Into Your World (1/2)
Taemin/Sulli with Kai/Krystal. PG. 12,257w.
Taemin/Sulli with Kai/Krystal. PG. 12,257w.
I ride the soft wind into your world. I go right next to you and you ask where I came from. You ask so innocently, so I answer that it’s a secret. Because if we just walk together like this, wherever we go, it’ll be heaven.
As your guardian angel, I will block out that strong wind. Even if everyone turns their back against you, on hard days, I will wipe away your tears. If only I can be that kind of person, wherever we go, it’ll be heaven.
And even if I lose everything, even if life comes to a stand, and the world turns in slow motion, the reason why I will always be happy is because my forever is now you.
April 17th, 1972, present day. Taemin peeks through the curtains, his eyes anxiously searching for that one face, that one pair of eyes, that one tragic smile that would give him the energy to perform. He squints, scanning through the visages of every spectator, pausing at the ones that look familiar, rushing past those who seem new.
He sighs and gives up as he reaches the twelfth row, realizing that it would take forever to locate the one person who he wanted to see the most. He lets go of the curtain slowly and moves to pick up his old violin. He stares down at his aging hands and frowns. Life passes too fast, he thinks to himself.
Someone marches over to him, instructing him on where to stand, how to position himself, etcetera. Most of the person’s words pass through his ears aimlessly. He’s heard the same words too many times already. He knows how everything works. He knows how he will stand, once more, in the far back. He knows how he’ll only get to play those few pickup notes, and then he’ll be silent for the rest of the performance. He knows it all, and yet he doesn’t complain whatsoever.
He wishes things were different. He wishes he were allowed to play in the front. He wishes they would give him a solo someday, even if it was a few seconds long. He wishes that he could display his talent more openly. He knows he can play dozens of instruments, he knows he can play them better than everyone else in the orchestra, but he doesn’t say a thing.
Taemin knows he screwed up somewhere in life. Somewhere, he feels, the wrong turn was taken leading him to where he is now. Does he enjoy being where he is? No. Does he wish it was different? Of course. Does he believe things could still change? Not at all.
And even with the harshness of his situation, Taemin is punctual to the auditorium each and every day. He helps everyone tune their instruments, he helps everyone prepare for that night’s show, and he does all this daily. Taemin knows each song by heart. He can play each note on any instrument perfectly.
Music is Taemin’s muse. And though he’d rather be the star of his own spectacles, he’s content with everything he has. Taemin smiles to himself as he proceeds to his music stand, setting up the sheet music automatically. He knows he has potential. He knows he can make it to big places. He knows he’s already made it, in fact.
Taemin stares to the front of the stage where the maestro preps the floutists. He’s already here. He’s already performing in on of the biggest theatres in Korea, for one of the biggest audiences nationwide. But, he wishes all the spectators were here to see him perform. Him and only him.
His dream is literally metres away. He can see it. He can feel it in his grasp. And though Taemin is already in his late twenties, he knows there’s still time. He’s not the youthful soul he was a dozen years ago when he first joined the orchestra, but he’s still got a fire burning in him. He still has purpose. He still has a chance.
As he raises his violin to his chin, Taemin’s eyes scan the audience once more. He doesn’t search for long as his eyes quickly fall upon two young ladies quickly making their way down the aisles towards their seats. His eyes fall upon the taller one, the one with the ebony hair, and he smiles. She came, he thinks to himself. She came.
And as the music begins playing, and his few dozen notes echo into the grand theatre, his eyes connect with hers, and she grins at him. She raises her gloved hand lightly, to wave at him discreetly. He nods towards her, and he sees her sink into her seat.
And, just like every night, Taemin feels better about his situation. I am here because of her, he thinks again. She is suddenly the centre of his universe. His pessimistic feelings start to change for the better, and he knows it’s okay. It’s okay that things didn’t go exactly as he had wanted them to. It’s okay that he’s in the back. It’s okay that he only gets to play a few notes each night. It’s all okay.
Choi Jinri makes everything better. He suddenly feels like a teenager again, his heart racing with adrenaline, and his eyes widening at every loud sound coming from the instruments surrounding him. He his here. He is taking the steps towards his dream. And he knows he’ll make it someday. He knows.
He settles his eyes on her once more, knowing that there is still a while ‘til his next notes. He sees her squint, and he grimaces. He knows she’s trying again. Next to her, the other girl raises her hand and creates a medley of signs, all of which Taemin understands.
