It's the beginning of summer, kids are finally getting out of school, the waves and air look bluer than before for the bay and beach kids. The warm sand invites them back to seashells, surfboards, and tan grains that won't get out of their hair or from between their toes for weeks. Above the sand stands the brown of the boardwalk and into a world with colorful retro font, cotton candy, popcorn, ice cream, and shops open seven days a week- and it's all free of charge.
Speaking of ice cream, Jun had to get up and head to that little ice cream parlor inbetween the dart throw and the ring toss. When he walked into the shop this morning, a red haired boy he knew far too well stood, well...slumped over the counter exhausted.
"Hey...Donghun? You okay?" He gently slaps his face, causing the strawberry to raise it's head, ruffling it's locks with his free hand. He responds with a voice laced with sleep and an oncoming yawn. "Oah...hey Junhee."
He points to Park's Pretzels across from the parlor, although the lights weren't on, the sunrise in the background illuminates the red and yellow stripes of the pretzel place. "Why aren't you at your own shop?"
"Oh, I just wanted to make your job easier...why can't we have a truce?"
Junhee cocked his head to the side and looked at him with bullshit in his eyes. "Last time you said thatㅡwe almost burnt this shop down."
Donghun was on the brink of laughing. The thing is that they nearly burnt down an ice cream parlor. How could he forget the Melting May of 2016?
The way he took a flamethrower and proceeded to melt Jun's array of chocolate ice cream was the best thing he's ever done to dateㅡeven when the plastic bins caught fire and their shoes stuck to the tiles for weeks. Sure, Donghun eventually helped him scrub the place clean-but fuck did he have a good laugh.
"Hey-heyㅡ" Lee retorts, "The keyword here is almost."
Park inhaled so loud that New Jersey could hear him. "Lee Donghun I swear to God."
"You swore, but you didn't promise," he gives a little grin, "now that we're on the topic of promises how about a truce一? You're still not convinced.
"You're right I'm not."
"Alright, alright...just know I genuinely want to have a truce." He lies, walking out Rocky's Road and over to his own shop.
With the light rustling of keys out Donghun's pocket came a gentle bump of the door- discovering the door was already open.
"Junhee?" He starts, shoving the keys back into his pocket. "Why is the door open?"
"I just wanted to help you out." He mocks, turning on the shop light and taking his rightful place behind the counter.
Mere seconds would turn into minutes and unfold into hours, with business going seamlessly-but, the Park's Pretzels employee didn't know what was going to hit him at one in the afternoon, and neither did Jun, both equally confused when customers spit out their signature snacks.
Park Junhee, naturally, looks offended and asks the customer what was wrong.
"Taste it." He says, handing the food back to the cashier.
Hesitantly, the boy puts a scoop of mint chocolate chip in his mouth expecting the worst. He raised an eyebrow when he didn't detect anything wrong, that is until he bit down on a salty chocolate ch- it wasn't a goddamn chocolate chip, the farthest thing from it.
How he knew what it tasted like? Not important. Why he knew? Also not important.
"I'll be right back."
The boy dashes back into the kitchen, tasting the other ice creams he had ready to dish out and garnish.
Taking bites from random assortments, he discovers the chocolate ice cream to be cat food, vanilla's extra salty, the signature rocky road has actual pebbles in it. Don't get him started on the fruity flavors though, because strawberry- strawberry caught him off guard.
It took a second for things to kick in, having the sweet dissolve and leave the chunks of strawberries. But strawberries weren't supposed to melt- and they also weren't supposed to taste like siracha or diced hot peppers.
Just to be safe, he tastes the sauces. Those weren't right either.
This apple haired motherfucker had switched the caramel for McDonald's sweet and sour sauce, Hot fudge for squid ink, and strawberry for- you guessed it- hot sauce.
The Rocky's Road employee put down the spoon and smirked. "So this is how you're gonna be?"
"I'm so sorry sir, I'll give you a refund." Junhee promptly dishes five dollars and twenty three cent out the register, placed it in his hand whilst making his way towards the door.
The little bell from the front of Park's Pretzels rang just a bit louder, sounded just a bit angrier, and Lee Donghun knew he had done his job. The redhead steps away from the oven but leaves his mittens on, letting them hit the counter with a soft, satisfying, puff.
"Wipe that shit eating grin off your face!"
Lee feigns innocence, placing his head in his white, slightly burned mitten. "What grin?" He inquires, taunting from afar, "What did I do?"
"Don't give me that shit- you were in my shop this morning claiming you wanted a truce."
Lee smiles, going up to the older and patting his face with said mitts. "I do, just not now."
Park Junhee was not amused in the slightest, narrowing his piercing eyes onto his target despite being the prey.
"Just you wait you damn cherryㅡcause' you've got an ocean coming."
Lee pouts, "Awe...you got sriracha in your strawberry?"
Junhee was not that salty, since a good half an hour later, two girls were gagging on the bread they just purchased. "What the hell..."
"What's the problem ladies?"
