Chapter 24. Yuri : Spring.
“Happy birthday, beautiful.”
I hugged her from behind the wheelchair. Mid-spring air was fresh with hints of flowers scent everywhere. She was alone, in the balcony, after what I knew to be another session of outdoor therapy.
Learning from experience, I didn't prepare anything special for today. No expensive dinner, no fancy gift, just a stem of red rose in my hand and a little box in the pocket of my pants. The plan was to hand her the box if and only if she was in a good mood today.
There. Tears were in her eyes and I pushed the box further into the pocket before kneeling in front of my wife. Experience taught me not to say much during her break down, to let her cry or scream or do whatever she feels like doing until she feels better. I just knelt in front of her, holding her hands in mine. Wind blew and one petal of the rose gone with it.
“Sooyoung said I can go home tomorrow.”
“Today if you want too.”
“Yes.” It was a simple gift I planned, for her to spend this special day with me and Jihye back at home. Family and friends would only come over for a little celebration the next day if Jessica wanted to.
“What if.... What if I end up burdening you?”
“You will never be a burden to me. In case you haven't realized it, I need you more than you need me.”
She looked away.
“Jihye is waiting. The house is ready with all the required facility. The private nurses and caretakers that will help us, I've picked the best of of them myself.” My knee started to hurt so I rose up and bent to her level instead. I gripped the hand-rests of the wheelchair and stared into her eyes. “But if you're not ready. If you want to stay here for a little longer. It's completely okay.”
“I'm such a fickle to deal with, am I?”
“Sometimes.” I smiled, moving to push her wheelchair closer to a bench so I could sit too. Facing each other like this, I hoped she could see my eyes as I spoke.
“Thank you for being so patient.” She finally picked the rose from her lap, smelling the soft petals then sighed.
“Thank you for holding on.” I held her face and let my thumb brushed her cheek.
“Can we stay here for a moment before going home?”
“We can stay here forever.” I smiled. “If it's not suddenly raining.”
She pouted, slapping my arm with the rose.
“Careful. It's an expensive stem of rose from Jongkook private's garden.” Happy that the bad mood seemed to go away I already, I decided to .
“I love you.” The sudden confession echoed in the garden felt like a love song to my ears.
“I know.” I leaned back on the bench, stretching my arms and closed my eyes.
“Ssssh... trying to enjoy April's best here.”
“Why are you teasing your poor wife like this?”
“Because I love her so much, maybe?” No need to open my eyes. I could easily picture her blushing in my mind.
A few seconds passed with me waiting for another comeback. If she wanted to, Jessica could be witty too. But I felt her touched my hand instead.
“Don't ever give up on me, please.”
“I don't think I can.” I let one eye open, smirking. “They still haven't found a Miss Korea good enough to replace you.”
She pouted, ever so adorably. Then I felt it, her foot kicked my shin.
“Whoa!” I sat up straight. “Since when you can kick?”
“Since my husband can be so annoying.” Her laugh rang in the air like a melody.
I pushed the wheelchair back so I could sit on the ground. Resting her left foot on my hand, I started massaging her leg. “Do it again.”
“This way? I might end up knocking your teeth off.”
“Worth the try.” I took off her canvas shoe. “Do it.”
Then she moved, turning her ankle slowly before gently kicked the air. Pride burst in me and probably in her too as she was grinning widely.
For a moment we could only grin at each other. Then I remembered the box in my pocket. “Once again, happy birthday.”
She took the box from me, holding it close to her chest.
“Promise me you won't cry.”
But her eyes already brimmed with tears as she opened the box.
“Let me help.” I stood up and looped the necklace around her neck from behind. “The charms are me and Jihye. This way we can always be with you.”
She held the necklace up, fingers rubbing at the little charm of an elephant and a bird.
“The elephant is me, obviously. Your strong and manly protector.” I rested my chin on her shoulder. “This tiny bird is Jihye. She will bring your every hope to the sky and make a beautiful reality of it.”
