It just… kind of happened. There was no other way Dojin could explain his current situation.
Dojin replied loudly to Iseul’s mother. He didn’t reply too loudly, did he?
“You can work him as much as you want, mom. He’s a worker for just today.”
Iseul slapped Dojin’s back with a big grin, the boy was starting to learn just how strong she really is.
How did he even get here, anyway?
Iseul asked him if he had anything to do at school, and he replied no. She told him to follow her and before he knew it, they were at her family’s restaurant. By the time he came to, he was wearing a kitchen apron peeling onions in a corner.
“Bite on this if your eyes hurt too much.”
Iseul handed him a green onion as she peeled the garlic from next to him.
“Wouldn’t this just make it worse?”
“Just trust me and do it.”
Well, he had no choice then, did he? She was smiling at him so prettily. He put the green onion in his mouth and went back to peeling. Huh, she was right. It really didn’t hurt anymore.
“You were right.”
“Just a little business know-how.”
Iseul wiped her nose with a finger, she looked like a total princess but acted like a tomboy.
“You two should go out and play after you finish that,” Iseul’s mom said.
“We’ll help until dad comes back.”
Iseul seemed to be used to working at the restaurant, she immediately stepped out to take orders whenever new customers came. It was a small place, so the tables were always full. The two of them weren’t able to talk properly due to how busy the restaurant was. Only when the time became 2 o’clock were they finally able to start talking a bit more.
“Thanks for the help.”
They stepped out after taking off their aprons. Dojin’s legs were aching from how long he was squatting, but he didn’t feel too bad. At least he was with a girl he liked.
“We should have lunch.”
Iseul just grabbed his arm in response. Before he could even do anything, she dragged him away; he once again realized just how tall Iseul during that moment. Her limbs were pretty long as well and the proportions of her body were well balanced. He wondered for a split second if he even had a chance with this girl, he gave up on worrying about it pretty quickly. Dojin wasn’t good at worrying about stuff, so he might as well not do it at all. What mattered right now was that he was happy. The two of them eventually arrived at a four-story apartment.
And here he thought they were going to a restaurant. Dojin got nervous for no reason. The two of them walked up to the second floor and entered the unit numbered 202. Unlike their restaurant, the house was quiet, bordering on feeling abandoned.
“We sleep at the restaurant pretty often.”
That’s right, the restaurant had a little room stuck next to the kitchen. Since the restaurant opened until dawn, the family must’ve spent many nights there. Dojin sat down on the dining table and Iseul stood in front of the fridge. She started taking a bunch of things out and started cooking. She made fried rice, some pancakes, and stir-fried sausage.
“Here you go.”
He took a bite of the rice. Absolutely delicious. Then again, even if she made him instant noodles, his reaction wouldn’t change. Just as he was about to take a spoon of the soup, Iseul asked him a question.
“Do you like me?”
Dojin almost dropped the spoon. He wanted to try to maintain his calm and deny it, but what he came out of his mouth was something entirely different.
Wow, he must look pathetic right now. He couldn’t even look her in the eye, but he did feel a little expectant. If she was asking him outright, did it mean…
“Sorry, I’m not very interested just yet.”
She was very firm. Her words woke Dojin right up. It felt like blood was draining straight out of his fingertips.
“I’m thankful that you like me. I don’t dislike you either. But you saw what the morning shift was like, didn’t you? We were swamped. I don’t think I can even continue with the acting club next year either. My dad got hurt, so I’ll have to stand in for him.”
“I… see. I didn’t know. Is he hurt badly?”
“Kind of. It looks like my mom will have to handle the restaurant alone for a while. She looks really tired though. I can’t just sit around playing looking at that.”
Dojin didn’t even want to eat anymore. Thankfully, he had just finished. The two of them started moving the dishes into the sink. He had no idea that the girl shouldered such burdens. Back in the club, she was always smiling. He felt sorry that he never noticed.
“I hope he gets better soon.”
“Of course he will. Mom would collapse otherwise.”
She was smiling, but it really wasn’t something to smile about. Working in a restaurant was incredibly taxing, Dojin noticed. Doing it by herself with her mother… It probably exhausted her. The dishes clacked together as Iseul started washing. Dojin just watched her work from the side, he didn’t know what to say. Emotions like happiness or love were long gone from his heart right now.
Iseul finished washing the dishes and wiped her hands on the towel.
“Let’s just stay friends. I think that’d be better for the both of us.”
“Will you really stop coming to the club in your second year?”
“Well, even if my dad’s hips get better, he wouldn’t be able to work as he did before. I’d need to step in to stop him from overworking. I do want to continue going to the club, but that doesn’t seem possible at the moment. I like to go all in on something if I start it, but I don’t think I can do that with acting if I work at the restaurant.”
“What about you?”
The two of them returned to the table, Iseul poured some juice for him. Tomato juice. Dojin started thinking as he looked at the red juice in front of him.
He grabbed Maru and entered the club for the hell of it. It looked fun and the seniors looked pretty. That was it for him, no deep reasons. Before he knew it, a year had passed. Nothing much had changed. He wasn’t desperate to get good at acting, nor did he have a set path for that acting life in front of him.
“I don’t really know.”
