Reunion Chapter 23

Author: nicotine

By the time the heat receded, Gunwoo contacted me. It was news about my mother who was hospitalized for several days for treatment. At the sound of hospitalization, I remembered about the sickness that was growing inside my mother’s body. It might have been because my mother and Gunwoo were thinking the same as me, I hung up the call without stretching the conversation much in a while. Doctors at the amazing Taewon Hospital also said that they couldn’t guarantee my mother’s life or death.

When I was young, I had a stomach ache at dawn because of something I ate wrong. Even though I was young and was only in the sixth grade of elementary school, I was already a finger taller than my mother. Nevertheless, my mother was willing to run a long and steep downhill with me, who was taller than her. Even at the state of losing my consciousness, I always thought the same.

Wow, my mother was, as expected, amazing.

So I couldn’t accept it. The doctor’s cautious words that my mother’s, who was always such an amazing person, life was at a precarious state that they couldn’t be sure what could happen in a few months from now.

In my arms, I hugged Poongjak and recalled my mother’s face. My mother’s face, which I caught a few glimpses of a couple of months ago still hadn’t changed from the time she ran with me on her back. Except for the incontinence and inevitable traces of time.

“Don’t keep putting him on your stomach. If it becomes a habit, he will keep doing it even when he grows up. He will be very heavy.”

Whether it was because his work for which he shut himself inside the room throughout the whole morning was finished, Jang Yoonsung came out with two cups. He said as if I would be raising Poongjak later too. What do you mean? He was heavy enough now. His words were heavier and stronger than the dog.

Jang Yoonsung put down the cup he brought on the table and lifted Poongjak to make it easier for me to get up. The large puppy was gently carried in his arms.

“Doesn’t Poongjak miss his mom?”

“Mom? Nori?”

Jang Yoonsung faced Poongjak closely at the unexpected question. He scrutinized Poongjak’s expression for a long time as if he was trying to read him.

“Well, isn’t two and a half months the time for a dog to be independent. Don’t you think so?’

He asked. Poongjak stuck out his small tongue as if he didn’t know what he was talking about and licked the tips of Jang Yoonsung’s nose.

“What would a two and half month old understand?”

“But who was the one who trained the dog to bring the ball?”

At that time, all dogs know how to bring the ball from the moment they are born. Jang Yoonsung, had nothing more to say and I had a sip of the ice chocolate he brought and lied down on the sofa again.

“Ah, I miss mom.”

WIthout realizing, I sighed. I was surprised when I realized what I had said but Jang Yoonsung looked at me with round eyes.

“No, it has been a long time since I’ve been home so…”

When I added an explanation which he didn’t even ask for, Jang Yoonsung rolled his eyes as if he was planning something and answered casually.

“Go ahead, then.”

Even though it was someone else’s business, wasn’t he saying that too easily? When I looked displeased with his insensitiveness, Jang Yoonsung still asked me with an expression as if he was clueless.

“Why? Is your house far away?”

“It’s so frustrating, I have no excuse. I’m someone who came after residing in the USA for 10 years so what work would I have in Seoul?”

As if Jang Yoonsung realized then, he finally burst into laughter. When I tapped him with my feet asking why he was laughing but he didn’t have any intentions of stopping.

“What’s so funny?”

“No, the fact that you were still in your role. You must be someone who is unexpectedly faithful to your role?”

Sure, it was for the money. I didn’t answer anything but Jang Yoonsung made a ‘hm’ sound as if it was interesting.

“Is your home in Seoul?”

At that point, I had to admit because of his persistence. He really didn’t let go. Still, it’s not that one or two people lived in Seoul so it would be okay enough not to get caught. No, I thought it was great that I spoke.

“I’ll help you. Let’s go.”

Even such words were said by Jang Yoonsung.

 

***

[Hyung, will you really come?]

[I’m going to the hospital right after I get off school so can you come there?]

[Nevermind. I have something to take from home so I’ll go there. When will you come?]

As soon as I woke up, I checked my cell phone and there were a lot of messages from Funwoo. I contacted him the day before but he was confirming it several times as if he couldn’t believe it. I thought he was in class so I decided to reply by lunch and prepared to go out for a long time.

“Grandpa, I’ll go to Seoul with Jinyoung for a few days.”

In the evening when I inadvertently said I missed my mother, Jang Yoonsung said so to Chairman Jang. To Chairman Jang, who naturally asked why, Jang Yoonsung finished the explanation by saying he wanted to go on a date with me. Why didn’t I think of that earlier? If I asked for help, he would have helped.

