CHAPTER 3: Happy Birthday, Seulin-ah!
This February was a hectic one for Seulin. Aside of being a university student, she worked for a community magazine as an editorial staff. Because of some accursed virus brought by a newbie reporter, they lost all data for the next issue. Since the next issue has to be ready before the last week of February, they had to recollect the articles. Even though it’s not a big magazine, redid things for it was exhausting.
For a while, Seulin forgot her curiosity on Seulong’s gift—and her upcoming birthday as well. She was too occupied and worn-out hence once she had opportunity to loaf at home, she would be a real lazy butt. Pity for her, Seulong was always there to nag around, like that morning.
“Seulin-ssi! Im Seulin! Seulin! Seulin-ah! Let’s go jogging!” he banged at her door. “Such a waste if you sleep at this nice weather… Come on, open your door!” he whacked the knob.
“Stay away! I’m tired, you know?!” she yelled back.
“Yah, Little One, are you yelling at me? Are you yelling at your elder brother?” Seulong played his tone. He knew Seulin hates him talking like that.
She opened it a little and popped out her head. “What do you want?”
Seulong smiled slyly. “Take a bath, dress up, and let’s go jogging.”
“Why must I take a bath and dress up if we’re going to sweat?” she folded arms.
“Because I said so.” He turned her and shoved her back to her room.
“Are you planning something?” Seulin examined her brother’s poker face.
“Just do what I said.” He closed her door. “Be ready in half an hour!”
Seulin walked down to the living room. Seulong was watching television. “Oppa, I’m ready.”
“Oh, you’re ready?” he turned to her and switched off the TV. “Let’s go then.” He grabbed her hand, but then stopped. “You sure you want to go with those clothes? Don’t wanna wear a dress or something prettier?”
Seulin folded her arms. “Then where are we going, really? Tell me so I can dress properly!” She examined his clothes. He wore jeans, white shirt with dark blue stripes, and his favorite black leather jacket. Her brother was still looked stunning even with those simple clothes only.
“Nope. Well, jeans and simple T-shirt like this will do, too.” He commented. “Come on, let’s go!” He dragged her out of the house.
“Wait. Where are we going? We’re not jogging, are we?”
“Well, we’re not literally, but we will have quite much walks so I consider it as jogging too.” They walked to his black Honda CSR he’s very proud of.
“You’re not bringing me to somewhere strange, are you?” she asked as she locked her helmet.
“Just hold on to me tight and wait, Little One. Don’t ask too much, you sound like my professor.” He wrapped her arms around his waist and started his motorcycle. He sped right away.
“Oppa! Don’t speed up! Slowly, won’t you?” she knocked on his helmet.
“What’s the fun of riding motorcycle slowly, huh? It takes too much of our precious time.”
“But I don’t want to die yet!” she screamed when he increased the speed. “Oppa! Slow down or I’ll jump!”
Seulong sped down hearing her threat. “Yah, don’t threaten like that, it’s not funny.” He said in low tone.
“Speed up is not funny, either.” Seulin scolded him. “When does a threat sound funny?” she mumbled to herself.
Fifteen minutes passed by, Seulin started to feel familiar with the road Seulong took her to. ‘Isn’t it the way to my junior high school? She furrowed.’ She tugged his shirt. “Oppa, isn’t it the way to my school?” she asked.
“What? I don’t hear you.” Seulong answered loudly. His grin hid in his helmet.
“Isn’t it the way to my school?” she repeated louder.
“Huh? I don’t hear you, Little One, speak louder.” He said. His grin went wider.
“I said, isn’t it the way to my school?” she raised her voice, almost yelling.
“What? Speak loudly, Little One!”
Seulin realized her brother was teasing her. She pinched his waist. “Oppa!”
He flinched. “It hurts, Little One!”
“Then don’t tease me! Tell me, why do you take me to my old school?”
“Didn’t I tell you to not ask me questions? Just wait and see, Little One.”
They arrived at Seulin’s old school the next ten minutes. After parking his motorcycle, he led her walked around the school.
“Whoa, it changes so much! Look at that tree, it wasn’t as big as it is now.” He pointed at the tree near football field.
“Of course, it was years ago since you last saw it here.” Seulin approached the main building. She peeked at the window. “Oh, the classroom is so cool now, back then it wasn’t as comfortable as it is.” She pouted.
Seulong’s gaze wandered around. “Hey, Little One, let’s see how my hideout looks like now.”
