skull chisel

3

Naomi’s chisel feels charged with electricity. She is suffused with strength and light, every cell of her body burning with the desire to create, to bend the mysterious hunk of stone to her will. She knows without question that it will yield to her. It’s only a matter of time. As it is with everything.

This particular marble block cost her, or rather Alex, §27000. A bargain! Alex arranged for it to be shipped here directly from a quarry in Hidden Springs. It took a crane and 8 men to transport it down to the basement. One of the men, trying to be friendly, said he thought it was a nice rock. Naomi said nothing but she felt personally affronted. This is a more than a chunk of rock: it resonates with a dark, preternatural beauty. Naomi imagines that it is her step-daddy’s skull, her hammer and chisel splintering its stippled surface with devastating precision. Travertine shards glance her skin but she is oblivious. She is so deep in pursuit of the secrets that lurk within the marble it is as if she has entered another realm.

Then the spell is broken by a knock on the door.

Too Late {Part 2}

“I don’t like you anymore. I don’t see a point in dating someone I got bored of. Let’s just break up.”

Part 1

Pairing: Monsta X Minhyuk x Reader
Genre: Angst
Word Count: 4.7k
A/N: It took me way too long to post this ^^’ But finally, here is the sequel to part 1 of Too Late. Hopefully I’ll be able to wrap up the story in part 3, but who knows where this is taking me~

That night when Minhyuk’s mother found me, I could not get even a wink of sleep. I was tossing and turning in my bed so many times that I lost count. A few hours earlier, she had asked me to break up with her son because I was not a good match for him. She knew about my family’s terrible financial situation and my mother’s deteriorating health, so she had offered me enough money to pay for a heart surgery which my mother needed to live. Truth be told, although I loved Minhyuk with all my heart and felt like I could not go on without him, my family played an equally important part in my life. Knowing that I could potentially save my mom from the jaws of death by leaving Minhyuk made the decision so much harder.

My body was hurting as if I had fallen out of the window of my apartment on the fourth floor, the inside of my head felt as if tiny men were tearing down my skull with hammers and chisels and so many tears had fallen that I could turn the desert into a fertile place, but yet I was unable to drift into the comforting arms of sleep.

That night, I was not only thinking about Minyuk’s mother’s request. Innumerable moments I had spent with Minhyuk played in my head like random scenes in a movie. Could I really give up everything we had been through? The secrets we shared, the promises we made? The thought that I would see him tomorrow at school made me feel sick, and I was contemplating whether I should skip classes. But I knew that I would receive worried text messages and numerous calls from him if I did not show up, and hearing his concerned voice would only make the situation so much worse. Since it was only a waste of time to lie awake in bed, I got up extra early to avoid running into Minhyuk at the school gate. I felt relieved and miserable at the same time when I was not greeted by his familiar smile in the morning.

I regretted my decision to come to school as soon as I entered my class room. Jangmi, my best friend who I had known since elementary school, always arrived early to review class material, and of course she was more than surprised that I had shown up so early. I was sure she had already spotted the dark circles under my eyes and knew that something wasn’t right.

“Hey, Y/N! How come you are so early today?” The questioning look in her eyes was hard to resist, and I had to pull myself together not to break into tears right there and then and tell her all about last night. But I knew that she could not help me and that only I could solve the difficult and confusing situation I was in.

“Nothing,” I lied, a crooked smile on my face. Please, don’t ask more questions, Jangmi. Just leave me alone.

To my surprise, Jangmi really only raised her eyebrows in suspicion but left it there. I sank down onto my chair, grabbed a notebook from my backpack and tried to distract myself by reading the notes from yesterday’s class. Of course, it didn’t work that well. It was hard to concentrate, especially once class started and I had to pretend to follow the teacher’s words. My thoughts constantly strayed away, going back and forth between Minhyuk, his mother and my parents.

I had been so lost in thoughts that the sound of the school bell made me wince. A wave of dread washed over my head when I realized that it was time for lunch break - I certainly wouldn’t be able to avoid Minhyuk in the school cafeteria. Nevertheless, I wanted to try.

“Hey, Jangmi, can we grab lunch together today? There is this Math question I don’t understand, and I wanted to ask if you could maybe explain it to me one more time?”

