Reunion Chapter 47

Author: nicotine

Time flowed without a halt even though I didn’t particularly want it to. As expected, days whooshed by when nothing happened.

Jang Yoonsung contacted me for the first time, two days after the last time we talked.

[When should I pick you up?]

If Jung Yoonsung meant to send me this message, he wanted to rush me to reply but then again I haven’t heard from him since. Sometimes I mulled over the short message. If I didn’t answer, could we end just like this? It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.

“…Hyung!”

“What?”

“What are you doing? The food is burning.”

When I was informed that the food was burnt, I glanced at the frying pan in a hurry. While I was floating in my reverie for a while, the eggs ended up being overcooked. I was going to offer breakfast to my brother who would be heading to school for the first time in a long time, but I almost burned an egg. When I turned it upside down, it wasn’t as inedible, however, I quickly flipped it on a plate and took out a new egg anyway.

“I’ll cook another one. Wait a minute. It’ll be quick. I’ll eat the burnt one.”

“It doesn’t matter…”

Gunwoo blurted out his words even though I already cracked a new egg. I took it out of the pan a little early because I was afraid it would burn again, and this time it became a flowing fried egg, Gunwoo accepted the dish without complaint.

“What’s wrong with you?”

Gunwoo asked strangely in front of the small table.

“Nothing?”

“Then are you sick?”

“What are you talking about, all of a sudden?”

Gunwoo pointed at my bowl with his chin and replied.

“You don’t eat well and you don’t look good. You can’t sleep well these days, right?”

Was I like that? Well, I might be if Gunwoo, would live with me for the past few days, said so.

“I have those days, sometimes. Don’t worry about it.”

Even if I wasn’t with Jang Yoon-sung, my condition could not always be the same. This was often the case even before I was reunited with Jang Yoon-sung. So it was nothing special.

Nevertheless, Gunwoo still had a face that implied that he didn’t quite trust me, so I took a big bowl of rice and put it in my mouth. After chewing only plain rice, Gunwoo reluctantly began to move his chopsticks and stuffed a side dish in his mouth.

“But when are you heading to work again? Is it okay if you rest this long?”

It seemed unfamiliar to see me idle for days without any special reason. Certainly, it was strange that I was taking such a long break, enough to say it was a vacation.

“Yes, I can. Because I am competent.”

Gunwoo burst into a laugh as if he was dumbfounded, perhaps because of how I showed myself off. Even though I answered brazenly, I knew it was time for me not to delay my decision any longer.

“Do you have time to laugh?”

“Oh, right.”

When I pointed at the clock and said something, Gunwoo began to eat breakfast busily. The man quickly emptied the bowl, finished preparing himself in a hurry, and put on his shoes.

Until then, I, who was picking at the rice with my chopsticks, got up from my seat to see him off. My house didn’t lock automatically like Jang Yoon-sung’s house did, so when people left, someone had to lock the door.

“Eat. I’ll lock it up and go.”

Gunwoo said as if there was no need for me to come out as he fixed the heels of his shoes.

“No, I’ll lock it up, so hurry up and go.”

Gunwoo eventually straightened his back and agreed with a short smile.

“I’ll be back.”

“Go on.”

Since he was in a hurry, he quickly went down the narrow stairs and disappeared soon. I stood there blankly until I couldn’t hear the sound of footsteps and closed the door. A morning that suited me.

***

I had my hair trimmed on my way to work. The marks on my neck did not disappear easily, so I dawdled cutting my hair for a few days even after returning home. Just like that, I went back to the bar.

Since I broke my promise to Jang Yoon-sung, I could work at the bar again, but I hesitated because there were so many people with connections leading to him. I also had to pretend not to be wary of Lee Eunjo who frequented the bar.

There was an unexpected call, which beckoned me, who was stuck at home, back to the bar. I was left with no time to prepare myself.

