Most of the time, the unthinkable happens on what should be an average day in an individual’s routine. That way, when someone looks back at a tragedy, they can say “It started off like any other day…” and it makes for a juicy opening.
It generates anxiety and raises the question “why”.
Or other times, the unthinkable occurs when we least expect it.
And doesn’t that make the collision all the more impactful when we don’t expect it? When it sneaks up on you and strikes from behind?
This explanation attempts to describe the reactions of two, small children who are forced to watch their two-year-old friendship perish in a matter of mere minutes.
The end of Eight and Namjoon begins on sunny-cloudy Friday afternoon a week after Namjoon’s birthday.
Eight-year-old Kim Namjoon is trying for the umpteenth time not to squirm in his car seat. He can’t help it. He’s been on edge ever since he left home. He has surmised that his Hyung is to blame for his current predicament.
He had a wonderful birthday: he got a lot of presents, cake and ice cream, spent time with his Hyung and Eight, and did he mention the ice cream? He got to eat ice cream for breakfast (he was only on the toilet for fifteen minutes afterward, a record!)
With all the festivities, Namjoon was content with his lot. He didn’t want nor need anything else.
Later that night when Seokjin-Hyung tucked him into bed, he told Namjoon that the surprises weren’t over yet.
“I know my work,” his Hyung had said, “doesn’t allow for us to spend a lot of time together, and for that I’m sorry. If I could, I would be with you all the time. You know that, right?”
Namjoon initially nodded his head but after thinking about it he shook it. “But wouldn’t we grow sick of each other if we spent all our time together? We’d hate each other after while. I like my space, Hyung.”
Seokjin had to stop himself from sputtering.
Space? Since when did his little dongsaeng care about such things? And more importantly, what the hell does an eight-year-old do that requires space?
There was some truth to it, of course. Despite Seokjin wishing his duties didn’t take up most of his time, he didn’t want to spend his every waking moment with his little brother, no matter how endearing he is.
But it hit different when it came from Namjoon’s mouth.
His sweet, inquisitive brother was growing up. One day in the distant future, his brother wouldn’t be satisfied with it just being himself and Namjoon. He wouldn’t need Seokjin anymore. Seokjin is terrified of the day when his brother won’t need him anymore.
Seokjin is even more terrified that there won’t be a day when Seokjin will stop needing Namjoon.
But he is strong enough to look beyond his own pain to realize that Namjoon is changing: he’s growing taller, his cheeks are losing their pulpiness (although he suspects that they will always retain their round shape) and he’s letting his hair grow past his usual bowl cut length, much to Seokjin’s relief.
“I know,” Seokjin says, trepidation and pride wrestling for dominance in his heart. “Which plays a part in your present.”
Just because Namjoon was satisfied with the number of gifts he has already received doesn’t mean he will turn down the possibility of more presents.
Namjoon bolted upright and would’ve collided his forehead with his Hyung’s if Seokjin hadn’t backed up in the nick of time. “There’s more?” Namjoon bounces up and down on the bed, the mattress creaking as he did. “What is it? Where is it? Where is it? Do you have it? Am I getting it tonight? Tomorrow? Next week?”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! Time, time!” Seokjin exclaims laughingly. He makes a “T” with his hands for emphasis. “One question at a time: you’ll be getting it tomorrow morning, it still needs a little time to get here, and it’s something you play with and talk to.”
Oh my God, Namjoon thinks with glee. He’s totally getting a puppy. He can feel it.
Oh, he can picture it now: a cute puppy (preferably a white, short-haired one) that both boy and wolf cub could play with. Eight meeting the puppy for the first time; her sunshine-colored eyes enlarging to the size of dinner plates and her thrilled grin. They could play with it for hours in the forest.
Predictably, Namjoon got hardly any sleep last night. His mind was reoccupied nightdreaming about his “mystery” gift. He didn’t understand the need for secrecy when it was so obvious what it was. But he supposed there was no harm in indulging his Hyung. When he did finally settle into sleep, he had vivid dreams of a white puppy, himself in his wolf cub skin, and Eight racing through the forest.
This morning, Namjoon leaped out of bed at 7:30, took a bath (he’s finally old enough to bathe himself!), hurriedly brushed his teeth, and threw on some clothes. Usually, the maids would pick what he wore, but as a birthday gift and sign of independence, they promised him that he could do that himself for on.
Seokjin told him at 11:00, come to the family room to receive his gift.
