Walking through the drab halls was never a decent experience for me, Kim Taeyeon, the anti-social nobody—who only seems to attract the weirdoes in this god-forsaken teenage daycare they call a high school. Every time crowds pass me by, I always have this paranoid impression that they are all judging me by my loose, rugged attire and messy black hair, talking behind their backs about how I have no friends (even though I do have a few friends), murmuring about my unusual love for skull t-shirts and Jack Skellington, my beloved Christmas nightmare… Yeah, I’m not your average girly teen, but I at least have better nail art than most of them… tch… losers… I honestly don’t give a crap about whatever they think of this lonely soul, a.k.a. me… though maybe I do sometimes… Honestly, I want to have more friends but I have no idea how—which is pretty unfortunate. Ugh, anyway, I have to get to class.
Entering my junior homeroom class and sitting in my spot close to the front is a daily routine. The math teacher always wants me upfront because I’m the best in my class, but only for math. When it comes to other subjects, I’m a tad bit lacking—just a little bit, but that doesn’t mean I’m not any good either. In the class ranking, I’m always pretty high up there, but not necessarily number one. There’s always Henry Lau on number one, the class genius from Canadia or Canada or China or Taiwan or whatever, who happens to be sitting right beside me, scribbling music notes on his music sheet. He’s seriously good at every dang thing you make him do—violin, piano, dancing, rapping, singing, speaking languages… He’s like the ultimate teacher’s pet too, and I find him sickening. Plus, since he’s good at basically everything, including acting like a cute idiot. He gets a lot of fan girls too even though I personally don’t find him attractive in any angle I try to view him. Next to Henry in the class ratings is the underrated geeky boy named Onew, who sits—or sleeps—at the back of the class but gets really high grades anyway. I swear the only thing in his brain is fried chicken; I don’t know how he turned out to be so smart when the report cards come out. He’s also somewhat of an awkward klutz, accidentally bumping his head in almost anything and tripping for all the stupid reasons… Really, I have no idea how he does well in school… So yeah, I’m stuck in the unfortunate third place that nobody ever really cared about…
“Hey, Taeyeon,” Henry started speaking to me, interrupting the slow analytical process I’m doing to my damned life.
“What?” I eyed him in disgust.
“It’s my 16th birthday party on the weekend. I don’t think I invited you yet. You want to come?” he asked with the sweetest baby face that gave me the biggest suspicions. Like, really? He’s inviting me to a party?
“I’m not sure. Maybe,” I told him. I tell that to any commitment thrown at me, in case I might lose interest and just prefer to play video games by myself for the whole weekend. Of course, if I end up being in a good mood by then, I just might come for the hell of it even though I’m not a party person. What better garbage bin to throw away my introvert image than in a party thrown by this rich kid?
Suddenly, this adorable eye-smiling girl just popped into the classroom with her pink backpack and excitedly ran to the seat behind me. Her American name is Tiffany Hwang, but I prefer to call her my Fany, my best friend. When gloominess distraught me, she was the only one to pull me out of my dark cave and bothered to be my friend. One glimpse of her pretty eye-smiling face lightens up my world. We’ve known each other for quite a long time (honestly it’s only been two years), and although I am rather lonely, when I am with her, I feel like I have everything I’ll ever need in my life. Anyway, she looked so happy and bouncy today that her thick fringe even bobbed up when she exclaimed a loud “Taengoo-ya!”
“Ppany-ya!” I called her nickname back, at least pretending to be as excited as she was for whatever the hell caused her to explode like festive fireworks right now.
“Guess what? I got into the cheerleading team!” the excited girl exclaimed.
“Oh, that’s great,” I said, though not in the most empathic way. In fact, I tried my best not to sound disappointed. I didn’t really want her to go for that cheerleading crap of a team, because honestly, most cheerleaders were total pain-in-the-asses. They’re egotistical, plastic Barbie dolls that only turn their heads for guys with abs that serve as their “Ken” and even step on other girls to show their superiority on basically everything. I hate them. Okay, maybe I’m being too judgmental but most of them are like that!
Suddenly another girl approached, and tell you what, she had always been intimidating ever since I met her. Her name is Jessica Jung, so-called the Ice Princess because of her cold, snobby appearance, also from America. Although we’ve been in the same class since middle school, I’m not really close to her anymore. We used to be good friends, but I don’t know what happened—we just grew apart. I even used to call her my Sica, just like my Fany. Sadly, we rarely talk nowadays. As far as I know, Sica’s also in the cheerleading team and has been there since last year. If Fany continues down that cheerleading pitfall, I might lose my friendship with her too. I don’t want that to happen.
