(I figured it’d be easier if I just posted it. So if I want to share a story, I’ll just post it under the ‘Short-Stories’ category from now on.)
They collapse against each other, sweaty and out of breath. She doesn’t want to feel his skin on hers anymore, but she’s too tired to move. He doesn’t say anything…perhaps because he knows what’s going to happen next. Instead, he stares up at the ceiling as the lasting effect of her touch quickly slips away.
She wants him to leave, but they’re both exhausted. The room is cold with its poor insulation, and the heat of their bodies, somewhat comfortable. Unlike the others, he doesn’t touch her. He doesn’t even look at her when he finally pushes himself into a sitting position. He stands and pulls his boxers on. She doesn’t stop him when he buttons up his shirt and pulls on his coat. She watches as he slips on his boots. He stops, watching her. They stare at each other before she breaks the gaze, standing and dressing herself.
“This should cover it.” He pulls a wad of bills out of his coat pocket and tosses it at her. She lets it bounce off of her shoulder and roll to the ground. He turns to leave, but she grabs his hand. He turns and she slaps him. Hard. He doesn’t say anything, just caresses his cheek. He looks into her face, surprised. Her eyes shine with unshed tears, but she doesn’t speak. She turns away abruptly and walks into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. He waits for a minute before hearing the shower turn on. He sighs, shooting a guilty look towards the closed door. He hates this part, but what choice did he have?
She stands still, letting the hot water wash the pain away. What is she doing with her life? Even she doesn’t know the answer to that question. It’s a way to pass the time, she thinks. The men made her feel wanted…needed. But this one had been different. She just felt…bad. For the first time in three years, she felt as if she’d made a mistake bringing him home. He’d belittled her…made her feel terrible about herself. She’d held back, even when she hit him. She didn’t know what to do about it, but it made her want to cry.
Her alarm goes off in the distance. She turns the shower off, wrapping a towel around her body. She steps in front of the mirror, studying her reflection. She can spot the bruise-like marks already purpling on her neck and chest. Her hair is a mess, dripping and tangled. Her face is pale. She licks her swollen lips, wincing from the pain.
Her studio apartment is large, but simple. She rips the sheets off of her bed and throws them against the wall. She walks over to the window, the cold breeze raising goose bumps over her naked body. She shuts it and pulls the blackout curtains, protecting against the tendrils of sunlight.
It doesn’t take her long to dress for work. With temperatures below twenty, her turtle-neck and jeans combo is justified, but she’d covered them just to be safe. She stops just outside the building, taking a deep breath before pushing open the double doors. She’s greeted warmly as she makes her way to the locker room. She opens her locker, pulling on her lab coat and slipping her identification card over her neck. She shoves the stethoscope into her pocket and checks herself in the mirror once more before heading out.
She gets through the day alright. She meets six new patients and checks up on three of her previous ones. She yells at a couple of interns, but by three, the after-effect of her late night pounds in her head. She downs two aspirin with a cup of disgusting hospital-standard coffee and goes right back to work. By the time her shift ends at six, her stomach is growling and she’s ready for bed.
Not for the first time, she cries herself to sleep that night.
He stares at her from across the table. She refuses to look at him. She doesn’t touch her food, just downs her glass. He can see where she tried to cover them on her neck, but sweat has lessened the effect. He can see the purple in some spots.
She feels scrutinized…as if all eyes in the bar are on her. She downs another drink, but it does nothing to help her mood. The pulsing lights flash in her eyes. Her head pulses behind her eyes. She wants to look at his handsome face…to stare into his almond-shaped eyes and kiss his full lips, but she restrains herself. She knows what he thinks. She already feels bad and she doesn’t want to make it worse.
“Seol Hyun.” She doesn’t look at him. “Seol Hyun,” He repeats. She bites her red-stained lips. When she doesn’t answer him for a third time, he reaches across the table and forces her to look at him. He looks her straight in the eye. Depression, sadness, anger, shame, disgust, all hidden behind those pretty brown pupils. He lets go of her and takes a swig of his drink.
