i. with a golden string, you were brought to life
Somewhere in the universe, the collapse of the sun brought about an only child in the universe wandering,
in search of the moon.
It was an unassuming coincidence.
Jimin met him when he was passing by the shrubs of rhododendron azaleas and found him lying in the centre of a fairy ring, near an old rowan tree among the meadow.
He looked rather intangible, the outline of his figure softened by the hazy rays of sunlight. The sun hung in the hair all crisp and bright, reminding Jimin of a pearl with a topaz sheen and an opal stone with flecks of gold. It was enough to stop Jimin from his tracks, halting him from his pursuit of picking four-leaf clovers out of boredom. He’d finished all his tasks at home and Taehyung had to help his grandmother pick their ripe strawberries, leaving Jimin company-less and to his own liberating devices of a lackadaisical adventure.
It was strange, because Jimin had been told all his life that fairy rings brought nothing but unfortunate events by his grandmother. Seeing the stranger bathe underneath the sun in the fairy ring left a trail of goosebumps on Jimin’s back, and possibly out of heroic attempts, Jimin pivoted in his path and trekked towards the boy instead.
Each step closer brought about a fuzzy feeling; the boy looked oddly familiar, but Jimin couldn’t quite place it.
Maybe it was a phantom deja vu.
“Hey,” Jimin stood over him, attracting the boy’s attention. He had really big eyes. Jimin frowned, “You’re not supposed to do that.”
The boy looked young - younger than Jimin, even, with his baby face and squishy looking cheeks. He looked up at Jimin, nonplussed, “Do what?”
“Fairy rings bring bad luck and danger,” Jimin clicked his tongue. “Did nobody teach you that?”
The boy guffawed. “Who told you that?” He sounded scandalized and he sat up, blades of fine grass stuck in the tufts of his black hair, “That’s a lie! these circles aren’t evil at all.”
“No, i’m not.”
“Then what are you doing lying in the middle of it, then?” Jimin eyed the ring and the arc of mushrooms suspiciously.
“What do you think I'm doing? I’m waiting for the fairies!” He exclaimed, bug-eyed. His lips subsequently dropped, now brooding as he crossed his arms. “Well, at least I was until you interrupted me. Now the little fairies probably ran away because of an intruder.”
Jimin stared at him, incredulous. “Fairies don’t exist.”
“Yes they do! What do you think these circles are here for?”
Jimin, much to his own dismay, didn’t have a palpable explanation for that. He’d have to go to his granny for expert information. He warily eyed the boy for another moment before he sighed, “Okay.”
“Okay, as in i believe you.”
“What do you mean ‘kind of’? You’re one of those indecisive folks, aren't cha? Well, that’s fine. Come on over then!” He scooted over to the side, patting at the empty space beside him. “You can wait here with me for the fairies. I’m sure they’ll find the extra company pleasant. You look like a nice person.”
Jimin hesitated for a moment. Maybe the kid was nuts or something. He’d never seen him either, which was frankly weird, because Jimin and his granny were somewhat chummy with their neighbours. Either way, there was something interesting about him, making Jimin rather curious and eager to spend more time with him. Thus, after another few moments of deliberation, he finally sat down beside the boy.
“I’m Jimin. What’s your name?”
“Jungkook.” He caught sight of the bundle of four-leaf clovers Jimin clasped in his hands. His eyes instantly brightened, gasping, “Woah! Nice collection you got there, lucky charms!”
“I - what?” Jimin had forgotten he had the clovers in his hands, too distracted by Jungkook’s peculiarities and quaint charm, but was ultimately thrown off by the name. “Did you just call me the leprechaun mascot for the cereal brand?”
“Duh. But it’s true! You must be really lucky to have snagged all of those clovers. I only come across, like - two in a day, if i’m lucky enough.” Jungkook pouted.
Jimin glanced down at the clovers in his hands, an idea springing into existence. “I have a lot, so maybe we can use them as an offering for the fairies so that they’ll feel more inclined to show up.” Enticement, as his granny had once said to him, whenever she’s putting out a dish of milk for the stray black cat that often visits their cottage.
Jungkook beamed, the stars in his eyes progressively becoming larger by the second, “Good idea! I bet they’ll appreciate it! I was right, you really are a nice person,” he grinned at Jimin, wide and candidly mirthful that Jimin’s face warmed up a little bit, but he wrote it off as the effects of being in the sun’s blatant orbit for too long.
So, Jimin placed the bundle of clovers down and spread them around the ring of mushrooms, making sure to distribute them evenly. Afterwards, once they were done, they laid down on the grass and waited patiently for the fairies.
“Where do you live, Jungkook?” Jimin asked, “I’ve never seen you before. We don’t go to school together, do we?”
There was a beat of silence. Then, “I’m homeschooled. I live at the end of the lane. Don’t you know about the Jeon’s farm?”
Jimin frowned. That didn’t explain why Jimin had found him somewhat familiar, but perhaps he was confusing him with another person, or maybe Jimin just didn’t get enough sleep from staying up all night trying to read in the dark and was on the brink of hallucinating. He shrugged it off.
They lounged beneath the sun’s smile, half shielded by the large tapestry of shrubs twined with vermillion berries from the rowan tree that protected their eyes. the grass underneath him felt cool, though it prickled his skin, and Jimin could have fallen asleep from the cozy warmth the sun brought upon them if it weren’t for Jungkook being a chatterbox.
Jimin listened to him talk about all sorts of things: first, of his age (he was eleven, two years younger than Jimin) and then mainly fairies, and how tiny they were but the shimmering dust surrounding them would glow, making them easy to follow and spot, and how gnarly and vicious they could be which was contrary to popular belief that they were kind, altruistic beings.
Jungkook also mentioned that they were loyal companions to the sun too, since the sun was a vital part of nature. As infinite as space that brought life and beauty to the earth.
However, Jimin was finally lulled to sleep by Jungkook’s voice at some point of their conversation. He’d woken up hazily to a sky that was all pink and blues, cascading into a tangerine orange and coral red faraway in the horizon, where the yolk-like sun was slowly descending with its burning presence. Realization dawned on him and Jimin jolted into an upright position, eyes wide.
“Hiya, you’re awake now,” Jungkook turned to him, greeting him with a smile, as though they’ve been friends for years. They were still side by side in the fairy ring. the sun’s warm hues licked across his face, making the rings in his eyes flicker like the afternoon sun that reminded Jimin of goldenrod flowers.
“You fell asleep and missed the fairies, by the way,” Jungkook sighed, patting Jimin on the shoulder to ameliorate him. “They only come out at a specific junction of time when afternoon crosses into early evening. I didn’t wake you up because you were sleeping like a wee baby, but i must have bored you to death, huh?”
Jimin shook his head, somewhat groggy, “No. I just - I was already tired, since I didn’t get much sleep the night before. But I - you just - you have a really nice voice, and I liked hearing you talk, and it was relaxing.”
“Oh.” Jungkook blinked once, twice, then his mouth curved into a pleasant smile. “Well, that’s a first.”
“I’m sorry I fell asleep,” Jimin frowned. He glanced at the fairy ring and noticed how the four-leaf clovers were all gone. “But next time I promise I won’t fall asleep. I’ll even hunt down more clovers too so we can offer them to the fairies.”
There was a sparkle in his eyes. “Really?”
“Really,” Jimin nodded as confirmation. He felt his lips stretch into a smile as well at the sight of Jungkook’s happy expression, and they locked pinky fingers to seal the deal.
They parted ways at the forked path. Jungkook went off towards the end of the lane back home while Jimin passed by Taehyung’s house, greeting his granny who was carrying baskets of strawberries into their house. She yelled at him to relay a message for Jimin’s grandma, saying that she should come over some time tomorrow for tea and scones with fresh, strawberry jam, and Jimin eagerly nodded and gave her two thumbs up.
This was how Jimin had met Taehyung - his grandma was friends with Taehyung’s grandma, and they often bargained for prices of the strawberries and became chummy with one another soon after. Whenever Jimin’s granny would visit, she’d dragged him along, thus the start of two new beautiful friendships.
Jimin liked going to the Kim’s house. They were a rowdy, fun bunch - a big family with the biggest feast and celebrations, and Jimin always felt welcomed and accepted in their warm homes. Jimin’s cottage house was too quiet, and sometimes, Jimin felt a little lonely.
Grandma Park was the quiet type, preferring to knit, read, collect fine china, and embellish the cottage interior with succulents and indoor plants that made Jimin grow use to the earthy scent always permeating the halls. Rather than socialize with the rest of the folks in town and in their neighborhood, she’d listen to Chopin’s Nocturnes on her old gramophone, and the both of them would solve large puzzles together with the musical accompaniment. But Jimin supposed he didn’t mind. Her quiet affection made Jimin feel warm too.
Later that night, Jimin went to bed and was bathed in the moonlight that shone past his sheer curtains. He didn’t sleep until the sun starting to rise, and he dreamed - no, it was a memory instead that elicited an overwhelming feeling of misplaced familiarity.
(Playground shenanigans were orbiting around him, with kids building sand castles in the sand box with lime green buckets and a pail of water they’ve fetched from a nearby water fountain. A circuit of laughter ringing in an exchange between freeze tag and hide-and-seek, and sometimes the screech of cries whenever someone would fall while playing hopscotch. But in the midst of all the carefree chaos, Jimin had noticed a boy on the swings, fervently oscillating back and forth in accordance with his kicking legs.)
That was right. Jimin had seen him before.
(Jimin was curious, because he swung high and fast, relentless and free, as though the boy was aiming for the sky.
He went down the slide, feet hitting the sand that molded beneath his feet as he stood up. The sun in the distance seemed to have rose higher, bigger and a lot brighter in the spring clearing, when Jimin stopped in the middle of his short journey. As the boy swung, he met Jimin’s eyes, dark and oddly piercing but bright like river gold.
The boy swung higher until he merged with the sun that glowed blindingly behind him. Jimin couldn’t see clearly from the harsh sunlight that caused him to squint, but for second that he was able to witness, Jimin swore that the boy and the sun had become one. The boy’s figure blended in with the glaring sunbeams in the centerpiece of the burning star; magnificent and dazzling - dream like, even, as though the boy was made to belong there.
But then the swing came back down and he was no longer there.)
Jimin opened his eyes, waking up to the sun spilling spools of light into his room, painting the cream yellow walls in the same colour as Jungkook’s eyes.
It was Jungkook - he remembered Jungkook. He was the boy Jimin had saw vanish into the sky before summer arrived, as though the towering sun had swallowed him whole.
Jimin would wake up at six in the morning, help his granny make earl grey tea, and lend a hand in making breakfast and lunch. Depending on the day’s menu, there would be scones with the fresh, berry jam they would get from the Kim’s farm, with slabs of butter. Cubes of sugar and cream in the teas. Then lunch would be something light, like an easy combo of club sandwiches or if granny was feeling up to it, homemade bibimbap. Seaweed soup was for special days, but they would eat it on mundane days too, just for a sense of familial comfort. Then, they made blancmange and put it in the freezer to cool so that they could eat it in the evening.
He would spend the next hour tending the garden in the back of their cottage. His granny grew an assortment of vibrant flowers, as well as fruits and vegetables that curled vines over the wooden support blocks he’d built to keep them upright. He goes back to the cottage, washing his hands of the dirt crusted around his nails, and sipped on the pink lemonade his granny had made as a refreshment. His granny had went to town for groceries and bargain-priced vegetables at the market. She always brought back an abundance of unusual spices and herbs, but Jimin never knew what they were for.
Then, after he was done with his chores, Jimin would go on his journey. He went to collect four-leaf clovers around the fields. He walked past their shed, where they kept their gardening tools and other miscellaneous equipment, and past the Kim’s farm, waving at Taehyung who was smudging dirt onto his cheeks with his gloves. Jimin received an even more enthusiastic response in return, along with an oblong grin.
The sunlight was more powerful as the season deepened, drying up the air. His eyes travelled across the grass, tip toeing into his neighbour’s property in order to scope for any. He climbed over the fences of the Jung’s farm, getting distracted by watching them groom the animals. He saw Mr. Jung brush the fine hairs of the horse by the stables, and his son was carrying stainless steel milk cans from the barn.
Jimin went on his merry way back on the tarmac road. He collected as much clovers as he could before he looked at his wristwatch and made his way to the meadow, eyes tracing the large entity of the billowing rowan tree. He spotted Jungkook sitting within the fairy ring, head tilted skyward with his eyes closed. He donned denim overalls that looked too big for his thin frame, and a baggy plaid shirt underneath with the sleeves still drooping despite being rolled up to the elbows.
