Jihyun flips his phone down, then opens it again, repeatedly checking his messages. He drums his fingers nervously on the table. Finally, he sighs and puts his simple flip phone in his pocket, resting his head in his hand.
He is more nervous than he thought he’d be.
He glances up at the store’s menu displayed above the checkout counter. It is a simple boba tea shop. Its menu items are displayed with cute little characters promoting the different tea choices, their happy faces illuminated under the lazy yellow light. His backpack is leaning against his leg, tucked under him in the small space beneath the table.
He’s wearing a simple white jacket with a black tank on top that has an image of the blue sky on it. His jeans are faded and his boots are old, but he looks pretty handsome in them regardless. He wonders if he should have dressed up, but realizes it would probably have been overdoing it.
He parts his lips, tasting his knuckles. It is an old habit. He moves his hand back down and raises his drink to his lips, sipping lightly at it.
He’s positioned himself in a corner of the shop, facing the door so that he can see when you walk in. There are only a few other customers in the shop, but he still feels like they are all staring at him. Taking a deep breath, he tries calming himself down, reminding himself that it was a simple date and there was no need to overthink it.
Suddenly, the little bell above the door chimes, and you walk into the store, your hair swaying gently in the rush of air conditioning. He hits his knee on the table, jumping a bit, but thankfully you don’t see.
You’re wearing a cute scarf and a long-sleeve turtleneck on. Your black skirt ripples a bit before settling back down over your colorful tights. Your boots are dark but seem newer, and your soft hat is slightly off-center. You are, by all means, adorable.
Your eyes meet as you walk in, and he smiles and stands, walking over to you.
You both hug. His hands are warm and he smells like…flowers? Something floral, yet kind of musky, like a forest meadow on a sunny day.
He pulls back and seems unable to hide the soft smile on his face. Your heart jumps a bit as you return the smile, your stomach fluttering.
“Hi, MC,” he says softly. “Ever been to this shop before?”
“No,” you breathe, lying. You come here all the time. Why did you lie? You couldn’t think straight. “Uh, I mean…”
“That’s all right,” he muses, turning to walk to the counter with you. “I can explain the options they have.”
He explains the menu to you, giving you his recommendation, and you get one of the drinks he suggested with tapioca.
He walks you over to the table, pulling out your chair for you. What a goddamn gentleman. You didn’t exactly expect that of your dates seeing as it was a little old fashioned, but he did it so fluidly and simply that you couldn’t help but admire him.
He sits down in front of you, eyes shining. You take your first sip of the tea and raise your eyebrows in surprise. “That’s pretty good!” you say approvingly. He smiles at you, chuckling. “I know, right?”
There’s a small pause as you continue drinking, and then you smile at him and say, “Thanks for taking the time to help me tonight. I really appreciate it.”
He nods, pulling his camera out of his backpack. “The site is a little bit away from here, but not too far. We’re lucky that the sky will be clear tonight.” You smile, adding, “Should be good for the shot we need for class. And you’ve done a lot of shoots at night, right?” He nods. “Yes. It’s a bit tricky at first, but you’ll learn what the difference is for the camera.”
You chat about the class you share together. He was the Teacher’s Aide for the beginner photography class, using it as both a resume booster and a chance to teach new photographers how to better their craft. It was good experience as a senior student. You were a younger student, curious about the subject and suddenly much more serious about learning after meeting your cute TA.
You’d asked him for help at a shoot you wanted to do, feigning a bit of ignorance about photographing under night settings (though you really were rather clueless). You both knew that this meeting was something more. Perhaps from the feeling that you seemed to share when you looked at each other, or the way that quick physical contact made your hearts jump…
He talks more about the work he’s done, and you smile, sighing. “Your photographs are becoming pretty famous. It’s so cool that you’re getting recognition while you’re still a student.” He smiles shyly, looking away. “Thank you. I’m mostly glad that I can have a career in the field that I love,” he says. “Yeah,” you sigh wistfully. “You’re lucky.”
