"Well? Open it!" Chuck shouted as he looked over his brother's shoulder at the computer screen.
Thomas pressed his lips together and gripped the mouse tightly as he clicked on the newest e-mail from his Study Abroad department at university.
On behalf of the staff at Wicked Institute of Mathematics and Science and in conjunction with our partners at Seoul National University, we would like to extend an acceptance letter and package for your study abroad program this coming semester.
Please read through all of the materials provided and complete them before October 31st. If you decide to not go through with the study abroad program, please let us know no later than September 25th.
Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.
Director of Wicked Institute's Office of Study Abroad
"Mom! Mom! He got it!" Chuck screamed as he dashed off to the kitchen. "Thomas got it! He's going overseas!"
Thomas stared at the screen, his mouth hanging open in disbelief. He re-read the screen to make sure his eyes weren't playing tricks on him and he ran a hand through his hair.
"Oh man," Thomas breathed as he let out a breath he had been holding in. "Un-shucking-believable!"
"So I heard you're going, eh?" Newt said over lunch a few weeks later.
Thomas nodded as he stabbed a piece of chicken with his fork. "Doesn't feel real, ya know?"
Newt rolled his eyes and pinched Thomas's arm, making the other boy wince and rub the sore spot. "Yeah? Well it's real slinthead," Newt replied. "You're gonna have a great time Tommy. Study abroad's loads of fun – confusing as Hell at first but eventually that country can become a second home if you go about it the right way."
"You mean like you?" Thomas asked before putting the forkful of chicken into his mouth.
Newt shrugged his shoulders and looked around the cafe for a few minutes. He had done a Study Abroad program to the US in his second year of studies and fell in love with the university and the country. Instead of going home to his sleepy town in the UK outside of the big city of London, Newt applied and enrolled in classes at Wicked Institute to continue his studies.
"You getting a roommate or are you gonna live solo over there?" Newt asked as he looked back at Thomas.
Thomas frowned as he put his fork down and rummaged in his bag for his phone. He unlocked it and began pulling up the e-mail that listed his housing situation for the program. Once he located the e-mail, he scrolled through the message and read aloud the name. "I'm rooming with a current student named Minho Park," he replied. "He's a Communications major who is bilingual in Korean and English – apparently his current roommate is studying over here for the semester."
"Huh, well that worked out nicely," Newt said as he leaned his arms on the table. "Ya know anything about this shank?"
Thomas shook his head no and put his phone down. He crumpled up the napkin he was using and tossed it onto his plate before heading to the tray return window. Newt pulled out his own phone and began checking Facebook. He typed in a name, scrolled through the options after clicking some filters, and began scrolling through the posts.
"Probably him?" Newt guessed as he handed his phone to Thomas. "Not bad looking I must say."
"Whoa wait, you looked him up?!"
"You're not curious about your roomie Tommy?" Newt said with a skeptical look. "I checked mine before I got here – he didn't know that I checked his profile to make sure he wasn't going to bloody kill me in my sleep."
He shouldn't have encouraged Newt but Thomas found himself scrolling through Minho's news feed, which mostly contained pictures of food he cooked, goofy pictures of friends caught in unflattering moments, and random comments about his day. Shuck, he was cute. Scratch that, hot.
Thomas forced himself to tear his eyes away from the screen and he handed the phone back to Newt. He leaned back in his seat and mused, "I was just…gonna go and be surprised, you know."
Newt rolled his eyes and leaned forward in his seat. "Tommy. For my sake and yours, I'd do a little digging on this shank before you go – best to not go there looking completely helpless, good that?"
"Ye-yeah good that, I guess," Thomas said as he rubbed the back of his neck.
Minho looked up from reading a passage in his textbook about Winston Churchill's speech and saw that his roommate Lee was motioning him over.
"Dude, if you're gonna show me another Tweet about Jessica from SNSD Girls Generation I–"
Lee jerked his head up from his laptop and he scowled at Minho. "Hey. Don't hate man – she doesn't know it yet, but we're gonna get married and have cute babies that can dance and sing as well as their mama with my awesome brains," Lee declared as he crossed his arms over his chest. "No, it's not Jessica I'm talking about this time – shocker. Actually I was checking Facebook–"
"Dude aren't your shucking midterms coming up?" Minho groaned as he tapped his forehead.
"Hey! Trying to show you something right now," Lee said with a stern glance. He spread his arms out and gestured to the screen which had a profile up. "Ta-dah! Your roommate for the semester that will be replacing me, temporarily of course."
Minho frowned as he leaned over Lee's shoulder to see that the profile up was for his soon-to-be roommate for the spring semester, Thomas Murphy.
"You slinthead! You're Facebook stalking him?!" Minho shouted. "Are you studying to be a professional creeper or a Biochemist?"
Lee held his hands up. "Easy there shank! Slim yourself nice and easy there! Just got curious about the guy rooming with you while I'm in the Land of the Free. What? You haven't looked him up yet?"
