Yurim was feeling excited for the first time in a long while, it was to be her first time seeing Geunseok again in a few days. She did call him several times, but their calls were short. Yurim always hung up, gritting her teeth at the fact that she knew exactly who was next to the boy at the time.
‘But well, I get to see him today.’
She went to school with nervousness, fear, and excitement. She subconsciously walked up to the fifth floor and ran into the words, ‘don’t enter’. She forgot the place was going under renovations, she came back down to the fourth floor without thinking much about it. Their clubroom felt very cramped with all of the props inside.
She nodded towards Soyeon, she’s gotten a lot better since the fire incident. She still didn’t have great feelings for the girl, but she could at least reply to greetings.
“It’s so cramped. Was it always this cramped here?”
“Yeah, it feels like it got smaller.”
“It’s because of all the recent props we used. I don’t think the seniors would even be able to make it inside.”
Dojin spoke as he leaned on the wall. The clubroom only had Dojin, Daemyung, Taejoon, Soyeon and Yurim inside currently, and it was already quite stuffy. Yurim pushed a tea kettle on the floor aside, there really was a mountain of props inside.
“So we have to organize all of these by today.”
“It’ll take forever.”
They all sighed. As they started talking about how they were going to go about organizing everything, Miso and the second years arrived.
“Bit cramped, isn’t it?” Instructor Miso said, “It really might be about time to sort out the trash.”
The second years all sighed in defeat.
“As expected, huh?”
“We don’t even have space for it, after all. We should just keep the reusable stuff and stuff the costumes to somewhere compact. I think we’ll have to destroy the bigger stage props though.”
The cleanup method was decided under Miso’s instructions, the expensive costumes would be organized first before everything else would be taken care of. By the looks of things, they’d need to clean out at least half of the props in the room.
“Sorry, we’re late!”
Iseul and Geunseok were the last to arrive. They weren’t actually late, the club was set to meet at 11am and they arrived at 10:50am.
“Alright, let’s take everything out first. Hold your breaths, it’s going to be very moldy.”
The boys took out the props and the girls took care of sorting it. Everyone worked together when it came to taking out the stage props. By the time Maru arrived, the hallway was absolutely cluttered with props.
“Oh, so much stuff.”
Yurim gave Maru a short nod. Thankfully, he appeared to be in great health.
“You’re late! Get to work.”
“My leg hurts, instructor.”
“Stop bullshitting me.”
The club was vibrant with energy, Yurim used it to try to talk to Geunseok.
“This will take a while to clean up.”
“I don’t really see a need to do it during vacation.”
“Ah, that! We used that in the beginning, didn’t we? It was just a few months ago, but it feels like it’s been years.” “Dunno.”
That was their entire conversation. Yurim spent her entire time prolonging it, but Geunseok left her for the clubroom before she got a word in. Why was he being so cold? She bit her lips as she looked at the boy, she’d to get back to how things were in the past. She was sure of it.
“Did you two get into a fight?”
Someone spoke to her from behind, she flinched and looked back to see Maru was standing behind her with a bag of trash.
“W-what are you talking about?”
“Boys usually look into the eyes of girls they like in conversations. It’s just instinct. Or they look away out of embarrassment. But Geunseok just now looked completely uninterested. That could only mean two things. You guys had a fight or he really isn’t interested at all.”
Yurim glared at Maru.
“Stop joking. We’re just used to each other. You know nothing about us.”
“That would be for the best.”
“You’re really a mean kid, aren’t you? Do you enjoy ruining relationships like this?”
“No way. I’m not good at that. I am, however, very good at catching lies instead. Ah, care to hear something interesting? My lie radar recently caught a very big fish.”
What was the boy going on about? Yurim was confused by Maru’s sudden approach. The boy usually doesn’t talk to her like this. Right now though, he was stepping forward towards her with narrowed eyes. This didn’t feel good at all. She tried to glare at him before leaving, but Maru caught her with his next words.
“I wanted to ask you something.”
“Why do you think people start a fire? I seriously can’t seem to come up with a satisfactory reason for it.”
