Baek In-hyuk took me by surprise, startling me to the point that I slapped his hand away.
Seeing him in my dreams was a bit uncomfortable.
“You surprised me too,” Baek In-hyuk replied in confusion while making eye contact with Seon-jae.
Most of the Potato battles were led by Baek In-hyuk’s fans. They even tied bands around their heads as if they were going to war. They claimed that Seon-jae was trying to steal Baek In-hyuk’s position as the group leader, and ferociously opposed Seon-jae’s joining.
The attacks on Seon-jae continued even after he joined the group.
As a fan of Seon-jae, I hated Baek In-hyuk’s fans, so naturally, I hated him as well.
The sight of my tears caused In-hyuk and Seon-jae to stare at me in bewilderment.
Seon-jae was the first to frown.
I wiped the tears trickling down my cheek with the back of my hand. Seon-jae watched me with an irked expression on his face.
“Do you know me?”
“Ah… I’m your fan. Of course, you don’t know me. I just signed up for your fan cafe but I haven’t posted anything.”
I sniffled and blinked away my tears, my eyes growing red from crying.
“A fan?” Seon-jae’s forehead wrinkled in confusion.
“Wow, when did you start a fan cafe?” Baek In-hyuk asked, slapping Seon-jae on the shoulder. I rolled my eyes and gave Baek In-hyuk a look of disapproval.
“That’s right, I’m his fan. And, please don’t hit his shoulder again, you’ll hurt him.”
“Did you just say…you’re my fan?”
“You’re a Potato… No…um… So, later on, you… Umm… Nevermind that… Anyway, Seon-jae, it’s very nice to see you.”
Although his facial expression was one of displeasure, it was still amazing to see him in person. Fan signing events were very exclusive, and their concert tickets were always sold out as they were first-come-first-serve. Their live events were too overcrowded anyways, so I eventually gave up trying to attend.
I smiled with tears of joy in my eyes. I never thought I would be able to see his gentle face again, but it appeared that Seon-jae was paying this devoted fan a visit before ascending to heaven.
When that depressing thought crossed my mind, I bit my lip and began to cry again. In-hyuk covered his face with his hands in a failed attempt to restrain his laughter. I didn’t want to look away from Seon-jae, so I decided to ignore him for the time being. Who knew how long I had to admire Seon-jae this closely since I could wake up from this dream at any moment.
Therefore, I directed all my attention to Seon-jae.
“Seon-jae, you are my favorite singer. Your songs have always given me strength. Everyone loved you, so I hope you don’t take too many bad memories with you.”
I found it hard to breathe as my throat felt tight and my chest hurt. I cupped Seon-jae’s cheeks with both hands, ignoring the tears as they fell even more quicker. But when I caressed his soft skin, the already frowning Seon-jae took a step back, pulling out his face from my grasp.
“This feels so real. Ugh, I still can’t believe that everything happened because of that damned cold medicine. I wish it never existed.”
Tilting my head back, I threw an arm over my eyes and sobbed loudly, attracting the attention of the students exiting the school.
‘Who cares about them? This is only a dream. But what’s the point of having Seon-jae in my dreams, if he doesn’t exist in reality anymore?’
“Seon-jae…. Ryu Seon-jaaaaee. I love you so much!” I cried out loudly without a single care in the world.
Suddenly, a hand covered my mouth, muffling my voice. When I lowered my arm, I saw Seon-jae standing in front of me with his big palm over my mouth.
Seon-jae’s eyebrows were knitted together. Glancing around, I noticed that Baek In-hyuk was standing quite a bit of distance away from us, which indicated that they had begun walking away the moment I started crying again. I’m sure those two would’ve continued ignoring me and walking away if I hadn’t screamed Seon-jae’s name so loudly that it echoed throughout the entire courtyard.
“If I hear you say my name one more time…”
Blinking slowly, I realized that the warmth against my face was Seon-jae’s hand.
‘Should I smell it?’
‘Omg, what am I thinking? Why am I having such perverted thoughts at a time like this?’
I was sure he was going to threaten to kill me if I said his name again, but Seon-jae left the threat hanging and walked away with an unreadable expression. But, even as he got farther and farther away, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.
Baek In-hyuk pointed at Seon-jae’s tear-stained vest and laughed. Seon-jae snatched Baek In-hyuk’s vest and used it to wipe his own, earning him a shout from Baek In-hyuk.
“Yo, what the hell?”
My attention was suddenly pulled away from him at the sound of whispering. Turning towards the sound, I noticed that a number of students had approached the windows and were looking down at me. It must have been quite strange to see someone in a different school uniform, sobbing in their school’s courtyard.
‘What should I do now? Should I keep standing here? I’ve said everything I wanted to say.
Shouldn’t I be waking up from my dream now?’
When I glanced up at the sky, the clouds were moving slowly, just like they would in real life.
□ ■ □
Night had fallen a long since and the moon was now visible from behind the continuously moving clouds.
I was sitting on a bench, swinging my feet while dipping my hand in the water fountain, when I heard a strained voice in front of me. Lifting my gaze, I saw a boy around my age, with his bangs styled with a part in the middle, standing before me. He had his arm extended towards me with an unlocked cell phone in hand.
“My friend asked me to do this. Can I have your number?”
“That guy over there in the gray hoodie says he’s interested in you.”
