Black Pearl | 1 |
He fell onto the grass from over 300 feet and didn’t make a sound.
Standing up, he looked over the city of Seoul from on top of the hill. Lights in buildings shone bright, beckoning to him like a beacon. It was late evening and vehicles packed the highway, their headlights reflected like miniature orbs in the boy’s black irises. A light breeze blew, and strands of his lavender hair fluttered.
“Silver rain,” he murmured. Arms raised just above his waist he closed his eyes, inhaling deep like he was breathing in the city, breathing in the world. When he opened them again his eyes were a hazy mixture of green and grey.
Pop! went the lollipop as he pulled it out between his lips.
“Found you,” he breathed, and the corners of his lips raised just the slightest.
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I was tall. I was not small, and when I fell I fell hard.
Hana’s hands flew to her mouth. “Eun-bi! Are you okay?”
Always. Always she asked me that question. Always she asked in a manner as if she meant it.
I picked myself up from the pavement, slow. Granite was embedded in my palms and I dusted them off, wincing a little as the rougher bits bit into skin.
“I’m fine,” I mumbled.
Kai frowned. “I told you not to put your bag on the ground, Hana. See, you’ve tripped her over!”
Hana did a little pout. “I didn’t mean it! Oh fine, I’ll pick it up.”
She leaned down, and her hair fell over her shoulders in one smooth wave, a shade of chocolate not unlike that of my skin. Before she could sling the bag over her shoulder Kai had placed an arm through the strap and took it. Hana beamed, and her hand slipped around his waist.
I looked away. She went on.
“You know, Eun-bi’s always been the clumsy one.” She let out a little laugh that sounded like bells tinkling in the dark night. “I remember when we were younger, and we were learning how to ride the bike. She was doing so well, but next thing you know – “
– you had knocked me over.
“ – she had fallen on the ground. I told her to slow down, because she was – “
– winning the race, and you were losing.
“ – going way too fast for a beginner, but she didn’t hear I guess. Aigoo, you need someone that can take care of you properly, sis.” She leaned over and ruffled my hair affectionately.
I’d lost count of how many times I told her I didn’t like that.
“Oh, the bus is here!”
I shuffled my feet, standing still even as others moved on ahead. Somehow or other I always ended up at the back of the queue anyway, so I’d rather stay here than be pushed here. I got on the bus last and Kai waved from the back where the two of them were seating. There was only one seat available, and it was right next to Kai.
“Here,” he said, taking away Hana’s school bag that he had used to reserve the seat. “Saved a seat for you.”
I looked at Hana. Her eyes were encouraging as she smiled at me.
“That’s okay. I – I like to stand.” Before Kai could say anything else I had stepped away to grip the overhead handles.
“Leave her,” I heard Hana say. “She’s a little bit strange like that. But I’ve grown to understand it.” Kai murmured something back and she giggled.
I focused on the bus window and tried not to hear. A vague outline of my reflection stared back at me, as well as the reflection of two nearby school kids who were openly staring. I couldn’t blame them. In a crowd of pale porcelain skin, I stood out. Always. Dark skin, with darker hair. The words adopted seemed eternally stamped on my forehead, and if you looked a little closer, you could see the faint engraving of the words unwanted as well.
There was the sound of something clunking against the metal floor of the bus. One of the school kids – he must have been around nine, I should think – had been playing with several glass marbles and now he’d dropped one of them. As the marble went to the back of the bus so did he, and he ended up crashing right into my legs. My knees buckled even as in front, the driver guided the vehicle right into a pothole. The pothole was deep and the bus shuddered violently.
I completely lost my balance and fell backward.
I didn’t fall to the floor.
Kai chuckled softly in my ear, his breath ticklish. His arms were wrapped around my waist, his grip secure. His touch triggered mini tremors along my skin. I had landed squarely in his lap and could feel the bridge of his fine nose skimming the side of my cheek lightly. His cologne was an earthy scent that seeped under the senses. Completely unlike the sickly sweet perfume Hana put on every morning.