Jungkook greeted him with a smile. His smiles were warm and strong, and strangely honest. He seemed like a carefree individual from the way he faced people and interacted with them. Untouchable, even. Sure, Jimin could reach out at this moment and take his hand as simply as that, but it was nothing of the physical component.
Jungkook was one of those people Jimin believed to be the dreamers whose hearts were in too many places to be confined into one place, into one person. He was untouchable in the way that Jimin knew he himself would never be as important as the grasslands, the flowers, the rowan tree, the fairies, and the universe’s abstract creations that Jungkook adored the most.
a And from all the things Jimin had learned about him in a short amount of time during their friendship, Jimin knew that what Jungkook valued the most was freedom. And those who value freedom don’t like to be tied down by anything.
But Jungkook was nice, and he was fun to hang around. he was better than the kids at his school, who didn’t like Jimin very much for some reason. Jimin wanted to be his friend as long as he could and as long as Jungkook would want him.
“Are we gonna see the fairies today?” Jimin frowned after he’d spread the four-leaf clovers around the arc of mushrooms. “We’ve been doing this for almost a week and they’ve never showed up. I’m starting to doubt whether or not they’re real.”
“Hey, you gotta believe in them in order to see them!” Jungkook nudged him with an arm, “Keep your beliefs in them big and strong and they’ll show up for sure. They should be here during the golden hour.”
“Really?” Jimin eyed him, doubtful.
With a sigh, “Okay, I trust you.”
Seeing Jungkook’s grin was worth it.
“You should come by our cottage next time,” Jimin offered after a few moments of nice silence. “My granny makes some kickass porridge. Eat it with fresh, blackberry jam, and you’d be wanting to eat the entire pot of it. My neighbor and friend has a farm, and they grow some of the most beautiful strawberries too. They give some to us in exchange for garden-grown eggplants.”
Jungkook looked pleased at the idea, beaming, “I’ve love to come by and visit if your granny doesn’t mind for sure! But what about your parents?”
Jimin glanced up at the large branches of the rowan tree, with its tapering leaves that spread widely across the air. He shrugged, “I dunno. I’ve been living with my granny for as long as i could remember. She doesn’t say much about them.”
Jungkook hummed in acknowledgement, and Jimin turned to look at him clearly. He noticed that Jungkook was staring at the sky, looking at the sun through the gaps of the feathery leaves hanging above them. “How about you? I don’t remember hearing about the Jeon’s, but I don’t go out often when I’m not running errands, so I guess I’m a little behind news lately.”
Jimin watched as Jungkook worked his jaw, eyes wandering to the side. “Well, my dad works in town. He’s a fisherman. And - er, yeah. That’s it.”
“Oh.” Jimin said, “How can the two of you manage a farm? That’s a lot of work.”
“We have help.” Jungkook was plucking at the daisies, threading their stems together. He doesn’t give Jimin another chance to answer as he continued on vibrantly, “Hey! Why don’t we make flower crowns?”
Jungkook didn’t seem to want to talk about it, so Jimin shook off the urge to pry. Off to another task, Jimin plucked the flowers he could find in the vicinity without taking a step out of the fairy ring. Most of the flowers he found were dandelions and daisies, although he noticed a summer’s pheasant-eye near the trunk base of the rowan tree. It was mostly Jungkook doing the making while Jimin did the collecting.
He piled them all together for Jungkook as he intertwined the vines. It was a flimsy little thing, slightly wilted from the lack of sturdiness in its structure, but the dainty flowers that filled the spaces in between rendered it a delicate headpiece.
“Um,” Jimin leaned back when Jungkook reached out towards him with the flower crown in hand. Jungkook tilted his head in inquiry, making Jimin shrink timidly, “I don’t - I’m not - the boys in my school; they say that these kind of things are only for girls, so -”
“What?!” Jungkook squawked, staring at him in complete disbelief, “That’s a bunch of crockshit!”
Jimin pointed at him, agape. “You swore.”
“I do!” Jimin huffed, “I’m older than you! Where’d you learn to say crockshit anyways?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Jungkook waved at it dismissively, “what matters the most is that flower crowns are not only for girls. It’s just flowers shaped like a crown! What’s so girly about that? and so what if boys like girly things? What is girly anyways?” He adamantly shakes his head, coming back from his digression, “I mean, flower crowns are pretty and you’re pretty. Put two and two together and you get the most prettiest thing in the world, so what’s the problem?”
Jimin blinked. It took a moment for Jimin to fully comprehend the fact that Jungkook had called him pretty of all things, which was a compliment he wasn’t used to at all - in fact, no one had ever called him pretty before. He felt his entire face grow inexplicably warm, his chest feeling slightly fuzzy. He felt like he was a piece of wheat bread being toasted into oblivion.
“You’re prettier,” he blurted. It was true. Jimin really did think Jungkook was quite pretty. Prettier than the flowers he had in his hand, and it was a sight to behold when he watched the tips of Jungkook’s ear turn tomato red.
“Stop that,” Jungkook shoved at his shoulder, surprisingly shy, “I’m the one who’s supposed to be doing the complimenting.”
Jimin couldn’t help but giggle at his reaction. And compliantly, he didn’t shake off Jungkook’s pursuit of placing the flower crown on top of his head. Jungkook leaned back, his eyes cosmic and brilliant.
“There,” he said, a grin on his face, “a king ready for his throne.”
Jimin hid his smile by ducking his head down. “What would I be the king of?”
“Park Jimin would be the king of the fairy ring!” I Jungkook proclaimed with fervent belief, sweeping his arms in a wide arc. “The lover of the sun.”
The lover of the sun. Jimin stared at the golden ringlets in his eyes, the wondrous look on his face as he faced the sun that was slowly descending. “What about you, then? What would you be the king of?”
Jungkook shrugged, “Some princes don’t become kings.”
“You could be my king,” Jimin suggested gingerly, trying his best to hold eye contact when Jungkook turned to stare at him. He looked at Jimin as though he was a different person, as though he saw him as someone else. But there was fondness in the smooth laugh lines of his face, round cheeks tinted a dusty pink that resembled the blushing hues of the sky.
“Okay,” Jungkook said, smiling, “I’ll be your king.”
The sun was burning bright in the distance as it descends beyond the horizon, liquid gold colliding with lilac mountains. Soft orange and red light were scattered across the sky, illuminating their faces in the shape of a timeglass, fitting for the golden hour. It looked like a landscape right out of an oil painting, and at that very moment, Jimin felt calm and unbothered, detached from his problems that felt as though it had been plucked right out of his psyche and was left hanging in the air.
Je listened to his breathing, and Jungkook’s breathing, the gentle rise and fall of their chests in tandem. The grass underneath him brushed against his skin, making him itch.
And then something brushed against his cheek - soft and diaphanous, like a butterfly’s wing. And again, the mystery thing fluttered against his cheek, down to his jaw, then around his ear.
Jimin opened his eyes, and his breath hitched. He stared at this - this thing, this tiny little thing that was floating in the space between his eyes, making him go cross-eyed, but it was glowing. The tiny, winged being was scintillating, scattering gold dust whenever its wings fluttered gently in the air. Jimin couldn’t make out the details of it for it was too small, but it was real, and it was right in front of him looking like the size of his fingernail.
He realized there were more than just one. Jimin looked around slowly, finding a few, glowing beings flying around him. They were like fireflies that shimmered stardust. They were humming, a meld of harmonious, unfamiliar sounds - voices? - that sounded digital and far away from his ears. It reminded jimin of the mystical narrators of a fantasy game.
“They’re real,” Jimin whispered breathlessly, staring at jungkook in awe who was full-on grinning at him with a fairy perched on his nose. You’re real.
“Told you,” Jungkook chuckled, then winced as he flicked the fairy on his nose off. The fairy flitted in a parabolic curve, “Ow! You kicked me.” Jungkook motioned at the winged creatures, “See what I mean? They may look like they’re innocent but they’re totally vicious.”
“Well, i think they’re nice.” Jimin didn’t exactly see the viciousness. The fairies surrounding him flew a whorl of a gentle gust, tickling his face. He felt himself smiling as a fairy pranced around in the air in front of him, and another one played with the strands of his hair. “But uh - do you know why they’re all around me?”
All of the fairies had fluttered towards Jimin. He was completely surrounded by fairies while Jungkook was left all alone. A mountain of plaited voices grew demandingly in his ears, becoming more jarring than pleasant, and he was half-tempted to cover his ears when he caught the bewildered look across Jungkook’s face. His eyes were wide, unreadable, mouth hung agape.
And then he said, “Oh.”
“Jungkook?” Jimin frowned cluelessly as the voices grew harshly and Jimin swatted the fairies away. Golden dust fell onto his clothes and he hurriedly swept them away, making his hands become swathed in them.
“We have to leave.” Jungkook’s hand shot out and grabbed Jimin by the wrist almost frantically, and dragged him out of the fairy ring. As soon as they stepped out of the circle, the waterfall of magical voices dispersed into the calm silence of the countryside. The fairies were gone. The sun had set, leaving behind a belt of venus to set aglow in the sky streaked in mauve pink. Jimin looked down at his hands, blinked, and the golden dust was gone, as though nothing had happened. His clothes were fairy dust free.
“What was that all about?” Jimin asked, looking at Jungkook. He seemed somewhat perturbed. “are you okay, Jungkookie?”
Jungkook let go of his wrist. shadows fell on his face; bathed him in the duality of chiaroscuro. “I - I won’t be here tomorrow, because papa is gonna take me with him to stay at the town’s inn for a bit. I don’t know when I’ll be back, but I’ll find you when I return, okay?”
“Okay?” Jimin nodded slowly. It seemed random and out of blue that Jungkook would tell him that now. “But - “
“I have to go now. I’ll see you soon, Jimin.” Jungkook gave him a quick wave of farewell before he turned around before Jimin could return the gesture, and sprinted off down the lane. And Jimin didn’t know if it was the trick of an eye, but the hazy glow of the sunset seemed to have wrapped him up in a halo, making him seem transparent.
Jimin wasn’t sure what to think of what happened. It had been fun and exhilarating but then it had taken an unexpected turn of solemnity. The fairies acted weird too, but the fact that fairies truly existed left Jimin buzzing with leftover energy and astonishment as he walked back home, his flower crown in hand.
His granny seemed surprised at the abundance of sparkles in his eyes and glowing expression, her lips curling into a gentle smile as she set the dinner table with food. Once Jimin got washed up and had placed the flower crown in his room, up on his shelf in display, they had honey-glazed potatoes, braised peas, and fried rice, along with sweet blancmange with raspberries for dessert.
Jimin was sure that if he were to mention fairies, his grandma wouldn't believe him at all since she was the one who had told him that fairy rings brought nothing but trouble. She’d probably backhand him across the head. So, he opted to ask her a question that's been in the back of his mind, “Gran, do you know about the Jeon family?”
She looked up at him from her plate, narrowing her eyes. “The who, now?”
“The Jeon’s,” Jimin repeated, something heavy stuck to his chest. that reaction didn’t bode well. “You know? The family that lives at the end of the lane? They own a farm. I mean, it’s just father and son, but they have help managing it.”
“Have you been up reading too many novels again?” His grandma sighed, shaking her head. “I swear, you and your imagination be makin’ up the strangest of things. Nobody lives at the end of the lane, boy. It’s abandoned property. No one has set a foot down on that land since the year of nineteen fifty.”
That had to be a mistake, because Jungkook and his father lived at the end of the lane. Jungkook was real - there would be no reason for him to lie to Jimin about where he lived. Jimin suddenly felt cold, and anxious, because maybe he should trek towards the end of the lane to make sure, but it was a too far journey and it would take him an hour down and an hour back up.
Jungkook wouldn’t lie to him. He didn’t lie about the fairies, so he wouldn’t lie to Jimin about his family and where he lived, would he? It was a shame Jimin couldn’t ask him since he’d be out with his father for an unknown amount of time.
Or perhaps that was a lie too.
“Close your mouth or else all the flies will end up flying down your throat,” his grandmother tapped his jaw and he immediately closed his mouth. She resumed back to her dessert, leaving Jimin slightly baffled in his seat. He didn’t want to waste the food, so he managed to finish the blancmange despite having lost his appetite.
He retired to bed later that night. Sleepless nights come and go incessantly, but it was only when the sun began to rise does Jimin find his eyes become heavy with somnolence. However, as he leaned his back against the wall by his bed and stared out the window, he watched the stars laid out like tessellations across the night sky flicker like a dim flame of a candle, burning until there was nothing left.
