What you’re about to read is the CENSORED version of my romance novel entitled “The Rival.” If you like to access the complete version of the chapters, visit this link: https://books2read.com/u/ba6616/M. Gaspary, Author of “The Rival”
Chapter 5 – Chen (10 Years Earlier)
What causes a person’s heart to flutter? I tapped my fingers on top of the table, unable to find an answer to a question I couldn’t seem to understand. Like most people, you believe what they say about love.
I scoffed. “Love,” I whispered, stretching my lips wide while looking at the table and shaking my head. Those goddamn drug addicts would say that falling for someone feels like getting high—alive, relaxed, careless, and obsessive. Despite my lack of experience in such nonsense, I am not that ignorant about it. I know it’s a powerful feeling you have for someone or something you value. However, it nearly has been impossible to find someone who matches me, someone who could handle me and does everything either too intensely or passively. Black or white is the option. Even an active sexual lifestyle—with a variety of married women for the excitement of it—can’t make up for that feeling. There is no such thing as a middle ground, in my opinion. But I find it amusing and satisfying to be in partnerships where there are a lot of “what ifs” and where there are no guarantees and love.
The table’s placement gave me a fantastic view of the arriving students. They sat with their buddies laughing, talking, and gossiping about their monotonous daily lives while eating delicious meals.
My pals beside me have been on blind dates recently, grinning and flushing their faces while scrolling and following various women they would find appealing on social media using their mobile devices. What a pathetic situation.
I scoffed and shook my head, watching them so serious about finding love. Though they were my bandmates and brothers, I always felt disconnected, almost disgusted at the idea that they were looking for anything abstract. Love is intangible, and I know I’ll never be able to experience it.
Perhaps I had.
While I watched the individuals passing through the canteen, I immediately remembered the first girl whom I kissed and promised to get married to when I was nine years old. Was there a chance it was love? No. It wasn’t—just a stupid self-obligation to taste a girl’s lips and satisfy my fundamental longing. Was it?
I took a sip of orange juice and squeezed my lips together.
“Can you guys put a stop to it?” Jun sneered and slapped the backs of their heads. “You look like pathetic perverts.”
“Come on, Jun. Let them do whatever they want,” I said.
Jun chuckled. “We’re not the same, Chen. But, you know what, ordinary people like me don’t have the face to draw women in with a single wink.”
As he continued scanning the screen, I noticed Seth, the silent one, sitting next to Jun, looking at me and chuckling, which irritated me. Though he rarely spoke, the way Seth played his eyes and facial muscles was enough to understand whatever he wanted to say. As our eyes met, I saw dissent.
I scoffed and looked away when Jun tapped my shoulder.
“While we’re on the subject of women, how was Louisa?” Jun leaned in close to me with a half-empty water bottle in his hand. He smiled sarcastically.
I let out a sigh. “There’s nothing unique. That woman became boring.”
“What do you expect from these women that age? Do they owe you more loyalty than their husbands?” Jun laughed and sipped from the bottle. “You have to know what you’re getting yourself into, Chen. You know, these women you’re hooking up with are all married. Married. If not, those who are already engaged,” Jun sighed as he continued, “You are ruining even the most perfect couples. But instead of apologizing, you’re taking advantage of their insatiable desire for affection that their relationships can’t provide.” He drew back and took a drink. “As if you know how to show love.” He shook his head and looked at me with worry and irritation.
I scoffed. “Love? I don’t care if they want affection or sex from me, Jun. They’re all desperate women craving a piece of raw flesh. In my opinion, they’re a bunch of scumbags swarming around me. So it’s not my problem if their relationship falls apart due to their selfishness. I’m just doing my duty.”
“How would you feel if you were in their shoes? What if the person you care about treats you like a toy and breaks your heart as you do to these women?”
A grunt escaped my lips while Jun grinned as if he was adamant about what he said or as if Jun didn’t mean what he said at all. I drank to ease my nerves and chuckled. “Women are toys, Jun. Isn’t that why I’m playing with them?” I pressed my head against my folded arm and combed my hair backward. I chuckled and extended my back to stand, swiftly turning around to see a strange man and his band members entering the cafeteria.
As I sipped the last of my orange juice, enjoying the volatile environment, my forehead furrowed when my eyes landed on that person for some inexplicable reason. I followed their path until they sat at one of the vacant tables opposite the cafeteria, a few tables away from us.
Jun took notice and turned his head in the same direction. “Oh, Alex Yoon and The Painkillers.” His sarcastic smile said a lot without saying anything. He nodded as he turned his head back to my direction and landed a stare at me. “Isn’t it ironic? You have a messed-up life, but you enjoy ballads. Take a look at that fellow over there. Although he appears to be a gangster and a fan of rock music, he lives a better, decent life. Unlike you.”
I inhaled deeply and pursed my lips while my eyes couldn’t seem to get enough of that guy, and I was unaware of it. Something about him tickled me, although it was uncertain, and he stunk of boredom. Still, young and attractive girls flocked to him as well. That got me thinking about how Alex managed to do it despite his attitude.
But then, I froze as he turned his head and glanced back at me while I was staring at him. My soul jumped back, practically recoiling in my seat as if threatened. Why are you looking at me, bastard? I rolled my eyes and scoffed while shaking my head.
When he swiftly turned to speak with his companions, I couldn’t let go, even though he wasn’t looking at me anymore. My chest felt constricted, and my brows furrowed. What is this? What the fuck is this?
I forced myself up to stand and let out a sigh, unable to cope with the growing frustration and feeling troubled. Unbelievable. What’s the matter with this guy? I scowled and shook my head, a little perplexed.
“Can you tell me where you’re going?” Jun asked.
“I’m going to light up.”
“Just make sure you show up later for our practice, okay?”
I moved closer to the exit, nodding but not saying anything.
While passing by the other band’s table, I dug my hands into the pockets of my jeans. Despite my best efforts to avoid making a disturbance, Mr. Rock n’ Roll’s stare upset me. But because he was taller than his friends, they didn’t notice him glancing at me when I had to pass by their table on my way out.
While I was a few steps away from them, I saw Alex tapping a friend’s shoulder who was sitting beside him. He stood and took a few steps away from them, waving his hand, before turning in my direction.
Before he could reach me, I walked in sprints while keeping it natural. When I turned once more, I saw him walking in my direction with determination in his eyes as if I was the finish line. I was about to turn when I noticed Alex standing closer to me.
When I looked at him up close, it was the first moment I noticed his features and realized that he was slightly taller than me. His defined jawlines and thick eyebrows matched his dark lashes, long straight black hair, and glowering brown eyes.
As we continued exchanging looks, it drew many people’s attention, not just from our groups but from everyone in the cafeteria. Their gazes, including the others—I think they were their fans—attempted to frighten both groups and provoked an unprecedented riot.
But that gaze caught me as he looked at me way too intensely, almost erotic.
“I guess you’re enjoying this show, aren’t you?” I asked.
“No, I rather enjoy looking at you getting scared,” Alex said.
“Fuck you, too.”
We both scoffed and shook our heads without saying anything before leaving in opposite directions.
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