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Frozen Treats ( But You're Sweeter)

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                                                                              I. 5 and 6 years old
   Everyday Jeongin is allowed an hour to watch his favorite cartoons. He spends the day anticipating its arrival, and missing any of it was not okay in his book. Barely at the end of one cartoon into his hour his mom asks him to put his shoes on. He stomps his small feet all the way to the shoe rack, angry that she cut into his cartoon time.
Jeongin stands by the door waiting for his mom to come tie his shoes because the concept of bunny ears and loops didn’t make any sense to him. As she bends down to tie them, Jeongin can tell that she has put makeup on. She tells him as she stands up that he can pick whatever ice cream he wants to make up for missing his cartoon time.
After his shoes are tied, his jackets zipped and his stuffed fox is in his hand they walk out to the car. Jeongin’s ready for whatever his mom dragged them out so late at night for, the promise of something frozen clear in his mind. Once both Jeongin AND his fox have been buckled per his stubborn request, they set off.

   Jeongin daydreams of the possible adventure they could be headed on. He imagines a surprise visit to Disneyland where he could finally hug all his favorite people, or maybe they were on a run from scary bad guys. Jeongin’s favorite possibility is them moving into a castle where his mom marries the king and he becomes a prince. His excitement grows as the car passes by building upon building, bright lights flickering back at him.
   Jeongin gets more curious as they pull into a parking lot of a small store. He lets his mom hold his hand as they walk into the shop. Jeongin looks up at his mom, the way her eyes light up at the sight of the man in the front something he’s never seen before. He finds himself preoccupied as they talk, his eyes wandering the empty store. In all of his long six years of life, he’s never seen the late night emptiness of a store. Jeongin’s attention gets, brought back to his mother when she bends down to his level to speak to him.

   “Go pick out your ice cream honey,” She tells him and then he’s shooed away as she returns her focus from the five-year-old to the man in front of her. Jeongin runs toward the ice cream cooler, his plushie still tight in his hand. Once Jeongin arrives in front of the freezer containing the treats his eyes widen as all of his dreams come true in the form of limitless frozen desserts. It’s not Disneyland or becoming a prince but it’s close.

Gathering all the strength he could muster up in his tiny body, he pulls open the freezer door prepared to reach for a popsicle. Except for the moment, Jeongin’s hand makes the move to grab the popsicle, another hand is there pulling the last cherry double-stick popsicle from his grasp.
“ Hey!” He says, his little chest puffing out, “ that’s mine you meanie!” before Jeongin reaches out to take the popsicle from the boy’s hands. The boy moves backward in time to prevent the treat from being stolen but not in time to prevent an unbalanced Jeongin from falling over. When he hits the ground he looks up at the mean boy, lower lip wobbling at the pain in his elbow.

“I’m going to tell my mommy” Jeongin whimpers, his eyes filling up with tears, not even his fox making him feel better. The boy's eyes turn panicked.

“No cry please no” Seungmin tries to use his slightly bigger body to lift Jeongin up. When he manages to get the smaller up he holds out the popsicle for him to take. “Share?”

A smile grows on Jeongin’s face, the tears dry up as he looks excitedly at his favorite popsicle in the mean boy’s hand.  

“Really?” He asks happily, no longer remembering the scrape on his elbow. The other nods and takes off the wrapper before breaking the popsicle in half and hands one stick to Jeongin.

“M’ Seungmin,” The boy tells him, and Jeongin makes the executive decision that this boy would now be his new best friend. Anyone who loved cherry popsicles AND shared them with him was the coolest in his book.

“Minnie?” He finally tried, after multiple failed attempts to sound out Seungmin’s name. “‘I Jeongin,” he says before giggling and licking the side of his half.

Jeongin ends up forgetting all about the possibility of brain freeze as he inhales the popsicle quickly, the number of times he’s allowed the treat too few too let it melt.  Seungmin laughs when Jeongin’s face scrunches up in pain. Jeongin deciding to pout until Seungmin stops laughing.

“Jeongin, did you get your treat?” Jeongin hears his mom call out from the front of the store. He looks down at the bare stick in his hand and Seungmin’s stained face before he remembers he was supposed to give the popsicle to his mom to pay.

In a moment of panic, Jeongin grabs Seungmin’s hand, intertwining their sticky fingers as they run away from the sound of his mother’s voice. Quiet giggles escape their mouths while the boys run toward the end of the aisle. Seungmin points out a hiding spot and quickly yanks them both down behind it.

The clicking of his mother’s heels grows louder as she got closer but he let out a sigh of relief as she walks past them. Seungmin opens his mouth to speak but Jeongin moves quickly to cover the boy's mouth with his hand.

