It was June . The impatient students were already going to school in T-shirts - one of the positives of not having uniforms . Since Maru didn’t get cold very easily, he decided to wear a T-shirt himself .
He rode his bike with earphones . The scenery swooshed by him rapidly . He could see a kid walking by while holding his mother’s hand in the morning sun . He was wearing a yellow bag with a little yellow hat . They must be going to kindergarten .
‘Come to think of it, why use yellow all the time?’
Before he knew it, he had reached school . He got off his bike and walked past the disciplinary teacher casually . The man smiled at him, looking at his short hair .
Maru never really cared for hairstyles, always opting for the short sporty ones . As he parked his bike, he noticed Dowook doing the same as well .
“Nice bike as always,” he called out .
“Go buy one yourself, then . ”
Dowook turned around with a little smile . The boy would’ve ignored Maru in the past, but at this point they were finally starting to exchange greetings . After that incident, Dowook had stopped being a delinquent altogether . He seemed to be melding in with the rest of his class pretty well, too .
Of course, he was still going back home alone .
Maru walked into the class and threw his bag onto his desk . Dojin shot him a tired greeting from his desk .
“Mor . . . ning . ”
“Why do you look so spent on such a joyous Friday morning?”
“ . . . Practice sapped me yesterday . I came back home at eleven last night . I dreamed of instructor Miso swearing at me . ”
Dojin shivered, revealing a dark pair of eyebags .
“Two days left, huh,” Maru commented .
“One, actually . If you count today . ”
“Come on, the day hasn’t even started . How are you guys, by the way? Doing well I hope?”
It was three weeks ago when he heard of them doing their first run . That was the beginning of May . The time when he first visited the kindergarten with Soojin .
He knew that the club was doing actual dress rehearsals at this point . With all the props and costumes and everything . They even visited the actual auditorium where they’d be performing . According to Dojin, the place was “disgustingly big” .
It was a vast space with 500 seats . Of course it would be intimidating to the kids .
“Perfect? Hehehe, perfect . . . ”
Dojin seemed to be bordering insanity at this point . Maru spent some time watching the club during their practice sessions . For sure, the club members had changed . Firstly, they were all strictly off-book, with the exception of Miso .
Maru watched one of their runs before . Everything from the start to finish was flawless . Good enough to make him almost clap subconsciously . They must’ve been trying hard .
After the run, the club members would immediately grouped together to critique each other’s work . Miso only intervened when they got stuck on something .
‘So the practice they do after I leave was the real thing . ’
The actual dress rehearsal probably began after 5pm . Of course, he didn’t actually know if this was the case . He could only hazard a guess from looking at Dojin’s current state .
“O-oh, morning . ”
Daemyung stumbled over to the two of them from the front of the class .
“Hey, what’s up with the two of you looking so tired? You guys are performing in just two days . ”
Maru pressed his friends’ shoulders lightly with a reassuring face .
“Right . Two days . ”
“We’re gonna work our asses off . ”
“You sounded pretty damn tired when you said your lines yesterday . ”
“No you . ”
The two of them looked at each other for a second before sighing and taking out their scripts .
“Should we do some reading?”
“Guess we have to . ”
Maru’s two friends started analyzing the script that they’ve studied all these months .
“Work hard . ”
Maru left them to it . He was busy with his own stuff as well . While the club was busy practicing for the competition, Maru’s time was spent on helping Soojin run her puppet plays .
He actually got a call from her early in the morning yesterday . It would seem that she received word that it was a school holiday . She immediately asked him where he lived when he dazedly said he would help .
As he looked at the time after ending the call, the doorbell rang . Soojin was here before he knew it . Right then, he could catch a glimpse of Miso’s expression .
She was starting to resemble her friend .
Maru left a note on the table and left with the woman . They were headed to an orphanage . According to her, they didn’t have any other time to do it since the orphanage was closing soon .
They arrived barely in time in Daejeon . The first thing Soojin did was hug the principal of the orphanage and cry together . They seem well acquainted with each other . Maru just watched the two of them awkwardly .
Preparations were quick to start, as Maru realized why they came here in a small van instead of the usual car . An incredible amount of toys and dolls were stored in the trunk, along with clothes and food . That did make him wonder .
Just what was Soojin’s day job?
“Me? I do a bunch of things . Hehe . ”
Hehe? How was he supposed to connect that laugh with all that money of hers? In the end, he just gave up on thinking about it . She was probably born with a silver spoon in her mouth .
The orphanage took care of kids under 7 years of age . They had teenagers in the past, but after coming under hard times, they had to start sending the children away to other places . It was quite a bitter story .
“We don’t even call this place an orphanage anymore . It’s just daycare . ”
The middle-aged principal smiled sorrowfully as she touched upon the rusty doors . Soojin said she wanted to give the children here their last memories before the orphanage closed down for good . It was a small forgettable event for the children, but hopefully it could make the moving experience a little bit better for them .
Soojin really was the definition of a selfless person . The show began after the three of them moved all the gifts inside . The moment Soojin entered the building, the children shouted ‘wah!’ with joy .
The lady was popular just about anywhere . Popular amongst children and adults alike . Then again, who could hate such a hard-working, cheerful lady like her?
Maru ended up working incredibly hard that morning . Before he knew it, it was already noon . He gave each of the 37 children in the orphanage their personalized gifts . Each of the boxes even included a message from Soojin . He couldn’t even imagine how much work that must’ve taken . The boxes were all even individually wrapped, with each of the gifts catered towards for each child .
