Title: This Life of Mine
Pairing: Junsu/Ri In
Genre: angst, drama
Length: 3,405 words
Rating: R for language and sex
A/N: This fic keeps getting longer and longer. I'm looking at 5 parts now. Will it ever end???
I can tell Junsu has driven my car because the radio is tuned to a hip-hop station. I turn the volume up and listen to American hits all the way out of Seoul and down the coast. I’m probably the only woman you know who’s nervous to go on vacation with her husband, right?
The weather is beautiful and I decide that no matter what happens with Junsu, I’m glad to get out of the city. I’m a wallflower. I belong in the countryside.
I’ve been to his house once or twice, and as I pull up the gravel drive I’m once again impressed. The wide driveway is surrounded, however, by trees that block the house’s best feature; the beach.
The cleaning maid lets me in and I carry my travel bag inside, the walls as white as ever. Tall ceilings and large windows make up the first floor, everything light and impressionable. The French doors of the dining area open to a stone patio, and a path leads all the way to the beach. I take a deep breath of ocean air and watch the waves roll onto the sand many feet away.
A while later I head upstairs. The bedroom windows are open so that the curtains blow and tangle with themselves. I set my bag on the bed and sit for a moment, just trying to sort out my thoughts.
The sound of fluttering is what draws my attention to the desk in the corner. I walk over and see the sheaf of papers beneath a paperweight. It must be at least one hundred pages of worn, folded notebook paper. Words jump out at me unbidden.
I hold you and you cry
I open my mouth and you turn away
Is there nothing I can say or do,
That won’t upset you?
I deserve hateful looks
And unkind words from your lips
But can’t you see that the devil stole the love that was meant to be
And made me a stranger to you.
Why has this life tried to take me from my destiny
Which was always, could only ever be, you.
I hastily set the papers back on the desk and step back, cursing under my breath. If I hadn’t recognized my husband’s handwriting on the spot, I may never have guessed he would write something like that. I wasn’t supposed to see it, obviously; this is Junsu’s house of secrets. He could be writing about anyone, even multiple women. Every page a different day and a different heart he had given.
Junsu had needs too, that’s what I’d always told myself.
It just stung a little to know that his poetic heart had never spoken to me.
I shouldn’t have looked.
The period of our marriage which stood out the most was when I hit rock-bottom. It was two or three years after we’d gotten married, and I’d finally screamed myself into silence about the whole situation (figuratively). But once I was done railing against the injustice of it all, I could hear myself think. I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I did nothing at all.
I was pathetic.
In the midst of all this it occurred to me that I needed a companion, I needed something of my own. Junsu unwittingly found the solution to this.
One night he came home drunk and we had sex simply because I didn’t have the energy to protest. It was sloppy and ungraceful and I stayed in bed the whole next day.
A few weeks later, I had morning sickness.
I was shocked at the time, but this was when I realized that what I wanted most was a baby. A companion and something of my own, I thought. I immediately began to eat more and take vitamins, nursing a little life inside me.
I grew more curves and climbed out of the hole I’d dug myself into. Junsu gave me odd looks whenever he was around because my face glowed.
I think the reason I didn’t take a pregnancy test right away was because I knew deep down that I was making it up. When I went to the doctor, my hopes and expectations were all dashed to hell and beyond. I wasn’t pregnant. I had spent six weeks wishing that I was, but I wasn’t.
I got home that night and Junsu told me to make dinner. I slapped him across the face so hard my hand stung, and I went back to bed.
I thought Junsu was the solution, but he was, of course, the problem. In the end, the thought that comforted me was the realization that a child between Junsu and I would be half of him, and this realization disgusted me enough to sober my depression.
I threw out my overwhelming self-pity after that, and I always made him use protection.
It’s almost dark before Junsu’s manager gives me a call to let me know the flight is late. It will be another couple hours before Junsu arrives.
After I hang up, I sit back down at the kitchen table and look out to the ocean.
Even though I’ve tried to suppress them, I know I’ve created unrealistic expectations of his arrival. I’m not surprised that his plans have been changed and I’m angry at the little scenarios floating in my brain, nagging me, asking why we can’t have a weekend without inhibitions.
The image of Junsu driving up and pulling me into his arms passes innocently through my imagination and with a sudden passion I throw it out, kick my chair aside and grab my keys.
I won’t be the woman that waits up all night for a man. I can’t be that woman. I am not that woman.
I breathe hard through my nose, willing myself not to shed tears, feelings and memories cluttering in my mind. Then the breeze blows and rational thought returns and even while I squeeze the key to my freedom (literally) in my hand, I know I can’t leave. I have to see this through.
Everything will be fine, you say. Don’t do anything hasty.
I know you want to be understanding. You want to give him the benefit of the doubt, you want to have hope for the future. I know where you’re coming from, because I was once like that.
But you don’t know this man like I do. You don’t know how many times he’s hurt me.
I’ll stay, for now.
I sleep straight through the night, even in this room that is strange to me. I wake perfectly and I don’t want to move a single inch. As my senses sharpen I hear heavy breathing and realize that Junsu is wrapped around me. His arms hold me tightly even while he sleeps, his nose nestled in my hair.
