the sight of her grandchild wearing their sister's old school uniform instead of their own khakis and polo shirt that she'd carefully laid out for them. Their shoulder length hair was swept to the side as they applied gloss to their lips. "Almost ready, Gram." The older woman frowned over at her grandchild, crossing her arms. "Just what do you think that you're doing?" Turning to her with a nervous expression, the teen straightened out the pleats on their skirt. "I thought... since it's a new school I could..." Ae-jung sighed wearily, picking up the correct uniform from the bed, waving it in the air for emphasis. "Seunghyun... I don't have time for this nonsense today." In a quiet voice, the teen spoke up. "It's Sooyun, Gram." Ae-jung looked confused momentarily. "What? Who's Sooyun?" Sooyun squared her shoulders, trying to look stronger than she felt. "I am, Gram... I'm Sooyun." Ae-jung shook her head, tossing the uniform in her hands back onto the bed while exhaling tiredly. "You can call yourself whatever you like when you play your dress up here at home, but when you go to school or anywhere else you're Seunghyun. Now get changed, wipe off your face and pull your hair back. I'm gonna have to drive you or you'll be late. I hope you're happy with yourself Seunghyun." Staring down at the boys clothing in her hands, Sooyun let out an exasperated sigh. "I'm really not... not at all."
Sooyun stood looking at her broken reflection in the storefront window... the child sized mannequins wearing a variety of different school uniforms staring back blankly at her through the steel cage that locked the shop to intruders. It was almost hard to see herself through all of that metal. This always happened to her whenever she covered the late night shift at the pharmacy... the memories would come without warning... flooding through her when her guard was down. As she walked to the bus in the early predawn hours, she approached the florist shop on the corner, Hanabira. Although locked up tight now, she would always sneak a peek inside to see what beautiful floral arrangements were on display. Whoever worked there was a true artist and it always gave her a lift to know that such beauty could thrive in such a harsh world. Sadly, this morning her bus was coming so she had to haul ass or else end up sitting at the bus stop waiting for thirty minutes for the next bus... not something she wanted to do after being on her feet for several hours at the pharmacy.
Later in the day, after hot shower and a several hours of sleep, Sooyun was back on the bus, only this time she was headed to the LGBT Center for yoga class. Stepping off the bus to walk the two blocks to the Center her phone chimed. "Hello." An unfamiliar woman's voice began speaking. "Hello... I got this number from Ae-jung Choi. I'm her neighbor, Stephanie... is this her grandchild?" Sooyun stopped walking as guilt began to rise up in her chest, she hadn't spoken to her Gram in months... sick and tired of the woman's stubborn outlook. "It is... I'm Sooyun Choi. Did something happen? Is she alright?" Stephanie reassured her quickly. "She's fine. She just took a bad fall when she was in her garden. Tripped I think. I found her and she wasn't making any sense so I called the paramedics. She's resting now in bed but I thought you should know." Sooyun let out a relieved sigh, no matter how mad she made her, she still loved her Gram. "Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. I'll come by and check on her myself." Stephanie sounded confused. "Oh... do you live in the area? I was under the impression that you had moved out west but as I said, she wasn't making much sense." Sooyun frowned, shaking her head. "That's my older sister who moved to Phoenix." Stephanie smiled, peeking in on the sleeping older woman briefly. "Oh I see... so there's three of you then. Maybe your brother can visit her as well." Sooyun felt her heart clench to hear that her Gram still referred to her to others as male. "We don't have a brother. Thanks again Stephanie. I've got to run... good bye."
Sooyun cursed as she turned to head back towards the bus. "Shit." "Was it something I said?" Daesung stood before her, gym bag slung over his right shoulder, eyebrows raised in question. Sooyun smiled at her friend. "Sorry Dae... bad day. It wasn't you... I need to go." Daesung's expression turned wary. "What about yoga? We were gonna take class together then grab coffee. Are you ditching me for some guy?" Sooyun shook her head, rolling her eyes. "No I'm not actually. My Gram fell..." Daesung gasped, clutching her arm tightly. "Oh no! Is she alright?" Sooyun sighed, a slight smile gracing her lips at her friend's dramatic turn around. "Yeah... at least I think so. I got a call from her neighbor. She's resting in her bed right now... but..." Daesung's eyes showed concern as he regarded his friend. "But what honey? Is there something you're not telling me?" Sooyun shrugged wondering if it even mattered anymore. "It's just... when the neighbor called... she assumed I was Younie because... because Gram..." Daesung wrapped an arm around her shoulders in comfort. "Do you want me to come with you?" She looked into his caring face for a moment. "You wouldn't mind? What about yoga?" Now Daesung rolled his eyes, giving her shoulder a squeeze. "Fuck yoga, you're more important... but I would be remiss as your friend if I didn't mention how tense you seem right now." Sooyun side eyed him, knowing exactly where he was going with this. "Of course I'm tense. My Gram just injured herself not to mention every time I set foot in that house I get flooded with one bad memory after another." Daesung removed his arm from around her shoulder. "So you agree with me then." Sooyun tilted her head, eyebrow cocked. "Agree with what exactly?" Daesung took her arm and began leading her back towards the LGBT Center. "That we should go to yoga first then go and check on your Gram. She'll be fine, that neighbor is with her, right?" Sooyun nodded slowly as she was led inside the building. "Yes, but don't think that I don't know what this is really about... you just want to watch the yoga instructor's ass during class." Daesung giggle snorted, shoving her at the women's locker room doorway. "Can you blame me? Seungri's ass looks just like a peach and I want to take a bite out of it."