“He just finished his part.”
Jinri nods and moves her own hands a little.
“It was perfect.”
The first girl, Jinri’s best friend Soojung, gracefully makes another sign with her fist.
“As if you heard it.”
This time Jinri looks over and grins bashfully, gently creating forms with her own hands once more.
“I don't need to hear it to know he's amazing.”
Taemin frowns again, and pulls his violin back to his chin, trying to gaze away from the silent conversation that was taking place before him. He shook his head. He was here, but there was a long way to go for both him and her.
In the audience, Jinri thought similarly, her hands curling into fists as the tears began forming in her eyes. And again, like every other night of the week, Jinri sits through hours of music and orchestrated performances.
And she hears nothing.
May 23rd, 1961, eleven years ago. Taemin trudges through the throngs of people bustling about, in hope of finding a spot to sit and relax. With him, he carries his treasured violin, the one his father gave him when he was just older than a toddler. The sun beats down on him, and beads of sweat fall from his forehead as his eyes scour the surroundings, searching for some shade.
He walks for another half an hour before coming across a quaint little park. He spots a grand tree in the distance and his eyes widen in excitement. His pace quickens and he reaches the soothing shade in no time. Sighing gratefully, he places his violin case on the grass, as he slowly leans on the tree and sinks to the cool ground. His eyes close and his thoughts slowly begin to clear.
It’s been a few weeks since he's left home. He tells his parents that he is off on an adventure through a letter. He knows they will oppose his sudden decision of leaving for the big city. But, he’s following his dream, and he needs to go his own way now. In his message for them, he writes that one day he will return when the time is right.
Taemin, now eighteen-years-old, smiles to himself at the thought of the world that awaits him. His goal is to join a beautiful orchestra, and play for hundreds of spectators. He dreams of the spotlight, the immense pressure, the adrenaline, the exhilaration, the music.
Opening his eyes, he slowly opens his violin case, taking out the old instrument and smoothly touching the tense strings. She is his treasure, his pride, his joy. This violin means the world to Taemin. He quietly puts it to his chin, gingerly rubbing the strings with the wooden wand. The sound that is produced is perfect. He grins to himself. He knows he can make it. He’s a great musician. He knows it.
He sways his head to the melody, noticing a few people turn to stare at him. He doesn’t mind the attention. He needs to get used to it anyways. The harmony of the music carries him away and he finds himself lost in each sweet note.
“Wow, you’re great!” a voice exclaims all of a sudden from next to him. Startled, Taemin stops playing, and stares wide-eyed at the angelic girl that is inching towards him.
“W-where did you come from?” he mumbles, glancing around.
“I was sitting on the other side of the tree! You play the violin so well,” she says, clapping her hands.
“Th-thank you,” he replies, still taken aback by the girl’s sudden appearance.
“Are you new around here? I’ve never seen you before?” she murmurs, cocking her head to the side.
Taemin nods cautiously. “I only got here two weeks ago. I-”
“That explains a lot,” the girl interrupts him. “I’m Jung Soojung. It’s nice to meet you!” She sticks out her hand and he hesitantly shakes it.
“I’m Lee Taemin,” he answers. He quirks an eyebrow at her as she inches closer, smoothing her long dress as she settles in the grass next to him. Confusion clouds his mind. Why is she so upfront? Doesn’t she have any shame?
“What brings you here, Taemin?” she asks.
“Uh, dreams and adventure. I come from a very small village where there aren’t many opportunities for budding musicians. I came here to play music and-”
“You want to play in the big city orchestra, right?” she declares all of a sudden, a smile growing on her cheeks. “Why else would you come here?”
“Yeah, that’s exactly what I’d like to do. I don’t know if I have a chance though-”
“Don’t be modest! You’re such a great musician!” she says. “Taemin, you know Seoul’s Arts Theatre? It’s the huge building near-”
“Of course I know it! I was hoping to audition there someday,” he replies.
“Well, that day is here. My friend’s dad owns the theatre. I’m sure she can get you in!” Soojung whispers dramatically.
Taemin’s heart stops, and his eyes widen. The blood rises in his cheeks and he feels his hands begin to shake. “I-I-”
“My friend is right with me. One sec!”
Taemin’s eyes follow as Soojung disappears behind the tree once more, only to reappear moments later. Behind her, she pulls along another girl, this one taller, with paler skin and darker hair.
