“On Christmas… Are you working?”

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The thing that eventually came out of my mouth was a useless question.
Yeon Woojeong made a groaning sound.

“I’m not sure.
Although I, too, don’t want to work on such a day… Why? Is there something you want to do?”

“No.”

“Should I buy you a cake?”

“…”

“What kind of cake?”

“The expensive one.”

When I answered curtly at the sudden talk about cake, he laughed.
The expensive one is good.
Listening to his muttering, I turned the page.

[Let’s play gomoku!]

There was a go board drawn under the uneven writings.
How should I play where there are no go pieces? I stared at it absentmindedly, and Yeon Woojeong stood up.

“Gomoku? Looks fun.”

He went across from me and sat down.
When he propped his chin and leaned his body this way, the oversized T-shirt loosened up to the front and the collarbone came into view.
I looked at the shadow cast on the bone, but then turned my eyes.

“You start first.
The white pieces.”

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Yeon Woojeong pointed to the mechanical pencil in my hand.
Only then did I realize how to play this.
I drew an empty circle in the center of the board.
Then, Yeon Woojeong took over the pencil in my hand.
His fingers grazed against my skin.
Feeling the sensation that remained oddly, I clenched my fist and released it.

After drawing a circle next to the one I drew, he colored it dark.
I tried to take the pencil as he held it out to me, but he suddenly withdrew his hand.

“Shall we make a bet?”

“Bet?”

“Yeah.
Grant the winner’s wish.”

There was no way I could win against Yeon Woojeong.
The chance of a high school dropout like me winning against a smart prosecutor was small.
But, I was curious about what kind of wish Yeon Woojeong would make.

“What’s your wish?”

“It’s not fun if I tell you beforehand.”

“… Alright.”

“Great.”

Yeon Woojeong handed over the pencil to me with a relaxed face.
Although there was no chance of me winning, I thought about what kind of wish I should make as I drew a circle.

While we shared the pencil and the circles on the paper became a lot, Yeon Woojeong mostly chose defense rather than attack.
He looked quite concentrating when I sneaked a glance.
Still, the unique relaxed atmosphere of his was not shattered.

Maybe he would lose on purpose to me—as there would be nothing this man wanted from me. 

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I slightly loosened up the tension as I thought that.
It was when I was thinking of making two circles become three.
Yeon Woojeong didn’t block mine and drew the circle somewhere else.
There were 4 circles.
Both ends weren’t blocked.

I lost.
When I looked up, Yeon Woojeong was looking at me while smiling.

I didn’t accept the pencil he reached out with a light move.
What kind of wish he would ask.
He wasn’t a predictable man, so I got worried if he would really ask for something weird.
Nervous, I opened my mouth.

“What is it?”

“Try to smile.”

“… What?”

Yeon Woojeong didn’t answer my question and drew a curve in the air with his forefinger.
When I frowned at the absurd request, he leaned his cheek on the hand propping the chin.

“I told you to smile, so why are you frowning?”

“Why is that kind of thing a wish?”

“Because I want to see it.”

Why did he want to see someone smiling? Smiling wasn’t a hard thing to do, but it also wasn’t an easy thing for me.
Not only had I never smiled consciously, but I also realized that I couldn’t remember if I ever smiled when I heard him ask me to smile.

Although a promise is a promise, I wondered if I really had to do that.
I stayed still because I thought Yeon Woojeong would give up if I closed my mouth, but he talked after waiting for a few minutes.

“I suddenly thought about it this morning.
You appeared in my dream…”

“…”

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“And it seems like you were smiling.”

I appeared in Yeon Woojeong’s dream.
He stared at the air for a moment as if he was trying to remember that dream.

Yeon Woojeong’s gaze returned.
I got goosebumps at his gaze slowly scanning me.

Looking at him, I suddenly thought that it might not be that hard to smile.
The light red lips with the corners raised up.
I tried to follow that line.
It felt like the corners of my lips were going to cramp.
Although I couldn’t see my face, I knew it was awkward.

