The lights near the audience seats turned on and the audience started getting up one by one, Maru narrowed his eyes as he observed them.
‘Quite a lot of students.’
It made sense that there would be a lot of families since it was Christmas, they probably came here after finding that free play sign outside. The students, though? What were the chances that a normal high schooler would come to watch a play?
“Myunghwa High now, right?”
“I wonder how good they’ll be.”
“I hope they make a mistake, don’t you?”
“Dream on. You think they’d make a mistake?”
It was a conversation from two passing high school girls. In fact, most students were talking about Myunghwa High right now. Maru could tell that most of these students were from various acting clubs.
‘I guess they’re pretty amazing, huh.’
Myunghwa High. The school that she went to. It wasn’t very famous for its academics but for something else, their acting club. Considering how the school even made a special club room in their new building, they were really investing a ton of money into it.
‘But our club’s about to get kicked out.’
That was a little depressing to think about. He also knew that the graduate actors of Myunghwa High maintained a very good network among each other as well. Even famous actors could be seen roaming around during the school’s festivals.
“Myunghwa’s definitely taking one of the spots, so I guess we’ll have to fight over the other one?”
“Pretty much. Ugh, I wonder when our school’s going to pass the prelims.”
Myunghwa qualifying seemed to be set in stone at this point. How well would they do? He was getting pretty excited. After about ten minutes, the audience started coming back one by one. It actually felt like there were even more people than before, with most of them being students.
One of the girls who was passing by started talking to him, Maru raised his head from looking at his wristwatch.
“Oh, it is you.”
It was Yoojin. What was she doing here?
“Yoojin, get over here.”
“Wait a second.”
There were a few girls calling out to Yoojin.
Yoojin turned around and told her friends to get going first.
“Did Woosung High come too?”
“No, by myself.”
“Wow, you guys are really getting it on. For your girlfriend?”
Yoojin stood next to him. She took a hair tie and tied up her shoulder-length hair. Each time her hair swished to the side, a smell of lavender puffed into Maru’s nose.
“You came with your club members, Yoojin?”
“Yeah. We don’t have to watch the other schools, but Myunghwa High is a different story. Everyone was talking about how we had to watch it. Who knows? Maybe we’ll even learn something.”
“So you came all the way to Anyang? That’s amazing. The prelims in your region’s over?”
“Yesterday, yeah. We’re definitely passing,” Yoojin said with a nod.
“You sound confident.”
“Of course. We did well. It wouldn’t make sense if we failed.”
“Nonsensical things are often pretty f… not funny.”
Maru quickly corrected himself when Yoojin raised her eyebrows. Jokes were more common amongst their exchanges now that they became friends. They practiced a lot together, so it only made sense that the main characters would become friends together.
“You saw her?”
“No. I didn’t want to distract her, so I’ll meet her afterwards.”
“Pft. You guys both think way too similarly.”
“You don’t need to go back over there?” Maru asked, pointing at the girls at the fourth row. They were Yoojin’s club members.
“It’s fine. They’re friends, so I don’t need to be careful of what I do around them. The seniors didn’t come.”
“You juniors work hard, don’t you?”
“The real goal is actually to just play around in Anyang! This is just our secondary objective.”
Ah, is that so. She did look like she was out to play, judging by the makeup she had on. She did look a little more mature thanks to it, but her childish personality was in plain sight.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Your makeup doesn’t look half bad. Nice job.”
“...Is that a compliment or an insult?”
“Depends on how you want to hear it.”
Maru quickly stepped aside as Yoojin raised her hand.
“They say violent women aren’t charming, you know.”
“I don’t need to look charming in front of someone like you.”
In the end, Maru got hit. It stung.
“You did that to yourself. I thought you were quiet and serious when I first saw you, but you’re turning out to be a tissue.”
“Light enough to fly away with a puff.”
Maru shrugged. He did feel like he changed a little after talking with Moonjoong. He was no longer observing life from the sidelines anymore, he stepped in to experience it. He didn’t deny his adult self, but at the same time he recognized his teenage self. That’s when he started talking a lot more easily with the kids around his age. Before this, he had to admit, he had a difficult time.
“Anyway, it’s Christmas,” Yoojin leaned on the wall behind her, “Merry Christmas.”
The girl extended her hand towards him. Did she want something?
“What, no gift?”
“I’m not Santa.”