She doesn’t dance, and he doesn’t ask her. Instead, they pass the time staring at the floor where limbs and bodies intertwine. He buys her another drink, which she downs almost as quickly as the first. If he didn’t know better, he’d have stopped her there. But he buys her another one, and then another. When it’s clear that she’s had enough, he grabs her hand, and they leave the club, headed for her apartment two blocks away. She doesn’t even stop to take off her heels. He kisses her, pushing her backward into the room. She reaches behind her and quickly unzips, slipping out of her short dress. They fall against the bed, a mess of limbs and kisses.
“Seol Hyun,” She refuses to look at him. She turns away from him, pulling her knees to her chest. He props himself up on his elbow and looks down at her. She closes her eyes, trying to keep the tears at bay. A cold breeze wafts through the open window, and she shivers.
She doesn’t want him to leave. She wants to feel him beside her, to wrap her arms around his neck and feel the touch of his lips on hers. She wants to feel his warmth and she wants to feel his touch. She wants to blame it on the alcohol, but she knows she isn’t drunk. He breaths deeply as he sleeps. She rolls over and looks at him. He looks peaceful, she thinks, as if he hadn’t a care in the world. She envied that. Her life was a mess…even she knew that.
She takes a shower. She avoids the mirror as she pulls an oversized T-Shirt over her damp body. When she returns, he’s still asleep, a comforter covering his lower half. She sits on the edge of the bed, careful not to disturb him. She looks at him, and the tears that’d threatened her all night force their way out. He stirs and she quickly wipes her face, but she knows he saw.
He stands and pulls his jeans on over his boxers. She looks away from him again. He knows that it’s time for him to leave, but he finds that he doesn’t want to. He wants to touch her, to kiss her. He wants to love her until she can love herself.
“Why do you…” Before he knows what to say, he finds himself speaking angrily. She looks up, surprised. “Why do you continue to do this if it…if you feel like crap afterwards?” He can’t keep the anger out of his voice. She quickly stands.
“What does it matter to you? And who says that I’m not happy?! I’m ecstatic!”
“DON’T-” She winces. He takes a deep breath, calming himself before he upsets her even more. “Don’t lie to me.” He continues in a gentler voice. The expression she gives is upset and wounded. “Why do you act like this? Do you know how difficult it is for me? Hearing what they say… I don’t understand how you can just live like this even after everything that’s happened.” She looks down at her hands.
“Don’t you think I know? What they say and how they look at me? But…naega wae?! Why should I live MY life how they want me to? Why should I care about what they think? Why should I act like the perfect princess and go to work and get married and be the perfect example of a Korean woman?! Why should I let it affect me? WHY?” Anger erupts inside of her, and he can see that. He breaths heavily, keeping the insults in his mouth. He wants to grab her and shake her until she understands. He wants to kiss her and hold her until she feels better.
He turns away. He can’t take it anymore. If she won’t listen to him, then there’s no point in speaking. “That’s right. Leave, just like the rest. You’re all the same! Push me aside as soon as you’ve got what you want! Go! Go! You don’t have to worry about me. I’ll be fine! Just leave!” Her voice breaks. He stops dead in his tracks. He turns around, anger taking the best of him. He crosses the distance between them in record speed. In no time, his arm his wrapped around her waist and his hand is knotted in her hair. He slams his face into hers, kissing her angrily. She stumbles slightly, but he keeps her from falling.
“Don’t you ever compare me to them!” She looks into his eyes as the tears roll out of hers. He kisses her, gentler this time. Her lips part and she wraps her arms around his neck. He presses against her, intensifying the kiss. She jumps up, wrapping her legs around his waist. He pulls her shirt over top of her head and lays her against the bed before kissing her again.
The room is cold, but their bodies warm. She doesn’t want him to leave. She desperately wants him to stay. She wants his touch, erotically, innocently. She turns over against him. He wraps his arms around her and kisses the top of her head, a promise that threatens her tears all over again.