Chapter 16: Chapter 16
“Are they going to fight?”
As we began our staring contest, the crowd tried to hold us back from wrangling. Regardless of the dissuasive kids, I gave a silent gaze at Baek Yeo Min. I had in mind that whether someone talked behind me or in front of my face, the best way to dignify myself was to work behind the scenes instead of talking down immediately.
The key to holding the edge over someone in a battle was the public opinion. Therefore, to speak, when a third party said, ‘What she said to her is so mean” then the game was over.
If I had been a bitch to my classmates then my situation would have been terrible; however, I had been good with most of the kids in the class. Many of them have my back. Soon, there would be a girl or a boy stepping up to fill my shoes saying ‘Hey, Baek Yeo Min. You better watch your mouth.”
I kept on staring at her in silence. Once I began to react against her she would, again, twist my words around. This would possibly lead to an actual battle.
Although it was someone else who made a bad start, once the situation ended in a fight, things would look bad to us. We would gain a terrible public image that we did not deserve. I couldn’t afford to let that happen.
Someone please step up, come on. Those were the thought I had in my mind while staring at Baek Yeo Min. As I was sweating nervously, somebody stepped forward and stood right next to me. As I turned my head aside, I blanched at the maple-spread red hair under the sunlight.
There was only one I knew who had that hair color. It was Kwon Eun Hyung. He was gazing at Baek Yeo Min with frigid eyes.
He then said, “Baek Yeo Min. You went too far this time. Apologize to her.”
Even I never saw him looking that stone-hearted until now. As I felt so overwhelmed while glancing at him from the side, Baek Yeo Min remained steadfast further proving how thick her skin was.
A moment after, she looked even more intolerable when the class started brandishing her with criticisms against her.
“Yeah, you shouldn’t talk about how a person looks.”
“Ban Yeo Ryung and Donnie have been friends since they were young, right?”
“What’s wrong with you, Baek Yeo Min?”
She then apologized to me with her eyes brimming with tears. No one had a good end by going behind someone’s back. I took a glance at her and then had my eyes on Kwon Eun Hyung.
Before he turned around to go back to his seat, he gave me a look as if he was asking me what I wanted to do next. That was the first time for me to face his green-gray eyes.
We never shared a long conversation before although he had the friendliest vibe among the Four Heavenly Kings. Perhaps the reason behind his indifference was he found it awkward to approach me.
I barely murmured, “T… hanks.”
His eyes were wide open in surprise, but soon, a warm smile emerged from his dim expression. The class soon was then filled with a golden spring light coming from Kwon Eun Hyung’s smile; his warm expression was the only solace I could find beneath the rays. As I watched his face, I kind of understood why the kids were so fanatical about the Four Heavenly Kings. He was indeed magnificent.
Kwon Eun Hyung seemed to dither for a moment but soon reached out his hand and tapped my head. He then had a gentle smile again.
“If someone calls you Hyang Dan-I again, let me know.”
With that remark, he then went back to his seat at a steady pace. I stood still staring at the direction he disappeared to and touched my bangs with a blank face. Wow, that was awesome.
At that day, I had thought how lucky Ban Yeo Ryung was although she was consistently threatened by a terminal disease or a loss of memories.
* * *
It was early in the morning when I opened my eyes. The gleam of daybreak spread through the window shedding a pale light on Ban Yeo Ryung’s face. I slowly raised my hand to touch my forehead while looking at her.
It had been a while since I last dreamt of the past. The dreams I had were those memories of mine when I just met Ban Yeo Ryung. God, I couldn’t believe 3 years had passed ever since those days happened. I was about to burst out laughing.
If I did not have Ban Yeo Ryung’s back in front of Baek Yeo Min, would I become a nobody to both Yeo Ryung and the Four Heavenly Kings as I wished? No one knows but it seemed possible.
Then I flickered my eyes in wonder. What made me wake up so early? I had no idea. Anyway, it was quite earlier than usual when I fell asleep like the dead, and it was deep enough that I no longer wanted to go back to sleep.
Should I get out of the bed or not? Soon my thought was interrupted by a weak moan from aside. Oh, maybe it was Ban Yeo Ryung who woke me up, a light sleeper in the dawn. A pale voice came out through her lips.
I turned my body towards her direction and dropped my gaze at her as she lay there, deep in sleep. She then spoke once again. I strained my ears in silence.
“No… I didn’t mean to…”
Her frowny brows revealed the anguish within her mind. As I watched her for a while, I let my hand unfurl her grimace. She, however, did not stop her murmuring.
‘Girl, you are going to have wrinkles.’ I kept on spreading her brows but paused for a while after hearing her say, “Donnie.”
“Donnie, please don’t go…”
I stared at her for a while holding my breath. After a few moments, her frown disappeared. Still, her eyes were puckered with distress.
Her cheeks were twitching. Then, I carefully breathed in as I saw the tears on her lashes.
I was confused about what I should do. Then I quietly had my hands around hers. Her trembling breath was like a candle in the wind, but it seemed to gradually even out.
Since I had no idea what I should do next; all I could do at the moment was to grab her hands. That was the last of Ban Yeo Ryung’s anguish-filled moanings as she remained silent afterward.
I had her hands in mine for a while and then looked up the ceiling. I could not leave her alone in this bed. My mind had a complicated turn.
My eyes were back on Ban Yeo Ryung’s face, who was deeply asleep without uttering nothing more of her frightened woes. Her curved profile line, from her round forehead to the tip of the nose, was gorgeous, to say the least.
She is that beautiful… I thought.
Not only just beautiful but also smart enough to never miss the 1st place in school over the last 3 years; in addition, the handsome boys are all in love with her.
The one and only Ban Yeo Ryung, however, had her own troubles in life. It was through Baek Yeo Min when I first realized all of Ban Yeo Ryung’s pain.
If I knew nothing, I thought, if I knew nothing, I would have glanced at Ban Yeo Ryung like many other girls saying, ‘she is annoying’ or ‘I’m so jealous of her,’ and just walked away from her life. I could have not been friends with her. I could have let go of her hands.
Her voice, begging me not to go, was so tender that I grabbed her hands tighter. As I moved my eyes from her to the calendar, the number ’20,’ written on the paper, was clear enough under the pale sunlight.
February 20th. The border between winter and spring. I felt deeply blue around this time of the year. Not that I was fluttered or nervous of the new semester, but it was because of March 2nd, the day that the world was completely changed for me.
3 years ago, I was not scared of the world changing. Instead, I hoped the world shifted to the way it originally was so things could become normal again. Ban Yeo Ryung as well. I wished she vanished away from me.
There was no reason for me to be friends with her. I did not remember anything: what Ham Donnie and Ban Yeo Ryung did at their hangout, what they talked about, what they shared, or what songs and movies she liked…
In fact, there was something else I feared the most. What if I relied on her and become besties with her, only to find out that later, she would disappear again. I was afraid of that; therefore, I never ever wanted to give my heart to her.
It had been less than a year since I sincerely used the word ‘friend’ between us. This had an influence on Ban Yeo Ryung; it made her very sensitive about my mood swings. She seemed afraid of the possibilities as to what if I ignore her or try to be away from her one day as I did before.
I turned around to the wall and closed my eyes tight. My hands were still on hers.
We are both scared of the same thing, I thought. Both of us were fearful of being left alone in the end. We were just not saying that to each other out loud.
Anyway, I grasped her hand firmly. Whatever I looked for in the past, it was already too late. It shook my mind.