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Please Don't Talk to Me by bbangduksi. A shy woman is hiding behind a tipsy man holding a bottle of soju.

Please Don't Talk to Me

18

Chapter 18

17

Dongju’s eyes widened even further. I couldn’t tell if the heat wrapping around each finger was from my hand or his. It felt like a troop of dwarves was trampling on my chest; my heart thundered so loudly, its echoes vibrated through my torso and resonated up to my head. My whole body seemed to pulse with a single, throbbing heartbeat.

 

My eyes shifted to the tickets on the ground. They were gently overlapping. I reached out with my free hand toward them…

 

Hoo—!

 

The tickets, just a step away, fluttered and moved several steps back.

 

What just…?

 

I glanced at Dongju. He was staring intently at the tickets. Then, he pulled his hand away from mine and hurried toward them.

 

What is he doing?

 

Dongju scooped up the tickets and shoved them into his pocket. I stood there for about three seconds, my back to him, unable to see his expression.

 

He spun around. His eyes, which had been wildly shaking just moments before, had settled as if nothing had happened. He walked over with a calm demeanor, like someone who had just finished watching a nature documentary.

 

With exaggerated politeness, he said, “Oh, Woogi, you’re here. What’s up?”

 

“…”

 

I blinked. It took me a few seconds to grasp the situation.

 

Dongju was acting as if nothing had happened.

 

This…

 

This is crazy…

 

***

 

I looked down at the desk. My fingernails were repeatedly stabbing an eraser like it had offended me somehow.

 

“…”

 

“…”

 

Two hours had passed since Dongju and I were together, but neither of us had spoken. We just watched each other, waiting for the other to react. I tried to act naturally, but it only made me feel more awkward.

 

The silence dragged on, and I kept my eyes on Dongju, wondering if he might bring up yesterday. When would he explain? I wanted to hear his side of the story, but I couldn’t find the courage to ask him first.

 

The image of Dongju in front of the Law building lingered in my mind. Every time it resurfaced, a mix of emotions flooded over me—gratitude, regret, foolishness, sadness.

 

How could he have gone to such lengths for me without expecting anything in return? It left a bitterness lingering in the corner of my heart.

 

I thought about the tickets that had fallen to the floor.

 

Is he going to ask me to go see it with him?

 

When it came to good things, I usually shrugged them off as if they were mistakenly delivered to someone else’s address. That way, I would be less disappointed if they weren’t truly meant for me. But seeing that ticket sparked a sudden belief that it was indeed intended for me.

 

The exhibition of the artist I had mentioned liking… Dongju’s flustered expression…

 

Oh, the staples need a refill.

 

I had opened the stapler to see why it wasn’t working, only to find it empty.

 

They’re in the cabinet…

 

I was about to go to the cabinet when I noticed Dongju behind me. Should I not use the stapler? No, better to act naturally. I tried to maintain a neutral expression as I turned around.

 

Just then, Dongju was getting up from the floor as if about to leave. Our eyes met while he was in an awkward position. Suddenly, he sat back down as if he’d never planned to stand and started looking at his phone.

 

I chewed on my cheek to hold back a laugh. Casually, I fetched the staples from the cabinet and returned to my desk. Just like when he had blown the tickets away, Dongju was trying hard to pretend nothing was happening. It made me want to tease him.

 

I glanced around my desk and pulled a notebook from the shelf. Tearing out a few pages, I scribbled something onto one. I wondered what kind of expression Dongju would have when he saw this. I couldn’t help but giggle.

 

After writing, I composed my face as if nothing was wrong.

 

Sad thoughts… Sad thoughts…

 

I sat back down with the papers. Dongju looked at me, curiosity mixed with tension in his eyes. I casually placed one of the papers I had written on the floor.

 

I slightly bowed my head and took a breath.

 

Hoo—!

 

The paper glided smoothly toward Dongju. He watched it slide over, then read the message.

 

How did you get the tickets to fly that far? They almost left the school.

 

Dongju blinked slowly, overwhelmed with embarrassment.

 

I struggled to hold back my laughter. Seizing the moment, I placed the rest of the papers on the floor one by one and blew on them.

 

Dongju turned his head away, trying not to watch what I was doing. His ears were turning red.

 

I couldn’t resist; I pulled out a tissue and blew it toward him. The tissue fluttered and landed right in front of his face. Dongju snatched it out of the air and crumpled it up.

 

As I continued to blow more tissues, Dongju’s face turned even redder. He couldn’t look at me, just bit his lip. Eventually, I couldn’t hold it in any longer and burst out laughing. Dongju glanced at me, then suddenly got up and left the security office.

 

Bang.

