Chapter 29: Chapter 29
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It was raining cats and dogs outside the window. The hands of the clock moved incessantly as it pointed 7:20 in the morning. I hugged my knees for a while holding my breath. The heavy silence continued through the phone.
A moment after, Eun Hyung broke the ice. His tone was unusually cautious.
“If it’s about last March 2, I remember that day… It would be screwier to forget since the six of us all became classmates for the first time. Besides, there was also something else.”
He paused as if he was briefly taking a sip of water.
Then he continued with a bashful tone.
“At that day, I was… really happy, so I have certain things in mind. The weather was also amazing.”
“We talked about throwing a party somewhere else to celebrate ourselves being in the same class. It was Jiho and Jooin who were especially active when they suggested their plan. However, you wanted to take a nap from pulling an all-nighter and said we were going to see each other anyway, so no need to fuss around, which totally screwed all the plans.”
The weather made me dreadfully down, but once I heard Eun Hyung talking about that day, a feeble laugh burst out of my mouth. His voice always made those who listened to him recall the moments vividly. Their silly faces after my remark that day came across my mind in such with immense clarity that I could not help but laugh.
I chuckled while heaving my shoulders and slowly pulling my face again. It was because of the thing that happened when I got back home. I might have thrown a party for the faces I would be encountering every day for a year. If I did, I would not have experienced such a thing.
I clenched my fist and spoke at a slow pace.
“Yeah, we all agreed to go back home at last.”
Then I heard mirth from the other side of the phone. Eun Hyung continued with his gentle voice.
“It was not an agreement. You said you wanted to get some sleep, so Yeo Ryung held your hands immediately. She said, we are gonna take a sweet nap together, Donnie will pillow my head with her arms. And you asked with this exhausted face to go ASAP for an arm pillow. We had no choice.”
The memory of the four boys looking absent-mindedly as we left the place made me giggle again. I replied with a faint smile.
“Oh, I did… Sorry. Yeah, we really went back home and fell asleep. As soon as we arrived, we took a long nap in the living room without turning the lights on. You know how our uniform is very uncomfortable, but we didn’t even change? About 3 hours! We slept that much and then I got up…”
I stopped right there and moistened my lips with my tongue. Eun Hyung seemed to be waiting for me to continue in silence.
There was only the sound of breathing between us. Then I closed my eyes and spat out the next words while trembling.
“Yeo Ryung Ban disappeared.”
“It was already at 5 pm, so I thought she might have slept well yesterday. Since she knew I fall asleep as soon as I lay my head; maybe she woke up earlier and went back home. That was what I thought initially. However, as I stood up and looked around the living room, something seemed strange. I was looking for what it was and then I saw my uniform changed into… a normal navy color. Isn’t that funny? It was the uniform of all things…”
I stopped talking and raised my hand to grab the hair that had fallen above my forehead. My lips were twisted into a self-mocking smile. Outside the window, there continued the feeble sounds of the rain. The room was drowned in the heavy silence and darkness filling the space.
After looking at the sceneries, I closed my eyes again and mumbled to myself. What was I doing? Who would believe such things like the uniform and the world changing when I woke up…?
Who would believe that a person I knew was thoroughly removed from the world? No one. Then why was I calling Eun Hyung and talking about all this nonsense? For what purpose?
I grabbed my hair as if I wanted to pull my scalp off. So stupid. So absurd. As I mumbled like that, there came out a voice through the phone.
Eun Hyung said with a flat and gentle voice.
“Are you there?”
Yeah, I tried to respond like, but I was suppressing myself from breaking into tears. I made a faint response that sounded like a moan. As he heard it, Eun Hyung, continued after waiting for a while.
“I’m here… so take your time.”
“Take a break… as long as you want. If you’re having a hard time… You can always start again. Feel free to say what you want. I won’t hang up. I’ll wait for you.”
I released my lips after biting for a few moments. Then I fetched a deep sigh with my eyes closed again. Eun Hyung kept his silence, but I could feel his existence from the sound of his breath.
His words were so warm and sweet that I could not help but to let go of my suppressed tears; however, I raised my head to look up at the ceiling trying to regain my composure. Then I spoke and attempted to ask in a calm tone.
“Do you remember that night? I was… in front of Jooin’s house.”
“Of course, I do… Your eyes were swollen with tears, and your feet were blistery from the uncomfortable slippers you wore in a rush. You were like that when you collapsed in front of Jooin’s house.”
Listening to his voice, I slowly closed my eyes. That was right. That evening, I was slouching in front of Jooin’s house and he later found me. As he immediately told the others about the situation, Yoo Chun Young, who lived close from Jooin’s house, Eun Hyung, Eun Jiho, and Yeo Ryung jumped out of their houses. Then they came to me and pulled my arm to lift me up from the way I crouched miserably like a homeless person.
I barely stood up but could not walk due to the pain I felt around my feet. The worst part was that my visions were blurry, so I had no idea who raised me up.
I articulated the reason why I was huddling in front of Jooin’s house.
“I was searching for his house, but I couldn’t find where it was… So I was wandering around.”
Eun Hyung replied, “My God. How can you get lost right in front of his house? It wasn’t even your first time… I haven’t seen Chun Young talking like that much for ages. You might have no idea but from my memory, it has been nearly 3 years. That night, Jooin drew a map of the entire neighborhood and handed it to you.”
“I wasn’t lost.”
As soon as he finished what he was saying, I spat out those words. Then I breathed in slowly and closed my eyes again. Remembering that day seemed to make my heart beat faster. I muttered to myself.
The rain kept on falling and I was talking on the phone with Eun Hyung. Nothing had changed yet.
The silence did not remain long. Eun Hyung asked back.
“What happened then?”
I opened my lips, but I couldn’t speak. I budged my lips for a while and barely continued my response with downcasted eyes.
“… As I woke up and found out that my uniform changed, I checked out my phone. It made me calm down since all the names were still there. Yeo Ryung Ban, Woo Jooin, Kwon Eun Hyung… you guys were all there. So I called Yeo Ryung Ban… but the number didn’t exist.”
“I wore whatever I could get my hands on, and I dashed out of the house with my slippers on. I knocked on the next door like crazy. What if the place was empty. When I was about to get really concerned, fortunately, someone came out. However, it was a lady I never saw in my life. You know, Yeo Ryung is extremely pretty. That’s because she and her mother look alike. The lady was, however, a stranger. As I snooped around and asked if Yeo Ryung Ban living here, she said her husband’s last name is Ha. Then she closed the door as if she saw a weirdo.”
I stopped at that part and clenched my fist. Eun Hyung did not say a word. He did not question if I was out of my mind. He did nothing. He was just listening to my story.