After thanking Stephanie once again, Sooyun went to check on her grandmother. All the tension relief she'd gotten from yoga was gone the minute she'd laid eyes on her childhood home. Even all that extra relief she'd gotten watching Daesung fall all over himself whenever Seungri would realign his position for him which she suspected he messed up on purpose. Her stomach muscles were seriously hurting when they left the LGBT Center and not from the intensity of the yoga. When she saw that her grandmother's eyes were opened, Sooyun smiled and sat on her bed. "Gram... how are you feeling? Can I get you anything? Are you hungry?" Ae-jung blinked over at her having just woken up. "Seunghyun... is that you?" Sooyun clenched her teeth trying to remain calm. "It's Sooyun, Gram. Your neighbor called me and told me you fell." She stood up, smiling kindly at the old woman. "I'll be right back with a cup of tea then I'll fix you something to eat. My friend Daesung is here to visit you as well." Sooyun quickly left the room finding Daesung in the kitchen. "I'm making tea. Would you like a cup?" Daesung watched her set the kettle on the stove. "Sure... thanks. Everything okay?" Sooyun pulled out three mugs as well as tea bags to go into them. "Yeah... she seems good. I just wish she wouldn't still refer to me as Seunghyun but I guess under the circumstances, I'm probably being petty." Daesung shook his head. "No sweetie, you're not. Have you tried talking to her about it?" Sooyun poured the water rather messily into the mugs. "No Dae... that's a great idea. Why haven't I ever thought of that in the last twenty years?" Daesung grabbed the kettle from her shaking hands, setting it on the stove once more. "Okay... sorry... it was a stupid thing to say." Sooyun shook her head, looking down at the three mugs while the tea steeped. "No... I'm sorry Dae. I shouldn't have bit your head off. My Gram... she's never gonna change. This is just how it is... it sucks... but it's how it is."
Ae-jung really seemed to enjoy Daesung's company. He was funny and he cooked better than Sooyun did. Between the two of them, they got the older woman out of bed and into the kitchen for a meal. She was presently sitting on the couch watching television with Daesung while Sooyun went in search of fresh blankets to put on her old bed so that she could stay the night. The search took her to her sister's old room where she found the blankets in an old chest. Bending down to pull out the blankets, Sooyun's eye was drawn to something shiny. Upon inspection, it was a gold hair clip lying tucked away underneath the chest for who knows how long. She stood up, clip still held firmly between her fingertips as her mind began to drift back to her youth. Gram had gone out to play bingo leaving the thirteen year old Sooyun in the care of her older sister. Hyeyoun was turning seventeen soon and thought she was something special. She never had time for Sooyun... preferred to not be seen with her if at all possible. She had told Sooyun to stay in her room and to be quiet as soon as Gram had left. Sooyun had stayed in her room and she had been being quiet. She was using this time to try new makeup and hair techniques as well as try on some dresses she'd gotten from the thrift store. Examining herself in the mirror, she was pretty happy with her look, especially the new gold hair clip that she'd saved up her money to buy. While she'd been experimenting, Sooyun had also been sipping on a large water bottle and eventually she did have to leave her room to use the bathroom. As she made her way back to her bedroom, she practically walked straight into a tall, handsome boy heading presumably towards the bathroom. "Hi... who are you?" Sooyun spoke shyly, looking at her bare feet with her toes painted pink. "Hi... I'm Sooyun." The boy smiled at her causing her to flush a deep red. "You're adorable." Hyeyoun stuck her head out of her doorway, calling out to the boy. "Jared... what's taking so long? My grandmother won't be gone forever you know." Jared turned to her with a grin. "Sorry Younie.... I got distracted. I didn't know you had such a cute younger sister." Hyeyoun was out in the hall as well now. "I don't. That's my loser brother you're drooling over. He likes to play dress up..." She reached over and pulled the clip out of Sooyun's hair, taking a clump of her hair with it in the process. "it's such an embarrassment. My poor grandmother not to mention me." Sooyun's eyes were tearing up as she watched her sister drag Jared back to her own room. All she did was say hello... she didn't want anything to do with that boy... she was just being nice. Why couldn't her sister accept her for who she was? Sooyun realized that the clip was digging into her fingertips so she let it drop back onto the floor. She didn't need that clip any longer... it was part of the past.
