Chapter 25. Jessica : Break Free.
I never felt so awkward before, so embarrassed. No one was in the bedroom yet I felt so self-conscious. It felt like ten thousands people were staring at me, judging me.
From the few choices of lingerie in the Victoria's secret bag that Sooyung had successfully sneaked behind my back, I had chose the safest one. The most comfortable I could find. A long night dress made of laces and intricate patterns, with spaghetti straps so thin the strings looked like they would break apart at a single touch.
It was easy to see Sooyung rolled her eyes at my choice, since she had about five more items in the bag. Items that literally screamed me. Thongs, brasserie and bustiers that I seriously thought belonged to an illicit massage parlor instead of a household.
I grimaced at my reflection in the mirror, deciding it would be better if I just hid under the blanket. With one push of a button, my wheelchair moved toward the bed. In a well-practiced yet still taxing moves, I transferred myself onto the bed then got under the cover. The thought of Yuri catching me in such outfit made me felt all hot and bothered.
Yes. I did this for Yuri. One week after he caught sight of the Victoria's secret bag, I finally had the courage to use the lingerie. I didn't want the momentum to pass just like that. I felt like this was the right time. I missed the intimacy shared with my husband. I knew it had been too long for him too. For every time he had been so patient and understanding, this was one great way to say how thankful I was for him.
Even with that one noble goal ahead, I still felt this nagging reservation. I was my old self no more. So many scars lined my body after the incident. The cesarean incision had left a mark on my lower belly. There was this long bump across my leg as a result of the surgery to install the plates that held my fractured bone together. I didn't even bothered to count the small ones across my chest and my legs.
And then there was this limitation of movement. These still unresponsive nerves of mine. Ghosts that lingered after spinal cord injury. I didn't even know if I could feel him, if I could give him my usual best.
Now, under the cover, I really wished for a magic spell to remove every inch of scars I had. I really wished for a magic spell that would bring me to instant recovery. The clock was ticking and I knew my man was on his way home.
“Why is the house so quiet?” Yuri's voice startled me. I tried to feign sleep but he came to bed in a speed of light, pressing his palm on my forehead. “Baby, are you okay? Why are you in bed so early?”
I cracked my eyes open, holding the cover up to my neck.
“You're not having a fever, aren't you?” He then put the back of his hand on his forehead. “I can't tell because I'm sweaty as hell after the basketball game. Where is our thermometer?”
“I'm fine.” I croaked while he rummaged through the drawers of the bedside tables.
“Really?” He came to the bed again. “It's not even 10 yet, why are you already on bed? And where's Jihye?”
“She's in her room.” I directed my gaze at the glass door that connected our bedroom with Jihye's. Our daughter always slept in the crib beside our bed before. For tonight, I put her on her own bed with the baby monitors at the ready.
“In her room?” Yuri looked confused now. “Why?”
I had no idea how to answer, could do nothing but hiding my face under the cover.
“Wait.” Yuri tried to pull the cover down but I held it tight. “Jess, what-”
With a little force, he easily tugged the cover away. No mistaken the surprised look on his face.
I tried to cover myself again, but he didn't let me. After a few seconds, a mischievous grin bloomed. His eyes sparked. “Oh.”
The way his eyebrows rose suggestively made feel embarrassed and amused at once. “Yulllll.....”
“I see.” His grin went wider. “Let me clean myself first.”
“No. Yul.” I held him by the wrist when he kissed my forehead.
“Be patient baby.” Another wide grin shone through. “Just a quick bath here.”
“No. I meant-”
“I smell like dead fish.” He comically sniffed his armpit before patting my thigh. “Hang tight.”
While my husband practically skipped to the bathroom. I cursed myself for not changing before he came. This suddenly felt like a very bad idea. What if I ended up being nothing but a cold vegetable under his sensual touches?
Wait, maybe if I was quick enough I could get changed into the usual pajama and pretended to fall asleep. I looked for my wheelchair but apparently, Yuri had pushed it away from the bed when he tried to find the thermometer a moment ago.
I was doomed.
My brain practically whirled to find a way out but then I heard him, whistling in the bathroom. His favorite song I hadn't heard for a while.
How could I kill his excitement?
With a heavy sigh, I fell back onto the pillows. Maybe this was meant to be. Maybe it was, just like Sooyoung had often said, a way for me to free myself from all reservation.
I reached for the hairbrush on the bedside table, brushing my hair to perfection. Then I took a lip balm from the drawer and made sure my lips were well-moisturized. A few spritz of my favorite Issey Miyake's came next. If I was about to do it, I might as well do it all the way.
