Life, Once Again! - Chapter 961
“Let’s wrap things up here.”
People in the vicinity started groaning as soon as director Park said those words. It was 5 a.m. Maru pressed his temple as he stood up. His concentration didn’t wave despite it being so late at night, but he had been so on the edge that it was to the point that he could feel his stamina being shaved off. Director Park would shout cut the moment he loosened up for an instant. He couldn’t remember how many hours it took for the merciless director to be satisfied.
“I’ll announce tomorrow whether we’re meeting or not according to the weather, but if you don’t see any snow tomorrow, consider that there will be a shoot.”
The assistant director’s following words made people sigh. Maru could hear the staff members cleaning up the camera cables praying for snow in muttering voices. It was December 25th. It had been four days since they came to Ulsan, and it was also Christmas. The footsteps of the people moving around after packing up the equipment looked like they were stepping on mud. The dogs also lay down and yawned as though it wasn’t just the people who were tired.
Maru reached out and patted a dog on the head. If they caused a mess during the shoot, the shoot would’ve dragged out endlessly, but they were very docile. They barked when they had to, and stepped back when they had to. They were practically great actors. They proved why they were more expensive to hire than most actors.
“Actors, please go down and look after your bodies. Especially, you, Mr. Maru, watch out not to catch a cold.”
Maru received a heat pack given to him by the assistant director. He only had a hoodie on to bring out the best of his acting, so he was shivering by this point.
“Remember that all the people here will have nothing to do but suck on their thumbs if you fall ill.”
“Looks like I can never fall ill then. Thanks for your work.”
“You did all the work. Go down quickly before the snow becomes even thicker. Well, then, let’s pull out. We need to rest too.”
The assistant director, who was like a sloth during the shoot, was quicker than anyone during the pullout. Maru said goodbye to the staff cleaning up the scene before climbing down first. If he helped out and got ill while doing so, then he would be inconveniencing everyone. He washed up the moment he arrived at the hotel in the city. He sighed in relief as soon as the hot water touched his frozen body. He only tasted today what it meant to shoot director Park style. For the first three days, he pushed the staff and the actors just under their limits. It was good that the shoots were focused during night. In the later stages, he would more often have light naps at the end of the night and just before the morning, but for now, there was still some leeway.
When he got out after washing, it was 6. Cars started entering the hotel which had been staying quiet. They were construction vehicles. He looked at the tail of the ready-mix concrete vehicle before lying down. He felt hazy, but not sleepy. There was a train of thought that awakened his body from falling asleep. It was like a spark from a flintstone in complete darkness. It was instantaneous but also intense.
What did his disappearing ability signify? He intentionally ignored that thought and tried to sleep, but this thought grew off of the attempt to ignore it and became bigger and bigger. Now, it was big enough to drive sleep away.
“Han Maru, let’s sleep for now.”
He slapped his cheeks loudly. He would find himself in the afternoon without a wink of sleep if he was caught up in this riddle he could not find the answer to. He turned around in bed. He tried changing the height of the pillow and even putting on some relaxing music, but his mind did not seem to want to go off to dreamland, even though his body was drowsy and was unwilling to move.
Just as he was rolling around, he felt a vibration from under his pillow. When he took it out to check, he saw a text message from Gaeul. You up? – Maru called in response to that text.
-Are you doing your morning exercises during your shoot too?
“No. The shoot just finished and I was about to sleep, but I couldn’t fall asleep.”
-So an all-nighter, huh? I’ll hang up. You must have a shoot later, so you should get to sleep quickly.
Maru stopped her from trying to end the call.
-Are you not getting any sleep because of nervousness?
“No, it’s not like that. There’s just something on my mind.”
-Then put that thought aside and get some sleep. If you’re pulling all-nighters at the beginning of the shoot, it must mean that the schedule is tight, so you should get some rest.
“Yeah, I definitely should sleep.”
Gaeul’s laughter could be heard. She scolded him for being a child.
“Sing me a lullaby.”
-Hello? How could you tell someone who just woke up to sing a lullaby?
“You know the song you hum all the time. I think I’ll be able to fall asleep if I listen to that.”
-Will that really make you sleep?
“I’ll have to see.”
Silence fell. Maru waited with his phone against his ear. Along with the rustle of the duvet, Gaeul cleared her throat, which told him that she was going to start.
