There was something Pebble admired about standing on a rooftop; the gorgeous view splayed out before him like a beautiful painting on a canvas. He thought of each building as little squares and rectangles, each adorned with tiny details such as windows and antennas. The more windows, the better.
Pebble especially loved the view at night, for the skyline of Seoul looked astounding when illuminated. He stared off into the horizon, which seemed to look like a faint purple line nearly concealed by the oranges, pinks and reds of the sky.
Sweet summer air crept into his lungs and filled them to the brim as he inhaled and exhaled. Inhaled and exhaled.
As he effortlessly twirled a pencil around his fingers, he shut his eyes and let the darkness envelop him completely. He could hear the quiet rustle of papers from the blank notebook placed underneath his right thigh. A grin formed at the corners of his lips as he begun to think about Jincense, and how cute she looked whenever she moved hair away from her eyes. He could imagine each strand of hair gently grazing her delicate eyelashes, and he wondered if it tickled her at all.
Pebble inhaled and exhaled.
HAPPY BELATED VALENTINE’S DAY, MARATLE!!!!! 8DDD <3 It’s a long one, but this is a future excerpt from further on in Falling for Teacher. I hope you like it!!!!
Mara walked into her classroom as usual. She hadn’t seen Howl yet, that day, but she assumed she would when class began. As she sat down and put her stuff next to her chair, she felt a light punch on her arm.
“Ah! What?!” She quickly jumped and turned to see her unnie, smiling wide as she could. Mara remained silent for a moment, watching Jincense’s gaze continue to burn into her mind. “What did I do?!”
Jincense laughed, “NOTHING!! It’s what someone did for YOU,” she giggled and wiggled her arms a bit, an action that reminded Mara of a tweaked up hamster, even if it was cute.
“What are you talking about? And why are you so excited?” Mara opened her notebook and began putting her assignments in order.
“Ohhh, you’ll see. I was helping out one of the teachers as usual and something caught my eye while going through the Valentine’s Day grahams.” Jincense turned away as Mara’s eyes widened. Mara quickly turned back to her unnie, but before getting the chance to ask her about what she meant, Kim Howl walked into the room, looking a bit worried. He never looked at her, which worried Mara immensely.
He walked over to the desk and sat down as remaining students rushed in while the bell rang. He stayed quiet for several moments, keeping his eyes closed and just breathing.
“Something’s wrong…” Mara whispered.
She heard Jincense snicker, “Or something’s very right.” Mara turned her head slowly and watched Jincense give that sneaky smile as she began writing again. Mara couldn’t help but roll her eyes at the way Jincense tried to be so inconspicuous. She glanced back at Howl who stood up and looked at the class, still not making eye contact with her.
“I had a rough night last night, so please, keep this room to a dull roar, but do what you’d like,” he sat back down, burying his head behind his folder.
Jincense patted Mara’s arm and stood up, walking over to Howl and tapping him on the shoulder. He looked up with the same expression on his face. All Mara could tell was Jincense whispering something to him, then motioned to the door. Howl nodded and stood up again, “I’ll be back in several minutes, class. Don’t do anything stupid.” He and Jincense walked out.
Now Mara was severly confused. Why had Jincense asked to talk to Howl privately? Could something else be going on? Her heart pounded faster as her thoughts swam like sharks in her mind. She watched their figures through the glazed window carefully trying to figure out what they were doing. The two shadows meshed a bit and she almost fell out of her chair. They walked back in a moment later. Howl’s mood seemed to have lifted a bit, and Jincense, as usual, was unreadable. She sat down quietly next to Mara and began doodling. Mara decided it was in her best interest not to say anything yet, and waited.
“Alright, everyone!” Howl stood up, “I’ve given you half the period for free time. Now, as you all know, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. The Valentine’s grahams will be given out halfway through the period and they can be anything from a box of chocolates, to a tiny bag of stones, to flowers. Whatever you please. Jincense will give you the details on how to purchase one of the grahams, so head over to her if you want information.” Howl’s smile lightened his face once again.
Mara felt worried and relieved at the same time. She knew she could trust Jincense, Howl wasn’t her type anyways. She probably just did that thing she always did when someone was upset: psychologically profile them, figure out what’s wrong without asking, then doing the best she could to fix it. It was a talent of hers, seemingly.
“Pebble… I think I made a huge mistake,” Howl said over the phone.
“Okay, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you say that before. What’s wrong?”
Howl rubbed his forehead as he flopped into his chair. He was supposed to be grading papers after school, but he was so mixed up inside he didn’t know what else to do.
