“I’m Stephanie. Steph for short,” says the class monitress. “Don’t call me Miyoung or I’ll smack you.”
“Okay . . .”
“So, you’re Kim Taehyuk.”
“Er, yes. But you can call me Taeng. Or Taengoo. It’s my nickname.”
“Taeng.” Steph nods. “I’ll call you Taeng.”
Taeng smiles. It feels like he has just made a new friend and he’s happy. Even if she’s the strange girl who slept on his shoulder. Speaking of which. “I’m sorry if I surprised you on the bus earlier.”
Steph’s pinched cheeks make a comeback. “It’s okay. You don’t have to talk about it.”
“Is it really okay?”
Taeng thinks Steph sounds a little unhappy so he quits the topic. Maybe he can try to apologize properly later.
Im Yoona rolls her eyes when she spots her best friend popping a piece of bread into his mouth. “You know you’re gonna get kicked out of this class if you’re caught sneaking in food again,” she whispers.
Choi Sooyoung takes no heed of her warning, however, and simply chews with a satisfied smile on his face. That smile freezes suddenly and Yoona wonders why. But not for long.
“Choi Sooyoung! Eating in class on the first day of school! And it’s not even been an hour yet! Get out of my class! Get out!”
Seo Juhyuk sees the new boy talking to Steph and sighs in his chest. When will he be able to speak freely to girls like that too? Looking out the window, he is picturing the prettiest girl he knows in his mind and imagining what it would be like if he could talk to her as easily, when the very girl he is thinking about runs past his class with Choi Sooyoung, the school’s renowned joker and big eater. What happened over there, he wonders, while wishing he was the boy running with her.
“Seo Juhyuk, please help me to distribute this book list.”
Upon hearing his name, Seo Juhyuk turns his attention back to Mr Lee. “I’m sorry, Mr Lee. What did you say?”
“I asked you to help me to distribute this book list.”
Embarrassment sweeps over his cheeks as he scrambles to take the stack of book lists from his teacher.
“It’s not like you to be distracted, Seo Juhyuk.”
“I’m sorry, Mr Lee.”
Mr Lee chuckles. “It’s alright. It’s your first day after all. We’re all getting used to being back in school today.”
“Mr Lee, did you have fun over the holidays?” asks Kwon Yuri, another girl in the class, and the class erupts with questions for Mr Lee.
Thankful for the diversion, Seo Juhyuk completes his task and returns to his seat, promising himself not to be distracted in class again.
“So the boy who gave us the book list is called Seo Juhyuk. He’s our class monitor. We call him Seo for short. He’s also two years younger than all of us.”
“Two years young?” Taeng is surprised.
“Yeah. He’s a genius so the principal allowed him to skip a year but he asked to skip two years and proved he could do it by acing the second grade test papers for every subject.” Steph leans in with an air of confidentiality and lowers her loud whisper to a less loud whisper. “But most of us think he could have gone straight to a university anyway.”
“But why didn’t he go straight to uni if he’s a genius?”
Steph shrugs. “Geniuses are eccentric. We won’t understand the way they think.”
“Hwang Miyoung,” says Mr Lee. “I know you can’t wait to tell our new classmate all about our school but it would be better if you wait till class is over to do so.”
“I’m sorry, Mr Lee. I’ll wait.” Steph sends Taeng a conspiratorial wink. “T-t-y-l.”
Taeng stares for a bit before turning to his book list on his table. T-t-y-l? What on earth does that mean?
The hours roll by and soon, it is the last hour of the school day. Taeng looks up from his books when a hand sticks itself under his nose. It’s the class monitor, Seo Juhyuk.
“Hi, I’m Seo.”
Feeling a little thrown off and unprepared, Taeng stutters a little when he replies, “H-Hi, I-I’m Taeng.”
“I know. You introduced yourself when you first came in. Anyway, I’m sorry I can’t show you around. I have to go to the student committee’s meeting.”
“That’s okay. Steph will show me around.”
“Yes, Mr Lee asked her to. Anyway, be careful as you go around. Watch out for falling objects.”
“O-Okay . . .” Taeng is baffled by Seo’s advice but it must be good advice since he’s the class monitor. “T-Thanks. Seo.”
Seo nods and smiles. “See you tomorrow, Taeng.” Then, with a strange expression, he looks at Steph. “Bye, Steph.”
Steph says bye as casually as a seasoned saleswoman, not even noticing the look. Taeng wonders what that was about. Why was Seo looking at Steph like that?
“So, are you ready for the tour?” Steph asks Taeng.
Taeng smiles. “Ever ready.”
“Oh gawd. Don’t tell me you’re one of the cheesy types.”
“What’s a cheesy type?”
Steph gawks. “Are you for real? Don’t you know what cheese is?”
“I know what cheese is. In fact, I like eating cheese, but I don’t think you meant that kind of cheese . . .”
“Holy heck, Taeng. I don’t know which planet you come from but you’ve got some major learning to do.” She pats her chest and grins. “But don’t worry. You’re in good hands.”
The tour covers the library, cafeteria, classrooms and teachers’ offices. Then Steph brings Taeng to the open areas, the field, gardens and sports hall.
“Can you swim?” she asks.
“Are you good at it?”
Taeng shakes his head.
“Are you good at any sports?”
Taeng shakes his head again.
“Mmm, that explains why you’re so pale. Do you stay home all the time or something?”
“Yeah, I stay home a lot.”
Steph shakes her head. “That won’t do, boy. You gotta get out and do stuff.”
Steph grins and grabs Taeng’s wrist. “Follow me.”