My face, which is reflected in the turned-off intercom, is stiff.
Yeon Woojeong, who recklessly picked up a boy he didn’t know from the street, has no reason to be more reluctant to an employee of a cleaning company who has a clearer background than me.

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After ending the call, I go to the kitchen.
Opening the drawer, I take out the envelope of money.
It’s dangerous to leave this here if she always comes here once a week.

The bell rings.
I put the envelope in the bathroom first, and when I open the door, the employee in uniform greets me by bowing her head.

“Hello, sir.
This is my first time meeting you.”

“I’m not this house owner.”

Leaving the employee who kindly greeted me behind, I take the clothes I left under the sofa.
I change my clothes in the bathroom and put the envelope inside the jacket’s inner pocket.
As I am about to leave, I meet the employee who is grabbing the pile of shirts in the laundry room.
I glance at the shirts grabbed by the employee.
It doesn’t look like she washes it with the washing machine.

I walk past her to the entrance.
As I come out after wearing my sneakers, I hear greetings from between the closing door.

This is my first time going out except for when I went to the prosecutors’ office or when I threw out the trash.
The temperature has gone colder.
I take a step forward after zipping the padding jacket up to my neck.

When I’m passing through the small garden in front of the officetel to go out to the exit, I suddenly turn my head and I see a smoking booth.
The person behind the transparent door with a cigarette in his mouth is Yeon Woojeong.
I stop walking as if I get shackled in my ankle.

The man inhales the shortened cigarette until his cheeks hollow in, then he takes the cigarette away, holding in the smoke, and blows it out.

It looks just like a picture.
It’s not because he looks cool or outstanding, but he looks like he has been like this since he was born.
Whether it’s alcohol or cigarettes, something harmful to the body, or something that is rejected by society, Yeon Woojeong will look good with it as if that is natural.

Well, he doesn’t exude a cigarette smell, and even though I didn’t see him smoking all weekend, I’m not surprised that he is a smoker.
His movement to throw away the butt in the trash can and blow out the smoke while staring into the air is slow and relaxed.

Yeon Woojeong, who is about to walk out the door while dusting off his suit, stops as he looks at me.
Soon, his mysterious eyes thinned out.
The tips of his eyes that are arched down are quite unrealistic.
I get cold creeps.

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“Ah, you caught me.”

He slowly walks to me.
Putting the coat over one of his arms, Yeon Woojeong loosens his necktie with the other hand and puts it in the coat’s pocket.

“Why are you here?”

“I had a work outside and came right away.
Where are you going?”

“Mart.”

“It’s being cleaned now, isn’t it? Let’s go together, then go back.”

Yeon Woojeong wears the coat and stands next to me.
There’s a faint cigarette smell, but it’s not smoky.
Every time we walk, his coat brushes against my hand.
I put my hands inside my pockets.

On the sunset-tinted road, Yeon Woojeong walks next to me.
It’s weird to go to the mart with this man at this time, but it’s not bad.

The mart is not far.
As soon as we arrive, Yeon Woojeong takes a cart from the entrance.

“I won’t buy that much.”

“Marts are all about pulling carts.”

While saying childish things, he leans his body in the cart and pulls it.
I notice the gazes of the woman passing us are directed to Yeon Woojeong.
Suddenly, I feel tired with the man next to me.

The first thing to buy is rice.
I put the cheapest 3 kg rice sack on the cart.
Yeon Woojeong stabs black rice and brown rice bags with his finger, and when I touch the handle of the cart, we walk again.

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I know how to cook, but it doesn’t mean I can make something wow.
After choosing eggs, cans of tuna, and canned ham, I can’t think of anything else.
On the way, Yeon Woojeong puts a package of ramyeon in the cart.
When I stare at him, he shrugs with an expressionless face.

“You’re not buying meat?”

“…”

“I heard they also sell seasonings as finished products these days.”

With Yeon Woojeong’s interference, I go to the meat section and buy pork for bulgogi.
As he said, the seasoning is sold in various kinds, but he is a step ahead to reach out to the refrigerator.
It is from the same brand as the delivered lunch box.

The cart is big, but the things put inside it are not much.
But, there’s nothing more to buy.
Yeon Woojeong, who leisurely looks around while leaning in the cart, doesn’t look like he is interested in buying anything.
I wonder if it’s better to fill the cart with the things he likes because we will eat together, anyway.