“Do you need me to head over?” Pebble moved some of the things around on his desk.
Howl let out a sigh, “Yeah…” He heard the phone click and put it down. His head was pounding and his entire body felt weak with nervousness. He didn’t even have the strength to move as Pebble opened the door.
He locked it behind him and sat on top of one of the desks across from Howl. “You need to tell me what’s up before I send you to a doctor.”
Howl bit his lip and let out a long breath again. “I kind of… did something… And Jincense figured it out.”
He jumped at the laugh that Pebble let out, “Okay, you’re confusing me, but because I’m interested in this story, I’ll stay till you tell me everything.” He grabbed a chair and placed it next to Howl’s desk
Mara sat with Jincense at the lunch table, still entirely confused as to what was going on. She stayed quiet until Jincense brought up the subject.
“Stop being a turtle. I only talked to him about why he was upset and gave him a hug. Remember, he’s not my type.”
Mara’s eyes widened and she pretended to act shocked, “What do you mean?! I didn’t think you were-“
“Oh stop it!” Jincense laughed as she pulled Mara into a hug, “Don’t worry. I just had to make sure he was alright. Remember, I consider him a friend more than a teacher.”
“Well, you’re probably smarter than him,” Mara chuckled a bit and hugged Jincense back then got comfortable in her seat again. Her body had been a storm of questions and confusion ever since homeroom, but when Jincense calmed her down, she felt as though it was just some smudges on the window mistaken for something worse. The rest of the day went much more smoothly than anticipated from earlier on, and she went home feeling relaxed…
Until of course, Jincense’s original comments came back into her head before Howl had walked into the classroom so upset.
“She couldn’t be talking about-No. Impossible. I’m not that lucky,” she rolled over onto her side and turned off the light.
The next morning was depressing. Jincense had to leave early to help with the Valentine grahams and Mara wasn’t used to the house being so quiet. Usually Jincense woke her up with loud, happy music and would cook breakfast while she got ready for school. Jincense had left the oven to warm and had indeed still cooked Mara breakfast, but even the heavenly aroma of pancakes and syrup didn’t cure the empty feeling she had. It wasn’t so much Jincense being gone, but moreso the day in general.
February 14th. National singles’ awareness day. She felt like many other people who spent most of their time on the internet, an easy description. Lonely. It helped however, that Jincense boycotted the day several years earlier entirely and didn’t decorate. She only helped with the school events because it was extra credit and a chance to exert some creative ability… And perhaps some theatrical ability, if she pleased, but at home, it was just a normal day. She finished her food and her V8 juice. Jincense did always make sure she stayed at least semi-healthy.
Mara put her dishes in the dishwasher then stretched a bit as she looked around. Their apartment was filled with many cultures and decorations; things that mostly Jincense collected through years of travel and hobbies. There was one wall with Asian decorations. Umbrellas were hung upside down on the cieling along with some lanterns. There was bamboo and silk tapestries draped along the wall. Another wall had a couple shelves with wooden figures and masks from Africa. The last had medieval swords, helmets, figurines, and even a chalice. At first, she was quite surprised at the mix of different areas all in one place, but had gotten used to it over the past several years. She grabbed her bag and smiled as she closed the door, locking it behind her.
She arrived at school, several minutes early and puffed up her cheeks seeing the walls decorated with hearts and banners. The pinks and reds filled the walls and gave her a smile. She could only imagine Jincense’s face when dealing with the baby pinks. “Ugh… pink…” she would have said, making a funny face, trying not to touch the color that she found horrid. Apparently, Jincense’s grandmother tried as much as possible to get her to wear pink as a child, and it didn’t take a positive affect on her psyche.
Mara giggled as she started walking towards the cafeterial, where she half expected Jincense to be in a princess dress, going around singing a high-pitch Disney song while giving Valentine’s grahams to people… But to her shock, Jincense was instead, wearing black, red, and gold.
“Let me guess. You’re leading a rebellion,” Mara giggled.
“Psh, no, then I’d lose the extra credit,” Jincense laughed and handed a box of chocolates to one of the guys in line. They were selling handmade Valentine’s Day gifts for last minute requests.
“Okay, so what’s with the colors?” She sat down next to her.
“Well, Saint Valentine wore white, red, and gold, but, since all three Valentines died in tragic deaths mostly of martyrdome, I decided to wear black in order to commemorate them.”
“And you highly disapprove of the selling of commercial goods, but are doing it for extra credit?”
“Noooo, they’re all handmade by people who aren’t gaining any profit and raising money for the school. To me, that’s not commercial,” Jincense winked and handed a guy a rose.
