Title: When In College, chapter 3
Character(s) / pairing(s): Jiyong / Seunghyun, Chaerin / Sandara, Bom
Word Count: 2633
Note: find chapter one and two here.
Summary: Double dates are confusing. You might just end up falling for the wrong person.
The last week of October marked a temporary end of their classes, an occasion which got celebrated by cramming for the upcoming mid-terms. Jiyong's strategy usually consisted of locking himself in his room and not leaving until he was done. Once he actually got started and got into the flow of things, things were all right – the starting bit rather was the problem.
See, Jiyong could be motivated about a lot of things, but the subject matter of his classes wasn't one of them. It wasn't like he could see himself using it once he left college.
It wasn't music.
Jiyong sighed, and opened up the next text book. It'd be over in a few days.
The morning of his first exam, he ran into Chaerin in the kitchen. They hadn't seen each other much all week: Chaerin had been staying in the library all day while Jiyong had been hoarded up in his room, accompanied by his books and a necessary amount of coffee.
“Hey,” Chaerin said. Her voice sounded raspy, like she hadn't slept enough. She seemed to realise it herself, as she gave an annoyed look and commented, “Ugh, I can't wait for this to be over and sleep for two days straight.”
“Same,” Jiyong said with probably a little too much longing in his voice. It was just that right about now, that seemed the ideal scenario. And very unattainable, as was usually the case with ideal scenarios.
“Coffee?” he offered instead, the next best thing.
“Nah, I'll grab some on the way,” Chaerin answered. “I'm going over there now as I want to be on location a little earlier. You good luck, yeah?”
“Thanks, you too,” Jiyong replied.
He held up his hand and said, “High five for extra luck?”
Chaerin regarded him with something in-between disbelief and amusement. “What are you, like five?” she said, though he could tell she kind of wanted to.
“C'mon,” Jiyong pressed and waved his hand in mid-air for good measure.
Chaerin rolled her eyes but then clapped his hand.
“You're a kid,” she muttered as she headed for the door, but Jiyong could see it was said with a smile.
One exam was followed by another, and another – until on Wednesday he could finally take a breather as there weren't any scheduled for tomorrow.
Chaerin wasn't so lucky and was headed for the library once more for a late-night study session. It was just him in the apartment this evening, splayed out on the couch. An empty pizza box graced the coffee table, his reward for making it so far. His body felt slightly lethargic – a welcome change from the constant stress.
There was a soap being shown on tv, which Jiyong only paid half attention to. It was a re-run anyway, and Jiyong already knew how it'd end: Jack would end up with Angie and they'd kiss. The end.
He probably ought to get up and take a shower, but explicitly did not feel like moving. Instead he aimlessly checked his phone. Hardly any updates: it was a quiet evening in social media land.
As he he scrolled his whatsapp list, wondering whom to text to alleviate his boredom, his finger stopped at Seunghyun's name. He hadn't texted him all mid-term.
hey how's it going? he typed out before he could think better of it and pressed 'send.'
He dropped his phone next to him, not expecting an answer until at least the next morning. He glanced at the television screen just in time to see Jack gather his courage and kiss Angie. See.
An unexpected bleep diverted his attention from the screen. Picking up his phone, he scanned his new message with surprise.
Will be happy once mid-terms are over. You?
That must have been the fastest Seunghyun had ever replied. Either he really was keen on avoiding his studying or... Jiyong squashed his last treacherous (entirely too hopeful) thought and instead texted a quick reply:
avoiding studying are you now? ;)
Did he really just send a winky face? Oh well.
something about the pot calling the kettle black...?
easy w/ the metaphors literature student he replied with a grin, then added:
also not avoiding anything bc I'm free tonight sooo
Did that sound too much like an invitation? Jiyong frowned at the screen, watching the '…' as Seunghyun typed a reply. Honestly, he'd missed this – the over-analysing of texts, the anxious waiting for a reply.
It was pathetic, but then it was also true. Those two often seemed to go hand in hand lately.
A new text had popped up on screen.
we should go celebrate once it's over :)
Jiyong stared at the smiley emoticon, dimly aware it was a copy of his current face.
yes! sounds good!! he replied with uncensored enthusiasm, thinking (hoping) that Seunghyun's idea of celebrating was the same as his: music, drinks, and whatever followed from that.
He could not wait for this week to be over.
The day the exams finally ended, Jiyong proposed to his roommate they go out to celebrate.
He'd asked Seunghyun to make good on that promise from before, but his friend was preoccupied otherwise as his family were in town for a visit. And either way, Jiyong was hoping for a somewhat more... private meeting this time instead of their previous group dates. Or whatever the name for those occasions had been.
