The light sprinkle of spring rain had ceased a few hours ago, but the damp smell still floats into your olfactory system with a vengeance, especially as you walk out of the department store for the last time, clutching your coat tighter around your frame. Thankfully, Namjoon hadn’t been scheduled to work today, so you were able to clean out your locker in peace.
Submitting your two weeks notice had been easier than you thought, especially with the excuse of “I’ve decided to focus on school” sitting on the tip of your tongue. It wasn’t a lie. You’ll be transferring to a different university this fall, but now you’re completely free.
Free to do what? Besides spend more time on campus, you aren’t exactly sure. Forget Namjoon? Yes. And his petty, disgusting denial of his true, selfish identity. Forget Yoongi? Yes. He was only a one time mistake you made because you were so desperate to get away from…
The name sends a wave of nausea through you, forcing your body to double over as you reach your car. You swallow hard around the urge to dry heave, refusing to cry. Still, the memory strikes you hard like a punch.
You tapped your pencil against the surface of your desk, trying to concentrate.
Annotating poems was one of your least favorite things, but your literature class demanded it, so annotate you would. Maybe.
The loud buzz of the dryer gave you just the excuse you needed to abandon the task momentarily. With too much enthusiasm, you emptied it of its contents, suddenly deciding that pristinely folded clothes were a top priority.
This load of laundry had been a mix of yours and Tae’s. The two of you shared a hamper, after all, and the duty to empty it out often fell on you- not that you minded. Living at his parents’ house rent free was compensation enough.
As you made your way through the pleasantly warm pile, something unexpected made you stop.
A pair of lacy red panties.
They definitely weren’t yours, and this observation began the chronic downward spiral. Where did they come from? Taehyung? He couldn’t have…? Not again. Could he? Even after MONTHS of being faithful? Usually you tried to classify these thoughts as benign, unjustified unease. But this time, THIS TIME, you had something solid, tangible evidence to ignite your anxiety.
You hadn’t caught Taehyung cheating for months. You barely even saw him LOOK at other girls since the compromise. But this? The underwear of another girl?
Anger flared in your system just in time for the front door to open. You could hear it along with his deep voice, which called out, seeking you, “Baby, I’m home. How’s the homework? Will you be done soon or do you want to…?”
His question trailed off as he found you in the living room, pinching the article of clothing in question like it was a creature about to bite, yet also an object so fragile that it would shatter with the slightest movement.
Taehyung’s boxy smile immediately dropped when he saw the expression on your face.
“Baby, that’s not…” he started, but you raised your hand to cut him off.
“Please don’t speak to me right now.”
“But I didn’t-”
You placed the underwear down on top of his pile of clothes, shaking your head, “I gave it everything I had, Tae.”
“I don’t know-”
He seemed genuinely perplexed, but something inside of you had already broken.
“I just… need to leave,” your voice sounded hollow even to your ears.
“I don’t know where those came from,” he blurted, raking his fingers through his hair as the severity of what you said dawned on him. “Really, honest to god. Are you sure they aren’t yours?”
You didn’t even take the time to respond, picking up your pile of clothes to go to your room. Following, but giving you a few steps of space as if he wouldn’t dare CHANCE touching you, Taehyung started rambling.
“They could be my mom’s,” he offered desperately, voice cracking as you began sifting through your closet and drawers, starting a small pile on the bed. “I- I haven’t done anything. I promise- I SWEAR.”
You wanted to listen to him, to hope, to forgive, but you COULDN’T. Whether or not any of what he said was true, whether or not he HAD actually cheated again… you were done. You had given him everything. Your time, your heart, and later with the compromise, your virginity. Yet none of that could heal the wound of mistrust he’d inflicted. He’d made you feel cheap, like a slut, an enabler who knew her boyfriend had a history of sleeping around but STAYED ANYWAY.
So you had to do it. You HAD to leave. The waiting, the wondering, it was all too much. You couldn’t trust him, no matter how much you thought he loved you. Or worse, no matter how much you thought you loved him.
That had been half a year ago.
You take a few deep breaths, steadying yourself before climbing into the driver’s seat. Your fingers find your phone and dial the first recently called number.
Jackson picks up on the second ring, “Dude, I’m a little busy?”
“Sorry,” you sigh, resting your head against the steering wheel. “I just wanted to make sure you left the door unlocked.”
“Oh,” he clears his throat, “I MIGHT have forgotten… But I’ll be home in like twenty minutes, okay?”
Seven months and he still hasn’t found the spare key.
Living with Jackson had been third on your list of preferences, but it beat other options like staying at home or at Taehyung’s. Jisoo, your first choice, already has five people living in an apartment clearly meant to comfortably fit one. And Chaeyoung’s parents hate you for reasons you suspected have everything to do with her constant complaining to them about your “toxic” relationships.
So here you are, crashing in a two bedroom condo with your “third” best friend.
Needless to say, you don’t really get out much.
You pull up to the curb, lucky to find a parking spot in this mess of a complex, and with heavy limbs, practically drag yourself to the correct door just as Jackson’s shiny black truck haphazardly screeches to a halt. He tumbles out of it to sprint toward you, key raised like an Olympic torch.
Judging by the redness of his eyes, he’s either high or drunk, but this isn’t anything new.
“I got it! I got it,” he stumbles up the few steps before shoving the key into your palm. You can suddenly smell the alcohol on his breath. “There. No harm no foul.”