“You are perfectly fine without this.” Yuri grabbed the bottle of lotion from my hand when I was about to apply it on my legs. “No cosmetic will ever do your beauty justice, love.”
He was in nothing but a towel, sitting on the edge of the bed with that smoldering look in his eyes. “But let it be known that I'm willing to do anything for you.”
He lathered his palms with the lotion, then rubbed it up my legs while hiking up the dress up to my thighs.
“Yul...” My hands stopped him, embarrassed of the nearly sixty centimeters long post-surgery scar.
“Let it be known that I love each and every inch of you without exception.” His hands moved down, his lips kissed the heel of my feet.
I sighed, closing my eyes as my head slowly reached the pillows. Whatever anxiety left in my mind, I chased it away. This should be all of me, for my one and only.
Down there, Yuri's hands massaged me sensually and I knew it was just a beginning.
I knew I was about to be blown away.
“Good morning, beautiful.”
I knew this voice by heart. My man. My husband. The sweet smell that followed was not of him though. It was my Jihye, the jewel of my heart.
Her incoherent babbles reached my ears first. Then when I open my eyes, I saw her sitting on the bed trying to fit her little fist into .
“Good morning, birthday girl.” With a huge yawn, I sat up and stretched my hands out. The bed dipped and I felt Yuri's hand around my waist. His lips landed on my cheek as the distinct smell of coffee and aftershave invaded my sense.
Jihye crawled slowly toward us, little hands nearly disappears in the sea of blanket. She fell to her side at one point, babbled, then rolled over and tried again.
Both Yuri and I were ready to help. My hands were already shot out to help Jihye up. Yuri practically thrown himself forward putting two pillows on each side of the mattress to prevent Jihye from falling off the bed.
In our eyes, Jihye was our fragile daughter that needed to be protected from any harm. Every change of behavior, every fever, every unusual cry would make us worry. We put her safety first, knowing that she might not be as strong as babies who were born on term.
Despite our concern, Jihye proved to us that she was a warrior of her own. Each day, there was always happy moment of watching her doing new thing, no matter how insignificant it was. Like how she crawled to us at the moment, with twinkling eyes and a gummy smile that shone brighter than the morning sun.
“Good girl!” I exclaimed as she finally reached my spot and tried to climb onto my lap. Both my hands now could be freely used and I happily helped her up. I hugged her, reveling on the sweet smell of her soft skin. “My little princess has grown so much, hasn't she?”
Her tiny hands grabbed my hair as more saliva and babbles came out between her rosy lips. Then, after satisfied of tugging my hair, she tried to shove her fist into again. I laughed. Yuri laughed.
“Hold her.” I asked Yuri. It was almost eight in the morning. Our daughter was surely hungry. “I'll prepare her breakfast.”
“Let me do it.” Yuri was about to stand but I already put Jihye on his lap. The happy baby started jumping in her father's hold, giggling and diverting Yuri's attention from me.
Tying my hair into a bun, I slowly reached for the crutches and then got out of the bed. I could feel Yuri's eyes on my back, watching me anxiously.
While completely understood of why he always worried about me, I also wished he could trust me for once. I didn't go trough all the therapies so everyone could baby me all the time. I wanted to reclaim some of my independence too.
To be honest, it was Jihye's growth that spurred me on. Seeing my daughter's struggle to reach every milestone in her young life made me want to give my best too. I wanted to recover fast. I wanted to regain as much function as I could despite what the experts had predicted.
After much struggle of walking on one foot while holding onto the crutches, I reached the table that hold Jihye's necessities. Yuri came sitting beside me and pulled the blinds. Outside, morning sun shone brightly. The large windows showed the beautiful view of green fields and horse racing tracks. We were at Yuri's family ranch to celebrate Jihye's first birthday this afternoon.
The birthday girl grabbed the baby bottle the second I dangled it in front of her smiling face, immediately nursing in her father's arms.
“She eats a lot lately.” Yuri bent down to kiss our daughter's forehead. “Grow well, little princess.”
I smiled, started preparing the puree for our baby. “Ring the maids, Yul. See what they have for breakfast.”
“I'm available for breakfast.” He winked at me.
“Yul!” I palmed my forehead, laughing. “Not in front of your daughter.”
“What? She doesn't even pay attention.” In one smooth move, my man captured my lips with a hot kiss. “Miss you, Jess.”
“Not as much as I miss you.” I set the bowl of warm puree on the table before returning the kiss to my dear husband. Yuri grinned between kisses, one hand caressed the back of my head, the other hovered over Jihye's eyes.
