|MH| Solace: Chapter 2


STORY 1 | STORY 2 | STORY 3


SOLACE

Chapter 1: Sunset

Chapter 2: Moon & Stars

MARCH 26, 1998, Thursday

      “HaYeon, can I ask you something?” Jinwon nudged HaYeon as soon as he closed the door.

      “What is it?” HaYeon said, glancing at him before turning her attention back on trying to learn how to play Jinwon’s guitar.

      “Is there something wrong with Grandpa? He never speaks or anything. He doesn’t even take notice of my existence.”

      “You find it weird being ignored, don’t you?” HaYeon casually said.

      “I guess,” Jinwon shrugged. “I mean you know how everyone flocks around me. My brain is really attractive,” he joked.

      “Tch, whatever,” HaYeon chuckled.  She continued, “Don’t mind Grandpa. He’s been like that since we were kids.”

      “Really?” Jinwon wondered. “Why?”

      “I don’t know,” HaYeon said. “I mean I heard it had something to do with Yoon-hee’s parents… or was it some kind of sickness? I really don’t know.”

      “His life seems so boring… he just sits there all day,” Jinwon sighed.

      “Why not try talking to him, then?” HaYeon said.

      “I tried… it was as if he didn’t hear me,” Jinwon pouted. “I wonder what goes up in that head of his…” he stared out the window and there his grandfather was, still sitting there on the porch swing. He wanted to get to know the man, but approaching him didn’t seem as easy as it should be.

      “Anyway, what are you doing?” Jinwon noted hearing HaYeon play the precious guitar he has neglected since the accident.

      “Trying to learn guitar,” HaYeon said.

      “Why?” Jinwon asked.

      “It’s boring here, that’s why. And besides, this was yours and you don’t play it anymore. It’s such a waste of an instrument,” she said.

      Having nothing to do, Jinwon just sat on the couch beside HaYeon for about an hour or two. He would snicker when HaYeon would make a mistake or when the chord would sound quite out of tune. HaYeon would bluntly insult him about how he used to suck back in the past, too. Jinwon just laughed at her every remark.

      At some point when HaYeon was finally getting the hang of it, Jinwon suddenly remembered the grave he visited with Yoon-hee a few days ago.

      “Do you perhaps know who Jung SooJung is?” he asked.

      “Of course,” HaYeon quickly responded. “She’s Jessica’s sister.”

      “Jessica?”

      “Yeah, you know, the girl Steppani Unnie lives with…”

      “Oh… Jessica Jung,” Jinwon nodded his head, recalling the girl who gave him his notebook.

      “Why?” HaYeon looked at him.

      “It’s nothing…” he brushed it off.

   

APRIL 11, 1998, Saturday

98322

To SooJungie~

You can see us right now from above, right?

It’s Jinwon-Oppa, don’t you remember? He was Jessica-Unnie’s boyfriend back in the day. I’m not exactly sure if they’re still together, but you do remember him right? He used to visit your grave every 22nd of every month, too.

Used to… 😦

Right now, I feel sad, SooJung… He doesn’t remember me. It’s such a tragic thing that he lost his memories. All the times I spent together with him—all gone. All the inside jokes we used to share together—all gone. How can I help make remember? Every time I try to speak to him, I feel like I’m burdening him with the past and whenever I do try being friends with him, I feel like I’m being selfish to force him to get to know me. I don’t know what to do…

I also don’t know how he’s feeling right now. One day he’s all gloomy, the next day he’s smiling. One minute he’s laughing, but the next second, he’s holding in something. I can see that he’s struggling so much and I can’t even do anything about it. What could be bothering him? Would HyoYeon-Unnie know? No one is exactly telling me anything. Every time I ask about how he is right now, they all avoid the topic as quick as possible. I can’t even get a direct answer from HaYeon-Unnie.

Yoon-hee closed her notebook after reading the letter she wrote back when Jinwon joined her in the cemetery. Then she turned off the little lamp by her bedside. When she laid her head down on her pillow to sleep, she saw Jinwon’s eyebrows crumple as he slept, his eyes twitching every now and then.

