Love for Love's Sake - Chapter 37
As I gently pressed and straightened the area between Cha Yeowoon’s eyebrows, the furrowed area became clear as if it had been erased with an eraser. Cha Yeowoon arched his eyebrows like a gentle sheep.
“Discrimination. Playing favorites.”
“I naturally favor Cha Yeowoon. Am I a teacher? Loving all students equally.”
Cha Yeowoon’s eyes, which were full of discontent, softened. As he delicately picked up his utensils again to eat, his demeanor was more relaxed than earlier when he was reluctantly eating. An easy guy to understand.
“You say you’re not a teacher, but why do you take care of Cha Yeowoon like a kindergarten student?”
“You look the most like a kindergarten student here.”
I stuffed a piece of rice cake into Cheon Sangwon’s mouth to block his unpleasant words, and he accepted it with a smile. On the other hand, Cha Yeowoon’s forehead wrinkles were starting to reappear.
“Are you going to the studio this weekend?”
“I’m not working part-time this weekend. I have plans.”
“I’m going to the sea with Yeowoon.”
“The sea? When? I want to go too.”
Cheon Sangwon happily requested, causing Cha Yeowoon’s chopsticks to waver again. There was a notable tension in his fingers. At this rate, the chopsticks might really bend.
“We’re not recruiting more people suddenly. We’ll go just the two of us.”
“Wouldn’t it be more fun if the three of us went together?”
“Can’t. You always talk back. Just stay and finish your meal.”
The lunch where I had thought two people would have an upset stomach ended just as expected. As Cha Yeowoon cleaned his plate with a sullen expression, I walked away with Cheon Sangwon first on the pretense that Ahn Gyeonghun had called me to the canteen.
Lunch time at an all boys high school was hectic again today. The schoolyard was busy with ball games, and the canteen was bustling.
“Sangwon, do you like brother?”
I threw the question as we arrived right in front of the bustling canteen. Inside, students were busy throwing cream buns at each other.
Cheon Sangwon smiled, revealing his teeth. There was a mischievous glint in his eyes.
“If I say I like you?”
“I’ll tell you to stop talking nonsense.”
Cheon Sangwon chuckled as if he had found it funny. I stood in front of the canteen, scratching my chin. I wanted to finish the conversation before Cha Yeowoon returned.
“What does it matter? You’re seeking attention and getting frustrated because I’m not giving it to you.”
“I’m a bit dumbfounded? How did brother know?”
“Why wouldn’t I know? You’ve been wearing it on your face that you’ve never had anything not go your way. Anyway, stop provoking Cha Yeowoon. He’s different from you.”
Cheon Sangwon, who was smiling slyly, lost his smile. He looked dazed as if he had been beaten.
“Senior, you’re really the annoying type.”
Having nonchalantly smiled all this time, he suddenly looked different when he spoke coldly. If this child kept living carelessly like this, his future would be bleak.
“Yeah. Anyway, don’t waste your time among the hard-working children. Do your own thing, whether it’s modeling or studying.”
Cheon Sangwon was a child from a wealthy family, so he would do well on his own. After concluding our talk, I bought three bottles of healthy 100% vegetable juice from the canteen.
“Did I just get dumped?”
Contrary to my expectation that Cheon Sangwon would return on his own, he followed me to the cash register.
“No, you don’t like me, dude. Why do you make me repeat myself?”
“If I seriously liked you?”
“You aren’t serious.”
“But what if I did?”
I didn’t know why he was being persistent. Why was he dissatisfied?
As a token of sincere comfort, I put a pack of vegetable juice in his front school uniform pocket. His eyes twitched.
“Then you must seriously think about it.”
I wanted to treat serious emotions seriously.
Anyway, Cha Yeowoon was sincere. That was what I thought. He wasn’t the type to want to kiss someone he didn’t like.
That was the problem. From what I knew, he was definitely not someone who took liking someone lightly.
So, it was a problem that I couldn’t just brush off without thinking. I sighed, worrying about the weekend.
* * *
Jebudo was about a two-hour bus ride away. Since it was a day trip, we had decided to leave early in the morning.
I left about 30 minutes ahead of the scheduled time and was looking around near the bus stop. It was half out of habit and half out of anxiety.
Eventually, it came to this. I thought the trip might be canceled if it rained, but the sky was clear. There wasn’t a single cloud in sight.
And now, on the other side of the street, someone dazzling was approaching.
“Why did you come so early?”
As soon as the light turned blue, Cha Yeowoon ran straight towards me. Typical of a short-distance runner; in an instant, he was right in front of me.
“I woke up early. You arrived early too.”
Cha Yeowoon, who had arrived 10 minutes ahead of the agreed time, was sparkling from afar. So much so that I could feel the people around us glancing in our direction.
He was wearing a blue linen short-sleeved shirt over a white tee and black knee-length shorts. It was a simple outfit, but on him it looked exceptional.
“Why are your legs so long? You should be a model. You’re handsome.”
“Am I handsome?”
