He opened the back doors of his car and took out the standing wreath that he put on its side.
He wanted to gift one that was much taller than an average person, but he changed it to a smaller one when he heard that it was going to get messy.
As for the congratulatory message, Bada was the one who thought of it: A gukbap restaurant run by a handsome man and a pretty woman.
Dojin, who was gliding across the hall with trays on each hand, pointed at an empty table with his chin, telling him to sit down.
“You look busy.”
“All the regulars from Suwon are here.
I told them that they didn’t need to come since it was far too.”
“When else would they give you sales like this? Oh, where should I place the wreath?”
“You bought one? I told you not to.”
“I don’t want to get an earful from Iseul for being empty-handed.
Heck, she even told me what size I should bring.
I’ll put it in front of the store, okay?”
“Put it next to the entrance.”
The guy who told him that he shouldn’t have brought it even told him where to put it.
Maru moved the wreath he placed next to his car next to the entrance.
The gukbap restaurant that had four tables attached side to side had now turned into a restaurant with twenty tables.
This was the result of a year of hard contemplation about whether to increase the rotation rate of the customers.
Maru dusted his hands and looked at the JA building, which was right across the street.
He inwardly sent his thanks to the building owner that solved the problem of the monthly rent – which was what Iseul was worried about – in one go.
It was a very profitable business on his part since they got to rent the place for nearly half of the usual rent around this area for looking after his dogs for half a month.
Though, he did get an earful that he wanted quite a lot for being a leech.
“You here, our savior?”
Iseul rushed out of the kitchen and grabbed his hand.
Maru shook her hands off, saying that he felt creeped out.
“I’m not the savior.
It’s the building owner.”
“I was introduced to your president through you, so you might as well be the savior.
I wanted to move our restaurant to expand it, but I was worried because of the prices around the area.
I never knew I would be able to rent such a good place at such a cheap price.”
Iseul told him to wait, saying that she would bring him an extra-large bowl of gukbap.
Maru was originally worried about how well this gukbap restaurant – which was in Suwon for all its life – would do in Seoul, but it seemed to be doing okay seeing the crowd here.
He probably wouldn’t have to worry about it going out of business as long as they managed to conquer the stomachs of the white-collar workers from the rows of buildings of finance and insurance companies.
“Don’t you think it’s about time you stop being a manservant and become a groom?” he asked Dojin who sat down opposite him while putting down the tray.
He had been helping out with her household business since he was in high school, so he had been doing this for six years, not counting his military service.
He had become a splendid pillar that supported the gukbap restaurant from a clumsy part-timer, so the father- and mother-in-law-to-be shouldn’t have any problems either.
“Well, the thing is, I want to do that too, but the timing is a little… vague, you know.”
“What timing do you need between you two? You’ve already seen everything you need to know about each other.”
“That’s true, but I’m missing the important thing.”
“What important thing?”
“Buy a ring and ask her to marry you.
Kneel down and sing a serenade.
Oh, a hundred candles and a guitar are a must.”
“I’m sure Iseul will love that.
I’d be surprised if she doesn’t push me over on the spot and run away.”
“I was just joking.
Don’t think about it too hard, and don’t go overboard with the event and just go to, you know, a place you two go from time to time.
Like a restaurant or the place you went to for your first date.
Go to a place like that, set up the mood, and send her signs that you’re going to do a proposal.
Iseul needs time to prepare too.
After that, you give her the ring and ask her to marry you.
“Did you do it before? Why do you sound so knowledgeable?”
“I did it through acting.
Isn’t Iseul waiting for you as well? If you waste your time working, she’ll get you for this later.
The wedding is important, yes, but the process before that is important as well.
If you don’t want her to nag you for life, then make sure you give her a proper proposal.
One that Iseul would like.
A ring is a must, though.”
“What the heck is up with your obsession with rings?”
“That’s how important symbolism is, my boy.”
Dojin looked behind him.
Iseul was talking to the customers at one table.
Dojin’s eyes as he looked at her exuded ‘I’m in love with her’ without holding back.
“I tried to.”
“What else? I’m talking about the proposal.”
“If you did it, then you did it.
What the heck is ‘you tried to’?”
“I had my plans too.
