The smell of sweet-scented strawberry filled the air, as the sounds of something sizzling caught my attention as I was slowly waking up in a daze. And surprisingly enough, I didn’t feel exhausted this time. I guess what I really needed was a good night’s rest, though I never would have thought I would have been able to fall asleep so quickly after what I saw last night...
Letting out a yawn, I stretched out my arms as I brought myself up from the couch. Staring aimlessly at the early sun rising above Kai’s window, I knew that it was a little late in the morning. It was nice waking up to this view, it made me feel calm. Despite the reasoning for coming here, I want to be able to smile by the end of today.
“Well, it looks like you slept good...”
I suddenly heard Kai voice out in a mischievous grin as I quickly stood up. Noticing that he was in the kitchen, I made my way towards him as I saw that he was already making breakfast! I had no idea that Kai could cook, I mean... he did make ramen for me last time. Though I don’t think boiling water and just pouring it into a cup of noodles is considered cooking?
“Good morning Kai...I, uh...may I use your restroom real quick,” I asked him as I avoided making eye contact.
“Sure, it’s down the hall...I think you remember where right?” He said to me within an awkward response as I nodded my head in agreement.
After the incident that happened between Kai and manager Sang. I ended up hearing everything that they were saying when Kai had me hide in the bathroom. So of course, Kai is going to react a bit troubled by it, approaching the restroom I immediately washed my face to feel more fully awake. Though I didn’t expect to have such an awful bedhead! Why didn’t Kai say anything- wait. That’s why he looked at me with that smug smirk of his earlier. He’s so annoying, I swear. Fixing my tangled hair, I adjusted myself to look more presentable as I headed back to the kitchen.
“Here you go, I wasn’t sure if you like strawberries on top of your pancakes-”
“Oh! Kai, you didn’t have to make me anything-”
“Then what are you gonna eat? The air? It’s fine, it’s no trouble at all. Besides, food always tastes better when you’re eating with someone.” He explained as he set my plate down on the table.
Giving off a smile, I took a seat across from him as we both began to eat. Taking a bite of the soft fluffy pancakes, I was in awe by how sweet they tasted! He must have added sugar, I wonder who taught him how to cook? I usually just add syrup to give it more flavor, but this tastes amazing!
“Wow, It’s really good. I’m actually surprised you know how to make something like this.” I said to him in a peal of joking laughter as I continued to eat.
“I don’t know if I should be offended by that comment or take it as a compliment.”
He replied as he finished what was last of his breakfast. Though my attention was caught on the light bruising that was on his jawline. I’m sure that’s where Jin hit him, I hope he’s doing okay. Maybe I should check up on him after I leave Kai’s place. I’ve never seen Jin look so angry before...
Hearing Kai call my name, I was brought back to my senses once I saw that he had left the table and approached a nearby drawer. I watched as he opened it and pulled out what looked like a picture frame. He stared silently at the photo for a minute before making his way back towards me, he was hesitant at first but he trusted me enough to hand me the frame he held.
Unable to speak, I looked directly at the picture and saw a man and a woman standing next to each other, however, the young lady looked like she was holding an infant in her arms. I was honestly confused at first but after a while. I was finally able to figure out who these people were!
“Are these you’re...”
“It’s only the picture I have of them together... smiling. I was only a few weeks old in that picture...” Kai began to explain in a bittersweet smile before walking towards the window glass.
I was speechless, not because Kai was bringing up his parents. But that he’s willing to show me something so precious and important to him. I can’t believe that this is the only picture he has of them, I can’t count how many family pictures I have with my family on my phone. So it hurts knowing that Kai can’t look back at the memories of his father and... mother.
“You look just like your dad... however, you have your mother’s eyes. She...was very beautiful, she looks happy here...”
I said to him as I looked back at the photo, it was obvious that Kai’s mother wasn’t Korean. This means that Kai is also half Korean just like me and Jin, it’s strange but...this is the first time I’m hearing about this. It was never written on their biography of what race they were. I guess people just assume they’re full-blooded Korean just from their looks...
“Yeah...she was Irish. Though from what my Dad told me, she spoke very little Korean. And although she was able to understand it, she never became as fluent. I’m starting to even regret not teaching myself how to speak English better, because maybe back then...I would have been able to comfort her. Though my father was very strict on me knowing Korean first before any other language...”
“I see...so I’m guessing your father knew English-”
“He only knows Korean and English, but it doesn’t matter, he wasn’t able to comfort my mother back then. He was always busy working from what manager Sang told me-”
“Wait, manager Sang?”
I quickly voiced out in confusion, though when Kai began to explain more in-depth. My eyes grew wide in absolute shock!
“Yeah...my father and manager Sang practically made this company, an entertainment business where thousands of trainees compete to be chosen. To have a shot in make it big... little do they know the toxicity of what they’re getting themselves into.”