Jongmin asked me if I could come to the bar for a few days. His grandmother was hospitalized and there was no one to be with her. Jongmin grew up with his grandmother’s and it was something everyone in the bar knew. Sungwook hyung told me not to worry about the bar, but I was worried that he wouldn’t be able to handle it now that there was one less staff.

I went back to the bar because I didn’t want him to put a burden on Jongmin’s mind who already had to worry about his sick family. Thanks to this, I accomplished two things that I had been delaying.

However, when I faced Sungwook hyung, I couldn’t say anything. The fact that I unilaterally broke the contract with Jang Yoonsung and that I might have to quit working at the bar. I didn’t know whether it was because I felt sorry for Sungwook hyung or because I was still at a loss. Sungwook hyung seemed to think of me as a substitute for Jongmin as if he had not heard anything from Jang Yoon-sung.

“Hyung, did you hear that? Jongmin’s grandmother left the hospital today. Fortunately, I guess it wasn’t a big deal.”

Jungho wiped the floor with a mop and laughed playfully for the first time in a long time. There were only two of us left in the hall. Sungwook hyung left the bar early as if he had something important to attend to. Plus there weren’t any customers so he had to head home early.

Maybe because it was a weekday, the guests stopped coming before it was late. At the end of the day, Jongmin, who was usually exhausted and mopped quietly, seemed to be in a jovial mood thanks to the good news.

“That’s true.”

I nodded, wiping the cup with a dry dishcloth.

“Is he going to be on a break until today?”

“No. I told Jongmin to rest until tomorrow and come.”

“Wow, Hakyung hyung is only kind to Jong-min.”

“Of course. I am kind to everyone but you.”

“I know people treat me special.”

Jungho responded slyly and shrugged his shoulders. Because of Jung-ho’s personality, he always exchanged jokes in this way, but where special treatment was concerned, there was only one person whom I treated as special. The person who had been the kindest to me and to whom I treated the coldest. The reflection of my smiling face was distorted in the wiped cup.

“Hyung, are you done?”

After cleaning up roughly, Jungho rolled up his sleeves and wrapped his fingers around his bag. He helped me with my work because he finished early. At first glance, there were more than one or two corners left that still had to be cleaned.

“All right, you go first. I’ll finish and go.”

Jungho was not a shameless person, but he could have refused it out of courtesy at least once, but today he stuck beside me with a cutesy expression on his face, as if he really wanted to go home early today.

“Hyung, can I really do that?”

“Oh, you’re gross. Please get lost.”

“Yes! See you tomorrow! I love you!”

Jungho immediately hopped towards the door before waving his arms and running out excitedly. It was not until I could not hear his footsteps that I concentrated on what I was doing again. The last few days that Jongmin and I worked, passed by without any problems than I thought. Although I ran into Kijoon once, he greeted me happily and passed me by as if he had not heard anything.

Did Lee Eun-jo know that I came back to the bar? Jang Yoon-sung called from time to time for two or three days. I didn’t receive it, but I got a message again today.

[When should I pick you up?]

It was the same sentence as the previous message as if it had been copied. However, while I was staring blankly at my phone wondering whether anything had changed, a new line of messages came up.

[I miss you]

Funny how I turned off my phone as if I was running away from that word. It was strange that he didn’t come right away due to his impatient personality, but thanks to him, I didn’t have to think about running away even further.

I finished cleaning the cup carefully and I left the bar earlier than usual. Finally, I was about to go up the stairs after checking the kitchen one more time. I thought I could hear the sound of women’s shoes at the top of the stairs.

“I’m sorry. We are close….”

While asking for understanding unconsciously, the person who came belatedly to the bar answered.

“Are you done with your work? I came at the right time.”

The retort sounded familiar. I couldn’t see the person’s face well since it was nighttime, but even in the halo of the light, I could make out her face roughly.

It was Seo Hyejin who stood above the stairs and looked down at me.

“Yes, I decided to close a little early today. I’m sorry, but next time….”

Pretending that I didn’t understand the word “right time” I emphasized that the bar was closed.

