Act 9: Whimsically 8
The first amount of money she had ever earned.
Taking out the white envelope from her pocket, Lee Suh-ah touched it. Feeling the rough texture of the envelope and the outline of a note placed within, she put it back into her pocket with relief.
Then, she walked.
‘What should I do with this…’
Blankly, she thought while walking.
Fifty dollars had abruptly appeared in her hands. Although Jo Yunjae told her to use it for tuition fee, she had already received a scholarship and yet before she could even tell him about it, Jo Yunjae poured out explanations about the jobs and contests and walked away immediately after.
In the end, there was just fifty dollars sitting in her hand.
She repeatedly touched the envelope and contemplated.
In any case, it wasn’t a bad thing that she got to have a job during the holidays. She had been planning to practise during the holidays anyway so if she could earn money while she was at it, it couldn’t get any better.
The problem was that she didn’t know how to spend it.
‘It’s my first time getting paid for working after all…’
In the first place, Lee Suh-ah almost never touched money directly except for when she was accepting the prize of concours. Even then, that was handed over to her mother and she only used a little to buy stationery.
Since she didn’t have any hobby apart from singing, there was no particular outlet for money either but today was different. With the money she earned for the first time by working, she wanted to do something special.
Breaking out of her contemplation, she carried her feet to a different direction. Soon, when she reappeared out of an alleyway, there was a plastic bag hanging on her hand.
When she arrived home, her mother welcomed her and asked with widened eyes.
“Nn? Suh-ah, what’s that?”
“Dinner for today.”
Then, she unpacked the plastic bag and moved busily. Taking out the ingredients, she washed them and cut them into pieces. After making a stock, she fried meat and cooked some noodles before finally placing it inside a bowl with soup.
After that, she placed meat, bean sprouts and diced spring onions – it was pho which her mother loved.
“Is today like a special day?”
“…It doesn’t have to be a special day to cook right?”
With a smile, her mother sat on a seat and raised the chopsticks. Then, she gently drew a cross with her finger before scooping up the noodles.
Lee Suh-ah watched her while resting her chin on her hand. A faint smile appeared on her lips.
‘She’s enjoying it.’
Although her mother didn’t make it obvious, Lee Suh-ah knew she liked pho. However, because it required a lot of time, because she was tired, because it was a waste to buy ingredients they didn’t usually use just for this… with all sorts of excuses, she avoided making it.
‘But… it wasn’t even that hard.’
Leaning her back on the chair, she relaxed.
It seemed that human minds were weird.
Fifty dollars. Just because she earned that little amount, she felt so much more relaxed and a minor joy had befell her house.
Thinking back, she was really grateful.
Jo Yunjae – how did he think of looking for jobs like this? Although she was similarly short of money, a thought that she could work while singing had never reached her.
And his appearance while recording was…
Blankly, Lee Suh-ah thought back on his confident attitude like he was used to recording rooms as well as how he told her to follow his lead when she made a mistake as his voice then led her forward.
Seeing that empty look, her mother casually threw a question.
“Do you have a boyfriend Suh-ah?”
When she raised her head up in a flash, her mother’s nonchalant voice dug into her ears.
“You dressed yourself a lot today and also made pho which you usually couldn’t be bothered to. And now, after sitting on the table, you’re blankly staring at nothing…”
“What do you mean dressed a lot! It was just casual!”
“Did I say anything weird? Why are you angry?”
Seeing her mother wearing a bright smile, Lee Suh-ah shot out of her seat.
There was something strange.
With my chin resting on my hand, I glanced around and found myself in a small practice room. I could see the rough texture of the soundproof wall, the piano placed on a corner and the seat in front of it.
Gazing quietly across that very familiar scene, I opened my mouth with a murmur.
“Pretty sure it’s the holidays…”
But why has nothing changed from before the holidays?
With my head tilted, I carefully went over my schedule again.
Morning – after eating breakfast, I came to school and isolated myself inside the practice room. Then, I would have a random lunch and meet Lee Suh-ah for a casual job before returning to the school’s practice room. When it was night, I would go back to my house and sleep.
In essence, there was nothing different from before the holidays except for the fact that there weren’t any lessons.
“It feels like I’m just missing out on free school meals because of the holidays…”
I mouthed a few complaints before sitting on the piano seat. Of course, there was a reason I was practising hard. Work was work, and there was another event which I had to truly prepare myself for.
It was none other than the Prac High-achievers Concert that will be held on the first day of next term. For that contest in which five students with full marks will be competing in, I had to prepare lots beforehand.
‘There’s not even a month left…’
Besides, that wasn’t the only preparation I needed. Some time in the distant future, for my long-term goal – my dream.
The time to consider my future as an ‘opera actor’ which Sir Timothy Dickson had suggested had come. Since there were these three things muddled together, it was natural that it felt like I was busier than when attending school.