He said as I watched him leaned his forehead against the window. By the tensity of his voice and stiff shoulders, I knew that Kai was growing irritatable. It’s like the more he spoke of the past, the angrier he becomes. But where is this anger coming from?
I came here last night wanting to speak to him, but it seems that Kai has a lot to say to me instead. I’m glad though...that he’s slowly opening up to me. He’s finally bringing down his walls and trusting me bit by bit. Gripping the frame, I placed it against my chest and held it so very tenderly. But the back of Kai’s broad shoulders never looked so fragile before. I wish that I could hold him, but I don’t know If I have the right to do so. Part of me will just feel horrible for betraying Lily like that, I already feel bad enough as it is with all the lying I’m already trying to conceal from a lot of people...
“Toxicity? What do you mean by that? Kai, how did you, Jin, and Zack meet? If you don’t mind me asking.”
I had several questions that I wanted to ask him, but the last thing I want is to overwhelm him right now. I could tell that he’s having a difficult time just speaking about his parents. So I decided to get up from my seat and approach him, though I made sure to keep my distance as I continued to hold on to the photo.
“Jin and I both started at the same time as trainees, but it was when the company was just starting. All my life growing up, I enjoyed writing music... within time, I ended up singing to myself whenever I felt...I don’t know...I guess alone. I can’t speak for Jin...but despite the age gap he and I had. We got along fairly well, though there were times where we would fight and argue. And that still hasn’t seemed to change at all, you know...I never wanted to be the leader of this group. But it wasn’t my choice, it was manager Sang’s decision in the end...Zack came a little later within that same year. I remember he was only 16 or was it 17? It’s been so long that I can’t really remember...but the moment my group was chosen. I learned that this wasn’t the first time Zack and Jin auditioned to be K-pop Idols. Which is why I chose the name...ExEx Idol. Zack and Jin worked hard to reach a goal that wasn’t given to them, to know that you work your blood, sweat, and tears for something. And finding out that you won’t be rewarded for it, I could only imagine how devasted that made them feel. I think if I were them...I would have given up. But they didn’t...they kept trying, and because of that...they succeeded in their dreams. And became worldwide Idols that everyone will remember them for...”
“What about you? What is your dream?”
I asked him feeling the strings in my heart being tugged. His words felt meaningful and I could tell that he truly cares for both of them, their family...ExEx Idol started its life as a small seed. But within the years of looking out for one another and working hard, they bloom into something amazing that touched not only my heart but the hearts of millions. I would think Kai would sound happy...but is his voice sounding the complete opposite of it.
“You know...at first, my dream was to just share my music with the world. But in these last few months... I’m doubting myself on what I truly want. I’m lost... confused, and I don’t know what I should do? My passion will always be my music, my muse will always be my fans. So why...why does it still feel so empty in here?”
His words sounded broken as he finally turned around to face me, but the way he clutched onto his chest pained me! His eyes began to water, yet he never shed a tear as he clenched his jaw tightly. My hands trembled and my throat felt like it was in a knot as I hesitated to go near him. Kai, whenever I see you like this...it wounds me deeply. Because I never met a person like you...
“I’m sorry...I wish...I wish I could make you smile right now. But it’s like every time we meet...it’s always painful for me to get close to you. I know...you told me to not bring her up. But I believe that the person that should be by your side right now...isn’t me. But her-”
“Lily and I...what we had in the past...is nothing more of a memory. And I...I don’t deserve to have her by my side, Rose... remember when I told you how toxic this world can be. I’m sorry...but I can’t tell you what happened in the past between Lily and me. It’s something I don’t wish to relive again. But I think, the incident that happened was what truly showed me how evil the world can really be...for so long, I wanted to believe that there was good in this world. Even after the tragic loss of my mother, I still hanged on to that little hope when I was a child...but after what happened to Lily...I finally broke...”
He explained sounding so deep into despair that even the sorrow in his heart was pouring out of him. I even felt hurt by it, Lily is that special to you...I shouldn’t be upset by this. But I can’t help it, my emotions seem to have a mind of their own. Jealousy, anger, sadness...what am I becoming? I’m just being selfish, even when I see Kai hurting. Deep down, I wish he could share everything with me...I’m becoming greedy, and I hate it. But...
“You’re mother...why? Why did your mother do it?”
I finally choked out the words I’ve been meaning to ask, I just never knew how scary Kai would become as he stared intensely at me...
