I doubled over in front of the bus and tried to catch my breath. It was the drama club trip and just as I was about to board the bus, I realized that I’d left my keys at my locker so I’d run back to get them.
“We don’t have all day,” the driver said after honking at me.
I stood up and stepped into the bus and looked for somewhere to sit. The bus was pretty packed so there were only three empty seats. There was one next to Eun Jung Unnie. She was a very sweet girl but as it was, she was already occupying three-quarters of the seat so if I sat next to her, I’d have to suspend one butt cheek in the air for the entire ride.
There was also an empty seat next to Choi Sang Ho a.k.a. Sang the Ho who was known to have the most roving hands in the entire school. And it wasn’t obvious, either. You’d just be doing your thing then suddenly, you’d feel fingers rubbing against a part of your body that you were even too shy to touch yourself. And he did it in such a sneaky way that it was damn near impossible to catch him in the act, but you just knew that it was him.
Then there was a seat next to Ji Tae. It wasn’t that I was avoiding him or anything but lately, I just hadn’t known what to say to him. I definitely preferred it when we hated each other because at least then, I knew exactly how to feel about him. But lately, when it came to him, my head became blank. We’d agreed to stop fighting but he was still my enemy, right? So what was with all the niceness? Getting tickets for me to meet Kwon Sang Woo? Wasn’t that too much? Wasn’t he taking this truce thing a bit too far? I couldn’t ask him so when he came over to tutor my sister on Saturdays, I tried to stay away.
“Hee Soo, why don’t you go and sit down?” our drama teacher, Ms. Lim said to me.
“Hi, Unnie,” I said to Eun Jung before sitting next to her. I tried to sit comfortably but I could already feel the strain on one half of my body. It was going to be a long ride.
“So why didn’t you sit next to your boyfriend?” Yun Ah teased as we walked to the theatre.
“When did you give me a boyfriend?”
“You do realize that he was saving a seat for you, right?” she said pointedly.
“Who?” I asked, pretending I didn’t know who she was talking about. All women would turn lesbian if Sang the Ho was the last man on earth.
“What do you mean, who? Every time someone tried to sit next to him, Park Ji Tae said there was someone already sitting there.”
“And in the end, he had the seat to himself, right? If you’d asked who it was, he’d probably have said something like, Mr. Nobody. I’m sure he was just trying to have the whole seat to himself.”
She shook her head. “I doubt it.”
“And how come you didn’t save a seat for me?” I said, changing the subject. I was sick of Ji Tae creeping into all our conversations. “What kind of friend are you?”
“Hello, I had an aisle seat just like you. By the time I got on the bus, there were no empty seats so I had to double up.”
“Whatever,” I said as I opened the door.
“Oh my God,” Yun Ah exclaimed in awe as she looked around the theatre. “I’ve seen a lot of plays in here but it looks so different empty.” She walked further in. “There are so many possibilities,” she said dramatically. “Here,” she reached into her bag, “take my camera,” she said, giving it to me. “I’m going on stage now. Make sure you have the camera ready so that when I tell you to, you can take my photograph. When I become a legend, those photos are going to be worth a lot of money so you’d better make them great.”
“Why are you being so anti-social?” someone called from a group of people a few seats away from me. We were waiting to watch the dress rehearsals and since Yun Ah had gone backstage to “network,” I was taking a break from my photographing duties.
I got up and walked towards them. “I wasn’t being anti-social. So what are you guys talking about?” I asked before joining them.
“Nothing really,” a short girl with eternally pink cheeks said. She’d only just joined our club so I was yet to learn her name. “Unnie, that’s such a nice necklace. Where did you get it from?” she asked, looking at my neck enviously.
“Guess,” Eun Jung Unnie said as she rolled her eyes.
I chuckled then looked down at it and picked up the pendant. “You like it?”
Pink Face nodded. “It’s sooooo beautiful. Who gave it to you?”
“Oh, it’s a birthday present from my friend, Yong Ki Won. Do you know him?”
“Ki Won Oppa!” Pink Face exclaimed. I could already see the stars forming in her eyes. “He’s so hot! I’d just die if he gave me something like that. Ahh…” she said dreamily.
The rest of the group chuckled at her reaction. Well, everyone but Ji Tae and two other guys who just rolled their eyes.
“I’m sorry to say this, Yuri, but you can’t have him,” Eun Jung said sympathetically.
“Why not? I heard he’s single,” she said in a panicky voice.
“He might technically be single but he’s already taken. Everyone knows that he and Hee Soo are going to end up together,” she said plainly.
I shook my head enthusiastically. “No, no. We’re just friends.”
“Yeah, right,” a chorus of about four people said at the same time.
After the group erupted in laughter, I re-iterated that Ki Won and I were just friends although it was obvious that they weren’t buying it.
After the dress rehearsal, Yun Ah had forced me to go backstage with her so that I could take pictures of her with the cast members so once again, we didn’t have a lot of seats to choose from amongst those that had been reserved for us.
The second Yun Ah found two empty seats together, she walked towards them with me in tow. We spotted two other people at the other side of the section who were also moving towards those seats so we made a mad dash for them. I didn’t even notice I would be sitting next to Ji Tae till we were already sitting.
“Have you been avoiding me?” he whispered.
I pretended not to hear him and turned and said something to Yun Ah instead.
“Hey,” she said, getting up. “I need to pee so save my seat,” she said before running off.
“Are you planning on ignoring me all night?” Ji Tae said in a louder voice.
I turned to him and smiled tightly. “You think a bit highly of yourself, don’t you? Why would I ignore you?” And I wasn’t ignoring him – I just didn’t know how to speak to him.
