Kim Taehyung was currently getting dressed in one of his four tuxedos. He had twenty minutes to get out of his apartment and down three blocks to the fancy five-star restaurant that he worked at. Since the restaurant opened, which was two years ago, he had been playing his saxophone every week, from Wednesday to Sunday, from five p.m. to ten p.m. This job had sustained him while he spent his mornings and afternoons drawing and painting pieces of art and selling them online. He took requests and sometimes people even paid him by the hour to do portraits of them.
He tightened his bowtie before going over to his saxophone case. He opened it, giving his parts a once over, making sure his mouthpiece, ligature, and reed was inside. He closed the case back, zipped and picked it up, then high-tailed it out of his flat. He barely remembered close and lock the door behind himself. He only lived on the second floor, so it was nothing to jog down the two flights of stairs to the lobby of his apartment complex. He exited the building and brought his instrument closer to himself before merging into the crowd of people who were already walking on the sidewalk. He waded through the people who were going in the opposite direction of him, keeping his grip tight on his case and an eye on his wristwatch.
Taehyung reached the restaurant with five minutes to spare. He used that time to quickly put his instrument together, hook it up to the mic, warm up his lungs and his fingers, and re-familiarize himself with quick, complicated notes. When the clock five, he hooked the strap around his neck and turned on the mic and the amp. He started with something subtle to warm up with. Slow rhythm, not too loud, not too boring. Taehyung did not normally perform with a setlist. He mostly started with a warm-up song then just played whatever he felt like as the night went on. His boss didn’t care what he played as long as he was playing, and it wasn’t too loud. He got paid eighteen thousand won an hour and received his pay in cash every Sunday. So, he was bringing in a little over four hundred fifty thousand won a week and a little under two million won a month. So, needless to say, this job was more than enough an he thanked his parents everyday for signing him up for saxophone lessons. Until he made it as an artist, he wouldn’t mind doing this for a few more years.
Taehyung played and played, watching the people who came and went, occasionally closing his eyes when he had to focus on what his fingers didn’t remember for him. After a bit, he noticed as six men, all dressed in traditional Korean clothing walk through the entrance. The hostess led them to their table which was coincidentally the table nearest Taehyung. All of the men were handsome, but the one that caught Taehyung’s eye was the one with the heart-shaped smile with the angelic glow about him. Taehyung unknowingly stared at him, just too captivated by the man’s beauty.
It made for an awkward moment when the man met his gaze. Taehyung’s instinct would be to freeze up after getting caught, but since he was playing, the most he could do was let his eyes widen. The man looked as if he was giggling before waving at him and taking his seat. Taehyung gave the most subtle bow, as to not disrupt his breathing pattern while he played a complicated piece. As the night went on, Taehyung and the gorgeous man exchanged glances (and smiles when Taehyung would stop playing between songs to drink water). Taehyung kept the music he played upbeat and happy to fit his mood. Even when the man and his friends left (the angelic man waving goodbye, Taehyung giving another bow) he kept his music happy.
He wrapped up the night with a song he rarely played even though it was one of his favorites. Surprisingly, he didn’t make any mistakes, except underestimate his breathing capacity which caused him to be slightly winded when the song ended. He unhooked the mic and turned off the amplifier before taking off his saxophone and putting it away. It was mostly empty inside the restaurant, except for a couple finishing up their meal and workers cleaning around them quietly. Taehyung took his saxophone and sat it on the table that the group from earlier had sat at, claiming it for the time being. He went into the kitchen, politely greeting the chefs inside.
“Here’s your food, Tae-ah! I enjoyed all your songs today, especially that last one!” Hyung-Sik, his only friend at this place, cheered from the other side of the kitchen, briskly walking towards him with a to-go box in his hands.
“Thanks, hyung! I’m sure my food will be delicious like always.” Taehyung replied with a signature bright smile, accepting the plate as soon as the other man was in close enough proximity.
“Eat well, Taehyung-ah. I’m gonna head home and clean up a bit so I can invite my girlfriend over.” The older man said, raising his eyebrows a couple of times to get his message across.
Taehyung laughed when he caught on. “Hope you get lucky, hyung. You work hard, you deserve it.”
Hyung-sik smiled at him and ruffled his hair. “You’re so sweet. That’s why you’re my favorite dongsaeng. I’ll see you on Wednesday!”
“See you, hyung!” Taehyung bid before turning around and walking back out of the kitchen.
He grabbed a packet of wooden chopsticks off the counter on the way to his table. He settled at the table and dug in, almost moaning at the taste. Taehyung mentally patted himself on the back for making friends with the top chef. He got free meals five-star meals as a result. He ate well, his mind thinking back to the angelic man from earlier every few minutes. This wasn’t the first time this happened, and Taehyung doubted he’d see him again. Most people wouldn’t come back to an expensive restaurant like this just to come see the man who played the sax, and most wouldn’t wait so late until the night when he was done working just to talk. Nevertheless, Taehyung had hope. He hoped with all his being that he’d see him again.
Taehyung’s hoping actually worked but in a cruel way.