Daesung hugged her goodbye in the doorway. "Are you sure you'll be alright?" Sooyun nodded, stifling a yawn in the process. "I'm sure. Thanks for everything, Dae. You've been so sweet today." Daesung chuckled, giving her one last kiss on the cheek. "Girl, when am I not sweet? Seriously though, you're welcome. Will I see you tomorrow?" Sooyun shrugged, tiredly. "I'm working during the day. So glad I don't have the graveyard shift for a while. I'll call you." Daesung nodded, waving as he headed down the front steps. "Text if you need me or call... anytime." She waved back at him, closing the door when he was out of sight. Sooyun made her way towards her grandmother's room, quietly checking on the older woman and finding her asleep. Grateful for the respite, she made her way down to her old bedroom, blankets slung over her arm. One look at the décor, so devoid of character with its white walls because of the countless arguments she'd had with her Gram... wanting to paint it pink while the older woman steadfastly refused to allow it... she felt as if she were that child again... helpless. Sooyun ended up sleeping on the couch... she'd had just about all the trips down memory lane for today that she could take. She didn't want to risk nightmares as well.
"Okay Gram... if you're sure you're alright I'm going to take off. Thanks so much for breakfast, but I wish you would have slept in." Ae-jung tutted eyeing her grandchild as they gathered their things to leave. "I'll be fine and the day I can't feed you or your sister will be the day you put me in the ground." Sooyun grimaced at the imagery. "Nice Gram... super upbeat imagery." Ae-jung shrugged, leaning against the counter. "Do you want to borrow a longer coat and a hat?" Sooyun shook her head, zipping up her jacket. "I'm good... I've got this jacket, thanks." Ae-jung frowned over at her. "It's so short..." Sooyun shouldered her bag, checking the time on her phone. "It's fine Gram... it isn't cold out." Looking over at her grandmother, Sooyun realized something. "That's not what you're concerned about though, is it?" Ae-jung looked away from her grandchild's eyes. "It's broad daylight Seunghyun... everyone will see." Sooyun exhaled the breath she was holding, hoping that she'd been mistaken. "It's Sooyun Gram.... feel better... I have work." She was halfway down the street before she let herself react. She was more annoyed than hurt at this point... sleeping on the couch had done wonders for her temperament. Luckily she didn't have enough time to dwell on this bullshit. She needed to go home then get to work.
"Hey where were you last night? Did you have to work again? Please don't tell me you went back to that asshole." Sooyun raised a brow at her roommate, Bom while she made herself a sandwich to take with her to work. "What is this, the Spanish Inquisition?" Bom chuckled, helping herself to a slice of turkey. "Sorry... but you still haven't told me where you were which leads me to believe that you did go back to Siwon." Sooyun rolled her eyes as she wrapped her sandwich and placed it in her bag. "No... and give me some credit. He got me fired from the bank." Bom rolled her eyes at that. "I told you not to get involved with your boss... no matter how good looking he was." Sooyun laughed as she straightened up the kitchen. "He was so nice at first... so sweet." Bom nodded in understanding. "They always are. So where were you?" Sooyun sighed, expression turning dark. "My Gram fell. I went over to take care of her... I stayed the night." Bom looked sympathetic. "How was it? Was she alright?" Sooyun knew what her roommate meant. Bom knew all about Sooyun's family and their difficulties accepting her for who she was. "It was... just okay... you know... the usual. I did the right thing though, she's still my grandmother." Bom looked annoyed now. "Oh honey... you know my feelings. You should never let anyone make you feel like you're less than perfect. Are you alright?" Sooyun nodded, giving Bom a tight hug. "Yeah... thanks Bommie. I really appreciate you." Bom smiled, pulling away. "Me too... I appreciate you. I'm making dinner for Minzy and I later. You should join us." Sooyun smiled, gathering her things to leave. "That's sweet, thank you."
Talking to Bom had lifted her spirits quite a bit so by the time Sooyun arrived at her stop for work she was in a much better mood. Approaching the florist shop she noticed a truck parked to the side where fresh flowers were being unloaded. Smiling at the sight of all those beautiful blossoms, Sooyun paused to take it in and was nearly run down by what appeared to be a giant bundle of flowers with legs. "Oh... sorry! Did I hurt you?" Sooyun shook her head, staring wide eyed at the waif like boy in front of her. He was small but his arms were covered in ink and his blond hair hung in a smooth bob which covered one eye. "No... I'm fine. I wasn't watching where I was going." The boy smiled widely at her, holding out a white rose from one of the bundles he was carrying. "A pretty rose for a pretty lady." Sooyun smiled in return, sniffing the rose. "Aw... thank you. You've just made my day." The boy's grin grew to hear it. "My name is Yusuke... what's yours?" Sooyun giggled, checking her phone quickly for the time. "I'm Sooyun, it's nice to meet you." "Yusuke! Where the hell are you?!" The deep voice jolted Yusuke around as well as Sooyun. A dark haired man was approaching them with an annoyed look upon his face. "I told you we need to get those roses into the refrigerated cases so they don't wilt." Yusuke began picking up the bundles once again as quickly as he could. "I'm coming." Sooyun cleared her throat. "I'd better get to work myself or I'll be late." Yusuke called out to her as he was rushing away. "Bye Sooyun!" She couldn't help smiling as she looked down at the rose in her hand.