“Sure, but don’t you usually eat together with Minhyuk? I am sure he can explain it to you too.”

“No!” I hastily replied. “Um… he told me to ask you next time. He doesn’t like to talk about Math during lunch, but I really need to know the answer.” Jangmi gave me an even more puzzled look, not sure whether or not she should trust my words.

“…Fine. I’ll take my notes with me. Let’s go.”

——————————–

“…and after you plug in the value of x here, you simply use this formula to solve the equation and you’ll get the result. Quite easy, isn’t it?”

I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry at Jangmi’s words because I had only understood about half of what she was saying. I definitely had to study harder if I wanted to get a good grade on my next exam. Just when I wanted to ask her to explain part of the exercise again, someone very familiar plopped down onto the seat opposite me and my best friend. Of course, it was no other than Minhyuk. He had never been good at hiding his emotions, and I could immediately tell that he was confused and… upset.

“Y/N, I was looking for you all morning. Why weren’t you at the school gate like usually?”

“Ah, d-did I forget to tell you? I wanted to come early to study. You know, now that midterms are coming up, I need to work harder.” The look on his face transformed into one of disappointment. Of course he understood how important school work was (although he did not know that school work was not the reason why I came to school early today), but it was definitely not okay to stand him up because I forgot to tell him.

“It’s alright. …Just don’t forget next time.” There was no smile or warm expression on his face, and I could tell that he was hurt by the fact that I had forgotten about him so easily. Although Jangmi pretended to study her notes, I could tell that she was following our conversation with interest. I knew I had a lot of explaining to do afterwards. Minhyuk also was not satisfied with my excuse.

“By the way, what about lunch? Can I eat with you two, or should I look for other friends?”

“I asked Jangmi to explain this Math question to me. I really need to catch up on the class material. Do you mind looking for a different table?”

I almost squirmed under Minhyuk’s gaze: his eyes were boring right into mine, and I felt terrible for being the person who hurt him. I am sure he would forget about it quickly and give me his signature smile that made every worry fly away if I just apologized. But I couldn’t, not this time. He had never liked being rejected, but hearing me tell him to go away probably left him even more worried.

“What was that?” This time, it was Jangmi’s eyes scanning me. She knew me well enough to figure out that I had been lying to her, and I couldn’t keep her in the dark forever. But right now was not the time to pour out my worries to Jangmi, not when even I did not know how to deal with my dilemma.

“Nothing. Don’t worry about it. Can we continue where we left off?”

“Come on, Y/N, I am not stupid. Everyone knows you and Minhyuk are the picture-book couple. You barely fight, you always hang out together, you support each other, and, most importantly, you are honest to each other. What has gotten into you? Did something happen yesterday after karaoke?” Her voice was not angry; instead, it was full of concern. All she wanted to do was to help me, but it only made me feel worse. I did not want to drag her into my relationship problems as well. And what I needed least right now was an argument with my best friend.

“I appreciate your concern, I really do, but I don’t want to talk about it right now. Can we… can we just focus on Math?” The pleading tone in my voice was probably what convinced her to comply and drop the topic. I felt how tears started to collect in the corners of my eyes, but I tried my best to contain them and not show weakness in front of Jangmi.

“…alright. But if you ever change your mind and want to talk about it, you know that I am here for you. I always will be.” And in that moment, when I saw Jangmi’s honest, encouraging smile, I felt that no matter what my decision was going to be, I was not completely alone in this world.

——–

I successfully managed to avoid Minhyuk for the rest of the day. I actually did not have to do much; Minhyuk was still sulky from our conversation during lunch break, and although I felt like the most terrible and selfish human being on Earth, it was probably the best for us to not see each other. And since it was going to be the weekend tomorrow, I did not need to worry about facing him the next two days either.

That same evening, I received a text message from Minhyuk. 

[ Minhyuk ♥, 6:27pm: Hello most beautiful human being~ Wanna do something fun this weekend? Plz don’t say no again, I really want to see you! :( ]

Since he asked if we could do something together this weekend, I knew he had already decided to forget about the instance at school. Given that he still texted me, I concluded that his mother had not threatened him to break up with me yet. Or if she did, he did not seem to care. But could I allow myself not to care either?

