August 2nd, 2010

Under the Rain: Chapter 1

My name is Lee Joon. People call me Joon for short. I'm a senior at National University of Seoul. I love rainy days and I love standing under the rain. Normal people would find this hobby of mine strange.
You could say that I have inferiority problems, but please don't think that I'm not normal.
Ask me why? It's nothing, really. I just like it. It's as simple as that.

I don't like to talk much, especially to girls.
For some reason, usually only small percentage of people would believe what I say. They seem to have trustworthy issues with me.
You could say that I like to act cool, but please don't say that I'm shy.
Ask me why? It's nothing, really. I just don't like talking to girls. It's as simple as that.

When I first transferred to this university three weeks ago, I wasn't able to adapt to so many things. And I still can't. My roommate had always said that I was a weirdo. He even suspected that I had psychological problems.

On the other hand, I always find random girls running up to me and starting a conversation with no particular reason. A simple nod or shake of head from me would make their faces glow and they would run off like they'd just won the lottery or something. The freakiest part was they even gave me a strange nickname – Sunny. And I don’t even like sunny days.

I have pretty bad memory. There are many things in my life which I should remember for I find them hard to keep. But I will never forget the first time she spoke to me.

"Lee Joon-ssi, don't forget to remove that box of recycled paper once you're done. I don't want to see a single sheet lying on the table". I seldom saw her around. But whenever I did, all I remember was that she was always ordering me around. All I would do was nod and nothing else.

She was Lucy, the Editor of our campus newspaper. I love writing and it’s the only thing I am good at. I’m not really good with people. I refused to join other societies which required interaction with people. So I decided to join the newspaper to keep me away from the buzz on campus. It has only been a week since I’ve joined the team. I was still at blur with the way things were run in the campus newsroom. I wondered why I was the only one there all the time.

Well, not really. There was also Lucy. I hope she wasn’t the only one running the whole newspaper. That didn’t even make sen-

Lucy broke my train of thoughts, “Lee Joon-ssi, don’t think that you’ll have it easy just because you’re new. You can keep showing me that I-don’t-want-to-talk-to-you face. But please clean up all the mess that you have made on the table by 7pm or you’re dead!”

I’ve seen many types of girls growing up in the city. I’ve always come across plenty in the past three weeks that I’ve been here. But she is the first girl that I’ve seen who has such a strong personality and seems to be the type who spits threats to her ‘slaves’. I didn’t expect her to threaten me because of a pile of recycled paper!

One day, I sat on a bench at our campus park after classes. I felt a familiar cold and prickling feeling on my arms. Drop after drop, it started to rain heavier and heavier. I stayed still and allowed the silver drops to soak my body, enjoying the sensation.

“Why aren’t you heading home? It’s raining so heavily”, a voice broke my moment of peace. I looked up and saw her standing beside me, holding an umbrella with teddy bear prints. What a childish umbrella, I mocked under my breath. I didn’t answer her and turned away to face the same spot I was staring at earlier.

“So it’s true that you like staying under the rain? I’ve heard a lot of rumours about it but I thought they were just the usual untruths people spread about new students. But won’t you fall sick soaking wet like that every time?” She continued asking countless questions standing under her umbrella. Once again, I looked up at her, and then turned away again and replied reluctantly, “I’m used to it”.

“Not bad. You can actually talk! Your voice sounds really nice. You should talk more. Otherwise you’ll have bad breath and your mouth will just rot away”. I gave her a quick answer out of boredom and because I was sick of her voice and questions. I never thought I’d receive a … compliment from her. This strange girl puzzled me.

“Alright. I’ll leave you alone then. Enjoy soaking and freezing away here by yourself! See ya!” She left without waiting for a reply from me.

Actually, she didn’t seem too high and mighty after all. At least she asked me questions and didn’t throw threats or orders this time.

No, wait. She said something about my mouth rotting.

Who cares?

I continued sitting where I was and enjoyed the rain drops for the rest of the evening.

Under the Rain: Chapter 2

I can’t remember when this started but I began to notice Lucy more. Besides her fierce self in the newsroom, she seemed very sophisticated. Other than that weird umbrella she brought around, she had good fashion sense. She dressed well all the time. She was fairly tall for a girl. She carried herself well and never hunched or slouched even once.