One day, his grandmother had taken him to a sunflower maze managed by another Kim’s farm. She’d gone to the son, Seokjin, to exchange herbs and essential oils. Kim Seokjin was a filial son of mystery parents Jimin had never heard or seen of, older than Jimin and a lot more wise. Not to mention how peculiar and quaint his mannerisms were, with his knowing smiles and obscure expressions, but grandma Park seemed to be fond of him, so Jimin didn't pay much mind to it.
Granny was friends with nearly everyone in sundew avenue, so a lot of people went out of their ways to satisfy the old woman. Jimin was left to dawdle around with himself, as always, before he’d go home alone. Taehyung was always busy taking care of his little brothers and sisters, and helping around on the farm, although sleepovers on the weekends were always better than nothing.
Sweat rolled down his forehead in the sweltering heat, his hair feeling icky underneath his straw hat. No matter how little he wore, with his outfit consisting of a flowy tank top and shorts, it did nothing to help him from the humidity. but Jimin supposed the maze proved to be useful; the sunflowers, towering in its vibrant beauty, had cast canopies of transient shade over him.
The plains was bathed in brilliant sunlight, white and pink clover on the hills, and he weaved through the path. It was a quiet afternoon and he took in how there was no one else visiting the maze. Jimin was the only one here.
The maze seemed like something Jungkook would like.
Jimin wasn’t sure if it was the summer heat playing games with his vision, but he noticed something in the corner of his eye move. There was the sound of rustling, and when Jimin turned towards the direction of the sound, he caught the shift of the sturdy stalks and something - someone- with a head of black disappearing through the crowded bed of sunflowers off trail. Jimin stared at the spot, unsure if he’d been imagining things, and he looked around to see if anyone else had witnessed that until he remembered that there was nobody else here but him.
Curiosity churned in his chest - the same kind of curiosity that once kindled on a midsummer day when he saw a lone boy lying around in a fairy ring.
Abandoning the remnants of his hesitation, Jimin stepped over the hedge that divided the sunflowers away from the maze’s pathway. He sifted his way through the stalks of sunflowers in pursuit of the mystery person, carefully pushing aside the stalks to allow room for him to pass through. He hadn’t realized how difficult this would be until a sunflower smacked him right in the center of his face.
“Jeez, why can’t I be as tall as these sunflowers?” Jimin whined as he rubbed at his face, scared that bugs might have fallen on him. But then he heard something airy and light to his far left - a giggle. Jimin’s next step faltered.
"Hello?” he tentatively called out.
No response, merely more rustling. Jimin followed the sudden manifestation of footsteps that appeared in his personal perimeter, listening to another bodily presence among the sibilant buzzing of cicadas and bees, when he began to doubt himself. Maybe there had been something odd in the pink lemonade his grandma had made for him in the morning, or maybe he failed to get enough sleep, always turning and writhing around in the dead of the night, chest churning with unexplainable discomfort.
Maybe, Jimin thought to himself as he found himself following the beam of light that peeked between the stalks, finally reaching the end of the league of sunflowers and pushing past them, It’s the heat causing illusions for me.
Maybe it’s -
“You found me,” a voice said.
He was no longer in the plains. He found himself in a copper wheat field that reached slightly past his waist. Confused, Jimin scoped behind him where the incandescent maze of sunflowers still stood tall and strong, yet now, they looked more like a towering wall that stretched infinitely across the distance as though they separated two realms.
He looked back to the front. There was a barn in the distance that Jimin had never seen before, and a small river along the path of hedgerows that flowed all the way through a timberland. Jimin swore that just before the maze, there had been a sandy, asphalt road and a little booth that sold freshly juiced lemonade that was ran by a little kid, but it was nowhere to be seen. The sunflowers covered up the view behind.
The sundogs flickered blindingly, looking as though the sky held three suns instead of one.
Jimin opened his mouth, but was rendered speechless. The boy standing in front of him, raven bangs falling over the soft roundness of his eyes and rosy cheeks, was enveloped by a sundance; his entire body shimmering with golden dust that fell from his shoulders, like dust, like sand that got caught between the fabrics of his clothes.
“I told you I’d find you, didn’t I?” Jungkook smiled, head tilted in a sweet manner.
“But - but - you, this - “ Jimin shook his head, failing to make a coherent sentence, “I’m not dreaming, am I?”
“Dreaming?” Jungkook snorted, which was a familiar sound that soothed the apprehension in Jimin’s stomach. He’s real, he’s real, he’s real. “Of course you’re not dreaming.”
“Then how are you here? How did you know where I was? And when did you come back, anyways? You didn’t tell me you were back. And where are we? This wasn’t here a few minutes ago. Is this the whole magic thingy like you do with the fairies and stuff?”
“You ask way too many questions.” Jungkook lightheartedly rolled his eyes and approached him, until their toes were touching, and he lifted a hand. “C’mon, follow me.”
“But - “
“It’ll be an adventure,” Jungkook reassured him, “trust me.”
Jungkook’s hand was warm; a nice and soft warmth, whereas Jimin’s hand was sweaty and balmy. It was a vile comparison, but Jungkook didn’t seem to mind as he held him tightly.
They ran through the field as gentle gusts of wind billowed past them. He let Jungkook take him through the tall grass that brushed past his skin, a kind of unearthly satisfaction that filled him to the brim amidst the heat wave. There was this peculiar exhilaration that came along with spending his time with a boy who spoke in riddles in a dreamscape whom Jimin couldn’t help but gravitate towards to like a stellar collision.
A multitude of questions burned at the back of his throat, waiting to be asked, but Jimin stuffed it down as he laughed with Jungkook, who twirled and danced around the field with uninhibited freedom. They laid down on the field to marvel at the vanilla sky that reminded Jimin of one of Claude Monet’s paintings.
“Can you at least tell me what you were doing? In town, with your father?” Jimin turned to look at him, tracing his profile. He turned away before Jungkook could notice his gaze.
“Oh, well. my father went to meet up with some old friends at the saloon that were staying for a few days. He also had to help with the fishmongers, and did a whole buncha work. I swear my clothes still smell like brine from how we were always near the ocean.” Jungkook kept his eyes on the sky, the light blurring his features for a second.
Jimin hummed, then with quivering bravery, he asked, “Can you tell me why you’re here? I mean - at sundew avenue? Why not live in the city, or in the actual town?”
Jungkook glanced at him quizzically, probably wondering about how strange the question was, and he shrugged. “Papa wanted to live here. Something about nature being good for us. But mostly it’s because I was looking for someone.”
Jimin bit his lip, wondering if he should bring up what his granny had said the other day. The house at the end of the lane has been abandoned for a long time. But jimin couldn’t, he can’t, so he pressed on in the same direction of the conversation: “Who were you looking for?”
“An old friend.”
“Did you find them?”
“Yeah, I did,” his smile looked a little sad, “but they don’t remember me anymore.”
“Oh,” Jimin looked up at the sky, guilty, “I’m sorry.”
“What’re you apologizing for? It’s not like it’s your fault,” Jungkook waved it off, a big grin back on his face, “anyways, there’s nothing I can do about it, y’know? I’m just happy I found them, and that I’m able to be near them. That’s all.”
Jimin wondered who his old friend was, and what the nature of their relationship was. Jungkook spoke so fondly about his old friend and it shouldn’t have made his heart feel so heavy.
He was startled out of his own thoughts when Jungkook jumped right back up onto his feet, helping Jimin up as well. “Alrighty, let’s continue our adventure!”
After lounging around underneath the suns, surrounded by the tall wheats, they ran all the way into the timberlands, skipping over the stones that sat between the rivers as they reached the other side, weaving through the gargantuan trees of yesteryear that stood mute in the summer air. The ground beneath him was lumpy with soil and spongy moss and roots, twisting like snakes that turned to stone. The sun illuminated a particular path in white gold, leading them to a rather large laburnum tree with hanging tapestries of gilded, silky blossoms.
He could hear a magpie’s song in the distance. bees zipped around the golden chain tree. With the susurration from the gentle stream of the flowering river, and the smell of damp moss and crushed leaves, Jimin gathered a flimsy bout of courage to muster up the words that have been sitting in the back of his throat for far too long.
“Jungkook.” Jimin managed to say in between heavy breaths as they stopped before a wooden bridge that was beside the laburnum. Jungkook turned around and the sunlight peeking through the gaps between the trees hits the side of his face in a hazy glow, “We’ve met before, haven’t we?”
“Yes, that day at the playground. We met eyes - you were on the swing, and then you just - vanished.” Jimin said, wringing his hands nervously, “All this time, I thought maybe I was just seeing things because no one saw you. But then you showed up and I saw you again at the fairy ring, of all places, and you were - are - real. You’re really real.”
“I’m real,” Jungkook said, “I’m as real as reality can be.”
“Where did you go that day?”
“I told you,“ he smiled, “I was looking for someone.”
Jimin stared at him, more perplexed than before. “That doesn’t many any sense, Jungkook. You just - disappeared.”
“Everyone disappears at some point, Jimin.” Jungkook bent down to pluck something out from the ground. Then, he circles a hand over Jimin’s wrist, tugging him forward, “It’s only the unlucky ones who come back.”
“I don’t get it,” Jimin dug his heels into the ground to stop Jungkook from dragging him off. Embarrassingly, he continued on in an almost frustrated, petulant tone, “I don’t - why won’t you give me a direct answer, Jungkook? Why do you speak in riddles? I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.”
Jungkook doesn’t answer him. He merely looked at Jimin with eyes that reflected the sunshine like a puddle glimmering in the open skies after a rainfall. Jungkook took his wrist, pried his hand open so that Jimin’s palm was supine, and then placed a cool object onto the center of it. Once Jungkook’s hand was out of his view, Jimin realized that what he gave him was a rock. A very shiny rock of dainty adularescence.
Jimin stared at it, then gave him a confused look. “A rock?”
“It’s not a rock,” Jungkook furrowed his brows, offended. “It’s a moonstone.”
“Where did you get that?”
Jungkook said innocently, “From the ground.”
A beat of silence. Then Jimin looked down a the ground, wondering about the extent of absurdity Jungkook was willing to go to avoid answering him, before he felt his eyes widen. Jimin hadn’t noticed them at all, too distracted from the thrill of running through the woods, but there they were, growing like wildflowers. There were scintillating gemstones of pale blues unfurled towards the direction of the sunlight and gleaming with enticement. They even had leaves underneath them.
“Holy cow,” Jimin murmured, feeling slightly sick. “I’ve gone bonkers, haven’t i?”
Jungkook laughed, “You’re perfectly sane and sound. It’s real! You’re not dreaming or going crazy, okay? This forest grows moonstones.“
In no planet do forests grow moonstones of all things. Jimin gawked at it in his hand, reflective with milky hues that seemed iridescent from the sunlight. Thiis kind of phenomenon could only be plausible in fantasy novels, in worlds scourged from vivid remnants of the imagination, or in another dimension - anywhere but the reality jimin lived in.
“Who are you?” His voice lowered to a whisper, hands gripping the moonstone in his hand tightly.
Disquietude flashed in Jungkook’s eyes, and he went silent. Subsequently, as he looked at Jimin, the sun behind him seemed to bellow a resounding brightness that almost blinded his eyes, as though its ferocity cannot be rivaled with the secrets of the cosmos.
“It’s known that all humans were made from the stars,” Jungkook delicately says, “and it just so happens that, in this solar system, i was made from the biggest one.”
He felt his entire face scrunch up in confusion, and was about to open his mouth to curtly ask if that was a subtle way of saying he was a narcissist with a superior complex, when Jungkook interrupted him quickly with a painfully guilty look. “I’m sorry, Jimin, that’s - that’s all i can tell you. It wouldn’t be right of me to interfere with the fates,” he sheepishly admitted. nothing that came out of Jungkook’s mouth made any sense. “But this moonstone will be the token of this summer memory, and one day, you’ll finally understand.”
Jimin tucked in his lips in contemplation, and bit back the words he so desperately wanted to bombard him with. He didn’t like being kept in the dark, not when his curiosity roused exponentially every time he was greeted by strange, magical things. But with the distraught look Jungkook had on, Jimin knew not to, and could only respect his wishes.
He held the precious stone with ginger fingers, and glanced up Jungkook. “You won’t disappear again, will you?” Jungkook’s eyes lit up.
“Nope. Unfortunately, you’re forever stuck with me. I won’t easily be gotten rid of! I’ll be like a leech, or like a fly! Bzzt bzzt,” Jungkook grinned with steadfast reassurance, poking at his arm with clingy fingers, and Jimin couldn’t help but laugh as he playfully shoved him away. Though his answers weren’t exactly answered, Jimin was filled with certainty and boundless hope that he would get his answers from Jungkook one day.
