“My name is Inoue Mao…and I’ve had my heart broken.” She let out a sigh looking around the room nervously. Seriously she couldn’t believe something like Broken Hearts anonymous actually existed but well here she was.
“Welcome Mao.” The leader of their group, a blond girl with her hair in at least 12 different braids atop her head, said. The majority of this group was girls actually other than the one guy, though Mao supposed something like that had to be obvious. It wasn’t like guys even got their hearts broken. “Why are you here?”
It was rather blunt but it wasn’t like she hadn’t been prepared. A friend had told her all about the first meeting. Erika had snickered when she’d asked if that question was a little too blunt, responding with “If they didn’t find out what you were hoping to gain how could they ever help you Mochi?”
She took a deep breath. For the past three months, since she’d broken up with Hiroki she’d only heard one of two things from her friends and family:
1) “Oh dear, sweetie, I’m so sorry.”
Why were they sorry? She didn’t understand. Hiroki was the one who had to be sorry. He left a doctor. Hell, he’d let 200K walk away from him. If he’d married her and then divorced her he could have gotten a lot of money. Seriously, it would have been a little more bearable to be divorced than left at the altar. She would have paid that alimony (because she made more than him and insisted they didn’t need a prenup), to avoid the humiliation that had happened that fateful day.
2) “Mao! I can see you’ve been eating well lately! I always did like you with a little more meat on your bones!”
When did it become acceptable for people to comment on weight gain? As long as she could remember, anyone that was not her mother or her best friend could pretty much go jump off a cliff if they were going to bring up her weight. Yet people thought because she used to be big and then lost all the weight that when she put it on again they were allowed to make rude comments about how chubby her cheeks were.
When she glanced up around the room she caught the eye of the guy across her who was peering at her expectantly and also like she’d been spending too much time thinking. She cringed, “Sorry I went off into my own world…” Her apology was well received, of course it was. These people in this room had essentially just come to talk about their problems, they couldn’t be picky. “I’m here to move on.” She looked up after saying the words, wringing her hands together, playing with her fingernails. “I mean…it’s been three months.” She added softly almost a bit ashamed. She expected gasps of awe that she usually got from people, telling her it was time to get back on the horse. “I don’t want to get back on a horse. I want to go back to feeling like everything’s okay. I’m relying unhealthily on food. I’ve gained like 20 pounds in the past three months. I’m just really sick of letting one event control my life. Quite frankly, I save lives for a living and I don’t want to keep debating whether I myself want to live like this anymore. So I need to move on because if I don’t now I’m pretty sure I’ll never be happy again.”
When she’d told her mother these same words, her mother had laughed, called her a drama master, and walked away asking if she wanted some tea. Mao had cried right then and there.
As she looked around her now she saw there was no judgment in the eyes of the people around her. They were looking upon her kindly. In a way hearing others stories made hers feel kind of small (at least her ex-boyfriend wasn’t a serial killer who she had willingly helped hide from the police), but it also made her realize that she wasn’t the only person who felt miserable in the world.
She smiled at the girl beside her when a voice called out over everyone else. “What happened?”
Her eyes flickered over to the direction of the only boy in the room. “My fiancé left me at the altar.” She didn’t want to say it really, but it wouldn’t make sense for her to be at this meeting if she wasn’t willing to be honest with these complete strangers.
At that a small collective gasp did go around the room. “As cliché as it is, that is pretty much one of the worst things that can happen to a girl.” The girl beside her comfortingly held her hand and Mao shrugged. “Well…at least it isn’t a serial killing boyfriend.” She added in a low-whisper and at that Mao did have to crack a small smile.
That was true. At least Hiroki wasn’t planning on killing anyone around her. That had to count for something.
After the session she slipped on her coat and got ready to leave when she was approached by the guy who had sat across from her. “Hi?”
“Hi Mao.” He remembered her name, she giggled a little nervously. Well this made things more awkward, because she didn’t really remember his name. Everyone did go around introducing themselves earlier in the class. God why didn’t she pay attention? Oh right…she’d been thinking about the way Hiroki used to place flutter kisses on the inside of her arm whenever she did something really nice for him. Like let him change the channel, or cook his meat for him at Korean barbecue. “You don’t know my name do you?”
“No.” She agreed. She was waiting for him to introduce himself but he didn’t. He just stared blankly at her, and then took a deep breath and rolled his eyes. “What?” She questioned softly when he glared back at her.
“Why are all women the same?” He marched away from her before she had a chance to redeem herself.
Not that she would have tried. She wasn’t in the mood to pretend that she was something she wasn’t.
She figured to this guy, who had probably been really hurt by some woman, the fact she didn’t remember his name was pretty painful.
“We’re going to do a little exercise. Everyone pair up!” Mao turned towards Satomi beside her but she’d already paired up with the other girl beside her and then Mao turned the other way and was too late. Catching sight of her frantic glances around the room, Anna the leader sighed and shouted out. “Mao- don’t worry. Jun hasn’t got a partner yet either. Go move and sit beside him for this exercise will you?” She nodded and glanced around for a girl looking at her but they were all looking at someone else…hell which girl was Jun?
“I’m here.” Oh. It was a guy! No wonder! Relieved she’d found her partner she got up and started marching towards him but the distinct atmosphere of hostility coming off him as she approached made her roll her lips inwards.
“Hi Jun.” He made no move to recognize her greeting other than shifting over a little on his side to be farther away from the chair she was taking a seat on. “What are we doing?” He turned to look at her sourly as if telling her ‘Do-I-look-like-I-know?’
“Everyone’s paired up! Good now! We’re going to play out the reunion.”