“Thanks, Jackson,” you sigh, giving him an awkward pat on his ridiculously muscly shoulder. “I’m glad you got someone to drive you here too.”
“Oh right,” he spins on his heel, abruptly yelling at the driver, “Just park it anywhere.”
You watch the truck lurch forward and roll down the street at an unsteady pace. Unsure what to make of it, you shrug and unlock the door, letting Jackson stumble in first, massive smile spreading across his lips.
“So, Namjoon or no?”
The name sends a prickle of irritation through you, “No.”
“Dude, I’m telling you. You should’ve just asked him to fuck.”
An angry blush colors your cheeks, “I didn’t WANT to fuck him.”
“Right, you had Yoongi for that.”
And this is why you don’t want to live with Jackson.
Despite the comfortably warm temperature, you suppress a shiver, namely because you know he’s right. Yoongi was just the consolation prize for the gap that Taehyung had left in your heart and Namjoon was the desperate attempt to fix your self image. Even so, you’d prefer not to think about it.
“Will you STOP?” you huff, throwing the keys onto the small table near the door.
“Sorry,” he cackles, giving your arm a humorous punch that (probably unintentionally) HURTS. “Okay, okay. I’ll leave you to your stupid books.”
Sometimes you swear that if you hadn’t been friends with him since before he turned into a grossly typical “bad boy” in high school, you would’ve never spoken to him in the first place.
Still, at least he wasn’t a fuckboy.
“Wait, want a cig?” Jackson offers as he pulls the pack from his shirt pocket, flannel buttons off by one near the middle.
“No thanks, I don’t smoke.”
“Eh, someday you’ll try it.”
You trek down the hallway to your room- well, less “your room” than Jackson’s storage closet that happens to have a bed in it. Walking around stacks of papers, boxes, and other random CRAP, you throw yourself down on the mattress, letting your book bag drop to the floor.
What you wouldn’t give for one of Taehyung’s thermoses full of homemade noodles.
Your heart aches.
Flipping open one of your textbooks to distract yourself, you stare blankly at the words, eyes skimming across them but brain absorbing none. You decide to give up as soon as you hear the front door open and an unfamiliar voice saying, “I left the truck in the parking lot down the street near the liquor store. There weren’t any spots open.”
“Did you hit anything?” Jackson asks in his easily identifiable slightly raspy voice.
“I may or may not have backed into a shopping cart…”
It isn’t unusual for one of you to have friends over. What IS strange is the fact that you have no idea who is speaking. Your friend circle is very small, consisting of Jackson, Jisoo, and Chaeyoung. Your housemate has a few regulars that frequently stop by too, Mark, Jaebum, and some guy they call Bambam- who you’ve always suspected is their weed dealer.
This voice is too soft to be Jaebum, he’s too talkative to be Mark, and Bambam never stops by unless all three are in the house. This leaves mystery guy peaking your interest.
You abandon your textbook, slipping off of the bed.
“Dude really? You backed Marci into a SHOPPING CART?”
“My baby, my ride, MY BEAUTIFUL TRUCK.”
“DON’T TELL ME TO CHILL.”
Classic Jackson, screaming, but not actually upset.
“Why did I let someone drive who doesn’t have a license?”
You stop in the hallway, leaning against one of the walls, content with observing. The boy with Jackson is beautiful to say the least. Smooth features, hair pulled up in a snapback, kissable lips, dark eyes, killer smirk-
That’s when you realize you’ve been staring… and he’s been staring RIGHT BACK.
A blush floods your cheeks, but you decide that because you’ve already been caught in the act, there’s no point in trying to hide yourself.
“You MADE me drive because I wouldn’t let you leave intoxicated,” the boy says, amused, but not breaking eye contact with you. Oh no. He’s hot and he KNOWS it.
“Ah, that’s right,” Jackson nods, tapping his finger to his forehead, big grin plastered all over his flushed face. “I’m so smart and responsible.”
You decide to not remind your friend that the reason he’d had to leave the party was because he failed to unlock the door.
“Definitely…” mystery guy trails off before clearing his throat. “You didn’t tell me you had a girlfriend.”
“That’s cuz I don’t,” Jackson laughs, glancing over his shoulder to follow the boy’s gaze. “She’s just a good friend who needed a place to live.”
Sometimes, you loved Jackson’s obliviousness. Other times, it bothered you immensely. Why wouldn’t he introduce you formally?
Mystery guy’s kissable lips form into a small “o,” and he cocks his head slightly, finally letting his gaze wander away from your eyes- only to explore the REST of your body. Heat shoots straight down to the pit of your stomach, making your legs weak.
Jackson seems to get momentarily confused, then scoffs, “When you’re done eye-fucking her, let me know and we can go get food.”
Unabashed, the boy nods, “Sure thing.”
Your friend wanders past you toward his room, letting the door close behind him and leaving you alone with mystery guy. Something pinches your throat, slowing time to a hazy halt, each breath teetering on the edge of possibility. The tension in the air is palpable and with each step he takes toward you, a pleasantly uncomfortable knot in your stomach tightens.
For a moment, you forget Namjoon, Yoongi, and…Taehyung.
He stops only two steps away, catching your hand in his to bring it up to his lips with another terribly beautiful smirk.
He kisses the knuckle of your middle finger gently, voice dropping to a whisper, “Well hello there, love. I’m Jimin. Who might you be?”