Jeong-yoon didn’t even know how the conversation was going. He also couldn’t tell what Mi-hee and her juniors were saying while laughing and talking in front of him.
He had just been in a daze since earlier. So, he just listened quietly to their conversation, nodding along with a smile on his face.
It was then. He heard the sound of an old wooden door opening behind him. Jeong-yoon gently lowered the hand that was resting on his chin. He thought it was Chae-heon, but he didn’t turn around. He found it funny that he had such strange expectations that it would be Kang Chae-heon.
What arrived before the sight of the person entering was the scent. The perfume that Chae-heon always wore. Whenever he smelled a similar scent while walking down the street, he found himself stopping involuntarily.
He turned his head to follow the scent. Then there was Kang Chae-heon in front of him.
He warmly waved at Mi-hee, then greeted me as well.
Then, he naturally sat down next to Jeong-yoon. Jeong-yoon’s heart started pounding. Hearing a voice on the phone and seeing the person he hasn’t seen in years were entirely different experiences. His nervousness and restlessness inside were palpable.
Chae-heon lightly dropped a book he was holding onto the table.
“It’s been a while.”
Jeong-yoon barely answered. He was very fortunate that the end of his voice did not tremble.
He was still very handsome when Jeong-yoon finally mustered up the courage to look at him. Even though it was obvious, it excited him like crazy. It felt as if a child was standing on the starting line of a race with a pounding heart. Truly ridiculous.
Kang Chae-heon didn’t change much. The kind smile he showed to others was the same as before, and his clean and smooth skin was the same as that of a rich child. The only difference was the deep, more mature look in his eyes.
Kang Chae-heon tapped the book and rested his chin.
“Class is over?”
“Huh? Oh, yes.”
“Have you eaten?”
“What about coffee?”
“Coffee? I haven’t had any.”
Chae-heon’s questions poured out in droves. Jeong-yoon nodded and answered like a good boy. I felt like something was pushing me, but I couldn’t not answer.
Soon Chae-heon picked up the book. Then he motioned towards Jeong-yoon, who had a blank expression, to get up.
‘What. Why am I moving?’
Even though Jeong-yoon was thinking that, he still got up from his seat. Chae-heon lightly carried Jeong-yoon’s bag.
“Let’s go out.”
“Yeah, right now.”
Chae-heon nodded and turned his back. It looked like he was about to leave the room, but he was still holding Seo Jeong-yoon’s bag in his hand. He was a very confident bag snatcher. In front of the room, Chae-heon smiled at Mi-hee and exchanged a friendly greeting with the freshmen. Then…
He urged Jeong-yoon once again.
With an incomprehensible firmness, Chae-heon’s strong voice resounded. Jeong-yoon blinked once, then nodded, taking his phone with him. He heard Mi-hee’s dissatisfied tone.
“What. Why don’t they talk with us a little longer? They just leave to chat by themselves. Are they best friends or something?”
Best friends, huh? Hearing that, Jeong-yoon smiled slightly as if it was absurd.
After a while. In the room where Seo Jeong-yoon and Kang Chae-heon disappeared, three freshmen pressed their faces towards the pouting Mi-hee.
“Sunbae. Is the tall person who just came also a senior?”
“Yeah. His name is Kang Chae-heon… He also served in the military and has now returned to school.”
The juniors gasped in unison. Their ears were a little hot as they thought about what they were thinking. There seemed to be a hint of excitement and curiosity in their voices and on their faces.
Mi-hee, who saw that, laughed as if it was amusing. There was a pleasant sense of deja vu. Three years ago, she had made a similar expression when she saw them during the freshman welcome party.
“He’s handsome, isn’t he?”
The freshmen nodded hesitantly.
“Who do you think is more handsome?”
“Just… they are both handsome.”
“But still, isn’t Jeong-yoon a bit more charming?”
The freshmen’s answers were very honest. They laughed softly, looking at the door where Chae-heon and Jeong-yoon had left.
“I hope those seniors come to our room often.”
“Yeah, I’ll bring them often.”
Mi-hee nodded and raised the corners of her mouth discreetly. Though she was a little annoyed that Seo Jeong-yoon had gone with Chae-heon to go out to play without her, the thought of going to school together again made her naturally smile.
Seo Jeong-yoon nodded to Kang Chae-heon’s question.
They went to a coffee shop near Jeong-yoon’s house. Kang Chae-heon, who suggested they have coffee together, brought him here. He thought they’d drink it at school at first, but he ended up driving here.
‘You’re going home anyway.’
It was because of Kang Chae-heon’s actions of casually tossing Jeong-yoon’s bag into the car. In the confusion, the bag ended up being taken along as a kind of hostage.
‘Sure, it’s also nice if you could give me a ride home.’
Jeong-yoon thought so and nodded. There was no particular reason to refuse. In fact, he felt grateful and happy for his kindness.