It was still only a little after eight. He tried to keep himself busy until then. He started reading one of his gifts, “Into the Land of the Unicorns” which is book one of the series, “The Unicorn Chronicles”. Although there was the occasional sly glance at the clock, the book did its job and kept him preoccupied for the remaining three hours.
When it was time, Namjoon stuffed his new book into his new Pokémon backpack (another gift). He could read the rest of it with Eight anyways.
On the way to the family room, he had to stop himself several times because his excitement was threatening to trigger a shift. Seeing as how it is only his second day of being eight, the last thing he needs is to show how much of a little kid he is in public.
After getting himself under control, he hotfoots it to the family room. Seokjin-Hyung is there, waiting for him.
“You ready for your present?” Seokjin-Hyung asked. He was smirking, an expression he only adopted when he thought that he was being especially clever. Namjoon associated that look to be his know-it-all look.
Namjoon would regularly find it annoying but his anticipation is outweighing his irritation. “Yes! Now c’mon, Hyung!” he demands impatiently.
His Hyung laughs but follows his command. Seokjin-Hyung opens the door and goes in first. Namjoon strides after him, his gait reminiscent of a five-star general. He had been waiting his entire life for this moment and his patience was about to be vastly rewarded.
Spoiler alert: he still doesn’t have a puppy.
How, Namjoon thinks in dismay, was his hypothesis so off-kilter? He thought that he and his Hyung were more in sync than this. How did puppy translate into this?
This is a definite setback in his masterplan to become a crime-fighting detective.
Not for the first time, Namjoon steals a glance at the two individuals that are sitting next to him. He is fully aware that it is considered bad manners to stare, but he’s curious and not a little uncomfortable.
But it’s not like the petite ten-year-old chatterbox beside him can sense his stares. “Oh my God! Taehyungie, did you see that? Did you just freaking see that? Market stands! A whole bunch of them too. Just like in the drama that Eomma was watching last week, remember? But that show was only filled with humans and they were speaking Japanese on top of that! It was kinda boring. But this is better much. Oh Taehyungie, look at that, look at that! A family of black swan shifters is selling mangoes. I’ve never seen anyone so open about their animal egos before. But then again…” This is only a paragraph in the boy’s endless and mindless spoken word dissertation as he takes in the sights from the car window.
When Namjoon had walked into the family room, ready to accept the supposed puppy, he was confused to see two children lounging on the sofa, whispering to each other. Their whispers ceased and the two of them, with creepily timed synchronicity, glanced up to stare at him. He immediately surmised that they were the children of the staff.
For the time since his puppy hypothesis, he guesses right.
Seokjin-Hyung introduced the smaller of the boys as Park Jimin. Park Jimin is the son of Park Ji-Seok, who is the King’s royal advisor. The Parks are an aristocratic and prominent line of Snow Leopard shifters.
The Kims and the Parks had always been close, business and personal-wise. Park Ji-Seok had grown up with the previous King and had been his royal advisor as well. Tragically, Ji-Seok’s eldest son and Jimin’s Hyung was also killed in the assassination of the King and Queen.
Park Ji-Hyun was still training and was only a mere foot soldier at the time of his death. But he had been the first one to spot the gunman and courageously shielded the King with his body. Although it was all for naught, in the end, the Parks and Kims were bound together by their mutual grief.
A few weeks before Namjoon’s birthday, Seokjin inquired about Ji-Seok’s young son. He knew that his advisor had a son around Namjoon’s age and saw the potential of gifting Namjoon with a playmate. He knew that keeping Namjoon’s existence confidential was paramount, but he wanted his brother to have a friend. Someone he could build a lasting bond with.
Wanting to vet the boy, Seokjin set aside some time for himself to make the 30-40-minute drive to the Parks’ mansion to meet him. It took no time at all for Seokjin to be charmed by the character that is Park Jimin.
Seokjin discovered in no time at all that Jimin is a talker. On any other little kid, Seokjin probably would’ve told the kid to shut the fuck up in the nicest way possible. But Jimin was a smooth operator. Not to mention the kid looked like a baby doll.
Jimin has a mop of dark blonde hair, amethyst-colored eyes, butterscotch toned skin, and the cutest pair of cheeks that bunched up when he smiled. Seokjin had no doubt that while Jimin is an adorable child now, he will most certainly grow into an ethereal man.
Jimin had taken to the idea of meeting Namjoon immediately. He insisted that he be allowed to bring his attendant-in-training along with him. Said attendant-in-training was a reserved tiger shifter named Kim Taehyung whose parents worked for and lived in the Parks’ illustrious mansion.