Despite that, Seo Hye-jin slowly came down the stairs. I raised my eyes and it didn’t feel as suffocating as when I ran into Taewon Group again. It seemed that Seo Hyejin furtively deemed that she was not a person who would harm me.

Seo Hyejin approached me, opened her eyes wide, and examined my face thoroughly.

“By any chance…”

Unlike before, there were no thick glasses, and her unruly hair was tied up nicely, but the expression in her eyes was definitely the same as then.

“Do you know Han Jiyoung?”

I feigned nonchalance.

“Han… Jiyoung? I don’t know. I don’t think I know anyone with that name.”

“It’s either you or…”

She wasn’t sure and her tone was quivering.

Indeed, even if she remembered Han Ji-young, it would be difficult to recognize her at first glance given how they hadn’t met for the last seven years. Likewise, I didn’t recognize Seo Hye-jin at first sight. If you take a closer look, her face didn’t change except for losing a little baby fat.

“I don’t know who you are thinking of but no. I am…”

Seo Hyejin grabbed my arm and looked straight into my eyes while I hesitated around my words, thinking what would be more natural to say. I tried to take a step back, but Seo Hyejin put strength in her hands as if she had to check and moved her eyes up and down busily as if measuring my height.

“I thought it was ridiculous at first, but on second thought, I don’t think it’s at all. And your height… It’s not uncommon however your face…”

Seo Hyejin even smiled confidently as if her guess was right.

“I don’t know whether it’s common, but Mr. Seo did say I resembled Jang Yoon-sung’s ex-girlfriend.”

I didn’t know that Jang Yoon-sung’s love history, which I overheard, would be helpful in this way. Seo Hyejin also frowned as if she was speechless because she knew Jang Yoon-sung’s ex-girlfriend.

There was no way that Seo Hyejin could have any evidence that Jang Yoonsung didn’t possess. It was enough to insist that my face was similar. I checked the time on my phone screen and pretended to be busy.

“It’s already time. I’m sorry, but I have to rush home. If you have any business at the bar, I think you should come back tomorrow.”

I even said to come back tomorrow on purpose not to give the impression that I was avoiding her. Seo Hyejin was only looking at me with resentment without answering back. I walked first, bowing my head as if I didn’t notice.

But visiting at such late hours… Even though she was very brave as well. Eventually, I turned around before climbing the stairs.

“I’ll take you to the front of the car. Where did you leave your car?”

Seo Hyejin took the lead with her cheeks twitching as if she didn’t like it when I didn’t gently reveal my identity. Seo Hyejin was deliberately climbing the stairs with angry stomps but slowly stopped and opened her mouth again with a defeated voice.

“You really don’t know?”

“What? Oh, yes.”

When I denied it once again, Seo Hye-jin sighed as if she were cooling down her frustration. Then she trudged up the stairs again.

“You rather not lie. If it’s true but you’re lying, then Jang Yoonsung really fell for someone awful.”

I laughed bitterly at the remark. Regardless of the lie, I had no choice but to be an awful person to Jang Yoon-sung.

Our short climb up the stairs was over. The car was standing not far from the bar. Seo Hyejin got into the car and skillfully opened it. It was amazing to see her drive a car that was more expensive than my house’s deposit even when she was the same kid who was running down the hill in his school uniform. She was already so grown up.

“Since it’s late, don’t loiter around and get home safe…”

I told her something but Seo Hyejin peeked her head out through the open window.

“…If you are not really her, I’ll take back what I said. Even if you’re a bad person, I think you are better than Han Ji-young.”

“What?”

“I’m going.”

As soon as the impassive greeting was over, the car started. She was a very affectionate child even then. We kept in touch with each other for only one day and rarely exchanged words after that.

Nevertheless, it was not natural, either. Is Han Jiyoung’s identity important even though she is no longer a middle school student who has a crush on her brother’s friend?

Looking at the car driving away, I thought about what Seo Hye-jin said. I am better than Han Jiyoung? For whom?

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nicotine

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