Life, Once Again! - Chapter 836
“Well then, Mr. Maru, I’ll talk to you again with the contract next time.”
“I shall look forward to it.”
After shaking hands lightly, Joongjin left through the door. As he said that Maru didn’t need to see him out, Maru just saw him out until the elevator. Just before the doors closed, Joongjin spoke from inside,
“The indie film you shot last time, the reactions are quite good after it was released on the internet. Go look for it if you have the time. There are quite a lot of comments too.”
Having returned home, Maru searched the Ttukseom Indie Film Festival on his laptop. The award-winning pieces from the competition lineup and a few of the general lineup were open to the public to watch. The number of views, comments, and the measure of popularity, the number of likes, was indicated next to the video clips. Among all the videos, ‘Starting Point’ towered over the rest in all the numbers. In terms of view counts, other videos had numbers around the hundreds whereas Starting Point was climbing past 10 thousand views.
He had a look at the comments. People who were clearly Yoo Sooil’s fans were adding to the comment count. It was the support of fans for their actor. From time to time, he saw comments that complimented his acting skills, but the pages those comments were on were soon pushed behind to the later pages. After reading about three pages of comments, he closed the window. There were no insults. That was enough.
He sent a Katalk to Sora saying that the video was put up on the internet. He got a reply back immediately. Apparently, she knew about it because she was notified beforehand but had completely forgotten about it because she had something else to do.
-How are people’s reactions?
-They’re all praising Sooil’s acting.
-I knew it. Nothing about you, seonbae?
-One every now and then.
-Should I go and manipulate the comments a little, asking them to acknowledge our good actor Han Maru?
-I won’t refuse if you do. If you’re doing it for free that is.
-I’m not doing it for free. 20,000 won per hour.
Twenty thousand, then I want to do it – Maru thought as he was about to turn off his laptop when he recalled a URL. He went to his fan café, which he had saved to his favorites. The front page had a large screen capture of his figure in the drama ‘Doctors’. Although there weren’t many people active, those few people were actively maintaining the café.
He went to the free posts section and left behind the URL to the movie. These fans had maintained the café when he left for the military without even saying a word. Just like what Gaeul said about how he had to cherish his fans, he had to communicate with them, even if it was late. Though, his form of ‘communication’ was just notifying them of recent updates. Still, it was probably better than staying silent the whole time.
“Thank you for your encouragement. I will do my best to repay you through acting.”
He read the title of his post out loud. He decided on that title after thinking about it for quite a while. He tried being cute and even tried using the latest internet jargon, but in the end, he went back to the plain one because he didn’t have the courage to post such a thing. With his mouth, he had the confidence to say all sorts of embarrassing things, but conveying his emotions through text was difficult for him if he wasn’t doing it to someone close.
After seeing that his post went up, he powered off his laptop. ‘Fans’ still seemed to be a far-fetched thing from him. If someone approached him, saying that they were a fan, the first thing that would come to his mind would be doubt, thinking that there was no way it was true. Though, it wasn’t like he had a signature to sign autographs with, either.
Just as he got up and was about to get ready to clean, he saw Gaeul’s autograph. He stared at the autograph that was inserted in a corner of a photo frame before bringing a piece of A4 paper from his room and a pen. He sat on the floor and wrote ‘Han Maru’ in cursive handwriting in the corner. He was so terrible at writing that he couldn’t tell what he wrote. He couldn’t exactly call squiggly worms an autograph, so he wrote slowly with effort this time. He wrote like an elementary schooler just learning to write.
He repeated writing his name a few times before feeling a gaze and lifted his head. When he did, he saw Woofie looking at him like he was pathetic. She looked like she was saying ‘gimme food if you have time to do that.’ Maru crumpled up the paper and threw it in the trash.
“I know I won’t ever have to write an autograph. I just practiced just in case,” he muttered in embarrassment.
Woofie dragged her food plate over before putting it down in front of him. Her eyes still said ‘forget that, just give me food.’ Maybe this girl had the soul of a human that had reincarnated into the wrong animal? – he had this thought from time to time. He poured some dog food before sending Gaeul a text message saying that Starting Point was on the internet and that she should watch it if she has the time.
While Woofie ate with her nose stuck on her plate, he cleaned the living room. He used a duster to wipe the dust on top of the photo frame before suddenly thinking that it perhaps wasn’t a bad idea to write ‘housewife’ on his resume. After all, when it came to laundry, cleaning, and cooking, he was beyond the realm of doing them as a hobby as he could be considered a professional. He imagined taking Gaeul’s coat from her after she came back from a long day of shoot before stopping. He thought that it might actually happen. While it wasn’t that bad, he wanted to be the breadwinner who fed his wife and family.
-I watched the film. Your acting was good. Maybe you’re going to become famous at this rate.
