Chapter 1: Prologue
“So where's your friend?” Four people walk towards me with ominous grins plastered on their faces. I back into the stall I just emerged from and try to close the door. One of the guys presses their hand against the door, preventing it from closing all the way. “What’s wrong Seyoon? We just want to talk.” He smirks at me through the gap in the unclosed door. The other three males proceed to force open the door and push me on the toilet. “Listen guys I know you blame Jun for what happened but he-“ I'm cut short when two of them pull me up. “Lock the door I don’t want to be interrupted.” His voice sounded cold and void of reasoning. Without warning he slams me against the wall and I can feel the air leave my body. A flurry of punches come from every direction. I try to put my hands up to protect myself but a well timed punch sends me crashing to the ground. My body feels heavy as they sit me up. “I want you know this is all his fault. Had he not stole her from me you wouldn’t be getting beat up.” He sneers and pulls me up by my hair. “Look, You're Innocent in all of this so if you want us to stop just tell us something about him that could ruin him.” I shake my head no as I try to plead with them to let me go. He releases my hair and drives his knee into my shoulder, a sharp pain resonating within. “I'll ask again. Tell me something shameful about him.” I shake my head again, sobbing as the throbbing pain in my shoulder starts to become unbearable. My pleading becomes incoherent as the next knee strikes my ribs. I can feel one crack and breathing becomes unbearable. “Are You Ready To Talk Now?” Without thought I whisper through my sobs “He’s gay…” They start to laugh “Good to know.” The leader smirks and roughly pats my shoulder, earning a whimper from me. “Also, if you tell anyone you'll be sorry.” He pats my head and walks out with his goons in tow. I collapse to the floor of the stall, the pain all over rendering me immobile.
From the time walked into the large school building it seemed all eyes were on me. I shrug it off and tell myself I’m just imagining things. When I walk I into the class everyone stops and stares at me. I give a small bow and wave I try to make my to my seat but I get tripped by one of my male classmates. “Watch it Junshe.” I try to stand up but someone bumps into me causing me to fall back onto the ground. “Junshe you should be more careful. Let me help you.” He holds his hand out and I take it. When I’m half way up he lets my hand go and I crash onto the ground once again. The class can no longer contain themselves and everyone bursts into laughing fits. I stand up and approach the boys “What the fuck is wrong with you two!?” They exchange looks before laughing again “Awww Jun’s got her panties in a bunch.” I feel the anger explode out of me “Stop calling me that before I-“ “Before you what?... Give me your gay?” I feel the anger and color drain from me. “W-what are talking about?” I try to say it confidently but my voice cracks nonetheless. “Your best friend Seyoon told us you’re a faggot.” I can't move, my body is stuck in place and I can feel tears well in my eyes. I can't believe he would tell anyone. I can feel my heart thumping against my chest and I can't help but feel like my life is ruined. “Wow, flower boy is about to cry.” The voice snaps me back to reality and I bolt out of the classroom as the tears fall. I run until I see a bathroom and decide to hide in the stall until I can compose myself. Once the bell rings I wipe my tears away and walk out the stall. I'm met by 3 of my classmates. “The teacher sent us to get you Junshe” They taunt. One walks to the door and locks it as the other two grab hold of me. “But lets have fun first.” I feel a punch land and everything goes black. I wake up sweating and wipe the tears from my face. I grab my phone and check the time. “It’s 3am I better get more sleep. School starts tomorrow.” I sigh to myself as I set down my phone and roll over. Hopefully I'll enjoy school here this time. Before I know it I'm asleep again.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
My alarm jolts me awake. I lie there for a moment trying to fall back sleep but the relentless noise of my alarm causes me to roll over and shut it off before too long. I let out a sigh, get out of bed, and head to bathroom to get ready for the day. After I finish getting ready I head to the kitchen to get breakfast. Taking a quick look through my nearly bare cabinets I realize my attempts at breakfast would be futile. “Right no food. Guess I'll have to wait till lunch.” I mumble to myself as I grab my keys and bag off the counter. As I make my way out of the large apartment building I pull out my cellphone, quickly looking over the directions for getting to school. Walking down a narrow street I notice a small convenience store across street from me. I quickly cross the street and head inside hoping to find something for breakfast. I notice muffled arguing seemingly from the back room of the store. I shrug it off, looking around at all the options. After browsing the store I decide on samgak gimbap and juice. I walk to the counter and set down the items. When I reach the empty counter I notice a small brass bell, I give it tap hoping to get service but no one answers there’s only more yelling. I impatiently ring it a few more times. Eventually a guy wearing the same school uniform as me walks out of the room that's behind the counter. “Sorry about the wait.“ he gives a small bow before grabbing my items and ringing me up. “₩ 4.504,90 please.” I swipe my card and enter the pin. After a short pause the receipt prints and he hands me my items. As I turn around to leave he grabs my wrist “Want to walk together?” he asks. I shrug. He grabs his bag and yells “I'm leaving dad, come to the front.” Shortly after his call an older man shuffles from the back room. “Did you contact that seller?” his voice was slurred and grumbly. The boy next to me sighs “No not yet” his voice riddled with irritation. The father sits on a stool behind the counter and shakes his head “Of course you didn’t, you useless ass faggot.” his words were full of venom. The boy turns to me with sad eyes and grabs my wrist, pulling me out the door. He continues dragging me until we reach a park. He suddenly stops walking and turns to me, releasing my wrist. “Listen, I'll make this quick. Could you please not tell anyone about my dad and… me?” his question was full of shame and sadness. I shrug nonchalantly as I unwrap my gimbap. “So which way is the school?” I ask just before taking a big bite. He lets out a relieved sigh before gesturing for me to follow him. The rest of the walk was quick and silent. We part ways once we’re at the front of the school. I pull out a piece of paper with my class information written on it. After a failed attempt to find my class on my own, I give in and ask a passing student for directions. I arrive at my classroom, fully convinced there was no way I would’ve ever found it on my own. I open the door just as someone is walking out. I freeze as his familiar eyes scan me and begin to well with tears. “Junhee…” He pulls me into a tight embrace and I quickly pull away “Don’t touch me asshole!” Hurt and shock flash across his face “I'm sorry.. you're still mad, aren't you?” he mumbles , his voice low and sad. I sigh, forcing down my anger “No, I’m not. I just never wanted to see you again Seyoon.”
