Love for Love's Sake - Chapter 38
Why did a 2 hour bus ride feel like an eternity? By chance, there happened to be two unoccupied seats on the subsequent bus, leading Cha Yeowoon and me to once again sit beside each other.
Due to our early departure, we reached Jebudo before noon.
The closely spaced streetlights along the sea path, which were revealed as the seawater receded, were the first things I noticed.
It seemed like the seawater was just barely undulating, but in fact, when the water levels rose, the sea path would be submerged.
“I read that the sea path opens only during low tide.”
Cha Yeowoon pointed excitedly at the shallow waves.
“It should recede completely in about 30 minutes.”
“How do you know?”
“I checked an infographic.”
As a famous tourist spot where visitors could walk to the island, anyone could easily find an infographic detailing the times when the water would recede. In the past, I had waited for quite a while, not knowing the times.
“Have senior been here before?”
I had in the past. It wasn’t for leisure, and it wasn’t particularly pleasant either.
But I felt like Cha Yeowoon would be disappointed if I answered like that.
“No. It’s my first time.”
I consoled my conscience that I wasn’t lying because I had never come here when I was 19.
“I did some research to come with you today.”
Cha Yeowoon’s ears were visibly red, even as he pretended to look out at the sea without replying.
Once I noticed, it couldn’t have been more obvious. His emotions were laid bare. It made me feel awkward just watching.
“I read that there’s a restaurant with delicious kal-guksu. I also did some research of my own.”
“Kal-guksu is good. But isn’t it clam kal-guksu? You don’t like seafood.”
“How did you know?”
How did I know? Because I read it in the novel. I avoided eye contact, feeling like I was a student who had cheated.
“I just thought you would. A feeling. Uh, an impression you give off.”
“I give the impression that I don’t like seafood?”
“Since you prefer mountains over the sea, it seems like you wouldn’t like seafood either.”
As the lie flowed, I started blabbering and sat down. Cha Yeowoon was staring at me intently. Cold sweat trickled down my spine. If he insisted, I could double down.
“Senior, it feels like you know me too well sometimes. Should I say it’s like someone you used to know?”
True. I guess so. Since I really knew him.
“But this is my first time meeting someone like senior.”
My conscience pricked at the poignant remark.
“I think we can go now! Let’s go.”
“It’s not even 30 minutes since senior mentioned…”
“Why wait longer? It’s enough to walk.”
Transparent sea water surged right next to the sea path. There were very few people, so it felt as if it was just the two of us walking in the middle of the sea.
“I think I know why senior like the sea.”
Cha Yeowoon quietly confessed as we walked.
“I’ve come to like it too.”
On that subject, there were many things to dislike; the seafood, the smell of the sea, and the sticky sea breeze.
Walking through the shallow seawater, Cha Yeowoon resembled a painting.
I didn’t want to come here, but nonetheless, I was glad that I had. That was what I truly believed.
* * *
Sure enough, Cha Yeowoon and the sea weren’t compatible.
“You can order something else.”
He ignored me and stubbornly slurped up the kal-guksu noodles with a bitter expression.
“Everyone says this place is the best.”
“Well, it’s delicious. But so what? You don’t like clams.”
“Senior, is it delicious?”
“I like it. I’ve always enjoyed eating clams.”
“Then that’s enough.”
What was he saying? It was enough that only I was enjoying it?
In the end, half of Cha Yeowoon’s kal-guksu was left uneaten as we exited the restaurant. Despite the renowned deliciousness of the clam kal-guksu, if he could barely eat half, it seemed he really didn’t like clams.
It was tactless to insist on coming here knowing he couldn’t eat it. But he didn’t even consider such a thing. His only thought was to feed me the most delicious food.
Seeing him proudly paying the bill despite not having eaten his fill made me wonder what to do with him.
It had been like this ever since I heard what he wanted most.
I was expecting something like financial comfort. Perhaps it was a guess from a worn-out member of society. Or maybe something related to his track and field performance, or at least something related to his grandmother.
But I never thought it would be me.
It felt strange to have someone’s thoughts revolve around me as if I was their priority.
“There’s also a famous cafe here.”
Here it came. I quietly swallowed a sigh. Since it was a famous tourist cafe, I thought Cha Yeowoon might bring it up.
“Let’s drink something other than coffee. We should go to Jebuland. We can have drinks inside.”
“We can buy and go. They have many other drinks besides coffee. Their signature menu is famous here.”
Cha Yeowoon passionately explained everything about the cafe. Just as he had wanted me to eat the seafood kal-guksu for its fame and taste, he probably wanted me to try this place too.
It seemed like he had sincerely researched and prepared for this trip.
He had brought me to experience the sea, diligently checked the bus schedule, and found popular restaurants–all in an effort to make me happy.
“Okay, let’s go.”
