“He’s a good boy, yeah,” Ilhoon said, phone in one hand, leash in the other. He was dogsitting. His friend with whom he was talking on the phone asked him to take care of his dog while he was abroad.
At first, he was kind of against it. He knew he would be responsible for the dog and if something would happen it’d be his fault. But the dog, Momo, was actually very calm and obedient. It had been five days since his friend traveled to Canada for his research but things were surprisingly going well. Momo liked to play with Ilhoon or just lie down beside him when he was studying. And Ilhoon enjoyed walking him. He didn’t really go out before but now he went to the park every day to play with Momo.
“Thank you again.” His friend said for the nth time.
“It’s okay.” Ilhoon smiled at Momo but his smile disappeared as soon as he realized what the dog was doing. They stopped in front of a flower shop when Ilhoon’s phone rang and stayed there while Ilhoon was talking on the phone. He didn’t think something would happen. But Momo was peeing on a small thuja. “MOMO,” he yelled.
“Hey, are you okay?” He heard his friend’s voice but hung up immediately. He’ll tell him that later. He had to do something with Momo here. He was panicking. He never thought Momo would do something like this.
“Momo, what the hell are you doing?” He was fuming. “You just peed on an expensive mini tree.”
The dog barked at him.
“What? It was you who did that. Don’t bark at me.” Ilhoon huffed. “And what now? Hm? Should we run away like nothing happened?”
“Did your dog just-” The boy gasped. He was standing behind the counter a few minutes ago and Ilhoon was eyeing him while talking with his friend. But looked like he ran out of the flower shop when he heard Ilhoon yelling.
“I’m so sorry.” He reached for his wallet but realized he forgot it at home. “Look, I don’t have money with me right now but I’ll come back and pay for it.”
“I’m closing the shop in,” he looked at his watch, “twenty minutes.” His eye twitched.
“Oh, really?” Ilhoon asked, embarrassed. “I won’t even get home in 20 minutes.” He scratched the back of his head. “I’ll come back tomorrow. I promise!”
“Excuse me, I want to pay!” A middle-aged woman said, glaring at the two boys impatiently. “I’m in a hurry, sir.”
“I have to go back,” the boy sighed but turned to Ilhoon before he went inside. “You!” He pointed at him. “You need to pay more attention to what your dog is doing,” he said and left.
“But he’s not my dog,” Ilhoon murmured.
The next day Ilhoon went to school first. He was a sophomore and majoring in music. He left early and went to the flower shop but it wasn’t open yet so he decided to go back again after classes.
“Good morning,” someone sat down next to him.
“Good morning,” he looked up from his phone and glanced at his neighbor.
“Wait, aren’t you the guy whose dog peed on my thuja yesterday?” The boy next to him exclaimed.
“Why are you here?” Ilhoon yelped. “Did you follow me? You want my money, right? Please, don’t hurt me, I have it.” He reached to his pocket but the boy just laughed.
“It’s okay, don’t worry. Also, I didn’t know we have a lecture together.”
“I didn’t even remember seeing you, and not just in class but in general.” Ilhoon bit his lips.
“Same.” Sungjae nodded.
Awkward silence. Ilhoon glanced at him.
“Jung Ilhoon,” Ilhoon introduced himself.
“So you work in a flower shop.” Ilhoon tried to initiate a conversation.
“Yes. I own it, more exactly.” The other boy said like it wasn’t a big deal.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry. That wasn’t my dog, I’m dogsitting actually. Let me pay for it.” He reached for his wallet again but Sungjae stopped his hand.
“Calm down, it’s okay! But next time pay more attention when you’re walking dogs!”
“But I really want to do something. You probably couldn’t sell it.” Ilhoon felt bad. He knew it wasn’t a catastrophe or something just a plant with some pee on it but he had some wild dreams because of it. He worried more than he should have and he knew he overdramatized it but in one dream, he caused bankruptcy with this accident and in other, he got arrested. He woke up in cold sweat in the morning but after he came to his senses, he realized this whole thing wasn’t a tragedy. He’ll just pay for it and everyone can forget this happened.
“Is something wrong?” The professor cleared his throat, glaring at Ilhoon and Sungjae.
“No, sorry,” Ilhoon lowered his head.
He wanted to continue talking with Sungjae but the other boy left as soon as the lecture ended. Ilhoon still had two more but he decided to go to the flower shop anyway and apologize again and maybe buy some flowers.
“Welcome,” Sungjae said when he heard the bell as the door opened. He was standing with his back to the door, so he didn’t know who the new customer was. Ilhoon looked around. He didn’t know anything about flowers. He had some houseplants in his apartment but all of them died after a few months. “Oh, it’s you!” Sungjae said when he turned around. “I really hope you’re not here to apologize. As I said before, it’s okay. Look, it happens. Don’t worry.” His voice was soft and it surprised Ilhoon.
“I’m… I’m actually here to buy some houseplants. I-” He looked at the taller boy and gulped. He looked stunning. “I’m a plant killer. So I’m here to buy something and I’d also be happy if you could give me some tips.”
Sungjae raised his eyebrows. “I don’t really believe you but let’s say you’re really here to buy something. So what do you want? Any idea?”
“No?” Ilhoon said, more exactly asked. “I don’t know anything about plants.”
“Okay, then let’s see!” Sungjae walked to some plants and hummed. “What do you think about that?” He pointed at one, smug grin appearing on his face.
“Isn’t it that one my dog peed on?” Ilhoon asked, unamused.
“You wanted to pay for it anyway.” Sungjae laughed.
“True.” Ilhoon sighed. “You know what? I buy it.”
“What? For real?” Sungjae exclaimed.
