Chapter 4 - Turning the Tide

At the height of winter, January 1991 turned out to be the coldest month in Daegu with as little sunshine to brighten up the day. 

It was a perfect excuse for Suho to crop up inside their house, watching his father’s video day and night nonstop.  

On some occasions, he would play the cassette tape his father would send him on his international trips. 

Listening to his father’s voice made Suho believe that he was on a trip somewhere taking his time to come home.  

Mrs. Lee on the other hand had no choice but to pick herself up again. Not known to Suho, she had collapsed on multiple occasions at the hospital due to stress and fatigue, putting the baby at risk.  

Her husband begged her to take care of herself and the baby as it would be his final gift for her.  

And she doesn’t have the heart to break that promise despite how challenging things were without her spouse.  

She couldn’t dissuade Suho either from playing cassette tape or videos even if it tore her heart apart because she knew it might be the only way Suho was able to cope up.  

With a pile of hospital bills and other financial obligations in her hand, two children to look after, the last thing she wanted was to put a strain on her relationship with Suho.  

As weeks turned to months, Mrs. Lee gave birth at the end of February to a beautiful baby girl, Naeun, who would never know how her father looked.  

With the coming of the beautiful blessing was the hard truth that their lives have changed forever.  

Suho witnessed how everything that his father worked for vanishing right before his eyes.  

From their properties in Seoul and Gyeonggi-do to his father's sports car and even some memorabilia.  

He never knew how tough it had been for his mother, but he vowed to himself to retrieve everything that was taken away from them.  

His young heart afflicted and confused; things lost their meaning. He wouldn't be bothered to continue school. Instead, he’d retreat to his room, making paper planes while watching videos nonstop. 

Oftentimes, he'd fall asleep in the room. Haneul Lee would often appear in his dream. His father would grin and leave.  

A young girl, right about his age, would play with him as his father watched them from afar.  

At times, he’d ask his mom when his father would come home.  

And Mrs. Lee would just smile in response. She’d leave Naeun in his care to divert his attention to the new addition to the family.  

Luckily, it worked for Mrs. Lee.  

Little did she know that Suho had been playing the videos to Naeun as well, telling her that their dad would soon come home after his game.  

A lie that brought tears to Mrs. Lee’s eyes on countless occasions.  

Although sad at his father's passing, Mr. Moon, the junior high school's principal, was worried about Suho's academic standing and behavior.  

Suho had been skipping classes, failing exams and even ditching his friends.  

Whenever someone tried to talk it out with him, he’d start yelling and would walk out of the door. Mr. Kang had to report his behavior to his mother. However, every time they'd ask to speak to his mom, his aunt would show up instead.  

Mrs. Lee had been busy trying to make ends meet, supporting the life that her children were accustomed to.  

Knowing this, his friends Joo Ho and Kwanghee tried to cover things for him, copying assignments, making his projects, and pretending to be him on some occasions. 

At 15, Suho's jaded soul turned sour grapes.  

The future is a word he'd removed in his dictionary.  

And he'd had enough of people laying his life for him as if he'll live forever. Wanting to escape this "scripted world," he found solace on the imaginary friend his dad introduced.  

Loneliness engulfed him as there's no sign of meeting the person in his dream.  

He longed for true companions and led him to a group of adventure-seeking souls.  

An out of school youth gang with the leader named Yong Hwa. They lived for the present, enjoying every moment of it.  

Unbounded by rules, they drive for action more than words.  

Their motto is to follow their heart's desire no matter what.  

Such belief often led them astray as they seek comfort in shortcuts to achieve what they want. Harassing kids for money, skipping classes to play, and even shoplifting for freebies.  

Like these kids, Suho went astray even from his old friends.  

As part of his initiation rites, he was asked to shoplift in one of the biggest shopping malls in Daegu.  

However, the saleslady on duty reported the incident to the security team.  

The group left Suho behind, causing him to be detained in the office.  

During that time, the mall owner’s daughter was in the area and saw everything that happened.  

She introduced herself as Baekhina and everyone recognized and bowed before her, the rich and eloquent sole heir to the Daegu Mall.  

For Suho’s sake, she vouched for his release and paid for whatever damage he brought in the premise that the security officials and the saleslady would keep everything as a secret.  

Since then, Suho became her pet, following her every whim. Escorting her on a shopping spree, carrying her bags, and forcing him to buy her flowers in exchange for her silence. 

“You’re lucky though because of all the people around me, you, along with my family, are allowed to call me Beki. That means your part of my inner circle,” winking at him.  

In addition, Baekhina gifted him a limited basketball jersey of her favorite team, Lakers, and player, Michael Jordan. 

His secret didn’t last long as his friend confronted him for what he did. Mrs. Lee soon found out, causing Suho to run away from home.  

She was at the end of her wits, couldn’t control Suho any longer, fearing for the worst.  

He was barely passing his scores at school that she had to pull some strings to let him move on to senior high school. 

If only her husband was here, Suho could have been a better son and not how he was at that moment. She was crestfallen and felt that she failed as a mother to her one and only son.  

Kwanghee and Joo Ho knew that they're the only ones left who can help Suho out.  

Their first mission was to bring him back, make him stay, and avoid the gang he once joined. The only option was left for them and they were willing to risk it even at the expense of Mrs. Lee’s wrath. 

It was the only way to save him.  

Suho came home a week later.  

His mother gave her a silent treatment that made Suho only resent her even more.  

What made everything worse was Joo Ho leaving for Seoul in their last month in junior high.  

He and his family were off to Seoul for good, leaving behind two of his best friends, Kwanghee and Suho. But he couldn’t pass the chance to make some sense out of Suho before he left.  

“Life is all about living in the moment. Why should I worry about the future when you aren’t sure what lies ahead?” Suho argued. “See! We planned to go to senior high and university together, but here you are leaving us!”  

Joo Ho clenched his jaw, sat next to Suho, and wrapped his right arm around his shoulder, squeezing it tightly.  

He gulped, but it was a hard pill to swallow because neither had any take on his parent’s decision.   

Kwanghee was standing a few inches away, his back against the two, and trying hard to blink back his tears.  

The last few weeks had been tough for the three, especially since Suho had been getting out of hand, causing a glitch on their friendship.  

The sky turned indigo blue as the sunset in the horizon casting its shadow on the water.  

Kwanghee picked a stone and threw it in the water, staring as the rock bounced three times.  

Joo Ho reached out, pulling Kwanghee by his side.  

“This bridge,” tapping at the bricked bridge in Apsan Park, “is a witness of our friendship. And it will stay the same as long as the bridge is here!” He exclaimed.  

“Dude, how can you say that?” Kwanghee shifted.   

“Because I know our friendship will last for centuries like this bridge. Oh, before we forget,” turning to Suho. “We have a surprise for you.” 

Suho felt, on that fateful day of 1995, that his life was about to change.

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