With Jungkook’s arm thrown around Jimin’s shoulder, they calmly made their way back out of the timberlands. Jimin played with the stone between his forefinger and thumb, gaping at its beauty as he lifted it up towards the sky and let the stone reflect off of the sunlight, making it glow and shimmer with what seemed like silver dust.
Jimin turned to look at Jungkook, about to ask him how any of this was real, when he saw the radiance in his gentle smile, eyes seeming far away into the clouds. Jimin wondered how a boy can be so bright when the sun seemed to have possessed all brilliance capable of existing in order to illuminate the world.
Maybe, Jimin thinks to himself as they marched across the wheat field, he is a child of the sun.
When they returned to the asphalt road past the sunflowers, the wheat field no longer existed anymore. In fact, he was back on the road with the lemonade stand beside a large truck, and there was only a field of greenery and slopes of wildflowers and sunsprites in the distance. No barn, no river travelling into the timberlands, no Claude Monet’s The Seine at Argenteuil hovering above them.
The question was teetering on the tip of his tongue when Jungkook smiled and beat him to it, “A sun illusion.”
“So, like - a mirage?”
Jungkook scratched his chin, thoughtfully looking to the side. “Possibly. You know how when you’re stranded in a desert and you’re thirsty, the sun plays tricks on your eyes when it gives you an illusion of an oasis? So maybe back there, the sun was lonely. Maybe that’s why it made up a place so that it could spend time with someone it misses.”
“You’re speaking riddles again.” Jimin sighed.
“Don’t worry,” Jungkook grinned. “you read a lot of books and you’re smart, so you’ll solve them soon. But first off, i’m thirsty. Mind if i tag along to your home for a drink?”
Jimin pursed his lips in dissatisfaction from being unable to comprehend his strange use of words, but he conceded. He took Jungkook’s hand and tugged him down the road, and made their way back to his granny’s cottage, ignoring a pair of eyes following their movements.
(later, once Jungkook had left after being a polite, energetic guest who showered his granny in golden compliments about her amazing lemonade, grandma Park stared at the chair where Jungkook had occupied for an hour. She had on an unreadable, tight-lipped expression.
“He’s my friend i’ve been telling you all about, gran. Jeon Jungkook! He lives at the end of the lane of sundew avenue.” Jimin said, “Do you believe me now?”
His grandma sighed, knotting together her wrinkly hands. “I would’ve known if a new family moved into the neighborhood, Jimin. I frankly have never heard anything about the Jeon’s arrival. But he seems like a charming, nice boy. I’m happy to see you two get along so well.” She stood up, collecting the cups, and smiled at Jimin, “You should bring him over more often. I could use another pair of hands with the garden.”
“I’m kidding - somewhat. Now, stop your yapping and help me with the dishes.”)
During the afternoons where the sun was at its peak and they were sweating their brows off, they would retreat back to Jimin’s cottage and lounge around in his bedroom instead of staying at the fairy ring. (The fairies were much more nicer nowadays; some of them tried to braid Jimin’s hair even though his hair was too short. Jimin still couldn’t understand their weird harmonized voices, and the language they spoke, but he gave no mind to it.) Fortunately, there was air conditioning.
Being with Jungkook always made him feel at peace. Like Taehyung, Jungkook wouldn’t hurt him like the other kids at school. Jimin felt comfortable with being himself around Jungkook, so one day, he ended up sharing what his ultra-favourite book was.
His hands were clammy as he handed the book to Jungkook.
“It’s a children’s book. I know - it’s a little strange,” Jimin sighed, nervously tugging at his shirt before wringing his hands. “But I like it a lot. It makes me happy and gives me strength.”
Usually, most boys his age would scoff at the abstract notion of reading; deem it nerdy and geeky, as if illiteracy was a way of being cool. He still remembered the day where Choi Hanbin had grabbed one of his books from his hands during recess, and in front of an audience, ripped it to shreds.
Of course, he got in trouble afterwards, but the lingering taunts and the destruction of his fictional world didn’t help alleviate the pain in his chest. But it wasn’t like Jimin could ever talk about how much it hurt him. Feelings were meant to be stowed away and kept locked in pandora’s box. That’s what adults always do, isn’t it?
But Jungkook was smiling, mouth curved into a pleasant shape. He looked genuinely intrigued as he beamed at the cover. “The Velveteen Rabbit. It sounds so cool! I’ve never read it before, what’s it about?”
That wasn’t a reaction Jimin was expecting, but then again, Jungkook was always full of surprises. “It’s about a velveteen rabbit that becomes real through the love of a little boy.”
“That sounds nice,” Jungkook flipped through the pages, ooh-ing and aah-ing at the pictures. “I think children’s books are pretty important. I mean, yeah, they’re super simple but it’s the moral behind the story that counts, right?”
“Yeah!” Jimin nodded eagerly, watching the pages flip. “When I feel like I’m doing a bad job at being a person, the rabbit in the story reminds me to be myself and that I am loved. And that means I’m genuine. I’m real. And the boy reminds me to love unconditionally; to love people - and myself - despite our flaws - just like how the boy loved the rabbit.”
There was a softness to the tilt of Jungkook’s smile, an unsolved riddle in his expression. “I think that’s really cool, Jimin.”
“Really?” he blinked, “and not, uh. cheesy? nerdy? sentimental?”
“What’s so cheesy about self-love? And reading isn’t nerdy at all, that’s a load of crockshi - I mean, a load of horse poop. But sentimental? Totally, but in a good way!” Jungkook closed the book and hugged it, before plopping a big, wet smooch onto the cover. Jimin gawked, unsure of whether to be grossed out at the fact that there were now mouth germs on his book, or bewildered at Jungkook’s show of - what? affection for his most favoured book? Jimin couldn't help but cringe though.
“I think it’s awesome you got to find beauty in something that makes you wanna be a better person. That’s the power of books, isn’t it?”
Jimin didn’t know how to respond to that without zealously stumbling over his words, so he merely nodded with enthusiasm to express the mutual agreement. his cheeks hurt from smiling.
“So, is this what you wanna do when you grow up?” Jungkook leaned forward with interest, “Writing stories and all that?”
“Yeah, I do.” He murmured sheepishly. Deep-rooted apprehension was stuck to his core and Jimin wasn’t able to easily get rid of it. And if he was being frank, Jimin was just scared, because the adult world with adult things was scary and he wasn’t sure if he was able to make that dream come true.
“I’ll be the first one to buy your book!” Jungkook exclaimed, eyes sparkling as he used a hand to sweep over the air, “You can totally do it! Park Jimin, taking the world by storm with his first book.” He nodded fervently, content, “Sounds good to me.”
Warmth permeated in his chest as he watched the light in Jungkook’s eyes gleam with something akin to belief - belief in him. It was the feeling of a starburst, sweet and a bit sour.
Jimin looked down and smiled, wondering if Jungkook was too good to be true. He nudged the book, “Would you like to read it? It’s a quick read. I don’t mind if you wanna borrow it.”
“You sure?” Jungkook beamed, sitting up straight, “I’ll get right on it! I think I may need to take it home though, ‘cause I’m a slow reader.”
Jimin smiles, “That’s alright. I’ll find you.”
They spend the rest of the afternoon basking in the comforting silence, accompanied by the ricochet of pages, and as Jimin chanced lingering gazes to Jungkook’s way, Jimin wondered if he would love Jungkook as much as the little boy loved his velveteen rabbit too.
Even though Jungkook didn’t talk much about his origins, and could never stay past sunset and would always leave before the sky fully darkened, he became more open about his little quirks and personal facets as days passed by. Jimin stored those little tidbits about himself closely to his heart like a prized possession.
Most of all, Jimin didn’t want this special summer to end. He wanted to go to the fairy ring everyday without any worries, and talk about quiet nonsense that consisted of wispy dreams and idle things. He wanted this summer to go on. He wished these summer adventures and this companionship with underlying gold would never go away.
But all good things must come to an end, don’t they?
And it happens like this:
The fairy ring was empty today.
Jungkook wasn’t there, even as Jimin sat in the circle and waited as the sun disappeared behind the mountains; and he waited until a blueberry-tipped nightfall bestowed upon sundew avenue, strung with a tapestry of tiny stars. Even the fairies didn’t show up, but Jimin had already developed the creeping suspicion that the fairies were connected to Jungkook in a mysterious way, so if Jungkook didn’t show up, then neither would the fairies.
Odd, because Jungkook hadn’t said anything the day before about not being able to meet up.
Jimin walked home by himself along the road strewn with moon flowers that night that unfurled its petals every time he walked past them, thinking about Jungkook. The crescent grey moon hung in the sky like a sharp scythe, like dirty beach sand with footprints on it, the dim outline of its round shape illuminated by an earthshine.
The moon looked lonely, but at least it had the company of the stars.
Or the next. Or the next. Or the next.
He stared at the wilted flower crown and the plangent moonstone that sat atop his shelf, wondering if everything had been a dream.
It must have been too good to be true.
Taehyung stared at him, nonplussed. His cheeks were full of all the strawberries he was cramming into his mouth. It was a funny sight, but Jimin felt too much like a broken record to find amusement in it.
“The Jeon’s!” Jimin said. Everyone gave him a clueless reaction at the family name and it did nothing but perpetuate unease. Jimin felt so silly. “You know? The father and son living at the end of the lane? Surely you must have heard of them.”
Taehyung frowned, thick eyebrows furrowing in thought. “Can’t say I’ve heard of them, Jiminie. All I know is that the house and farm at the end of the lane have been abandoned for a very long time. My granny said so and - hey, Jisoo! put that down!” He yelled at one of his little sisters who was trying to put a lint roller in her mouth. Taehyung hurriedly went to grab the roller out of her hands and replaced it with a lollipop. “What’d I say about putting weird and inedible things in your mouth, missy?”
All he got was a stuck-out tongue and Taehyung sighed. He trudged back towards Jimin who was somewhat sulking. “Jiminie, are you sure he said that he lived at the end of the lane? Maybe he said train? Or he was in pain?”
“I don’t think he was in pain, Taehyungie.”
Taehyung shrugged, “Why don’t you go visit him, then? check the house out yourself?”
“I should, shouldn’t I? but - “ Jimin ran both hands through his hair, more antsy than usual. Then was something he’d been struggling to settle on. he hated his cowardly heart. “I just - I’m scared. What if you guys are right? What if it is abandoned, and that all this time maybe everything was all just a lie. I don’t want that. I don’t - I don’t want to think that all the fun we had, and all the time we spent together was a lie too. He told me to trust him, but why couldn’t he trust me enough to tell me where he really lived? I don’t understand. He left so suddenly and I - what if I did something wrong?”
“Now, that's just foolish. I bet you did nothing wrong, okay?” Taehyung frowned, “Believe in yourself a little more, Jimin. If you trusted him so far without any disappointments, then maybe you should trust in him about this too.” Taehyung gave him a comforting pat on the shoulder, “Check it out, you know? At least you’ll get a peace of mind afterwards. Freaking out about it surely isn’t an effective method.”
There was logic in Taehyung’s words, and Jimin found himself nodding to it. “Yeah, you’re right.”
“When am i not?” Taehyung grinned, then his expression went slack as soon as a cacophony of pans came clattering down onto the ground from the kitchen. Someone in the back yelled that it wasn’t them, and another voice yelled back that it was, and then a whole verbal argument sprouted into the noise. Taehyung threw his head back and groaned, “These kids are going to tear the entire house down, one day.”
Jimin hid a smile behind his hand.
He was thrumming with nervous energy, but Jimin trusted in Jungkook, and surely - surely, he was there. Maybe he just fell ill and had to stay indoors for a long while. Jimin repeated all loads of possibilities in his head like a desperate mantra.
It took at least an hour to travel there by foot, and with the last bits of energy, he ran. He ran until his chest hurt and legs ached and eyes stung but he was filled with hope and longing and -
Jimin slowed down into wobbly steps before coming to a full stop.
It was empty.
The bleak land looked untouched, and the farm was deserted. The barns and stables looked decrepit and ready to fall apart any second, and the vacant house that came along with it was covered in overgrown vines and mold. Jimin couldn’t even see half of the house’s structure from all the shrubs and trees that grew closely around the building. Everything was left unattended and forsaken.
Jimin felt silly, but he continued anyways. He walked towards the house, careful not to touch the dilapidated fences as he walked past. The porch seemed rickety and weak, and Jimin didn’t want to sport a sprained ankle when he had to walk all the way back to his cottage, so he stood there before the steps. The odor of mildew was strong, and Jimin wrapped his arms around his waist to keep himself warm when he suddenly felt cold.
