It was quiet when Rock unlocked the apartment door and stepped in. Not suspiciously quiet, just lacking the day to day bustle it would have. Usually, the radio or TV would be on as some background noise while Terry tried to finish dinner before Rock came home; if he tuned out whatever outside noises, he could barely hear a soft ticking from the kitchen.
The only thing he found in there was a note and envelope on the table. Quickly but neatly scrawled in Terry's handwriting.
"Rock," it started, "Andy said he had a small emergency. I'm sorry to leave you in such short notice, but hopefully by the time you get back, the meatloaf I started will be done cooking." And as if on cue, the oven timer dinged. That's too well timed. The letter continued. "There's some vegetables in the fridge, don't forget to eat some! I also left some cash in case you don't want to cook or eat leftovers or other emergencies." Rock put down the note briefly to look at the envelope. $200. Damn, okay. "If anything bad happens, just call me, Andy, Mai, Mary, or anyone else. Love you!"
He set the letter and cash back down on the table to take out the meatloaf in the oven.
It was nice to have the apartment to himself, of course, but it was weird. Lonely. Quiet... Save for the city sounds outside the window, but those don't count. It's the weekend. Maybe I'll head out and go to the arcade until late. He started cutting the meatloaf and placed a slice on a plate. Actually, I could just invite some friends over instead. Nowhere in the letter did it say that Rock wasn't allowed to invite some friends for a sleepover. I mean, Terry's usually fine with it.
Grabbing some utensils and tossing them --with less care than he should-- next to his plate, Rock walked to the phone on the wall and dialed Dong Hwan. He almost never says no to hanging out.
"Kim residence, Dong Hwan speaking." Oh, just the guy he wanted.
"Hey, man. You and Jae wanna come over and sleep over this weekend?" Rock asked casually
Dong Hwan replied just as easily, "I told my dad I'd help him at his dojang tomorrow, but I'll ask him real fast." It was barely a minute before he returned to the phone. "He said he's fine with it as long as I’m not late, and as long as Terry doesn’t mind either.
"’S not a problem, Terry's out for the weekend anyway."
"Oh, word. We'll definitely head over in a bit," Dong Hwan said over the phone. "But, you know, as much I love hanging out with you and all, I love seeing your MILF stepmom a whole lot more."
"Dude! Stop calling Terry a MILF!" This was not the first time they've had this conversation, and Rock is sure it won't be the last
Dong Hwan laughed. "I just call it how I see it."
"You know what? Fuck you!" Rock yelled into the receiver. "I'm inviting only Jae now!"
"Yeesh, I'm kidding. I'm kidding." He sounded both irate and placating. "I'll let Jae know you invited us over. See you soon."
And it didn’t take long for the Kims to arrive. Rock had finished his dinner, putting away the leftovers, and washing the dishes not too long ago before he heard a knock at his door.
"Hey, Dong. Hey, Jae," Rock greeted. He peered over Dong Hwan's shoulder. "What you guys got there?"
"Dad told us to bring you and Terry some pears," Jae Hoon smiled, holding a box.
"Oh." Not the first time Kim gave them random food from their household to Rock and Terry's. "Tell him we said thanks, yeah?"
Jae just kicks his shoes off as he steps into the apartment. "Yeah, yeah. Will do.
"Forget the pears, Rock. We also got you some actual snacks for tonight!" Dong Hwan yelled from the living room as he tossed two variety boxes of chips on the coffee table along with some games and movies from his backpack.
"Uhh," Jae looked at the chips unamused. "Those are for the kids at the dojang."
"Yeah, and fuck 'em!"
"I'm telling Dad."
Dong Hwan rolled his eyes, "Dude, I'm just fucking kidding." He settled himself on the floor, holding up some game and video cases. "Now, what's the plan for tonight?"
They barely watched the movie they ended up choosing. Somewhere around halfway, maybe even earlier, they got bored of the plot --by now they realized that maybe, just maybe, this live action adaptation of a beloved cartoon isn’t that great, also is that Mr. Bean?-- and started rummaging through whatever drinks were in the apartment.
By now, they were well into Terry's stock of beer and some of her other alcohol --the latter gifted from friends and family for holidays and other celebrations. God, Rock is gonna have to make it up to her after this.
"Do you think she'd be more upset at us raiding her beer or her panties?" Dong Hwan grinned.
"Shuuut uuup! That is so gross, and I don't have a death wish!"
"If I were to die by Ms. Bogard's hands… well, I would accept Death's warm embrace then." He swooned over the armchair for dramatic effect.
