Jae-hee’s fingers fiddled with the corners of the book. Although her face had little change in expression, Jung-hoo decided to dig deeper because this small action seemed to show that she was upset.
“Is studying fun?”
“I’m not doing it because it’s fun. I’m doing it because I have to.”
The answer came without hesitation. Jaehee’s gray eyes locked on Junghu, making it difficult to understand the meaning of her words.
“You already know that. So I have to study. This is the only way for a kid like me to succeed.”
She spoke as calmly as if she was speaking of someone else’s affairs.
“Why don’t you pretend to be weak?”
Why do I want to see this calm face distorted? Jung-hoo asked himself.
“I only pretend to be weak to someone who thinks I’m weak.”
Jae-hee had never hesitated to answer any questions. The same was true now. It was just as silent and straightforward as talking about reality. Why did it feel like looking at a deeply rooted tree? His heart slowly jumped as he saw Jae-hee slowly turning her eyes back to the book she was looking at.
I want her to pretend to be weak.
Such a thought struck him as absurd. It was the first time he had thought of someone for so long, and it was the first time he had ever looked for someone wherever students gathered.
It was also the first time that a neat face looked so pretty that it made him want to touch it, hug it, and kiss it.
From that day on, Jung-hoo chased Jae-hee. He always asked the helper’s lady to pack a lunch box to go and followed after Jaehee. He was not afraid to join his seniors’ class during recess and smiled brightly. He wandered around in front of Jae-hee, who used to read a book at the lunch time. He dragged her for the first time, saying that it was lunch break, and then ate lunch together in the garden.
At first, she was annoyed, but she just pretended to play along with the whims of the talented young master. But soon after, whenever Jae-hee laughed, Jung-hoo was just happy.
Even his friends thought they were an out-of-place couple who were told to wake up. In fact, Jung-hoo was following Jaehee unilaterally, but he realized that he felt different with Jae-hee than with others by simply laughing with her and eating the lunch box.
Then the summer supplementary class ended and the second semester started. Whenever he saw her, he couldn’t hold back his growing heart and confessed to Jae-hee.
“Do you like me?”
“Yes, you knew that, right? That’s why you let me chase you, right? I want to go out with you, Sunbae.”
“…I heard your family has a lot of money If you like me that much, can you lend me some money?”
At that time, he was stunned as if he had been betrayed by her words. He didn’t realize that Jae-hee, who had always been outspoken, took a break in front of him for the first time and started talking. Yoon Jung-hoo was like that at that time. Despite his unreasonable request, he received 5 million won from his eldest brother on the pretext that he liked Jae-hee and had something he wanted to buy. He gave it to Jae-hee the next day with a letter. After receiving the money, Min Jae-hee simply said “thank you.”
And Min Jae-hee didn’t come to school the next day.
Recalling the memories of that time, Jung-hoo called Jae-hee’s name. Jae-hee, whom he met after ten years, was exactly the same. She still had a blank expression on his face.
And she appeared to be exhausted. The younger brother, who was crying and clinging to Jae-hee at the time, had turned into an irredeemable troublemaker. Jae-hee was still burdened by debt.
Min Jae-hee’s hand had become rough, despite her claim that she would only study because the only way to succeed was to study. What kind of work could she do as a middle school graduate?
Junghoo breathed quietly.
“Senior really hasn’t changed a bit.”
When Jae-hee arrived at the kimchi factory late in the afternoon, the boss had already prepared her salary for the time she had worked. She was told not to return if she was going to be out of contact so frequently. She was forced to apologize and leave the kimchi factory with an envelope. She went to the hospital where Min Jae-won was being treated, thinking about part-time jobs she could do in a short period of time before entering the parts factory.
“Patient Min Jae-won has been discharged from the hospital.”
” And there weren’t any hospital bills.”
“Yoon Jung-hoo has paid them all.”
There is still a period of hospitalization left, but he was released without consulting with me. The doctor agreed to discharge him because there were no abnormal findings after the examination, a nurse informed her. Jaehee fiddled with her phone, which had no battery and was turned off. Even if it was activated, she lacked the courage to contact Jung-hoo again.
She arrived home by bus, but the lights in the semi-basement room were turned off. Jae-won didn’t seem to want to return home just yet and his favorite chicken in the bag was already cold. Her body finally throbbed when she lay still in the room without any warmth.
It hurt in between her legs as if the secret place was still open.
I have to take off my clothes and wash them, but I don’t want to lift a finger. If you put your cheeks on the cold floor, they would freeze. I have to turn on the electric blanket, but I don’t want to move. If I sleep like this, I will undoubtedly catch a cold.
She muttered quietly, knowing no one would answer her.
Should I meet Youngjoo? It’s been a long time. I’ve never rested this long. I think I’ll have time to see her before I start working again. I have a hard time living, and I can’t remember when I last met Youngju.
Still, she was the only friend who didn’t push Jae-hee away.
I don’t have to push myself in front of that friend.
“In order to do that, I have to charge first.”
I don’t even want to turn on the electric blanket, but it’s weird to go to the place where the charging jack is.
Jaehee smiled sadly, feeling like she was being lazy for some reason.
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