Not Too Young
“I’ll pay.” Haesol’s soft melodic voice announced.
“No, it’s fine. Let me treat you for once.” He chuckled pushing my hand away refusing my offer. His large hand ruffled through my hair making it a mess. “Oppa!” I shouted playfully smacking his hand away.
Haesol, or rather Zion T., which he preferred I called him that way in public, was a close friend of mine. I met him on my 20th birthday at this nightclub in Hongdae. Being that I was a fan of his, I was star struck. He eased my nerves by pulling his sunglasses down to the brim of his nose and winking at me. We ended up chatting all night, mostly about his music. I thought it was a dream until I woke up the following morning with a text from him. That’s how our innocent friendship began a year ago.
The more I got to know him as person…as Haesol, I started to like him more. I felt our feelings were mutual since he felt so comfortable around me. Haesol always took his sunglasses off when it was just him and I. Those moments looking into his eyes, are the ones I treasured the most.
“Oppa.” I whispered, slowly losing the courage to tell him how I felt.
“Mh?” He answered keeping his eyes on the road.
“What is it?” He chuckled. His hand gently patted mine encouraging me to say what I needed to.
“—I like you. A lot…I like you a lot. I love spending time with you and just being around you. I’d really like it if we could date. Exclusively.” I shyly looked over to him trying to see the expression in his eyes. His grip on the wheel tightened and he released a deep sigh. “Was I wrong to think you felt the same?”
“You’re important to me, but I don’t want that kind of relationship with you.”
“I mean you’re just really young.”
“Why does my age matter?” He pulled up in front of my apartment and parked the car. Haesol shifted in his seat and thought over his words carefully.
“It just…” He seemed unsure of the words that were about to leave his mouth.
“I mean my age shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t even be a factor on whether you feel the same or not.” I turned slightly in my seat to face him.
“You’re a really sweet girl, but—“
“Oppa,” I cut him off, “Do you like me or not?”
“I can’t be with you. Our ages are just…too far apart.”
“That’s not what I asked.” I was becoming frustrated with him dancing around the subject.
“I know…I just—“
“Yes or no?”
“No! Okay, no.” He sighed and slammed his hand on the steer wheel.
“Fine.” I grabbed my purse and reached for the handle.
“It’s fine. Let’s just pretend I said nothing.”
That’s exactly what I did, I pretended as if nothing happened. Though Haesol tried to bring the subject up several times, I always shut him down. It was too painful to think about it or look him in the eyes as he continuously apologized to me. I slowly tried to distance myself from him without making it seem as if I was still hurt. Even though I was hurting…I didn’t want Haesol to be hurt in the process too.
I started hanging out with my friends more and meeting new people. I made sure my nights and weekends were busy so that I had no free time…any time for him.
“Do you wanna grab dinner tonight?” He whispered into the phone. Haesol was in the middle of filming Show Me the Money 5 and called me during his break.
“You’ve been really busy lately.”
“Yeah, well…I have other friends that wanna spend time with me to…so.”
“Maybe I can join—“
“No, we’re a bit too young for you,” realizing what I said I rushed off the phone, “Anyway I gotta go.”
Immediately regretting what I said, I texted him and invited him to a party over the weekend. He wouldn’t know anyone there except for me, but he could probably make new friends. The party atmosphere would be great too. I could disappear in a crowd and not get caught up in Haesol…or my feelings for him.
He never responded to my text and I was completely unsure if he was coming to the party or not. I found myself constantly checking my phone for his texts and realizing how much I missed even the simplest smile emoji from him.
“What’s wrong?” Not realizing my dejected emotion was plastered on my face and bringing the mood down I smiled softly.
“It’s that guy again isn’t it?” Joonie knew me so well, without me having to say anything. He was a close friend of mine I met in Uni during one of our group projects. I was never able to introduce Joonie and Haesol to one another, but I spoke about Haesol to Joonie often. When I was with Haesol…I only ever thought about him so Joonie never came up.
“I invited him to the party, but he never responded. So I have no clue if he’s coming…or if I’ll even hear from him again.” My eyes started to blur as I tried to hold back my tears.
“Don’t worry…even if he doesn’t come tonight, he’ll definitely contact you again. There’s no way he wouldn’t.” He wrapped his arm around my shoulder comforting me. A shadow casted over us and the figure cleared their throat.
“Haesol,” I turned greeting him, “I didn’t think you were coming.” I shrugged Joonie’s arm off of my shoulder and made room for Haesol.
“You invited me…so?” He took the seat next to me and adjusted his sunglasses.
“Haesol this is—“
“Joonie, nice to meet you.” He interrupted and reached his hand out.
“Joonie?” Haesol accepted his hand and for a brief moment I saw static between the two.
“Isn’t he the singer?”
“Yes…but why are you speaking in English?”
“Because I’m a great friend that’s going to help you.”
“Just follow along with whatever I say or do. Okay?” He reached for my hand and laced his fingers with mine.
“For this to work, you have to be devoted to me and not pay attention to him.”
“…okay.” How could I possibly not pay any attention to the one person that makes my heart skip a beat?