“Yah, Fany, there’s cheerleading practice later after class. Don’t forget,” Jessica said to Tiffany.
With a big bright smile, the happy Fany just nodded. “I won’t forget!”
Jessica almost just left coldly, but I saw her eyes slyly look to me so she stopped. Then she awkwardly smiled at me briefly. Before she left to go to her seat in front of Onew, Henry suddenly called her back. He also caught Tiffany’s attention.
“Jessica, Tiffany, I’m having a party at my house on the weekend!”
“Who cares?” Sica just turned away and headed to her seat.
“Tss… Cold as ice…,” Henry said with a smug smirk on his face. “Anyway, you can come, Tiffany, if you want.”
“Taeyeon, are you invited?” Fany looked at me, as if basing her decision on mine.
Before I could come up with something to say, Henry turned to me and said, “Your brother said he’ll come.”
Later that day, Fany asked me to stay with her until her cheerleading practice was over. She wanted to ride home with me because she lived near our house. My older brother Heechul always picked up me and my younger brother Key. Anyway, here I am sitting at the benches of the gym with my brother Kibum, nicknamed Key, watching the cheerleaders go at it with, um, whatever the heck they are doing.
“Tch, I can do way better than those girls in pigtails!” Key ranted as he sat there beside me. Then he proceeded to mimic them. “Gimme an A, gimme a B!”
This particular brother looks a lot like a boy version of me. We have the same pale white face, same bony cheeks, same sharp looking eyes, and same smile… Yeah, the similarity freaks me out sometimes, but we are completely different when it came to how we act. He’s way too friendly and his fashion sense is always unusual and crazy, especially his overly dyed hair. In fact, even my older brother Heechul is also like that, except he doesn’t look much like us. That always make me wonder if I’m adopted or something ‘cause I’m so different from my two brothers in character. Speaking of different…
“Why’d you agree to go to Henry’s party?!”
Key looked at me oddly and answered, “Well, he told me to come so why not?”
I slapped his arm and said, “I hate you! Now I have to go because Fany thinks I’m going with you, so she’s going and she will be expecting me there to have fun with her!”
“So what? You can just stay at home if you really don’t want to. Gosh, you’re so anti-social…”
Suddenly, my older brother Heechul arrived with a loud bang. “Hello everyone!” he greeted out loud, making me and Key feel so embarrassed. Even the gym supervisor, Kwon Boa looked annoyed, but she had to bow to him. Here’s the thing, Heechul Oppa (older brother) used to study in this same high school and Gym Supervisor Boa also went to this same high school. Heechul Oppa is her sunbae (senior) back in the day.
“Oh hey, Boa!” Heechul Oppa greeted. Then when he spotted Jessica, he yelled, “SICA!!! You say ‘HEE’, I say ‘SICA!’” Remember when I said Jessica used to be my friend in middle school? Yeah, my older brother always made fun of her and made impersonations of her too until now, and she was always frustrated by that. See what’s happening to her now. She looks pissed at him. I guess I wouldn’t be surprised if the reason for our failed friendship was this…
One night before the weekend, I went to my brother’s room to ask for his advice.
“I don’t want to go to the party,” I told him.
“Then don’t go, simple as that!” Heechul Oppa said. “Why don’t you want to go anyway? You can go maybe have a little fun and meet new people.”
“It’s going to be a really big crazy party in a rich kid’s house. I’ll feel awkward there. Besides, it sounds like a party where everyone will be going wild and maybe drunk later, and I’m not really into those kind of things…”
“Just don’t go then. There’s no wonder why you’re named ‘Taeyeon’. You’re really more of a calm person than a wild party person.”
“But Fany will be there and she’ll be expecting me to come too. I don’t want to disappoint her.”
“Look, it’s your choice.” Heechul Oppa nonchalantly put his hand behind his head. “If you really care about your friend then go ahead and sacrifice your comfort for a little while. It won’t hurt. Do you want me to come as your chaperone?”
