Love for Love's Sake - Chapter 23
– “I’m in front of the bus stop. When will you get here?”
“Are you really near my home?”
– “Unlike senior, I don’t lie about things like that.”
“Yes, Cha Yeowoon is pure and clean, and I’m the one who lies about emergencies. Arrest me. I’ll get off soon. Three more stops.”
– “Yes. I’ll wait with the handcuffs.”
Cha Yeowoon hung up without saying another word.
Three stops. My heart raced slightly each time the bus stopped.
As the bus moved, a message appeared indicating that I was nearing Cha Yeowoon. He was a presence I couldn’t ignore.
Now, the protagonist of was Cha Yeowoon.
The bus soon reached the last stop. I didn’t have to look for long; Cha Yeowoon was standing under a streetlamp a little away from the bus stop.
Despite the inconspicuous lighting, his figure stood out in the dimly lit street. He was handsome, like the protagonist of a scene.
With his hands in the pockets of his loose hoodie, he was nervously kicking the ground.
[ Entering Love Supremacy Zone. ]
As I approached, he noticed me and took his hands out of his pockets. A black plastic bag was dangling from his wrist.
“Did you wait long?”
I greeted Cha Yeowoon as gently as possible, approaching him like I was taming a skittish animal.
“Don’t use that unsettling tone with me.”
“I did what, when?”
It didn’t work for the cute and rude Cha Yeowoon.
“I’m doing this because you’re being grumpy, man.”
“Do as you always do.”
“Yes. I’ll do what I’ve always done.”
Cha Yeowoon, who had been repulsed, suddenly lowered his head toward me. Our shadows merged in the elongated light.
His warm breath reached my neck and brushed against my sensitive skin, making my entire body tense.
“What, what is it? Why?”
What did he mean? It didn’t look like it was nothing.
He pulled his head back with an uncomfortable look.
Did I smell? I sweated a lot carrying the lights. I took a subtle sniff, but I didn’t know. It was difficult to know your own smell.
“By the way, what’s going on? This was out of the blue.”
Cha Yeowoon suddenly held out a bag containing ice cream.
“Why are you giving me this?”
“Senior is always talking about ice cream.”
“I asked if you wanted some. Children like ice cream.”
“Senior, you eat it.”
Perhaps feeling that his words were blunt, he hesitated before continuing.
“Senior bought various things for me last time.”
What was this? Cute.
Running away from me and not even going to and from school together, what came over him that made him act like a magpie returning a favor? He was becoming increasingly difficult to predict.
“Hey, did you come all the way here just to give me this?”
It was close to 11 o’clock. Cha Yeowoon’s house and mine weren’t within walking distance for him to walk back and forth.
The ice cream in the bag would have cost around $7.50. It wasn’t something he would give at this time while paying for the round trip fare.
“I’ve given it to you, so I’ll leave now.”
Instead of answering my question, he simply left it at that. Afraid that he would turn his back on me at any minute, my heels also fluttered along his faltering steps.
It felt strange. The fact that Cha Yeowoon, who had been avoiding me with a face like he might cry, had waited for me here with ice cream.
“It’s late, so you should just sleep at my place tonight.”
“I didn’t bring my school uniform for tomorrow, so how can I sleep over?”
“Besides, I don’t like sleeping with senior because I can’t sleep well.”
“Do I snore?”
Cha Yeowoon frowned, showing reluctance to answer. He withdrew his wrist from my grasp.
I thought I had been sleeping quietly, but apparently the person next to me couldn’t sleep due to my snoring.
“Fine, fine. Go. I’ll wait for the bus with you.”
“It’s okay, so hurry up and go home. The ice cream will melt.”
“I got it. Hey, your shoelaces are untied.”
I noticed a white string trailing on the asphalt. Without waiting for Cha Yeowoon’s reaction, I immediately bent my knees.
This was also an opportunity to check his shoes carefully.
His sneakers were old and worn out. A stained and wrinkled shoe, as if it had been handled carelessly, caught my eyes.
Track and field shoes might be different from these, though.
There was a time when I felt sad that I couldn’t go where I wanted to because I didn’t have nice shoes. Even when I was getting ready for job interviews, I didn’t own a decent pair of shoes. I had to dip into my savings and buy them with my own money.
My heart ached as I brushed the dirt off the front of his shoes. Despite soiling my hand, I could always clean it later.
“Okay, it’s all tied. How did I do?”
I lifted my head with the intention of proudly showing off the nicely tied knot.
Cha Yeowoon was frowning as if he had endured something really unpleasant.
The bright white light from the lamppost spilled onto his head, sharply illuminating his facial features.
After Cha Yeowoon called out to me, I caught my breath in confusion. I wondered if I had made a big mistake.
“Do you do this to everyone?”
I couldn’t figure out the intent of the sudden question.
“Senior has the smell of a girl.”
The next words were all the more puzzling.
