A warm breeze blows through Mona’s hair as she sits at the table, an orange and blue umbrella shielding her from the harsh rays of the midday sun. People walk up and down through the square, holding bags from the stores surrounding the small coffee shop.
It’s been a while since I’ve visited here. She looks around, eyes examining the stores as nostalgia hovers over her like a warm blanket. Many years were spent in this spot, at this coffee shop in the old Koreatown. Hours studying for law exams with Knox and Zahra as Valentina and Wooseok bickered back and forth about their arts classes. Kenta would bring everyone whatever treat he had made in his culinary class, using them as free testers for his concoctions and makeshift recipes.
She smiles softly recalling all of them together, all of them going through the hardships of university and life together. They all still hang out, but not as a group anymore. Someone is always busy, someone is always missing. One on one dates or girls nights are more common now, but she misses the days with everyone.
“What has you zoning out so much?” His voice is deep as he asks, a grin forming on his face as he sits down. A cup is placed in front of her, a warm caramel macchiato, and she quickly takes it in her hands for a sip. His fingers move over the lid, stopping her as he chuckles lightly, “careful, you’ll burn yourself.”
Mona places the cup down in front of her, nodding at him in agreement. “You’re right, I’m just too impatient to wait for it to cool down. And I was just thinking about our college days.” She smiles at him, mirroring his own.
“When we were all cute and carefree, what’s happened to us?” Wooseok asks jokingly, taking a drink from his iced coffee.
“Life,” she risks a burn and takes a sip from her own cup. “I miss being with everyone all together, we’ll have to set something up some time. I can’t remember the last time I saw Kenta or Knox.”
“Something can definitely be arranged,” his brown eyes look her over intently as she gazes off at a group of teenagers walking by. She has dark circles hidden under her make up and a glazed expression to match, something he can’t help but notice. He’s known her for long enough to tell when something is wrong, but he can’t always pin point what the reason is. “How has work been?”
I don’t want to discuss this right now, but if I avoid it then he will question me further... “It’s been good, we’re setting things up for the upcoming campaign. Reelections are around the corner, so it’s been nonstop work work work. How are things going with your job? I heard that your band has been getting some amazing gigs recently.” Her tone is positive and forced, hard to overlook but he decides to not press further.
Wooseok sighs lightly and leans his arms on the table, moving closer to lessen the distance between the two of them. “It’s going well, have you been looking things up on me? I didn’t know you were so interested.” A white toothed grin flashes at her as his black curls fall into his eyes a little, his head tilting to the side with his curiosity. “You could always just ask me rather than stalk me.”
She scoffs, sitting back in her seat a little. An attempt is made to come across as indifferent, but the chuckle in her voice can’t be held back. “Me? Stalking? What wishful thinking, I just hear things from Val about it. She is your number one fan, you know. But really, hows it been going? Being a big hit on youtoob alone is a big accomplishment, but now with all the gigs coming in, you’re really starting to get up there.”
“Wow, look at all this attention and flattery. Yeah, you could say we’re gaining a good bit of popularity. But don’t worry, even when I’m famous you can still get my autograph.” He sticks his tongue out at her and she rolls her eyes playfully.
“Uh huh, sure. But really, I’m proud of you and the guys. I hope you go far with your music, it’s always been your passion so I’m excited to see you excel in it.” He grabs her hand as she talks, his calloused fingers brushing against her soft skin. His hands were warm as they grasped hers, his eyes focused on her as she praised him.
“Thanks, Mona. In all seriousness, hearing you say that really means a lot.” His thumb trails over her knuckles, brushing them lightly as he smiles. A familiar, comfortable smile that comes with so many years of friendship, so many years of being like to family to one another.
“Kim Wooseok?” A soft voice asks from behind them, causing them both to turn their heads to a couple of young girls. Their hair is vibrant colours of pink and blue and their clothes are equally as expressive. They couldn’t be older than 19 and their eyes are full of admiration and excitement as they look at Mona’s friend. “Oh my god, no way! You are Wooseok! We’re huge fans of your band, we’ve listened to you since you debuted!” The same girl says, her blue bangs covering her eyes slightly as her pink haired friend smiles widely.
“Oh wow, I love to meet fans!” Wooseok says in a cheery tone, jumping up quickly and putting his hand out to shake theirs. “Would you like a picture?”
Temporary shock crosses their faces as they take turns grasping his hand in theirs, shaking it excitedly before posing with him for pictures. Mona watches from the table, resting her temple on her hand as he talks and jokes around with the girls.
Wooseok has always been one of the more carefree members of their friend group, something that Mona always admired and liked him for. He is positive and endearing, with an air of emotional maturity that only Kenta can rival. He is someone she can rely on.
Rely on. Should I tell him about my boss? About SiWoo? Ask him what I should do?
She rests her forehead on her palm, sighing deeply. No, he will be too concerned. I can barely keep Haize from reacting outright to it. Wooseok would actually try to do something physical about it. Or he’d lecture me for hours until I turn my boss in to the police.
Well, that would be the right thing to do, but I can’t.
“Is that your girlfriend?” One of the girls whispers to Wooseok, gesturing over to Mona at the table. Her eyebrows raising in a not too joking way.
Wooseok laughs and shakes his head, “no, she is just my best friend-” he looks over in Mona’s direction and stops. Her head is in her hands and she looks to be stressed. He watches her for a long moment, his eyes not wanting to leave her as he thinks to himself. What’s wrong with her?
The two girls next to him watch him as he watches his friend. Their interest peaked as he turns back to them, dismissing himself to return to his table with a simple, “it was nice to meet you, have a good rest of your day.” They giggle and trade theories as to what his relationship with this mystery woman is as they walk away arm in arm.
His steps are small despite his long legs, taking his time to get back to his seat as he wonders, “is it because of work? Boyfriend issues? Did she fight with someone? Is she mad I left her to talk to those girls?”
“Mona,” he says softly, putting his hand on her shoulder as he crouches down next to her. “What’s going on with you? You’re acting strangely and you look really stressed.”
I can’t tell him, not now at least.
“Wooseok...” He looks at him, his face at eye level with her. She looks into his eyes for a long moment, his dark brown eyes smothered with concern and curiosity. Every blink causes his dark eyelashes to kiss his cheeks at he watches her back patiently. “I’m sorry.” Leaning forward she wraps her arms around his neck as her face buries into his shoulder. Arms fold around her as he holds her closer.
“I’ll tell you some day, but not right now, ok? I know you’re worried and I know you want to know... But it has to stay with me. I can’t tell you, yet... I can’t...”
He pets her hair as she rants, nodding slowly, “I understand, it’s ok. I can wait for you to tell me. But you’re not in danger, right? Nothing bad is happening to you?”
Well... “I’m fine...” She whispers, not confident in saying her response. He stands up, pulling her with him as she continues to hold on to him. “Come on, I’ll take you home. You can go and take a nap.”
She pouts a little, reluctant to let him go. “You don’t have to take me home...”
“You know I always will,” he smiles widely at her, picking her purse up off the ground before handing her the coffee off the table. “Or should we have a sleep over tonight? Or would Haize be angry about it again?”
“Haha, obviously he would be angry.” She takes her cup from him. “I have work tomorrow anyway, so I shouldn’t go or stay out.” Lifting the purse strap over her head, he puts it on her for her.“That’s fine then, I’ll just take you home.”