“The reunion?” She muttered softly as she felt Jun sit up straighter beside her, a spark flashing in his eyes.
“What’s the one moment you’re dreading more than anything?” Anna asked around the room as they all looked downwards. If Mao was confused about the meaning of the reunion before she wasn’t now. “That’s right, one day you’re most likely going to see the person who broke your heart again- and what are you going to do? Burst out crying? Run and hide? Or are you going to stand there and smile? Are you going to be the bigger person? Are you going to prove that something you thought was the worst decision of your life was actually the best?” Anna’s words resounded within the room. A few girls were still staring at the ground, Mao couldn’t really blame them. “Better yet, you can win…they say sometimes that no one wins in a break up. They’re all lying. Someone wins…so make sure it’s you.” Mao had admit she wanted to see Nari look regretful and disappointed with the way his life turned out simply because of that one choice he made that day. “So guys…practice because we’re going to need all the help we can get.”
Jun turned towards her, hands folded on his chest. “You want to go first?”
“Does that mean I’m your ex or I’m myself?”
“I’ll be your ex.” She wondered what this guy’s last name was. Not like she was allowed to ask, it was one of the unwritten rules of Broken Hearts Anonymous. You were allowed to know each other without really knowing anything about each other. Like that perfect sort of stranger that was a cross between a friend and a psychiatrist. “Where would you two meet up, if ever?”
“Do we need to make it that realistic?”
“I was thinking outer space but you know-“ Mao rolled her eyes. Jun looked the slightest bit happier that he’d annoyed her. She’d just had to get to stuck with the one boy in this whole groups session didn’t she?
Speaking of, it made her want to ask him a lot of questions like what was he doing here? What girl fucked him up bad enough that he thought he needed this speaking therapy…not that he spoke a lot. In the two times she’d been here he just mostly listened. He was kind of creepy. Who just sat there listening to their sad stories all day?
Then again who was she to judge? “We both shop at the only farmer’s market in the city.”
If she was watching him closely she wouldn’t have caught the way he subtly rolled his eyes. “Posh.”
“Being a doctor makes you want to take care of yourself.”
“I thought you said you didn’t want to be alive anymore.” He caught her off-guard. She peered closer at him, there was definitely something strange about Jun. He looked out-of-place quite obviously.
“I’m dead emotionally, doesn’t mean I’d like to die physically.” Why did everyone confuse the two? She could live out the rest of her life emotionally dead, she just didn’t want to. “So are we going to do this or not?” This time she was the one folding her arms over her chest and leaning back in the chair.
Jun let out a huff of a breath and ran his hands through his hair. When his hands were back safely at his side he turned his gaze away from her lap and let out a loud squeal. “Oh my god, kale on discount!” Mao was really tempted to giggle but she didn’t because he was making fun of the fact she shopped at farmer’s markets and little did he know she actually really loved kale.
“Sorry Nari…I saw it first.” His eyes sidled over to look at her. There was no way Jun and Nari looked similar but she tried her best to envision Nari in his place. Jun was a little bit taller, Nari was a bit more muscular. Their sense of style was just as different. Jun looked like he had just woken up and dressed in plaid. Nari always looked like he was running off a beach…with a shirt on, unless it was summer.
Nari never ever lost an opportunity to show his abs off. “Mao.” He sounded a bit like him though. Jun had that same tone when it came to shock. It was a flat sort of surprise. If you didn’t listen closely you’d think it was just a statement but Mao had come to understand how to decipher the emotions of one-toned voices with Nari. “What are you doing here?”
“Hi Nari.” She grinned, leaning forward to shrug nonchalantly. “Shopping…like you.”
“How long has it been?”
“Not long enough.” The first hit. She saw Jun flinch and smirk proudly at her. It was easier to say mean things to Jun, it wasn’t like he actually was Narimiya Hiroki. She did have to admit though, in a way this was helpful. Even if she didn’t end up saying these things to him in real life, at least she would have got it off her chest this way. “How’s life been going?”
“Oh you know, I’m sleeping with Victoria Secret models.” At that she did end up snickering rather loudly, disturbing the pair beside them who gave them a dirty look. “You?”
How was she going to top Victoria Secret models? She pretended to look as if she had a secret and hid her face behind her palm and leaned closer to Jun’s ear. “Don’t tell anyone, but Ryan Gosling and I are pretty much engaged.”
She was happy to see she’d managed to make Jun smile at her. Sure it looked like the type of smile that was holding back a ‘you’re-so-stupid’ laugh but hell he just looked happy for the first time. She’d been wondering if he was what her future looked like, sour and angry all the time. “You are so typical.”
Just like that she knew it was over. She didn’t know if she’d won or anything but hell it felt better even just joking about it. It kind of trivialized the future experience in her mind. So she shrugged jokingly. “I don’t know man. Why are all women the same?” He pushed her arm lightly shaking his head. “Your turn…where would you meet your femme fatale?”
“I’m actually meeting up with her next week.”
“Why?” He looked up at her a bit perturbed. “Sorry for being nosy but I wouldn’t touch my ex with a ten foot pole.”
“Well…your ex probably wasn’t as attractive as mine.” At that she had to sarcastically huff.
“He could put Ryan Gosling to shame.”
“She makes Angelina Jolie’s lips look as thin as paper.” She had to let out a small whistle fakely as he shook his head. “Are you usually so skilled at making people feel like they have to prove everything to you?”
“I’m essentially training to be chief of surgery in the future so- yes.” She stretched out her knees as he flipped through his phone.
“That was an unnecessarily long answer.” Turning the screen towards her, he made her examine the girl closely.
