"What are you doing here?" Jiyong questioned her, changing the topic.
"I was going to wait…" She slowly got up, carefully wrapping her arm around an odd object. "I didn't know if your shop allowed animals to come in. I couldn't just leave the poor thing out in the cold, so I decided to wait here."
She revealed a small black kitten with bright yellow eyes. Its paws were dipped in a pure shade of white, just like the snow below them. It let out a soft "meow" while squirming in Jieun's small, cold hands.
"Have you ever considered A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница the idea that my apartment might not allow pets?" Jiyong asked, crossing his arms after approaching Jieun.
"But they do allow pets…I saw two dogs come out of the neighbor's apartment the other day, and the neighbor below has a parrot," Jieun mumbled.
She had a point there. The landowner wasn't too picky on pets as long as they didn't interrupt the neighbors.
"Okay, fine, but why did you just wait? I don't come home until it's late," Jiyong said.
"But what else was I supposed to do with this cat?"
"Animal A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница shelter? Keep it at home? I don't know. I never had pets myself."
"But it has a collar and I'm pretty sure that it didn't run off too far!" she claimed, showing the pink collar around its neck. Indeed, it had the cat's name, an address, and a phone number.
Jiyong fished out his cell phone and flipped open the cover. He pressed a few buttons, mumbling the phone number displayed on the collar. A stranger's voice finally followed after a series of ringing.
"Hello?…Yes, are you looking for a lost cat A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница?…Uh-huh…Yes, yes, I have your cat—No, she's not orange. She's black and has white paws…Yes, Oreo is her name…Yes, yes…Okay, thank you. Goodbye." Jiyong hung up the phone. He turned around, and saw Jieun anxious staring at him. "Well, we found the owner."
"What did the owner say?" Jieun asked, petting the kitten's head.
"She doesn't want it," Jiyong blurted.
Jieun gave him a puzzled expression. "What? Why would she want to abandon this poor little creature?"
"That kitten was supposed to be a birthday present, but they eventually A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница replaced it when it ran away. Now that they've got another cat, they don't know what else to do with this one," Jiyong explained. "They told us that we could keep the kitten."
Jieun gave the animal a pitiful look. "That's so sad…"
"Come on, let's go," Jiyong said, turning around.
"But what about the cat?"
"Bring it. I'm sure that one of the guys might want a new pet," Jiyong told her, referring to the three delinquents. "Besides, they told me to do whatever I wanted with the cat…"
* * *
Eyes sparkled when the black kitten A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница purred and rubbed the side of its paws against its face. It curiously looked around the table, poking its head into empty boxes that had nothing inside. Like Jiyong predicted, the three delinquents were especially interested in the new creature.
"What's its name?" Kyungsoo asked. He gently grabbed one of its paws and shook it.
"The owner said that her name is Oreo."
"Are you sure it's a girl?" Changshik asked. He raised the kitten's two front paws, showing its belly and its gender. "Yep, it's a girl."
"King Kwon, since when did you A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница want a cat? That's not like you," Wonshik commented.
"I don't. I can't really take care of an animal. I was hoping that someone would want to adopt it," Jiyong said, stroking the cat's fur. It turned to him and hissed, baring its tiny teeth. Jiyong flinched and pulled his hands to his chest, alarmed. "Plus, it hates me."
"Hey, kitty! King Kwon saved your life and you repay him like this? How cruel," Kyungsoo said, poking the cat's forehead.
"This guy is going to be our mascot," Wonshik said, raising the cat A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница with his palm. "We're going to rename this kitty after you!"
"Dude, no! King Kwon's name is precious!" Changshik said. He took the cat into his hands. "We're calling it 'Boss'. Yo, Boss!"
"Boss? Isn't that like a guy's name?" Jieun asked softly.
"So? Who cares! It's our mascot now!" Wonshik said, sticking his tongue out at Jieun. "I'm going to raise it!"
"Heck no! I'm going to take it," Kyungsoo said, glaring at Wonshik.