Jae Hoon shot up in his seat, pointed at Dong Hwan with his bottle, making interrupting "Mmh! Mmh!" sounds as he swallowed his beer. "You wanna die with your neck broken from her sitting on your face, I bet!"
That snapped Dong Hwan up. "Oh, fuck yeah!"
"Stooop!! I'm gonna kill myself. I don't wanna hear this!" Rock yelled. Fuck a noise complaint from the neighbors. This is disgusting and, honestly, distressing. Dong Hwan has never joked about anything like this before.
"What are you complaining about!? You've never seen Terry get hit on by guys?" he asked, arms thrust out in front of him. "Do you not hear what competitors say at those King of Fighters tournaments all around the city!?"
He did hear. He does know what other people say as well, but that doesn't make this better. "Yeah, but it's still not right coming from you." Rock decided if Dong Hwan can't be mature about it, then he'll have to be the better man. "Besides, Terry's, like, way too old for you." Or as better and as mature as he thinks.
"What!? Thirty-five is not that old, Man."
"It really isn’t."
"You know what they say: the dirty thirties."
"I thought you were about to say 'thirty, flirty, and thriving' instead," Jae Hoon glanced at Dong Hwan.
He laughed. "We all know she's doing more than just flirting!"
Rock looked like he was on the verge of either crying or punching a hole into the drywall. Unsure if his growing headache is from the alcohol or this topic. "Please stop talking about my adoptive mom like this."
"Okay, okay. Fine," Dong Hwan said, trying to calm down Rock. "Like, all jokes aside, Terry is really… lovely. To say the least.” The last words just tacked on.
On the other chair, sinking back into it, Jae Hoon added a "he's right." Rock turned to him, no longer looking so upset, but still a bit dizzy. "Yeah, I can basically see why people would be attracted to her and all, but --and this is gonna sound fucking gay-- but, like, it's really nice how much she loves you."
"Awww, Tewwy wuvs hew widdle bwaby, Wock!"
That earned Dong Hwan a pillow to the face. From both Rock and Jae Hoon.
"You bitch, you know what I meant."
“And you know I love giving you guys a hard time!” Dong Hwan tried to defend himself. “But no, Rock, you should definitely be glad that of all the people that could be lookin’ after you, it’s Terry!”
Jae leaned over the coffee table to take back the pillow he threw, adjusting it behind him. “You could be in an orphanage, Rock. You could be stuck with Chang with your guardian.”
"I mean, I guess you’re right, she is nice, but, like, I don't know if I would add Terry being 'hot' as a plus for being my guardian," Rock mumbled.
“I definitely would.”
Rock didn’t even look at Dong Hwan. “We know you would.”
“Look, I love my parents and all, but if they were to die-”
“God forbid,” Jae Hoon interrupted.
Dong Hwan rolled his eyes, “yes, God forbid. But, if they were to die, I would love having a hot older woman take care of me.”
“I don’t kn-”
“But!" Jae Hoon started. "She’ll always see you as a kid and not marriage material!”
“It’s just a fantasy! Besides, if they die, we’re adults; we’ll have no one to take care of us except ourselves.” He nodded solemnly. “No easy MILF hunting.”
"I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt, Dong, but that this all sounds like a bad stepmom-stepson porno plot."
“What makes you think I’m not into that?” Dong Hwan pointed at Rock.
“I’m not fucking Terry…”
"No, you're right Rock," he stated. "You shouldn't fuck Terry… I should fuck Terry."
“That’s it!” Rock stood up, woozy for a moment before ejecting the movie and turning off the TV. “No more talking! We’re going to sleep!”
In the morning, they got up, brushed their teeth, ate some sort of breakfast, and got ready for the rest of the day. Regardless of whatever level of hangover they might have.
Dong Hwan was out the door before 9, as he said he would be, but promised to come back once he was done helping his father. Jae Hoon, on the other hand, had to leave later because of his group project meeting and date that evening. He said he might come back later, depending whether his date goes until dinnertime. Rock kinda wished that Jae Hoon had been the one to help their father instead of Dong Hwan.
Don't get him wrong. Rock liked them both just fine, but he didn’t want to get started on homework just yet. He did feel just a little bit compelled to at least look over the assignments once he saw that Jae Hoon was going over his own homework.
Thankfully, Jae Hoon didn’t mind doing homework with music in the background. And thankfully, he didn’t mind Rock’s taste and didn’t ask to change the radio station to whatever has Nickelback.
