Once the van pulled over to the side of the road, I got off and shouted, “Yeo Dan oppa is outside!”
“Ah, really? Good night then.”
“Yeah, see you, tomorrow guys.”
Leaving their farewells behind, I stepped down from the car. As soon as I shut the door, I ran toward the opposite direction where the car just passed by. A big human figure suddenly appeared at the end of the street shortly after my run.
He could have called my name, ‘Donnie,’ in a sweet voice as he usually did; however, he just moved his steps toward my side with a slight grimace. He asked, “Where’s your phone?”
“Um… sorry, it was all my fault. I kept it in a silent mode.”
Replying politely even with using honorifics, I gently smiled and put my hands attached in front of my face as a gesture to say sorry.
“Please forgive me…”
Uttering a short apology, I just rolled my eyes while looking for his mercy. Soon after, Yeo Dan oppa heaved a sigh and raised his hand to take off the scarves on his neck. He then began to wrap it around my neck.
Eh? I insisted, “I’m fine. You know I’m not that sensitive to cold.”
“What if you catch a cold when you have to keep studying?”
“Come on, you’re turning into a senior…”
Speaking that way, I suddenly realized something. Just because the college entrance exam was coming soon, it didn’t always mean that those who had it upcoming should study hard. Yeo Dan oppa would probably continue the same life even if he became a senior. All he did was taking classes in school; however, he always got the highest scores in the nation. Thus, his life wouldn’t change in his new grade.
Although he started to go to the library with his friends, he wasn’t there to study. It was because he had nothing to do while I was in cram school.
I carefully touched the scarf that he wrapped it around my neck just now. ‘Cooking skills and dexterity are utterly separate.’ Having that rude thought in my mind, I soon put my hand down and grabbed his hand.
The street glistened like silver since the snow piled up a few days ago didn’t melt yet. We began to walk on the gleaming road side by side.
According to the Lunar calendar, it was the last day of the year.
* * *
Unlike Yoon Jung In or Lee Mina, I didn’t have to ask yeo Dan oppa about his holiday schedules. We had been next-door neighbors for such a long time; we knew everything about each other’s relatives, their occupations, and even the latest family events.
Sometimes, Yeo Dan oppa’s family seemed like ours; thus, I could get the insight of our ancestors, saying, ‘A neighbor close by is better than a brother far away.’
All I asked him was that if his studying went well today. I also told him that I had the same day as usual then carefully flung another question.
“How were your friends in the library? Didn’t they make a fuss today?”
As soon as I dropped that question, his face stiffened fiercely. I grasped that his friends had gone through something again. Geez, weren’t his friends the only hardships of Yeo Dan oppa’s life that he had to deal with…? Thinking that way, I tried to pat him on his back, but suddenly his lips opened.
“Today was fine.”
“Because…” Fastening his gaze at the street for a moment, Yeo Dan oppa added quietly, “I had something else today…”
“Eh? What happened?”
Being hesitant for a second, he replied, “… Don’t get mad.”
“Why would I get mad?” I asked him a question; however, his following words made me turn stiff. ‘Ah, so that’s why he told me not to get mad.’
“Someone confessed her feelings… very loudly…”
Though he omitted the subject in his sentence, I could tell who she was aiming at. I would, of course, not become angry upon someone confessing a crush on his friends, would I?
A moment of silence hung between us. Still walking along with his hand holding mine, Yeo Dan oppa was just reading my countenance.
Shortly after, I loosened up the strained look on my face and said, “I thought it was time.”
“I’ve known you since a long time ago, so there’s something like a COOLDOWN…”
When we were playing online games, there would appear a minimum length of time on the screen that the player required to wait after using an ability before it could be used again. In some games, the screen flashed with the word, ‘FEVER,’ on it and showed up a section where we could use that kind of skill. Likewise, I expected that if Yeo Dan oppa kept on attending the library every day, at least, someone would confess a crush on him one day. No, maybe that confession wouldn’t be the person’s first attempt. I could also estimate to that extent.
Having built up an unbeatable iron wall just like his sister Yeo Ryung, Yeo Dan oppa also had slow wits. Even if he saw the pile of beverages on his desk, he would have thought that someone else was harassing him or trying to snatch his seat.
Anyway, I continued to speak with an awkward smile, “I won’t get mad for that kind of thing. Don’t worry.”
“Are you sure?” asked Yeo Dan oppa suspiciously.
With a nod, I uttered, “Come on, I didn’t just see you for about a year or two.”
As he stopped talking for a moment, Yeo Dan oppa looked me in the face intently. It looked as though he was trying to observe whether I was speaking sincerely or not.
Hmm, aside from what I just said, my face slightly reddened. I still couldn’t get used to myself filling his sight. Just like when I was young, I dropped my gaze at the ground, blushed, and even cringed.
Switching his gaze to somewhere else, at last, Yeo Dan oppa spoke calmly, “I told her I have a girlfriend.”
Well, that was true. While I nodded nonchalantly, Yeo Dan oppa continued, “I’ll keep saying that way… afterward…”
“Fine…” I replied and slightly tilted my head.
What was he trying to say to behave this way? It wasn’t his usual way of speaking… Rambling those thoughts for a moment, I grasped his intention after his following remark.
With a short pause, he uttered, “The person you were talking to in the car…”
“Who was it?”
“Oh…” I blurted out shortly. Since the school van was too compact inside, those who were sitting across had their knees almost closely attached. Therefore, when Yoon Jung In and Lee Mina sat together side by side, I got to sit across them naturally.
However, I was having a conversation with them while sitting across the couple and tilting my head toward them, so we, especially Yoon Jung In and I, might have looked very intimate through the tinted window from his direction.
When I raised my head, Yeo Dan oppa was staring at me quite persistently. Shaking my head, I opened my mouth with a smile.
“The one I was talking to is called Yoon Jung In, our class president. I’ve talked to you about him quite often.”
“Do you remember that girl who was standing beside me last time? Lee Mina… He’s dating her.”
“Should I introduce them to you later?”
I asked him straightforwardly, which made him shake his head. Yeo Dan oppa usually felt tired and exhausted to get along with other people––I could tell it from his obstreperous friends––so my suggestion wouldn’t sound that pleasing to him.
With that thought in mind, I stared at his profile face and giggled quietly.
Looking way better than before, he diverted his gaze back onto me and replied that way. I uttered yet with a smile, “I… um… though it won’t happen… if someone confesses his crush on me, I’ll also tell him I have a boyfriend.”
And with a moment of hesitation, I added, “… Or even if no one asks me, should I brag around ahead that I’m dating someone? Then no one would ever ask me out.”
Rolling my eyes, I checked his countenance. Since he used the expression, ‘I’ll keep saying that way,’ earlier, I thought that he would like to talk about this kind of thing. However, was I getting it wrong?
Having found the look on his face turning way better than before, I heaved a sigh of relief. ‘Phew, I guess I hit the spot.’
We bent our steps while the atmosphere returned to usual. Now that Yoon Jung In appeared in our conversation topic, I kept on babbling about him. Meanwhile, we arrived home in a flash.
Standing in the apartment hallway, where we usually bid farewell, oppa and I exchanged the last goodbyes.
“I’ll text you after the bath.”
With that response, Yeo Dan oppa hesitated for a second.