A M N E S I A: Chapter 13

Chapter 1: First Love Nocturne

Chapter 2: Date?

Chapter 3: Daydreaming Heartbeat

Chapter 4: Closer

Chapter 5: Are You Listening?

Chapter 6: Confusing

Chapter 7: I Miss You

Chapter 8: 안녕

Chapter 9: Friends

Chapter 10: Uncomfortable

Chapter 11: Sleepless

Chapter 12: Unpredictable

Chapter 13:

Black Sun (Part 3) – Warmth

      “Mom?” Jinwon could not move a muscle. How choked up was he hearing Eunji address Stephanie with the word he least expected!

      Eunji immediately shut her eyes when her own words echoed back to her as if she could escape the situation. “Things are not going well for me today,” Eunji sighed heavily with much regret. She knew the truth had to be revealed someday, but blurting it out like this didn’t seem right. If only she wasn’t so used to responding to her mother so quickly.

      Jinwon gazed intently at Stephanie then back to Eunji. It was evident to see the family resemblance. It always crossed his mind how they were very alike in a lot of areas, but he didn’t expect they were so much closer than he thought. Right from the very start, he deemed Eunji a special girl to him since she was able to trigger his memories of Stephanie, but he did not for one second suspect that they could be related.

      Eunji was just JooHyun’s student among many other kids. He was always told that he had to meet her because of her skills in music and JooHyun added no other reasons but that. After all this time, did JooHyun inform him so well because this girl right in front of him was his own daughter? Connecting the dots seemed easy with all of the facts suddenly popping up in his head, but it just choked him up even more.

      Although his memory was still shaky, he was sure that his family had not mentioned this to him at least once. There were never hints, never a slip of a tongue, nor a suspicious gaze being exchanged around him to say that he ever had a child in his life, at least not until earlier today. Only Jessica managed to blurt it out. He tried not to lean on her words since earlier because they didn’t make any sense, but just by looking at everyone’s eyes in that room at that time, they were all determined to hide something from him. His heart boiled at the thought of their fit for he could not understand their intentions at all.

      But out of everyone who kept this from him, he felt Stephanie had deceived him the most. He talked about Eunji with Stephanie just last night, but she asked questions as if she was not fond of her. She could have revealed it then when they were both so relaxed, but she spoke as if Eunji’s mother was some other woman. Was it all because of his memory loss that she was so hesitant to admit it? Was it all because he treated her harshly after waking up from his coma fifteen years ago? She should’ve known that hiding the truth from him would anger him more than shocking him with the truth.

      “Jinwon, Eunji…” Stephanie trembled. There was definitely a lot of explaining needed to be done.

      Jessica barged in the coffee shop and panted. “Hey! Why are you getting coffee now?? JooHyun is…” she trailed off when she lifted her head seeing Jinwon and Eunji sitting across each other with Stephanie standing stiffly in front of them. She gasped and was amazed to see them all together. “Woah! What a surprise.”

      Too many questions fired in Jinwon’s his head. The weight of it all got worse every second he was there. Unable to calm himself from the confusion, Jinwon abruptly stood up from his seat, glared at all of them bitterly, and headed for the door.

      “Jinwon…” Stephanie she managed to grab the Jinwon’s fingers but he immediately jolted it away from her.

      “Don’t…” Jinwon turned his head furiously. He did not look back at her fearing his hatred towards her would fuel more. “Give me a few minutes.”

      Eunji hung his head low. Most of Stephanie’s previous dates have a hard time taking in the fact that she has daughter so this reaction was nothing new. Understandably, it was worse for Jinwon since she was really her father and he didn’t even know it almost all his life. In her head she prayed her bad timing would not negatively affect the way things would go.

      Jessica was right in front of the entrance and did not move away. She kept leering Jinwon down so that he would not leave so harshly but it did not affect him. He glared back at her fiercely warning her that she should not get involved and shouldered his way out of the shop. Rather than being irritated by the way he was acting, Jessica softened and understood his stance. She has never seen him as upset as today and he really needed some space.

      Stephanie took a stiff step debating whether she should chase him down but Jessica gently held her back. Jinwon looked like he could erupt in a messy argument if Stephanie chased him down and it surely would not end well.

      “Gosh, why do I have to keep doing this,” Jessica thought and sighed. She seemed to always get caught between both of them like it was instinctively her responsibility to hold them back together. She did somewhat feel bad for doing it but at the same time proud because she was doing this to protect them. Stephanie and Jinwon were too emotionally driven that sometimes they need someone in their life who would think carefully of the outcome.

      So instead of chasing after him, Stephanie tried to calm her heart and prepare herself to tell her daughter what was going on assuming she didn’t know anything. She took a deep breath and said,

      “Eunji… I’m dating Mr. Kim.”

      Stephanie’s complexion had turned pale from the building stress and Eunji could not bear to watch it get worse. She went to her mother and hugged her tightly. “I know.”

      Tears gathered in Stephanie’s eyes, overwhelmed by how Eunji’s warmth somehow took a bit of the burden off of her. She squeezed her daughter back and tried her hardest not to cry.

      “And… Eunji, I-I have to tell you something more about him. He’s not just someone or your music teacher. He’s much more to you and me. He’s… agh…”

      Eunji already knew what she was about to say and caressed her mother’s head to calm her down even more. “You don’t have to say it. I already know that, too—that he’s my father.”

      “Huh? How…? When did you…?” she looked at her daughter.

      “I’ve known for a while,” Eunji softly replied and simply smiled.

      “Guys, I don’t mean to interrupt this very wonderful moment, but we have to go,” Jessica said as she tapped Stephanie’s back. “JooHyun’s baby is about to be born and I don’t wanna miss that wonderful moment.”

      “Right!” Stephanie gathered her senses and held Eunji’s hand. “Let’s go.”