Taehyung is a skinny boy with dark brown hair, intelligent hazel eyes, and slightly wide ears.
Jimin and Taehyung are package deal; where Jimin goes, Taehyung goes and vice versa.
When Seokjin-Hyung had told Namjoon that the duo was going to be his new playmates, Namjoon malfunctioned. As he stood there buffering, his brain was endeavoring to process the unexpected information thrown at him.
Once the download of information finally computed in his muddled brain, his first instinct was to scream, “But I wanted a puppy!”
He refrained because one, he’s not going to embarrass himself, Jimin and Taehyung, or his Hyung with his whining. That was bratty, little kid move and Namjoon is neither bratty nor a little kid anymore. Two, if nothing else, he would endure this unexpected turn of events with a mega-watt smile for his Hyung.
Seokjin-Hyung looked so pleased and hopeful with his gift. Namjoon knew that he was taking a risk even allowing Jimin and Taehyung to know he existed. He knew his Hyung was only thinking of him when he arranged this. Namjoon would not ruin his brother’s surprise by allowing his discomfort to show.
Besides, if everything worked out, he would have three friends instead of one. What’s the worst that could happen?
In truth, it isn’t Jimin or Taehyung’s fault that Namjoon can’t seem to yank the yard-long stick out of his butt. If they were colors, Jimin would be a vivacious red because of the way he speaks about everything and nothing with such a passion that only he could pull off.
Taehyung would be purple with his quiet regal nature. Jimin had mentioned that Taehyung was a little younger than him which surprised Namjoon. Taehyung, with his sharp features, could’ve easily been mistaken as the same age or older than Jimin. Jimin is the one with the babyface. Namjoon couldn’t help but feel somewhat irked that Jimin, with his cute face and short stature, is two years older than him.
Currently, the three of them are riding in a car driven by Jimin’s family chauffeur. Like Namjoon, Jimin was kept sheltered the majority of his life although his existence wasn’t kept a secret.
Much like Namjoon was in his first expedition outside the palace walls, Jimin is regarding everything with wide-eyed wonder. Despite not saying anything, Taehyung is just as fascinated. He captures pictures of the moving scenery every ten seconds.
They are both incredibly hilarious to watch. Namjoon doesn’t understand why he can’t relax and enjoy the moment as well.
Wait, that’s a lie. He knows the exact reason.
For two straight years, he hasn’t felt lonely. How could he? He had his Hyung and Eight to fill the clawing void inside him. He hasn’t wanted for more since then. He was living in a tiny yet comfortable bubble.
And now his bubble is threatening to pop with the arrival of these unknown elements. He isn’t prepared for the sudden uproot.
Jimin’s high voice compels Namjoon to come out of his thoughts and focus on Jimin.
Jimin’s adorably fluffy cheeks are flushed pink and he actively avoids eye contact with Namjoon. “I must be annoying you; acting so excited over everything like this. His Majesty told me that you’ve done this over a million times. Me and Taehyung must seem like total kids to you, right?” Namjoon takes a cursory glimpse at Taehyung’s face. He is frowning and stuffs his phone into the seat pouch in front of him.
Namjoon could kick himself.
He hadn’t considered that Jimin and Taehyung were feeling nervous as he is. How had he been so wrapped in himself he hadn’t realized?
Namjoon makes the decision to stop acting like a giant turd and start interacting with his company.
He juts his chin out, squares his shoulders, and practically shouts, “There’s nothing wrong with being excited, Jimin-ssi! I was the same way when I first went outside. And the marketplace has a lot of stuff going on during the day. I’ve taken plenty of pictures.” Namjoon’s positive affirmation is enough to bring Jimin and Taehyung out of their shame.
Jimin leans over to Namjoon and Taehyung quietly retrieves his phone to snap more pictures.
“Thanks, Namjoon-ah!” Before Namjoon has time to realize what he’s doing, Jimin leans over and gives Namjoon a quick hug. Namjoon gets a quick whiff of Jimin’s scent and it reminds him of the cherry blossoms that grow in the greenhouse back at home. It’s sweet yet subtle. It wasn’t anything like Eight’s scent that forced you to pay attention.
Namjoon blushes, wondering why he is comparing the two.
Trying not to delve too much into it, he tries and fails to think of something to spark up a lengthy conversation.
Thankfully, Jimin relieves him of the task.
“Out of all the places you’ve visited, what was your favorite?” Namjoon is about to remark that he hasn’t visited many locations in the city but he decides to leave that part out.
