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    I feel tremble from the low voice that resonates in my fevered mind. It only lasted a few seconds, but it felt like all the fear and sadness I felt during that silent moment was nothing. Although his voice was still more natural than hissing, it brought tears to my eyes because he was always so kind to me. This moment I had been waiting for felt surreal, and even the familiarity seemed like a dream, making everything else inconsequential.

    In an instant, I went back to those days. Your graduation day that still feels like yesterday.

    You who waited endlessly for me. You left, taking my heart with you. The heart I tried not to give but that went to you of its own accord, making it hard for me to forget you. I want to ask what you did with that heart. Were you so disappointed that you discarded it long ago? Then will you not listen to the apology I owe, and the answer I was supposed to give?

    “Gradu…ation, Sunbae, uh, ugh. Your gradu…ation…”

    Tears welled up, soaking his shoulder. I’m really sorry. Despite having rehearsed countless times, the words that came out were a mess, making me feel utterly pathetic. They weren’t even coherent sentences.

    “The graduation…yeah, that was so long ago huh? It’s a story from the past now.”

    As I struggled to speak, he finally replied. Despite his seemingly indifferent tone, I could sense him reminiscing. I had to brace myself just to recall these memories, but he spoke as if it were a distant story. I felt sad because our feelings that were the same seemed to have become distant and different.

    “Sunbae, I graduated…”

    “Yeah. Congrats on your graduation.”

    “That’s not it.”

    “I know. I know what you’re trying to say.”

    What do you know… What could you possibly understand? You don’t know how much I regretted it, how much I wanted to die from guilt. On the verge of breaking down, I hooked my arms around his neck and pulled him closer. I wanted to suppress my tears, but it was almost impossible.

    “Sunbae, sob. Damn, sunbae, I missed you so much.”

    “… I missed you too.”

    I felt his arms tighten around my waist. I hugged his neck even tighter with all my strength.

    “I really missed you.”

    Those words I longed to hear, that you missed me too – I had dreamed of them for so long. It was a gift of a moment, making me wish it could last forever.

    Even if he was gone, the world didn’t fall apart. I realized this the day after his graduation when I had to return to my daily life. Even though the person I liked so much was no longer in my life, time still moved on. So I just lived on, going about my usual days.

    Sometimes I felt empty and missed him because he wasn’t there at school, on the way home from school, or anywhere in the neighborhood, but in the end, I decided to endure it because it was my choice. The fact that I did it because I was scared of my father was now just an excuse, so I couldn’t blame anyone.

    Even though it was so hard, I held on better than I thought. I believed that one day I would forget him, that I would love someone else, get married, and build a family. I didn’t think it would matter no matter how brilliant and beautiful, yet suffocating, he had been in my youth. 

    But it would be a lie if I said I didn’t imagine the day we would meet by chance. I have thought several times about reuniting with my regretful first love. I imagined saying coolly, ‘You still look great, Sunbae,’ apologizing for the past, expressing my regrets, and then parting ways cleanly. I thought that would be it. What a load of crap.

    Memories are supposed to become idealized, faded, and distanced over time, so I thought I would be unaffected, but instead I was overwhelmed with tears. I missed you but didn’t realize just how much I missed seeing you like this. I was longing for you but didn’t know the depth of that longing.

    “I really missed you so much, ah, Sunbae I really…”

    How dare I say that I was sad. Saying I was sad because I couldn’t see someone I wanted to – that wasn’t something I had a right to express. Whose fault was that? My head was spinning and the sobbing made my whole body ache. Amid that, when Sunbae tried to pry me off, I panicked and quickly wrapped my legs around his waist.

    “Seo Seung-won. Seung-won. Let go for a bit.”

    “No… I don’t want to.”

    No, I don’t want to. I was wrong. So please don’t push me away. Don’t leave… The sound of my raspy voice crying was pitiful and miserable. Yet, I couldn’t stop. Even to my own ears, it sounded pathetic.

    “Sunbae, are you angry…”

    Angry enough to want me to let go?Because you’re angry at me. I swallowed my words and shed tears. He was someone who never got angry at me. Tracing his wing bone, I grabbed the hem of his clothes tightly. I felt bad for wrinkling it, but I didn’t want to let go.

    “I’m not angry. Seo Seung-won, look at hyung. Let’s just have a glass of water.”

    “You’re…lying. You’re angry, angry because I didn’t keep my promise.”

    “…”

    That’s why you never came to see me… Though he stopped trying to push me away, I stubbornly clung to his neck.