Taemin’s heart freezes again, but for different reasons this time. He stares up at the blushing girl and he is mesmerized. She has a quaint smile gracing her lips, her gloved hands cover her burning cheeks as Soojung pulls her down to the ground.
“Taemin, this is Jinri. Her dad is the owner of the Arts Theatre. Each night, a grand orchestra performs there for a few hours. It’s so magnificent! I’m sure Jinri can recommend you,” Soojung explains, nudging her head who nods shyly.
Taemin smiles at her. “Thank you so much. I can’t even express how much this means to me.” He takes her hand in his, and squeezes it genuinely. Jinri stares up at him, her eyes wide and cheeks flushed. “Thank you so much,” Taemin whispers. He notices how whenever he speaks, her eyes drift to his lips.
He waits for her to respond, but she just stares at him, nodding her head occasionally, and then staring helplessly back at Soojung. “It’s no problem, Taemin,” Soojung speaks up. “You can come by anytime.”
Taemin nods and his eyes turn back to the girl whose hands he still holds. He opens his mouth again, and furrows his eyebrows in confusion when her eyes quickly move to his lips once more. Before he is able to speak, he feels her being pulled away.
“We’ll get going now, Taemin,” Soojung says, standing up and pulling Jinri with her. “See you soon!”
Soojung turns to leave, and Taemin steals a glance at the taller girl that Soojung holds by the hand. He raises his hand and waves at Jinri, who shyly waves back. As the two girls walk off into the distance, Taemin shudders at the nervous butterflies that form in the pit of his stomach. He attributes his sudden anxiety to his upcoming audition.
Taemin smiles to himself and stares at the retreating figures of the two girls. He notices Soojung’s hands moving in the air. He squints, trying to understand the commotion, and he freezes when Jinri turns to stare back at him.
He knows then that the butterflies in his stomach are not fluttering around because he’s nervous.
“You think you, a little teenager, can join my orchestra?” the man snorts. Taemin frowns, but nods nonetheless. The man shakes his head. “You think you have talent? Your violin looks like it’s about to fall apart.”
“Please let me play,” Taemin says. “If I’m bad, I’ll walk out without another word.”
The man shrugs and motions for him to begin. The butterflies in Taemin’s stomach flutter anew, and he closes his eyes, taking a deep breath and gathering his cluttered thoughts. His hands are shaking when he pulls his instrument to his chin. He is nervous. He is worried. He is scared.
Slowly, he begins playing, feeling the man’s eyes on him. The first note comes out sour and Taemin winces. He hears the maestro chuckle and his eyes fly open. His music halts and he stares down at the person who is not laughing at him.
“Listen,” the man begins. “You seem very ambitious and all, but this theatre is the biggest in Seoul. Only the best play here, and you’re too young. I wouldn’t even have considered an audition for you, but the theatre’s owner approached me upon request from his daughter. I have to follow his orders, but this is still my orchestra, and you’re just not ready. I think we’re done here.”
“Please, Sir,” Taemin pleads, his eyes full of sorrow as he watches the man walk off. “I can do it,” he whispers to himself, but his hands are limp.
Taemin turns his head, quietly walking off the grand stage. It is then that his eyes fall on her for the first time since their meeting. He stops walking and gazes at her longingly. She glances back at him, and he notices her hands motioning for him to go back, and play again.
Taemin grimaces and cocks his head to the right, judging how far the maestro has made it on his ascent of the stairs. He shakes his head and turns back to the girl. “I can’t do it, Jinri,” he murmurs quietly.
Her eyebrows furrow as she quickly covers the distance between them. She reaches for his hand, pushing him back to the centre of the stage. She pats his back and smiles encouragingly before disappearing behind the curtains. Taemin stares back at her, his mouth hanging open and his heart beating faster.
Pursing his lips, and taking a deep breath, he begins to play once more. And slowly, he gets lost in his music. His eyes close naturally, and he leisurely begins swaying to the sweet melody of the violin. Each note tugs at his soul and Taemin grins to himself as the music takes him away.
It’s when he hears the distant clapping that he opens his eyes and stops playing. Taemin’s eyes quickly locate the maestro, who nods knowingly. “You start tonight, boy.”
The butterflies reform in his stomach, and Taemin bows furiously. “Thank you,” he mumbles. “Thanks you so much.” And then his eyes meet Jinri’s and he notices her clapping quietly.