“Jungkook?” Jimin called uselessly. He licked his lips and tried again, whispering, “You’re real, aren’t you?”
Fairy rings bring nothing but bad luck.
And on that day of a cloudy, august afternoon, Park Jimin wished he had listened to his grandmother after all.
ii. that we may fall in love everytime we open our eyes
Wander, dream, adventure - these are the words that once were the focal points of Jimin’s childhood.
Sundew Avenue looks just about the same as when Jimin had left it twelve years ago. Coming back to his granny’s whimsical cottage, now draped with overgrown vines with buds of roses blooming in the virescent, tender summer, Jimin can’t help but feel overwhelmed by a gentle rush of nostalgia. It’s nice to see that his grandmother still has a knack for gardening. Jimin notices how well-tended they are, even if she lost a helping pair of hands when Jimin had left to live with his host family to attend high school in the city, before moving onwards to university.
Jimin remembers the rickety old fence too, how they would need to give it a big, old push in order to heave it open. It takes Jimin a few tries, grunting as he stumbles forward. Since he’s spending the rest of his break back at sundew avenue, he might as well fix the damn thing while he’s at it.
He looks up. Grandma Park stands there by the door. Her long, silver hair is plaited loosely, her eyes sharp and nose aquiline, giving her a hawkish look. She doesn’t look like she’s aged, but the hunch in her back says otherwise. There is a softness to the lines of her face, and if Jimin looks closely, there’s a tiny curl to her lips.
“Gran!” Jimin breaks into a grin, jogging up the steps to envelop her in a warm hug. She is small and slightly pudgy, which Jimin notes; he deduces that it must be all the honey glazed potatoes she favours so often. His granny chuckles, which was a low guttural sound, but it kickstarts the fuzzy feeling in his chest that embraced him from head to toe. He missed her, quite so, and missed her quiet warmth and strength. She is a pillar, a titaness of limitless love, and Jimin has nearly forgotten the tender touch of a laudable guardian.
“Okay, now. you’ve got your fix. let go of me before you crack my bones,” she says scratchily as she pats his back. He leans back and grins at her, following her inside into the cottage.
The inside still looks the same, although Jimin notices that there are a few more additions to granny’s plant family, such as eden terrariums and a bonsai plant. Plus, there seems to be an influx of charms as well, surrounding the hearth. She must be using the money he sends her monthly investing in her nature friends, which brings a smile to his face.
“Didn’t expect you to feel so attached to this old place,” she says as she hands him a cup of earl grey tea - two sugar cubes and a splash of cream, just the way he likes it, “I would’ve thought the city life would’ve made you a pretentious city boy.”
“It’s got more opportunities, that’s for sure. But it’s not home,” Jimin looks down at his cup. It’s the one with a little chick painted on it. He missed the quiet countryside and lively unity. The rush of commuters and clouds of pollution that reached the city sky left a hole in his chest. “I quite like it here. It - I have a lot of good memories here, with the people.”
His granny hums, watching him with shrewd eyes. “That Jeon boy hasn’t shown up since that summer, if that’s what you’ve been wondering.”
He laughs, incredulous. Was he easy to read? Did he still wear his heart on his sleeve? Jimin thought he’d gotten better at hiding his feelings and thoughts, having mastered the art of keeping every unpleasantry locked up in a box. He wrings his wrists, “It’s been twelve years, gran. I’m over it. I was just a little curious, and it’s not like we were friends for a very long time anyways. It’s nothing significant.” He shrugs, eyes fluttering towards the old gramophone.
“Sometimes, I wonder if he’s okay. That’s all.”
“The amount of time you’ve known someone does not correlate to how much they have made an influence in your life.” She takes his cup once he finishes, and puts the dishes into the sink. She waves him away when Jimin tries to help. “I want none of your pessimism in my house. Go visit the Kim’s and catch up with the strawberry boy and leave all that sulking nonsense back in the city.”
He grins, giving her a quick peck on the cheek at the kindness behind her curt words. He promises to be back before sundown.
Jimin makes his way to the Kim’s house, placing a hand over his eyes to shield them from the dim glare of the sun. As soon as he approaches their land after crossing a field, warm familiarity immediately pervades his senses. He approaches the white picket fence, feeling his lips curve into a big smile as soon as he notices a familiar figure sitting on the porch, bobbing his legs up and down.
Bubbly, he calls out like they often did as children, “How fast do librarians travel?”
Immediately, Taehyung springs up from the porch and yells, “They book!” He’s got a gigantic grin on his face as Jimin runs towards him, and they throw their arms around each other in a tight hug.
“Dude! Jimin, I almost didn’t recognize you for a second there,” Taehyung pulls back, entire face beaming. “Well, well, well! look at you, Mr. City boy! I’m still taller than you of course but like, you’ve definitely hit the mark for a palatable fashion sense and a handsome face. Jesus, it’s been such a long time.”
He laughs, shaking Taehyung by the shoulders, “I can say the same to you, Tae! You look great.” and happy. “Since when did your shoulders get so broad? That’s completely unfair.”
“I’m a farmer. I do some heavy labour stuff you know, not that Mr. City boy would know.”
“Hey,” Jimin argues, “I have my own share of heavy labour stuff too.”
“Carrying a bunch of groceries doesn’t count as heavy labour, Jiminie,” Taehyung rolls his eyes before he sits down on the steps of the porch, patting down on the empty seat beside him. “C’mon, now! I’ll have to go back to work in a few but I wanna hear a summary about your city life first!”
So, Jimin gives him the overgeneralized answer to save time: went to university, graduated with a degree in publishing and creative writing, and now works at a literary magazine as a side job. Taehyung was there when he said goodbye to Jimin when he left Sundew Avenue to venture into the city for a myriad of opportunities. Even with a feeble heart, he was able to pursue his dream.
Taehyung didn’t express much attraction at the thought of leaving the farm. Though he loved intellectual musings, he conveyed much of his happiness in working in a farm, saying that him and his heart was tied to this buconic place.
“What brings you here, then?”
“I was feeling a little homesick.” Jimin admits. His eyes take in the flowers growing along the yard, “Gran is getting old and I thought I could help her out. And I guess I needed a bit of space. Everything is so fast-paced in the city and I miss the peacefulness of the countryside where I’m not expected to become a certain character, or to be fake happy.”
Taehyung pats him on the back, a comforting gesture Jimin missed. “Hey, well I’m glad you’re here, even if it’s just a temporary stay. I bet it’ll be a healing experience to revisit your childhood territories. Plus, usually people find a sense of fulfillment afterwards, don’t they?”
“Guess we’ll find out.”
“Yup. maybe we can go pond skipping too.” Taehyung grins, “Hoseok can tag along.”
“Hoseok? You mean Mr. Jung’s son?”
“Yeah! After you left, we became friends. You know there’s not much else to do around here but keep up your family business and walk around trying not to take a shit in the trees.” Taehyung shrugs, “And he’s cute, so that’s an ultra plus.”
Jimin remembers interacting with Hoseok quite sparsely. They weren’t as close, but there was a mutual camaraderie. All he remembers that Hoseok seemed like a sunny, summer child. “Should I offer my congratulations?”
“What - no! - okay, maybe not yet,” Taehyung swats at his shoulder, and Jimin bursts out laughing. Taehyung looks a bit pink in the face, “We still have to work out the intricacies of the human complexion when it comes to feelings. I estimate that you can offer your congratulations in about a month.” he nods, and ghosts a touch on his back and lightly pushes him, “Now get outta here before you accidentally yell it out and expose me to the world.”
Jimin sticks his tongue out at him and Taehyung wrinkles his nose in response. He’s relieved to know they can still interact so smoothly and easily as though Jimin hadn’t been living in the city for the past twelve years keeping flimsy contact. Taehyung was still his chirpy, lively self, who didn’t mind joking around with him like children even though they are now in their twenties, and Jimin is glad.
“Come over for dinner some time! then we’ll have plenty of time to catch up,” Taehyung waves farewell at him, grinning. Jimin gives him a salute.
Afterwards, Jimin goes to visit the Jung’s farm. He exchanges a few cordial words with the Jung’s, and says hello to Hoseok who hasn’t lost the sunny twinkle in his eyes. He greets the other neighbours as well before he wanders off a familiar path.
He breathes it all in: the pine trees and cypress, the fragrance of flowers in the mix of grass; he basks in the euphoria of leaving the city smog and embraces the pastoral serenity. But as he continues to walk along the meadows, he notices the rowan tree and the -
Jimin stops. He wrings his hands.
The fairy ring is still there. Empty, but still there, with the circle of mushrooms and the darker patch of grass inside. It slightly glows from the radiance of the sun, yet Jimin hesitates whether or not to walk past it.
It’s been such a long time. After all, it had been a beautiful part of his childhood, even if Jimin wasn’t too sure anymore if the memories of it were all just a maladaptive daydream.
After a moment’s worth of uncertainty, Jimin finally crosses the meadow and approaches the fairy ring. He steps into the circle and sits down slowly, ensconced in the middle as goosebumps prickling his skin despite it being warm. There’s a tug in his chest, something like ache and longing, but he smiles at the sentiment.
Had the fairies been genuinely true? Perhaps so, but it’s not like Jimin can make sure it was. The fairies didn’t show up unless Jungkook was in the fairy ring with him too, and he was nowhere to be seen after those years. Still, Jimin can appreciate the nostalgia, so he lays down on the grass, now faced with the view of the clear, blue sky visible through the transparent gaps of the leaves. The sun flickers over him, licks at certain spots beside him with halos, and Jimin closes his eyes, drinking in the warmth that washes over him.
It’s unexpected that he ends up taking a siesta. The travel back to Sundew Avenue must have taken a toll on him as he relaxed underneath the shaded sun, and his mind drifts and his soul wanders into a dreamland until something soft brushes against his cheek that jerks him awake.
At first he thinks it’s a butterfly, or some kind of winged insect, but as soon as he blinks away the bleariness in his vision and his eyesight focuses, he finds himself staring in a mixture of disbelief and shock at a winged creature in the shape of a tiny, human being, hovering above his face in front of the descending, orange sun. He’s dreaming, he must be, because this - this -
“What,” Jimin croaks.
The fairy - it’s just one of them and not a flock - drifts back, giving jimin space to sit up cautiously. This should be impossible because the fairies didn’t appear unless Jungkook was with him, and as Jimin frantically searches around the vicinity, Jungkook is nowhere to be found as expected. This left him disoriented and distraught and highly confused.
“Hi,” Jimin awkwardly says, staring at the fairy fluttering before him, “Um.”
There’s a whisper in the echoing language Jimin doesn’t understand. He frowns as the fairy circles around him, leaving a trail of golden dust to scatter after it. “I don’t know what you’re saying, I’m sorry. I - this - I don’t know what’s going on. Why are you here?” then as an afterthought, “You guys don’t show up without him.”
The fairy hovers in the air for an unmoving second, when finally, a tendril of words rings in the space between him.
Jimin blinks, wondering if he heard wrong.
“I’m not a witch,” Jimin says tentatively, unsure if the fairy was accusing him of being one.
The fairy sweeps in convoluted arcs. Jimin watches, nonplussed, until he realizes that the fairy was tracing the outline of an object in the air, utilizing the scattering, golden dust to frame the lines of the image; the overlapping petals attached to a circle, sitting on top of a long, tall stalk, was the ephemeral illustration of a sunflower.
The golden dust falls and disperses, and the fairy hovers before Jimin once again.
“t̬͍̦h̹͕̞̩̝e̝ͅ ̥̙̝̼̫̲̙w͚i̦̜t̺̻c͉̲̱̠̳̭̦h͓̮.” A pause. “g̜̜͕͖̪̱̹o̫̯ ̞̖͔to̜̪ ̹̥̺̠t̼͕̙͎h̗̯̮͈e ̘̖̜̙̺w̱̪̟͎i̝t͈̭̭̯c̲̪̞̬̖h͓͚͉.”
“What witch?” Jimin asks in exasperation, “Why do all of you speak in such cryptic words? Why can’t you just tell me what’s going on - “
The lone fairy hurls itself towards him and smacks itself right onto his nose. It catches him off guard, and it feels as though he was being slightly pinched - as though it was a tiny bite from a bug. “Now that’s just rude. Did you just hit me?”
The fairy chitters, though it doesn’t repeat its words anymore. Jimin wants to ask a bazillion questions such as: why there was only one of them, and why it showed up now of all times, especially when Jimin hadn’t even brought anything to offer for its presence. What made this occasion special? Why, after all these years, with Jimin waiting in the ring only to be presented with nothing, does a fairy show up now?
