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02 August 2021

Monday

Her gaze remained fixed on the hallway as her mind revisited the moments from a few minutes ago, her lips attempting to call for the man who just left but her vocal box denying it. Multitasking was what she was doing right now, her senses not in coordination with each other as every single one of them did what they felt was important.

This wasn’t how she imagined everything to be.

A hand on her shoulder made her shift her attention to the boy standing beside her. His lips were turned into an unusual frown. She managed to pull a small smile on her face, unable to witness the always happy boy looking all gloomy.

But he wasn’t a fool, right? Anyone could tell how she was holding back her tears, how her lips pressed into a thin smile were quivering. Not to forget the glossing eyes that looked back at them, proof that the dam would break any moment.

“Can I. . . Can I go to my room for a few moments?” Her voice cracked by the time she finished, and before any of them could ask her something, she left, her steps fast as if staying here for one more moment would be a sin.

Were they supposed to run after her? Yes. Would they be able to compose themselves once they saw her break apart? No. But did they want to? A million times, yes. Yet they stayed in the living room, their eyes following her figure as she climbed the stairs and then disappeared into the upper hall.

“I’m sorry, officer. She just needs some time alone. I hope you won’t mind waiting,” Namjoon said, his eyes still glancing at the stairs in his vision, hoping she would descend and ask them to stay with her while she was hurting, ask them to help her with her internal conflicts.

“Not at all, Mr. Namjoon. I understand. Woosik told me something like this would happen. The interrogation is almost done, too. The main questions have been answered,” the caramel blonde guy said, sighing, wanting to rush to his best friend and ask if he was okay.

He knew this would happen. He had a feeling that the walls Woosik built all these years would snap as soon as he got news on Eunjae. He was surprised it happened this late. He never met Eunjae personally, but with all the stories about her Woosik told him and JO, he was sure of the fact she clearly didn’t deserve what she faced. None of them did.

He remembered when he first met Woosik, a 21-year-old boy with blank eyes. Eyes that gave no idea of what he went through and what he actually was, a beautiful pair of cocoa brown that looked nothing but dead. Woosik was famous in the special forces even before he was selected as an undercover spy. The boy who was sentenced to jail for two years, the boy who leaked the details of Slander to the Crime Department. It was because of him the executives were able to trace Dong-hyun’s location and arrest him, a wanted mafia leader.

Three years. That was all it took for Woosik to become one of the best crime detectives in the area after being released from prison. Though the achievement wasn’t as big as it sounded, considering he studied for his exams during his period behind bars, it was certainly worth an applaud. He didn’t have a clean background as the eligibility criteria asked for, but considering his case of being involved in Dong-hyun’s mafia activities without choice and his contribution to the case, the legal orders were passed in his favor.

No one knew why he chose this line when he could have stayed away from all these dark things that reminded him about his past. No one except those two people who managed to break into his ice-cold walls and read his heart, who managed to learn his story and feel his pain. Woosik wanted them, the ones who ruined their lives, the ones who left his sister with scars she wouldn’t be able to recover from, dead.

Is she even alive?

It was a question Woosik asked him almost every night, a question none of them had an answer to. The three of them, without intentions, became the most powerful trio of the department, a trio who showed no mercy over humans, each with their own reasons. Reasons only they knew.

“Did Woo—I mean Officer Woosik know about Eunjae all along?” Jimin’s dry, low voice made the blonde snap out of his thoughts.

He slightly shook his head, a sad smile playing on his lips. “We had no records about her. Not until we got a hold on Drake’s right-hand man who told us their next target was Eunjae. That’s how he knew about the bomb installed in her car.”

“I don’t know what he must be going through after all this, but the way he left. . .” Taehyung trailed off. “I’m sorry, but she doesn’t deserve it. They met after so long only for him to walk out like she’s nothi—”

“Mind your words when you speak, Mr. Taehyung,” the blond snapped, his hands clenched into fists out of both anger and frustration. The audacity Taehyung had to talk about a bond he couldn’t understand. “She means the world to him. She was the only force that kept him alive when he wanted nothing more than to die. It’s their matter, and you’re no one to question it.”