Just like you said, I was planning on proposing to her in a special way in a place that both she and I knew about.
I finished preparing and went to the restaurant with her.
We had nice food, talked about this and that, and I brought up the topic of marriage in an indirect way.
These days, getting married at twenty-five might be quite early, but as you know, we’ve been together for a pretty long time, right? Iseul’s mother also asked me when we were going to do the wedding, and her father told me that I don’t need to worry about housing when we went hiking together.”
“So all you need to do is stamp those documents.”
“Yes, like you said, I was going to propose to her officially, get her agreement, and get married next year, but I failed.”
“What do you mean you failed?”
Dojin looked around before speaking in a small voice.
“I’m not sure if I can call this a failure, but when I tried to propose to her after dinner, Iseul asked me first – don’t tell me you’re going to propose to me right now? – that’s what she told me.”
“What else could I do when I already made all my preparations? I was going to go forward with it anyway.
I’ve never seen Iseul panicking so much in my life.
She suddenly said we should leave and left without me.”
“Hey, did you do something wrong? Like you slept with another woman or something?”
“Do you think I’m crazy? I’d never do something like that.”
“Then why did things go wrong like that?”
“I have a headache because I don’t know the answer to that.”
“When did you propose?”
“Two days ago.”
“Then maybe it’s because she was hectic with the store and all?”
“If it was like that, she would have told me about it.
But she hasn’t said anything even until today.
Even though she’s smiling like that.”
This didn’t seem to be something that should be taken lightly.
The fact that she left despite knowing that he was going to propose meant that she must have had her reasons for doing so.
With Iseul’s personality, there was no way she would allow it to be left hanging like that.
Why would she feign ignorance despite knowing that Dojin was feeling frustrated? He knew that there was nothing to be gained by jumping into the relationship between a man and a woman, but these two were his friends.
Moreover, the number of gukbap he ate until now would probably tally up to a consultation fee.
There were plenty of reasons for him to intervene in this romantic drama.
Though, he was very skeptical about how helpful he would be when he couldn’t even take care of his own life properly.
“So you feel like you’ve done nothing wrong, huh? If I hear words like cheating or two-timing later, I’m going to strangle you then.”
“If I did something like that, I’ll stick my nose into a puddle and drown.”
It’s cruel to turn her into a widow before you even get married.
Get going for now, there are customers coming.”
As soon as Dojin left with the tray, Iseul came over with the gukbap this time.
The boiling gukbap soup had the same fragrance as the one he ate in Suwon.
It shouldn’t have changed a single bit, you know?”
“I’d be disappointed if it did.”
He had to drink this white soup before he unleashed the sauce into it.
He pushed his spoon in it and just as he was about to scoop a spoonful out, Iseul spoke,
“What did you talk about with Dojin?”
“Can I tell you after I eat? You told me to eat it.”
“You can eat it later, so just tell me.
What did you two talk about?”
“About how the store is busy and that he’s happy that the interior design is good? You know, and stuff like how he hopes there will be a lot of customers in the future.”
“What else would he talk about with me?”
Maru felt lucky that he didn’t drop the spoon just like that.
He put down the spoon while looking at Iseul.
Iseul made secret glances at Dojin behind her just like Dojin did in her place just moments ago.
“Dojin tried to propose to me.”
“Good for you.
Twenty-five is the perfect time to get married.
And both of you are practically married, aren’t you? It’s already too late for both of you to find another partner.”
Of course I’m going to get married to him.
If I tell my parents that I’m going to meet another man at this point, they’ll beat me to death.”
“Then I don’t see a problem.
Did you get proposed to?”
No, more like I couldn’t accept it.”
“What are you saying after all this time? You just said that you don’t have any other partner than Dojin.
Don’t tell me there’s something going on with another man or something? The Kim Iseul I know isn’t like that.”
“Of course, it’s not that.
I thought I was having a heart attack when he was getting ready to propose to me.
I felt really good.”
“Then you should’ve accepted him.”
“I said I couldn’t.”
“Like I said, why?”
“Because I’m preparing one!”
She raised her voice before groaning and lowering it again.
The customers around looked at her.
“You’re preparing one? You mean, a proposal?”
Iseul took out her phone and showed him a video.
