Jaehyun never thought he would miss college this much. There were times, back in Seoul, that Jaehyun wondered what it would be if he had just applied for summer courses instead; instead of going back home. But, what home?
Jaehyun had grown up in Seoul and for years it had been his home, his safe place and where the people he cared for the most would always be, always waiting for him, and ever since he left, two years ago, he never thought he wouldn’t actually miss it, like it happened now. It’d been two months since summer and he already missed his mother and the softness of her kisses on his hair over breakfast; the smell of her famous rice cakes filling his nostrils before he even set foot outside his room; the calmness of her voice whenever she needed Jaehyun to be patient; Jaehyun even missed whenever she snapped at his brother for whatever the younger had pulled on her downstairs, and if Jaehyun counted, it would take less than a minute and either hers or the kid’s laughing – usually hers – would fill his own room later, followed by a proper story.
It had been two months since summer in Seoul and he missed the weather, hot on his skin as tossed the ball to Haechan, and his brother would run to it as his life depended on it – and if he scored, his laughing would fill Jaehyun’s ears louder than last night inside his room; he missed the chewiness of a fresh, cold boba after basketball; he missed teasing his baby brother about (always) losing at video games, but missed even more listening to the kid’s stories from the time Jaehyun wasn’t home and Jaehyun wondered how his brother could talk for hours, nonstop, if Jaehyun only let him – and Jaehyun let him, most of the times. Jaehyun missed his brother, not really Seoul’s weather.
It had been two months and Halloween was just around the corner, but for the first time ever since he moved to America, Jaehyun wasn’t that eager for picking up a costume.
“What do you think?”
Jaehyun blinked a few times, as his roommate voice echoed inside their room and he turned on his chair so he could face where Johnny laid on his bed, his phone in hand while all the paper he needed for his essay sprawled, certainly forgotten, around the mattress.
“Fred and Barney or Dumb and Dumber?” Johnny (probably) repeated and Jaehyun frowned.
“Couple costumes? Really?” Johnny’s mouth twisted in a mischievous grin that only made Jaehyun’s eyebrows deep further into his forehead and there was no way Johnny was up to something good. “Did Sehun even agree to that?”
“He told me to help him choose his costume.”
“That doesn’t mean he said couple.”
“That doesn’t mean he didn’t .”
Jaehyun pressed his lips and the sight of his best friend actually being serious about the matter was something that both worried, yet not surprised him.
“Oh, my.” Jaehyun sighed. “Dumb and Dumber. Sehun is too tall to play Barney and you don’t need a costume to play Dumb.”
“Ha-ha. That was funny.” Johnny fake laughed from his bed, but Jaehyun heard him actually laughing after he turned around to try to focus on writing his own essay, and Jaehyun sighed as he stared at the paper, mostly blank after at least half an hour working on it.
“What’s wrong, man?” Johnny asked somewhere behind him.
“This thing is due to Friday and I only got one, two… eight lines!” – Jaehyun counted as he pulled his hair back with a hand. – “I’m screwed.”
“Not that, but okay, you’re screwed.” Sometimes Jaehyun hated Johnny’s bluntness, but his friend was right – and he usually was – and Jaehyun had less than forty-eight hours to finish that, but he just couldn’t focus. The loud thud from Johnny tossing himself on Jaehyun’s bed reached his ears before Johnny reached his eyes, leaning against the wall right beside his desk. “What’s going on?”
Johnny has been Jaehyun’s best friend ever since he moved to America and Jaehyun was really glad they had been roommates ever since, as Johnny was just someone easy to deal with. Johnny was a Junior just like him, despite Jaehyun being one year younger, and also Korean, but born and raised in America so he helped Jaehyun a lot in the beginning, from paperwork to settling in. Johnny was by far the most easy-going person Jaehyun have ever met and they simply just clicked. They both loved basketball and coincidence or not, Johnny was from Chicago – Bulls’ base city – and now they had quite a lot of the team’s paraphernalia spread on their bedroom walls. Johnny would major in cinema while Jaehyun simply planned for design, but they shared a love for photography and took a few classes together, mostly because of that, which came very handy, sometimes. Johnny had a younger brother too, just a year older than Haechan, so they always had a lot of stories to share, too. Johnny was gay – openly, ever since they met – and Jaehyun had always been fine with that. Johnny had been just fine, too, when Jaehyun kissed a guy for the first time about a year after they met.
Jaehyun have missed Johnny when he was in Seoul, during summer. It was nice being home and meeting his old friends and his family and everything, but Jaehyun missed being himself, fully.
Johnny’s question lingered around them as Jaehyun twisted his lips, still staring at his papers as he ran his fingers through his hair before he finally glanced at his friend. “How did you come out to your parents?” was his answer instead.
Johnny arched both his eyebrows, but didn’t seem startled by that. “Do you wanna come out to yours? I thought you were dating Rachel?”
“I am.” Jaehyun shrugged, but leaned back a little on his chair. “Just… Were they chill about it, when you told them?”
“My mom was, my dad not so much, but he didn’t freak out so it was nice.” Johnny nodded as he answered without further questions. “I only told my mother at first, but the guy I was dating was already my friend and had been at my house a few times before and I still hope she didn’t see anything, but she didn’t seem surprised when I told her. She asked me not to close the door anymore when we were at my room, but Mark was always around, so it’s not like we had much option.” Johnny chuckled and Jaehyun followed, as he could picture Haechan doing just the same. “I asked my mother to tell my father for me and he never really said anything, but I know he’s not as used as she is, but he’s better now than he was before. He said he wants to meet Sehun during Thanksgiving.”
“Really? Is he going home with you?”
