April. First semester.
“Hello, everyone. Welcome to Donghyuck Cam with 37.5% viewer ratings!”
Donghyuck lifted his clenched fist to his chin, gripping an invisible microphone, and then raised his other hand, just above his belly button, holding a pretend cue card—Mark's ugly ass notebook that he had been carrying around since the start of the school year.
“As you can see,” Donghyuck continued. “We are here at the second floor hallway of our beloved high school, and right in front of class 2-5's classroom, is a third year looking a bit lost.”
Mark, who had been shuffling his feet, let out a two-syllable, airy laugh, also known as the Lee Donghyuck? Ah, Stress Laugh.
Donghyuck took a few steps towards his only audience: Renjun and Jeno, who were sandwiched by their classroom's doorway, and Jaemin, whose head was peeking from behind the two, all three with amused, huge grins on their faces, watching the scene in front of them like a weekly program on TV.
“What can you say about this situation?” asked Donghyuck, shoving his invisible mic on Renjun's nose.
Renjun squinted and tapped his chin. “Uh, I think Mark hyung should just walk a little. Like, walk past where you were standing awhile ago. He'll see the stairs that would lead him to his classroom.”
“You’re right.” Donghyuck nodded. “Okay, thank you, next!” He held out his hand to Jeno, but Jeno only gave him an eye smile behind his glasses. “Wow, that was very insightful. I hope Mark hyung could learn from this. Thank you, next!”
Donghyuck stretched his arm to Jaemin who then leaned forward and untangled his crossed arms. “Everyone,” Jaemin said. He lifted one hand and did a slow, chopping motion, chop chop chop with every syllable seeping through his lips. “You’re only lost if you're looking at the wrong direction.”
Jaemin rarely played along with Donghyuck's antics, but judging by how Renjun was squinting at him, he probably wasn’t playing along.
“Wow, thank you for that new perspective,” said Donghyuck, nodding and walking backwards to his previous position.
“Why can’t you just give it back!” said Mark, almost whining, lightly stomping his feet, his school slippers slapping the floor. Cute. “Dude, the second bell's gonna ring anytime soon.”
Mark had appeared in front of their classroom a minute after the first bell had rung, asking if anybody had seen his notebook. Donghyuck did, at the cafeteria, on the table where they had lunch just minutes ago. It wasn’t hard to miss: blue cover, red fore edge, the design that Donghyuck couldn’t understand. He took the notebook and waited to see how long Mark would realize, and now they were here, in another episode of Donghyuck Cam with 37.5% viewer ratings featuring Mark Lee.
Donghyuck tapped the notebook on his chin. “Hmmm,” he hummed, eyes cast upwards. “Shall I give this to Mark hyung?”
“C’mon man,” said Mark.
Donghyuck looked Mark in the eye—there was a glare in his glasses, a small reflection of the windows, and so far there was no glare in his eyes, no sign of frustration transitioning into anger yet, so it was still safe to tease him maybe a little bit more. As slowly as possible, Donghyuck held the notebook up, and then slipped both thumb in between the pages.
Keeping his gaze on Mark, Donghyuck, within a second, opened the notebook and then slammed it shut, the wind slapping him on the face.
There was a short, tense moment between them, Mark gaping at Donghyuck, Donghyuck still staring at Mark, until five, four, three, two—
Donghyuck jerked to his left and then scampered past Mark, chest vibrating from holding back his laughter, slippers smacking the ground. He glanced back, and saw Mark's blurred figure advancing towards him. He squealed. When he reached the end of the hallway, he slid his feet and turned back around and then ran past Mark again.
Donghyuck wheezed. Once he made it back to his classroom, he told himself, he was really, really going to return the notebook this time. He took a peek behind him—at least Mark was sort of smiling. But when he did slowed down in front of his classroom, he saw there by the stairs, standing tall with arms crossed, looking very unamused, a teacher, tapping her shoes on the ground. Clack clack clack.
Silence swung in the air all over the hallway, with the sudden subdued sounds from the classrooms—the screeching of chalk on blackboard, the sharp booming of the teachers' voices. Donghyuck and Mark remained in the hallway, on the floor, just across Donghyuck's classroom, where they had their knees bent, buttocks resting on the heels of their feet, backs straight, arms raised, just simply reflecting on their actions.
Donghyuck glimpsed at Mark over their arms. A few strands around the crown of Mark's head fluttered about with the wind coming from the window above them. Crumbs of sun rays and dust clung to his hands and wrists. His navy blue uniform vest had slightly ridden up on the side. It had only been a month since the first semester had started and they were already being punished. Mark had never been punished before, and he was graduating this year. This wouldn’t affect him that much, wouldn't it?
He glanced at the notebook lying in front of Mark's knee, which he had hesitantly slid over earlier. Then he looked over their arms again, leaning back this time to take a better peek at Mark's expression. Well. There was no expression at all. At least it wasn’t that expression, the one where Mark's whole face was crumpled and crinkled, like his already knitted eyebrows wanted to knit his closed eyes with them, and his pouted lips wanted to reach his nose that was also about get stitched with the eyes and the eyebrows. That kind of face, completed with a hand over his shaking head.
Donghyuck had only witnessed that once, last summer, when the two of them had their biggest, pointless fight that lead to a month of treating each other like morning breath and silent fart. That day had been a good day—they were at the beach with their friends where they swam, played in the sand, sang around a bonfire, spilled secrets, Mark came out, said he was gay. There was a lot of hugs and pats on the back and squeezes of hands, and Mark was teary eyed. Then Donghyuck, palms damp with cold sweat despite the summer heat, said he was attracted to guys too.
“Mark hyung. In middle school,” Donghyuck had said. “I had a crush on, uhm, your neighbor.”
“What?” Mark exclaimed, in English, voice high pitched.
But that didn’t cause the fight, of course. Donghyuck actually couldn’t remember exactly. What he could remember though, was when they finally made peace with each other.
It was a morning during the second semester last school year. Donghyuck was headed to the bus stop, dragging his feet down the sloping road. He turned around the corner, and then saw Mark in front of his house, clutching the straps of his black Jansport backpack, shifting his weight from one feet to another. Mark walked beside him on the way to the bus stop like they usually do since middle school, except they were a few feet apart. Once they had taken a seat on the bus did they only talk to each other and then made up.
Some things had changed after that. They had gotten closer, for sure. Whenever Donghyuck would annoy Mark, he would get more giggling and less eye rolling in response. The slapping and smacking didn’t go away, though. And then there were the glances and the stares. Somehow they would always seem to find each other's eyes. And it felt different, the way Mark would look at him. It gave him an impression that they were having a connection and a conversation that only them would understand. He had called it One-sided Connection…Or Is It? trademark symbol here.
The wind tickled Donghyuck’s hair, and then he turned to Mark. He leaned his head a bit forward, then moved closer, and closer, as much as he could, until he felt the fabric of their white shirts against each other, their raised arms covered in long sleeves, touching.
“I'm sorry,” he whispered.
Mark flinched a bit. Then his eyes roamed around—at the stairs, at the ceiling, at the wooden shoe cubby next to the classroom door, at the rectangular window on Donghyuck's classroom where only ceiling fans were visible.
Donghyuck tried again, bumping his arm into Mark's. “I'm sorry.”
Maybe it was a good sign that Mark didn’t flinch this time. And besides, Mark would keep his eyes glaring at a single thing if he was certified pissed off, not moving his eyes around. Donghyuck knew Mark enjoys Donghyuck Cam (as long as he wasn’t being featured in it just to get teased), so might as well try again with that.
Clearing his throat, Donghyuck straightened his back, and in a low voice, he said: “Welcome back to Donghyuck Cam with a 37.5% viewer ratings. Currently, we are being punished for running in the hallway. And it’s my fault. I should have given the notebook back to Mark hyung the moment he asked for it. I just liked teasing Mark hyung ‘cause he’s a cute hyung. But I still shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry. I love Mark hyung. I don’t want anything bad to happen to him. Will he forgive me?”
Mark was fighting a smile, which made his cheekbones seem more defined. How can someone look cute while fighting a smile? Probably because he was a dork or something.
Donghyuck dropped his arms, and then shimmied towards Mark, nudging him with his shoulders. If he managed to receive a suppressed smile, then getting something more than that wouldn’t be difficult to get. When Mark still wouldn’t budge, Donghyuck bumped and bumped into him, until Mark let his arms fall, faced him, and then slapped his thigh, squeezing it.
“Dude, stop,” Mark said in a loud whisper.
Donghyuck dipped his head to one side, and with the pitch of his voice as high as possible, he uttered, “Eung?”
Very few moments would leave Donghyuck both mesmerized and satisfied, despite him absolutely expecting to witness such moments. One of them was when the sun would set and glaze all over Han River, and then the waters would glimmer in warm orange. The other one was happening before him. Mark’s face gradually softened. His tight lips stretched into a smile, lifting his cheekbones, crinkling his nose. His smile grew wider. He stifled a giggle as he sunk his head down, chin to his chest. Then he turned to Donghyuck, and then their eyes met.
Donghyuck’s brain was empty. Mark had complimented his brain once, said it was witty and quick and all that. Clearly, Mark was clueless about his responsibility of being Donghyuck's brain's enemy. He had known Mark would end up giggling with his aegyo, but did Mark really have to look at him like this. It felt like Mark was communicating to him with that soft stare of his, and Donghyuck could understand and not understand at the same time. What the hell. He wanted to scream. How to prevent a heart from blowing up?
Donghyuck looked away. “Ah hyung, I’m glad we dropped our arms for a bit,” Donghyuck said. “A breath of fresh air, you know? Next time you shower, please don't forget your armpits. They're really getting smelly.”
Mark let out a short laugh, then frowned, then smacked Donghyuck on the chest, then scrunched his nose. Donghyuck sobbed dramatically, hands over his red necktie. Way to hit him right in the heart.
They went back to the proper position, but every now and then they would stretch their necks, they would slouch, they would bend their elbows, Donghyuck would link their pinkies together just to be annoying until Mark would push his hand away.
Then they went still for awhile. The swishing of the leaves on the trees streamed in from the outside, stirring with the silence in the hallway. Never knew being punished like this would feel serene.
“Uhm.” It was Mark who uttered something first. Keeping the volume of his voice low, he said, “I should probably like, stay late to study for the CSAT you know? I mean, I'm gonna study on my own here ‘cause like, cram school is really expensive. And everybody’s like, reviewing like crazy now.”
Donghyuck had almost forgotten about that. Mark was graduating this year, of course, he had to spend more time preparing for the college entrance exams. He couldn’t imagine Mark being in college. He was too used to seeing Mark being this kind of Mark.