I open my eyes and my fingers wrap around his, familiar joints and calloused palms. His breathing halts for a moment and he sighs and holds me closer.
I lay awake for awhile before he pulls away and rolls out of bed. He’s rubbing his hair like he’s irritated with it, still fully clothed in jeans, T-shirt and socks.
“What time did you get here?” I ask softly. He’s startled, didn’t realize I was awake.
“I don’t…It was late,” he says hoarsely. “I don’t remember.”
He kicks his suitcase out of the way and reaches into a dresser drawer for a clean shirt and shorts.
“I’m sorry about last night. I was supposed to be back yesterday afternoon, evening at the latest,” he says, tripping back onto the bed as he struggles out of denim. “The show started late, the flight was delayed…”
I sit up behind him and watch as he angrily changes. I’m a little confused. I’m about to ask exactly why he’s unhappy but he turns to meet my eyes.
“I made plans for us last night and it was ruined and I didn’t even have the chance to talk to you myself—.”
My wide eyes make him pause.
“I’m sorry,” he repeats. “I planned things differently.”
I reach out and smooth his hair down unintentionally, then immediately remove my hand. I don’t have anything to say. Junsu lays his fingers on my jaw and kisses the corner of my mouth.
“Are you hungry?”
We get cleaned up and he whips up fruit and pancakes for breakfast. I open the patio doors to let the ocean breeze into the dining area and kitchen.
“How was your week?” he asks. “My mom said she called.”
I tell him how I spent my time while he was away and I suppose I’m waiting for him to interrupt, to either mock my pastimes or talk about himself instead, but he listens to everything and makes comments at appropriate intervals.
“Sounds relaxing,” he says. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to share your lifestyle with me for a weekend.”
“I’d be glad to.”
“Hey, Riri…wanna go swimming?” he then asks. I raise my eyes to his over the table.
We change into swimwear and when I emerge from the bathroom (for some reason unable to bring myself to change in front of my own husband), Junsu laughs. At first I assume he is laughing at me and I’m insulted… but then I look at him and realize he’s about to start drooling.
“Oh my God,” he says, grinning. I hide my smile behind my towel and lead the way to the beach.
We spend the whole morning and half the afternoon by the surf. The beach isn’t empty but it isn’t crowded, as it is mostly a private beach. We lounge on towels or in chairs, reading magazines and making trips to the ocean. Junsu makes sure that I have an umbrella over me at all times…except when he drags me by the hand to dip me in the water. I just laugh and let him splash at me, jumping onto his back and demanding a piggyback ride.
We’re way too old for this and it’s uncharacteristic of us, but I’m saying to hell with characters. Who knows how long it will last?
The sun passes overhead and we have had our fill of sand, so we decide we’ll go to the market nearby and get ingredients for dinner. We throw on our cover-ups and sunglasses, attempting to look like the locals (as if they’ll ever recognize me).
The market is open-air and full of fresh vegetables and fruits, and we take our time looking and choosing. We pick up a little of everything with no exact plan for dinner in mind until Junsu offers to cook, and then I load a basket with things I like, judging his reaction. We see lots of live sea creatures being sold and laughingly avoid the fisherwomen who wave their catch at us, preferring to run away home.
After dinner we sit on the patio for awhile with glasses of wine and our feet propped up. The sun has disappeared behind a haze and we watch people pack up on the beach. The breeze brings Junsu’s scent to my nose and I glance at him. He looks unguarded, gazing out at the ocean, and even when he turns his brown eyes to mine they seem open and trustworthy. I look away.
“I’m going to shower,” I say some time later. I get up from my chair and head into the house.
When I reach the bedroom I begin to pull my cover-up over my head but I’m not alone. Junsu wraps a strong arm around my waist as I turn to him in surprise. He kisses me before I can say a word, lets my hair down while he backs me into the bathroom. I watch as he flips the water on and we wait for it to warm up.
“Trying to conserve water?” I ask.
His eyes crinkle but he says nothing, removing his shirt and leaning against the door. He’s waiting for me to come to him, waiting for me to initiate, and I swear I won’t.
Suddenly my body is stepping closer without my permission and I’m running my hands down his chest. He doesn’t make a single move. He just watches me as I touch and feel. We both seem to be observers as I trail patterns over his abdomen. My palms come to rest on his pecs and I suddenly press a kiss to the center of his chest, tasting sea salt between my lips. I kiss the base of his throat and taste cleanness. I kiss the side of his mouth and taste awakening.
When we step into the shower Junsu keeps his eyes on mine. His arms tighten around my hips and I grasp his shoulders as we turn in circles under the spray. We’re dancing without music, my cheek pressed against his heart. We’re naked in every sense and scared to change our comfortable, miserable ways.
Eventually there is soap and shampoo and when we’ve washed the sea away we end up back in his bed, gasping and touching softly. Nothing fancy, nothing kinky, just us.
Junsu pauses when my legs are around his waist, a quizzical look on his face.
“You don’t have a condom,” I state.
“I…” He reached for the drawer in the bedside table and comes up with nothing after rooting through it. “I don’t have one. Do you?”