While glancing at Yeon Woojeong as I slightly bite the inside of my cheek, we idly wander inside the mart.
When Yeon Woojeong sends his gaze to me, I slowly open my mouth.

“Don’t you have anything else to buy?”

“…”

“Or something you want to eat.”

“… ah.
I won’t eat the food you make.”

“… why?”

I refrain from furrowing my brows.
Looking at Yeon Woojeong’s calm face, I try to calm something that is raging inside.
Yeon Woojeong rolls his eyes once.

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“You don’t need to do laundry, dishes, and cleaning.
About cooking… just do it because you want it.
Don’t do anything for me.”

“Then what should I do?”

“I told you, right? Don’t do anything.
I mean, just do everything you want to do.
But don’t ‘work’ in my house.”

It sounds like sophistry.
I really can’t understand what he is trying to say.

I worked when I stayed in the facility.
Cooking, cleaning, laundry, were part of my work.
The kids also did those, but there was a limit for the kids, and because I was in charge of them, Lee Sugeol would nitpick me if I didn’t do it properly.

Household chores are trades.
Something that I have to contribute because I have to stay here.
The price for me to stay in the youth shelter was to endure a fucking bastard panting all night.
I couldn’t stay there because I couldn’t endure that. 

Every relationship is established under transactions.
Even in the parent-child relationship, there’s nothing called one-sided dedication.
But he told me to do nothing? How will he stab me in the back later? What is he trying to take from me by saying that?

“Fuck, just say you don’t want to eat something made by a dirty bastard whose identity is unknown.
Do not be a hypocrite.”

It’d be better if he just made a terrible request honestly—rather than sucking my blood dry like this.

I can just eat the lunch box.
If I get tired of it, I don’t mind eating instant rice with ramyeon.
The reason I’m doing something luxurious like this is just that I am curious.
How far I can invade his space and how far I can do as I like.

But, I rather feel like I’m being pushed with Yeon Woojeong saying don’t do anything and I don’t need anything.
I clearly understand that I have to humor him if I want to stay comfortably here, but I’m an idiot who can’t do that.
My mood is completely ruined so I turn back, but I get caught in my wrist.

“Are you upset?”

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Upset? He’s talking rubbish.
I try to shake off his hand, but his hand goes lower and grabs mine.
Warm touch permeates my palm.
It feels unpleasant as if there’s a hangnail.

When I turn my head, Yeon Woojeong is staring at me.
The piercing gaze feels like binding me.
He slightly tilts his head and wrinkles his forehead as if thinking about something.
The reason why I can’t shake his hand even though I can just do it is that he looks like he wants to say something.
Soon, Yeon Woojeong parts his lips.

“Even if you’re doing something because you want to do it for now, someday, it will become something that you do even though you don’t want to.”

“…”

“I picked you.
And you didn’t sell yourself to me.”

What Yeon Woojeong says is not a lie.
The first time we met, he clearly said I can do nothing.
And so, right now, it feels like he’s saying there’s no transaction between him and me.

Something like that is nonsense, you see.
There’s no way something like goodwill without price, or a relationship without giving and taking, exist.

But, I don’t retort.
Right now, I have nowhere to go, and I need a place to settle in, at least until I come of age.
Even if it is a place with only downhill roads ahead.
I have a reason to stop.
It’s his loss if he doesn’t ask anything, not mine.

As I turn back without saying anything, Yeon Woojeong’s hand naturally leaves me.
I hear the sound of the cart following me as the wheels roll.

I put everything in the cart on the counter.
There’s Yeon Woojeong’s card in my pocket and my whole fortune in my inner pocket.
I came here thinking of using Yeon Woojeong’s card, but now that I have arrived here, I hate to take out his card.
It’s a ridiculous and useless pride.
But still, to take out my money…

Yeon Woojeong, who follows behind me, takes out a card and hands it to the employee.
Despite thinking that is natural since he picked me, and he has more money, I’m angry.
Sometimes, poverty makes people miserable.
Sometimes, I hate being miserable more than dying.
Still, I’m getting used to it, since I know satiating my hunger is better than dying.

Yeon Woojeong takes the grocery bag.
The plastic bag, which also serves as a garbage bag, does not go well with Yeon Woojeong’s clothes.
He, who looks nonchalant despite the quarrel earlier, takes the lead.
Every step he takes boils me inside.
Chasing after the slow step, I grab the bag held by Yeon Woojeong because I can’t endure it.
Yeon Woojeong’s body slightly leaning backward, then he turns.

“Then what is the reason you took me in?”

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