Speechless, I pieced together what Cha Yeowoon had said. Girl. Smell. Could it be the perfume Ahn Sia had sprayed earlier? The candy-like smell? Was that what he meant?
But was that something he should be concerned about?
“So that’s why you were late today.”
What was with those puppy dog eyes?
I couldn’t agree, and I couldn’t disagree.
When the child looked downcast as if he was resentful, it made me feel like a terrible owner who had left his dog at home to play somewhere else.
A vibration from my pocket shook my stomach. Suddenly, a ‘girl’s’ voice came from the phone I had picked up.
– “Big brother, we decided to meet the day after tomorrow…”
“Let’s talk later.”
It happened to be a call from Ahn Sia. I hung up quickly, but Cha Yeowoon must have heard it. His expression conveyed an even greater feeling of betrayal than before.
It wasn’t like that, I was working part-time to buy him shoes.
The words caught my throat.
Just then, the bus arrived at the stop. Cha Yeowoon looked back at me as he boarded the bus.
The bus doors closed. As it departed, Cha Yeowoon didn’t sit down but sent me a look through the window. As expected, his eyes were as moist as a puppy that had just been badly mistreated.
“Ah, no. What the hell?”
It was only after Cha Yeowoon had completely disappeared from view that I felt regret. I should have explained it was for his shoes.
I didn’t know why, but I had made him unhappy.
Why was he so upset?
Was it because I hadn’t answered his call and had been with a girl? Didn’t he ignore my calls first?
I felt wronged. But more shocking than the sense of injustice was that I had upset him, who had waited for me with ice cream. Trudging home, my body was completely drained.
Initially planning to put all the ice cream in the freezer, I changed my mind and took out two first. After all, Cha Yeowoon had bought them for me, so I should eat some.
“Grandma, do you want some ice cream?”
When I asked my grandmother who was awake and watching television for some reason, she absentmindedly glanced sideways at me.
“It’s too cold to eat ice cream at this time of night.”
Despite her words, she accepted the ice cream I had offered. Anyway, she had played a big part in my lack of social skills during middle and high school.
“Is your friend not coming today?”
“Yeowoon? He’s sleeping at his place. He bought the ice cream.”
“He did? He looked so beautiful.”
My grandmother would compliment Cha Yeowoon’s face whenever I brought up his name. Her mood would also brighten. Having seen the photos of my late grandfather, I could understand how the two of them had somehow broken through the hardships and had a lasting love.
“Grandma, do I smell strongly right now?”
“Why? Are you meeting a girl?”
From her immediate questioning if I was seeing a girl, it seemed that the candy perfume really didn’t suit me. I was so frustrated that I just chewed the ice cream that came into my mouth.
“No. When did you see me getting a girlfriend?”
“Why not? Don’t girls like you?”
“It just is.”
Even at the age of 29, I was still a lonely person. I had tried something like dating, but it didn’t work out.
And I knew why. I thought someone who had experienced love properly could give it properly.
But I wasn’t that person.
I wondered if Cha Yeowoon had noticed that. Just like how my first love said they wanted me to reciprocate the affection they gave me.
I chewed on the wooden ice cream stick as I listened to my grandmother nag me about how sighing would cause my good luck to escape. The ice cream melted quickly and disappeared, but my mouth tasted bitter compared to the sweet flavor that lingered.
* * *
The next day, Cha Yeowoon blatantly avoided me.
And of course the day after.
[Tae Myeongha] : Yeowoon, it’s an emergency
[Tae Myeongha] : Emergency;;
[Tae Myeongha] : National crisis!!!
[Tae Myeongha] : The country is in turmoil
There was no reply, of course.
“Isn’t this too much?”
Ahn Sia, squatting next to me, raised her head. Track and field shoes that had been stacked after calling the store clerk were lined up next to her.
“Cha Yeowoon is ignoring my texts.”
“Why? Did you guys fight? Weren’t you going to give these shoes as a gift?”
Ahn Sia shook the track and field shoes she had just inspected the soles of. The fluorescent mint-colored track and field shoes sparkled.
She had responded with complete sincerity in helping me pick out a pair of track and field shoes. After dragging me to a brand store where she was working as an exclusive model, for an hour now we had been looking at shoes. When I expressed my gratitude for her care, she replied that she always gave her utmost effort.
“I don’t know either. I can’t even guess what he’s upset about. If he’s hurt, he should at least…”
[ Entering Love Supremacy Zone. ]
As a new message suddenly appeared, I glanced around the store, but Cha Yeowoon was nowhere to be seen.
[ 1m to Love Supremacy Zone. ]
Oh, he was moving further away again.
The store was near the school and on the main street, so Cha Yeowoon must have been passing by. While I was distracted by the message, Ahn Sia was focused on choosing a pair of shoes.
“What do you think?”
Out of the many candidates, only two pairs were picked.