Looking in the direction of where he pointed, I saw a guy in a gray hoodie leaning against a telephone pole with his head down.
“Ah…I’m sorry,” I said apologetically, bowing my head.
He smiled awkwardly and simply walked away.
“Awww, you were rejected.”
“Shut up, you punk. She must have a boyfriend.”
The two gave me one last look before going on their way.
The sun had set a while ago, but I still couldn’t figure out why I was still here.
“Im Soo-ah. How long are you going to sleep? Wake up already. Open your eyes.”
I closed my eyes tightly, slapping my cheeks with both hands.
‘C’mon, wake up. Please wake up!’
Lowering my hands, I slowly opened my eyes, but I was still in the park. I leaned my head back and released a heavy sigh.
‘Why is everything still the same?’
A vibration against my thigh pulled me from my thoughts. It was so vivid, that I almost thought it was real.
This is such a realistic dream.
Pulling my cell phone from my pocket, I quickly checked the caller ID.
‘I’m still dreaming, but I’m actually receiving a call?’
-When are you coming home? Do you know what time is it?
I was speechless.
‘Why are you asking me about coming home?’
“This dream is too realistic.”
-What dream? Stop talking nonsense and hurry home. It’s already 11 o’clock! 11 o’clock!
“Mom, I can’t wake up from my dream. I have no idea how many hours I’ve been sitting here.”
-What’s wrong with you? Just get home. It’s very late.
The phone call had ended but I was still staring at the phone screen. I had already searched the Internet for any mention of Potato Pancakes, Ryu Seon-jae, and Baek In-hyuk, but nothing came up. I even accessed the school’s integrated information system, and attempted to log into his school account, but when I entered his school ID number and password there wasn’t any information.
It all seemed too real, but at the same time it couldn’t be real since this was just a dream.
‘Why can’t I wake up? What did I do before falling asleep? Didn’t I scream at the neighbor?’
“Turn off the TV!” I screamed
When faced with the deafening silence of the park, I lowered my voice a little bit.
“I do not sound like a wailing ghost!”
I stared into the darkness, waiting for something to happen, but the scenery remained the same.
I didn’t want to scream or make any more noise since I was still in a public area. There wasn’t any blinding light like before, so it was clear that screaming wasn’t the trigger. I exhaled briefly and clenched my hands.
“Please let me wake up from this dream.”
Suddenly, I heard laughter from somewhere nearby. I turned towards the sound as it seemed to be coming from the flower beds behind me.
However, before I had the chance to fully check, the sound grew louder. Then, I saw a group of hoodlums smoking cigarettes wander into the park. They were shouting words like, “Fuuuck,” as they laughed and talked amongst themselves.
It was terrifying.
Regardless of it being a dream or not, I knew I had to avoid this situation. I got up from the bench and quickly left the park. Since I had nowhere else to go, I walked home.
To the house I hadn’t lived in since moving out for college.
□ ■ □
‘Get up! Wake up!’
The shrill sound of the alarm pierced my ears. I reached out and pressed down on the panda’s head, silencing the alarm. Lying in my bed, I stared at the ceiling of my old room and took a few moments to gather myself. Once I sat up, I noticed my old school uniform hanging on the door handle.
“Oh, my god. Why am I still here?”
Yawning and rubbing my face, I opened the bedroom door, and stepped into the hallway.
As usual, there was no one home. My dad worked outside the province and only came home once a month. My mom headed out to work early in the morning because her workplace was far away. As a result, I always woke up to an empty house.
I would lie that I had eaten breakfast, even when I hadn’t, and walked to school, which was nearby. That was how my high school mornings were.
As soon as I walked into the kitchen, I caught sight of a note attached to the refrigerator.
[Eat well and don’t be late for school]
It was from my mom.
“What’s this? You want me to do what? You’re not seriously telling me to go to school?”
Standing in the middle of the living room, a frown made its way onto my face as I basked in the sunlight coming through the window.
‘Is this not a dream?’
□ ■ □
“Im Soo-ah. Are you planning to join the ranks of troublemakers by skipping all your classes?”
“No…” I responded weakly.
When I answered, my homeroom teacher gave me a look of disapproval. It was stupid of me to ditch school without thinking yesterday, so I bowed my head, begging for forgiveness. When the bell rang, announcing the start of first period, my homeroom teacher stood up with a textbook in hand and headed towards the door.
“Why are you still standing there? Aren’t you going to class?”
After bowing, a few more times, I silently left the teacher’s lounge. After slowly walking into the classroom, I found a seat and sat down. At first, I didn’t know where to sit, but I soon noticed the bag I left here yesterday was still hanging on the desk.
“What were you thinking yesterday…” asked Eun-hee as she took a seat next to me.
“I don’t know…”
I was beyond frustrated.
‘I can’t believe I’m in 2nd year of high school again.’
Supporting my chin with my palm, I stared at the blackboard for a moment before turning to Eun-hee.
“Have you heard of the Potato Pancakes?”
“Huh? The food?”
“No, I mean the singers. Idols.”
“There’s a group called like that? What’s up with their name?”
She had no idea.
I looked at the clock on the wall in front of me. In dreams, time flowed at intervals.
However, this clock’s hands moved chronologically, not missing a single second.
Thank you for reading!