***

      On the way to finding a quiet place to clear his mind, a nurse asked Jinwon if he knew Kibum since she noticed him a while ago with Eunji. He just simply nodded and without even realizing what was going on he was left in a room with Kibum who was lying unconscious with all kinds of wires and bandages wrapped around him. He thought keeping this boy company for a while would clear his mind, but everything before him only reminded him of himself. He could almost feel the pain and annoyance creeping under his veins seeing every detail that often kept him company. The pulse wire, the needles attached on him, the constant beeping of the heartbeat monitor, the immobility, the stiff bed, the nurses who barely cared about privacy—the list could go on.

      Scenes of him on hospital beds resurfaced in his memory but this time, it saddened him rather than frustrate him. It was truly a strange feeling to hear the heartbeat monitor when he’s not lying on the bed himself. It was the first time he felt his heart breaking at the thought of how helpless he was to a person battling life in his sleep.

      At that moment, he could not escape the wave of shame suddenly drowning him. If he is greatly grieved thinking about the life of a boy he barely knew, how heartbroken must Stephanie have been fifteen years ago? They were both in such an intimate relationship for a year. They made countless promises and goals that they thought they could achieve together. He sincerely devoted himself to always love her and take care of their coming child, yet what happened? At a time when he needed to carry out all these kinds of promises, he got into an accident, lost his memories, and broke everything. He felt like he had no right to be upset now. Even if he was lied to or was kept in the dark for a long period of time, he thought nothing, absolutely nothing that he has gone through will equal to the pain behind every tear Stephanie has shed for the past fifteen years solely because of him.

      “She must be a fool to still fall for a fool like me,” he laughed trying to lighten up his mood but it depressed him even more. Was he supposed to feel great that Stephanie never stopped loving him? He’s the type of person who hates being the main reason of anyone’s problems, so to hear that his very existence greatly affected Stephanie’s life made him feel really miserable.

      “It’s all my fault,” Jinwon ruffled his hair in frustration. He was the one who suggested their little action for that Halloween night in 1997. If he hadn’t lusted for her, he could’ve saved all the trouble of bringing so much pain and hardships on the table. Stephanie could have had a chance to have a new start, a new relationship, a new life after his coma. She could have had the chance to love someone else who could take care of her and love her more than he ever will. But because her love for him stayed within their child, she probably went through unbearable struggles trying to live through without him.

      Because of that thought, he felt like he doesn’t deserve a woman like Stephanie.  Stephanie let him go because she didn’t want him to give up his dreams. Stephanie could not commit to other men completely because her body has been committed to him. Stephanie kept the truth about Eunji from him because she knew he was sensitive to heavy news. Although she was not the wisest or smartest in her decisions, she did nothing but try to love him. Even after all the pain she went through just because of him, she was still able to smile brightly for him. She was like a diamond that never loses its dazzling beauty, prone to scratches and the strongest of all gems. But she was much more precious than a diamond for she is only one out of a billion—his one and only Stephanie. Other than sweet sayings and a lustful kiss, what act of real love has he done to pay all of this debt? Nickles of love just won’t do.

      Jinwon’s eyes dropped to Kibum’s face. “This poor boy,” he thought. “I hope he doesn’t meet a cruel fate.”

      He stood up and walked out of the room. He felt like he had been gone far too long, not just for this moment, but for most of his life. He had to come back to them, to what should have been 15 years ago.

***

      “Okay, good job, JooHyun-ssi. You’re doing well,” Constant encouragement from the doctor could be heard inside the birthing room. As YongHwan accompanied his wife to help give her strength, Jessica, Yohan, HaYeon, Stephanie, and Eunji anxiously waited outside. JooHyun’s mother, who came all the way from Incheon, was also present. HaYeon seemed the most nervous out of all of them since she paced back and forth endlessly. Jessica was not nervous but she often peeked in the room impatiently with JooHyun’s mother every time the doctors said something. So far, Yohan and Eunji were the only ones that were relaxed. Stephanie, on the other hand, was still a little out of it since she could not think of anything else but forming imaginary conversations with Jinwon when he comes back.

      “Good, good, good!” The doctor exclaimed. “Yes, keep it up!”

      “Wow, JooHyun’s good,” Jessica said as she was peeking inside again. “I screamed my lungs out when I gave birth to my babies, but JooHyun is totally sedated. She just breaths in and breathes out like it’s some yoga exercise.”

      “Yeah, you did almost kind of break my eardrums off with Yoona’s birth. I thought I would never hear my first child’s cry,” Yohan commented.

      “Oh, I remember that,” Eunji laughed. “I thought the glasses were going to break. It was so high pitched even with the doors closed. It’s like she was calling dolphins or something, hahahaha!”

      “Are you guys not nervous at all?” HaYeon asked. “I feel like I’m gonna die here.”

      “You’re not even the father,” Eunji chuckled. “And Aunt JooHyun is so healthy I bet there won’t be problems at all.”

      “Well, I’ve been with JooHyun longer than her husband so I have a right to feel like this kid,” she snarled.

      “So far this has been the most laid-back birth that I’ve experienced. So I’m not worried at all,” Yohan said. “I remember the most hectic one was your birth,” he pointed to Eunji, “And uaghhhh, that was a traumatizing day.”

      “Wait, what? My birth?” Eunji wondered. “You witnessed even that?”

      “Of course! And it was craazyy! That’s why when I say you’re like my daughter I really mean it because I witnessed even that!”

      “Really?” Eunji turned to her mother. “I think you never told me anything about this. Was he really there?”

      “Oh, yeah he was.” Stephanie chuckled as she remembered the events that happened. “It really was crazy, wasn’t it? Wow… I can’t believe I survived that. It’s amazing.”

      “You guys are talking as if it was the end of the world,” Eunji scoffed. “What exactly happened?”

      “You were born on a farm… at some abandoned little shack to be exact,” Stephanie said. “No clear warning, no medical equipment, no sanitized bed, just Sunny, Yohan, me, and a friend panicking and trying to do our best to get you out.”

      “Um… what?” Eunji’s mouth dropped finding it hard to imagine.

