This is another installment of “Magatama: Moon and Tara’s Saga”. View the parent page to read the complete introduction and for links to read the previous installments in the correct order.
Content warning (for the overall story, not necessarily in every installment): domestic violence, explicit sexual content, general violence, emotional/verbal/psychological abuse, queer issues.
It’s just after 5pm when Dae walks into his second-floor apartment. He removes his messenger bag and drops it down on the kitchen table, along with the mail he had just collected, then picks a mandarin out of the fruit bowl and starts peeling it.
Dae peels his mandarin in such a way that the peel comes off in one piece, looking like a flower. He drops the peel into the compost bin he keeps in his freezer, then picks up his mail and heads to the living room, eating slices of fruit as he goes. Before sitting down, he pulls his smartphone out of his back pocket and unlocks it, checking for messages, but there are none.
“Did I scare her off with that last message?” Dae asks himself. “Maybe she’s just busy. She did say she’d let me know if she can see me tonight once she knows. She’s probably just busy.”
He picks up his mail, finding envelopes of two kinds: either correctly addressed to “Dae-Shim Kim,” or incorrectly addressed to names like “Day Shin Kim” and “Jason Kim.” Nothing for his roommate. Probably because most of the bills are in Dae’s name, and perhaps Angelica has figured out how to avoid getting credit card approval spam.
Just as he’s thinking her name, Dae’s phone starts to vibrate, and flashes “Angelica Liu” on the screen. He swipes up to answer, and holds the phone to his ear.
“S’up?” he asks.
“Not in the mood to cook tonight,” Angelica says. “I’ll be back around six-thirty. Want to order us something to be delivered? Or go pick something up for us if you don’t want to pay the delivery fee?”
“Yeah sure, no problem. You in the mood for anything in particular?”
“Nah, you pick tonight. You’ve known me how long now? I trust you to pick something I’ll eat.”
The left side of Dae’s mouth ticks up in a smile. “Sure Ange, I’ll figure something out. See you in a bit.”
“See ya,” Angelica replies.
Dae presses the red hang-up button on his touch screen, then opens one of his food order apps.
After typing in Curry Mee Home to the search bar, Dae clicks on the restaurant, adds a few items to his order, and places the order to pick up.
Dae walks through the door to Curry Mee Home and heads straight to the cashier. “Pick up for Dae Kim,” he says.
The cashier checks the orders by the register, but doesn’t find his order, so she calls back to the kitchen. “Order for Dae Kim?”
The chef calls back, “Working on it. Just a few more minutes.”
The cashier turns back to Dae, motions behind him, and says, “Take a seat, sir. It’ll be a few more minutes.”
Dae turns around and takes out his phone again before sitting on the bench behind him.
Still no reply, he thinks. Maybe I should check in with Ange and see if she thinks I came on too strong with that last message. It’s been so long since I’ve tried to flirt with someone, I’ve probably forgotten how to do it properly.
To distract himself, he opens up a solitaire game on his phone while he waits.
Before finishing even one round of solitaire, he hears a voice different from the cashier’s saying his name, “Mr Kim.”
He looks up to see the woman the voice belongs to and sees a parent of one of his students holding a paper bag with his order.
“Oh, Chariya,” he says, standing up. “I don’t think I knew you worked here.”
“Yeah. Head chef,” Chariya replies, handing Dae his food.
Taking the bag, Dae says, “Wow, head chef? What are you doing bringing me my food then?”
Chariya smirks a little before replying. “Personal touch because I recognized your name, then recognized you when I looked out of the kitchen.” She shrugs. “And I guess I figured I’d take the opportunity to see how Alice was in class today, since she’s not very good at telling me things like that.”
“Oh, yeah, sure.” Dae’s eyes roll up towards his forehead as he thinks back to earlier in the day. Once he has his answer, he looks back at Chariya’s face. “She’s starting to get there. We’re covering content about the Vietnam War at the moment. I think she might be a little more invested since it’s a topic in the same region of the world you’re from. Has she been there before? Southeast Asia, I mean. Not necessarily Vietnam.”
“Well she was born in Bangkok,” Chariya says. “But… the last time we visited was when she was four. My ex-husband wasn’t very good about helping us visit my family.” Chariya bites the corner of her mouth. “Thanks for sharing that with me. I should get back to work, more mouths to feed. Enjoy your meal!”
Dae smiles at her, “Thanks,” then watches her return to the kitchen.