She turned to kiss my cheek but I captured her lips instead. It felt so good when she could forget all her insecurities even just for a few moment. I knew this was not permanent. The ups and downs of her feeling was the result of the injury and the drugs she was taking. We just had to hold on to each other in each and every step of the way and everything should be alright.
“Take me home, Yul.” She asked between kisses.
I grinned into her sweet lips.
I watched from where I stood by the open door. Two months into her stay at home, my wife had been doing pretty well. She was in the middle of one tiring physical therapy session. Two therapist helped her as she tried to stand up in the pool terrace. I chose to watch instead of helping this time, happy to observe her progress.
The cast on her right foot had been removed, but she couldn't use that one leg yet. Nowadays her goal was to try to stand on her left foot while holding onto people or the installed ram.
I saw her cringing, probably because the stress her muscles had to endure. My instinct was to come close and comfort my wife but a strange sound came to my ears. It was Jihye.
I rushed to the living area where I my daughter on a play mat earlier. She had been fast asleep after a visit to the pediatrician. I found her waking up though, rubbing her eyes and wriggled on the pink mat.
“Jihye, what are you doing?” To my surprise, my little daughter was babbling. Drooling as her hands flailed about. “Are you trying to call for daddy?”
She babbled again. A sound I never heard before but surely one of the most wonderful things ever reached my ear. We had been waiting for her to to really start babbling, scared because she should have passed this milestone about a month ago.
“What are trying to say Jihyennie?” I held her up high in the air just like she always loved to. “Mommy? Daddy? Say daddy. Dada. Daadaaa. Good. Say it again.” I laughed, blowing raspberries and made her giggled.
She babbled louder as I twirled her in the air. If the words even made any sense, I was too happy to care.
“Your mother have to hear this.” I hurriedly carried Jihye out, kissing her cheek as I went.
By the pool, Jessica was standing on one foot while holding onto the ram mounted on the wall. Her brows creased in concentration. Her hands trembled.
“Jess! Look who sings as good as her mommy!”
My call surprised my wife, she nearly lost her footing but the two therapists held her up.
“Sorry, babe. Sorry.” I came to her side, feeling bad for my current outburst.
“What's happened?” She sighed as the therapists helped her to the wheelchair. “What's wrong with Jihye?” Her hands already outstretched to fetch her daughter. Her worried expression made me feel bad.
“She sings.” I grinned apologetically to the therapists who clearly unhappy of my carelessness. “Or should I say delivering a speech.”
“What do you mean-” Jessica's question was cut short by her own daughter who had started to babble again. “Omo!”
“See.” I scratched my head, grinning with ultimate pride.
“Oh my. Our Jihye is talking” Jessica showered Jihye with kisses. Her left hand was still not that strong but she managed to hold our baby up and kissed the noisy infant on the stomach. “So cute, my little baby.”
Jihye gurgled and babbled, as if putting on a show for all of us.
“Alright then.” Kwanghee, one of the therapists, laughed. “That's our cue to leave.”
“But the session hasn't ended yet?” Jessica put Jihye back on her lap while glancing at her wristwatch.
“Are you saying you can concentrate after that long speech this girl delivered.” The muscular man tapped on Jihye's noise. “Come on, Jordan. We're wrapping up early today.”
“Sorry, guys.” I scratched my head again.
Kwanghee just laughed. “Enjoy the moment. I can do with an early nap anyway.”
The therapists left. In her mother arms, Jihye babbled without a care. Jessica laughed, speaking loudly trying to get her girl babbling some more.
I stood there in a huge grin, happy to watch my two girls happy.
“You quit your job.” It was more an accusation than a question. Somehow, I could see disappointment flared in her eyes as she stabbed her dinner with the fork.
“Yes.” The roasted squash served with Parmesan didn't taste that good anymore on my palate.
“You quit your job and you didn't tell me.”
Truth be told, I knew I had been put this on hold for too long. Jessica seemed so content at home lately. I didn't have the heart to ruin her good mood with this kind of news.