“You look really beautiful tonight.” Joonie raised our laced hands to his lips and kissed mine softly. My eyes widened in surprise and my initial reaction was to look at Haesol. Joonie, knowing this stopped my chin with the tip of his fingers and softly shook his head no.
“I love how it subtlety shows off parts of your body.” His fingertips danced down my arm and to my thigh. I felt Haesol shift in his seat.
“How do you two know each other?” Haesol interrupted as his eyes were fixed on Joonie’s hand. Seeing this he teased him more by rubbing his hand on my thigh.
“We met in class and immediately clicked. But she’s been fixated on some guy until recently. So I figured it’s my chance to swoop in and steal her heart.” Joonie smirked and smiled towards me.
“Huh, is that so?” Haesol eyebrows furrowed together showing his frustration. He reached for my wrist and tugged me from my seat, “Can you show me where the drinks are?”
“They’re over there.” Joonie pointed and pulled me back next to him. Haesol looked to me waiting for me to join him.
“They’re over there.” I repeated and pointed to the bar in the back corner. He stormed off and disappeared in the crowd.
“He seems angry.” Joonie sighed and relaxed back into the leather couch.
“Maybe…I should check on him.” Joonie reached for my shoulder and pulled me back into him.
“Relax, it’s only just begun.” He had a mischievous smile on his face as I snuggled into his arm. “Do you trust me?” He shifted to look at me.
“Yes, of course.”
Somehow in those few moments…I had completely forgotten about Haesol. I don’t know if it was the physical contact or just simply sitting and talking with a friend, but in that moment it was just Joonie and I. His fingers playfully played with mine and he brushed loose strands of hair away from my face. We talked about our classes and the fear of getting a good job after graduation. He softly kissed my forehead assuring me everything would work out. And in that moment I believed him.
The sound of a glass breaking caught my attention. Haesol was stumbling and clumsily bent over to pick up the broken pieces. I rushed over to his side and grabbing his arm to pull him up. The bartender kindly reassured him everything was okay and that she would get it, but he refused.
“Haesol, no.” He reached for a large shard of glass and cut his finger.
“I got it.” His words came out a slur as he proudly showed off the piece of glass he retrieved from the ground.
“Haesol…your hand.” Blood began to drip from his finger and on to the floor. The bartender panicked and grabbed a small trash bin for him to throw away the shard of glass into.
“Here.” She handed me a towel to wrap around his hand. I grabbed him by his arm and struggled to steady him while guiding him to the bathroom. Entering the bathroom I locked the door and dragged him to the skin.
“I hope it’s not too bad.” I mumbled pulling his hand under the water. He flinched and moved to stand behind me. Haesol dropped his head to my shoulder and breathed deeply.
“How could you let him touch you so casually?” He whispered softly.
“Hm?” I washed his hand making sure there were no glass pieces in his cut.
“—you’re already falling for him?” He lifted his head and placed his chin on my shoulder while watching my reflection in the mirror.
“Maybe.” I hummed.
“Why’d you drink so much? This isn’t like you at all.” I looked up in the mirror looking to him for answers.
“Do you know me…at all?”
“What does that mean?” I dried his hand and leaned against the counter to face him.
“I mean…never mind.” He studied his hand and wrapped a paper towel around the cut.
“Do you need to go to the hospital?”
“Maybe…but not for this cut.”
“You got cut somewhere else?” Panicking I started searching his other hand and arms for any cuts.
“I’ve been wounded and cut deep in my heart.”
“How much did you drink?” I rolled my eyes and walked towards the door. Haesol placed his uncut hand on the door to block me.
“Please,” he whispered and leaned his head against my back, “don’t go.” I felt a pain in my heart and wanted to hold him close, but refused to do as my body wished.
“There’s nothing keeping me here and Joonie’s waiting for me…so…I’m gonna go.” I unlocked the door and turned the handle.
“I don’t like seeing you with someone else.” I tried to read his face but couldn’t see his eyes past his sunglasses.
“That should be me holding your hand and telling you that you look beautiful.”
“Why? I’m too young, remember?”
“You’re not…it doesn’t matter.” He stood his ground and faced me.
“So…what does that mean?” I asked anticipating the answer I’ve wanted to hear. He walked closer to me as he prepared himself for the words about to leave his lips.
“I missed you so much,” he removed his sunglasses, “which is what I came to tell you tonight. But then you were flirting with that guy—“
“—that guy,” he groaned annoyed, “and I got angry, but couldn’t figure out why. But the more I watched you with him the more upset I got.”
“Very jealous,” he leaned in closer our lips barely touching, “I like you, more than you know.“ Haesol’s lips gently pressed against mine as my body completely relaxed into our kiss.
“Wow.” I whispered as he pulled away from me.
“From now on tell that guy—“
“I don’t think Joonie is really going to care if I’m taken or not.” I smirked.
“Then I’ll tell—“
“Because he’s gay.” I smiled to myself as Haesol’s face twisted in confusion. Laughing I silently thanked Joonie for his genius plan.