Life, Once Again! - Chapter 213
Jiyoon smiled when she looked at herself through the mirror, she looked like quite the actress with a script in her hand. After joining the acting club, she tried watching an episode of an actor-centric TV show. Jiyoon stared dazedly as she observed the daily tasks of an everyday actor. Could she become like them, too? Despite being a novice? Could she also perform beautiful acts under the spotlight? It became her dream to have a handsome male actor appear from the side curtains, walking towards her and earning amazing applauses from the audience. ‘…That probably won’t happen.’ Jiyoon returned to reality after a nice daze. She tried smiling at herself in the mirror and immediately had to turn away from embarrassment. She flopped down on her freshly-washed blankets and read the script over and over again. It’s been four days since they received the script, all they’ve done during that time was something called reading. They’ve just been reading out their lines in order. Apparently, this was important for learning the flow of the play, according to Suyeon. It was difficult to even read the lines normally, pronouncing everything correctly was quite difficult. Maru and Daemyung seemed to have gotten a different instruction from Suyeon, seeing how some of their lines would come out with a different nuance every once in a while. “Ah, say their line, not spit.” Learning industry terms like this really made her sink into the reality that they were preparing for a play. Jiyoon loosened her mouth a little and bit down on her pen with her molars as Suyeon taught her. It looked pretty disturbing, but this was apparently good for fixing pronunciation. The act of biting down helped with loosening one’s tongue. For sure, with the pen in place, Jiyoon couldn’t move her lips as much when she talked. She needed to focus a lot on her breathing and the movements of her tongue for accurate pronunciation in a state like this. “Is not lik yo becom dirdy becase you drink.” She tried reading ‘It’s not like you become dirty because you drink’ just now. The pronunciation was abhorrent, but it was still noticeably better than it was a few days ago. Just as she tried to reposition herself and try saying the line again, the door opened. Jiyoon quickly took the pen out of her mouth and looked awkwardly at her mother at the door. “What are you doing?” “U-um…” She hadn’t said anything to her mother about acting just yet, her relationship with her mother was awkward from a young age. She recalled following her mother very well when she was young, but at some point, they grew apart. Even more so than her father, who was working in a foreign country. “Stop doing weird stuff and get to studying. You should think about changing if you ended up getting to an engineering school. How long are you planning on living life so haphazardly like that? Don’t you ever think we can’t take care of you forever?” “…Yes.” Jiyoon didn’t dare raise her head, she didn’t have the courage to meet her mother’s sharp gaze. Her mother slowly closed the door. Just before it completely closed, her mother’s voice slipped through the door’s cracks. “Aren’t you already ashamed of having to go to an engineering school?” Jiyoon stared at the now-closed door for a second before taking out a textbook from her bag. Study… she should do it. It wasn’t like she slacked off in middle school. She took notes during classes, she also previewed and reviewed class material in an academy after school. She just couldn’t get good grades during tests. Her notes were very popular among her classmates for being so neat, but her grades were still amongst the lowest in her class. She knew the reason why, since she was always sick around test season. Her stomach always hurt during tests and she would struggle with breathing. She could only focus so well with her terrible body and her grades always hit rock bottom. It actually started becoming a common pattern at some point. She always used to hear that she was good at studying in elementary school, things changed once she was in middle school. Jiyoon thought she was broken, that’s why she gave up on a humanities school for an engineering school instead. She went to a meeting with her homeroom teacher with her mother, she could still remember that expression her mother made when the teacher suggested an engineering school. Mother apologized later, of course, but Jiyoon would never forget that expression of wrath, disgust, and hatred directed straight at her. That was probably when their relationship started deteriorating. Jiyoon shook her head, all these negative feelings weren’t doing her any good. Instead, she took her time organizing lecture notes from math class. She beamed at her equations for a second before taking out her sketchbook, the sore hobby she had. There were two reasons why she went to an engineering school. First, her test scores were bad. Second, it had a design class. Jiyoon would feel her heart calm foen whenever she drew something with her pencil, the paper was free from all the competition and shame that she was subject to in the real world. She didn’t have any desire to work in design, but perhaps it wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Just as she started sketching out her pencil sharpener, she heard the front door open. Was mom going outside? “Welcome, welcome.” She could hear her mom happily greet people inside, Jiyoon felt her heart start to race. Should she pretend to be asleep? Or should she run out saying she needed to buy something for school? Right then, her door opened. She could see women around mom’s age sitting in the living room through the crack. “You should say hello,” mom said, before turning around. Jiyoon awkwardly stood up and stepped in front of the guests. “Hello.” “Oh my, Jiyoon, it’s been such a long time! Do you remember me?” The woman in the brown sweater asked. Jiyoon couldn’t remember who the woman was, but she responded with a ‘yes’ anyway. It was an awkward situation regardless of what she did, so she just stood in her place dazedly. The guests were talking with each other happily. Jiyoon wondered if she could go back in, but her mom called her to the kitchen. “Here, carry this.” She carried the plate of snacks and put it in front of the guests, it was expensive tea and chocolate from Japan. “Oh my, you’re so cool, president-to-be. These look so expensive!” “My husband sent it to me from where he’s working right now.” “He was in