It had been two days since the world changed. I waited for something to happen.
Four days passed, and I still waited to return to the world where I was now used to.
On Saturday, the whole cram school took the mock exam. I tried to focus on the test, but whenever I was solving the question, I got lost in thoughts such as, ‘Where on earth did I make a mistake?’ or ‘What was different on the day before returning to this world?’ Once I pulled myself together, three minutes had passed in a flash. During the English listening test, I even missed one question while getting distracted by those thoughts.
Without reviewing the test sheet before submitting it, which I had never done before, I had a premonition of a huge decline in my test scores.
“How was the test? What do you think about the level of difficulty for this one, Donnie?”
After the exam, the kids whom I got to learn their faces lately came to my seat. I replied with a clumsy smile, “Totally screwed up. I think it wasn’t that difficult though, but it’s just me who couldn’t concentrate.”
However, none of them trusted me that I messed up the exam. I wondered, ‘Why? The kids in the previous world believed my words.’ Instead, these folks just uttered, ‘You’re still good,’ and went back to their seats to grade their test papers.
Being left alone, I heaved a deep sigh. A new thought entered my mind. ‘Just in case, am I good in academic performance in this world?’
When talking about the school that Ban Yeo Ryung and the Four Heavenly Kings attended, it was one of the most selective high schools where even the level one rankers in the entire subject tests of the nationwide mock exam couldn’t fit into the fiftieth highest achiever.
Those who kept their first and second top student status in that school were none other than the nationwide top students in the first place; besides, the Four Heavenly Kings and the other Four Heavenly Kings of Sukbong Middle School were also serious in academic performances. Thus, even though both Jooin and I maintained our positions right at the end of the level one ranking, we mostly couldn’t become the fifty students with the highest scores in our grade.
I tilted my head in wonder. Once I go back to school in this world after the break, would I belong to the students with higher ranks? Even if that happened, I didn’t feel that delightful.
Soon after the end of the exam, all the students stampeded out of the classroom as if the test results were announced on the wall. Checking my score in between the crowd of kids, I squeezed my eyes shut and murmured, ‘Holy Christ, I ranked 140th out of 200 students! This is really severe…’ Then something was stuck out in front of me.
It was a can of Americano that was sold in convenience stores. Staring at it for a moment, I soon turned my head aside. It was Chun Dong Ho who was looking down at me. His bleached, ruffled hair shone platinum blond under the fluorescent light.
Suddenly recalling Eun Jiho in my mind, I shook my head. ‘What the heck am I thinking? That’s an excuse to Eun Jiho,’ I said to myself. Switching my gaze to Chun Dong Ho, I opened my mouth.
“Take it,” he replied.
I tried to respond abruptly, ‘No, thanks,’ but braced my mind. According to Chun Dong Ho and his friends’ reactions on the bus before, they would probably not know me at all. Thus, only bad rumors would spread out if I treated them edgily in this situation. Cram schools in this neighborhood would have small leagues of people just as in schools around here.
I replied while smiling awkwardly, “It’s okay.”
“I got it from the vending machine to give it to you,” he uttered.
Suddenly, the words, ‘So what?’ almost tried to slip out of my mouth but barely went back inside. I looked down at the can of coffee in front of me with a frown. For what reason was Chun Dong Ho behaving this way to me? I had no idea.
At that moment, the conversation he had with his friend that I overheard at the bathroom flashed through my mind. He, at that time, said that he felt sorry for me since I was a better kid than he had expected me to be. However, what would that suppose to do? Considering his following actions around that time, I had no reason to accept his kindness.
While I showed my uncomfortable feelings on my face wordlessly, Chun Dong Ho forced me to grab the can out of the blue. ‘Yikes!’ I tried to return it to him but almost dropped it. Once I barely picked it up in a fluster, he was already far away from me.
He went back to his friends and was talking about something. The overall atmosphere looked not good enough, which he didn’t seem to tease me although he had no reason to treat me that way.
Scowling at him for quite a while, I put the can of beverage into my bag, eventually, and left the cram school without delay.
On Sunday, I did nothing but just stayed home all day. Though I really didn’t want to go to that cram school on Monday, I was afraid the institute would call my parents since I already skipped the afterschool self-studying session for a few days. The one bright spot here was that I only registered for special classes during winter break, so once the school began, there was no need for me to go to that place anymore.
On Monday morning, I stepped out of the house with heavy tread.
During the whole class, I sensed the piercing gaze directing toward me. Whenever I turned my head back, I had eye contact with Chun Dong Ho sitting at the desk near the hallway.
Turning my head back immediately as if I got burnt, I murmured, ‘What’s wrong with him? What can he do while looking at me that way?’ As soon as he handed me the can of coffee the other day, a feeling of anxiety began to arise within me, which now turned into a sharp pain shot through my chest.
I shortly went outside the classroom during the break and returned to my seat where I found a can a beverage on my desk. Blinking swiftly at the orange juice with beads of water on its surface, I hesitated for a second then touched the can. It was still cold.
Did he then go outside to get me this one? Grimacing with that thought in mind, I lifted my head upon a voice that called my name.
“Ah, Donnie, that one…”
She was a girl sitting right in front of my seat and one of the girls who used to get along with Lee Mina.
I replied, “Eh?”
“That one is from the boy over there,” she said while pointing her chin at somewhere. Without even a glance, it was clear who would be there.
Trying not to give my attention in that direction, I asked, “The bleached hair?”
“Uh-huh, right. What was his name again? Was it Dong Ho?” The girl then tapped my arm with her elbow and said, “How does he look?”
‘How does he look?’ I repeated it to myself. Taking a closer look, not only this girl but the kids around us were also observing my reaction interestingly. ‘Yeah, this kind of gossip is the most exciting thing, of course,’ I thought to myself. With a weird grin, I shoved the orange juice straight into my bag.
As the class began, I felt his glance again but didn’t turn my head back at all, then when the afterschool self-studying session was all over, I looked for a chance to talk to him while everyone else rushed outside the classroom.
“Hey,” I said while approaching him and slightly grabbing his arm.
Turning around to look at me, Chun Dong Ho looked quite surprised. He uttered, “Eh? Uh…”
A feeling of expectation began to entwine in his eyes, which pressured me. I waited until the other students to all leave the classroom, then once there was only the two of us alone, I opened my bag.
Watching me taking out the orange juice again, the look on his face gradually darkened. I handed it out to his side composedly and said, “I think this is yours.”
“Ah…” he emitted the word then continued speaking with a frown. “I also got that to give it to you. Just take it.”
Shaking my head, I stuck it out to him again. I firmly believed that I wouldn’t accept anything from someone I didn’t want to give anything. Chun Dong Ho finally took the juice back with an inevitable expression.
Since I had to leave the building, I couldn’t help but walk along with Chun Dong Ho in the same direction. Regardless of myself having no thoughts about talking to him, Chun Dong Ho kept initiating a conversation such as, ‘Doesn’t your school have academically excellent students?’ or ‘Did you study alone before attending cram school?’
Listening to those kinds of questions, I just walked with a grimace. ‘Why on earth is he behaving this way?’ I wondered. In the world where I was with Ban Yeo Ryung, he didn’t even throw a glance at me. I mean, he did just to use me. And what did he say when Yeo Dan oppa and I caught his true side?
‘Is it that bad to have a crush on Ban Yeo Ryung, not you?’
As soon as his voice ringing in the hallway and the one in my reminiscence overlapped, I felt very annoyed. When I paused my steps all of a sudden, Chun Dong Ho looked in my direction with a look of wonder.