Chapter 1 Hiding in Plain Sight
Ji-woo steps out into the chilly morning watching her breath cloud around her as she watches her friend Ara approach. The pretty girl frowns at her friend’s bright smile, clearly annoyed at her good humor.
“Hey,” Ji-woo grumbled, clearly not a morning person.
Ara stifles a giggle not wanting to annoy her grumpy friend. “Hi,” she responds.
The two walk to school together along the narrow street lined with varied shops. Ara waved and smiled at the shopkeepers as they prepare for the day. The girls wordlessly pick up the pace determined to get to school before their hands and feet have a chance to be numb with cold but something or rather someone bars their way.
“Hey loser, get off the sidewalk,” Ji-woo said, as she stopped looking down at a boy sitting on the sidewalk.
“What a waste,” she mutters under her breath.
Other people just walked around the huddled figure but not Ji-woo. She had both hands clenched to her backpack ready to swing it at the unsuspecting teen if she had to. She had a tendency to be a bit rude in the morning. She was definitely not a morning person but even this was a bit much.
Ara doesn’t understand why her friend is so annoyed. Seeing the brown-haired boy on the ground filled her with sadness. Cold and discarded and living in the streets at such a young age was unusual. It’s like he had given up on life.
“Ji-woo! Don’t be so rude.” Ara nudged her friend to behave. Unlike her friend, she saw no need to be cruel.
“He’s clearly a drunk loser, why do you care?” Ji-woo said in a scornful manner.
“He’s just a boy. Can’t you see?”
“He should be on his way to school not laying on the ground. You’re such a softie, Ara. Will you rescue him like one of your cats?” She mocked.
Ara gives her a look. “It costs nothing to be kind. Stop acting like your a bad bitch, you’re not!”
“Aren't I!” Ji-woo says with eyebrows raised obviously pretending to be insulted.
“No. Not today.”
“Whatever let’s go,” she said walking around him.
Ara paused and looked back at the boy on the sidewalk and wondered if he was okay. When he didn’t even blink she walked back concerned. It was a cold day and he looked cold. Actually, he looked frozen.
“Ara come on! We’re going to be late,” her friend yelled.
“Go on without me.”
Ara turned back and took off her scarf and hoodie. She kneeled down next to him and handed him the items. The boy blinked and looked up at her from under his long bangs with a surprised look in his eyes.
With a hoarse voice from disuse, his eyes opened wide and he said, “thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I’m sorry for my rude friend. Do you need help?”
“No, thank you for your kindness.”
Yoongi couldn’t believe this beautiful girl was talking to him. He was so embarrassed his cheeks turning crimson at the state of his clothes.
“It’s okay. Are you sure?”
“Y-yes,” he says looking back down with an uncontrollable shiver. His small nose pink from the cold.
“My name is Ara.”
Yoongi couldn’t help smiling before uttering a soft, “I know.”
“Ara! Hurry up!” Her friend yelled again from a distance.
Ara giggled understanding. “What’s your name?”
“That’s a cool name. You’re not from around here, right?”
“Well, I hope I’ll see you around. Stay warm okay?”
She walked away reluctant to leave the poor boy sitting on the cold pavement. He looked too young to be a drunk. Most likely, he was a runaway.
All day long, she couldn’t stop thinking of the boy. Especially when it was time to leave and the temperature had started to drop even more. She was freezing and she wondered how long he had been out in the cold. Ara hurried home the same way she had come. This time not waiting for her friend. As she approached the spot where she had seen him she paused and looked around but there was no sign of him. In the spot where he had been sitting, she found a blue paper folded into a flower. She bent down to pick it up the cold wind going right thru her. When she looked up again, he was standing in front of her wearing her scarf and hoodie.
“It’s for you, I’m glad you found it,” he said with a little smile of gratitude.
“Thank you,” she said with a wobble to her voice.
“You’re freezing,” he said removing the scarf and putting it around her neck.
“No, no! You keep it.”
“I can’t. You’re cold,” he said shaking his head.