I looked at him from head to toe and shook my head. His long brown hair reached to his shoulders. He needs a haircut. And he was wearing bright pink pajamas with rubber duckies on them. “No thanks.” Yeah Kibum is already enough of a wild chaperone anyway so why bother bring this weird oppa along…
The party wasn’t that exciting when I got there the next day with my brother Key. Of course, as the social butterfly that my younger brother was, he immediately found his friends Choi Minho and Seo Joohyun, and decided to join in their conversation. I only gave them a hello and talked with them a little. But I have to leave them soon because I need to look for my Fany. Yeah there are people, there’s small talk, there’s food… I’m so going to the food. Henry’s house is huge, I tell you. His parents must be filthy stinkin’ rich! There’s even a huge chandelier. Nobody has chandeliers in their house unless they’re rich! He even hired a band to play on a stage (like who has a stage in their house?!) Oh, wait, that’s just Yonghwa’s band, but I guess he’s getting paid to play here too. Yonghwa is in our class too. He plays guitar and likes to think of himself as a rock star—a more toned down one, that is. His band mates go to the same school. He’s paid by my cousin to play live music for his restaurant during weekends. I also go there at the Xiah Dragon Noodles restaurant to sing so I see Yonghwa there often. Anyway, I’m headed for the food. I squeezed through some people to make my way to the food table. Suddenly, I felt two hands pound on my shoulders.
“Taengoo-ya!” screamed Fany through the loud music and chattering guests.
I turned around and saw her in a loose pink dress. She even had lipstick on. She looked really pretty. Then I suddenly realized that I’m just wearing a black hoodie and black sweat pants. I’m even wearing a face mask below my chin: not the beauty scrub, the surgical mask. I look like a thief or kidnapper or a sick patient for goodness sakes. I could have at least worn something nicer than this. “Ppany-ya…”
“Taeng, the food looks amazing!” she remarked as if not noticing my lacking fashion. I guess she thinks of me as her friend no matter what I look like. That’s my lovely Fany.
“Oh yeah.” I picked up a plastic plate and grabbed myself some fried dumplings. I also handed her a plate and put some food on it.
Suddenly, my Fany went running off to someone else. My Fany. Mine.
“Yuri!” I heard Fany say. Oh it’s Yuri. She’s also a cheerleader. She’s also a swimmer, women’s football player, softball player…the sporty kid. She’s nice and friendly to everyone, but way too dorky and crazy. I’m a little annoyed by her though. Jessica spends more time with her more than with me nowadays. Jessica used to be my friend. Don’t steal my Fany from me too!
“Tippani!” exclaimed that very fit tan-skinned girl named Yuri. She gave my Fany a hug. I’m getting jealous now.
After hugging my Fany, Yuri looked up and saw me. “Hello Taeyeon!”
“Hi.” I waved my hand at her and tried not to look like I wanted to murder her. To take my mind off of Tiffany laughing with another human being, I looked down on my plate to take some of those fried dumplings but to my surprise, they were gone. What the heck?
“Sup, Taeyeon?” said this tall girl standing right beside me. It seems like she was chewing the last of my fried dumplings in her mouth.
“Sooyoung?! Did you just eat all my dumplings?!” Sooyoung is also in our class, even though she’s one year younger than everyone else. No, she’s not a cheerleader since she says she’s too pretty to be a cheerleader but honestly, she’s just not athletic enough to do flips but she doesn’t want to admit it. Even though I’m older she never called me “eonni” (respectful way to call and older sister/girl) because I’m short and we’re in the same class. She likes bothering me about my height and likes playfully bullying other kids. She doesn’t beat them up though; she just eat most of their lunch. She also likes playing pranks—mostly on Yuri. I’d like to think that she’s my friend since we’ve known each other for a long time, but she can be quite annoying.
“You look like a hooded creeper,” Sooyoung indiscreetly said to me.
“Yes, I know I look terrible. And get your own food! Aish…”
“You jealous?” Sooyoung said with a smirk on her crumb smeared lips.
“Jealous of what?”
“Of Ppany Ppany talking to Yuri and stealing your friendship.” Sooyoung’s eyebrows went up and down. Damn, I wish she would just leave me alone. She knows me too well.
“You’re just like Yonghwa.” Sooyoung started laughing.
“You mean that guy playing and singing on stage?”
“Yeah, you both have that same scary look on you face as if you both want to kill people. If you listen to his song, you can tell that he’s totally not in a good mood.”
“…Sad, sad, sad, sad, tonight. 가슴이 아파 (My chest hurts…)
Oh no, no, no, no, nobody knows 맘 몰라 (Don’t know my feelings…)”
Sooyoung looked around and pointed to my brother Key. I looked at my brother from afar and scrunched up my eyebrows. “Why would he be mad at my brother?”
Sooyoung hit my head with an empty plastic plate and yelled, “Not your brother, you idiot! Look at Kyuhyun Oppa!”