He gulps, looking down at my body and my breathing gets fast again.
“Never mind,” I whisper, pulling him down to me and ignoring all the reasons that would explain his not having protection at his love shack.
Sunday dawns and Junsu wakes me with a strawberry kiss, juice dripping from his laughing mouth as he tempts me from bed. He takes my hand and we walk down the beach beside the rising sun. He’s telling me stories from his recent shows and flights and fan meetings. It’s odd that I’ve never been privy to this part of his life. For all his frustration the morning before, he now speaks fondly of his career, of singing, recording, and performing. This is the Junsu I used to know, excitement alight in his eyes as he tells me about the things that make him happy. I’m alarmed by knowing that some part of him never changed in all the time I’ve known him, even more upset in wondering why he’s blamed me all these years if I didn’t come between him and his dreams.
We take a ride around town and have lunch, but by mid-afternoon we have to pack up, close up, and head back to Seoul. I let Junsu drive my car this time and we don’t even pay attention to what is on the radio because we just talk. I can’t remember the last time our relationship has felt like this; easy, content, young. Well, actually…I can remember…it was a long time ago.
Its evening when we arrive back at the house, and suddenly I look up at my home and I’m afraid to go inside. My old life is trapped in there and I don’t want it back. The me that lives here is hopeless, resigned, unloved. I don’t want to be that me anymore.
Junsu glances at me as he pulls our bags out of the backseat and I pretend nothing is wrong. Everything is as I left it in the house but the phone is blinking with messages. I tell Junsu I’m taking my stuff upstairs and he begins to listen to the voicemails.
I take a deep breath when I’m back in our bedroom. There’s a sort of comfort to be had here, but it’s an ancient, painful comfort. I can’t afford to throw it away just yet, though…not yet.
I tousle my hair and head back down. I think something is a little out of place and I realize that the messages are still playing but Junsu isn’t standing by the phone. I hear papers rustling.
“Junsu?” I call just as I turn the corner. He’s in the foyer sorting through our pile of mail, just where our kind neighbor left it. He looks up quickly.
“What are you looking for?” I ask.
“Oh, nothing. Just checking the mail,” he says casually, straightening up. I see something disappear behind his back. I feel my brow furrow for a single instant before smoothing it into a smile.
“Are you hungry?” I ask. “I was thinking take-out, if you don’t care.”
The rest of the night passes agreeably. I laugh and smile with Junsu but I can’t help wondering what he is hiding. It must be time for him to even the odds.
Junsu is in the bathroom getting ready for bed when I take my chance.
His hiding place is beneath the cushion of his armchair. I assume he thinks this location is uncompromised but I’ve cleaned this house weekly since we got married. He’s foolish to think any place is a good hiding place.
What I find under the cushion is last Friday’s newspaper. While he’s brushing his teeth I unfold the paper as quietly as I can, my eyes sweeping quickly. I almost don’t see it at first, the picture of him, because it seems natural to see his face. Then I realize being in a newspaper is out of place.
The picture is not just of Junsu. There is a woman standing by his side, and the article cites the location of the couple sighting. It seems like more of a tabloid than a newspaper article, speculations and rumor, but it concerns my husband and another woman. A woman who has her hands on him. A woman who claims she’s his lover.
Junsu flips off the light and leaves the bathroom and when he says my name I’m startled. Our eyes hold and he looks at what I’m holding. His mouth opens and no sound comes out.
“Is this why you took me out of town this weekend?” I ask.
“Is this why you invited me to the beach? So I wouldn’t see this? You were hiding it from me.”
“I was hiding it because it’s upsetting,” he said simply. “I didn’t know about it until we got home. My manager texted me about it and I didn’t want you to see it.”
I think my chin is trembling and I blink rapidly. I nod.
“It isn’t true. It’s just a rumor.” He comes closer and takes the paper from me. “We spent time together this weekend because I wanted to and I hope you did too. It had nothing to do with keeping this from you. I didn’t even know about it. I can’t help what people say.”
I shake my hair out of my face and look him in the eyes, examining him for truth. He looks back steadily.
Is this the first time I’ve heard rumors or seen evidence of his infidelity? It can’t be. I know I’ve heard whispers before, and it’s always been my understanding but I can’t think of any details… I don’t know. I don’t know, I don’t know. I’ve never cared before and I want to think that the only reason I care now is because he’s the one that wants to make us better, and I have a reason to refuse his efforts if these rumors are true.
I don’t know what to think.
“You don’t believe me,” Junsu stated slowly. He takes a deep breath to calm himself, but I recognize his temper. His next speech rips out of him like he can’t stop himself. “You don’t believe me? You don’t trust a damn thing I say?! You never did like hearing the truth, did you, Ri?! No matter what I do it will always be lies to you!”
“Are you admitting to this?” I shake the paper.
“If I tell you the truth you’ll only hate me more,” he says, never more honest than he is in this moment.
I feel that sensation of being slapped by words for the second time in my life. My face collapses into tears. My gaze is clear long enough to see his expression become one of sickening regret, but he’s given me what I was waiting for and I run from the room.
He evened the odds.