Time passed quickly.
Seo Jeong-yoon and Kang Chae-heon were the same as usual. They never really had personal conversations, and when their eyes met, their expressions stiffened. When they moved together, Chae-heon was always surrounded by other friends, whereas Jeong-yoon stuck with Min-soo, and he never try to approach Chae-heon.
They spent their time studying and taking finals, and soon the weather turned cold enough for thicker clothes.
Jeong-yoon was lying lazily on the couch in the study room as usual. The windows, which had been wide open in the autumn, were now tightly shut against the chilly breeze.
He read some books and played games. It was almost that person’s free period. Jeong-yoon was waiting quietly for the person to come to the study room.
Around half-past three, the study room door opened. It was Kang Chae-heon, wearing a neatly fitted coat and Converse shoes.
Chae-heon usually preferred to wear simple sneakers. It seemed like he didn’t want to make himself look taller anymore.
From what Jeong-yoon had observed, Chae-heon’s shoes were always in pristine condition. Most guys didn’t pay much attention until their white sneakers turned gray, but Chae-heon was different. Well, he was the type who even carried a handkerchief around, so it wasn’t surprising that he had clean shoes.
Jeong-yoon pretended not to notice him, keeping his gaze on his book, but his attention was definitely on Chae-heon. Beside him, Min-soo started a conversation with Chae-heon and the others.
“Are your exams over?”
In response to his question, they all began to talk about their own situations.
“Mine finished yesterday. But I haven’t gone home yet.”
“Oh, right. Your home is in Busan, isn’t it?”
“I finished today.”
“Lucky. I still have two more days.”
While they were chatting with others, Min-soo tapped Jeong-yoon’s knee.
“Jeong-yoon, you’re going to the military, right? Let’s have a drink today. We should celebrate.”
Jeong-yoon put down the book he had been reading and looked at Min-soo with an incredulous expression. Min-soo chuckled. Jung-yoon gritted his teeth and said.
“You celebrated my decision to join the military. That’s very thoughtful of you.”
“Then, as a thank you, will you pay for the drinks?”
“You crazy bastard. Hey, wanna fight?”
Jeong-yoon threw the book aside and playfully kicked Min-soo on the back. Of course, Min-soo didn’t pay it any mind. He simply laughed and said, “You’re getting sentimental again,” but that just annoyed Jeong-yoon more, and he kicked out at Min-soo again. Min-soo ignored him again.
It was then. Chae-heon, who was sitting on a chair and tapping his cell phone, spoke while his gaze was fixed on the screen.
“Let’s go. Have a drink.”
He soon looked up and said with a stoic expression.
The bell rang.
Everyone cheered, exclaiming with excitement. Nobody would refuse free drinks.
Jeong-yoon, who had been pushing Min-soo with his knees, looked up. His face seemed to show more doubt than joy.
“Kang Chae-heon. Don’t you have an exam tomorrow?”
“But you want to go for a drink? And you’re paying?”
Chae-heon answered simply as if what was the problem. Of course, there was always no reason for him to pay. Even though it was extremely rare for Jeong-yoon to take advantage of him.
“Hey, Chae-heon’s treating, why do you care?”
Min-soo scolded Jeong-yoon as he tried to ask more questions, forcing Jeong-yoon to give up. But Jeong-yoon had more questions in his head.
‘Why do you care? This is a celebration party for me going to the military, right?’ But he decided to keep his mouth shut, finding it too bothersome.
Min-soo patted Jeong-yoon on the back and said with a happy expression on his face.
“Let’s go to Florence. The snacks there are delicious.”
“Calm down. It’s not open yet.”
“Shall we go to Baekhwadang? Do you want to drink makgeolli?”
“Kang Chae-heon is the one paying, so why are you making such a fuss?”
“I mean, I haven’t been drinking lately. You know.”
Min-soo burst into laughter, his shoulders shaking. Was he trying to act cute? Jeong-yoon raised an eyebrow, as if silently expressing his inability to comprehend Min-soo’s behavior.
“But… are you excited, Kim Min-soo? Because I’m going to the military? Huh?”
“It’s not like that, but drinking is exciting.”
Jeong-yoon sighed. Min-soo was still the same old Kim Min-soo.
“Hey. Do you think you will never go to the army for the rest of your life?”
To that question, Min-soo tilted his head slightly to the left.
“Yeah, I won’t be going.”
“Why? Are you a gold spoon too?”
“No. I’m not a gold spoon, but… My nationality is American. It’s an American spoon.”
Jeong-yoon stared at Min-soo in disbelief.
He had no idea. He really had no idea. Kim Min-soo, who looked like any other ordinary Korean guy, and whose name was so common it could be found in any textbook, was an American. But even more surprising was the fact that Min-soo wouldn’t be going to the military.
Unbelievable. Life could be so unfair.
Min-soo wore a somewhat disappointed expression.
“You really didn’t know? How could you not know?”
“Do I have to know?”
“…Wow. Seriously, Jeong-yoon, you…”
Min-soo slightly parted his lips and raised his thumb as if to say something. Amidst it all, there was a hint of hurt in his eyes. But Jeong-yoon didn’t care and turned his head away. Min-soo laughed again. Among the people Jeong-yoon knew, he had the strongest mentality.
Hours passed in the study room as they chatted. Before they knew it, the sun had set. Chae-heon had attended one of his liberal arts classes during that time.
When Jeong-yoon checked the time, it was nearly six o’clock. According to Min-soo, it was the perfect time for the first drink of the evening. They all got ready to go out with big smiles on their faces.
Jeong-yoon approached Chae-heon, who was holding his coat.
“Are you really okay with this, considering you have an exam tomorrow?”
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
“I feel bad that it’s because of me…”
There was a caring tone in his voice that Jeong-yoon had never shown before. Chae-heon looked down at Jeong-yoon slightly.
“I said I would do it, so there’s no need for you to feel bad.”
Chae-heon straightened his collar before putting on his coat, speaking firmly and clearly. Oddly, Jeong-yoon was not offended. Jeong-yoon couldn’t help but smile as Chae-heon put on his coat and chuckled lightly.
“Besides, if my grades drop because I don’t study for a day, I won’t even get a scholarship in the first place.”
Jeong-yoon was left momentarily speechless at this remark. Even though he liked Chae-heon, he still wanted to slap him when he bragged about himself with such a casual expression. It was as if he had gone from bragging about wealth to bragging about grades. Both were undeniable realities, which made Jeong-yoon a bit irritated.
Chae-heon adjusted his coat and gestured for him to go. A subtle whiff of his signature cologne wafted through the air. Jeong-yoon nodded and shifted his gaze elsewhere.
There were moments that happened sometimes. It was when things like Kang Chae-heon’s perfume scent, his slowly fluttering eyelashes, or his lazily charming smile would catch Jeong-yoon off guard.
This was one of those moments.