      She wished he knew what was troubling him or what nightmares or dreams he had tonight. She wished she could comfort him or cheer him up, conquer his fears, just like how he did to her back in the good ol’ days.

YEAR 1987

      “There are monsters under my bed, I’m telling you Oppa!” 6 year old Yoon-hee trembled.

      “Is there?” 8 year old Jinwon snickered. “But I’m right here. I’m a ghost and monster repellent, you know!

      “Tch, I don’t believe you!” Yoon-hee pouted. “They’re scary, I’m telling you! And if you put your foot down on the floor, they might snatch from under the bed!”

      “Really? Let me try.” He let his little legs dangle from the bed waiting for the “monsters under the bed” to touch him. A minute passed and nothing happened. “See, I told you! Monsters fear me!”

      “Ei, Oppa! Put your legs up! They might catch you!” Yoon-hee slapped his arms softly. Amused, Jinwon just did as he was told while giggling at his adorably ridiculous cousin.

      “Why don’t we go to sleep now? I’m right here. They won’t catch you as long as I’m here.”

      “No,” Yoon-hee pouted stubbornly. “I don’t want to sleep. Every time I go to sleep, they come to my dreams and haunt me anyway.”

      “You have nightmares? What are they about?” Jinwon asked curiously.

      “Red monsters… they take over me and always trap me in rooms with these chess-like floors. They’re really scary… and I call out for mom, but she never comes,” Yoon-hee snuggled to the bed sheets in fear.

      Jinwon nodded in understanding and let his eyes wander around the room. This room didn’t exactly give the feel of a girls’ room, but rather just a normal old home with small cracks that could take shapes of swaying stick figures in the dark when the moonlight shines on it. It didn’t exactly give a sense of security to a 6 year-old girl.

      Yoon-hee lived only with her grandparents and father. As for her mother… well, in simple terms, you could say that she just… left them. She’s not dead, she’s just… gone.

      Jinwon slightly understood the situation, but not completely—he didn’t know the details why Yoon-hee’s mother left. Yoon-hee however didn’t understand anything at all. She just thinks that her mother was away for a while. Yoon-hee thinks she’s coming back but Jinwon knows she never will.

      “Are you really that scared?” Jinwon asked. “Oppa is right here.”

      “You don’t look strong enough,” Yoon-hee said, making Jinwon pout, but he quickly laughed it off.

      “Say, you know what? Let’s sleep somewhere more comfortable.”

      “Where?” Yoon-hee’s doe eyes sparkled.

      “It’s a little stuffy here in the house so why don’t we go out for some fresh air?” Jinwon said.

      “B-but… it is really dark outside. There are monsters on the outside world. Monsters are all the same.”

      “You don’t know that,” Jinwon said. “Everyone has their own monsters. I have mine in my own home too—in my own bedroom. And yeah, I know there are monsters outside too, but if they’re not our monsters and we’re not their main prey or target, they won’t attack us—unlike the ones in our own bedrooms who can easily snatch us, who are already assigned to scare us. Sometimes we’ve gotta step out of our own rooms to sleep peacefully… or we can come running to our parents at night for protection from them.”

      “Is that how monsters work?” Yoon-hee wondered.

      “I don’t know. Maybe not all of them, but that’s what you’re dealing with right now,” TaeYeon shrugged. “I know because I have a monster at home too and it’s really annoying. I always come running to a place where only I know so that I can sleep. Come, let’s go and sneak out. It’s not far from here.”

      And so, they snuck out late that night. Yoon-hee tightly gripped Jinwon’s hand as her legs wobbled every step they took. It was no lie that it was very dark outside. Few lamps lit their path trying to get there. Then they took a path out of the main road which led to steep and dusty grounds surrounded by tall trees, and it got darker, scarier, and more dangerous for little kids like them. Still, Yoon-hee trusted her Oppa that she will be protected from the monsters lurking around.

      When they came to a clearing from the small forest, a spring breeze blew towards direction and Yoon-hee was refreshed.

      They were at a high peek which overlooked the town and city. There weren’t much light lit up in the town, but the city was still buzzing alive. This wasn’t what Jinwon wanted to show though.

