"Sarang," the knock on the door told her it was already morning. Sarang wrapped her arms around herself, the warmth from her blanket not being enough. "Honey, you need to wake up," She felt a hand on her shoulder, gently shaking her. "You have a long schedule for the day."
Sarang dug her face into the pillow as the thought crossed her head that she hadn't slept even an ounce the night before. Her mind raced. Minji and Minhye were already up. Her heart leapt in her chest. She was worried. Maybe they were throwing a fit, searching for her or perhaps Sehun had handled it just fine, like he had told her he would.
With strong reluctance, she sat up on her bed. She buried her face in her hands, not wanting the lady to see those large bags under her eyes or the tear stains. Sarang knew she looked horrible, with her hair everywhere and still in last night's clothes. "Water," she spoke in her groggy voice, worrying the lady who dashed out of the room to bring her a glass of water.
"Uh, look at you," she placed the glass in her hands, "Look at what the two months did to you. You've become so skinny, Sarang."
Sarang nodded, absentmindedly, giving her the empty glass. Mrs. Ahn had been a very dear friend of her mother. Strict when you first see her, but very soft inside. She served as the head of the servants in the house. Like always, her bun was tightly tied with a rubber band, not a strand of those golden hair escaping. Her plump structure made it hard for her to move around efficiently but she did all she could. She was old, her face wrinkly, but hands still soft as ever.
Her mother had once told her that when she was married off to this family and her father was still somewhat of a stranger to her, Mrs. Ahn was the one who took her in, taught her the ropes. They had been like best friends ever since, tending to the gardens together, planting flowers and whatnot. Mrs. Ahn was a gentle woman, with no children of her own but still, a very loving husband who worked in a coal mine thirty kilometers away.
"What have you done to your face, girl? Did you cry?" She asked in a loud voice, gently touching Sarang's chin. The girl shook her head, but she knew that Mrs. Ahn knew better. "You have so much to tell me."
"You too," Sarang smiled bitterly, "What went around while I was gone? Were they good to you?"
"Oh, don't make me start," she seemed annoyed at the mention of them. Mrs, Ahn sat down, Sarang scooted closer. "Your cousins are just like always, as annoying. Bloody troublemakers. Dropping glasses, spilling drinks, all intentionally and making us work."
Sarang frowned, "Did they touch Papa's bedroom, though?"
"Oh no. I didn't let them get there, of course. And also this room. I guarded it well. But the other rooms....Sarang.." she sighed, "Youngjae brought a girl home, she snuck out in the morning. Namjoo has been no better. I can't believe she's older than you."
"Hasn't she given up on smoking yet?" Sarang sighed when the lady shook her head. "How about Sera? I hope she's not learning anything bad from her sister. She's my favorite out of the five of them, you know."
"Oh, Sera is just a little girl. Only three. Once she offered to help me in the garden," Mrs. Ahn smiled. "All she did was pluck the flowers though. But she has to be the nicest out of the five. I hope her mother paid a little more attention to her than on her dresses and make up. You know what she did?" The way she sang the words told Sarang that the story was going to spoil her mood even more. "She dared to touch your clothes, Sarang."
"Oh, I saw that coming. Did she wear any though?"
"You think I'd let her? I would never let her touch your things with her filthy hands. Disgusting woman."
"Oh, thank you," Sarang smiled, reaching out with her arms to hug her. The woman pulled her in her arms, guiding Sarang's head to the crook of her neck. "It must have been hard. You couldn't even step inside after coming back from the church the day of your parents' funeral. Where were you staying?"
"I' was happy, wherever I was," Sarang answered, "I miss them."
"Them? Lawyer Kim told me you were at a friend's house..."
"Yeah...a friend's house," Sarang cleared , "He has two daughters. They became my favorite so easily. It was hard to leave. I almost didn't want to. But then I thought about this house, the garden, my mother and father...and all of you...I know you all need me. I promise I'll make you proud."
"I know you will. You can do anything, Princess," the lady kissed her nape, Sarang tightened her arms around her, holding dearly, wishing to not cry. "You have to take your mother's place, Sarang. The company, this house, even us, we are nothing without you. Imagine how I spent my days when you weren't here. We all missed you so much."
"I'm sorry," Sarang cried on her shoulder, "For everything. You had to go through so much these two months. I promise I'll be there from now on."
The lady pulled away to look into Sarang's eyes. "Eyy, don't cry. It was bearable," She patted her wet cheeks. "You know, your father left you the position of the CEO. You have to act like one too, sweetie." Sarang gulped, She was only twenty, halfway through her studies but if she didn't step up now, her uncles would easily take that position away. Aphrodite was both her parents' dream. She couldn't let it crumble down. Sarang nodded. "Good girl," The lady said, kissing her cheek.