Mao had to admit he was kind of right. There was something so innocent about her and yet everything about this girl managed to scream sex. She was usually the type of girl Mao was jealous of but since Mao had stopped feeling things she’d essentially stopped feeling jealous too. “You wouldn’t meet that every chance you got?” He sighed shutting his eyes rubbing them. “I know it’s a mistake but I have to meet her anyways.”
“Because she has all my money…and I need it back.”
“And yet somehow that wasn’t the first thing you mentioned…it was her lips.”
“What can I say…I’m a visual kind of guy.”
“Makes sense now.”
“What makes sense?” He asked, one eyebrow skeptically up in the air as Mao crossed her legs one over the other.
“Why you look like a broke kind of guy.” Jun pushed her so hard she almost fell off the chair. Luckily for her she was allowed to shove him back until both of them just laughed and shook their heads.
It was the next week and Mao had somehow managed to be early to the session. It probably had something to do with the rain outside. “Mao you made it!” Anna grinned brightly as Mao mustered up a smile at her taking off her yellow raincoat. “I like your coat.”
“You look like a construction worker.” Mao turned her head towards the smarmy voice and once again found herself wondering how he’d gotten himself in here. There had to be some sort of sacred don’t be an asshole pact Jun was breaking by being here.
“It’s nice to see you too Jun.” She put her coat on the hook and walked over to sit beside him willingly. She had to admit she was a little curious…did he end up getting his money back. What a strange breakup. Not that she knew the details but if Nari had had all her money she would have made sure he was chained to a bed post whenever she wasn’t around. She probably shouldn’t tell people she was thinking of tying Nari to her bed should she? “So how’d it go?”
“She took me for half.” He cringed placing a hand painfully on his chest. “Needless to say I wanted to cry.”
She had to hold back a rather rude smile. Somehow even though it was rather sad and she understood why he wanted to cry it was still a little funny to her. “Well isn’t that unfortunate, and you weren’t even married.”
“We were common-law apparently.” He snickered as if he was both pitying and making fun of himself. “Had any uncomfortable encounters in the farmer’s market?”
“Not yet.” She giggled. “Though I did prepare some lines in anticipation.”
“Oh yeah?” He looked considerably proud of her as Anna welcomed another one of the participants who came in totally drenched. Somehow Mao felt very grateful the moment she saw the messy wet girl that she’d managed to just narrowly avoid most of the rain and show up presentable.
“Yeah…so imagine we’re standing in line at a tea shop-“
“Because they don’t serve coffee at the farmer’s market?” He asked sarcastically and Mao rolled her eyes shaking her head.
“Because that’s how I decided it would be.” He looked mildly impressed with her response. “He’d be like oh ‘Mao you look really good’ because you know by then the effect of me starving myself to lose weight and go back to my regular size would have taken effect.”
“Obviously.” Jun looked like he wanted to laugh at her so she pinched him lightly and saw him squirm in his seat. “Sorry sorry! Continue!”
“And then I’d be like - ‘Oh, Nari…you used to be my cup of tea-‘”
“Would you like to drink coffee with me?” Jun said it so quickly it flew by her ears and her jaw dropped in awe. How did he know she was going to say she only drank bitter coffee now. Jun was like the perfect reminder of bitter, energizing, brown liqueur like substance.
He really was a mind reader wasn’t he? “Ah…sorry you thought I meant that’s- forget it-“
“No wait- I mean-“ She looked around the room lightly they were all busy chattering away but she saw a few people give them a glance or two. Before she was allowed to correct her words or even really generate a response to them, seriously she had no idea what she was about to say, Anna spoke again.
“Welcome. We have a smaller congregation than before…so we’re going to do something special tonight. We’re going to go out.” Mao felt her eyebrows rise. “We’re going to go to a bar.”
“Oh dear god.” Mao heard Talia whisper away from her and had to secretly agree with the girl. Hell she didn’t know how to navigate the bar scene when she was dating someone. Now that she was single, painfully might she add, it would be a completely different game she wasn’t sure she was interested in playing yet.
Not to mention the guy beside her had just asked her out to coffee if it wasn’t just her imagination playing with her. She figured if she stared at Jun long enough eventually he would turn around and explain himself. Or at the very least ask her to explain herself if it was just in her imagination.
It had to be right?
Jun couldn’t have actually asked her to have coffee with him - at least well not like that -
In the midst of her thoughts she didn’t even realize that they’d all ended up at the bar already. “Okay, we’re going to get rid of Jun first guys -“
“Why are you even here?” Annie asked looking up at him confused. “I mean like to be honest. I didn’t really expect to see a guy at Broken Hearts Anonymous.”
“I wish I was close enough to you to care to disclose that information Annie.” Annie pouted but Mao only snickered. He was really sour wasn’t he? And he wasn’t very friendly either… she really had to wonder how he landed a girl that hot. Jun wasn’t bad looking by any means but he wasn’t exactly the big winner. He was no Nari. “I don’t need your help guys.”
“Oh really?” Anna’s one eyebrow raised skeptically she held out her hand to the pool of available single women all gabbing excitedly with each other, each clique trying to outdo the other. “Be my guest. Navigate the crazy women by yourself.”
“So you admit you’re all mad.” Anna stuck her tongue out as Jun smirked and walked towards a particularly beautiful beautiful girl with large lips who wasn’t that far away from their little island post in the middle of the classy wine bar. “Watch and learn ladies.” He ran his hands through his hair, Mao immediately cringed. That was like the universal signal for creep approaching. She had to admit. She was a little curious about Jun’s game. What was he like? What type of lines did he use? Did he wink? Was he the type who created some ridiculous situation.