What he meant by hideout is an abandoned corner at the school behind the main building. It was hidden by trees and bushes. The place was breezy and pretty quiet. Almost no one went there because it’s was rumored to be haunted by a brokenhearted girl who committed suicide. However, Seulong and his gang always went there when they skipped classes. Oh yeah, Seulong was a real delinquent—and he’s up until now, that’s why it’s been 5 years and he still hasn’t graduated yet from university.
“I miss sleeping there.” Seulong pulled out his hands. “Ah, I feel like sleeping there for a while…” his words and steps stopped. His jaw dropped. “No way!” he groaned desperately.
The abandoned corner a.k.a. Seulong’s hideout had gone. It was replaced by a beautiful small greenhouse full of plantations.
“It can’t happen…. Bring me back my hideout… what am I supposed to do now…” he went on his knees and shook the door and faked a cry.
Seulin rolled her eyes. “Oppa, stop it. Don’t make me embarrassed, please. What if there’s someone pass by?”
“Impossible, Little One, it’s Sunday now just in case you forget. People don’t go to school on Sunday.” He faced her and hit her forehead lightly. “Come on, let’s go see the other.”
“Oppa, what’s your reason bringing me here? You’re not someone who out of blue wants to muse over things.”
“I am, but I don’t forget things easily.” He stopped in front of the gym. “Wonder how the gym has changed?” he opened the door and stepped in.
Seulin raised her brows. ‘What is he doing?’ She followed him in and surprised. Inside, Gain, Jo Kwon, Taecyeon, and Changmin—the whole pack—stood around a table decorated with flowers and balloons. There’s a big birthday cake on it, the ordinary black forest with cherries on top of it, her favorite.
“Happy birthday, Seulin-ah!” the pack chorused. Kwon and Taecyeon blew trumpets. Gain and Changmin threw confetti to the air.
Seulin smiled broadly. “Thank you!” she hugged Gain. “I didn’t even remember it’s my birthday today.” She grinned sheepishly.
Changmin ruffled her hair. “Now, cut the cake.” He handed her the knife. There weren’t any candle to blow simply because she dislikes candle wax dirtying her cake.
Seulin gave the first slice to her brother. “Here, Oppa. Thank you for taking care of me all these times.”
Seulong took the cake and kissed her forehead. “Aw, my Little One is growing up…” he cooed.
They all enjoyed the cake. One by one, the pack gave out their presents for Seulin. Gain gave her a fancy hat, Kwon gave her CD of Phil Collins’ best album she’s been looking for years. Changmin gave her a new branded red pouch. Taecyeon, being cheesy as he always be, handed her a big bouquet of red roses.
“Grow up to a beautiful lady then let’s get married, Sweetie.” He said as he expanded his arms to hug her.
Seulin chuckled. “Thank you, Oppa. The roses are beautiful.”
“Not as beautiful as you.” Taecyeon winked.
Seulong put on disgusted face. “Yah, enough, you playboy. Little One, this is for you.” He forced the two to pull out and gave her an envelope.
“Is it your present?” she asked before opening the envelope.
Seulin took out the letter inside. It turned out to be from her parents.
Happy birthday, dear Seulin. Hope you enjoy your birthday.
Pick anything you want for your presents.
Dad and Mom
The letter came with a credit card. Seulin rolled her eyes.
“Wow, you seem to graduate from check to credit card now! So you are a big girl now, huh?” Kwon teased her. Everybody cracked upon his words.
“I guess so…” Seulin laughed along. Well, that’s how her parents were. The two cared more about their business than their children. They had never come to her school plays. They also had stopped gave the siblings direct ‘happy birthday’ congratulations since a long time ago. They would only send cards and checks. Seulin didn’t even remember when the last time they celebrated their birthdays together with their parents. However, Seulin had come to the state that she doesn’t care anything about it as long as she has Seulong by her side.
“Well, birthday girl, it’s time for you to receive my present.” Seulong clapped his hands. “Turn around.” He ordered.
Seulin furrowed. Before she uttered a word, Seuling cut her. “Just turn around…”
She did as he said and turned around. By the time she faced the opposite side, she froze. Her heart stopped beating, her blood stopped flowing, her lungs stopped exchanging oxygen, but her brain managed to shout a name before going blank.
A name she’s been whispered a lot in her dreams all these years.
A name she’s yearning to shout every day.
A name belonged to someone standing exactly in front of her, only two steps away.