Ash wearily glanced at her phone's display screen to check the time for the fifth time in the past half hour. 2:30 am. Whyyy.
She had ended up sleeping until nine o'clock in the evening, and she was deeply regretting it.
Although the sky outside was dark and the streets had quieted down, her body thought it was time for lunch.
Despite her jet lag, she had gotten all her boxes and clothes unpacked and organized.
As she sat on her bed and looked around at the pictures she had tacked up of her family, Drew, and her best friends back in Colorado, she felt a twinge of homesickness.
She checked her phone again to see if Drew had texted her back, but her lock screen had no notification banners. She sighed and flopped onto her back, staring at the ceiling.
Well, I guess now's as good a time as any to explore.
After a quick google search about the city's safety at night to affirm she wasn't completely crazy for wanting to solo explore a new, foreign city alone,
she put on a grey cardigan over her mustard yellow t-shirt, slipped on her deep green converse, and grabbed her purse.
She tapped her pocket to make sure she had her key and then closed her apartment door silently behind her, hoping she wouldn't wake Susie up.
As she walked the grid of streets surrounding her apartment complex, she felt her phone vibrate in her back pocket.
She pulled it out and glanced at the screen, smiling at the text Drew had finally sent in response to the message she had sent a couple of hours prior.
Ash: I miss you
Drew: BABE I MISS YOU SO MUCH ALREADY COME BACK NOW PLEASE
Before she could respond, Drew's face lit up on her screen indicating he wanted to FaceTime. She quickly accepted the call and held her phone up to her face.
"Oh my GOD, you're beautiful."
Ash's wide smile somehow got even bigger as Drew made kissy faces at the screen.
"Guess what! I'm exploring. Are you proud?"
She switched her phone's camera so it was back-facing and gave him a view of the dark and empty street she was walking down.
When she looked back at the screen, though, her boyfriend's smile had disappeared.
"Are you alone? Why are you walking around in the middle of the night? You literally just moved there, Ash, that's so dangerous."
"Actually, it's pretty safe-" Ash started countering, but Drew cut her off before she could defend herself.
"Babe you need to go back home. That seriously makes me nervous. You don't know anyone there, what if something happens to you?"
Although his face showed genuine concern, Ash couldn't help but feel a familiar burn in her stomach.
She hated how he always felt like he could tell her what to do and acted like she couldn't take care of herself.
"Yeah, okay. You're right. I'll call you when I'm home."
Before Drew could respond, Ash ended the call and shoved her phone back into her pocket in annoyance. She determinedly kept walking in the opposite direction of her apartment.
I am a strong, independent woman and I can take care of my own damn self.
After a couple blocks of stomping down the sidewalk and ignoring the incessant buzzing coming from the phone in her pocket, Ash came up on a twenty-four-hour cafe.
She peeked in the windows and saw that it was just as abandoned as the streets she had been walking.
As she pushed open the door, a bell hanging from it jingled satisfyingly.
She took in the simple decorations and plush chairs that framed circular tables along the perimeter of the room and couldn't help but smile. She loved it. It was perfect for writing.
The cafe's aesthetic kept her from noticing the boy sitting in the corner of the cafe - at first.
She suddenly caught a movement in her peripheral vision, and she snapped her attention to a pair of eyes darkened by the shadow of a navy baseball cap.
He quickly looked away from her gaze and adjusted the straps of a black surgical mask around his ears.
She couldn't help but stare for a few seconds too long. His face wasn't visible at all because of the mask he wore, but damn he was fine.
His huge plain white t-shirt, light wash jeans, and sneakers were nothing special, but he somehow made the outfit look like it belonged in a GQ magazine.
Once he was satisfied with his mask's placement, he picked up the book that had been lying on the table in front of him, the movement giving Ash a great view of his toned arms.
He was slouched comfortably in the chair, and his mile-long legs stretched straight out in front of him.
He glanced back up at Ash and immediately flicked his eyes back to his book when he found her eyes were still on him. She swore she caught a slight blush dusting the tops of his cheeks.
She was made aware that she had been standing frozen in the middle of the cafe gawking for an uncomfortably long time when a kind voice broke through her creepy ogling.
Ash closed the distance between her and the counter as coordinately as she could and asked if the barista spoke English.
The blank stare that the older woman gave her was answer enough, so she did her best to order a hot tea by using her translate app she had downloaded on her phone in preparation for her move.
Ash frowned at the cup that the woman gave her after she had paid.
It did not contain the plain teabag she was used to, and she cursed herself for not doing any research about literally anything about what living in Korea would be like.
As she sniffed the reddish liquid with floating chunks of something, Ash heard a low chuckle coming from the corner.
She made eye contact with the boy again and realized he was laughing at her tea ordeal.
She furrowed her brow and opened her mouth to retort some smart remark about him needing to pay for a show before noticing he was reading her favorite John Green novel.
She snapped her mouth shut and walked up to him, making his eyes grow wide.
He bent his knees, put his feet flat on the ground, and scooted himself to sit upright in his chair, suddenly looking panicked.
He continued to hold the book in front of him, clearly frozen in place just as Ash had been merely minutes before.
"Do you speak English?"
Ash asked as she did her best to not stare at the way his forearm muscles rippled as his long fingers tightened their grip on his book.
"I mean, you must. You've got good taste, that's one of my favorite novels." She nodded at the book in his hands, and he blinked, seeming to realize that she was expecting him to respond
He cleared his throat and rolled his shoulders, obviously trying to relax his stature. It didn't work. Ash smiled.
"Uh, yes, I do. And uh, yeah, it's good so far."
He only had a slight accent, and his deep, breathy voice made Ash's mouth go dry.
Holy shit. You have a boyfriend. Calm the fuck down, Ash.
She was feeling bold, though, so she set her tea down on the table in front of the mystery man and plopped down in the chair across from him.
"Cool. Let's chat."