I never noticed how pretty she looked, especially since she was always the only person I stayed in the newsroom with. Her bob hairstyle bounced whenever she moved around. Her rosy cheeks made her look radiant all the time. Her brown eyes pierced everything she looked at. Her mouth never failed to curl up in a smile. She was nice to everyone. Except in the newsroom…

“Everyone, please. Let’s make things more organised. Stop messing up the place! I’m the editor. Not the cleaning manager. We’ve already asked for permission to have the janitor not clean our newsroom because we didn’t want to lose anymore documents like the last time. But this means WE have to do it OURSELVES. Please, let’s coorperate! Stop leaving papers around, stop leaving the computers on, switch off the printers, and stop leaving your used coffee cups here!”

Since when did everyone else come in? Why does Lucy look exceptionally attractive despite her shouting at us like this? I’ve never felt this way before. This is weird. Believe me. Besides her feisty self whenever she dealt with the campus newspaper, she was usually pretty cute.

After a heavy rain, I walked past the newsroom and saw her sitting on her desk. I walked in. The squeaks coming from my soaking wet sneakers frightened her as she turned around almost too quickly. She took one look at me and shouted, “OH MY GOD GHOST!”.

Ghost? Did she mean me?

I glanced at her and quietly walked to the desk next to her and sat down.

“Hey! Why didn’t you knock before coming in? Look at you all soaking wet. I thought you were some water spirit!”, she shrugged.

“Right now your voice can be heard throughout the hallway. I really can’t tell that you were frightened”, I joked.

“Wow… looks like not only can you talk, you can talk back too!”

Talking back? Did I just do that?

“Here’s a tissue. Please clean yourself up. Seeing you soaking wet is really uncomfortable.” She handed a pack of tissue to me. I looked at the packet and looked back at her. I smiled and took it from her hands.

“Why… Why didn’t you go home?” I stuttered. It had been quite a while since classes had ended. What is this girl doing here alone in the newsroom so late in the evening?

“I’m just rushing some last minute deadlines. Ellie forgot to send next month’s issue to the publishers. She had to rush off because she wasn’t feeling well. Since it’s raining heavily outside, I can’t get out anyway.”

That’s weird. What happened to her teddy bear umbrella?

She cleared her desk and stood up, “I can go home now. Goodbye!” She grabbed her laptop and bag, smiling as she waved goodbye and left the newsroom.

Although I’ve been in the same room with her many times, right here in this tiny corner, I’ve never seen her smile so warmly at me. The newsroom almost seemed brighter when she did. Oddly, I think I felt my heart beat increasing its pace when she smiled at me minutes ago.

What does this mean?

Under the Rain: Chapter 3

It was a cloudy day with barely any sunlight. I drove around town. My stomach started to make funny noises. I glanced at my watch, it was only 5.30pm. I parked my bike in front of a café and headed towards the convenient store next door.

I grabbed a newspaper and walked to the counter to pay. The girl at the cashier turned around. My eyes widened in shock the moment I laid eyes on her. She was Lucy! So I guess she worked here.

“It’s you…” She shifted her gaze outside and looked at me again. “You’re out and about at this weather? Don’t tell me you came out on purpose to soak under the rain again.” She took the money I placed on the counter. After a few clicks, she issued a receipt.

“No.”

“Then why are you out?”

“To eat.”

“At the café next door?”

I nodded.

“But the food there sucks! It’s expensive and the service is very bad. I heard that they have a very stingy boss. Do you still want to go there?” I nodded again.

“Wow… this guy is tough.” She shook her head staring at me. She looked like she was studying me. I felt awkward so I left.

At the café, I ordered myself a set of delicious-looking pork chop. Can’t be that bad, I thought to myself. I sat down at a comfortable corner and had my meal.

It turned out that what Lucy said about the food was actually true. The pork chop was indeed bad. The meat was chewy and tasteless. I felt like I’d been chewing for hours. But I had no choice. This set cost me 20,000 won. I would feel sorry for my thirsty wallet if I had wasted the food.

Just as I was about to force down the last few pieces of the rubber-like pork chop, I saw a figure standing next to me all of a sudden. I turned around and found myself looking at Lucy, soaking wet. Her silent and sudden appearance scared the wits out of me.

“I was about to head home. But there’s something wrong with my car. It won’t budge. I can’t get a cab to stop for me in this crazy weather. Could you give me a ride back to my apartment?” She shivered a little from the cold. Why wasn’t she holding her weird umbrella again?

“Oh… Uh… okay, I guess.” I replied, looking at my almost-empty plate.

“Oh! I’m sorry. It’s okay you can finish eating your… um… lunch? I’ll just wait outside.”

“I…” She marched out right before I could finish my sentence. I took a quick look around and continued eating.

