Chapter 22. Jessica : Struggle.
It came as boring routines for me, all my activities while I was confined to my bed. Professional caretakers would come to help Yuri or my mother to move my body every two hours, held me up on the bed or turning me over. They said it was to prevent my blood from clogging in certain points. I just didn't like the fact that even for turning on a bed, at least the help of two people needed.
Then there were sessions with physiotherapist who helped me exercise my muscle; flexing, massaging, and all. She was kind and caring, but the session always felt so long and torturing to me.
I didn't even have to start explaining all the examinations carried out by the doctors and the nurses, did I? All the scans, prodding, and pricking they had done upon my nearly lifeless body.
The highlight of my day was always when Yuri showed up at that door, bearing a wide smile and those twinkles in his eyes. When he brought Jihye with him, the hours couldn't get better. They were the reason I held on. Why there had been no complain came out of my lips so far.
I knew I should be grateful. Not everyone had the luxury of family and friends during such difficult time. Not everyone was free from the financial weight that tagged along these comprehensive treatments. I just wished my progress wasn't this slow. More than one month had passed since I could touch Yuri again yet the only thing that started to function well was my right hand and my speech. I couldn't even clean myself properly.
The fact that I had to rely on other people for human's most basic function was a disgrace for me. I wanted this to end soon. I wanted to wake up and walked outside. I wanted to come to Jihye's room and see what she was doing.
In the middle of the night, when I woke up and no one was around, I would get extremely frustrated of all the limitations. Crazy thoughts would infiltrate my mind and bothered me for hours.
What if this was permanent?
What if Yuri leave me for other woman?
What if Jihye grows up ashamed of her invalid mother?
What if my family giving up on me?
I was nothing but a wilting vegetable on a bed who couldn't even remember the accident that had put me through this. People kept on asking me to be patient but it was a struggle to battle the dragging wait.
“Hi...” Sooyoung poked her face from the door, stopping my train of thoughts. “You wake up?”
“Yeah.” I shifted a little on the pillow.
“I bring you wheat bread pudding.” She laughed at my expression, putting the cardboard box on the table near the bed. “I don't know you hate my food so much.”
“Noooo... I just wish you came bearing bulgogi or Kimchi fried rice.”
She laughed again, opening the box to reveal a cup of pudding. “Have mercy on your still-weak digestive system.”
I opened my mouth as she brought a spoonful close to my lips. “Yuri's not here?”
“At the office. A meeting.” I answered between chews.
“Oh.” Sooyoung seemed to think for a moment before spooning another chunk. “Is the pudding any good? I made this with Areum. The kitchen still resembles sinking titanic as I left.”
“Good. Great even.” I smiled. “How's Areum?”
“Still a hyper. School doesn't do much to her springy personality.” My friend beamed at me.
“Don't ask.” The beam went ten times brighter. “He and his father are on the same team with his sister when it comes to create domestic disaster.”
“Domestic disaster.” Contemplating on current my predicament, I gazed at the ceiling. “I probably won't get a chance to create one with my daughter.”
“Hey...” Putting the cup on the table, Sooyoung squeezed my hands. “Don't say that.”
“You're a doctor, you know the truth better than me.” I blinked back tears. “I can't even move from my bed now. Who can guarantee that I can walk Jihye to school later?”
“But you've made progress too. Spinal cord injury might-”
“Spare me the technical explanation, Soo. The doctors had fed me a lot of that. Look me in the eyes and say that I will get back to what I used to be.”
Sooyoung sighed, putting the spoon down too.
“Yes.” She tilted my chin so now we were face to face. Her eyes fierce, full of determination. “You will get back to what you used to be.”
“I'm not one to lie to my best friend.” She held her gaze on me. “You will become that old Jessica Jung Sooyeon we treasure so much.”
“You will be that fun woman I know, full of passion for her family, friends and for her work.” Sooyoung rested her hand on the cast wrapped up to my knee. “This. This might not disappear soon. But with patience and determination, you'll spring back into your old self.”
“Who care if you have to cook that damn salty fried rice of yours with one hand? Who care if you attend parents-teachers meeting at Jihye's school rolling on a wheelchair? What matter the most is how your presence means to everyone, to the ones who love you the most.”