When I came home from school, there was nobody greeting me at the front door. I took off my shoes, dropped my backpack and went straight to the kitchen to get two cups of water. I opened the small cupboard, took out two transparent cups and poured the refreshing liquid into the containers. I opened another drawer and took out some medicine, two round pills to be exact, which I put into one of the cups. Then, I went to my parents’ bedroom.

Although my mother was strong enough to walk and do some chores here and there, she usually took a nap in the late afternoon to have more energy when my dad and I came back from work and school in the evening. Since she was nowhere to be seen when I had entered our apartment, I knew that she must still be sleeping. I carried the two cups of water to her bedroom, quietly opened the door with my elbow and tiptoed inside. Great, I did not wake her up. I carefully made my way over to her side of the bed and put down the water with medicine on her night stand.

Despite her disease, my mother was a beautiful woman. Although she had lost hair, the remaining strands were long and silky. She had lost a lot of weight too, but I had to admit that even with sunken cheeks und harder features, she looked confident and pretty. I always jokingly complained to her that I was not as beautiful as she was and that she could have given me more of her genes when I was still a fetus in her belly. My mom always laughed these comments off and said that there was no human being prettier than me. I could not imagine a world without her positive, bright existence.

I must have stared at her for a little too long, because she opened her eyes and looked at me from under her lush blanket of eyelashes. As soon as she noticed me, a faint smile appeared on her face.

“My dear Y/N, welcome home. I am sorry that I did not hear you when you came in. I must have been very tired.” Her voice was weak and heavy from sleep. I didn’t understand why she was apologetic when there was no reason to be. After all, she needed to rest if she wanted to get better, or at least if she did not want her condition to worsen.

“Don’t say that, mom. You know I don’t mind. Here, I brought you water. I put your medicine in it too.”

“Thank you, my love. Why don’t you sit down next to me, and we can talk for a little while. I know you are probably busy with homework or want to go out, but let me have you for just a few minutes, okay?”

I gave her her drink and did as she said. I hated when she felt like she was a drag to me. She never was. It was true that there were things I needed to do, but her presence always calmed me and reminded me that there were more important things in life than school, work, success and money. However, this time, talking to her reminded me that all these things probably mattered more than I had wanted to admit before. Without money, my time with her was limited.

That evening, I stayed by her side longer than I usually did. We talked for a very long time, and when it got late, I helped her prepare dinner. My dad usually did not come home before 10pm. He worked as an electrician for a tiny business, and because he could not afford to lose the job or work less hours, my dad did not have a choice but stay until there were no more orders for him. The hard work and lack of money had turned him into a quiet man, but although he did not talk much, he always showed us how much he enjoyed being with my mom and me. He had the habit of nodding his head whenever he was happy about something, and usually it was at the dinner table when he nodded the most often. He always asked how our days had been, and although our responses were often routine, we could tell that he was genuinely interested in our wellbeing.

My mother must have sensed that I was in a contemplative mood all day, because when I helped her wash the dishes after dinner, the tone in her voice was serious. “There is something I wanted to tell you, Y/N. Your father and I see how hard you work every day to help us out as much as you can. On top of that, you have school work every day and even on weekends you barely go out, just to assist your father at work or me at home. We both really appreciate it, but you should also think about yourself sometimes. Go out and have fun, meet friends, date boys if you want, and do what young girls usually do. I know we don’t have a lot of money, but that doesn’t mean you have to deny everything that is refreshing. I want you to be happy, too. Promise me that you will follow your heart, and not just act on what reason tells you. Sure, that is important, but following your heart will always guide you in the right direction. Okay?”

My mother was always right. All day and night I had racked my brain over what choice to make, and in this moment I knew my decision. Like my mother said, I would follow my heart and protect the human I loved so much. With a smile on my face, I replied: “Thanks, mom.”

When I went back to my room, I plopped down onto my bed, a sudden wave of exhaustion washing over me. Finally the sleepless night and continuous worrying made themselves felt. I pulled my phone out of my backpack and finally took the time to answer Minhyuk’s text message from earlier. 

[Y/N, 11:54pm: Sure, I also want to see you this weekend. Let’s meet at our usual spot on Sunday night. OK?]