I came here empty handed so I didn’t have much to pack so my clothes and that was the problem. I didn’t know why Jang Yoonsung, who had good eyesight was being deceived but I couldn’t roam around my neighborhood wearing a fluttering dress. I had one piece of clothing which was in contrast to what I wore but no matter how I saw it, it would be obvious that I was a man.

In the end, I wore only my pants and the hoodie Jang Yoonsung generously lended me from his closet. There was a considerable height difference and since I was much thinner now, it was enough to cover my figure.

As I looked at the hustle and bustle outside the window, I could see Jang Yoonsung already waiting with his car. With two cell phones and a thin wallet in my small bag, I quickly went down to the first floor. Chairman Jang was in the living room so I thought I should say hello so I approached him and bowed my head.

“Grandpa, I’ll be back.”

“Yes, yes. Grandfather should give you some pocket money since Jiyoung is going out to hang out after a while.”

To overshadow the cute word, ‘Pocket money’ Chairman Jang handed me several checks. I thought it would be 100,000 won but I was surprised when the inscription on the check said, “1 million won’.

“Buy something delicious with this and ask Yoonsung to buy you something expensive.”

“It’s alright, Grandpa. I have money to buy something.”

Regardless whether it was hundreds or thousands, to the Jangs, it wasn’t much, however it was difficult for me to receive it so easily. Whatever the circumstances, I couldn’t receive such an amount given that I was deceiving him.

However Chairman Jang held the check in my hand and stressed several times that it was okay. Eventually I accepted the money and wore my shoes. Jang Yoonsung, who was waiting in front of the car with the front seat door open, looked up and down several times and smiled.

“Why are you wearing someone else’s clothes? You are making my heart flutter.”

I was worried that Jang Yoonsung might notice the change in my clothes but I relaxed and responded as usual.

“You are not that easy of a person.”

“Why? Are easy men not your type?”

When I got into the car, Jang Yoonsung put on my belt and asked slyly. Although he said so, Jang Yoonsung knew that his position of not being someone easy and more closer to someone who would overlook things. It was an attitude that was meant to change at any time so I didn’t like it. I couldn’t fully trust the kindness Jang Yoonsung showed.

“All men are my not type.”

“You are quite difficult.”

Jang Yoonsung pretended to be disappointed and closed the front seat door. He was pretending that it was a pity. He had a strange kind of confidence. The conviction of a person who never failed in anything.

While I was busy being envious, the car slowly left the villa.

“Grandpa gave me some pocket money to buy something delicious.”

While we were on the highway, I confessed how I made an unfair profit. It was five million won. I pulled out the check as if that was really it. I did it to placate my own mind, however I knew how Jang Yoonsung would answer indifferently. But that time an unexpected answer came back.

“Then we should grab something delicious to have.”

When did he listen to his grandfather’s words so obediently yet Jang Yoonsung words stressed it even more.

“When we get back, let’s grab a meal together. If you want to tell grandfather what we did in Seoul, we should at least do this.”

“Right. I will buy it. From the pocket money Grandfather gave us.”

Instead of answering, Jang Yoonsung smiled lightly and focused on driving again. I had only two days off but I couldn’t be more greedy. Until then, Jang Yoonsung would have to pretend that we were together yet would not be able to enter the house and take shelter elsewhere. I was thankful but in that car, since it was so quiet, I couldn’t say a word because it might end up being awkward. I looked at the ring on my finger which he insisted was 300 won and as I darted my eyes up, I was passing the Seoul toll gate.

“Do you live around here?”

Jang Yoonsung parked his car along the Gangnam road like I asked in advance. However, looking right and left, Jang Yoonsung inquired.

“No, after I get off here, I will take a bus. If I take a bus here, I can reach home at once.”

“Where is your house? I will escort you there.”

I gave no answer and only glared at him. I would be useless to say it again. Jang Yoonsung sighed like a false smile and grumbled as if he didn’t understand.

“It’s not that I would be bullying you if you tell me so I am not sure why you are going to this extent to hide it.”

I couldn’t take any chances so I didn’t even say sorry even though I knew Jang Yoonsung was upset.

I didn’t want to go against Jang Myeongsoo and it was because I desperately needed the price of deceiving Chairman Jang and ignoring Jang Yoonsung.

However, on the other hand, I was afraid. There was a vain desire to cling to the thin connection I had with Jang Yoonsung.

So that the mood didn’t get any worse, with an intention of getting off, I loosened my belt and said.

“I’ll go now. See you the day after tomorrow.”

I succeeded in getting out of the car without looking back but he eventually caught hold of  me saying, “Wait a minute.”

“Okay, take a taxi then.”