"You can't take it! I'm next to do something good for King Kwon!" Changshik A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница argued, holding the cat closer to his chest.
The bickering went on for quite some time. Jiyong watched in amusement, while Jiho gave him a disgusted look. He walked over to the crowd, and took the kitten away from Changshik's hands.
"Damn, you guys are noisy. I'll take care of it," Jiho said. He looked at the cat, but it started to hiss at him. He frowned and scrunched his nose when it tried to lunge forward to scratch his face again.
Jiyong smirked and crossed his arms. "I guess it doesn't like people like us A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница."
Jiho frowned. "Like us? How am I like you?"
"In many ways."
"Is it? Take it as a compliment."
"That's definitely not a compliment," Jiho said, shaking his head. He gave the kitten back to Changshik. "You know what? You take care of it. Your parents even own a pet shop and your uncle's a veterinarian. Maybe they can sell the cat or something."
Everyone looked at Jiyong for an answer. Jiyong shrugged his shoulders.
"Take it. It has nothing to do with me now," Jiyong said.
"Yes! I'm in charge!" Changshik said, pumping A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница his fist. He wrapped the kitten with an old towel that Jiyong found in the store and took off, followed by Kyungsoo and Wooshik who also wanted to take care of the animal.
Jiyong glanced at Jieun, who had been staring at him for quite some time. He wasn't sure if he should wait and see what she had to say. When he was sure that she wasn't planning to say anything any time soon, Jiyong clasped his hands together.
"Well! Problem's solved!" Jiyong said. "Do you want to go to the hospital to check out those A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница scratches?"
Jiho narrowed his eyes, and went ahead to walk out of the room, eventually leaving the shop.
Jiyong honestly thought that he was getting a bit closer to Jihowith the boy, but his actions just now showed him that he was going nowhere . He heaved a sigh and went out of the employee's room, walking over to the counter where Minah was finally working. Jieun followed behind him, but she stopped briefly when he showed signs that he was going to work.
As he stood behind the register, he noticed that Jieun wouldn't move from A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница her spot. She stood still, staring at Jiyong with round, distant eyes. Unsure of what to do, he flashed her a small smile, causing her to gasp and look away.
"Don't you have cram school or something?" Jiyong asked.
"Y-Y-Yes," Jieun stuttered, nodding her head. She his her face with her long, scraggy hair. "I-I'll be on my way…"
"Yep. See you," Jiyong said, waving his hand while she walked out of the store. He continued to stand next to Minah, who stood still and quiet.
When half an hour passed, the store was empty A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница. The manager went to the employee's room, calculating some last minute pay checks while checking the inventory. Minah sighed and leaned against the counter, stretching her arms and rotating her neck.
"This is so boring," Minah finally said. "There's hardly anyone here and there's nothing else to do."
"Really? I enjoy this place. It's quiet and it gives me time to think," Jiyong said, disagreeing with Minah's complaint.
Minah scoffed. "Well, I'd assume that you would complain about this place. I mean, you live at this really small apartment and work A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница at a low-paying job. Do you have other jobs?"
"I did, but I decided to work here. The payment is decent. I'm satisfied with it."
"Is that all you do? Work and go home?" Minah tilted her head. "You look pretty young."
"Yeah, I am young. If I was a proper kid, I'd be in college."
Minah paused and gave him a long stare. "Hold up, back up. You're a college student?"
"No, but I would be qualified to be one. Anything wrong with that?"
"No. Why didn't you go to college? No A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница money?"
"Nah, I had plenty."
"Doesn't seem like it."
"I said that I had plenty."
"So why aren't you in college? What happened to the money?"
"I went to college for a while, but later it got dull. So, I abandoned my luxurious life as a college student. The money? I threw most of it away and only brought a few cash with me to start my new life," Jiyong explained.
"Why would you do that?" Minah questioned him. "That sounds dumb."
He paused, and rubbed his chin as he started at the other side of the wall A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница. "I don't know why. I just did it, and I can't go back. My old life was too boring. I didn't have a purpose."