Yurim felt the hairs on her arm stand up. Why was he talking about this all of a sudden? She put on a smile trying to disguise her nervousness.
“How would I know that?”
“Why would I?”
“Really? That’s a surprise.”
Maru scratched his eyebrows.
“And here I was so sure you’d know.”
The boy seemed incredibly confident, Yurim felt like her heart was about to stop. The boy knew something for sure, he wouldn’t have spoken about the fire otherwise. Her hands got sweaty and her mouth was drying up, she curled up her toes out of nervousness.
“H-how would I even know anything?”
Maru tilted his head sideways with a slight smile.
“Don’t be that surprised. I don’t want to hear your confession so quickly.”
She couldn’t even talk, Yurim looked around her. They were pretty far away from the club, so no one could hear them.
“Care for a change in scenery?”
Maru stepped down the stairs. The boy didn’t explicitly tell her to follow him, she could always choose to ignore him and go back to the club. Nonetheless, she found herself close behind, with his enigmatic words echoing throughout her head. By the time they were halfway down the stairs to the third floor, Maru stopped.
“Sometimes in life, you need to have some clout. If you follow me like this without even pausing, then you’re practically announcing to the world that you did it.”
“What are you talking about, I just followed you because you told me to….”
“Pretty weak response, don’t you think?”
Maru put down the bag of trash on the floor before taking out a long object from his pocket. Mary pressed it with his thumb, causing voices to come from it. It was the conversation they had in the hospital on that day, Yurim flinched in shock. He recorded their conversation? She didn’t complain about it. There was nothing he could do with it anyway, but his next words completely shattered this belief of hers.
“How did you know the fire was started with a tube of glue?”
Yurim lost strength in her legs the moment she heard those words, it felt like she took a hammer to her head. She put a hand on the wall and leaned on it, she couldn’t even stand. Maru walked over to hold her shoulder.
“Don’t fall down. I don’t want to be blamed for something I didn’t do again.”
Yurim trembled, she did actually consider falling down the stairs just now. Maru seemed to know about everything, unfortunately. She tried to shake off Maru’s hands, but the boy was incredibly strong. She thought about screaming, but she was afraid of what might happen afterwards.
The same old unperturbed face stared back at her, it looked like a predator’s to her right now. She was scared. If things continued like this, the truth would be exposed.
Yurim opened her mouth widely towards Maru’s arm, then bit down. She’d roll down the stairs once Maru gets off of her. Sexual assault. She might as well use that as an excuse. Blood started pooling inside her mouth. She really went for it.
Soon, Maru would scream and push her back. That would be her chance. But…
“Now you’re really making me curious. What pushed you this far?”
The boy sounded completely calm. Yurim lost strength in her jaws, she pulled back with a disgusted look. Maru didn’t seem at all surprised to be looking at his wet, bleeding arm. As a matter of fact, he merely took out a handkerchief and slowly wiped the blood and saliva off.
She tried to take a step back to run, she needed to get out of here; she didn’t even want to think about what would happen next. As if Maru would let her, he reached out to grab her left arm. Yurim wanted to scream, it felt like she was completely paralyzed. A million thoughts passed by in her head. If everyone finds out she started the fire… If everyone finds out she lied… She could imagine the club members looking at her in horror. At the same time, she could see Geunseok turning away from her.
“I-I’m sorry. I was wrong. I was just scared. I didn’t mean to do it!”
“...I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I won’t do it again. I won’t do anything bad ever again. Please just forget about it this one time. Please don’t tell anyone else about this. I’ll be hated. Geunseok would hate me.”
Her body was trembling, she gathered her shoulders and squatted on the floor. A thought crossed her mind, she looked up and glared at Maru.
“If you tell the other kids… I’m going to kill myself. You’re going to be killing me. Do you know that? I’m going to die because of you.”
She gulped. Did she manage to scare him? Maybe she might be able to solve the issue with this?
