Love for Love's Sake - Chapter 18
I thought of the friend candidates for Cha Yeowoon at this point. Ahn Gyeonghun, Cheon Sangwon…It was ambiguous. Ahn Gyeonghun seemed kind-hearted, but I felt like I needed to protect him, and as for Cheon Sangwon…let’s not talk.
“Senior is acting like you’re my guardian.”
It wasn’t entirely wrong, so I awkwardly scratched my cheek and put away the dishes. Cha Yeowoon, who was cleaning up the table after me, suddenly asked.
“Is senior’s Mom and Dad still alive?”
It was a sudden topic of conversation. His tone was crude considering the sensitive nature of the question.
I pondered for a moment on how to respond. I originally thought both of them had passed away by the time I was 19, but I later found out that it wasn’t true.
“Just my Mom.”
I spoke the truth. Cha Yeowoon nodded and fell silent for a moment.
“I only have my Dad. My Mom ran away and I heard she died.”
“If she was going to run away, she should’ve gone far away. It was unbelievable how close she actually lived.”
“My Mom too.”
I said it without thinking. The setting sun that hung over Cha Yeowoon’s profile as I listened to his words was strangely fragile and somber.
After washing the dishes and shutting off the tap, water dripped from my damp fingertips. Cha Yeowoon dried my hands with a dry towel.
“Is senior’s Mom also living nearby?”
“She ran away.”
In that regard, Cha Yeowoon and I had similar backgrounds, like mirror images.
“I wanted to run away too.”
Cha Yeowoon laughed.
“When I was first encouraged to run. I ran across the schoolyard like crazy. I was so frustrated.”
“But is it possible to run away? A 15-year-old. No matter how fast you run, no matter how many laps you go around the schoolyard…you won’t be able to.”
I understood why Cha Yeowoon was faster than his peers.
He was just more determined than anyone else on that track.
“Who would want to be friends with someone like that?”
I couldn’t rashly say anything.
I couldn’t do it myself either, but I was good at talking.
“We’re wearing the same school uniform going to the same school, but they’re completely different from me.”
That was right. They couldn’t understand me, and I couldn’t understand them.
“But sometimes there are children who want to be friends. Even among the track and field team, there are children who talk to me because I’m good at running. But what do I talk to them about?”
“Talk about my Grandma’s nursing care? My worries about rent? Whether I should keep my Mom and Grandma in the same funeral hall?”
“What about senior?”
I had spent my life arguing with the world and beating up those who argued with me.
Instead of answering and saying that my 19-year-old self was even more pathetic than Cha Yeowoon, I hugged him.
In my arms, he stiffened. The awkwardness was felt, but I hugged him even tighter.
Thanks to my growth spurt in high school, I was quite tall, but Cha Yeowoon was of similar height, so our heads were very close when I held him.
Cha Yeowoon, who had been enduring all this time, suddenly relaxed and buried his head against my shoulder.
His hair brushed against my neck. I could hear his slow and heavy breathing.
The room, already dim, slowly grew even darker.
There was a crack in the slow reply.
Cha Yeowoon’s heart beat against my chest. His heartbeat, which had traveled down his back, was felt by my arm. This young heart…
He didn’t push me away.
“But if there’s no light, how are we going to wash up?”
I asked with a serious tone, which didn’t match the mood.
Perhaps taken aback, Cha Yeowoon belatedly burst into laughter.
I like the sound of his laughter, so I let it be. I felt compelled to do so.
* * *
“Why did you say you would sleep over at my home if you’re so scared of the dark?”
“Even people who aren’t really scared of the dark are afraid to shower with the lights off.”
“That’s true, but why do you take a shower with the door open?”
Sheesh. Cha Yeowoon snorted and lit a candle.
As the candle flame flickered, a soft crimson light spread. Cha Yeowoon’s features that were hidden in the darkness became visible.
“But this is all we have at home.”
“One is enough.”
“Isn’t it dark?”
“We’re going to sleep anyway.”
Cha Yeowoon and I were in the living room, lying on our stomachs side by side with two blankets. It felt like a school trip. Though, the actual school trips I had been on didn’t hold any particularly fond memories.
“We have to blow it out before sleeping. It could cause a fire.”
“When will senior go to sleep?”
“When you do.”
“Why, what’s the matter?”
“You made it sound like you’re putting a child to sleep…”
Although Cha Yeowoon sounded like he was grumbling, his tone didn’t seem to express much displeasure.
It was neither a positive nor negative favorability, but he seemed to tolerate me quite well right now.
Well, what should I call it?
“Do you ever miss your Mom?”
“Even though she left you?”
It seemed like Cha Yeowoon trusted me.
To the point he would reveal his most sensitive thoughts, believing I wouldn’t hurt him.
“Why ask such an obvious question?”
The candle flickered and burned brighter. Through the black wick, Cha Yeowoon’s face appeared somewhat surreal.
