Chapter 23. Yuri : Changes.
“Jinyoung didn't look too happy.” Minho throw himself on the chair in front of my desk, loosening his tie while sighing.
“Worry not. He looks like that 99% of the day.” I smiled, taking a file from the stack on the table, read it for a moment, then scribbled my signature on it.
“I still can't believe you did this to me.”
“I didn't. The gentlemen of the board did.”
“You are one of the gentlemen of the board!”
I laughed, giving another file a quick read before signing it.
“I can't believe you just give SK-K up just like that. This company's backbone is the very company your family built with sweat and blood.”
“I'm still in the company, Minho-yah. Our family owned 25% of the share, we still have a say in future policies.”
“But still, no longer a CEO, no longer be able to set the direction of this company. To make it worst, you hand this company to me. Me!” He dramatically ruffled his hair. “I'll sink this ship in no time with or without the great Jinyoung breathing down my neck.”
“Listen.” I dropped one file on the desk, staring into my best friend's eyes. “You doubt my judgment. Fine. I might be inexperienced and stupid enough to choose a goofball like you as my substitute. But my father also has a say in this. He's the one helped me lobbying the other two members of the board. You can't call a man like my father inexperienced.”
Minho sighed, rubbing his face. “So you leave next week?”
“I already ask Irene to tidy up. Things that need my approval will be sent home by her. Almost every major decision is finalized anyway, you shall be able to sail smoothly for the next two months or so.”
“Including our plan for bio-fuel installment in Africa?”
“Yep. I already secured all the deal. Your biggest challenge will probably be Jinyoung pushing on the nuclear plan.”
“Yeah, that.” Minho grimaced. “So, stay-at-home father then?”
“Father and husband.”
“I still find it hard to believe that my workaholic friend is letting go all of his education and hard work just like this.”
“You know it's not a spur-in-the-moment decision.” Jessica's smile and Jihye's face came to my mind as I spoke. “You have family too. You know that no money and prestige can replace the people you love.”
“And Jessica still has no idea of this?”
“Yes. When she's fully settled at home, I'll tell her myself.” I took the last document from the desk, reading it thoroughly for it was the formal announcement of my departure from SK-K energy.
“Done.” I put the document on the desk, grinning at my best friend who seemed to be in distress still. He looked funny actually, with the tousled hair, creased forehead and all. I spared him my laugh though. I knew how hard commandeering this company would be.
The first time I had told Minho about my decision some two months ago, I hadn't been sure myself. But somehow,as days came by, I realized that this was the the right thing to do for me, my wife, my daughter, and for the company itself. I couldn't always fairly split my attention between family and work.
“At least say proper goodbye to everybody. Let Irene and I arrange a farewell party.”
“You do that. I'll always be available. Bur for today, let me leave quietly.” I glanced at the Bvlgari timepiece around my wrist. The watch was Jessica's gift some birthdays ago that I treasured so much. “I'm already late for an appointment.”
“Got it. I'm drinking with the boys tonight. Come join us before you are too busy to even drink a bottle of soju.”
“Sure. A night to celebrate CEO Choi. I'll ask James to open the pub free for everyone. Get your platinum card ready.”
Minho pouted. His expression reminded me much of his son Daeul when the boy couldn't have what he wants.
With that, I couldn't hold my laugh anymore.
I smiled, greeting my dear wife with a kiss on her forehead. She was busy wriggling her toes on the bed, grinning like a maniac.
The therapists who was starting to tidy their equipment up smiled at me too. I gave them two thumbs up.
“I can move all my toes!” The excitement in Jessica's voice reminded of one coming from a child. It has been a while since I saw her so happy. My heart nearly exploded at the sight of long-lost sparkles in her eyes.
“They said that it's good sign. The doctors don't lie. I might be able to move both my legs in the end.”
“Of course honey.” I kissed her forehead again, nodding at the therapists who started to leave the room. As Jessica happily moved her toes again, I gave her left leg a gentle massage. Often attending the therapy session with her, I knew how to perform a few stimulation that should be able to help her heal faster.