He looks at you, concern flickering in his eyes. “What would you want to do, if you could change your major?” “It doesn’t matter,” you say quickly. “I’m just glad I can take art classes as my electives. It helps me release my creative side.” He blinks, frowning briefly, before changing expressions to a light smile. “Art is pretty good for that.”
You’ve both finished your drinks by now. He grins and offers to pick up your trash for you, which you accept. “Let’s head out, then,” he says, holding the empty cups, “before it gets too late.”
You leave the shop pretty quickly. You lived close by, so you were able to walk. By now, the sun was setting. He pauses to give you quick suggestions about getting shots in fading light as you pull out your camera. His face gets closer to yours, his blue hair briefly brushing yours. Your heart nearly jumps out of your throat as his fingers brush over yours while he shows you which settings to use. God, this was such a good idea.
He then leads you to his older car, popping the door open for you before walking around to the drivers seat. After starting the car, he pulls out of the driveway, heading down the street. You chat briefly before he puts on music. He likes listening to a mix of electro jazz, old-timey jazz, and older hit rock songs. The ride is pretty peaceful and enjoyable, until you finally reach the spot.
It’s an isolated meadow on the side of the road with mountains in perfect view in the disstance, even at night. It’s far away enough from the city for there to be an array of beautiful stars, even if it’s less than in the country.
He parks the car on the gravel, makeshift parking space on the side of the road and you both get out. You grab the blanket from the back seat, which was primarily used for when you needed to lay down on the ground to get the perfect shots of close-up objects or low-to-the-ground angels, and walked next to him to the middle of the clearing.
“Alright,” he says, air puffing out from his lips in the semi-cool weather. “Let’s begin.”
He teaches you the proper aperture settings for the camera, among other things, then instructs you to take shots of certain things. You get an interesting shot of a patch of flowers in the moonlight, a bug resting on the tree trunk illuminated by the harsh yellow light from the lamp post, and a wide shot of the sky. He rolls the blanket out and you get some cool textured shots of the grass, gravel, and underneath the car. Overall, your photos are interesting, and his unique perspective helps you out a lot with angling and lighting.
You turn around and lay down on the blanket, facing the sky. Your cheeks are red from all the posing (photographers stretch and squat more than you’d thought!), but you’re smiling widely. He smiles at you and sits next to you, glancing up at the stars with you. “That was pretty fun,” you say after a pause. “You think?” he murmurs, still staring at the sky.
You sit up on your elbows, glancing over at him. “Yeah. I feel like a lost puppy without your guidance. There was so much I was doing wrong before.” He turns to look at you, his eyes glowing. Your heart races. “You’re a fast learner,” he compliments you. “Oh, uh, thanks,” you stutter. Keep it together, MC! “It’s really thanks to you though. You’re a really good teacher.”
He smiles gently before returning his gaze to the stars. A shooting star streaks across the sky, and you both gasp a little. You sit up fully, giggling. “Oh wow! Tonight must be a lucky night! Now we have to make a wish.”
He blinks at you slowly, glancing up at the sky and back at you. You close your eyes. I wish he’d kiss me.
“What did you wish for?” he asks softly. “I can’t tell you, or else it won’t come true,” you respond playfully. He blushes very slightly before staring up at the sky again. This makes you blush pretty hard, but he doesn’t notice.
You both continue stargazing quietly. Your heart is racing, but you are too terrified to move closer to him. What if he doesn’t really like you like that? What if he thinks this is just him helping out a stupid student? You stop yourself from twiddling your fingers and try to focus on the stars.
“Who else do you think is looking at the sky tonight?” you ask after a long pause. “Hm?” “Sometimes I wonder if I’m sharing a moment with strangers,” you murmur, still looking at the sky. “Imagine how many people are looking at the same stars at the same moment.”
He doesn’t say anything, but he’s looking at you now.