“Tsk tsk, so cheap. You got a present for her, then?”
Her expression was kind of funny, so Maru ended up smiling. He took out the perfume and the box with the couple rings.
“What is it?”
“Perfume and couple rings.”
“Can I see?”
“Why would you? They’re not meant for you.”
“Girls know girls, you know? Did you even get something that would look good on her?”
Sorry, but I’ve lived with her for twenty years, Maru thought. He couldn’t say he knew everything about her, but… He probably knew more about her right now than most other people.
“Can’t I see?”
Maru sighed and opened the box a tiny bit. The rings were decorated with little bunnies. He picked them with her preferences in mind. Indeed, the wedding ring he got her didn’t look far off from this either.
“You’re going to be wearing that?”
Yoojin barely suppressed her laughter. Please stop laughing… he didn’t get this because he wanted to.
“Well… it’d look good on her though. You have good sense.”
Phew, that was a relief to hear. He had to wonder though, did she have the same tastes as her adult self right now? He’d be screwed if that wasn’t the case. He didn’t want to be made fun of for bringing something so childish looking.
“It’s about to begin. You’re going to watch from here?”
Yoojin waved him farewell and walked back to her friends. The storm’s finally passed. Maru leaned back on the wall with his arms crossed, it was time to watch her play.
* * *
She practically ran away to the waiting room.
“It’s our turn. Get ready.”
“What the. Are you nervous?”
She shook her head. She wasn’t nervous. But… she saw something she shouldn’t have seen.
‘Why were those two...’
She saw Maru when she got out of the waiting room. She was about to run over to say hello, but she noticed a girl right next to him. It was Yoojin. She’s seen them together often, so she just had to go over… she couldn’t do it. They looked too much like a couple. She knew that she was the one who was going out with Maru, but she felt afraid to approach them for some reason.
‘Why did I feel this way?’
She just had to walk up to him. Why did she feel jealous? She was getting depressed, too. Was Maru kind to all women around him? Or was it just to Yoojin? Which was worse? She knew that they had a lot to talk about since they were both main characters. She understood it, yet her heart couldn’t accept it. She was being childish. So childish. She should’ve stepped in front of the two of them.
‘But why were they together?’
“Alright guys, focus! Let’s go wild today.”
She came back to her senses at the club president’s voice. She couldn’t afford to think about other things right now.
* * *
Maru touched his lips. He was smiling. Just watching her on stage made him feel so happy.
‘I guess it’s about to end?’
Myunghwa High’s play was more than good, as expected. He’s watched many plays with Ganghwan at Hyehwa station and this play does not pale in comparison. As he expected, the play ended after just a few more minutes. She was the main character, so she appeared at the end of the curtain call. The entire club bowed towards the audience. Maru clapped.
“They’re good,” Yoojin said, walking up to him.
“Go play with your friends. Why do you keep coming here?”
“What? Are you intimidated by me?”
Yoojin was smiling like a fox. Maru pushed her away with a finger, making her frown.
“What are you going to do now?”
“You’re going to be seeing her, won’t you?”
She was laughing like a witch. Was she planning on following him? He tried to escape the hall quickly, but Yoojin was quick on her foot.
“I can’t miss this. She gets really embarrassed by this stuff, so this has got to be fun.”
“Man, you’re evil.”
Yoojin even told her friends to get going without her. Maru scratched his eyebrows. Should he run away from her? No, he needs to come back here later anyway. He had no way to escape.
“I’ll be hiding.”
Maru figured he might as well let her do whatever she wants. He walked over to the waiting room. He could see the actors from Myunghwa High working among everyone else. Among them, she was moving around props very busily. He might as well wait until she finishes. Maru bought himself a drink from the vending machine.
“What about me?”
“Use your own money.”
“Cheapskate. I bought her a meal last time, you know. Pay me back in her stead.”
Maru was at a loss for words. He scanned the vending machine for a really disgusting looking drink. Ah, ginseng. Bingo. Sure enough, the girl had a big frown on her face when she received it.
“I paid you back.”
Yoojin still drank it. Her face scrunched up in pain. Sweet victory.
“Looks like they’re over?”
The Myunghwa High students were coming out of the waiting room.
“Alright, those of you who need to get rid of their makeup, do it now. We’ll leave in 30 minutes, so be at the bus by then. Be sure to take pictures with your parents as well.”
