“I told you to wait at home.”
“I’m going to stay here. Mom, should I wash the dishes?”
“Can you do it, Gaeul?”
“Then do you want to do it for mommy?”
Behind the bar, the mother and daughter were standing there, creating a warming scene. Gaeul, who was standing on a chair, was using her little twig-like hands to touch the cups. As the ones she was washing were plastic cups that could not shatter, her mother seems to be at ease letting her do it. It was a very heartwarming scene to see, but when Maru looked at them, or to be precise, at Gaeul, he could only smile dryly because of some mysterious longing in his heart.
“A wholesome mother and daughter, aren’t they?”
“Yes, they really are.”
Maru looked at director Park Joongjin, who sat next to him. In front of him was the espresso that Jinjoo had given him while saying that it was her best work. The bitter fragrance of coffee could be smelled from a small cup that looked like it was made for playing house.
“Gaeul. The ahjussi in the flowery shirt over there isn’t drinking mommy’s coffee which is making mommy feel sad. Go punish him for me.”
Jinjoo made a prankful smile as she wiped her hands on a towel. With orders from her mother, Gaeul put her hands on top of the bar and stared at Joongjin.
“Director. I think you’ll have to drink that.”
“I really like how I’m welcomed every time I’m here. Why don’t you try some at this opportunity as well, Mr. Maru? I always feel like I’m stepping into heaven when I drink Mrs. Jinjoo’s coffee.”
“I happen to be allergic to coffee.”
“Yet you seem to be great with cappuccinos.”
“Milk just so happens to make the allergy bearable.”
Just looking at the espresso was enough to make him salivate. It would be very bitter. Just as Joongjin said, it might be sufficient to make him step into heaven. Joongjin, who had always maintained his composure, was looking at the coffee with nervousness. If Gaeul wasn’t in front of him, he might have left the coffee right there.
“Is mommy’s drink not good?”
Gaeul asked with her squirrel-like eyes. It was an irresistible attack. She looked like she was going to cry if he did not drink it. Maru looked at Jinjoo who was putting a suspicious smile on her face behind Gaeul. From the way she greeted Joongjin when he came to the store, they didn’t seem to be on bad terms. In fact, they seemed pretty close.
“Becoming close to someone is similar to stepping into an affectionate maliciousness.”
Joongjin picked up the small cup and drank it in one gulp. He made a fragile smile before handing the cup back to Gaeul.
“Can you give it back to mommy?”
As soon as Gaeul turned around, Joongjin quickly opened up a sugar cube and put it in his mouth. Joongjin was unable to speak for a while. The coffee must have been that bitter.
“I’ve seen the movie.”
Maru spoke first. Joongjin spoke, as though he had been liberated from the bitter taste.
“Did you enjoy it?”
“Yes. I was absorbed in it. It really was eye catching.”
“That was my intention after all. Hm, there’s still the taste of coffee in my mouth.”
“Why don’t you ask for some milk?”
“If I did that, she’ll give me another one of those devilish black liquids. Mrs. Jinjoo is more than capable of doing that.”
“Hey, I can hear you.”
“Oops, she has good ears too.”
Jinjoo had replied while she made some sandwiches, Joongjin rolled his eyes. He was a really interesting person. He used his meticulous directions to pressure everyone during shoots, but he made the atmosphere soft with his words during private occasions. He sometimes made people flustered with his words, but that was also one of his charms if you got used to him.
“Did you always know director Lee Jincheol?”
Maru asked that as he looked at Jincheol and Geunsoo, who were talking by the window. They were looking at some documents on a laptop, and it seemed to be the scenario for the movie they were going to shoot.
“We’ve known each other for quite a long time. He’s one of the members of my short list of acquaintances. Mrs. Jinjoo over there is included as well.”
“Director Park. Going by year, it’s been seventeen years since we’ve known each other. Why don’t you stop using those awkward honorifics?” Jinjoo asked as she put down the sandwich in front of Joongjin.
“I don’t think I can do that. The only ones I don’t use honorifics for are very unique people.”
“I really want to see what’s inside your head, oppa. Just what’s in there?”
“Morals that ordinary people have?”
“Tsk. You really won’t get married at that rate.”
“I’ll take Gaeul once she grows up.”
“Oh my word. Would you like some more coffee?”
“I retract my words,” Joongjin said before he bit into the sandwich.
“What brings you here, then, Mr. Maru?”
“Director Jincheol wanted to see me.”
“Ooh, doing a shoot then?”
“He really just called me because he wanted to see me.”
“If that is the case, get him to pay for your fares to go back home. That man’s rich.”
“I was planning to.”
“What a pity though. I think it would have been really interesting if you appeared in the movie that Jincheol directs. The way he directs has some interesting points. Do you know what kind of movie he’s shooting?”
“I had a look at the script before I came here. It was about some detectives.”
“It looked fun, didn’t it?”
“Yes. I liked how it didn’t have any plot twists. Actually, I was reminded of your work when I looked at it. I can’t comment anything about the directing methods, but the way you two unfold your stories is….”
After saying that, Maru stopped and did not finish his words. Telling a creator that he or she had a ‘similar’ style to someone was not that respectful. If a mere actor who had just started acting talked about things like that, he might touch Jincheol’s pride. He knew that Joongjin wasn’t someone who would talk about it anywhere, but it was better for him to be careful with his words considering the relationship between the two.