“If you like it, you should keep going.”
Iseul took a sip of the juice. Her eyes, slightly visible atop the mug as she drank, was looking at Dojin.
“...I’ve been thinking about it for a while, but I really don’t know what I want to do. Acting’s fun, yeah. But how should I put it? It occasionally feels like I’m idling by while everyone else is moving forward.”
He smiled awkwardly.
“But it’s not like I have a dream in acting either. I think about this and forget about it on the next day as well. It’s like I’m on a constant loop.”
Dojin stopped talking there, it felt like he was just making himself look worse in front of her.
“I think it’s that way for everyone,” Iseul began as she put down her cup, “it’s not like I have a goal either. I only want to inherit the restaurant because it’s all I’ve known in my life. There’s nothing else that I really want to do... I just kind of… do it because I have to.”
It was a difficult topic to talk about. She tapped the cup in front of her a few times.
“At least I don’t dislike this though. I like the restaurant my parents made. I like the fact that I can work here. It’s a blessing. At least I don’t have to think about stuff like entrance exams...”
“You said you won’t be going to college, right?”
“Yeah. It’s not like going to college would improve the flavor of our food.”
“Did your parents allow it?”
“No way. They’ll probably get really mad at me. I’m going to make them give up though.”
“...Aren’t you worried? I can’t imagine not going to a college.”
Dojin tried to stay silent because he didn’t want to appear weak, he couldn’t help himself though. Iseul looked powerful, she looked alive; just looking at her gave him strength. He didn’t want to hide anything in front of someone like that.
“Why are you being like this right now? Are you really Dojin? Why are you being so depressing?”
Iseul slapped his back one more time.
“Of course I’m worried. All of my friends would go to college. They’re already talking about it now. But that’s why I think I’d need to be even more careful. I just think that as long as I don’t regret my actions, I’d be happy with my life. College isn’t necessary to success after all.”
Iseul finished her cup of juice.
“Plus, I don’t want to just imitate other people.”
* * *
They were on their way back to the restaurant. Dojin turned to look at Iseul next to him. He wanted to say something to her, but nothing came to mind. Soon, the two of them arrived at the restaurant.
“I’ll buy you something tasty next time. Seriously, thank you for today. You helped out a lot.”
Iseul waved her hand at him. Instead of saying goodbye, he decided to say something else.
“I finally found something I want to keep on doing today.”
Iseul looked at him curiously. Dojin suppressed the embarrassment inside him and looked straight at her.
“I’m going to keep liking you until I graduate.”
Iseul burst out into laughter.
“Alright, fine. But I’m going to keep making you work at the restaurant until then. I’ll call you out whenever you’re free. Are you okay with that?”
“Whenever! I’m always free!”
“That doesn’t sound charming at all you know.”
She waved her hand one last time with a smile. This time, Dojin waved back.
Dojin got on the bus, his heart felt like it was about to explode. He found something he wanted to do for the first time. It was kind of stupid and the reason why he wanted to do it was even more stupid. But whatever.
As soon as he arrived back home, Dojin turned on the computer. He typed “cook” on the search bar. He knew he was being very hasty right now, but when has Dojin ever not been hasty? Right now, his eyes were shining brighter than anything else.
* * *
Maru bowed at Mintae from afar. Mintae flinched a little from the distance before bowing as well. By the looks of it, the man only noticed Daemyung before this.
“Bro, this is Maru.”
Daemyung acted as the mediator between the two. Maru recalled meeting this man before, though he had to wonder if the man remembered him.
“We met before, didn’t we? I’m Yoon Mintae.”
The man, who was in his mid-twenties, extended his hand out for a shake. Maru grabbed it firmly.
“Please don’t be so polite in front of me. You can treat me as you do Daemyung.”
“Well, sure then.”
Mintae smiled brightly.
“Did you guys eat yet?”
“No, not yet.”
“Alright. Might as well get something. I haven’t eaten yet either.”
Mintae took them to a BBQ place. It was already dinnertime, so the place was crowded.
“Daemyung told you why you’re here, right?”
They were making an original play completely from scratch, everything from writing the script to the stage tech would be done by them.
“We’re not planning on making this a short-term project. The idea is to rent out a theater in Hyehwa station later on to begin our first play.”
“What about the script?”
“Daemyung decided to give it a go. We’ll have to help him obviously.”
The two of them looked at Daemyung, who smiled nervously at them. The boy seemed dead set on entering into the industry as a director.
“So just us three, then?”
“For now. We’ll need more later though. First off, we need a writer. Someone who can breathe life into the writing. It’s going to be a little difficult for just Daemyung to write it, since we’re all just beginners.”
Making a play. It was a tempting offer. It would be a difficult, yet rewarding project.
“I can decorate the stage,” Mintae began.
“And Maru can take care of the acting,” Daemyung replied.
The two of them seemed to have thought of the roles already.
“How is it? Want to try it?”
Maru nodded after a few seconds of thought.
“I don’t think I can join in right away though. I have to take care of a few things.”
“Of course. I know you guys have that festival. Focus on that first. We can set up the other stuff afterwards. I just wanted to meet you for today.”
Mintae had a wide smile on his face.Previous Chapter Next Chapter