    “I regretted it so much, but you never came… If you had come to see me, you could have seen me on my knees, begging for forgiveness. How could you never come, even once… Just once would have been fine, to at least witness that…”

    “…”

    Even if you mocked my pathetic self, you should have come to see me.

    There was only one way for us to meet again. For you to find me. But he never appeared before me. Maybe he was too angry to show up, or perhaps he stayed away out of consideration for me. 

    Maybe it’s because his heart has grown cold. The bridge of my nose wrinkled at the thought.

    “But Sunbae…could it be now…”

    I don’t want to cry. Damn it, the tears won’t stop.

    “…You don’t like me anymore?”

    I wanted to see his face, but I didn’t have the courage to lift my head. I pressed my forehead against his shoulder, which was damp from my tears, and grabbed the hem of his clothes. I was afraid I wouldn’t see the person who used to love me in his face. But if he said he liked me, why… After all these years, why.

    “No, I was the one in the wrong, Sunbae could understandably feel that way, but, ah, Sunbae why, why…ah, why did you change? Why did you change like this?”

    Even if the one who longs for the other loses, I didn’t think I’d cry this much. Thanks to you, I’m showing a side of myself I’ve never revealed before. Damn, I still like you this much. Thinking that his feelings had changed made me… really sad, regretful, and full of remorse.

    No, how can real love change like that? Why would it change? Just because years went by?

    “It hasn’t changed. Of course, it hasn’t changed… I still like you, stop talking and have some water. Doesn’t your throat hurt? Are you dizzy? Let me check your temperature.”

    It seemed hopeless like this was the end… That’s why I was clinging so desperately, and then he said it. That he still liked me. That he hadn’t lost affection for me, that he still liked me.

    I hugged him tightly for a while, trying to suppress my embarrassment. After a moment, I slowly loosened my grip and stepped back. As I struggled to steady my swaying upper body, I finally saw his face.

    “I can not see…”

    “Of course not. Look how swollen your eyes are. Can you open them?”

    “No…”

    Just like back then, his hands, now rougher and larger, gently wiped the sweat from my forehead. He even wiped under my nose, which made me think I had another nosebleed. It must have been dirty, but he didn’t hesitate. At least it wasn’t snot. Not the reunion I imagined – I feel so empty and drained.

    It was incredibly sad not to be able to remember the face of someone you love. I raised my heavy hand and brushed away my soaked eyelashes. Even with my eyes closed, I gently touched his cheek. As he didn’t scold me, I carefully traced his face. It was amazing how just by touch, I could tell he was still as handsome as ever.

    “Your throat.”

    “It hurts…”

    “I see.”

    He gave me a quick kiss on my ear and sighed. I didn’t expect him to kiss me… and tears welled up again.

    “Don’t talk anymore.”

    “Hic…”

    “Stop crying. Look at your eyes, they’re all swollen.”

    He pressed a cold towel against my eyelids and forehead. I didn’t want to be treated like a child, especially not by him. But it felt so good, so relieving… I wrapped my arms around him again, holding onto his shoulders tightly.

    “What should I do? How can I get Seo Seung-won to listen to me?”

    “I…hic…I’ll listen…”

    “Sure you will.”

    I meant it. I clung tightly to his arms and insisted. I brazenly clung to Sunbae’s neck, yet the way he lightened the mood remained mature and unchanged… I felt tears welling up again when something touched my lips. Instinctively drinking what I assumed was water, it wasn’t water at all.

    “It’s okay. Drink it all the way.”

    Since Sunbae gave it to me, I drank all of it, but it didn’t taste like tea or anything I recognized. Wiping my lips with the back of my hand, another wave of dizziness hit me and I let out a sigh-like exhale, lowering my head back down. My stomach churned, I felt dizzy, and my lungs were hurting with every breath- I thought I might go crazy.

    Since I couldn’t see anything anyway, I closed my eyes tightly and waited, hoping to feel better. There was so much I wanted to say, but I didn’t have the energy. As I leaned against him, he started to walk slowly. Recalling memories blossoming freshly, I traced back through time.

    “…Sunbae. …Really. …Do you still like me? Even now?”

    “I still like you.”

    “….”

    I still like you too, Sunbae. To avoid breaking down into an unsightly wail, I bit hard into the soft flesh inside my mouth.

    If his feelings really were unchanged, I wanted to convey that my heart also remained the same. When I was young, voicing that I liked someone felt like confessing to my father instead of Sunbae, so I couldn’t bring myself to say it. But now, fvck it, I don’t care. I’ll break my leg again if I have to.

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