Chapter 63

“Um, would you be Mr. Han Maru?”

It was a voice that came piercing through the cold dawn air. Maru looked back towards the woman standing behind him. She wore a thin jacket, despite the cold weather. Her black leggings and khaki jacket was the first thing he noticed.

“Ah, yes.”

“I’m sorry, I’m late.”

“No, you came just in time. It takes a bit of time to get to the set, so please get on.”

“Yes.”

Maru opened the door to the back seats, but quickly closed it with a bitter smile. There were too many costumes and makeup littering the back of the car.

“You’ll have to sit in the front seat. I’m sorry. I forgot to clean up the car.”

“It’s ok. Back seat front seat, they’re both the same thing.”

The woman hopped over to the other side of the car and stepped inside. Maru got in as well, and started up the car.

“Do you want me to turn on the heater?”

“Yes. I thought it wouldn’t be very cold, but it’s so cold.”

“Well, that’s just dawn for you. It takes three hours to get to the set, so please sleep if you need it. The director will give you further directions once you arrive. Your manager… you don’t have one?”

“Hehe, yes.”

“Is this your first time in a drama?”

“Yes, it is. I’m actually a replacement for a different actor.”

“Ah, I see.”

Maru already had a gist of what was going on. If he was called out to do the driving, it usually meant the actor in question wasn’t very popular. Plus, this was Hyehwa station. The only actors that really got called in the mornings here were replacements for side characters.

“You must be nervous.”

“No.”

The woman said her response pretty firmly. Maru turned to look at the woman. Her eyes were shining, as if someone sprinkled silver powder on them. They fit the dawn air very nicely.

She didn’t look nervous at all. As a matter of fact, she even looked excited.

“To think I would be on TV… I’m excited. Well, unless I just get completely edited out.”

“If they’re trying to find a side character last minute, they probably can’t afford to edit it out. Do your best. Who knows? You might be a star thanks to this.”

“Boo, no way.”

“Well, who knows.”

Of course, he was saying all of this only out of politeness. There were thousands of actor wannabes out there. Out of them, there were many who spent their lives unable to reach the screens.

Stars.

Stars were created when skilled people managed to get lucky. Will this woman manage to get lucky on today’s set? Probably not.

“Liar.”

“W-what?”

Maru was a little surprised by the woman’s sudden words.

“You’re lying.”

“Me?”

“Yes. Hmm, I’m actually really good at detecting those kinds of stuff. Well, thank you anyway. That lie wasn’t unpleasant.”

With that, the woman closed her eyes. Hm hm hm, a humming noise started to come out of her nose. She was flicking her fingers as she rythmically shook her head as well.

Looking at that made Maru laugh a little. He couldn’t help it, she looked so happy and at ease. The woman seemed to have noticed him.

“What is it?” she asked.

“No, it’s nothing.”

“Are you surprised that a person you met for the first time is humming to herself so comfortably?”

“Can you read minds or something?”

“I’m good at reading people. But did you want me to stop?”

“Not at all. That was good to hear.”

“Well, I’ll keep going, then.”

The woman hummed to herself after a deep breath. At that moment, the car felt like a carriage running through a golden field. It felt like the view outside the car was warm and beautiful as it could ever be.

The woman was drawing lines in the air with her finger as she hummed, almost as if she was conducting an orchestra. She looked adorable, but the woman was as serious as ever. A frown would occasionally surface, almost as if there was a problem in her imaginary orchestra.

“Did something go wrong?”

“Yes. I can’t remember my line all that well. I don’t think it’s mine just yet.”

“What is it?”

“This is too expensive.”

“Is that it?”

“Mm, there’s one more. Can I get this for cheaper? I’m supposed to be a newlywed lady who’s out for blood in the market. 15 seconds on screen. That’s pretty long, right?”

“Hahaha.”

The woman started flicking her finger around again. Hm hm hm. Her hums sounded like a songbird. Before he even realized it, Maru found himself humming along with her.

* * *

“Yo, Maru.”

Someone was waving their hand in front of Maru’s face. Only upon realizing that did Maru come back to reality. Dojin and Daemyung were looking at him worriedly.

“Dude, are you really ok? You’ve been weird all week. Is there something wrong?”

“You’re making us worried. Did something happen?”

Maru shook his head. He pointed at his grinning face in response.

“Does it look like something bad happened?”

“No, but you’ve been in a daze for like, god knows how long. You were like this after the play, too.”

“I just had something to think about. No problems.”

“Really? Good to hear. Here’s your food. Shrimp burger.”