“Jordan and Kwanghee said that we should be able to try standing next week.” She referred to the therapists.
“Yes. Putting my left leg on the floor for a few seconds with support.”
“That's great.” I beamed back at Jessica. “How about your left hand?”
“I still can't grip the ball as tight as I want.” She eyed the small ball on the bed. “But it's still better than not being able to feel my fingers at all.”
“Take your time, baby.” I touched her cheek. “Don't tire yourself.”
She smiled, leaning into my touch. Every little progress she made meant a lot these days. Anything that could uplift her mood.
Two months ago, the dinner I had planned carefully had turned into disaster. She had spent nearly two weeks dwelling in depression before I found a way to make her smile again. Since then, me and the rest of our family agreed to thread carefully around her, afraid that she would break apart again.
No one said that trauma recovery would be easy. I hadn't expected it to be this hard either. Everyday was a struggle and it made me even more sure that quitting work was the the best decision to be made.
“I want to go home.” Jessica yawned. I shifted to lie beside her, letting her head rest on my shoulder.
“All my outer injuries have healed. I don't need machines to monitor me anymore. I'm ready to go home.”
“Let me talk to the doctors first, okay?”
“Kay.” She yawned again. “But I can't stand another month in this hospital.”
Per Jessica's wish, Jihye had been brought home last month. The main consideration was to give our daughter a better environment to grow. But Jessica's mood had been swinging wildly since then. Probably due to the lack of mood booster coming from our adorable Jihye.
The plan to bring Jessica home had actually been brought up several times before. I even had started to prepare the home with all the facility she would need. But seeing how she whined about it nearly all the times, I seriously thought it was necessary to move faster then the initial plan.
“I'll see what I can do, baby.” I kissed my wife on the forehead, wishing her a tight sleep.
“Only real man has the balls to leave his career for his family.” Gary poured the soju to the glass in my hand. “Kudos to you.”
I gulped in one go. Minho and Seunggi followed with their share of the distilled alcohol. For a while there were only four men, drinking the night away in the private booth. Gary and Seunggi both took turn to praise then tease me about my decision, just like the good friends they were.
“I need to stop.” I leaned back on the velvet couch. “Coming home to a baby here. Need to wake up early and fully sober tomorrow.”
Minho grinned, taking another full glass that Gary handed to him. “Can you believe this. Few years ago this guy only talked about stock market, offshore oil rigs, and Korea economic growth.”
“He didn't even talk about girls back then.” Seunggi, twirling a bottle in his hand, grinned. “When I agreed to play matchmaker, I didn't expect Jessica to change him this much.”
“I hope it doesn't get to where he talks about dirty diapers between shots.” Gary, head between his hands, snorted. “Remember when all Minho could talk about is diaper?”
“Yeah, man. Bring that up. I was even too drunk to remember it.” Minho took a sip. “Honestly, though. I think I might like this new Yuri better.”
“Mushy Minho.”Gary snorted again. “Please don't tell me that the both of you will be so busy we can't even play golf once in a blue moon anymore.”
“Don't worry. I'll make time.” I was sure I would still need their companion to vent up from time to time. The road ahead would definitely be rocky and steep, I needed every support I could get.
“Me too. If my wife or my superior at the office doesn't strangle me first.” Minho frowned, then laughed. “I'll be as busy as hell.”
“More than hell, talking from experience here.” I laughed too, standing up to pick my jacket and pat my best friend on the shoulder. “But you'll get through.”
“Amen.” Seunggi laughed. “You drive?”
“Nah. James has a cab ready for me outside.”
“Good. See you tomorrow then..”
“Meeting with the truck driver, remember?”
“Oh that.” Long-suppressed anger rose in me. “What time again you said?”
“Three p.m. Seoul Police Agency main detention center.”
“Alright. I'll be there.”