But just as Jimin opens his mouth, the fairy flies back. Its transparent, gold-crusted wings with dainty curlicues glowing in the burning sunlight flutters one last time, before it disappears like the wispy florets of a dandelion.
The events leave him puzzled throughout the whole night. It’s a curse that he feels the most awake during the night. Restlessness creeps up on him and Jimin finds himself staring up at the ceiling of his old bedroom. It’s been ten years, and granny has been keeping it clean of any smudges of dust and dirt. The walls were painted with tides of moonlight, and ironically, it shines directly on the moonstone that sat atop the surface of his bookshelf across his window.
When Jimin left for the city, he didn’t bring it with him since he believed there was no good reason for it. And it’s almost amusing, maybe a bit pathetic, how as soon as Jimin returns back to his home land - even on the first day, for god’s sake - that everything begins to revolve around Jeon Jungkook once again. Jimin isn’t sure how he feels, but joy isn’t one of them.
He ignores the moonstone in favour of closing his eyes. once dawn approaches, Jimin falls asleep.
A week after having an inner debate with himself, he finally asks his grandmother out of sheer curiosity.
“Hey gran,” Jimin calls as he slathers a good amount of blackberry jam onto his bowl of porridge, before he swishes it around. He misses his granny’s porridge the most, “Do you, um - know anything about a witch? Or, the witch?”
His granny, who was in the middle of drinking her cup of tea from the saucer while solving a newspaper crossword, stills. After a beat of silence, she glances up at Jimin who’s staring intently at her.
“Uh, particularly something to do with sunflowers.” Jimin adds on belatedly, remembering the twinkling image the fairy had drawn for him. He shoves a spoonful of porridge in his mouth, and lightly chews while his granny puts her cup down. He thought he’d ask, since his grandmother has lived in Sundew Avenue longer than anyone has.
He shrinks a little from granny’s sharp gaze. She studies him to the point of discomfort, until she finally heaves a sigh and puts her pen down. For a second, he fears that she’ll ask him where he knew of this witch, if they really did exist, but in lieu of that scenario, his granny gets up from her seat and treads into the hall and into her room. He hears shuffling and the rummaging of drawers, and then she returns with an antique, ceramic ginger jar in her hands. It looked of vintage value, the colour of jade with a glaze of dark green and faint, intricate designs.
Puzzled, his granny puts the jar down in front of him. “Take this to that Kim.”
“No, the other Kim.”
“The other Kim?” Jimin says. “You mean Kim Seokjin?”
“Who else would i be talking about?”
“But what does this have anything to do about the witch?”
“I cannot tell if you are being obtuse or purposely being dumb. Perhaps both,” Granny scoffs, shaking her head as she picks up her pen and goes back to her crossword. “Nevermind all that. He’ll tell you anyways. You can run my errands instead today. Don’t look inside either because the contents are not for you and he will notice. He’ll give you what I want in return, so don’t destroy it with your clumsy hands.”
“I’m not clumsy. Who says I was clumsy?” Jimin eats the last of his porridge, eyeing the ginger jar. “What’s in there, anyways?”
“None of your beeswax, kid. Now give me an eleven letter word for chewing.”
Without missing a beat, Jimin points at her with the spoon in his hands and triumphantly says, “Mastication.”
Granny huffs, the closest to a content sound she’ll ever make in her grumpy life, and Jimin grins.
The sunflower maze makes him uneasy.
It elicits memories of the adventures he had with Jungkook and it makes his heart pang tightly with a wistful beat. That is to say, it’s unfortunate, because after all, the sunflower maze belonged to the Kim’s, and Seokjin was to be delivered of granny’s ginger jar containing mysterious wonders of the unspoken and unknown. It’s inevitable jimin would come across it once again.
He approaches the house that looked awfully too eerie when compared to the fact it was adjacent to a colourful maze of sunflowers. There were greenish stains on the moss-covered walls, unkempt vines and overgrown leaves hanging about, and the red-bricked rooftop looked as though it was about to collapse at any second. Jimin ducks underneath a drape of vines that curled around the top of the gate. It more or less resembled that of a jungle, although the rose bushes and shrubs were trimmed and kept neatly. A little pond was made near the path, framed by rocks and nosegays of flowers, and it’s a startingly contrast to the overall eccentricity of the place.
Jimin has seen Seokjin from afar, but now he realizes that he’s never set foot on the grounds of his home.
Hugging the jar close to his chest, he knocks timidly on the burgundy door, and waits.
He hears a rickety creak before the door opens, and Jimin is greeted by a young man. He looks normal, that’s for sure: simple, white shirt; black trousers; dark hair with straight bangs; and a rather handsome, bright face on a statuesque body. Jimin knows that Seokjin is older than him by a few years, but frankly, he looks the same age as Jimin.
“Oh.” Seokjin blinks in surprise, “Hello, Jimin. I didn’t know you were back in Sundew.”
He’s never been formally acquainted with Seokjin, however, merely meeting eyes for a fleeting second before it would be gone in an instant. But there was always something strange about the air around him, and Jimin isn’t sure if he’s just unaccustomed to the livelihood of sophistication or there was something else that was more unsettling he couldn’t quite pinpoint.
“Yes, I came back a week ago.” Jimin nods politely, “Um, it’s nice to see you again, Seokjin. My granny says she has something you want.” He lifts the jar in indication, quickly adding, “I didn’t look inside!”
Seokjin raises a brow, but he breaks into a smile. “I’m sure you didn’t. Come on inside, then.”
The interior is a completely one-eighty. It’s clean, immaculate, and decorated with drapes of arcane designs and tassels in deep reds and browns that hang from the walls, and persian rugs that extend across the halls. Just like granny, he kept a whole lot of indoor plants and succulents, giving the place an earthy aroma, and they walk past an incense that was burning as Jimin follows after Seokjin to the kitchen.
Jimin can tell Seokjin’s a collector of antiques, conspicuously put on display in his glass shelves. The walls are a deep red colour too; cinnabar - bright and dark at the same time. Small, homely, and warm. Jimin doesn’t bother to hide his awe, “Your house is beautiful.”
Mouth opening in a response, the words stop when Jimin notices a black cat wandering about in the hall. The feline catches him with its familiar, golden eyes, and Jimin gasps in realization.
“Is that you, Peppermint?” Jimin asks, and he turns to face Seokjin, “She’s your cat?”
His brow raises, “Why yes, she is. How do you know of her?”
“Gran and I used to always put out a dish of milk for a black stray we see wandering around our cottage. I didn’t know she had an owner, and I didn’t know her owner was you.”
Seokjin gives him a knowing smile, “wlWhat a coincidence. She ventures off quite frequently but always comes back, so I never bothered to give her a collar. ‘Peppermint’ is a cute name that you have given her, though.”
Jimin shrugs, an embarrassed smile on his face. He was eating a peppermint candy at the time, so he thought it would be fitting.
“Astraea, come here and welcome our guest, why don’t you?” Seokjin calls to his cat, and Jimin distantly thinks how Peppermint is definitely a cuter name, before Seokjin directs his next words to Jimin, “You can put the jar by the kitchen counter. The water’s conveniently hot, so i’ll make you some tea. is rose okay with you?”
Jimin takes a seat at a dainty, wooden table as he listens to the rattling of cups and saucers. Astraea weaves through his legs, resting on the floor with her body curled up against his ankle. Not long after, Seokjin reemerges from the kitchen with a tea tray, setting it down on the table. He picks up the georgian teapot and pours the rose tea into a cup and places it in front of Jimin on a saucer, before doing the same for himself. There’s a globe-shaped bowl containing what Jimin assumes to be cream, and another bowl containing cubes of sugar.
“Thank you.” Jimin says, eyes flickering around the dozens of charms lacing the walls. He picks up the tea, drops in two cubes of sugar and lets it dissolve, and sips on it. He pauses; it’s good, really good, and it feels as though it was warming him up from the inside out in a nice, detoxifying way.
In lieu of letting a peaceful silence hang, he clumsily attempts to make small talk, “So, uh. What’s in the jar gran gave to you? It seems pretty important.”
“It is indeed. Quite lethal, if you ask me.” Seokjin says nonchalantly as he twirls a spoon in his cup. There’s an urbane nature to his crisp movements. Unsettling.
“What? The mystery stuff is poisonous?”
“Yes.” Seokjin looks up and smiles at him, “Aconitum. you may know it as wolfsbane.”
Jimin blinks, swallows hard, and stares down at his cup.
“It is extremely dangerous. That is why I prefer that your grandmother personally comes to me instead when delivering me these products. She’s much more careful, but I suppose she must have a reason for sending you here in her stead.” Seokjin places his cup down, tapping his fingers on the table in an oscillating motion, “Why are you staring at your tea like that?”
“Nothing! No reason. Um - what do you even need wolfsbane for?”
“Great that you ask. Did you know that the Chinese has been using aconitum in their traditional herbal medicines for a very long time? Judging by your slacked expression, I assume you don’t. Well, they utilize the root and it goes through a special process of reducing the toxins, and the roots are further cooked in order to eliminate all the toxins before it is safe to be used.” Seokjin says, “It’ll be impressive to use in my practices and studies. Plants of all kind have a varietal of magical properties, and it would be a shame to not be able to utilize most of them due to their poisonous aspects.”
Jimin feels his entire face scrunch up in confusion, “Uh?“
“In exchange, your grandmother often asks for simple herbs, such as lavender and rosemary. She enjoys make oils out of them and using them for food. We have a rather cordial agreement of exchanges since your grandmother is very skilled in collecting the most bizarre herbs and plants out there.” There’s a twinkle in his eye, “She is very generous for a kitchen witch.”
The cup in his hands almost slips out of his hands, but Jimin catches in time even though most of the tea spills over the table. He sputters, “what?”
“Has she been keeping her identity as a kitchen witch from you for all these years?”
“A kitchen what?!”
Seokjin snorts, covers his mouth to supposedly hold in his amused laughter. then, he clears his throat, “I guess that’s why she sent you.”
“Gran’s a kitchen witch? Oh my god,” Jimin buries his face into his hands, before he runs them through his hair in distress. “I don’t understand. I mean - first fairies, and then witches - what’s next? An one-eyed goblin and a bloodsucking monster? I’m not even surprised - okay, maybe I am - but then, what does that make me? Wait, but then - oh god, you -” he stares at Seokjin in progressive realization, jaw dropping, “you’re the sunflower.”
Seokjin raises his brows. “I beg your pardon?”
“Shit, sorry, I mean - “ Jimin digs the heels of his palms into his eyes, wondering if this was some absurd dream, “the fairy. she - he - it, drew me the image of a sunflower and told me to go to the witch. I - are you? A witch? The witch?”
Seokjin seems to find delight in Jimin’s visible internal turmoil and inept bumbling. His lips quirk into a contented smile and he nods. “I thought you would have already connected the dots. But yes, I am. Just a regular one, unlike your grandmother who specializes in hearth magic.” He sighs in sympathy once he catches the confused look on Jimin’s face again, “by hearth magic, I mean the food she makes. such examples include cupcakes being for good luck, soup and broths for healing - comfort and spirit are the spells she adds to her food, her cooking.”
Although Jimin is still trying to process the bomb that has been dropped on him, he does understand what Seokjin is saying. He remembers most of the time when he fell ill, granny would make her famous chicken broth that would instantly soothe the aching within him, clear his sinuses, and leave him all warm and snuggly. Then the next day, his illness would be gone.
Or that other time, when Jimin wouldn’t stop brooding when he realized that Jungkook wouldn’t come back anymore. Granny had baked him an apple pie that had tasted more sweet than usual, and it had felt as though his heart was being physically mended itself. Or when Jimin had been nervous for a presentation in his last year of elementary school that he would hide underneath his bed to avoid going to school, but she would make him drink her specially brewed chamomile tea with a thin slice of ginger, and it would have instantly ameliorated his nerves.
Everything clicks, and it makes sense.
“And here I thought,” Jimin begins slowly, “she was just trying to fatten me up.”
“Oh, that too.”
He huffs, but he quickly becomes stoic, “Why did she keep it from me? I didn’t think gran was… part of the whole magical thing. I wouldn’t have - you know, treated her any different if i had knew.”
There’s a twitch in Seokjin’s brow, “You know that she is not your real grandmother?”
“Well, yeah. She told me that when I reached the age where I could understand what adopted meant. She says she found me among the meadows as an infant.”
“Do you know of your origins?”
“You mean where i came from? And my parents?” Jimin shakes his head, “Then no.”
“I see.” Seokjin hums, nodding more to himself than to Jimin. “now I understand. Perhaps she sent you here with one, sole purpose: because it is time.”