Sighing, I put down my spoon and pushed away my plate. She did the same with her plate, eyes glaring at me.
Dabbing napkin to my lips, I tried to give my dear wife a loving gaze. “I did it for you-”
Wrong choice of words. The flare now turned into liquid flame, I could feel the proverbial heat coming my way.
“For me? For me! How am I supposed to feel about that.” She actually looked pretty glaring like this. If only I wasn't the object of her upcoming wrath. Whoever decided it was a good idea to tell Jessica about my decision before me should be here to feel the heat too.
“My husband, who's known for his dedication toward his company and his work, turns into a stay-at-home man for his invalid wife. I can already hear people blaming me on this.”
“Should we really care about other people's opinion?” I tried to be calm.
“Yes. Your family. Your friends.” Crossing her hands on her chest, Jessica looked like she was ready to blow any second now. “Especially your father. You are his only heir, Yul. His only hope to carry the company forward. No wonder he doesn't talk to me anymore.”
I kept silent, only half-listening to what she had to say next. I could see why she was so mad. Her self-esteem was already low enough without the guilt of being the reason I put my career on hold.
“Jess...” As usual, I came to hug her from behind. Her words had stop flowing and I knew she was about to cry. I hated seeing my wife cry. “Can you listen to me for a moment, please?”
She didn't answer. Her body went rigid in my arms.
“I decided to quit my job after a lot of thinking. A lot.” I kissed her cheek. “You and Jihye are the most important parts of my life. I quit my job because being constantly away from my girls while they need me the most hurts my heart.”
Still no reaction, I decided to just go with it.
“The company my father has wholeheartedly handed to me is important too. I'd like to say I can juggle between family and work fairly. Sadly, the fact talks otherwise. It's better if the company is lead by someone who can fully concentrate on its improvement.”
“My family. Your family. My friends. Of course most of them are against my decision. But what do they really know about the content of my heart? About what makes me happy and what matter the most to me at the moment?”
“But you love your works so much.”
I laughed a little. “It's my fault. I used to focus on following my father's steps so much people think the company is my only world. But it's not anymore. You've changed me, I guess.”
“I've changed you for the worst.”
“How could you say that? Look at me, Jess. Look pass your own reservation and your own guilt and tell me if I'm not a happy man right now.”
She looked away.
“Every morning I get to wake up to my daughter and my wife, not bothered by any meeting schedule. At night, I sleep early with my girls in my arms, no fluctuation of oil price to worry about. There's nothing better than that.”
“You will regret your decision someday.” She sighed. Her wheelchair whirred and brought her out of my arms. I watched her leave quietly, itching to explain further but decided to hold back. Hopefully time would show her that I made the right decision.
Drying my sweaty torso with a towel, I sat in front of my daughter who was lying on her play mat. A week since Jessica had found out about me quitting work, there seemed to be no resolution still. My wife mostly ignored me so the only person I could actually seek comfort from was this little baby of mine.
“Good afternoon, Jihyennie.” I laid on the floor, starting a set of push-ups to wrap up my working out session. “Can you copy, daddy?”
My daughter had started to roll over these days, despite failing ever so often. She was in the middle of pressing her body to one side now, feet flailing on the mat, trying to support her roll.
“That's it. A little more.” I laughed between push-ups. Jihye seemed to focus so much on the task at hand, sticking her lips out and all.
“Do you want Daddy's help?” I laid flat on my stomach, reaching one hand to help her roll. But before I did anything, she managed to roll on her own. “Strong girl! Applause!”
“She succeeded this time?” In her wheelchair, Jessica came to the living area. Sooyoung had taken her for a shopping trip three hours ago.
“Nailed it. Raining saliva and all.” I smiled at my wife. To my surprise, she smiled back. I sat on the floor, picking Jihye up and handed her to Jessica's waiting hands. “How was the shopping?”
“Nice. People are staring at me, though.” She looked down and kissed Jihye's forehead. “Sooyoung and I, we talked about your decision.”
