She had tried to avoid thinking about him and get on with her life, but once again it seemed she had underestimated his fame. The group’s short break in Japan two weeks before had made the front page of the news site she had set as her home page and she couldn’t help but glance at the headlines. Jungkook had missed both shows at the Tokyo Dome and the subsequent V live he had scheduled the next day. She didn’t bother to read the entire article, it was obvious what was wrong and yet she knew the company would have made an excuse for him, the flu or a minor injury; something to subdue the fans.
Luckily, her work life kept her busy with her colleague’s move to the finance department meaning she had a new trainee to monitor behind the reception desk, making sure the young woman, not two years out of high school, did not misplace any files and that her telephone manner was suitably professional. Young-soon was only vaguely aware that BTS had landed back in Seoul when a news story popped up on her computer at work and she almost spilled her mug of tea onto the keyboard. The new trainee looked at her quizzically, glancing over her shoulder at the photograph which showed the group heading through the terminal at Incheon International. Jungkook was nowhere in sight.
“Are you a fan?” She asked casually, trying to make conversation.
Young-soon became aware she had not breathed in over thirty seconds and forced herself to exhale. “Not really.”
“Oh.” The girl turned indifferently back to her pile of folders; a list of clients waiting to be alphabetized and scanned onto the new computer system. “My friend loves them, she’s seen them twice.”
“That’s nice…” Young-soon barely heard herself reply as she clutched the hot mug between her fingers.
The next evening a stray pop-up on her phone made her heart sink. Another article, this one from a gossip site she had visited on a few occasions, claimed that Jungkook was leaving the band. Young-soon stared at the screen for a moment, contemplating whether it was worth clicking before doing so anyway. In addition to the commitments in Japan, Jungkook had missed a fan sign last night in Korea and the company had yet to comment. The reasons for his rumoured departure ranged from fans suspecting a permanent injury to him wanting to move to America to become a Hollywood actor. The latter should have made her chuckle, Jungkook never was the best at acting despite his passion and effort, but the article only left her feeling cold and nauseous to her stomach.
She didn’t know why, but she found herself rummaging through her closet, tossing aside her unironed gym clothes and the novelty Christmas jumper her aunt had got her last year in order to get to the gift bag she had shoved in there on the last day she had seen him. She pulled the giant panda from the tissue paper, regarding its ridiculously cute eyes and chubby cheeks before eyeing the tag which she had not yet removed, thanking her for her support of the charity which ensured that pandas in Sichuan would remain safe for years to come. She sighed, stroking the soft fur on the toy’s head before slipping it back into the bag and tucking it a little more carefully into the space at the back of the wardrobe.
Her hand hovered over the call button on her cell for a minute before giving up. She pulled up her messenger window, trying to ignore the last string of messages, before typing a new comment. Did you get the results?
She pressed send, wondering as soon as it went if it had been the right thing to do. With a loud sigh, she disregarded her phone on the table and headed into the kitchen to make dinner. She didn’t expect his reply straight away, he was known to leave his phone on silent, so she ate her soup with as much appetite as she could muster, heading straight into her bedroom afterward to watch a re-run of Infinite Challenge.
Feeling thirsty, she eventually headed back down the hallway to the kitchen to get some water. She had turned off the lights in the living room and the flashing notification light on her phone caught her attention. Being careful not to knock anything in the dark, she reached towards the table.
Yes, can we talk?
Jungkook’s reply had been sent half an hour before but she suspected despite it being late that he would be awake, unable to sleep until she spoke to him. She contemplated texting him before deciding against it. If she was going to get the closure she needed, she would have to talk to him. She slipped her phone into the pocket of her dressing down as she poured herself a drink and headed back down the hall. Climbing into the warmth of her bed, she muted the television and got out her cell.
“Young-soon?” Jungkook’s voice came almost immediately, sounding both surprised and hopeful. It was strange to hear after three weeks of silence.
“It’s me…” She confirmed quietly before pausing, wondering if he would speak. When he didn’t, she pressed on a little forcedly. “Did they give you antibiotics?”
“Yeah.” He sounded relieved.
She hesitated. “How are you feeling?”
Another pause. “Getting there.”
She wondered whether he was just referring to the infection and that reminded her why she had called. “Why did you want to talk?” She suspected she knew, but his answer a moment later took her by surprise.
