the walk on the way home
from school was solemn.
as if the earth itself was
reflecting her heart,
dark clouds hung heavy
above her as she walked
quietly toward the bridge.
a bridge of many memories
and meaning. a bitter past
edged in its walkway, painted
on its rails.
nara dug her short nails into
her palm, imprinting small
crescents in her chilled skin.
tears prickled her eyes,
still sore and swollen from
all the tears that had fell just
under a half hour ago.
she was used to the feeling —
a mixture of sadness and despair,
loneliness and vulnerability.
but never, not even once
had it hit her so badly. not
once had she felt that awful.
nara dragged her feet along
the ground, a chill running
through her spine as the cold
rattled her to the bones even
though her coat and skin.
the words that soyeon had spat
at her swirled in her head, each
syllable like another thunder strike
it the storm that was in her head.
stupid. . . stupid.
you're so stupid!
shes right. he could never
love a freak like me —
" nara? "
a faltering step and a quick inhale,
eyes flickering in front of her.
finding his, finding him
bleary eyed, a tear slipping from
his galactic eye, a supernova tricking
from the universe within his gaze.
never had she ever suspected
jeongguk to cry, let own expect
her to witness it.
it was a rarity. yet there he stood,
cheeks flushed and expression contorted
into heavy despair as his hands
gripped the rail he leant against
so tightly his knuckles bled white.
" jeongguk. . . " she breathed,
blinking at him, lips parted with
she knew he noticed this. he must have,
for she saw a glimpse of shame light in his irises before he averted his gaze away.
" i. . . i'm sorry. this is a bad time. "
he said apologetically. his voice
sounded broke. beyond belief.
she almost didn't believe such a tone
could belong to his lips, but then she remembered — he's just human.
like everyone else.
" n-no. it's fine, really, " nara reassured
him softly, taking a slight step back
from him to allow him to collect himself.
" are y-you okay? "
god, what a dumb question.
of course he isn't.
jeongguk sniffled, and to her
surprised smiled, sad and in
spite of himself.
" i want to say i am.
you'd expect me to, right? "
nara didn't know how to reply.
instead, she simply swallowed hard,
trying to find the right words.
jeongguk lowered his head
and brushed his words away
with a shameful shake of his head.
" sorry. i uh. . . i trust you enough
to tell you the truth. for once in my
life i feel like i actually can. " he said,
his voice cracking before he cleared it.
nara felt her cheeks ignite with heat,
her body stiffening further as the boy
sent his fingers through his hair,
tugging on his roots with a long sigh.
" thank you. you — don't have
to if you don't feel like it. " she told him
quietly, but he shook his head.
" no, no. i think i need to.
i need this, " he said, letting his hand
fall back into its grasp on the rail.
she held her breath.
" i. . . i'm just so lost? i guess? i'm so tired of pretending to be alright all the time even
when i'm not. i mean, when your girlfriend
is suicidal and you can't even help her. . .
it's so hard, nara. and no one lets me say this. no one lets me feel. it's like i'm some object. i'm real. i'm real! "
and that's when he broke down all
over again. the tears came pouring
from his eyes, and then came the sobs
that he tried so hard to choke back
and shove back down his throat
from which they came.
dropping his head, like glass,
nara felt her heart shatter
as she watched his shoulders
shake with every heave he tried to restrain.
through her shock, with a trembling
hand she lifted it and slowly reached
toward her, letting her fingers land
softly on his broad shoulder.
and that's when it happened.
that's when jeongguk lifted his head
to face her. in that moment, he wrapped
his strong arms around her frail frame and hold her in en embrace so tight it couldn't belong to anyone but someone who was grasping onto her for dear life.
and maybe he was.
just like soyeon.
nara didn't have to be shy
or flustered. though she was,
she held it all back.
she let him cry into her shoulder,
and she let herself keep from
telling him who soyeon really was
aside from a soft, you deserve
so much more than this.
for once, she just
let everything happen the
way it was supposed to.
and it felt right.