"Did you make this?" She interrogates, spitting out the pretzel.
"This is the saltiest food I've ever tasted, and what's this filling?"
It couldn't be that bad, he thinks to himself.
He was so, so wrong. The filling for one, was not frosting. That was a mixture of sour cream and blended oysters. If that wasn't enough, the outside was sprinkled with the shop across the street, but the bread itself was crispy and fluffy, everything would've been fine- if the pretzel didn't taste like the fucking ocean.
His mouth slightly agape, refunds them, a small huff escaping his lips.
"Well played, Park Junhee...subtle.." his eyes glance towards the bin, sour cream and salt still there, "yet prominent."
The strawberry shuts down shop, the parlor straight across adorned it's laminated plastic aswell. A smirk couldn't help but cross his face, taking his white cap off. The sun beams through their windows and onto the Santa Monica Pier, but that did not mean Junhee's smile couldn't blind him from across the street. Like damn, he'd need sunglasses if Park kept this up.
Jun couldn't stop thinking about the little pout and innocent faces Donghun made back in his shop. Sure, they were cute-but from Lee they were fake and seen as only mockery. There's a little sugar crystal in his heart that says otherwise, that says he looked absolutely adorable but didn't want to admit it.
They exchanged a knowing glance, telling each other they were going to need tricks for next week.
Sehyoon however, standing a few shops down from the food stops, needed a goddamn break.
The twenty-five year old currently worked too many jobs at this boardwalk, along with a part time shift down at BM's BBQ and Grill. Right now, he was at the ring toss watching a cute child with his mother struggling to throw the rings with his small, chubby hands, while she looked at him with nothing but love.
Something that he's never truly had-well-not as a partner anyway. He's had pretend girlfriends and elementary school crushes, even had a few flings this summer. But he's never had someone he can text and talk to everyday, say that he loved them and would do anything for. He couldn't truly express how much he wanted that in his life. Well...he had one back in college- but he blew his chance.
His fantasy was short lived before the harsh crying of the kid dragged him back to the booth, sobs grating at his ears. "But mom, I want the plushie!"
The mother hastily slapped twenty dollars on the booth, pleading for the stuffed dinosaur.
"Here, and take the money back."
"Shush, I understand."
The look on her face when he gave her the dinosaur free of charge told him everything she couldn't. She was relieved, stressed, elated, just about everything a young woman running on caffeine, the stress of paying bills, and desperation for a baby-sitter should be.
Checking the time, he decided that his shift at the ring toss was over. But the boy with pink hair and large eyes approaching with his friend made him think otherwise. He takes a chance and glances in his direction with a smirk, feeling somewhat embarrassed when their eyes locked. But the spark was somewhat familiar, like he'd seen him somewhere beforeㅡbut knowing his memory he could be wrong.
"Byeongkwan-ah, are you okay?"
The older was staring at the tan haired stall owner, mouth in an 'o'. Kwan felt his ice cream slipping but he didn't care, stepping straight in the chocolate mess.
Tan hair parted near the middle, wavy strands reminding him of both sand and sea, his urge to touch it increased when the wind came along and caressed it. The midday sun hit his eyes and he thought he was going to drown in melted chocolate, carmel specks mixed in. These were eyes he'd like to look into amidst the warm shades of autumn, as they looked towards the white crystals falling through December hair.
"Oh-oh, yeah I'm good."
Kang Yuchan was smart enough to raise his eyebrows and take a sip of sweet iced tea. "Doesn't he look familiar?"
"I thought the same thing..."
"Go talk to him, I'll catch you later."
Kim Byeongkwan smiled at the younger before leaving him to explore the boardwalk on his own.
Oh God how do I talk?
A chuckle turns into a laugh- he said that out loud, didn't he? "Shit- well can you blame me? Look at yourself- you're fucking Wow."
If only Chan could see him now, blushing over a boy he just met.
"Wow?" he inquires, "I've never gotten that before."
"Well, I meant wow-" The stall owner's little laugh bubbles up again and into the open. "Well, you can call me that if you want, but my name's Sehyoon."
Wow, who's name was really Sehyoon, turned his head back to him and gently removed his hands from his face (which was still pink- scratch that- turning back red).
After flirting just a bit more, making Kwan just a bit weaker in the knees, he starts locking up the prizes and booth, pocketing the cash from the register. Byeongkwan's confused, "I thought you weren't supposed to take money from the register."
"The operator doesn't even show up most the time, and I run six jobs at the least. But this is my eighth job today."
"You say that as if you have another."
"I do! BM's BBQ downtown," He slams the rickety contraption shut, though a few coins manage to slip out, "heard of it?"
"So that's where I remember you from! You helped me clean up that hot sauce."
"Out of all the things to remember at that place, the good food, the amazing service, and the comfy ass seatsㅡYou chose to remember me cleaning up hot sauce?"
"...Honestly I still don't know how you guys managed to knock down three bottles of Sriracha and Louisiana's Hot Sauceㅡfive of which weren't even at your own table."