   He shrieks loudly when he feels Seungmin lick up the inside of his palm. His heart began racing when he realized his mistake. His impending doom felt unavoidable as the clicking of her heels continued until it came to a stop right in front of the display they hid behind. Jeongin squeezes his eyes shut tightly in fear of scolding.

“Yang Jeongin, Come out of there now.” His mother demands, her tone one that she uses when she’s not in the mood for his games. Jeongin peeks out at her angry face before grabbing Seungmin’s hand once again and pulling Seungmin out alongside him. If there was one thing Jeongin was going to do, it would not be facing his mother's fury alone.

When she takes a look at the red-stained faces of the children in front of her it wasn’t hard for his mother to understand why her child hid. She sighs and takes their hands, grimacing at the stickiness while she walks to the front of the store. Jeongin watches in fear as his mother explains what the two had done. He begins imagining his life in jail like he’d seen in his shows when he sees the owner point at Seungmin and tells his mom that the boy is his son.

He looks at Seungmin, a mischievous smile on his new friends face and decides that this wouldn’t be the first time he’d get into trouble with the boy.

                                                                             II.     9 and 10 years

   On his first day of fourth grade, he wakes up extra early. His mother is already awake, but it is still earlier than he got up during the entire summer. He bounds down the stairs, already wearing his new outfit. He ends up on a stool in the kitchen waiting for his breakfast to be done.
He’s been in a constant state of excitement for the last couple of weeks. Seungmin had told him fascinating stories from when he was in the grade the year before. It left Jeongin anticipating his arrival to school, having missed it during the summer. After his breakfast is eaten he gets on the bus, legs bouncing in barely contained excitement. He sits next to a kid he’s never met but he doesn’t mind, always excited for new friends.

   The boy next to him doesn’t make any attempt at conversation, but Jeognin is content staring out the window and daydreaming of the year to come. The drive ends quickly and before he knows it Jeongin is sitting at a desk awaiting introductions. He looks around trying to spot familiar faces from the year before but there aren’t any.

   The teacher begins the class swiftly after all the first-day name learning games are said and done. Jeongin finds himself at recess trying to make new friends. It goes great at first, kids let him join tag on the playground and there’s even one who offers to share his crayons with Jeongin.

   The issue occurs at the end of the day. To him, it doesn’t seem like a big deal when he asks the teacher if they have any homework. His mom had always reinforced the idea that extra practice was helpful for everyone, so when he raises his hand he thinks he’s being helpful. When the teacher smiles at him and hands out a practice worksheet, he thinks he’s done a good job. Unfortunately for Jeongin, the other kids don’t feel the same way.

   His mother never warned him that nine-year-olds could be so mean. They call him names after class, the ones she told him weren’t nice to call others. He tries to apologize, but then he’s being pushed and his book falls to the ground. Still, when he goes home he doesn’t want his mom to worry. He tells her his day was exciting, even going as far as saying he couldn’t wait to go back.

   The next day, he decides that he can make it better. He tells them he will do their homework for him, that way no one can be mad at him any longer. In a young naive thought, he figured it would get better after that. The boys in his class had other plans, already having decided that Jeongin would be their target. It wasn’t horrible things, nine-year-olds don’t get nearly as vicious as teenagers but Jeongin didn’t find school fun anymore.
He explains the books they hide from him as lost on his own account. Minor scrapes and bruises that come from their hands just mean he’s clumsy. It’s all easily hidden, so he continues to tell his mother how great school is every day. He even goes as far as making up stories for Seungmin to show the older it’s just as fun for Jeongin as it had been for him.

   Jeongin thinks that he’s being sneaky, but Seungmin, despite his obliviousness paid more attention than people gave him credit for and he unravels Jeongins lies first.  Jeongin had assumed that with Seungmin in the grade above him, it would be easy to keep the older blissfully unaware of the way Jeongin got treated. Jeongin thinks back to four years ago when he had declared Seungmin as his partner in crime. He never intended for the older to actually end up in detention for defending him. Jeongin knows that Seungmin felt a lot of duty to protect him as the hyung, but he wishes he’d just let it go.
   Jeongin knew it wasn’t going to end well when he spotted Seungmin on the playground, the older typically preferring to stay inside. Maybe if it had been any other situation, it would have been laughable, the way a small for his age Seungmin confidently walked up to a kid, younger but relatively taller than him. Except Jeongin wasn’t laughing when the bully’s fist made contact with his best friends face.

   Jeongin is quick to run over to Seungmin, his heart beating erratically as he spots the tears welling up in the elder's eyes. He hadn’t seen the older cry many times, Seungmin loved to play the strong one in their friendship, so seeing him like this makes Jeongin want to cry as well.