“I thought you said she doesn't pay attention.” I teased after one deep kiss that nearly melt every bone in my body.
“Playing safe here.” Yuri tickled our daughter's foot. “You're not gonna kiss any man that way, Jihyennie. Not until he comes crawling to me with a promise of loving you for all his life.”
I snorted, leaning over to pour a cup of coffee. “Please don't say you'll go hostile toward every boy who comes close to our daughter.”
“Define hostile?” He grinned, helping me poured the coffee before marveling at his daughter who was busy with her bottle. “She's just so precious. I can't let anyone hurts her.”
Yuri looked so cute this way. I couldn't stop myself from kissing his cheek as he silently adored our daughter.
“You're so whipped, aren't you?” I while leaning my head on his shoulder.
“Can't help it. ” With a smile, he kissed the crown of my head. “I have two beautiful girls in my arms.”
“Which one?” Holding up two pretty little dresses I looked down to my daughter who was sitting in her playpen. She looked up, babbled some incoherent words then started to crawl around.
“Who teach you to be so picky, young lady.” In the wheelchair, I came to the bed where so many baby clothes were scattered on top. “How about this black Burberry dress? Or this sporty denim one? It's Stella McCartney's you know?”
Someone knocked the door and I let her in. Jihyun, the young helper in the ranch smiled as she put a covered tray onto the table. “Yuri-ssi asked me to bring lunch for you, Jessica-ssi. Oh my! Little Jihye has so many clothes.”
“And I still have no idea which one fits her the most for this afternoon.” I sighed, put the wheelchair on brake and transferred myself to the bed. “Which one do you like, Jihyunnie?”
“I like the floral one.” She pointed at the pink one. “But the animal print one matches Jihye's bright personality well and the one with the tutu skirt is so cute. Omo, there are little boots and cute slippers too!”
“You're not helping at all.” I laughed at Jihyun's giddiness. “Thank you for the meal, though.”
“You're welcome, Jessica-ssi. There's also pudding for Jihye in there. All the staffs will be in the strawberry field to help preparing Jihye's birthday. Yuri-ssi wants you to call him or the guard downstairs shall you need anything.”
“I will. Thank you, Jihyunnie.” I turned my head to see my daughter lying down in the play pen. “Don't you dare sleeping on me, spoiled princess. Choose your dress first.”
She babbled, giggled, kicking her feet in the air. Jihyun laughed as she exited the room.
“Oh you teasing your mom, now?” I laughed too, pitching her lamb plushie from the bed. The small toy landed near Jihye's head and she her stomach, grabbing it.
“Toys rain!” I threw several more plushies, careful not to hit my daughter. She laughed, trying to reach everything she could and threw it to the air too. One of the plushie ended up hitting her forehead.
“Ooops. Careful, Jihyennie.” I looked at her worriedly, expecting her to bawl.
Scrunching up her nose, my daughter rubbed her forehead with both hands. I was ready to jump to my wheelchair, to see how bad the hit was. But Instead of crying, Jihye giggled.
“We're not really good at sport, are we?” I stood up by holding onto the bed post, picking one dress randomly before sitting on my wheelchair. “This one is Roberto Cavalli's. Don't you love the leopard print, Jihyennie? We saw a leopard at the zoo before.”
Holding the dress up with one hand, I pushed the button that should operate my wheelchair. It didn't budge. I checked the brake and it was already unlocked. I tried to move the wheel manually but the device that supposed to take me everywhere still didn't move. “Omo. Is my wheelchair broken?”
Jihye looked at me from her playpen, gave an adorable toothless smile then giggled.
“Are you laughing at my expense?” I stuck my tongue at the innocent child. “You know I still have my crutches, don't you? Don't make me go there and tickle you red.”
I tried to stand up again, reaching for the bedpost. Suddenly, the alarm rang. I went full alert, turning my head to hear better. It was the fire alarm indeed. Sitting back on the wheelchair, I tried to push more buttons then moved the wheels manually. Nothing worked.
The noise of the alarm, the water sprayed from above, were all distressing my daughter. She started crying, hands extended toward me. Panic surged in as I tried to stand up again. I slipped to the floor when I jumped for the crutches reclining on the bedside table. Gathering my strength, I reached for the crutches and gave my best at walking forward to trip over halfway from the pen.
“It's okay, baby. It's okay.” I reached the playpen after a few more clumsy steps due to the wet floor. When I bent to pick my daughter, I found it hard to do with the crutches under my armpits. “It's just the alarm.”