“Bold of you to think we don’t have a say in our sister’s matters.” This time Jimin spoke, his eyes nowhere near the softness they once held. They were back at being their usual empty self. “I wonder who you are to have a say in all this.”

The blonde scoffed and stepped towards the silver-haired boy, his steps slow yet intimidating. The boys here surely had a big tongue, and he definitely wasn’t someone to let that slide. He reached for Jimin, his hands resting on the latter’s shoulders as he leaned his body towards his ears and whispered, “It’s Jackson Wang kid. An unexpected death is what they call me.”

***

“Unexpected death, my foot. I would have pulled out his hair if he wasn’t an officer,” Jimin gritted through his teeth, walking down the stairs to Hoseok’s room. He needed to talk to someone about his feelings, about his insecurities.

He stood in front of the door, but before he could knock, the voices from inside caught his attention. Inside the room, there was already a whole mess of feelings.

“He’s suffering, and it’s all because of us,” Hoseok said as he sighed and sat on the bed with a thump. “Jungkook was right. We never really understood him.”

“Stop it, Hoseok! We all know we tried,” Yoongi said.

“But we failed!” His voice was desperate, laced with a hint of irritation and anger. “We failed to understand our damn brother, Hyung. We unconsciously pushed him towards his demons.”

“We know we’re at fault, Yoongi, and agree or not, somewhere inside, you know this, too.” The defeated voice belonged to Jin. Hoseok had just revealed what he heard Taehyung say that day, words he wished he could erase from his memory.

“Taehyung wants to kill himself again, he said he feels like a burden to us. Our brother thinks he’s hurting us by merely existing!” It all felt like déjà vu to Hoseok, as if he had somehow travelled to the past or an alternate universe.

A laugh echoed throughout the room, mocking. “We really aren’t the good brothers we think ourselves to be.” Jin felt like laughing at himself. That day, he was mad at Taehyung for calling him unworthy of the eldest brother title. Seems like the boy wasn’t lying.

“Are you both hearing yourself? Instead of trying to bring back our Taehyung, you’re here dwelling upon your mistakes?” At this point, it seemed like Yoongi was the only sober person in the room. The other two were completely drunk on guilt.

Oh, only if they knew his internal debates, the pain he felt for Taehyung.

“What are we supposed to do, Yoongi? Can’t you see we have been hurting him for the past months? I blamed him for everything, for hurting us when it wasn’t even his fault. I said words to him I can’t ever take back and then moved on as if nothing ever happened. How could he not question me for what I said?”

Jin asked himself this every time. How could Taehyung carry on with everything as if his own brothers didn’t call him a disappointment? How could the boy not even once show them how much their words affected him, how much their words ripped his insides. Was he always like this?

Jin wondered when the boy who always used to be the one to solve any conflict, to talk out after fights, changed. He tried to recall the last time Taehyung actually talked to them, told them he was hurting, told them about how their actions made him feel terrible. He wondered when Taehyung became so distant.

And then there was Hoseok. He refused to believe he’d ever forgiven himself for the things he said to Taehyung.

“I’m so disappointed in you, Taehyung. So ashamed to even call you my brother after what you did today.”

Fuck it! He should be ashamed to call himself an older brother. He should be ashamed to even face Taehyung after everything he had said, but he just kept on living with it shamelessly. Why were they so late to realise what they were doing to the boy, to someone who had already been through immense pain ever since Jiyoung left.

They knew Taehyung felt like he was an extra, someone who just came into the world alongside Jimin, an extra child his parents never wanted. But what did they do? Instead of making him feel wanted, they blamed him for their pain. Instead of telling him that they were so lucky to have him as his brother, they told him he was a disappointment. He was a happy child, a boy with an imagination different than the world, someone who wanted to live his life to the fullest, and they ruined him. They ruined him while trying to fix themselves, while trying to find someone to blame for their miseries.

“We have to fix him, Hyung. We have to mend his scars, we have to accept his broken self,” Hoseok said. “We need to unmask his pain so that we can help him heal his open wounds.”

