“What is the point? Everyone does it. Everyone is selfish. But few are selfish like this.” Hoseok tossed the letter from his family into the trash can next to his desk. If there ever was a place to find him in his most angered state it would be in his bedroom. Either a place for solace, or a place for animosity. Today it wasn’t a book in his hand while he leaned against his bed frame, but a letter, and he was pacing across the floor, chewing on the inside of his cheek. He had read every word that was meaningful to him out loud, scowling in the process.
“I’m surprised I didn’t see it in the paper first. Maybe this part of the country hasn’t quite gotten the news yet. I’m guessing they have had the decision made for quite sometime. I can’t believe they actually chose to have enough grace to tell me themselves.”
Hoseok’s family owned a steel company, one of the ones that has been family owned for two generations and successful enough that they sent Hoseok away for school, to the northeast. At least a good day’s travel away by train. Fine by him though, as he said several times, he didn’t want to live in their house anymore. The walls were too busy and rooms too full, his mother aimlessly worrying and fussing over his appearance and his manners. He was about as mannerly as a rich boy could get. He was charming, thanks to all the schools and classes on manners and all those things that the wealthy drowned their children in from a young age. Not to mention the constant nitpicking by family members, father telling him how he needs to be a gentleman, to run the family business someday.
There was nothing he hated more. Nouveau Riche. The blatant wealth his family built their lives upon. How could someone actually live comfortably this way? But it was the 1920s, nobody has had wealth like this before. Now was the time to buy anything and everything you could get your hungry hands on.
His mother was from an already wealthy family, true old money.
Not even that she could feel bad by the term, because her family knew how to use it well enough that she may as well be apart of the nobility anyways. Traveling around the great expanse of this earth attending convents, those only for the wealthiest, those that only the most prestigious women came from.
Prestigious is a word, in fact, that Hoseok has heard so many times he thought he may vomit. A place of prestige though does carry a higher culture in which those who delve within it may be looked at with wonder and adornment. Thats how his mother’s family felt about it anyways, as well did she. Learning how to be the best lady there was in a room, but not too overbearingly so, just enough to land a husband of equal or higher status. Thats how wealthy families worked. If you intermarry you double the funds and you combine family names in order to create some sort of society amongst themselves and ignore anyone else.
Since she desired a certain level of living, she would only subject her children to the best. His brother and sister seemed to be fine by it, treasured by her hand as though they were her own rubies and pearls, both of which he knew only existed truly in her jewelry box on the vanity. He’s considered making these such pieces disappear for quite awhile, but at the same time never cared much enough to follow through with it.
They could recite poems, had a love for symphonies and could have an in depth conversation about literature at the age of 10, but Hoseok was never one to even try. If he did anything with depth it was study the behavior of those around him enough that he could read a person’s thought seemingly with one look, as well as uncover a thought out lie. Since he began to dissect society in such manners as well as the falsity of human emotion that surrounded him, he was able to lie and get away with it very easily.
This was something his father disapproved of greatly, but was never around as much and only was feeble and harmless in Hoseok’s mothers presence. She was never quite one to dispel the idea of a woman’s fragility, in fact what she did was quite the opposite. She chose to take spells here and there when his father would particularly want to argue with his son, about whatever he wished. During these spells she acted as if he was nothing but a tyrant, tearing his son apart at the seams, which Hoseok knew didn’t even exist. He managed to iron those out and water proof them, nothing was about to break his shell, at least nothing from his family. Her act of mental despair only led to his father forgiving him for anything he may of done, and insisting that they take a trip with their mother someplace they wanted.
Hoseok didn’t mind these trips, he was able to go on his own, to sleep in, to wander around the hallways of these large hotels and not be questioned by anyone, and when he was, his mother was there to take care of it. These trips also allowed for too much time to spend with his siblings and his mother together. It was far from a great mixture, due to the fact that she had practically designed them to be miniature versions of her.