Rock glanced at one of the textbooks across from him. “You’re going to UM, right?” He tilted his head a bit to get a better look at it, still unable to decipher if it were a general version or a special campus-only edition.
“Yeah, why?” Jae Hoon looked up at Rock before grinning. “Thinking of applying there?”
“I dunno.” He shrugged, “I might go to a community college to figure out what I want to do and save money first. Or just go to some training school.”
Jae was focused on his work again. “Those are good options too. Especially the first one. I might try to transfer to an out of state university after my second year, but we’ll see.”
That surprised Rock. “UM not what you wanted?” Oohh, how is he going to break this to his girlfriend?
“It’s fine. It’s a great school, but I don’t know…” Jae Hoon stopped again to ponder. “It’s like, yeah! I’m thankful that I got accepted to this great school and that our parents worked hard to restart our lives here, but this is all I know.”
“All you know?”
Jae Hoon leaned forward a bit in his chair, as if they were talking in a campus library and not in some kitchen. “South Town, Miami, Florida, you know? I like it here, of course, but I also want to see other places too.” He sat back down in his chair and scooted forward. “But maybe I’ll stay here for ungrad and just do grad school out of state.”
Damn, this guy is seriously thinking way ahead in life. “Yeah, that makes sense. Like, where are you thinking?”
“Ohh,” Jae Hoon pondered. “Maybe some University of California school, but I would like some Ivy League as well. My mom thinks I can get in, as all moms think their sons can do anything, aha.”
“Holy shit.” He said it as if it were nothing.
“Sometimes, I wish our parents immigrated to California instead, but Terry’s here. And Dad likes being close to friends.”
“Kim Kaphwan and Terry Bogard, BFFs!” Rock pointed for extra emphasis.
“I ain’t even mad at that: it’s most probably true. His other friends are still in Korea.”
Rock groaned a bit. “That still seems tough though. Like, you guys had a pretty good set up in Korea and are doing well here, but the moving and papers and all that.” Man, I can’t imagine moving to another state, these guys moved to a whole other country across the ocean.
“Yeah, but --you know-- he wanted us to be more open to different opportunities. I think there were too many set expectations in Asian cultures, like either follow your dad’s footsteps or be a salaryman, but I dunno.”
“Isn’t that what Dong is doing right now?” Rock didn’t mean to be cheeky, but he couldn’t help it.
Jae Hoon pinched the bridge of his nose. “He’s… trying to keep our dad’s legacy up,” he groaned. “Like, I think it’s nice and all, but he’s not Dad. He’s not helping rehabilitate criminals. He can’t live the rest of his life off tournament money forever.”
“I dunno, I’d like to see him try.”
Jae Hoon went back to working on his homework. Rock couldn’t tell from where he was sitting, but it looked like some sort of math. “I mean, I’m sure all that is easier when we’re younger, but what if he has kids and no second job?” He glanced up briefly at Rock again. “I assume Terry had to step away from the tourney life and focus on something more stable after adopting you.”
Rock tried to recall as much of the early years with Terry. There were still the King of Fighters, but her participation definitely did fizzle out after a while. “Yeah, I was with her when she applied for her diner job. I got a free kids meal and sundae while I waited for her interview to finish.”
“It’s really impressive how Terry managed to balance working, making sure you’re alright, and whatever hobbies she has left single-handedly.” Rock looked up at Jae Hoon. He wasn’t even paying attention to Rock, just finishing one problem by boxing the answer and moving on to the next. “But you’re older now, so you can take care of yourself more and help her with other stuff if she needs.”
“Yeah. She doesn’t have to anymore, but she still checks my homework to make sure I finish it all and, like, packs my lunch.” He suddenly remembered a time in middle school where he found Terry sitting at the kitchen table late at night, going through his math textbook. At the time, he thought she was just going over his work, but in hindsight, she might have been trying to relearn the material to help him. “You know, she used to try to help me with whatever homework problems I was stuck on because we couldn’t afford a tutor, but I guess we’re lucky now that the high school offers after school tutoring.”
“Well, that's better than some other high schools around here." Oh yeah, Jae would know about that. He was part of some mobile tutoring program as volunteer work when he was still attending high school. "But, it's great that Terry is still looking out for you. Will always be a little kid to her."
“Yeah… Anyway, sorry I’m distracting you from your homework.”
“You’re not distracting me,” Jae Hoon laughed. “It’s just some stuff for a few pre-req courses and GE classes. Still trynna take undergrad life easy, you know?”