Gaeul sent that message around the time he was done cleaning the bathroom. It seemed that she had some time to watch it because it was lunchtime. He asked her what the shoot was like and got a crying emoji as a reply. He could picture her face grumbling about how hard it was because there were so many scenes that she had to rouse her emotions for.
-I’ll make you good food when you come. Do your best.
-Then should I go today?
-Aren’t you shooting late into the night today?
-I’ll go there afterwards. These days, your place is the first place that comes to my mind when I think about ‘home’.
-Then I guess we should call it our home now. Do you have anything you want to eat? Don’t make it too difficult though.
-Something delicious but low in calories.
-Such a thing doesn’t exist in this world.
-Then something spicy. I’d love a glass of soju or two.
-I’ll cook some seafood stew, so do your best at work.
-Alright. I’ll put in my best efforts and go home.
Maru immediately grabbed a grocery bag and left his house. He couldn’t exactly cook seafood stew with an empty refrigerator. He barely managed to tear Woofie off of him, who tried to go with him, before leaving his house. From how he could hear her scratching the front door, it looked as though he had to take her on a walk after this. Otherwise, it was pretty obvious that she would bother his sleep throughout the whole night.
* * *
Her heart had already picked up a spoon and was sitting in front of a pot of seafood stew. Gaeul kept recalling that Maru told her to look forward to it as she picked up her script.
Her life usually involved going home to the dark house and eating a handful of nuts and a few pieces of fruit from the refrigerator. When she was eating cold food at the table, she sometimes even felt depressed and just went straight to bed. When work was hard, she even sometimes cried a little. She thought that she was a woman who could enjoy solitude, but the loneliness that had piled up within her was not something that she could enjoy. A house where she lived alone with the food that she ate by herself; there were times when being by herself in an empty house couldn’t be more enjoyable, but more often than not, she missed the days she lived with her mom, who would reply to even the trivial things she said. She consoled herself by thinking that the loneliness would disappear one day, and that ‘one day’ came around sooner than she had expected.
By this point, when she thought about ‘home,’ the first thing that came to her mind was the apartment that had gray walls and monochrome furniture in Banpo-dong rather than the apartment in Seocho-dong that she had spent weeks designing the interior. The thick smell of mint, the tapping of Woofie’s feet on the wooden floor, and the funny man who always greeted her with the pink apron she gifted to him as a prank. Unlike the apartment in Seocho-dong, where the only sound she could hear was the hum from the refrigerator, she had no time to feel lonely in that place. Ever since ‘home’ changed from a ‘fixed residence’ to a ‘place she wanted to go’, Gaeul wished to go home more than any time before.
“You look to be in a good condition,” Giwoo said as he sat next to her.
“I am. I had a great night’s sleep.”
“I want to have a great night’s sleep too. These days, I can’t sleep for some weird reason.”
“I heard that sweetened tea is good for apnea.”
“Really? Maybe I should try it sometime.”
Ever since she heard what kind of person Giwoo was from Maru, Gaeul had never taken her observing eyes off of him. The result she had gained over the past few days was that Giwoo was a gentleman after all. He was kind, gentle, and smiled a lot. Did he change? Or was he hiding it? Maru told her to see and judge for herself, but to her, she felt an underlying warning to never trust Kang Giwoo from his words. While she didn’t like being doubtful of people, his past actions were so terrible that she couldn’t help but watch. Injuring someone else was beyond the scope of ‘prank’ that she could understand.
“It’s gonna get cold pretty soon,” Giwoo said.
“I think autumn is getting shorter. Same with Spring.”
“I was hoping it would be less cold this Winter. I mean, it was freezing last year.”
Giwoo, who was chatting with her, was called by the producer and thus stood up. Gaeul put her script to one side and looked at Giwoo, who was talking in the distance. Even the producer, who was known to be picky, would smile in front of Giwoo. Were Giwoo’s actions that earned everyone’s goodwill all just an act? If it was, then the man known as Kang Giwoo may as well be the character of a horror novel. There was nothing scarier than that after all.
“Senior, what brings you here?”
The producer, who was talking to Giwoo, said that as he looked at the entrance of the set. Gaeul looked behind her. The busily moving staff all froze up in an instance before making way for someone. Lee Miyoon was walking in the middle of them. Gaeul stood up and bowed slightly to Miyoon. Miyoon, who had a large earring on, gave her a glance as she walked past. They made eye contact. Gaeul did not avoid her eyes and did not blink until she went past.
“Your trashy attitude hasn’t changed,” Miyoon said in a small voice that only Gaeul could hear.
Gaeul’s eyes twitched. She was practically picking up a fight. If it was before, she would have fallen for the cheap provocation, but she had seen this woman’s face for five years now.
“Senior, your earrings are really pretty today.”
Miyoon clicked her tongue loudly as she walked past. Gaeul opened her script before sitting down on the spot.