Two weeks later, the beautiful man was back. Taehyung had been playing with his eyes closed, as he was in the middle of a five-minute fast-paced jazz piece. Once the song was over and he could breathe without focusing on it, he opened his eyes. There he was, at the same table he’d sat at last time. He had a different suit with his hair styled, parted to expose his forehead instead of the traditional bowl cut. He looked so handsome. Taehyung was so busy staring at the man as he talked that it took a moment for it to dawn on him that that there was actually someone across from him. Taehyung looked and saw a woman. She was beautiful and the angelic was giving her his undivided attention.
Taehyung wasn’t hurt, but he felt his heart sank a little. Of course, the man wasn’t attracted to men. All of the glances and smiles had been polite and platonic although they weren’t friends. They didn’t even know each other’s names. They hadn’t even exchanged two words between each other. It was foolish of Taehyung to hope for anything other than what he was seeing before him.
Once again, the angelic man caught him staring and sent him a smile and wave. Taehyung immediately painted a bright smile on his face and waved quickly before averting his eyes and starting the next song. Taehyung’s eyes wondered back over to them every few minutes and he couldn’t help but notice hat the girl seems bored. A few minutes later, boredom grows into annoyance. The angelic man looks confused, but still keeps a smile and talks to her. The next time Taehyung looked over, the girl was standing, pulling some cash out of her purse and setting it on the table. The beautiful man spoke to her with his brows furrowed and mouth formed into an adorable pout. He seemed as if he was trying to convince her to stay longer. The woman shook her head and walked out of the restaurant.
Taehyung looked away, feeling as if he shouldn’t be watching this play out. He felt bad for the beautiful man though. He didn’t deserve to be left like that. So, Taehyung changed the mood of the night to sad songs, playing blues instead of jazz in hopes of it being some sort of comfort for the man. Taehyung played and played until he saw the man get up and leave after paying the bill.
After that night, Taehyung tried his best to forget about the man. He could guarantee that he wouldn’t come back to the restaurant that held such an embarrassing memory for him. He crossed his mind every now again, less and less as the days passed. He went back to his normal life of painting by day and playing the sax by night. He had to paint some more things in a hurry. His paintings were selling faster than normal. He’d normally sell at least two a week. The last four days he had sold five of them. He went around in a greater mood than usual, smiling every now and then to himself when he thought about how people were starting to appreciate his art. He knew that it was only a bit longer before he would be able to have an exhibition.
One night, Taehyung was eating his free meal from his dear friend after having played all night. He was so caught up in his own world that he didn’t notice anyone approach him until the chair across from him moved. Taehyung jumped, startled. He looked up to see the angelic man taking the seat across from him. Taehyung froze, the spoon he held, full of rice and vegetables, stopping halfway into his mouth. He pulled the spoon away from his mouth.
“Oh, hello.” Taehyung greeted, putting his spoon down and giving the man a confused but bright smile.
“Hi, I’m Hoseok. What’s your name?” The other responded with a sunlit smile.
“I’m Taehyung. It’s nice to meet you, Hoseok.” Taehyung said, offering his hand for the other man to shake.
“The pleasure’s all mine.” The angelic man, Hoseok, replied while shaking the offered hand.
They sat in silence for a moment, taking each other in. They looked into each other’s eyes and Taehyung’s heart fluttered and he looked down to his food shyly, hoping his reddening cheeks were hidden from view. After seeing that Hoseok was not going to break the silence, Taehyung cleared his throat.
“Not that I don’t appreciate the sudden company, but, um, why are you here?” Taehyung tried to ask respectfully.
“To see you.” Hoseok replied immediately.
“Oh, I’m flattered, but I’m not performing anymore tonight. Sorry.” Taehyung apologized before continuing to eat his food.
“I know. I wanted to ask if you would like to go out for some hot chocolate at this twenty-four-hour café that I like.” Hoseok proposed. His voice was smooth but the way he pulled at his sleeves showed how nervous he was.
“Um, sure. I love hot chocolate.” Taehyung accepted.
“Really? You’ll go out with me?” Hoseok asked as shock suddenly took over his features.
Taehyung shrugged. “Sure, why not.” He said nonchalantly, but the smile on his face showed just how excited he really was.
Hoseok smiled again and Taehyung’s heart skipped a beat at how beautiful it was up close.
That night, at ten fifty-one, the two walked side by side to the café where they got to know each other more. As the two drank some delicious hot chocolate, Taehyung found out Hoseok was a professional dancer. He had his own dance studio where he trained anyone from kids to the most famous idols in South Korea. When Taehyung told Hoseok about his art, he was so impressed, ooh-ing and ah-ing at the pictures Taehyung showed him. They ventured from topic to topic, laughing together until their stomachs hurt. At some point in the night, the topic of Hoseok’s failed date came up.
“She left because I kept staring at you when you weren’t looking. I tried my best to pay attention to her, but you’re way too handsome. Your face kept distracting me!” Hoseok explained with a laugh, causing Taehyung to blush.
Before they knew it, the sun had risen, and people were bustling in and out to get their caffeine fix before starting their busy days.
That morning they parted ways with the promise to meet again for a date at the Han River.
Taehyung hoped that Hoseok would stay in his life for a long time. And for once, he didn’t feel that his hopes were foolish.