      “See that?” Jinwon pointed upwards. “Wow, there’s a full moon today!”

      “What does that have to do with monsters?”

      “It’s everything, Yoona-yah!” Jinwon smiled brightly. “Even all the stars that you see! They’re all so pretty, aren’t they?”

      “Yes, they are,” Yoon-hee smiled.

      “See how the bright moon shines down on the big city and how the stars twinkle and wink at us?”

      “Yeah?” Yoon-hee nodded.

         “They keep the monsters away every night. I don’t know for you, but they do for me,” he said. “Knowing how they will never fade away and will always be there every night makes me feel safe. They are all watching me and will protect me from the monsters. And sometimes, I like to think of the moon as the commander of the army at night—just like how the sun watches over the day—and he has all these stars as his soldiers. With their light, they protect the lands from the monsters lurking in the dark.”

      “Wow… that’s really cool,” Yoon-hee smiled.

      “Cha~~ Let’s lie down on the grass and close our eyes,” Jinwon said as he sat on the grass.

      “But I haven’t slept well these days… do really think sleeping here will work? What if the monster inside chased me out here and will haunt my dreams again?” Yoon-hee pouted.

      “If the monster still haunts you, just know I’m still here. You’re not alone. You’re with your cool monster-repellent Oppa!”

      “Alright then… I’ll try Oppa,” she giggled.

      Soon enough, she fell asleep beside Jinwon and didn’t dream of monsters anymore. She had a goodnight’s sleep and she was finally able to rest her head after so many restless nights.

    

Yoon-hee’s eyes fluttered open as she heard a door creaking open. She opened her eyes and saw Jinwon go out of the room.

      “Where’s he going?” she wondered. She brushed it off, thinking he might like some alone time. So she closed her eyes and continued to sleep again.

      However, a glass shattering and loud thuds shot her eyes open. It even woke HaYeon up. HaYeon looked around and found that Jinwon was not around. She didn’t want to connect the wires.

      “Where’s Jinwon Oppa?” HaYeon said, slightly panicking.

      “He went out of the room just a while ago…” Yoon-hee said. HaYeon immediately sprang to her feet and ran outside. If the shattering glass was caused by Jinwon, she dared not think about what could’ve happened to him.

      Confused, Yoon-hee groggily trailed behind her to see what the ruckus was about.

      HaYeon stopped in her steps as she found that it was not Jinwon who caused all the noise but it was Yoon-hee’s father. The adults even rushed to the scene to see what was going on. It was so late at night, but the noise got everyone up.

      Yoon-hee’s father had beer in hand, too tipsy to even control his own actions. For some reason, he was enraged, kicking and throwing the tables upside down while his father, Grandpa Kim, just sat there watching with a big frown on his face.

      Jinwon and HaYeon’s father, Tae-Jin, rushed to the scene and grabbed his brother’s wrist to stop him from doing things any further.

      “Stop it, Young-jin-ah!”

      “Why did she come back? Why!?” Young-jin shouted at his father.

      By this time, Yoon-hee came to the scene. She rushed immediately to her father, helping Tae-Jin to prevent him from getting more reckless.

      “Dad! Dad stop! You’re drunk!”

      “Young-jin! Calm down!”

      The man quickly calmed down but fell on the floor and erupted into tears. Yoon-hee leveled with her father and tapped his back to comfort him.

      Grandpa Kim stood up from his chair, having enough of this, but Yoon-hee’s father stopped him.

      “Why did she come back!?” he shouted. “Why is she here!?”

      Grandpa Kim didn’t answer.

      “Answer me, you fool!” he angrily threw the empty bottle near his father’s feet, causing the ladies to gasp. The old man could’ve been injured. He was already old and fragile. No one needed to make his condition any worse.

      “That’s enough, Young-jin!” his brother angrily shouted at him.

      “Stay out of this, Hyung,” he glared at him. Then he continued shouting at his father, “Tell me you fool of a father! Why did you bring her back!?”

      “Who are you talking about?” his brother asked.

      “My damned wife,” he scoffed.