“Yes, I don’t know anything about flowers or plants,” Ilhoon said, running his finger over a leaf. “At least I know this one. So anything else I have to know other than that my dog… you know… did that.”
“I’m gonna be honest with you,” Sungjae put a hand on Ilhoon’s shoulder. “I don’t know anything about plants either.”
“What? But you’re the owner, aren’t you?” Ilhoon asked, confused.
“I lied.” Sungjae shrugged. “You were worried too much so I thought if I told you I was the owner and I wasn’t angry you would calm down.”
“Ah, I see.” Ilhoon deadpanned. “You’re the worst.”
Sungjae laughed. “So anything else you want to buy?”
Ilhoon shook his head and left the shop with his new “houseplant”.
“You again.” Sungjae was standing behind the counter, three flower bouquet next to him.
“Hi, I was-” Ilhoon tried to come up with something. He couldn’t tell him he was here to meet him again. “I was just buying some dog food and I thought I could say hi if I’m already here.”
Sungjae smiled but didn’t say anything. Ilhoon knew Sungjae didn’t believe him. “I’m glad you’re here. It’s boring. Do you want to buy something?”
“Yeah, why not? Any recommendation?”
“I’d love to say that you should buy this or that because they symbolize this or that but I know nothing about flower language,” Sungjae confessed. “Our tulips are fresh and pretty. Buy some.”
“Maybe you should learn about flowers while no one is here. So you wouldn’t be bored,” Ilhoon suggested. He walked to the tulips. They were really pretty. “What’s your favorite?”
“Cactus.” He leaned against the counter.
Ilhoon let out a squeaky noise. “Then I’ll buy a cactus.”
“You don’t like cactuses.”
“But you do.”
“And you’ll buy it for me or what?”
Sungjae’s cheeks turned red. “How- How romantic,” he said, looking away.
“At least one of us is. Maybe if you’d know what love is in flower language, you could be as romantic as I am.” Ilhoon teased.
“You must be every girl’s dream boyfriend,” Sungjae said, acting unamused.
“Yeah, maybe, but I’d rather be boys’ dream boyfriend.” Ilhoon looked at Sungjae, trying to read his expression. He heard from his friend about the rumors Sungjae and his supposed boyfriend had in high school.
“You’re cute.” Sungjae sighed. “I want that one.” He pointed at a cactus.
“Okay,” Ilhoon paid for it and gave the cactus to Sungjae. “Take good care of it.”
“I’ll punish you.”
Sungjae snorted. “I’m sorry, but who is the plant killer here?”
Ilhoon coughed. “Oh, true.” He scratched the back of his head in embarrassment. “I have to go. Momo is waiting for me.”
A few days later Ilhoon went again. This time someone else was there, sweeping the floor while listening to music and singing along with it.
“Oh, you’re here again. I saw you here a few days ago,” the man with the broom said. “Can I help you?”
“Is Sungjae here?” Ilhoon asked, looking for the boy.
“Yook Sungjae? He is not working today.” The straightened up. “He’ll be here tomorrow.”
“Okay, thanks.” Ilhoon nodded and stumbled out of the shop.
Idiot, he thought, you’re an idiot, Jung Ilhoon. His friend arrived home later that day. Ilhoon felt sad because he really grew fond of Momo but it was time to say goodbye.
“I heard you were here yesterday.” Sungjae looked up from his notes when he heard the bell and saw Ilhoon.
“Yeah, I-” Ilhoon stopped. He didn’t know what to say.
“You come here pretty often lately,” Sungjae said, teasing Ilhoon.
“Yeah, I’m into gardening lately, you know,” Ilhoon replied, smelling some roses.
“Yeah, sure,” The corners of Sungjae’s mouth turned up slightly. “You’re ridiculous.”
“Ridiculously good looking?” Ilhoon winked at the other boy.
“You wish,” Sungjae let out a small laugh.
Ilhoon pouted. “What are you reading? Is this about flowers?”
“I’m studying for my exam,” Sungjae replied, head propped up with one hand, not even pretending to have any interest flowers.
Ilhoon walked to the counter and leaned against it. “I thought those are some notes about flowers and what they mean like tulip means love and cactus means forever.”
“And what does thuja mean?” Sungjae asked, playing along.
“Destined to be together?” He knew it was the worst attempt to flirt but he already said it out loud.
“Really? But what if a dog pees on it and it dies?” Sungjae asked back, giggling.
“It won’t die. I’m taking care of it.” Ilhoon protested.
“Said the plant killer,” Sungjae rolled his eyes.
“Hmpf, I’m not a plant killer. Not anymore.” Ilhoon groaned. “And what about the cactus?”
“The cactus is okay, don’t worry.” Sungjae turned a page and took his pen in his hand to write down something. “You can see it if you want.” He sighed. “Why does it feel like we’re divorced parents and that cactus is our kid.”
“Maybe we should remarry again,” Ilhoon suggested.
Sungjae blushed but didn’t look up. “You surprise me every time with these… flirting attempts?”
“I’m not that bad, am I?” he laughed.
“Well, you could’ve been worse, I guess.”
“You know you like them.”
“Do you think you have a chance?” Sungjae bit his lips.
“Why? I don’t?” He took the pen from Sungjae’s hand and put it down. “I have two movie tickets and I- I was wondering if you want to come with me?” Ilhoon asked, blushing.
“What movie?” Sungjae looked up at that, mouth slightly open.
“I don’t know. My friend, you know, the one whose dog peed on your plant, gave them to me.” He ran a hand through his black hair.
“Are you sure that you want me to come with you?” Sungjae asked, ears getting red.
Ilhoon nodded. “It’s tonight. So I understand if you can’t come. It’s pretty sudden.”
“I didn’t have any plan anyway.” Sungjae shrugged. “We can go.”