A Handsome Stranger

The strobe lights of the club made pulsed in time to the pounding of my head. The heat had my body slick with sweat. I needed to get out of there. I was close to fainting and I needed fresh air. I found my way to the back door of the crowded club. The door was heavy, I pushed with all my strength and it opened with a loud creak. Chilly air slammed into me. I took a deep breath and instantly felt my anxiety lessen. The alley was dark with few lights. There were a few people around smoking, they gave me puzzled looks. A foreigner's presence was uncommon here. To avoid their stares, I decided to start walking. I needed to clear my mind and being under the eyes of judgmental natives was not an ideal place.

I was worried about Anna, but last time I saw her she was wrapped around a DJ grinding on the dance floor. I did not want to spoil her night, but I just needed to getaway. I felt so guilty. I wish I could keep up with her, but her type of lifestyle was so out of my league. I tried so hard to fit in, but I just could not keep up. She deserved a better friend. Someone that could handle her alcohol, someone that could dance for hours on a crowded dance floor, someone that could talk to men effortlessly. I was a bad friend. I felt the tears begin to sting my eyes. This was not the place to be losing my mind over guilt.

I turned out of the alley to a busier street. I noticed an open convenience store on the corner. It was not ideal, but I needed some aspirin for my pounding head. I had a little bit of cash leftover from the club; it should be enough to grab the medication. I wiped the tears from my face and headed towards the corner.

The door chimed as I walked into the store. The fluorescent lights pulsed and caused me to squint my eyes. The linoleum under my feet seemed to start spinning. I just shook my head and hoped the world would settle down enough for me to get my medication and get home.

The store owner yelled out a greeting from somewhere behind the counter. I mimicked his greeting with a shaky voice and set out to find the aspirin. The aisles seemed long and endless. I could still feel the tears running down my face, no matter how hard I tried to keep them in.

I located the medication section, but everything seemed even more confusing. Reading Korean was difficult on its own, not to mention the few drinks I downed in the club. I had forgotten the Korean equivalent of aspirin. I pulled out my phone to look it up. I noticed that I had 3 unread text messages from Anna. My guilt seemed to manifest itself into a lump in my throat.

Hey! Where are you? Oppa says he can get us in VIP service.

Still alive? Where are you? I can't find you anywhere!

You're not here. If you don't answer me soon, I will come find you. Answer me now.

She deserved answers, but I couldn't tell her I ditched, so I decided to breeze over the truth. It'll be better that way, then I can explain more in the morning.

Hey. I am fine. I just felt a little sick and decided to head home. We can talk in the morning. Love you.

I heard the door to the store chime again as another tear slid down my face. I felt so defeated, I needed to get out of here before I lost it. Pull yourself together, get the medicine and go home.

I opened the translator app on my phone and began searching for aspirin. I tried comparing labels on the shelves to the words in my app, but it started looking like I would leave here empty-handed. I was scanning labels while moving down the aisle when I felt myself hit something firm. My phone slid between my fingers and clattered to the floor.

"오, 미안해!" I panicked. I bent over to pick up my phone, hoping that the screen was not cracked. I am such a clumsy person; this was not the place or time for this.

Before I could wrap my hand around my phone lying on the floor, a pale hand adorned with silver rings snatched it. I looked up to see a strange man holding my phone out to me while I crouched awkwardly on the floor. I stood up quickly embarrassed by the situation.

He was tall, I mean taller than me. His slim figure was concealed in a dark sweatshirt and pants. If I didn't know better, I would've guessed that he was here to rob the store. I tried to look at him, but his hat was pulled down over his eyes and the mask on his face hid the bottom of his face.

"조심해야 한다." He muttered. He turned the phone around in his hand and extended it towards me. As I retrieved the phone our eyes met. His face lit up in surprise upon seeing me for the first time. I felt my heart drop to my stomach. He was beautiful, well from what I could see from his face. His eyes were a deep chocolate brown and seemed to shine in the fluorescent lights of the store. I stumbled backward into the shelves and knocked down some of the products. This seemed to snap him out of his stare. I quickly bent down and scrambled to pick up the products that fell from their shelves. He did the same.

"당신은 한국어를 말합니까? He asked. Our hands touched as we both reached for the same product. My skin seemed to light up at his touch, sending goosebumps up my arms.

"Only a little bit." I managed to force out, "Do you speak English?"

He laughed quietly to himself, as we both stood up.

"Only a little bit," he mimicked me. I could see his light up as if he were smiling under his mask. Our eyes met again, and I could see his smile fade.

"Why do you cry?" He lifted his hand to my face, as if he were going to wipe my tears but quickly stopped himself.

"Bad night, I guess." I said as I forced a smile. I didn't want this strange, handsome man to worry about me. I felt my heart pounding, as he gazed at me.

"You should not cry, are you here alone?" He asked. It took me a minute to put together what he had said. I didn't know what to say. My mouth formed the words before I could think through the consequences.

"No, well, um yes. I left my friend at the club next door." I stuttered. I just told a stranger I was alone in this part of the city. Real smart. Good one. I sighed loudly.

"What do you need here?" he asked politely. He gestured to the medication next to us. I looked down at the phone in my hand. And lifted it to him so he could see. He stepped closer, looming over me now. His eyes staring into me, as my heart raced. Then suddenly he grabbed something off the shelf and stepped back to offer it to me. I reached out and took it as if my body was on autopilot.

"Um, thank you." I managed to force out. He seemed to smile again. I felt like my heart was going to explode. I forced myself to turn away, ready to pay for my item.

"잠깐만." He grabbed my wrist. I felt my cheeks flush with his touch.

"Have you eaten? You need to eat with that." He said in a light tone. I looked down at the medication in my hand.

"No, I haven't eaten yet." I sighed. I wasn't hungry but I really needed to cure my headache. I was conflicted.

"Come with me, you must eat." He said as his thumb traced circles around my wrist. It felt as if he was compelling with his touch. I answered before I could stop myself.

"Okay," I whispered. I felt immediate anxiety. Did I just volunteer to leave with a stranger?

"Good, let's go." He smiled under the mask. I felt my pulse accelerate again. He grabbed the medication out of my hand and pulled me towards the cashier. The cashier looked suspiciously between me and him while they exchanged words in Korean with each other. He handed us the bag and we strolled out of the store together.

"Do you like Ramen?" He looked down at me. I nodded. He began walking forward and then stopped. He looked back at me and offered his arm. I looped my arm around him without thinking. I began walking with the strange man to an unknown location.

Thanks for reading XoXo ~Jaylynn