      “I think some event was happening then, that’s why we ended up roaming around the empty part of the country side. I didn’t know—or I guess I did know but I wasn’t sure—that I was on my labor so when the water broke we all panicked. We didn’t have time to go anywhere since it was all too sudden. And there weren’t exactly adults around to help. And I think it was also raining at that time so we pretty much had no choice but to deliver you in the middle of nowhere…”

      “So… Aunt Sunny helped you give birth? Just her? In a barn?”

      “Hey, don’t forget I was there. I helped around, too!” Yohan exclaimed.

      “Wait… so you saw…” Eunji trailed off with a deceitful smirk in her face.

      “No! I didn’t! I saw nothing! Nothing, okay? Nothing!” Yohan’s hand gestures shot on the air to clear things off. He had to make sure this fifteen-year-old daughter-of-the-byuntae-Jinwon understands him and takes him seriously. “I cleaned the place, gave your mother some kind of comfort, and brought you to life when they thought you weren’t breathing. Don’t get the wrong ideas kid!”

      Stephanie chuckled and then continued, “Yeah, I just held Yohan hand the whole time. I thought I was going to break it off that day because I gripped it so tightly. But Sunny did pretty much do all the gross parts like-”

      “Don’t say it. I get it,” Eunji interrupted. She didn’t need to know the details any further. Reading about her parents’ sex in her mother’s diary was weird enough. She didn’t want another weird scene to be scarred in her brain.

      “Oh! I can see it!” YongHwan exclaimed. Stephanie, HaYeon, Yohan, and Eunji exchanged excited glances.

      A minute later, a cry of a baby erupted in the air. Everyone lost their heads at the sound and could not wait to see the baby. After waiting for a few more minutes, they doctors only allowed JooHyun’s mother to come in and see the baby. Somehow, Jessica was able to talk her way into the room, too.

      “Was it a boy or a girl again? I don’t remember Aunt JooHyun telling me the gender of the baby,” Eunji said.

      “That’s because she and YongHwan kept it all a secret from us,” Yohan said.

      “Well I know,” HaYeon proudly held her chin up.

      Jessica tiptoed out the room with a big grin and jumped in excitement in front of everyone. She whispered, “It’s a boy! It’s a boy!” She held up her phone to them and showed them a picture of the new born child. Everyone hovered around Jessica’s phone and their faces lit up at the sight of the pink, little human being.

      “I guess I can’t keep calling JooHyun ‘Seobaby’ now,” Stephanie chuckled.

      “Wow, he looks exactly like JooHyun,” HaYeon said.

      “Oh~ I remember when we had Yoona, we had no idea,” YoHan said, not taking his eyes off the photo of JooHyun and YongHwan’s child.

      “Yeah, we were such dummies back then,” Jessica chuckled as she lightly hit Yohan’s arms.

      “Was Mom like that too?” Eunji asked.

      “Oh, hahaha,” Yohan laughed. “She was even worse. She had no idea what she was doing on the first few months when you were born. She needed Sunny’s help most of the time.”

      “Well, Aunt Sunny does know how to do almost everything so that doesn’t surprise me,” Eunji chuckled. “And my mom being a dummy doesn’t surprise me too ‘cause she still is a dummy today.”

      Stephanie’s jaw dropped at her daughter’s remark and Eunji just snickered, mouthing “I’m just kidding” to her mother in-between her laughs.

      “Oh yeah, I remember when I came to visit you once when you were just months old. Your mother and I did nothing but babysit you all day and we were total idiots,” Jessica laughed. “We were never the type to get close to kids so it was such a life changing experience.”

      “Look at this kid’s eyes though,” HaYeon noted. “It’s so big and round just like JooHyun’s!”

      While everyone was immersed in the photo, Eunji felt someone’s breath near her neck. Before she could turn her head, Jinwon rested his head on Eunji’s shoulders trying to take a peek at the photo.

      “Aw, Mr. Kim!” Eunji turned around and hugged him warmly without a notice. Flustered by this greeting, Jinwon blankly stood there for a moment until it started to sink in. “She’s my daughter. Eunji is my daughter.” From the very beginning, he had been so grateful for meeting Eunji. She took care of him more than he has taken care of her. She made him comfortable around town, helped him out through many problems, and learned so much from her. To know that she was actually his daughter overwhelmed him with so much happiness. He embraced Eunji back as tightly as he could and closed his eyes trying to hold back his tears. The child that he loved before she was even born was finally before him, and she became the greatest friend that he could never replace.

      Everyone’s heads bobbed up at the name and was astonished at the sight they were seeing. They didn’t expect Jinwon to come back so soon, but at least their hearts were eased seeing how red and vulnerable he had become all because of Eunji.

      Stephanie’s eyes quickly watered seeing both of her loved ones together. How did Jinwon accept the facts so quickly? Just what did she deserve to have reconciliation as easy as this?

      When Jinwon finally withdrew from the embrace, he saw Stephanie just standing there and went closer to her. For a few seconds, they only stared at each other in silence, both trying to communicate with their trembling eyes. Neither knew how they would reply to each other’s thoughts, but they did think of the same thing.

      Jinwon could not resist himself and gently cupped her cheeks. Gently, he kissed Stephanie and hugged her in agony. “I’m sorry,” he managed to breath out before heavily breaking down on her shoulders. Stephanie also could not hold her emotions in and sobbed, “I’m sorry, too.”

***

      When it was finally getting late, Jessica and Yohan said their last congrats and bid goodbye after a long day. JooHyun was then moved back to her room and there YongHwan, HaYeon, Jinwon, Stephanie, and Eunji stayed for a few more minutes to talk. While JooHyun’s mother and the doctors tended to the newborn baby, Jinwon finally brought up his own family’s reconciliation.

      “So I suppose you have a big part to play here, JooHyun,” Jinwon said. “I’ve known Eunji for a long time, and I guess I get now why you always told me about her, but why didn’t you just tell it to me? You could’ve told me and I would’ve understood.”

      “Wait, you knew about Eunji for a long time?” Stephanie’s eyes widened.