“Everyone's been preparing for that all their life,” Donghyuck said as he momentarily bended his elbows. His shoulders and arms were gonna give up soon. “We're the only ones slacking off.”
Mark chuckled. “I should really stop procrastinating, man. I feel like I should start tomorrow? Like, stay until maybe 10 p.m. every day. You’re gonna be alone on the bus, though.”
“Oh my god yeah, what to do? how am I gonna survive without Mark hyung?”
“Ah, seriously, you’re so annoying. Oh my god, dude, put your hands back up, you have no tears to wipe!”
Donghyuck suppressed a laugh. “Can’t I wait for you, though?”
“Yeah, why not! Don’t you remember last year, I stayed that late to review for the exams? I told myself then, ah, I should take studying seriously like my classmates. But I only did it once.”
Their quick laughter echoed along the hallway. Donghyuck's eyes darted to the door of their classroom, but the teacher didn't seem to hear them.
“I'll just wait for you,” he said. “As much as I'm tired of being with you, we both know that you need me. And I, being a good friend—”
Later that afternoon, dismissal time, Mark appeared in front of their classroom again, like he'd normally do whenever his last class would end earlier than theirs, or if Donghyuck or the others were still on cleaning duty.
“Donghyuck! Your senior friend is here!” yelled their class president from across the room.
Mark would usually find her to ask for Donghyuck, but since she had gotten used to it now, she would just automatically call Donghyuck once she catch a glimpse of Mark in the hallway. It was sometimes followed by Jaemin complaining why Mark never asked for them instead. Donghyuck would usually respond with a shrug and a smug look on his face, as though saying, “Well…what can I do about it?”
Jaemin didn’t sulk this time. He was too engrossed in nagging Renjun about the way he was playing some mobile game. “Your character is looking the wrong way again. What did I tell you—”
Donghyuck stood up from his desk first. He put his school blazer on, grabbed his backpack, and then went to the doorway. He stayed there watching Mark turn around and take off his hands from the pockets of his trousers. Since he was gonna wait for Mark starting tomorrow, this was probably the last time Donghyuck would see Mark wait for them like this. Well, not literally the last time, they would most likely go back to that same routine after CSAT, but still. He wanted to be dramatic today.
“Oh, you’re here,” said Mark.
“Let me just take in this image of you waiting in front of our classroom,” Donghyuck sobbed.
Jeno came up from behind him, wrapping an arm over his shoulder, asking, “Uhm, what is happening?”
“’Cause…” Donghyuck hiccuped. “This might be the last time I see it.” He took Jeno's hand from his shoulder to wipe his non-existent tears, then he shouted, “Finally!”
“Why would this be the last time!” said Mark as if he didn’t just crack up and clap at that.
Donghyuck ignored him as he pulled out his shoes from the cubby. “Let's eat fishcake!”
The five of them would typically cross the road to eat from the street food stalls, sometimes they would go a little farther from their school to the convenience store, but that would be a bit too far from the bus stop where they'd go their separate ways, as Renjun, Jeno, and Jaemin rode a different bus than the two. Today, Donghyuck and Mark's bus arrived first.
They squeezed their way into the bus, no seats available, and so they stood and staggered in front of a couple. Donghyuck had his airpods on, but he couldn’t help but to hear their conversation. It was cute.
“Did you know, I procrastinated on confessing to you,” the guy said.
“What?” the girl said.
“I told myself, on this day I'm gonna confess! But then I was like, okay maybe I can do it another day instead.”
“What the hell.” She laughed.
“I still wish I could have done it sooner. The longer it took me to do it, the more I get disappointed in myself.”
“You know, if it had taken you longer than you actually did, I would have concluded that you’re not interested in me at all.”
“Wait. Why didn’t you confessed to me first? We basically started liking each other almost at the same time.”
“Oh. Did I procrastinate too?”
They laughed. Donghyuck glanced at Mark and they both broke into a smile.
When Donghyuck and Mark got off at their stop, they caught sight of Jisung with his friend Chenle, drenched in the sun's golden rays, hanging out on a bench in front of the Chinese restaurant owned by Chenle's aunt.
Chenle nudged Jisung until Jisung looked up from his phone and waved his massive hand at them.
“I feel like he’s getting bigger and bigger every day,” said Mark.
He wasn’t that little Jisung anymore, the one Donghyuck and Mark were forced by their moms to accompany at the bus stop every morning when they were in middle school and Jisung was in elementary. He kept getting taller and taller. Donghyuck remembered how Jisung used to joke that Donghyuck and Mark were his parents, and so Donghyuck would play along, which ended up with Jisung getting annoyed as if he wasn’t the one who started it, and then there was Mark, just laughing on the side.
Technically, it was because of their moms, but still, if it wasn’t for Jisung, Donghyuck and Mark wouldn’t be friends.
“Our baby is growing up,” said Donghyuck.
They strolled through the familiar neighborhood, along rows of red brick houses and parked cars, passing by alleyways where Donghyuck would sometimes hide and wait until Mark would realize that he was walking alone. They waved at a black and white cat who would habitually sit still in front of a house. The cat was getting old.
It was the golden hour, a perfect time to sneak a look at Mark, but when Donghyuck turned his head, Mark was already looking at him.
Donghyuck lifted a finger in panic and poked Mark on his hollowed cheek, and then faced the road in front of him. Why was he looking at him. Did he want to say something. And since when did hollowed cheeks look kissable. Donghyuck hoped the sun's golden hue could properly blend with his most likely red, burning face.
Mark didn’t say anything. They didn’t talk as they walked, but it was nothing new. It was a comfortable silence. The back of their hands brushed a few times though, and if Donghyuck wasn’t feeling very flustered, he would have grabbed Mark's hand just to irritate the hell out of him. Even their neighborhood was as quiet as them. It appeared like people had left or people just hid in their homes. It was usually like that, but it wasn’t bad at all.
They eventually slowed down.
“See ya later,” Mark said, when they were finally in front of his house.
Donghyuck waited for him to get in before going on his way. He took a few steps and then turned around the corner, tapping shuffle on his acoustic playlist. He trudged up the sloping road, and then stopped, as soon as he heard the bright and crisp strumming of guitar, chiming with a clinking melody. He huffed. Of course, Goodbye Summer, what a coincidence.
When the first line started, he resumed his walk—he sauntered this time—listening as carefully as he could as though it was his first time hearing it.
I remember when we were scolded for being noisy in the hallway
He smiled. It just happened hours ago, he told himself, and then he snorted at his own sappiness.
Even though we were being punished, I don't know why it was so fun
After that day (Yeah, yeah)
We always (Yeah, yeah)
Stuck together like the Gemini constellation
You were me, I was you
The day before graduation, you cried so much
Donghyuck stopped again, then turned around, even though he knew Mark's house was out of sight. Huh, he thought, Mark hyung's really graduating.
The song built up into the chorus, and in the middle of the road, Donghyuck stood still.
The friend label is a label I got to hate
The feelings I've hidden still remain as a painful secret memory
The photos that can’t define our relationship is a heartbreaking story
I'm sorry, summer, now goodbye
Until the chorus ended, he stood still like someone had just stunned him with a breaking news that he was gonna end up like the song if he didn’t do anything.
He groaned as his hands shuffled his hair into a mess. D.O. sunbaenim, how painful it is to hide your feelings for so long? He was so funny, he was taking this more seriously than school. But okay. He should do something about it, right? Find the right moment. It wouldn’t matter if he didn’t figure out if there really were signs of mutual feelings or not or whatever. That wasn’t the point. He just had to do it. He couldn’t just keep it to himself. He had to say it. Yep.
Donghyuck dragged his feet and let his arms droop on his sides. His backpack felt heavier. “Okay,” he muttered, nodding and nodding and nodding. “Okay.”
Before graduation, Donghyuck really, seriously, absolutely, had to confess to Mark.
June. First semester. 8 months before Mark's graduation.
Two months had passed and Donghyuck still hadn’t confessed. He still had a lot of time anyway.
There was one time though, where they were on the bus on their way home, Donghyuck had repeatedly slapped the back of Mark's hand to the beat of the song on the radio just because it was funny. Mark stared at him the whole time, and by that stare alone, Donghyuck would have blurted out an “I like you,” but in reality, he broke the eye contact and kept arguing with himself if that stare meant something or Mark was just simply done with him. Also, the bus arrived at their stop so he didn’t get the chance. And besides, that would be a weird story to tell people. They would be like, “How did you confess?” and he would answer, “Oh, when I was slapping the back of his hand!”
Donghyuck paused the video he was watching, then checked the time. Thirty minutes left before nine in the evening. He grabbed his backpack from the floor and digged through its front pocket, and then took out two of those 7/11 triangle kimbaps, the bulgogi one. He looked behind him.
Four rows from Donghyuck, was Mark sitting on Donghyuck's desk, the last one by the window. Donghyuck had suggested using their classroom for Mark’s late night studying after Mark had shared about how bleak the study room was, with its suffocating cubicle dividers and lifeless yellow light. Mark's classroom was not an option for him either because of his classmates' constant rumbles and mumbles while studying.
It had been a month now since they had started using Donghyuck's classroom. Only three of his classmates would stay to study until seven in the evening, and then the classroom was all theirs after that. Donghyuck would do his homework, or watch videos, or listen to music, or take a nap as he wait. He had jokingly complained about waiting once, but he didn’t mind at all.
Mark seemed to be lost in thought, staring out the window, spinning a pen back and forth with his fingers. His arm was resting on an open book, next to a cluster of papers and pens and notebooks. It was sort of hard to tell if he was thinking of whatever he was studying about, or if it was actually something else. Mark was expressive, but sometimes Donghyuck couldn’t read him.
Donghyuck held both kimbaps on one hand. Ever since he had learned about Mark's stupidity—that is, constantly ignoring the growls of his stomach—Donghyuck had started keeping snacks on his bag. He wasn’t sure if Mark had gotten thinner now because of that, or if it was really just the short-sleeved uniform they were wearing right now.
Donghyuck dragged the chair backwards, its foot screeching against the floor, breaking the silence, and then he stood up. Hiding the kimbaps behind him, Donghyuck turned around, and went on his way towards Mark. Along the aisle, he took a step with every snap of his fingers. Step, snap, step, snap.
Then he sang, “Hey.”
Mark faced him, dropping the pen on the book. If Mark needed a good break from studying, then Donghyuck had to be a little bit more extra than just simply giving him food.
Donghyuck continued with his step, snap, step, snap thing.
“It’s not easy, is it? You’re busy, right? You wonder why you have to go this far…” Donghyuck stopped right in front of Mark, the table in between them. “They’re demanding too much, right?” Donghyuck bent a little and cupped his ear, signaling Mark to answer. When he didn’t hear anything, Donghyuck dropped his arm and stared at Mark in disbelief. “That's your part!” he whined. “C'mon.”
