Chapter 26. Epilogue.
“Come here, baby.” I picked my daughter up once the doctor finished giving her an injection. Careful not to mess with IV access on her tiny wrist, I gave her a hug. Her cry subsided into a whimper under the oxygen mask. Instead of calming me down, the sad whimper broke my heart even more.
My precious Jihye, who was used to wail her protest and scream her disapproval, now could only whimper as her small fingers clutched at my shirt. Even without words, I knew Jihye was calling for her mommy.
Jessica, could you hear it? Our Jihye demanded to be in your arms. Our Jihye wanted you to relieve her pain.
Jessica. My one and only. Could you hear me? I had made promises to keep you safe, so many times I was sure no more harm could ever come near. But today I failed you once more. A failure forever would haunt me.
Jessica, could you forgive me?
Jihye's whimper got sadder and sadder, as if she read my mind and shared my pain. I hugged her tighter, trying to shush her but got choked by my own tears.Sooyoung, Minho, my parents, Jessica's parents, Krystal, and more were here. Each was indirectly looking at me with concern. Concern couldn't help me though. Not today. Not when my heart had broken into pieces so small it might as well be nothing but bitter dust.
“Da... da...” Jihye called me while trying to pull the oxygen mask away from her face. I looked down, gently prying her little hand and hold it in mine. Never had I seen her looked so forlorn before. The usually bright eyes now looked downy and sad, probably reflecting my sorrow.
I kissed the crown of her head. I kissed her cheek. It was her birthday. The little girl had to cry herself hoarse on her birthday. What kind of father I was to let such thing happen?
“I'm sorry, Jihyennie.” My shoulders shook as I tightened my hold on her. Despite my promise not to show weakness in front of my only child, I cried.
“I'm so sorry.”
It was supposed to be a happy day.
A day where we gathered to celebrate Jihye. Her health, her mother's well-being, and all the happiness to come upon the little family in the future.
Now, even the weather outside was speaking of sadness. Eerie thunders and heavy rain. Howling wind and falling leaves. Heavy clouds, dark sky, tears in my eyes.
I turned away from the window, sitting beside Sehun who had our son sleeping on his lap.
He said nothing. The man who usually knew how to console me best. The man who could be full of quips from time to time. His hand went to wipe my tears and that was all, no words were shed. We fell into silent so deep I was afraid I would never see any light again.
I looked up, trying to find consolation. But everybody was breaking apart.
My mother was sobbing. My father's face looked like it was made of stone, hard and cold.
I didn't even have the heart to look at my brother-in-law who had my niece in his arms. His parents were sitting not too far from me, both looking like they were ready to crumble on the feet of misfortune their only son had to withstand.
For the happy day to turn into nightmare like this, I had no idea who to blame.
Jihye was whimpering,nearly inaudible if wasn't for the dark veil of silent engulfing us all. The whimper was the kind that would shatter your heart, no matter how strong of a person you are.
It was with a heavy heart I recalled how the little girl had screamed and cried just a few minutes ago. At such a tender age, she already knew something was wrong. She had refused everyone's touch. Everyone but her father. As if her father was the only lifeline she knew.
If only I could hug Jihye and tell her everything will be fine. If only I had the power to turn back time, undo things, or change the future. Something. Anything but sitting here in all my helplessness.
Jinki moved in his sleep. My little boy whom I didn't know how to live without. I caressed his hair and he stirred a little.
“Promise me.” I whispered to my husband, to my sleeping son, to God above. “Promise me we'll stay together forever.”
Tears almost fell from my eyes again but I knew my dear unnie hated seeing me crying. “Promise me, please.”
Sehun nodded, wrapping Jinki and me in a tight hug. I held on to him. I held on to my little family, praying that nothing would set us apart.
The night was cold. I shifted closer to my husband and he, as he always did, wrapped his hand around my shoulder.
“I don't understand.” The words tasted bitter in my mouth. As bitter as the pain of seeing these good people mourning. My eyes caught Yuri who was holding his daughter. His eyes were visibly glassy. His heart was obviously scattered all over the place. “Why them? Why this kind family of all people?”
Minho just sighed, kissing my forehead and hugged me even tighter.
I turned to look around. Jessica's mother was sobbing in her husband's arms. A dark shadow cast upon Krystal face as she whispered something to Sehun who then hugged both his wife and his son like his life was depend on it. Yuri's father had Yuri's mother's hand clutched to his chest. Each of us had someone to hold while storm stirring inside our hearts.
But Jessica? She was alone now and I couldn't even think of her without feeling my heart torn apart.
“I've known them for so long and never once I see them deliberately causing harm to other. Why does it seem that harm always come upon them?” It was a protest I made not to my husband, but to whatever deity up there who control our lives. Seeing Yuri looked so helpless made me want to rewrite destiny.
