Chapter 153

The Myungdong Art Theater. It was his first time back here in two weeks. He found the kids huddled together once he walked onto the stage. Baekjoon, who played the class president, and Yoojin greeted him in turn. Next to them was Choi Areum, who played their teacher.

“Long time no see,” Baekjoon received Maru with a slap on the shoulder, “how was your prelims?”

“It was okay.”

“Stop pretending to be humble. Yoojin told me you guys were no joke.”

What did they talk about? Maru turned to Yoojin in curiosity.

“I just told him you guys did well. By the way...”

Yoojin approached him to whisper.

“How was it after that?”

“After what?”

“Didn’t you get dragged away by her mom?”

“You saw?”

“Of course. I was caught by her too. I was just watching you guys kiss before she suddenly appeared behind me. I almost shouted from surprise.”

Oh, so she saw that? Yoojin grinned when he glared at her slightly.

“No worries. I’ll keep it a secret. Tell me a bit more about what happened afterwards though. I’m curious as hell.”

“Not much. I just talked with her a little.”

“What? That’s it? Nothing special?”

“What the hell do you even want to hear?”

“Um… something from a drama?”

“Hah.”

Areum and Baekjoon tried to join in on the conversation as well.

“What are you two talking about?”

“Let us join.”

Maru shut himself right up. These two were oddly energetic together, so he couldn’t trust them to keep any secrets. They were almost like twins.

“Well, you see, Maru...”

Yoojin smiled mischievously. Maru raised his hands in resignation, which made her shut her mouth right up.

“Oh, you two are suspicious.”

“So suspicious.”

Maru turned his back to the two and raised his script. It’s been a while since he’d last seen it. It would take a while for him to regain his feel for it. As he read, the other students started arriving one by one. It really has been a while since he’s seen all of them, so he talked with them happily. They talked about a lot of things, but all of their conversations circled back into one topic.

“Do you think you passed the prelims?”

He didn’t know who said it, but they were loud. While it wasn’t directed at anyone in the room, but it aroused everyone’s concern. The northern and southern areas of the Gyeonggi province, and Seoul. Unlike all the other regions in the country that picked one team to go to the nationals, these areas picked two teams each. Out of the 12 students in this amateur acting class, 7 of them were from high schools in Seoul. Each of them was from a different school, so at least five people here would fail. The same applied to the students from the Gyeonggi province.

“I heard Ilyang High and Daejin Woman’s High are the representatives for Seoul.”

“It would probably be Myunghwa High for Gyeonggi, and… Is there anything else?”

The students turned to Maru and Yoojin, since they were the only two from Gyeonggi that were here right now.

“We still have a single prelim left. The northern area finished their prelims last week though.”

Yoojin shrugged as she answered.

“Your province has two different prelims?”

“Yeah, because it’s so huge. 2 from the North, 2 from the South. We’ll have another prelim after that to pick out the final 2 from our province.”

Baekjoon nodded in understanding.

“No wonder your province wins all the time. You guys have so many schools.”

“Maybe. But isn’t that really just because of Myunghwa High? They’re the only one that won.”

“Wait… I heard Woosung High used to win all the time as well?” Baekjoon muttered to himself in confusion.

Everyone turned to look at Maru. He had to put down his script for a moment.

“A long time ago, yeah. A very long time ago.”

“Woosung High’s really good this time. They were pretty good. No, they were amazing.”

Yoojin nodded confidently. The kids started looking at him even more carefully, making Maru sigh. Yoojin had a lot of influence here, so of course people would look at him like that. Why did the girl even have to say that? Well, it was pretty obvious, he guessed.

‘She’s totally enjoying it.’

Yoojin was grinning ear to ear. The kids started flooding him with questions about what plays they were performing and Maru ended up having to answer all of them.

“I’m telling you, Maru’s completely different from practice. He literally starts flying around when he’s on stage.”

She was like a bard in a tavern, the type that gets paid money to gossip with people. Maru gestured at her to stop, trying to silently send a message that he’d tell her everything. Yoojin finally smiled back at him and redirected the conversation elsewhere. In the end, they started talking about the famous actor that was going to come to their class.

Maru remembered hearing that Yoojin’s mother worked in the drama business. He didn’t quite remember what she did, but he finally calmed down when the kids focused back on Yoojin.

“What are you doing?”

Someone put their chin on Maru’s shoulder. A smell of perfume swept his nose. Perfume that he bought for someone.

“You’re here?”

She was standing right behind him. He looked at her smiling face before looking slightly downwards.

“Sorry, didn’t wear it.”

She extended her hand out to Maru. He couldn’t see a ring anywhere. He expected this already, but it was still kind of disappointing.

