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by the time you were away

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 "A Lion Air jet, Boeing Co 737 Max-8, has crashed in the sea borders of Mokpo while flying from Korea to Pangkalpinang, according to the nation’s rescue agency. The plane lost contact 13 minutes after take-off, according to the official. There were 160 people on board."

Namjoon's hand tightly gripped the edges of the sofa as he squints at the television. His vision seemed to get more blurry each second as he watches the news, his mouth gaped open but not so sure if it were to close again. His body felt extremely weak, stiff and sick in pain. He could feel his heart thumping mad, it was swallowing him whole.

"Hey... Isn't that... Mom's plane?" Namjoon hears his sister speak behind the sofa, her voice slightly cracking. He doesn't recognize her voice at first, but it startled him. What's bothering him more was that the news was more important to him. He never liked watching the news.

"Y-yeah," Namjoon says. "Yeah, it's mom's plane."

He glances at his sister who made her way to the sofa, dropping herself into the leather-like material. She pulled her legs up and hugged it as a shield. Immediately, Namjoon could see that tears had already poured down her soft light-tanned cheeks. Namjoon bit his lips, she was just twelve and has already suffered so much. He didn't want this to happen to his sister- neither him, he carefully scooted closer to her and hugged her tiny figure.

"I-it's gonna be alright, Kyungmin. Trust me." Namjoon presses his forehead into his twelve-year-old sister's shoulders, massaging her back.

"Authorities nearby the area has said that it landed in the ocean, a few kilometers away from the shore."

"It's not."

"It's okay."

"Stop thinking everything's alright when it's not!"

His sister quickly pushes him away and jumps off the sofa. Namjoon could feel his soul detaching from his body as he watches his sister storm off upstairs. An hour ago, they were at the airport of Incheon, hugging their mom goodbye before she went off to the terminal, pulling her case with as she drifted away with a dimpled smile on her face- to what was now- a plane accident.

"Kyung?" The sixteen-year-old boy stood up and followed her, he didn't want to start something, especially at a time like this.

"I know how you feel, just trust me this once." He tells her.

"Dad's probably at the pub, drinking with his friends. He doesn't even care about mom."

Namjoon stopped. "Kyung, let's not talk about him... Please... the news just broadcasted now, he probably doesn't know." He looks at her back. He could hear her sobbing.

"Kyung." Namjoon sighs, walking towards Kyungmin, placing his hand on her fragile shoulders.

His sister turns around, her charcoal hair flying through the air. "You know, we were the ones who dropped mom off in the airport and went home by ourselves with the taxi. You even used your own money, you said that you wanted to get a keyboard- a-and," She sobbed, "A microphone."

"You know I saved more than that, that was only a quarter of it."

She went quiet- and so did Namjoon. They both stared at each other in the hallway of their small house, it was quiet, but the tension between them was infuriatingly a lot. Namjoon couldn't recognize his sister, she'd never spoken back to him like that and even about their drunk father so suddenly.

The walls of their house were colored rose, it resembled their mother so much. It was her favorite color, and he knew that. She'd tell that to him each night, when he was five, laying down on his bed after his mother read him his favorite book. Then there were stickers on the wall placed by both Namjoon and Kyungmin, which were permanently stuck and that their mother would always remind them that it was really useless putting them since it was hard getting rid of them. Framed pictures near the ceiling showed pictures of Namjoon when he was just a toddler, wearing mickey mouse sweaters and fairy shoes. Looking back at those memories, Namjoon wished he could've done more to be closer with his mother, he was grateful that a mother like her raised him, so why couldn't he?

"Is mom... Really gone?" His sister finally broke the tension.

Namjoon slowly nods. He glances away from his sister to the staircase behind him, he wanted to hide the tears that were now coming out of his eyelids. He'd managed to wipe them onto his shoulder before looking back at Kyungmin, who was now running to Namjoon to a hug.

 


 

  

It was a few weeks after the memorial of Namjoon's mother, he'd stay locked in his room for a few hours after school, off from communicating to anyone and- just grieve on top of his bed. But he was a man, he wasn't supposed to cry- Namjoon would tell himself- although knowing that he couldn't keep it together. His father stopped drinking and took over his wife, raising her children to become better in the future, but it gave negative vibes since he used to be an ignorant man once and in Namjoon's mind- he forever will and would never change- so this felt like no exception.

Every morning before school, Namjoon would hear frying sounds in the kitchen like every occasional morning, implying that his mother would be cooking meals for them. But this time, Namjoon's father prepares it for them. Ironically, Namjoon's father never cooked. He's just doing it because his wife wanted him for a long time and now he's finally had the tendency to do it, and clearly, Namjoon didn't like it.