“I love visiting the florist’s shop near the bakery. She has the prettiest flowers I’ve ever seen! My favorites are the blue sweet peas that she grows in her garden.” He remembers liking them so much, he discreetly plucked a few of them and gave them to Eight as a present. Yes, it’s wrong to steal but the look on Eight’s face was worth it. Being friends with Eight makes him want to be brave.
Jimin’s violet eyes shine like gems. “She lets you play in her garden?”
“Yeah. Her shop is attached to her house so she lets me play in her garden while she talks to my nanny.”
“Wow… that sounds nice. And you said it’s located where?”
“Near a bakery called ‘Maeve’s Goods’. You can’t miss it: big white letters and all.”
Jimin nods and taps the driver. He whispers something to her that Namjoon strains to hear. He catches the words “favor” and “florist”. Namjoon has a bad feeling he knows what they’re talking about and sure enough…
“Good news, Namjoon-ah. I convinced In-Sook Sunbaenim to make a detour towards that flower shop you like so much. You can show us the garden yourself.”
Namjoon doesn’t why he feels uneasy. It shouldn’t be such a big deal.
The florist’s shop is something that he shares with Eight. It’s where their friendship was born. Even if he knows Eight isn’t going to be there, he doesn’t want to share something so precious to them with strangers.
He doesn’t want to share Eight. It feels wrong somehow.
But he shakes it off. He’s being dramatic and for what? It’s not Eight will be there. It’s a Friday and she must be home, preparing dinner for her Eomma when she comes home from her job.
With luck, Jimin and Taehyung will become bored with it and never ask to come to the florist’s shop again.
The girl is in a foul mood today.
Hobi had shaken her awake earlier than the usual five o’clock this morning. After two whole years of this gig, her body’s internal clock was finally starting to get used to waking up at an ungodly hour only to have her blanket yanked off at four instead of five.
The girl viewed it as the ultimate betrayal that Hobi would ruin her sleep time when they had an arrangement.
Hoseok had told her that he had talked to his boss last Friday about the possibility of earning more cash if they pulled a double shift. For Hobi and the girl, that meant working until late afternoon.
Hobi had told that he wanted to get there a little earlier so they could find some tossed out food they could salvage before their boss got there.
At four in the morning, the last thing the girl cared about was making money. Hobi’s sunny voice was making her head pound. Why was this boy so chipper at four in the morning? What did he have to be so jolly about?
The girl briefly entertains the fantasy of ripping off Hobi’s nuts and shoving them down his throat. Let’s see how sunny he is when he’s choking on his testicles.
Hobi’s crotch was right there and the thoughts would’ve become actions if not for the single word her mind produced.
That name was powerful enough for her to climb out of bed without complaint.
About a couple of months ago, one of their human residents, a male infant, died in his sleep.
Alexei had only been with them for a year. One of the teenage girls had been coming home from her shift at a bar when she heard his cries in a nearby dumpster. She rushed him to the nearest clinic.
It had been touch and go, but the physicians gave him the green light. When the teenage girl brought him to the orphanage, Father Sebastian said that the children could keep him, but do not expect any type of assistance from him or the nuns. After the adults’ rejection, it became a unanimous decision that the children would do their best to raise the baby themselves.
All of the children, even slithery Astrid, had been taken with the little guy. Some of the teenage girls dubbed him Alexei, after Alexei Romanov. And like the famous Russian prince, Alexei had been sickly from the start.
The girl tries to remember Alexei the way she wants to: tightly curled black hair, soft brown skin, and huge brown doe eyes that could melt even the most stoic of men.
But her nightmares are plagued with the nights where Alexei wailed through the nights because the poor baby was in so much pain. She recalls how frail he had been in the end.
The children tried to give him what he needed, but what Alexei had couldn’t be cured with formula, warm clothes, or cough medicine.
The children had begged Father Sebastian to pay for Alexei to be treated at a hospital. But he had said was, “Just like Pontius Pilate, I have washed my hands of the entire matter. His fate in your hands.”
Alexei died soon after.
The children had placed his tiny body in a white shoebox and buried in a small clearing where the sun peaked through. Alexei always did giggle when he felt the sun rays caressed his cheeks.
After that, the kids all processed their grief through different mediums. The girl distracted herself by working with Hobi and becoming when she was with Namjoon. At that point, they were the only things keeping her going.
She is making progress though. She has finally stopped having nightmares about Alexei’s endless screams.
She knows that Hobi is taking on more than he should. He has dark circles under his eyes and he is quick to lose his temper. Hobi believes that there was something that he could’ve done for Alexei. He believes that if he had worked harder and earned more money, they could’ve afforded to give him the care he needed.