      Yoon-hee’s eyes dilated in surprise. “W-what?” Yoon-hee’s voice broke. “Mom is back? Dad…”

      Her father realized the she was still there and he sobered up quickly. “Yoon-hee-ah…” he gulped. “I’ll tell you later. Go to sleep, okay?””

      “No, no, where is she?” Yoon-hee asked. “I want to see her. It’s been so long.”

      “That won’t do you any good,” he replied.

      “Dad, please! Where is she? I miss her so much…” Yoon-hee’s eyes immediately brimmed with tears.

      “Yoon-hee-ah!” he shouted, sending chills down everyone’s spine. He had never shouted at her daughter like that before. “You can’t see her, okay? She’s not what you think she is!”

            Yoon-hee’s tears started falling, but she stood there, staring directly at her father’s eyes as she burned in anger. “It’s your fault that she left all those years ago, isn’t it? That’s why you don’t want me to see her, because you think I’d hate you if I knew whatever it is that you may have done,” she spat back.

      “Yoon-hee-ah…” Tae-jin, Jinwon and HyoYeon’s father, tried to calm her down but he couldn’t.

      “You probably did something wrong to her, didn’t you?”

      “It was never because of me,” her father said. “I was never the reason she left. I was never her reason!”

      “Don’t act all innocent. I know you’re lying!”

      “She left because of you!” her father blurted out. Everyone in the room went silent. Yoon-hee’s mouth dropped in disbelief.

      “No… You’re lying,” Yoon-hee started crying, still not willing to believe what he said. She grabbed her coat and left the house. She figured if she found her mother somewhere in the nearest drinking place, she would find her and find the truth from her.

      The adults didn’t have it in them to hold Yoon-hee back, but HaYeon acted fast. She grabbed her coat and chased after her.

***

      “Yoon-hee-ah,” HaYeon followed Yoon-hee, constantly trying to calm her down. She may not know the real reason as to why Yoon-hee’s mother left back then, but she knew from observing Yoon-hee’s father that it was probably not a pleasant reason.

      “Stop following me, HaYeon Unnie. I have to meet her alone,” Yoon-hee said, restlessly looking building to building that had lights on to find her mother.

      “And what? What will you do then if you meet her? You haven’t seen her for so long. All your life, she wasn’t there.”

      “I’ll hear the truth from her.”

      “Do you even know what she looks like?” HaYeon said.

      Suddenly, from behind them a woman shouted at someone. Their heads instantly glanced at the scene. It seems the woman was being kicked out.

      “Don’t come back here, disgraceful woman!” an old lady shouted from inside the building as bags were being tossed out.

      “Aish! How unfair of you! I only wanted a night!” a woman spat back. The woman was tall and slim, pretty and milk-skinned, but was extremely a mess. Her hair was tied up into a messy bun, her make-up totally overdone, and the dress she wore shimmered brightly, but it reeked of heavy debt. She held one cigarette in hand, puffing out smoke as she cackled into menacing laughter.

      “And flirting with my married son? You bitch, get lost!” the old lady spat, and the woman just scoffed. She turned her head and saw Yoon-hee and HaYeon staring at her.

      “Hey you kids, know any place I can stay for tonight?” she arrogantly held her head up high, as if commanding them to find a place like they were her servants.

      Yoon-hee and HaYeon glanced at each other then back to the woman. “Who are you?” HaYeon asked.

      “Shim Jung-Hee. Why?”

      Yoon-hee’s heart stopped as she took one step backwards. Her legs trembled and she lost her breath. She erupted in tears and turned around, running as far away as she could. She didn’t care where she would end up.

      “Oh? Where are you going? What’s wrong?” Startled, HaYeon quickly followed her. She kept calling out to her and tried to calm her down. While running, she realized who that woman was.

      Aunt Shim Jung-Hee: Yoon-hee’s mother

***

      The spring breeze blew Jinwon’s way and he felt a chill brushing against his cheeks. He shivered at the cold but continued on his way, walking aimlessly through the small civilization around his grandparents’ home. He didn’t care where he was going. He just wanted to walk until his troubles have been repelled from his thoughts.

