That was the third yellow car Ryeowook saw that afternoon. He checked his watch again: 3:52 pm. He sighed at how another day has passed, with how everything felt like a swift blur. The burnt toast he had for breakfast that morning already felt like ages ago. And there he was, mindlessly staring at cars passing by as he sat by the table on the farthest corner of the room, his chin resting on his hand as he looked beyond the glass wall.
He was about to let out a yawn when his sleepy soul was jolted back to life as he saw a familiar presence enter the place which, Ryeowook now realizes, is actually brighter than it usually was. He didn’t even realize there was a new small chandelier installed near the door, until the tall figure paused under it for a few seconds as he looked around, before a smile crept on the newcomer’s lips, his eyes sparkling as they slightly turned into two crescent moons, obviously pleased upon seeing a familiar face.
Suddenly, Ryeowook’s sense of smell was once again filled by the aroma of the freshly ground coffee beans, though sweeter, which Ryeowook attributed to the welcoming, but subtly sweet, scent of vanilla mixing along.
Ryeowook’s fingers started tapping gently along the rhythm of the gentle strums of the acoustic song playing in the background, before he abruptly stopped to move his coffee cup, the slight warmth of which left Ryeowook a bit surprised since he expected his coffee to have turned completely cold by now, after being left neglected when his mind drifted to wherever it wished to.
He scooted towards the corner even more, as if trying to hide from the tall guy’s sight. It wasn’t until he tried lifting the cup to take a sip that he realized his hands were actually shaking. He tried taking deep breaths to calm himself down. Now, he could almost taste in his tongue the bitterness of the smell of coffee. He finally took a sip of his drink, which he now wished he had ordered a decaffeinated version instead, plus some shots of cream. Even after putting in three cubes of sugar, the bitterness still overpowered the taste and he started to fear the palpitation he was going to get afterwards.
“One iced americano with two shots of vanilla cream for Kyuhyun,” Ryeowook heard the barista politely call out.
He looked down at his hands which were now shaking even more upon hearing the name—Kyuhyun. Cho Kyuhyun , his brain shamelessly and vividly recalled. As if all his efforts of pushing that name back to the darkest corner of his mind were suddenly put into vain. He started to nervously chew on his lips as the last few memories came crashing in, occupying all of his consciousness. He clenched his hands tightly, trying to hold on to the remaining bits of resistance left. But it was too late, as his mind involuntarily surrendered to the memories, as if it just happened yesterday.
“Ryeowook-ah,” Kyuhyun desperately called out for how many times now. “Please don’t do this,” his breath hitched as he tried to get his desperate pleas across to the other, hoping it would actually reach the latter's heart and change it.
Ryeowook bit his lip, trying to stop his tears which were now brimming in his eyes. He tried his best not to look at the other as he firmly removed the hand which was desperately gripping his wrist. “I’m sorry,” was all he could bring himself to say.
“Is there really nothing I can do to change this? Ryeowook-ah… Ryeowook. Ryeowook, please,” Kyuhyun cried. “I cannot go on without you. I really can’t,” Kyuhyun said as he clutched his chest with the hand that Ryeowook just pushed away. “I- I’m sorry. Whatever it was that made you change, that made us change, I’ll try to fix it. I’m sorry, I’m really sorry. Ryeowook, please. I'll try harder, I promise.”
“You’ll be fine without me,” Ryeowook firmly and briefly responded, trying to keep his composure and refusing to give even a single glance towards the other. Ryeowook could feel a burning feeling in his gut, which he welcomed, probably treating it as his immediate punishment for hurting someone who did nothing but love him wholeheartedly. But Ryeowook knew it was not working out anymore. He could no longer count how many nights have turned into mornings, with him not getting even a wink of sleep as he tried to convince himself that there was something wrong with him for even feeling the way he does. Or for not feeling the way he should be. He could not understand how he was falling out of love, when everything was perfect. Even though everything was perfect.