Not to be confused, there were things about his mother that he liked, rather enjoyed. She was the type of educated that was far from possible in his present day. She was the type of eloquent and elegant that was hardly manageable by anyone that hasn’t been to as many places as she, or has had as many experiences. So if there was any one thing he adored, it was her mind. So questionable, so twisted, and yes, so brilliant.
In a way she had also modeled him into her clone, but for the sake of his wellbeing he chose personally to ignore the little things that made them especially unbearable. His siblings seemed to have this faux essence of sophistication. They may listen to classical music but within those tiny little minds they had no understanding of how it was even made or the type of work that had to go into composing such numbers. In this way he felt better, he had her mind. He knew wrong from right and most importantly how to get his way, even in the strangest of circumstances.
It made him a very popular and mysterious person around town. Some only knew of him as the son of you know, the biggest steel company in the country. So handsome, so articulate, so outspoken, and so questionably roguish. It made him interesting to say the very least.
“Can you believe?” He was fuming, the smoke teasing at just billowing out of his ears, nostrils flaring as they did anytime someone mentioned the family business. You reached into the tin wastebasket next to his desk for the letter, just to see exactly what it was this time that had made him so incredibly angry. Of course you were never in any position to question him, he understood the family dynamic much better than you. He knew every little dirty detail in some way or the other. One key was going out in the moonlight when he was home, hearing what people had to say as if he wasn’t a part of the family himself.
You skimmed over the precious handwriting of his mother until you found the correct sentence to set him off. Some mess of words mentioning acquiring more space, needing to hire more workers, having to cut back in pay. The words even left you feeling sad. They were something that hit too close to home for you. You didn’t feel to have the same type of hate he had for his family or even people within similar positions. This is just how the world works, as disheartening as it seems sometimes.
“Thank God its Friday. If I sleep through class anymore this week I’m sure they’ll send a disappointing letter home. I need to go out, I think we should go.”
You nodded, tossing the letter back into its necessary place. He grabbed your coat from the rack, holding it out behind you so you could slide your arms right in. You knew that of all things he possessed, he would never be able to break his charm.
The winter was cold here, freezing in fact. And a Friday night was quite popular for people, the weekend always was. You knew it would be warmer downstairs, and even warmer with a drink in you. Although it always made you feel strange. Not that you weren’t used to going against rules or even laws to be frank, but the type of business you ended up into with Hoseok always left you with a deeply rooted sense of dread. Of course he always knew what to do, and as well did you. But he was luckier, and he made you luckier, too. There are certain upsides to having the name that was branded onto every piece of steel within this godforsaken city, and certain upsides to having a very odd but close relationship with one of those people.
Knocking entering an old man’s shoe store through an alleyway door was always quite eerie, there was a few ways to get into these places but he always had a knack for choosing the one that creeped you out. He never entered a place the same way twice. He held your hand, warming it, but also leading you safely down a set of untrustworthy stairs. You prayed silently to yourself that your kitten heels wouldn’t get caught anywhere within the cracks and missing pieces, your eyes unable to even see exactly where your feet were heading, except for the dull light at the end of the stairs.
You were greeted at the end by a menacing metal door, Hoseok’s light rasp against its peeling paint. A small window within the door was opened up, enough room for him to say a password to them quietly but confidently, the light from the room inside illuminating his face, but sometimes it seemed the other way around. The light always knew how to catch his cheek bones in such a way that he always seemed to be radiating.
The place was big, big for what it was at least. And it seemed to be pretty popular for tonight, but there were enough seats at the bar open for you to sit alone and feel comfortable there. Most of the people were off in little booths, wrapped up in each other and really letting all the alcohol do the talking, and letting everything and anything else happen. Places like this were so unapologetic, and thats what you liked about them.
Everything seemed to be wooden, the bar, the chairs. The walls were just exposed brick as well as some of the flooring. Some of these places were barren and the others were quite pristine and elegant in their own ways. This place in particular was someplace in between, and gave you a really warm and inviting feeling. The only thing uncomfortable was the trip inside. But the music was nice, it was smooth, and at a decent volume as well.