“Can't, already have plans,” Chaerin replied. “Hey, can I borrow your white jacket for tonight? Mine's in the laundry.”
“The Zara one you mean? Sure,” Jiyong answered. Advantages of having a roommate with virtually the same size as you: bigger wardrobe to pick from.
“Where you going, anyway?” he asked as Chaerin hopped off the couch to fetch his jacket.
“Cinema,” came the reply from his room. He heard her rummage through his closet. Trying to find a piece among hundreds of garments was probably a challenge, but hey, he was very organized.
“Cinema? With whom?” Chaerin hardly ever went to the movies.
“Oh, with Dara, she wanted to see the new Avengers movie, so... ah, gotcha,” he heard her exclaim as she evidently had found the garment in question.
And a few seconds later she indeed emerged victoriously from his room, jacket in hand.
“I hope you haven't messed up my closet too much,” Jiyong said half-seriously (okay, maybe like totally seriously).
“'Course I haven't,” Chaerin dismissed his concern, and Jiyong made a mental note to check later. “Anyway, I'll be there by eight, so I'm gonna take a shower now.”
And Jiyong watched her walk to her room to get her stuff. Right. Time to check who was up for his plans instead.
Chaerin had agreed to meet Dara at her place. Their apartment was on the other side of the town, so she took the bus for the first part – no way she was gonna cycle in this cold, screw that – and walked the remaining bit. Dara had texted instructions beforehand, and though she surely would have found her way without them, it was easy enough to follow them.
After a few minutes she'd reached the right apartment building, one made of reddish brick and about five floors high. Chaerin scanned the residents list next to the door and buzzed the second to last doorbell. After only a few seconds, a metallic voice sprang to life over the intercom – one that she still could recognise as belonging to Dara – which announced, 'Hey! Door's open!'
And surely enough, the heavy door swung open. Chaerin opened her mouth to reply, but before she could do so the telephonic connection had already been cut off. Chaerin frowned as she stepped inside, thinking that Dara really ought to switch the order around of letting her visitors in first and verifying them after.
She had to climb two chairs before she reached a blue door that was slightly ajar. A glance at the name tag next to it proved that it was the correct one.
As she peeked inside, a voice (less metallic and more cheerfully human this time) greeted her, saying: “Come on in!” Shortly after it was followed by Dara's head as the girl peeked around one of the doors in the hallway, mascara in hand.
“Sorry, I was just finishing up. Welcome to our humble palace,” she added solemnly, gesturing around with the make-up tool still in place.
The theatrics of it made Chaerin smile. It was just so out of there, yet completely sincere.
“It seems nice,” she agreed, perhaps more to halt her thought process than in actual answer to Dara's comment. “You know what, you go finish up and I”ll just –” She gestured vaguely in the direction of what she assumed to be the living room.
“OK,” Dara said enthusiastically, “you can meet Bom!”
And so, as Dara retreated into the bathroom, Chaerin swung open the door towards the living room. She was greeted by what could only be Dara's roommate. The other girl was lounging on the couch in a comfy dress, her long legs exposed even though it was halfway November. Objectively speaking they were great legs, though.
“Hi,” Chaerin greeted.
“Hello,” Bom greeted back, halting her eating movement. Chaerin couldn't really make out the food, but it suspiciously looked like corn.
Well, that was interesting.
The two girls seized each other up. Finally Bom said, “You must be Chaerin.”
“I am,” Chaerin agreed. She helpfully, and perhaps tactfully, added: “I like your dress.”
Bom narrowed her eyes as though she knew exactly what was going on (trading compliments was ground rule number one for getting in a girl's good graces, please) but it seemed to work anyway. She patted her dress, pleased despite herself.
“Thanks,” she accepted the compliment, “it's H&M.”
There was a pause again, and then Bom suddenly dropped her weary attitude as though it had been old clothes and said urgently, almost apologetically: “You know, I'm only looking out for Dara. I only want the best for her.” Her eyes had become big, like one of those cute dolls. Chaerin thought this transformation rather fascinating. Again.
“I know,” Chaerin said, even though she didn't really because she'd only just met Bom. But you know, wanting to protect your friends – she did get that.
“Dara always believes the best of people, so she can get hurt. I don't want her to get hurt,” Bom added with a momentarily return of the stern gaze.
“No, I – of course I don't want that either. I really like her, you know,” Chaerin answered.
Which, well. Was the truth.