      Looking down, he saw a pebble by the side walk and kicked it. On and on he did so, following wherever it stopped. When his thoughts began working and the pebble stopped rolling, he stood there under a flickering post.

      He sighed and recalled his dream.

     

      “Don’t leave me… please,” Stephanie’s voice cracked as she held onto Jinwon’s hand. She was lying on a bed with an unknown sickness. Tears were running down her face, her eyes pleading him to stay.

      “I won’t,” Jinwon squeezed her hand. “I won’t leave you, you know that.”

      “I need you right now… please don’t ever go away,” Stephanie said. Her voice reached an octave higher, but her volume had gotten lower. The distress in her voice echoed through the room, shooting daggers onto Jinwon’s heart.

      “Stop saying nonsense, I’ll be right here,” Jinwon said, trying his hardest not to let his tears fall.

      “Do you love me?” Stephanie cried.

      “I love you,” Jinwon caressed her hair. “Now, go back sleep. Things will get better tomorrow.”

      “If I wake up… will you be there?” Stephanie stared at him, tears flowing non-stop. He wanted to answer that, but he couldn’t. He knew he wouldn’t be there when she wakes up.

    

He knew Stephanie won’t be there when he wakes up.

    

      Jinwon kicked the pebble again and it rolled off farther than he expected. The pebble bounced off into the other side of a gate, making him frown since he probably couldn’t go to the other side. However, he was too immersed in following the pebble that he didn’t notice he winded up in front of the cemetery. When he looked up, he instantly forgot about the pebble and stood there silently.

      At such a late hour, he couldn’t get in, but that was alright. There was that bench just beside the entrance. He can rest for a bit there. He sat there and took out his notebook and pen from his coat. He opened it to a clean page and took off the cap of the pen.

      “What should I write?” he thought. He closed the notebook again and stared at it. Then he remembered Jessica Jung, that girl who gave him the notebook.

      “Do you perhaps know who Jung SooJung is?” he asked.

      “Of course,” HaYeon quickly responded. “She’s Jessica’s sister.”      

      When he woke up from his coma, Jessica never really cared much for him as much as she cared for Stephanie. Jessica was all for Stephanie, trying to comfort her in any way she could. Now Jinwon understood why she was like that…

      Jessica lost her sister at a young age. She knew the pain of loss. When Stephanie lost him, Jessica knew how to act, how to treat her, and how to comfort her. Jinwon was thankful that there was someone who still took care of Stephanie even when he was gone.

      He recalled his only conversation with her:

February 11, 1998, Friday

      “You know, you shouldn’t invite me out here secretly like this,” Jessica said to Jinwon when he requested to meet up with her by the school play grounds. “You’ll get Stephanie upset.”

      “I’m sorry… but I just wanted to know… why is Stephanie so…” he trailed off and sighed.

      “It’s because of you,” Jessica bluntly said to him, not even letting him finish his sentence. “Everything about her right now is because of you.”

      “Why? That’s why I’d like to know. What makes her so clingy to me? I’ve done so much wrong to her, but still she’s… she still wants me.”

      “That right there is unconditional love, Jingoo-yah,” Jessica patted his shoulders. “She loves you. What else do you need to know? She wants you, she loves you, she needs you, she cares for you… I honestly could go on and on.”

Jinwon sighed.

      “And yeah, you’ve gotten her crying a couple of times in less than a month. You’ve got her depressed so much. But you know what, the thing is, she doesn’t want to let you go because she can’t let you go just yet. She doesn’t have it in her to do so because you were her happiness during in a very dark time of her life. So do me a favor if you can: she already lost you once; she doesn’t want to lose you twice. I don’t want her to lose you because I know how painful it is to lose someone you love. Stephie loves you too much. You are a part of her life. So please, Jinwon, don’t question it so much. Just love her. Understand her. Don’t keep her waiting for too long.”

      “Do I really have to remember her to love her?”

      Jessica looked down and thought for a moment. Then she said, “I can only tell you this: There is a certain memory that you have to remember on your own to answer all your questions, but it would never be as important as the time you spend beside her now through every struggle and every joy. Above anything else, if you really love her, you would do anything to make her happy.”

