Chapter 10: Chapter 10.
Woojin didn’t consider rules to be very meaningful. Every morning, he woke up at the same time and did a light exercise. He then wore the dress shirt he ironed the night before and grabbed a fruit before leaving the house. Immediately after getting into the subway, he put on his earphones and tried his best not to contact anyone. He listened to similar, if not the same, music every day.
Some might tell him that he had OCD.
His alarm was set at 6 AM, and he woke every 10 minutes beginning at 5 AM. This was his routine, but he was so used to it, so comfortable with it, that he couldn’t understand why people would call it a compulsion.
Woojin sighed. The problem was that after last night, he realized that routines could be broken.
His routine could be changed.
Yeonwoo saw Woojin in the hallway and greeted him with a bow, “Assistant manager! Did you just get here? Did you eat lunch yet?”
Woojin nodded without a word and walked into the office. It still wasn’t afternoon work hours yet.
Woojin sighed and turned on his computer as he murmured, “My head hurts.” Then he flinched and slowly looked around. He usually kept his thoughts to himself, so when he unintentionally said it out loud, he was shocked.
He was relieved to find that the office was empty. Massaging his temples, Woojin looked at his computer.
His phone rang with text messages. Woojin put his briefcase down and checked his cellphone. There were over 10 messages on it, most of them from Jihoon.
-Hey, why aren’t you at work right now?
-Are you sick?
-Did you get a day off? That doesn’t make sense for the Woojin Choi I know!
-When are you coming to work?
-Are you going to come after lunchtime?
-Do you want me to get you something? Food? Medication?
Some might have stopped messaging when there were no replies, but Jihoon could be very persistent. Jihoon Kang was the nosiest acquaintance Woojin had. Jihoon sometimes made him feel uncomfortable.
There were many times when Woojin was certain he sent a clear message to Jihoon that he didn’t want to be bothered. But every single time, Jihoon shocked him by continuing to be relentless. Ever since they first got hired together, Jihoon made a point to spend a lot of time with Woojin. It must’ve been because they were the same age.
Jihoon was very good at taking care of others. He often could tell if Woojin was having difficulties and Jihoon was always happy to help him. The problem was, Woojin was very uncomfortable with this unwanted help.
Woojin refused his offers many times before, but Jihoon didn’t stop. One thankful thing was that Jihoon at least didn’t contact Woojin after work.
Woojin took out a bottle of water and heard the alarm again. There was still 15 minutes left till the end of lunchtime. He hadn’t eaten anything today, so he was going to eat the sandwich he bought from the convenience store on his way here.
He assumed it must be Jihoon again, so he ignored it and opened his email first as he unwrapped his sandwich.
Just then, a low baritone voice said to him from behind, “Assistant Manager Woojin Choi.” Woojin was about to turn around but his chair suddenly whirled around. It happened so unexpectedly so Woojin blinked with dizziness. The man who now stood in front of him chuckled and added, “It was me who wanted to take the morning off today.”
The man who was leaning against Woojin was Shin Kim.
The man who Woojin wanted to see the most yet also wanted to avoid at all costs.
Shin asked, “Did you sleep well?” Woojin’s face reddened very fast, making Shin’s smile wider. Shin slowly straightened and when Woojin continued to avoid his eyes by looking down, Shin placed a paper bag on Woojin’s desk.
Shin added, “Please check your messages, and have a nice day.” Woojin suddenly feared that perhaps Shin was angry, so he looked up quickly. When he did, he saw Shin leaning against a cabinet and smiling at him.
Shin teased him, “Were you worried just now that I might have left?”
Woojin didn’t particularly like to drink. Whenever he got even just a little drunk, his face became even paler while his neck and down became red.
Shin asked, “Aren’t you going to check your messages?”
Looking at Shin’s mysterious smile, Woojin bit his lips. Shin looked neat with his snow-white dress shirt. His sleeves were pulled up smartly, and he looked like his usual self. Woojin suddenly felt shy so he looked away from him and checked his messages. There were two messages from Shin.
-Assistant Manager Choi, you are on your way to work now, right?
-I bought you something to eat. I also got you coffee.
When Woojin woke up this morning, he realized that his alarm had been ringing for a while. It was 10:30 AM. It was over four hours past his usual wakeup time, and it was the first time he had been this late. He blinked a few times and raised his hand to touch his face.
This wasn’t a dream. He was indeed in his own home, in his bed, and under his blanket. He slept very well, but he was still in his suit he wore the night before.
The suit jacket was on the floor, all crumpled up. His wrist felt heavy, and when he looked down, Woojin realized he was still wearing his watch.
He sat up and coughed with a terrible thirst. Thankfully, there was a new bottle of water on the side table with a simple note.
-I will submit the paperwork request for your morning off. Good night.
The handwriting resembled its writer; extravagant and assertive.
Shin explained, “When you got home, you told me that you didn’t think you would be able to make it to work on time today.”
“I got you a bowl of rice porridge. I chose a pine nut flavor because it is the plainest and blandest. You don’t have a nut allergy, do you? I saw you eat almond yesterday, so I figured pine nut was a safe choice. You can eat it in here if you want.”
Shin stood up and Woojin couldn’t help but notice his broad shoulders. Woojin felt like he could smell Shin’s natural scent as well.
Woojin recognized it because he remembered it.
The scent of Shin surrounding him… His co-workers started to return from lunch, but Woojin still couldn’t take his eyes off Shin’s back.
The memories of last night suddenly appeared in Woojin’s head.
Did he really… on Shin’s neck…
He… last night… on Shin Kim’s neck…
“You. I dream about you.”
Woojin remembered pieces of events that happened last night. He also remembered things he said to Shin.
The last thing he remembered was being in a cab and watching the reflection of Shin’s face on the window. The streetlights overlapped on Shin’s face, and Woojin realized he was leaning against Shin’s shoulder. Shin’s neck gave off a scent of… was it freshly cut grass? Or water?
Woojin remembered burrowing his face deeper into Shin’s neck, making the veins on Shin’s neck pop visibly.
Shin whispered, “That tickles.” But he didn’t push Woojin away. Instead, he caressed Woojin’s hair gently. When Woojin inhaled, he could also smell the scent of sweet fruit. His eyes were closed, but Woojin could feel Shin looking down at him.
“Assistant Manager Woojin…”
“Tell me the pin code to your front door.”
And that was as far as Woojin could remember from last night.