Heaving out a sigh, I decided to finish them one by one and to do that, I first had to organise them.
It was work I was doing to help my family’s financial situation as well as help Lee Suh-ah. Since I could do it every once in a while, it had a lower priority than the other two tasks.
I didn’t have to worry about it too much.
After erasing my concerns about the jobs a little, I nodded and went to the next topic.
The concert was… quite important. First off, not only were all the students in our entire school watching it, parents and other important guests would be coming to watch it.
It was a performance held by the prac high-achievers of the famous Future Arts High.
In other words, it was a performance where the top talents of the next generation were showcased, thus, it wasn’t strange for even outsiders to take interest.
Both college and opera companies were thirsty for talents. A performance before them would be an important opportunity to raise my fame as a performer.
After drawing a tick next to the preparation for the concert, I went over to the last topic in hand.
With those words hanging before me, I scratched my cheek in thought.
This was a goal that appeared after meeting Sir Dickson; to become an opera singer and advance forward in the world of songs. When he heard about my dream, Sir Dickson gave an advice;
“In fact, I’m not an opera singer and am just a conductor, a related personnel of an opera company. Therefore, I will give you advice from the standpoint of an opera company and not as an opera singer.”
His eyes flickered and continued.
“While managing Met, I got to see a lot of opera singers. Within them, there were numerous talented singers. I’ve met countless opera singers that could let out beautiful sounds.”
Although I didn’t really understand his words back then, thinking back on it now, I could understand Sir Dickson’s words.
The place he worked at was none other than Met, the best, the most famous opera company. Naturally, hundreds of famous opera singers would gather and could I be better than all of them?
No, it would in fact overflow with people that were better than the previous me in singing.
Sir Dickson continued on like this.
“However, we can only choose a handful from those because we cannot take all of them with us. Now then, do you know how we decide on whom to choose and whom not to choose?”
His solid gaze resurfaced in my mind.
“Opera is a play – it is a play acted out with music and the people buy tickets based on the names of those actors. An actor that has the talents to sell tickets – that is the sort of actor we must choose.”
“Actors that can steal the hearts of the people. They all knew how to sing based on their most-fitting roles.”
The teacher back then nodded his head.
“Yes, roles. In fact, how good they are at singing, their tone and how perfect their vocalisation is… we’re not interested in those.”
“It’s natural, because most of the interviewers are not opera majors. We only look for people that can act out characters of the play we make.”
He had spoken with his finger raised.
“In conclusion, it’s like this. Singing well is a given and the most important thing is whether that voice fits the role or not. If Romeo had a grandpa-like voice, it would be impossible to concentrate right?”
Through conversations like that, Sir Dickson gave various advice. He said that to become a good opera actor, we had to stand on numerous opera stages and to experience as much as possible as a student…
“But is there an opera stage that a student can stand on?”
“Well, there won’t be much. Since I don’t know much about Korea, I can’t say much but… isn’t it fine with a school club activity?”
Since I didn’t apply for any, I was free. Although I didn’t join one because I had to focus on my studies during the first semester… I should try one out during the second semester.
Nodding my head, I finished organising my flashbacks of the previous talk and the plans for the future and stood up from my seat.
For now, it was time for me to practise for the concert.
After that, I continued visiting the practice rooms and did several jobs with Lee Suh-ah throughout the holidays. Sometimes, we recorded for a song that would be inserted into a small broadcast or sung in churches.
Although we did a lot, it was a fun experience since it had been a while since I went on casual jobs like this.
In any case, we practised for the concert while working casually and entered a few small contests to win the prizes until two weeks had passed by.
Now when we went to a place for work, they all seemed to recognise us a little. When I asked them, I discovered that rumours had spread about us two, that there was a high schooler duo that went around singing.
…I wasn’t sure if it was a good rumour but, it was good in the sense that we were gaining fame. It was good because we no longer needed lots of tiresome conversations before starting and because the quality of our jobs were of higher standards.
There was even a fairly high paying job for singing a wedding song, that was enough proof of our increased fame.
“Wedding song? At a wedding ceremony?”
Gazing away from Lee Suh-ah who asked back with a tilted head back onto my phone, I scrolled down and read the explanation.
“Yea. It’s super good. We just have to do a rehearsal then sing so it won’t take that long.”
With a flickering gaze, Lee Suh-ah furtively asked.
When I looked at her with a dumbfounded gaze, Lee Suh-ah flinched before turning away.
Asking about the pay before anything…
Didn’t she complain about classical music students taking singing jobs before…? I felt a slight prick on my conscience because it felt like I was warping an innocent child into something different.
Burying the strange feelings I had, I replied with a raise of my eyebrows.
“Hundred dollars per person.”
Lee Suh-ah rose up without another word.