Bom seemed satisfied. “Want something to eat? Got pie and sweet corn.” Chaerin recognised it for the peace offer it was (ground rule number two for good relationships among girls: food) but politely declined.
“I'm good, thanks.”
Just then Dara appeared in the living room. She'd done her hair up in a high ponytail and had applied a little bit of make-up. She looked fresh, more so than usual anyway.
Chaerin smiled at her. Dara smiled back, somewhat bashful.
“Unnie, you sure you don't want to borrow my shoes?” Bom interjected, interrupting the moment.
“No, I'm good Bommie, thanks,” Dara replied. Chaerin noticed she was wearing flats. Smart girl. Chaerin did like her heels, but knew how to appreciate comfy shoes. You had to pick your moments and all that.
“Okay, don't be late,” Bom replied, resuming her role of Responsible Roommate, “and have fun on your date.”
“Oh, it's not a – ” Chaerin started before noticing she was the only one contradicting Bom's words. She trailed off and cleared her throat. “Right, thanks,” she finished, feeling uncommonly flustered.
“Shall we go?” Dara asked, seemingly oblivious. “We might be late for the film otherwise.”
“Yes. It was nice meeting you,” she said to Bom as a way of good-bye, and actually meant it. In-between Seunghyun and Bom, Dara seemed to have her share of interesting friends.
“Yeah, we should go out for drinks some time!” Bom said enthusiastically.
“Uh, sure thing,” Chaerin said, feeling she'd just been officially accepted as friend or... whatever. (Step three for friendly relationships among girls: tequila and martinis).
Dara and she left the building in good spirits. Fortunately it was a calm night: the stormy weather of the past few days had been replaced by a quiet chill, reminder of the season to come.
“Aren't you cold?”she asked as she looked sideways at Dara, who was wearing what seemed to be only a thin jacket.
“A little, maybe,” the girl acknowledged, and mimicked shivering while rubbing her arms over her shoulders. Chaerin didn't know if that acting came natural or if it was an exaggeration, but it was cute either way.
“Have my scarf,” Chaerin offered, “before you catch pneumonia.”
“Oh no, I couldn't,” Dara said, “what if you fall sick?”
“I'm made of stronger stuff than that,” she whisked away her concern. “I mean – not that you aren't, but you seem cold, so.”
“All right,” Dara finally accepted. She took the garment and graciously tied it around her neck. While Chaerin couldn't see well in the dark, she knew the auburn colour would suit her brown hair well.
Dara smiled as they walked on. “It's kind of funny, isn't it?”
“In a way we actually met because of a scarf. Or that's how we started talking, when I'd lost mine and you offered to help find it.”
“Oh,” Chaerin said, remembering that sunlit October morning. “I'd never looked at it that way.”
“It's almost like in the tv dramas.”
“I don't really watch those,” Chaerin replied, realising it was a futile comment mostly said in order to keep her mind from thinking. Thinking that all this felt weirdly romantic, for example.
Or perhaps more like pleasantly romantic.
Her mind should commence that stop-thinking thing now.
The movie was pretty cool, with lots of special effects and action scenes. She might not go to the cinema too often, but when you did you might as well do it big, Chaerin mused as she looked at the big screen, contentedly munching on her popcorn.
They'd only ordered one box (albeit a very giant one, what was up with these cinema sizes?), so occasionally their hands brushed. This was not a sly scheme on her side – rather more a case of Dara proposing they share a box as they weren't very hungry and Chaerin reasonably agreeing. Even though Dara had bought the sweet popcorn and she herself was more a fan of the salt one. Small compromises, though.
Dara seemed pretty absorbed in the movie, but once in a while she'd look sideways and they exchanged small smiles. Covered by the darkness of the room, Chaerin's chest felt a little warm.
In the break Dara talked excitedly about the movie, displaying a surprising knowledge of the entire franchise and admitting she was a bit of a geek. It was cute. Seeing all these new sides to her friend – it was interesting. It's like you didn't know what was around the corner but you couldn't wait to find out.
And it was also a fairly unfamiliar feeling, because although Chaerin was curious, the novelty of people was usually quickly lost on her. She just couldn't be invested in everyone around her unless there was a genuine interest.
They ordered two cokes to add to their sugar quota – “my treat,” Chaerin insisted – and then took their drinks back to their plushy seats, like teenagers on a Friday night. They giggled a little as Dara proposed a toast with their soda cups.
“To a great night,” Dara said as their cups bumped.
And you know what: it already was.
If you're following this story, I hope you're enjoying the series! find the next chapter here.
- Movie time for Chaerin and co