Chapter 144

It was for one hour. They practiced for four months, just for that one hour. Maru didn't have much left in his head. As soon as he got off the stage and moved onto cleaning, the excitement in his head just vanished. The only thing that was left in his head was the fact that they were finally finished with the play.

“Lay that over sideways. It might fall over if we’re not careful with it.”

Maru nodded at the moving employee’s advice. He laid the prop down flat and the employees stacked more props onto it. Maru took off his hat and threw it in a corner somewhere.

“I don’t feel quite satisfied.”

Looking back on his performance, Dojin felt he could’ve done better. Maru stretched as he listened to the boy mutter to himself. Personally, he felt like they showed the audience everything, at least with the amount of practice they had. Dojin probably felt a little lacking because he wanted to show the audience more than they were already capable of.

“We did well, still.”

“...Yeah.”

Dojin got back to working with a shrug. Looking at the boy, Maru realized that the club had a lot more props than he first thought. Where did Miso even get some of these?

“Get moving, you lazy asses. You’re only first years, you don’t have the right to be lazy.”

Before he knew it, Miso came up behind him to push him. Her sudden push almost made Maru trip over.

“Do I get compensated for injuries sustained at work?”

“Work injury my ass.”

Miso handed him a drink, it was a can of cold plum juice. It seemed that she took a few minutes to go buy drinks at a nearby convenience store. It was winter currently, but Maru was more than happy to have a cold drink in his hands.

“How was it?”

“What?”

“How does it feel to properly finish your first play?”

“It’s not exactly my first play, so I don’t know.”

“It’s definitely your first play. At least, one that uses this.”

Miso tapped at Maru’s head, making him smile lightly.

“You make it sound like I’m someone who doesn’t even think.”

“You aren’t?”

Miso passed by him after telling him to move his luggage. As Maru loaded a box of makeup onto a truck in front of him, Miso spoke out to him once again.

“Taking up acting was a good choice, wasn’t it?”

She was speaking with her back to him, Maru nodded at her in silence. Strangely, she put a thumbs up over her head, as if she saw his gesture.

“You got everything up?”

“Yes.”

“Alright, let’s get out of here.”

Maru helped the employee put a cover over the truck’s trunk before it took off, Maru watched it carefully until it disappeared from his sight. He didn’t want the cover coming loose as the truck moved.

“Is it gone?” Daemyung asked, coming up from behind Maru.

The boy was looking at the empty parking lot with a desperate expression. Upon closer inspection, Maru realized that Daemyung was holding a chair in each hand.

“Yeap. We forgot a few things?”

“Yeah. I found it as I took out the trash.”

“Man, we’d be so screwed if this was a gas mask.”

“Gas mask?”

“You don’t want to know about it. We’ll have to take this back one way or the other, though. Let’s put it in the instructor’s car.”

The two of them walked over to where the club members were with the chairs. They were all catching their breaths as they sipped their drinks.

“What’s that?”

“A mail we forgot to send.”

“What?”

Maru passed Miso to open the back door of her car. There were clothes strewn all over. There were dresses, even. Probably for other plays.

“Can I move this to the side?”

Miso told them to ‘be careful’, seemingly having realized what they were doing. Just as Maru was about to stuff the chairs in, he found a little white envelope named ‘script’ in front of him. The title of the play was “Statute of Limitations”.

“Must be her next play.”

She was an actor by trade, so it only made sense for her to have a script. Maru carefully cleaned up the clothes some more before putting the chairs inside.

“Check one more time to make sure if you forgot anything. Check your costumes as well.”

They all sent her an ok sign.

“Alright, we should get going.”

Miso would go back by car and the rest of them would take the bus. They should be fine since their costumes didn’t look too odd. But…

“Can we remove our makeup?” asked Yurim and Taejoon.

The two of them played older people, so there were a lot of wrinkles drawn on their faces.

“I’ll be leaving first to take care of the props,” said Miso, as she took off in the car.

“We’ll get going after we wash up ourselves.”

“Sure.”

There was no need for them to move as a group, so the club decided to take off without the two. Thinking about going back made Maru finally realize that the prelims were over.

“Hey, Han Maru.”

As Maru walked towards the bus station next to the city hall, he heard someone call out from behind him. A person he didn’t expect to see at all was standing there.

“What are you doing here?”

“Coincidence.”

It was Yoojin, she was grinning as if something good happened. The girl looked very stiff and cold most of the time, but she had a very bright smile. It looked good on her. Maru could feel the club members in front of him stop to look at what was going on. He motioned them to go on without him, but that prompted them to move to him instead, especially Dojin. The boy seemed way too expensive.

“Yoojin.”

“Mm?”

“How do you feel about him?”

Maru pointed at Dojin behind him, Yoojin pretended to think for a second before shaking her head.

“Maru! Will you be late?”

Yoonjung waved at Maru with a smile, her energy seemed to be emanating all the way over to them.

“Friend?”

“No, senior.”

