Chapter 92

A romantic comedy. The play entails the on and off relationships of two couples.

‘These are all couples.’

Most of the people in the audience seemed to be couples. As a matter of fact, the people right in front of them were holding hands as well. To the right of them and to the left of them, too. She started nervously stroking the wrist Maru was holding before.

“It’s about to begin.”

“Y-yeah.”

The orange lighting faded away, enveloping the stage in darkness. She loved the silence that took over the theater in these moments. In it, she could start imagining the adventure that was about to unfold in front of her. A moment later, light returned to the stage. The actors that were just silhouettes seconds before now became fully visible.

There was a tall man, and a woman a bit smaller than him standing on stage. They looked at each other exchanging a heated gaze, and then suddenly kiss…

Wow, that was a lot bolder than she expected. After the two actors kissed, they separated. The male actor was wearing a military uniform, he was probably off to finish his service. Thinking that, she looked next to her. She could see Maru looking at the stage with serious eyes. His smiling expression was completely gone, and his finger was constantly moving as if he was writing something with them. What’s he doing? She felt like she would create unnecessary misunderstandings if she stared, so she looked forward again.

‘We’re gonna never see each other after this play anyway, it’s going to be a bye bye.’

After the first couple disappeared, a college couple came on stage. The two were talking happily, but then the woman from before appeared behind the man. Then, she sneakily grabbed the man’s other hand.

“Cheating?”

“What the.”

Several of the audience members started complaining. She decided to join in as well. She started making a “boo” sound with a slightly low voice. Low enough to not interfere with the play.

“To think she couldn’t even wait two years,” she muttered.

A response came from right next to her.

“Are you going to wait for your boyfriend if he goes to the military?”

She nodded vigorously. She didn’t even need to think about the question to answer it. Waiting two years for her significant other was the least she could do for the person she loved.

“That’s a relief.”

“...Why would that be a relief for you?”

“The play’s continuing, let’s focus.”

The boy was surprisingly adept at changing topics. If she said something to him now, she’d be the rude one. She made up her mind to ignore Maru completely from now on and focused on the play. It was turning into a complete mess.

A woman waiting for her boyfriend in the military, who was also cheating with her best friend’s boyfriend. A woman secretly talking with a man who went to the military, while her boyfriend was cheating on her. Lastly, the man who was sending both of these women love letters from the military. The plot was really giving meaning to the title of the play, “Web of Love”.

She would’ve been uncomfortable watching if only one side was cheating. But since everyone was cheating on everyone else, she could watch it while thinking “damn all of you!” in her mind. She started getting more and more absorbed into the play.

* * *

“I think the person who wrote this play experienced a lot of loss. At least, that’s how I feel.”

“Or the person’s never dated before.”

She frowned upon hearing Maru’s reply.

“How? The person wrote such a realistic play.”

“It’s not like Tolkien wrote the Lord of The Rings after actually experiencing his adventure, it is the same with other stories. A lot of times, imagination trumps reality in terms of storytelling.”

“Well, fair enough. But I still want to say that the author of this play experienced a lot of loss before writing this.”

“Why?”

“Because that’s more fun to think about.”

“More fun, huh.“

Maru nodded.

“Hah!”

She exhaled a puff of air as soon as she stepped out of the theater. A white puff of air floated up to the sky in front of her. It almost felt like the weather got colder than the time they first met.

“Want anything warm?”

“Mm?”

Maru pointed at the convenience store in front of them and she agreed immediately. It was getting pretty cold for her, and she was already thirsty. She wanted to drink some warm coffee milk.

“I’ll pay this time.”

“Sure, do what you want.”

The rest of the audience were flocking over to the convenience store as well with similar trains of thought. She started speeding up a little bit when she realized all the people coming up behind them. She reached the glass door of the store, pushed it open, and shouted quietly to herself.

“First place!”

“You still like doing th...”

“What?”

Maru said something that she didn’t quite catch.

“It’s nothing.”

“I thought you said something.”

“You heard wrong.”

Maru walked right inside through the open door. She looked at Maru suspiciously for a second before walking up to the place with the hot drinks.

“There’s only soy milk here.”

“What did you want?”

“Coffee milk.”

“Coffee milk goes bad easily, they wouldn’t keep it somewhere warm.”

“Is that so...”

That was disappointing. She grabbed the canned coffee with a disappointed face.

“What about you?”

“I’ll get this.”

Maru was holding milk. Cold milk? In winter? For now, she took it. The counter was already booming with customers. She waited with coffee in one hand and milk in the other, but she kept bumping into people in the crowd. The employee behind the counter asked some of the customers to wait outside, but of course no one listened, since it was cold outside.

She put her arms close to her chest and focused on maintaining her balance for now. As she tried to maintain her position, she suddenly got pushed forward into the people by a person walking up behind her.

“Ah, I’m sorry.”

She quickly apologized to a woman glaring at her.

“Be careful.”

“Yes.”

She smiled awkwardly as she spoke. But just as she finished her words, she got bumped by someone behind her again. The thought of the woman getting angry with her immediately crossed her mind, so she tried to turn away as quickly as she could. Alas, she was late. The woman’s back was quickly getting bigger in her vision. But just as she was about to bump into the woman, she got stopped.

“Careful now.”

“...Yeah.”

“I’m sorry. It’s a bit crowded. Can you give us some space?”