      “Yeah,” Jinwon nodded. “She’s been telling me stories of how her student Eunji was so great. She mentions her quite a lot… and I mean a lot! Eunji was her favorite student, that’s why I took the job of being her substitute teacher.”

      “Even if you didn’t know anything,” Eunji snickered.

      “What?” Jinwon was taken aback that his skills were being degraded and raised his voice. “Hey! I know a lot, kid!”

      “But I was the one teaching you the whole time,” Eunji said.

      “I just didn’t have a proper chance to teach you what I really know… and besides, I taught you about studios, didn’t I? That’s something.”

      “Okay, whatever you say,” Eunji laughed.

      “Anyway, I was just thinking… I could’ve handled it. If I knew I had a daughter, I would’ve gladly wanted to meet her. You guys know I have a lot of memories missing, but not all is harmful.”

      “Are you sure?” HaYeon said. “Because I assumed you wouldn’t be happy with it since you hate responsibility.”

      “But he doesn’t have to wipe my ass so isn’t that free of responsibility?” Eunji said.

      Jinwon laughed, greatly amused that they really do have the same kind of humor. He nodded and pointed to her, “See? She’s right.”

      “There’s so much more than just cleaning after her when it comes to parenting, Oppa,” HaYeon sighed. “And I was just about to add that you don’t even remember Fany Unnie when she clearly remembers you.”

      “Who knows, I could’ve fallen in-love with her all over again regardless of who she was to me in the past,” Jinwon shrugged.

      “To be honest, Jinwon,” Stephanie softly said. “I think I would’ve avoided you.”

      “Really?” he wondered. “Why?”

      “Because you said that the Jinwon I knew was dead and so I-”

      “You saw me as dead from that point on and let me go?” Jinwon interrupted. “Right.. I guess I figured out that much for myself. I remember that moment very much.”

      “Jinwon, you know why I did that, right?” Stephanie sighed hearing how slightly upset he sounded.

      Jinwon glanced at her weary eyes and then hung his head low. He slowly nodded his head and said, “I was dangerous to you.”

      “Hey, that’s not it! I gave you all the possible reasons a while ago. Don’t just simplify it like that!” Eunji scolded Jinwon. Everyone was startled by what she said and stared at Jinwon in confusion.

      “Okay, I know, I know,” Jinwon shook his head. “It’s because you love me that you let me go,” he said to Stephanie.

      “And it’s also partly because she loved me, too,” Eunji added. “You’re focusing on yourself way too much.”

      Jinwon paused for a moment and shook his head, “Kid, chill. I’m trying, alright?”

      “Seems like Eunji’s testing you,” JooHyun chuckled.

      “And it’s gonna go on for a long time,” Eunji crossed her arms. “You hurt my mom the most, after all.”

      Jinwon took a deep breath and said, “Well, you need to relax for a bit. I have no intention of hurting her.”

      “Tch! Bad choice of words,” Eunji scoffed. “I won’t relax.”

      “Okay, look, I’ll treat her right, love her, and never let her go again. What do you want me to do to prove it? I’ll do anything to make you see that I’m worthy to be her partner again.”

      “You better keep your eyes open at night then because I’ll be watching you. If you ever hurt her, you’re dead, and you don’t want to die twice!” she said in half-joking tone.

      “Somehow I feel like dying by car accident is nothing compared to dying by your wrath so I’ll keep that in mind,” Jinwon snickered.

      “Hold on, I was just wondering…,” Stephanie spoke. “JooHyun, YongHwan, you guys knew about Jinwon’s whereabouts all this time?”

      “Well, I am friends with HaYeon Unnie, so…”

      “And I’m close friends with Jinwon,” YongHwan said.

      “Are Jinwon and I always this close to each other—through you guys?” Stephanie said. “I mean I kept in contact with HaYeon and it’s pretty much a given that she knows where he goes, but you guys knew him, too? And you never told me?”

      “You never asked, Unnie,” JooHyun said. “So I had no good reason to tell you.”

      “But you guys had the guts to hire me as my own daughter’s substitute teacher? You guys are great,” Jinwon scoffed.

      “I just remembered. They told me a lot about my dad, too,” Eunji said.

      “So you basically knew me, too?” Jinwon asked.

      “Kind of, yeah.”

      “We didn’t think you’d actually keep up the music lessons,” YongHwan said to Jinwon. “We thought you’d find a job again and occupy yourself more with that, but you actually spent more time with her than we intended.”

      “Well that’s your guys fault since you took paternity leave one month before the actual due date. I was planning on doing exactly what you said, or at least until you finally get back to your usual routine but here we are… I don’t know how your dumb decisions always put me in a good situation, but I appreciate it.”

      “My dumbest decision was hiring you as my driver for my recital when it was clearly too dangerous outside,” JooHyun sighed. “And we all know that didn’t put you in a good situation.”

      “That’s why she feels bad and she did all this—letting you meet up and all that.” HaYeon said.

      “I just can’t help but imagine what would be like if Yong didn’t know his own child. And it really hurts my heart knowing I was kind of the reason why all of this happened. I wanted to reunite you all in some way… I wanted to see you be the family that you should’ve been.”

      “Aigoo…” Jinwon sighed. “Even if the circumstances were somewhat because of you, don’t beat yourself up because of it, okay? It was all meant to happen one way or another, I’m sure. All you have to know now is that I’m really grateful to have a friend like you who cared for us by doing these things.”

      “Yeah, and don’t you worry so much about us from this point on, okay? You need to gain your strength back and take care of your new family,” Stephanie smiled and squeezed JooHyun’s hands.

      Tears pooled JooHyun’s eyes as she nodded her head and they trickled down her cheeks without her control. The burden on her shoulder was finally lifted after a long time.

      “By the way, what’s the baby’s name again?” Eunji asked.

      “Oh, it’s Eunwoo,” replied YongHwan.

***

      Before leaving, Eunji whispered something to Jinwon and he whispered back. After the short, private conversation, Eunji ran to somewhere and Stephanie was confused.