***

“Gosh… why is it pouring so heavily suddenly?”

“Yeah. It’s freezing!”

Two girls brushes past me carrying their respective set meals.

I thought of her all wet standing under the rain and waiting alone in the cold outside, while the selfish me continued eating in the warm café.

Without much thought, I rushed outside only to see her arms wrapped around herself, squatting in a telephone booth, trying to keep herself warm.

“Let’s go.” I walked into the booth.

“You’re sure a fast-eater!” She grabbed her bag and stood up. Her brown eyes met mine. Her lips curled into her usual bright smile.

For a moment, my heart stopped beating again.

I walked out towards my bike without saying another word. I opened the compartment and took out two helmets. Then, I realised I didn’t have a raincoat because I’ve never had the need to use one. But it was raining very heavily. What about her?

“What’s wrong?” She noticed me panicking.

“I… I don’t have a raincoat.” I replied apologetically.

“Oh… So?” She didn’t look surprised or upset at all.

“What about you…” I thought she was used to being sheltered from the rain?

“Oh, you meant me? It’s okay! I brought a jacket.” She broke out into a sweet smile again, as if reassuring me that I didn’t have to take care of her that way.

How can you cover yourself from the rain with a jacket? I began to worry a little.

“Wait a sec, I’ll buy one.” I couldn’t watch her soaking in that jacket under the heavy rain with the risk of catching a cold. I ran into the convenient store where she worked and bought a raincoat. Thank God they still sell these in a regular store.

I rushed out and handed it to her. She reached out her hand and took it shyly smiling. “You’re such a nice person.”

I climbed onto my bike and started the engine. She got on and lightly wrapped her arms around my waist. I felt my cheeks heat up. I look around awkwardly before realising that I should probably get going.

You’re just giving a girl a ride home. What’s the big deal? I shook my head to senses.

***

Throughout the journey, I felt a little vibration from time to time. But that came from her arms around my waist. I glimpsed at her through the side mirrors. She had her head down the whole time, squeezing her neck deep within her shoulders.

“Are you very cold?”

“I… I’m okay…”

Really? She didn’t sound okay. This was the first time I’d ever heard her stutter.

Suddenly, her arms around my waist tightened. Sigh. Why do I feel so weird again? This feeling lasted all the way to her apartment.

“Thank you so much for the ride. I will return your raincoat when it’s dry.”

“You don’t have to. I don’t use it.”

“Oh.” She nodded. “I’ll use it then. Thank you! Bye!” She headed straight to her apartment the moment she finished.

As she walked closer and closer to her doorstep, I gathered my nerves and finally gave in. “Hey…” She turned around and looked at me. “Make yourself a cup of hot tea once you get inside. It’ll help prevent a cold.”

“Hot tea?” She didn’t know what else to say. She seemed a little puzzled. “Oh. Um… okay. Thanks!”

I watched her silhouette slowly fading away from my vision as she went in. I smiled faintly. Today was the first time I had actually spoken to a girl like this. Not because she asked me a question. Not because I was forced to say something. Not because circumstances made me do so.

But because I wanted to.

Under the Rain: Chapter 4

I’m pretty sure you are be able to guess by now that I’ve never dated anyone before. I know this sounds pathetic coming from a college senior, but please don’t pity me. It isn’t a big deal.

But Lucy… Lucy… she sure has a way to make me nervous whenever I’m around her lately. Is this THE feeling? What they say... love? Like? Infatuation?

***

One Sunday morning, I decided to take a stroll around the campus park because I wanted to get some fresh air.

The sound of kids playing and running around happily caught my attention. I looked up and saw a bunch of five and six-year-olds chasing after a football with another girl. Her back looked familiar. And that hair…

It was Lucy.

She had her hair tied up in a pony tail. Unlike her usual style, she wore a baggy football jersey.

Subconsciously, I slowly sat down on a bench and quietly watched them.

The kids were enjoying themselves. She looked very into the game. And her beautiful smile made my heart pump thrice its usual rhythm... again.

I was never good with kids. I think they’re a little annoying. But to see her so good with them tugged my heart for some reason. I saw a different side of her. Different from her usual Editor self in the newsroom. Different from the girl who was shivering on my bike soaking wet under the rain. Different from the girl who kept forcing me to talk.

As I was observing them, lost in my own thoughts, one of the little girls stopped and looked at me. She pulled Lucy’s arm, pointed at me and whispered something to her.

She turned towards me and our eyes met.

I felt my cheeks flush.

I didn’t want her to notice that I’d been watching her.

She turned back to the little girl and said something.