The girl was only with one other girl, they were gabbing away excitedly about something in a foreign language. “Hi, I’m sorry I don’t mean to interrupt but- you two are from the Phillipines right?” Mao’s jaw dropped. That was what he was going to go with? Well…okay. He didn’t even explicitly state which girl he was interested in.
The girl’s jaw was on the floor too, but where Mao was genuinely confused, this girl was genuinely awed by Jun. “Uh…yeah. Wow how’d you know?” She was surprised and even though he was being friendly to both girls, Mao was pretty shocked at how easy it was to tell which girl he was interested in because of his body language.
“The tagalog. I recognized it from when I went across South-East Asia in my gap year.” He took a gap year? “One of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever been to. The people aren’t so bad either-“ Had he just used his sarcasm to his benefit?
“I should think not-“ The other girl chimed in. “We’re very proud of where we’re from aren’t we Jannie?”
“We are.” Jannie agreed, nodding on with her friend obviously a little humored by Jun’s different approach to their conversation. “And where are you from?”
“Well…that’s not fun. I guessed your country off the bat!”
“Fine, we’ll guess yours…” The other girl squinted her eyes at Jun and turned to look at Jannie and whisper something in her ear. Jannie sputtered back a laugh as she glanced bashfully at Jun. “We think you’re-“
“Japanese.” Jannie finished off with a whip of her hair. “You look almost exactly like this novelist that’s been recently honored at-“
Jun looked sincerely shocked at this. “Wait you know who I am?”
“Who wouldn’t know one of this generation’s most promising mystery writers…though I have to admit you look a little bit of out of place here.” And he’d won. She was sure even he didn’t know it was going to be that easy. He looked genuinely touched and happy to be talking to her and suddenly Mao was really irritated. How the hell could it be that easy? Not only that! Shouldn’t he come back after getting her number? He could pretty much get her number anytime he wanted now. He should stop now. He’d already succeeded. This wasn’t over getting over the people they loved! This was about just proving to yourself that you were still attractive enough to reel them in right?
“Okay Mao you’re next!” Anna was grinning machiavellianly at her and Mao had to gulp back the ball of tension forming in her throat. This was not going to be good. “See anyone you like?” She spent most of her time blowing bubbles into her drink and staring at Jun…so not really.
“Even if I do how the hell am I supposed to do this?” She hissed at Annie who shrugged.
“Hell if I know. I’ve gotten hit on by every guy I’ve ever dated.” Mao pouted and turned to Anna. She couldn’t be serious.
“Calm down Mao…I’ll make it happen okay? Just pick a guy or I’ll pick one for you.” She relented to observing the bar a little more closely. She could still kind of see Jun out of the corner of his eye laughing with Jannie whose friend had mysteriously disappeared.
The guy at the door looked kind of cute with his baby gold locks curling over his head, blue eyes peering into- the eyes of another girl okay move on.
Then there was the bartender himself…was that too easy though? She couldn’t flirt with people who were paid to be nice to her right? He did look Greek though- she’d always wanted to date a European guy. Was that petty of her to find him attractive because of his looks?
Her eyes finally slid over to the one person who looked completely unhappy to be in the bar. “Him!” She picked him out pointing her finger rather obviously so Christine had to reach out and pull her finger back down before anyone noticed. “What?!”
“You’re being too obvious.”
“I’m sorry, shouldn't guys be happy that I showed interest in them?”
“Yeah...” Christine suddenly found fault with her own logic and frowned. Mao kind of understood where she was coming from though. There was no winning.
“So now that I picked him now what?” She continued to blow the bubbles into her rum and coke. It was kind of therapeutic.
“Go up to him!”
“I don’t want to do that! He’s so depressed! I should leave him alone.” She giggled patting herself on the back.
Before she knew what had happened Anna had grabbed her by her neck and dragged her over to him sat her down beside his chair so haphazaradly that about half the bar including Jun turned their heads to hear her squeal. Then Anna tapped his shoulder and threw her hands towards Mao as if she was introducing her. “Hi, have you met Mao?”
And then that stupid bitch left.
“Uhm...hi.” She raised her hand lightly. “Mao.” She pointed at herself like a dummy.
He pointed at himself. For a second she thought it was going to be okay till he opened his mouth. “Not interested.”
Ouch. So this is what it felt like to be rejected at a bar. She was starting to feel a small sense of respect for the guys who did this on a nightly basis and faced like 10 rejections. “That’s cool, you know I just got out of a really bad break up myself and I didn’t want to do this but I was like-“ He turned to give her a really dirty look. “Sorry.”
“If you’re sorry you’ll leave.” Wow. Okay. She’d thought Jun was a sour little brat. This guy was actually depressed. “I appreciate the sentiment and you’re cute but- not tonight.” Well that was a little nicer.
“Can I at least know your name?”
“Taeyang.” He raised his glass of whiskey from the bar and directed it to her. “Pleasure to meet you Mao.”
She got an introduction. Wasn’t that enough? She turned to look at the table where the girls were eagerly cheering her on waving their hands like cheerleaders.
She hated them.
She looked at Jun slyly, happy to see he was looking at her. Man he should share some tricks with her. Taeyang absolutely didn’t want to be picked up. She pointed to the washroom and he raised an eyebrow but got up anyways leaning to whisper in Jannie’s ear.
She didn’t really like that. It was kind of irritating how seriously he was taking this. “Share your wisdom now you psycho pick up artist.” She grabbed him by his shoulders and kept him against the wall.
“For a doctor, you’re kind of dramatic.”
“Blame it on ER.”
“At least your taste in medical shows clearly displays your high taste.” He bowed his head. “Since this isn’t about anything I had anticipated I should be leaving-“ He made a move to take her hands off him but she kept them on glaring intently at him. Did he have to look so excited to go talk to that girl?