It couldn't end like this. They had been through so much already. It shouldn't end with such misery.
“Everything happens for a reason.” Minho let out a whisper. His eyes didn't leave his best friend.
“Then tell me one good reason behind this. Tell me why Jihye should suffer like this?”
Minho didn't answer me. His phone vibrated and he took it out from his pocket.
“Yes, baby. The birthday party is canceled. I'm sorry.” His expression soften and I knew he was talking to one of our children. “Yes. I'm in the hospital. Mommy is here too. We'll be home as soon as we can. Stay with grandma and be good, okay? Good We love you.”
“Areum.” He smiled down at me while tucking his phone back.
I smiled a little at the thought of my little girl and her baby brother. The most precious gifts life had gifted me. I suddenly felt like fleeing this sad room and ran to them, hugging them, telling my children that I'd be with them forever.
“Things, good or bad, always happen for a reason, Soo. We might see nothing but dark clouds today but there is always sun shining behind. If we squint harder, if we're patient enough, we'll see brighter day.”
My husband's remark was a cliché, yet I couldn't deny the truth in it. However, the question was if Yuri and the rest of the family could get up from this hard fall. It felt like only weeks before we had mourned over Jessica who had fallen into a coma.
Minho retracted his hand from my shoulder, entwining his fingers on his lap then hung his head low. I knew the gesture too well. My husband was praying. Without any word he told me what best to do in such a dire situation. I followed suit, shifted closer to him and gather my hands on my lap too.
In my prayer, I repeated Jessica's name over and over again.
The bright light nearly blinded me but I kept moving forward. Everything felt uncomfortable, so out of place. Even breathing was a little difficult to do. But who was I to complain? The fact that I was still breathing on my own was already one amazing thing to be thankful for.
Noise greeted my ear. Laughter, happy shriek, giggles, and more laughter. I pushed the glass door open, dragging each step with determination. Sun greeted me as I stepped into the balcony.
I smiled to the light. I did it.
Three more steps and I reached the balustrade. Holding to it, I looked down at the garden of spring flowers and lush grass below me, seeing the view I loved the most.
“Good morning.” Yuri, hands on knees, panting like a race horse before he greeted me.
“Mowning.” Another greeting, this time from the little girl perched on Yuri's back. With one hand wounded around my husband's neck, she waved at me. “Mowning, mommy.”
“Morning, dear.” I squinted at the bright sunshine, eager to see that little smile bloom.
“Please don't tell me you walked to the balcony alone.” Yuri straightened up, skilfully maneuvered our daughter so the little girl now could sit on his shoulders.
“I didn't. I walked with the help of Mr. Robot Legs.”
“Wobot wegs.” Jihye giggled. The little girl found peace in addressing the braces that were now permanently attached to my legs as Mr. Robot Legs. She even played with them from time to time, as if telling me not to feel so bad of walking with aid.
The car accident followed by the fire on the ranch few years ago might have left so many marks on me, on us. I was completely unable to walk on my own now. The fall from the stairs gave me this painful migraine resurfacing at any given time, along with the recollection of the car incident that nearly ended my life. Doctors had given up, no surgery or medication could help me anymore. Jihye now had to live with asthma. And Yuri, I knew he could never stop blaming himself for our condition.
We we were together though, supporting each other, and that was more than enough for me.
“You should use the wheelchair.” Yuri grimaced as Jihye grabbed a handful of his hair for something to hold. “Don't-”
“Put to much pressure on my legs. I know.” I winked at my husband. “I know my limit.”
Yuri mumbled something, clearly unhappy at my try of walking alone. But he had to learn to let go for I couldn't let my limitation hold me down forever.
“Bring Jihye up so we can have breakfast together, please. I'm starving.” I smiled at him, trying to ease his heart.
“Pancake!!!” Jihye shrieked, bouncing on her father's shoulders. She was a happy kid. Best at running, dancing, and giggling even thought she had to stop to use the inhaler from time to time. Her love and happiness were our drug. Her presence gave me reason to thrive.
“Yes, dear. Pancake.” I grinned down at my beautiful daughter. “Now stop bouncing so Daddy can haul you up here.”
“Howsey. Daddy is my howsey.”
I laughed at the sight of my daughter telling her father to gallop. Yuri stuck his tongue out but complied anyway. Jihye had him wrapped around her tiny fingers, everybody knew that.
“Mommy. Cat.” Jihye came dashing to the table in our bedroom fifteen minutes later, right after the maid finished serving breakfast for us.
“So pretty.” I touched the knitted cat in her hands. “Who gave it to you?”
