Merely a resolution, keeping it was a separate matter. It was a world Eun-Ha never experienced. Only the first trip was difficult, the 2nd and 3rd were not. Eun-Ha often made excuses to visit the back alleyways of Duryu Park to play with friends. There was a shortcut behind the building to the collective housing area. He thought the green fence installed at the entrance was a blocked road but it turned out to be a doorway when he gave it a little push.
It was no longer an unfamiliar place for Eun-Ha. Behind the large building at Duryu Park, the back alleyways were divided three ways. There was no further place to go after that.
Meanwhile, in addition to finding out that Su-Yeon and Sung-Jae live in the same neighborhood, Eun-Ha realized Seung-Jae was gradually avoiding him. This was because Eun-Ha had not seen him for a while and he did not visit like he used to. Though curious, there was no way to figure out why. Eun-Ha's opportunities to meet Seung-Jae were seldom, and when they did meet Seung-Jae managed to make excuses to avoid him. Eun-Ha was on the verge of feeling a sense of betrayal towards Seung-Jae.
He had also not seen the boy for a while. It had been since the bucket incident. Even when he did, the boy’s face flushed as he seemed to dodge Eun-Ha's sight. Otherwise, he would often just run into the millhouse. Su-Yeon said she thinks the boy had a crush on her.
"I've been pranked many times before.”
"Because he doesn't like me playing with other kids.”
"How can he do that?”
"And he's incredibly rich."
"How do you know that?”
"I don't know. My dad said so."
"It must be a lie."
Eun-Ha answered curtly.
"And he's stronger.”
Su-Yeon continued speaking regardless. Listening to her story, the two were close but he seemed to have been quite pestering and often pulling mean pranks. Eun-Ha was heartbroken. He would have considered Su-Yeon a more precious friend and would never have pulled mean pranks.
Eun-Ha thought the boy must be too embarrassed to come here anymore. Because Eun-Ha caught him playing such a terrible prank. He thought the two of them were getting along well but it was not what it seemed. On one hand, personally, he was proud. He felt as if he had saved the princess from a villain.
Considering the circumstances, this was a good opportunity to get along with her. Somehow Su-Yeon knew his name. Eun-Ha presumed Seung-Jae probably told her. Su-Yeon, who was always with friends, was not used to playing alone and Eun-Ha knew plenty of fun games to have fun alone. Eun-Ha was also a curious candidate to Su-Yeon because he did not live in the area. Therefore, despite the difficulty approaching Su-Yeon, she welcomed Eun-Ha as the two could now begin a whole-hearted bond.
Eun-Ha really like Su-Yeon's long hair. He once learned how to braid a girl’s hair from his grandmother. The two squatted on the side of the road. Eun-Ha started braiding Su-Yeon's black hair with his novice skills. At first, he failed, but as he continued to try the prettier it became. As he repeatedly braided and unbraided her hair, Eun-Ha gave Su-Yeon a quiz and threw in a couple jokes. Su-Yeon initially responded enthusiastically with applause. Later, as Eun-Ha continued combing and touching her hair, she even dozed off because it was soothing.
As the sun began to shorten and the temperature dropped noticeably, the unbearable cold found its way to the semi-basement neighborhood of Duryu Park. As the sun was already barely radiating, ice would form, and the all the alleyways felt like they filled with cold air. On such a cold day, it was unsuitable to play outside.
As they began looking for a warmer place, they first thought of each other’s houses but soon could only give up. Both had their own reasons. For Su-Yeon, she had a father who would go crazy whenever he drank and an older brother who would take beatings. When her father drank, he would cherish Su-Yeon even more and was extra affectionate. Her brother, who would be jealous of this when he was younger seemed to have tormented her a bit.
"I used to hate my brother."
"No, I like him now!"
Eun-Ha had a grandmother who disliked Duryu Park when he mentioned the neighborhood. If he took Su-Yeon home his grandmother would ask who and where she lives, then if the truth unfolds that she lives in behind Duryu Park it would probably be a day of some serious scolding. That couldn’t happen.
"Then let's go play in a house where nobody lives."
Su-Yeon said suddenly.
"Is there such a thing?”
"There really is?"
Eun-Ha tilted his head. Su-Yeon jumped up and took the lead. Eun-Ha, filled with anticipation for some reason, followed behind Su-Yeon.
The wind blew hard. The two red cheeked children shivered as they arrived at a small thatched house surrounded by low walls and sharp bushes. Su-Yeon pushed the old gate. The gate wouldn’t open as if something had been caught between it, but when Eun-Ha joined in to push they managed to open a gap big enough for one person. The two entered carefully.