 

I laughed even harder, not stopping until the amusement passed. I was strangely thrilled by how red I had made Dongju’s face turn. Why was it so fun to see someone’s mood affected by me? I picked up the scattered papers and tissues from the floor. Dongju was flustered, unsure how to react.

 

I let out another laugh.

 

Ah, I shouldn’t tease him anymore. His face might explode at this rate.

 

Creak.

 

After a while, Dongju came back in.

 

His face had almost returned to its original color. He seemed to have calmed down outside.

 

My smile hadn’t completely faded as I watched him return.

 

Dongju looked down at me, appearing baffled by my smile. He sat down on the floor. He didn’t lean against the corner but directly in front of me.

 

I studied his face as he avoided my gaze, then shyly met it again. He straightened his back and adjusted his position slightly.

 

What is he trying to do?

 

Suddenly, a strange sensation washed over me.

 

Unconsciously, I clenched the bundle of papers in my hand.

 

We sat in silence for a moment.

 

“…”

 

“…”

 

I could hear Dongju give a big gulp.

 

In the quiet, my heart thudded loudly as if to remind me it was there.

 

“Hmm…”

 

The sound echoed in my ears, clear as footprints in snow.

 

Dongju looked like he was about to say something, then hesitated, swallowing his words instead.

 

My fingertips tingled, and my stomach felt fluttery.

 

Unable to meet Dongju’s eyes, I stared at a random spot on the floor. Then, gently, Dongju unfolded my clenched fingers and took the bundle of papers from my hand. I looked at my empty palm.

 

He placed something in it. Two long, rectangular pieces of paper.

 

These are…

 

The same shape as the papers that had fallen from his pocket yesterday.

 

They were stacked just as they had been on the floor, now resting in my hand.

 

I swallowed.

 

Holding the papers carefully, my fingers trembled slightly. I wasn’t wrong. He had intended to give them to me. Dongju had been figuring out when and how to ask me to go with him.

 

Slowly, I turned the paper over to check the back.

 

What…?

 

There’s nothing… written on it…

 

I flipped the paper back over. Both sides were blank.

 

Pffft!

 

The sound of stifled laughter rang out.

 

I quickly turned to look at Dongju.

 

“Ahahaha!”

 

He was laughing so hard he was pounding the floor. Then it hit me.

 

Hmph…

 

I closed my eyes and bit my lip, turning my head away.

 

How could he trick me with something like this? My head spun. I felt embarrassed about how tense and breathless I had been until just moments ago.

 

The sound of Dongju’s breathless laughter echoed beside me. My face felt like it was about to burst into flames, and my neck grew uncomfortably hot.

 

Does he really find this funny?

 

I had joked around, too, but this was too much. How could he play with someone’s feelings like this?

 

Tears threatened to spill over.

 

“Oh, jeez… Ah, it’s too funny… Haha— Ahahaha!”

 

Dongju was nearly crying from laughter, occasionally sniffling between chuckles as if replaying the scene in his head. The sound only fueled my anger, my breath hissing sharply through my nose.

 

This guy is so annoying. And immature…

 

I couldn’t stand it anymore. Glaring at Dongju, I turned sharply to face him. His face was still creased with laughter.

 

He’s still laughing?

 

Seeing my face, Dongju burst into laughter once again.

 

I clenched my teeth and got up abruptly, shoved my shoes on, and stormed out the door.

 

“Woogi, where are you going? Wait—”

 

Bang!

 

Tears welled up in my eyes, and I furiously wiped them away.

 

Ugh, so annoying. I’m not going to say a word… Not even going to look. Completely immature, totally stupid and self-absorbed. I’m not letting this go. Absolutely not…

 

“Woogi!”

 

Then, Dongju grabbed my arm from behind. No matter what he said, I wouldn’t forgive him.

 

He stepped in front of me, searching my face. I glared at him, and he laughed again.

 

Seriously…?

 

I tensed my arm, trying to shake off his hand, but he gripped even tighter. I continued glaring at him.

 

Still holding onto my arm, Dongju reached into his pocket with his free hand and pulled something out. He held it up before my eyes.

 

“Let’s go see this together.”

 

I stared at what he was holding.

 

Special Exhibition of Colorist Painter Matisse

 

My eyes narrowed, and I made a slight pouty face as I glared at the tickets.

 

Ugh. What is…?

 

I was still seething with anger and frustration. I wasn’t ready to calm down, let alone accept his offer.

 

I stood there, motionless, pouting without even realizing it. My head was slightly bowed.

 

As if I’m going with you.

 

Behind the ticket, Dongju’s smiling face lingered in my vision like a stubborn afterimage.

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