Hoseok always hollered at the bartender, asking for a drink for the lady, then he made his way to the table, taking his place, all eyes on him. Not even just the men surrounding him, but the women in the establishment also noticed him. It made the men scoff, as if he was actually trying something on everyone in the room. It was brandy, you soon learned that it was safe among choices.
The place was dark, it was underground for goodness sake. It was lit by a few wall lamps, always dim in nature. The bartender was always kind, and always alert for any type of mishap. Liquor was hidden, of course, a faux brick wall housed bottles of wine and various liquors that could be easily attained. A certain wire was used, stuck into a small crack and jimmied around so that the door would unlock. It was generally safe, some places safer than others. There was a payout, if you kept up with it you wouldn’t be busted, but that didn’t always mean anything at all.
The table was always filled with various kinds of men. The type who were generally kind and had a family at home, so they gambled recreationally for the thrill. Or there were those who were true scumbags, spent all their time hitting on the girls even though they were more than likely married. But they were swindlers and had some money to spare. Then those who were actual mobsters, but Hoseok knew his way around them, whether it be in avoidance or the fact that he didn’t seem to care who he was up against. Places like this weren’t for the light of heart. You had to make the reason for your presence known otherwise things here would go very, very badly.
He did his thing, and you did yours. Sitting at the darkened bar, drink in hand. It was lit by a few wall lamps, always dim in nature. The bartender was always kind, and always alert for any type of mishap. This wasn’t the place that you both usually frequented, but it was the right place for him to be tonight. You always had a drink or two before walking past the table, it was a needless gesture to see what he was really up to at this point in time (not to say you didn’t trust him), and sometimes he preferred that you did it as a distraction. It usually worked out for him.
But it was always the slimiest of men who called out to you.
“Tell me here doll, is this your daddy? You don’t see a guy dressed this well down in this joint usually. Let’s say this, if I get a couple clams in this round here, you give me some cash.” The guy was grinning at you like a cat, greased up and ready to roll at the drop of a pin. You knew what you had to do, there were guys like this everywhere you went, and you only played nice if Hoseok told you to. Playing nice had never been your style, and it was something he absolutely adored about you.
“Sorry, the bank’s closed. And if you even try, I’ll hit you right in the kisser. If anybody’s gonna get any cash it’ll be my daddy.”
“Attagirl.” Hoseok said with a dark smirk, rolling a chip between his fingers with ease. With a wink you made your way back to the bar, and Hoseok continued his game with hushed chatter from the men surrounding him, now grunting in their seats at your lively encounter. That was probably the most action any of them would get for a week.
“Butt me, Charles, will ya? And I need a light too if ya got it.” You sat back down on the barstool, leaning graciously over the counter at the bartender. You didn’t come here often, but Hoseok always made friends with the men behind the bar for you, and they always gave you very good treatment. He handed you a cigarette as you twisted it into your short filter, and puffed a few times to catch the light. You breathed in deeply, inhaling every last bit of it that you could take. Your eyes were tired from the drinks and the smoke but you had to carry on for tonight. It was just what you did. Times like these were boring for you, you were mulling over the idea of anything else, any other type of girl you could be.
You were with Hoseok for a few reasons and a few reasons only: you were blunt and brash, knew the street better than anyone he had ever met, and you were cute enough to be a distraction for anyone. He also couldn’t figure you out at all.
The thing about Hoseok is that he was comfortable being able to read people easily, but when he met you it was a true case of tabula rasa in human form. There was nothing. Only a blank area to be built upon. He was stuck learning about you in a conventional way, which just kept him guessing. He didn’t like to learn a lesson unless he was teaching it to himself. So you let him play with that idea, and he got a few things out of you. Like where you’re from, and how you got here. And what all you know about the city streets. He trusted your companionship although you rarely got along. The only reason you were still friends, if thats what one should refer to you as, is because you both know how to keep your mouths shut.