I looked up at my husband who just walked in. “Someone I know?”
He kissed my cheek, took a seat then spread a napkin on his lap. “Kim Jaejoong.”
Yuri took a deep breath before holding my gaze. “The man who drove the truck.”
“The truck? What- Oh.” My head pulsated wildly as image of bright headlight came into my mind. Screeching tires, my scream, my hand on my baby bump, car window that broke into pieces. All the pain that I started to be very good at living with.
Yuri hand came to my temple, kneaded it softly. Concern shone in his eyes as I leaned to his touch.
“It's okay.” I smiled at him. “Just the usual migraine.”
“Hmmm.” He proceeded to massage my neck. “He came to meet you, bring his wife and son too. I didn't let him.”
“Don't want it to hurt you.” He looked away. “He came to express gratitude. Years ago, I had a chance to put him in jail for much longer time, but I just couldn't do it. Not when he had a family totally depending on him. I'm sorry.”
“Why apologizing? We should close that old page anyway.” I smiled at Jihye who was busy trying to slice her share of pancake.
Five years had passed and I had learned to forgive both the driver and myself. I had learned to forget the car accident despite the frequent flashback. Somehow, while being unconscious for days after the fire incident, I had made peace with the past.
“We're turning a new leaf now. Agree?”
“Agree.” Yuri relaxed into his chair then leaned in to kiss my lips.
“Ewwwwww. Mommy and Daddy kissing.” Jihye grimaced at us while forking a slice of strawberry. “Gwosss.”
“Gross?” Yuri's eyebrows rose as he focused back on his only child.
“Kisses aw gwoss.” She said while munching. “Jinki oppa said so.”
“Oh yeah? Your Jinki oppa knows nothing.” Yuri grinned then kissed his daughter on the cheek. “Kisses are sign of affection.” He kissed my lips then turned to kiss his daughter again but the girl leaned away with a slice of pancake on her fork.
“Kisses mean love.” Grabbing Jihye's hand, he bit at the honeyed pancake. The little girl squealed in protest but Yuri ignored her and ate the whole slice.
“This kiss.” He pecked my lips fast but I could still taste honey and pancake from the brief contact. “Means I love your mommy so much I couldn't live without her.”
“Smooth,Shakespeare. Smooth.” I wiped my lips with tissue. “But this time, I agree with our daughter. It's gross.”
“Don't you love me too?” He winked at me. Fishing another protest from his daughter for he did it while taking another slice of pancake from her fork.
“I do, a little.” I grinned, wiping the remnant of honey from the corner of my daughter's lips then fed her a slice of pancake before her father could snatch it again.
My eyes met his eyes. Two deep ocean that sometimes held so much love and affection that just staring into them could make me fall to my knees.
I knew it's impossible to be happy 24/7. But in Yuri's hands, I could appreciate each and every second of happiness I got. I might have to depend on walking aids for my whole life. I might have drilling migraine haunted my every day. But all shortages in life didn't bother me that much anymore. I had my Yuri. I had my Jihye.
“This little.” I handed him a little box from my pocket. A folded paper in that box, I had been keeping it since yesterday afternoon.
“Pwesent!” Jihye squealed, trying to touch the ribbon adored the velvet box.
“Yes. A present.” I fed her another slice of fruit. “For daddy and for you too, Jihyennie.”
“For us?” Yuri shook the box near his ear, eyes filled with curiosity. “What's this? Tickets to a recent Pixar's movie?”
“Something a little more entertaining than that.” I gave my husband my best try at mysterious smile, kissing his cheek before standing up and started walking for the balcony.
My leg braces made noises as I walked but I could still hear Yuri's gasp clearly. I kept on walking, hearing him announcing the news to our daughter. Jihye's giggle of delight reached my ears right when I reached the balcony.
Rays of sunshine blessed the earth like beautiful ribbons, perfect for such a wonderful feeling swelling in my heart. Especially today, I wanted to bask in the sun. I wanted to be grateful for my health, for my life, and for my family that would get a new little member soon.
“I love you.” I could feel Yuri's arms around my waist after I stood by the balustrade for a while. “I really-really love you.”
“I love you too.” I instinctively turned my head for a kiss. A deep one, where I could forget all the pain and feel nothing but love. A tenderness I knew would be mine forever.
We both laughed. Yuri rested his hand on my stomach as we teased Jihye who seemed so elated, dancing and bouncing around us.
I couldn't be happier.
I couldn't be more in love.
<< THE END >>
Author's note : I hope it doesn't come out short. I hope most of you who want happy ending are actually happy with this kind of ending. Thank you very much for all your attention and support, every subscription, every comment, every up-vote.
See you in another story, maybe. ^^