By the time Jae Hoon had to leave to work on his group project, Rock had finished his math homework and history study guide; he still needed to finish chemistry and his essay. Or rather, he still needed to copy the answers from the back of his textbook and ask Hotaru for help on what to write. But at least he got about half of his work done before Dong Hwan came back to bum at Rock’s apartment.
They spent the remainder of the afternoon watching television, rented videos, and playing video games. They didn’t even notice how much time they wasted until they heard a knock on the apartment door and saw that the sun had been setting.
“Get the door.” Rock ordered.
“Dude, this is your place. You open the door.”
Rock really can’t be fucked to care at this point, he’s got some enemy gang members to kill. “Yeah, and it’s most probably your brother. Let him in.”
“Fuck you.” Dong Hwan paused the game and got up regardless.
Without surprise, it was indeed Jae Hoon. “Did you guys miss me?”
Dong Hwan snorted. “Pshh, no.” He waited until his brother was done taking off his shoes before closing and locking the door.
“We’d say yes if you had food to share.”
Jae Hoon fell back onto the couch. “Well, I don’t, so we’re gonna have to think of what we want for dinner if you guys haven’t made any plans.” He grabbed Dong Hwan’s remote before his brother could get to it, ready to change the game to something else, before turning his neck to glance at the two. “Did you guys have any dinner plans?”
“I dunno,” Rock gave his remote to Dong Hwan. “I was thinking pizza. Unless you guys wanted something else.”
Jae Hoon just shook his head. “Pizza’s fine,” Dong Hwan said as he moved to remove the game disc from the PS2.
Rock got up from the couch and walked to the kitchen. “Okay. I’ll order pizza. Just set up the other game.” He gave a quick glance at the pizza store’s menu pinned onto the cork board. The options have been long memorized by now, but he wanted to at least be somewhat mindful of what Dong Hwan and Jae Hoon might like.
“Tony Hawk Underground 2 or Mortal Kombat: Deception?”
“Either.” It really didn’t matter to Rock. “Wait, but if you choose Mortal Kombat, I wanna play Jade!”
“Ooohh, you wanna fuck Jade!”
“Shut the fuck up! No, I don’t!” Okay… Maybe just a little, actually.
Rock heard the soft thud of a couch pillow hitting Dong Hwan. “We know you want to fuck Sonya, Dong,” Jae Hoon accused.
“Yeah!? And I got a thing for blondes! We all know this from how much I wanna bang Terry.”
“That’s it.” He slammed the receiver down before even dialing. “I’m not ordering pizza anymore. And I’m also kicking you out, Dong.”
Terry came back late Sunday morning. Right as Rock was about to head to the park across from the apartment complex.
“Oh, shit!” Rock exclaimed, not expecting Terry to be on the other side of the door, opening it on him right as he was about to reach for the knob.
Terry instantly threw her bags on the floor. “Oh my god! I didn’t mean to scare you!” She grabbed his head and inspected it, “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”
“No. I’m fine.”
"That's good," she laughed. "That would be a horrible way to end a weekend: you getting a head injury and me having to rush you to the hospital.”
“Is Andy okay?”
Terry groaned as she bee-lined to the fridge. Without a doubt going for a beer. “His kitchen pipe burst! Can you believe that!?” she asked, rummaging through the fridge. “He called me up at dinner time --yelling that it was an emergency! I thought he got robbed or injured himself, but no!” Terry closed the fridge door and leaned against it, throwing her hands up. “He just didn’t want to pay for a plumber!” Rock couldn’t help but laugh at the image. “He only called me because I used to temp at a plumbing company once.”
“What’s the point of moving to a nice HOA community if he’s not going to take advantage of their customer service and stuff?”
“That’s what I asked too!” Terry had given up on trying to find any remaining alcohol at this point. Instead, she settled for some chips left by Dong Hwan. “I get there as fast as I can, and I can’t even do anything until the next day because I didn’t have any of my tools or know what parts were needed.” She tossed the empty bag into the trash can. “I hope your weekend was better and less frustrating than mine.”
Rock shrugged. “It was fine. Didn’t do much. Just watched a few movies and did a bit of homework. I’ll finish the rest of it later today.”
“That’s good!” By the time Terry was done fuming, she finally noticed the box of pears sitting on the kitchen table. And the few stray bags of chips and snacks left over as well. “Oh, wait, did you have friends over?”