Mark scoffed, but he cleared his throat anyway. “That's right…”
“You must want a break. It's noisy, isn’t it? Everything's annoying. I bet you want to go home…”
“But you’re home, though…” Mark smiled. Donghyuck was right, of course. Mark was definitely enjoying this.
“I bet you do…” Donghyuck took one kimbap from his other hand behind him. “At such times, take out this song...” He swung his arm forward and presented the kimbap to Mark. “Eat it like a triangle kimbap...”
Mark laughed at the change in the lyrics, picking up the kimbap from Donghyuck’s palm.
“Make sure to eat your meals even when you’re tired…” Donghyuck leaned over the desk. “Then later, I'll praise you...” He reached out and patted Mark's head, then he flapped his open shirt as if to say, ha! I just did that ‘cause I'm cool, but he was actually flustered and burning right now. He immediately walked around the desk and took the seat beside Mark, plopping his arm on the table, his own kimbap in hand. If he continued singing the song, he might unexpectedly pop like an uncooperative confetti.
Mark stacked all of his things on one side of the table. The windows were wide open next to him, displaying the unmoving trees in the dark, no hint of wind.
“What are you studying?” Donghyuck asked. The wrappers crackled as they opened their kimbap.
“Math awhile ago. But now it’s Korean. Reading comprehension.” Mark stopped fiddling with the wrapper, then slumped into his seat. “Reading Korean is so hard, man.”
“You enjoy reading Korean novels, though.” Donghyuck balanced his kimbap on both hands, then bent over and took a bite. Wow, cold, amazing.
Mark chuckled. “It’s kind of like a practice but I’m actually interested in what I’m reading, so it was nice. Unlike this one,” he said, pointing at the stack of books and papers with a jerk of his thumb.
They ate quietly for awhile. Their chewing, the cracking of the seaweed, were the only sounds hanging in the air around them, mixing with the sighs of the ceiling fans. In Mark's voice: It was actually kinda nice.
Mark said something first. “I read my old journal. You know that I wrote there in Korean right?” He let out a short laugh, then he continued, “It’s kinda like reading a poorly written novel.”
Donghyuck patted the seaweed into the rice, pat pat pat. “Did you just low-key say that your life is novel-worthy?”
“No, what I meant was…I don’t know. It’s just that, journals and novels are the same in a way that both will give you an access into someone else's mind, you know what I mean?”
“Can I read your journal then? Is that your new journal, that blue and red notebook?”
“So it is a journal.”
“Why, do you wanna read me?”
Donghyuck shoved the rest of the kimbap into his mouth. “I just wanna get to the embarrassing stuff,” he mumbled. He chomped on his kimbap, regretting putting all that into his mouth. He felt like the rice and the meat and the seaweed were camping in his chest, it felt so crammed and crowded.
Mark snorted, and then continued eating. The seaweed cracked and cracked, the sound suddenly so loud.
Donghyuck exhaled the moment he swallowed the last bits of his kimbap. He slouched and then sunk into the chair. What was that. Was that some kind of flirting or Mark was just unleashing his hidden teasing skills. Better start a new topic. “By the way,” he said. “Jeno and I are gonna be the MCs at the school festival.”
“Ah really? Nice. Congratulations, man.”
“We were also asked to perform, to fill in the time before the announcement of the winners at the contest.” It was still in the second semester anyway, they still had time. Donghyuck then turned to Mark and pouted. “Too bad you seniors are stuck with studying instead of hearing my beautiful voice.”
Mark's eyes bore into him, and then he smirked. At least it looked like a smirk to Donghyuck. He wondered if Mark was aware of what he was doing with his face. And that look in his eyes. Was this caused by the stress of studying or what. Donghyuck was going crazy.
Mark moistened his lips with the tip of his tongue, then said, “No one’s gonna take care of you though.”
Donghyuck needed water. His chest still felt weird. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back as though he was done with Mark. “Wow, that was one time,” he said. He yanked the kimbap's wrapper from Mark's table, and then picked up his, and then rose from the chair. “Okay, go study!”
After throwing the wrappers in the trash bin at the back of the room, Donghyuck walked over to the front, and positioned himself under a ceiling fan, both hands on his hips. He felt hot. They were wearing another version of their uniform, the short-sleeved white shirt one, but it was still hot.
He followed the direction of the ceiling fan like a dumbass that he was at this moment, recalling the festival last year, a month after Donghyuck and Mark had reconciled. Donghyuck's class had turned their room into a very original, never been done before maid café where all of the guys in the class had to wear a dress. But they didn’t necessarily had to wear a maid costume, thank god.
Donghyuck had worn a red dress with white collar and white polka dots. He had a wig too, brown, with full bangs and pig tails, the curls falling over his shoulders. He wasn’t feeling really well, and it was freaking cold in that dress, but at least he wasn’t grumpy the whole day like Renjun who was teased and called Smurfette because of his yellow wig, and blue and white dress.
Mark visited their café with Jeno and Jaemin who were both in a different class. Donghyuck, with the widest, fakest smile he could muster, introduced himself as Dongsook while the three were dying of laughter.
“Here are your orders!” he said in his best, cringe-inducing, chirpy, high-pitched voice. “Nothing for Jeno, americano for Jaemin, and chocolate cake that are actually from 7/11 for Mark hyung.”
When Donghyuck set the plate of chocolate cake on the table, Mark, all of a sudden, touched his forearm. Donghyuck wondered what gave him away to Mark and how Mark did it. Renjun didn’t even notice anything different and they had been together for hours that day.
“Dude, you’re hot,” Mark said.
“Gosh, Mark hyung, I’m just wearing a dress and a wig, it’s still me.”
“Donghyuck, seriously.” Mark stood up and placed the back of his hand on Donghyuck's forehead, then on his neck. “You’re burning.”
Donghyuck blinked at him. “Uh, well, uhm, well, I think I have a fever?” He showed his cutest fake smile, as if aegyo would cure him and would make Mark chill.
Next thing he knew, he was sitting on Mark's seat, and Mark was hovering over him, shoving his index finger on Donghyuck's face, repeatedly saying, “Don’t move!”
Mark later came back with a paracetamol and then checked up on him for the rest of the day, showing up at their classroom’s doorway every now and then to the point of being called their maid café's loyal customer by Donghyuck’s classmates even though Mark had only ordered once. Donghyuck hid his face in his hoodie the whole time Mark accompanied him home, because what the fuck, he was already aware of Mark being attractive, but Mark being so genuine and caring and patient as well, that became a different level of attractive.
While lying on his bed, warm under his comforter, all he could think of was, do I like Mark hyung? I think I like Mark hyung. Ew, I like Mark hyung? Ew, I like Mark hyung.
A bang echoed around the room, and Donghyuck turned around, only to see Mark picking up a book from the ground. “Hehe, sorry,” Mark said. Dork.
Donghyuck followed the direction of the ceiling fan one last time, before taking a seat at a desk right in front of the teacher’s table. He took his phone out, and played the video he was watching to pass the time.
“Last two things to remember as an MC,” said the bunny-looking guy on the screen. He claimed to be the host of something called the Vroom Vroom Talk Show, but Donghyuck wasn’t sure if that was legit. The guy looked reliable enough anyway. “One is that, never look away from your audience, then you won’t lose the connection that you have. Keep the connection, okay? The other thing is, you know cue cards are also there to guide you on when to speak, right? But you can’t really depend on a cue card all the time…”
Donghyuck kept watching this guy's videos until he felt a warmth on his back—Mark telling him that it was time to go home.
Donghyuck leaned against the window, his head lightly vibrating with the moving bus, eyes mindlessly watching strangers outside do their own thing. Perhaps there was no right moment to confess for now. Mark was too busy with reviewing for CSAT and doing other requirements. Donghyuck wouldn’t want to add to the stress if Mark ended up rejecting him—that would be really stressful, wouldn't it? Maybe it would be better to try during the summer break? Yeah. Maybe summer would do.
Mark's head plopped unto Donghyuck's shoulder, and when Donghyuck turned, Mark's hair tickled his nose and lips. Mark's glasses was askew, and both of his arms were pressing their weight on his bag. Donghyuck suddenly felt very sappy this evening. He stopped the song he was listening to, and then searched for Eat by Zion. T. He clicked play, and then there came the alternating sounds of piano and finger snaps. Donghyuck winced as he recalled what he did with the song earlier. That was corny, the step snap thing, the take out this song, eat it like a triangle kimbap. What the hell was that. But Mark seemed to have enjoyed it anyway, so whatever. He wondered what might have happened if he had continued singing the song.
The first chorus ended, transitioning to the second verse with a thump thump, thump.
I miss you
I like you a lot
I want to hug you more often
I feel something like love for you
Maybe I really do love you
When you’re hungry, take out this song
Eat it like a morning apple
Make sure you eat your meals even when you're tired
Then you’ll be able to sleep better at night
Mark nuzzled up against him as chimes faded in and then out over the sounds of bright piano and sharp snapping.
I’m worn out
By your beauty
Mark breathed in softly and slowly, slightly rubbing his head on Donghyuck's shoulder.
Please notice me
Mark bolted up right, fixing his glasses.
Please don’t let me pass by
Mark scratched his head, and then patted his hair.
Please love me
Mark turned to Donghyuck, and then chuckled when he found Donghyuck just staring at him with a straight face. Funny how Donghyuck could stare at Mark to make him feel bothered as a joke, but when it was Mark who would do the staring first with that look…well.
Don’t let go
Donghyuck pointed at his shoulder. “You drooled on me and now you have to buy me a new uniform.”
Mark laughed, shaking his head.
July. Summer break. 7 months before Mark's graduation.
let's bike along han river!
like this week?
i haven’t told u guys yet
im in jeju
my aunt’s moving abroad so…
so mom wanted to spend the whole summer w her bc she’ll be gone by chuseok
this is also some kind of a family reunion lol
im not gonna attend vacation classes btw hehe
pls tell the others that i have officially ran away
have fun tho
October. Second semester. 4 months before Mark's graduation.
Donghyuck's phone buzzed and buzzed against his butt cheek. He held the mic and the cue card on one hand, then took his phone from the back pocket of his jeans, adjusting the brightness the moment its blue light attacked him. There were two messages from Mark on kakaotalk, one sent to their group chat, the other to Donghyuck.
To the group chat he said, donghyuck jeno fighting^^ hahaha
Dork. Donghyuck glanced sideways at Jeno. Bass pounded around, and only purple light beamed at them in the dark as they stood offstage to the right. Jeno still hadn’t seen the message yet, his eyes were too glued to a bunch of first years dancing to a medley of summer hits on the stage. It was the last program at the festival, the talent competition, where you could literally do any talent, and the judges, aka teachers, would try to judge them fairly. A lot of students did kpop covers. There were some who played traditional instruments, sang trot and English songs, did taekwondo and magic. Only one contestant left after this one, and then it would be Donghyuck and Jeno's turn to perform while the teachers try to judge all that.