No he didn’t. “Help me land your brother.”
“I’m an only child.”
“That guy is so sour I thought you guys were related, my bad.” She raised her hand off him whistling as she walked away and she heard him scoff behind her.
She was happy when she saw him make an effort to keep up with her. “You’re getting too big for your own shoes.”
“And- so what are you gonna do about it?” She clapped her hands off and made sure she tried to smirk exactly like he would. He looked at her strangely and she had to choke a little. “I was trying to act like you would. Man how did you land that girl so quickly?! She’s so freaking attractive too!”
“You want advice...from me...to land a guy?” He said it extra slow, like he was talking to a child. “Mao what the hell are you talking about?”
“What do you mean? Help me! I can’t be the only unsuccessful one!” She saw as Anna was being chatted up by a boy with large eyes at the table, Christine and Talia were both jointly chatting away with a large group of guys and here she was in the exit of the hallway asking Jun to help her with landing Mr.Depressed.
He looked a little bit sorry for her. “I’m going to let you in on a little secret Mao.” She nodded enthusiastically grinning as if he’d asked her if it was okay if they left to go get ice cream together. “You’re a girl. Be straight up. If he’s really single. He’ll go for it.”
“It’s not like he doesn’t have standards!”
“Well you’ll find out if he does won’t you?” He was looking at her expectantly. It took her a second...but when she figured it out he looked ecstatic at her appalled expression. “Thank you, thank you. I’m here all week.” He bowed his figure and walked off towards his modelesque Filipina while Mao huffed and looked towards Taeyang who was, as expected, still sitting at the bar depressed.
She walked over confidently this time and sat down beside him. She didn’t say a word to him. She was going to do this her way. She was going to be straight up. “Whiskey here please.” She heard Taeyang scoff beside her but she didn’t bother with that as she winked at the Greek bartender who giggled and shook his head. It was weird seeing a greek man giggle she had to admit but not entirely unpleasant.
She took the drink to her lips and looked up at the ceiling as she swallowed it. Then she put it down and without looking at Taeyang. “I think your arms are really attractive.”
“Excuse me?” She heard him ask incredulously. He must not have gotten a lot of compliments in his life because Mao thought that had to be the most obvious thing in the world.
“Seriously. Why do you think I’m here? It’s just those arms. I’m sorry I’m not going to pretend I want to get to know you…maybe your abs. I wouldn’t mind getting to know your abs.”
“You’re objectifying me!” She wasn’t sure if he was teasing her method of approaching him or being serious. If she was being her normal careful self she would have apologized but well...she wasn’t going to be that way. She was going to literally say every thought that popped into her mind. If she offended Taeyang well then - he obviously wasn’t interested in her. Plain and simple.
She dropped her voice a few tones as she sipped her whisky and let her eyes slide over to meet his finally. He looked a little bit bewildered. As if he was stuck between deciding whether this was the weirdest thing that had ever happened to him or the sexiest thing that had ever happened to him. “Is that a problem?”
He pondered this for a second. Just flickering his eyes between her drink and her and then back at Jun. As if he was wondering what happened to her in the time she wasn’t sitting beside him. “Not really.”
“Good...because we could do a lot worse than just objectify you-” Had she really just said that? Oh dear god.
“Listen Mao I-“
“I’m not interested in hearing it. In fact, you’re not interested in telling me.” Anyone could tell Taeyang wasn’t in the mood to share his feelings or how he got here and got depressed tonight. Was she really going to do this?
Yes Taeyang was attractive, and his arms were killer - his abs would probably make her convulse from drool but - this was about more than that. Was she actually taking this farther than it was supposed to go?
“Mao-“ Taeyang looked like he wanted to explain something to her but she held her hand up and pointed at the door. A second passed as his eyes flickered between the door and her. “Is this some sort of joke?”
“Am I laughing right now?”
He started laughing though. “This is too easy.” It was a little unreal she had to admit. She still didn’t fully understand what she was doing but what the hell right? He was cute. Nari was cute. He looked a little bit like Nari when he smiled and laughed...and hell maybe somewhere in this crazy town, Nari was drinking himself into a little small stupor just like Taeyang was.
“I know.” She had just made his life easy for him hadn’t she?
“Let’s slow down now.” She turned her head to find Jun towering over the two of them. “Sorry about her behaviour, we forgot to put her on a leash before we let her out of the house.” Jun bowed apologetically and just as soon as Anna had brought her over. Jun lifted her unceremoniously out of her chair and dragged her away.
“CALL ME!” She yelled out in the end as he brought her back to the table where Anna was with her ‘friend’. “Anna I succeeded!”
Jun scoffed. “You didn’t get his number. You got a chance to-“
“Get his number tomorrow morning. You say tomato I say Tomahto-“
“Man you guys must really love tomatoes.” The guy beside Anna said as Mao peered at him confused. “Sorry my name sounds similar.”
“Well what’s your name then stranger-?” If it wasn't Taeyang then might as well be this guy.
“Mao-“Anna shook her head disappointed. “You-“
“She got a little too ambitious that’s what!” Jun sounded like he was a little shriek-y like a bit of banshee. Was that her imagination? “What the hell is wrong with you?”
That was rather rude. She pouted folding her hands over her chest. “Excuse me, but what do you mean by ‘what’s wrong with you?’”
“I mean you’re the one who comes into the group claiming you don’t want to move on and then you find the most depressed guy here and basically all but-“
“Don’t say another word.”