      “Where is she going? The restroom is this way,” she pointed opposite the direction where Eunji headed.

      “Did you not wonder how Eunji got here?” Jinwon asked.

      “Hm?” Stephanie’s eyes widened, “I guess I didn’t think much about it after all the things that happened… how did she get here?”

      “Kibum… he got into an accident,” he gently said. “And she happened to be with him.”

      “Huh?! What?” Stephanie covered her mouth out of shock. “Oh no… what happened?”

      Jinwon took a deep breath and sighed, “Car accident.”

      “Oh my gosh, is he okay?”

      “I checked his condition earlier and to be honest, I don’t think it’s good.”

      “This is crazy… He’s getting closer with Eunji recently. I can’t believe history would repeat itself like this.”

      “Yeah… that poor boy. Eunji said they kissed just a while ago this afternoon. A budding relationship, those two,” Jinwon said. “I just hope he doesn’t go through hell like I did.”

      “They kissed?” Stephanie’s head tilted, her eyebrows sternly crumpling. Eunji barely thinks of romance or take interest in guys so hearing this definitely surprised her. Protective thoughts quickly run through her head for she was worried that things would progress quickly into something much more than just kisses, but then she remembered that Kibum just got into a car accident. It’s not the time to be worrying about lecturing her daughter about the pros and cons of relationships—she needs to comfort her from losing a friend.

      “Did you tell her where he is at just now?” Stephanie asked.

      “Yeah. She wanted to see him before heading home.”

      Stephanie heaved a big sigh and said, “So many thoughts must be going through her right now…”

      “When you guys get home, take care of her well, okay?” Jinwon said. “Make sure she sleeps well tonight. Give her all the hugs she need. I can’t stand seeing her upset…”

      “Of course,” Stephanie smiled. “I’m her mother after all.”

      She brushed her hair to the back of her ear and said, “You know, at first I was scared that you were with her because of all the complicated stuff, but now, I’m really grateful that she saw you out of all people. I can tell that Eunji feels really comfortable with you. I mean she wouldn’t crack those jokes back in the room if you guys weren’t close enough. Just shortly after you guys met, you got into an accident, too, right? She got really scared and upset by what happened that night up until you woke up, and she barely even knew you. But this time, she knows Kibum and apparently has started something with him, but somehow, I couldn’t even tell that she was upset because you showed up to comfort her. I thought I was the only one who could do that.”

      “Well, I… I am her father after all,” Jinwon chuckled and timidly looked away, feeling bubbly being able to say that for the first time. It truly felt odd to suddenly talk with Stephanie about their child, but it somehow made him feel a thousand times closer and more comfortable to her. They both have different lives, different tastes, and different beliefs, but no one can deny that their love for Eunji is one and the same and has brought them together in an unexpected way.

***

      Eunji hasn’t uttered a word ever since she entered Kibum’s hospital room. She only gave herself five minutes to cry and say all that she had to let out so that she wouldn’t keep her parents waiting, but her mind became blank just seeing him lifelessly lying there. She was not sobbing but tears kept streaming down her face silently. Her heart wanted to scream out but nothing came out of her mouth.

      When she felt like she had stayed in that room a little longer than she promised herself, she got up and quickly wiped her tears away. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly to calm herself. For a moment, she let the silence relax her. Then just before leaving the room, in her head she prayed,

      “I trust You.”

***

      “Jinwon, where are you? Pick up,” Stephanie mumbled as she paced back in forth. It’s been hours now since JooHyun’s recital. Jinwon promised to go to her place as soon as his taxi services for JooHyun were done, but it was taking way too long.

      “He’s still not picking up?” Jessica asked. “That’s strange. He always picks up.”

      “I know,” Stephanie sat beside Jessica on the couch. “That’s why I’m worried.”

      “He probably went somewhere else and forgot to tell you. Stop worrying.”

      “You know that’s not how he is. He always keeps his word.”

      Their telephone suddenly rang.

      “Hello?” Jessica lazily answered.

      “Unnie!” JooHyun was on the other end of the line.

      The background’s sounds almost drowned out her voice for it was too noisy and choppy. Jessica did not think much of the low quality and casually greeted her, “Oh, hey JooHyun-ah.”

      “P-please come here to the hospital… with Fany Unnie. Please. This is an emergency.” Jessica was baffled by the fear in her voice. She has never heard soft-spoken SeoHyun panic like this before.

      “Hm? Why? What happened?” Jessica asked, her eyebrows crumpling by the second. Stephanie just stared at her in curiosity.

      “Jinwon Oppa… he…” JooHyun started sobbing and she could not talk any longer.

      “He???” Jessica’s eyes widened at the mention of Jinwon’s name. She glanced worriedly at Stephanie and quickly looked away fearing that Stephanie would see the anxiousness in her eyes.

      “Sica Unnie!” she heard HaYeon pick the phone up. “Please come here with Fany Unnie as quick as possible. Please,” she pleaded.

      “Can someone tell me what the hell is going on first?” Jessica exploded. Stephanie became even more curious.

      “Jinwon Oppa got into a car accident,” HaYeon said.

      “Huh?!”

      “Please come quickly with Fany Unnie.”

      “I understand. We’ll be there,” Jessica said and hung up. She stood up, grabbed Stephanie’s coat and her coat. She tossed it to Stephanie and said, “Get up. We’re going to the hospital.”

      “Hospital? What?”

***

      “What’s going on?” Stephanie asked as she saw 16-year-old JooHyun trembling towards her. Jessica didn’t mention a thing on the way to the hospital so Stephanie was getting worried for things she was yet to know.

      “Unnie…” JooHyun sighed, her eyes brimming with tears. Stephanie cupped her face and hugged her. She didn’t know what was happening, but providing comfort to JooHyun was important.

      “Exactly what happened?” Jessica asked Jinwon’s parents.

      “They said he swerved his car when he was unable to see where he was going due to the storm… The doctors said something about damages in parts of his brain and…  And now he’s undergoing surgery,” Jinwon’s father breathed out heavily like he has run a mile from saying all these things. “Agh, and I told him not to drive tonight. That boy is such a stubborn child!”