"Why are you doing this to us?" Namjoon shouted across the living room to the kitchen, grabbing the handles of his briefcase. "I'm not eating your filthy food after what you've done to mom."

It was a Monday, after a long weekend and there was school.

"I-I agree." His sister followed him and sternly nods. She had a backpack over her shoulders.

"How dare you talk back to me?" He answers in a menacing tone from the kitchen, glaring at his two children who were disobeying him, but his eyes were all mostly on Namjoon's. "I work my ass off for you two to be living under this roof. Do you know how much hours I work for?"

"I'm not talking about that. I'm just saying that doing that is a waste of time, you should've done it when you had the time." Namjoon stated, his eyes opening wider as soon as he saw his dad taking off his belt off from his pants, "I-I never said that I wasn't thankful that you work for us."

Namjoon staggered backward and motioned his sister to unlock the front door. Finally, Kyungmin opened the door, and Namjoon hurriedly pushed his sister our before him, finally closing the door shut behind resulting in a jolting noise.

The cold December sky was dull, and grey above them and snow was seen to be piled everywhere, as well as their front yard and their suburban neighborhood that could be seen in front of their house.

It was freezing outside. It was freezing, and both Namjoon and Kyungmin were empty in their stomach. Namjoon was just wearing a thin layer of coat. He should've worn his cotton-padded jacket over it, but he couldn't help but feel regret going back to his house. Namjoon didn't want to see his father.

He hears his sister exhale beside him. "It's early." 

"Yeah." Namjoon puts his hands into the pockets of his school coat, not knowing that his sister was furtively glancing at him in the process.

"You okay?"

"What?"

"Nothing, you're just shivering really hard and I'm concerned." She then pinches the coat from the front where it's unbuttoned in the front and glares at him. "This is really thin you know."

"Don't worry, I can handle it. Besides, I don't want to risk getting beaten up by dad just to get my jacket."

Kyungmin shrugs. "Alright then. Let's get going."

They walk out of the front yard into the sidewalks, venturing to the streets. They live in the middle-classed suburban areas nearby Seoul, so the neighborhoods weren't really as dangerous as the city. Snow seemed to be piled everywhere, covering trees, streetlights, and cars but off the roads, signifying that the first snow occurred last night. It shows clearly. The white sand unlocks divine charms to it the more Namjoon stares at it. A blue stop sign came into view infront of Namjoon. A few children who seemed like they were the same age as Kyungmin stood next to it in a straight line.

Namjoon looks at his sister. "You're going to be alright alone again, right?"

"Yeah, you don't have to drop me off to school and pay more for the bus fees." She shakes her head. 

"I love you, Kyung." He breathes into her hair. "Focus at school and study hard, you know that's what mom wants."

"Okay." She nods. It was a few seconds and Namjoon let go of her. Kyungmin itched her hair. "Oh yeah... Are you really sure about being a rapper?"

Namjoon remembers the conversation he and his sister had the night before, it was about how their mother would want them to be when they grew older. He'd always wanted to be a rapper and convinced his mother several times, but she disagreed, and they'd both end up in arguments and fights. But knowing that she was gone now, he had no chance but to stop rapping. Namjoon sighs as a reply, his smile disappearing.

"You're not even going to try?"

Namjoon looks around the area and muse. "You know how much I've been saving money to become one."

"Well..."

"I've always wanted to go to that BigHit audition in Seoul and by stopping all of that, it seems like I'm just losing a big portion of my ambition."

"Listen, dad's trying to change for the better and you should too."

Namjoon cocks one eyebrow. "Then why were you on my side when we had that itty bitty argument?"

"Because you had a point."

"You little shit of a hypocrite." Namjoon pushes her in disgust. "What the fuck?" 

"Hey!" She staggered back, almost falling into the thick virgin snow but somehow she pulled herself up. "Incase if you forgot, mom never wanted you to be a rapper anyways." Kyungmin tilts her head to every word while she crossed her arms.

"Kyungmin, we already discussed this last night. I can't deal with this. I'm leaving." Namjoon felt his blood boil as he turned his back on her.

"I-It's for mom, please remember that."

Namjoon walked away, leaving his sister behind. He can feel his shoulder suddenly jerk up to his conception of being a rapper. He gulps, the saliva rolling down his throat like a weight of pressure. He turns around once more, but the bus had arrived already and there was nowhere to see his sister. It let out a honk before driving off into the slippery iced road. Namjoon sighed once more and looked towards the grey sky above him and catches a flock of birds notoriously flying to the south, where warmth was. Where Namjoon was, was sorrow, pain and coldness. 

