wild_terrain: (JJ Believe)
[personal profile] wild_terrain
Title: The Beacon; My Siren
Author: wild_terrain (ie. fi_chan)
Banner (Made beautifully by love_cassiopeia
Chapter: [38/ 40?]
Rating: MA15+
Genre: AU
[FLANGST, mystery, spirituality, romance]
Summary: Philophobia… The fear of falling in love or being in love. I didn’t know such a thing existed until I met him… Kim JaeJoong was my age—a youthful 25 years—and the owner of a popular café, yet he was already known around town as the mysterious hermit who had chosen to completely withdraw from the world. How on earth could someone so young be afraid of loving others to the point of secluding themselves from all human beings? What was he afraid of? What was he hiding? I just didn’t understand it. And by that stage, the need to understand it was all I could think about... In fact, he was all I could think about…

Jung Yunho… For all of my life I had grown up away from the limelight. I couldn’t stand being noticed by anybody, and for a long time I thankfully never was. But then you came and suddenly you were everywhere – waving to me as I swept the café after closing, saying hello to me as you cycled past the bench I was sitting on, helping me carry my groceries inside whilst talking non-stop to me as if we were actually friends… Why are you always around making my heart thump erratically? Why do you even care? The more you try to explore this town, the more I need to step up and protect you from your own curiosity, because I know It is out there and I know It wants to harm you…


A/N: Enjoy my lovelies! Last time we were here, Yunho had popped back briefly into town to let JaeJoong know he had been on The Island and the legal owner of it wasn't actually JaeJoong...

People were on the island.

I had spent years and years trying to make sure that never happened. I had deluded myself into thinking I had been successful when all this time I didn’t even own the land. A few years ago I suppose I would have panicked. I didn’t know whether it was because I was in shock, but I felt nothing.

If a curse did still exist, there was nothing I’d be able to do about it. People with more influence than me would figure it out and take over my role. If a curse didn’t exist then… Nothing. People would be safe and I wouldn’t have to worry. I was really tired of worrying.

A lady coughed from somewhere nearby and I turned my head away from the window. I had been trying not to think too much about anything and it was almost a relief that a stranger had brought me back out of my head.

But the soothing rocking of the train I was on soon brought heaviness back to my eyelids. The drowsiness weakened me bit and bit and I slipped back into my thoughts without even being aware of it.

The house… Was it still there?

A childhood home… Was it even my home? Most of it laid forgotten, lingering only in vague wisps of memory. My adult life had been spent here, not in a house that had been silenced for years. And yet neither here nor there felt like a home. They were places where I had stayed, where I had been protected from the elements and given privacy and warmth, but my true home was me. It had been me for many years now, only I had never really thought about it. My body was my home and it went wherever it landed. Café JaDe had been built with pieces of myself but if I were to leave it for years, I wouldn’t feel homesick. The house I had been born into was also just a house. It was the people it had sheltered who I missed.

So how was I to feel when Yunho stood on the beach and made that island a very real thing again?

A piece may have remained of the past. That was nice. That’s all I could think, a very bland: that was nice. If he wasn’t nostalgic, a man should at least be curious. But at that moment I was neither. The only thing I was was sad. And not because of an old house.

Wasn’t that funny? In the end I cared more about the person who spoke than the message that was spoken.

Yunho’s face… I hadn’t seen it for a while. There had been shock; there had been pain; there had been nostalgia—all of the things I should have felt for that island. But the island he spoke of I had been indifferent to.

Yoochun looked at me and he had known.

Yunho had come back and offered only information. Fair enough, but ow. Yunho had his own life now, loud and clear. And whatever mine was, that was mine. Our lives weren’t intersecting anymore and it didn’t seem like there was anything that could be done to change it. We’d screwed up and I wish we hadn’t. Where anger once was there was now just exhaustion.

So there was new access to the island and with it maybe a chance to see my parents’ house if it still existed. But what use was an old house when there was no one to live in it with? Even if it held memories, it didn’t hold the people. Not really. And as I had watched Yunho on the beach, I knew that my role in the loss of my relationship was the real tragedy, not an unproved curse messing things up. It had been my mouth that had undone us; my hands that had sealed it.

I was tired of being alone. Fear was…horrible. It was crippling. I didn’t want to lose anyone and I didn’t want anyone to be hurt because of me. But being alone… Being without someone like Yunho to make me smile and give me hugs and make me feel alive… It was exhausting. I was so exhausted I couldn’t even feel fear anymore.