The students all split up with the president’s word. The bus… Ah, he remembered seeing one outside. He vaguely recalled seeing the name of Myunghwa High on it.
“As expected of Myunghwa High… They even rented a bus. Our school should take after them,” Yoojin commented.
The club members were all headed towards their parents, it looked like the parents were heavily invested with the club as well. She was standing among the others all alone by herself. Was her mother not with her? Maru walked up to greet her.
“You were good.”
She smiled at him awkwardly. Maru knew that smile well. She always smiled that way when she didn’t like something. She was good at arguing for what she wanted a lot of the time, but whenever she couldn’t, she smiled like that. This didn’t feel good.
“Um, thanks for coming.”
She wasn’t being normal. Why wasn’t she as energetic as she usually was?
“Did something happen?”
He decided to ask directly. She looked away. Something was wrong for sure. But before he was about to ask if something happened, she walked away somewhere else. He watched her for a second before walking to follow her. He could feel Yoojin following close behind. Once he got out of the hall, he could see her looking around for something.
“What are you doing?”
“No, it’s, just… it’s nothing.”
She tried to run away again. Maru wasn’t a fan of playing hide and seek like this, so he grabbed her wrist.
“Why are you running away? That’s not like you.”
“I’m not running.”
She was sensitive to the word ‘running’ as always. She glared at him for a second, but she immediately became depressed again. It was kind of endearing to watch.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t read your mind.”
Well, only kind of. He could look into it and see what the other side was thinking every once in a while. He didn’t want to use it on those who he held dear. He would feel like he was cheating them if he did.
“I just feel pathetic.”
She bit her bottom lip.
“Pathetic about what?”
She shouted. She was a mess today. How did she act so well today?
“Did I do something wrong?”
“No! No, yes!”
“What did I do?”
She closed her mouth. She looked at the floor for a few seconds before raising her head. She was… crying. Why? For what? What was wrong?
“You! You didn’t even start acting until recently, so how are you so good?!”
“...Is that bad?”
“No! Not at all!”
“Then what’s the issue?”
“I’m the issue. I feel pathetic. Like an idiot.”
Tears were dripping from her face. Ah, he remembered now. He fought her a few times already in the past. Every time they did, she would cry. She always blamed herself, too, never pointing fingers on anyone else for her anger.
“You have no problems. You’re not pathetic, nor are you stupid.”
Maru hugged her, he could feel her crying in his arms. She was such a strong woman and yet she was so weak right now. He waited until she calmed down. She’s a smart woman, so she should come back to her senses quickly.
She was still sniffling a little.
“...You were with Yoojin.”
“What about it?”
“I know it’s not anything special. It’s just… You guys get along so well together...”
She was young. He’s realized now that she was very different right now compared to her 25-year-old self. She was an entirely different human being compared to herself in her forties. What should he do to calm her down? He wasn’t good at talking, so he had to do the next best thing.
“You worried about something so stupid.”
He hugged her. Tightly.
She struggled for a bit. She calmed down quickly after a few pats.
“You were honest with me, so I’ll be honest with you too.”
“I’m going to marry you.”
“I’m confessing in advance.”
She pushed him away with both of her arms.
“You’re crazy! M-marry? What?!”
“What, I can’t?”
She became quiet again with a troubled expression.
“Ah, were you jealous, by the way?”
She looked like she might cry again if he teased her more. Maru stopped here and grabbed her hand. He looked her straight in the eye, he could feel her hands tense a little. The world around them became completely silent. Maru lowered his head slowly. He could see her eyes getting wider as his face got closer to hers.
“You’re supposed to close them here.”
* * *
Yoojin looked at the two of them dumbly. She followed Maru because it looked like things were about to get fun, she just ended up getting jealous instead.
“My daughter’s pretty wild, isn’t she?”
Right then, Yoojin heard a voice behind her. She looked back in surprise, there was a grinning woman standing behind her.
“Kids nowadays go into things so fast, don’t they?”
Yoojin was confused. Daughter? Did the woman just say, daughter? Could it be…
“Now now, us spectators should just leave.”
Yoojin nodded. She’d get in a lot of trouble if she got caught here.
“By the way.”
“I’m a little annoyed she didn’t tell me.”
Why did the woman’s smiling face look so scary right now? Yoojin wanted to go back to her friends as quickly as she could right now.Previous Chapter Next Chapter