There, I saw Kyuhyun Oppa talking with Minho, Key, and Seohyun. He’s a senior in our high school. I find him lame honestly. He makes stupid jokes that are not even funny (Well, to me they’re not funny and Jessica doesn’t find him funny either). Plus, he’s got acne that he hides with a heavy layer of foundation. Anyway, he kept playfully touching Seohyun’s hair as I watched him. I’ve seen him flirt with Seohyun a bunch of times in school and I found it sickening since Seohyun was an innocent young freshman who doesn’t even know anything about guys eyeing her. He doesn’t deserve to constantly flirt with her. She’s like the little sister that I have loved since grade school!
Seohyun is such a sweet kid. Her real name is Seo Joohyun, but everyone calls her ‘Seohyun’ as her nickname. She likes helping out everyone and loves making the world a better place. Seriously, she’s like an angel sent from above. I first met her when I was crying in our old grade school playground. She was two years younger than me, but she sat beside me on the bench and gave me a hug. Then she said in the most adorable voice, “Eonni, don’t cry.” I will never forget that. She made me feel accepted even before Jessica or Tiffany became my friends.
“Yonghwa likes Seohyun,” Sooyoung said, snapping me out of my reminiscing.
“Really? I didn’t know that.”
“Anyway, if you’re really uncomfortably lonely, why don’t you just join Fany and Yuri’s conversation?” Sooyoung crossed her arms, looking like she was judging me.
“Oh yeah, about that, where are they anyway?” I guess I didn’t notice those two leave while I was talking to Sooyoung.
A while later while I was looking around with Sooyoung, the birthday boy, Henry, stood on the stage and Yonghwa’s band left for a break. Then Henry announced through the microphone, “Hey everyone thanks for coming! I hope you enjoy this evening!” Then music started playing from the speakers again. “Ay-yo, this is DJ G-Dragon ready to rock your pants off!”
“Tch, what a dumb name,” I scoffed.
Sooyoung just patted my head and hung her long arm over my shoulder. Then she was clutching her abdomen and making constipated faces at me. She looked sick. “Ugh I think I ate too much… I need to go to the bathroom. Taeyeon can you hold my bag for me?”
Sooyoung was carrying a blue fake leather hand bag that she just completely shoved at me. It wasn’t that heavy, so I slung the strap on my shoulder. Since I was getting kind of exhausted by the loudness of this party, I decided to roam around and find a place to sit down. I just really wanted to get away from the strobe lights, the loud EDM, the dancing people. When I found a sofa, I sat there for about a few minutes. It felt longer though, because I was bored and I couldn’t find my so-called friends. Good riddance to Sooyoung… Where the heck did she go? That bathroom break was taking too long… And Fany, why did you leave me?
While I was sitting there, I heard a strange groan coming from the slightly opened door right beside the sofa that I was sitting on. It was loud enough for me to notice but no one else seemed to have noticed it. It sounded like a man was in pain or something. I didn’t know what was in that room and even though it was slightly opened, I didn’t really peek earlier. Now out of curiosity I got up and decided to take a little peek. Who knows, there might be something scandalous going on in there and I won’t go rated 19+ by explaining what I imagined after hearing that groaning sound, but I just have to peek and entertain myself a bit. Hopefully it’s something exciting because I’m really bored right now.
When I positioned myself to take a peek, what I saw was something that never crossed my mind. In fact, I was so shocked that I ended up opening the whole door and walking in. Right in that connecting corridor, I saw a man lying face down on the floor with blood spilled beneath him. I didn’t recognize who it was—his messy hair and body proportions looked rather generic—maybe because I was too shocked to process it right now. I couldn’t see his face because of his position. Fear crept over me and I began to shake. In an instant, I screamed, but at the same time, everyone was screaming and cheering while Henry was hosting games, plus loud music was playing through the speakers, so I guess nobody heard me, except one person. When I looked up I saw that someone else was in the room. He had been here before I came in. It was Jung Yonghwa, the guy who took a rest after playing with his band. I stood there dumbfounded before him. I probably looked so terrified too because I can feel that my eyes have grown twice its size in utter shock. I also clumsily fell back and accidentally closed the door from where I came in. I quickly stood up with my back so close to the door while staring at the dead body and Yonghwa in fear.
“D-d-don’t look at me I swear! I d-didn’t do anything!” he nervously stuttered. He looked just as shocked and as frightened as I was.
Then someone opened the door behind me. I had to step away from it.
“Yong Oppa, Minhyukkie is looking for—” Then the girl’s sweet voice stopped and was followed by a high-pitched scream. I turned around and saw Seohyun. She quickly left and screamed, “Help! Help!”
Soon enough everyone was crowding near the room entrance only to be left aghast. The music was also turned down. Someone had just died.