Chapter 6. Yuri : Helpless.
“Baby, will you clocking in for work today?”
From the reflection on the mirror in front of me, I could see Jessica watching the TV. Well, not exactly watching because her eyes were fixed at a spot few inches away from the screen. A remote was dangling from her hand, about to fall to the lush carpet without she actually realized it.
She did that a lot lately; drowning herself in her own thought. She would gaze away with this pain weighing her eyes. With that kind of sadness that made my heart broke into pieces.
It had been three months and she still could not let go.
There were times when she would try to hide her sadness from me, under the pillows, inside the bathroom, or out in the study. But it was so easy to see the remnant of tears in her eyes. She barely ate. She didn't talk much. And there was even this one time where I caught her sobbing over her sketches of baby clothes.
The miscarriage had changed my wife for the worst and I was so helpless about it.
I had tried everything in my prowess to pull her away from this endless hole of grieving. But the fact was she seemed so content of staying in the dark corner by her own. I couldn't even coax her to see a movie or to have a dinner in restaurant anymore. Jess was drowning in her own sadness, leaving me alone and confused on the shore.
I sighed for the second time. My silver tie seemed askew and I didn't think it matched my shirt well. My wife was the one who usually helped me with my tie. She used to get my working attires prepared on the bed every morning, best choices for the season in all matching colors.
I missed how she always reminds me to have lunch. I missed the way she kiss me lovingly before work. I missed teasing her while we watch TV Shows. But out of those sweet little things I missed from my wife, I missed her happy smile more.
“Baby,” I came to the couch, kneeling in front of her to get the fallen remote control. “Will you go to work today?”
“Huh?” Her eyes refocused on me.
“Do you want me to drive you to your office?”
“Office? No.” She shook her head, eyes on TV screen now. “I'm still not feeling well. I'll be working from home today. Do sketches and stuff.”
“Okay.”I set the remote on her lap, rising up and gave her a kiss on the forehead. “I'll try to be home for lunch. Don't forget to eat breakfast, alright? Our cook made awesome egg sandwiches today.”
She nodded, starting to press the button on the remote.
“I love you, Jess.” I stood there, waiting for a sign that my Jessica had back from her nightmare. “Take care.”
She looked up at me, not even the slightest hint of smile on her face. “I love you too.”
“This is crazy.” I smacked the papers onto the desk, pinching at the bridge of my nose. “Their request is outrageous.”
“I know.” Minho, not even flinched at my outburst, gathered the papers and put them back neatly into the folder. “I had tried to talk to them, but every proposal to rewrite the contract was batted out of the window immediately.”
“And you are my best negotiator.” I sighed, holding my head in two hands.
“Well, I know one negotiator better than me.” My best friend tilted his chin toward my direction.
A groan escaped me as I shook my head. A beginning of a migraine was pressing against my skull. “I can't leave. Not when Jessica is like this. She needs me.”
“Qatar is our best hope. We need fixed amount of LNG* supply for the next ten years, Yuri. We need this deal.”
“I'm not gonna choose business over my wife. I'd rather lose my company.”
Minho sighed, raking his hand through his thick hair. “She's not getting better, isn't she?”
I shook my head again.
“Have you tried to, you know, ask her friends and family to help?”
“You know I have. You were there when she completely shut Sooyoung out, right? She does the same to her other friends, even to her family. Her nephew is at my in-laws now and she breaks into tears every time she sees the kid. Not even her mom can't help.”
“I'm sorry I say this, but she seems to need professional help. A psychologist, maybe? Sooyoung and I agree that the loss Jessica has experienced might cause, you know, depression.”
“I'm a fool if I haven't tried to steer her that direction, Minho-yah. She refused. She said she's just tired and needs more time to rest. The only thing I haven't tried is dragging her by the feet out of our home.”
“Well. Maybe that's what she needs. A little show of force.”
“Are you suggesting me to hurt my wife, Choi Minho?” I stared at my best friend in disbelief.
“No. That came out wrong. I meant, Sooyoung told me of how the Jung sisters are used to get spoiled. How Jessica might not know much hardship in her life that when she lost her baby, she also lost her anchor of life. Maybe she needs someone, you, to be angry at her. To figuratively slap her out of her stupor.”
My migraine now came in full force. It felt like someone was hammering nails into my head.
“Sorry.” Minho scratched his head. “Sooyoung worded it better than me. The point is, you need to wake Jessica up.”
“I wish I know how to, Minho-yah. I wish I know.” I pushed the button on the intercom to call my secretary in, asking her to bring something to alleviate my headache.
“You know what.” Minho took the folder from my desk. “I'll re-read this and see if I can come up with something else to offer to Qatargas. You take time to think of what we will do if they still refuse to back down.”
“Yeah.” I leaned back on my chair. “Thank you.”
“It's my job.” Minho shrugged as he stood up. “I hate to do this but I have to remind you that we're more than just Kwon Oilbank now. We're way bigger than just a family business. Losing company is no longer only the matter of losing what you has inherited from your father.”
I nodded, knowing his words were meant to help me back on track. But I couldn't just abandon Jessica like that, could I?
Minho excused herself out as Irene, my secretary, came in with a cup of hot tea and a bottle of lentogestic pills on a tray. I took two pills immediately, closing my eyes hoping for a quick work of the medicine.
“I don't think I want to come back to the office after lunch, Irene-ssi. Please tell me I don't have any meeting scheduled in the afternoon.”
