Coming home then and now had become different as time passed by, but the feeling never gets old for Yoo Si Jin.
It was a cloudy afternoon when he arrived back in Korea from his four-month deployment in the Middle East along with his Alpha Team brothers. Soon after the mission report ended, the five men walked out of the military base and to the parking lot, exchanging laughs and stories from their recent mission before they went to their own cars and left the area.
After waving goodbye to Sergeants Im, Gong and Choi, who left the base ahead of him and Sergeant Seo, Si Jin turned his gaze toward his second-in-command, "Good to be home, huh?"
Seo Dae Young smiled, "It always feels good wherever the heart is. So, are you up for a drink tonight?"
"Nah, I'll pass," Si Jin replied, throwing his bag in the trunk, "I'm pretty sure you would do the same,"
"You're right," Dae Young said before hopping in his car, "Enjoy your vacation, Yoo-soryeong,"
Soon later, while he was driving his way downtown Seoul, there was a pitter-patter of raindrops on his car's windshield. "Aish, it's raining," Si Jin murmured, switching the wipers on. While his car waited amidst the long halt in the city's heavy traffic, a thought came across his mind.
It's the 19th.
The same day when his father arrived after a four-month mission.
Yoo Si Jin had the memories of the past all crystal clear in his mind.
He remembered waking up in the same, gloomy afternoon, and the first thing he did was to scribble a little X on the calendar's paper, particularly on the encircled box somewhere in the middle of the month. It was already the 19th, the day he had been waiting for so long.
Ecstatic emotions stirred him up as he made one triumphant cry, raising his balled fist up in the air. "He's coming!" Si Jin yelled as he skidded down the stairs and ran around their quaint living room.
Long had he been waiting for this day to arrive.
He remembers carelessly skipping around from the living room to the kitchen and bumping onto the dining table, causing one of the three ceramic plates to fall down and crash on the floor....
...and the sound of his mother crashing in his ear when she saw what was left of the plate.
"Si Jin-ah! What have you done?" His mother paced to him with a dismayed expression on her face, "That's the third plate you broke, don't you know that?"
He could just laugh at the vivid memory; Si Jin would admit that he was clumsy back in his childhood years breaking countless objects other than his arm, especially his mother's most-prized possessions: her kitchenware.
He clearly remembers the distraught look in her face as her eyes shifted to him, then to the broken plate, and then back at him.
"Eomma, mianheyo," He apologized politely, "I was just excited,"
Despite the little Yoo Si Jin being a destructive, clumsy boy, his mother admired the child's meekness and kind nature. Her upset expression instantly changed into a warm, concerned smile.
"I know you're excited with appa finally coming home, Si Jin," His mother dotingly carried her son up and gently sat him on the chair before sweeping the mess away, "But we should also watch over ourselves and not be clumsy,"
"I'm sorry, eomma,"
"Gwenchanha," She looked up to meet her son's sad expression, "I hope this will be the last plate you'll break,"
"I..." That time, he still wasn't sure if it would be the last, but he gave her his word, "...promise,"
"You're really a kind boy,"
A green light.
Si Jin blinked back to reality when the Go signal was lit, and with that, he slowly stepped on the gas and drove on along the heavy traffic.
The trip back home was going to take longer than he thought....
...just like when he was waiting for his father to arrive back when he was a young boy.
He sat on one side of the couch with his hand holding up a toy soldier while he lazily stared at the window. "Eomma..."
"What's the matter, sweetie?"
The boy sighed, his eyes still fixed at the window, "The sun is setting,"
He felt his mother sit beside him and reach for his small hand, giving it a gentle squeeze.
"Appa is coming home today, right?"
"He is coming home, Si Jin-ah. Come here," She gently guided her son to a tight, comforting embrace—just as comforting as her voice. "Don't worry, Si Jin, appa is coming home, okay?"
He didn't know if he should listen to his mother or not. They have been waiting all day, the sun was setting, and the day was about to come to an end. Still, his father was not there.
"He promised," Si Jin felt disappointed. His eyes started to well with tears as he sobbed on the fabrics of his mother's clothing, "Eomma, he promised,"
He was disappointed.
"He may not come home today because of a flight delay, but he promised us he'll come home no matter what, okay? Let's trust appa," He watched his mom try to cheer her up with a smile, "Appa keeps his promises. He'll make it home, okay?"
Sometimes, Yoo Si Jin wondered how it felt on his father's side.
Does he even care about his wife and his child? Why would he even let them wait for too long?
It only took him a few glances from his toy to the window until Si Jin realized that the moon was up and it was already dark outside. His mother had long got up from her seat on the couch and was now busy storing the meal she had prepared specially for today back inside the fridge.
She spent hours cooking that meal for him, He thought.
"Eomma," the little Si Jin voiced out, "Why do you love a soldier like appa?"
"Mwo?" He heard her reply from the kitchen.
"Why did you marry someone who's always away?" He asked her again, "You barely see each other because of his work. Why do you love someone who is always away?"
He waited until she walked back to the couch and sat beside him. Si Jin looked at his mother's gentle smile.
"Tell me, Si Jin-ah," She clasped on his tiny hands, "Why do you love appa?"
"I...love him because he..." He paused. "Wait, why are you answering my question with another question? Eomma—"
The woman giggled at her son, "Aigoo, you're a smart kid,"
"You're not answering my question," He pouted, but what he received was a gentle pat on the head.
"Si Jin, when you love someone, it does not simply mean finding a reason to love them," She softly spoke, brushing her son's hair with her fingers. "If you give yourself a concrete reason why you love someone, then you're not loving wholeheartedly at all,"
"I don't understand," he honestly said. "What does it mean?"
She looked up, searching for the perfect way to place such complicated topic appropriate for a mind of a little boy.
"I'm also waiting for him, like you. I feel hurt and worried when he does not arrive when he's supposed to. But even if that's the case, we're still here, waiting for him." She pinched his nose, "That's love,"
"When you love someone, you accept them wholeheartedly. In my case, even if your father is away most of the time, I still love him,"
Si Jin's head slowly tilted to a nod, but soon later he suddenly shook his head in confusion, "I still don't get it,"
She laughed again, gently pinching on his cheeks.
"You're still too young to understand everything, but you will, eventually. You said you wanted to be a soldier, right?"
She smiled, "Then if you find a woman who will love you the way I love your father, treasure her with your heart."
"Aw man," Si Jin's eyes gawked when he checked on the car's watch. "I've been in this car for three hours already?"
The heavy rain and heavy traffic wasn't helping at all.
Of all nights, he just wanted to go straight home early, but it seemed like that the events were not letting things go according to his plan; now it was 8 in the evening and he still has a long way to go before he reaches his house.
To ease his temper, Si Jin fumbles in his pocket and takes out his phone. Surprisingly, he wasn't receiving any calls or texts from his wife at that time of the day.
"Could she be working at the hospital even at this hour?" He shrugged at the thought of her straining herself at the ER again whenever he was gone. "Aish... She's really doing so much,"
If she’s not home when I arrive, I’ll be worried sick.
11 PM back in the day. Si Jin’s eyes are slowly drooping as he sat back on his side of the couch. He already ate dinner with his mom, and was even tucked in bed by her. But even if she told him to get some rest since it was already late, Si Jin sneaked out of his room minutes after his mother left.
He slowly tiptoed downstairs without making a sound u