     Stephanie looked closely at Jessica as Jinwon’s father explained it all. Jessica’s head was hung low and she wasn’t speaking. The aura between them was so solemn that Stephanie felt something was oddly wrong. After his parents finished telling the news to Jessica, their eyes turned to Stephanie in sorrow. The moment all their weary eyes met, her heart churned up knowing something bad had happened Jinwon. She could not go near them fearing that they would confirm her guess.

     Jinwon’s mother trudged towards Stephanie in tears and held her hand so tightly. How pitiful she looked to Stephanie. She hoped to comfort her with a hug just as she did with JooHyun but she just stood there frozen and overwhelmed. The warmth of the woman’s palms confirmed the heartbreaking news and she wished this was all just a bad dream.

     The woman embraced her son’s girlfriend so tightly and cradled her head like Stephanie was her own child. “I’m so sorry, dear….” Her trembling voice cut through Stephanie heart but she could not cry for she was still in disbelief.

      Soon, Yohan and Hyungsoo arrived at the hospital. Jessica spotted them and ran to Yohan. She buried her face on his chest and silently cried. Even though she is the one who had always argued with Jinwon, she could not hide how hurt she was hearing that Jinwon could possibly die through this accident. Among their group of friends, she has known Jinwon the longest. Just letting it all fade away with one accident felt so constricting to her heart. But then she remembered: If she was hurting, how much more would her best friend, Stephanie, Jinwon’s pregnant girlfriend, be? Deeply concerned for Stephanie, she dried her tears and looked at her from afar.

      “I have to take care of her,” Jessica thought. “We all have too.”

      “What happened?” Hyungsoo asked. Like Stephanie, he was not given any proper news or explanation. Yohan was silent the whole time they were in the taxi. Hyungsoo was Jinwon’s best friend and had always been closer to him than Yohan. Knowing this, Yohan wanted to save him from the shock of it all, even for just a little while.

     From afar, the three watched as Jinwon’s father relay the news to Stephanie. She was shaking her head in disbelief and backed away from them. But then she paused right on her steps, and fell down on her knees and began to sob.

      Jessica ran to her and crouched to her level. With her thumbs she wiped her best friend’s tears as much as she could. She helped her get back up to her feet and pulled her into a hug. She hated nothing more than seeing Stephanie so heartbroken. Just how much more should Stephanie feel this kind of pain all over again? Drawn to the same thoughts, JooHyun, Yohan, Hyungsoo, and HaYeon joined the hug. They all felt a strong amount of pity for Stephanie. They wanted to give her the message that whatever happened to Jinwon, they will support her and help her through this unpredictably hard life.


THREE MONTHS LATER

 

      Eunji and Minjae were walking back to their homes one afternoon after a long day of school. Since Christmas season was right around the corner, they were discussing the recent events that were about to come for their youth group.

      “Are you really sure you’re ready to lead the Christmas party?” Eunji said for she was in disbelief that Minjae confidently volunteered himself to lead the band when he has never done that in youth at all.

      “Yes, I’m confident! I have lots of ideas I want to do,” he nodded in full determination. “I’ve always dreamed of a perfect set for the Christmas party, you know. I’ve told you this, haven’t I? You even said it was pretty nice. The Christmas party set is going to be great, Eunji, trust me.”

      “Well, you better prove yourself to be a leader because I don’t want to go through the humiliation all over again like last year,” Eunji shuddered.

      “I won’t let that happen,” Minjae said. “Besides, we got good members this time and we all know each other’s styles because we’ve been playing together for a long time. So don’t you worry, I know it will work out well!”

      “Okay, if you say so.”

      “By the way,” he turned to her with a big smile. “How are you going to spend Christmas with your family? This is your first time spending it with your dad, right?”

      After a few weeks of Stephanie and Jinwon dating, news started to spread around Eunji’s friends that her single mother has finally found “the one” she had been looking for. They were all asking Eunji how he was like not just because he was able to captivate Stephanie who was known for rejecting a large number of bachelors, it’s also because he was gaining attention in Xiah Dragon Noodles. Around town, everyone was starting to recognize him as the charming man with the defined jawline who captivated everyone’s hearts with his heart-wrenching ballads and jazzy R&B acoustics. The teenage girls around Eunji’s school often hoarded around her to ask about him and the guys would occasionally join to listen to her stories. However, not everyone knew about him being her real father, but she did tell her closest friends about it and the crazy story behind it.

      “Yup. I don’t know how we’ll spend it though, to be honest,” Eunji shrugged. “My mom has been busy with her jobs lately and I think my dad has a tight schedule on Xiah Dragon Noodles on Christmas Day. It’s lame, really, but I think we’ll just get together and have a simple and cozy night after everything’s done… or maybe get invited to their friends house or something just like every Christmas…”

      “What do you think Mr. Kim will give your mom? Don’t you think it’s about time for him to propose?” Minjae smirked.

      “Eh…,” Eunji sighed in contempt. “I don’t know if he’ll actually do it this year. I can’t really tell. I mean he does love her a lot but I guess he needs more time. It’s only been a few months anyway. He’s only been teaching me guitar and going along with wherever my mom wants to go. He’s been relaxed and I guess that’s fine to me.”

      “Well, at least he’s taking his time. I guess that’s good, too. He still needs to prove that he’s perfect after all.”

      “That actually doesn’t matter to me,” Eunji shrugged. “I know he won’t ever be perfect. I mean the fact that he stares at my mother’s butt so much makes him imperfect already… and I’m not exactly disheartened by that.”

      “Woah, what?” Minjae snorted.

      “He’s a pervert, I’m telling you!” she scoffed. “A sneaky one!”

      “Really? He sometimes looks so innocent and childlike that I can’t imagine!”

      “I mean yeah, he actually has a very innocent and childlike side of him, too. He enjoys baking for some reason—something I never expected he’d love. And he keeps buying random figurines and toys every now and then… but seriously; the fact that he’s a bit of a pervert makes me feel a little weird.”

