By Toni Kore
Dreading every step, Yeong Gi approached the booth. Sweat dripped down the back of his neck, as it often did when he was placed in stressful situations. Areum’s smile brightened as he neared the table.
“Good afternoon. What may I get you, ladies?” He asked nervously.
“I would like a mango juice, please,” Areum responded with a kind smile, without mentioning she knew him.
Yeong Gi took the other orders and let them know he’d be right back with their drinks, feeling grateful for Areum’s discretion.
“Isn’t that kid from our school?” one of the girls asked.
The other shrugged. “I think so. I didn’t know he got into fights, though. Look at that eye!”
“Maybe it wasn’t a fight,” Areum offered. “Maybe he tripped or something.” She too was curious how he got hurt, but figured that wasn’t a question she could easily ask.
“Whatever, Areum.” The second girl sighed and pulled out a magazine from her bag. “Anyway, have you seen the new issue for this month?”
While the other two girls fawned over the models in the magazine, Areum kept her eyes on Yeong Gi as he assembled their drinks. She was surprised by his speed and skill. Clearly, he was good with his hands. She wanted to know more about him—what happened to his eye, how he came to work at a cafe, how long he’d played piano, what he did for fun, his favorite drink, his favorite color—anything that would help her better understand him. Perhaps earlier she had befriended him out of sympathy, but now she genuinely wanted to get to know him more.
She had said nothing before because she could tell he was embarrassed by the look on his face. She also hadn’t told her friends she had talked to him because she didn’t want them asking questions.
“Here you go,” he said, carefully placing their drinks on the table.
“Thank you.” Areum took her cup and smiled graciously.
Yeong Gi bowed and left quickly thankful for her discretion.
Trying to keep his mind off of Areum, Yeong Gi busied himself with other customers, avoiding eye contact of any kind with her and her friends. After a while, he noticed their booth was empty and released a sigh of relief as went to clean their table. Finishing his task quickly and returning to the register, it surprised him to see who was waiting for him there.
“Hello, Kim Yeong Gi Shi.” Areum beamed.
He stalked past her. “What are you doing here?”
“Daebak! You are not going to ignore me this time?” She asked sarcastically.
Yeong Gi rolled his eyes. “What do you want?”
Making a distasteful expression, she whined. “You are no fun.”
“What?” He questioned, annoyed expecting to be questioned about his eye and not wishing to explain.
She huffed dramatically and leaned against the counter. “You know that new zombie movie?”
“What? Why do you ask?” He said, confused.
“Have you seen it?” She pressed, more eagerly.
“Uh.” He hesitated. “No.”
Areum clapped her hands together. “Jjang! Want to watch it with me?” She stared up at him with big, hopeful eyes.
“What?” he asked again—unsure how to react or why this girl was paying him special attention.
“Do. You. Want. To. See. A. Movie. With. Me?” She punctuated every syllable, clearly defining her inquiry.
“A-are you… asking me out?” His voice felt strained and dry.
“Uh-huh!” She nodded shamelessly with a wide grin. “Want to go?”
“No,” He answered quickly.
Her smile fell into a pout. “Why?”
“We do not know each other,” he reminded her. “We spoke to each other for the first time just this morning, Ah Ro.”
“Areum.” She corrected him.
“Whatever.” He shrugged. “That just proves my point.”
“Is not that the point of hanging out?” She retaliated. “To get to know each other?”
“What if I do not want to get to know you?” He asked bluntly.
“Aish, this guy!” She sneered at him. “It will not hurt you, Yeong Gi Shi! It is just one movie!”
“No,” he said firmly. “I am sorry. I do not have time, nor do I want to, anyway.”
“You are a meanie, Kim Yeong Gi.” She rebuked him. “You will not even give me a chance to be your friend.”
“Sorry,” he stated, without actually looking sorry. “Can I get you anything else?” He asked in his waiter tone of voice, tiring of the conversation.
Quickly, she reached across the counter and pulled his notepad from his apron pocket.
“Hey!” He shouted, trying to retrieve it.
Areum wrote quickly. “Here is the date and time of the movie. It is at the theater down the block. Be there or I will tell everyone at school that you work here! Put my number in your phone,” she added, jotting it down, too. She handed the notepad back and smiled wickedly at him.
Grabbing the pad from her hands, he asked pointedly, “What if I do not show up?”
“I already told you!” Areum huffed as she headed for the door. “Be there or I will tell everyone you work here.”
“I can find another job!” He hollered after her.
She zipped out of the cafe, leaving Yeong Gi to his annoyance and with no other choice than to meet her at the movie theater.
He shook his head. Even if he wanted to go, there was just no way he could. Between home, school, and his part-time jobs, there was just no time. Hanging his head, he moaned. “Better start looking for another job.”