“Oh, yeah,” Rock realized he forgot to mention the sleepover. “I invited Dong Hwan and Jae Hoon to stay the night.”
She looked at the recycling bin: crushed beer cans poking through underneath the glass bottles of cheap Total Wine & More wines. "Looks like you guys were busy," Terry quipped.
"Uhh… I'll totally make it up to you, Terry," Rock tried to explain. "Look, I didn't even use up all of the money you gave me for the weekend." He started grabbing his wallet from his pants pocket before Terry stopped him.
"I'm not upset! I'm not upset at all!" Oh, she's laughing… that’s a relief. "I don't mind you inviting your friends and drinking my beer, and I know Dong Hwan and Jae Hoon are almost at legal drinking age, but I would really prefer that you have more supervision." She always was a cool mom.
"Yeah, but, we don't want to have an adult in the room with us, you know?"
"At least ask Hotaru over; she seems like a responsible drinker. You know, if she even drinks."
Rock groaned. "Yeah, maybe, but sometimes I just want to talk about guy stuff with Dong and Jae." His face felt a bit warm. "It's different if a girl is there too to hear."
"Oh yeah?" Oh no, Terry is going in full teasing mode. "What kind of 'guy stuff' do you kids talk about? Cars? Girls? Inappropriate boners in class?"
"Yes! I mean no!" Now, Rock's face is beyond warm. He wouldn't doubt it's red if he could see himself.
"Calm down, calm down," Terry smiled, ruffling his hair as she passed by him.
Rock turned to watch her grab her bags from the front door and walk into her room. "You aren't mad?" He followed her.
"Not all!" she called out. "I wish I could have known if you were safe, but I'm glad you had a fun weekend with your friends."
"Yeah?" He asked as he leaned off the doorframe with one hand.
Terry stopped unpacking to look up at him. "Yeah, of course." She tilted her head, her eyes crinkled softly. "Now, get outta here. You should be playing ball, not standing there as I'm sorting through my dirty laundry."
The lunch rush had died down when Rock got back home. A quick game of pick up wasn't supposed to last for four or so hours --minus the time for chilling or goofing off, but it did.
It was quiet when he got back to the apartment, like Friday after school. There was no note too. I’ll make a sandwich later, maybe one for Terry as well? After two quick checks around the rooms, he stepped out again. I mean, there could only be so many places she could have gone to.
The first place he thought to go to was the gym. She hasn’t been in the fighting circuit as much as she used to, but she still keeps up with her training. When he saw that she wasn’t there too, nor the pool area right outside the gym, he went to the parking lot to make sure that she was at least in the complex. It’s not like she’s been kidnapped. She might just be talking to a neighbor or something. He even went to check at the meeting rooms. Nothing.
He eventually finally found Terry at one of the apartment laundry rooms after wandering for a bit (like an idiot). Her right leg was crossed over her left as she leaned back against the counter in the center of the room, skimming over supermarket deals. She wasn't wearing the same outfit she wore when she got back home in the morning, Rock noted as he walked closer, cutting across the grass.
Red denim vest, white tank top, old cutoff shorts. Whoa, throwback. I didn’t know she kept that outfit all these years... The only things missing were the gloves, red Chucks, and cap. As he kept walking, he could see that her hair seemed like it was still slightly damp and uncombed. That would explain the short towel around her shoulders.
He never gave it much thought, but Terry is pretty. Maybe Dong Hwan and Jae Hoon were right.
Rock felt stupid for realizing it now, but why would he have ever think about it to begin with? If it wasn’t something his seven year old self would pay attention to, it’s something he wouldn’t pay attention to now, too. But right now it’s glaring right at him.
"Oh," Terry looked up from the catalogue. “Back already?
“It’s been about four hours.”
“You’ve been playing for that long? You must be hungry by now then,” she said, setting down the catalogue. “I’ve got about five or so more minutes for this load to dry, so I can make you something right after.”
“It’s fine. I can make us something for lunch instead if you want?” Rock asked, settling next to Terry.
He didn’t need to look at her -- couldn’t bring himself to look at her-- to know that she was looking at him warmly. “That’d be very nice, Rock. Thank you.” Instead of saying anything in return, he just squeaked the sole of his shoe on the linoleum floor. “I’ll help you if needed once I’m done here.”
“Can I actually wait for the laundry to dry with you?”
Rock rested his head on Terry’s. She didn’t seem to mind, moving slightly to wrap an arm around his shoulder and idly pet his hair like when he was a kid. He supposes, of course, that she would always see him as a kid.