She shivers as another strong gust of wind pushes against her body. It was a mistake to come out wearing only a flimsy cardigan that did no good. It’s not even snowing yet, but it sure feels like it.
Lee Eun Bi plays with her phone for a while, wondering what’s happening back in Seoul, back in her sister’s school, in their home, in his home. The contact name glares at her from her screen: Gong Tae Kwang.
“Should I?” She says to no one in particular, and almost in response a tiny breeze tickles her cheek, “I should, right?” Another breeze. Maybe the wind really is talking to her, or maybe she’s just looking for an excuse to call him.
She clears her throat, “Hi, how are you? What’s the weather like over there? How’s school?” and shakes her head quickly, “No, this won’t work. Just act like normal, Lee Eun Bi.”
But what was normal anyway?
Was it bickering with him over the phone? Telling jokes that make no sense? She wasn’t sure what it was, what they used to be like before – back when she was Go Eun Byul to the rest of the world, and only he knew her real name.
Will he be asleep? Maybe he’s with a friend? … A girlfriend? She thinks, then unthinks that thought because his love life is none of her business.
(Only, it is, because she’s the one he wants, no one else.)
Are you awake? She texts him.
Hi to you too. Comes the reply a minute later, and she smiles. She fingers the keys for a minute, thinking of what to write next. How are you?
It’s too typical, too formal, and she can’t help a tired sigh. What was normal for them?
A loud noise comes and she nearly drops her phone. He’s calling her. And even though it shouldn’t, the sight of his name flashing on her screen makes her smile.
“Hello?” She says, carefully and maybe even a little hopefully.
“What,” He says, “you don’t know how to text a person? Just call me.”
She laughs a bit, because he sounds like always and this is how she wanted it. This sarcasm and these smiles. She swears he’s grinning right now, and she can’t even see him, but the thought makes her smile too.
“Wow, you suck at calling too.” He teases a bit, but they both know he doesn’t mean it.
“Like you’re any better.”
He sighs like she’s a little kid who makes no sense, “So,” he says a bit softer, “Why did you text me?”
She’s thinking of a reply to that, something like ‘I’m not really sure but I was just bored and you’re the only one I can call and it’s not like you were the first person I thought of it’s just that I know you never sleep and – where was I going with this?’.
But instead, she hears herself say, “I just felt like talking to you.” There’s a sharp intake of breath on the other end, and they just remain frozen like that. She knows that he’s thinking something else, she knows that he’s surprised, she knows. And suddenly, it's like his feelings are hanging in that silence between them.
“You could just come back, you know.” He says, and his voice is soft and she feels like it could break at any moment, he could break and shatter into pieces and he’s never been this vulnerable before.
She sneezes, and suddenly they’re back to reality. Back to the reality where she’s in Tongyeong and he’s in Seoul and they’re just friends.
“Go inside, don’t catch a cold.” He says gently and she smiles.
She doesn’t know why, but she find herself telling him, “Let’s talk tomorrow.”
“I’ll talk to you every day if you just go inside.”
“Really? Promise?” And they both can hear the hopefulness in her voice.
He hangs up after a while and she goes inside. It’s still cold, but she feels warm.
As she buries her face in her pillow, the words ‘every day’ echo in her head.
(It’s not like she’s expecting him to really call her.
But he does.
And she’s grateful.)