When the teachers come out to see the commotion they both get dragged into the office. Even though they try to rationalize the hit, Seungmin had thrown the first punch and the school’s unwavering in their strict no violence policy.

Jeongin supposes the punishment could be worse, but he still feels guilty that Seungmin has to spend the week in detention because of him. He tells the boy that later as he holds ice to Seungmin’s cheek. They are sitting on Jeongin’s bed after a long scolding from their mothers.

“You’re so stupid,” He says, hitting Seungmin’s shoulder. Seungmin groans but Jeongin figures he deserved it.

   “But thank you, my hero,” He says quieter, the smile that it puts on Seungmin’s face more than makeup for the heart attack he gave Jeongin.

       Later, when Seungmin asks if it means that Jeongin was the princess in distress, he pushes the older off of the bed.

                                                                             III.     14 and 15 years

   Jeongin’s gay. He realizes it later than Seungmin, who had been saying he was going to marry a boy for as long as Jeongin can remember. He never really thought about the gender he preferred. It isn’t until he’s at lunch sitting with some kids he knows when he realizes he doesn’t want to be with girls. They are talking about this party they went to, how a game of spin the bottle leads to making out with a random girl in the closet.
   He decides then, that he has never heard anything more unappealing than that. He isn’t quite sure why they want to drunkenly stick their tongue down some unknown girls throat but he knows nothing about that seems fun.

   Maybe at the time, he thinks that it’s just kissing, in general, that seems gag-worthy, but somewhere in the midst of random sleepovers and days spent together doing everything, Jeongin realizes that kissing Seungmin doesn’t seem so gross. He’s never done it, of course, hasn’t actually kissed anyone ever but he wants to now.

He spends weeks convincing himself that nothing has changed in their relationship, that he still views Seungmin as a friend and nothing more. Denial never really helps though and eventually, Jeongin comes to terms with the fact that not only does he want to kiss Seungmin, he wants to hold hands with him and go on dates too.  Though he’s not sure he’ll ever gain the courage to press his lips to his older friends.

   He’s spending another night at Seungmins, this time to kick of the beginning of the summer. Seungmin’s mom told them to go to bed hours ago, but they’d snuck out of Seungmin’s window. The roof is flat, Jeongin deemed it safe enough to lay on despite his fear the first time they’d ever done it.

It’s almost cliche to him, how much he wants to kiss Seungmin under the soft light that the stars give them. At some point, it’d gone silent, yet it was a comforting silence, the kind that only comes after years of knowing each other. When he looks up he doesn’t expect to find Seungmin already staring back at him.

Jeongin’s caught in his head, they’ve been friends for nearly ten years and risking that to fulfill a crush doesn’t seem worth it. In the end, it’s not him who finds the bravery to lean in but Seungmin. His breath catches in his throat when he realizes that Seungmin’s lips are on his.
   At that moment, he realizes just how inexperienced he is at kissing. He never looked up a guide on how to kiss, and he finds that deciding whether or not closing his eyes is necessary is the only thought in his head. It’s a mess of a first kiss, nowhere near the perfect under the starlight kind he’d imagined.

   Despite Jeongin’s embarrassment, it’s Seungmin that gets the bad end of the stick. Seungmin easily takes the lead with the kiss, while he hadn’t kissed very many people, even one was more than Jeongin. His hands go to the back of Jeongin’s head and Jeongin’s eagerness to kiss back causes a predicament. His braces slice the bottom of Seungmin’s lip and the older flinches away quickly. Jeongin doesn’t understand why until the lingering taste of iron hits him.

“ Oh my god, I can’t believe I did that,” He tells Seungmin as he hides his face in his hands. He can feel the heat rising into his cheeks. He hears Seungmin laugh and that just pushes him to push his face into his hands harder.

Jeongin feels Seungmins hands on him, moving them away from Jeongin's face. He looks up at Seungmin, the boy seeming unfazed by the small cut on his lip.

“Look I’m fine, just a baby cut I promise” He reassures Jeongin, then a mischievous smile grows on his face.

“Or” Seungmin pauses “ Maybe you could kiss it better?” Jeongin whacks his chest but complies nonetheless. His guilt over cutting Seungmin overpowering his annoyance at Seungmin’s cheesiness. After planting a light kiss on Seungmin’s lips, he’s dragging the older back inside.

“What does that make us”  he finally asks when they are cuddled up together in Seungmins bed, for the first time both of them knowing it isn’t just platonic.

“Mine” and that’s all Seungmin says before he falls asleep. Jeongin smiles as he thinks back to their first meeting. From Seungmin the mean kid who stole his popsicle, to Seungmin his best friend to Seungmin his boyfriend. He wonders how he fell for the popsicle thief, but he doesn’t think he’d mind sharing his popsicles with Seungmin forever.