“I care, Soo.” I had cried so much the past few nights no tears left in my eyes. Just pain slicing through my heart. “I care. I want to be the perfect mother for my daughter, the perfect wife to Yuri. Just like you are perfect for Minho and your children. I can't even clean myself with all these limitations.”
“Then you should learn to change your definition of perfect, chingu-yah.” She held the pudding cup up. “This is a perfect pudding for me. Mushy and a little too sweet, maybe. No bakery will display this on the shelf. No one will buy it for a single dime. But I made it with love and laughter, while having fun with my little girl. This is my definition of perfect. You should try making your own definition too, regarding the shortcomings you might have.”
“Easy for you to say.” I tried to look away, but she held me still by the chin.
“Of course. Words are easy and cheap, Jess. Months of therapy and rehabilitation aren't. Support and love too. Don't let it all go to waste just because you're losing patience.” Sooyoung's smile always seemed to come from the most genuine place in her heart. Albeit a little, it managed to ease my worry. “If you ever for once think to give up. Please look back to your daughter who clearly is too perfect to see you surrender like a total wimp.”
“Now eat, or I make them serve you cucumber porridge next meal time. Imagine. Cucumber and porridge in one sentence.”
I sighed, taking the offered spoonful anyway. “Everything seems so slow, Soo. So boring. I wish I could do something to recover faster. I wish I don't have to stay in this bed for so long.”
“Trauma rehabilitation takes longer for some people. The progress happens step by step.” She squeezed my hand. “I know you probably heard this a thousand times before but being positive helps. For a start, you can smile and thank me for bringing this amazing meal.”
In her signature grin, Sooyoung held up another spoonful.
Eventually, I smiled too.
“That's more like it.”
“You know I can eat on my own right?” I tried to reach for the spoon. “My therapist told me to do things myself as much as I could.”
“Ssssssh. Let me baby you this time, okay? My babies at home are now grown-ups who refuse mommy's help.”
“Make another one then.” I .
“Oh don't you worry about that.” She blinked.
My smile got wider on its own accord.
“Hello...” A voice so familiar greeted me from the door. I didn't need to look up to know who it was.
“Unnie!.” A hesitant but clearly heartfelt hug came next. “Oh Unnie, I'm so happy you wake up.”
It was the common reaction of my friends and family who visited for the first time. All was happy to see me waking up. No one seemed to care if I could actually wake up from this bed. No one knew about the real effect of spinal cord injury, to my body, to my mind.
Soojung's presence however, warmed my heart. She had called a few times before, mostly apologizing for not being able to leave her filming schedule. Now she was actually here, smiling down at me despite her watery eyes, I couldn't be happier.
“Happy to meet you too.”
My sister wiped her eyes and sighed, probably trying hard not to cry. I was so tired of seeing people crying while visiting me, so I swatted her arm.
“Don't be a cry baby.”
“Can't help it.” She shrugged and hugged me again. “You scared me so much, oversleeping for months like that.”
“Sorry. I was having one hell of a dream. ” I brushed her hair. “How's LA? Is Jinki with you?”
“LA is nothing but filming after filming.” My sister sighed and pouted. “I have to comeback the day after tomorrow so Jinki is staying with Sehun there.”
“My busy sister.” I held her hand. “You must be tired.”
“Not too tired to do some magic tricks.”
Soojung's smile looked so suspicious as she stepped backward to the door. “Prepare for trouble, unnie.”
“And make it double.” The door burst open, revealing Seulgi, my assistant who was obviously trying hard not to giggle as she a pose with Soojung under the treshold.
“Triple. Quadruple. Whatever. ” Sooyoung, with all her poise, patted Soojung's head as she entered the room. Two women I recognized from the beauty house I frequented also tagged along, each carrying huge bag. There were even two nurses too.
“What is this?” My eyes widened at the flocks of people in front of me.
“We're going to do some tricks on you, Unnie.” Soojung grinned. “Relax, we're all professionals.”
“No. They are professionals.” My sister waved toward the other women as she waled to the bed, still grinning. “I'm just here to poke fun on you.”
“We're going to pamper you good.” Sooyoung, with a matching grin, elevated the head of my bed.