"Yeah, a purpose. I had no dreams, goals, or ambitions. I had my parents choose my life, friends depend on me, and I had a few burdens on my shoulder. There wasn't a single thing I did for my life except for following orders and getting bossed around. I was almost molded into a society where everything was settled for me. All I had to do was keep walking with A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница my head up." His expression softened as he continued to remember his past. "I knew that if I kept following that path, I'd regret something. I'd regret going on that path. So, I stopped myself and turned back." He glanced at Minah, who listened with a frown. "Do you have a dream?"
"A dream? Of course I do," Minah said, nodding her head.
"What is it?"
"I can't say. I can only say that I'm going to be waiting for that opportunity to come," Minah replied.
"Waiting?" Jiyong laughed. "You can't wait A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница for the dream. It's the other way around. The dream waits for you. It's just waiting for you to chase after it and grab it."
"Nope. I'm sure that if I expose myself out there, the dream will come to me," Minah said firmly, turning her body to face the register. "You just wait and see. I'll prove you wrong—everyone will be wrong!"
Seeing how she wouldn't get his point, Jiyong said and looked away, staring out the window as the snow continued to fall at a steady, slow pace.
On the second day of A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница the new year, Jiyong opened his eyes. A brilliant flash of white light blinded his vision, but all he did was turn his back against the sunlight coming through the window. As he looked away, his eyes trailed all over his room. He found his apartment to be a total mess: shattered bottles of alcohol scattered all over the floor; the scent of cigarettes burning wafted throughout the room; and splashes of blood decorated the dirtied walls.
He slowly rose from the ground, but collapsed back to the floor when something throbbed in his head. He groaned and clenched A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница his fist, putting one hand on his forehead while the other hand tried to push his body back up. He coughed, and he knew from the empty pack of cigarette that he had smoked way too much last night. The strong, bitter taste still lingered on the tip of his tongue as he his chapped lips.
Fragments of memories came into his mind. He remembered that yesterday, he had no work, which clearly meant trouble for him. He could only remember taking one bottle of alcohol because that's what he always did when he had no A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница work. Then he remembered bringing another bottle up for his lips to celebrate the new year… then the third to celebrate the adoption of the kitten. It was a habit for Jiyong to take out a cigarette after he drank, and he wasn't in control of the number of cigarettes he smoked when he was drunk. Jiyong forgot how many cigarettes he had left in the pack, but he was pretty sure that he had at least half of the sticks in the box.
He remembered feeling anxious, and he recalled seeing his hands trembling when he attempted A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница to bring the fourth bottle up to his lips. He kept smoking and drinking that night, but the anxious feeling wouldn't go away. The next thing Jiyong could remember was trying to get rid of the guilt in his chest. All he wanted was to flush out his feelings, but the alcohol and smoke wouldn't do anything. So—as he remembered—Jiyong had punched some sort of glass (he assumed that he was punching the empty bottles) until his fist pounded with pain, blood flooding down the deep cuts he made with the glass bottles…
Jiyong coughed and A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница rose up from his seat. His knees buckled for a few minutes until he found himself leaning against the wall, struggling to open the window to air out the room. He groaned again when the light reached his eyes, but he managed to quickly escape it after successfully opening the small window. He walked across the room to grab his broom stick and a dust pan. As he carefully walked on the floor, he cleaned up his mess, watching the dark liquid from his hand trickle down again.
Damn, he thought. I better bandage this up.
He coughed A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница, and continued to sweep the floor, collecting the broken glasses with his hands, ignoring the agonizing marks he made on the palm of his bloody hands.
* * *
"…But then I told her that I wasn't interested in him, but she still doesn't believe me! But, according to this other guy, the guy she likes actually likes me. Of course, I don't believe him, but if that's true, then—oh gosh, I don't even want to think about that! But isn't it still her fault? Seriously, she deserves to be shunned by us. I A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница mean, come on! How shallow is she? But what annoys me the most is that she still doesn't trust me! Like, what the heck? What do you think, huh? Don't you think she's being like a snob?"