“That’s surprising. I thought Woosung High would be strict.”

“She’s just like that. She’s always radiating with energy. Kind of gets tiring.”

“Oh, I get that feeling.”

Yoojin seemed to have a similar senior back at her school.

“You should go first. I’ll follow you later.”

“Yeah. Have fun on your date! Don’t be late!”

Yoonjung turned around with a wink, the other kids turned away as well. Daemyung was even dragging away Dojin himself.

“Why isn’t she coming, though?” Yoojin blurted.

“Who?”

Yoojin looked around for a few seconds before pointing somewhere beyond Maru’s shoulder.

“There she is.”

Maru looked back. There was a girl running towards the two of them, passing the club members on her way. It was her. She was wearing the hat he gifted her at Myungdong.

“Must feel nice having your girlfriend here,” poking Maru at his side.

Maru grinned, which made Yoojin frown a little. She must’ve wanted to see his surprised reaction.

“What the, that’s no fun.”

“Don’t tease her so much. She gets mad surprisingly easily.”

“Oh? Got any proof of that?”

“I can tell just by looking at your face.”

“...I have nothing to say to that.”

She gestured at Maru to leave, so he started walking towards her. Maru could see Dojin and Daemyung’s eyes start to widen as she ran over. Ahh, Maru was going to be bombarded with questions later. Dojin was already mouthing words at him.

“What’s up?” Maru asked.

“What, I can’t come over?”

She handed him something with a little pout, it was hand warmer. The kind that generated heat if you shook it.

“Cold, isn’t it?”

“Not very.”

He still took the hand warmer gladly, his hands were starting to warm up.

“Did you watch the play?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s embarrassing.”

It really was embarrassing. He was fine with other people watching him act, but knowing she was watching made him feel embarrassed. Where was she watching him from? Could she look at him well? What did she think?

“You were good.”

She was curt with her opinions, as always. She sounded a little bit nervous, though. What was up with that?

“By the way...”

She opened her mouth before Maru even finished talking.

“Our play is at 11am next Sunday.”

“I know.”

“Come watch. Promise me. I’ll… do well, too.”

She was burning with passion, for some reason. Was it because of him? She grabbed Yoojin’s hand before walking off to the other side.

“You should get going. Your friends are waiting for you.”

“...Yeah.”

Maru pocketed the hand warmer before walking towards his club. After a few steps, he turned to look back. She was walking back to the hall with Yoojin. He didn’t know how to explain it, but he didn’t feel too bad about what just happened. Well, that was enough. He took out his phone as he watched Dojin walk towards him with a massive frown. He quickly sent a message.

* * *

[Thank you for coming to watch.]

It was from Maru.

“What the, that was Maru, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

“What did he say?”

“He said thank you.”

She showed Yoojin her phone before putting it back in her bag.

“You should’ve kissed him.”

“What?”

“Be honest with me. How far did you go?”

“You...”

“That’s… Pft, you guys are still just holding hands, aren’t you?”

Yoojin immediately smiled, telling her it was just a joke.

“Why were you being so cold to him, by the way?”

“Me?”

Cold? She didn’t think she was being so cold to him.

“You cut him off after you said what you wanted.”

“Oh, that.”

She turned back to look at Maru. She wanted to congratulate him, but the first thing she thought of when she saw Maru was the stage. He grabbed everyone’s attention. Just thinking that far suddenly made her feel competitive. She liked him, but their relationship and acting were two different things. This was the first time she ever caught herself staring dumbly at a person her age. She felt happy at seeing something new and she also felt a little jealous of Maru. She would’ve felt Maru was just amazing if she didn’t even know him. Indeed, the tall kid back there was amazing. She felt nothing more, nothing less. But since she knew Maru well, she started feeling a bit more competitive. She didn’t really want to win, per se. It was more that…

“It feels like I’m falling behind.”

“Behind? In what?”

“...No, it’s nothing.”

The boy who likes acting, it would be fun to be on stage with someone like him. But if the boy was that much better than her, then… Could she really say she would be standing on stage with him?

“Hey, where are you going?!”

Yoojin shouted at her when she started speedwalking. She responded with a small frown on her face.

“Practice.”

“What?”

“I need to practice.”

“Why, all of the sudden?”

“I want to stand beside him.”

“Beside him?”

Yoojin smiled in understanding after a few seconds.

“Wow, you’re too cute.”

The girl pinched her cheek. She tried to push Yoojin away with a pout, but the girl kept chasing after her.

“You’re head over heels for him, aren’t you?”

“No, I’m not!”

“Liar.”

Yoojin started dragging her towards the hall.

“Where are you taking me?”

“Mom. You have time, right?”

“Practice...”

“Experience is practice, too. I’m gonna go on a date with mom, so come with me.”

“What?”

“Don’t feel so pressured. My mom is… kind of like me. Worse, actually. She’ll love you.”

“W-wait.”

She tried to resist, but Yoojin was too insistent. In the end, she was dragged all the way to the hall.

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