When he hugs her, she is taken aback, and doesn’t know how to react. When he holds her tighter, her eyes widen, but she lets his head settle into the crook of her neck and she quietly rubs his back. When he showers quiet whispers of thanks in her ear, she frowns. She just wishes that she could hear the sound of his happiness.
Taemin jumps up and down, his loose clothes jostling this way and that. He peeks out the curtains and grins widely at the spectators that are gathering. In his mind, he’s running over the many notes that he just perfected hours ago.
The excitement is welling in his heart, and the adrenaline begins pumping through him. He’s ready. He’s ready for his life to begin. The organizers quietly point him to his spot, instructing him carefully on the night that was ahead. Taemin nods along to each word, his eyes racing to take in everything. He knows he only gets to play a few notes tonight, but he believes that someday he’ll get his own time to shine. He doesn’t know when the day will come, but he knows it will arrive sometime sooner or later.
“Are you nervous?” a voice pipes up behind him. Taemin turns to greet Soojung and Jinri, who smile back at him.
“I’m a little nervous,” Taemin answers the talkative girl. “It’s just a lot… I can’t believe any of this. It’s so surreal.”
Soojung pats his arm. “It’s all real. It’ll probably take awhile to sink in.” Her attention turns to his violin. “You’re playing background, right?”
“Yeah, I am. I got assigned various little roles throughout the songs. Besides the violin, I will be playing a dozen other instruments tonight.” Taemin chuckles. “It’s intense.”
“You can do it. I- we believe in you,” Soojung says, pulling Jinri closer.
“Thank you,” he whispers. “I wish my parents were here to see me.” Taemin’s eyes drift to the violin that’s sitting in his ancient case. “My grandpa dreamt of being a musician, but never got the chance. He passed this violin on to my Dad, but my Dad was never very artistic so I ended up with it.”
“It’s really old,” Soojung remarks.
“It’s reliable. It means a lot to me,” Taemin replies.
“Are you sure you don’t want to use a new one tonight?” Soojung questions.
“No,” Taemin answers, looking up at her. “And I’m starting on the harp anyways, so it won’t appear until later on in the evening. I think we can do it.”
“Well, good luck Taemin,” Soojung says, ruffling his hair. “Jinri and I will be cheering you on!”
Taemin nods and his eyes meet Jinri’s again. She grins at him shyly, a blush gently colouring her pale cheeks. He quietly takes a step closer to her. “I hope you enjoy it,” he murmurs.
Her eyes widen all of a sudden and her attention shifts to Soojung, who quickly pulls her away. “We’re off, Taemin! You’ll do great!” she yells as the two disappear into the audience.
Taemin sighs to himself, moving his hand across the strings of his violin. When someone shudders him to his spot, Taemin begins to sweat. He can hear the buzz coming from the other side of the closed curtains. His hands get into position, and he watches as a maestro makes his way into the centre of the stage.
The time has finally come, he thinks to himself. And before another thought can emerge in his mind, the curtains open, the music begins, and so does his life.
He wants to take her out. It’s the last performance of the night, and when the curtains open, his eyes fall upon her once more, sitting in the third row as usual. Taemin doesn’t understand why Jinri comes to watch the same performances every day. Obviously, she doesn’t have to pay the huge ticket prices, but Taemin wonders why it hasn’t become boring for her yet.
His eyes are glued to her throughout the night. It’s been a few weeks since he first joined the orchestra, and Taemin has already memorized each note on the sheet music. Sometimes, he wishes that he could get the chance to play new material each day. He knows the season will soon come to an end and preparations will begin for the new songs of the upcoming months. He decides that he’ll just look forward to tomorrow, and not whine about today.
When everyone stands to bow, Taemin’s eyes are still on the girl. As all the spectators stand up to applaud the musicians, he watches as Jinri looks around and then, standing up, joins the sea of clapping people. Taemin doesn’t understand the expression that colours her face when their eyes meet. He stares at her until a red curtain obstructs his view.
People begin to buzz around him, congratulating each other on the great performance. Taemin smiles at the well-wishers and quickly gathers his belongings, picking up his violin case and his coat. Bowing to the senior musicians, he hurriedly says his goodbyes and joins the crowd of spectators that are exiting the building.
His eyes search frantically for one person, but to no avail. By the time he makes his way out of the theatre, he gives up. His shoulders slouch in defeat and he sighs to himself. Today was supposed to be the night, he thinks.