Sooyun had been working for several hours and didn't have much time to think about Yusuke or the rose he'd given her. She'd placed it beside her at the counter where she was working and forgotten about it. "Pack of Kools please." Sooyun recognized the deep voice from earlier only now she got to study the man's face up close. He had dark, piercing eyes, inviting lips and from what she could see under the plaid shirt he wore open over a black t-shirt, a neck tattoo. His dark hair was not unlike Yusuke's only his was shaved close on the sides. "That'll be $10.90 please." She watched him pull out the money, noting the ink on his hands as well. "That's a $25 rose you've got there. You shouldn't let it die." Sooyun blinked at him then looked over at her forgotten rose. "Oh... uh... I'm sorry... I had no idea that it was so expensive." He pulled his pack of cigarettes towards himself, nonchalant as he turned to go. "Neither did Yusuke. Don't worry, I'll just take it out of his pay." Sooyun panicked, shaking her head. "No... don't do that! Here..." She held out the slightly wilted rose towards him. "take it back." The florist raised a brow as he stared at her. "No... you keep it. It's no good to me now." Sooyun frowned as she watched his retreating back.
Ten minutes later she was on her break and marched into Hanabira with the sole purpose of paying for the rose herself. She found the dark haired florist working on an arrangement at the back of the shop. He looked up when he heard her approaching. "Yusuke's not here, he had class." Sooyun glanced around briefly then placed her money on the counter where he was working. "Don't punish Yusuke for being sweet." He sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Don't punish that rose... put it in some water at least." Sooyun rolled her eyes at that. "I have... well... bye." She was halfway to the door when he stopped her handing her a small packet of white powder. "Wait... take this." She looked at the packet in her hand then at his face. "What is it?" He blinked at her. "It's called Floralife. Add just a little to the water and your rose will last longer.... just make sure you cut the stem periodically and change the water as well." She nodded then smiled at him. "Thank you." He nodded back at her. "Take this as well, I don't want your money." Sooyun frowned as he handed her back her $25. "But Yusuke..." He interrupted her. "Needs to learn that he can't keep giving away my inventory to every beautiful woman he meets. Now if there's nothing else, I don't mean to be rude but I've got to finish this arrangement for a client." Sooyun nodded, face heating up at the compliment even though he was essentially kicking her out. "Oh... of course. I need to get back to work anyway. Thanks again."
Later when she was back at home, she diligently cut the rose's stem, placing it into a vase along with the Floralife as directed. When Bom came into her room to let her know that dinner was ready her eyes zeroed in on the pretty flower. "Ooh... where'd that come from?" Sooyun glanced back at the rose before following Bom out to the kitchen. "You know that flower shop near my work that I told you about? It's from there." Bom turned to her with a surprised expression. "You finally went inside, huh?" Sooyun took a seat after giving Minzy a hug hello. "Yes, but that's not how I got the rose." Minzy poured them all some wine. "Don't leave us in suspense, spill it." Sooyun told them the entire story from start to finish leaving out the part where the florist had referred to her as beautiful, ending with a shrug before taking a bite of food. Bom gave her a look. "So is this Yusuke cute?" Sooyun nodded, sipping her wine. "Very. He looks about fourteen though only he's got tons of tattoos. Do fourteen year olds get heavily tattooed?" Minzy giggled at that. "What about the other guy?" Sooyun blinked over at her, guilelessly. "He had a few that I could see, he was wearing long sleeves." Bom rolled her eyes at her roommate. "I think she means was he attractive? Was he nice? He's not a teenager too, is he?" Sooyun giggled, at that. "No, I don't think so. He looked older. He... wasn't unattractive. I didn't study him for god's sake. Besides... I'm not looking for a man right now." Minzy snorted around her wine glass. "You never are sweetie. They always seem to find you though." After helping clean up, Sooyun excused herself and went to bed. She was exhausted from the past few days. Just before she snapped off her light, her eyes rested briefly upon the rose. It made her feel lighter somehow. She would have to make a point to thank Yusuke again the next time she saw him.