He never played for long, maybe about an hour or two. The bartender kept you company, the only type of guy that Hoseok would let near you unless he could tell the guy was a poor hopeless bastard. Those were the only two exceptions. You preferred it that way anyways, you weren’t into needless conversation, but sitting at a bar alone with a drink wasn’t the most amusing. You could sit at the table with the men, some women did and often, but it wasn’t your style, and it wasn’t really your business.
It usually ended with a crowd of groans and maybe some obscenities, a few chairs scooting across the cement floors as men raised from their chairs in disbelief. All to which Hoseok would gingerly shake his head at his table of opponents as if it was no big deal, while laughing in his head about how some of them really didn’t know how to play, or how he tricked the rest.
“Ah, well isn’t that swell. Don’t worry boys, you’ll all be getting some.” He started tossing cash around the table to every man there, until he stopped on the particularly greasy one. “Except for you. Talk to my girl again and I’ll have to bump you off.” He stuffed the rest of the cash into the pocket inside his suit jacket, and made his way towards you at the bar. The men then had no choice but to stare as he walked away, questioning who he was or what the point was at all.
“Charles, do something with this would ya?” He tossed about what looked like $50 at him, and Charles looked up with wide eyes. The poor guy gathered the cash as quickly as he could over the wooden glazed bar, and stashed it. Hoseok was careful enough with the places he went to, benefitting their payouts to the police graciously enough that he was close to becoming a bootlegger himself. It was how many men made a living these days.
This was a common occurrence, he didn’t play for the money– he played to win. It was almost like a joke. But he was ridiculously good at it, and he made sure everyone knew that. And he could keep that money. The amount of fear he put into all those little family men was fascinating, he was a harmless rich kid but he did well at making people think that he may just be the type of person they don’t want to be on the bad side of.
Most of it was a show, and he didn’t skimp, but neither did you. This place was filled with girls clinging to men they had either just met or came with, but when it came to the two of you, it may as well be a silver screen moment and you may as well be the biggest names in all the business. The way he grazed your jaw with his finger was nothing short of a romance novel within itself. And he looked at you like you were the only real human with substance in the whole damn room. To him, you were.
He leaned in slowly, to press his lips to yours with the perfect amount of pressure, only to pull away with a bit of lipstick on his own. To which he rubbed off with his thumb like he just got the necking of a lifetime. There was always one, and it was different every time, depending on the mood. Each simple, but marvelous in their own right.
You both left the establishment a different way than you came in, the cold air hitting your barely covered legs like ice. You sucked in a big breath at the biting feeling and waited for Hoseok to duck underneath the short alleyway doorframe, handing the doorman the rest of the cash stowed in his pocket. Sometimes the way he looked under faintly lit street lamps and dim moonlight made your heart wanna skip a beat, but looking at a boy with that kind of eye was never your style. You only played with him, pretended to be his girl. Pretended well enough that it was beginning to become the absolute truth. After all, all you really had here in this city was him, he was your chance to start over and really be someone new.
And you needed the new.
“It’s getting boring to act like a complete vamp. You’re gonna have to give me something else to do, like let me play a real vamp.” You pulled your coat around your shoulders a little tighter against the cold air, slight breezes from passing cars not doing you any favors.
“What do you want from me? I thought you liked this. I thought it made you feel free? What happened to that?” He was whining now, the only time he ever did it. It was as if you didn’t tire him at all, just hurt his feelings which was a strange occurrence. Both of you have made it very clear that there were no emotions amongst either of you at any time.
“All you do, Hoseok, is drag me along and have me play some character. But I never get any action! And then you thank me by buying me things! I still have no idea where you got this coat.” You waved a mink covered arm in front of his face.
“Well, I didn’t buy that coat.” He huffed, as if it was something you should’ve already known.
