“Learned Hopelessness is terrible than we think. Mama, Yeo Ryung, or Eunmi over there have endeavored to live in hope against any frustrating situations.”
“Um… but I think you can’t compare us with Eunmi…”
Although I had been hovering between different universes, my life couldn’t become a documentary material but maybe something for Marvel movies. Jooin shrugged at my hesitating response and shortly agreed, ‘Yeah, that’s true though.’
At that moment, Yeo Ryung, who was standing against the wall beside us, collapsed on the floor. Being startled at her sudden action, we held her arms to get her up.
“Oh my god, are you okay, Yeo Ryung?”
“Hey, Ban Yeo Ryung, what’s wrong?”
Yeo Ryung replied while being on the verge of tears, “No… I’m just… too…” With tears in her eyes, she shoved her face back onto her knees and said, “… I’m too sorry for him…”
‘Oh, Lord!’ I thought. Squatting on the floor beside Yeo Ryung, I pulled her shoulder in my arms. Eun Jiho disheveled his hair; Jooin heaved a sigh with a smile.
It was, unexpectedly, Yoo Chun Young, who calmed down Yeo Ryung crying so hard. He tapped me on my shoulders while I still had Yeo Ryung in my arms, so I turned back in wonder. A magazine came into view.
I asked, “What’s up?”
“It’s a travel magazine. I found it next to the counter.”
That was when I took the magazine from him and began to speak to Yeo Ryung calm and orderly.
A moment after, when Eun Hyung called us to come back in, we were snickering enigmatically. Glancing at us, Eun Hyung tilted his head.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
Stretching out the magazine toward Eun Hyung, I uttered confidently, “Eun Hyung, we planned out the trip.”
“Huh?” asked Eun Hyung. There was a slight crack on his smile. Ignoring his expression, we put the magazine on the bed and started to explain each thing to Eunmi while pointing at the page here and there. Eunmi listened to our story and showed a bright smile on her face that had a trace of tears left on her cheeks.
After the long holiday weekends, the overall atmosphere of our cram school seemed disoriented and distracted. Those who were just stuck in their relatives’ house were busy complaining, whereas those who went on a trip boasted their long break.
Amid the situation, the big news during the holiday had been the talk of the town. Maybe because this cram school was located in the heart of Gangnam.
“So what will happen to Balhae Group then?”
“My parents were annoyed about their stock prices declining.”
“My phone is from Balhae’s affiliate… Gosh, does that mean I can’t receive any free customer service?”
When one of the kids spoke that way, a few students blurted out, ‘Ugh, don’t say such awful things!’ Listening to those conversations, I raised the volume of my MP3 player.
As soon as I finished solving the last question of the mock exam, the recess bell rang. Lee Mina and Yoon Jung In quickly came over to my seat. Casting a sidelong glance upon those who were still babbling, the two lowered their voices.
“How’s Yoo Chun Young doing? Is he okay?” asked Lee Mina.
Following her, Yoon Jung In also flung a question.
“What about Kwon Eun Hyung?”
I replied with a shrug, “He became quite relaxed these days. If you text him, he’ll reply to you back.”
“Oh, really?” smiled Yoon Jung In.
Staring at him, I responded again, “Hmm, you don’t have to behave so carefully since Eun Hyung seems to like you quite a lot.”
‘Maybe more than you think,’ as I added those words, Yoon Jung In’s ears reddened. Watching his reaction, Lee Mina poked his flank with her elbow.
“Hey, who are you fluttering at when your girlfriend is right beside you, huh?”
“Ah, no! I only have you in my life,” replied Yoo Jung In as soon as Lee Mina dropped the question. He then said, ‘Ah, but Kwon Eun Hyung really makes my heart flutter! He’s honestly such a riveting person you know!”
Listening to his crap, I put my workbook, which was left ungraded, in my backpack and zipped it firmly. Once the two saw me getting up from my seat, they lifted their heads again.
Lee Mina asked, “Are you skipping the evening self-studying session again?”