As he’s leaving the restaurant, Dae can’t help thinking, Damn. It’s been eleven years since they’ve seen her family? I can’t imagine going that long without seeing mine. I guess I’m lucky my parents came here when they were kids, and I was born here.
Angelica is already home by the time Dae brings their dinner back. He sets the paper bag down on the table and lets Angelica unpack it while he grabs the bowls and chopsticks.
“Mmm, green curry and pad thai. Thanks, Dae,” Angelica says, taking her seat.
Dae hands her a bowl and set of chopsticks so she can start serving herself while he takes his seat.
“How was work today?” Dae asks. “You finished a bit later than usual?”
Angelica finishes chewing and swallowing her food before she replies. “Yeah. I might have another kid for you to help, but I’m going to need a bit more time before I’m sure.”
A notification sound pops up on Dae’s phone, so he glances at it on the table, but it’s not a text, just an email.
“You’re looking kinda jumpy there,” Angelica says. “Something up?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah… I ran into Tara again last night and she gave me her number, but it’s been a few hours since I’ve heard from her.”
Angelica smirks at him. “Look at you. Your face lit up when you said her name, and then you looked concerned. You’re smitten, aren’t you? What happened? Why’d she give you her number finally?”
“Uh…” Dae’s eyes shift back and forth as he thinks about how to respond. “We… kissed? And then I knocked some sense into myself before I let it go too fast, because I didn’t want to screw things up with the first woman I’ve been attracted to for a long time. And now I’m worried I screwed things up anyway because I can’t flirt for shit?”
His roommate does her best to stifle another smirk, and lightly shoves Dae’s shoulder in a playful manner. “Come on, can’t be that bad. What’d you say?”
“I asked her about her costume and then told her she looks powerful, scary, and sexy in it.”
Angelica leans back in her chair with a “Hmm,” and eats some more pad thai from the bowl in her left hand while she thinks.
“That bad?” Dae asks.
Putting her bowl back on the table, Angelica says, in the midst of chewing, “I dunno. Maybe if… I were attracted to dudes… I’d have a better gauge…” she swallows her food, “on how I’d react to something like that. I’ve never had a woman say something like that to me.”
“God, that sounds bad.”
“What time did you text her that?”
Dae unlocks his phone to check. “Looks like just after four.”
“So? That’s only a few hours ago. Maybe she’s just busy.”
“I tried to tell myself that earlier, but we’d texted back and forth in pretty quick succession just before that.” Dae notices his foot has involuntarily started tapping the floor to expel some of his nerves. “I’d asked if I could see her tonight, and she said she’d let me know. Me commenting on her costume was half of my next message. I think I scared her off.”
“Calm down,” Angelica says. “Eat. That should help. And give her some time, see if she replies later.”
If it weren’t for Angelica’s reminder, Dae may have actually forgotten to eat the food he’d served out for himself. He grabs his chopsticks and finally starts eating.
“You’re cute when you’re smitten,” Angelica muses. “Man in his forties reduced to worrying like a teenager. I can’t remember the last time I saw you like this.”
Dae swallows a chewed chunk of pork. “Well, I mean… she’s a really good kisser. I’m kinda dying to have her tongue in my mouth again. I just… I want to do it the right way. She seems worth it.”
Opening another food box, Angelica says, “You’re such a hopeless romantic.” She pulls out a fried banana. “You sure you don’t just want her to…” Angelica opens her mouth round and inserts the fried banana in a way that imitates fellatio.
Dae half chokes on his food and half snorts curry out of his nose in laughter.
Removing the banana from her mouth, Angelica says, “I’m sorry, I’m just messing with you.” She takes a large bite of the banana, chews it up and swallows before adding, “I’ll cross my fingers for you that it works out. My money’s on her just being busy. She’s already kissed you, so I’d say that’s a good sign. Don’t text her again, just let her take her time so you don’t seem desperate.” Then she pushes her chair backwards to stand up. “Clearly you need a distraction in the meantime. Wanna work out or watch a movie? Or are you just going to binge eat the rest of the food?”
While thinking about his answer, Dae takes another bite of noodles into his mouth. He places his chopsticks neatly in the center of his bowl, then wraps his right hand around the jade magatama amulet attached to his necklace. It’s not just a source of centering calm for him, but also the source of his warping ability that gives him the strength and courage to go out at night as a vigilante to help kids in need. Without it, he’d likely never have met Tara.
Looking over at Angelica washing her dishes in the sink, he replies, “Maybe time for a romantic comedy as a distraction?”
Angelica smiles and nods. “Whatever you need, my love-sick Moon.”