Story:Birthday Blues

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September 24th, 2021: 12:30pm

‘Two more days’

Chaehwan leaned back in his chair with a small sigh, finger idly tapping his laptop’s keyboard. His eyes were glued to the calendar on his wall where the 27th had been circled and starred multiple times.


The combine was so close. Yet…

He drew his eyes from the calendar and sat up straight, scooting his chair closer to his desk. His room was a mess. A half-packed suitcase was left open on the bed. Sticky notes of reminders were posted all over things. Papers and books covered what little space was left on the bed.


“I’ve got to finish this.” he muttered, now clicking and typing away once more; before he’d gotten distracted. Typically, he’d have no problem getting the days’ work done quickly. Today, though, seemed like it was going to be a whirlwind. There was so much he had to do. He’d already dropped Chae-ri off at school, gotten groceries his mom asked for, went to morning class, came home to finish this project--

Their tail bristled at the sudden notification of an incoming workplace call.


“What? Is that today?” the journal to his left all but confirmed it and, with a groan, he joined the call.


Work project now minimized, Chaehwan gave a bright smile and pulled the laptop a bit closer. This way, hopefully the camera wouldn’t catch too much of the background space. This meeting was only supposed to be a general check in to see how each team member was doing with their assigned tasks. It wasn’t a big deal that he hadn’t finished his task. In fact, he wasn’t the only team member to still be working on their parts. Still, when it came time for him to explain this to his team, he couldn’t help but feel disappointed in himself. This was one of the first times he’d not been done by the time his boss checked in. If anything, he wanted nothing more than to prove himself worthy of having this internship position.


Once the call ended, he let out a breath and grabbed his journal.

“Alright. It’s…” a finger tapped his phone to pull up the current time. “Right. Okay. So I’ve got, what, two hours before the next class? I have to leave in an hour, then.”


‘So I have to finish this by then because after class I’ve got to pick up Chae-ri, help mom cook, get ready for the party…’


The marten’s brows knit together as he whispered hurried thoughts to himself aloud. The only thing that snapped him out of this was when his phone rang. Rather than the caught-off-guard surprise he’d had with the work call, this call was met with a slight hesitation and a hint of anxiety.


‘Dae-hyun’ was not a part of any scheduled plans for the day. In fact, Chaehwan had been content with letting the phone ring and meet his voicemail. So then why? Why did his finger easily slide across the screen to answer the phone? Why did he already have it pressed to his ear, the words easily spilling out of his mouth: “Hyeong?”


“It’s about time, Chaehwan! I thought you were going to ignore me.”


Chaehwan began to respond but caught himself. He chewed his lower lip for a second, putting his phone down and hitting the speaker button. “Sorry, Hyeong. I just got out of a work meeting and was trying to finish up something.”


“Oh.” for a moment, english was switched to korean. [“Are you in the office?”]


“Huh?” he blinked at that and raised a brow. “No. I didn’t have to go in today. I only go in every other friday, remember?”


‘Like he’d ever.’


Now back to english, Dae-hyun let out a small laugh. “Right! Well, that’s good, right? That drive takes you an hour?”


“Two. Sometimes three.”


“Right…”


The call went silent - save for the typing coming from Chaehwan getting back to his assignment. With the seconds going by, then a full minute going by, the younger of the two couldn't help but sigh. It looked like, as usual, he’d have to get straight to the point.


“You didn’t just call to small talk with me.”


Dae-Hyun let out a small cough. “No.”


Hands coming to a stop mid-type, he turned his eyes to his phone and squinted. A part of him wished his brother could feel his gaze. Maybe, though, he’d get the hint by the next flat words that came out of his mouth.


“What, then? It wasn’t to wish me a happy birthday.”


That was enough to get his brother to drop the faux energetic tone of voice he was using. It seemed like it was also enough to get his brother to stop beating around the bush. “Sorry, Chaehwan. I swear I’ll remember next time...but I need more money.”


“You what?” he scooped his phone up quickly, eyes wide. “What do you mean, hyeong? I already gave you a thousand for this month. What happened to the money?’


How could he have spent it all within a week and a half? Was there an emergency? Was-


Abeoji. "Is dad alright?”


Whatever worry carried in Chaehwan’s voice was of no concern to Dae-hyun who grit his teeth and now seemed agitated.


“Dad is fine. I just, you know, some things came up. It doesn’t matter-”


“Doesn’t matter?” A growl rumbled in his throat. “That money is for you AND dad!”


“Do you think he’d take anything from you? He found out you've been sending us money and hasn't accepted any of it for months now.”


Chaehwan’s blood ran cold. “...What?”


“That doesn’t matter either. He’s doing fine enough but-”


“Hold on.”


“-I could use the money. I have-”


Before he could stop himself, he snarled into the phone and dug his claws into its screen, the glass on it now starting to shatter. “HOLD ON! You’ve been spending MY money all this time?”


Dae-hyun paused. Chaehwan pressed on.

“You’ve been spending my money all this time and now you want more? You called me on my birthday? Two days before the biggest day of my life? To scam me out of more?’


“We’re family. Isn’t that reason enough?”


‘I-’


For the first time in his life, the marten was speechless. All the anger he’d built up had seemed to subside. The grip on his phone loosened and small shards of glass fell onto his lap.


Dae-hyun cleared his throat on the other end of the phone. “So?” After what seemed like a life-time of a slow realization finally sinking in, Chaehwan looked down at his phone’s screen and felt his heart sink. His finger hovered and gently pressed down on the red button.


“I don’t know when my big brother left. But the last time he wished me happy birthday was eight years ago.”


His finger let up on the phone’s screen and, with a click and a flash, the call ended.


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