Donghyuck opened Mark's message to him. It just said, have fun alright? haha. He imagined Mark sneaking his phone out to send those messages while studying. Mark had texted them in the morning too before the festival’s opening ceremony, and while Donghyuck was helping in decorating their classroom. He sent a good luck mc-ing guys :) to the group chat, and a don’t stutter hahaha to Donghyuck. Donghyuck didn’t reply but he couldn’t stop thinking about it like they were the most encouraging words he had ever read in his life.
Donghyuck didn’t need to scroll to look for Mark's messages during the summer break; they rarely texted anyway, they prefer calls. He wondered if he was the only one Mark had invited to bike along Han River. He would have texted the group chat instead if that weren't the case. That would have been a perfect time to confess, wouldn't it. Ah, he had already played enough possible scenarios in his head while he was in Jeju. He should stop thinking about it.
Donghyuck and Jeno ran to the stage once the first years’ performance had ended.
“Have you seen that move one student did?” Jeno asked into the mic.
Donghyuck didn’t, but he still said, “Of course!”
“Like this.” Jeno did some random hand movements then did a body wave. Donghyuck tried to copy him, and the crowd shrieked, and by crowd Donghyuck guessed it was their classmates screaming the secondhand embarrassment away.
The moment they came down from the stage after introducing the last contestant, Renjun had already sent a video of them to the group chat and said, mark hyung u cant get away from this u have to cringe with us.
Donghyuck typed, aaaaaaaah injunaaaa don't distract him!!!, then hit send.
Mark was studying for CSAT like all the other seniors, while all the underclassmen were just chilling at the festival. He was most likely at home with a private tutor that his mom had hired during the last week of summer break. Donghyuck missed him. They had started the second semester with Mark going home directly after classes to meet his tutor, while Donghyuck stayed to practice for the festival. They still go to school together in the morning of course, but every time, they would usually drag their feet half-asleep to the bus stop and would nap on the bus—Mark mostly, on Donghyuck's shoulder. And now their 45-minute lunch period felt like five minutes, he wasn’t exaggerating. He really really missed him.
Screams burst out from the audience, and the last contestant came down from the stage as Donghyuck and Jeno went back up, passing each other by. This time, they both had left their cue cards behind, and Jeno carried a guitar. Donghyuck thanked the last contestant and talked to the audience while Jeno adjusted the mic stand's height for himself.
“While the judges do their thing,” said Donghyuck as he sat on a wooden stool prepared for them beforehand. “Would you guys mind if the MCs serenade you or?”
The crowd cheered. Donghyuck could only see those in the first few rows touched by the light rays and light spots from the stage, the rest of the gymnasium were in darkness. On his left, second row near the aisle, were Jaemin, holding his phone horizontally, most likely recording them already, and Renjun, cupping his mouth with both hands, most likely shuttering the ear drums of the person in front of him.
Jeno nodded at Donghyuck as soon as he was settled on a stool, guitar on his lap. And then he started with a slap on a string, then plucking, sharp and crisp. Donghyuck bobbed his head to the intro as the light around began to shift from blue to yellow to purple to green.
Jeno had chosen the song as it was what he had been learning during the summer break—It's You by Sam Kim. When the title and the name of the artist came out of Jeno's mouth, Donghyuck had automatically reacted with a continuous nod, his tongue against the inside of his cheek, and then a huff, to which Jeno got concerned and had to ask if there was something wrong with the song. Donghyuck smiled and blurted out that it was absolutely perfect!
Donghyuck sang, and his body swayed to the music. He gestured to the audience every now and then, and pointed at Jaemin and Renjun just to make them cringe. “I'm thinking hard. Am I the only one thinking about this? Whether it’s a hint or you’re just toying with me. What's correct between the two…” Donghyuck almost scoffed at how those lines hit him so hard.
The chorus came, and he wished he could easily say all those words—you like me, right? What do I do? Ha. Donghyuck shut his eyes for a second and shifted his focus on controlling his voice and listening to the guitar. This wasn't the best time to focus on a very confusing human being called Mark.
Donghyuck made it through the second verse and another chorus without an image of round glasses and cheekbones popping up into his mind, until it was Jeno's turn to rap. “You should win her heart until it’s clear, or be completely dumped after just confessing love…”
Donghyuck placed a hand over his chest then clutched the white t-shirt underneath his dark blue button down and denim jacket, shaking his head too theatrically as if doing so would convince himself that yes, this is just acting! Nothing to do with real life or anything!
“You should take a step after so much simulation, you keep being ambiguous, then how can you have a brilliant idea…”
Donghyuck nodded and nodded as he moved his body to the beat, letting his eyes roam around—at the ceiling, at the speakers, at a few teachers scattered around, at fellow students watching them, at the dusts floating within the blue and yellow and purple and green lights. But no matter where he looked, his mind was there to remind him that he could never get away from the thought of that certain dude from Canada.
“I think she already sent you a signal…”
His eyes landed on the side door on the left side of the gym, and he had to do a double take, maybe a triple take, because what the fuck, Mark was there in his black sweater and his black cap, flapping his hands in the air like the dork that he was, mouth looking like he was whooping. And because he was Mark, Donghyuck was sure he was whooping.
“The story should unfold faster than before. As long as you don’t pressure her, go straight...”
Mark dropped his arms, then looked over at the audience where Renjun was beckoning him over. He moved past people who were seated, and then sandwiched himself between Jaemin and Renjun. He clapped and then whooped one last time.
Jeno slowed down, and then quickened his rap. Donghyuck blinked a few times before glancing at Jeno to get himself back to the song. Damn you, Mork.
“Love is not an easy thing. Maybe you’re clumsy at expressing your mind. If you’re too good, your love confession can look nonsense. You know how to draw a heart, you should go through two curves…”
Donghyuck faced the audience and then drew a heart in the air with his index fingers. He glimpsed at Mark who looked like that was the most disgusting air heart he had ever seen. And so Donghyuck held out a finger heart at their direction, and then winked. Seeing all three wince at the same time, was the highlight of this festival.
“Even if it’s painful, such pain feels great. Don’t miss this chance…”
Donghyuck looked up at the ceiling instead, because wow, such great design, looked best in the dark. But he still found himself glancing at Mark. That was a normal Donghyuck thing to do, but his eyes were extra stubborn today. And he really had to focus on the song right now because his part was coming up.
“Go quickly. If it worked well, treat me…”
Donghyuck gave Jeno the OK gesture like how it was in the music video, and then he sang, making sure he was singing to a random person in the audience. “I wanna know, just tell me. You like me right? What do I do…” Mark rested his elbows on his knees, and fuck, he had glanced at Mark again. “I think I’ll go crazy. I should pull it together. What do I do…”
Mark was still on the same position and Donghyuck was literally going crazy. Fuck it, he'd let his eyes look at wherever they wanna look. And besides, he couldn’t even see Mark's eyes under that cap and behind those glasses. “I wanna know, just tell me. You like me, right? What do I do…” It was strange, how it seemed like all those blue and yellow and purple and green lights shone on Mark alone, and everything else dimmed. “I think I’ll go crazy. I should pull it together. What do I do…”
His eyes lingered on Mark, until Jeno ended the song with a strum, and then Donghyuck exhaled. The audience, being supportive and all, applauded and screamed. Renjun clapped in the air. Jaemin busied himself with his recording. And Mark stayed in the same position. That was the longest gaze he had ever held without the genuine intention of being annoying. Donghyuck wouldn’t be able to hold that if Mark were near. He would have looked away or do something very un-Donghyuck out of panic.
As they were given the results, Mark waved at them and pointed at the side door. Donghyuck nodded and watched him walk out of the gym. God, he had never thought of it until now, but he had always been the one who would break the eye contact whenever they had those ambiguous staring sessions. Wow, congratulations Lee Donghyuck, for breaking all those eye contacts.
Screams broke out. A contestant was coming up to the stage. Donghyuck didn’t even realize that Jeno had already announced the winner. Ah, Donghyuck should really pull it together.
Later that evening in the group chat, Donghyuck learned that Mark's tutor had allowed him to have an hour break, and so Mark, being his dumb self, instead of using the time to sleep, rushed to the school, and arrived in the middle of the last contestant’s act. Donghyuck and Jeno only did a filler performance and Mark still went to support them. Donghyuck could melt into the void now.
i only knew mark hyung was there bcos of donghyuck looool
i was wondering why this dumbfuck isn’t moving
then i followed his gaze and i was like hey it's mark hyung
then i called him over
well I was surprised to see him there
I thought he ran away from his tutor
so in my head I was like
wow mark hyung is such a bad influence!!!
I was so appalled I was frozen in place
ha ha ha
hyung was so sweet tho hehe
I wouldve hugged the living shit out of mark hyung if he had stayed~~~
Donghyuck was lying on his bed being unusually excited for Monday—he and Mark would ride the bus home together again—when his phone pinged. His heart might have did a backflip.
you guys really did well tho
and that song really suits you haha
Yeah, no shit.
They were back to their old routine of going home together, but each time, Mark either had his nose in a textbook, or had his mouth hanging open, snoring. But each time Mark wasn’t snoring, Donghyuck would pretend he was hungry all the time so he could casually bring out a snack and offer some to Mark.
Right now, Donghyuck was watching Mark's reflection on the bus window as they both struggled to stand still. Mark nodded off, and then jerked awake, shaking his head. Loser. Donghyuck averted his eyes from the window and turned directly to Mark, keeping a watch on him. He could easily tumble any time soon with only his fingers hanging onto the grab handle.
Mark bobbed his head again just as the bus came to a sudden stop. He staggered away from Donghyuck and then Donghyuck pulled him by the waist, his arm squeezed between Mark's back and his Jansport bag.
“Woah. Thanks, man,” muttered Mark as he looked at Donghyuck with his puffy, heavy eyes. His lips curled up, and then he yawned, nose scrunched, mouth so wide he looked like a kitten. Then Mark tightened his hold on the grab handle, his school blazer riding up, and rested his head on his arm.
Donghyuck wanted to carry him home and lay him down on his bed, and then gently place a pillow on top of his torso like how he wanted it. Mark felt warmer that way. “I can carry you from the bus stop to the front of your house,” Donghyuck had said yesterday. Mark snorted. “How do you want me to carry you? Like a baby? Piggyback? Or maybe bridal style?”
Confessing had not crossed his mind since after the festival. He could try that after CSAT. Right now he was just worried about this old dude right here. He hoped he was eating enough rice every day.
