Love for Love's Sake - Chapter 14
If you didn’t take care of your home, the electricity would be shut off quickly, dust would accumulate, and it would lose its vitality. Humans were no different.
The present 18-year-old Cha Yeowoon, I may have thought too simply.
He had spent months alone beside his only family that was struggling with an illness, then coming back to an empty home alone, with nothing okay, not even one thing he liked.
“Now that I’m not going to run anymore, senior should leave.”
Cha Yeowoon’s misty eyes didn’t shed a single tear.
The eyes that were gazing at me so clearly appeared red in the dim light. It gave the illusion that it was filled with blood.
“You’re really clumsy too.”
It reminded me of myself when I was 19.
My grandmother was angry at me because she was worried, and there were people who approached me out of concern, but I was tired of it all. Miserable and angry, I thought I was alone. I thought I would always be alone.
I felt as if the whole world hated me. I wanted to feel more hatred toward everyone than they felt toward me. I didn’t want anyone to want me. I didn’t want to become desperate. I didn’t want to be hurt.
I didn’t want to be abandoned.
I really, really hated myself.
I abandoned myself every day, but I had to live with myself every day.
“Get some rest.”
I turned around and put on my sneakers. The sunlight outside the front door poured down.
As my shadow lengthened under my feet, my steps began to feel sticky.
* * *
When I returned with a hefty bag, the front door of the rooftop room was slightly open.
I wondered if something had happened. My heart raced, and I pushed the door open, forgetting the weight on my wrist.
Cha Yeowoon was curled up in the same place as before.
Nothing had changed. I belatedly realized that I might not have properly closed the door when I left.
As I approached him, his slightly trembling shoulders stopped.
A tear-stained face turned toward me.
The intertwined eyelashes blinked in disbelief. Tears that were still in the corners of his eyes streamed down.
It hadn’t even been 20 minutes since I left, why was his condition like this? I came as quickly as I could. I wanted to scold myself, but his condition seemed so serious that I didn’t dare to say anything.
Imagining him crying in this place made my heart ache.
“…Why did you come back?”
“Didn’t I just go to buy this?”
When I showed the bag hanging on my wrist, Cha Yeowoon’s eyebrows twitched.
“I told you to wait because I’ll buy you porridge.”
“The gas hasn’t been shut off, has it? I’ll warm it up for you.”
“I’m not eating.”
“Stop being stubborn. Do you want to wash your face? Your eyes are swollen.”
“…What kind of porridge did you buy?”
Cha Yeowoon scrambled to the bathroom while I was unloading the porridge, canned food, ramen, instant rice, and some dried food onto the kitchen.
If electricity was completely shut off, it would mean that he hadn’t paid in three months. Even if the capital was included in the maintenance fee, he wouldn’t have paid for just electricity alone, so gas was likely to be shut off soon.
After making him eat, I’ll have him sit down and look at the bills. Should I light a candle or something? It was going to be dark soon. I became uneasy as I listened to the sound of water.
As I heated up the porridge in a pot and went to get a spoon, I noticed the utensil box next to the sink. Seeing the dust collected on top of it, a sigh escaped my lips.
I guess he hadn’t been eating at home. Then what had he been eating?
“Cha Yeowoon, have you been starving? There’s so much dust on the utensil box.”
Cha Yeowoon, who walked out with water dripping from his face, had a whiter complexion than before. His eyes were red, making him look like a rabbit.
“I’ve been eating outside because of my hospital visits.”
“What about after the funeral?”
“I didn’t have much of an appetite.”
“Isn’t it because you were starving that you couldn’t run? Eat the porridge.”
I quickly set up a small table and arranged the washed spoon and porridge bowl. Cha Yeowoon, who had been staring at the steaming bowl from afar, slowly began to eat the porridge.
“How much was the porridge?”
“Are you going to repay me? Forget it. Just eat. You’re behind on your electricity bill. Did you get the notification by text?”
“Senior only carried around 40 cents.”
“Hey. That’s only for that day, I have more money than you.”
“I don’t think you have much more than me.”
I thought he was exhausted from crying, but I guess he had gained some strength to be rude after a few tastes of the porridge. I wasn’t sure if I should consider that a good sign.
“I’m sorry about earlier.”
“I shouldn’t have said anything to senior all of a sudden. It wasn’t something to say.”
“Are you really going to quit track and field?”
“If I quit, I won’t be able to go to college.”
The sun was slowly setting. There wasn’t much light coming into the room.
“I won’t be able to go to school. My scholarship will be cut off.”
I wished I was 29 again. I could only swallow bitter saliva while counting my savings. I didn’t have any money now anyway, so what was the point of counting it?
For me, 19 was a miserable age. It was so unstable, so little I could change with my own hands.