***

“Jae?” Taehyung asked as he hesitantly entered the room, making sure he wasn’t invading her privacy in any way.

His gaze fell on her figure snuggled on the bed, on her hands clutching the pink teddy ever so tightly. He slowly approached her and sat on the edge of the bed, his hands automatically reaching to tuck the loose strands of hair behind her ears. Her lips were shaped into a pout, her eyes puffy, the dried tears visible in the bright room.

Idiot. Didn’t even pull the curtains before sleeping.

But whom was he kidding? As if her face wasn’t shouting that she had cried herself to sleep, as if the incidents that happened a few hours ago weren’t enough to tell him how much she must have cried. Was it to assure himself, to push away the guilt none of them were with her when she was bawling her eyes out? Oh, how much he wanted to hold her in her arms and ask her to let everything out, just like she did at the rooftop of the hospital.

“I wish I could take back the things I said and did to you, Jae. I wish I could stop myself from hurting you more than you already were,” he whispered, his hands patting her head as if cradling her to sleep. “Why don’t you hate us? After everything we did, especially me, Jimin and Jungkook.”

Because I can’t, and I don’t know why, she thought. She wasn’t asleep, not after Taehyung’s hand tucked her hair back. She just didn’t have the guts to face anyone right now, the reason remaining unknown. She just revealed something no one except her knew, something even she was ashamed of admitting, something she regretted and was proud of herself for denying it.

“You’re not weak, Eunjae, and not at all a disgrace or a burden.” The words brought back memories from months back, the months when they used to hate her. It was the exact opposite of what he said to her all those times. “I should be punched for calling you names to disgrace you. I never knew you were hiding so much behind that confidence of yours.

“I called you a slut, questioned your character the day you came back after being harassed. I never knew I could stoop so low, Eunjae. I never knew I would fall in my own eyes. You. . . You went through such a tough period on your own, and I’m so, so proud of you.” He stopped, and she no longer felt his hand over her head.

All she heard were his snifflings, and she knew he must be wiping his tears right now. He hated crying. No, it wasn’t because he believed in that stupid stereotype that boys didn’t cry. He hated to shed tears because he believed he had no right to after hurting so many people in his life. He believed he deserved all the pain he was feeling and much more.

“Don’t forgive us so easily, Eunjae. Don’t forgive the devils who broke your already shattered self.” His words weren’t clear. They cracked as he spoke, and that was all she could take before a whimper left her lips.

Taehyung immediately halted as his hands rested back on her face, this time cupping her cheeks. “Hey, hey! Eunjae, it’s fine. It’s a nightmare. You’re okay.”

Exactly! She wished it was all a nightmare.

She shook her head as he made her sit, offering her a glass of water, which she accepted, before speaking. It was a nightmare, an actual one. A nightmare from which she couldn’t wake up even after countless attempts.

“Eunjae? It’s fine. We’re here.” He pulled her body into his embrace, whispering words he hoped would help her relax. What was he supposed to do now? Should he call Yoongi? Or Jin? They understood her better, right? They never intentionally hurt her. He wasn’t supposed to be with her right now. He wasn’t supposed to be with her ever. He—

“Taehyung?” Her voice came out soft yet broken, as if she was trying to make it sound stable when, in reality, it was far from that.

“Hmm?” he answered despite knowing he may not be ready for what she had to say. And he was right. He wasn’t ready for what he heard next.

“Would it have hurt less emotionally? Would it all have been better if I would have just sold myself?”

About Author

Anna

Anna is a completely hopeless romantic girl who has her brain filled with fantasies all day round. She loves to travel and would literally give up her own wedding if it means going on a trip with her best friends. She may not be the most fun to be with girl one will encounter, but once she gets close to a person, she’ll make sure to make them experience what love feels like. Her escape from reality is the world of books and writings, and ironically, that’s the place that made her shed the most tears too ’cause, let’s be honest, she’s a sucker for angst. A girl with high standards in men and a crazy aura is what she is. This is an excerpt taken from “The Hidden Tears” by Anna with permission. Read the full story here.

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