Donghyuck slipped his arm away, and grabbed the strap of Mark's bag instead, not letting go until they reached their stop.
November. Second semester. 3 months before Mark's graduation.
“What time is it?” Donghyuck asked.
“7:30 a.m.,” Jaemin answered.
The school gates would close at 8:10 a.m. Other seniors had already arrived. Some had just passed by. Some were being hugged by their parents. Some parents had been praying. It was so packed at the school entrance. Cars and taxis piled up. Fellow underclassmen had been cheering with their pompoms’ rustles and the boom, boom of their Korean barrel drums. Most of them had signs that said GOOD LUCK! and GO FOR THE PERFECT SCORE! and #1! intended for all seniors. But the sign that Donghyuck was holding only said MARK HYUNG, FIGHTING! in blue font, decorated with five small, red hearts, plus one big heart next to MARK HYUNG.
“What time is it?” Donghyuck asked.
“I told you, it’s 7:30,” Jaemin answered. Donghyuck was this close to fetching Mark instead.
As soon as he heard Jeno say “Eh? Is that Mark hyung?” Donghyuck raised the sign and craned his neck to look for a dumbass in round glasses. There was Mark, down jacket over his uniform, stiffly slipping in between a bunch of people huddled together. Mark paused when he caught sight of them, then he broke into a smile. That was a relief.
Mark sputtered a series of “What the!” as he approached them, then he pointed at Donghyuck and said, “Yo, I thought you’re not gonna show up!”
Donghyuck had told him he was gonna sleep in since they have no classes on CSAT day, and that the other students’ cheers would be enough for Mark. “You don’t need me, do you?” he had said. Mark just let out a short laugh.
“Well, I woke up too early, and saw that the weather is nice, so.” Donghyuck nodded because doing so would make it look like it was a fact.
Renjun snickered. “What are you talking about! He actually came here at six in the morning to get a good spot. He insisted on arriving earlier than the others so we could be in front to cheer for you. Also, that sign is his idea.”
Well. “He’s right,” Donghyuck said.
The others chuckled but Mark was just looking at him with that surprised, soft look on his face. Donghyuck guessed he knew what was gonna happen next.
Mark laid a hand over his chest. “Wow, I’m so touched, man.”
Donghyuck looked away and lifted the sign higher to cover half of his face. He knew it. “Ah, there he goes again,” he said, shaking his head as a lame attempt to fight a smile.
“No, seriously, I’m really touched.”
Donghyuck nodded, eyes everywhere but this sap in front of him. He liked it. He liked that about Mark. It made him want to do anything just so Mark could feel that way.
“Here,” Jaemin said, handing a plastic of sticky rice cake. “Eat that well and pass the exams.”
“Thank you, guys.” Mark was smiling, but his smile was smaller than usual. His eyes were cast down on the sticky rice on his hands. It was easy to miss, and Donghyuck wasn’t sure if the others had noticed, but Mark had just heaved a deep sigh. He looked very tense.
“Mark hyung,” said Donghyuck, shaking the sign. “Do you know what all these hearts are for?”
Mark stared at him for awhile, like he was trying to get back to reality or something. “Uhm, what?” He finally asked.
Wearing the best and most serious facial expression he had, Donghyuck said, “These hearts represent us surrounding you with love and support.”
There was a moment of silence between the five of them until Renjun spat death threats at him and Jeno pushed him, but Donghyuck kept his straight face and stood still, watching Mark drew his shoulders in and curl his fingers because of too much cringe, but he was smiling from ear to ear, so, that was good.
Donghyuck pointed at each small hearts. “This is Jaemin, this is Jeno, this is Renjun, this is Jisung, and this is Chenle.”
“Woah, hold on, Chenle?”
“Yeah. He also asked if we could adopt him too ‘cause he observed how great of a father figure I am to Jisung. He’s not sure about you, though.” Making all that up got him a slap in the arm, but that was all right because Mark was grinning.
Renjun huffed. “Don’t tell me you’re the big heart?”
“But why! ‘Cause you love Mark hyung more than we do?” Renjun wasn’t teasing. It was more like a challenge, like, you think you’re the only one who loves Mark hyung? Well, Donghyuck couldn’t really say that in a certain way, yes.
“Ah, Huang Renjun. It shouldn’t be a question anymore,” said Donghyuck. “It’s because, among all of us, I literally have the biggest heart.”
“Someone hold me before I do something.”
Donghyuck dodged and used the sign as a shield, while Renjun acted like he was about to throw hands. Mark laughed. They all laughed. Donghyuck had no idea if that had settled Mark's nerves, but he looked more relaxed now.
“Guys, I have to go,” Mark said, a minute later. He gave them all a high five, and Donghyuck made sure to give his hand a squeeze.
They watched Mark wave at the other underclassmen as they cheered for him and other seniors; they watched him jog past the school gates, Jansport bag bouncing on his back. Well, this wasn’t really the best time to feel the urge to backhug someone and never let go. Add a squish to the hug to emphasize the never let go part.
Donghyuck folded the sign. As he had promised himself, he would really, seriously, absolutely had to confess. After CSAT. That would be next week. Yeah. Oh god, CSAT. He hoped Mark would nail it. Of course he would nail it. “Why am I suddenly so nervous?” Donghyuck muttered.
Mark was now out of sight. The four of them then went on their way.
November to December. Second semester. 2 to 3 months before Mark's graduation.
Was it just him, or Mark had been looking at him way more than he ever did before.
Okay. He might just be seeing things he wanted to see, but either way, it had unleashed the uncool side within him, making him do some authentic dumb shit.
First example was when they were waiting for the others to come out of the classroom. They were leaning over the window in the hallway, silently watching the tree and its auburn leaves get drenched in the rain. Donghyuck faced Mark, only to find him staring at him. Out of panic, and being the cool guy that he was of course, Donghyuck winked. And then he spun around and went to the classroom, yelling, “What’s taking you guys so fucking long!”
Second was when Donghyuck and Mark were walking behind Renjun, Jeno, and Jaemin. Mark was peeking over the novel in his hands. He was staring for too long, Donghyuck had to wrap an arm around him, and then pull him by the neck. Third was when they were eating ddeokbokki, where Donghyuck made a face at Mark before aggressively stabbing three pieces of ddeokbokki into his stick, and then shoving them into his mouth.
After each stupidity, Donghyuck would dig into his brain as if he'd discover Mark's mind in there, wallowing in more stupidity, trying to figure out what was up with Mark and those stares. He was so deep into that, he had mostly forgotten that he was supposed to confess.
He did try when the moment had hit him. For the first time since CSAT day, Donghyuck attempted a confession in a late afternoon at the bus stop where they were playfully punching each other. Mark had stopped hitting him first, and Donghyuck was left with his fists lingering on Mark’s arms. They stared at each other, making Donghyuck feel like they were having another one of those connections, and then his heart thumped and thudded and he automatically told himself to not look away, don’t look away, hold the gaze. This might be the perfect moment to confess. And as he looked into Mark's eyes, he wondered if he was feeling the connection too, if every look he had given him meant something, if the feeling was mutual or not, if he liked him back or not, then his mind was swarmed with what ifs and maybes, which only stopped when Mark's face fell, and then he said, “Dude, you alright?”
Donghyuck finally didn’t break the eye contact, but he fucking spaced out. Amazing. How to get out of this? Donghyuck touched the arm that Mark last punched, shut his eyes, then fake cried.
“What the—Yo, I was literally worried!” Mark said. “You look like you’re gonna pass out. Fuck you, man.”
Donghyuck wanted to get rid of that day's existence in his mind. That was so humiliating, he went back to doing things the traditional way: panic and avoid Mark's eyes. But god, he was so close to cornering Mark and just say, “Yo, Mark hyung, my bro, can you do me a favor and confess to me first if you like me back? To save me from this suffering?”
He almost had the Most Humiliating Day Part 2 a month after CSAT day, when Mark finally got the exam results. He passed, of course, he was Mark. They hugged and hopped at the same time, Mark slapping the paper on Donghyuck’s back. And when they let go, their eyes bore into each other, and history almost repeated itself, but it didn’t, thanks to Renjun, Jeno, and Jaemin, who all jumped in for a group hug.
Right now they were eating by the street food stall in front of their school, and Donghyuck was too absorbed in Mark hovering his face over his cup of fishcake soup, eyes shut, taking in the warm tendrils of steam rising from the cup against the winter chill.
Mark tilted his head backwards. “Ah, that was nice.” A cloud of breath flowed out of his mouth, then he fluttered his eyes open. “Oh. Dang, I forgot,” he said, when he noticed his glasses had fogged up. Dumbass.
Donghyuck took a large, last bite from his fishcake, pulling it from the stick. Looking at Mark reminded him of the past five weeks. And now it was the last day. Literally the last day of the semester. Tomorrow would be the start of winter break. After the winter break was Mark's graduation.
Donghyuck slowly stirred the soup with the stick, which people normally wouldn’t do, but whatever. He watched it go round, and round, and god, what the hell happened. This felt like some personal project with self-imposed deadline and since it was self-imposed, when the deadline came, he'd only be like, shrugs, oh well…
“Mark hyung, I forgot to tell you something.” Jeno said Mark hyung but his very suspicious eye smile was directed at Donghyuck. Very suspicious, that glint in his glasses. “You know, during CSAT, Donghyuck was more nervous than you that he almost cried.”
Okay. He wasn’t lying. But Donghyuck had blamed it on being a teenager with complex emotions, and the lack of sleep caused by having to wake up way too early to get a good spot to cheer for Mark.
Donghyuck shuffled his feet like he was about to attack Jeno, holding up his empty stick like a weapon, as Renjun tried to stop him with a hug. Jeno began shuffling his feet as well, like preparing to run away, while beside him, Jaemin was just grinning, arms crossed, watching the drama in front of him. Hopefully, Mark was gradually forgetting about Donghyuck being exposed like that as he laughed and laughed in the background.
When they were done with their weekly exaggeration, a hand caressed the back of Donghyuck's head through the hood of his parka. He did not need to turn to know who that was. There was no other thing to do but to chug his cup of fishcake soup.
Mark eventually dropped his hand, and Donghyuck stepped away, grabbing unto the nearest person which happened to be Jeno. Donghyuck hugged him, snuggled closer with his eyes closed, and then whined about how cold it was. When he opened his eyes, he peeked over the hood of his jacket, and watched Mark sip the remaining soup. Donghyuck stared at Mark's hand circled around the cup. His hand probably felt warm from the soup. It would feel warmer if he hide his hand in a pocket. Or maybe Donghyuck could hold it tight, that would be warmer. Mark was only a few steps away from him but he looked so far away. Donghyuck could joke and be dramatic about it and reach out a hand, but for some reason, he didn’t feel like going even more extra today.