Cha Yeowoon finished his porridge quickly. He also said it was good after emptying it cleanly. The face that looked at me was already dry.
“You can go now. It’s late. I’ll take care of the electricity bill, so don’t worry.”
“I have the money; I couldn’t do it because I was too distracted.”
Cha Yeowoon added as if he was making an excuse. He seemed like he wanted to maintain some semblance of composure, even managing to smile briefly.
I got up without saying anything more because he clearly wanted me to leave him alone. I put on my crumpled sneakers by the entrance but couldn’t bring myself to leave without looking back at him.
“Call me the moment you decide to stop running.”
Cha Yeowoon, who had been standing in the kitchen, looked at me in surprise.
The rooftop room without lights was already dark. Only the front door where I had opened and stood was barely bright because of the outside light.
“It doesn’t matter if you still have the scholarship or not, call me if it’s so difficult that you want to quit.”
“What are you talking about again…”
“Brother will do something for you.”
In the faint darkness, Cha Yeowoon’s expression twisted.
His face, which lowered like earlier, was no longer visible. A trembling breath filled the silent air.
It was a forced farewell as if sending away a guest.
At the shaky voice, I stepped out of the room. The sky outside had turned a deep purple.
I stood with my back to the front door for a moment, gazing up at the sky. I didn’t want to leave Cha Yeowoon alone, but it also didn’t seem right to stay any longer. I didn’t want to see a debuff message in this situation.
I was afraid that my presence would hurt him.
As I walked along the dark path to the bus stop, a familiar message appeared.
[ Calculating Cha Yeowoon’s favorability. ]
I stopped and waited.
Even offering a silent prayer.
I hoped that Cha Yeowoon would come to like me a bit more and allow me to stay by his side.
It felt like it was taking an unusually long time. It was faster for me to arrive at the bus stop and sit down than the next message appearing.
[ Favorability: 0 ]
When the bus arrived, I just stood there. A number that wasn’t positive or negative glowed between the open door of the bus.
My legs became weak and I found it hard to stand.
“Really, Cha Yeowoon.”
I buried my head between my bent knees. I felt like crying a little. A warm sigh escaped me.
“You’re really, really difficult.”
The bus that had been parked in front of me left. I watched the disappearing rear of the bus with moist eyes as the wind brushed against me.
[ Mission: Make Cha Yeowoon happy. ]
[ Time Remaining: 299 days ]
[ Penalty: Death ]
Volume 2. My Favorite’s 18
[ Favorability: 0 ]
Cha Yeowoon was hungry.
Although he had eaten porridge, he woke up in the early hours of the morning with a sour stomach. It was still dark, so he felt his way to the kitchen and turned on the sink.
No water came out.
Had the water been shut off? It was a single building. So every once in a while it would break. All sorts of thoughts came to mind, and misery came up as if nauseous.
As he touched a clay pot, he sank to the floor. The floor was dark.
It was dark when he closed his eyes and still dark when he opened them.
He wished he had died with his grandmother.
Although he had tried not to think about it, it still crossed his mind.
His gaze fell on the bag next to the sink as he opened his eyes.
He got up and searched inside after casually examining the exterior of the plastic bag. Inside were instant ramen, canned tuna, instant rice, energy bars, and food that could be stored at room temperature.
There was also a small-sized mineral drink.
“Brother will do something for you.”
He was reminded of Tae Myung-ha again.
A strange senior. The senior who wanted to be more liked. The senior who he thought had left but came back with food. The senior who said he liked when he ran but to call if he didn’t want to run anymore.
“What’s with senior?”
He grabbed the can drink. The can crumpled in his hand.
Despite feeling a sharp pain, he didn’t let go.
Tears welled up in his eyes.
* * *
[Tae Myeongha] : Are you asleep…?
[Tae Myeongha] : I guess you’re sleeping..Good night…
It wasn’t to my ex-boyfriend; it was the texts I had sent to Cha Yeowoon last night.
And now it was Saturday morning, but the (1) hadn’t disappeared next to the texts.
[Tae Myeongha] : Good morning…
[Tae Myeongha] : Did you pay the electricity bill…?
I sent a morning greeting and a conversation starter, but as expected, he hadn’t seen it. Could his phone be broken?
Was it just a case of favorability increasing but nothing had changed?
If it wasn’t for the weekend, I could have snooped around the classroom to see if he was alive. I was holding back from calling because I was afraid my favorability would drop. Why did it feel like he liked me less after the favorability increased? Couldn’t life be easy?
“It’s unlucky. Stop shaking your leg.”
My grandmother, wearing glasses and sewing beside me, suddenly slapped my thigh. I must have inherited my fist from her, considering it was spicy enough to make me wonder if I had been stabbed with a needle.
“Grandma, can you recommend me a part-time job?”