“What?” Jimin says. He’s never been more confused in his life in the span of half an hour. “Time for what?”
“You understand that I am a witch, and that I own and handle the sunflower maze.” Seokjin says, “You’ve went there before. You went through it.” He lifts up both of his hands, and presses his index fingers together in a light tap. “Do the constellations click for you, Jimin?”
Jimin stares at him in ponderous thought, cycling his words through his mind. He remembers weaving through the stalks of sunflowers that seem to grow taller and taller each time he travels through it deeper; the hot sun crosshatching burns on his back as Jungkook’s soft hand takes him through the sun illusions; the golden chain tree that looked otherworldly; and then - the astute gazes, the knowing smiles, and the obscure nature surrounding Seokjin’s true identity and role. And -
As Jimin lead Jungkook back to their cottage, he looked at him and found him staring far in the distance. Jimin followed his gaze at an eerie looking house full of draping vines but well-kept rose bushes. Jimin tugged at his hand, and Jungkook tore his gaze away, smiling at him as though he hadn’t wore a look of longing.
It feels as though he’s trying to catch his breath after a long run when he inhales sharply.
“You... know him. You know Jungkook.”
“I do.” Seokjin gives a soft smile. “I know the boy who claims to live at the end of the lane. But the house is abandoned, yes? Has been, for a very long time.”
“How do you know him?” His voice sounds scratchy, unfamiliar to his own ears. He wrings his wrists restlessly.
Seokjin hesitates at first. “He knows that I’m a witch with an inclination for using plants as a medium. Specifically in this case, the sunflowers are a threshold. Once you cross the threshold, you are in another world in accordance to the requester’s wishes. But before that, we met because the fairies had guided him towards my home. He was all alone, and has always been alone, and he needed help and a place to stay.”
“Alone?” Jimin perks up, nonplussed, “but I thought - his father - ”
“Don’t you think the sun is a lonely star?” Seokjin smiles sadly, “Whenever the sun comes out to see his friends, they all disappear. The moon and the stars all retire.”
“I don’t understand - “
He sighs, tapping a finger against his ring. “I know you don’t, not yet, at least. Anyways, he has good reasons for making up his father, but I am in no place to tell you why. But you know essentially that the fairies do not show up unless Jungkook is in the fairy ring?”
Jimin opens his mouth, about to ask him how in the world he knew that, but then again, Jimin knew better than to ask futile questions. Of course Seokjin knew about it. He’s a witch. There must be plenty of things he knew that Jimin probably didn’t know either. So, he nods.
“That is because those fairies are not the simple creatures you hear about in folklores and children tales.” Seokjin says, “They are the fae of sun: followers of the sun, enchanters of life and light.”
“Followers of the sun? Okay, but what does that have to do with Jungkook?“
Seokjin studies Jimin with a frown, as though questioning his intellect. But he sighs, letting his gaze move towards the window, “Jungkook told me a story when we first met: you see, the moon and the sun have always been destined to be apart, therefore, they let a piece of themselves depart into the form of disembodied souls. Their souls entered earth so that they could have the chance to be together, where they would begin their lives as humans - as children, from the very moment they are born - but something had happened. Perhaps it was a divine force that separated them and did not let them be born at the same time, and caused the moon to lose his entire memory, and the sun was left the sole bearer of both of their lives.”
“The sun travelled far and wide with the help of the fae when he had become sentient enough, and when he finally found the moon and believed that they could be together, something rather unfortunate happened.” Seokjin continues, “Because the moon did not remember the sun, did not remember his feelings for the sun, the sun’s existence began to waver. He began to fade, because he was unloved, and he was forgotten. And when something is forgotten and unloved, they begin to not exist anymore.”
“And so, the moon moved away, and they separated once more. The sun disappeared now and then, fading and fading, but still - he grasped onto the hopes that one day, the moon will remember him. And he will hold onto that hope, no matter how long it will take the moon.”
Jimin hears the drumming of his heartbeat, pounding in his ears with such force that Jimin fears he may go deaf. The room seems to be spinning, but as he looks at Seokjin and sees nothing but a wistful smile and a genuine truth to his eyes, Jimin feels fear fill his veins and circulate around his whole body. Even though all of that sounds so absurd, that it is just a story, Jimin understands the underlying indication behind that tale. And suddenly, his chest feels heavy.
He can’t even begin to fathom the possibility. Overthinking makes his head awfully hurt.
“Do,” Jimin begins, voice croaky, “they meet again?”
“I don’t know,” Seokjin says, “how this tale ends is up to them. But in addendum, the moon came back to where they first met after ten years had passed.” He smiles, “So, perhaps it will be a happy ending, after all?”
Jimin doesn’t hear what he says in response. He doesn’t even see Seokjin’s reaction. Before he realizes it himself, Jimin was already moving. He was running.
The world is spinning and spinning and the ground beneath him is tilting over; Jimin stumbles out of the house and he nearly trips over the steps, almost crashing into the gate of the fence. When he breathes in deeply, all he inhales is the sweet smell of roses and lavender, filling his lungs with sickeningly sweet aromas that left him nauseous. And for some reason, he was trembling all over. The warmth of the sun burning over him leaves a trail of sweat on his back, but he’s shivering as though he was about to freeze to death in the winter.
“Jimin,” he hears Seokjin call to him, sounding far away from his ears, “where will you go?”
Jimin shakes his head, and he grips onto the fence so tightly he can almost feel the splinters, “I - I don’t know. I don’t know what i’m supposed to do. What do i do?”
Jimin grits his teeth, “I don’t even know where he is. I’ve been - it’s been twelve goddamn years since I last saw him. how can I - what am I supposed to - “ he lifts his hands up and shuts his eyes tightly, voice fading into a whisper, “I’m twenty-five years old, and all this time, I’m not even truly who I thought I was.”
But it would explain everything. It would explain how he naturally feels the most awake at night - the longing and yearning in his chest - and can only fall asleep as soon as the moon leaves, because the moon retires from shining bright when the sun takes over. It would explain how Jungkook never stayed with him past the sunset because that was when his entire soul must have quivered in the push and pull of being alive and being nonexistent.
iIt would explain his luck - the four-leaf clovers, his grandmother - because the moon and its followers had always looked over him. It would explain the moonflowers opening up in his path, his presence enough for them to bloom, because Jimin himself was the moonlight for them. It would explain the strong connection he feels towards the moon, because the moon is his parent.
Turbulence and confusion all but meld together into a storm within his chest, but at the same time, he feels all but peace. He feels everything to the grandest extent that he can’t even begin to put into words.
“Jimin,” Seokjin speaks after a moment’s worth of silence, “perhaps you should return home.”
He blinks open his eyes, adjusting to the vivid colours of the world, “Then how do i find him?”
“Think about it. Maybe your grandmother will have the wisdom to guide you, or maybe you shall guide yourself with a remnant of your friend.”
Jimin turns around, the frustrated words of why can’t you just tell me what to do wanting to spill past his lips, but he stops. Instead, he watches Seokjin smile freely in farewell, before he walks back into his house and shuts the door behind him.
Alone, and a little bit lost, Jimin walks back home, and wonders if the sun has ever burned in exhaustion and wanted to eat the entire world.
Gran doesn’t really help.
She bakes him a tin of cinnamon carrot muffins, topped with cream cheese frosting, and although it does soothe away his anxiety, it doesn’t ease the discomfort of the unknown in his chest. He tries to press her about her origins, of how she was a kitchen witch all this time and he never knew, but all she gives him is a huff and a “you may not be an idiot, but you are definitely not perceptive” before proceeding to wobble outside into her garden. Defeated, he eats about four of the muffins until his stomach is about to burst, and heads up to his room to ruminate.
He feels like his head is about to burst too.
Days pass. Sleepless nights persist.
He still doesn’t know what to do.
Jimin wonders if gran knew about him too, all this time - that he was some sort of disembodied soul of the moon that turned into a sentient being with his own mind over time. But even if he asks, gran wouldn’t give him the answers he needs. She’s always been a proponent of taking the initiative, of “figuring it out yourself” than being told all the answers by somebody else. But Jimin is different. Though he may be an adult, he still feels like a child that needs directions of where to go and what to do.
He goes down to eat dinner once the sun begins to fall. He helps with the dishes, cleans himself, and heads to bed with the moon leaning towards his window. Jimin tries to sleep, but ends up tossing and turning restlessly, his mind buzzing with liveliness. Frustrated, he rips the covers off and sits up.
Jimin looks out the window, at the moon, and says, “Will you tell me what to do?”
The moon silently shines brighter, a little bluer, and Jimin sighs. He stands up from his bed, and while he stretches his limbs, his gaze falls onto the moonstone sitting on top of his shelf. A token of a summer memory, Jungkook had said. Jimin remembers it all too clearly.
He pads towards it, gingerly picking up the moonstone that still retained its shine.
“You won’t disappear again, will you?”
“Nope. unfortunately, you’re forever stuck with me. I won’t easily be gotten rid of! I’ll be like a leech, or like a fly!”
Jimin furls his fingers over it, the moonstone secure in his fist. He doesn’t bother to change out of his t-shirt and shorts, and he heads downstairs quietly, to not wake his granny up. He slips into his sneakers and leaves the cottage.
“Who were you looking for?”
“An old friend.”
“Did you find them?”
“Yeah, I did. But they don’t remember me anymore.”
It’s gently cool in the summer night. Goosebumps raise on his skin as a breeze passes by. Jimin treads along the path, kicking at the pebbles of ruined pavement, and he notices the lights flickering on in Taehyung’s house, and subsequently in Hoseok’s house too. It’s awfully late, and Jimin doesn’t know why they’re still awake. his other neighbours too. Does Sundew ever sleep?
Jimin rolls the moonstone around in his hands. He inhales the scent of wildflowers and hay, of the midnight moonlight, and stops in his tracks.
“But this moonstone will be the token of this summer memory, and one day, you’ll finally understand.”
A token, he repeats it in his head. Doesn’t being given a token mean that you would return back to the place of such a memory?
Jimin starts running. His legs take him down the opposite road, to Seokjin’s house, past his house and towards the sunflower maze. He runs and the moon he carries on his back follows, and once he sees the maze, he doesn’t hesitate to throw himself into the tall stalks as he wrestles his way past it. He hurries towards the copper wheat field that glimmered underneath the three suns, the river that flowed into the woods, the barn that stood high and vibrant in its pastoral illusion, and the forest of moonstones.
He finally escapes the statuesque bed of sunflowers, nearly tripping over his own two feet as he falls into the wheat field that tickles his skin. Jimin had expected the three suns in his arrival, but it’s the moon - the large, round moon that looks just as big as the earth, shining incandescently bright like white fire; an entire mandala in the starlit sky.
And in the middle of the field, Jimin sees him.
Jungkook is taller, a little bit larger, but he wears the same plaid shirt and overalls like he did twelve years ago. He is facing the moon, hands idle at his side. the moonlight outlines him in a hazy glow, but Jimin can see the way the edges of his figure blur, as though someone had gone to a painting and rinsed parts of the wet paint away.
The field rustles in Jimin’s presence as he walks towards him. His pace quickens, wanting to reach him as fast as he can so that Jungkook doesn’t disappear again. His outreached hand stops just before Jungkook’s nape, not quite touching but so close to touching, but he doesn’t. Instead, he stands beside Jungkook and moves his hand down, so that Jimin grips onto the end of Jungkook’s plaid shirt and gently tugs.
Jungkook half-turns, face illuminated with an untidy scrawl of the moonlight.
“You found me.”
It’s unfair that he looks just as beautiful in the moonbeams as he does underneath the sun.
“Yeah,” Jimin murmurs, “I told you I’d find you, didn’t I?”
When Jungkook looks back at the moon and doesn’t answer, Jimin lets go of his shirt. He faces the moon as well, clenching his hands. What does he say? Jungkook looks so resigned and withdrawn and distant, a complete contrast to his eleven-year old self. He doesn’t even notice that he’s wringing his hands when he finally opens his mouth to speak clumsily, “Jungkook, I - I was mad at you. I was angry, and upset, because you left so suddenly. You left me behind, and I - lost a friend, that day. But I didn’t know - about this.” He looks down at the moonstone in his palm, “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be silly,” Jungkook laughs, and Jimin didn’t know how much he missed the wispy sound of it until it tugged at his heart strings, “what’re you apologizing for? It’s not like it’s your fault.”
The summer memory rings so clearly in his head that he doesn’t know if Jungkook is reciting the same words his eleven-year old self had spoken just to mess with him. He bites his bottom lip and looks at the stars that shimmer across the firmament. And, in that quiet moment, Jimin thinks it’s a beautiful thing how the moon shines brightly using the sun’s light and influence, and the sun never asks for anything in return.