I didn’t even wait for his reply; I knew he would agree. I managed to put on my pajamas, and immediately fell back onto my bed. Before I fell into the comforting arms of sleep, I captured a last glimpse of the teardrop-shaped earrings Minhyuk had given me the day before as a present for our half year anniversary, and which I had put behind the lamp next to my bed, hidden from the view of my parents. A smile appeared on my face, and only seconds later I drifted into the land of dreams.

——–

Why am I so nervous? I had gone over the words which I was about to say countless times; they were burnt into my memory like a mantra. I knew exactly what was about to come and what I was here for. I had prepared myself for this moment many times over the last two days. But although I had memorized my part, I could not fight the emotions deep inside me, and I feared that they would take over like an unleashed beast anytime.

I let my gaze wander over the beautiful spring night scenery. To my right, the Han River was shining in the last glow of dusk while a soft breeze was painting small waves on the water’s surface. On the other side of the river, the capital’s skyline was presenting itself in its most magnificent form: thousands of tiny dots of light brightened the darkening sky, substituting the stars which could not be spotted on the firmament.

I was waiting for Minhyuk at our usual spot near a street food stand in one of Seoul’s many parks. We had had our first meal as a couple here, and ever since, this place had held something special for the both of us. When we went on dates, Minhyuk and I would usually meet up here and head to wherever we had planned to go.

I had been waiting for Minhyuk for a few minutes now. It was not that he was late, he never was. But my nerves had gotten the better of me, and I had arrived early. But after a few more moments of waiting, I could spot the person I had been anticipating to see all weekend. When I waved at him, Minhyuk quickly made his way over to me. Instead of greeting me, he just put his arms around me and pulled me into a tight hug. His grip around my waist was strong and determined, and I knew that I would always be protected and safe in his embrace. He finally let go of me and looked into my eyes, giving me one of his angelic smiles.

“I thought I would be early tonight, but it seems like you got here even earlier. I hope I did not make you wait too long.” I shook my head and he continued, “Where do you want to go tonight? I found this nice spot not too far from here, they play music there and let in people under 19 too. I heard they have a special program tonight, so I thought we should check it out. Or do you have something else in mind?” I smiled at his excitement; of course, anything related to music would catch his interest.

“Actually, there is something I’d like to talk to you about. Do you mind just… walking with me?”

“Anything for my princess,” Minhyuk said with a playful wink. When he tried to take my hand, I instantly hid my hands in the pockets of my jacket, pretending to be too cold to leave them outside. He did not question my action, and so we started to make our way along the river, with no specific destination in mind. Minhyuk, noticing my quiet attitude, started to talk about this and that, trying to find a topic that would catch my interest and make me more talkative. I only listened with one ear, nodding my head every now and then, and forcing a smile whenever he made a joke. At some point, I couldn’t take his attempts at making conversation anymore; of course he would not succeed even if he tried hard. Today, there was only one thing I wanted to talk about.

“Hey, Minhyuk, listen… There is a reason why I wanted to meet you here today.” I was surprised at how calm my voice sounded. Inside of me, I could feel an inferno of emotions burn my guts like a wolf that hadn’t eaten meat in days. Looking at the man in front of me did not help: his puppy eyes made my heart grow softer, and the way he looked at me so lovingly made me reconsider what I was about to do for a second. But I had to do this like I had planned, or Minhyuk would be even more hurt in the future. I took a deep breath before speaking the words I had practiced in my head so many times.

“Minhyuk… Maybe… Maybe it would be better if we ended our relationship.” Minhyuk stared at me with wide eyes. He had expected to hear anything, anything but this. “With all the college entrance exams coming up, I need to study harder to perform well. I don’t think I have time for… us anymore.” Lies. All lies.

A worried frown appeared on Minhyuk’s face. He could tell from the tone of my voice that I was not joking, but he did not want to believe that this was the reason to end everything we had together. “Listen, Y/N, I understand that academic performance is important to you, but don’t you want to reconsider what you just said? You did well the last few months, and if you really think our relationship is going to become a problem, we can find a solution together. We could meet up less often, or study whenever we are together. College entrance exams will be hard, but we can get through it together. Please, Y/N, don’t do this.”

From the way he clenched his fingers and bit his lower lip I could tell that Minhyuk was very tense. All I wanted to do was to say, Yes, you are right, we can overcome anything together, but I knew we couldn’t. He didn’t know about his mother’s offer, and he didn’t know that I was completely in her clutches. My heart started to beat faster in my chest, and it took all of my self-control to say the words that would break Minhyuk’s heart.