They all joked around for a minute, until they went on their way to the bus stop, where they wait and were entertained by Jaemin's frustrations.
“I told you, don’t overthink,” said Jaemin literally on Renjun's ears. “Just let your character move forward.”
Renjun hunched over his phone, playing a mobile game, eyebrows furrowed, ears active for selective hearing purposes.
“Oh my god your character's looking at the wrong direction again!” Jaemin plopped his arms on his sides, then crossed them over his chest, moving away from Renjun. “There’s no use in coaching someone like this person, seriously. He started this game during the first semester and today is the last day of the school year and he's still stuck on the same level.”
“Don’t exaggerate,” mumbled Renjun as he tapped and tapped and tapped on the screen.
“It’s true,” answered Jaemin.
Donghyuck and Mark's bus arrived first, and as the bus started moving, they both watched the three through the window—Jeno was just smiling as he watch Renjun play, obviously with no intention to help; Renjun was still caught on his game; and Jaemin was side eyeing Renjun.
“Will Mr. Huang Renjun ever advance to the next level?” said Donghyuck in his MC voice. “We'll find out on the next episode.”
They barely talked during their walk in their neighborhood, both of their hands were buried in their own pockets, heads low and hidden in the hood of their jackets. Donghyuck looked for the black and white cat when they passed the house, but he wasn’t there. He missed the cat all of a sudden.
Donghyuck imagined Mark in college, wearing casual clothes, meeting new people. He wondered if Mark would keep his Jansport backpack that he had been using since middle school.
He could already see Mark's house from afar.
“You know,” said Mark. “I’m really gonna miss eating at that food stall after school.”
Without a beat, Donghyuck mumbled, “Me too.”
Mark chuckled. “Dude, you could still eat there like, almost every day, you know?”
Donghyuck turned to Mark. He couldn’t see his eyes, but he could see his nose and his lips. “But it’s different,” he said.
Mark nodded, slowly, and Donghyuck wanted to ask if Mark fully understood what he meant. There was a pause. And then Mark said, “You going to the graduation ceremony?”
“I’m gonna need time to think it through. Since my schedule is really packed, you know?”
When they finally stopped in front of Mark's house, Mark immediately faced him and then examined him for a moment. “You good?” he said.
Donghyuck dipped his head to the side and pouted, “Of course!”
“Dude, I know you,” said Mark, shifting his weight from one foot to another, pointing an accusing finger at him. “You were like, joking around the whole day, but I know you, man. Something's really off.”
It was so unfair how Mark could easily read him. He shrugged. Better blame it on the weather. “It's nothing, I'm just cold,” he said.
Mark eyed him, then nodded, like he was convincing himself that he should trust what Donghyuck had said. “Alright, alright.” He walked backwards, eyes still on Donghyuck. “See ya.”
But instead of turning around and opening the gates, he leaned against it and didn’t move.
“What the,” said Donghyuck. “Why aren’t you getting in?”
It took Mark a few seconds before he finally said, “You’re like, always waiting for me to get in before you go. And now it’s like, my turn to like, I don’t know, watch you go and wait for you to turn around the corner?”
Mark wasn’t looking at him the whole time he said those confusing combination of words. His eyes were at the said corner, like doing that would make Donghyuck move.
“But why!” Donghyuck said.
“I don’t know, like, do I really seriously need an explanation?”
“Alright. Then why do you wait for me to get in?”
“I don’t know, because I'm a gentleman?”
Mark scoffed. Was he aware that he was pouting right now.
“Okay!” Donghyuck said. “Okay, I'll go!” He walked backwards and waved a hand. “Bye, bye,” he said, then he turned around.
Donghyuck walked and walked and walked, then turned around the corner, took a few steps forward, and then stopped. He dropped his body on the sidewalk, and sat there, arms around his spread knee. Wouldn’t this be a great time to practice his dramatic skills?
He took his airpods and placed them in his ears, then he opened his phone. Your Song by Sam Kim with Lee Jinah and two others was the next song on the playlist. Okay. He could do with that. He clicked play, then a faint sound of rain faded in and then out, then there came the guitar.
The hell happened to him. He had never been so disappointed in himself since that time he made the most unfunny joke in front of his classmates. Also, when he and Mark had fought. Mark. God, he didn’t even think about confessing at all, he didn’t even try, his mind was too full of what does Mark meant by that? Is there something behind those stares? Are we having a connection or is it one sided? Is the feeling mutual or am I just seeing what I wanna see? What the fuck, Mark Lee?
What the fuck, Lee Donghyuck. He groaned. He was too much of a scaredy cat to admit to himself that he was afraid of confessing. What was he even waiting for, some sort of certainty before doing it? That was ridiculous. The only way he could ever find certainty was after confessing, when Mark had either rejected him or not, that was the only time he'd certainly know all the answers to his dumb questions. He drew his knees together, and plopped his forehead unto his knees. His jacket shivered with the wind. But he wanted to let it all out. He didn’t want to hide his feelings anymore. If he wouldn’t do it, he’d end up regretting it until his hair was silver and his skin was all wrinkly. He'd be on his deathbed, and he could still be regretting it. He'd rather not carry all those what ifs and the should have beens everywhere he go.
Donghyuck straightened his body. He had almost forgotten that a song was playing in the background. It had been a long time since he last listened to it. It still felt the same. How strange it was that the song was so in contrast with the dry and brittle atmosphere around him. It sounded like spring rain had subsided, and the air had this earthy and sweet scent, of soil mixing with the flowers, and the sky was dim, but everywhere you look, everything was blooming, and the sun was on its way to shoo the clouds away, to move along. It was a contrast itself—it was bright but listening to it would make you feel blue.
The song was nearing its end. Donghyuck could still confess. After the graduation ceremony. He would pull him away somewhere and look him in the eye and not overthink and just confess. Should he bring a bouquet? Mark would probably receive lots of them anyway, and he would most likely forget about it and leave it somewhere. Okay. No bouquet.
Donghyuck stood up as the song ended.
I love that you’re here
I love that we're together
And I know it’s on your mind
Baby now, I’m never ever leaving by your side
I’ll be your song
That was enough drama for the day.
Donghyuck began his walk home.
February. Graduation day.
Holy shit. Holy fucking shit. Holy motherfucking shit.
According to his phone it was already 10:48 a.m. and that he had 10 missed calls and 12 unread messages.
Donghyuck plopped back down on his bed, leaving his phone on the nightstand. He couldn’t sleep last night. He had woken up sometime around 3 a.m. wanting to scream but he couldn’t because his mom would kill him. He eventually fell asleep sometime around 4. And now it was almost 11. Holy shit.
His phone rang. He propped himself up on one elbow, and slid his finger across the screen as soon as he saw Renjun's name.
“Renjuuun!” he answered.
“Finally! You overslept didn’t you?”
Donghyuck closed his eyes and pushed his tongue against the inside of his cheek. He nodded even though Renjun couldn’t see him. “Yeah.”
Renjun laughed. “Mark hyung has been looking for you.”
Donghyuck collapsed into the bed. At this point of time, he should have confessed already, he should have been rejected already. Or not. Oh god. He had procrastinated on this more than he ever did on any school requirements. Why hadn’t he considered doing it during the winter break? Why did he have to be too lazy to go out.
“We’re going to celebrate. Just us! He's going to celebrate with his family in the evening. Mark hyung said you already know the place. That Chinese restaurant near your bus stop…What? Chenle? Okay. Hyung said the one owned by Chenle's aunt.”
“Yeah, yeah. I know that.”
“Twelve noon, okay? Don’t be late or else—”
Donghyuck ended the call and chuckled to himself, then he let his phone fall from his hand.
The faint sound of TV buzzed from the living room. There was a sudden sizzle, his mom was already cooking lunch. Dusts scattered along the sun rays piercing through the window. Somehow, the house felt empty.
He groaned, and flailed his arms, and kicked and kicked until the comforter was below his hips. Then he exhaled. It’s okay, he told himself. The day hadn’t ended yet. He could still do it. Okay, but what if he failed do it.
“Okay!” Donghyuck rolled off of the bed. He should do it today. He would do it today. Okay. Today.
Donghyuck had expected Mark to look disappointed, but it seemed like he was more relieved when Donghyuck arrived at the restaurant. They applauded when he entered, and of course, he played along.
“Thank you, thank you,” he said, removing his puffer jacket as he settled beside Jaemin and in front of an empty chair next to Mark, which wasn’t really empty; there was Mark’s ugly ass notebook on it.
The table was already set—a pot of malatang and beef bone broth were simmering, surrounded by plates of beef, lamb, bok choy, bean sprouts, mushrooms, fishballs, and different sauces. Also, Mark looked good in his uniform. Donghyuck was saying that as though this was his first time seeing Mark in their uniform. But Mark looked good in his uniform. Donghyuck had only glimpsed at him a few times since he had arrived, hadn’t even looked at him for more than a second, but yes, Mark looked really good. All the time. God, he was so freaking nervous.
Donghyuck mixed his own sauce. He could confess here at the restaurant. Or maybe he could just do it in front of Mark's house so if he get rejected, he could just walk home after, he didn’t have to look back. Yeah.
Mark was looking at him. “Uhm,” he uttered. “Why didn’t you make it to the ceremony?” He was almost pouting. Ha. Cute.
Donghyuck stared at him for a moment, then said, “I wanted to make it, but sleep is my priority.”
Mark huffed, and the rest of the table laughed.
They began dropping the vegetables, and then the meat, into the pot. Donghyuck watched them all sink into the soup, while also glancing at Mark in between. And then they started eating. If Donghyuck's eyes couldn’t help themselves from being pulled into such great presence that was called Mark, then fuck it, let them be.
“By the way, they finally met Chenle and Jisung,” Mark mumbled. He would unconsciously pout whenever he talked with his mouth full, and his eyebrows would shot up like he was saying something very amusing. He was such a dork. Dorky dork. Dork. Donghyuck liked him so much, what the hell.
“One of them is creeped out by Jaemin,” said Jeno, who was sitting beside Mark.
Donghyuck gaped at Jaemin. Renjun leaned over the table to turn to Donghyuck. “He wanted to adopt him already,” he said.
Jaemin didn’t seem bothered. He smiled, and with his aegyo voice and a pout, he said, “Our Jisungie is so cute! He's good at games unlike Renjun.”
“Hey, I already advanced to the next level!”
Donghyuck’s nerves had settled as time went by. He wasn’t sure how their topic had become exclusively about Mark and those two years of high school with him, if they had intentionally brought up that kind of stories because Mark had just graduated, or if they did it unconsciously because deep inside each of them was a sap. Either way, right now, the topic had become Mark and Donghyuck, which Renjun started when he remembered being called Donghyuck once.