“Isn’t that what you just did?” he said, sending me a lopsided smile.
“When? Just now? Could it be possible that I wasn’t ignoring you? Maybe I just didn’t notice you.”
“It’s possible but highly unlikely,” he said, looking back into my eyes with those beautifully lashed eyes.
The lights hadn’t yet been turned down so I was practically looking at my reflection in his pupils. I looked away and stared at the empty stage.
“I’m just wondering something, Hee Soo.”
“What?” I said tightly.
"If I’d given you a necklace, would you have worn it?” he said completely out of nowhere.
What the hell? “Why wouldn’t I?” I whispered with my eyes still fixed on the stage.
“How should I know? But something tells me you wouldn’t and I really want to know why.”
Still looking straight ahead, I said, “It looks like you want to start an argument about something that didn’t even happen and I am not interested, so just fcuk off.”
He chuckled sarcastically. “I see you’ve started with the cursing thing so just keep it up. I don’t know why you insist on acting like an idiot, but whatever.”
I glanced at him and wondered what the hell was going on.
The librarian looked at the forms I’d filled out. She nodded then pointed at a set of cards. “Pick the color you want.”
I pointed at the blue one then waited for her to create my brand new library card.
When she was done, she said, “I’ve put in an order for the book you requested and when it becomes available, we’ll call you.”
I thanked her then went to the DVD section of the library.
I was looking through their new releases when someone coughed behind me.
I turned around and smiled warily at Ji Tae. “Hey,” I said, waving at him.
“Hey, yourself. What are you doing here?” His arms were folded.
“What do people normally do at the library? I came to borrow something.”
I nodded. “Really.” And I wasn’t lying. Yes, it was my first time at the library and yes, I did know that Ji Tae worked there but I definitely didn’t go there with the hopes of running into him or anything. And it wasn’t that I missed him either. It’s just that when you get used to having someone around all the time, it’s slightly weird when it stops. Just two days earlier when he came to tutor my sister, he’d completely ignored me. Imagine that! Not that that had anything to do with my going to the library. I went there to get a novel. Full stop.
“Alright… I’d better get back to work – those shelves won't stack themselves,” he said, turning around.
“I can’t believe that someone with his own chauffeur is stacking shelves at the public library.”
He stopped in his tracks then turned back at me. “Do you have a problem with the fact that Mr. Kim works for me?”
I shook my head vehemently. “What does that have to do with me? Why would I have a problem with it?”
“Because you keep mentioning it. Does it bother you that my father is wealthy? Is that the problem?” he asked earnestly.
“What do you mean by ‘the problem’? There’s no problem. I’m only teasing about Mr. Kim. If you don’t like it then whatever.” Why would I have a problem with wealth when it was all around me?
He looked me up and down as if to gauge my sincerity. “As far as you’re only teasing….”
We stood in silence for a few seconds with each second feeling more awkward than the previous one.
He nodded towards a shelf. “I’d better get back to stacking. I’ll see you later.”
“Oppa,” I called just before he was about to leave, “why are things weird between us?” I fiddled with my fingers.
He blinked really hard. “W-w-what did you just say?”
“Why are things weird between us?” I repeated more confidently.
“No… not that. Before that.”
I thought about it. “I said I was only teasing you about Mr. Kim.”
“No, no. Forget it,” he said. A smile crept onto his face.
“Okay, whatever. So do you think that we should end this truce thing?”
He frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I think it was better when we hated each other. Now, it’s just weird. You do nice things for me and I don’t know how to deal with that. You hating me and me hating you? That made sense,” I said with a smile although I was being very serious.
“I never hated you.”
I scoffed. “Now, ain’t that a joke?”
“I’m serious. But I’m fine – I don’t feel weird. Maybe it’s something with you. Maybe you need to deal with whatever problems you’re having.” His voice got colder with every word he spat out.
His tone put me on edge. “Yeah, blame it on me. Just stop being nice to me – it confuses me.”
“Am I the only person that’s nice to you? Why should it be weird with me?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know – it just is. So please, stop.”
He hissed. “You have issues. I really don’t know why I bother with you,” he said more to himself than me.
“Exactly. But we can be cool, right?” Was I crazy? Why couldn’t I just let my enemy go? “Just not too cool,” I added.
“Forget it. Let’s be hot. I don’t exist to you and you don’t exist to me. Is that better?” he said, turning away.
I grabbed his shirt to keep him from leaving.
He turned around in shock.
“Ji Tae ssi.” I didn’t really want to never see him again but I just wanted things to be plain and simple. Couldn’t we find a middle ground? “If I don’t exist, does that mean my family doesn’t exist? Mi Soo’s math scores have really improved. What about her? ”
He shook his head and looked sorry for me. “You really don’t know what you want, do you?”
Me? I knew exactly what I wanted… I just didn’t know how to put it in the words.
When I didn’t respond, he said, “Anyway, are you going to the dance next Saturday?”
I nodded. “Are you?” Did the new conversation mean that we were now friends?
“I don’t know yet. Let me guess; you’re going with Yong Ki Won, right?”
I shook my head. “What makes you say that? I’m going with Kang Han Bi. I don’t know if you met him but he was at my party.” I described Han Bi Oppa to him.
“Oh, I remember. He wears glasses, right? Are you guys dating?”
“No,” I said, dismissively. “We’re just friends.”
“You’re ‘just friends’ with a lot of guys,” he commented.
I hated the way he made it sound like I was some super flirt or something. “What’s your point?”
He shrugged. “Figure it out. I’m going back to work. See you later.”