“Thanks.”

Dojin and Daemyung sat down next to him. They were at Marronnier park. Thanks to the warm weather, there were a lot of people performing on the streets. Some people were from theaters, while others were completely independent. There were countless buskers outside with their guitars, and there were even some people with very strange looking instruments.

They even found a group of middle schoolers out on a field trip. Around half of them were looking at just one person. A man who was standing still in the middle of the park, in a clown makeup. The man only moved when money entered his pockets.

Whenever the middle schoolers put 500 won bills into his pockets, he would sometimes move very naturally, or sometimes very stiffly to indicate some sort of a reaction. The kids kept putting more money in, seemingly very amused by the man’s movements.

“Earning money’s hard, huh?” Dojin commented.

Maru could only nod with a smile.

“By the way, what did you talk about with the girls earlier?” Dojin asked with a grin.

“I was just curious about something.”

“Ohh! Maru, you’re a man, aren’tcha? Did you like one of them?”

“I just wanted to confirm something.”

“Confirm? Confirm what?”

“You kids wouldn’t know.”

“The hell? Just introduce me bro. Come to think of, they had pretty weird uniforms on. Don’t think I saw them around before.”

“Yeah.”

Daemyung butted into the conversation right then.

“They’re from Myunghwa high.”

“Myunghwa high?”

It was the first Maru’s heard of them. Dojin seemed to know who they were, though. He pouted a little bit in annoyance.

“Oh, so it was them.”

“Yeah, I searched them up because I got curious.”

The two seemed to know something. Did something happen?

“What about Myunghwa high?”

“Oh, right. You wouldn’t know, huh?”

Daemyung started speaking as he folded up his burger wrapper.

“They’re the ones who won the nationals this year. I tried not to think about it since we lost, but I kind of couldn’t. I found them when I searched for them online. They even have a video of their winning play. The one they performed at the Seoul Arts Center.”

Seoul Arts Center. It was the place the students got to perform at, once they got up to nationals. They could only perform at the smaller theaters in the center, but being able to perform in the Seoul Arts Center was a great honor to begin with.

‘So she started acting around now.’

He remembered the time they first met, almost as if he managed to find something he lost a long time ago inside a box. She used to be an actor of a certain theater, and he was a road manager constantly on the lookout for new jobs. His memories of the events that transpired afterwards were a little faint, but just having memories of her face, name and voice was enough to make him happy.

As a matter of fact, he felt like he was being saved by someone. Just being able to see her again made him happy again. Just today, his worries about the future wouldn’t bother him anymore.

“Man you seem happy now. What’s up with that?”

Dojin whispered ‘I almost feel bad for worrying about you’ under his breath, as he put a hand over Maru’s shoulder.

“So, you get her number?”

Maru turned away from Dojin with an exasperated face, but he ended up being greeted with an even more expectant Daemyung.

‘Look at these kids.’

He understood why Dojin would be curious, but even Daemyung?

“T-the girl at the end was cute.”

“Good job, Daemyung! Yes, if you’re a man, you must have a right mindset like that. You go for the girl at the end. I’ll go with the one in the mid-”

That’s where Maru put a hand over Dojin’s mouth. The one in the middle? Whose wife do you think you’re trying to steal over here?

“Shush. Don’t even think about it.”

“......”

Dojin scanned Maru with narrowed eyes.

“Oho oho, Mr. Han Maru. You’re worse than me, huh? You already have her marked down as your girlfriend? Or… Did you get her number already? Huh?”

“No, I just wanted to ask her something.”

“Ask her what?”

“Her name.”

“Name? Just her name? Really? What about her number?”

“Well… I’ll get that next time.”

“Ugh.”

Maru was content with just seeing her. He didn’t want to mess things up by rushing into things. Surely, they would meet again some time again in the future. He shouldn’t try to hurry, if anything, he needs to act like a gentleman.

‘I wonder if she’d accept my proposal again?’

Wait. Did he go too far?

“Dude, no matter how much you like her, if she doesn’t like you, it’s over.”

Dojin’s playful words hit Maru like a hammer.

“Y-you’re right.”

“Hey, Maru.“

“You’re right. What do I do?”

“W-what the hell? Dude, Daemyung! This guy’s getting weird!”

“Ahh. How did I not even think about that? Hold on, what did my wife like again?”

“Wife?”

Dojin and Daemyung exchanged their confused looks with one another. In the meantime, Maru…

‘This isn’t easy at all.’

Maru had turned very serious.

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