The walk to his small apartment seems longer. He trudges through the streets, swinging his violin case back and forth in a rhythmic motion. When he passes by the park, he gazes towards the sky and grins at the many stars that twinkle at him.
He wants to be a star someday too.
It is then that he catches sight of another person – a girl – standing a few hundred metres ahead of him. Her head is tilted towards the sky as well, a quaint smile gracing her lips. He recognizes her long raven hair right away, and his heart freezes.
She doesn’t notice him until he stands right next to her. She lets out a little shriek, and then a sigh of relief when she identifies him. He grins sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck.
For a moment they stand in the silence of the night, staring awkwardly away from each other. Taemin quietly peeks over at her, noticing how she shivers ever so slightly as the wind caresses her skin. He glances down at the coat in his hand, and, after hesitating momentarily, he drapes it over he shoulders. A slow smile forms on her lips, and he nods shyly towards a bench in the distance.
Taemin grabs Jinri’s hand with confidence. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. He doesn’t understand why he’s doing it. He doesn’t know what he will do next. But, as he pulls her towards the wooden sitting area, he does know one thing. It all feels right.
“I’ve been wanting to talk to you for awhile now,” he says when the settle onto the bench. “Umm… first of all, thank you for everything Jinri.” He glances at her and notices her eyes on his mouth again. “Is everything okay?” he questions, cocking his head to the side in confusion.
Her eyes are wide and nervous as she stares at him. She opens her mouth, but no words come out, and Taemin’s heart begins to beat faster as he watches her struggle.
“Is something wrong? Do you want to say something?” he asks again, reaching for her hand.
When he touches her, she freezes. She shakes her head and then glances around before pulling her hand out of his.
“Did I do something wrong?” he queries, anxiety slowly starting to build within him.
It’s then that she moves her hand to her hand. Pointing at her ear, Jinri shakes her head, a bittersweet smile colouring her cheeks. Taemin furrows his eyebrows in confusion. Once more Jinri points to her ear, and shakes her finger at him, and that’s when it dawns on him.
“You can’t hear, can you?” he says to himself. His mind begins sifting through the past few weeks, and slowly the puzzle pieces begin to fit together.
That’s why she doesn’t talk. That’s why she doesn’t acknowledge me until I’m right next to her. That’s why Soojung talks for her. That’s why Soojung was making those hand signs. Jinri is deaf.
His mind goes into overdrive and she watches as he takes in the gravity of the situation. It’s a surprise to her when he gazes at her intensely, and raises his hand, making some awkward movements with his fingers.
Her eyes widen and she moves her own hands to reply. “You know sign language?”
A brilliant smile appears on Taemin’s face, and he nods. “My grandpa can’t hear, so I learned it a while ago. I’m not very good,” he signs with his hands.
Tears begin to form in Jinri’s eyes as she moves to answer him. But, before she can do anything, Taemin reaches for her hand and quietly puts it to his chest.
She doesn’t need to be able to hear to feel how fast his heart is racing, to understand the tremendous love he feels for her in that instant. And even when he mumbles a few words of adoration, she nods along to the beat of his heart. His voice may not reach her, but his feelings sure do.
“Why didn’t you tell me earlier of her condition,” Taemin whines as he tunes violin. Leaning back on his chair, he leisurely places his legs on the coffee table.
Soojung glares at him before swatting his feet away. “This is my sister’s house, okay? She’s a big neat freak. I don’t need you getting me kicked out.”
Taemin chuckles, and returns his feet to the table. Soojung rolls her eyes and shakes her head at him. “You didn’t answer me.”
She slumps back into the soft sofa, gathering her feet and placing her chin on her knees. “Jinri is pretty shy about it. She’s getting good at hiding it, but I still help her out from time to time. She really did want to tell you about it, but she was too scared to approach you.”
“Why?” Taemin questions as he quietly picking up a cloth to clean up his instrument.
“It’s pretty obvious why…”
“I haven’t caught on yet,” Taemin mumbles, glancing up at her.
“Ugh, you boys are so silly,” Soojung complains. “Jinri’s got a little liking for you, so she’s a bit hesitant around you. I guess she didn’t want to turn you off.”
Taemin furrows his eyebrows. “Why would she think that?”