      “So… what if somewhere along the way, I can’t keep my promises to Stephanie,” Jinwon said. “If I can’t remember… if I can’t love her… if I’m not allowed to love her…”

      “Then I’ll keep my promises to you.”

      “What does that mean?”

      “I’ll protect her and keep her away from you. That’s what I once promised you.”

   

He started writing.

April 12, 1998, Sunday

        I can’t sleep. It’s the same dream even tonight.

Crying… Begging…

But I can’t even answer a thing.

I’ve been asking everyone what a dream should be some say they’re supposed to be happy.. But why are there always tears in mine? I always see Stephanie’s face turning away from me. That one night when she just walked away repeats itself, too. How many times do I have to feel this heartbreak?

I can’t take it. I’m so tired. I want to forget everything again. I want this pain to end.

      Yoon-hee’s muffled cries startled Jinwon in the silent night, quickly shutting his notebook shut. She passed by the cemetery gate, not noticing Jinwon by the bench. Jinwon stood up quickly, seeing her in a broken state. He had never seen her like an abandoned child before.

      HaYeon on the other hand saw him there and approached him.

      “Oppa? What are you doing here?” HaYeon asked.

      “Oh, HaYeon… I just got some fresh air to clear my mind,” Jinwon said. “What happened to Yoon-hee? Why is she crying?” he asked.

      “She… she just saw her mother,” HaYeon said. “And it wasn’t pleasant.”

      “Her mother?”

      “Her mother left when she was only a little kid. Now she came back and not in the best way possible, I guess…”

      Jinwon turned to Yoon-hee who was already coming out of view and looked back to HaYeon. He patted his sister’s shoulder and said, “Go home. I’ll handle her from here.”

      “You sure?”

      “It’s really late. If there’s any one waiting for her back at home, tell them I’m with her. We’ll be back in the morning, don’t worry.”

      “Okay…”

***

      “Yoon-hee?”

      Jinwon softly called out as he saw Yoon-hee sitting by the clearing where they watched the sunset every-other afternoon. Yoon-hee had her face buried in her arms and she was pouring her heart out, crying like a lost child on the streets.

      Jinwon sat beside her silently and sighed. He could do nothing but rub Yoon-hee’s back gently and pull her into a warm side-hug.

      “Oppa…” Yoon-hee cried, sniffing and trembling on his arms.

      “It’s alright, I’m here,” Jinwon cooed.

      When Yoon-hee finally calmed down, she just leaned on Jinwon’s shoulder and they stared at the stars together in a comforting silence. The whistling of the trees and swooshing of the breeze slowly lulled them to sleep, but they didn’t want to go home and sleep yet. To them, the house was the most suffocating place right now.

      Jinwon took off his coat and laid it back on the grass so that he could lie down. Yoon-hee did so, too. Soon, the soft grass beneath them provided much more cushion than their own beds at home. The best part about it was that they could see nothing but the stars twinkling above them.

      Yoon-hee started, “So, how are you doing, Oppa? Why are you out here?”

       “Oh, me? I just couldn’t sleep,” Jinwon said.

      “Nightmares?”

      “Kind of.”

      “What are they about?” Yoon-hee asked.

      “Just some girl back in the town we used to live in…” Jinwon didn’t want to press on being reminded again of Stephanie. He was happy just a second ago, now he’s again sad at the thought of her. Yoon-hee read right through his expressions really quickly.

      “A girl?” Yoon-hee sparked in interest.

      “My girlfriend actually…” Jinwon said, letting his guard down. “Or ex-girlfriend if that’s how you want to put it.”

      “Girlfriend?” Yoon-hee blinked as she thought of Jessica. The only girlfriend she only knew of that Jinwon had was her. Well… they weren’t exactly “in a relationship” back then, but she knew it could be possible that they’ve ended up back together. He did mention on the phone years ago that he met Jessica again.

