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Last Chapter of ‘School 2013’ Novel
Noona’s future parents-in-law look nice. Her father-in-law has creases at the ends of his eyes; he must smile a lot. When Noona spoke with her mother-in-law, the older woman was affectionate in expression and in speech.
The father-in-law seemed to have heard much about Heungsoo, since he encouraged him with the words, “A man is bound to go through a thing or two in his life, just work hard from now on.”
Perhaps it’s because Heungsoo never really spoke with elders after his parents passed away, he felt a little uneasy. His future brother-in-law kept helping him out — Heungsoo is going to university, he’s studying really hard, he’s doing so well — yet Heungsoo still hung his head with an uncomfortable expression on his face. He wasn’t doing well. He had no idea what he was doing. It’s like what he said to Namsoon the previous night: he can’t even imagine what university looks like, let alone get into one.
Noona had hesitated for quite some time after she received the marriage proposal; although she very much looked forward to starting a new life with the man she loves, she felt uneasy about leaving Heungsoo. When Noona mentioned that Heungsoo should think about university, he realized that if he didn’t settle on his own future, then he would bury Noona’s future as well. He made that promise to ease her heart, but he didn’t really know what he’s going to do — or rather, what he can do.
The topic veered away from Heungsoo and returned to the wedding at hand. The fast-approaching Big Day, choosing a new apartment, and deciding how many kids to have in the near future. When Noona heard the older couple say that two or three kids are the best, she smiled shyly. Every topic about his sister somehow made Heungsoo’s heart a little lonelier.
Up until now, Noona had lived as Heungsoo’s sister, but she will now become someone’s wife, someone’s mother. This is how things should be, but why does it bother him so? All Heungsoo could do was mouth ‘mom’ silently to himself. Mom, mom…
Although Mom had spent most of her last days in a hospital bed, she was the best mother when she was up and about. Noona will surely be a good mother, just like Mom. Noona had taken mother’s role, bit her tongue and persevered to be just like Mom. It is because of his sister that Heungsoo was able to pick himself back up after those days of wild behavior. But… in this new mental picture of Noona becoming a wife and a mother, Heungsoo could not find a place for himself. Up until now, Noona had lived her life as the sister of Heungsoo, but now that she is to take up a new role and be important to someone else, Heungsoo found himself at a loss.
Noona reached for Heungsoo’s hand under the table and gave it a tight squeeze. When their eyes met, she nodded slightly. Heungsoo knows what is the one thing Noona couldn’t let go in this happy moment of her life. He felt touched, but apologetic. Heungsoo held onto his sister’s hand tightly and turned to look out of the window, through which a sea breeze blew in. A face suddenly appeared in his mind and he remembered that there was someone out there waiting for him, by the seaside; his mood lifted.
The seaside has two different faces between day and night. After Heungsoo went off to meet his sister, Namsoon walked down to the same beach Heungsoo and him had been to a few hours ago. The sea is exactly the same as how Namsoon remembered it as a child, blue and sparking.
Namsoon looked around for where Heungsoo had sat last night, choosing to sit in the exact same place and gaze out at the sea. He watched for quite some time before coming to the conclusion that even the same expanse of sea had different colours. The waters all the way up against the horizon was azure, so bright that one almost couldn’t make out the line between sky and water. The patch of sea that’s closer to shore is a greyish blue. While the waters near Namsoon’s feet are a turquoise, greenish blue.
Yet no matter which part he was looking at, it’s always still the same sea. Just like how Heungsoo is always Heungsoo, and Namsoon will always be Namsoon. That’s good enough. Even if he goes to university, Heungsoo will still be Heungsoo.
A message ringtone. He switched on his phone — it’s a photo from Kang Joo. She’s eating a burger with her mouth wide open and laughing with Hakyung. “Having fun with Song~ What are you doing?”
Do Kang Joo and Hakyung talk about the things hidden their hearts, things that are hidden so deep they can scarcely be retrieved? Perhaps they do, perhaps not. Or maybe Namsoon is wrong to think that they don’t know what each other is thinking; sometimes you can understand one another even without verbalizing it. Because Kang Joo is Kang Joo, Hakyung is Hakyung. To be friends mean that you know what the other person is like, right? Then you begin to trust him and like him.
"Have fun…" Namsoon mumbled to himself, but didn’t reply the message. The sun shimmered upon the very tips of the waves. Namsoon watched absent-mindedly for some time, then he flopped down to lay on his back. The noon sun was blinding so he closed his eyes.
In his head, he started making a list of things he had to do once he got home. First, sign up at the job centre that Sechan recommended. At first glance, he didn’t see any jobs that he wanted, but it never hurts to give it another try… maybe he’ll find something he wanted. If there’s a job that he likes, Namsoon promised himself he’ll stick with it.
He was starting to doze off when his phone rang, Namsoon reached for his phone and took a peep. It’s Heungsoo. Namsoon kept his eyes on the sea while he spoke into the phone.
"Did you do well?"
"Why do I have to well?"
A few seconds’ pause before Heungsoo continued to speak.
"But they all seem like nice people, and they seemed to like Noona."
Something in the way Heungsoo spoke seemed a little bitter, almost like he is pretending to be light-hearted. Namsoon suddenly had a revelation — no matter what, we can walk on together. Perhaps he’ll drag Heungsoo to the job centre, working a day or two a week may even help him to choose a major in university. It can’t hurt to try… and if they can find a job they both like, that’ll be awesome.
Namsoon had barely finished that phrase when he heard Heungsoo reply with a hint of laughter in his voice.
"Isn’t it time you got up?"
Namsoon looked around and saw Heungsoo walking towards him. Through the phone came Heungsoo’s voice.
"Let’s go home, Namsoon-ah."
The line rattled around in Namsoon’s head.
Let’s go home, go home… what a phrase. So warm and emotional. A home with familiar scents and traces of warmth from each other. A place to which we could always return together.
To have a place to return to. And a person to return with.
Even if he had only that, it is reason enough to feel secure. Because if there is a place for us to return to, then there is also a future for us to walk towards.
Namsoon brushed the sand off of himself and ran towards Heungsoo.
T/N: That is a random Google photo of a beach in Korea. Happy birthday, Heungsoo! You kids are always alive in my heart. ; v ;