Life, Once Again! - Chapter 800
She felt like her skull was ringing. She felt like someone had hit a large gong right in front of her. When one side subsided, the ringing on the other side became bigger. She even felt like she could make out the shape of her skull if she closed her eyes because of all of the chaotic reflections of those waves; this part is the top, this part is the back, and this part is the temple. She was reminded of when she rode a boat when the waves were rocky. She felt like she was floating in the air as she stepped onto the ground. An urge to vomit that could not be prevented by seasickness medicine and could only be resolved after she vomited everything out. She felt exactly like that right now.
She sat up and drank some water. Fragmented memories sparked in her splitting mind. They were things that she saw in her dream. In the darkness was a man intently staring at her. That man did not close his eyes until he was devoured by the darkness. The gaze made her heart thump. The moment she was about to wake up from the dream, she realized that the man’s eyes were not on her; they were on the small creature next to her. It was a small, feeble-looking rabbit.
“You were up?”
Gaeul smiled joyously as she looked at the face of the person coming in.
“Why did you come? Aren’t you busy?”
“How can this unni not visit you when you’ve collapsed? How do you feel?”
“I’m okay, apart from my headache. The doctor said that there’s no big trouble either. Apparently, it was malnutrition and fatigue.”
“I knew this would happen from the moment I heard that you were going on a diet without eating.”
“I’ve been doing it for a long time though. I didn’t think I was in this bad of a condition. Heck, I’m even more puzzled because I suddenly collapsed.”
“If there’s one thing that people get mistaken about easily, it’s that they think they know their own body. I’m sure your body must have given you signals beforehand. ‘Hey, owner? I think I’m going to collapse, so can you get some rest?’ You probably ignored that and continued working.”
“How am I supposed to make a living if I take a rest because my body is complaining?”
“I guess that’s the problem. Here. Oh, you don’t have to watch out for any specific food, right?”
Gaeul opened the white box. There was a chocolate cake in it. The color was thick, and the smell was sweet unlike the food given to her at the hospital.
“I wanted to eat something too.”
“You should have had your manager buy things for you.”
“I just thought it was etiquette to eat hospital food while I’m in the hospital.”
“If that’s the case, I’ll eat it.”
“Unni, if you bought it for me then it’s mine. Don’t even think about touching it.”
“Don’t wanna. Half of it is mine. Also, I didn’t buy it. I made it.”
Gaeul smiled and undid the wrap. She ripped open the plastic packaging for the plastic fork inside and gave it to Chaerim.
“Isn’t it busy at the store?”
“I’m someone who just collects the money, so I don’t have any reason to be. Though, sometimes I make coffee and sell stuff.”
“You’re an evil owner.”
“Try looking for an evil owner who pays 1,000 won above minimum wage before saying that. Here, have a taste. It’s the new cake that we’re going to sell.”
“My palate is pretty picky, you know?”
“I’m expecting a picky evaluation from you. Hand it to me. I’ll slice it up for you.”
Chaerim got the cake and started moving the knife delicately as though she was some master craftsman. Inside the thick cake was red syrup.
“That and many other things. It’s a specialty menu.”
“Er, every specialty menu you thought of usually disappears from the menu.”
“Don’t you think I’ll hit a jackpot someday?”
“Please think about me, who’ll be eating it.”
“Stop complaining and eat it. This time, I’m confident.”
She put the slice of cake inside her mouth. Before she could even taste the sweet chocolate that touched the ceiling of her mouth, a sour taste kicked in. The identity of the red syrup was grapefruit. Gaeul put her lips together.
“How is it?” Chaerim asked, filled with expectation.
She put down the fork.
“That’s strange. The ratio should be right.”
“You didn’t try it?”
“I did, the ingredients, I mean.”
“You should have tried out the final product.”
“I didn’t touch it because I wanted to present it to you first. But that’s strange. I thought it’d be pretty good. I mean, red grapefruits have been gaining popularity these days. The combination of chocolate and red grapefruits. Don’t you think it’s marvelous?”