Cha Yeowon didn’t seem embarrassed and asked without hesitation. As he lowered his head to the fullest, a thin shadow fell in my direction.
His clear facial features created their own light and shadow. Thin double eyelids and dense eyelashes gathered shadows, emphasizing his eyes sharply. Sunlight drew highlights on his sleek nose. Every contour was well-defined.
It wasn’t just handsome; he was extremely handsome.
“Oh, you’re handsome. You’re the pride of New Leaf. The pride of our country.”
“Don’t tease me.”
“I’m serious. You’re handsome.”
Cha Yeowoon wrinkled his nose at the playful compliment. He didn’t seem to dislike it. While waiting for the bus, he kept tapping the ground and continued to fidget even after we boarded the bus and sat down.
“You’re excited, Cha Yeowoon.”
“Is it obvious?”
The answer suggested that he really was excited. Behind him, smiling brightly in the adjacent seat, a vivid blue wave, sandy beach, and festive music that wasn’t there a moment ago unfold all at once.
“Why did you want to go to Jebudo? Because of the gift certificate?”
Since he was so excited, I was curious.
Honestly, the Jebudo package didn’t seem so attractive that he would want to rush here as soon as he received it. I didn’t expect him to be someone who enjoyed leisure.
“Senior said you wanted to visit the sea.”
“I said I wanted to visit the sea? Did I say that? When?”
“When you were talking with that girl.”
“Who, you mean Sia? Have you forgotten her name?”
“Do I have to remember?”
Wasn’t it a name that was hard to forget, being so unique and fitting so well? They had even exchanged numbers. I was at a loss for words at his confident rebuttal.
“You remember that I talked about the sea with her, but you don’t even remember her name.”
I couldn’t help but doubt whether I had really said I wanted to visit the sea. But if he said so, then maybe I did.
“Senior, I remember what you said.”
“You really like me.”
I paused after saying it. It was a joke I made on a whim, but Cha Yeowoon really liked me.
His simple affirmation left me speechless. If I didn’t know he was serious, I would have been proud and happy.
I was worried about our legs touching, so I subtly moved closer to the window. We had to stay like this for another 30 minutes until the next bus.
“Do you like the sea?”
“If I have to choose, I prefer the mountains. I like trees.”
“Have you been to Jebudo?”
“No. It’s my first time.”
“Did you want to go?”
“I thought senior would like it.”
This meant that even though he didn’t want to go, he thought of me and rushed to see Jebudo.
My stomach twisted uncomfortably. I wished I could borrow my grandmother’s back scratcher and use it now.
Unlike me, Cha Yeowoon was calm. He was no different from usual. Of course, I was the only one who noticed it.
“Where do you want to go? What mountain? Seoraksan? Hallasan?”
“I don’t have a place I want to go.”
“Why not? I’ll go with you.”
“Yeah. When summer break comes, let’s make time and go. We can go when we have time on the weekend like today. It’s normal for children to go on trips afterall.”
Actually, I had never gone on a trip during my school days because I was busy working and getting into trouble. It would have been nice to have some memories.
“Then, I want to climb Seoraksan.”
I was fine with taking a trip in the mountains, but he wanted to make Seoraksan our first trip? I thought he would at least choose one that was near our school. Was he suggesting we face death together?
“I think it would be fun to go with senior. If you collapse along the way, I’ll carry you.”
“Just say you want to tease me.”
“Well, there is such a thing. But it’s sincere.”
So he was serious about climbing Seoraksan? I might have to start looking for used climbing gear after today.
“I’m happy when I’m with senior.”
Cha Yeowoon smiled, brushing away my doubts in an instant. It was the first time I realized he could smile so naturally without any pretense.
My heart raced forward.
The bus suddenly stopped, causing the handle to sway left and right.
My upper body, which was about to bounce forward, was firmly restrained by a strong arm.
Cha Yeowoon’s hand was pressing against my chest like a seatbelt. His palm was precisely over my heart.
“Are you okay?”
The bus only abruptly stopped; there was no reason not to be okay.
Although there was no reason to be, my chest pressed against his hand was throbbing painfully.
“Are you hurt?”
“You even held me, so there was no way I would be hurt. I’m fine.”
“Still. Weren’t you startled?”
Why was he worried as if he was handling a baby? He repeatedly asked questions while examining my complexion.
I brushed away his hand that was fixed on my chest. He continued to examine me carefully.
Suddenly, I couldn’t endure it.
“Let’s get off at the next stop.”
There was still a way to go, but I stood up abruptly. I pressed the bell and waited at the door. Cha Yeowoon became perplexed as he stood up as well.
“Why did senior stand up?”
“Just. I wanted to.”
“It’s strange no matter how you look at it.”
Despite what I said, Cha Yeowoon stood beside me.
Our arms brush against each other. The back of his hand touched mine briefly before falling away. Although I had belatedly put my hands in my pockets, the sensation of his touch didn’t disappear.
The distance between the stops felt unusually long.