“Don’t tell me…”
“Oh! No. I just stole it from my mother’s closet. She’ll hardly miss it. She has about 20 mink coats, very subtle variations.” He shook his head, pouting as if the whole action of stealing from his mother wasn’t anything close to being punishable. Maybe it wasn’t.
“I can’t believe you!” You said with a gasp, wanting to strip off the coat right then and there. And you would’ve if it wasn’t so darn cold outside.
“I think now you should do what you want to, I suppose. You’ve been very good to me.” He furrowed his brows, nodding his head as if he thought about it long and hard and finally came to the right decision. But you knew that he was only half joking. Of course he wanted you to do more, but he wanted you to do what he wanted.
“Make up your mind.” You were almost back to your building now, he always walked you to yours before heading back to his own room, like a true gentleman.
“Whatta’ya say doll, cash or check?” He smiled sweetly, leaning lowly to match his height with yours. His tone was mocking fully of the grease that tried talking to you at the bar. You groaned in disgust and pushed his face away
“You’re in serious debt now. Go on, its cold out here. That stolen mink won’t keep you warm forever. But you’re my girl right? My doll?”
“You know I am.” You rolled your eyes and walked inside, hoping not to catch the woman who was always at the front desk checking when people came and went. She remembered you, but you also knew that she had serious hankering for late night snacks and was either away chasing down something to eat, or fallen asleep by now.
You slipped off your shoes like any true party girl, your panty hose slick on the floor beneath you. You also had acquired the habit of tucking away your pearls and beads so that no noise could be heard other than the radio from the front desk. You peeked around the corner, only too find her head leaning back, in a deep sleep. A smirk flashed across your ruby painted lips, and you climbed up the stairs across from her and quietly as you could, smiling wildly at the thought that one little creak may wake her, and then how will you explain yourself?
Every older generation couldn’t understand, of course they were all bustling about as much as their junior, but not quite in the same way. Hoseok held that exact style that adults hated; the one exuding wealth and confidence, charm, and the fact that he was so disconnected from any sort of past this earth has had. Now was the time for growth, for exploration. The time for music, and dancing, may the parties get bigger, may the glasses run over. Let the skirts get shorter, and shorter, and the hair too.
This was the exact time and place for the both of you. And you knew it, he knew it. He couldn’t be happier about that fact at all. It seemed to be all he had that really kept him going with all of this, the idea that he could really change it all, in the time where everything seemed to be changing so quickly and so drastically.
Hoseok walked to his building alone, walking slowly in the freezing January air. He always felt unsatisfied. It didn’t feel good to win anymore, it hardly felt that good to give it all away. It seemed to feel like a chore at this point, so he knew that he needed a new scheme, that you were right. There needed to be some kind of change. His plan needed to be broadened, he needed to get into a real mess. He was just playing it safe, way too safe. That wasn’t the style anymore.
Shutting his door quietly, he unbuttoned his coat and removed along with his suit jacket, hanging them up in the hooks by the door.
Hoseok fell into his desk chair, leather bound at every place except for the legs. With both hands he rubbed over the expanse of his face in a tired fashion, thinking over tonights events and wondering what to have you do next that would keep everyone distracted and him right in the place where he needed to be. But his mind was a jumbled mess, still bitter about the letter that he had received from his family earlier that day. He was the type to hold a grudge, but he was also the type to do it within reason and always fix it in the end.
His mind blank, he reached into the wastebasket once more, picking up the crumpled piece of paper. Flattening it out, he looked at it with furrowed brows, and an unmistakable tinge of sadness. With a sigh he rose from his chair and walked towards his bed. Crouching down, he reached for a metal safe box, put the number into the lock, and opened up the lid. There displayed to him was a neat pile of letters, whether they still be in envelopes or by themselves. Some even held photos, or clippings from the newspapers. He looked somberly at the letter in his hand one last time before he laid it on top of all the others, and shut the box.