“There’s a marvelous saliva party occurring in my mouth right now. I think you put way too much syrup in it. The bread is not moist, it’s soggy. Here, have a taste.”
She sliced the end of the cake with her fork and gave it to Chaerim. This unni kept averting her gaze and refused to open her mouth. When she kept pushing it against her mouth, Chaerim ended up eating it. Her expression changed instantly – to that of someone who had swallowed about four to five lemons straight.
“But it’s pretty decent as a gift for a patient. I mean, sour things are good for patients, aren’t they?”
“I’m pretty sure dessert isn’t exactly the kind of thing you eat for health.”
Gaeul brought the cake placed on top of the mini-fridge over.
“But it’s a present, so I should keep eating it. Who knows? I might get attached to it if I keep eating.”
Chaerim, who was smiling next to her, turned on the TV. She watched the news for a little before changing the channel. She went through the regional TV channels and eventually stopped on a cable channel that regularly broadcasted entertainment shows. Gaeul looked at the screen as she ate the sour cake. A celebrity with mud all over her face was staring at the ground in the middle of a mudflat. From the way she was scattering salt, she seems to be catching razorfish. The subtitle said ‘Dayoon struggling with all of her life.’
Gaeul pressed on the fork with her lips. Although she didn’t say anything, her eyes couldn’t help but be attracted to Chaerim’s face.
“Why are you watching it so intently?”
“No reason, really.”
“I don’t think it’s nothing.”
Chaerim opened the fridge. She asked if she could drink a bottle of orange juice. Gaeul replied that she could drink two.
“That unni is doing pretty well these days. I guess it’s a good thing.”
“Do you still contact her?”
“For how careful you were looking at me, your questions are pretty blunt.”
“You’re the one who brought it up first.”
“There’s no one I’m in touch with among the members of ‘Blue’. At most, I just check if they’re alive or not through social media. Moreover, I’ve already retired and started running my own store, so I don’t have any point of contact with people in the media.”
“Don’t you want to go back?”
“I’m not sure. I’ve had a tough life since high school, so I don’t feel the desire yet. I would have kept doing it if my acting career went well, but that just went so-so.”
“There are many people around me telling me that they used to be your fans, you know?”
“I’ve seen journalists visiting my store. They apparently want to know how a retired idol from 3 years ago is doing. I feel grateful, but at the same time, it’s bothersome. Last time, there was a writer from a TV station asking me if I wanted to appear in a TV program.”
“What program was it?”
“It’s from a cable TV. I think it was ‘A Cup of Coffee’?”
“I know that one. It’s one of those where celebrities have an honest talk with the hosts.”
“To be precise, celebrities who lost their popularity.”
“If you return, I’m sure you won’t be treated like a celebrity who lost her popularity, you know? You aren’t even thirty, so you can’t exactly say that you lost your popularity.”
“It’s been three years already. Not only that, I just disappeared after my group disbanded besides briefly showing up as an actress. At this point, it’d be kinda funny to call myself an idol. It feels somewhat like a dream when I think about how I appeared on TV and sang and danced.”
“It’s somewhat strange for the star of our school to say that.”
“Isn’t Myunghwa High’s current star Han Gaeul?”
“I only succeeded you.”
Gaeul drank the orange juice that Chaerim poured for her. Perhaps thanks to the sourness of the cake, she found it very sweet. Chaerim pushed a bit of the cake into her mouth as she fixed her eyes on the TV. When Dayoon, who was on the TV, fell over on her butt, she chuckled before talking about old times with a longing look in her eyes.
“It’s strange. When we were a team, I couldn’t find that unni more scornful, but after all this time, I think I might be missing her.”
“Try calling her to see if you can meet up with her.”
“But if I see her, I’m pretty sure I’ll end up fighting with her again. You can only smile at bad memories if you leave them behind as memories. Bringing them up again might make both of us feel upset.”
“If you say so. But I still find it a pity.”
