“So where’s Mr. Kim?” I asked, looking at the empty spot where the car should have been. My mother’s car still wasn’t fixed so he’d agreed to give me a ride home for the second day in a row.
“I asked him not to come,” he said like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“Are you kidding me? You should have told me earlier so that I could have made other plans.” I pulled my phone from my pocket and flipped it open. “For your sake, Ki Won had better be around,” I said as I searched for his name in my phone book.
Ji Tae put his hand over mine thus closing it. “Why should you disturb him? We can find our way.”
Our? I pushed him off me. “What's going on?”
“Aren’t you ashamed that at your age you don’t even know how to ride the bus?”
“Who says I can’t ride the bus? And don’t you think this is a bit rich coming from Mr. I Have A Chauffeur?”
He put his hands in his pockets. “No. I don’t have problems getting home. Besides, I’m only doing this for your benefit since you won’t be able to get a ride with me much longer.”
“Why not?" I rolled my eyes. "What’s so difficult about letting me tag along?”
“Nothing. It’s just that I’m starting work next week," he said plainly.
“What?” Why the hell would a trust fund kid need to work?
He shrugged. “I think it’s time for me to help Umma out. She won’t take money from my Appa so I can at least help her out a little.”
“Don’t you have a bank account?”
He took out a piece of paper from pocket. “But it’s also from Appa so she won’t take it.” He unfolded the paper and started to read it. “Well, it says we need to take Bus B to the subway station and from what I see, it should be easy to get home from there.”
I sighed. So the idiot didn’t even know the way. “Have you ever taken public transportation home before?”
“No,” he said, looking from the written directions to the street signs. “But how hard could it be?”
“You don’t have to sit so close, you know,” I shifted away from him. If I moved any closer to the window, I would have been outside the bus.
“It’s not like these seats are so huge – where do you want me to go?”
After about 5 minutes, we’d found the bus station and 10 minutes later, a bus finally came. We’d been riding the bus for almost 25 minutes and in total had spent almost twice the amount of time it normally took us to get home. Needless to say, I wasn’t very happy about it. “Just don’t sit so close, okay?”
“Relax. Oh… I’ve been meaning to ask: are you going on the drama club trip?”
“Yeah.” One of our school’s alumni had become a very famous playwright and director and had invited the drama club to the opening night of his new play. Apparently, it was particularly special because we’d also get to spend hours watching their dress rehearsal. I’d planned to take a novel with me.
I nodded. “Yun Ah’s pretty excited about it so I guess I should go.”
“She’s really into the acting thing, isn’t she?”
I nodded. As much as I loved her, I couldn’t deny that Yun Ah had quite a bit of the overactive imagination that was required for acting. You think I'm kidding? A few years ago, she confessed to me that the only reason she’d befriended me was because she thought I was her dead cousin. Apparently, she’d spent our first year together trying to gather information on the people that had kidnapped me and staged my death.
I turned to him. “Yeah, she loves acting. She’s not really into being in dramas and movies but she really wants to be on the stage. She’s that kind of person, you know?”
He nodded. “Yeah, I can see that. But what about you? Why are you in drama club?”
I sat up pleased that I could share my drama club theories with one more person. “Alright, so let me break it down for you. There are three types of girls in drama club; there are the slightly crazy ones like Yun Ah who get excited by trying on another person’s life for a while; there are the beautiful, self-centered ones who do it for the attention and lastly, there are the friends of the crazies and beauties who join to support their friends,” I said, pointing to myself.
He laughed. “What about the guys?”
I had to think about it for a minute since I hadn't previously given the guys much thought. “Well for the guys… there are the slightly gay or somewhat feminine ones who join for the costumes; there are the pathetic ones who join because it’s the only chance they will ever get to interact with girls; there are the good looking ones who are smart enough to realize that they will only be able to make a living off their looks and lastly, there are the ones who just love to play pretend.” I rubbed my chin and squinted like Veronica Mars ought to. “That about describes all but one of the guys in our drama club. So, Park Ji Tae ssi, why are you in dramaclub?”
He laughed again. “Well you remember when a whole bunch of guys joined like two years ago?”
I nodded. It had been the same time Kyung Min and Ki Won joined. Apparently, there was an incident in the Graphics Design club that got it suspended for one term so they were all forced to join other clubs to fulfill their extracurricular requirements and since drama club was the only one accepting non-freshman members, they’d all joined. “So you were in the Graphics Design club?”
