Maru got on the bus. She watched as Maru waved at her and didn’t even think about waving back. She was just dazed. Dazed enough to keep standing in the same place even ten minutes after Maru had left.
She only managed to come back to her senses when the snow piled on her head melted onto her face. She shook her head, dislodging the snow that had piled up.
She waited until the signal changed before crossing the road. As she waited, a car passed by next to her, the resulting wind making her squint a little bit. As she squinted, her mind returned to Maru waving at her again.
She walked across the road with a shake of her head. Her home was around five minutes out. The chill returned to her arms and legs as she walked, causing her to speed up a little bit more. Shaking off the snow on her shoulders, she entered the apartment building. Inside, she could see rows of postboxes, several advertisements, and a little square mirror hanging on the walls. When she walked past the mirror, she took a step back in surprise. Her face was as red as a beet, even with all the cold she experienced outside.
She tried putting her hands on her cheeks. They were hot, like the time she accidentally drank soju at a wedding hall.
“If mom sees this...”
Mom wouldn’t let this pass easily. Her mom would try to get a story out of her, and she would inevitably give in. That wouldn’t be good at all. She stood outside for a few minutes to cool down, but the heat wouldn’t leave her face at all. It felt like they actually got hotter, even.
“Are you waiting for someone?” The security guard asked, worriedly.
She replied saying, ‘it’s nothing, I’m just hot’, making the guard look at her a little oddly. Then again, it was a very cold night in early December. Even so, she really did feel very hot right now. She looked at the clock inside the security office. It was 20 minutes before midnight. She would need to go back within twenty minutes.
It was an odd feeling. Her face was hot, but her feet were freezing. As she stood next to the entrance, she could see a couple pass by next to her.
“That place should be good for the wedding, right?”
“Yeah, I think that’d be good. I still want to see a few more places though.”
“Of course. How many people are we sending invitations to in the company, by the way?”
“Just a few friends. I don’t want to invite everyone.”
They seemed to be getting married soon. The woman especially seemed to be emanating some warmth of joy from her. Do all people become like that when they experience love?
“Gaaah! This is crazy!”
She glared at the clock. 15 minutes till midnight. She touched her cheeks again.
‘It might as well be a heater.’
She kept thinking about it because she kept telling herself not to think about it. In the end, she decided to give up. She was still red, but she couldn’t stand the cold anymore. As she was about to get on to the elevator, she noticed the staircase next to her. She smiled lightly before taking her first steps. Then, she immediately sprinted up as fast as she could. Two at a time.
By the time she reached the tenth floor, she was sweating a little bit. Opening the door, she entered her home immediately.
Mom was still typing away in the living room. The only thing that changed about her was the fact that she had a little glass of water next to her now.
“Did you run up?”
“Ah, yeah. The elevator was slow, so I just decided to take the stairs.”
“You must be tired.”
“Not at all.”
Alright, a success. She took off her shoes and came inside, but just as she was about to enter her room…
“So, did your conversation with your boyfriend end up going well?”
“He’s not my boyfriend!”
“If he isn’t, then he isn’t. Why are you getting so agitated over it?”
Mom was smiling like a devil. She really couldn’t win against her mom with things like this, so she quickly retreated into her room. Behind her she could hear her mom go, ‘my little girl’s all grown up now’.
She collapsed on the bed as she touched her cheeks. Still hot. Would this even go away by tonight?
‘What the heck.’
Her face wasn’t the only thing that was boiling hot. The hand that Maru grabbed was almost throbbing with heat as well. It was… a good-feeling kind of pain? She didn’t know how else to describe it.
“If he just comes at me like that...”
She had had a feeling that he would ask her out at some point. She wasn’t that much of an idiot. She just didn’t think it would be today.
I like you.
The words were still spinning around in her head. Her face reddened again. She could only stare at Maru dazedly when he said those words. They were simple words that weren’t decorated with anything special, but for some reason they shook her deeply. She plopped her face down onto her pillow. The boy had just left without even listening to her reply.
‘What the, he left thinking I’d just allow it?’
“Wait a second, is that really how it is?”
She jumped straight up from her bed. This was actually pissing her off. He just left without even listening to her reply? Just like that? She took out her phone in anger. But just as she was about to press Maru’s phone number… she realized she couldn’t do it. Why? Why? She didn’t have the courage to make the call.
Just as she felt like she finally gathered the courage to press it, Maru called. Almost as if he knew exactly what she was feeling right now.
“Why did you call?”
She made herself sound much colder than she intended. She even covered up her mouth in surprise, but Maru didn’t seem all that surprised.
- Come to think of it, I didn’t even hear your reply.
“Are you s...”
- I was nervous. I don’t think I had the courage to hear your reply on the spot.
Scared? That Han Maru? That Han Maru, who never got nervous about anything?
- I’m even more nervous now that I said it. I’m scared, even.
“...Hey, being scared is a little too far.”
She wasn’t kidding when she said that. She could feel a bit of fear apparent in Maru’s voice. Why? Just because of her reply? Just because of that?
‘Well, maybe it’s not so insignificant...’
She might be overexaggerating things in her head a bit, but maybe she was someone very precious to Maru? She immediately wiped that thought from her head. She was thinking way too much.
- Thanks for listening to me. And, I’m sorry.
“Sorry for what?”
- You know, visiting you suddenly and confessing out of nowhere. Just… everything.
“A lot of things you need to be sorry for, huh?”
She calmed down once she heard his voice. The heat on her face was fading as well. Her heartbeats were returning to normal, too. She was getting calmer. Phew.
“Oh, now that I think about it, that was weird. Did you really have to confess like that?”
- I guess I didn’t set the mood at all, did I.
“Right. Confessing in a fast food store? It would’ve been better if you did it in a classroom.”
“...Now you’re making me feel sorry. Just be normal. Wow you’re awkward to talk to right now.”
She smiled a little. It felt like she was leading the conversation for once.
Thinking of Maru being nervous on the other side made her want to tease him as well. Yes, she might as well do it.
“I like you.”
She became numb for about three seconds. She was planning on teasing him, but something entirely different ended up coming out of her mouth. Her face grew warm again, her heart pumping incredibly quickly. Putting a hand over her mouth as she looked up at the ceiling, she hung up. She didn’t know what to do. In the end, she just jumped on the bed, unable to make up her mind.
Ding. A phone alarm rang. It was a message.
She ended up smiling after reading that one word, her nervousness melting away immediately. She smiled for a few seconds by herself, before biting the corner of her pillow and gleefully rolling around. The heat in her face going away.
* * *
Maru looked out of the bus with a dazed grin. He’s finally made that step forward. This day felt especially valuable to him compared to all of the past year. This was simply the beginning, but he was still happy.
Of course, he was also confused. The fact that Han Maru, himself, didn’t exist in Han Maru’s life was a problem. This was probably because she was taking up such a large part of his life. He needed to find a balance.
‘Can I be greedy?’
He was afraid of failure. He only tried something new if he knew he had a backup plan. Could he… get rid of a backup plan just like that? Could he throw his life into it, knowing that it could potentially make her suffer?
The yellow neon lights passed above him. Seeing them flicker out of sight so quickly almost reminded him of his current life. Just as he was watching the lights pass by… a message came. It must be from her.
[It’s cold, so you better wear that scarf well.]
He smiled, his worries disappearing for a brief moment.
“For now, I should just be happy.”
Maru fidgeted with the scarf around his neck. It smelled very faintly of her.Previous Chapter Next Chapter