“I need you to know I love you.”
She heard the plea in his voice but shook her head to herself, closing her eyes as she felt a stab of anger. She was reminded of the night she had found him out, of how she felt when he left her apartment and the truth had settled in. She didn’t answer for a few moments, trying to calm her breathing. “It’s hard to believe that right now.” She eventually replied, trying her best to keep her voice steady.
“I don’t know what to say…” He sounded pitiful as he trailed off, as though on the brink of tears. She heard him sigh audibly. “I wasn’t thinking.”
She knew he was telling the truth and had suspected as much but she could not help feeling his betrayal stinging at her insides. “I’d never do that to you.” She established, her voice raised a little as she stated the fact. “Ever. ”She declared.
“I’m sorry.” He replied, the sob in his voice more obvious now.
Young-soon wondered whether he was home alone and if not, whether the bedroom walls in his shared house would be thick enough to hide this painful conversation from his bandmates.
She sighed. “I know you are. That doesn’t make it any better.”
“I really hate myself for what I did.” He said. “I never wanted to hurt you.”
“Well, you did.” She muttered calmly, stating a fact.
“I know.” He tried to hide a sniffle and paused for a few moments, trying to get himself under control. “Isn’t there anything I can do to fix this?” He eventually asked, his voice little more than a whisper.
Her eyes began to sting and she wiped them frustratedly with the fluffy sleeve of her dressing gown. “It’s not as easy as that…” She gulped, stifling the big lump which threatened to block her windpipe. “I’m not sure how I feel about you right now.” She answered.
He hesitated. “Do you…not love me anymore?”
Quickly snapping the phone away from her ear and covering the mouthpiece, she let out a whimper. On the other end, he could no longer hide his own tears and, despite everything, she felt her heart breaking all over again. Talking a few deep breaths, she moved her cell back to her ear. “I don’t know.” She confessed.
She could hear his sobs and wondered why part of her wasn’t relieved to know how sorry and miserable he was feeling after what he had done to her. Instead, she felt utterly afflicted and cursed herself.
“I don’t want to lose you.” He admitted dismally.
Scrunching up her eyes at the feel of fresh, hot tears, she concentrated on the darkness inside her eyelids and tried to compose herself. “I need some time…”
He sniffled, clearing his airways. “Does anyone know?” He asked.
“Of course not…” She whispered. “I feel humiliated.” She wiped her eyes once more and took a sip of water from the glass on the bedside table.
“I’m so sorry.” His voice was honest, making her realise that he was feeling as sad and hurt as he had left her over the last three weeks. She had never been more confused in her entire life; the conversation was not going as she had thought it would. Prior to speaking, she had hoped to confront him about what had happened and to ask him how he could have done it, but now she found herself not wanting to know the details. She had tried her best at not showing him how much she was affected but knew if she kept talking, he would be able to hear her cry.
Needing to end the conversation, she took a moment to calm herself down before uttering: “I have to go…”
There was a pause before he responded. “Can you let me know?” He asked.
She frowned. “Know what?”
“Let me know how you feel.” He requested gently.
She felt the beginnings of a headache in her temples and pressed her spare hand to her forehead gently. “I’ll try.” She promised.
“Thanks.” He said. She could hear the sadness and acceptance in his voice that there was no more he could do on his part to make this right.
She moved the phone away, thumb hovering over the red hang-up button, before pressing it back to her face. “Stop skipping fan meets.” She suddenly blurted, knowing as she said it that she was unintentionally revealing to Jungkook that she had been keeping tabs on him.
There was silence on the other end and she wondered whether Jungkook had already gone before he replied. “I didn’t feel like going.” He muttered a little pathetically.
“I know. You’ll get better soon.” She assured with a small sigh before hesitating. “I don’t want you to lose your job.” She murmured, realising as she said it that no matter how much he had hurt her, she wasn’t spiteful enough to want him to lose the career he had worked so hard to achieve.
“Okay.” He agreed with reluctance, alerting her to the fact that it was not just the infection and guilt that was preventing him from fulfilling his schedule but the uncertainty of not knowing whether his relationship was over. But he had agreed that would stop and she knew he would keep his word.
“Bye Jungkook.” She whispered.
She slowly pulled the phone away and hung up.