“Don’t make me you hypocrite!” He was heaving huge breaths shaking his head. “I mean I fucked up a perfectly good thing to-“
“Why don’t you keep your nose in your own business? Since my first day all you’ve done is come and bother me and-“
“Who insists on sitting beside me every time she sees me?”
“He looked like Nari okay!” She finally ended up yelling. Anna froze as she saw the tense expression on Jun’s face slowly melt away. “He looked like what I wanted to see Nari like, sad, destitute, with the same figure and that same smile and I thought hey if Nari’s like this somewhere maybe spending the night with Taeyang will make me happy because Taeyang is like the Nari I can’t be with right now. I can’t go tell Nari I need you back because that’s pathetic but I can use Taeyang when he looks so much like the man I’m still in love with!”
Somehow that seemed to rub Jun the wrong way because when he asked her the next question the tone in his voice wasn’t friendly at all. He looked like he was mocking her, like he was shocked by how immature and childish she was. “You’re still in love with him…?”
Where the hell did he get off talking to her like that? “Like you don’t still love your girlfriend. For heaven’s sake you’re involved in a legal battle with her just because you want to be able to keep seeing her!” She stomped her foot loudly. Maybe it was the whiskey, or the fact Jun had told her to be very straight up with people tonight but she was feeling more than healthily honest. “You know what, fuck that I’m not going to stand here and listen to you of all people lecture me. Any of you actually - because I did what I wanted to and that’s up to me. I can make bad choices as long as I’m the one making them!” She barged off towards the door banging the door so loudly that blond guy by the door actually gave her attention when he took his eyes away from his girlfriend’s.
She’d walked for approximately thirty seconds and was about to turn a corner when she felt a strange need to look back.
So she did, a little bit shocked at what she saw because Matsumoto Jun was standing there following her. “What are you adding stalking to your list of special talents?”
“I have a list of special talents?”
“You do!” She replied in an exaggerated happy tone, lifting up her palm so she could count them out for him. “So far I have frowning, moping, smiling whenever his ex-girlfriend is mentioned and- sarcasm.”
At that she saw him roll his eyes, she was being rather rude so she expected him to buzz off but instead he just came closer, hands in his pockets eyes peering almost disappointedly at her. “Mao, don’t you think you’re being a little overdramatic?”
“I came to this group to not get judged Jun. I don’t know why you’re here, none of us really do.” She kind of wished he wasn’t here. He was messing up the whole dynamic of the group by being distinctly male she was sure. Other girls must feel like her and need to limit themselves and their mopey behaviour for him right? So he wouldn’t think of them badly. “For heaven’s sake before tonight I didn’t even know your last name.”
“Well that’s because this group is Broken Hearts Anonymous not Broken Hearts Introduce Yourself to each other.” He had a point. She knew that…still she was a little pissed she didn’t know how last name. “Mao…what the hell is this about?”
“Eh?” She asked back shrugging. “Nothing. You’re irritating.”
“You’re screaming when you say I’m still in love with my ex, you make an extra effort to pull me away from the girl I’m trying to go home with tonight, you get irritated when you don’t know things about me - do you like me?”
“Well when you put it all in that frame of course it sounds like I,” She pointed at herself scoffing. “Like you.” She then pointed at him looking away as if she couldn’t even bother. “That couldn’t be farther from the truth.”
“Oh really?” He was doubting her words but he obviously looked like he was going to give her the chance for an alternate excuse for her ridiculous behaviour tonight.
She tried to keep her voice steady when he moved closer, his eyes were kind of glazed off. It was a bit fearsome. To be honest she didn’t really have a proper excuse for her behaviour but when someone accused her of liking them it was her instant defense reaction to reply with the following. “Obviously, you’re the one who likes me. I mean since my first day you’ve been hounding me with your presence and then you asked me out to coffee earlier, you dragged me away from Taeyang giving him the impression I’m a mental girl, and you constantly look like you might be undressing me because your eyes are like -“ She attempted to squint them and saw his eyes crinkle up in the same manner as if he was trying to make fun of her while she made fun of him. “Well buddy I have to say that you’re -“
“You’re right Mao you’re right.”
“What am I right about?”
His face dropped to beside her ear, his mouth at the perfect angle to blow a small stream of words that made her spine straighten. “I’m trying to undress you with my eyes every chance I get.”
She started laughing outrageously. The type of laugh that made guys usually back off because she looked a little bit like a witch and also like someone who couldn’t possibly have aged beyond 12. “Okay yeah maybe but do you like me?”
“Yes Mao…generally I try not to undress girls I don’t like in my mind. Happens sometimes mind you-“
She covered her ears and started singing loudly. “I don’t need to know the details of your undressing.”
“Stick to your day career please!” Jun teased her by pinching her arm lightly so that she stopped singing…thankfully. “Please, like you weren’t undressing that guy back there.”
“Taeyang seemed like he had a great personality.” She insisted. She wasn’t that petty…but she was. She’d honestly admitted to Taeyang she pretty much just liked him for his body. He was so similar to Nari that was why she’d picked him out in the bar.
“Oh nothing to do with his muscles then?” He watched her glance down shamefully at the ground.
“Okay fine, it had a little to do with his muscles.” He was looking at her as if he was on pause waiting for her to finish her sentence. “And a lot to do with the possibility of him having abs.” She wailed loudly as Jun snickered. “And his lips…you were talking about your ex? Like damn Taeyang could be a Calvin Klein model-”
“You know…generally when I tell a girl I like her, she generally doesn’t harp on about some other guy and she kind of shuts her eyes-“
“Why? Does she think you’re ugly?” Mao had to be the most clueless girl he’d ever met. Jun wasn’t sure if it was adorable or irritating. She was kind of refreshing eitherways though because he realized now that Mao couldn’t lie - literally every word out of her mouth and every expression on her face was the most real thing he’d ever seen.