Kyuhyun, although he had his own episodes of moodiness, never let a day go by where he made Ryeowook feel he was not loved. Because they were good friends before they confessed their more-than-platonic feelings to each other, they already knew each other so well, and Kyuhyun never changed. He has always been the best friend Ryeowook knew. But there lies the problem. Ryeowook realized how he just wanted to go back to when they were friends. Just friends.
Ryeowook berated himself plenty of times for even feeling this way. He knew that what they had was what everyone wanted. Everyone wanted it—except Ryeowook. He could not understand why, and could not even pinpoint the exact time when his feelings started to change. As if it slowly dissipated on its own, and he could no longer reciprocate the love Kyuhyun has been giving him. And it made Ryeowook feel as if he could never give enough. And every time he felt that, he could feel a heavy tug in his heart, as if he was tightly anchored to a place where he did not want to be in. It became a place he wanted to escape from. Kyuhyun became someone Ryeowook wanted to escape from. Especially since he knew that Kyuhyun knew.
When Kyuhyun’s enthusiastic hugs would turn into quick pats on the back whenever Ryeowook did not respond to the gesture.
When the sparkle in Kyuhyun’s eyes would turn into veiled disappointments whenever Ryeowook would turn down the other’s invitations to go out on dates, using work as an excuse.
When Kyuhyun, who would always happily sing as he does things, would start to lower his voice into quiet hums when Ryeowook would enter the room, scared that it would bother Ryeowook’s peace.
Kyuhyun knew everything, but instead of confronting Ryeowook about the change, Kyuhyun chose to change himself bit by bit. And Ryeowook could not live with it. Ryeowook started to hate himself for it. He could not stand seeing Kyuhyun turning into a lesser version of himself, just because Ryeowook was not capable of giving enough.
“I’m really sorry, Kyuhyun,” Ryeowook quietly apologized.
“Please, Ryeowook,” Kyuhyun weakly begged. “I love you.”
“I— I don’t,” Ryeowook finally admitted, his own breath hitching as sobs started to escape.
“Why?” Kyuhyun gathered all his courage to ask that final question, weakly tugging the hem of Ryeowook’s shirt.
“I just… don’t. Not anymore,” Ryeowook answered, before he felt the weak grip on his shirt disappear.
Kyuhyun was now unable to say anything more, and could only helplessly look at Ryeowook slowly walking away.
Ryeowook smiled. “Still with two shots of vanilla cream,” he whispered to himself. He didn’t know whether it was comforting or unsettling as he realized that Kyuhyun was still the same person he always knew him to be.
Ryeowook’s greatest fear after choosing to leave was to see Kyuhyun change into someone who no longer believed in love. Worse, to have Kyuhyun believe that he was not worthy of being loved back. Kyuhyun deserved everything. Everything that Ryeowook could not give. But seeing him now, he was happy to find out for himself that his worries remained to be nothing but just worries.
Ryeowook slowly lifted his gaze back to Kyuhyun, who was now at his seat. Ryeowook could feel a heavy burden slowly lift itself off from his heart as he finally saw once again the warm sparkle in Kyuhyun’s eyes as the latter heartily laughed. Ryeowook’s eyebrows slightly furrowed as it finally sinked in—he was no longer the reason for those beautiful smiles. But he quickly brushed those thoughts aside, remembering how he was the one who took them away in the first place. More than anything, he felt warmth in his heart, seeing happiness finally occupy Kyuhyun’s eyes once again.
Ryeowook did not tear his gaze away from Kyuhyun, even after he and the person he was with slowly gathered their things and headed towards the cafe’s exit. Ryeowook tilted his head in slight confusion as Kyuhyun paused at the exit.
Kyuhyun took one deep breath before turning back, finally meeting the gaze of the person whom he was surprisingly pleased to see. He gave the person a quick wave and a smile, before once again turning back, fully stepping out of the dimly lit room, welcoming the warmth of the afternoon sun.