Joongjin said that word. Maru took a deep breath before acknowledging it. He tried to be roundabout about it, but he could only admit it since the other party said it outright.
“Jincheol and I have some similarities. After Spring Calendar, I stopped doing commercial movies and dazed out, trying out many things with Jincheol. Those were probably the days where I was the most experimental. It was the first time I tried things that didn’t make money. It was fun. Though, the people around me were shocked.”
“Did you shoot indie movies?”
“A couple. There were times when Jincheol did the directing, while I did the script, and sometimes it would be the other way round. However, it didn’t last long as I got fed up with that quite quickly after all. Ever since my dreams had been deflated, nothing I did was fun.”
The word Joongjin used was a little sad for some reason.
“Since we’re talking, shall we chat a little? What is your dream, Mr. Maru?”
“To live a long life without being sick with the people I love. A bit of money sounds good to me as well.”
“Sounds like a simple dream.”
“It might be simple, but it’s strangely really hard to achieve.”
“You’re right. I was like that too.”
“What was your dream?”
“My dream? When I was your age, it was to earn a lot of money. Money itself was my dream. Even when I think about it now, I lived a diligent life. I did my best in studies for money, went to a good university for money, and became successful in the end. Do you know what I used to do?”
“From what I heard, you ran a restaurant.”
“That happened after I lost my dream. Oh, the dream I’m talking about here is my second dream.”
“Your second dream?”
Joongjin faintly smiled.
“Let’s talk about that later. Anyway, I went to the financial district in order to realize my first dream. Do you know how high KOSPI is right now?”
“Around 900 as far as I know.”
“When I was working, it was around 100. It was back in 1984. Back then, everyone put their money in the bank. The interest rate wasn’t as hopeless as it is now. Moreover, it was prior to the Asian Games and the Olympics, so back then, people working in the financial district had very high expectations. I realized my first dream somewhat. After I got my hands on so much money, I had some cultural desires. Well, I call it desires, but I actually just wanted to show off. I wanted to take a beautiful girl to an opera.”
“But operas weren’t really to my tastes. That was how I stumbled on Daehak-ro. The place where people my age are burning with passions. It was really fun. I think it was called the Art Plaza. There were a huge number of people that gathered on that cramped road. That was when I found her.”
Joongjin rested his chin on his hands and tapped on his cheeks with his index fingers. That rhythmic tap was similar to that of a hand of a clock. The clock that was going to the past. He wondered what point in the past Joongjin was looking at. Just then, Maru uttered out a name that came to his mind.
“Are you perhaps talking about Miss Jung Haejoo?”
Joongjin looked at Maru without saying a word. After a long while, he started talking again.
“Have you seen the photo on the stairs?”
“Yes, not too long ago.”
“A charming girl, isn’t she?”
“I don’t know anything about her, but I did think that the smile in the photo looked very pretty. It looked like she had the power to make people around her look at her.”
“You’re right about that. That was her essence. The power that attracted people’s eyes. However, that wasn’t all. She had the ability to make the people around her smile. She was like the protagonist of a children’s movie. Do you know about Hani?”
“Her personality was different, but she was like that. Looking at her made you want to cheer her on, and the passion she gave off infected everyone around her. She was a little stubborn like Hani as well, but in her heart, she was a really gentle girl. Hm, now that I said those words, she’s not that similar to Hani. Hani is a scary tomboy after all. Anyway, she was a cool girl.”
“Someone you couldn’t help but like?”
Maru borrowed Jincheol’s words. Joongjin nodded.
“From that day onwards, I went to the place where she worked. It was a rather worn-out building. The theater didn’t have that many guests either. That girl was charming, but back then, she couldn’t be said to be good at acting. Customers pay money to consume an actor’s acting, but no matter how charming she was, the theater troupe she belonged to lacked something to open the wallets of customers. That was when I had the thought. Ah! The reason I earned all this money is for this moment!”
“Did you support them?”
“Yes. That was the start of my second dream. Yecheon, the theater troupe. I wanted to see that troupe succeed. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as honest as I am now back then. I was focused on earning money, so I didn’t know what kind creatures women were nor did I know that the emotion I had back then was love. But isn’t it kind of boring to hear a middle aged man like me talk about love?”
“I think it’s suitable as a coffee time talk. Also, I have some personal curiosities about Miss Jung Haejoo.”
“Then I guess I can talk a little more about some old memories then.”
Joongjin looked around before putting three sugar cubes in front of him.
“This is me, and this is Haejoo. Lastly, I need to add this cocky-looking sugar cube in order to progress the story.”
“Is it president Lee Junmin?”
“It’s a bit scary to see you know so much. Did you investigate or something?”
Joongjin laughed and tapped on the sugar cubed he named Lee Junmin.
“One girl, two men. It’s a rather obvious love triangle. It’s too cliché these days but back then, it was good. Being cliché means that it was once loved by people.”
Joongjin put one sugar cube in his mouth.
“Hear me out while you eat.”
Maru picked up the sugar cube given to him. The name of that sugar cube was Lee Junmin.
Sorry, president - Maru put the sugar cube in his mouth.
 The stock market. Currently, KOSPI is around 3000 won.
 This is not referring to the singer belonging to the idol group EXID, but from the program Boni Hani that aired in 2003. EXID debuted in 2012, and Hani was born in 1992, which makes her younger than Maru.
Finally, we get to hear Haejoo's back story.
The lore deepens.