I vowed I wouldn’t make that mistake again. Yunho had been a hard lesson, and the loss of him would be the heavy ache deep in my chest that reminded me never to be like that again; never to make those mistakes again. Maybe if I was lucky I would one day find someone else like him. And I would do it right. I would let myself be happy and I would give happiness back to them as well. I’d let them come first, not some stupid fear.

Yoochun had been a great support. He had been my exercise buddy and my cheerleader. I needed to find a source of happiness in myself and I needed to retain it. Yunho was the closest person I knew who had the kind of life I wanted to live, so I vowed I would be like him: I would be active outside my home and nourish my body, I would step outside and see the world around me and take joy from talking to people. Every day I had challenged myself to do so. This time for me, not anyone else.

That had all been going fine until he had shown up again. Despite all of the work I had done in those months, I suddenly felt stripped. I was trying to move on but looking at him, he had actually managed it. He had stood on that sand like he owned every grain. It felt like all my efforts to improve had been far too late and I could do nothing but cry under a towel and hope he didn’t notice.

Perhaps worst of all was how I had thought I had worked hard to be a strong person for myself; but seeing him standing there on the beach, a bubble of disappointment had swelled and burst because underneath it all I suddenly knew I had still been motivated to change for him. For me too, but still always for him. Why did it always have to be about him? Why couldn’t I let go of him even now?

The improvements I had hopefully made didn’t matter one bit because one look at his face and the truth was known: it had come too late. I wasn’t anything he needed now; he was fine without me. His time here had come and gone. He had come back…but not for me.

The lady nearby me coughed again and I forced my slumped back to uncurl and stretch a little in the small carriage seat.

My thoughts were unpleasant and unhelpful. Life gave you lessons and one way or another you learned them. That’s just what happened. Now I at least had a new entry in the book of wisdom: fear makes you hurt other people and fear makes you hurt yourself. You shouldn’t let it have a destructive voice though because the relationships you have with people are more important. Maybe Yunho had been trying to tell me that for some time but at least I knew what he meant now.

I still had myself though. I could at least make myself happy, and right now that meant taking back control over my past. Seeing it. Touching it. And then accepting it.

That was why currently I was on a train. To the city. The city held answers. A company was trying to buy that land and the people there would know exactly how to get to that island. Jung Yunho knew how to get to it.

So at 12:15pm I walked through the doors of Lee’s Sport and Recreation Center and looked around for my ex-lover. Being a Thursday in the middle of the day there weren’t too many people around on the lower levels where the rock climbing walls were. I must have stood out, staring around me in the middle of the floor, because it didn’t take long for a female voice to call out my name. I turned in surprise and saw the girl who once ate at Café JaDe with Yunho and Junsu. It took a moment to match a name to the face but by the time she had strolled over, I knew it was Eunbi.

“Whatcha doing here?” she grinned at me. “Let me guess: Yunho?”

“Huh? Er—” I felt my eyes widen, possibly from embarrassment.

“He’s not here on the floor. He hasn’t been for a while. You’d know that though of course, don’t mind me.”

I didn’t know that actually. I knew some things must have been changed for Yunho to be involved with excursions far north, but I couldn’t say just how that fitted into his usual role at work.

“You are looking for him though, right?” She didn’t give me time to respond, just kept on going, “I haven’t seen him take his break yet though so he should be out sometime within the hour. I mean we could knock on his door but…”

“No,” I agreed. “There’s no need to disturb him while he’s working.”

“I don’t mind waiting with you if you don’t mind the company,” she grinned.

“Of course not,” I found myself smiling back.

“We can spy on other people if you want or you could give it a go. Did you pay for a pass?”

“Er…” I gave a bit of a grimace.

“Oh screw it,” she said softly, leaning in to me, and then laughed. “You’re here now and I would be more than happy to harness you up.”

“Harness…” I gazed up at the huge bumpy wall beside me and then back to her. “To go up that?”

“Yeh,” she grinned, almost in a challenge.

“Bloody hell…” I let out a breathy laugh. “I’ve done it before but…”

“It’s been awhile?”


“Don’t be nervous.”

“I’m not nervous,” I said with a small smile. “Probably embarrassed though. I’m a man and yet my coordination is shocking.”