“But why didn’t you leave when it got re-opened the following term? Everyone else did.”
He shrugged. “What was the point? I never really learned anything there and this was something different, I guess?”
“Cool… so what do you think of…” my voice trailed off when I looked outside and recognized the road we were on. “What the hell? This is the way to my Grandma’s house!”
“So what?” he asked, looking out of the window himself.
“We are on the other side of town!” I stood up. “Get out of my way." I said, shoving him.
He moved his legs so that I could get past him. “Are you sure?”
I glared down at him. “What do you mean “Am I sure?” Do you even know where we are going?”
Pissed off but scared that we were lost, I looked for a passenger that looked smart and asked her for directions.
As Ji Tae approached me, I sent him my don’t-even-think-of-sitting-next-to-me look but he obviously didn’t understand it because he did just that. I pushed him. “Don’t sit next to me!”
He laughed but didn’t move. I rolled my eyes then looked away and stared at my reflection in the window across from us. After Ji Tae had gotten us lost, I’d taken control of the situation and 1 bus ride and two train rides later, we were on the last leg of our journey.
Of course, my mother had called to yell at me when she got home and didn’t find me there. She’d panicked when I explained the situation to her but the weirdest part of the conversation was literally hearing the worry dissipate from her voice when she learned that Ji Tae was with me. The guy got us lost but for some reason that put her mind at ease. What the hell? But you know what? That actually wasn’t the weirdest thing that happened that evening. Hearing my mother ask me to hand my cell phone to Ji Tae then watching him speak to her for 7 minutes and 34 seconds was the weirdest thing I’d seen all year. What the hell did they have to talk about?
“You have to admit that you had fun,” Ji Tae said, interrupting my thoughts.
I grunted in disbelief. “Yeah, like it’s so much fun getting lost.”
“Kinda, sorta. And we weren’t lost – not only do you now know how to use public transportation to get home, you can find your Grandma’s house,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Ha ha ha,” I fake-laughed.
He looked at me and chuckled. “But you can’t say it hasn’t been educational because now you don’t have to depend on anyone when your mother's car breaks down. In fact, she doesn’t have to pick you up anymore. Aren’t you proud that you’re now an adult?” he said, tapping me on my shoulder.
“So says the guy with his own chauffeur.” I covered my mouth as I yawned – it had really been a long day. I turned to him. “Speaking of which, if my Umma's car isn’t ready by tomorrow, can I hitch a ride with you?”
He groaned. “What was this whole evening about? What was the entire exercise about?”
“Is that a yes or a no?” I asked impatiently. I was about ready to shut my eyes and take a nap.
“If you pay me, it’ll be a yes,” he said mischievously.
“Then forget it.” I rested my head against a window and shut my eyes. “I’ll just ask Ki Won.”
“Doesn’t he have to work? Don’t worry about it - I’ll give you a ride.”
I stifled a yawn. “Why didn’t you just say that in the first place?”
“You’re welcome,” he said wryly.
I laughed at him but I could take a hint. “Okay, sorry. Thank you so much, Mr. Park.”
“Yeah, yeah… but just remember that you owe me. Hey, it’s our stop. Get up,” he said, shaking my shoulder.
I stood up and walked to the doors. “Look, if I have to owe you then forget it.”
“No, this isn’t about the ride,” he said from behind me.
The train doors opened and we followed the other passengers out. Ji Tae walked in step with me as we exited the station.
Even though it was dark, I knew exactly where we were so I knew we’d be home in a matter of minutes. It was chillier than I’d expected so I buttoned up my school cardigan as I walked briskly on the sidewalk.
“So don’t forget you owe me,” Ji Tae reminded me.
“What are you talking about?” I wrapped my arms around my body to preserve all the heat.
“Are you cold? Do you want my jacket?” He took it off without waiting for my reply.
I shook my head and increased my pace. His clothes on my body? I’d rather freeze to death. “But why do you keep saying I owe you? I don’t owe you jack.”
“Remember the pool? Remember our race? The winner gets something from the loser. Remember?”
Was he smoking crack? “I never agreed to that.”
“Yes you did.”
“No I didn’t.” What the hell?
“By racing with me, you agreed to it. So don’t forget that you owe me.”
“Dream on,” I said through chattering teeth.