It was a video of a woman who was the bride-to-be and her friends dancing in front of the husband-to-be.
The flower bouquets, the candles laid out by the friends, and the clumsy yet passionate playing of an instrument.
It ended with the woman kneeling in front of the man and proposing.
Maru asked Iseul with a serious expression,
“You’re doing this?”
“Oh my lord.”
“There’s no rule saying that the man must do the proposal.
It was me who asked him out, so I’m going to do the proposal as well.”
“What kind of dogshit stubbornness is this? You should have just accepted him.”
“If I say no, then it’s a no.”
“Oh my lord.
Why must I suffer between these two assholes? So what, you prepared a dance, a song, and even an instrument?”
“I even practiced it.
If I accepted the proposal like that, what would that make me and my friends? Dowook, Daemyung, and even Jiyoon are helping me out.”
“You brought them in?”
“I wished I could bring you into this as well, but….”
Iseul blurred her words for the first time after speaking like she was rapping.
Her effort to avoid this next topic showed through her eyes rolling everywhere as well as her lips.
After hesitating, Iseul spoke as though she had no choice,
“I couldn’t bear to tell you.
I felt like I would be touching where it hurts for you.
Ever since you broke up, no, before you broke up, you became depressed when we talked about stuff like this.
No, wait, you were a lump of depression even before that.”
You might not have acted like it, but it was obvious.
It was the same when you came out to meet us during military vacation.
I’m only saying this now because you look okay, but back then, I couldn’t bear to ask you to help.
I thought that it wasn’t right for me as a friend to ask for help from someone who looks sick.”
“Did I look that feeble?”
“Feeble? No, you were in danger.”
“I thought I hid it pretty well.”
“It was obvious because you hid it.
How long do you think we’ve known you? We know when you are being cold-headed and when you’re acting cold-headed.”
“I’m quite a bad guy huh.
Is it my lack of acting skills?” he said with a smile.
He reached a point where he could talk about it with a smile after all.
Iseul tapped on his shoulder, seemingly relieved.
“Anyway, the important thing is that I must be the one proposing.
The date is this Sunday, but that means there are still five days.
I feel sorry that Dojin looks uneasy all this time, but at the same time, he looks pretty cute.”
“So you’re going to wait without telling him?”
“Since it’s like this, I might as well.
It’s kinda cute to see him pretend that he’s okay when he’s anxious inside.”
“Looks like he should be the one nagging you for your entire life, not the other way round.
What a pitiful guy.
I wonder how he ended up with a girl like this.”
Iseul twitched her nose.
“Don’t ever tell him that I’m preparing for this.
And also, ease him up a little.
Dojin tends to listen to your words easily.
It’s cute to see him anxious, but teasing him too much doesn’t feel right.”
“Doesn’t feel right? All the things that are ‘right’ just died at this moment.”
“Enjoy the gukbap.
Also, thanks for the wreath.”
Only then could Maru eat the gukbap.
“It’s all lukewarm now.”
“What did Iseul say?”
These two seemed to be on shifts or something.
Maru stared at Dojin, who took Iseul’s seat, and hit him on the forehead with a spoon.
“What are you doing?”
“You deserve a beating.
I’m goddamn envious, punk.”
“What? What did she tell you?”
“She told me nothing.
Just know that you just have to wait still.”
“So you did hear something.
What did Iseul say? Hey, tell me.”
“Why are you being so naggy? Go rub against your wifey, not a single dude like me.”
He put the sauce in and stirred it around.
Dojin, who he thought would flap his mouth like a hummingbird flapping its wings, just kept silently looking at him.
“Nothing, I was just thinking that you really are okay now.
Maru smiled faintly and shook his head.
It seemed that he truly looked terrible for the past five years, from how everyone around him was worried about him without telling him.
“Wait a sec.
I’ll bring you some boiled pork.”
“Hey, this is extra-large, so there’s plenty already.”
Dojin stood up without even listening to him.
Seeing him shout for a large-sized boiled pork to the kitchen, Maru felt something surging inside him.
He pulled out a tissue and wiped his forehead, before brushing the area around his eyes in secret.
These irresponsible tears were probably the traces of age.
“Man, life isn’t so bad.”
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