* * *
She hummed the song while fidgeting with her toes. She was humming a song in bed as soon as she woke up, and she was singing for someone else too. While this had never happened in her life before, she didn’t feel displeased or annoyed. If the man over the phone could sleep comfortably with only a small effort on her part, she was willing to sing for hours on end. She swung her hand drooping down from the side of the bed and continued her humming.
Woofie woke up from sleep and rubbed her snout against her hand. Bullie also entered the bedroom. Perhaps the two dogs wanted to see their daddy as well.
“Woofie and Bullie are here, so why don’t you let them hear your voice?”
Gaeul reached her hand out and placed the phone between the two dogs. She waited for a few seconds, but Maru did not make any voice. She carefully put her phone against her face and asked,
There was no reply. Gaeul smiled and ended the call. Perhaps it was the pressure of playing his first protagonist in a film. He, who was never picky with places to sleep, grumbled because he couldn’t fall asleep. The thing that stopped him from falling asleep was also probably something about acting. He was second to none when it came to doing things he didn’t find necessary half-heartedly, but he would be a perfectionist in something he judged that he had to do.
Gaeul yawned before leaving the bed. After living with him, she started sharing his lifestyle. Other than when she fell asleep late at night due to a busy schedule, she would automatically open her eyes around seven when Maru would finish his morning jogs. She felt happy when she found herself becoming more and more like him. The more they shared with each other, the more solidarity she felt.
She cooked and ate some light breakfast before sitting down on the sofa. She was resting to her hearts’ content. Other than the end-of-year award ceremonies, she had no schedule to attend. This was thanks to the president’s consideration. Gaeul looked at the calendar on the table and checked the date. She had to attend the RBS acting award on the 30th and was planning to go down to Ulsan on the 31st. Maru would be surprised if she waited outside the hotel and surprised him. She smiled when she thought about how Maru would stare at her in a daze. She wondered what he would say to him. If he asked why she was here, she might just go back.
She finished cleaning just as Maru asked her to, and it was 10 a.m. She wondered if Maru was asleep. If she was next to him, she would grab his hand.
She was washing a dish rag when she suddenly thought about how long it would take to reach Ulsan if she departed now. If there weren’t two dogs always asking her to play, she would’ve gotten her wallet and left to drive.
Bitna was going to take care of Woofie. Bitna widened her eyes as she told her to leave Woofie to her since she would be staying at home all day as it was the winter holidays, and when Gaeul told her no as a joke, she immediately put on a crying face. Gaeul felt that she might really end up disappointed, so she asked her to take care of Woofie.
“Bullie, you stay with Chaerim-unni, okay?”
Gaeul touched Bullie’s head. Although Bullie was docile at home, he might act sensitively out of nervousness. As he was a Pit Bull and had lived in a dogfighting arena for most of his life, she couldn’t ask Bitna to take care of him, so she asked Chaerim instead. Bullie liked Chaerim a lot, so there were no worries there.
-You look happy.
She heard a voice from behind her. Gaeul turned around. The rabbit was curled up on the sofa.
“Long time no see.”
-Did you miss me?
“To be honest, I didn’t really think about you. I was too busy.”
The rabbit jumped off the sofa. Bullie’s snout pointed at the rabbit. His head moved around according to the rabbit’s movement. Maybe he could see the rabbit.
“I heard that dogs could see ghosts, and I see it must be true.”
-You once treated me like a delusion, and now I’m a ghost?
“Who cares what you are? It doesn’t change the fact that only I can see you, whether you’re a ghost or a product of my delusion. So what’s up? You look down.”
-You can tell that I’m down when I have a face like this?
“You have two eyes, one nose, and one mouth, just the same as a human. Also, I can tell your feelings when I look at you.”
-That sounds plausible.
The rabbit walked around inside the house. Gaeul put her hands behind her back and followed the rabbit. The rabbit was someone she couldn’t see through. She said that she would advise her to become happy, but some of her advice created deep regret. Things related to Maru were like that.
“I thought about what happened back in high school. Why did you induce me to distance myself from Maru? When you wanted my happiness the most?”
-There are no lies in my feelings.
The red pupils looked straight back at her. They were straight and firm eyes without a hint of lies. That confused her even more. Being together with the person she liked must be one of the happiness that she could enjoy, so why did the rabbit interfere with that?
-It’s a White Christmas.
The rabbit looked outside. The cars inside the block had become white mounds. Gaeul placed her hand on the window to the veranda. A chill that cleared her mind could be felt through her hand.
When she turned around, the rabbit was no more. Gaeul took her hand off. There was something she wanted to say. The rabbit’s snow-white fur lingered in her eyes.