“Oh.” I waited, toweling my neck for the lack of something else to do.
“I'm sorry for being such an ungrateful wife.”
“You let go of your world and the only thing I worry about is how people will think of me.”
“Completely understandable.” I rested my hand on her knee, smiling while mentally made a note to thank Sooyoung later.
“I'm just afraid that you will end up hating me for setting you apart from the things you love.”
“No need to worry, baby.” I smiled again as Jihye trying to reach for my fingers. “I have a lot of hobby I can do with my friends in my spare time.”
“Yes. Sooyoung told me that you and the guys have a weekly golfing schedule now.”
“I can always get back to work too. I doubt Minho will let me take back the CEO seat though. I bet he already enjoys his new position.”
Jessica snorted. “Sooyoung said he barely has time to woe her now.”
“See. Everything happens for the best.” I stood up, putting on my shirt before pushing the wheelchair to the kitchen. “If Minho woes Sooyoung too much, they might end up having another baby. Imagine, another one as hyper as Areum or as whiny as Daeul.”
“Oh. Sooyoung would love to have another baby. She wants five children.”
I laughed hard at the information, imagining Minho being surrounded by five children.
“I want to have more children too.”
Her statement made me stop preparing pumpkin puree for Jihye. I turned off the food processor and put the ladle on the counter, staring at my wife. Jihye was the treasure we had gotten after so many failures. With Jessica's current condition, I didn't even sure if carrying another child was possible.
“Do you think we can have more children?” She asked while kissing Jihye's hair, hiding her eyes from me.
Optimism went a long way. There were so many advanced technology to help couple having a child too. So I just nodded with a smile. “We definitely can.”
I waved the ladle to Jihye who was eagerly following my movement with her bright eyes. “I want Jihye to have strong sisterly friendship like you and Krystal too. Someone to hold onto when things turn for the worst.”
“I want a boy next.”
“Oh.” I smiled, pouring the puree to the small pink bowl. “Is there something in that bag that will help you achieve that goal?”
“What bag?” She followed my eyes to see our driver came into the kitchen with more than a dozen shopping bags in hands.
“Eyyy. You can't hide a Victoria's Secret bag from a man's eyes.” I sat in front of my wife, stirring the puree in the bowl to cool it down.
“What Victoria's-” Jessica gasped, covering with one hand. “I didn't buy that.”
“Oh yeah?” I waved our driver to come closer and took the pink stripped bag from his hand. When I dangled the bag in front of Jessica, Jihye eagerly bounced on her mother's lap trying to grab the bag too.
I laughed at my daughter. “Hold on, Jihyennie. You are too young to wear this kind of thing. Wait until you meet a man of quality who's brave enough to make you his wife, okay?”
“I swear, Yul. I didn't buy it. It must be one of Sooyoung's silly idea.”
Taking a peek at the content of the bag, I grinned at my blushing wife. “Tell Sooyoung I really appreciate her idea.”
“Yuuullllll.” She swatted my hand.
“What?” My grin got wider.
“Never mind.” The blush was getting more noticeable now she tried to cover her face. “Just feed your daughter already.”
“So we can put her to bed early?”
The swat turned into a not-so-gentle jab on my forearm. I laughed. Jihye too. My little daughter now excitedly tried to grab the spoon from my hand.
“Tell your mother she can punch me anytime, Jihyennie.” I started feeding my daughter. “I will still love her anyway.”
Jihye babbled her agreement, spitting the yellow puree at every direction including my face. Jessica laughed.
“That's true.” I leaned in to kiss my wife, not caring of the yellow dollop on the top of my nose. “I love you.”
“Ewwwwww. Yul, clean your face first.” She tried to shove me away.
“Yeah, baby.” I laughed, capturing her sweet lips with mine anyway. “I love you too.”
-- tbc --
Author's note : Is it too early in Jessica's recovery to write a y scene? Do you think Jessica will be confident enough to bare herself in front of Yuri? Or will it be another reason for her to break down?