“Have you written a book yet?” Jungkook asks so out of the blue that Jimin startles out of his own reverie.
“Um - yeah, I - “
“What is it about?”
Jimin purses his lips, swallowing the uncertainty down. “It’s about a child of the sun, and his influence on the lives he’s come across. It’s supposed to be a children’s book.”
Jungkook looks at him with a tender smile, the light finally reaching his eyes, and Jimin doesn’t know why his chest hurts so much, “I knew you would be able to do it. You will the take the world by storm, Jimin. like the velveteen rabbit.”
“Jungkook - “
“C’mon,” he takes Jimin by the hand, “Let’s go into the forest.”
Reluctantly, he follows as Jungkook takes him past the field and into the forest. He doesn’t see any moonstones this time even as Jimin carefully examines the ground. Everything would be pitch black if it weren’t for the moonlight, but even so, everything seems to lack its usual clarity. The forest seems to be hollow and ghostly in lieu of effervescent like it had been twelve years ago. And when they stop before the golden chain tree, it’s not golden anymore. It’s just - blue. A normal, ghastly blue. It doesn’t glow with an ethereal quality to it like how Jimin remembers it.
“I guess Seokjin already told you.” He says, looking up at the tree, “I’ve been stuck in this illusion watching the moon ever since I disappeared when we were children. I don’t know if the divine forces taunt me, showing me what I cannot have, but I don’t dare to leave this realm. I don’t know how my body will be. I don’t want to be seen like a ghost, disappearing into thin air when I begin to become irrelevant to this world. But the fairies tell me that you’ve been well, and that is what encourages me to scrape for the last bits of strength I have to hang into this world, even as I fade.”
Jimin stares at him, recalling Seokjin’s words: don't you think the sun is a lonely star?"
He realizes that Jungkook didn’t even have a guardian. Jimin has gran, has Taehyung and Hoseok and his other neighbours and friends, but all Jungkook had was the fairies and an odd witch to lend him a helping hand. And even so, he’d been alone all this time. even watching the moon didn’t help, because Jimin is the moon that had forgotten him. Jungkook would have disappeared with no one to remember the boy with the brightest smile and presence in the planet.
“It’s okay if you wish to move on,” Jungkook’s voice lowers, quivers a bit as though in fear, in uncertainty, “You have a life of your own. You are not tied down to - our past. You don’t have to be with me just because you feel sorry for me. Knowing that you care enough to find me is enough, Jimin. I’m sorry I disappointed you. I never wanted to leave. I’m sorry.”
The sun never asks for anything in return.
And jimin hates it.
Jungkook has always been alone, but he treads on the path that he makes for himself. But Jimin? He’s surrounded by warm bodies to which he constantly asks for help - asks what it is that he needs to do, because Jimin has never been able to take control over his own life, has never been able to think for himself, because he’s become such a strange shape from trying to fit in.
Why does Jimin still falter after all these years of gradually accepting the fact that he does not need to mold himself into the expectations of others so that he can be liked? Why does he still need to ask those wiser what it is that he needs to do? He reminds himself that he’s grown, he’s accepted, he’s moved past it. Jimin doesn’t need to do that anymore. He may be lost, but he knows how to find his way, and he doesn’t need to rely on others to guide him on the path of what his heart wants.
“Its never been like that, Jungkook. I’ve never - I’m not here because I feel pity. I - I’m - ” he struggles to translate his feelings into words, wringing his wrists. He forces his hands to keep still, but this is Jungkook, and Jungkook won’t judge him for his stumbling words and nervous habits. He takes in a deep breath.
“When… you came into my life, you’ve left this golden footprint in my mind that never went away. You were such an overwhelmingly bright influence in my entire life, and you still are, and you made me feel okay to be different. You made me feel okay with what I liked to do, with how I am, and you were so - golden. so vibrant. And from the moment I met you, Jungkook, I knew that you were a special person. And then I realized at some point that you became special to me.”
Jungkook is looking at him like the entire universe had collapsed, and that they were the only two survivors out of billions of deaths. Jimin doesn’t know if it’s his imagination, but something flickers in the corner of his eye, but he keeps going, “The - the fairies, the magic, this - this place - this moonstone - “ he opens his hand, showing Jungkook the moonstone sitting on his palm.
“Everything became special to me. and at the same time, you seemed so far away and out of reach, and all I could wonder was if everything was a dream. And I kept thinking that maybe it was, because for someone like me, to be revealed to this whole other world, and to have met you - I didn’t think it was possible. I didn’t think I would meet someone like you. I didn’t think I really deserved it either. You were to good to be true.”
“Why did you think you didn’t deserve it?”
All Jimin can do is shrug. How else can he articulate the complexity of his self-perception at that time, how self-loathe was born from his surroundings that perpetuated it?
“You deserve everything in this world, Jimin,” a whisper, “all the stars, the constellations, the planets. you deserve the universe.”
“But I don’t want them. I don’t want the stars. I don’t want the universe - ” he licks his lips, holds in his breath, and breathes out, “I want you.”
His heart pounds in his ears, “and I - I don’t know how I feel yet, Jungkook, because what I truly am had just been revealed to me literally hours ago, and I’ve just found you, and this is all so confusing and hard. but this I am completely certain about: I don’t want you to disappear. I don’t want you to fade away. I want you to exist in this world. I want you to be here with me.”
Jimin doesn’t think he’s ever been this honest in his entire life, “I have so much of you in my heart, Jungkook. I don’t want you to go.”
He sees the way Jungkook’s eyes widen, and then all of a sudden, the golden chain tree flickers like a lightbulb sparking back to life after years of unuse, and gold washes over the tree - and continues to wash all over the forest, reaching past the woods and to the copper wheat field, to the barn and the sky. Everything is breathed back into life with gilded vivacity, shimmering with the same gold dust that seems to fall from Jungkook’s hair all the time.
The sun illusion returns. The large, glowing sun is placed in the center of the sky. The moon, however, is still nearby.
Jimin nearly misses what he says from how quiet his voice was. He steps closer to him, moonstone in the left pocket of his shirt, outreached hands finally holding onto Jungkook’s arms. He pulls him into a embrace that feels like home, “Really.”
“I’ll be real again?” Jungkook murmurs, and for a moment, he was a little kid again. Not the little Jungkook who ran around in the meadows and talked to the fairies with zealous energy, but a little kid - one who expressed fear, uncertainty, hope, and love in the form of innocent wonder.
“You’ve always been real, Jungkook,” he laughs lightly, and when the sky darkens, Jimin closes his eyes at the approach of a long-awaited syzygy, “Everybody loves the sun.”
He feels the way Jungkook’s chest rumble, a gentle stream of laughter leaving his lips. Jimin holds onto him tighter, and this time, doesn’t let go.
Gran takes one look at Jungkook, then at Jimin, then glances up at the sky, before back down at them. Then, she grumbles, “About time that damn solar eclipse happened."
Jimin sighs. She really did know all this time, but he isn’t entirely surprised at this point. He leans towards Jungkook and whispers, “She’s a witch too.”
“Cool! I never thought I’d come across such lovely witches in this lifetime. You see, I’ve missed your cooking the most, gran,” Jungkook chirps, probably charming his way back into granny’s heart, “your porridge with blackberry jam was one of the best things I have ever eaten in my entire life - including the life up there, and before the life down here. Will you make me some again?”
“Flattery will get you nowhere, boy,” Gran narrows her eyes at him, but subsequently relents into a secretive, pleased smile. She clears her throat, “I’m not cooking with my disastrously clumsy grandson in the same room as me. Go somewhere else while I prepare it. It will be done in an hour or so. Now shoo!”
The both of them ending up wandering down the path towards the meadow. The sun is beginning to set, smothering the sky in hazy oranges and pinks. They walk past Taehyung and Hoseok’s house, and Jimin distantly thinks about introducing Jungkook to them soon. Jungkooket along with them, considering their outgoing demeanors.
When they reach the meadows, and approach the rowan tree, they sit in the fairy ring. Jimin can taste sweet nostalgia in the air - just like the good old days, where before sunset, they would wait for the fairies within the circle and talk about all sorts of things to waste time.
Their shoulders touch. Jimin plucks a daisy from the grass and raises it to Jungkook’s level of vision, smiling, “Shall we make flower crowns?”
He takes Jungkook’s grin as a yes.
Jimin collects a bunch of wildflowers he could find while Jungkook did the weaving. And after a few minutes of comfortable silence, Jungkook finally speaks up, “What will you do when summer ends?”
Summer - that’s right. Jimin was just visiting for the summer. His fingers pause over the wispy petals of a daisy, “I don’t know, but I can’t really stay here. I have work back in the city - adult responsibilities and all that.” He purses his lips, glancing over at Jungkook, "And you?”
“I like Sundew Avenue,” Jungkook says. He pauses, then meets his eyes with a twinkling smile, “but I like you more.”
“God, and I thought I was the sentimental one. You’ll fit right in, then.” Jimin scoffs, trying not to let the heat rise to his cheeks as he focuses down on the flowers in his hands. But he does a double-take, the words processing in his mind, "Wait, what do you mean by that?“
“What I mean is that I think I’ll stay here for a bit longer and become accustomed to my surroundings yet again, reminding myself that I will start anew. And then perhaps, the city will be another home for me. Until then, I hope that you’ll still find time to visit me and your granny.” Jungkook frowns when one of the stalks of the flowers breaks off. He switches it with another one, twiddling with the stems, “We have lots of time in the whole wide world, Jimin. I firmly believe that. Maybe you’ll even be a new best-selling children’s books author in the meantime!”
“Highly unlikely, Jungkookie,” Jimin flicks his ear, and Jungkook in feint hurt. Jimin grins, “But yeah. we have lots of time in the whole wide world. Why rush?”
After a few attempts, Jungkook was able to intertwine all of the stems of the flowers into a pleasant, circular shape. And just as they finished making the flower crown, something soft brushes against his cheek, and Jimin raises his eyes from the ground to find a fairy floating before him.
The golden, playful fairies flutter around them, more calm and peaceful than before when they had been a frenzied flock that kept throwing themselves at him. He can hear gentle sounds of tittering as they surround Jungkook, to which the younger man swats them away in a petulant manner.
“Shut up, you nincompoops!” Jungkook complains, cheeks reddening, “All you fae do is get my blood boiling!”
“What are they saying?” Jimin curiously asks.
“Nothing! they’re just teasing me and being really idiotic - ow!”
Jimin watches him get attacked by a swarm of angry fairies, but he sees one wandering idly about in front of him. Though they were the size of the tiny stars that are seen from below, Jimin was able to immediately identify the lone fairy as the one who had appeared the day he first arrived at Sundew. Without the fairy, Jimin wouldn’t have gone to Seokjin, and he wouldn’t have found Jungkook. And Jungkook would have disappeared, forgotten and unloved.
He sticks out a hand, and the fairy lands on top of his palm. Jimin brings his hand closer, raising it to his eyes, and smiles, “Thank you, fae.”
He receives a high-pitched chitter. He takes it as a pleasant sound of satisfaction.
Gold dust sticks to Jungkook’s cheeks and hair as the indignant fairies finally spare him. Jungkook huffs, trying to tame his wild hair. He meets jimin’s eyes, and gives a meek smile.
The world drenched in all the colours of the Jungkook’s bright laugh wrestles itself into Jimin’s mind; how the glorious sun glows ever so brightly beyond the coral mountains. And Jimin wouldn’t have ever thought that this is where he would be right now - that their small hands pressed onto the concrete and copper wires in the past would exist today with their hands pressed against each other’s instead.
All this time, Jimin pondered the great mystery behind Jeon Jungkook, when it was all so simple. Jungkook can be the child of the sun, can be the grand enchanter of light and life, can be the caster of sun illusions beyond the maze, but to Jimin - Jungkook is merely a simple boy whom he fell in love with at the age of thirteen.
“Do you remember? As children?” Jungkook smiles as he raises the crown in his hands, and places it on top of Jimin’s head.
“Park Jimin! The king of the fairy ring,” his smile widens, “the lover of the sun.”
It makes sense now, he thinks and gently laughs. He plucks the crown off from his head, and grinning, reaches over to place the flower crown over Jungkook’s head. Then his hand slides down to frame the side of his face, cradling the warmth of his cheek.
“Jeon Jungkook. The king of my heart,” Jimin leans forward until their foreheads touched, “the lover of the moon.”
And somewhere, in the same universe, the sun and the moon reunite.