"Minah, to me, it just sounds like high school drama. Plus, it sounds like you're being mean to her," Jiyong said, yawning as he was hearing Minah's complaint.
"But still! It's her fault for being stupid!" Minah cried out.
"I prefer the term 'naive'. Use it some day," Jiyong said, taking a customer. "Hello! Will this be A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница all?"
"But she's not using her head. It's like she doesn't trust me!" Minah whined.
"So? Does everyone have to trust you?" Jiyong stuffed the items in the bag. "Here you go. Have a nice day!"
"Well, yeah! I mean, no, but it'd be nice if everyone trusts me," Minah muttered. "Oh, forget it. You wouldn't understand."
"Yeah, I don't," Jiyong said, leaning against the counter. "So how's school?"
"Terrible," she retorted. "Gosh, I seriously want to graduate as soon as I can."
"Oh, right. You had all that high school drama. I A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница almost forgot," Jiyong said, rubbing his head. "I hate hangovers…"
"You drink?" the little girl asked, frowning.
"It was a new year. I drank to celebrate."
"Yep." Before she could continue the conversation, Jiyong moved on. "So how's Jiho and his friends? I haven't seen Jieun in a while."
"Oh, that's some other crazy drama. Chanyeol caught Jiho talking to Jieun alone at the library, and he was getting so mad at him. Then for some wacky reason, Jieun decided to stand up for herself and now Chanyeol's deciding her punishment," Minah said A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница, waving her hand.
Jiyong frowned. "Punishment?"
"Yep. Last time, her punishment was having garbage stuffed in her shoe locker. Ugh, it was gross! I had to stuff garbage in there and it was revolting—"
"Wait a minute." Jiyong scowled at her. "You did it?"
"Well, of course. I'm one of Chanyeol's close friends. I have to back up with him. Plus, he's really popular and all."
"You did it? You put garbage in her shoe locker?"
"Yep! Every Tuesday! I did it with this other guy."
"So you bullied her?"
"It's not bullying. I didn't decide A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница on her punishment. I only did as I was instructed to do. If this is bullying, then Chanyeol would be the one bullying, and that's ridiculous cause everyone in the school knows that he's the sweetest boyfriend any girl can have. Even I dream of dating him," Minah said.
"What else did you do to her?" Jiyong asked.
"Nothing much. Chanyeol made us write some rude comments on her desk with marker. It was washable, though. Of course, I participated at first, but then I stopped later cause I found out that Jiho was A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница cleaning it up before Jieun arrived. We also had to scribble on her textbook. I did it with a pencil, but everyone else did it with paint or ink," she explained casually.
"What the heck, Minah? Why would you do that?" Jiyong questioned her, raising his voice. He glared at her. "That's bullying! You're tormenting someone who didn't do anything to you!"
Minah glared back. "It's not! It's not bullying! It's just punishment!"
"Punishment? Are you freaking kidding me?"
"No, I'm not kidding."
"Why would you ever do that, huh? This is ridiculous!" Jiyong A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница exclaimed, running his fingers through his hair.
"Because if I don't do this…" Minah's eyes softened and she looked away, her expression filled with shame as if she knew that she was wrong. "If I don't do this…then I'll be alone."
* * *
"You never told me that you were bullied."
Jieun widened her eyes and turned her head around.
It was almost an hour before midnight, and Jieun made it a habit to come to the store late at night. She came almost every day, either working on her homework or chatting with Jiyong. She always A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница made sure to buy something, whether it was cheap or not, so Jiyong didn't have much of a problem having her hang around. Besides, it seemed as if she liked to avoid people in the day and come when it was only Jiyong working.
She looked down at the table and continued finishing a math problem. "You didn't need to know."
"Why didn't you tell me?" Jiyong asked. He pulled out a chair across from her. "This is almost insane. You're abused by your boyfriend and you're bullied at school?" He A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница paused, staring at her for a long time. "You're a pariah, aren't you?"
Jieun shot her head up. "What?"
"You're excluded from your peers. You're a social pariah, huh? An outcast?"
