STORY 1 | STORY 2 | STORY 3 | STORY 4 | STORY 5
Chapter 1: Let Go
Chapter 2: Rest
JUNE 5, 1998, Thursday
Handprints and footprints—once in a while they rise and fall on random corners of Stephanie’s belly. It was an unusual thing to see and it felt like someone was punching her from the inside. Mothers would usually take much pride and joy over the fact that they have come as far as seven months nursing the new life, but she could not share the same feeling. She felt like there was a monster living inside her that drove her physically and emotionally askew, but she couldn’t really call it a “monster” since everyone around her would shake their heads in disapproval. This was a blessing, they say, and truly, it was, but to her, it was a curse, too.
Still in denial and grief, focusing on the welfare of the baby was something she hasn’t been good at. Life got heavier day by day the more she buried her tears under the smiling mask she has created. She thought being away from the land of her tragic teenage love-story would expel her of things that used to haunt her, but how would that be possible? Those memories didn’t just stay at one place. It scarred her whole body, heart, and soul, and it will stay wherever she goes. She did not want anyone to see just how deep those emotional cuts have been, so she hid them in any way she can. But oh, how careless was she to hide those wounds without sealing them first.
No one can ever seal these scars anyway, Stephanie thought. They were so deep not even family could help her. Her family consists of broken people just like her. If fact, the unspoken discord among her family was caused by her mother’s death. Her distraught father had a hard time getting by taking care of her and her brother Leo, so they were sent to the care of trustworthy people. At first, Stephanie thought it was utterly foolish to separate at such a devastating time, but she couldn’t do anything about the decisions that were made. But she was thankful that she was able to continue with a normal teenage life under the roof of the Jungs, at least for a few years.
On the first few weeks of being separated from her best friend who cared about her so much, she’d wonder why she even agreed to live here in Yuchiri. What would it have been like staying under Jessica’s roof? There was no one else who truly understood her situation but her best friend. Both of them could’ve strengthened each other. If she stayed there a little longer, maybe, just maybe, she would be able to go back to her normal stance and feel normal again.
As she tried getting past that thought, she noticed that there was one family member that truly felt like home to her after all. It was Sunny, her cousin. She grew up with her for a few seasons back in the States when they were only children and they were almost inseparable. They were like twins who knew each other back to back. Hurting one would also hurt the other. So to hear how much family complications Stephanie had stumbled to, Sunny and her family wanted to help her in some way. She didn’t want Stephanie to lose touch of what a family should be—a family that never gives up on one another. So now that Sunny has taken the role of accompanying her in any situation, Stephanie had at least a small but growing sense of hope that the days will gradually get brighter.
Whenever Stephanie could not do any tasks because of her depression, Sunny would be there by her side trying to help her and cheer her up. She was the busiest girl of her age, yet all of her free time consisted of nothing but spending it with Stephanie. It was still a mystery to her how Sunny was able to balance her time. Sunny had numerous jobs around town like feeding cows, cleaning out dung, catching a few chickens, and gathering eggs. She also had jobs harvesting crops, taking out weeds, and picking out different kinds of fruits. She even babysits the folks’ children and tutors some of them. And still after all that, Sunny often took her to walks around town with Prince Charming the dog, treated her with the love of family that she had lost touch in the past few years, and also personally checked the baby herself with the folks’ pregnancy and ultrasound equipment. Sunny was one of the most inspiring people she has ever met. “If she had a past life, she would probably be superwoman,” Stephanie always thought.
“She can basically run the whole place. I would totally vote for Mayor Soonkyu,” Stephanie would joke to most of the folks by calling Sunny her birth name (which Sunny really isn’t fond of). She was indeed, after all, the deceased mayor’s grand-daughter. It was no doubt that she came from the upright, hardworking Lees. Rumor even has it that their family line dates back to a successful king in the Joseon period—maybe King Jeongjo or even an older line, Sejong the Great. With that said, Sunny really does act like a superior who’s more than able to lower her status for anyone in need. Whenever and wherever she was needed, Sunny would come rushing over without question, and she would always do a job well done.
There was also Hyuna, Sunny’s sister. Like Sunny, she was fierce and strong physically and mentally. The only clear difference between them was that she was more vocal about things that displease her unlike her soft-spoken and laid-back sister. She was three years younger than Stephanie and Sunny, and she was infamous for being blunt and immature. But as the teenage philosopher that she kind of was, the elders deemed her very wise compared to the other kids her age. Stephanie cannot even begin to count how many times this teenager insulted her on something (or on everything) for her good. She was good at pointing out what was bad, but she was also good at showing the right way. It was slightly irritating to be nagged by someone younger than her, but she tried her hardest not to resist them. To her, Hyuna was that buzzing conscience sitting right on her shoulder; she took every scolding at heart.
When Sunny and Hyuna are not available, there’s Sunhwa, a girl a year younger than Stephanie who quit school and is now homeschooling since she can’t seem to catch up to the normal school system’s standards. She lives at the neighboring house of the Lee’s old hanok house. She’s the closest teenager around that Stephanie could come to. Since Sunhwa can’t really do basic math and on other subjects well, the least Stephanie can do was to tutor Sunhwa in whatever she found hard to do.
There was also the Kim family (unrelated to Jinwon), a family of exceptionally good cooks with exploding senses of humor. There were a lot of members in this family but only three who were very close to the Lees. The trios were Taewoo, Shinyoung, and Jaejun. Taewoo, age 27, was a man known for his bear like strength and stature. He usually wears a cap, glasses, and soldier cargo pants along with his masculine stubble he dared to never shave or grow out. There was Shinyoung, age 24, a woman craziest in comedy lines out of the three, with a height a little too small for a normal adult. Then there was Jaejun, age 22, the super handsome and talented, adopted kid of the Kim family. Since the three visit often, Stephanie was very fond of them, especially Jaejun who has become like her older brother. He’d sing to her and write songs with her whenever he’s free and cooks healthy meals that she likes whenever she loses her appetite.
Stephanie likes being surrounded by people. It keeps her mind steady and distracted from falling onto the edges of depression’s cliffs. It doesn’t matter who it is as long as they keep her busy in doing something. It doesn’t matter who it is as long as they have no knowledge of Jinwon.
However, it was still hard to avoid getting to the topic of the baby’s father. She had to create a consistent lie of what had happened, for every time someone new strikes a conversation with her, the same question’s echoed. “Who’s the father?” “How did he die?” It was hopelessly unavoidable. Seven months pregnant was hardly something that she could hide now. How much more will they buzz these questions to her ear once the baby comes out? She dared not think about it for now.
“There’s so many things I want to do with you,” Jinwon said.
“When the baby is born, I want to… hmm… something like take walks around parks with our child like a family. When it grows a little older, I want to take it to school myself… teach it to play guitar. Just some things like that,” Jinwon awkwardly said and laughed. He never really thought about those kinds of things until now. A family was far from his teenage mind until this happened. Now he’s just racking his brain for a way to look on the brighter side of things.
“You seem excited,” Stephanie blushed. “I haven’t even thought about that part yet.”
“C’mon, tell me. Just think of at least one—with me and the baby. What would you like to do in the future as a family? Tell me your wish.”Read More »