You’re nervous, and talking makes you feel better, but this is also something you think about to yourself. You can be pretty introspective. Sometimes you worry that useless thoughts like these worry people, but he seems interested now, so you continue.
“This is a moment we’re sharing with millions of people, potentially,” you say. “It’s pretty cool how connected we all are, even when we aren’t talking to each other.”
There’s a certain look in his eye that you can’t place. He asks you, “What would you say to them if you could?” “I’d ask them if they’re doing alright,” you respond. “And that I hope they’re happy. How could you not look at the night sky and feel a sense of peace with the world, that we’re all sharing this together?”
He smiles slowly. “The world is a beautiful place. There are so many things to marvel at.” You stare at him now, feeling both excitement and fear course through you as your eyes meet. “What do you think of when you look at the night sky, V?”
A darker expression crosses his face and he looks away. You regret asking immediately, and worry in panic that you’ve ruined the moment. “An old friend,” he says at first, then continues, “no, an old lover.”
“I see,” you say simply, not sure of what else to say.
Now it feels more awkward. You’re curious, but you don’t want to press him.
He continues of his own initiative, though. “I used to think perhaps that we were fated to meet. That we were soul mates. But…she was…she struggled with a lot. It became too much for her. I became too much for her.”
He glances back at you. “I made a lot of mistakes. I should’ve realized sooner that we weren’t going to work out. I don’t regret it. And, sometimes, I miss her. But I think in the end, it’s better this way.”
You nod silently.
He stares back up at the sky. “I look at the stars and I wonder who else is in my destiny. There are so many possibilities in this world. I don’t want to miss any of them because of regrets from my past.”
You purse your lips, choosing your words carefully. “There is a lot in the present that we miss out on sometimes.” He nods, and you add, “and I’m sure there are good things in store for you. I can feel it.”
He smiles and laughs, saying, “I would hope so!” You laugh with him, grinning widely. “Your laugh is so contagious,” you say without thinking. He chuckles and responds, “And so is your smile.”
Immediately, a blush spreads across your cheek again as you can’t help but smile in response. You feel like even your ears are red, and all at once you feel like hiding behind your hands. You restrain yourself from doing so, and he seems entertained by this.
“You’re very cute, MC,” he says, leaning in a little closer. You notice and blush harder (if that’s even possible???), unsure of what to do. “Um, th-thank you!” you exclaim, nervousness bursting out of your chest. “Sorry, did that make you uncomfortable?” he asks, and you quickly respond, “No! No it didn’t. I’m fine.” I liked it.
He lowers his eyelids and seems to be deep in thought. You try to keep a clear head, not sure where to put your hands or how to even breathe, really. “Would you mind if I tried something, MC? There’s something that’s been bothering me.” You can’t think straight at all. “Yeah, sure,” you breathe.
He leans in closer and cups your head in his hands, his finger tracing your chin before connecting his lips to yours. All at once, a shock jolts through you and swells in your chest. He tastes sweet, and the warmth from his lips feels nice in the cold air. Steam pours from your nostrils as you kiss back, exhaling deeply, and he pulls away from you.
Your eyes are wide with shock, but he smiles down at you lovingly. “Ah. Thank you. I’ve been thinking about that for a while.” His voice is lower and huskier. It’s driving you crazy now.
Your heart is beating like a drum in your chest. “What do you think?” you manage to mutter, touching your lips as if in a daze. “Well,” he says shortly, thinking. “Did you feel it too?” You pause, asking, “feel what?” “The shock,” he replies. You gulp quickly. “Yeah.” “Hm,” he says thoughtfully.
Your eyes dart away as you feel incredibly shy, but you muster up the courage to ask, “Can we do it again?”
He grins slowly, not bothering to respond before cupping your face again, his lips reaching for yours.
Time blurs together. You aren’t sure how long you stayed there, kissing under the stars, but soon you’re wrapped in his arms, leaning back and staring up at the sky again. His fingers trace circles on your arms as his other hand is intertwined in yours.
For the first time in a long time, it feels like you’re finally home.