In the week prior, a nervous looking new kid arrived on scene. He took the bed next to Hoseok’s, and introduced himself as Taehyung.
“Excuse me, do you know a Hoseok and a Jimin?” He asked.
We nodded. “That’s us,” I replied, giving a strained smile.
Taehyung gave the back of his neck an anxious scratch.“They, uh, they said you were supposed to show me around.”
Hoseok and I exchanged glances.
Babysit? He mouthed.
He sighed, spinning in his wheely chair to face Taehyung. A thin-lipped, but dimpled smile appeared on his face. “Welcome to Dorm L4!” He raised his arms, gesturing to the room, before folding them back in his lap.
“It’s, uh, good to be here.” Taehyung faltered.
Hoseok scoffed. “No, it’s not.”
“As you already know,” I butted, “there’s a boys’ side to campus, and a girls’ side. Don’t go looking for the girls.”
If you weren’t paying attention, you may have never even known the girls were there. We saw them, sometimes. Caught faint glimpses of their skirts. Hoods quickly upturned to cover swishing ponytails. Never anything more. If the professors caught us staring, we’d be sent to write lines.
Taehyung nodded, clinging to the bag strap slung around his torso.
“In my three years here, I’ve never once spoken to a girl my age. Which is strange, considering the reason I was sent here in the first place.” Hoseok frowned, folding his arms. “I mean, wouldn’t they have wanted me to learn to like girls? Apparently not, considering we treat them like cryptids.”
I cleared my throat. “Anyways, Taehong-”
“-Tae hyung .”
“Right, sorry, Tahonk. You’re level G, right?”
“This is level L4. Do you, uh, see the problem here?”
“They, uh, they said I was supposed to stay here for a while,” he gulped. “Something about G being full.”
I glanced at Hoseok. He only shrugged.
I stretched out my neck and scratched behind my ear. “Alright, then. Well, you’ve already put your stuff on the bed there,” I pointed to his suitcase, sitting atop the bare mattress. “If you need any help unpacking, or, uh, whatever, just… give us a shout.”
Taehyung smiled faintly. “Thank… thank you.”
I smiled back. “No problem.”
The first day of class with Mr. Kim Taehyung was a bit hectic. Luckily, they just so happened to place him in all of my classes!
Hoseok had snatched the timetable from the poor kid’s hands in the morning, shouting a quick whaddya got there? before taking the liberty to find out for himself. His brows furrowed as he scanned the page. “Hey, this looks just like…”
The grin that spread across his face as he shoved the paper back into Taehyung’s chest was immensely irritating .
“Well, looks like you’re stuck with Jiminie for the day!” He beamed. Ignoring my sputters of protest, Hoseok grabbed his bag and dashed out the door to breakfast. “See ya!”
“Hold up!” I demanded, stomping over and grabbing the timetable for myself. Taehyung probably babbled in protest in the background, but I was too focused on the paper. Shaking my head in denial, I shoved a hand into my pocket and pulled out my own schedule to compare.
Advanced Chemistry. Math. Gym. Lunch. English. Study Hall. Physics.
Heaving a great sigh, I handed the sheet back to Taehyung. “He’s right - we’ve got all of our classes together.”
“Oh…” Taehyung murmured, rubbing the paper between his fingers. “Sorry.”
I blinked at him. “Sorry? No, no, no - why are you sorry? You didn’t choose the timetable. Plus, I - I don’t really mind.”
Taehyung bit his lip and bowed his head, saying nothing.
“Hey, listen, it’s-” I stammered. I reached out to touch him, but quickly played it off as brushing back my hair. “Let’s just head to breakfast. Do you have everything?”
He looked up at me from beneath his mop of hair and nodded.
I tried a smile. “Great. Let’s get going.”
We were the last to leave the dorm. The heavy slam of the door caused both of us to flinch. Hesitantly, we laughed it off.
We sat across the table from Hoseok the Betrayer, squished between two underclassmen. The former at least had the decency to wait for us before eating.
‘Breakfast’ today consisted of ‘scrambled eggs’ and ‘toast.’ The only thing I trusted to be real was the water in my glass. Well, mostly trusted.
Taehyung stared at his own plate hesitantly.
“What’s wrong?” I asked around a mouthful of ‘toast.’
He blinked at me. “Hmm? Oh, nothing, I just - these eggs, they’re very… bright.”
I sniffed, chewing thoughtfully. “Think of it as, uh…” I paused, waving my fork in the air. “I don’t even know, man. I have no way of consoling you through these eggs. I just recommend you eat them.”
Taehyung nodded, stabbing into the painfully yellow meal.
Hoseok did the same. His eyes widened.
“What?” I frowned.
“Remarkable…” Hoseok murmured. “They taste… of nothing! It’s as if…” He paused, as if giving it great thought. “As if I weren’t even eating.”
“Whatever,” I shrugged, shoving more of the unsettling neon into my mouth. “It’s better than nothing.”
“Are you sure about that?” Hoseok asked. “It’s like the La Croix of food.”
Taehyung smiled, eyes crinkling.
The three of us split, Hoseok heading in the other direction as Taehyung and I made our way to Chemistry. The walk was long, and I decided to make some awkward conversation.
“So, what’re you in for?” I asked, grabbing the straps of my backpack.
Taehyung did the same, but in more of an anxious gesture. “Oh, uh…” He scratched the back of his neck. His next words appeared to be chosen with caution. “I’m… like Hoseok,” he said.
“Ah,” I nodded slowly. “You’re not alone in that. There’s a lot of guys here who are, uh, like Hoseok . Just… don’t talk about it, alright? You’ll get in trouble for even mentioning it.”
Taehyung nodded thoughtfully.
I gave him a slap on the shoulder. “Alright, better get to class. Mrs. Petty hates when students are late.”
“Hold up.” Taehyung stopped in his tracks. He snickered, “Mrs. Petty ?”
I sighed. “Yeah. Fitting name, too. Now, hurry up, unless you wanna get slapped over the knuckles with a ruler.”
He frowned. “Wait, they’re allowed to do that?”
“Allowed?” I snorted. “It’s encouraged. Now, for the millionth time, hurry up , or I’m going without you, Honk.”
“Coming, coming!” He huffed, waddling along beside me.