Mara smiled, seeing all of the guys giving gifts to their girlfriends or to random girls who they wanted to be their valentines. At least everyone was happy, as far as she could tell. Even the ones who recieved nothing or were single were enjoying themselves making fun of those who participated.
“Don’t worry, your present’s coming soon.” She heard Jincense whisper quietly, not even looking her direction, but writing what was being sold on a piece of paper.
Mara raised an eyebrow, “What?”
“You’re worried it’s just going to be another year gone by where you feel like the one and lonely. But it’s okay, something good’s going to happen.” Jincense finally looked up and smiled for a brief moment, then went back to catalogging. Mara could find nothing else to do but shake her head. She looked at the clock and saw that the bell was about to ring so she bid Jincense farewell and headed to class.
No one was inside, so she sat down and began doodling on a piece of paper. Howl crept inside her train of thought a couple times, but she quickly pushed those thoughts away, since Jincense was bound to pop in at any moment and read her mind. To her surprise, she didn’t. It was silent and she was alone. Jincense probably wouldn’t even be there until halfway through the period when she passed out the grahams. Mara leaned back and looked around. It really was quiet… Even a bit eery.
The silence took over her and she couldn’t help but jump and scream as Howl opened the door. “WHAT THE-!?!?” He nearly jumped ten feet. Mara quickly covered her mouth as he stared at her with wide eyes. The door closed on its own, and the two sat there, staring at each other for a moment.
“S-sorry!!! You frightened me!” Mara quickly said, bowing her head and accidentally hitting it on the desk. She yelped and rubbed her forehead as Howl quickly ran over.
“Are you alright?!” he asked, brushing her hair out of her face and examining her forehead to make sure she wasn’t injured.
“I’m fine,” she blushed seeing Howl so close to her. Her heart beat wildly and she was almost positive he heard it, because he looked into her eyes and smiled.
“Just making sure.” He stood up and went back to his stuff and he had dropped on the floor, then sat at his desk with his folder. “What are you doing in class so early?”
“Bored. Jincense is busy with helping out so she left me alone,” Mara’s heart hadn’t stopped its rapid pace, and she was becoming more and more nervous, so she looked out the window.
“I see. Well, class should start soon,” she could feel Howl’s smile shine through his words, and his eyes pierce her heart even though her eyes weren’t focused in his direction. Words from one of Jincense’s many poems popped into her head at that moment ‘And what can I say when I’m looking away, but your eyes see through my disguise’. She heard Howl stand up and start writing on the whiteboard behind him, so she slowly moved her head to the right to look at him.
His perfect silhouette shamed many so-called ‘models’. She wondered once if he may have been one. Her body heat slowly began rising, higher and higher. She didn’t even notice him turning around to look at her. He raised and eyebrow and smiled nervously, “What?”
She shook her head and looked away again, feeling her cheeks burning. Jincense would have said she was blushing like a blueberry. Mara’s breath quickly became shallow and her hands started trembling. She could feel him staring straight at her.
The bell ringing allowed her to quickly take a deep breath and relax as the rest of the students rushed into the room and took their seats, but that feeling didn’t fade away. She looked back at Howl, and her theory was correct: he hadn’t stopped staring at her. She felt as though she might start hyperventilating as he sat down, not breaking eye contact. “Shit…” she muttered as she looked at the door, waiting for Jincense to come in… Even though that wouldn’t be for another twenty minutes.
She began tapping her pencil, just watching the clock inch forward second by second. Howl began giving a lesson on Valentine’s Day, but she blocked his words out. She couldn’t handle his sweet voice when she felt like this. Her heart ached with longing for affection, HIS affection. The idea of kissing those soft, pink lips. No, she shunned the thoughts away. She couldn’t handle it much longer.
Finally, to her relief, Jincense walked through the door, surprisingly with Pebble at her side. She giggled at the glare Jincense sent him. Mara began to relax in her seat. She wouldn’t be alone much longer…
Jincense smiled at the rest of the class and winked at Mara, “Alright, the small ones will be passed out, but anything bigger than a cantelope will need to be picked up at lunchtime or at the end of the day! You’ll get a note that will tell you if you have something waiting,” She and Pebble began passing out the grahams to individual students. Some giggled and looked at their significant others, while others sat there completely shocked at what was laid on their desks. To Mara’s shock, Jincense smiled and came up to her desk, setting a single red rose on it and winking.
Mara looked down and picked it up carefully, looking at the note which remained blank. She stared at it, confused for a moment, then glanced at Howl, who looked away quickly. “It couldn’t…” She jumped as Jincense’s voice went through her ears from the front of the class.