"Bitch I don't know either..." Kwan lied. "wait-yes I do."
Sehyoon looks up at the younger, fairly interested in how the hell they managed it.
Cut to the sun going down with the two watching the horizon paint itself on the beach, sharing stories and realizations about their lives, laughing all the while. But then they get into the topic of school, they're sighing half-heartedly as the sun descends into the navy abyss.
"You went to UIC too? What was your schedule like?"
"Uhm- shit...I don't remember but I think I had English first. I also think I sat near the front of the lecture hall. Mainly because I was late all the time."
"If that's the case, then let me ask you this. Did you ever come into class not giving a fuck, just not giving any fucks? Just strolling in with whatever the hell you had on that morning?"
Tired eyes glance at the sea. "Multiple times, yeah."
"You're the bitch that showed up in a bra and Pikachu undies with a venti vanilla bean frappucino."
Sehyoon's jaw drops as he recalls that fateful day, embarrassed that he knew what else he wore. "I also came in with half of my hair being covered in tinfoil because I was gonna dye it."
"That was you." Kwan stresses, scratching his head. "That was the same day I realized that I didn't want to be the student with the highest marks- but the boy that gave no fucks in April."
Kim's smile molds into a giggle, "I always wanted to tell you that you were plastered all over campus."
The older Kim's face drops again, imagining all the jokes that could've been made. "Well, you told me."
"Oh shit." If he didn't leave right now, and he meant right now, he'd be late for his last job of the evening. He glanced at Byeongkwan again, round eyes cute and confused. He really didn't want to leave now.
"I gotta go over to my next job."
Sehyoon couldn't spare anymore words, waving to the cotton candy cutie behind him.
Kang Yuchan couldn't concentrate on mathematics, not with the symbols fading into bullshit equations or the younger boy in front.
The two were inside the library at the University of California for their weekly tutoring, which he had only signed up for to get extra credits. But when he was assigned to a Junior by the name of Yoon Sanha, he knew there'd be trouble down the line if he had to stare at his puppy dog eyes and puffy lips that looked oh so soft.
And don't even get him started on the way hyung rolled out his mouth.
Kang had told himself to keep their relationship strictly professional, sticking to the usual tips, short cuts, explainations, and 'see you next weeks'." This worked for about a year before he started to observe his little quirks. Biting his pen or thumb when he couldn't figure out a problem, the pout on his lips paired with a face inked with determination, that small spark in his eyes when he finally understood the problem.
"Yuchan-hyung, can you help me with this one?" No response. "Hyung? Hyung~"
"Oh right..." he straightens his posture and fixes his glasses, finally snapping out of his daydream, "which problem are we on?"
"Twenty three...Hyung, you seem tired." Sanha slowly closes his books, "we can end today's lesson early is you'd like."
"Ahm, yes, that'd be nice." Kang sips on a cup coffee that was now cold and didn't serve it's purpose anymore.
"Take care, Chan-hyung."
"Take care, Sanha."
The college freshman put his head down on the table, ruffling his hair. He wished that Sanha didn't have to call him hyung in a cute voice, he wished that he hadn't noticed the freckles on his face-silently counting them with a secret desire to peck every one of them.
Chan had his problem figured out, and he definitely understood it, he just didn't know how to solve it.
Struggling through his homework at Bin's Bakery, pastry and sugar honey iced tea beside him. He didn't understand the problem, he also couldn't understand why he'd pushed his tutor away.
Yoon Sanha had a problem, a big one at that. He needs to study-but he needs to sort out his feelings aswell.
Maybe he could talk to the manager, he thought, tapping his pencil.
Speak of the devil, Moonbin was walking by tables, checking on his customers, slyly pecking his boyfriend on the cheek when he passed by his table. Soon, the older notices the student, coming to check on him.
"Sanha!" He hugs the struggling student. "What's up?"
He sticks his head into the textbook. "Is it something?" Bin lays the order in front of him, a sinking chocolate heart on the drink's surface. The owner found a smile playing at his lips as he stared, "Or someone?"
With that someone came his vanilla bean and his dignity.
"So it is someone." He snacks on a cookie, content that he's correct.
"Well...it's actually both," he gave in, "I have like six exams in the morning and I just don't wanna do them, plus I don't know how to tell him I like him.."
"Is it the cute dude with glasses?"
"Yeah..." He buries his hands in his face,"and it's weird because he's my tutor!"
"That's awkward. You have to meet with him every week for the next three months, look at the curly hair, freckles, glasses, and a piece of your heart."
He nearly chokes on the beverage, having Moonbin pat him on the back. "Ah shitㅡ sorry."
"It's okay, I'll deal with that later. Right now, I've gotta study my ass off." Moonbin turns to leave, "Do you happen to know what the infiniteㅡ"
Bin walks away faster than the speed of light back to the counter. Sanha shook his head and nearly slammed it into the book.
The summer was going to be wild. And it wasn't even June yet.