“We're playing beauty house on you today.” She whispered while patting my shoulder. “I know it can be a tad bit frustrating to stay away from your outer beauty for so long.”
I watched as various things were produced out of the bags; beauty products, make-up kits, manicure and pedicure set and even stylish clothes. Anticipation crept on me as I saw the things I loved. God knew how not presentable I currently was. I didn't even really look into the mirror these days.
“Now, let operation reviving Jung Sooyeon commences!” Sooyoung clapped her hands, smiling.
I smiled too.
Operation reviving Jung Sooyeon lasted nearly all day. When it ended, I came out anew. Fresher and happier.
At first had no idea that the operation included waxing, haircut, creambath, and full body massage, I now felt like the old Jessica Jung I had always been. Pretty and well-maintained. For a while I was able to push other sad facts behind. It was okay for not being able to move much. It was alright to rely on other people.
“Make up your mind, Unnie.” Soojung held the two designer dresses in front of me. “Don't be too picky.”
“I still prefer the Dior one.” Sooyoung, from her spot behind me, offered opinion as she gave my hair some final brushes. “The lace are so seductive.”
“Sooyoung!” I playfully swatted my friend's hand. “There was no point of being seductive when I'm practically tied to this bed.”
“That's exactly the point, dear.” Sooyoung laughed. Soojung and Seulgi too. The three ladies left in the room had been forcing me to pick from the few dresses they had brought, teasing and laughing at me as they did.
“Why would I need a dress anyway?” I gave one last protest. I knew they had a plan up their sleeves but I couldn't do much but lying on my bed anyway.
“The Gucci one is cute.” Seulgi chimed in as she gave my finger nails finishing touch. “And the frills match your new nail art too.” She lifted my left hand, showing her work.
“Decision. Decision.” My sister mumbled. “Come on, pick. We don't have all day.”
“I don't even know how you guys gonna put the dress on me.” I beckoned for Soojung to bring the dresses closer, touching the fabrics and suddenly missed designing stuffs. “The Gucci one.”
“Nice choice.” Seulgi grinned.
“Safe choice.” Sooyoung moved around the bed to reach the IV pole. “You're gonna regret it.”
“What are you doing?”
“Freeing you.” She stopped the IV from dripping before gently pulling the needle from the back of my hand. “Seulgi, call the nurses.”
Nurses came and with the same not-so-magic tricks they did hours ago, they helped me into the soft blue dress after first putting on some kind of back brace on me. It was much an easier task now that Sooyoung had unconnected me from the medical equipment and IV.
After a few last touches, they packed and left. But not before Soojung grinning and whispering to my ear. “Have fun, Unnie.” She said.
I had no idea what kind of fun was coming my way. In a stylish new dress. With a fresh haircut and nail game on point, I relaxed back onto the pillows. Waiting was the only thing I could do at the moment.
Barely a minute later, the door went open, revealing my favorite man. My Yuri, in a sleek dark suit with a bouquet of flowers in his hands, smiled at me.
I gasped. If this was the kind of fun Soojung had tried to imply, I was definitely in.
“Good evening, beautiful.” Yuri came closer, handing me the bouquet. “Would you like to join me for dinner.”
“Yep.” He clapped his hands, looking back to the door but nothing happened. He clapped again, louder this time. Still nothing.
“Aigoo.” He scratched his head, walking back to open the door and then shouted to whoever was outside. “I thought we agreed on certain scenario here. You guys make this less romantic by every minute.”
Giggles were heard followed with a little argument. Then Soojung came dashing in with a red box in one hand while pushing a wheelchair. “Sorry. Sorry. We forgot the most important thing, the shoes.”
She put the distinct red box on the bed, producing a pair of studded Valentino heels from it. “Can't have a dinner without proper heels right, unnie?”
Seeing the pretty shoes gave me a tinge of sadness inside. I had no idea if I can fully walk again someday, let alone using the hundreds pretty shoes I had at home. However, I knew this was not the right time to mourn over the uncertainty of my future. I let Soojung slipped each stunning heel to my feet, smiling at Yuri who was also smiling from where he leaned on the door jamb.