“Practice makes perfect,” Eunbi returned with a wink and I couldn’t refute that argument. “You’ve come all this way; have some fun.”

In the name of coming all this way and having fun, my groin found itself smothered in a harness and the tips of my toes curled tightly inside my shoes as I clung on for dear life on a couple of the randomly scattered foot holds. If I got the hang of this, I could add rock climbing to the list of activities I could do to keep fit and be happy. That sounded like a pretty cool addition to the cycling and hiking already on the list.

“Oh no. Yunho!” I heard Eunbi say from below me.

“Wha-?” I turned my head without disrupting the delicate balance I had set. An inch too far had gravity jumping up to snatch me and I quickly whipped my head back and clung on tighter.

“JaeJoong, Yunho’s out already. He just slipped into the lunch room.”

“Oh.” Great, I was half way up a wall.

“Come on, I’ll lower you down? Or did you want to do it yourself?”

“Err…” I took a step down onto one of the bigger foot holds but couldn’t find another one that looked kind enough to have pity on me. This was going take too long and I was already nervous.

Eunbi gave a gentle laugh and asked me to slowly let go. When I did, she began lowering me down. I felt a bit like a fish dangling on the end of a fishing line—foolish and embarrassed—but it was nice the moment my feet touched the ground again.

Eunbi unclipped the cable and then said, “Go get him.”

Now I felt like a kid waddling around in a diaper with this harness still tight around my groin, but I didn’t have time to waste getting myself out of it. I scampered off to the lunch room and slipped through the Staff Only door as I had done so many times before.

Yunho was by the microwave, fiddling with its buttons. He was in a pair of nice trousers and a white button-down shirt, rolled up to his elbows. The sight was both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. The old uniform of a black t-shirt and pants that he used to wear was much more him but at least he’d rolled the sleeves up—a touch of Yunho, like the secret ingredient of a dish that made all the difference.

He looked up from the microwave and, as always on my visits, the double take came. “JaeJoong!”

I swallowed through my dry throat. “Hi.”

We stared at each other for a long moment, until the beeping of the microwave called Yunho’s attention back. He looked through the little window hesitantly as he opened the door up. He glanced at the Tupperware inside and then to me and then back to the Tupperware. His hand hovered by it, about to pick it up but not quite getting there. Then with a sigh, he lifted it from the microwave plate. “I err…” he glanced down at his lunch again and reluctantly let it come out of hiding. “I’m not the best cook…”He pressed the door shut and placed the lumpy omelette onto the counter.

“I’m, er…” I looked down at the harness enhancing my groin and flushed. “I’m not in my element either.”

Yunho blinked and then his eyes dropped to my harness.

“I’m not a very good climber…” I mumbled out, my eyes escaping his to flitter to the floor.

A small smile tugged at his lips and he took a step forward. “Did you want me to, uh…”

“Oh! Yes please.”

He walked over and began loosening the straps. I tried my hardest not to stare at his long fingers as he did but I mustn’t have been trying hard enough because I found myself gazing at them anyway. Then they tugged the harness down and I wriggled it the rest of the way down to be completely free of it and get some dignity back.

Yunho’s footsteps echoed through the doorway as he disappeared outside to return it to wherever the heck they kept them. I took the moment alone to breathe in deeply and when he came back I gave him a nervous smile. “Has it been a while since you’ve done that?”

He looked at me questioningly.

“Attended to the gear and stuff. The…manual labour stuff…” I trailed off, seconds from closing my eyes.

“Manual labour?” he echoed. At least there was a hint of amusement.

“I panicked. It’s the shirt!” I blurted out.

“The shirt?”

“The fancy one,” I said, already cringing but it was too late now to cram everything back into my mouth.

He looked down at the perfectly ironed material. “My non-manual labour shirt?”

“Mm,” I murmured, still waiting for that hole to open up. Oh well, I may as well run with that now. “The er… I like clean desks and computers shirt…”

He made a long, thoughtful noise at the back of his throat and then asked, “And how does it compare?”

“To the thief in the night shirt? Well…”

He gave me a strange look and then his lips slid into a grin. “I think that question has been answered.”

“Do you miss it? Doing that stuff?”

He shrugged. “It’s different.”

