Life, Once Again! - Chapter 773
She put the boiling pot of doenjang soup on the table. She also put the tofu which was being braised in a gochujang-based sauce onto a plate. Rice made from soaked rice as well as hand-made food. Cooking had become a luxury that she could only do when she had the time. She took a photo of the well-made food on the table and sent it to her mother. She didn’t get a reply back as it seemed that her mother was still working.
She put on a youtube video on her laptop and picked up her spoon. The woman on the monitor was eating fried chicken with a happy face. Foods made by frying in oil started a process inside her head. She tasted them in her imagination before eating the rice and doenjang soup. The rice was half-cooked and the soup was bland. The price of challenging cooking when she was just a beginner was quite big. She had no choice but to put the rice in the microwave and cook a fried egg. She wanted to put some salt or soy sauce into the doenjang soup, but from her experience, adding something would always make the outcome worse. She had to prevent the catastrophe of the edible becoming inedible.
She put the fried egg on top of the rice that had become caked all over and put some sesame seeds and sesame oil. With some simple ingredients, she created food that didn’t lose out to food at a three-star Michelin restaurant. Gaeul put the fried egg and rice in her mouth while thinking that it was fried chicken. When she ate about half of the rice, she suddenly found herself feeling quite curious as to why she knew the recipe for this in the first place. She did eat it a few times during primary school when her mother made it for her, but she never ate it after that. A quarter-spoon of soy sauce, a little more sesame oil than that, and as many sesame seeds as she wanted. She couldn’t remember the source of the recipe that she could remember like she did a mathematical formula. She tilted her head before continuing to move her spoon. Who cares? If it’s good, then that was all that she needed.
She washed the dishes that she had emptied. The woman on the laptop started boiling some ramyun as though she wasn’t satisfied with just the fried chicken. She was so thin despite eating all that. Gaeul found herself admiring that woman due to all the exercise she must be doing after shooting that video.
She washed the dishes that had soap bubbles on them and did some squats. The late-night snacks that she ate with the excuse that she should keep herself energized and as a last guilty pleasure before she started her piece had turned into assassins, hiding in various corners of her body. Thanks to the diet she did to the death, she didn’t gain any weight, but she couldn’t feel at ease as she felt like she had lost a lot of stamina. The TV screen was a ruthless device that put people on their sides after all.
She picked up her phone when she heard the Kakaotalk notification bell. There was a photo of her mother smiling joyfully with jjajang-myun, jjampong, and tangsuyuk in the background. That’s how you wanna play this, Mrs. Choi Haesoo, huh? – Gaeul sent her a text along with an angry emoji after thinking that.
-Your daughter is trying desperately to lose weight here. You’re going too far.
-I thought you should fill the stomach of your heart. This mother will eat the portion that you can’t eat.
-You’re eating without doing any work again? I heard that people have a hard time writing when they’re full.
-Clearly not me. I can write perfectly even when I’m full.
Her mother sent a photo of a pig’s foot after that.
-How’s the air in Haenam?
-It’s good. We should come together next time. The air’s good and the sea is pretty.
-I want to go too. Maybe I should go traveling with you, mom, after I do this drama.
-I’ll look forward to it. Let me feel what it’s like to have a successful daughter.
-But you earn more than me. You should be the one treating me.
A cute mascot character with hearts for eyes kept appearing on her phone. After looking at the photo of her mother for a while, Gaeul walked over to a shelf and took out a book. It was the script of ‘Flaming Lady’ made into a hardcover. The story of the drama that changed the life of her mother, writer Choi Haesoo, in its entirety was inside this book. When she was in her 3rd year of high school, her mother was writing a script for a drama while keeping it secret from her, the daughter. She found out that her mother was writing a drama script instead of a romance novel through producer Park Hoon. Producer Park Hoon called her out of nowhere and offered her an audition. She also got a call from her agency as well. Gaeul took the audition, and she passed on the spot. It was a week later that she found out that it was her mother who wrote the script for the drama.
Gaeul slowly flipped over the pages. Whenever she flipped each page, she could remember each part vividly. Acting as a girl that resolved to take revenge was quite tricky. Without the practice she did with the ‘rabbit’, she would have given up midway. The rabbit became her exclusive teacher and taught her the A to Z of acting. Whenever she thought about the things the rabbit said and put them into action, she started escaping her shell. When she finished the scene where she became an adult actor and got off the drama, Gaeul received attention from the public for the first time. The amount of attention she received was on a completely different level than when she played her role in ‘Building’. There was no end to the list of interviews that her manager told her about, and the list of magazine shoots would only make the list longer. Also, she was given the happy dilemma of having to choose between scripts that came from various places. It was also back then that she found out that the people that liked her had created a fan café for her.
‘Flaming Lady’ was a precious drama that changed both her and her mother’s lives. The actress Han Gaeul was only able to become big thanks to this drama. Gaeul read the book until the last page before closing the book. What would have happened if the role in this drama went to someone else? She would probably have a very different-looking acting career than now. That call from producer Park Hoon practically created the current her. Had she not received the call, had producer Park Hoon not chosen her….