“I’ll miss her even when I’m 29.”
“Even then, you would still want to see her?”
I really did want to see her. When I saw families visiting in the army, I only thought of my grandmother, but in the end, it was my mother that came to mind.
My father, who had abandoned me after getting my mother pregnant, was originally an absent figure in my life. On the other hand, my mother still carried me for nine months and brought me into this world. She had left me with my grandmother, but she was still the one who had given birth to me.
“Do you ever think about going to see her?”
I hadn’t seen my mother even by the age of 29.
It was difficult to answer when people asked why. I could only think of reasons that would make me sound like a fool.
Through the small flame, Cha Yeowoon stared at me.
He didn’t ask any more questions. He didn’t ask why I didn’t go see her even though she wasn’t dead.
Maybe he knew my feelings as well as I knew his. Our childhoods were similar.
“I’m going to sleep now.”
As Cha Yeowoon was about to blow out the candle, he looked at me quietly before laying down and closing his eyes.
I thought he hadn’t blown it out because he was worried I might feel uncomfortable in the dark.
The faint red light against his pale complexion, which came from his recent illness, gave him an unnatural vitality. His sharp features looked more surreal than they did in natural light.
With his eyes gently closed, he looked like a spoiled child who had grown up without a care. It would have been nice if things had been that way.
“Yeowoon, when’s the competition?”
The competition he had taken from Tak Jungyeong. I recalled what Cheon Sangwon had said and asked.
It was clear that Cha Yeowoon wasn’t asleep yet, but he didn’t respond and only kept his eyes closed. I called out to him once more before his lips moved.
“Don’t think about coming to see me.”
After firmly saying that, Cha Yeowoon didn’t speak any more.
The intimacy that had seemed to be very close just a moment ago quickly distanced itself.
Beyond the flickering candlelight, Cha Yeowoon’s figure swayed gently. I felt a strange emotion briefly.
Why was it like this? My contemplation was short-lived, and I soon understood what I was feeling.
I was disappointed.
All this time the feeling had been one-sided so I must have unconsciously hoped.
I was giving him my heart to some extent, so I had hoped he would reciprocate somewhat. The realization was surprisingly profound. After all, relationships weren’t one-sided.
How would I express my favorability for Cha Yeowoon right now in numerical terms?
As I gazed at his face, which seemed gentler with his eyes closed, I thought that it was probably higher than zero.
Sleep well, Cha Yeowoon.
I blew out the candle after only saying it to myself. The candle’s flame went out quickly, even when I didn’t blow very hard.
* * *
Right now, there was a very attractive girl sitting in front of me.
“You really don’t know me, Ahn Sia?”
Here was what I had just learned about this girl.
Ahn Sia, Ahn Gyeonghun’s sister, was strangely a famous model and one I didn’t recognize.
“Why don’t you know? Look, there’s a photo of me over there.”
In the department store building that Ahn Sia pointed to as if piercing the air, there were prominently displayed photos of a man and a woman wearing sportswear.
Both models were familiar faces. The man was Cheon Sangwon. Apart from the fact that the lighting strongly emphasized the contours, the woman’s face was exactly like the girl sitting in front of me.
What I learned about Ahn Sia, continued. She and Cheon Sangwon were brand models and probably friends.
“Aren’t you trying to get my attention by pretending you don’t know?”
And unlike Ahn Gyeonghun, she was quite feisty.
“Why should I care what you do with my attention?”
“Are you trying to date me because I’m pretty?”
“Gyeonghun, your sister is sick. Delusion is also an illness.”
Ahn Gyeonghun, who was stuck between us, smiled awkwardly. His reaction was the opposite of Ahn Sia, who was trembling next to me.
We were at a cafe in a nice downtown area. It was also an ideal time for lunch.
The reason why I was sitting here with Ahn Gyeonghun and his sister was because of the following.
First, Ahn Gyeonghun invited me. He said it was to talk about the part-time job.
When I came, there was a girl wearing flashing sunglasses sitting next to him. She kept flicking her eyes suspiciously from under her sunglasses.
“You’re really my big brother’s friend?”
Now, it was even painful to say that.
“Is this like a friend interview?”
As I asked while stirring the melting ice in my Americano, Ahn Gyeonghun shook his hands.
“N-No, it’s not like that. Sia insisted on coming with me today because she wanted to see you.”
“You’re close with Dog Sangwon, so how can you be close with my big brother?”
“Dog Sangwon? Cheon Sangwon? What? Why would I be friends with him?”
I could well guess why ‘dog’ was attached to Sangwon instead of his surname. Judging by how he acted, it seemed that the word dog suited him better.
“Okay, that’s enough. When do we start talking about the part-time job?”
“Ah, I’ll explain.”
Ahn Sia stared at me as if she still had something to say, but Ahn Gyeonghun began to talk before she could interrupt.
To summarize the explanation that followed, the part-time job I was going to be introduced to was like this…