“You know, Hana was right. You are clumsy.”
My heart was rapidly ascending to my throat. I didn’t dare look at Hana. Besides, I had a feeling if I turned my lips might make contact with another’s. Hastily I pushed Kai away and got up.
“You sure you want to keep on standing? You might fall again,” Kai warned.
Hana flicked her hair over her shoulder. “He’s right, you know,” she said, her voice laced with nothing but concern. “You should sit, Eun-bi-ah.”
I caught the expression in her eyes and dread exploded somewhere in the pit of my stomach. Backing up, I stuttered, “N-no, it’s okay – “
“I insist,” she said, and this time steel licked her honey tones. “Sit, Eun-Bi.”
I ended up perched at the edge of my seat all the way home. The blue plastic dug into my school skirt and it was uncomfortable, but I didn’t move. I was an inch, a bump, a nudge away from falling off, but I didn’t move. Cold sweat drenched my palms and I longed to wipe it away, but I didn’t move. Earphones in my ear meant Kai barely talked to me, and that was exactly what I needed. Maybe if I shut up – just stay quiet – invisible – don’t look at me! – please –
The bus lurched to a stop outside our neighbourhood. Hana jumped up. I stood more slowly. My eyes kept flicking to her, looking for a sign – anything – but she was facing Kai.
“See ya later, alligator,” she teased. Leaning down, she pecked Kai on the cheek. I saw the way his face lit up with pleasant surprise. I swallowed, and the lump in my stomach tightened.
Whatever Hana did, she had a reason. There were no accidents, no acts of spontaneity, no “just because”. Her behaviour always meant something. That kiss meant something.
I stayed a little behind her as we walked home. She skipped along in front of me, feet light, even as I dragged mine. She waved cheerily at the guard, a bright grin, even as I tried to pull up a hint of a smile.
“Mum, we’re home!” she yelled, as she pushed open the front gate and started undoing her shoes.
My heart slid down a little from the knob in my throat. I took a step forward. I made it back. Hesitantly, I crouched down beside her and started taking off my shoes. My eyes darted to her, then away, then to her all over again. Maybe –
She suddenly stood up, and her knee hit me right in the face. I fell backward, landing hard on my behind. My nose pounded and I clutched at it.
“Oh. You fell again.” She did a little frown, and when she tilted her head there was a hard glint in her eyes. “You really are clumsy, aren’t you?”
She took a step near and if I could I would have shrunk into myself. In slow deliberation, she crouched down to eye level. Without a word she began to help me unlace my shoes.
My body trembled. My limbs – tensed. My entire being was ready to flinch. My lips were pressed together to keep the pain from crying out.
“You should be more careful, Eun-bi. I don’t want anymore accidents happening to you.” She looked up and her smile didn’t reach her eyes. “Understand?”
Numbly I nodded once.
Hana got up and eyed me for another long moment. “Close the door behind you,” was all she said as she walked past me into the house.
My fingers shook. Tears, unwilling, were already spinning in my eyes. I forced myself to calm down; it would only be a matter of minutes before Mum started asking where I was. And I knew if she saw me in this state a swollen nose would be the least of things I was getting from Hana.
Eun-bi-ah, you love mum a lot, don’t you? You don’t want to make her upset, don’t you? Well, here’s a tip then. Mum gets upset when she sees you upset. Mum gets upset when she sees you cry. So if you don’t want to make her upset, wipe those tears away. Never let her catch you crying – especially after you’ve been with me. You understand? Good girl!
I remembered once, only once, when I sat down next to Kai on the bus. It had been nice. He had been nice. The three of us talked about anything and everything; the teachers, the subjects, the shows we were currently watching. Hana had been laughing so hard she got the hiccups.
After that I fell down five times in seven days.
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Any guesses as to who the mysterious boy is? Here’s a hint : he’s part of another fandom.
A huge fandom.
Next chapter up after 3 likes! Comment away on your thoughts 🙂 As always,
Your earnest scribe,