"Morning sweetie... sleep well?" Sooyun smiled at Bom as she entered the kitchen to join her at their little table by the window. "I did. After the last couple of days I had, I was pretty beat. How about you? Sleep okay?" Bom set her coffee cup down with a small yawn. "Not too bad. Minzy tends to kick in her sleep, but I'm used to it by now." Sooyun hummed around her own cup as she browsed her laptop only half listening. "Oh well I'm glad." Bom peeked over her shoulder to see what had her attention. "Are you looking for a new job? I thought you liked the pharmacy?" Sooyun looked over at her roommate, exhaling loudly. "I do... I mean aside from the late night hours, constantly being on my feet and the low pay." Bom quirked a smile as she looked over the job listings. "I see your point. Anything look interesting to you?" Sooyun shrugged, sipping at her coffee absentmindedly. "I guess but it's hard to find a good paying job without experience or a college education." Bom looked thoughtful for a moment. "You never told me why you didn't go to college. Your sister did, didn't she?" Sooyun nodded, standing up to rinse her cup at the sink. "She did, yeah and I could have too. Gram would have loved for her grandson to get a degree." Bom joined her at the sink, placing a hand on Sooyun's shoulder ever so lightly in a soothing touch. "But not her youngest granddaughter." Sooyun shook her head, eyes never leaving the sink. "I left home just after high school graduation. I couldn't live like that anymore." Bom turned Sooyun so that they were facing each other. "You did the right thing, sweetheart. Only good things can come when you lose those toxic influences in your life." Sooyun let out a deep sigh, nodding her head. "I know... I guess I'm just wishing I had more going for me today." Bom gave her a look that left no doubt about how much she thought her roommate had going for her. "You just need to find your passion... you know... something that excites you." Sooyun snorted at that, dubious look upon her face. "The last time I tried that I ended up at the bank with Siwon." Bom rolled her eyes, leading Sooyun back to the computer. "This will be different... trust me."
Sooyun was dressed and ready to go an hour later, heading to the LGBT Center to meet up with Daesung once again. She and Bom had narrowed her job search down as best they could, eliminating anything that seemed like a lateral move. She would need to do a more thorough review of the jobs they'd chosen when she had the time later today. Riding along on the bus, Sooyun's mind began to wander as she watched the school kids come and go. Sooyun was sitting at her makeshift vanity table in her old room, putting the finishing touches on her look. It was graduation day and she wanted to look her best. Sooyun wasn't always the best student, but she had worked hard to graduate and she was proud of that accomplishment. She'd been working at a coffee shop in the city and managed to save up to buy herself a nice dress to wear for today's ceremony. All in all, Sooyun felt good about herself and really hoped her Gram and maybe even Hyeyoun would be proud of her as well. "We have to leave soon, you almost ready?" Hyeyoun popped her head into Sooyun's room to see if they were ready. When she saw her sibling's attire, she quickly stepped inside and closed the door behind her. "Is that what you plan on wearing to the graduation ceremony?" Sooyun stood up, small smile tugging at the corners of her lips. "Do you like it? I saved up..." Hyeyoun rolled her eyes letting out an exasperated sigh. "Take it off." Sooyun's face registered shock. "What? Why Don't you think it looks alright?" Hyeyoun approached them with an incredulous look upon her face. "You look ridiculous." She reached out to tug the zipper open but ended up tearing the dress badly instead. "Younie! Stop it! You're tearing it!" Hyeyoun frowned, taking a step back and crossing her arms. "Let that be a lesson to you. Don't keep wasting your money on these feminine things, Seunghyun. No matter how many dresses you buy you'll always be a man. Now change before Gram sees you and you ruin her day." When Ae-jung went to check on her grandchild's progress, she found them in bed. "Seunghyun... that are you doing? Hyeyoun said you were almost ready... we have to go. You don't want to miss graduation, do you?" Sooyun spoke quietly, almost in a whisper. "I can't go Gram. I... I'm sick." Ae-jung leaned over to feel their head which was sweaty from crying. "Are you sure it's not just nerves?" Sooyun shook her head, fighting back more tears. "No Gram... I... I... threw up... I'm sorry." Ae-jung sighed at a complete loss. "Fine... I can't make you go. Get some rest, I'll check in on you later. They can mail you your diploma."
"Earth to Sooyun... come in Sooyun." Sooyun blinked several times as she focused on Daesung's curious face. "Oh... Dae... when did you get here?" Daesung's answered with a wry smile upon his full lips. "Me? Two stops ago. You, however, just arrived from some distant dreamscape. I hope it was pleasant." Sooyun stood as the bus came to a halt at their stop. "Not really. Just remembering my high school graduation day." Daesung followed Sooyun off the bus, falling into step beside of her. "Was it long and tedious? Mine was." Sooyun pulled open the door to the LGBT Center, walking inside. "I couldn't tell you. I missed it." Daesung trailed after her down the hallway, joking. "I wish I'd missed the awful head I got from Cal Jensen after my ceremony. He was over eager and drooled way too much. Who has that much saliva?" Sooyun snorted, turning to face her friend. "Then why let him do it?" Daesung shrugged, looking as innocent as he could talking about oral sex. "He was captain of the football team, a real closet case. I'd been lusting after him all year. It seemed rude to pull him off because he was..." Sooyun quirked a brow, smirking now. "Unskilled?" Now Daesung snorted, covering his nose afterwards. "appalling. Like the worst head ever. It almost made me gag watching him do it." Sooyun rolled her eyes at the description. "Too bad Dae. Not all crushes can work out I guess." Daesung nodded, as they paused in front of a doorway. "You're telling me. I tried all summer to make it work, but it just wasn't meant to be." Sooyun stared at him a moment, incredulous. "You kept seeing him?" Daesung smiled, looking slightly mischievous suddenly. "Well practice does make perfect." Sooyun laughed as she turned the doorknob. "Wow... you're something else. This is me, see you in an hour."