Yeon Woojeong, who was propping his cheek, took his cheek off his palm.
His smile slowly disappeared.
His gaze stopped at me.
While the time his eyes stayed on me got longer, I felt like my face muscle turned stiff.
The atmosphere turned dark because he was quiet after ordering someone to smile.
When I stopped smiling, he opened his mouth a beat later.

“Ah.”

Yeon Woojeong creased his forehead and smiled.
He then tilted his head as he got up, and went to the kitchen.
He suddenly poured the coffee.
I smiled because he asked me to, but what was it with that reaction? I stared intently at him, but he didn’t look back at me.

After pouring all the coffee into the only cup that was privately his in this house, Yeon Woojeong finally turned his body.
He looked at me from the kitchen entrance.
His head was faintly slanted.
At the end of the gaze that I couldn’t understand the meaning of, he turned his feet.
It was toward the bedroom.

“You can’t sleep if you drink coffee at night.”

Hearing my comment, Yeon Woojeong stopped for a while and looked back at me.

“It’s the weekend tomorrow.”

Then he immediately entered his room.
Even though I glared at the closed door, he didn’t come out.
The paper filled with circles and a mechanical pencil were spread on the table.
I took the pencil and grabbed it tightly.
There was no warmth felt.

I roughly smeared the paper with the pencil.
A smooth sound continued, but the pencil twisted and the corner of the paper was torn.
I put down the pencil and crumpled the torn paper.
The living room was immensely quiet.

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***

When I turned on the TV after having lunch, there was a song about Santa Claus won’t give the present if the children cry.
The children were singing while playing around the amusement park, and across them, the children’s fathers were dressing up as Santa.

Christmas.
People normally exchange presents on Christmas.
Will Yeon Woojeong really buy the cake? Before that, will he even be off work that day?

Days like birthdays or Christmas had no meaning to me.
Rather, I hated them.
Because I couldn’t say anything whenever the kids in my class asked what kind of present I got, or what I ate.
It wasn’t like I never got a present, or if I never ate something tasty.
However, the good days always ended badly.
Difference creates disconnection.

Such things never happened after I left my house.
Because I just lived past without knowing if it was my birthday or Christmas—although days like Christmas were the busiest season when I lived off stealing wallets on the street.
This time, I didn’t need to crawl around people and beg.

Anyway, this all is thanks to Yeon Woojeong.
If that day I didn’t catch his attention, there wouldn’t be such a thing like I didn’t wander the street in the cold winter, eating warm food, and showering with warm water.

I got off the sofa and went upstairs.
Opening the closet, I took out the plastic bag I hid deep inside.
There was cash inside.
I couldn’t take much.
I took 30,000 won out, and I wondered what I could buy with this so I took 20,000 won more.

50,000 won.
Honestly, this amount was big to me.
I didn’t know what would happen from now on, so I mustn’t use this money recklessly.
But, shouldn’t I give this much to Yeon Woojeong? Even if he said he wouldn’t accept it, I had to give it.
I would throw away all the receipts so that I couldn’t get a refund. 

As I made up my mind, I immediately changed my clothes and went outside.
I tried to look up and found out that I had to go about 10 minutes by bus to go to the department store.
I wondered if it would be expensive in the department store.
However, I refused to get laughed at if I gave whatever to Yeon Woojeong, who went around with an expensive car and expensive clothes.
I mulled over it but then decided to just walk first.

There was a tree in front of the department store.
I walked in by sandwiching in between people getting inside.
I only ever entered the department store to fight the cold for a moment in the past, and it was strange that this time I came here to buy something.

When I got inside after passing the entrance, I smelled the scent of perfumes.
My mood turned bad.
As I quickly moved away to the escalator location, I saw a display stand next to it.
Sunglasses, accessories, scarves.
When I saw the scarves, I remembered Yeon Woojeong’s white neck.
Yeon Woojeong, who only wore a coat because he moved around riding a car. 

As I approached the display stand, I saw scarves of various colors.

“Young man, come take a look.
The material is good, and it’s on sale.”

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