Title The Season That Stayed
Genre: Drama, angst
Jessica was more than enthusiastic when she told her about the summer trip. Sooyoung knew her since they were kids and it was more than enough to understand that she usually won't take no for an answer.
"It's going to be fun. I promise."
She spoke about a town house; alone and waiting in the middle of a field, a bungalow with vacuous rooms and a sleepy porch. But it was not the image of a white house under a lemon-colored summer sky that took her interest. It was the impulse, the excitement shining from her friend's bright eyes, and the promise of a memorable summer.
The ten long years spent apart didn't matter. Neither did the fact that Jessica was a year higher and a sorority girl, whereas, she was an awkward freshman who could barely count her university friends with her one hand.
Maybe, this summer could change it all.
The town house was nothing less than what she had pictured. Its mighty presence loomed over her as she ran her eyes over it. The golden hues of the tall grasses around it made it look like it was sitting on flames and the melancholic streaks of yellow painted by the afternoon sun glowed above the fields like little tongues of fire.
Jessica welcomed her with open arms. She guided her through the narrow hall, to the vast living room where four people sat waiting.
Sooyoung smiled shyly at the strangers as Jessica said their names one by one. Yunho, Boa, Donghae, Changmin.
They were nice.
Boa was warm as she was small; pixie eyes glistening like stars as she beamed brightly at her. Yunho gently pried his arm from around Boa's waist and, with a smile that was both gentle and welcoming, shook hands with her. Donghae gave off an air of reserved calm but Sooyoung noted the playful gleam in his eyes the moment he asked for a high five.
Changmin stepped forward last. He didn't say much but Sooyoung thought his eyes seemed to speak to her, listening, reading all of what was hidden in her soul.
That night she slept thinking about him; the quiet boy in a bright, red shirt whose smile she has yet to see.
The following days were a blur of scenes--- picnics on a nearby meadow, fishing in a hidden stream, solitary walks along the edge of the woods. There was also the image of Boa in a sky-blue apron, baking cookies in the kitchen; Jessica riding Kimba the Horse through the fields; Yunho fixing a broken tile on the roof; and Donghae, in his trademark boyish smile, picking a daisy from the grass and handing it to Jessica.
But her memories were empty of him.
She had learned that he never really talks much. However, that knowledge was questioned on her eight night in the town house.
It was when everybody was asleep (or so she thought) and she was alone watching the bright yellow moon float above the fields. The aged, wooden floor creaked as Changmin joined her on the porch. She looked at him with wide eyes and he answered back with his rare smile.
It was a peaceful summer night when it all started.
They talked. They talked until the moon climbed down and the fields glowed gold once again from the light of the morning sun.
They met again for every evening after that.
Changmin was still quiet but he smiled at her more often, locked eyes with her more frequently, held her hand one time too many. The others may have noticed but it was something she cared not.
Summer was all in bloom.
Changmin disappeared one day and she waited for him. She dared not ask anybody so nobody said a word too. The day had slipped away to give way for the night but there's still no Changmin in sight. Sooyoung fell asleep on the porch that evening; the rocking chair she was sitting on made tippety-tap sounds until dawn arrived.
The next morning when she woke up, all that she saw when she opened her eyes was yellow. Changmin was kneeling in front of her with a bunch of sunflowers, holding her hand against his cheek as he whispered good morning.
It was back again just how it was before.
She was happy but somehow she wasn't. He has returned but she was still waiting. Waiting for him to spell out what it was that was happening between them.
But Changmin never said anything. He was a man of few words after all. And Sooyoung thought she should just content herself with how his hands would circle her wrist, how his smell would linger on her shirt whenever he leans on her shoulder, how he would gaze at her eyes. After all, the thought of doing those behind everyone's backs gave her a sense of adventure, a taste of long-subdued rebellion, a strong surge of adrenaline in her veins.
One midsummer night with the waning moon hovering above them like a lopsided smile, she kissed him.
Everything was sweeter after that. Almost.
"I like her. Don't lead her on."
Sooyoung paused on her step when she heard Yunho's voice. She could barely see Changmin's face from the crack on the door but she could imagine his expression as he uttered his words.
"I like her. She likes me. Is there anything wrong with that?"
A sigh, which she bet came from Yunho, was heard and then a sentence said in a soft voice but blatantly coated with concern.
"You know what I'm talking about. Summer is ending soon."
And Sooyoung heard nothing else.
Days moved fast and suddenly, she found herself counting her last days at the house that she had learned to love.
It was a week before they were about to leave when Changmin took out his car from the shed. It was an old beetle.
A family heirloom, he joked.
He invited Sooyoung for a ride, perfect smile in place and hand outstretched towards her. He was wearing that bright red shirt he was wearing the first time she saw him. He looked like the heart of a flame standing in the middle of the grassy fields. Sooyoung wanted to call the others but decided halfway that she did not want to.
"Where are we going?" She asked when she took his hand.
The scent of dust toasted under the heat of the sun mixed with the smell of his car's cracked leather seat. The memory of that smell would be imprinted on her mind forever; like how the scent of musk and bath soap would always remind her of him.
Changmin gave her a smile before he started the car. They drove on and on---past fields of endless yellow to a place where the stony earth plummeted downward to meet the sea.
That night when they returned, she didn't tell anyone---not even Jessica---that she slipped into his car a girl and stepped out of it, a woman.
But summer has to end.
She understood it the morning she saw a girl she hadn't seen before making pancakes in the kitchen. Jessica introduced her as Victoria and the kiss she gave Changmin the moment she saw him shattered her soul. It told the whole story. It answered the unspoken questions; why was there no declaration of love, what those sad looks Yunho was giving her for; how things would be once summer is gone.
She could not look at Changmin's eyes. Not when her world was falling down, not when her heart was bleeding, not when all that she had she gave to him and now she cannot take it back.
She was in love and she got hurt. So, she left.
Three days too early but no second too soon, she packed her bags, wrote a note, and left before the night was fading.
She left without hearing what he has to say; left before he could unravel her again; left before she could fool herself into thinking that what they had was real and worth fighting for.
Victoria was nice and Sooyoung wouldn't dare break her heart. Not when it was her who stole him.
And he, he would always be alive in her memories. And it was enough.
There was no good bye, no farewell. No more nights watching the moon set, nights hearing his breathing mix with the wind, nights he would put on a close with a kiss on her lips.
Her tears felt colder against her cheek as the early morning wind blew on her face. The fields were golden yellow and so were the leaves that were falling from the trees standing near the road.
Summer was over.
A/N: It's been a long time since I wrote an angsty ChangSoo. Thanks to sooriforever and blubtrflynflats for helping me find my muse. :) This shot is inspired by Vanessa Carlton's White Houses. This is for mekimigure, our beloved birthday girl, and falsefallacy, the girl who is allergic to milk, cheese, peanuts, and angst but still consumes them nonetheless. :)))