Hence his desire to go the extra mile lately.
But the girl chooses to indulge him because she doesn’t how else to comfort him. She has never been the best with words, but at least she can there for him.
And when he breaks, she will help him pick up the pieces.
“Remind me again, why am I carrying the Tupperware container while you’re holding onto the cash?”
Hobi and the girl are walking back to the orphanage after a long morning of working at the supermarket. They decided to cut through the forest behind the florist’s house since the commute back to the orphanage is faster.
Her feet feel are tender and her mouth is uncomfortably dry. At this point, she just wants to collapse onto her lumpy mattress and fall into a dead-like state.
On the bright side, they made twice as much as they usually would have and they harvested plenty of food.
The girl is honestly appalled at how much food goes to waste when kids like her are starving. That’s why she feels no guilt when she swipes the food placed in the bad pile. Why should she considered stealing when it was going to be thrown out anyway? Their supervisor doesn’t know about it and if he does, he looks the other way. The girl considers it a part of their revenue.
“Because this was your bright idea and I can’t be holding something that heavy. I’m just a kid. You’re the big strong leopard man. You do the math.”
“Kid my foot!” Hobi rolls his eyes. “At the rate you’re growing, you’ll be taller than me before the year ends. And you forget that I watch you nearly break a teenage boy’s arm because he was arm wrestling with you.”
“He had it comin,” the girl claims with a burgeoning smirk. “Acting he better than us just because he got a car and a fancy watch. I showed him, didn’t I?”
“Yeah, and we only had to run three blocks when his friends tried to jump us.”
“Hey, that’ll teach him to mess with the, as he said, the pathetic or—”
The girl stops dead in her tracks.
She must be imagining things. He isn’t here. It’s Friday. This is real, this isn’t—
“Eight!” She can smell that sweet peachy scent that usually makes her heart beat a little faster. Now it turns her stomach.
She hears the familiar tempo of his gait as his scent grows ever closer, along with two other scents that she doesn’t recognize.
“So, it looks like I will finally be able to meet the famous Namjoon you meet every week?” Hoseok whispers, amused with the situation. But the girl finds nothing funny about this.
She worked so hard to keep her two worlds separate and now a simple encounter is threatening to tip the balance she created.
Stay calm, she orders herself. Maybe if she plays her cards right, she can fudge her way through this calamity and Namjoon would be none the wiser of the truth.
Hobi will back her. He’ll be rightfully pissed at her, but he’ll back her.
Reinforced with this knowledge, she turns around to face Namjoon. The two boys standing beside him once again throw her off her stride.
The way they’re dressed suggests that they are rich like Namjoon is. She notices the way the smaller boy clings onto Namjoon’s hand. His cute face curled up in suspicion.
The girl hates him instantly.
“Hey, Peaches! I um, uh… w-wasn’t expecting you today,” the girl chuckles nervously. When the girl refers to Namjoon as “Peaches”, the small boy’s eyes narrow and now leans his body onto Namjoon’s like he is a warm furnace.
Anxiety forgotten, the girl balls up her fist and struggles against the impulse to rip the boy away from Namjoon.
“Um… who are your friends?”
Namjoon startles like he forgot the boys are there.
“Right! Um, this is Park Jimin—”
“His new best friend,” the tiny boy snarls out in an impossibly adorable voice. Namjoon glares at Jimin and tries to wriggle out of his grasp, but Jimin just grips on tighter.
The girl now wants to punch the midget in the eye. The only best friend Namjoon has is her. And no obnoxious, prissy, little snot like Jimin is going to take him away from her.
Namjoon sees the way Eight is squinting at Jimin and knows that Jimin does not realize the danger is he putting himself in. He should’ve listened to his gut and refused to come here.
“And this,” he intervenes, sensing a fight brewing, “is Kim Taehy—”
“I know you.”
These are the first words that Taehyung has spoken all day. He is pointing a long skinny finger at something.
Shocked, Namjoon follows his finger to its general direction.
“How do you know Eight?”
Taehyung frowns. “Who?”
I’m dreaming, the girl dimly thinks. This has to be a bad dream. That’s the only explanation for this. Or else, this is God’s idea of a cruel joke.
Because how else could she explain this?
She doesn’t pay much attention to adoption days anymore. They all end the same. But for multiple reasons, she remembers the adoption day that took place two years ago.
And that is why she is staring in absolute horror at the tiger shifter or Taehyung.
“Her name isn’t Eight. She doesn’t have a name.”