Just as the book was about to be placed right on the shelf, it stopped midway. Her thoughts also couldn’t proceed forward as though they got stuck on something. Why did producer Park Hoon contact her? She was so absorbed in practicing back then due to the sudden opportunity that she had no time to think about it. Producer Park Hoon said in passing that he was impressed with her acting in ‘Building’, but how many producers would actually bother looking up the contact number of a nameless actress to cast? While she might be overthinking things, it kept tugging on her mind like the slight skin peel right next to the fingernail on her index finger. Based on her mother’s personality, there was no way that it was her who recommended her. In truth, her mother never mentioned anything about having a daughter in the acting industry.
She pushed the book back in with force. Just then, her phone which she left on the sofa started ringing, begging for attention. She picked up the phone after checking the caller’s name on the screen.
“What’s up? You’re calling me first.”
-I’m calling because I have something to tell you. What are you doing right now?
“What else? I’m just at home. I’m on a diet because of the shoot. How about you?”
-I’m eating dinner.
“What happened during dinner for you to be calling me?” she asked as she sat down on the sofa.
-Let me ask you something.
“What is it?”
-Did you break up with Han Maru in a bad way?
Gaeul took the phone off her ear. The ear and cheek that touched the phone suddenly felt scalding hot. The name of an awkward person popped out from the person she didn’t expect would mention at an unexpected hour. How should she reply to this? Should she honestly say that she was rejected? It then dawned on her that she didn’t have to answer such a question in the first place. She wetted her lips a little and asked back,
“What are you talking about so suddenly?”
-I’m with Maru right now. We met because we’re going to be shooting a drama together.
“I see. So Maru is in that drama.”
-You didn’t know?
“We haven’t been keeping in touch.”
-Is that so? Alright then. I went to the bathroom, and I called you because you suddenly came to mind. If you were doing well together, I was thinking maybe we should eat together.
“What’s up with you? Lee Heewon being considerate? Is the world going to end?”
-You can’t blame me for it. I was reminded of you when I looked at Maru’s face. I’m only saying this now, but you looked seriously bad back then. You were working like mad. Well, you did like working before that, but back then, you looked like you were crazy for work. When you took a break, you stayed dead still to the point that it made me worry.
“That happened a long time ago. I’m surprised you still remember.”
-This is what’s good about having colleagues in the same workplace. Anyway, get some rest. Sorry I called you.
She hurriedly called out to Heewon in an urgent voice as he was about to hang up.
“Did Maru perhaps talk about me?”
No – this answer felt rather refreshing and yet disappointing at the same time. She thought that she didn’t have any residual emotions left after three years had passed, but whether it was now or back when she visited the theater, it seemed as though she still had some unresolved residue.
Back when they just broke up, she had a hard time. It was her who told him that they should put some distance, and she knew that it was her who provided the reason for the breakup, but actually breaking up stirred up her heart violently despite knowing that it was her fault.
A year before they broke up, while she was shooting ‘Flaming Lady’, she tried to approach Maru first, but back then, Maru was the one who told her that they should keep their distance. The distance never shrank and like that, they broke up 3 years ago. In the place she was informed of the breakup, she would have accepted it with ease of mind if he told her that he was fed up, that he started to hate her, or things like that, but instead, Maru notified her of the breakup along with an apology. Gaeul only grasped empty air after seeing the firm resolution in his eyes which told her that he was not going to tell her the reason no matter what. She thought that she should contact him and have a proper talk with him after calming down a little, but as though he predicted her actions, Maru went to his military service the next day. Although she wrote letters, the only reply was a simple line telling her to ‘do her best’. There was no indication of a ‘relationship’ anywhere in the exchange.
Gaeul gripped her phone.
“Lee Heewon, I’m sorry, but you gotta run an errand for me.”
-What is it?
“Go ask Maru if I can go right now.”
“Yes. Please ask him that.”
-Okay, alright. I’ll ask him and give you a call.
Gaeul put down her phone and went into the bathroom. She washed her face and hair. It would be too late if she started getting prepared after hearing a confirmation. Playing a character with short hair was quite helpful at a time like this. She looked at her phone while drying her hair. There was no reply yet, even though around 10 minutes had passed.
She was dusting water droplets off her hair when she made eye contact with herself through the mirror. Gaeul chuckled. She wondered what she was doing. It would have been a lot easier if she talked to him back at the theater. It felt like Maru didn’t feel distant and that the gentle him was was still there, resulting in her boomeranging back to him. In the end, it was fate that they had to meet at least once.
She got a call. She was surprised at her reaction speed in picking it up.
“What did Maru say?”
She froze up immediately after asking. The faint breathing sounds didn’t belong to Heewon. The owner of the voice that she still remembered after all these years, spoke,
-Come. Let me see you.
It was Han Maru.