“That we aren’t getting back together?”
“No, that you retired. I definitely like a senior who makes delicious cakes like this for me, but I think it would’ve been even better if the senior was someone I could act together with.”
“You’re indirectly saying that my cake is terrible, aren’t you?”
“You have a twisted mindset. How did you come to that conclusion?”
She sliced a bit of the cake before putting it against Chaerim’s mouth. After initially declining, she eventually sighed and ate it.
“Why don’t you try?”
“I’m busy running the store.”
“I guess you should take a break from running the store then.”
“Isn’t it kinda funny to go back when I’m supposed to be retired?”
“From your expression just now, I think staying still will be even more funny. You’re someone who reached the top in that fiercely competitive idol world. You don’t know what will happen if you try acting with that kind of passion. There’s no one saying that you can’t become the second Lee Youngae.”
“You’ve clearly gone too far.”
But the second Lee Youngae sounds nice – she whispered to herself.
“Tell me if you have any thoughts about it. I’ll help.”
“Alright, I guess that’s what’s good about having a successful little junior. I’ll tell you if I do make my mind up. But instead, you have to give me proper support at that time, okay?”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll support you so high that you might fall over.”
After giggling her heart out while covering her mouth, Chaerim wiped her mouth before shaking off the laughter.
“It’s pretty strange if you think about it. I thought I’d never become close to you.”
“Why is that?”
“Why? Because if my memories serve me right, we were romantic rivals. No wait, I never even got to the starting line, so I guess we never did become rivals. This makes me jealous.”
“When the heck did that happen? I don’t even remember.”
“I’ve never seen people who actually don’t remember with a face like that.”
Gaeul shrugged. It was just as she said. The memories of that day would probably remain behind forever if her memories weren’t erased outright. It was just like an old nail protruding out of the smooth wall; a memory that would remain behind no matter how many times the frame hanging on it had been switched out.
“Since we’re at it, are you going out with anyone these days?”
“Who else is in this ward but you?”
Chaerim smiled sneakily.
“I wonder why the people around me are so concerned about my romantic life.”
“From the way you speak, I think the ‘people around you’ that you speak of must be Choi Seol.”
“Yep. Only you and Seol are nosy about my love life.”
“Stop changing the topic and tell me about it. Such a pretty girl collapsed, but there’s not a hint of a man in sight. Are you still living that single life?”
“What are you talking about? There are many men who want to go out with me, you know?”
“What’s the point in that? You’re a total nun-in-training.”
“I do have one.”
Chaerim blinked. She, who many people would believe to be a high school student if she put on fainter makeup and cut up her bangs a little, sat down on the bed as though even her heart had become that of a high school girl and gabbed onto her arm. Curiosity started filling her eyes. They were full of surprise and expectation as she asked,
“Who is it? The man you told me about back then?”
“Then who? Someone I don’t know?”
“You know him pretty well.”
“I know him pretty well?”
“Yes. But I don’t think I should talk about it yet. He avoids me.”
“Who the heck is avoiding my cute little Gaeul’s romantic interest?”
Try guessing – Gaeul was about to say that when she picked up her phone. She got a text message. Looking at the number and the name on the screen, Gaeul bit her lower lip.
“Unni, wait a sec.”
Gaeul pressed on the screen with her thumb. Her fingertip was slightly shaking.
-Don’t push yourself.
It was an uncute text message.
“Who is it?”
“A green frog. No, I guess he’s a green frog on a horse, huh.”
She subconsciously smiled.
 A real actress who became famous as the ‘most Korean-style beauty’ after the drama ‘Jewel in the Palace’ became a hit in Korea.
 Korean (as well as Chinese/Japanese) folklore, about a green frog, who always did the opposite of what his mother frog told him to do, and the mother frog told him to bury her in the river once she died, in hopes of having him bury her in the mountain. The green frog decided to really bury her in the river and mourn for her every day, protecting her grave so that it didn’t get washed away. Here’s a link to the full story.