I felt like a stalker the way they looked at me. What were they talking about?

She looked at me again all of a sudden and gestured me to go over and join them. I shook my head to decline and smiled at her.

She nodded and continued having fun with the children.

A few minutes later, the ball came flying towards me all of a sudden. I caught it just in time right before it hit me. Lucy ran up to me.

“Impressive reflex!” she complimented. I handed over the ball to her.

“Why don’t you join us?” she kicked the ball back to the kids and sat down beside me.

“I just wanted to relax in the park.” I looked away from her but I could still see her from the corner of my eyes.

“Oh... it’s good to get some fresh air outside once in a while. Don’t stay in your stuffy dorm all the time. I always see you looking so dull all the time.” she joked.

Do I really look dull to her? I whispered to myself.

“But you’re not as stiff now as you used to be. You used to seem so... bored of everything. You had no expressions. I used refer to you as a statue.” She laughed. “But don’t worry! I’ve never mentioned that to anyone. It’s just me.” she quickly redeemed herself.

Really? I looked like a statue? I tried to recall how I usually act on campus.

“You have pretty good looks. You should smile more. You’ll look better.” She smiled.
I look better when I smile? I noticed I haven’t said a word to everything that she just told me.

“That’s the smile! I bet the little girls have fallen for you by now if you keep watching them with that smile on.” She teased.

I would never have thought that such simple words from her would make me smile so much. At that moment, something churned in my stomach and my heart continued to pump faster.

Maybe... Am I really falling for her?

Under the Rain: Chapter 5

I walked pass the newsroom as I was heading to class. I noticed something at the corner of my eye. I turned back and looked in the room. I saw Lucy sitting at her desk with her head buried in her arms. I couldn’t tell if she was just taking a nap or if something was wrong. I had to rush to class to submit an assignment, so I didn’t stop to check.

I bought a cup of hot of lemon tea from the vending machine an hour later. I passed by the newsroom again and I saw her still sitting in the same position.

That’s weird, I thought. At that time of the day she would usually be running around rushing the printers to get the newspaper for the week out. Taking naps on campus wasn’t part of her usual routine.

I walked to her slowly, trying to choose the right words to say in my mind.

As thought she’d sensed me coming in, she suddenly sat up and looked at me.

“What is it?” she sounded annoyed.

“Are... Are you okay?” I tried my hardest to sound genuinely concerned. She looked pale.

She looked away and dropped her head on the table again. I sat down next to her and tried to find out what was wrong.

“Joon-sshi, what on earth do you want?” she asked without lifting her head. I’ve never heard her snap at anyone in that way, unless it was work-related.

“Are you not feeling well? Fever? Or is it the flu...”

“Joon-sshi, you sure have a lot of questions today.”

Really? I’m sorry then. I muttered under my breath.

She felt bad for snapping at me. “I’m fine. I just have a little stomach ache.”

“Why? Did you eat something bad?”

“I don’t know. I’m kinda used to it.”

She’s used to it? Did she eat something wrong? Could it be something only girls have... What do they call it? Right. Period cramps?

“Uh... Here, have some lemon tea. It should help.” I offered her the hot drink.

She finally looked up at me again. “Oh...” For once, it seemed like I’d spoken more than her.

“Don’t they usually say that it’s good to drink something hot when... it’s THAT time of the month?” my cheeks flushed talking about it. That should be right. I’ve heard my sister mention this before.

“That time of the month?” she looked confused.

“Period.” I’ve never felt so awkward in my life.

“Pe... Period?” she asked with her mouth wide open for a good twenty seconds which felt like twenty years. She burst out laughing all of a sudden. “You’re... You’re saying I’ve having my PERIOD??? Ha ha ha!!!”

I stared at her. I had no idea what was happening.

“You’re always trying to act so macho all the time. But you’re kinda cute when... ... Ha ha ha!!!” she couldn’t stop laughing. “I’m just having a normal stomach ache. Do you get it now?”

I nodded.

I wanted to bury my head in the big printers at the time.

She stood up and grabbed the cup of hot lemon tea I gave her. “Anyway, thanks for this!” And she went out.

I nodded again.

So, her pain is gone?

Under the Rain: Chapter 6

My hectic first semester here at National University of Seoul was finally over. The news team had planned to go on a retreat together to the beach just to relax. Initially it was supposed to be a one-day trip. But dark clouds covered the sky the whole day. We decided to rent a villa by the beach and stay the night, hoping that the weather would be nicer to us the next day.