I stare out the window until the ringing bell breaks me from my thoughts. “It’s finally lunch time” I mumble to myself as I stand to leave the emptying classroom.
I get swept up by the cluster of bodies and decide to follow the crowd of students to the lunchroom. As I'm being shoved through the halls I notice a familiar face enter the lunchroom. I try to make my way over, but the wall of students makes this task feel Impossible. When I finally break through the students I scan the large room looking for him. I spot him at small table in the very back, eating alone with a sad expression on his face. I quickly grab my lunch and make my way over to his table. “You okay? You look sad.” My question surprises him making him slightly jump. He nods as he swallows a mouthful of food almost choking. I let out a small chuckle as I sit down across from him. “So..” I pause, realizing I don’t actually know his name. “Soo…?” His voice snaps me back to the moment. “So. What's your name?” I ask, taking a bite of my food. He looks up at me and smiles as he answers “Lee Donghun, and you are?” I extend my hand and smile back “Park Junhee.” He shakes my hand and we continue our lunch in an awkward but comfortable silence. After a few minutes of silence, this morning’s conversation in the small playground flashes through my mind. “So.. What did you mean this morning?” I say nonchalantly as I sip my drink. The boy across table chokes on his drink. “W-what are you talking about?” his voice shaky and raspy from choking. “This morning you said to keep you and your dad a secret, why?” He sighs, poking around at his food. “I don't want people to know about my drunk dad or…” he trails off hesitantly before quietly muttering “my sexuality.” His voice filled with the same shame and sadness reminiscent of our conversation this morning. I give him a reassuring smile and place my hand on his, hoping I won’t regret the decision I'm about make “I won’t tell.. as long as you don't tell anyone that I'm gay as well.” His face lights up with surprise. “WAIT YOU’RE G-“ I quickly press my hand over his mouth to silence him. “Yes. Now let’s not tell everyone.” He smiles apologetically, his ‘sorry' muffled by the hand over his mouth. I pull away, slouching in my seat as I let myself relax again. The rest of lunch seems to go by quickly as we make small talk.
After lunch I return to my classroom, but before I have a chance to enter someone grabs my arm. “Can we please talk?” I pull away, recognizing the voice immediately. “Jun please…” his voice full of sadness and regret. I sigh “Didn’t I say I didn’t want to talk to you Seyoon?” I can feel my anger bubbling as I turn to walk away. He grabs my arm again, I snap letting my rage take over. “Listen. This is my final warning. Stay away from me!” I pull away and walk into the classroom trying to cool my rage before class starts.
The next class is as boring as expected. While taking notes I zone out. My daydream is quickly broken when someone places a cup with Popsicle sticks on my desk. “Take one and pass it.” The teacher said in a monotone, almost dead voice. “Now that everyone has a stick, find your groups based on the numbers and colors. I suggest getting along with your group, this project will take all semester to complete.” I look down and see a faded 3 written on the bottom of a red stick. I stand up, scanning the room for other red sticks. I feel a tap on my arm and see a pale boy standing next to me. “D-do you have a three on your stick?” His voice quiet and soft. I nod, earning a small sigh from him. “I’m Go Tae-seob, pleased to meet you.” He extended his hand. “Park Junhee.” I shake his hand and give a small smile. I can’t help but to notice the warmth and softness of his hand. I pull away, feeling like an idiot for shaking his hand for so long. “So. Now to find our other mem-“ before I finish my sentence, an annoying and persistent voice chimes in “If you're red three, that would be me.” I turn to see Seyoon standing there smiling. The teacher’s voice gets everyone's attention. “I believe everyone has found their groups. Now please send a member to come collect your group’s specific packet with all the details and syllabus. After that, I’ll give you the rest of the day to work things out within your groups.”
After her instructions she sits at her desk, placing the packets in front of her. One by one students begin to go and grab their respective packets. Seyoon volunteers to get ours. When he walk away the quiet boy next to me tugs my shirt sleeve. “U-um Junhee, this may not be any of my business, but do you not like Seyoon?” I turn to him, his soft brown eyes shifting between me and the floor. “What makes you ask that?” I ask, glancing over at Seyoon. “Well…” he trails off. “You just looked kind of scary when he walked up.” His eyes now placed firmly on the ground. I nod. “Lets just say because of him, middle school was hell. Which led to my first few years of highschool being rough as well.” He looks up at me in shock. I can tell he wanted to ask more but our conversation was cut short when Seyoon returned with a packet.
We look over the enormous packet assigned by the teacher. “So… we have to make a self-sustaining terrarium and keep record of the growing process. Doesn't sound too hard, right?” I roll my eyes and Tae-seob just nods. “Class is almost over, let’s make a group chat?” I glare at Seyoon “Never.” He sighs “I know you don't like me but it’s for our assignment. I swear I'll only message you about the project.” I look at Tae-seob whose staring back with pleading eyes. “Fine” I huff. Everyone pulls out their phones and trades usernames on line.
The bell rings dismissing us for the day, I quickly make my way to the front gate. I see Donghun at the front entrance, leaning against the gate, scanning the crowd as they walk past him. He spots me and waves. When I reach him, he gives me a small smile “Want to walk together Junhee?”