     “The thought of her followed me all the way here in Jeonju. She’s just…” he trailed of and sighed. “It makes me depressed, that’s all…”

      Yoon-hee wanted to ask him more about this girlfriend of hers but she thought it wouldn’t be necessary. Asking him such late at night about things that make him sad would probably be so tiring.

      “Do you know that feeling when you want to treat everybody well, but because one thing ruined your day, you unintentionally hate everything and everyone?” Jinwon suddenly asked. Yoon-hee turned her full attention on him for he’s finally revealing a part of his thoughts for the first time.

      “At some days, I guess,” Yoon-hee said.

      “So many things ruin my mood every day, and that drives me crazy.”

      “Because you want to do well?”

      “Yeah, because people have high expectations of me and I don’t want to let them down. But it’s so tiring. That’s why I’m out here tonight. Walking alone makes me feel a little free because I can be myself—for a little while at least. I’m not who I once was before and neither do I want to remember or want to be that person.”

      “If you don’t mind me asking… Why don’t you want to remember?”

      “Because… I fear that person. He took away the only thing that I wanted to have in my life. He’ll probably take more and destroy me. Anyway, that’s nothing big,” he scoffed, trying to loosely say it as if he did not mean it. Yoon-hee was dealing with bigger problems concerning her family and he was only in a war with himself. How could he magnify his own problems in front of her? Besides, confessing all of those things made him feel so vulnerable, and he did not want to feel that at all. Nobody should know the things about him beyond what they could see.

      Yoon-hee was silent for moment, trying to find the right words to say. She finally began to understand why he was acting the way he was for the past few weeks. Self-hatred was something she just started experiencing tonight, but to find out that Jinwon was going through it much longer without anyone helping him saddened her. She could feel that there were still so much more things he was not willing to open about other than just self-hatred and she wished he would lift more of this burden in some way. He’s been holding them in too long.

      “You know Oppa,” Yoon-hee said, “You have a lot of monsters.”

      “What?” Jinwon’s eyebrows scrunched up and he chuckled. The little things that Yoon-hee would say often get him off guard because he didn’t really get them.

      “You have a lot of monsters inside of you, don’t you think? You may brush things off and say they’re not there, but they’re your biggest problem right now.”

      Jinwon became silent and stared off far away, as if not listening to Yoon-hee.

      Still, she continued, “Oppa, I know you’re struggling a lot. Whatever it is… whatever those monsters are in you, you’ve been trying to fight alone. The thing is though is that there are so many of them that you can’t even handle it anymore, right?”

      Jinwon hardened himself and didn’t move a muscle. Deep inside him, he pondered about Yoon-hee’s words carefully.

      “You’ve been letting it follow you around like a stalker, but you’re pretending they’re not there when someone else is with you. It’s because you don’t want to burden anyone with it, right?”

      Jinwon looked down and took a deep breath before releasing it silently through his nose. He didn’t want Yoon-hee to go on about this because she pictured his problem so well, but at the same time he wanted to know what she had to say. As scary as it was to hear these words, he knew he needed it.

      “Someone once told me,” Yoon-hee smiled, “that sometimes there are more monsters inside our rooms than there are outside and that in order to avoid the monsters, we eventually have to sleep outside our rooms or come running to our parents for protection or peace. It simply means if you’re troubled, there should be someone you can run to who will be willing to listen to your problem and comfort you, or just somewhere you can run to find peace—a place of solace.”

      “Who told you that?” Jinwon asked.

      “Who else?” Yoon-hee chuckled. “You told me that.” Jinwon was taken aback and found it interesting that the words he had said to her in the past had been directed back to him. His past sure had some good insights…

      “Oppa, you should have somewhere to run to when you’re troubled. Whether it’s a place or person, you don’t have to tell me. Just find your solace—find what can calm you down. Don’t let your inner monsters get the best of you.”

      There was one who calmed him down. Stephanie, the only one who was so willing to be his place of solace, became his biggest burden now. Just who or where can he relay all of his troubles to?

      “Do you… perhaps have any ideas what that was for me back then?” he asked.

      “Hmm… back then, you used to take me up here to comfort me when I had nightmares. You said the stars calmed you down when you were upset.”