“We do need some help passing them out though,” Jincense smiled directly at Mara. That was her cue!
Her hand flew into the air as quickly as possible, “I’LL HELP!!!” She jumped up, grabbing her bag and rose, then ran to Jincense’s side.
Jincense laughed, “Alright, you can still buy gifts at lunch and at the end of the day in the cafeteria. Happy Valentine’s Day!!!” She smiled and walked out with Mara and Pebble. Mara didn’t even dare look back at Howl as the door closed behind her.
“You are my savior, unnie,” she gave her a bear hug.
“Ohmygodsun!!” she laughed, “Couldn’t handle the teenage hormones anymore?”
Mara looked at Pebble then back at Jincense, “I’m not saying when he’s around.”
Pebble laughed, “I already know about you and Howl, don’t worry.”
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN?!!? There’s nothing between him and I!! WHAT DID YOU SAY?!!?” She pointed in Jincense’s face, which was unreadable.
“Actually, I didn’t say anything. He put together his own theory in that twisted mind all by himself.” Mara let her finger drop slowly then looked back at Pebble.
All he did was smile, “Shall we move on?”
The three began going around to the other classrooms, going through the routine until lunchtime.
“Okay, shoo fly, don’t bother me. I have things to do,” Jincense waved her hands at Pebble.
He smirked and came closer, “Nah, I think I’ll just bug you every chance I get.”
Jincense glared then walked away, grabbing Mara’s hand and dragging her over to the table, this didn’t stop Pebble from following. The lunchroom flooded and the three began passing out the bigger gifts as the people came. Finally, there were only a couple left that no one picked up yet. “What about these, unnie?”
“They’re probably waiting till after school when it’s less noticable that they’re getting a present,” she smiled and sat back down, marking off what was sold again. People began coming back, giving them presents to wrap and paying for chocolates. Mara didn’t think it would have been so much work, but as long as she was away from Howl today, she would be able to survive. Finally, lunchtime ended, and they began passing out the grahams again.
The day passed by quickly and it was the last bell rang. People stayed in the halls and cafeteria, some lounging around making out while others just left as quickly as possible. The minutes passed by and soon enough, all of the grahams were paid for and all of the presents were picked up aside from one.
“Jin, what about this one?” Mara picked up a very beautiful red box with a large golden ribbon on top. “Waaaa, it’s so pretty!!!”
“Oh, that was a special order,” Jincense giggled then handed her a note saying that she had a graham waiting at the cafeteria.
Mara couldn’t help but squeak, “It’s for me?!?!” She looked at it. “But it’s so pretty… I don’t want to unwrap it.”
Pebble chimed in as he sat on the table, “You sure you’re not just too lazy?”
She stuck her tongue out at him then sat it on the table, “What do I do….”
“You don’t have to open it now,” Jincense pat her arm after she finished cleaning. “You can open it at home.” Mara nodded and decided that her psyche could only take so much at school.
Later that day, while Jincense was cooking some dinner, Mara snuck into her room with the present. She sat it on the bed and stared at it. “I don’t like this…” She sighed and rubbed her neck, trying to figure out if it was a prank or for real. The look Howl had on his face when she recieved the rose… It confused her. She knew that if it was a prank, Jincense wouldn’t be so happy about it… So she finally decided that it was safe to open.
Carefully, she began to peel off the tape, not wanting to ruin the beautiful wrapping paper. The gold ribbon shined in the light as she pulled it away. Finally, she pulled the red paper away to reveal a blue, silky box underneath. She looked around, making sure Jincense wasn’t watching.
“Someone must have given whatever’s inside to her then she wrapped it… Because this is definitely her work.” She slowly lifted the top of the box. Inside was some gold and red tissue paper that she pulled out carefully.
Something squishy? Mara pulled out the lump and looked at it. Pulling the last bit of tissue paper away, she gasped seeing the cutest turtle plushie. It was about a foot and a half tall and had a heart in its arms that said “Be my Valentine”. She squeed and hugged it. “WHO ARE YOU!!!” she squealed as she cuddled the fluffy turtle. Mara then looked back into the box and saw another box. She took it out and opened it to reveal a beautiful purple rose.
“Purple roses stand for enchantment, magic, or love at first sight. I’m too afraid to say who I am, but I’m sure you’ve figured it out for yourself by now, my beautiful, intelligent snapping turtle.” Mara read out the note inside then took out the rose and put it in the vase with the red rose.
“Howl…” Mara sat on the bed as her eyes began to tear up, “What do I do with you?”