I nodded. Truth be told… Oh, he looked gorgeous. Utterly gorgeous and in control. If I didn’t already know him well, I would have been a bigger mumbling mess than I already was. It was kind of lucky he wasn’t wearing the black t-shirt anymore because the familiarity would have fooled me into thinking I was allowed to get a hug from him. The white collar shirt and its perfectly ironed folds was as good a reminder as any that I had no right to be near him or crave old affection.

“I’m sorry… Your lunch is getting cold,” I heard myself mumble.

He glanced over at it, and I stayed where I was as he moved around to prepare the table for himself.

“How long is your lunch break?”

“How long do you need?” he asked with a glance up at me as he sat down. “I assume that’s why you’re here. To talk.”

“Mm…” I looked down at my hands and then watched him cut up his omelette. “Has there been any developments with…your project? With the island?”

Yunho gave a snort as he lifted his chopsticks up. I guess I deserved that. The island that I may or may not have been cursed on was the only thing we talked about these days; was all that remained between us even though it was what had gotten between us…

When Yunho finished swallowing he said, “No. No new developments. Still putting our bid in.”

“I see…” I looked down at my hands again.

“Is that all?”

I felt myself flush again. He knew that wasn’t all. “No… I was thinking about what you said. About that land not being mine anymore… About other people wanting to use it…”

“I can’t stop people from buying that land, JaeJoong.”

I looked up at him in surprise. “I wouldn’t ask you to. That isn’t your problem.” Now that I was looking into his eyes again, I couldn’t look away. He looked amazing. He looked so capable, so much more capable than me. He looked like he could do any task anyone threw at him. The question wasn’t could he help me; it was more like would he help me?

Yunho blinked a few times and the faint trace of mild surprise from my words flickered away again. He waited for me to continue. Which I did. “If that property isn’t mine, I know I can’t control it anymore. It’s out of my hands.”

Yunho’s eyebrows creased in a small frown but he said nothing as he took a new bite of omelette.

“You’re not working on the floor anymore… You’re helping to plan that new centre. And you were working near my town the day you came to the beach to talk to me. So… I suppose that means…you really have been there. Did you…see anything? Was…anything there?” Yunho’s face darkened and it was then I realised what my vagueness had sounded like. “My house,” I blurted out. “Did you see my house, I mean,” I said softer. He lowered his chopsticks and sank into his elbow on the edge of the table. “You did. It’s still there?”

He worried his bottom lip for a moment but then nodded. “Yes. It’s still there.”

My dry throat had returned and my tongue darted out to lick my lips. And then I was nodding; short, subtle motions as I let it sink in. “I… I don’t know what I wanted that answer to be,” I eventually admitted out loud.

He nodded. And out of respect—or something—he didn’t pick his chopsticks back up to continue eating. I let out a small, sad smile and pointed to his lunch. “Don’t let me get in the way of your lunch. It’ll get cold.”

He didn’t say anything or move to finish it. He just looked at me and it made me feel self conscious even though I didn’t know why. I had to look away. “Was it bad? My house…”

“I didn’t see much,” he said quietly. “But it looked okay. A little worn but that’s to be expected.”

“That’s good… I think.” I really didn’t know what to think. I just needed to know.

“Furniture seemed to be there still. And there were some pictures there on the walls. A photo of you. Probably other things that make more sense to you than me. That’s all I had time to see though.”

I felt the lump in my throat and the sudden beating of my heart but my lips were glued shut. It felt like I should ask more about what Yunho had seen but I didn’t know where to even begin.

After enough silence had passed, Yunho asked, “Is that all you needed to know? Why you came here?”

No. I came to see you. I stilled as the thought rushed through me. I felt its weight like a rock sinking through water. “Yeah…” was all I could utter.

“Okay.” He cut a new piece of omelette for himself and slipped it into his mouth. His eyes eventually flickered back up to mine. “Can I help you with anything else?”

This was a dismissal I didn’t know how to avoid. There were only two possible answers to that—both one short syllable that would end too fast—but neither came to my tongue. It was like silence was the only tool I had to delay anything because I just couldn’t go, I couldn’t leave already. But my body wouldn’t let me speak.

He was staring expectantly up at me to make a decision and I knew I was flustered all over but the muteness wouldn’t break. And then I was too ashamed to look at him anymore so I stood staring at nothing but feeling everything.