“Mark hyung called me Donghyuck too,” Jaemin said.
“Do I live in Mark hyung's mind?” Donghyuck joked as he poured the soup into a bowl.
Before Mark could react to that, Renjun broke into a laughter by himself. He recalled the time when they were in their first year and Mark was in his second, and Donghyuck and Renjun's class had to share their P.E. time with Mark's class. They had played dodgeball against each other, and Donghyuck tried to confuse Mark into passing the ball to him by yelling “Mark hyung, pass the ball to me! We're a family, right?” But Mark never budged. Donghyuck joked about filing for divorce and taking Jisung into custody.
“Remember when they were ignoring each other?”
Donghyuck's and Mark's eyes met at an instant, as though saying, did Jeno really just say that? The three burst out laughing. And god, did Jaemin really had to do his evil laugh and slow claps at this specific moment.
“Oh my god!” Mark exclaimed, looking away, dropping his chopsticks on a plate.
“It was so awkward and so funny,” Renjun said, looking so excited like he had been waiting for so long to talk about this. “At the group chat, during lunch, at the bus stop. I’m glad I don’t ride the same bus.”
Mark chuckled. “Oh my god. Yo, there was one time, when like, the only seat available was next to mine,” He said, glancing at Donghyuck as if asking, do you remember? Donghyuck didn’t avert his eyes as a way of telling him to continue. “But Donghyuck chose to stand the whole ride. And I was like, wow he doesn’t really wanna go near me, huh? Haha, but I was also thinking then that it could have been a good chance to talk, you know.”
“It’s not that I don’t wanna sit next to you. It’s more like—I was thinking, you wouldn’t want me sitting next to you.”
They stared at each other, and Donghyuck felt like Mark was as dumbfounded as him by their own stupidity.
“Ah, that’s why we shouldn’t trust our own assumptions about what other people think,” said Jaemin, before taking a sip of his water.
“I should’ve stood next to you.” Mark's eyes did not waver.
“Dumbass. I should've taken the seat next you,” Donghyuck said.
“Ha!” Renjun clapped the tong. “It would be funny if you guys fight again because of the fight.”
“But how did you guys make up, anyway?”
They both looked at Jeno, then at each other again. Their walk to the bus stop that time had made Donghyuck feel both awkward and relieved. He remembered how he low-key tried to match Mark's steps.
“Uhm, on the bus,” Mark said, chuckling. “Like, maybe two weeks? Since the second semester had started? I walked with him to the bus stop, but we were still like, far from each other you know, but I was trying to match his pace. Cuz when we were ignoring each other, one of us would always walk ahead of the other. As I was saying, I sat beside him on the bus, and I was like, I'm sorry, we should listen to each other, understand each other, let’s treat each other well.”
Donghyuck took a meat from the pot, dipped it into his sauce, and shoved it into his mouth, then said, “My only response was, I treat you well though?”
They all laughed. Mark pointed at him, shaking his head.
“You’re such a dick,” Renjun said.
Donghyuck swallowed. “Of course I said I’m sorry. But we never actually talked about what exactly happened.”
“Yeah, like never,” Mark said.
“Now's the right time to talk about it. Right now,” Jaemin said as he slowly swirled the vegetables on his plate of sauce.
“Why do we have to,” said Mark, rubbing both of his arms like he was cold, but he was just really rubbing the awkwardness away.
“Tell us! Tell us what happened,” Renjun said.
“I don’t know, man, like—” Mark glimpsed at Donghyuck, then cast his eyes upwards with a small laugh. “Alright. Alright. Uhm, actually, I remember that he said something that I seriously misinterpreted. I feel like I also said something that he misinterpreted too, you know. And then like, it turned into an argument, and then yeah. But I really can’t remember what was that about. Like, exactly.”
Donghyuck tilted his head to the side, trying to recall what he and Mark had said to each other. “I can’t remember either,” he said.
Mark slumped into his seat and crossed his arms like this was some serious business. “What was that…”
The table had gotten quiet, and their eyes were still on each other like doing so would make them remember every detail. But Donghyuck had stopped trying to remember. Mark was very distracting.
It was Jeno who said something first. “Does it matter?”
Then all eyes were on Jeno, as though they were all thinking, yeah, does it really matter to know? Jeno smiled at them as he grabbed a meat with the tong, the soup dripped and dripped.
“Well, what matters is that you're closer now than before the fight, right?” Renjun said. “I remember during the festival when we were in our first year, Mark hyung had become Donghyuck's mom for the whole day. He was so worried. Donghyuck was like, chill, it’s just a fever. And Mark hyung was like, but I’ve never seen you have fever before!”
“Smurfette is right,” said Donghyuck because humor would distract everyone, including himself, from the impending blush on his face.
“You know what, Dongsook, suck my dick.”
Donghyuck and Mark waved as Renjun, Jeno, and Jaemin hopped on the bus.
Mark was now wearing his down jacket over his uniform and he looked fluffy waving like that. Donghyuck wanted to run his fingers over the faux fur over his shoulders, and then maybe run his fingers over Mark's hair too or something. He almost laughed out loud at how ridiculous he was, acting like this was the first time seeing Mark like this. Maybe if someone was sort of in love or some shit like that, everything would always feel like the first time.
Donghyuck pulled the hood of his sweatshirt over his head, then placed both hands in the pockets of his puffer jacket. Then they began their walk to their neighborhood. A gentle hush whirled around them, and they strolled as if it was their first time walking on the same, familiar road. The bare trees idled. The clear sky widened.
“What did you do last night?” asked Mark. “Like, why did you wake up so late?”
“Ah, I’m really sorry,” Donghyuck said, turning to Mark, who was just looking ahead. “I woke up at around three in the morning, then I fell asleep, and then, yeah. That’s just it.”
Mark didn’t seem to mind.
Donghyuck wondered how long Mark would realize that he had left something at the restaurant. Why would he even bring that during the graduation ceremony anyway. He couldn’t understand how some people had to always bring a notebook with them anywhere they go. What do they even write in there. Donghyuck patted the kangaroo pocket of his sweatshirt where Mark's ugly ass notebook lay hidden, just to make sure it was still there.
They finally turned around the corner into their neighborhood. They passed the same red brick houses, the same parked cars, the same posts. It was strange, taking the same route with someone for the last time as a routine. It made him see everything as if it was the first time.
Aw shit, they were getting near Mark's house. Why did he even think it was a good idea to execute a prank on the same day he was planning to confess.
Mark stopped. “Hold up, hold up. Wait. Oh my god. I’m sorry,” he said, turning around. “I left something at the restaurant.”
Okay, he realized earlier than Donghyuck had expected him to. “Uh, did you left something that is, maybe, colored blue and red?”
Mark gaped at him, but he seemed relieved. Donghyuck took the notebook out of his pocket, and at an instant, the look of relief on Mark was gone, as he shifted his eyes from Donghyuck to the notebook, from the notebook to Donghyuck. “Wait, you didn’t read it, right?”
“Of course I did not! Even the last time. Last semester. I didn’t.”
Mark nodded. “Alright. Can you give that to me now?”
Donghyuck swayed his arms and hid them behind him, and then casted his eyes to the sky. “Hmmm,” he hummed.
“Hmmm.” Donghyuck glimpsed at Mark. He thought he'd see a frustrated Morkly, but Donghyuck was met with a giggling Mork instead.
Mark shook his head. “Damn, I remember when we were punished.” He paused. And then he broke into a fit of giggles. He giggled and he giggled, and Donghyuck watched him, a big smile on his face, which grew wider and wider as Mark kept losing his shit. They caught each other's eyes, and before he knew it, he was giggling with Mark. He didn’t know how long that lasted until they were just staring and smiling at each other like those cliché moments in dramas.
Those kind of scenes where the love interest glowed, petals floated around them, and the wind blew his hair in slow motion. But Donghyuck preferred this one in front of him—just Mark in his glasses where sunlight glinted on its rim, with a cool wind lightly brushing his hair and the fur around his shoulders. Wow, Donghyuck liked him so much. He really liked him. He liked Mark so much. He liked him. He liked him.
“I like you,” they both said, at the same time.
Oh shit, did he just say that out loud. Wait, what the fuck. Did Mark just say that. The same thing he had said. They said it at the same time. What the hell. They were both frozen in place. But Donghyuck was burning. Mark had said the exact same words. The exact same words. Mark—
There was a clang. Donghyuck’s shoulders shot up, and then he spun around. Mark blurted an “Oh my Jesus!” behind him. The black and white cat was there, a tin can rolling away from him. The cat looked up at Donghyuck as if to say, I’m here!
Donghyuck waved. “Hello.”
A car honked from the distance, and Donghyuck and Mark moved to the side, right in front of the house where the cat had just disappeared into. Their heads followed the car as it passed by.
“Uhm,” Mark uttered. “Uhm, shall we talk?”
Donghyuck nodded, eyes at the empty lot across the road, but full attention on Mark at the corner of his eye.
“Uhm, let’s not, you know,” Mark said, gesticulating at the house. Donghyuck nodded again. They wouldn’t want to look like some creepy teenagers loitering in front of a stranger's property.
Donghyuck followed Mark to the alleyway next to the house. He handed the notebook at once just to have something to do, and as Mark was taking it, they captured each other's eyes, then they looked away at an instant. Mark let out a short laugh, and Donghyuck lowered his head and bit his upper lip, absolutely failing to fight a smile.
“You and I, seriously,” said Mark.
Yeah. You and I.
Donghyuck leaned against the wall, both hands hiding in the pockets of his jacket. Mark cleared his throat. “Uhm, since when?” he asked, voice a little higher than normal.
Donghyuck lifted his body from the wall. He didn’t know what to do. “Well,” he said. “That time when I was Dongsook.”
Mark chuckled, eyes on the main road. “Really?”
“Yeah.” Donghyuck's eyes were everywhere, at the roof of the house behind Mark, at the empty alleyway, at the sky, at the post next to Mark. “But I think that, that sort of thing happened gradually. I knew I was, you know, attracted to you, but didn’t realize how I genuinely like you until that time.” He shrugged like it was no big deal.
“Woah.” Mark was now looking at him. “’Cause—” He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “Like, it was also on that day, you know, after I walked you home, like, when I was on my way to our house, I actually had to stop in the middle of the road when it dawned on me that I see you differently than how I see our friends. Like—” Mark took a breath, and then chuckled and shook his head.
“So…we realized on the same day? I'm having goosebumps right now.”
“Yeah, like, what the hell?”
“I know right.”
Mark laughed. That laugh sounded so light, and so nice. “But like, that’s when I know that I wanna take care of you. I mean, I know you can take care of yourself but—you know? And, I don’t know, I guess I just really wanna see that you’re all right. And that you’re happy. Something like that.”