“Mentally...it wasn’t my mother who jumped in front of that train. It was the disgusting hearts of every sick motherfucker that pushed her into it. My mother died in the hands of this cruel fucking world...and no one knows. Out of respect for my Father, and I...we had the press, lie of who she really was. To make the world believe that she abandon me when I was born, that she left my Father for some other man. What do you think will happen if the media found out the truth. They would automatically feel sorry for me... everyone will begin to treat me differently. They’ll think I’m just an unstable son who lives every day thinking about the image of his mother killing herself. Yet, they will never try to understand... whenever anyone hears about a person committing suicide. They automatically think they do it on their own, out of selfishness, without thinking of others. But they never stop to think about the pain they must have been going through that made them feel as if they are dead from the inside! That they feel worthless... disgusting... guilty and ultimately....alone-”
I couldn’t take it anymore, the tears that Kai was fighting so hard to suppress have finally broken. And I could hear just how shattered he was by how much he was shaking! I didn’t even have to second guess myself anymore as I immediately rushed myself into his arms and held on to him with all my might! This is Kai’s pain, his heart truly is broken... and I wish I could be the one to mend it together again. Even if Kai isn’t holding me in return, at least...he’s not pushing me away...
“I would rather have the world hate my mother than have the world feel sorry for her. I loved her...more than she’ll ever know. I will never doubt the love she had for me...but I wish...she could have waited until I got older. Because then I know, I would have been able to save her...she would still be alive. And maybe, I wouldn’t feel as broken as I do now. Rose... I fear to have it happened again. When my father’s company was slowly becoming known, I don’t think he would have ever predicted what would happen... marrying a foreigner here isn’t something that could easily be done without facing criticism. Especially when you start to become well known to the public eye, they saw my mother as a poor foreigner. When my father’s business began to grow into a multi-million entertainment field for K-pop Idols, of course, people were going to judge the women he married. My mother knew little Korean, she wasn’t going to school nor did she have this high reputation that everyone expected her to have. They made her feel hideous for the way she was and the way she looked, the standards of beauty in Korea are ridiculous. The media made my mother feel horrible for who she is, all she wanted was to be a mother...to just be home and raise me. She didn’t want anything else, she didn’t care about status or how much money my father was making, all she wanted...was to be happy. But they didn’t let her...you would think it would be easy...to ignore social media and the reporters. But no matter what my father did, it wouldn’t stop. She stayed strong for as long as she could...she always made sure to smile whenever she was with me. Even on the day when I kept asking her to take me to the park, she really didn’t want to go out that day. But she ended up taking me anyway...she never stopped smiling at me. I remember she never stopped telling me how much she loved me...until the very end. I blamed myself after a while...if I would have never asked her to take me out that day...then she never would have done that. It’s almost difficult to explain what I felt watching her leave me like that...the blood I wish to un-see, the screams that I wish I could block out, and the cries that I never wish to shed. The guilt that lived inside me every day, I thought it was never going to go away...but, Lily made it possible for me to smile again, to get rid of the self-blame I’ve been giving myself. It was because of her that I felt that everything would be okay again...but I was wrong. And I am losing myself because of it, I’m afraid...I am completely petrified of getting close to anyone. Because I feel like I will bring nothing but despair... and death...Rose, I’m scared...that you will get hurt, because of who I am...so I tried, I tried so hard to stay away from you...but I can’t do it anymore... because now I feel like I need you in order for me to breathe, you are the only one...who I could show how weak I truly am. I’m sorry...I’m so sorry that I’m like this...”
He cried out more to me, only this time he had finally wrapped his arms around me with all the strength he had left inside him...
My own tears made it impossible to see, even as they kept shedding. I never stopped burying myself within Kai’s chest. The beating of his heart was heavy like mine, the unstable breathing that he was having was as if he was having a panic attack and it scared me. I want to be strong, not just for myself, but mostly for him. This unbreakable feeling inside me, I think...I know what it is.
To be this vulnerable with someone, wanting to be special for their smile. And to fix the little flame that’s inside his heart that is ready to die out...I won’t deny what I feel for him anymore. As I held on to him one more time, I held on to the picture frame and raised my head to look directly at him. And without saying anything, I gently placed my lips against his, his eyes widen at first at my actions. But within seconds, he returned my kiss as he shakingly rested his hand beneath my chin...Though this might be the last time I kiss him, because of what I’m about to say. Might really change how he feels, and whatever the outcome will be. I’ll accept it, my heart, it seems to hurt whenever you are in pain. At first, I didn’t know why it did. But now I know...
“Don’t ever apologize for feeling weak... It’s okay, to feel this way... because whenever you feel like you’re in the break of destruction. I want you to be able to rely on me...I want to be your strength. I want to make you smile... and I want, your heart to never feel alone...”
I cried out to him once I pulled away from our kiss, I then carefully placed my palm against his wet cheek and gave him a weak smile before telling him my last words. No matter what happens...in these last short months of knowing him, I feel like I’ve changed so much. Even if I’m the only one that feels this way....it’s okay. It will only hurt for a little while, so let me say it at least once...
“Kai...I love you.”
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
If you or someone you know is dealing with a mental crisis, please don’t be afraid to talk to someone. Know that you aren’t alone, be strong, and live each passing day to love yourself more and more.
(It’s okay to not be okay.)