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The Lovers

by Sun Park

          Flames were flashing like firecrackers on the shiny white stage, and in the remaining smoke, she ran out from backstage, slipping onto the stage and bowing her whole body. Her face above the smoke was covered with crystal glittering sweat drops, her eyes were sparkling like diamonds full of joy, and her mouth was full of ecstatic smiles as if she had the whole world.  

          “Thank you so much,” she said. 

          “Thank you for coming to my concert tonight and being my lovers!” 

          Tens of thousands of fans cheered enthusiastically, stood up and applauded while she greeted them on stage. I screamed and cheered her loudly as if I were competing with other fans there, but would she even hear me? Will my heart still be able to reach her? Can it be...? 

          Our relationship goes back about 12 years. I still vividly remembered our first encounter as if it were yesterday. The pale gold morning sunlight dashed in through the window, and she was leaning against the window frame, holding a CD, humming while reading the lyrics. I was looking at her, listening to her humming voice, it seemed as if time stood still. In the high school band practice room, I saw her for the first time there, and completely fell in love at first sight. I didn't remember how much time had passed since then, but she suddenly stopped humming as she sensed a person's presence. 

          “Any rehearsal today?” she asked shyly with a flushed face. 

          “... Huh?” I was embarrassed by the unexpected question and glossed over. I guess I was already paralyzed from freezing, and, on the other hand, afraid of looking foolish in front of her.   

          A little shy, but that was our first conversation. She had bright skin with pinkish cheeks, silky brunette hair, dark brown sparking eyes, and scarlet red lips. Maybe she was the tallest girl in school with a skinny figure, yet had voluptuous beauty. I had never seen a girl more beautiful than her in my entire life. In fact, it was the very first time I ever had a crush on a girl; I never had a crush on any other girl on earth. 

          It almost seemed as if time stood still on that day, and I didn't even remember how time went by. I was attracted to her like a magnet and always hung around her in some way; as time passed, we got closer and closer to each other. We met every day in the band practice room after school and practiced together. I played the piano, she sang, and as we made music, our pure friendship kept building. Then one day, a crucial moment came in our relationship. It was late Friday night in April, I was lying down to sleep, but suddenly the phone rang.  

          “Hello?” 

          “...” 

           “Who is this?” I asked. 

          “Hey, it's me,” she said, sobbing.  

          “Jenny? What happened?”  

          She already told me many times about her broken family. Her parents divorced due to her father's domestic violence and her mother left home. I also heard that her father remarried not long ago, but it had worsened since then. Her stepmother was not interested in protecting her, in fact, she seemed to drive a wedge between her father and her. Meanwhile, something especially bad happened on that day. She was beaten by her father and managed to escape from her house: that’s why she called me crying. 

          “I'm so scared,” she said, “Can I sleepover at your place?” 

          I knew how brave she was to say that to me. In fact, she may be justified in calling the police for help. As everyone knew, her father should have been taken away from her, but sometimes the justice we know and the courage to actually act couldn’t match. The heart has its own reasons, which the head doesn’t understand. Plus, I was well aware that it is not easy for many children who suffer from domestic violence to have their parents arrested by the police, so I couldn't say anything but “Yes.” My parents seemed to be asleep already, so I allowed her to sneak up in front of my window and when she arrived, I helped her enter my room through the window. 

          As soon as she saw me, she was unable to contain the sadness that welled up within her. She burst out sobbing. I didn't know what to say nor how to comfort her. All I knew were the scenes I had seen in the movies. When a woman or a child cries, someone needs to hug them and pat their back, so I hugged and patted her. Shortly afterwards, I felt that my heart was beating like crazy and my whole body was trembling uncontrollably. How long did she cry? Before I even realized it, she stopped crying and buried her face in my left chest. 

          “I can hear your heart beating,” she said, pulling my hand and putting it onto her left chest. For the first time, I touched her, and even before we realized it, we were facing each other with our hands on each other's chests. I've never faced a girl this close. Her eyes, still wet, were deeper and shinier than the baby deer. She just seemed out of this world, looked like an unrealistically perfectly beautiful angel. She made me addicted to her sparkling dark brown eyes, cherry-like lips, bright skin, and silky hair; I was completely fascinated by her beauty.  

