Steph sighs as she picks the shears up. Prince Fluffy is trotting about the garden shed, running up to her every now and then, smiling at her. It lightens her heart and she squats to give the dog a good rub. His tail wags furiously and she giggles at his antics. Thank goodness for Prince Fluffy. He’s a spark of happiness in her life even if he’s the reason why she’s being punished now.
Damn that girl. Gim Ha Min. The principal’s daughter. Big deal. Ordinarily, Steph wouldn’t waste any time of the day on Ha Min but this incident is getting on her nerves. Because of Ha Min, Prince Fluffy needs a new place to live in until her new apartment is ready. Her first thought is Taeng but he had said no the first time and after this incident, she isn’t sure if she wants him to have anything to do with her and Prince Fluffy anymore.
It is strange how Ha Min found out though. That girl may be the principal’s daughter but she sure is sneaky. And she’s sure Ha Min won’t hesitate to wreck her at the slightest opportunity. Like this one. And the previous one. That had been a vicious whirlwind of a scandal but fortunately, she managed to defend her honour. And it only infuriated Ha Min even more, of course.
Poor Taeng though. She shouldn’t have told him about Prince Fluffy. She doesn’t even know why she did it. Telling a brand new student about her secret definitely wasn’t the smartest thing to do. But Taeng had seemed so open and reliable that she found herself opening up to him easily. However, to be fair, Taeng has proved to be a loyal friend. She has not misplaced her trust.
“Where are you gonna sleep tonight, Prince?” Prince Fluffy simply smiles up at her, tongue out, tail wagging. Steph giggles in spite of her worries. “You must be the happiest homeless dog ever.”
“He’s not homeless.”
Steph looks up and smiles at the loyal friend she was just thinking about. “Does he have a home?”
“I can take care of him until your new place is ready.”
“Yeah. For real.”
“Oh my God.” Steph gets up and flings her arms around her knight in shining armour. “Thanks, Taeng.” But he doesn’t look comfortable when she releases him, which is strange. “What’s wrong?” she asks.
Steph doesn’t buy it. He may have said it’s nothing but his eyes are anything but. “Tell me.”
“It’s about something I heard.”
Something in her heart drops. Taeng is doubting her. She just knows it. “What did you hear?”
“It’s not very nice.”
“It’s about my ex-boyfriend, isn’t it?”
“It’s about how I betrayed my ex and broke his heart?”
“Something like that.”
Taeng looks constipated. “And how you made boys pay to see . . .”
“Who did you hear it from?” she asks even though she thinks she already knows.
“Of course.” Steph rolls her eyes. “So, do you believe her?”
“I . . .”
The hurt sinks fast and deep. “It’s okay. You don’t have to be my friend if you don’t want to. You don’t have to take care of Prince either. I’ll ask other friends for help.”
“No, I want to be your friend. I want to help.”
“But you don’t trust me.”
“I . . . I’m just confused.”
“I’m new here. I don’t really know anyone that well so I don’t know what to think right now.”
“Excuses. The bottom line is, you’re gonna believe that lying snitch instead of me.”
“No, it’s not like that.”
“Yes, it is like that.” Steph pushes past Taeng with the shears in hand and starts snipping furiously at the bushes. “I shouldn’t have trusted in you. I shouldn’t have told you about Prince.”
“What do you mean by that? Are you saying I told on you?”
“Well, if you’re gonna suspect me, I can do the same.”
“I didn’t say a word to anyone about Prince. Except my grandpa. But he only knows about Prince because I had to bring him home after going to Hyo’s.”
“You can say that but I can choose not to believe you, right? Just like you don’t believe me.”
“Why are you like that? I wanted to hear your side of the story but I guess you must be guilty cos you’re just being downright unreasonable right now.”
“Yes. Yes, I’m guilty of everything that bitch said I did.”
“Are you saying that you tried to seduce me?”
“Seduce you?” Steph barks a laugh and sways two steps back. “Seduce? You haven’t seen seduce, bruh. You’re so clueless. Do you even know what seduction looks like?”
A stab of regret hits Steph in the chest when she sees the hurt and confusion in Taeng’s eyes. But she pushes it aside in her anger and lifts her chin up high. If he’s going to doubt her like all the other people did, then she doesn’t need him around.
“Go away. Kim Taehyuk. I don’t need a friend who doesn’t believe me.”
She watches as Taeng’s face scrounges up into a ball of anger.”
“Maybe I was wrong about you. Maybe you really are a s-s—”
“What? What am I?”
Taeng shakes his head. “You’re not who I thought you were,” he says angrily and stomps off.
Steph is left standing by the bushes with the pair of shears in her hand. Her heart is pounding and her chest is heaving. What just happened? How did that escalate so quickly? But it was Taeng who started it. He is the one who doesn’t believe in her. He is the one who is doubting her. She can’t believe Taeng would listen to Ha Min and believe her vicious lies. She can’t believe Taeng is just like the rest of them. And he left her here, perfectly aware that he was a lifeline she needed to help with Prince Fluffy. So much for being reliable.
Forget Taeng. She has more important things to think about. Like where is she to send Prince Fluffy to now.
Taeng is walking into school the next day wondering why Steph wasn’t on the bus when Seo appears in front of him.
“Good morning, Seo.”
“Good morning, Kim Taehyuk.”
“Come with me.”
Again? Taeng follows Seo nonetheless and so here they are, facing each other in an empty classroom.
“I need information.”
“Ah.” Taeng wonders if Seo really has a crush on Steph. He had cast that thought aside some time ago when Seo didn’t seem interested in talking to Steph but he could be wrong about that. Just as he figured he was wrong for saying those things to Steph yesterday.
“So, will you tell me what I need to know?”
“Er, I’ll try to.”
“Okay.” Seo flips his notebook and holds up his pen. “What did Steph say to Yoona yesterday?”
Taeng blinks. “I don’t know.”
“Because I wasn’t there.”
“But Steph would tell you. Steph likes you.”
Taeng shifts his weight from one foot to another. “I’m not so sure about that,” he says, feeling a little sad.
“So Steph didn’t tell you anything?”
“Nothing.” Taeng is saddened by the fact. He shouldn’t have left her there, knowing she needed a home for Prince Fluffy. But later on when he finally went back to look for Steph, it was too late. She was already gone. And she wasn’t on the bus this morning.
So where’s Steph?