      “Is that why you took me back here? Did you know all along—that I had monsters?”

      Yoon-hee shrugged and smiled. “I figured it would ease your troubles if I took you here.”

      He gazed at the twinkling stars above him and smiled. Although it has been true all along that stars gave him a sense of peace, the troubles would always come rushing back in the morning. It was a person who always took his burdens off of him. This time, it was Yoon-hee, and he was beyond grateful she was willing to try and understand him when he thought no one else would. It takes him back to his beloved, who under the same starry night, wanted to lift some of his burdens. He won’t take Yoon-hee for granted this time around.

      “By the way,” he said. “Shouldn’t I be doing the comforting right now? I mean you were a wreck just a while ago.”

      “I’m actually trying to comfort myself by saying your words,” Yoon-hee timidly said.

      “Oh, really?”

      “Yeah.”

      “So do you have it—your solace, I mean?” Jinwon asked.

      “I’m not sure… I guess being with you like this is kind of my solace. Ever since I was a kid, you took me out here to see stars, but the stars weren’t exactly the things that calmed me down. It was you, Oppa,” Yoon-hee said, making Jinwon smile. They both found comfort in each other rather than the stars after all.

      “Can we make a promise, Oppa?” Yoon-hee suggested, turning to Jinwon.

      “What promise?”

      “We’ll always be available to listen to each other just like this.”

      “Sure,” Jinwon nodded.

      Yoon-hee held her pinky up and Jinwon did not hesitate to seal it with his own pinky. When the promise was made, Yoon-hee giggled and it seemed like she had forgotten everything that had happened earlier.

      Jinwon smiled as he saw the five-star Cassiopeia Constellation twinkling above him. “I must be happy again,” he thought.

      The moon is the commander of the night—just like the sun is during the day—and it has all these stars as its soldiers, keeping away my monsters when I’m in the dark, he thought to himself, remembering his own words.

      Yoon-hee also stared off at the diamond-filled sky and her eyes twinkled in excitement. “Oh? Cassiopeia is out tonight!”

      “Huh?” Jinwon looked at her in confusion. “You see it too? I thought I was the only one who can see that…”

      “It’s not really visible to the human eyes but just shows to those who are special,” Yoon-hee chuckled.

      “Are you saying we’re both not humans?” Jinwon snickered.

      “Hahaha, I don’t know,” Yoon-hee laughed. “But what I really don’t get is that everyone I know can’t really see it. I guess we’re the only ones who can.”

      “Maybe it’s because Cassiopeia knows we have a lot of monsters to fight,” Jinwon said. “And I don’t think they’re there to protect us anymore. I think they are there to tell us we should gather up the courage to fight them monsters.”

      “Oh, Oppa,” Yoon-hee chuckled. “You and your analogies. You still haven’t lost touch of them, have you?”


CHAPTER 3: Dawning of A New Day


Chapter Theme Song:
Stars (acoustic) – Switchfoot

Maybe I’ve been the problem
Maybe I’m the one to blame
But even when I turn it off and blame myself
The outcome feels the same

I’ve been thinkin’ maybe I’ve been partly cloudy
Maybe I’m the chance of rain
And maybe I’m overcast
And maybe all my lucks washed down the drain

I’ve been thinking ’bout everyone
Everyone you look so lonely

But when I look at the stars,
When I look at the stars,
When I look at the stars I see someone else

When I look at the stars,
the stars, I feel like myself

Stars lookin’ at our planet
Watching entropy and pain
And maybe start to wonder how the chaos in our lives could pass as sane

I’ve been thinking bout the meaning of resistance
Of a hope beyond my own
And suddenly the infinite and penitent begin to look like home

I’ve been thinking bout everyone
Everyone you look so empty

But when I look at the stars,
When I look at the stars,
When I look at the stars I see someone else

When I look at the stars,
The stars, I feel like myself
I feel like myself

The stars, the stars

Everyone, everyone you look so lonely
Everyone, yeah everyone, you look so empty

But when I look at the stars,
When I look at the stars,
When I look at the stars I feel like myself

When I look at the stars, the stars

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