“You know…I’m not sure.” He agreed. “I guess we could do this with open eyes too.”
He would have cut her off but he wanted to see if she was oblivious and naïve as she looked. For a girl who had almost gotten married, he really didn’t understand how it was that Nari and her fell in love. Maybe Nari had finally pulled his hair out trying to understand how to make Mao think of the right things. Maybe he couldn’t handle her. “Do what?” She asked like clockwork. It made him smile this ridiculously happy smile.
Satomi had been a bit of a liar. She’d been perfect in her looks and she quickly realized that because of her looks she had power over those around her. She exerted her and used her wide brown eyes and luscious lips to make sure they followed her every word. Hell, he’d loved her though- even with all of her flaws. Part of him still did.
Then again, Mao had pretty much just admitted that part of her still loved her ex too.
Would it be right to chase after her when they were both still emotionally unavailable? Oh what the hell - he was the guy here. He shouldn’t be overthinking this. She was staring up at him expectantly, half expecting him to burst out with candy and flowers he was sure.
When he made a move to close the gap between them his eyes remained wide open, hers did too. She was shocked. How she was shocked he couldn’t possibly ponder because he’d made every single move so obvious. He’d thought she’d been reciprocating just as obviously but now he realized she was probably oblivious to her own feelings.
It was a bit arrogant of him to assume she had feelings for him but he was going to because he had a feeling Mao was going use every deniable excuse possible before she agreed. She shut her eyes as his lips reached hers, and he shut his. It was a strange kiss because he could feel her holding back, resisting to melt to the pleas of his lower lip, barely moving because she wasn’t sure if this was right.
He realized if she was being so hesitant then his fears had been well-founded. It probably wasn’t right.
So he let her go and watched her carefully. Whatever she said next would determine where they could take this. “Thank you?” She muttered out softly staring at him. Jun wasn’t sure what she was thanking him for. “It’s been a while since I kissed someone.”
“You’d figure.” He leaned his back against the wall beside them. She was playing around with the edge of her sleeve, dancing on her two feet in the most awkward manner possible.
“Jun, I’m going to go home now.” Before he could hold her back, she’d bowed and flown off. He could still see her obviously, her yellow raincoat made sure of that.
--------------------6 Months Later
“How much for this?” She asked the Ukranian lady behind the stall who gave her a sour look when she held up the cantaloupe. “Okay okay, I’ll put it down jesus.” The lady gave her an even worse look. “Sorry sorry, I didn’t mean to use Jesus’ name in vain!”
Edging away slowly from the Ukranian lady’s stall, Mao walked around the farmer’s market rather happily.
She didn’t get much time off but when she did she liked coming here because even though both the hospital and the farmer’s market were very lively places only one made her feel like these people were healthy. Like the perfect antithesis to the hospital, here old people stood on their own two legs lifting what looked like it weighed ten thousand tons, when she thought of the old people at the hospital she could hardly think they could lift up a feather without intense back pain.
The farmer’s market reminded her that life went on outside that hospital for some people. It had been about 9 months since she’d broken up with Nari and this was the first time she’d ventured here. She’d really missed it, the hollering, the kind smiles of the Ukranian lady, and definitely her favourite part of being here -
The samples! She saw a tray of cheese far off from her and quickly made a dash towards it. The whole part of coming here was to essentially avoid spending any money on lunch whatsoever.
She was a doctor sure, and she made money sure, but she was also really cheap. Her fellow doctors always teased her that if she was cheap they’d never get any new supplies.
Office supplies obviously, not operating supplies. She wasn’t that cheap!
When she reached the tray of goodies she made polite conversation with the guy holding it and went in for the kill on a particularly delicious looking piece of Havarti when she saw another hand snatch it up before her.
It was exactly as she said it would happen. Suddenly the liveliness of the market disappeared around her and it was like the world had gone grey as she struggled to keep her heart beat in check. Could he hear it? She could hardly hear him over the sound of it. “What are you doing here?”
“Shopping.” She managed to mutter out. “Like you.”
“I’m here for the samples.” How could he still be here for the samples? She taught him how to sample! This was just utterly rude. She had a scalpel in her bag…could she use it on him and pretend he’d asked to be operated on?
No that was psychotic. She had to keep herself in check. “How have you been?” She managed to mutter out, her face was sour. There was no way she could pretend she was happy to see him. She definitely wasn’t in love with him anymore because Nari, as beautiful as he may have been, was a bit of a selfish jerk. It took her a while to get to that realization because she’d deluded herself into thinking he was the perfect man for her.
“Okay. How have you been?”
“Okay.” She wanted to leave.
God could she leave? Wasn’t it rude?
Then again him leaving their wedding was pretty rude too. “Well then I’m going to just-“
“Are you seeing anyone?” He blurted out quickly before she had a chance to walk away from him. If she thought she’d wanted to kill him before now she wanted to blow him up. What the hell was up with that question? NO. She wasn’t.
And she couldn’t say Ryan Gosling either. Could she tell him it was none of his business without looking totally pathetic? Was he about to ask her out if she said she was single?
Then a land handed on her shoulder while she spent most of her focus on glaring at Nari. “Mao, you see a sample tray and I swear you become a wild animal.”
“Excuse me?” She asked incredulously ready to tell the stranger to walk away when she saw a pair of bitter brown coffee eyes staring down at her. The waves of his hair were surprisingly straightened out and-
Oh dear god.