Sooyun usually enjoyed the time she spent at her Trans Support Group. It was a place where she could feel comfortable talking about the issues that she was going through... the feelings that she had. These people understood her better than even her closest friends and it was a comfort to know they shared many similar experiences. Today, she was just not feeling it. Her mind was on her financial situation and how she could improve it. "You've been awfully quiet today. Is anything on your mind?" Sooyun looked around and realized that Chiara, the group leader was speaking to her and that all eyes were directed her way. "Oh... sorry... I've just got a lot on my mind." Chiara lifted a perfectly manicured brow at Sooyun. "That's why we're here honey. Let us help." Sooyun looked around the circle then nodded. "Okay... I'm just thinking of a new job but I don't know if I have the skills to get one. I'm... nervous." Louis spoke up from her left. "Do you have any talents or hobbies?" Sooyun thought about it. "Does sleeping count?" The group chuckled, but Chiara looked serious. "Honey, Louis is right. You should think about what you enjoy doing and look into that." Sooyun smiled shyly, looking around at all the friendly faces. "That's what my roommate said. It's just hard because I never really had that support from... from my family." There were some nods in agreement as well as sympathetic looks sent her way. Chiara took that opportunity to add. "Remember everyone... any problem that you're having is something you can share. We're here to help each other and offer support."
"You wanna grab a coffee?" Sooyun nodded, waving goodbye to a few people from her group as she did. "Yeah, sounds good. How was your class?" Daesung shrugged as they stepped outside. "Meh... not as great as I'd hoped." Sooyun side eyed him as they walked along. "Meaning... what?" Daesung rolled his eyes. "Meaning Seungri didn't teach it." Sooyun snorted as she stepped inside the coffee shop. "At least you didn't have to fake bad stances to get his attention." Daesung scanned the menu as they stood side by side in line. "True but there was no perfect peach bottom for me to focus on either." Sooyun turned to face him when she caught a familiar face out of the corner of eye. "Looks like it's your lucky day." Daesung furrowed his brow, clearly not understanding. "What... why?" Sooyun nudged him on the shoulder with her own, pointing with her chin to his left. Daesung glanced over to see Seungri sitting in a booth reading a book as he sipped on a frozen beverage. "Oh shit... he's here!" Sooyun giggled with glee beside him. "Sitting on his perfect peach bottom no less." Daesung shushed her, slapping at her wrists. "Knock it off, he'll hear." Sooyun smirked, getting far too much pleasure from this. "Too late." Daesung whipped his head around in a panic to find Seungri still peacefully reading his book, totally unaware of his hammering heart. "I'm going to get you back for this." Sooyun couldn't stop laughing now. "I'm... sure... you... will."
Daesung and Sooyun grabbed a booth of their own near Seungri's but not so near that they looked like stalkers. "We should have said hello. I bet he would have asked us to join him." Daesung eyed Seungri over Sooyun's shoulder. "That's not how I work." Sooyun rolled her eyes as she took a large drink of her coffee. "No... you really are a stalker which is much better." Daesung slapped her arm lightly. "Shut up. Let's talk about you. How was group?" Sooyun sat back, clearing Daesung's view of Seungri for him. "Good. I need to think about what I want to do with my life. What am I good at?" Daesung raised a brow at her. "Besides sleeping?" She smiled, nodding. "Yeah... besides that. Do I even have a talent?" Daesung looked deep in thought. "Oh!" Sooyun leaned forward, interested. "Did you think of something?" Daesung blinked at her. "What... oh sorry... Seungri dropped his napkin and bent to pick it up." She shook her head, standing to leave. "I'm leaving. I have work anyway." Daesung chewed on his lip. "Sorry... call me tomorrow. I'll think about it." She smiled sweetly at her friend. "Thanks." Then she turned towards Seungri's booth. "Hey Seungri... how are you?" The yoga instructor looked up, startled. "Oh hey. I'm good." He glanced at Daesung. "Daesung right?" Daesung flushed crimson, managing a smile. "Yeah... hi." Sooyun giggled the entire way to the bus stop.
