"Bye grandma!" Rushing out the door, out the front gate and into the side street, today was going to be a good day. At least one has to have that outlook at the beginning of the day or it won't be a good day at all. Today, today was the first day of freshman year and if I didn't make it good then it wouldn't be.
I spent my entire high school life studying away just so I could get to this point, just to make it into college and here I was. Walking down the street on the first day of my new college life. It was exciting and terrifying all at the same time.
Spending the summer vacation exploring this new city, this new neighborhood, was mind blowing. Sure being a military brat meant traveling all over and I'd lived a few big cities but Seoul was a megacity, it had a third of the Korean population living in it. In the two months before college started up, I'd only memorized my neighborhood and the line to school.
Starbucks, the smell of coffee and morning treats wafted down the street. It was tantalizing, mouthwatering and only made me walk faster. This was a morning ritual, shuffling down each day just to get this wonderful goodness.
Good morning Min Young
First day of classes. Good luck Jo.
Agreeing to move to my mother's homeland without much time to learn a whole new language was not the brightest of ideas but I made it work. The two month time span between end and start of school, I managed just fine, learning to read it at least.
"Crap." A glance down at the cell phone in my hand showed if I didn't hurry, the subway would leave without me. I checked over the lines schedule as I pushed the door to Starbucks open, making sure I was really on time or not. Worrying was my thing, worrying over every detail of my life and then dreaming of a life so different. And books, books were my thing, taking you to worlds far away. Not looking up from your phone when exiting a building is bad, really bad when you hit someone. Even worse when you're holding hot coffee.
"Sweet mother of holy fuck. That is really hot." The beautiful coffee I'd only taken a few sips of, covered my front and soaked me through the thin layers. Hissing from whoever I'd run into caught my attention "Shit, shit, shit. Um, oh my god, how do you say I'm sorry in Korean." The poor guy I'd hit was just as soaked as I was, his white tee now stained a watered out brown. He it tugged away from his body and I was making sad attempts to fan at the stain.
"I speak English." He didn't look up at me at first, both our attention on the clothing we wore. Thankfully I sported a dark colored tan top that morning, it was absolutely covered in the once delicious liquid.
"I am so sorry. God, I'm going to be so late to class. I ruined your shirt, I'm really sorry." Between my own crushing problem of being late, soaked clothing and minus one fuel for the day, I touched at his shirt. There was no way it was every going to be pure white again and that made me cringe. "How am I gonna get to class on time? I can't go home. Oh my god, your shirt is seriously stained. Again, I'm so sorry." Mild panic attack in force, breathing hindered and hands fidgeting. I'd have to go to class covered in coffee, I was going to be late, I'd just drenched some guy and ruined his shirt. My chest was going to explode, I could feel it tightening.
"Are you okay? Miss?" The man standing in front of me snapped his fingers, bringing me back from total full blown freak out.
"I-I'm fine. Look I'm sorry about your shirt but I need to go. The subway doesn't wait." Pulling my bag back over my shoulder, I walked past him. Only to be caught by the arm.
"You can't go like that. You said you couldn't go back home, I live around the corner. I should have something you can borrow." He smiled, or I would guess he did, there was a mask covering half his face. The only telling sign was his eyes scrunching up, I think it was called an eye smile for that reason.
"I, just, um, that's really to nice of you but-"
"No buts, I can't let a girl go off looking like you do." And that's how I ended up standing outside some apartment at six in the morning. The guy had made me feel guilty for covering him in coffee, just using it as an excuse to bring me here. Honestly, it was kind of terrifying to be dragged somewhere by a total stranger but I'd feel awful if I didn't go with him. He hadn't introduced himself in the short walk over, which only made the hairs on my neck stand on end. Not that I could really ask him anything, my people skills were shit when meeting someone new and I turned into a blabbering mess once our eyes met. I felt like I was being judged the second eye contact was made.
"Sweet mother of all, this is how I'll die. Lured away after spilled coffee, thrown into the sex trade and die of a drug overdose. He went inside, leaving me here for the cronies to kidnap me." I was turning circles, dancing around and fidgeting with my purse.
"You have a seriously active imagination." Spinning around, I faced the same man as before only this time in a clean shirt. "I don't have any pants that would fit but I got you a hoodie." He showed the balled up fabric in his hands before I reached out and took it from him.
"Thank you." Mumbling out my gratitude, I pulled the hoodie over my head and went about getting the tank top off underneath it. The man averted his eyes, a mask still hiding his other features. Taking a glance at my phone set off another panic. "I am so gonna be late." My feet were moving, running as fast as possible to the subway station. I called out another thank you to the stranger, turning just enough to wave back at him. He raised his hand, a wave intended and I turned back to the street ahead. I could not miss the subway on my first day and be god knows how late because of it. Today would be good, it just had a rough start is all.
"Jo?" It was my mother's voice, her Korean accent hanging heavy in her English words and showing just how different we were.
