Hoseok was always one to look for the silver lining in any situation. Missed the bus? At least it’s a nice day to walk. Exam the next day? At least he’d be getting it over with.
Kicked out of the house? This was a hard one, but Hoseok thought of it while he was carrying his single suitcase up the creaky boarding house stairs: at least he didn’t have very much stuff. It would be a simpler life. People said downsizing was good for you, anyway.
Still, throwing his suitcase on the bare mattress in his rundown new bedroom, it all came crashing down on him at once: this was the new reality. No more cushy, rich life as the daughter of a university professor. No more of mom’s homemade breakfasts, no more housekeepers to make his bed and gather his dirty laundry, no more coming home from school with Taeyeon in tow and kissing in the privacy of his bedroom, whispering and sharing secrets and giggling over stupid jokes. Everything would be different now. Hoseok was free to be himself, but everything else was going to be harder.
“I don’t know how you fit all your clothes into that one bag. You don’t need anything else, do you? I have tons of clothes. I sew, too...” Seokjin’s voice was too chipper for the mood, and it hit Hoseok like a blow to the chest. He couldn’t break down in front of Seokjin. Seokjin had been the one to inform him that the boarding house where he lived had one empty room - they were classmates and acquaintances, nothing more, but he’d even let Hoseok sleep on the couch there until he got official permission from the landlord to move in. Seokjin was nicer than Hoseok deserved.
"I didn't really bring much. It made the move easier." He scratched the base of his neck, asking, "Do you know when the landlord's around? I feel like I should really get to know 'em, I don't think I've ever met them, which is weird considering I'm gonna start renting a room?"
Seokjin waved his hand dismissively; "She's hardly around, you shouldn't worry about her. Me and Joon handle the rent for her, anyways. We're practically her employees - she owns dozens of buildings all over Seoul, this crummy little house is the least of her concerns.” Without being asked, Seokjin opened the curtains and lifted the window pane; the sudden gust of fresh air made the stuffy little room seem worlds better. “I’ve wanted to get to know you better, ever since you sat in on our club meeting at the end of last semester. Why don’t you come more often?”
Because he didn’t even know what he was doing there, Hoseok thought to himself, feeling stiff with discomfort once again. Seokjin didn’t have to specify what he was talking about; he wasn’t shy about the fact that he was the president of the campus’ gay-straight alliance, and his roommate Namjoon was the club treasurer. Hoseok had only gone once.
He wasn’t sure that there was a word to fit what he was. Gay, but not really. Trans, but not really. His mind hung in limbo. All he knew was that kissing Taeyeon, holding her hand, it had made him wish that he really was a man.
“Maybe I’ll start coming for the new school year,” he offered quietly, managing a smile. “Things got hectic…”
“Yeah. I can understand that.” There was something like pity in Seokjin’s eyes. Of course stuff had gotten hectic; Seokjin probably knew that from watching Hoseok scouring the bulletin boards in the student center for apartment listings. He’d slept in the library the night before, he had bags under his eyes. He never thought he’d become a charity case. He went silent, not sure how to proceed, but wishing they could talk about anything else.
Suddenly, something foreign tickled Hoseok’s nose. Smoky, vaguely sweet. “Do you smell, like…”
“Mothballs? Yeah, this room has been empty for a few months, so it might be a little--”
“No. I smell... patchouli?”
Seokjin sniffed the air, then nodded in confirmation. “I think the girl who lives across the hall burns incense. Yeah, I forgot to mention her, sorry. She’s kind of weird - sometimes we hear her play music, but we’ve only seen her in person two or three times.” Seokjin shrugged. “We’re not sure if she stays out for days at a time, or if she shuts herself in her bedroom.”
“Oh, yeah?” Hoseok knew it was crazy, but he already liked her, just from the incense. It smelled a little like the scented oil that Taeyeon dabbed behind her ears. He wasn’t sure if that would be a good thing or a bad thing, in the end. “What’s she like?”
“She’s tall and she’s really pretty. Skinny, big boobs - probably fake.” He lowered his voice to a whisper at this, not wanting her to hear them through the wall when she was obviously home. “I think she’s a model.”
Tingles of apprehension made Hoseok shiver. He hadn’t realized that there was a fourth room in the boarding house, much less that a girl would be in it. Girls-- he couldn’t help but see them as something of a forbidden fruit, for as much as he liked them (which was a lot), girls always looked at people harder. Friendships with men were simple to maintain. But relationships with women… well, women always wanted to be close, affectionate. He thought of Taeyeon the first time they’d met in the crowd at a hip-hop show; how she hadn’t even known his name when she slipped her arms around him and told him how much she loved his dancing.