          When I returned to my senses, her lips already touched mine. For the very first time in my life, I could feel her warm, moist, soft, and full lips; I had never kissed before. Soon after, her tongue touched mine, and suddenly I felt something strange and weird; I didn't know what to do from then on. I just closed my eyes and stayed still. The feeling that something was going wrong crossed my mind strongly. Without knowing what I was doing, everything went on as if possessed and there was no turning back. I knew she was desperately craving love at that moment. It seemed like the right time for us to make love, like I had seen in movies, but I couldn't do anything with her. I didn't know why, but I just couldn't. After trying for a certain period of time, she seemed to give up, so there was an awkward  silence for a while; and after all, we ended up lying down with our backs turned against each other. How long had it been? I couldn't stand the awkward silence anymore. 

          “Um… Are you asleep?” I asked. 

          “Not yet,” she said. 

          “Because I was so nervous…” I said, “I'm sorry.”  

          “No worries…it's okay,” she said, “I'm sorry.” And then there was an awkward silence again. After I noticed she finally fell asleep, I went to sleep on the floor while she slept in the bed. When I woke up in the morning, she had already left.  

          “Thank you for allowing me to have a beautiful night.” The note was found at the bedside, written in her neat handwriting. I didn’t even know why, but I felt so strange. I tried to tell myself it was not real, but it was. I tried to think everything would be okay, but it was not. I tried to brainwash myself that I was supposed to feel better, but I felt so bad and unbearably embarrassed. I didn't have the courage to see her ever again; eventually, I started to avoid her when I saw her at school. When she was trying to come closer to me with the most beautiful smile on her face, I just turned away from her. I even left the school band and expressed my intention not to attend anymore rehearsals and concerts. I tried to be very busy with other stuff during school hours, and come home as quickly as I could after school. She was still a beautiful, lovely girl, and she didn't do anything wrong to me, but I didn't even know why I did it then. I guess I was in chaos or just because my pride didn't allow it. I just waited so badly for the spring semester to be over, and then that summer, I heard that she moved to another city. She called me several times, but I didn't answer her phone calls; after all, I had never seen her again since then. 

          Hearing the fans roar, I, too, was waiting for her to come out to the stage once again. Loud sounds still buzzed all over the concert hall. 

Has it been about 10 minutes yet? She changed her clothes and came back to the stage because she couldn't beat the voices of her fans calling for one last encore performance. 

          “For the last song, I’m gonna sing ‘The Lovers’ as an encore,” she shouted in joy. 

          I remembered it was her very first self-composed piece that we had practiced together when we were in high school. The memories of dancing together to the exciting rhythm and tempo just came back to me. She was singing "The Lovers," coming down from the stage, running across the audience and between the seats, saying goodbye and highfiving her fans; then, she stopped suddenly. The moment her eyes met mine, it seemed like time had stopped again, as if I had seen her for the first time, like the day 12 years ago. It was only a little over a second or two, but it felt like an hour to me. Everyone was looking at her but she was looking at me in my eyes with her dark sparkling eyes.  

          That night, after the concert, I drank all night until I blacked out. I was overwhelmed by unbearable happiness, irresistible yearning, loneliness, sadness, regret, joy in the middle of desperation, and all the other emotions that I couldn't bear.  

          The next morning, as soon as I woke up, I turned on my laptop immediately and started searching for the latest news and articles about her as if I were possessed by something. One of the articles from the Sun Magazine said that she accepted their interview right after her concert last night.  At the end of the interview, the reporter asked her why she stopped for a moment while singing the last song. At that very moment, I just realized that the moment our eyes met last night was not a dream but a reality. 

          "It's funny to say, but you know what, I saw someone who looked exactly like my first love in the audience. Oh my gosh, I was so surprised for a moment," she said. 

          "Wow, it's interesting to bump into someone who looks like the 

first love in the audience, or he may be the one, right?” the reporter asked. 

          “Well, I don’t think so, it wasn't him,” she said. 

          “While on the subject, let me ask one final question. As you know, first loves tend to fail most of the time, but how was yours, Jenny? Did your first love work out?” the reporter asked. 

          “No… He was a gay,” she said, “Although we couldn't be together, I love him forever, and he is my eternal lover.”

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