"Sooyun... I didn't know you took this bus." Sooyun smiled as Yusuke sat down next to her. "Everyday... well everyday I work, that is." Yusuke's grin grew larger. "We can ride together now. Maybe we already have but didn't know each other. I think I would have noticed a pretty girl like you though." Sooyun smiled, blushing slightly. "You're so sweet, thank you. I'm sorry that you got into trouble because of the rose you gave me." He shrugged it off. "Don't worry about it. Hazuki can be a grump but he's pretty good to work for. He was just pissed because he special ordered those roses for some bride's bouquet." Sooyun looked surprised. "That's terrible... oh no. No wonder he was upset." Yusuke shook his head. "Seriously, don't worry. He fixed it. The bride didn't even know. Who can tell the difference between one white rose and another one?" Sooyun raised a brow, giving him a pointed look. "Your boss probably." Yusuke laughed at that. "Yeah definitely Hasuki can. He keeps trying to teach me about the different flowers but I don't really care." Sooyun furrowed her brow. "What do you care about then?" Yusuke smiled happily. "Music for one. I'm studying it in college." They stepped off the bus together, walking towards their respective jobs. "You wanna come to one of my shows?" Sooyun paused in front of Hanabira to answer his question. "I'd love to see you perform, Yusuke. Can I bring some friends?" He nodded, grinning from ear to ear. "Of course. I'll let you know when and where. You'll love it." She checked the time on her phone. "I've got to get to work. See you later." He waved as she hurried away. "Bye Sooyun."
"So this is the fourteen year old who gave you the rose that we're going to see?" Sooyun nodded, as she applied lipstick. "Yes, but he's more like nineteen." Minzy smirked, leaning against the doorframe as she watched Sooyun get ready. "That's much better. It's much less cradle robbery if he's only seven years younger than you." Sooyun turned to look at her, eyes wide. "Cradle robbery? I'm not interested in dating Yusuke... he's just a nice kid. He's my friend." Bom breezed by, planting a kiss on Minzy's lips. "Does he know that? That you're only friends I mean." Sooyun joined them, shrugging on a light jacket as she put her camera in her bag. "Of course he does. He knows I'm older and..." Bom raised a brow. "Does he know how much older? You've got a babyface sweetie." Sooyun scoffed, pinching her roommate's cheeks. "You should talk." Minzy snorted at that. "She does have a point." Bom rolled her eyes, heading for the door. "Let's go. I'm dying to see Sooyun's boy toy." Sooyun trailed after her, pouting. "Don't call him that. He's a sweet kid."
Yusuke's band, Evoke, we're playing at the Rathskeller which was located in Kenmore Square. Bom turned to Sooyun once they were inside. "Is Daesung coming?" She nodded, looking around for any sign of Yusuke. "He said he'd meet us. Let's get a drink." Minzy snickered. "Before you feel guilty drinking in front of the adolescent." Sooyun rolled her eyes. "Haha... that's hysterical. You're buying." When Daesung showed up half an hour later, the girls were having a great time. Sooyun was snapping pictures of her friends as well as the bar area. "Daesung... say cheese!" Daesung blinked as the flash went off in his face unexpectedly. "Ugh... give me some warning next time. I need a drink." Bom handed him her own glass. "How are you Dae?" He smiled after a long sip. "I'm good. I just stood in line behind a really hot guy." Sooyun giggled at that. "Hotter than Seungri?" Daesung scoffed at her. "Don't get crazy, no one's that hot. This guy was hot though. All dark and brooding looking. Just my type." Minzy's brows shot up. "You have a type?" Daesung threw his head back, laughing boisterously. "Girl, they're all my type." Bom laughed along with him. "That's what I thought."
When the band started, Sooyun moved to the front to snap some pictures. She couldn't believe how Yusuke looked on stage wielding a guitar with heavy black eyeliner rimming his expressive eyes. His hair was no longer lying smoothly on his head but teased out to look wild and unkempt. The band was a heavy metal punk type band that Sooyun really enjoyed. Yusuke caught her eye, smiling his sweet smile her way partway through the set. Daesung gave her elbow a squeeze once the set was over. "He's a little doll!" Sooyun nodded, looking over the pictures that she'd taken. "He really is and he's such a nice kid too." They made their way back over to the bar to get another drink. "Oh... there's that hot guy I saw in line. Take his picture for me." Sooyun looked over where Daesung was pointing. "Where... wait... that guy over there? I know him." Daesung smiled, extremely interested. "Really? Who is he and more importantly can you introduce me?" Sooyun shook her head. "He's Yusuke's boss. I never expected him to be here. I only spoke to him once really. Haz something is his name... I think." Daesung was watching Hazuki over Sooyun shoulder. "Well... he's headed this way." Sooyun frowned over at Daesung, suddenly remembering what she did with Seungri at the coffee shop. "Dae... don't." Daesung leaned back against the bar, smiling over towards Hazuki as he drew nearer. "Hi there. We have to stop meeting like this." Hazuki blinked over at him unsurely, running a hand through his hair. "Uh... hi. I'm sorry... I don't remember meeting you." Sooyun was hiding behind Daesung, embarrassed but she decided to save the poor guy before Daesung went any further. "Don't mind him, he's just joking with you." Hazuki looked over at Sooyun, nodding ever so slightly. "You I remember." She smiled nervously at that. "Thank you?"