Soojung sighs. “Does it really matter? I mean, it turns out you know sign language, and so everything works out in the end, right? If something works out, you should never question the methods used to get there. Just accept it, embrace it, love it. You have to live with it now.”
Taemin laughs, but nods along to her words. “I’m not complaining,” he says. “Of course, it’ll take a while to get used to the fact that I have to use sign language around her and not actually speak, but-”
“You can speak; she’ll understand you,” Soojung interrupts him.
Taemin’s eyes widen. “What do you mean?”
“Jinri wasn’t born deaf, Taemin. She lived a good five years before losing her hearing. So if you speak to her, she can read your lips,” Soojung explains. “She’s very good at it.”
“I-I don’t understand. How did she lose her hearing?”
Soojung shrugs. “It’s a long story.”
“I have time.”
“I probably don’t even remember it properly.”
“I just need a gist.”
“You’re pretty persistent, aren’t you Taemin?”
He chuckles. “I’m curious.”
Soojung sighs and sits up in her seat. “Well, Jinri’s dad owned the theatre even before she was born. Jinri spent her childhood there. Being there every night, you probably know how loud the sound gets sometimes. At such a young age, she was exposed to that constantly, so her hearing gradually began to deteriorate.”
“Why did she spend all her time there?” Taemin asks.
“Jinri’s mother was really music savvy. She used to love listening to instrumental orchestras and opera. That’s mostly why Jinri’s dad even created the band.” Soojung pauses for a moment, thinking back. “Jinri and her mom were always really close. Mrs. Choi liked to teach Jinri the names of all the different instruments and, by the time she was a toddler, Jinri began to learn how to play certain instruments. She was really good.”
“She must’ve been,” Taemin whispers.
“Oh, she was amazing. I was always jealous of her,” Soojung exclaimed. “Jinri really inherited her mother’s passion for music, and everything in life began to seem beautiful. By five years-old she could play a couple of instruments, and she spent each day listening to the orchestra live. By that time, her hearing was bad enough. Her mom began to notice and started keeping Jinri at home, and soon Jinri began spending less time at her dad’s theatre. And then…”
“Well, Jinri’s mom became really sick when Jinri was really young. I remember how much Jinri used to cry, but she couldn’t do anything. Her mother passed away quietly and Jinri was a wreck,” Soojung murmured. “And so she went to the only place she knew she would find some sanctuary.”
“Her dad’s theatre,” Taemin says quietly.
“Yeah,” Soojung nods. “I remember her dad had just bought a pair of speakers. Back then, it was really a big deal to own some. They were so expensive. Jinri and I used to stare at them as if they were some treasure.” Soojung smiled and shook her head. “They were a bit faulty though and her dad had instructed us to never touch them. He had a professional hired who would turn them on the right way. Otherwise they would blast wildly and it was dangerous. That day when she lost her mother, Jinri went to the theatre, and in the hopes of drowning out the world, she turned up the speakers all the way while she was next to them. She was merely six years old back then so she was still young and innocent. She didn’t know how everything worked. The sound that came out initially was deafening, literally. I remember it so vividly. I remember walking into the theatre, and there she was a hundred metres away, sprawled on the wooden stage.”
“She was okay! Her ear was bleeding though and by the time I got to her, she was totally out of it. And I called her over and over again and she never answered me. And so I felt I lost her, but then her eyes opened and she noticed my mouth moving. And she cried. We cried actually. She hasn’t heard a single thing since then.”
“The sound from the speaker was that loud?” Taemin asked, his mouth wide in awe.
“When it was turned on it would let out this screeching noise. And since Jinri was right next to it, the sound blasted her ear-drums and permanently damaged her hearing.” Soojung’s eyes connected with his. “It’s so ironic that a person who loved music so much, ended up losing her most valuable instrument in the end – her hearing.”
“It was the same with my grandpa, actually,” Taemin began. “He loved music, but his hearing deteriorated with age. He wasn’t happy about it, and though he could still hear a little, it bothered him that he couldn’t enjoy his music the same way anymore. It bothered me too…”
“Life is so weird sometimes,” Soojung whispered. “Jinri still attends each performance nonetheless; hoping that one day the sound will reach her.”
“There are probably some remedies-”
“There aren’t. Hearing aids don’t help her at all,” Soojung explained. “Taemin, we’re all just human and technology has so much potential. There’s always time. One day I’m sure she’ll get her chance to hear again.”
“She will hopefully,” Taemin concludes. “Can she speak?”