Was that what Jun looked like when he smiled? “What are you staring at? You saw enough of this face earlier today morning in bed.” He whispered just loud enough for Nari to hear. “Come on, Mao work with me. I’m trying to help you.” That part he didn’t whisper loud enough for Nari to hear.
She’d thought of Matsumoto Jun since that day. She’d thought about him a lot. Then she’d told herself to stop thinking about him because it was ridiculous. He didn’t even know her last name technically. Sometimes she’d be shopping for books and scream because there he was- and his book - just mocking her asking her to read them.
Of course she picked one up.
Of course she read it.
Of course she wanted to tell him how good it was.
But Mao had stopped going to Broken Hearts Anonymous after the day he kissed her because she was scared. She knew she wasn’t ready for what he’d been trying to ask of her.
God she’d missed him though because even if he was a sour, sarcastic, shell of a man he’d been fun!
Realizing she wasn’t about to say or do anything, Jun smirked and pulled her in tighter to his side. Holding out his other hand to Nari, he let out the perfect amount of arrogance. “Hi I’m Matsumoto Jun and you are?”
“Narimiya Hiroki.” The guy looked like he’d seen a ghost when he was looking at the two of them.
“It’s nice to meet you.”
“It’s not nice to meet you.” Mao’s eyes widened, her jaw falling onto the floor as she looked between Narimiya Hiroki and Matsumoto Jun. Each’s eyes measuring the other up.
For the past six months she’d essentially been single. Yet somehow she’d landed up in this situation with two guys looking like they were about to throw punches down for her. “Ano-“
“Take care Mao.” Nari gave her an apologetic look and walked away before she could try and make him understand that Jun wasn’t actually dating her and was just being extremely nice for a reason she couldn’t-
“YOU!” She turned on him so forcefully as he stood staring down at her the way he always had. With a more than healthy look of disdain, and some admiration. She didn’t understand him, how could he both look down on her and love her? Usually that was pretty fucked up and yet with Matsumoto Jun it made perfect sense.
“You should be thanking me.”
“I am thankful! But he didn’t need to look so-“
“What did you think was going to happen Mao?” She wasn’t sure. “Were you going to get back together today? Did I ruin that? Are you upset?” No they wouldn’t have gotten back together…would they? Well she’d never know. Personally in that moment it had felt almost okay but now that she was out of it, she was happy that wouldn’t happen. “Did you think he’d be that happy without you?”
“He is happy. He looked kind of happy…until you showed up.”
“Of course because he remembered what he lost.” Jun had a point. Not that she wanted to acknowledge it. She knew without him here- god knew what she would have done. She would have liked to think she was strong enough to tell Narimiya Hiroki to fuck off but she wasn’t.
“What the hell are you even doing here?” She managed to end up with. That was enough for Jun though, he looked more than happy that they could end that other conversation.
“I’m looking for you obviously.” If he said it seriously it could have been creepily romantic. Lucky for her, Matsumoto Jun was a sarcastic little asshole and so she could respond by punching his arm lightly. “I’m here shopping with my sister. She’s a crazy organic food lunatic just like you. That’s how I knew you liked Kale.”
Mao snickered. He thought he knew everything and he could just put everyone into one of his little characters. “You have it all wrong, I hate kale. It’s too bitter.”
“Huh…who would have thought?” They were walking together now. To where she wasn’t exactly sure but they couldn’t stay in the same spot by the sample cheese tray because the cheese boy was starting to look awkward and other guests were giving them dirty looks. “What are you doing right now?”
“Right now.” He agreed.
“I’m being emotionally available right now. You?" What was wrong with her? Yes she’d thought of Matsumoto Jun but she didn’t need to be so desperate did she? She was the one who walked away from him! God control yourself Mao. She wanted to hit herself in the head for being so blatantly obvious but then she would be even more obvious so she resisted the temptation.
She sneaked a glance up at him. Luckily, he didn’t look like he was turned off at all…in fact if anything he looked amused. “I’m emotionally available right now too.”
“Good for us…being emotionally available.”
“Isn’t that great? Personally, I think we should be emotionally available together.” He was playing with her words. She didn’t want to smile but somehow the smile was stretching onto her face anyways.
“Should we?” Did she just squeak? She’d been dating Nari since she was about 14…so she’d never navigated the dating scene or really been hit on by another guy. Being interested in Matsumoto Jun was making her learn that she didn’t have a lot of game. Sad as it was.
Thankfully she didn’t seem to need it. He had all the game she’d ever need. “Yeah there’s this great coffee stall that I figure we could start with. I heard you drink coffee now.”
He remembered that? “I do. I rather like coffee.” He didn’t need to know that she kind of thought of him as coffee…that would be too weird, even for her. Still she could enjoy the metaphor a little bit by herself. “Do you like coffee?”
“I like coffee…but you know what I’d like even better?”
Well he said it like that, yes she did want to know. What did he like even better. “What?”
“Knowing the last name of the girl I’m interested in.”
Oh right. He didn’t actually know her last name. “Hi,” She held her hand out as they reached the coffee stall. “I’m Inoue Mao.”
He held his hand back out smiling. She wanted to tell him to smile more often… if he did he could pretty much get whatever he ever wanted. Smirking didn’t suit him whatsoever because he came off cocky and arrogant and rude which she was sure he was. When he was smiling, he showed another side to himself - that he was also patient and understanding and like the human personification of a bandaid that was healing her heart.
“Hi Inoue Mao, I’m Matsumoto Jun.”
Mao didn’t really know where this was going to go.
Maybe they’d date each other.
Maybe they’d get married.
Maybe they’d have children together.
The one thing she did know though was that she was going to fall desperately in love with the man who had slowly brought her back to life before she even noticed it herself.