Hazuki rolled his eyes then gestured to Daesung. "I'm Hazuki, nice to meet you." Daesung smiled, extending his hand. "Daesung... buy me a drink and I'll forgive you for forgetting me." Hazuki's eyes widened slightly then he laughed. "Okay... I'll buy you both a drink." Daesung wrapped his hands around Hazuki's arm joking. "I'm keeping him... he buys drinks and he's attractive." Sooyun shook her head, leaning on the bar. "He doesn't get out much, but he's harmless really." Hazuki turned to her, handing her a cosmopolitan. "What about you, Sooyun? Are you harmless?" Sooyun almost choked on her drink. "How do you know my name?" Hazuki laughed at that. "Yusuke... he never stops talking about you. He's got quite the crush." She panicked to hear it. "What? No... Yusuke knows we're friends... I've never..." Hazuki touched her shoulder briefly. "Relax... he'll get over it. You're not the first pretty face to turn his head." Sooyun was torn between being upset over Yusuke and flattered at Hazuki's compliment. "What should I do? You know him better I'm assuming. He's such a sweetheart, I don't want to hurt him." Hazuki smiled at that. "Just be his friend, it'll be fine." She nodded, relieved... that would be easy to do. Yusuke really was easy to be friends with. "Thank you. I appreciate the advice." Hazuki shrugged it off. "No problem. So what's with the camera? Most people just use their phones nowadays." Sooyun pulled out her camera to show him the shots she'd taken. "I know but I like using a camera. I wish I had a better one." He looked over the photos with her, pointing out the ones he liked the best. "You have a good eye."
Yusuke joined them, bounding up with a wide smile reminding Sooyun of an over eager puppy. He had cleaned up from his performance... leaving no traces of the heavy eyeliner although his hair was still in it's wild style. "Sooyun! I saw you from the stage... what did you think?!" Sooyun smiled back at the boy, amazed at his energy. "I really loved it Yusuke. You guys are really good." Yusuke pointed to the camera. "Can I see the shots you took?" She handed him the camera. "Of course. If you like any, I'll print them out for you." Hazuki cleared his throat. "Good set Yusuke. You guys are really improving." Yusuke glanced up at his boss. "Really? Thanks Hazuki. Can we talk about this tomorrow. I wanna hang out with Sooyun right now." Hazuki flashed her a look before answering. "Sure. I was heading out anyway. I'll see you tomorrow." Yusuke smiled at him, before taking his spot next to Sooyun. "Okay, thanks for coming. Bye Hazuki." Sooyun waved to him as he walked by sorry to see him go but not sure why. "I should probably leave soon too. I think my friends are pretty tired and I have to work tomorrow." Yusuke nodded, handing her back her camera. "Let me get my coat and I'll be right with you." Sooyun tried to stop him but the boy was too quick, taking off into the crowd before she could get the words out. "Shit... now what do I do?"
"I'll walk you out... come on." Sooyun shook her head at Yusuke. "That's not necessary. My friends are here, I'll be fine. It's late, we'll probably just split a cab." Yusuke took her hand and led her up the stairs to the street. "I don't mind. I can wait until you get a cab." Sooyun looked helplessly over at Bom who just shrugged back. "You're very sweet. Yusuke... this is Bom, Minzy and Daesung." After they all greeted each other he turned to Sooyun. "Sorry we didn't have more time together." She smiled over at him as the cab pulled up to the curb beside them. "I understand. I really enjoyed myself though." She leaned over, planting a kiss to his cheek. "You're a good friend Yusuke. I'm really glad we met." He was flushed from the kiss, smiling happily at her. "Me too Sooyun, I'm glad we met. I'll see you tomorrow I hope." Sooyun climbed into the backseat of the cab, waving goodbye. "I'm working so yeah. See you tomorrow. Good night." Yusuke beamed at Sooyun, blowing her a kiss. "Sweet dreams!" Sooyun turned to Bom who was staring at her as the cab pulled out into the street. "I think I took care of that pretty nicely." Daesung snorted from the front seat, turning to face his friends. "If by took care of it you mean made him think you're into him... then yeah... you took care of it really nicely." Sooyun scoffed, looking at Bom for help. "That's not true, is it? I said I'm glad we're friends. That's clear, right?" Bom nodded, side eyeing her roommate as she did. "Mmm hmm... clear. But you kissed him first and his eyes clouded over and he didn't register a word. All he thought of was your lips... he's a teenager for god's sake." Sooyun shook her head in disbelief. "No, no way. He understood me... I don't believe it." Minzy cracked an eye open... she'd been dozing since they entered the cab. "You fucked up. I was half asleep and even I could tell." Sooyun slumped back in the seat sighing deeply. "Shit... I guess I need some more advice."
Only one flashback in this chapter. I promise there will be more in future chapters.