Japan, right?” “Yes.” Mom laughed with a hand over her mouth, Jiyoon wanted to step back into her room but had to sit back down because one of the guests stopped her. “You should have some as well. Your daughter is so pretty, by the way. She must take it from you.” “No way, she resembles her father more.” Jiyoon looked down from a sense of incredible futility when her mother stroked her thigh gently. Her mother was scolding her just a moment ago for not studying, yet now she was treating her so nicely? The change in attitude stabbed Jiyoon like a needle. “You must have it so nice. Your husband is talented and your daughter is so pretty.” “Please don’t bring me up so much. Don’t you have two very handsome sons as well?” “Sons are nothing special. Daughters are where it’s at nowadays. Hyunsoo recently brought back a girlfriend from his American college, and my, it’s like he cares more about his girlfriend than me now.” A lady wearing rounded glasses spoke out from next to the brown-sweater lady. “Come to think of it, Hyunsoo’s in the middle of his Phd. in the US, isn’t he?” “Yes. Neither I nor my husband is very smart, but Hyunsoo is, thankfully. He’s gotten all sorts of scholarships and grants, so he doesn’t even need any support from us.” Jiyoon could see the brown-sweater lady’s smile start to widen. On the other hand, her mother started speaking less and less. “It must be nice to have a son like Hyunsoo.” “Oh, you’re too much, Mijin’s mom. Oh, I heard the news by the way. Mijin got into a big company recently, right?” “He didn’t even go into grad school! He said he wanted to start working right away.” “He’s good enough to get right in without even more studying, so it’s completely fine. Hyunsoo should be jealous of Mijin. Ah, Mijin was in Seoul University, right?” “Yes. I’m so thankful that he grew up well.” “Our Hyunsoo also used to study there until he transferred. Ah, what university did Yangsoo go to, by the way?” The lady on the left side of the brown-sweater lady opened her mouth quietly. “Yangsoo’s still in high school.” “Is that so?” “Yes. He’s in Minsa high, so it’s hard to see him these days.” “Lord, wasn’t that the school where the students have to wear hanbok?” “That’s right. He was preparing to apply for foreign colleges before he cut contact. What a cruel boy.” “I’m sure he’ll be kinder after growing up. He’s smart, after all.” Now, the ladies turned to look at Jiyoon. Jiyoon was starting to find it harder to breathe, it felt like there were a bunch of snakes hissing at her. She would get bitten the moment she did something wrong. She turned her head to look at her mother, who was quietly sipping her tea. “Aren’t you in high school, Jiyoon?” “Yes? Ah, yes.” “Which school are you going to? The most famous high school around here is Gwangchun, so it has to be that, right?” “Has to be.” “Or a science school. She looks very smart. Pretty girls are so good at studying too nowadays.” Jiyoon twiddled her fingers for a moment before responding quietly. “I-I go to Woosung High.” “Woosung High? What’s that?” “Ah! Could it be the engineering high school from next to this place?” It was just a fraction of a second, but Jiyoon could clearly hear the mocking laughter coming from a few of the guests. “…Yes.” Her voice became even quieter. Quieter and quieter, out of the fear that others might hear her. “I see.” That was the end of that. After a few seconds of silence, they started talking again about the beautiful interior of the house. Only then did her mother finally broke her silence and start talking again. Jiyoon quietly stood up and went back to her room after a curt bow, she was exhausted. Her heart was beating furiously, it felt like she was taking another test. She needed to sleep, she didn’t even have the energy to open her eyes. As her eyes closed, she heard the ladies speaking outside. The one sentence that really stuck out to her was ‘Jiyoon’s mom has it very hard’. “Hah.” Jiyoon forced a smile, but she couldn’t stop her heart from trying to calm down. She felt sorry for her mother and disgusted at herself for no reason.
* * * Sunday morning. When Jiyoon stepped out of her room, she couldn’t stop thinking of what happened yesterday. She gave her mom a glance from the dining table. “Have some breakfast.” “…Right.” Toast, milk, and fruit. Her mother didn’t say a thing during their meal. She finally opened her mouth as Jiyoon put the dishes back in the sink. “Jiyoon.” “Yes?” “Let’s go to an academy again.” “Academy?” “This won’t do at all. You just can’t get good grades because you aren’t trying hard enough. You need to relearn the basics down again by going to school. There’s nothing wrong with going to an engineering school. You just need to go to a good college.” Mom picked up the phone as she spoke. She started getting into it with a ton of unfamiliar terms, then started explaining things in very fluent English. Mom quickly put down her phone after hanging up. “We’ll start with math first and then English. You were good at math, so we might as well start with that.” “…….” “Why aren’t you saying anything?” “Mom, I…” She wanted to say she couldn’t go because of club activities, but she just couldn’t speak it out loud. It almost felt like she forgot how to talk for a second. She looked at her mother as she bit her lips in frustration, making her mother frown. “Why are you stuttering so much? You didn’t use to be like this. You used to be so bright in elementary school. What happened? Could it be… You aren’t getting bullied, are you? Are you?” Her mother stood up and grabbed Jiyoon’s arm, she pulled up Jiyoon’s sleeve to check her arm. Of course, there weren’t any bruises since Jiyoon wasn’t being bullied. After checking her body for a few minutes, her mother finally let go. Her mother put a hand over her forehead with a frustrated look. “Jiyoon, I just can’t understand. Why did you change like this? You used to be such a good child. You used to smile so much. So why…” Jiyoon was unable to say anything to her mother. Instead, she ran away. It was difficult to stay at home. She had club practice in the morning anyway, so she might as well go there instead. After arriving at the bus station, she entered a store to recharge her bus card. She asked the store clerk to recharge her card. “P-p-please c-charge my… card.” “What? Charge?” Jiyoon nodded. She avoided the clerk’s odd gaze. It felt like she was stuttering more today for no reason. Calm down, calm down. Jiyoon stepped out with the newly-charged card.