I left, trying to push the nagging thought away.
He was probably younger than me by seven to ten years. The forlorn look couldn't hide the youth in his eyes. As I sat across the man who drove the truck that ruined my wife's life, our life, I couldn't help but thinking of how the incident might affect him too.
“My client drove to replace his ill father that day, please kindly put this into your consideration.” His lawyer added to the file of information that had been delivered to my ears since a few minutes ago.
Kim Jaejoong, the man in front of me, had been drunk that night. His claim was that he had been bounded to drive the truck because it had been the only way his family could get money for his ill father. He was young. He regretted his mistake and had been reflecting hard ever since. The long process to get trial had him depressed. Yada. Yada. Yada. Bla.Bla. Bla.
I stared the man square in the eyes as Seunggi and his father took turn to talk. The man's lawyer went on a limb defending his client, literally saying everything to save his client from our charge. I didn't buy a single word he sold, though. I wanted to know myself.
“The process for trial has been unnecessary prolonged, Lawyer Lee. It takes a toll on Mr. Kim. We sincerely plead Mr. Kwon to drop the charge and let Mr. Kim be judged under the DUI & Traffic law alone.”
Seunggi's father glanced at me. Seunggi too. They both were seasonal lawyers and best friends of our family. With their connections, it was easy to make this man in front of me miserable for the rest of his life. But did I really want it? Would it settle the rage in me?
“I want to talk to him.” I sighed after a long while. “Alone.”
Glances were thrown at my direction again. Seunggi and his father stood up shortly after. Kim Jaejoong and his lawyer both froze on their spots.
“Your client is safe. There are police officers outside. I won't do damage to him.” I didn't bother to look at the lawyer as I talked. “At least not that much.”
When the lawyer didn't budge I carried on. “Whether I'll drop the charge or not is solely depend on what Mr. Kim will say to me without his lawyer shielding him word per word.”
The lawyer coughed, whispering something to his client before standing up and left.
“If it was up to me you would have been dead on this table the minute I entered this room.” I leaned in, staring at him. He flinched.
“Sadly, putting you on harm way won't do anything to the damage you have done.”
He stayed silent, still refusing to meet my eyes.
“You have a wife and a child, don't you?”
“How old is your child?”
“Mine is about five months old. She was born early because someone was stupid enough to drive a truck drunk. Every night, I would wake up to check if she's still breathing because being born early means her health will never be on par with babies who born full term. When she was a few days old and I saw her in an incubator, I wasn't even sure if she would get to her first birthday.”
“I... I'm sorry.”
“Your apologize can even help speeding up my wife's recovery. Five months and my wife still can't wake up from her bed. God knows if she will be able to run around with our daughter someday.”
“I... I drove the truck because my ill fa-”
“Are you trying to say that my family well-being worth less than yours? That to help your ill-father gets money for his recovery it's okay to for me to lose my family? That your carelessness is reasonable enough to nearly cost two lives?
“No!” His eyes finally met mine. For a fleeting second before he looked down again. “No, Mr.Kwon. It was so stupid of me to drive my father's truck after drinking. But he was sick. We needed the money from the shipping fee. I earned nothing those days, too busy drinking and such.”
“But I have stopped drinking ever since. I don't even smoke anymore. I'm reflecting. I'm trying to do good with this life God grants me.”
He lift her head again, slowly meeting my stare. I couldn't read people mind but years spent as businessman taught me a lot of people character based on their body language. “If giving my life will make your family forgive me then I will. But my parents are old and poor they need my support. My wife and my son need me too.”
I sighed, standing up.
“Mr. Kwon, please. My lawyer said I'm facing ten years or so if you press charges. Have mercy on my family. If I'm to be jailed for too long, Lord knows what will happen to them.”
My hand was on the door handle already. My mind was whirling between two decisions. This guy probably genuinely felt guilty but I couldn't decide if it was enough.