“Oh-- Joon just texted me,” Seokjin announced, swiping on his phone. “He’s downstairs. Says he got groceries and takeout. Do you want to come eat with us?"
It was just a formality, Hoseok knew. The awkwardness between them didn't go unnoticed, especially when he could tell that Seokjin was trying to grasp at what he should say next.
But Hoseok was lonely, as much as he didn't want to admit it. He missed being able to live under the same roof as his parents, he missed the spontaneous dates Taeyeon would initiate when she'd show up unannounced at his house, he missed being close to someone, anyone. So, even if it was just a formality, he had to keep himself from sounding too eager as he agreed; "Sure, food sounds good right now, thanks!"
Seokjin smiled, seeming relieved. "Joon's a little awkward around new people-- we both are. But, we're really pumped about having another guy living with us. At least, just to give us a new cute face to look at every day.~"
Hoseok's cheeks went immediately red as he followed Seokjin. "You're not flirting with me, are you?"
"I am, but it's nothing serious. I love flirting with cute guys. I'm already taken, though, hope you're not heartbroken!"
"Maybe just a little," he teased back with a little smile. Even with that awkward start, Hoseok could already tell that he was going to like his housemates.
Maybe I should stop smoking in my room so much. I wonder if everyone else would complain about the stink. Yoonji smothered her cigarette in the ashtray nearby, and reached instead for the cold coffee right next to it.
A regular person would be concerned by her cigarette and coffee diet, but it wasn't like she could bring herself to eat with her rampant anxiety. The start of school always left her feeling sick with anxiety, and she felt it ten-fold now that she was returning after a semester break.
Besides, this was what the other models did, and they were still walking around, getting shit done. Yoonji wasn’t even that skinny, by model standards - though she was thinner than the average woman, and tall, too, long arms and legs. Hormones had worked their magic on her hips, but it had taken surgery to get the C cup bust that she’d desired - some days, she liked the effect in the mirror better than others. Her long, jet black hair was pulled up in a messy bun, with loose strands framing her pale, bare face. She was wearing stained old sweat pants and a sports bra. She looked rough. Tired.
“You don't need anyone else,” she whispered, maintaining eye contact with her reflection in the tall mirror mounted on her door. “You’re strong. You’re fierce. You’re going to get through this.”
It had been her mantra for the last few weeks, though she wasn’t sure how effective it was. Still, Yoonji had to get herself hyped up, somehow, to be self-reliant. She didn’t have her parents anymore, she didn’t have Jimin. It was just her, and she had to be strong enough to be okay on her own.
Yoonji sighed as she glanced at the clock. She had to get ready for work.
Going out was a process. First were her clothes: a simple black dress, strapless, with sheer tights and black dress shoes (never, never heels - she felt like a monster in heels). Next was makeup: she kept it simple, since she would have it redone for the photo shoot, but she simply couldn't leave her room without it. Mascara, red lips, a touch of blush to cut her pallor. Finally, she brushed and straightened her hair, which came just past her shoulders.
There were a thousand things wrong with her face, but that would have to do. She stuck out her tongue at herself. Ugly.
She wasn't sure what she was expecting when she made her way downstairs to head to the subway station; there, at the table, were three men enjoying pizza together. Two of them she'd seen when she barely moved in, but the third, she assumed, was the new guy that was supposed to occupy their last empty room. He's cute.
"Oh!" One of them flashed her a smile, she was sure it was the president of the gay-straight alliance. "Hey, uh--...?"
"Yoonji," she supplied quickly.
"Hey, Yoonji! This is Hoseok, our new housemate. He just moved in today."
"Welcome," she greeted, though she felt quite out of place. Hoseok already seemed comfortable around the other two men, which probably meant that they were already friends to begin with.
Hoseok swallowed the mouth-full he had, before asking, "Do you wanna come eat with us? We saved you a few slices!"
Yoonji's cheeks flushed red, and she was glad that she'd worn makeup to hide the fact. "I'm actually on my way to work, so… I'll get some when I come back, thank you."
Without another word, she was out the door. When she had first moved in, the two men already living there seemed to be hardly around. It was weird, being invited to eat so suddenly. I don't even know their names, except for Hoseok. And he's only been here a few hours.
She laughed to herself-- maybe he was just as lonely as she was.