 


 

 

He lays his back against the white coated brickwall. Namjoon was nearby the front door of his school on his right side, which were open. A few students occasionally walked out after every minute. He hovers his briefcase over his shoulders and stared over at his phone on his other hand and went through his texts. His 4'oclock shadow clearly determined how late it was. The sun was almost below the surface and his sister should've been home right now. Namjoon honestly doesn't know why he's still at school, he could've been walking home right about this time, but he just doesn't want to. It doesn't feel the same anymore.

He scrolled through his contacts while the cold thin air breezed through his tan fingers. His mind stopped when he scrolled through a name. 

"My man Jiho" 

"Shit," Namjoon whispers to himself. "I haven't been going to the club in ages."

The atmosphere that surrounds Namjoon's field of view paused.

Namjoon was... A secret underground rapper- for a good 4 years.

He'd often go to a club. Which none of his parents would have imagined their intelligent son to do. 

Usually he'd perform and rap live. He was very known in that club as Runch Randa, a rapper name he's been using anonymously for a good measure-so no one would be able to detect who he actually was- aside from his manager and Jiho. 

Jiho was a year older than Namjoon and who'd has been good friends with him ever since he began rapping in the club. In the rapping community, he was known as Zico. They both had a similar dream and promise- which was to become a successful rapper, that's how they instantly clicked after meeting each other for the first time. They both didn't have any compunction about anything.

Namjoon feels uncomfortable to this change. Maybe he should text him something, it's been weeks since he last saw him in the club. His finger motionly swept on the screen like a ballet performance, dancing in harmony before he pressed send.

'Hey Jiho, sup?'

A few seconds passed and a notification pops up. An uneasy smile formed in Namjoon's lips as he read the text. Namjoon hasn't been conversing to him for so long but Jiho's reply was an immediate response.

'NAMJOON. my man, where the fuck were you for these past few weeks?" 

Positioning himself properly with the wall behind him, Namjoon didn't expect that text at all. Merely because Jiho- was a stingy person. The reason to it was whenever Namjoon didn't come to the club for once- Jiho would make a diss track just because of it. But aside from that, Jiho makes bomb music and Namjoon looks up to him like a role model. When he duets with Jiho, they both hit it off so well that when they made a mixtape, they actually got an abundance of cash from it. Namjoon texts back.

 

'You know, national exams and shit.'

He didn't want to lie. He really didn't.

'Wwwow.'

'I'm planning on dropping out of school. Music's my go to.'

'Seriously bro? have a side job or something, just incase if your career won't work out.'

'Meh, too late. I failed my national exam a few days ago, no one's going to accept my applications in workplaces.'

'damnnn'

'Fuck school.'

'I've got no comment lmao.'

'Manager's really pissed at you, you know? already thinking of kicking you out from the club so... just be prepared when you come back.'

'I figured, which is why I texted you in the first place. I really need to tell you something Jiho.'

'Go ahead.'

Namjoon breathes in.

'I won't come back to the club. I don't even know if I want to rap anymore. I feel like all of that's just... Too much for me but not in a bad way. I've worked so hard with you and I know that, we, for a matter of fact, went through so many ups and downs like a rollercoaster together and I cherish those moments. They were like our footprints to success. You knew how much I wantted to be a rapper.'

'You knew that, right?'

Namjoon smiles.

'Well, personally, I don't know but you're like a caring elder brother.'

The smile slowly retracted.

'Sorry. But Jiho, I'm going to take a short break and stop rapping.'

Something's changed which was Namjoon himself.

'I want to focus on school.'

Jiho's not replying anymore and Namjoon understood, he didn't want to defend himself, he just wanted to speak the truth out. He's imagining to what Jiho's reaction would be at this moment. Vengeful? Distressed? Or maybe dissapointed since his close friend of 3 years- who has been accompanying him for so long in his music career- just stops talking to him and when he finally had the tendency to, it's about leaving him. Namjoon grips his phone, a tear dropping off his cheek as he stares at it. He really didn't want to do this, he really didn't. He's terribly sorry to anyone and everyone he'd hurted in life. More specifically, Jiho.

Nervously, Namjoon tries texting him again.

'I'll still support you no matter what, man.'

'you know I can still help you produce songs in my spare time and watch your performances in the club.'

'You can count on me.'

'Jiho? Are you there?"