Chae-heon, who had been so pushy with his questions in the study room, returned to his usual self as soon as they got into the car. He became the cold Chae-heon, engaging in a silent race with no trace of a smile on his face.
‘Such an unpredictable guy.’
Jeong-yoon thought so, but deep down he thought it would be better this way. Chae-heon was overly forceful in the department room. It was unusual to see his crush, whom he hadn’t seen in years, acting strangely.
Kang Chae-heon naturally paid for the coffee himself. Jeong-yoon fiddled with his wallet in his pocket. He was unsure if he should contribute. He used to just say ‘here’ and hand over the money, but now it felt a bit awkward.
Chae-heon seemed to notice Jeong-yoon’s hesitation.
“Don’t be burdened by a cup of coffee. I told you I had a lot of money.”
Chae-heon made a light joke. However, his expression was as serious as a sixth-grade student participating in an English speaking contest.
Jeong-yoon looked at Kang Chae-heon’s expression. This must be a joke, right? It couldn’t be that he was seriously showing off about having money. But still no emotion could be seen on his face.
‘Maybe he’s just showing off his money…’
A vague suspicion crossed his mind.
The two stood in silence near the counter, but as soon as the coffee arrived, they sat face to face at the table.
Chae-heon, whom he met for the first time in about two years, had a slightly different atmosphere. It’s hard to describe, but now he seemed fully like a man. There was a strong presence of male hormones evident in things like his jawline and gaze. But when he smiled kindly at Mi-hee earlier, that smile seemed youthful and fresh like a boy.
Yes. Honestly, he seemed more handsome than before.
That somehow felt a bit unfair.d He didn’t expect him to come back all polished from the military, but still, it shouldn’t be like this. It would have been more comfortable if he had become a bit more like an uncle.
‘…A useless thought.’
Jeong-yoon smiled and raised his glass.
“Kang Chae-heon. It seems like you haven’t changed.”
“You are also just as I remember.”
Why? Even though it wasn’t a very meaningful answer, Jeong-yoon was speechless for a moment. The warmth of the cup in his hands was comforting.
Even though he had only been to the military once, hearing the phrase “just as I remember” made it feel like they had been apart for ten years. In reality, suppressing the longing made it seem like it’s really been ten years. Thanks to that, this ordinary conversation with him felt even more dreamlike.
Jeong-yoon, who was absentmindedly stirring the coffee stick, looked up.
“So, you went to the military around the same time as me? Army?”
“No, I was in the special forces.”
“Don’t you have to apply for that in advance?”
“I applied right away when I heard about your enlistment.”
His words made Jeong-yoon feel strange because it sounded as if he had deliberately chosen to coincide with the time when he was going to the military.
“How was the special forces? Was it fun?”
Chae-heon laughed as if he found the question absurd. It was the first smile he saw from him since they entered the coffee shop.
Well, whether it’s special forces, army, air force, or navy, a soldier is a soldier. There’s hardly any room for it to be fun. Jeong-yoon touched her cup with a puzzled expression.
“Well. I just endured it too. I’m sorry for asking a strange question.”
“It’s okay. You can keep asking.”
After hearing that, Jeong-yoon felt like he really needed to ask something more. Yet, he didn’t really have any more questions to ask now.
But as he absentmindedly tapped the cup, a foolish question suddenly came to mind. For example, something like ‘Do you have a girlfriend?’
Instead of asking, Jeong-yoon glanced at Chae-heon’s fingers. There was no ring that looked like a couple ring. He also sneakily looked at his phone on the table. There didn’t seem to be any messages from a girlfriend.
But he can’t jump to conclusions. Maybe he has a cool girlfriend who doesn’t contact him frequently.
Jeong-yoon, who had entertained these thoughts, found himself a bit funny and chuckled a little.
‘Am I a detective? What am I doing, always trying to deduce things?’
It was none of his business whether Chae-heon had a girlfriend or not. However, it was surprisingly Chae-heon who brought up the term ‘girlfriend’ first.
“Do you have one?”
Jeong-yoon just answered ‘Huh?’ with a dumb expression on his face. Chae-heon’s question caught him off guard as it echoed the very question he had been contemplating. Did he somehow read his mind? Did he speak his thoughts aloud? Such thoughts crossed Jeong-yoon’s mind.
Jeong-yoon swallowed hard and answered with a flat expression.
“As if I’d have a girlfriend. I was in the military. How about you? Do you have one?”
“I was in the military too.”
Chae-heon’s answer almost made Jeong-yoon break into a genuine smile.
“What difference does it make if Chae-heon doesn’t have a girlfriend? Why does it matter?”
Even as Jeong-yoon thought about that, the corners of his mouth kept rising. He met Kang Chae-heon after a long time. The reunion with him went by without as much awkwardness as he thought.
He picked up the cup of coffee. The temperature was just right for his hand to touch.