Donghyuck would have teased him by how many know he had said, but he didn’t have an urge to tease today, he only had an urge to punch the air because it was definitely the air’s fault that his heart was beating way too fast.
Donghyuck breathed out. “I wanna make you happy,” he said, eyes on his converse, observing the way he was shuffling his feet. “And I wanna be with you as much as possible ‘cause I’m clingy and annoying like that.”
“I’m not clingy though, but I wanna be with you all the time too. Like, I literally miss you every day.”
Donghyuck looked up, and Mark averted his eyes straight away, his lips pursed. Why can't they just let themselves smile. They were such dumbasses, the both of them. Donghyuck pushed his hoodie off, he shook his head, and then fixed his hair. Then he took one step, then another step, then another, and now their faces were a few inches from each other.
“Stop looking at my mouth,” said Donghyuck.
“I know that they’re kissable but—”
“I said stop.”
“Dude, you’re looking at my lips too!”
“Yeah. Yeah, I am.”
They finally held each other's gazes, and then silence danced around them. They moved closer, then slowly tipped their heads to their right at the same time, then they moved even more closer, closer, and closer. Donghyuck felt Mark's breath on his lips, then he shut his eyes, and then their lips touched. Mark's lips were cold, it was cold everywhere after all, but they were soft, and Donghyuck felt warm. He wasn’t sure who moved their lips first, but they were kissing anyway. They kissed, and Donghyuck didn’t care anymore—just let his heart burst and explode and blow up and everything.
Mark's hand sneaked into Donghyuck's puffer jacket, and held unto Donghyuck's hip, clutching the fabric of his sweatshirt. They switched the direction of their heads as Donghyuck gently placed a hand on Mark's arm, the other hand on Mark's shoulder, which slowly felt its way up along the curve of Mark's neck, then finally to his hair, his fingers running through the strands. Donghyuck felt like summer. Red-hot. Everything was scorching. Blazing.
They tilted their heads back to their first position, and then after a moment, after Donghyuck kissed Mark’s bottom lip one last time, they broke away from each other.
Donghyuck fixed Mark's hair and his glasses right away. Then they burst into giggles.
“That was…nice,” Mark said. “Lesson learned though. I’m gonna take my glasses off next time.”
Donghyuck gasped. “Next time?”
Mark smacked him on the chest, and Donghyuck whimpered. “You’ve done enough to my heart!” said Donghyuck.
Mark laughed, and that was Donghyuck’s cue to pull him closer by the waist, intertwining his hands on the small of Mark's back. “The hell, you’re still holding that notebook,” Donghyuck said, when he noticed that only one of Mark's arms was folded over his chest.
Donghyuck yanked the notebook from Mark's hand and shoved it in his sweatshirt’s pocket, then he took Mark's arm and guided it next to the other.
“Oh my god,” said Mark. “You’re like, enjoying this too much.”
Donghyuck nodded enthusiastically.
“I look like a t-rex, though,” Mark said, wiggling his fingers, his palm hidden in the sleeves of his jacket.
“Then put your arms over my shoulders.”
“Why, you’re shy?”
“Hyung, you’re literally blushing.”
Mark pushed him away. Why did he have to be so cute. His ears were burning red. Donghyuck wanted to scream. But he was cool, he was cool, so he stepped forward and took both of Mark's hands instead. Mark instantly played with his fingers.
“Uhm, actually,” said Mark, caressing Donghyuck's hand with his thumb. “I was supposed to confess to you after the ceremony.”
“And I brought the notebook with me ‘cause, in case you didn’t reject me, haha, I’d be willing to like, show you some of the stuff in there. But now that I have thought about it, it’s kinda like a lame idea.”
“What did you write on it?”
“Like, reflections? Like, exploring my feelings or something like that. ‘Cause you know, you made feel a lot of things for the first time. Like, anger, you know. And like, I learned to laugh out loud ‘cause of you. And now you have given me like, butterflies in my stomach, seriously.”
He gave Mark butterflies. Mark wrote things about him. He made Mark feel things. For the first time. Donghyuck dropped his forehead on Mark's shoulder. “I’m sorry I called your notebook ugly,” he mumbled.
Mark laughed out loud. Yeah, that laugh? Credits to Lee Donghyuck.
“Hyung,” Donghyuck said. “Why are you so cute?” He wrapped his arms around Mark's shoulder, and drew him closer, their jackets rustled against each other.
Mark hugged him back. “Your jacket is kinda fluffy,” he mumbled.
Donghyuck nuzzled against Mark's neck. “You’re so cute.”
“I’m not cute,” Mark said. “But you’re cute, though.”
“I already know that. But I’m telling you that you’re cute too.”
A car passed by and they rushed to let go of each other. Nobody had walked by when they were kissing, right? God, it was a good thing the houses on both sides of this alleyway were one-storey homes, and the walls were tall enough that no windows were visible.
“Woah,” said Mark, both hands over his heart.
They both laughed. Donghyuck leaned against the wall, and Mark walked over and stood beside him, bumping their arms into each other.
“You remember last summer break? When I asked you to bike along Han River?” Mark said.
“Don’t tell me you were planning to confess to me that time.”
“Okay, please do go on. I want to be acquainted with the regrets in my life that I’m not yet fully familiar with.”
Mark chuckled. “Alright. Uhm, actually, I tried to like, flirt. But I totally suck, man. And then like, uhm, did you know I couldn’t concentrate much on reviewing for the CSAT? ‘Cause I was stressing over like, how to confess to you. So when second semester came, I was like, alright, I’ll do it after the exams. And you know, I feel like I missed you so much that I find myself staring at you way too much, like, it was crazy, man. Like, there are also times where I feel like we’re having this connection, you know, and as I was just internally encouraging myself to finally say that I like you, you'd look away, or like do something else. And that made feel like, the connection was like, one sided.”
“Wow. Wow. Oh my god. Okay. I have so much to tell you, you don’t even know.” Donghyuck grabbed Mark's hand. “But right now, I think we should get going, ‘cause it’s getting really cold now and I'm not Canadian.”
Mark laughed. “Alright, alright. Let’s go.”
They walked hand in hand. Donghyuck swung their hands with all his might until Mark grunted, “Stop.” Donghyuck pouted, and then shoved their hands into the pocket of Mark's jacket instead. Mark narrowed his eyes at him, but he let Donghyuck be anyway.
Donghyuck was the first one to let go when they reached Mark's house. When Mark didn’t say or do anything, Donghyuck started walking backwards as slowly as he could, waving one hand, and saying, “Bye, bye. I’m going now. I’m really, really going now. Seriously, bye.”
Donghyuck wanted to spend more time with him, and if Mark didn’t get the hint, then too bad for him, Donghyuck was both annoying and persistent.
But then Mark reached out to Donghyuck's waving hand and interlaced their fingers together, and then pulled Donghyuck closer. That was so smooth. He did not expect that. The two of them stood face to face, smiling like a couple of idiots, tightening their hold on each other’s hands. They smiled at each other for who knows how long, until Mark raised his eyebrows with a quick nod and said, in English, “What's up?”
Donghyuck fought back a snort, and just winked in response. Mark winced. Ha. But who was he kidding, Donghyuck knew he liked it.
Mark cleared his throat. “So, are we like, official now? Like, you know, boyfriends, like that.”
God, he was so adorable.
“Do you want to? I mean, are you ready…” Donghyuck said.
“Okay.” Mark nodded. “Wait, so, are we official now?”
“Alright,” Mark said, still nodding. “Alright.”
Donghyuck leaned in to kiss Mark on the cheek, that strangely kissable sunken cheek. “Congratulations on your graduation, by the way,” he said. “Call me.”
He waved goodbye and then began walking. He walked and walked and walked and walked, then he stopped at the corner and he spun around, and then yelled, “Are you walking me home or not!”
“I will!” Mark jogged towards him, the hood of his jacket bouncing over his shoulders.
Donghyuck laced his arm around Mark's, and then they sauntered up the sloping road, their breaths a cloud in the air.
“Your notebook is still with me, you know,” Donghyuck said.
“Oh shit, yeah.”
“I’m keeping it.”
“I’m kidding.” Donghyuck squeezed their arms together. “You know, I suddenly remember a certain song.”
Donghyuck snapped his fingers. Snap, snap, snap, snap, then he sang, “I remember when we were scolded for being noisy in the hallway…”
“Woah. Yo, that’s—”
“Even though we were being punished, I don’t know why it was so fun…”
Mark began snapping his fingers as well. “Yo, this is so cool though! That could literally be like, our song.”
“Sing your part.”
“Oh, yeah. After that day…”
“Stuck together like Gemini constellation. You were me and I was you…”
“Welcome to Donghyuck Cam with 37.5% viewer ratings,” said Donghyuck, holding a water bottle as a mic. “We are currently watching the sunset with a very special guest, also known as the loser at the road bike race, Mark Lee!”
“Who said that was a race!”
“I just did.”
They had just finished biking around Han River, and now they stood at a riverbank, watching the sun scatter gleams of its light unto the water, and cast silhouettes of the bridge and distant skyscrapers.
The sun looked like an egg yolk, as Jisung would say. When they had told Jisung that they, his former parents, were officially dating, Jisung thought it was some early April fools thing. So Donghyuck suggested that they should prove it, but in order to do so, they would need to go somewhere more private. Jisung immediately recoiled with an “Ew!”
They broke the news to their friends when they met up for Renjun's birthday. Jeno reacted with an “Eh!” while Renjun laughed in amusement, and then there was Jaemin who slow clapped and did his evil laugh as he said, “I knew this is gonna happen.”
Mark reached for Donghyuck's pinky. He breathed in. “Ah, this feels nice.”
It had rained over an hour ago but the breeze was still fresh with petrichor. The grass on the riverbed remained dewy. The sky was now clear. The trees lined up between the riverbank and the main road bloomed in vibrant green. This reminded him of Your Song except there was nothing to be blue about.
Donghyuck caught Mark smiling at him like the sap that he secretly was. “What are you looking at, huh?”
“I—” Mark inhaled, and then said, “I love you.”
Dork. Donghyuck nodded. “I love myself too.”
Mark let out a short, airy laugh, also known as the Wow, I'm Head Over Heels For Donghyuck Laugh (he had confirmed that it was, indeed, the perfect name for that).
Donghyuck bumped his arm into Mark's.
Mark raised his eyebrows at him.
“You and I, seriously,” Donghyuck said, mimicking Mark.
It wasn’t a surprise that he got pushed away.
“I’m gonna tell people that you tried to throw me into the river!” Donghyuck said, as he linked their arms together.
Mark smiled and took his hand, interlacing their fingers.
I love that you’re here
I love that we're together
“I love you,” Donghyuck finally said.