“Uh-huh, I might be doing that until the end of the winter break.”
As I pointed at the cram school teachers’ room and whispered, ‘My parents have also told it to the teachers,’ Lee Mina nodded her head.
Yoon Jung In uttered, “If you need a copy of the assignment, let me know.”
“Yeah, thanks,” I replied.
“Life is full of troubles, but they have a friend like you. Please tell them to cheer up.”
Yoo Jung In spoke like an old man in the house, which made me giggle. I nodded at his words and left the self-studying room.
I waited for the bus to go to Balhae Hospital at the bus station right in front of the cram school. Once I hopped in the vehicle, it took about twenty minutes to get there. During my ride to the destination, I met a group of kids whom I had known from school. Except for saying hi to those kids, I looked over the window for the whole time.
Since it was seven in the evening, it was time for heavy traffic. Looking at the cars packed in every direction on the roads, I thought about the people inside them. ‘Where are they all heading to?’ I wondered. Maybe it would be where they could find happiness.
Suddenly, a sight of Eun Hyung holding Eunmi’s hands that day and speaking desperately entered my head.
‘And I want us to be happy together.’
I also recalled what Eunmi said about me.
‘He told me that you’re very amazing and respectful.’
‘He also said that to you. Both of you are incredible, especially since you’re both consistently hard-working.’
‘But he can’t do it like you guys.’
Recalling those words in my mind, I leaned my head and put my forehead on the bus window. I murmured, ‘Then, in Eun Hyung’s eyes, I also looked like I’ve been working hard to not give up and try to find my happiness.’
However, I actually wasn’t sure. Rather than my own decisions, uncontrollable things had, so far, determined my life. It was like choosing mine among banal and unwanted things, which were left from others always taking the good ones when the class was giving out things on a first-come-first-served basis. There were many moments I had to accept against my will.
Suddenly, Lucas’ remark flashed through my head. The words that he dropped to me at the paintball game place a few days ago during New Year’s holiday already felt like those that I heard a few years ago.
‘Do you really think a choice you’ve made because you have no other options meant you made the right one?’
‘Broaden your mental vision. Don’t drive yourself to the corner too much. That’s the way to live a life true to your heart.’
‘True to my heart…’ I murmured to myself; however, it felt such a difficult thing to me. My heart was still wandering around uncertainty in the first place.
When I arrived at the hospital, the bodyguards, whom I now became used to, saw my face and just let me in. At first, they tried to check my bag a few times, but once Yoo Chun Young’s mother told them determinedly that there was no need to do that to me, they stopped the security check.
Holding the strings on my backpack, I walked past by them nonchalantly then found some familiar faces. They were those who backbit Eun Hyung a while ago. The guys flinched when I scowled at them.
Turning my head away from them, I bent my steps with big strides. As soon as I slid open the patient’s room door, kids welcomed me.
The very first thing that came into view was Eunmi’s face. She looked exactly the same as Eun Hyung. Recently, she looked quite brighter. Beside her, there was Yeo Ryung sitting on the bed and talking about something while pointing at the blanket. Taking a closer look, I found a black pouch on the blanket and a lot of cosmetic products scattered on it.
As a female main character in a web novel, Ban Yeo Ryung, of course, never wore any makeup on at all except for special occasions. However, she had relatives working in the cosmetic industry, so she had a lot of expensive products that students wouldn’t be able to even dream about.
Looking closely into them, they were indeed mostly unopened, new stuff.
Once Eunmi found me, she yelled cheerfully, “Ah, Donnie unnie! How are you?”
“Hi!” I replied automatically in a louder voice. Pulling a chair close to the bed, I sat next to Eunmi.
Resting my chin on my palm, I didn’t intervene but just watched the two girls having a conversation for a while. Since Ban Yeo Ryung didn’t take any private lessons outside the school, she had been staying in the hospital almost all day; therefore, she seemed to have gotten close to Eunmi in the meantime.