“Help!” I yelled while getting down on the floor slowly. I hoped the guard downstairs was on his way to save us. “Help!”
Once I opened the playpen's door, my daughter immediately crawled onto my lap and buried her face in my chest.
“It's okay, Jihyennie. Mommy got you.” Shushing my distressed daughter, I tried to figure a way out. I knew I couldn't walk out of this room while holding my daughter and the crutches at the same time. My hand gripped the edge of the playpen. On my left foot, I stood up while holding Jihye with one hand.
I must got out of the room soon. The alarm kept ringing and I knew my time was limited. The door was only about three meters ahead so I decided to walk for it. Nearly tumbled over, I tried to use my right foot too. It hurt like hell and I was so scared of breaking my leg again. With one hand hugging Jihye to my chest as tight as possible, I moved forward by holding onto the wall.
“Help!” Came my troubled yell again. I could smell and see smoke in the room. The water spray didn't show any sign of stopping, wetting us. Jihye was crying in my arm, her little hands clutched at my shoulders tightly. “That's good, Jihyennie. Hold on tight.”
When I managed to open the door, more smoke came into the room.
“Help!” Where the hell was the guard? Why didn't people come for us?
“Heeeeelp!” I screamed my lungs out, afraid of my daughter's safety.
Crossing the distance between the room and the staircase with few painful long steps,I caught a deep breath and immediately regretted it. The smoke got into my lungs and I fell into coughing fits. Jihye coughed too. I held her tighter, trying to shield her from the smoke.
“Help!” I tried again. No reply.
The staircase looked impossibly long and steep now I had no one to help me get down. But the some had gotten thicker. The alarm sounded louder too. I made my decision quickly, gripping the banister with one hand and took my first step down.
My hands trembled, my left foot chose the perfect time to feel numb and my right foot felt like it was pricked by nails. I walked down as fast as I could. Each step burnt my strength and I had to stop halfway, sliding to sitting position while hugging Jihye who had started sobbing.
“It's okay, baby. Help will come. Daddy will come.” Tears flowed now that I started to feel helpless. The smoke was definitely thicker down here. The suffocating smell filled my lungs and now my head started to hurt too.
“You need to stay still, okay?” I put my daughter between my legs and took off my damp cardigan before holding her to my chest again. Using the cardigan to cover her head, I held onto the banister and got up on trembling legs. “We're halfway down, Jihyennie. Stay still okay?”
She didn't like the cover, trying to yank it off and screamed her protest. Shushing her while taking steps after steps down was so taxing, but I had no other choice. Only a few steps left now, I stared at the main door and thought of how to get there. After the staircase, I didn't think I would have enough energy to cross the distance.
Jihye's scream had turned into sad whimper under the cover and I knew I had to get her out soon. The smoke might bring her more harm then it did to me. Be it by crawling or dragging myself on the floor, I had to save my daughter. I took one more step down in dizziness and tears, praying for help to come soon.
The door sprang open. Even through the smoke and drizzling water I could see my husband coming. My prayer had been answered, I sighed my relief, inhaling more smoke and coughed it out in a fit. “Yul...”
“Jess!” He yelled my name, running toward us. More people followed him, all yelling directions in panic.
“Where the hell do the fire come from?”
“Hurry! Save Jessica-ssi!”
“It's from the kitchen!”
“Careful! It might be the gas leaking.”
Jihye cried at the sudden commotion, trying to break free from my hold. Nearly fell from the stairs, I tried to calm her while holding tight onto the banister.
“Stay still baby, daddy is-”
Something exploded. A blasting sound came from the kitchen. The shock wave threw me off balance. I lose my footing on the step. My hand slipped from the banister as my body lurched forward.
I was tumbling down with my baby daughter. I knew the fall will be hard. I tried to curl myself around Jihye, holding her tight to my chest. Pain radiated from every side of my body. My head hurt and filled with so many flash back I felt like throwing up.
People screamed. Yuri yelled my name.
Oddly, I didn't feel scared at all. As I fell to the floor and closed my eyes, I hoped Jihye knows how much I had tried to save her. How much I loved her.
*** tbc ***
Author's note : One last cliffhanger. The next chapter will be an epilogue. Thank you for all your support so far. If you haven't dropped any comment yet, I think it's the perfect time to leave a word or two for me.
Also, if you feel like reading something a little rated, go to my recent wordpress entry here. Password is the exact date when Jessica woke up from her “coma.”
Thank you, always. ^^