Now that was some unexpected news. Johnny and Sehun had been dating for a year and Jaehyun really though they looked good together. Sehun was a nice guy and just as chill as Johnny – and by now Jaehyun had seen both of their bare asses more times than he was comfortable with, but the fact that he got used to it probably meant that Johnny bringing his boyfriend to meet his parents shouldn’t be much of a surprise.
“Mom said you should join us too.” Johnny added as he nodded with a smile.
“We’ll see. I’ll probably stay If Rachel stays.” Jaehyun smiled sheepishly and Johnny snorted, not looking anyhow amused.
“Please, spare my bed.”
Jaehyun actually laughed at that and decided not to bring up that fact that he once found a very drunk Johnny and no less drunk Sehun on Jaehyun’s bed – at least they still had their clothes on – and simply closed his books, one by one. He could deal with this later.
“My mother’s husband saw me with a guy during summer.” Jaehyun stated, distracting himself with the rest of the papers.
“Oh.” Johnny sighed loudly beside him and when Jaehyun finally glanced at him, Johnny face was serious, with a lightly frown. Jaehyun nodded. “They didn’t take it.”
And for that, Jaehyun could only shake his head as his jaw clenched and he pressed his lips tight, and even his throat felt like clutching before he took a deep breath and lowered his gaze.
“My mother didn’t take it that bad, I think.” Jaehyun’s shoulders had already tensed and his short shrug seemed even smaller, but somehow Jaehyun knew Johnny noticed and he was glad Johnny let him speak, low and slowly as he allowed himself to remember. “She says she will be happy, as long as I am happy. And-” Jaehyun wasn’t sure why, but he gulped, and words died before they reached his mouth, but he nodded. “She didn’t take it that bad.” He repeated, instead.
“How about your step-father?”
“He’s not my father.” Jaehyun quickly stated, staring back at his friend and deep inside he knew it wasn’t what Johnny meant. “He’s nothing close to a father.”
Johnny’s frown hadn’t deepened much, but his eyes already looked darker as they stared at each other and somehow Jaehyun knew that kind of stare in Johnny’s eyes as he have seen it when Mark called him once, instead of his mother or his father. “Fuck, man, what did he say?”
Jaehyun lowered his eyes once more and dryly scoffed, but he didn’t focus on anything else this time as he throat actually burned, much like his eyes and jaw tensed up so much it almost hurt when he licked his dry lips.
“He said a lot. You can guess what. The usual.” Jaehyun shrugged again, and really, he didn’t need to repeat words Johnny could probably guess on his own, being gay himself and having quite a lot of either gays, or lesbians or bisexuals friends, like Jaehyun. Sehun himself was someone who had a long history from hearing a lot of harsh words and Johnny had his own handful of them, and somehow Jaehyun had learned from them to not actually listen, as people who said those words were probably people Jaehyun shouldn’t care less.
Jaehyun had his own stories too now, ever since he started dating guys too, but Jaehyun was fine with the fact that he did date guys, too, and most of those stories, just like the people in them, were actually people Jaehyun couldn’t care less, or didn’t anymore and knew better than that; he was better than that; his actual friends were way better than that, and that was what really mattered. It never really bothered him. Until now.
“He slapped me.” Jaehyun had barely heard his own voice, but the way Johnny jumped on the bed was enough for him to know that Johnny had indeed heard him.
“He fucking what!?”
Jaehyun didn’t stare back at Johnny as he pulled his friend’s leg away so he could toss himself on his own bed, his arm quickly covering his eyes.
“I was with this guy I met inside his car and we did nothing, man. We just kissed, I swear. And I don’t know how, but the bastard saw it and when I went inside my house, my own house, he slapped me. He didn’t say anything. He just slapped me and my mom saw it. She fucking saw it, Johnny, and she did nothing.” Jaehyun pressed his eyes with his fingers and he didn’t notice he had started crying. “That son of a bitch slapped me in my house, in front of my mother, and she did nothing.”
“Fuck, Jay.” Johnny muttered beside him and Jaehyun felt him slip down on the mattress beside him before he felt Johnny’s arm around him, pulling closer on a hug and Jaehyun simply let him.
It had been over three months now, ever since that night, and it was the first time Jaehyun ever told someone about it, not even Rachel knew about it, but his new girlfriend didn’t really know that Jaehyun was actually bi – or maybe she did, as Jaehyun never bothered hiding it on campus. But letting it out was both better and heavier than he expected. It was better, just because; but heavier, as he never knew how much he needed crying until he did, and he cried way more than he thought he could, and it fucking hurt.
It still hurt when stopped crying and it still hurt when he told Johnny all the rest.
It hurt even more during next summer, when he went back home and found out that the house he had grown up was no longer a place he considered home and for the first time Jaehyun really missed college, more than he has ever missed his house.
That summer, it was good being around his mother and it was even nicer having Haechan around, as he grew older and smarter than Jaehyun was at that same age and Jaehyun was a proud brother. That summer, his mother still kissed his hair at breakfast before work, but sometimes Jaehyun barely touched his lunch as he sat alone at the kitchen table, while his mother and his brother shared seats with the gross man that, unfortunately, was Haechan’s father.
It had hurt even more during that summer when Jaehyun’s mother gave him money every night so he could eat something outside with his friends – but Jaehyun went alone, most of the times – and it was only some lame excuse so Jaehyun and Mr. Lee would avoid each other’s presence – and so Jaehyun wouldn’t see how drunk Mr. Lee was most of the nights.
It had hurt more than ever when Jaehyun changed his flight ticket during that summer and he bid his mother and brother goodbye a full month earlier than expected.
It started hurting less when he stepped foot in Chicago and Johnny and Mark greeted him at the airport, while both Miss and Mr. Seo awaited for them in their house, with homemade kimchi and a barbecue, and a feeling of being home.