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Heartstrings

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Sun shone through the large hall windows like it was still mid-afternoon despite being evening. The distant hum of insects and human activity wafted in with the summer breeze through the cracked windows, allowing what could have been a stuffy meeting a little fresh air. The poster pinned to the door by its corners seems to inflate and deflate with the breeze like a breathing chest, the big words shining across it's colourful surface catching the light:

SEVERED STRING SUPPORT GROUP – 6-8 PM TONIGHT

Himchan leaned back in a fold-out chair, a plastic cup of pink sugary cordial in his hands, and gazed out the window, watching vibrant leaves of trees and bushes rustle. His eyes closed slowly and he felt the warm sun shining through onto his face, slowly working the stresses away from his face. He can see only darkness, a hint of grey line where once there had been a pink string extended far out into the darkness. His fingertips unconsciously slid to touch his fingers on his left hand, tracing the empty skin where a pale band still had yet to fade.

“Himchan?”

He opened his eyes and turned to look to the door, eyes settling on the young man in a large hoodie nervously hovering in the doorway.

“People are arriving.”

He nodded and stood. “Sit down, Jongup, you've been scurrying around all day. No one's going to bother you.”

Jongup gave him a skeptical look but did as he was told, sitting in the chair furthest from the door and nearest to Himchan's. He pulled his sleeves over his hands and chewed his lip. “Do you... Do you think mine will be here?”

Himchan glanced back at the young man. He was silent for only a moment, before giving him a sympathetic smile. “This is the first step to finding them.”

Jongup nodded.

Himchan took a deep breath and stationed himself at the door to welcome the newcomers.

 

 

The turn-out was smaller than Himchan was hoping for, but he hadn't been expecting a lot. It was hardly common, and even less common for people to openly admit to it, but only four was not promising.

“Well, there's no dancing around the subject,” Himchan began once everyone was settled in their chairs with drinks and basic greetings had been done, “We all know why we're here. But our reasons will be very different.”

There was a heavy pause after this while everyone looked equally nervous at the thought of addressing their reason.

“I'll make it a bit easier for you and start,” Himchan said after a moment, feeling the tension relieve itself a bit once he had spoken. “There are, I think, two major reasons why any of us might be in our situation. The first reason is that, somehow in some way you do not know about, your fate line was severed and you lost your connection. This is usually because of untimely death of your fated, or because of the second reason.”

There was a solemn silence this time.

“The second reason is that, due to something happening in your life driving you to make that choice, you cut your connection yourself.”

No one made any eye contact.

Himchan swallowed and took a deep breath. “I set this group up because I...” He glanced and Jongup who gave him an encouraging nod, “Because I made that decision.”

Everyone was looking at him now with wide eyes.

“I was very young,” he explained, slow and delicate like telling a child about a family death, “I fell very deeply in love with someone. We weren't fated. Of course, I know that fated doesn't have to mean your 'One True Love', I'm not a child any more,” he laughed nervously and one or two of the people gave him small smiles, “But I really believed I didn't need anyone else. My fiancée was the love of my young naïve life, I couldn't imagine needing anyone else. It's stupid. I know. Very, very stupid.” He paused and looked down at his hand, clenching an unclenching his jaw. He could feel how intently everyone was watching him. “We made a promise. A very foolish promise. The day we engaged we decided to sever our lines as a sign that we needed no one but each other. So, I severed my line-” His voice caught and he closed his eyes. A second later he felt Jongup's hand squeeze his arm soothingly. He took a slow breath and opened his eyes again. “She didn't cut hers.”

Stunned silence.

“It was barely noticeable at first,” he continued, voice a little rough as his throat began to burn, “my fiancée would be distracted during conversation, be away from home a little longer than usual... We had rushed into our engagement and, as many rushed things do, time began it's toll on us. The spark died. And so fate happened.” He shifted in his seat. “Things took their natural turn for the worst. My fiancée left me and for the first time I was... Alone. I had no fate line to follow. Just pieces of my life to pick up.”

Jongup rubbed his arm gently.

“This was a while ago now, so I'm getting my life back together. I talked to a counsellor who suggested I try meet other people in a similar situation. It hadn't occurred to me that anyone else could be in this boat, and I was so tired of feeling alone. By chance I met Jonguppie in this city,” he smiled and reached out to give Jongup's shoulder a hearty pat, the younger man looking a bit disgruntled but evidently a little pleased with himself, “as you can tell we're desperately in love-”

“We're not,” Jongup interjected quickly.

“Heartless.” Himchan rolled his eyes, receiving a few laughs and smiles in response. “But I thought, you know, no one should have to face this alone. I researched into it; there's a scarily high suicide rate for people like us. That's not okay for us to just get brushed under the rug as a tragedy story. E deserve to be able to put our lives back together.

I know there's not many of you, and some of you won't relate to my story at all. I'm not proud of what I've done, and I've felt every consequence of it. But, if this can help any of you just a bit, it will have been worth it. I'm really thankful you chose to come today.”

There was a polite round of applause when he was done speaking, but he could feel the tension in the room with the mixed responses to his confession. What mattered is that he'd said it, and they knew how honest the environment could be.

“How about we go around the circle and people can tell their own stories. I don't just want it to be my shame, you know?” He laughed a bit and felt the nervousness in the room grow again. “Look, this is a no-judge zone. I just told you all I broke my connection for a teenage love story. The only benefit I got from this was not spending a penny on a wedding. You're safe here.”

“I'll go,” says a man across the circle, small face and fluffy hair. He'd introduced himself as Youngjae. “It's a bit like yours, I guess, so it makes sense I say it now.”