“If you’re trying to use death threats to solve the situation, you’ve come to the wrong place. I really don’t care if you kill yourself. Why? You and I are strangers. Sure I might feel a little bit guilty. But how long would that last? Not long, I assure you. After that, I’ll use you as a topic of conversation. Hey, you guys remember that girl who killed herself after starting a fire? I guess the other club members would remember you well. After all, you did start a fire.”
Maru’s words dug straight into Yurim’s skull, she trembled in fear. Maru felt like a ghost to her, she grabbed the stair railings and stepped back. She just couldn’t muster the energy. Tears were flowing out of her eyes, her teeth were clacking together.
Someone help me, please. Someone take this person off of me.
“Why couldn’t you apologize faster? Even apologies have expiration dates. What you’re giving me smells like it’s been rotten for weeks.”
“S… sorry… I’m sorry… Sorry…”
She couldn’t say anything else. She was scared. The boy in front of her was too scary. It felt like he’d read her mind again if she looked into his eyes. The humiliation and fear were starting to choke her.
She heard a voice from above, Yurim looked up in fearful trepidation. Soyeon was looking at her.
* * *
Miso poured Maru a glass of soju.
“I’m a student, you know.”
“No thank you.”
Maru flipped the meat on the grill, the sound of the meat sizzling spread across the table.
“So, what happened with Yurim?”
“I met with her parents first.”
“And here I thought you were going to bury her.”
“I was going to at first, but there wasn’t a good enough punishment. It’s not like I could legally punish her either since she’s still a minor.”
“You can do it if you want, I know that. I heard from senior Junmin that you asked for a lawyer in the past?”
“...Being honest, there’s no reason in me decimating a kid’s life. The girl just broke down like some puppet when I pushed her a little.”
He could’ve at least made her do a few hours of community service if he wanted. But looking at her trembling, crying face… Damn it, he ended up thinking of his daughter. Maru gulped down his drink. The moment Yurim’s face overlapped with his daughter’s, he started wondering what the hell he was doing to a poor child.
“Decimating? What a word.”
“I’m a bit cultured, you see.”
“Are you drunk?”
His daughter was around Yurim’s age. More so than anger, Maru was curious about the motivation of setting the fire. Still, it wasn’t a matter that could be settled purely with words either. So instead, he met with the girl’s parents. If they tried to argue to him about how their daughter did nothing wrong, he would have gone straight to the police. Thankfully, they were very polite and calm.
“What did Yurim’s parents say?”
“Not an easy decision, huh.”
“She’s had prior experience with something similar.”
“...Okay, I didn’t really want to know about that.”
“I didn’t let the parents tell me more either because of the same reason.”
Maru didn’t want to know Yurim’s story, he was just curious as to why she started the fire. Yurim said it was because she wanted to be closer to Geunseok, the reasoning just made Maru laugh. Just where the hell did she get that idea?
“I suppose just about everyone gets blinded by love.”
“Stop talking like an old man, please. You know you give me goosebumps sometimes, right?”
“It’s because I’m drinking.”
“I’m surprised about Soyeon though.”
“Right. She’s an incredibly kind girl.”
“I’m glad at least one person’s looking out for Yurim.”
“Don’t know. I just hope Yurim doesn’t get too attached to Soyeon this time.”
“We both know that won’t happen though.”
“A school in Jeju island, was it?”
“I suppose it’s a good thing her family’s well off.”
“Well, accidents are always caused by the rich for a reason.”
Maru got a call from Yurim’s dad that the family would move all the way down to Jeju island. Amongst a myriad of apologies he received, Maru tried to cheer him up. He could only feel sorry for the man as a father himself.
“Good lord, what do we do with the club now?”
“Why don’t you lure in some freshmen if you’re so worried? The club really might disintegrate at this rate.”
Maru shrugged. The new semester was about to begin. The second years would all be gone and who knew how many of the first years would stay.
“No place to practice and the clubroom’s so small, too.”
“You still have to come, instructor.”
“Only if you get ten members.”
“Don’t you dare sigh. I’m the one that wants to cry here.”
Miso took a swig of her drink. She was right, the club that nurtured her dreams was a mess.
“Pace yourself, please,” Maru said, as he poured her another drink.Previous Chapter Next Chapter