      “How bad is it, though?”

      “Hmm… I guess it’s not too bad since he doesn’t actually eye anybody else but my mom, but the fact that he nudges me from time to time to say ‘Hey, did you know that your mother has such a sexy this or that…’ Ugh, I’ve known my mom back to back but to look at her the way he sees her makes me feel so uncomfortable. I have no problem with him eyeing my mom at all because one way or another I already know what will eventually happen between them, but it’s just so weird that he drags me with him.”

      Minjae laughed at her and said, “I have a feeling that will go on for a long time.”

      “Gosh, I just hope I don’t find them doing… you know…,” Eunji covered her face wishing she would never witness any of the things she imagined them doing. “Or if he asks for my permission concerning that, I’ll lose it because I’d prefer they’d do all their extreme couple activities without me knowing about it. Ugh, even their cheesy conversations are starting to annoy me that I wish they’d just save that for the bed room.”

      “Oh, they’re still young let them have that freedom,” Minjae chuckled.

      “How’s your freedom, then? What’s been going on with you and So Eun lately?”

      Minjae timidly hung his head low and became silent for a few steps. Then he said with a smile, “We’re alright. It’s just that she’ll be leaving for the holidays and I’m a bit sad about it. I don’t know what it’s like to be away from her yet and I’m a little scared.”

      “You should look at it as a blessing that you have the opportunity to miss her.” Eunji patted his back. “At least you will see her again and talk to her again… unlike me.”

      Minjae’s eyes opened wide realizing that he might have said something bad in front of his friend. “Oh no, Eunji I’m… I’m so sorry…”

      “Huh? No, no, it’s fine,” Eunji smiled, trying to reassure him that it was alright.

      “But… Kibum…,” he pouted and stared at her feeling bad that it was brought up. Sarang and Bomyi knew about Eunji’s feelings for Key for a few months now, but only Minjae knew that they kissed right before the accident since they have been really good friends for as long as they could remember. “I’m sorry.”

      “You don’t have to be, okay?” she assured her friend.

      Silence fell upon them for a little while until they both bid goodbye on Minjae’s house.

      Then she walked back to her home all alone trying not to remember Kibum’s laughter beside her. “I only got to know him for a short while… I can’t believe I’d miss him so much like this,” she thought and tried to shake off the lonely feeling creeping up on her.

      When she arrived home, she neatly placed her shoes on the shoe rack, threw her bag on the couch, and slung the keys to the hooks near the door. She called out that she was home but no one answered. She didn’t think much of it since her parents would be out on a date around this time and would leave her all alone in the house. She glanced at the coffee table in the living room to see if her mother left a note, but there was none. Her mother usually left one for her when she’s out of the house so this would be considered strange, but Eunji just brushed it off thinking her mother forgot because of the captivating Mr. Kim.

      She went to the kitchen and opened the fridge. The fridge was a little full since they did their grocery shopping yesterday, but the only thing that caught her eye was the pizza box that wasn’t there in the morning.

      “Ooh, Pizza.” She picked one cold piece of the Hawaiian pizza and made her way upstairs and into her room.

      “I wonder when mom’s coming back.” She looked at her watch and calculated that her mother will be home by two hours, assuming Stephanie was gone. If her mother wasn’t going to be home for the next two hours, maybe she still had time to go to the hospital and check Kibum’s condition. Jinwon also left his newly bought guitar in her room so maybe she could bring that with her and play some music for the unconscious boy.

      She took a bite from the cold pizza and walked towards her room. In the corner of her eye, she saw Stephanie’s room—her desk, her bookshelf, her dresser… someone on top of someone. For a second she thought her eyes just fooled her, but then her steps went backwards. Stephanie was on top of Jinwon, and she wasn’t just on top of him, she was kissing him, too. Eunji’s eyebrows crumpled and her eyes grew out of shock. The pizza on her hand was just a few centimeters apart from her mouth and her chewing stopped. Was it not just a while ago that she said witnessing this was the worst thing that could possibly play before her eyes?

      “Omo! Wow!” She blurted out with a snort, startling the crap out of her parents who were too immersed in what they were currently doing. Stephanie was lying on top of Jinwon (fully clothed). They were just making out and whispering sweet nothings to each other after an afternoon sleep. Stephanie and Jinwon weren’t having sex since they were off limits about doing that, but with the bed sheet covering them both, anyone could picture a scandalous position and activity. They made it too easy for their fifteen-year-old daughter to misunderstand every detail while looking from the room’s door.

      “U-uh… Eunji,” Stephanie stammered and was followed by a gulp. She stumbled to Jinwon’s side and pulled up the sheets in embarrassment even if she was fully clothed. She was just too embarrassed to be caught making out with her man so passionately. It’s not every day that she shows this side of her to her daughter.

      “We were just… um… ehem,” Jinwon cleared his throat and closed his eyes. “It’s not what you think.”

      “Oh, hohoho,” Eunji laughed with a mouthful as she dismissed Jinwon’s words. “Don’t mind me. I was on my way to the hospital anyway. Go and continue whatever,” Eunji snickered with a big perverted smirk on her face. She quickly took hold of the door knob and closed Stephanie’s room before any of them could say or do anything else.

      “Gosh, I need to get out of here quickly,” Eunji shivered. She took another bite from her pizza and ran to her room. She picked up Jinwon’s newly bought guitar and tiptoed her way out of the house. She giggled uncontrollably knowing she probably prevented her parents from getting too heated up.

***

      Kibum’s brown hair was starting to grow. The cuts on his face have completely healed other than the big scar on his right eyebrow. And for once, Kibum didn’t look that pale. He was actually getting better every day but nobody really knew if his mind was progressing. His damaged brain was still a mystery.