"In here." I was huddled up in my room after this long day, studying. My grades had to stay perfect if I wanted to have the job opportunities so that meant studying my butt off to keep up with everyone else. My mother pushed the door to my room open, the creaking of it giving away her entrance. She was most likely watching me, debating over if what she needed was really important enough to pull me away. She knew this was hard, adjusting to a new life and having to translate everything. It was fine with me, I knew she needed to come home after what happened in America. It had become a toxic place for both of us and any girl, young or old, would go back to their mother in that situation. She should be happy I was able to get into a college here on such short notice.
"Just ask already mom." I stopped writing, setting the pen aside and looking up at her. She wasn't like the celebrities, my mother aged and a hard life of constantly moving showed that.
"Nothing to ask dear. Your grandmother has dinner ready, so if you're hungry." She smiled, gesturing to the rest of the house. My mother was lying, she had wanted to ask something but rethought it at the last second. When you don't speak often, you learn to read others. Take high school for instance, I didn't make those 'life long' friends or friends at all instead I listened. Keep your mouth shut and your ears open, you end up hearing quite a lot.
"Let me just finish this paragraph and then I'll be in there. Go ahead and start without me." I waved her off, turning back to my assignment. I needed to get as much of this done tonight or I wouldn't be able to keep up. Most of the professors gave everyone something to work on and translating it was sort of difficult. It was fifteen minutes later when I finally put the book down and stretched out. My body popped in a few places, sitting still so long stiffened everything but it was worth it. Standing and shaking out my sleeping legs, I left my room and headed for the dining.
"Jo, I put some dinner aside for you. Your cousin tried to eat it all." My mother glared at the young man sitting next to her. Ji-hun was a piece of work, most people his age had jobs and he was the exact reason I tried so hard in school. I didn't want to be nearly thirty still living with my grandmother and not being able to hold a decent job.
Why does she get all the good stuff? She doesn't even work.
"What'd he say?" I pointed my chopsticks at the idiot across from me while he glared in return.
Neither do you, you idiot.
My mother made idle chatter, asking about class and if I liked my professors. If I'd made any friends or found anyone worth taking an interest in. I laughed at the thought, me having friends or an interest?
"Where's Ji-woo? I thought she was coming for dinner tonight." I questioned the absence of my only female cousin, she was support over the last few months and had been helping me adjust.
"She had a date. Things with that boy have been getting serious, maybe even a wedding come next year." A wedding? Another cousin getting married really made reality sink in, everyone was growing up. I grimaced at my mother, not particularly liking that.
"I'm going to something cold from Starbucks. You want anything mom?" I finished the last bite of my dinner and started to clean up my dishes. A cold coffee sounded really good about now, it'd cool my head and give me enough energy to finish off the last bit of the homework. When she refused needing anything and took the dishes away from my hands, I smiled at the older woman and headed for the door.
Making the trip down to the coffee place once or twice a day really counted as exercise. It was more than a few blocks away but well worth the deliciousness. I practiced my greetings over and over, knowing that someone I didn't know would be working.
"Making my way downtown. Walking fast, I'm hauling ass and I'm thirsty." I danced around down the street, singing to myself. Giggling at my own stupidity and continuing the act. A few people giving me judgemental looks as I passed them. Once inside, I waited in line until my turn.
"Venti iced coffee with a little chocolate on top." Its a new person all together, someone I've never even seen working in the store before. This was wonderful. The girl stared at me in complete confusion
Large iced coffee with a little chocolate on top, make it two.
"So what is your name?" He'd pulled away the mask and sipped at his coffee and I tried my best not to look at him when I answered.
"Jo. What's yours?" I sipped at my own drink and waddled down the street, kicking my legs out to the side with each step. When he didn't answer and I could no longer hear his footsteps, I turned around.
"What?" The man held a confused look for a moment before shaking his head and catching back up.
"Nam-joon. Is that my hoodie?" I looked down, completely unaware that I still had it on. My face was hot suddenly, burning all the way to my ears.
"Are you blushing?"
"No, I'm not." Trying my best to hide away the embarrassment, I turned and continued walking "And yes this is yours. I just haven't changed since this morning."
"Right." He caught up quickly, walking along side me ",Nice shorts then." Nam-joon tapped my leg and I cringed inside. He knew I was lying, the pants I'd worn this morning were crumbled on my bedroom floor.
"Don't you have a home to go to and not follow me to mine?" I looked at him then, a street lamp catching his face and lighting it up. I wish I didn't, I wish would've kept my eyes forward. Good heavens he was gorgeous.
"I'll take the hint. Catch you around Jo." I didn't turn to watch him walk away, keeping my eyes forward and marching on to my own house.
Yo, it's been awhile!
Just popping back in because I have room on my phone again and I've been missing the community a lot.
So author's note, I know Jack about the Korean college system, or how college works at all honestly. So enjoy the story without getting hung up on the awful timeline!