“You did not let me finish. Exams are not the only reason why I think our relationship shouldn’t continue. I don’t like you anymore. I don’t see a point in dating someone I got bored of. Let’s just break up.”

I was about to turn around and walk away so that Minhyuk would not see the tears that started to collect in the corners of my eyes, but I was stopped by Minhyuk who reached for my wrist and held it in his strong grip. When I turned around to face him, I was met with a hurt but fierce look on his face.

“Then did our relationship mean nothing to you? All the laughs, all the promises, and our kiss… were they all show? Tell me, I need to know. Were you lying to me the entire time?”

No, I love you more than you could ever imagine, I am lying right now, don’t believe any word that I just said. I love you, Minhyuk

“Yes, Lee Minhyuk. It was just pretense.” I would never forget the painful look in his eyes when he let go off my wrist and stared at me in silence.

“Ah, before I forget,” I mumbled, more to distract myself from the desperation washing over me. I took out the small pink box with the golden ribbon Minhyuk had given me only days ago. Inside were the two teardrop-shaped earrings Minhyuk had given me as a present for our six months anniversary. With a last look at the tiny box, I shoved it into Minhyuk’s hands.

“I won’t need this anymore. Sorry that you had to go through the trouble of getting this, I hope you can still return them.”

I was not able to hold back the sadness threatening to devour me anymore, and without another look at him I walked away from the man who I loved so much. Tears were streaming down my face, like so many times in the last few days, and all I could hear was the blood roaring in my ears. When I thought that I was far away enough from Minhyuk, I broke into a run and let out the loud sobs I had held back for such a long time. I hated myself for feeling so weak, I hated Somin, my jealous classmate who had told Minhyuk’s mother about our relationship, for revealing my secret, and I hated the world for being so unfair. I ignored the stares of people stopping on the street to watch me curiously, and only when the stitch in my side became too unbearable and I was gasping for breath did I stop running.

I realized that I had run out of the park and away from the river, but I had not been able to outrun the miserable feeling of lying to and breaking up with the most important man in my life. I slumped into the next best bench I found and closed my eyes, trying to calm my breath and thoughts. When I came to my senses again, if that was even possible right now, I pulled out my phone and the business card Minhyuk’s mother had entrusted me with a few days ago. My hands were shaking when I entered her phone number, and only after three attempts did I get it right. I dreaded to hear the voice on the other end, but I was determined to get what she had promised me.

“Miss Lee, this is Y/N. I fulfilled my part of the deal.”

Content to hear these words, Minhyuk’s mother’s response was gleeful. “Very good. You are such an obedient girl, I like that. I shall keep my promise and let someone deliver the money to your apartment tomorrow. But first, I will confirm the truth of your statement tonight when my son comes home. Good night, Y/N.”

Now that my part was complete and nothing remained that could distract me from the pain in my chest, I let myself fall into the dark hole of sadness and hopelessness. I pulled my legs up to my chest and buried my face in my knees, trying to mute the broken sobs that escaped my lips. My entire body was shaking, and I clenched my hands in the hope that I could squash the feeling of absolute helplessness which consumed me more with every second. What had I done wrong to deserve such a punishment? Was it wrong to love someone with all my heart?

To passers-by, I simply looked like a heartbroken little girl, nothing they had never seen before. Although I was in one of the busiest and liveliest cities in the world, I could not have felt lonelier right now. 

Suddenly, after what felt like an eternity of crying, I felt a warm, comforting hand on my cold shoulder. When I looked up to the person who had stopped to check on me, it took my eyes a while to see clearly through all the tears in my eyes and notice an elderly woman with a perm and sympathetic smile on her face . I wiped the tears from my eyes, and I could only imagine how much of a mess I must look like right now. But I couldn’t care less. The woman’s voice was calm and sympathetic when she spoke to me.

“I don’t know what happened to you, but don’t despair yet. I know it does not make sense now, but you will heal eventually. Pain passes, and it will only make you stronger. Remember that after ever storm, no matter how severe, there will be sun and warmth again. Take care of yourself.”

Those words were all she left me with, and although I felt that despair had already gripped me like a tenacious vortex, I truly wished that what she said would prove right.