After some time passed, they finally arrived at the prison.
Yeo Ri was familiar with the procedures, so she smoothly registered herself as a visitor while Secretary Kwon waited for her outside.
Within minutes, Hyuk appeared from the other side.
The two broke into jubilant smiles simultaneously upon seeing one another. With eagerness fuelling his steps, Hyuk had already zoomed towards the seat, forgetting about the guard who brought him out.
"..." Looking at the imaginary pair of dog ears and tail on the young convict, the guard could only stand speechlessly. Shaking his head, he left him be and closed the door, giving the two secret lovers their privacy.
"Oppa," Yeo Ri affectionately called out as soon as both of them held the phone to their ears. Her eyes sparkled with unconcealed excitement, showing her good mood.
"You look happy," Hyuk noted. Her smile was too contagious, and Hyuk couldn't help but pull the corner of his lips up. His Yeo Ri was really too pretty, he thought. It was a shame that he couldn't hog her all to himself.
Yeo Ri nodded eagerly, her smile deepening. "Mm! I got paid today!"
"That's great!" Hyuk was proud of her, but at the same time, he blamed himself for being so useless that Yeo Ri had to work when she was still so young.
"Guess how much I was paid," Yeo Ri leaned forward, swinging her legs playfully.
"How much? Hm, I don't know... a lot?" Hyuk distractedly replied as he was too preoccupied with admiring Yeo Ri's looks. She seemed to become prettier every time he saw her, and added with her current bright smile, it was so blinding he felt as if he was going to melt.
"Ten thousand!" Yeo Ri instantly replied, unable to hold herself back from revealing the amount.
"Ten—ten thousand?!" Hyuk's heart skipped a beat as he repeated her words. "Dollars?!"
Yeo Ri giggled as she saw Hyuk give the reaction she wanted to see. "Uh-huh!"
Hyuk was briefly stumped by the amount. After several moments of silence passed, he finally came to his senses. "Wow! That's great, Yeo Ri-ah... but—" Hyuk's expression grew serious, "—you didn't have to do anything you didn't want to do to get it, did you?" It was common knowledge that the entertainment industry wasn't as clean and glittery as they were advertised. A lot of dirty dealings went behind-the-scenes, and he was concerned if Yeo Ri had gotten involved with something like that. His Yeo Ri was too precious to be corrupted by such dirty things, he thought.
Yeo Ri smiled at his worried look, "Don't worry, Oppa. I got it as a bonus. You remember about the commercial I told you about? It went viral and the thing sold well, so the person in charge gave me a portion of the profits as thanks," she explained.
While he still had some reservations about the money, Hyuk still nodded in understanding. "Be careful, okay? I heard that things can get pretty dangerous in the industry."
"I know, but don't worry; Auntie Soo Yeon is doing her best to protect me. She always asks if I'm okay with the job or not, and she doesn't force me to do anything I don't want to do." Yeo Ri happily chattered about her jobs. Although she wrote about her experiences in her letters to Hyuk, there were still many anecdotes she hadn't written about yet.
Hyuk listened to her talk with a smile, his eyes practically shooting out hearts. He really, really missed her.
As she was talking, Yeo Ri glanced at the timer, and upon noticing that they barely had two minutes left, she paused. "Oh no, we're running out of time. I'm sorry, Oppa. I was only talking about myself the whole time," she scrunched her brows with a frown, looking apologetically at the man across.
Hyuk shook his head strongly. "You don't have to apologise. I like hearing you talk. You're... cute," he bashfully said.
Yeo Ri smiled wryly, a blush trickling on her face. No matter how many times she saw him, she couldn't seem to get used to his sweet side. "Oppa, you like me that much?" She teased.
"...!" Hyuk cleared his throat in embarrassment, looking away. Like her? Of course he did. He liked her a lot and had liked her for a long time. He couldn't even count how many lines he had crossed the moment he realised the fact. 'You have no idea,' he seemed to think. The more he thought about his feelings, the more he remembered how morbid and unusual they were.
Looking at Hyuk's sudden drop in expression, Yeo Ri knew he had begun to overthink again.
The mood in the booth had suddenly turned serious.
"Oppa, do you like me?" Yeo Ri asked again. She didn't wait for his answer before asking, "what do you even like about me?" She was such a selfish, terrible person. What did he even see in her?
"When did you start to like me? No—" Yeo Ri sighed, "—I don't want to know." Because if she knew, she wouldn't be able to look at him the same way.
Hyuk flinched at her words before looking down guiltily.
Yeo Ri didn't know when she had started to notice the peculiar gaze Hyuk would sometimes look at her with. In the beginning, she didn't know what that look meant; she only knew that whenever he looked at her with that look he would always end up acting all grouchy. It was only after getting assaulted did she realise what type of gaze it was.
—Yeo Ri could not bring herself to hate Hyuk.
Even back then, Hyuk had never laid his hands on her no matter how much he wanted her. It was only after she made the first move did he cave in. Even so, he had been incomparably gentle. It was as if he was afraid of breaking something precious.
Yeo Ri had chosen to 'fall in love' with him out of necessity, but now she could say with confidence that she really did love Hyuk, even if he was a perverted maniac.
"Oppa, I like you too," Yeo Ri stated as she stared at Hyuk's lowered head. There was thirty seconds left on the timer.
Finally, he raised his head again. A complex expression bordering between guilt and relief appeared on his face. His heart was already full and satisfied with just one 'I like you too' from her.
Taking a deep breath, she changed the subject, "Oppa, I know there's a lot going on right now, for you and for me. I've been hiding a lot of things from you, too, and someday I'll tell you about all of them."
"..." Hyuk stared at her quietly. As thick-headed as Hyuk was, she knew he would have noticed that she was hiding things from him, just as she had done in the past.
"Can you trust me?" Yeo Ri looked at Hyuk with a determined gaze.
Hyuk didn't hesitate before saying, "Yeah." Yeo Ri was his everything. He didn't mind anything as long as she was still willing to let him stay by her side.
"Oppa, don't worry about me. About that Ji Yeong Gi person—"
Hyuk's face changed at the mention of an unexpected name. He could never have imagined for Yeo Ri to know that profane name. "You—"
The line between them was cut off. Their visitation session had ended.
"—I can take care of myself," Yeo Ri told him. She placed down the now-useless phone back in its original place and stood up to bid her goodbye.
Despite seeing her relaxed gait after mentioning Ji Yeong Gi's name, Hyuk was still extremely anxious. Yeo Ri wouldn't have known about that b*stard unless something had really happened to her. Hyuk's face morphed into a rare expression of pure fear and consternation.
"Yeo—Yeo Ri-ah! Are you okay?!" He regarded her with worry, looking as if he wanted to break down the glass between them and hold her securely in his arms.
Yeo Ri felt heartache upon noticing his almost-crying expression. For the last time before he was dragged off by the prison guard, Yeo Ri muttered, "I love you."
After she nodded in greeting to the prison guard and saw Hyuk off, Yeo Ri silently slunk out of the booth.
More drivel. Happy Valentine’s Day or whatever~
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