"Uh no," Minho said with a snort. He tried to hide his curiosity as he looked back at the screen to see a picture of a pale skinned boy with short brown hair and a shower of moles sprinkled across his face and neck in the profile pic area. Near the top of his Timeline was a status about being accepting to the program, along with many comments from friends. Below that was a picture of Thomas wearing glasses with a caption of "Brenda has the worst eyesight ever! How can you ever see anything without these? #NowIHaveaHeadache"
This is my roommate? Minho thought as he stared at the screen intently. Huh, well early to tell but he's kinda good looking.
"You can thank me later," Lee boasted as he turned around in his seat. "By the way, I'm not responsible if you end up checking out his page every day, every wa–"
"Slim it shuckface."
"Have you reached out to him yet?" Newt asked after class one day.
Thomas shook his head no as he adjusted his bag on his shoulder.
"Tommy, the guy seems all right for the most part," Newt began. "Just invite him to be your friend on Facebook and go from there."
"I'd feel weird doing that – we haven't met in person yet!"
Newt groaned and shook his head. "Or send him a bloody e-mail and introduce yourself, shuckface! You're gonna be rooming with him in a month or two!"
Minho kicked the door to his room closed as he returned from class and he removed his laptop from his bag, wasting no time before logging into Facebook. He must have visited Thomas's page so many times within the last few weeks that whenever he started to type the URL into the search bar, it would autofill it.
Just a few minutes, Minho told himself as he scrolled through Thomas's page. At first he thought it was weird to visit a guy's page that he'd never met before but he argued that it was all Lee's fault and that really, he wanted to make sure he didn't get a total weirdo for an entire semester.
So far from his research, Minho had learned that Thomas was an Architecture major in his third year of studies. He had a younger brother named Chuck and he had a best friend named Newt, who was originally from the UK. Thomas liked food – all types really and he was into finding new bands and great songs. His latest music find was a band from the south called Underground Crank Posse, who had reached the top hits charts with their single "Surround Fear".
He heard his e-mail make a dinging sound, meaning that he had new messages. He closed the Internet window he had up and clicked on his Mail app on the desktop, waiting for the messages to load. In the mix of e-mails from the Cross-Country coach about practices and a sick notice from one professor, he saw an e-mail from…shuck, Thomas.
Nice to "meet" you – heard you were gonna be my roommate next semester.
This will be my first time in Korea – I know a few words but I'm hopeful that I can learn more while I'm here.
Sorry for the short message – hope your semester is going well.
"Finals are gonna be the death of me!" Lee whined as he hit his head on the desk. "Please just let it be January already – I wanna get out of here!"
"You said it," Minho said as he typed an e-mail to Thomas. It had been a couple of weeks since the guy had first e-mailed him but they had been shuttling a few messages back and forth about the semester and whatnot.
Hope your finals aren't as painful as ours. (According to Lee, he just might die from them.)
Whoa, time flew by, yeah? Just realized that in a few weeks, you'll be coming here. Got everything? (That was shucking stupid to ask, ignore it!)
So if you want, I can swing by the airport and pick you up when you come in – probably easier than just getting lost in the airport. So yeah, let me know.
Yes that would be great – I'd appreciate it. My flight comes in at 4:20 PM on January 6th if it all works out.
Where do you want me to meet you?
Thomas rubbed his hands together as he waited in the long line at the passport check. He had his passport in hand, flipped to an empty page for the security personnel to stamp.
"Next!" the officer called out.
Thomas handed over his passport and the officer flipped to the front of the booklet, looked at Thomas curiously, and stamped a blank page before handing it back. "Welcome to South Korea Thomas."
"Thank you," Thomas said as he stored his passport into a hidden pocket in his coat. He walked over to the stairs and followed the signs for Baggage Claim, keeping an eye out for Minho along the way.
According to his last e-mail Minho said he would be wearing a green scarf and holding a sign up for Thomas to find him. Thomas descended the final flight of stairs and craned his neck for someone who matched his description.
He spotted lots of businessmen in pressed suits with company signs and girlfriends searching for friends and boyfriends as he neared the Baggage Claim. Then as he took a few more steps towards the carousel for his plane, he spotted a tall, broad-shoulder male with spiky dark hair sporting a green scarf around his neck and holding up a sign above his head.
Thomas frowned as he squinted to read what was on the sign. As he walked closer in the direction of the guy, he burst out laughing when he saw what the sign read: I'm Here for a Shank Named Thomas Murphy.
"So you're Thomas?" Minho said with a grin as he put the sign down when Thomas approached him.
"Yeah, yeah that's me," Thomas said as he caught his breath. "Finally nice to meet you Min." He held his hand out for a handshake and Minho rolled his eyes.
"Oh come here you slinthead," Minho said as he pulled Thomas into a hug. "We're gonna be rooming together for the next few months – think we're past the whole handshake deal."
"Oh, okay," Thomas said as he wrapped his arms around the taller boy. He grinned as he embraced his new roommate, feeling a warm, tingly sensation sweep through his face to his toes.
"I think this gonna be a great semester," Thomas sighed.
"Right back at ya, shank."