“Let me make sure they are all settled first, then you can do anything with my life. Please, Mr.Kwon. Please, don't let my son's future get ruined over his father's stupidity.”
Something snapped in me. I turned around immediately, coming for the man. He shrunk in his seat, visibly scared but didn't even move.
“If you care so much about your son's future, teach him good. Be a good example.” I ripped a piece of paper from the note on the table, writing an address and a phone number on it then signed it. “Spent your jail time to reflect hard. Then come to this address to find a Choi Minho, he'll give you a job where you can actually earn for your family without harming others.”
I didn't wait for his reaction, leaving the room after tossing the piece of paper to the table. Seunggi and his father, the lawyer and two police officers, were all waiting outside.
“Thank you for your help, seonsang-nim.” I shook Seunggi's father hands. “I'm sorry for dragging you into this matter.”
The old-man patted my back, saying that it was his pleasure to help. ““Dropping the charge, aren't we?”
I could only nod.
“As expected.” He smiled, unexpectedly giving me a hug. “Let's hope that this will bring you and your family a closure. Good karma exists and I know no Kwons who can actually deal harm to other.”
In my heart, as I bade goodbye to Seunngi and his father, I wished the same. I walked out of the building feeling less angry, with lighter heart than when I had came to this place some an hour ago.
Maybe, revenge was never really an answer indeed.
“They have finished installed all the rams.” My father-in-law greeted me from the living area, pointed at two technician who were exiting the room. “Missing a component for the wheelchair stair lift though. I've asked them to get it ASAP.”
“That's okay, Dad. I haven't really clear Jessica's release from the hospital anyway. Planning to talk to her doctors on Monday. ” I explained after bowing to him and took a seat. “I actually don't want to rush things.
“I agree with you. But knowing my daughter's mood-swing, the sooner the better. ” He grabbed his cup of coffee from the table. “How's the meeting with the driver?”
I threw a look at the kitchen area where both my mother and Jessica's mother seemed to be busy preparing dinner. “Nothing new. Only child. Ill father. A wife and a son. Family that needs his support.”
“You let him off the hook then?” Sipping his coffee, Jessica's father pushed a plate of Bungeoppang my way.
“Yes. I'm sorry.” I looked down at the plate. “I can't bear thinking of his son growing up without father for ten years.”
“I want to say I understand but I don't.” He sighed, putting the cup back on the table. “I'd rather sending someone to jail to break his neck so he can suffers as much as my daughter. But you decide for Sooyeon and I somehow can see that she will agree with you.”
“I'm really-really sorry.”
“It's fine. We need to move on anyway. Go get some coffee from the kitchen. Your mother brewed a good one.”
“I'll just go upstairs and clean myself first. Doesn't Doosan Bears has a game at seven tonight? Let's watch it together later.”
He nodded and I made my way to the kitchen to greet the two women quickly. I hadn't see my daughter since morning. Going upstairs and checking on her was my main goal this afternoon.
She was asleep, my little princess. 110% cuteness In her pink bodysuit with her arms stretched out on her sides. Jihye was more adorable now that she had gained some weight. Her cheeks were visibly plumper. Her hands and feet got chubbier. I hardly strayed myself from her and I knew exactly how hard it was for my wife to be far from our little baby.
“Sleep well, baby.” Trying to be as gentle as possible, I landed a kiss on her forehead. “Mommy will be back home soon so you can be with her every time. How cool is that?”
She stirred a little. It took all my restraint not to pinch at her button nose.
“I love you so much, my little princess.” I gave her nose a gentle tap instead. She scrunched it in her sleep, making me want to laugh. Didn't want to disturb her peaceful sleep, I tip-toed out of the room, grateful that I had her as a blessing.
*** tbc ***
Author's note : So, 23 chapters. That's a lot. Let's put this to an end in the next few chapters, shall we? Chip your idea in, please. What would you like to see in the last few chapters? How the final chapter should be? Whether you like it in Jessica's POV or Yuri's and such. Thank you. ^^