She stood and thought for a bit staring at his kind eyes making a quick decision. “Okay, I’ll take it if you come home with me.”
“Please come for a little while. I would like some company on the way home.”
They walked silently for a bit not knowing what to say.
“I’m really sorry about what my friend said.”
“It’s okay, don’t worry. You are not responsible for her behavior.”
“She’s not that bad actually. She’s just immature sometimes.”
They continued walking as she racked her brain for a question that didn’t sound offensive. How could she offer him a meal without hurting his feelings?
“This is where I live,” she said gesturing to her small house.
“I’ll be going then, thank you.”
“Wait don’t go! I enjoy your company.”
Why don’t you come in for a bit and warm up and have a little soup?”
He looked panicked as he glanced down at his dirty clothes full of stains.
“No, thanks, I’m really dirty.”
He started to turn away before she saw the tears forming in his eyes quickly gulping down his shame.
Grabbing his arm she stopped him and said, “You can use my shower. I don’t mind and you’ll be more comfortable.”
He stayed quiet and she looked up at his face to find he was trying to hold back tears. She put her arms around him. “It’s okay. Only if you want to.”
He nodded looking down at his dirty shoes. He felt ugly, dirty and worthless. He could not understand why she wanted to help him. She invited him into her house and showed him the bathroom. He slowly removed her jacket and took off his worn shoes reluctantly cause his socks had holes in them.
“I can wash your clothes while you shower and bring you some of my brother’s things in the meantime.”
She went into her brother’s room while the boy showered and grabbed a tee, jeans, a hoodie and a pair of socks and sneakers her brother never wore. He wouldn’t even notice they are missing.
“Can I come in?” She asked waiting outside the bathroom door.
“Just a second.” He put on a robe and said, “Okay now.”
He watched her every movement as she came in and laid the clothes on the counter and the shoes on the floor. Shyly gnawing on his lower lip as he watched her pick up his dirty things. He was wearing her old robe wrapping it tightly around him. The peaks of his bangs still dripping and hiding his curious eyes.
It made her sad to see the state of his old shoes. He must walk so much. She wanted to know his story and be his friend. It felt good to do this for him. She had always wanted to do a kindness for a needy person but since she was poor herself, she never really had the opportunity. Her mom would always share food with the neighbors and had shown her daughter by example what it meant to be a good human being.
He came out of the bathroom wearing the items she picked looking so much better. Everything looked a little big on his small frame and his wet hair looked even longer than when it was dry.
“Let me look at you.”
He pushed his hair back out of his face revealing his sweet countenance. It was the first time she got a good look at him.
“Oh, you have pretty eyes,” she said looking away from his pink cheeks, “I’ll get a brush for you.”
His heart skipped a beat when she looked away blushing. She was so sweet.
“Thank you,” he replied.
After he untangled his dark hair and combed it back, he looked so cute, it was hard for her not to stare at him.
“I put some food to heat up for us,” she said trying to sound natural like he was an old friend. Yoongi’s eyes got big at the mention of food.
“I can smell it,” he said smiling the hair falling in his eyes again.
“Sit down. Let me cut your bangs a little bit while we wait.”
When Yoongi sat down she noticed the pants were too big and she could see his lower back and butt. She could also tell he wasn’t wearing underwear the one thing she had forgotten to provide for him. Yoongi noticed holding the pants close to his pale white skin.
“They’re a little bit too big,” he said with an embarrassed giggle.
“Let me see if I can find a smaller pair. I put your things to wash but they’re still wet.”
She combed his wet hair forward and gently cut his fringe being careful not to cut too much. She had cut her own fringe many times so she wasn’t scared of messing up.
Yoongi got goosebumps from her soft touch. He felt so relaxed and happy he almost purred with contentment.
“There! I’m done,” she exclaimed.
Yoongi looked up at her with his cute kitten eyes in wonder.
“Why are you doing this for me?” He said looking at her thru the mirror.
“We all need a little help sometimes and I want to be your friend.”
“Is there anything I can do to repay you?”
“Just eat, kitten.”