“I mean, she wasn’t born deaf, so she obviously knows how to speak, right?”
Soojung nods. “She knows how to speak. She still remembers how to play instruments too in fact. But, she’s very self-conscious about it. She can’t hear herself so she’s afraid that she’ll say something wrong.”
Taemin leans back in his chair, finally pulling his feet off the coffee table. He cautiously puts his violin back into its case, and stands up. “Thanks for the tea,” he says, smiling down at Soojung.
“No problem,” she replies, getting up from the sofa as well. She pats his arm. “Please keep her happy. I put my faith in you.”
“I will do my best,” he murmurs. “I will do my best.”
“I guess you’ll be brushing up on your sign language now? You can ask me for help if you want,” Soojung says, leading him to the door.
“If I have any trouble, I’ll know who to ask,” he chuckles.
Soojung grins. “Thank you for coming along, Taemin. I think she has a reason to smile now. Thank you for being that reason.” She sighs. “And please take care of your ears. Sitting amongst that loud orchestra must be hard on them.”
“I will,” he answers. “They suddenly mean a lot more to me. I don’t think I’d be able to go on without my music. And one day I will make sure Jinri gets the chance to hear her music again too.”
They sit together underneath the tree in the park. He peeks at her cautiously now and then and notices her glancing back at times. The breeze is calm, and the weather seems jovial.
There’s something on his mind, something he’s been wanting to utter for a while now, but he finds himself at a loss for words. Around them, the park is buzzing with people who are enjoying the beautiful warm day.
He leans his head a little, awkwardly resting it on her shoulder. He can feel her breath catch and her body freezes when he reaches for her hand. When she gazes at him, he moves his mouth slowly, allowing her to read each word on his lips.
“I want to hear your voice.”
Jinri recoils, her eyebrows furrow and she quickly shakes her head. Wagging her index finger at him, she lets out a low huff. Taemin frowns and sits straighter, his back still glued to the tree trunk.
“Please?” he signs with his hands.
She sighs and stares at him with a dismayed expression. Her hands move to make shapes similar to his. “It’s not fair because I don’t get to hear your voice.”
Taemin grimaces, and slouches down to the ground. He quietly retracts his hand from hers, disappointment very clear on his features. Jinri notices and chuckles a little at his childish demeanour. She quietly reaches over and runs her hand through his thick locks, caressing his cheek with her fingertips.
“You’re mean,” Taemin mutters to himself.
Jinri leans forward, trying to get a better view of his mouth. She waits for him to speak again, and, when he doesn’t, she sighs longingly.
“T-Taemin?” she whispers, her voice shaking a little. When Taemin turns to gawk at her, she moves her hands in the air. “Did I pronounce that right?” she signs.
Taemin nods vigorously, a smile materializing on his face. He turns his body towards her, expecting more, but she shakes her head mischievously.
“That’s enough,” she explains through her hands. “One day I want to hear you say my name.”
He pouts a little at her, but grins when she laughs again. Her voice is perfect, he thinks to himself. He hopes that, one day, he gets the chance to hear her once again.
Silently, he takes his violin out of its case, ignoring the questioning gaze Jinri sends towards him. He pulls out the wooden wand and quickly places both objects on the girl’s lap. Settling back into his position, he waits expectantly for her to play the instrument.
Jinri frowns at him, not following his intents. “Play it,” he signs at her. “I know you can do it.”
“What if my notes are flat, and-” Jinri begins to ask with her hands, but Taemin interrupts her with a little nod of his head, prompting her to take a chance at it.
Reluctantly bringing the instrument to her chin, she quietly moves the wooden wand against the strings, creating a perfect torn melody. The violin screeches, but Taemin closes his eyes and sways his head to the sound anyways.
He knows she can’t hear her own music. He knows that she can’t hear his music either. In his mind, he can hears the song he has composed for her play over and over again. He hopes that one day she’ll be able to hear it, that she’ll be able to hear herself as well.
Taemin opens his eyes to gaze at her, and she glances at him, searching for a sign of approval as she plays. He smiles at her, nodding along to the harmony. He knows that she probably can play really well, but the fact that she can’t hear her pitch throws her off a little.
He admits he likes her music. He loves the sound as it carelessly wafts along with the wind, flowing through the airy medium and reaching his ears. And when she stops playing, his hand reaches over to hold hers. Love is one thing that needs no medium to be conveyed.