"This is none of your business," Jieun responded, looking back down.
"How is this not my business?"
"You have no relation to anything that's happening to me."
"Yes I do!" Jiyong leaned close to her. "I just talked to Minah earlier this afternoon, and she told me everything. If you didn't know, she's part of it. She's part of your mess, and A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница I'm responsible for her as long as she works in this store."
"So?" Jieun continued to refuse to look up. "You found out that Minah's taking part of it. Congratulations."
"Did you know?"
"Now I do."
"So what are you going to do?"
"Nothing!" Jieun shouted. She lifted her head, her eyes watering. "Why are you so nosy? You found out about me and Chanyeol, and now you're finding about my situation at school? This is none of your business! Just leave me alone. I know what I'm doing."
Jiyong kept quiet, and looked away A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница. She was right. This was none of his business, and all he was doing was being nosy. He had to tell himself that this was just like any other high school drama that he shouldn't get himself involved in. After all, it was just something else to think about. What could he do? He couldn't simply enter school property and inform the teachers that some bullying was going around at school. Who cared about that anymore?
The doors opened. Jiyong was about to get up, but he stopped when he saw Jiho enter the room A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница. By now, it seemed as if Jiho did a good job recovering quickly from the kitten's scratches. The scars faded from his cheeks and was replaced with a new coating of skin.
Jiho looked around, as if he was trying to find someone. When his eyes landed on Jiyong and Jieun, he was surprised. His eyes slightly widened, but they returned to their normal state as he approached to two.
"What are you doing here?" Jiho asked Jieun, completely ignoring Jiyong's existence.
"Homework," Jieun replied.
"It's not like I would do it at home."
"I A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница'm not saying that you should do your homework at home. What I'm saying is that you shouldn't be doing your homework here. After all, there's this guy," Jiho muttered, rudely gesturing his finger at Jiyong.
Jiyong slightly pouted. "What? What's wrong with me?"
"He's the only one who can chase Chanyeol away. I don't see any problems from him," Jieun said.
"But he's an adult—a strange one."
"Hey," Jiyong snapped, glaring at him. "Watch it. I'm not a strange guy."
"You're always a strange guy in my eye A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница," Jiho retorted, finally acknowledging his existence. "Anyway, come on. Let's just study at the library. It's close to your home anyway, right?"
"But the library is far from your house. I'd rather study here. I mean, there's a sauna a few blocks down. We could just study here, sleep there, and walk back up to school. This place is closer to the school, anyway," Jieun said.
"Wouldn't Chanyeol get mad? You know how he feels when you don't return home. Remember what happened last time?" Jiho asked.
Jiyong frowned. He raised his hands, grabbing both A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница of the child's attention. He had always wondered about Jieun's situation at home, and he thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to ask.
"Can I ask you something?" Jiyong asked Jieun. She nodded her head. "Do you live with Chanyeol by any chance?"
Jieun kept quiet, pressing her lip together. "Yes."
"Well…" Jieun bit her tongue. "When Chanyeol and I had a really good relationship, we decided to run away. The thing was, when we did, we were easily caught. My parents were furious and told me to do whatever I want A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница. It's like they were disowning me, but they didn't say that. So, I got Chanyeol, and the two of us actually ran away again, but this time without having our parents try to search for us. We came here, and using the money I brought with me, we settled at a cheap, decent apartment and enrolled in this school. It was fun living with him, and I was sure that things would go well for us, but…" She looked away with difficulty. "Well, he changed. He adapted easily to the new world, and I struggled. I guess he got A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница tired of waiting for me. Maybe protective, too, since he won't let me talk to anyone."
"So you live alone with Chanyeol, huh?" Jiyong repeated.
"Mhm," Jieun replied, nodding her head. She took a deep breath, and got up from her seat. "I should go. I'll just go back home for today."
"I'll walk you there," Jiho offered her.
"Thanks, but I rather go alone," Jieun said.
"Just let him take you home," Jiyong said. He glanced outside, where there was a dark figure looming in the shadows. "Besides, it's dark. I wouldn A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница't want anything to happen to you."