My heart softened. No one had ever done this for me.
With my one previous partner, there was always some friction throughout our relationship. It seemed like they had noticed that I couldn’t open my heart.
I didn’t want to disappoint Cha Yeowoon.
For all the effort he was putting into this for me, I had decided to tolerate this much.
He led us to a cafe with a lovely exterior.
The interior was different from the last time I saw it. It made sense since the last time I had visited was when I was 25. Simply put, it was five years ago.
I took a deep breath as I opened the cafe door. Nevertheless, my body remained tense.
Upon hearing a voice younger than I remembered, a chill ran down my spine. My body reacted strongly. More than I expected.
I had thought I could handle it.
It felt like a heavy clamp was tightening around my throat. The delicious kal-guksu I had just eaten swirled in my stomach. Like Cha Yeowoon earlier when he was removing the clam shells from his kal-guksu, my eyebrows tightened.
“Senior, what would you like to drink?”
“You said you wanted something other than coffee.”
Cha Yeowoon asked as he read the menu in front of the counter. Anxiously, I headed toward the entrance, just in case I caught that person’s attention.
“Just get me anything. I’ll leave first.”
Opening the door and feeling the wind outside, my cheeks continued to tingle. I deliberately didn’t glance at that person.
I wanted to distance myself from the cafe, so I started walking forward. The stones on the ground clattered with each step. The sea breeze was damp and thick.
After a series of clattering sounds, Cha Yeowoon soon caught up to me.
“What’s the matter? Are you okay?”
Cha Yeowoon’s hands were empty as he looked at me worriedly.
“Your expression says otherwise.”
“I feel nauseous.”
“Is it your stomach? What kind of nausea?”
“Just let me be for a moment, okay?”
My words came out sharply. I pushed away the surprised Cha Yeowoon and walked blindly toward the sea. I wanted to cool my head.
Seeing the approaching waves, my strength drained away. I sat on the stairs leading to the sandy beach. White sand slipped through my fingers.
“What’s the matter?”
Cha Yeowoon sat beside me. Despite his rough question, his concern was palpable.
Similar to what had happened on the bus, he was extremely tense. His hand, placed on his knee, was tightly clenched.
Although I couldn’t hear his thoughts right now, I could roughly guess what he might be thinking.
“Here’s the cafe my Mom runs.”
It was something I had never told anyone.
“That person earlier is my Mom. The one who abandoned me.”
The words I spat out were easily scattered. The sound of waves and the cries of seagulls quickly drowned out the first confession I had told in my life.
Cha Yeowoon was listening intently. The hand that was tightly clenched, now hesitated and moved toward me.
Awkwardly covering my hand, he was silent as if he was carefully choosing his words. The contemplative silence felt as gentle as lukewarm water.
“I’m sorry. I should have told you earlier. I thought it would be fine to just buy coffee and leave.”
“…Have you met her before?”
“She already has a husband and child. What’s the point of meeting? It would just be a disturbance.”
On my last visit, I saw my mother with her husband and child. Even from a distance, they seemed like a harmonious family.
I had gathered money, had found a place to stay, and had received my university acceptance letter. Thinking I was doing well for myself, I decided to meet her before entering university.
My mother was living happily, running a small cafe in Jebudo. I was still working three part-time jobs to the point of missing my grandmother’s anniversary due to work. Yet, after taking a break from work and coming all the way to Jebudo, I couldn’t even say hello.
In front of the picture-pretty cafe, a girl with a ponytail held her father’s hand and called her mother in front of the cafe. The moment my mother smiled and opened the cafe door, I couldn’t bear it anymore and ran away.
“If she wanted to see me, she would have found me. She knows where I am. But until now, there hasn’t been any contact, so she doesn’t want to see me. Right?”
The waves rushed in and dispersed. Even the biggest waves crashed to a halt when they reached the sandy shore.
Until now, it was hard for me to admit it. I wasn’t needed by that person.
“I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”
“Who would expect something like this? Don’t apologize.”
It was a stubborn but sincere response. Cha Yeowoon’s hand, clasping mine, exerted a firm pressure.
“I’m sorry for not noticing.”
“I’m sorry for not knowing.”
Cha Yeowoon apologized while looking straight into my eyes.
There was truly nothing for him to apologize for.
“So please teach me.”
Cha Yeowoon’s transparent golden sand-colored pupils twinkled like the moonlight. His eyes were so clear that I was overwhelmed the moment I saw them.
Similar to the cluster of lights that followed him as he ran in the schoolyard, the dazzling light reflected by the sea was illuminating him at this moment.
“If senior teach me about you, I promise I won’t ever make you sad like this again.”
How could he say something like this?
A helpless smile rose up my throat. To touch, and to kiss…I didn’t need to hear his thoughts to know how he felt.
That was, Cha Yeowoon liked me.