I couldn’t ask him to be with me. It wasn’t fair. I’d promised myself that I’d leave him alone now. I knew I had to; it was just so hard… It didn’t matter that I was trying to change. It didn’t matter that I had decided to shed my old beliefs as best I could because he was more important to me than them… But I couldn’t tell him.

I didn’t think it would have changed anything anyway. He had made his decision a long time ago and he hadn’t been tempted back. And I didn’t want him to look at me with pity. That would be a little too much right now.


I still couldn’t look at him but my time was up. I knew that it was. I just had to accept it. Again. “Thank you…” I uttered, barely breathing, “for your time.” It was so stupid, but it was all I had.

“That’s alright.”

I breathed and nodded and then carefully turned around. One last glance at his face wasn’t something I could do. He’d look too amazing, too strong, too Yunho. And then I’d be stuck all over again in this cycle of longing. The wishes in my head would grow too wild, too unmanageable...

As I walked out I probably looked like some lost soul, just full of air and no brain, but at least I was walking. I never made it past the door though because as soon as my hand touched the cold wood, Yunho’s voice stopped me.

“I’m surprised you’re talking to me.”

I turned around slowly to face him and felt my heart beat a little faster. “Why?”

“Last time you didn’t seem very happy to see me. At the beach.”

“I was…surprised.”

“And now you’re not?”

“I had time to think.”

“About what?”

“Everything,” I said softly.


“And what do you want me to say?” I asked, because I really didn’t know. But of course he couldn’t answer that. Neither of us could.

And then he looked at me and asked something that drew a lump to my throat, “Will you be okay?”

“With what?” The island? Because right now I honestly didn’t give a rats ass about it. If I was destined for sadness then I would be sad; but if I could make myself happy then I would try that with everything I had. I would not sentence myself to sadness with my own actions any longer! Being paranoid all those times about losing him was nothing compared to actually losing him. Would I still have had Yunho if I hadn’t tried to throw his medication down the toilet? If I hadn’t acted on that fear would we have been able to work things out? If I hadn’t made him hate me… If I hadn’t chosen fear over his guidance…

Yunho looked sad then and his shoulders rose in a small, uncertain shrug at my question. Helpless. To him I was a mess. I couldn’t handle anything.

Goddammit, I didn’t want to be a mess! I didn’t want to feel so pathetic. I was pathetic but I honest to god didn’t want to be anymore. I knew this as I knew the thrumming of the blood in my veins was hot frustration at its boiling point.

In all these past months I had been trying not to be a mess. I had been angry at Yunho and then at myself for being as pathetic as he said. I had tried to be a different person, incorporated new routines into my life with the help of Yoochun to be more like him and less like the hermit he accused me of being. If I could be more like him then I could handle things better. I could be so much stronger. If I couldn’t be with him then I could be like him. I could fix my own problems.

And then he came back! And he was different. He smiled the same and moved the same but he was different. He wasn’t sad. He wasn’t open to me. He was accomplished. He was sure of himself. He was there on business and he didn’t need to see me at all. He just had information and he was too good a person to walk away without telling me. I was a blip on his conscious. A detour before he moved back to his amazing life.

“I’m not pathetic,” I heard myself say. “I used to be but I am not going to be that way anymore. I already died,” I laughed without humour, “so what is the worst that could happen?”

My eyes found their way back to him and for the first time this afternoon I didn’t feel so inferior. “I’m not a hermit. I’m not. It was shitty of you to say that when you left because I was before but I wasn’t then—I had been trying and I made mistakes but I had been trying. And I tried even harder after.

“I can’t do things as well as you but I decided a long time ago that I wouldn’t be pathetic anymore and I don’t think I am. I came here because I missed you even though I didn’t want to but that makes me pathetic and since I am adamant in not being pathetic I won’t miss you.

“I am glad you are doing well in your new job even though you have to iron your shirts now and it doesn’t suit you at all and the closest you can get to comfort is rolling your sleeves up. And your shoes need polishing which suggests you’re not actually adapting so well to your new position because you think you’re still wearing boots, but you seem happy enough so that is what is important. I am happy that you are doing well because I like my friends to be happy.

“As for me, thank you for telling me about the house, I do appreciate it, and I will go home now with this information and think about it in my own time.”

Yunho was staring at me as though I had gone mad—perhaps because I had crammed everything I had needed to say in practically one breath instead of divulging bits gradually like a normal conversation. His eyes then fluttered away from mine and down to his shoes. His scuffed, neglected shoes. And then he looked back up at me.