The cool breeze was just calling out to me in the evening and I really wanted to get some fresh air. I decided to take a stroll by the beach.

The breeze slowly switched into strong wind as I walked. I looked up and saw that the weather wasn’t getting any better.

Then, I noticed Lucy sitting on the sand looking out into the ocean. I walked towards her, “May I sit down?”

“Of course!” she smiled. She looked like she was in a good mood.

I sat down. She looked up at the sky, “Looks like it’s going to rain...”

“Yeah.”

“Did you come out to sit under the rain again?”

I laughed and shook my head. Why does she like to ask me this kind of questions? I thought.

She suddenly did something that caught me off guard. She dug two holes in the sand in front of me and stuffed my feet in. She did the same with hers.

“Doesn’t this feel good?” she looked at me with sparkling eyes.

She looked adorable at that moment. My feet felt so warm and comfortable. Her gestures always made me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. It felt like she’d filled up the empty bottle in my heart with the simplest actions.

It started raining heavily all of a sudden. I pulled her arm, gesturing her to go inside. “Come on, don’t you want to get inside?”

“I want to stay here under the rain with you. It would be fun!”


Lucy, this is the second time I’m soaking in the rain with you. But it is the first time I felt so close to you. If I told you I want to spend every other rainy day with you, what will you say?


“Lucy...”

“Yeah?”

“I... actually... I like... I like...” I couldn’t stop stuttering.
“Like what?”

“Um... I mean, I like... I like to stay under the rain!” I didn’t know what else to say within that few seconds.

“I know that! You don’t have to keep reminding me.” she laughed.

I laughed stiffly, mentally scolding myself for being a coward.



Our short retreat ended just like that. I never gathered the courage to say those three words.

***

I sat alone in the newsroom one cool afternoon.

Leaves fall as the autumn wind blows
Clouds slide across the sky as the autumn wind leads
I stand still watching your silhouette

As silver raindrops fall, you stand beside me
Your smile lingers in my mind
I yearn to hold your hand forever

As day breaks and night falls
Three words linger in my mouth, never coming out
I yearn for you to stay by my side on rainy days

Will you?

I was not satisfied with this poem. My writing was beginning to get rusty.

I folded the piece of paper into a paper airplane.

I aimed at the dustbin near the door.

I missed.

The paper airplane fell right in front of someone holding an umbrella with teddy bear prints.

Wait... Teddy bears?! I panicked.

“Joon-sshi, it’s good to stay back to catch up on some work here. But let’s not litter, shall we?” she waved the paper airplane in front of me.

My eyes were wide open. I couldn’t utter a single word. But there was only one thought in my mind...

Don’t open it. Please don’t open it! NO!!!

She opened it.

“’I yearn for you to stay by my side on rainy days... Will you?’ What’s this?” she held up my poem and looked into my eyes. She smelled something fishy. She faintly smiled.

“Is it a love letter?” she teased. “It must be. Did another freshman write this to you?”

I sighed in relief. She didn’t figure it out.

“No.” I quickly grabbed the piece of paper from her and stuffed it in my pocket.

“It’s okay. Just say it. I won’t tease you.” she lightly punched my chest.

I smiled at her little gesture, secretly liking it.

Just like that, we sat down and continued chatting throughout the afternoon.

This was my first time spending hours alone with a girl.

***

“What? It’s raining again? It was so sunny earlier.” She looked out the window when the both of us stopped talking.

I followed her gaze. It was pouring heavily. But the sun rays peeped through. Silver raindrops covered the grass like a blanket. It was a beautiful scene.

“Come on! Let’s go outside!” Lucy called out.

“What?” I was taken aback.

“What what? Come on, quick!” she dragged me out before waiting for my reply.

“I don’t think this is a good idea. You will get sick.”

“No, I won’t. Isn’t it great to soak in the rain together?”

Great. Of course it’s great. I’m afraid what you’re thinking now is not what I long to hear all this while.

I didn’t realise I’d been staring at her as the rain soaked her hair.

Her voice broke my train of thoughts.

“Have you ever spent time in the rain with someone you like or someone who likes you?” she asked without warning.

I shook my head. I didn’t want to face her reaction if she found out the truth.

“Joon-sshi, may I let you in on a secret?” there was a slight twinkle in her eyes. Maybe it was the rain.




“The second part of my question... you’re actually experiencing it right now.” she looked right into my eyes.

I stood still and looked back at her. My mind was completely blank. My heartbeat continued to increase its pace.

“Silly!” she gave me a peck on my flushed cheek and smiled sweetly.




END.