"Jennie is so dull nowadays. Remember when she was so soulful when you took that portrait of her a few years ago?"
"Kihyun? Kihyun!" the sharp crack of a dish towel against his thigh brought Kihyun back to his senses. Wincing, he rubbed at his thigh and asked, "What did you say, sorry?"
His mother rolled her eyes and acted as if to smack him one more time before turning back to the flowers she was arranging. "I said, Jennie's been really... soulless nowadays. Do you know why?"
Yes, I do. "No I don't, mum. I'm sure it's all the college application pressure. I've been buried in piles of paper too, I can kind of relate to her," Kihyun said, stretching like a cat and getting off the dining chair.
"True. Yoo Kihyun you better be working hard on your college applications! I know you want to do photography and stuff but why not something useful, like science? Or maybe math..." Kihyun left the kitchen, his mother's nagging voice trailing behind him as he took the stairs two at a time and entered his first-floor bedroom.
Jennie stared back at him.
"Holy shit, what a scare," Kihyun muttered, the sudden shock giving him hiccups. He took the portrait of Jennie off the floor and put it back on its hook in the back room. Beside Jennie's portrait hung five others, all illuminated by a steady red light that shone from the ceiling lights. A collection of portraits.
A collection of souls.
Kihyun went back to the main room, grabbing a pile of college applications out of his bag along the way. He sat at his little desk, twirling a pencil and shuffling through the papers. So many options, but really he only had one choice. There was one place that would take him away from the stifling walls of his home and the city he'd been cloistered in for all 18 years of his life- the Royal School of Photography.
And that was the hardest to get into- of course Kihyun didn't have the best luck.
By this time, said boy's mind had already flitted to a thousand different things, one hand now absent-mindedly twirling a strand of his wavy, ash grey hair. His mother had a fit when she'd seen the colour he chose to dye his hair, ranting that Kihyun had enough and more time to grow grey hair and that if he'd desperately wanted some then she could have given a few that grew on her "damn head after I had you."
An abnormally loud hic brought him back to the present, and his phone rang almost immediately after. Quickly gulping down some water, he swiped on his phone, allowing a heavy voice to boom on speaker, "Ki."
"Sup Shownu hyung," Kihyun replied, settling back into his chair with his laptop browser open to the RSP's homepage in case his mother walked in, which she tended to do.
"So my brother's friend is getting married and their photographer cancelled last minute," Shownu said. "Think you could fill in for him? It's a good gig, you'll get paid the same amount that the other guy was supposed to get."
Kihyun was about to say a flat no when Shownu added, "Plus you can use the photos for your RSP portfolio. They'll transfer copyright."
Now Kihyun was seriously considering it. He was aiming for a scholarship so the added photos for his portfolio would help- and so would the extra cash.
"I'll do it," he announced. "When is the event?" "Today." "What?"
"Actually, in an hour."
"Shownu hyung you really have the worst timing," Kihyun groaned, getting to his feet quickly and shuffling to the closet. "How appropriately should I be dressed?"
"Very appropriately," Shownu answered. "These guys are hotshots."
"Alright then, I'm off to get changed and do my hair and all those things I don't actually have time for," Kihyun fake grumbled, smiling slightly as he heard Shownu chuckle. He really was a good friend.
In half an hour, Kihyun was dressed in all black, with a nice silver chain around his neck and one hooked to his precious memory card holder in his pocket. His ashy hair was all styled up and concealer hid the horrendous dark circles that all the studying had gifted him.
When done, he pressed a side panel in his closet and it slid to the side, revealing his precious camera gear. The panel was configured to recognise only his handprint, thanks to his tech-savvy but terribly geeky friend Hyungwon. His hand hovered over his Leica D Lux 109, then the Canon 5d Mark III, then finally his Leica M6 Rangefinder.
He picked his Canon, placing it carefully into his camera bag with all his extra lens. The D Lux 109 was his touristy camera, and the M6 was out of the question- he didn't need to collect souls today.
He walked out of the house to hail a cab as the panel slid forward, hiding the cameras from plain sight.