“Sorry,” was all I could say.

And, “I didn’t notice…” was all he could say.

I offered up another apologetic shrug and then fell back into an awkward standing position. I should have made my exit but now that I had opened my mouth it seemed a little rude to leave in the middle of the aftermath. So instead I said, “I’m still working on the…talking thing.”

And Yunho seemed to slip back into himself again and the hard line of his lips eased into sudden laughter. “I think somehow you caught the rambling thing from me.”

I stared at the familiar smile for a moment and then found myself nursing a small one too. I did remember Yunho’s habit of babbling about too many things at once. “Oh god,” I laughed.

“It’s not so bad.”

“It is,” I disagreed. “But if I am to catch anything from you, I hope it’s also the adventure bug.” I had almost forgotten the very thing I had meant to ask him before his presence had made my brain go all haywire and this was the perfect segue.

Yunho cocked his head to the side at my odd admission but he was smiling. It was a warm smile and I felt the strain in my shoulders ease a little. “I was thinking…” I took a small breath, “that I should see things for myself.” There, it was out and the rest could come easier: “I want to see my parents’ house. So if you have any information on how to get there or go about getting there, I would appreciate you sharing it if you could.”

Yunho’s smile had dimmed throughout my little speech and he now looked at me seriously. He at least hadn’t straight out laughed…

Finally he said, “You want to go to the island.”

“Yes.” Hadn’t I said that?

“And you think that’s a good idea.”

“I don’t know what kind of idea it is,” I confessed with a small smile and a shrug. “It’s an idea that’s feeling like an inevitability. My past is standing in my way and I wonder sometimes if I just see that place again…” I trailed off and gave my head a small shake. “I just feel I should. It was never a possibility before. I didn’t have access to it…or didn’t want to have access to it. I didn’t know its condition or if it would even still be there at all. But you’ve seen it, it’s real, and it feels…” I tilted my head in thought and then tasted the word, “wrong if I were to not see it too. It’s just…” I let out a breath that was a laugh, “I wouldn’t know the first thing on how to do it. Is—Is there a map…or any particular boat type?”

“If I gave you a map and a boat,” he said slowly, “you’d set out and go there?”

“Yes…” I drew out with equal length.

“Wow,” he said softly. “You have the worst kind of courage: the thick-headed determination, the ‘if I get bitten by a snake and die then so be it, at least I did it’ kind. Unfortunately, the kind of stupidity that is seen in most explorers. The kind that drives my mother mental.” There was a smile there, a dry one, but I sort of just stood there and gazed back at him awkwardly. I didn’t know how I was supposed to respond.

“Do you honestly think I’d give you a map and recommend you a boat and that would be that?”

Again, I just stood there.

“I remember your grand plans of the past. They mean well but they end badly. Like when you tried overcoming your water phobia to surprise me but you did it when no one else was around so when something went wrong you almost died. I love your courage but you cannot go to that island alone. Not because of anything supernatural, but because you’re inexperienced. Do you have a boat license? Do you know how to read a nautical chart? Do you have permission to go to someone else’s property? And then if you found your way to the island, where would you go? If you got lost or you got injured, what would you do? You couldn’t call anyone, there’s no reception there. Do you not remember what you told me when I first came to town? The things you warned me about when you heard I was interested in checking it out without knowing it properly?”

That successfully silenced me. I just wanted things to get better but it was always so complicated. Now I felt like an idiot—and worse, in front of Yunho. He was absolutely right; I didn’t know what I doing and that was dangerous. I just knew I had to do it. But that looked so stupid now. I looked down and away, the red of my cheeks only the beginning of how I felt.

“Do you really want to go to go to the island?
he asked. Do you really think it would help?”

I didn’t trust my voice but I did trust that I could give a firm nod.

“Okay.” And then after a slight pause, “I’ll take you.”

My eyes widened as I gazed up at him.

“I know it’s important. And you do have a right to see your old house.” He scratched his head a little and looked off to the side as he thought things though. “We’re really busy next week here finalising everything but maybe next weekend sometime I could meet you.”

I gazed again at the man with the rolled up sleeves and scuffed shoes who could do anything and I heard myself answer almost from afar. “Thank you.”

And he looked at me for a little bit, his face unreadable but his expression far from cold. And then, “You’re welcome,” he returned softly.


September 2013

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