Having their faces closely attached to each other, Lee Mina and Yoon Jung were sharing an earphone to listen to a song. At first glance, they seemed to be concentrating on the music so much; however, they actually wouldn’t be doing it. What mattered to them would be who they were listening to the music with.
So was I. It was more important to me whom I had spent my middle school years with instead of the fact that I had graduated middle school.
Watching the two for a moment, I soon switched my gaze to the window right beside me. It was already eight in the evening. Under the darkening sky, the cram school across our building was emitting bright lights. My slightly exhausted face was reflected in the window like a mirror.
I looked at the sight for a while then dropped my gaze to the question on the workbook that I was trying to solve just now.
‘I really have no idea why things have turned out this way,’ I murmured to myself. Leaving a hollow echo, those words scattered away inside me.
When it became nine forty, the self-studying classroom began to turn unusually noisy. My brows met in the middle while I moved my pencil busily on the workbook. The room was hot and humid because of the fan heater; it was even stuffy and airless inside due to the sealed windows. To make matters worse, the noisy atmosphere prevailed in the space, which distracted me so much. Thus, I couldn’t focus on my studies at all.
‘Well, but I can’t help it,’ I said to myself while looking at the calendar on the wall.
Today was Wednesday, January 29th. The reason why the kids became so hyper, even though it wasn’t Friday, was that the four day-weekend for Lunar New Year’s Day was starting from tomorrow on January 30th.
The last day of this long weekend was Saturday, which seemed to be a loss since it was overlapping on the actual weekend. However, the holiday was extended through Sunday, so for high schoolers, there was no better chance of a long break than this one.
In the end, I also gave up studying, and as soon as I put my workbook in my backpack, I heard a loud noise from the hallway. The kids in the neighboring classroom would have definitely run outside out of patience.
A boy, who jerked the door open, touched his friend’s shoulder and said, “Hey, let’s go.” I also turned my head simultaneously and exchanged eye contact with Lee Mina and Yoon Jung In, then got up from my seat.
‘I guess we must wrap up today’s self-studying at this point.’ Thinking that way, we packed our bags, received our phones back, and went outside the building.
* * *
Although we left our cram school earlier than usual, we had to wait for the school van; therefore, it wasn’t worth finishing the self-studying session before the expected time. All we did was just awaiting the vehicle recklessly while stamping our feet repeatedly.
Amid the situation, Lee Mina kept on greeting the kids she knew among the students pouring out of the building, and so did Yoon Jung In. He and I began to go to this cram school from a similar period, but for some reason, he knew as many people as Lee Mina did.
Watching Yoon Jung In bidding farewell to the kids continuously, I was astonished at his large network of relationships. When he turned to look in this direction and blurted out something, I finally burst into laughter.
“Ah, I ain’t sure if I’m being adaptable at this place. I’m such a shy person you know.”
“What kind of bullshit is that?” asked Lee Mina. She wasn’t trying to tease him but was sincerely asking that question in bewilderment.
So was I who became perplexed. How could Yoon Jung In describe himself as a shy person? I would rather believe that Eun Jiho was a humble character.
Then I punched my head at the habitual metaphor that just flashed through my head. Since I wasn’t close to the Four Heavenly Kings anymore, bringing up those metaphors could become e a rude thing.
Lee Mina then flung a question to me with a flustered look on her face.
“What’s up with you?”
“Uh, no, nothing,” I replied with an awkward smile then diverted my eyes onto Yoon Jung In. He began to grumble, “Hey, you guys have no idea how shy and timid I am.”
“I’ll give you the “Bullshit of the Year” award.”
“I’m being clamorous on purpose to hide my shy nature. Geez, you guys really don’t know about me.”
Listening to the conversation between Yoon Jung In and Lee Mina, my face also stiffened. ‘What the heck is he talking about?’ Having that thought in my head, I suddenly turned aside upon a loud noise.
Just in time, a group of kids came out from the entrance of the other cram school. The whole street was packed with these institutes, so around ten at night, there were full of students with school uniforms on or wearing casual outfits.
Watching the group of kids, I came up with a sudden and unexpected thought. No one was throwing a suspicious glance at Yoon Jung In, Lee Mina, and me, who were talking in front of our cram school building. Well, some kids fastened their gazes shortly at Yoon Jung In and Lee Mina, who had captivating facial features. However, it wasn’t more than a slight curiosity.
The reactions were quite different from when I was with Ban Yeo Ryung and the Four Heavenly Kings.
My thought began to return to myself in the past. There was a time when I admired something like a lighted cram school until late at night. Now that I was going to this preparatory institute, I couldn’t actually say that it was very amazing, but the students, who carried their heavy backpacks with blushing faces and stepping on the school van to return home, seemed like a symbol of normal life to me.
Suddenly, I felt like another me was walking somewhere around this building and looking up in this direction. And beside her, there would be Ban Yeo Ryung and the Four Heavenly Kings bending steps together.
I shook my head, thinking, ‘Nonsense.’
The school van then just arrived in front of us. We stepped inside the car and began to talk about our long holiday. Yoon Jung In, who was holding Lee Mina’s hand, asked me, “Hey, what are you doing during the holiday? My family and I are going to Japan.”
As if he was concerned that I would feel left behind, Yoon Jung In also struck up a conversation with me quite often. Lee Mina punched his side naughtily with her elbow and scolded him, “Hey, don’t brag about it.”
‘Haha,’ I giggled, but even I heard it as himself slightly showing off. I replied, “I would be stuck inside the expressway for about fifteen hours this year too…”
My weak voice made their eyes wide open in surprise. ‘What? About fifteen hours? Why?’ they asked. I responded with a feeble smile, “My parents’ home is almost at the edge of the southern coast.”
“It takes eight hours to get there and also quite the same to return. Argh, I hate that.”
Recalling some memories of the trip, my face quickly darkened. Yoon Jung In and Lee Mina exchanged eye contact then patted my shoulders at the same time.
Lee Mina uttered, “Ah, my parents’ home isn’t that far; still, I don’t want to go. It’s disgusting to see my cousins on my dad’s side.”
Quickly getting out of my disappointment, I tossed a question with wide-open eyes. Since I was the only child in my family and didn’t have many cousins, I was even envious of someone who had a large family.
“I mean, they try to give me a lecture whenever they can. If they are doing well, I won’t even talk about it, but no, they aren’t. Besides, they try to make my mom do everything for them since my dad is the youngest in his family.”
That would feel so uncomfortable too. Yoon Jung In tapped my shoulder and spoke with a refreshing look, “Anyway, I’ll be in the flight, so good luck.”
Smiling in a low voice, I flung a question.
“Mina, can I punch your boyfriend?”
“Do as you please.”
While Lee Mina gestured with her hand politely like a server, I showed my fist to Yoon Jung In. At that moment, I uttered, ‘Eh?’ upon the silhouette that passed by the window.
Even though the person stood in the middle of the dark street and came into my sight through a tinted window, his aura was so unique that no one could dare to overlook.
Turning my head toward the driver’s seat, I requested, “Excuse me, sorry, but would you please pull over here?”
‘What? What’s going on?’ Yoon Jung In and Lee Mina asked in surprise. I waved my hand toward them to imply that things were fine, then I took out my phone.
‘Ay ay ay, I put my phone on mute mode, not even on vibrate.’ With that thought in my head, my face darkened again.