“Done.” Soojung clapped her hands. “Sorry for the delay, prince charming.” She stuck her tongue at Yuri before exiting the premise.
“Ready?” Yuri came to the bed, hands went around my body.
“What are you doing?”
“Taking my princess for a ride.”
It was a little scary to have him lifting me from the bed like this. But he was gentle and careful, placing me on the wheelchair like I was a doll made of porcelain. Then he adjusted my leg that was encased in a plaster cast, asking if I was comfortable enough.
“The first time you get off that bed.” He sighed after draping a blue blanket over my lap, wiping his brows. “Are you feeling okay?”
I adjusted myself slowly, amazed by the sense of freedom and the fact that I could actually shift my body a little. “I'm good.”
He smiled adorably while bending to my level. “Doctor told me that this have to be done carefully. If you feel any discomfort you should tell me immediately, okay?”
“Aye aye captain.” I saluted him. “Now let's go.”
He grinned, putting his hands on my shoulders then kissed my lips. It was that kind of feathery kiss that could last forever. The taste that I had missed so much; cotton candy smoothness in the taste of sweet cherry.
I sighed contently, eyes still gazing at Yuri who smiled dreamily at me. “I'd love to stay like this forever but honestly, I can't wait to get out of this room. Let's go.”
He laughed, starting to push the wheelchair. We gone through the long alley. Nurses or doctors who happened to past by, smiled at us. My hope went up, thinking that we would go for an actual ride in a car to a restaurant or such. But we took an elevator up several floors before arriving in front of another door with numbers on it.
“Welcome to your new room.” He opened the door. Another hospital room, more spacious, furnished like an actual bedroom but still had that boring hospital bed inside.
“I know you're eager to get out of this place, baby.” He kissed my cheek. “But we need a few more weeks stay to make sure you're alright.”
“Until then we can use this more comfortable room together. The hospital has agreed on letting Jihye stays with us too.” He points at the small crib on the corner before bringing me pass the glass door to the balcony. “And maybe enjoy a romantic dinner once in a while.”
The whole balcony was stunningly decorated. There was already a table prepared for dinner, covered in fine blue linen with silverware on it. Tiny lamps on strings as pretty as the stars were all over the table and along the ledge. Flowers, candles, streamer and even green plants in pots were arranged neatly. To make it picture perfect, a butler stood on the corner with a cart of food in front of him.
Yuri bring the wheelchair close to the table, making sure that my encased leg tucked safely. The butler came closer too, letting the dinner commenced.
I grinned at the prepared meal. Yuri winked. I was still on a monitored diet for the sake of my weak digestive system. No chunk of meat, seafood on pasta, or wine on the table. The dishes served, however, were certainly different than just the usual porridge, jelly, and juice the hospital provided.
We enjoyed the meal silently, exchanging nothing but glances and small smiles. Things that reminded me much of our first date. The butler left after serving dessert; a simple banana pudding with only thin layer of caramel sauce. I enjoyed the treat still, savoring the taste I hadn't had for a while.
And then, when there were no more food between us, Yuri reached for my hand.
“I love you, Jessica Jung.”
His loving gaze.
His tender smile.
Ocean of affection he conveyed in mere seconds.
I couldn't stand it anymore.
Something rose in me. The pain I couldn't suppress.
I had no idea why. I had no idea how to stop. Tears fell like a river. My shoulders shook. I crumbled, giving up to my aching heart.
My man didn't say a word. I just felt him coming to my side, covering my open shoulders with his wool jacket. Then his arms went around me, in a kind of hug that had always been able to comfort me.
The pain lingered though. I kept on crying, falling apart in my husband's arms.
“It's so hard, Yul.” Words finally came out between my sobs. “I don't think I can do this.”
Even though my heart said I had to be strong, every fiber in my body screamed of exhaustion. I felt sorry for ruining the dinner, but my tears just wouldn't stop.
“I know you can do this.” He whispered to my ears. “You have us. We love you.”
-- tbc --
Author's note : Trauma is so hard to deal with sometimes, I hope this chapter conveys Jessica's feeling well and you all can understand where all her frustation coming from. It's not like she's being whiny or ungrateful. She's just struggling. Anyhow, thank you for reading. ^^