Poet’s Corner; This Side (Taeyeon)

A/N: This is a brief prequel thing to Brainless, taking a look at Taeyeon’s past.

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There was something about overly placid pastel coloured furniture that seemed garish and foreboding. This was an impression Taeyeon carried with her from the first step she took into her foster-family’s home at the age of twelve.

Having come from a small apartment block in the city, the suburban house seemed sprawling and very grassy. Although that grass was unkempt and the house was a simple single-story box-house with a rectangular layout and a raised stone foundation, it felt like it was a whole new home.

And then there was the persistently menacing outdoor furniture in the back yard. Clearly at some point it was manufactured in the same set, but the family of the house had taken the time to paint everything its own colour – each item had a solid block of colour coating it, singly and uninterruptedly covering the entire piece of furniture. Perhaps it was that one-ness of colour that was uncomfortable to see; it seemed thicker than normal monotone things, and if furniture could stare, Taeyeon would feel it was watching her.

It wasn’t as if the colour of the furniture was really the most striking thing about the house. After all, this was where she would be living now, with people she didn’t know, and carrying an uncertainty about her future that she did know and utterly hated, all of which seemed like it should be more important. For many years, Taeyeon had to live with a fear of the unknown, and then the sharp lessons that led her to fear everything she knew, too. Now she was away from that particular life, but she held within her the same heart and mind she had developed. None of it made it any easier for her. Being already afraid didn’t save her the shock, and being already familiar with darkness and anger did not make her immune to the hurt.

So from the first day to the last, Taeyeon’s memories kept only the images of disturbing furniture in a sun-swept backyard. It was better than everything else; simple, firm, and more an indication of something to be feared than an explicit reminder of it.

“You’ll never be anything but a stupid fool.”

Even if those were the last words she would hear at that house, she didn’t have to see who said it, feel the pierce, or be back at that place in any dream. She could lay with her eyes closed for hours and be surrounded by nothing but a dense breeze through messy grass that pushed against pastel coloured furniture, exquisitely coated.

While she lived there, however, there were no dreams. She still had to go through every moment there, every one of the two thousand one hundred and ninety two days, one at a time. And days could be very slow in that house.

She liked to hang over the fence in the front yard, since it only came up to just by her chest, and she could do that for a long time. Not many people walked past in that neighbourhood, and not many cars drove along the street. It was quiet, but Taeyeon learned early on that it was not the quietness of a calm and satisfied place. It was the silence that came after a conflict.

A few years before Taeyeon joined the household, there were a lot of gangs in the area. They were well-known and well-populated, and they took up ninety percent of the neighbourhood. One happy day, there were a few too many bullets flying around, and after several months of disarray the government managed to sort it out – by disposing of approximately eighty percent of the houses in the neighbourhood. Then, there Taeyeon could hang, with the wood of the fence digging into her torso, and nothing but an empty sky to keep her company.

The gang history was not something that was openly discussed in Taeyeon’s foster-family; just like the man. He came to visit once a week, usually on Friday nights but sometimes on Sunday afternoons, and he would take a seat in the living room as if he lived there all his life, and sip at a can of beer. He didn’t have a lot to say, but he sounded gruff when he said it, and he said it all to Taeyeon’s foster father.

In the years to come, Taeyeon would like to pretend she didn’t know that place, or those people, and she didn’t remember a thing other than the colour of the furniture, but she would still know that man. She would work for him, and he would show her a home she could say she knew inside and out, like the back of her hand, like she was born into it because it was worth remembering and worth knowing.

Even when he said he had no choice but to kill her foster father and he laughed at the look of disbelief on everyone’s faces, and he took off his gloves and beat with his bare fists, Taeyeon knew that was what her home really was.

She was sitting in the backyard the day after it happened, but not on the furniture because she preferred to watch it from a distance, when the man came again. It wasn’t a Friday night or a Sunday afternoon; it was midday on a Monday. There was construction going on just down the road, and she had been listening to it for a while. But the rustling of grass and then the booted footsteps over concrete became her focus as he settled down beside her.

“Your name is Taeyeon, right?”

Taeyeon blinked at him. “Yes, sir.”

He smiled. “You’re polite. I like that. You respect your elders, don’t you?”

Taeyeon considered. Respect equalled fear. “Yes, I do, sir.”

He ran a hand over his thin beard; he wasn’t wearing his gloves, and his hands were dark around the knuckles. “Listen, Taeyeon, things are changing around here. You’ve seen they’re rebuilding, but it’s more than just houses. It’s something special, just for me. Just for us, if you’d like. You’ve been looking for a home, haven’t you? Your foster father told me you were displaced from your family a few years ago. Is that right?”

“That’s one way of putting it, sir.”

“Diplomatic, too. That could be a nice skill to have. What else are you doing these days, Taeyeon? Got plans?”

“No, sir.” An easy answer to a simple question. But in the end it was much more than that. Taeyeon might not have known it, being as brainless as she was. Or maybe she wasn’t.

The man smiled again. “Good, good. Plenty of time, right? Plenty of time.”

He took out his phone and tapped away at the screen.

Taeyeon turned away again and looked around the backyard.

Three wooden chairs, one with a cleanly cut-off leg, painted individual shares of pink, green, and white; one table, perfectly round, painted red; ten square meters of green-ish grass with a patch of dirt in the corner where the dead never grew back.

A picture to take home with her.