Spring comes early with warm sun rays, winter chill still clinging to the air in bursts of wind.
Haebin still lets herself indulge with an ice pop, peeling the wrapper off carefully.
The walk back home is enjoyable this time around, snow melting with the rising temperature.
She doesn’t think of much as she walks, thinks of her upcoming schedule at work, trying to remember if she still has food to reheat as soon as she gets home.
Her path is filled with little shops, bookstores, houses in between. It’s a quiet part of town, away from the main road. Haebin likes it like this, likes the tranquility, the easiness of it.
The building she lives in is the only hint of the big city they live next to, apartment complexes sleek and minimalistic.
Now as she rounds the corner, she almost stops in surprise, instead slows down, ice pop now down to only the small wooden stick. She bites it gently, unsure as she approaches the gate of the building.
There’s a girl pacing nervously in between Haebin and the gate, suitcase laying limply by the wall.
Haebin stops a couple of steps away from the girl, unsure if she should wait for the other to notice her or make herself be noticed.
She doesn’t get to think too much about her dilemma when the girl looks up at her, halfway through her pacing.
She has big eyes, Haebin notices, squinting her own.
“Hi,” the girl says, voice soft, stuttering, “Can you help me?’
She’s careful with her words, syllables clipped, her hands moving with them.
“Sure?” Haebin’s voice tilts into a question.
“I moved here,” she points to the building behind her, “gate won’t open?”
Haebin’s eyes shift to the gate, the little number pad where the entry code has to be entered, to the suitcase, and back at the girl.
Haebin’s hesitation must look like mistrust to the other girl, who sticks her hand into the pocket of her jeans, pulling out a small slip of paper, wrinkled at the edges.
“Here,” she says, voice a little louder.
Haebin takes it slowly, looking at the way the ink bleeds in some spaces.
158 Chungjang Road
Haebin looks back at the girl, now closer, big eyes bright in hope, small mouth settling into a smile.
She doesn’t say anything as she walks to the gate, popsicle stick still in , backpack a little crooked, she fixes it as she punches in the number, hears the beeping sound of approval.
The other girl makes a small sound of happiness, Haebin turns to watch her pick up her lone suitcase.
“Thank you,” she bows, her accent stronger in her relief, she takes back the small paper from Haebin, pointing to it and then to the top of the building, “top floor?” she asks.
Haebin nods at her, realizes that she hasn’t been the friendliest of people, offers a smile for the first time.
“Yes,” she says, “top floor.”
Haebin starts the walk up home.
Liu Xiening follows her.