Maru asked the people next to them politely. They all stepped back a little, giving them a little bit of breathing room. The people pushing in from outside stopped as well.

“Sometimes, talking does the trick.”

“...Thanks.”

Beep, beep. The employee scanned their items. She opened her wallet to pay.

‘Ah, right!’

She gave away her 40,000 won to Maru a while ago. All she had left was her bus card and 500 won.

“1,050 won, please.”

The employee stretched his hand out. Just before she could apologize, a 5,000 won appeared from right behind her. It was from Maru.

“Here you go.”

“Thank you. Here’s your change.”

“Could you give me a straw?”

“Yes.”

Maru stepped back with the drink and the straw, she followed him a little awkwardly.

“...I’ll pay you back some other time.”

“It’s fine.”

Maru walked over to the microwave. He opened the pack of milk and warmed it up.

“What are you doing?”

“You said you wanted coffee milk, didn’t you?”

Maru took out the warm milk when the microwave stopped, he took a small sip from it before pouring the coffee in. It looked like he did this several times before, seeing how natural he was.

“Do you drink like this a lot?”

“No, I used to make it a lot. There was a person who really liked this.”

“Really? Who?”

Maru didn’t answer. Instead, he just smiled. Strangely, she couldn’t smile herself when she looked at his smile. Instead, she actually felt a little ache in her heart. Why was his smile so melancholic?

“Here.”

Maru took the can of coffee and gave her the milk. She looked inside before taking a small sip.

“Wow.”

“Good, right?”

“This is nice. Tasty.”

The flavor brought a smile to her face. She took the warm milk and stepped outside. The warmth of the drink made the cold weather a little more bearable.

“So, what now?” Maru asked as if it was obvious that they would do something after this.

“Go home, obviously.”

“It’s a Sunday, though?”

“Well, we saw that play, and I’m full. There’s nothing more to do, so might as well go home.”

She gave Maru a short glance as she spoke, the boy wasn’t even trying to hide his disappointment. She decided to try to ignore him as much as possible for now. She walked down to the subway station and arrived at the train platform. Maru followed her with such a dejected look on his face that she almost felt sorry for him.

“Hah. We can just watch a different play next time.”

She spoke without even realizing it. She immediately thought of the meaning behind her words and tried to fix it, but Maru was already smiling. But… his smile was kind of cheeky. Almost as if he intended this to happen.

“You, did you just...!”

“What?”

“On purpose!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Anyway, that’s a promise, right? We’re coming here again?”

“Hey!”

She shouted in annoyance, but right then, Maru stepped right up to her. The height difference between them intimidated her a little bit.

“W-what the?”

“I’m going to take this back.”

Maru unwrapped the scarf from her neck as if it was the most natural thing to do, she froze up like a tree while Maru was taking it off. When he was this close, he seemed way more mature for some reason. He even looked old, for christ’s sake. It was probably because he wasn’t smiling right now.

- The next train is coming. Please step b…

The train arrived with a loud noise. She looked at Maru a little dumbly, as the boy put the scarf on his arm.

“Let’s go.”

Again, her arm got grabbed by his.

* * *

When she came back to her home, she jumped to her bed with a frustrated expression.

“He got me.”

That laugh at the end! He totally got her.

“But...”

It wasn’t bad. Actually, it was fun. It really was too bad that they didn’t get much time to talk about that play. Next time, they should just eat after the play…

“Gaaaah!”

She jumped off of her bed. She was already planning their next meetup? Really?! That wasn’t right.

“Wait. Is it really wrong?”

Now that she thought of it, he wasn’t a bad person. He didn’t do anything wrong either. They both acted, and he seemed to be pretty serious about it, too. He was well-mannered, kind, and kind of playful…

She shook her head. The boy was totally getting to her. Plus, thinking about all of his nice sides was making her feel like she lost. She pouted before changing. As she took off her coat and put it on the hanger, she felt something in her pocket. Something papery. When she took it out, she realized it was 40,000 won along with a piece of paper.

“......”

When did he put it in? Actually, now that she thought about it, Maru did walk pretty close up to her when he took that scarf off. He was smiling strangely back then, he probably put it during that moment.

The piece of paper had his number and his name on it. Also a line that read, “buy me something tasty next time”. She looked at the money for a while before sighing and putting it back to her wallet.

After washing up, she came back to her room and turned on her computer. She opened her blog and wrote a simple post on it. Her blog was mostly for writing about things she felt over the years. As she wrote the article about that guy, she noticed the name of a particular visitor in her logs.

“Come to think of it, this person...”

That id, Maru.

There was no way, right? No way, no way.

She opened up the blog just to make sure. The blog’s posts were coming up almost daily, as per usual. She clicked on the most recent one.

“No way!”

* * *

“Mm?”

Maru noticed a new comment on his blog when he hit refresh. It’s only been ten seconds since he uploaded the post. So soon? He clicked on his post to read the comment. It was written by BlackSwan, his one blogging neighbor. The comment read…

- You stalker!

“What the?”

Well, that was a confusing comment. Right then, he got a text message on his phone. It read…

[Stalker!]

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ensj's Thoughts

Coffee milk is (was?) a fairly popular drink back in the day. It's similar to banana milk in the sense that it's very milk-forward in flavor and also very sweet. Here is an image of what it looks like: https://www.thinkfood.co.kr/news/photo/201805/80687_102592_3733.jpg