No one was at the house. There were several traces that the place had ben inhabited for a long time. It felt a little bleak but Eun-Ha liked it nevertheless. Because he was by Su-Yeon's side. Though the place was crawling with dust and bugs, it was quite warm inside. The two sat next to each other in the doorway and looked out into the holes torn through the door paper.
"I know a fun game."
Su-Yeon broke the silence.
"Mom and dad!"
Su-Yeon's eyes glistened. Playing mom and dad with Su-Yeon. For Eun-Ha, this was like a dream but he tried not to make it obvious that he liked the idea.
“Then I'm the mom."
"Honey, I'll make you a delicious meal tonight."
Su-Yeon impersonated her mother. Eun-Ha tried not to laugh.
"Okay, good. What kind of food?"
"Grilled green onions."
Su-Yeon said. Eun-Ha was surprised.
"Grilled green onions?"
"When you grill green onions, sweet water comes out and it's really delicious."
Eun-Ha forgot he was playing for a moment and asked eagerly.
Su-Yeon confidently answered. Eun-Ha's heart throbbed at the sight of this. He wasn’t certain if it was the grilled green onions or because of Su-Yeon's smile. What was for sure was that whatever Su-Yeon wanted to do was good.
"I want to eat it."
"Then please bring me some green onions from the garden dear. I'll go to the kitchen."
Su-Yeon said, immersed into the role play again. The voice gradually faded away. Eun-Ha vaguely heard the sound of a fire inside. Eun-Ha's heart was pounding and he couldn't bear it. How could she say ‘honey’ so casually? That's what adults say!
Eun-Ha went out to a garden where a lot of weeds grew. He couldn’t tell which ones were green onions and which were just weeds. He started to dig up some that looked most like green onions. Meanwhile, his hands were already stone cold and red. He also had a runny nose. Su-Yeon is probably waiting inside. As he got the hang of things, he started to pick up the pace. Eun-Ha continued to dig eagerly without even noticing a scratch on the tip of his hand.
He dug up a bunch of green onions and headed to the kitchen. He saw Su-Yeon facing backwards, inspecting the red-lit furnace. Unaware of where she found it, she was seen poking at the furnace with a large wooden stick in her small hands. The surface of the wooden stick was so rough that it wasn’t hard to think it might hurt their hands. Eun-Ha handed Su-Yeon the green onions and received the wooden stick. The fire wasn’t strong but burning well. Eun-Ha diligently poked inside the furnace next to Su-Yeon, who was selecting green onions.
The two squatted in front of the furnace and began grilling the green onions. The spicy scent caused some coughing. Su-Yeon handed Eun-Ha a well grilled green onion. Eun-Ha blew a few times to cool it before taking a bite. It was a bit spicy but the sweetness at the end was quite addicting. The white part of the green onion especially packed a sweeter flavor.
"It's really delicious!"
"I told you, right? It's delicious!"
Su-Yeon beamed and then took a bite of green onion. It was a little hot, so steam flew out of her mouth. The two quickly shared a few more green onions. They were pretty full.
"I'm going to go school."
Su-Yeon said outright.
"I don't know. My brother said I only have a hundred nights' sleep left."
"A hundred nights?"
Eun-Ha hasn’t ever thought much about school. He didn't hear anything from his grandmother either.
"We have to go to school now that we are eight years old.”
"Yeah, Then I'm going to school too.”
Eun-Ha answered unwittingly. Su-Yeon gets to go, so wouldn’t he? His grandmother just hasn’t spoken about it yet, but surely since they were the same age, Eun-Ha thought he’d definitely be able to go to school.
"You have to participate an entrance ceremony to go to school.”
"That's right. I know!"
Eun-Ha agreed predictably.
"You need a name tag for the entrance ceremony. A Ribbon, too!
"Wow, you wear a ribbon?"
"Yes. We need a red ribbon. And the name tag...is a label. You have to write your name on it. I practice writing my name so I can write it nicely.”
Su-Yeon kept chirping as she drew a ribbon with her fingers on the ash covered ground. She usually doesn’t talk that much, so she must be looking forward to it. Eun-Ha nodded persistently at her every word as he kept eye contant.
"I can't wait to go to school. I envy my brother so much."
Su-yeon stood up as she finished speaking.
"When we go to school, we should be able to see each other every day next year." Eun-Ha said.
"Then let's go to school together."
Su-Yeon smiled as she nodded at Eun-Ha's words.
Hooking pinkies, they promised to stay close friends as they attend school next year.
저작권자 ⓒ 한국소비경제신문, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지