Chapter 5 - Ray of Sunlight

January of 1996 

Daegu, South Korea 

It had been almost a year since Joo Ho left.  

Kwanghee was the only left to ensure that Suho kept his part of the bargain.  

For that one entire year, Suho worked double to finally make his dream come true.  

With his friend Kwanghee'  's coaxing, he can finally fulfill his promise to his dad on his grave.  

Taking that route meant working day in and out to develop his muscles, flexibility, and stamina.  

Transforming from the slinky kid to a well-built soon-to-be athlete. Suho ever thought it would require so much hard work that he often went home dead tired. 


The door and walls shook, pictures and paintings tilted with every bang as if a giant was passing by.  

"Suho, wake up, it's already noon," her mother Ji Hyo Kwang, better known as Mrs. Lee, called out, pounding against his door.  

"You are going to be late again!"  

Suho can see his mother in his mind with her curly hair and grumpy face.  

Wearing her usual ensemble -- gray blouse and long brown skirt -- with right hand on hips and left side holding a pan shouting at the top of her voice early morning.  

He knew she was exaggerating, but moms were always like that.  

"Yes, Eomma," he called back to his mother. "One more minute."  

"Suhoooo…" her voice thundered through their 2-door apartment enough to wake up even the bears in hibernation. 

Being perched on the second floor has its advantages, especially in the morning when the street's full of strangers. They won't see the embarrassment on his face every single day. 

"Yes, mom," yelling back. He raised his long, athletic arms to shield his eyes from the sun.  

Tossing the blanket and pillows around.  

Suho's hands and feet were flying in the air.   

He groped for his clock near his bed, peeped at the time, "Oh no!" scrambling on his feet.  

"Mom, do we have hot water in the shower?" shouting while pulling his towel from a nearby chair.  

"Yes, and you better make it quick. If you're late again…"  

Suho glanced again at the clock, "Oh, shit. How can 10 minutes pass by so quickly?" he bolted from his mattress, kicking everything to one side of the room. 

Like any other school day, each day was a march towards the valley of death.  

And unless he wanted grim reaper to fetch him early, Suho had to kick his butt to school. One more late, and he will surely be grounded for eternity, and all hell let loose at home. 

"Yes, eomma," he sprang on his feet and dashed outside before a pan went flying into his room.  

Just the tone of her mom's voice told him if he can stay a bit longer or if she's about to force open the door with a flying object in her hand. 

He opened the door and saw his mom with a broom in her hands.  

He instinctively dodged only to see her sweeping the floor full of bread crumbs.  

Just the look of it, he already knew the culprit. Seeing the sun up, he stretched his arms and stifled a yawn and saw the broom flying to his direction.  

If anything, he had learned from their usual morning routine was to become vigilant for any flying object. 

Suho stretched his arms and caught the broom in a sweeping motion.  

His reflexes in action, grateful for the months he spent on weight training. 

"Wow, Oppa! You're good," his five-year-old sister, Naeun, cheered him on, and he winked at her. "One more time, one more time," she squealed. 

Suho swirled the broom in the air, catching it with his other hand. For his sister, he was always the best and the funniest.  

That's why he willingly obliged to her every whim.  

Suho went straight to the bathroom, splashed his face with lukewarm water, rinsed his tangled hair while brushing his teeth all at the same time.  

In less than 5 minutes, he's out and about.  

Quickly putting in his long john that his mom insisted on buying under his blue dress trousers, he felt his muscle twinge in rebellion.  

The time was ticking, so he put on his crisp white shirt, hung his tie on his neck, then wiggled in his vest and grey school jacket towel and pajamas scattered on the floor.  

He always hated winter, having to put on several layers of clothes.  

If he ever gets caught at school missing one, he's sure to score another day in detention with a thousand-word essay.  

The sky was clear that day and no storm within the horizon.  

When he opened the window, he felt an icy blast on his face waking up every tiny nerve in his body. Everything was a whiteout, and the temperature had dropped to -1° Celsius.  

He looked at himself in the mirror one last time, brushing off the gray jacket with the school's logo before pinning his nameplate.  

Naeun grinned from ear to ear, showing off her sparkly white teeth, as he stepped out of his room.  

Her hands outstretched, his long black padded jacket and cap dangling on her arms. He bowed to her sister, who was as tall as his waist.  

He gathered all his things and planted a kiss on her forehead and gave her a half-smile, his eyelid almost invisible. 

As he stood up, his mom hit him right on the head.   

"Mom, that's why I am getting dumber!" 

"Stupid! Don't blame the broom. You're always dumb. Make this quick before this broom hits your butt."  

"Ok, ok."  

"Oppa, your lunch," Naeun called to her.   

She was Suho's ray of sunlight in his house while his mom, the thunderstorm.  

"Eomma," Suho stood at the entrance while putting on his shoes while juggling his bag and lunch on both hands, "I'm leaving."  

"Go! You should have left ages ago," shouting from the kitchen in between steams from the pan. Mrs. Lee chuckled, shook her head, and gave a deep sigh. "When will you ever learn, you rascal?"  

Suho pulled out the bicycle stashed under the stairs.  

He stopped and peeked at his busy neighborhood and sped to Sanmyong High School. The road had been cleared the night before so students could walk and ride to school in just 10 minutes.  

As he reached the front gate, he saw the school's security guard pulling the metal barricade.  

"Wait, wait…" Suho pedaled faster, chest heaving gasping for air.  

The 50-year-old security guard Kwangsoo stopped on his track, "You again?" the security guard said, "buzzer-beater, eh?!"  

Suho smirked, "thank you, thank you."  

"Suho, faster!" A voice shouted near the gate. Suho looked up to see Seo Kwanghee's hands on his knees, breathing heavily.  

Kwanghee jumped right at the back as Suho pedaled closer to the entrance.  

Luckily, they made it in time with a little coaxing of Old Man Gong -- Mr. Kwangsoo's pet name. 

The school alarm buzzed in time as they stepped down from the bicycle.  

High school students filled up the hallway, each one making their way to their classrooms.  

Boys have a separate class from the girls, even if they're on the same level.  

The two friends followed the rest of the kids waiting for the time when school's out. Nothing new, just the usual routine on an ordinary day. 

Time ticked away fast that day.  

The sound of the school bell was like music in Suho's ears.  

Down the hallway, students were chattering, shouting, and laughing. Some kids burrowed their faces on the table while the rest grabbed their bags itching to step out into the open. 

The corridor seems a bit empty without Joo Ho rushing in, taking him from the back. Everything was still fresh in his mind. 

"Hey, don't forget our game this Friday, eh" Kwanghee nudged Suho breaking his reverie. "It's Kia vs. Hyundai," Kwanghee dribbled the ball, attempting a Jordan slam dunk, Suho rushed to block his shot. 

"You bet," Suho grinned. "I'll go ahead." Suho walked towards the bicycle parking lot ahead of others.  

"Hey, man. I'm thrilled you're back to your old self. If Joo Ho could have been here, he would've been happy."  

"Yeah yeah..." Suho walked out, waving his hand in the air. 


eomma. (In Hangul: 엄마) = Mom

oppa 오빠 a word used by girls to address their older brother and even to older guys.

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