*Italicized part is a flashback
Being nice to Ji Tae was using up a different kind of energy. Instead of expending my energy on screaming at him or trying to think of something cutting to say, I spent it on holding back and smiling. At first, it had been a little difficult as I’d already formed a habit saying anything but nice things to him but it had been two weeks and it was getting easier. We even laughed together sometimes. I still didn’t like him or anything but he was right – if I had to see him often, we could at least be civil.
He had yet to take me on my offer of coming to my room to listen to music but we had pleasant conversations at dinner and he now joined Mi Soo and me on our Saturday morning swims. In fact, he completely ignored me the last time; spending the entire hour with Mi Soo. It was kind of cute, I guess.
I repositioned my bag on my back and peeked into his class. He was sitting with his back to me and talking to his friends. As I was trying to avoid people staring at me when I walked into the class, I tapped the person closest to the door. As it does with coincidences, it happened to be the same person I’d tapped almost a year earlier which happened to be the first and last time I’d been to Ji Tae’s class. I almost laughed when I saw the shocked expression on her face.
Need further explanations? So basically, just like today, Ji Tae had left for school before he could take the lunch his mother had prepared with him so for the second time in her life, she asked me to take it to him. Back then, I’d wanted to refuse but my mother agreed before I could protest which was why I’d been standing at his door with a cooler filled with food.
Just like today, I’d begged the slightly chubby girl to call him so I could just give it to him and be on my merry way.
So there I’d been, standing with an irritated expression I wasn’t planning to hide and racking my brain coming up with cutting comments that would make him realize that it would be the first and last time I’d take time out of my extremely busy day to help him out. I’d already practiced lines that included, “be more careful in the future,” “next time I’ll piss in your food,” and other colorful words that I’d hope would convey the fact that I didn’t enjoy spending my time on him – even if it was at his mother’s request.
I’d planned to catch his eyes and send him some hateful glares but after his classmate caught his attention and he looked up and saw me, he promptly looked away.
Say what? “Could you please call him again?” Surely, he hadn’t seen me!
“Ji Tae ssi, your friend is waiting for you outside.”
Without even sparing me a second glance, he said, “I don't see anyone.”
My jaw dropped. What the hell? I looked over at his classmate and wondered what she thought of me – she probably thought I’d sacrificed Ji Tae’s firstborn. Or worse.
Frustrated, I’d bent over to drop the food on the ground then leave but stopped myself when I realized that he wouldn’t pick it up and when he got home, he’d tell his mother that he never received his lunch which would make his mother come over to our place and I’d end up in trouble.
“Can you call him again? It’s important,” I begged her.
She shrugged. “Sorry, but I don’t think he wants to come. Just forget it.”
If only it were that easy. I took a deep breath and stepped into the classroom. “You! Your mother asked me to give this to you,” I said as I approached his desk. Everyone in that area looked at me. Everyone but him.
“Oppa, I think she’s talking to you,” one of his friends said. But he didn’t move a muscle.
“Ji Tae, your mother said I should give this to you,” I repeated in a much louder tone.
At this point, the whole class but him was staring at me curiously. Feeling their eyes bore into me only made me angrier. Okay, so we weren’t friends but did he really have to humiliate me like this?
“Park Ji Tae, are you deaf?” I yelled. “Do you want your lunch or not?” I tapped my foot and waited for a reaction. Instead of acknowledging me, he made a non-related comment to a friend whose eyes were trained on me.
“Ah, fcuk it,” I said in frustration as I threw the cooler at his desk. But as luck would have it, I showed off my skills as the worst basketball player in the world so instead of hitting the desk, the cooler landed on his forehead. Ouch.
“What’s up?” a somewhat deep voice jolted me out of my memories. I looked up to find Ji Tae staring at me inquisitively. Instinctively, I reached across and pushed his hair back.
He slapped my hand off his face. “What are you… oh,” he said as it dawned on him, “you’re checking out your handiwork?”
“Whatever,” I said dismissively hoping it didn’t show that I was relieved that the wound hadn’t left a scar. “I guess I didn’t do a good enough job, huh?”
He rolled his eyes. “What’s up?” he asked slightly impatiently.
I reached into my bag and pulled his lunch out. “Your Mom asked me to bring this for you.”
He took it from me. “Thanks. I had an early soccer practice.”
A group of people approached the doorway so we moved a bit further into the hallway.
“Do you eat two lunches?” I leaned against the wall and waited for his answer.
He shook his head. “Why?”
“Because I usually see you at the Ajumma’s place.”
“Oh,” he said, holding his cooler up. “I guess you can call this my tea.”
I shook my head in disgust as I looked over his toned frame. “How can you eat so much and not get fat? I hate people like you.”
“Whatever. I’d better get back now – we have a test in a few minutes,” he said as he turned to leave.
“Wait. Can I hitch a ride home with you today?”
He looked at me curiously. “Isn’t your mother picking you up?”
I frowned. “Her car is in the shop again.” My mother had a very strange relationship with cars. No matter the model, age, price or color of the car, no more than six months after she got it, something always went wrong with it. My father had tried to figure it out by watching how she drove and even exchanging his car with hers (which broke down shortly after) but we couldn’t figure out. I’d decided that she must have been a really bad racecar driver in her past life so now the spirits of all those crashed cars were taking their revenge on her.
“How do you normally get home when her car breaks down?”
“Ki Won generally gives me a ride but he’s gotten more hours so he starts work earlier now.”
“Why don’t you just take the bus or the subway?”
I hissed. “What’s with the interrogation? Can I ride with you or not?”
He sent me a sarcastic smile then told me where his chauffeur usually parked.
“This is the first time since I’ve been driving Ji Tae that any girl has sat next to me,” his chauffeur said a few minutes after he picked us up.
“Does he give rides to a lot of girls?”
He shook his head. “Not that many – mainly Lee Tae Ran. You know her?”
“Not really,” I said, shaking my head. “But no one ever sat next to you?”
“Why would they? They didn't come for me.”
I nodded knowingly. “See, that’s the difference. I don’t want to be there with him.” I looked around us. “This is so much better.”
He chuckled. “I must say that after all these years, it’s nice to finally talk to you.”
“What do you mean? I always said hello whenever I saw you.”
He gave me a look. “Is ‘Good Afternoon, Mr. Kim,’ talking?”
I laughed. After enjoying a few minutes of pleasant small talk, as I was trying to find a radio station that would please both of us, I heard a knock on the glass separating us from the backseat passenger. Mr. Kim hit the intercom. “What?”
“Hyung, please stop the car.”
Hyung? I hadn’t realized they were that friendly.
Moments after the car had been pulled over, we both watched as Ji Tae stepped out and walked over to my side of the car and opened the door.
“What the hell are you doing?” I asked as he slipped into it, pushing me into the middle of him and Mr. Kim.
“What does it look like?” He looked over me and at Mr. Kim. “Hyung, you can start driving now.”
Mr. Kim shook his head. “No. One of you has to go back there.”
“Well, I’m not going to sit there all by myself while all the fun is over here.”
“Does it look like we are having a party here?” I asked incredulously.
He shrugged. “I don’t know but why did he put the glass up and leave me out? He normally talks to me when he's driving but not today. Why’s that?” he asked half-jokingly.
I chuckled. I couldn’t tell if he was really jealous. “Okay, go back and we’ll include you in our riveting conversation about The Crocodile Hunter. You can leave now,” I said, pushing him out of the car.
“Well, I’m not going by myself so you’re coming with me,” he said as he took my hand and pulled me along.