Jieun frowned. "But—"
"I got your bag," Jiho said, scooping up her bag with one hand. "Come on, let's go."
Jieun sighed, but she followed anyway. Just before the two left the building, Jieun turned around. She looked down at Jiyong's hand, which was wrapped with a white bandage.
"Can I ask you a question?" Jieun asked.
Jiyong followed her eyes and saw that she noticed her injury. He quickly hid his hand behind his back. Not wanting to remember what happened last night, he forced a fake smile and A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница shook his head, denying her the ability to ask.
Jieun seemed to notice his response, and slightly frowned. Still, the two teenagers bid Jiyong a "goodbye" and walked out of the store, leaving him alone to tend the shop. He walked behind the counter, checking the clock and glancing at the door. The black figure he noticed earlier walked towards the light, and entered the store.
"So what are you doing here, Bang Minah?" Jiyong asked. He was still disappointed in her for not admitting that she was bullying Jieun, but he decided not to push the topic.
"I A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница left something," Minah said. She paused, and stared at his hand. "So can I ask you what happened to your hand?"
He look at his wounded hand. "I accidentally burned it."
Minah glowered at him. "Burned it? Come on, that's a lie."
"No. I really did burn it," Jiyong lied. "It looks ugly so I wanted to bandage it up." He glanced back at Minah, who continued to stare at him. "Anyway, what did you lose?"
"My phone," Minah answered.
"Oh, here," Jiyong said. He pulled out her pink phone, which caused her to be delighted. Just when he A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница was about to hand it to her, he stopped himself and stared at the phone. "I know it's rude to look at other people's phone, but I couldn't help but open a message Chanyeol sent you."
"It's probably just—"
"Minah, do you really have to do this?" Jiyong asked. "I really don't want to see you do this."
Minah narrowed her eyes. "Do you understand what I'm going through? I doubt it. In my case, I do have to do this. You won't see me do it, either. You're just A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница going to hear about it from me."
"Now, please give me my phone, and I'll be on my way," Minah said, sticking out her hand. Jiyong hesitantly gave her the phone, which she swiped away. Raising her nose, she marched out of the store, clearly annoyed at Jiyong's nagging words.
When he was alone, he checked the clock. He had only fifteen more minutes until his shift ended. He pulled out a pack of cigarette from his pocket and took one out. He was just about to think whether or not he should smoke today, especially A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница since he had smoked quite a lot last night when he was drunk.
But he was irritated at everyone. He was mad at Minah for being an idiot, upset at Jiho for not respecting him, and he was immensely infuriated at Jieun for not doing anything but just accepting the harsh blows given to her. He just needed to cool down with something, and his only option was to light a cigarette.
He slowly pulled out a white stick, then took a lighter from his other pocket. He anxiously lit the end of the drug, watching it A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница light up until a line of gray smoke lifted into the air. He inhaled the smoke, eventually letting out a ring of smoke from his lips. He closed his eyes, listening to the clock tick in rhythm of his calming heart: Tick, tock, tick, tock…
The clock stroke ten when Jiyong busied himself with purchasing a pack of cigarette. He took a box from the shelf behind the counter and purchased it with his own money, putting them the cash inside the cash register. Once he confirmed his purchase, he placed the pack inside his pocket, making sure that A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница it wouldn't leave his side.
"Jiyong, I don't mind that you purchase the items with your own money at my store, but I would like it if you didn't act so sneaky. You make me worry, young man," the manager said, approaching him. His eyes were down on a clipboard, and he scribbled something on a sheet of paper.
"Sorry, sir. I still get a bit jumpy when I buy something here. Sometimes, it feels like I'm stealing," Jiyong said.
"I know that you don't steal. There's no reason for you to steal," Manager A Flyer, A Guilt 4 страница Kim said. "On another note, where are those delinquents? I haven't seen them often. Oh, and that devil still has to serve her hours!"
"I don't know, sir. I really don't," Jiyong responded.