Jang Yoonsung hailed a taxi and helped me in as if he had no intention to pester me anymore. Then he took out some large boxes from the trunk and transferred them to the taxi. Seeing that he told me to have it with my family, it was a gift from him. I was thinking about saying that there was no one at him however I just said that I would have it well.

Finally, Jang Yoonsung handed a check to the taxi driver and asked him to move my luggages and stepped back from the road. As the taxi departed, his sad face slowly faded away.

The driver received a generous sum of money and was willing to help me move my luggages to the inside of the front door. Perhaps because I had been living in such a spacious and luxurious place till then, the house I always thought was narrow seemed shabby. To the point where some boxes piled up at the entrance looked too much. The house was a mess because all the people who lived there were all occupied. I didn’t expect to do laundry or cleaning at first but my head went blank when I found an empty ramen bag piled in the kitchen waste bin. My younger brother, who was only a high school student, was eating alone at home. It wasn’t much different when I was there but I didn’t know why it suddenly caught my eyes.

It was quite a while since Gunwoo would come back from school so I did the laundry, washed the dishes and cleaned the floor meanwhile. While cleaning, I suddenly thought about how annoying my long hair was.

Only then did I realize that I was still wearing my wif. Also the fact that I had something applied on my face as well. I quickly took off my wig, stuffed it in my bag and went into the bedroom. I decided to put my ring inside my pocket because it was not something for a man to wear.

After washing my hair and cleaning my face, I heard a rattling and banging outside while I carefully scrutinized my reflection in the mirror. It used to make that sound whenever someone came in because the front door couldn’t be opened easily due to it being worn out. I could have fixed it if I wanted to but I left it because I could check when someone came in or went out.

“Hey! Are you in?”

Gunwoo’s voice was filled with anticipation which came beyond the wooden door. I checked the mirror once again and opened the door.

“Right, your hyung is here.”

“Wow, you’re really here! But what is all this?”

Gunwoo pointed at the boxes given by Jang Yoonsung. Come to think of it, I didn’t even check what was in it yet.

“I think he said it was something for us to eat.”

“Food? Can I open it?”

When I asked Gunwoo to open it, he unpacked it with a curious face. I wondered what kind of things he sent. There were a series of things I saw at the department store where I went to work part-time during the holidays. Beef, pine, mushrooms, abalone…even if he gave me those, I didn’t know how to cook it.

“How do you eat these?”

Gunwoo seemed to have been thinking the same as me. Whether it was true that he was commuting from school to the hospital to be by his mother’s side, Gunwoo was looking at mushrooms without even thinking about taking off his school bag.

The huge bags of ramen that I saw earlier were on my mind and somehow Jang Yoonsung helped me out at the right time.

“Gunwoo, go and put your bag down. Let’s have lunch and head for the hospital.”

“Lunch? Mom must be waiting for you, hyung.”

“We can eat quickly. We are going to have dinner at the hospital anyway.”

Gunwoo had a personality that he would never eat if he was alone. I told Gunwoo several times that it was okay as I opened the package of beef which looked easy to prepare. Gunwoo hesitated to make the table and took out the rice that had been stored in the freezer.

“When did you put that in?”

“I don’t know but it won’t kill us, I guess.”

Gunwoo smiled playfully with a slightly relaxed smile. I grilled the meat roughly on top of the frying pan and ate it.

“But you didn;’t buy this, did you? Who gave it to you?”

Gunwoo who was busy fumbling with chopsticks asked a belated question at last.

“Uh…well…”

I rolled my eyes as I was confused. I couldn’t think of a word to explain who Jang Yoonsung was. As if he was really curious, Gunwoo rushed for an answer and opened his mouth first.

“Friend?”

“No, not a friend.”

“Then?”

“The boss’ son gave it to me.”

Although he was not the Chairman, he was the vice chairman and I was not wrong since Jang Yoonsung was the son of my boss. I thought it was a clear introduction in its own way however Gunwoo made a face which implied how weird it sounded.

“Son of your boss? Why him?”

“Uh…”

I made a strange sound as if I was really speechless for a moment.

“Why did the boss’ son give you this even when you are not his friend?”

Gunwoo asked as if he was frustrated and raised his chopsticks and proceeded to gobble up  a piece of meat. It might sound strange to him. Why did a person who was my friend or my boss, just a son of my boss, gave that to me?

“No, he is a bit easy…hm…a bit nosy…”

Gunwoo swallowed the meat he was chewing and opened his mouth again at my lame explanation.

“So you mean he is a good person, right?”

“Ah, right. He is a good person.”

It sounded bitter. A good person.

 

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nicotine

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