“They’re probably going through really hard times, having to start over and all . I want to give them a good memory they can reference in those times . Hopefully they can look back to this moment and think ‘life was good’ at some point . Then again, they might not even remember this at all . ”
Maru could easily feel how much Soojin loved each child . She knew each of the 37 kids by name . She must’ve had some special memories attached to this place .
“This was actually my home,” she said, seemingly reading his mind .
Ah . Maru never would’ve guessed from her personality and usual demeanor . She just seemed like the type of person who’s never gone through any hardship in her life . Soojin took this as a chance to speak a little bit more about herself .
“I met my parents when I was just about your age . They were good people . They scolded me when I deserved to be scolded, and they hugged me when I really needed it . They changed my perspective of hating my birth parents to being able to forgive them . That’s when I realized that I wanted to be like them . Even though they’re both far better people than I could ever be . ”
Maru realized that was why Soojin’s smiles never once seemed light to him . Under those smiles were a lot of past hardships . She managed to overcome her pains and changed herself . Her adopted parents probably helped a lot in the process, but she was ultimately able to change because of herself .
Maru stopped himself from saying ‘that’s amazing’ . That didn’t seem like quite the fitting reaction . He didn’t want to judge all of her life with just a few words . So he just decided not to say anything .
In the afternoon, they held a barbeque party in the backyard of the orphanage . There were enough meat and vegetables to feed 30 adult men . The kids all laughed and talked as they ate the meat Soojin grilled for them .
“Tiring, isn’t it?” Soojin asked .
“Yes, it really is . ”
“Pft . That’s what I like about you, Maru . You’re very honest and direct about everything . ”
“I’m good at lying . I just know when to lie and when not to . ”
7pm . By then, everything was cleaned up and the kids were all sleeping together in their rooms .
“Thank you for everything . ”
“No, thank you for everything . ”
The day at the orphanage ended as it began, with the principal hugging Soojin . The two of them made their way back up to Suwon in a hurry .
When they came back home, Soojin gave Maru a white envelope . Maru refused immediately . He didn’t want to get paid for something like this .
He did it because he wanted to . Plus, he learned a lot from doing this as well . He was able to learn the basics of plays from this . As a matter of fact, this was the type of stuff you would normally pay to learn .
But Soojin was stubborn . She tried to hand him the envelope even as he was getting out of the car . She even said she wouldn’t go home if he didn’t take it .
“I was the one who made you work without any prior notice . So I should obviously pay you for it . This is the rule for adults . You’re an adult too, right Maru?”
She sounded like she was trying to console a child . Maru had to give in with that . He took the envelope, telling her he would use it well . He waved her off and walked back into the house .
Of course, his mother tried to ask him just where in the world he was all day . Instead of giving her a proper response, he just gave her the envelope .
He thought there would be 30,000 won in there at best, but there turned out to be a whopping 150,000 won in there instead .
“What in the world did you do?” mom asked .
“ . . . Work?”
All that was just yesterday . Maru was also understandably tired this morning .
* * *
Several minutes before their 5th class began, the advisor for the acting club came to call on the three of them .
Maru, Dojin, and Daemyung followed Taesik up to the auditorium .
“I never thought I’d rather be studying instead of doing this . ”
“Me too . Thinking of looking at instructor Miso is just . . . ”
The school must’ve given them permission to skip class since the preliminaries were just two days away . Taesik told the three of them ‘work hard, all of you’, and Maru’s two friends nodded in response .
Everyone else was already gathered in the auditorium, including Miso . Even Soojin was there, along with an unfamiliar man .
“Hey, Maru,” Soojin waved .
Thanks to her, he got the attention of the entire club . Maru waved back awkwardly with a smile .
“What the, you know that lady?” Dojin asked, nudging him from the side .
Maru just said he kind of knew her and walked over to the rest of the club .
“Maru, you come this way,” Miso pointed at the man next to Soojin .
The man was just around 175cm in height . Similar to Maru’s height now . He had a decent frame, with a very well defined face .
Then there was his eyes .
Playful, yet focused eyes immediately told Maru that this person was someone special .
“We meet again,” the man said .
Maru had heard that voice before . Back then at the…
“Ah, you were at the Blue Sky theater . . . ”
“So you remember . Nice to meet you . I’m the big brother of Geunseok over there, Hong Geunsoo,” the man grinned .
Maru’s jaw dropped a little bit . He definitely remembered this person . The star of the future . This was the person who starred in 5 movies that raked in 10 million views each . A person who single handedly carried the movie industry even at the age of 50 . Memories from the past started flowing out once his identity was established .
‘That’s right, I was listening to this person’s radio as I drove the bus . ’
But that didn’t last long . His memories immediately faded and disappeared . But he was still able to remember what the man looked like at the age of 50 . A very handsome gentleman who exuded a noble aura .
“What, surprised that I’m so handsome?” Geunsoo asked, after noticing Maru’s stare .
“So this is what you were like around now . ”
“Oh, it’s nothing . ”
So the actor, famous for his serious roles, was actually quite a lighthearted person in the past .
“Now then! Let’s begin . ”
Miso grabbed everyone’s attention with a clap . The air in the room suddenly grew tense .
“We only have a few dress rehearsals left . Let’s make this perfect . ”
The club members started moving with a confident response .