“No, Sir.” Irene answered. “But I have the latest CSR* project proposal ready on your desk. The PR department has been asking for your approval since last week. And there's also the monthly performance report that needs your final review for board presentation tomorrow. I'm sorry.”
Forcing my eyes open to see my secretary's apologetic look, I gave her a small smile. “My workload is not your fault, Irene-ssi. I'll take a look at them before lunch.”
I sighed, reaching for one of thick folders neatly stacked on my desk. “Can you see if we can order in the Jang-hyang galbi set from Myongwolgwan.”
“Of course, Sir. Do you want me to send it to your place for lunch?”
“Yes. Jessica loves the menu. It might do her good.” I gazed out for a moment, thinking about my beloved wife. “Also call our cook and ask him to prepare the barbecue out on the backyard, yes? Cleaning the gazebo and all.”
Irene nodded but the apologetic look came back again.
“There's a guest waiting outside to see you.”
“I'm not taking guest for now, Irene-ssi. My head hurts. I'll just go over these files and leave for lunch.”
“I'm sorry, Sir. But it's your wife's secretary. Kang Seulgi?”
“Yes. She has been here since early in the morning.”
Putting the folder I was holding back onto the desk, I sighed. If it wasn't important, Seulgi wouldn't be here. “Send her in.”
Irene nodded, walking out of the room in long elegant steps. She came back with Seulgi in tow barely a minute later.
“I'm sorry to bother you in such an inconvenient time, Yuri-ssi.” Seulgi bowed and shook my hand.
“Please take a seat, Seulgi. How are you?”
“I'm fine.” She smiled hesitantly, fidgeting on her seat.
“So, anything I can help you?"
“It's... uh... Jessica Unnie. She hasn't really came to work lately. Only a few hours of visit and she didn't do much.”
“She's still not feeling well, Seulgi. I think you know that.” I stared down at the young woman in front of me, silently questioning the purpose of this conversation.
Seulgi fidgeted some more, visibly nervous. “I know and I understand, Yuri-ssi. But there's this Baby & Kids collection that supposed to be launched last month. The whole project has been put to a halt now, and Tyler Kwon said-”
“If you came here to tell me that Tyler Kwon wants my wife to fully get back to work immediately, you can stop right now Seulgi. Come back to your office and tell Tyler to man up and face me himself so I can shove his opinion back into his mouth with my fist.” The name brought my anger to the surface. We had a long history, Tyler and I.
“It's not it, Yuri-ssi. I come here because there has been a talk at the office that the board want the project to run as soon as possible. They even ready to replace Jessica Unnie with a new CEO.”
“What?” My eyes were probably about to jump out of their sockets in shock. But then I remember that, despite Jessica's full passion behind it, Blanc & Eclare was only another mean of business for the board members. Business needed to flow to keep the profit coming. A CEO went MIA for three months surely had the flow stopped.
I rubbed my eyes, staring at the only picture I kept on my desk. It was one from our wedding day and Jessica looked absolutely ethereal in her wedding dress. “You know what, Seulgi. I don't care if Tyler and his gangs want to fire Jessica. My wife will get back to work whenever she feels ready to do so.”
“B... But B&E is Jessica's unnie passion, Yuri-ssi. It's the brand she created out of her lifetime wish. Unnie might not realizing it at the moment but she won't be happy if B&E is led by someone else and turns into nothing but money maker business with no soul.”
Seulgi's words held so many truth in them I couldn't help but inwardly agreeing to her. My gaze went to the picture again, at the happiness in Jessica's eyes. B&E was among the things my wife held dearly to her heart, the source of her happiness.
“I'm absolutely helpless right now too, Seulgi. Jessica, she's just... not herself anymore.”
“I know right now is a hard time for both of you, Yuri-ssi. But if you can make Unnie comes more often to the office. If she can at least pretend to work. It will please the board. I'll give my all to help with the workload, Yuri-ssi. The promotion team, the designer team, are all ready to back Jessica Unnie up. All we need is her presence, her bit of attention.”
“I don't know, Seulgi. I don't think my wife is fit to work at the moment but I'll see what I can do about it.”
“Thank you, Yuri-ssi. Thank you. Please send my well-wishes to Jessica unnie. Tell her the whole office miss their kind CEO.” The girl rose up, bowing deep as she excused herself.
Another sigh escaped me as I watched Seulgi leaving. One more problem added to the mounting pile in my hands.
“Sweetheart. Lunch is ready.” I climbed the staircases two-steps at once. The cook and the maid had had the barbecue ready on the backyard. I was planning on treating my wife with a romantic outdoor lunch to bring her out of the gloomy mood.
“Baby, are you sleeping?” The door to our bedroom sprang open as I entered the room but I didn't see my wife on the bed.
There were sound of water running from the bathroom and the door was slightly ajar. She was probably in the tub, prolonging her bath by zoning out like she always did these days.
“Love, I've bought your favorite Jang-hyang galbi set from Myongwolgwan.” I came closer to the tub. Water spilled from the edge of the porcelain tub and wet my shoes. “The chef send his regard to you and-”
I stopped in my track. The sight in front of me almost made my heart stop beating.
“Oh God, Jess!”
---- tbc ----
Author's note : In case you don't know :
*LNG = Liquid Natural Gas
*CSR = Corporate Social Responsibility
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