      The doctors have warned her of the possible outcomes of this coma and she’s ready for it all. She doesn’t care if Kibum loses his memories or become disabled at something. Ever since Jinwon came into her mother’s life, Stephanie couldn’t spare as much time for Eunji as she used to. Eunji doesn’t mind it but she does get lonelier the more it happens. She could not exactly call on most of her friends because she felt she would burden everyone with her downcast heart. She could only sit beside Kibum on days like these praying and trying to remember the normal moments between them that suddenly became so special. Although it really was tiring to wait for someone asleep for three months, looking at his improving complexion encouraged her every day. There were many days when she just wanted to give up on this painful longing, someday, she thought, he’ll wake up and smile brightly in front of her like before.

      She picked up Jinwon’s guitar and softly strummed the hollow bodied instrument. She’s not an expert in playing it since she just learned a few weeks ago, but she had been trying her hardest. The only song she ever knew how to play was the song he composed for her. Since then, this was the only song she would sing for him.

I couldn’t bear to say that I like you
Just being by your side like this was good enough

Yes, should I muster up some courage one more time?
Should I tell you how I feel?
You don’t even know my heart and you just smile brightly

Her sweet voice echoed in the room. Her song was able to cover the annoying beeping noises from the heart beat monitor.

I’m telling you that I want you
I’m telling you that I’m calling you
Hold my hand, hold my hand
I’m afraid that I’ll lose you

I’m telling you that I want you
I’m telling you that I love you
Are you listening to my heart for you?
It hurts just to look at you
Like this

There was one reason why Eunji kept on singing the same song. It was only because the lyrics fit perfectly for the situation. It made her sing it from her heart.

Shyly, I hide my fluttering heart
And I met you again today
I worry that my heart will be noticed
So I turn around

I’m telling you that I want you
I’m telling you that I’m calling you
Hold my hand, hold my hand
I’m afraid that I’ll lose you

She laid the guitar aside and figured she’d just sing. Her version of the song may not be as upbeat as Kibum’s without the guitar, but she knew her voice can sing it like a heart-wrenching lullaby without the instrument. She could not muster up some energy to sing it the way he did, anyway.

I’m telling you that I want you
I’m telling you that I love you
Are you listening to my heart for you?
It hurts just to look at you

She took hold of Kibum’s hand and gently fiddled with his unconscious fingers.

I’ll stay with you, I still need you
Nothing can replace you
Cuz I love you – wait for me
I will tell you my heart

I’m telling you that I’m looking for you
I’m telling you that I want to have you
Hold my hand, hold my hand
I’m afraid that I’ll lose you

At that instant, Kibum’s fingers slightly jerked into motion. She was startled by the touch that responded to hers that in her mind, she thought her senses were fooling her. She’s been used to him lying there without a care in the world that all her thoughts made her think she was just tired and losing a bit of her sanity.

      For a minute, she stared at him from top to bottom, trying to observe if anything would move. She still held onto his fingers wishing she would move it again. It was like she was underwater holding her breath, trying to see how long she would survive in this sense of mystery. When she took her hands away from Kibum’s fingers, it moved again and she clearly saw it. He even weakly gripped on one of her fingers.

      “Kibum?” She softly called out. His eyes were still closed shut and there weren’t any other movements to indicate that he was awake. She rested her head on the side of his bed and waited for him to move again. Five minutes turned into thirty until she fell asleep.

***

      When Kibum woke up, he didn’t know where he is or who he was. He felt uncomfortable with the wires connected on his one palm and his head ached. He tried calling out to anyone, but he didn’t know how to form words. But then, she found this girl beside her peacefully sleeping by his bed side with her brown wavy hair covering her face. For some odd reason, she was familiar.

      “Eunji…” Kibum suddenly thought. It was merely a name that popped in his head. He had absolutely no idea who was beside her, but he remembered her name and remembered her face quite well even though it was not visible at the moment. There was one thing he was sure about, though. When he felt trapped in his coma, in all the darkness, he would hear a sweet voice singing softly to him every afternoon. He would also feel her warm hands on the tips of his fingers. It was his only time of ease the whole while he was unconscious. He believed her angelic voice and warmth helped him heal faster.

      “Eunji,” A man’s voice called out from the door. He silently went in and tapped Eunji’s back. He failed to notice that Kibum was awake.

      “O-Oh?” Eunji woke up. “Mr. Kim… I mean Dad.” She has been calling Jinwon “dad” lately, but she was still not used to it especially since she was not in her right mind at the moment.

      “Get up. I think you’ve been here long enough. You can come again tomorrow,” Jinwon said packing up his own guitar that Eunji left unattended for a few hours. “And how could you leave my guitar lying out like this? I told you to put it in the case if you’re not using it.”

      “Sorry… somehow I fell asleep.”

      “You’re just tired. You came home a little late a so you must’ve had a long day. You should’ve stayed at home today and rested.”

      “If only you guys weren’t doing something scandalous…”

      “Hey, we weren’t having sex, kid! We were just… making out.”

      “Yeah, yeah, whatever… like I’d believe that.”

      Jinwon sighed in defeat for it seemed like Eunji would never believe anything he said about that situation.

      “You know what’s weird though,” Eunji said as she scratched her eyes. “I felt Kibum’s finger move today. I don’t know if I was hallucinating or what.”

      “Really?” Jinwon turned his eyes to Kibum. Suddenly, he became frozen seeing the boy’s eyes slightly open. He looked at Kibum, then to Eunji, then back to Kibum. He couldn’t think of anything other than how Eunji will react when she finds out Kibum is actually awake.

      Eunji caught her father’s expressions quickly and turned around to Kibum. Her mouth slightly dropped and slowly formed into a smile. Happiness—that’s the only thing she was feeling. She gently brushed his bangs away from his face and compassionately smiled. A single tear fell from her eyes and she wiped it away quickly. She softly gripped Kibum’s hands and let reality sink in. He’s here. He’s awake. His eyes were directly staring at her and it was not empty. There was definitely a look in his eyes that said he felt home.

      Eunji’s voice became higher than usual. Her excitement was getting to her, but she knew if she said the wrong things, things might not go well. So she got her eye-smile up and began,

      “Hi…”

 


CHAPTER 14: Uncertainty


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