“You look disappointed?”

“I was wondering if you’d wear them.”

She smiled before taking out her phone. Her ring was hanging dangling off of it.

“They don’t allow accessories, but they won’t touch my phone. You should just be satisfied with this.”

The ring was spinning under her phone. Maru put his hand next to it and the two rabbits met together in the air.

“What’s this?”

Yoojin grabbed Maru’s hand and her phone before he realized it. She tried to take back her phone in surprise, but Yoojin was faster.

“Oh, so you two are going out publicly now?”

“W-what?”

She was surprised. Maru remembered then that she still didn’t know about Yoojin seeing them on that day. The girl grinned playfully before gesturing for a kiss.

“Kiss kiss kiss. A kiss of passion.”

She widened her eyes and put a hand over Yoojin’s mouth.

“Y-you!”

“I saw you two really well. Kids today are so fast.”

“How...”

“The world has many eyes, baby girl.”

Yoojin pinched her nose lightly. It was like watching a mouse sitting in front of a cat.

“Maru...” “Sorry.”

He decided to just apologize for now. He should stay quiet today.

“You’re here, all of you?”

Ganghwan finally appeared with a bottle of water in hand. The kids started lining up together in front of him.

“Did you guys finish your prelims well?”

“Yes!”

“Think you’ll pass?”

None of them was able to answer him easily. Then again, all twelve of them were pretty much competitors. If one of them passes, one of them fails.

“Welcome to the world of competition. You’ll always have to compete with each other in this line of work. This isn’t bad at all. There are many auditions where you’d have to compete with a hundred other people. Enjoy your high school life, you guys.”

Ganghwan grinned playfully, earning a ton of boos from the students.

“Now then, let’s go do a few runs. I hope none of you forgot your lines in your weeks of absence.”

And so, practice began again in Myungdong.

* * *

Tsss. Tsss.

Yurim kept turning the flint on her lighter, causing a few sparks to appear. Yurim’s eyes followed the flame very intently.

It was December 31st. The last day of 2003.

Yesterday, the results of the prelims appeared. Woosung High passed, so the club went out to have a fun time with instructor Miso yesterday. She told them that they’d be able to go to the nationals as long as they did well on the second part of the prelims. Everyone smiled. The air between them was warm, but Yurim wasn’t satisfied with this. If the club did well, Geunseok would get further away from her. That was obvious. The boy would get more private lessons if he does well. Meaning, he would spend more time with that beautiful lady.

Yurim lost the strength in her hands when she thought of Geunseok disappearing. Her lighter dropped to the floor and she just stared at it dumbly.

“This can’t go on like this.”

She hoped they’d fail, but they passed. Geunseok became even more proud of himself. She couldn’t take him back like this. She needed to make him crumble and break this current flow to make him lean on her.

“Geunseok needs me. It can’t be anyone other than me.”

Yurim clenched her eyes as she muttered to herself.

“....No, I can’t exist without him. I need him.”

Her hands trembled nervously. Her breathing started getting faster. She needed to make a choice. It was the 31st. If she was going to do it, she needed to do it tomorrow. She had to do it tomorrow. Yurim grabbed a pack of glue and lighters and put them back in her bag.

* * *

Maru looked up at the clock from his room, it was almost midnight. He walked out to the living room, his family was sitting outside looking at the television.

- Hello everyone! The new year is almost upon us! Let’s wrap up our last moments of 2003 well, and get ready to greet 2004!

The faces of many people standing outdoors somewhere, waiting for a bell to ring, came on the screen. They were all looking at the countdown with expectation plastered all over their faces. The reporter was going around asking them for their wishes. In the meantime, Maru joined his family on the sofa.

“We worked hard this year too,” his dad said, looking at the screen.

- Alright, ten seconds left until 2004! Come count down with us!

The number on the bottom right of the screen started counting down. Bada started counting audibly when the number reached five.

- Happy new year!

The bell rang on the TV. Everyone on screen shouted ‘Happy New Year’.

“Good luck to you in the new year,” Maru said to his parents.

The same went to his sister as well.

“You too, big bro.”

Maru walked back to his room after speaking to his family for a second. The first thing he did was to call her, she got the call immediately.

“Good luck in the new year.”

- You too.

“Tell it to your mom as well for me.”

- She’s actually right next to me.

Maru could hear someone go, “boyfriend? Maru?” from the other side. She hung up the call with a sigh. The two of them got along well, as always.

“Two days left.”

He threw his body to his bed. They would have to compete once again in two days. They should go check the props and the costumes one last time for it. There shouldn’t be any issues. Maru breathed in before closing his eyes.

Let the beginning of 2004 be peaceful.

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