Sehun blinked at his daughter, biting his lips, gathering relevant words in his head. "Minhye, I'm not," he said, with awkward pauses that absolutely gave away the fact that he actually was. Minhye raised her brows at him and Sehun thought she looked so much like Joohyun, so little like him, "Mom's away. She'll be back."
"Papa. Mommy where?" Minji asked, still in her pajamas, hair spilling out of her braid that Sarang had tied the night before. Sehun passed her a little smile, scooping her in his arms. Minji searched for answers on his face, waiting for him to open his mouth. "Papa?" Minji poked his cheek as he led her back to her room. Sehun sighed, placing her by the sink. He felt her sparkly eyes on him, moving with the way he moved. He squeezed an amount of toothpaste on her pink toothbrush, handing it over to her.
"Mommy?" She asked again, taking it from her father's hand.
"Mommy went to her... mother's house," Sehun made up.
"But Mommy have no mommy, Papa." Minji reminded him with wide eyes. "Where Mommy, Papa?"
"Wait, so she took all of her things to wherever she went?" Minhye made a sudden entrance. "She went to her mother's, Dad? Why do I feel like you don't make sense at all?" Sehun was scared of this side of Minhye. "Tell me the truth. Now," she demanded, "Where is Mommy?"
"She..." Sehun trailed away, stopping. "She went to a--"
"Don't make it up!" Minhye Yelled at him, eyes wide. Sehun stared back with a blank look, that worked best on people. But Minhye was not just anybody. "What happened to her?! I want to know, Dad."
"Nothing happened to her," Sehun said, leaning against the tiled wall of the bathroom, emitting a tired sigh. "She's fine."
"Why would she go anywhere without telling us? We are her daughters. Before you, it was us who took her in. Mommy would have informed us about it, Dad. Stop lying," Minhye continued. "Tell me!"
"She's..M-Mommy's," Sehun fought his inner turmoil, looking down at the floor. "Mommy's gone. She's never coming back. There, I said it," he stormed out of the room, slamming the door on his way, scaring the surprised daughters. Sehun ran into his room, shut the door close. He was done pretending that today was a normal day, that it was fine to not catch her making breakfast the first thing in the morning. He was far from fine.
Sehun jumped under his blanket, pressing his face into the pillow, despite realizing he was too old for crying like this. He'd just call in sick another day and stay in bed. Her scent lingered, looking at every object in that room reminded him of her. Red in the face, he reached out for his phone on the nightstand. He wanted to know what she was doing, knowing very well she wasn't fine either. He shaky fingers swiped on the screen of his phone, countless times as he desperately dialed for her number.
It seemed to be switched off, which annoyed him to no end. Dropping his phone, he sighed, frustrated, feeling as if a part of his heart was being curved out. It felt like concrete drying in his chest. Sehun lied on his back, he had seen it coming. Yet it hurt so bad. They weren't supposed to like each other, not to the point where they had shared themselves with each other. He thought he should've stopped last day. He thought that would've made his heart ache a little less. But then on the other hand, he was glad he didn't. He had seen all of her, and he felt satisfied.
His mother would never forgive him, Wendy would never do so either...and his daughters would hate him, not Sarang. He thought about Minhye, how she demanded for answers. Sehun didn't want his daughters to grow up this way; feeling worthless, as if they don't deserve a mother. He silently opened the door, found Minhye on the couch, flipping through channels on the TV like she did every morning.
She didn't speak to him. He didn't expect her to. Ignoring him, she kept on doing what she was doing and Sehun remembered that was something Joohyun used to do after every of their arguments. Resting his elbows on his knees, Sehun buried his face in his hands, squeezing his eyes shut, deciding to tell her everything. Even though still little, Minhye was much more mature than girls her age. Must be because she had been through so much; half the time, all alone with no one by her side.
"No." Minhye cut in, her voice stern, eyes strict.
Sehun tried again, this time, successfully bringing her to him. He took the remote from her hand. She stayed sitting like a robot, not moving at all. Sehun took in her hard face, caressing her hair, as he thought of what to start with. "Where is Mom?" Minhye asked in her stony voice.
Sehun gulped. "She left, Minhye."
"Why would she?" She looked at him with murderous eyes. "What did you do to her? Why would she leave?"
"I-I'll tell you," he patted her back, pressing her towards the couch as she always tried to sit up. "We did nothing. It was her choice." Sehun sighed, placing his head on hers. She bit her lips, Sehun could see it, stopping herself from crying.
Minhye sniffled, "Why? She doesn't like us?"
"No, you know she loves us," Sehun emphasized.
"Dad, I don't deserve a mother?" Sehun feared that question the most. His eyes sparkled with tears as he wrapped his arms around his daughter. "Then why does everyone leave me?"
Sehun didn't know how to answer that either. He was so much like his daughter, both being left behind all the time. "Hee," he took in a deep breath, "It's Dad's fault, not yours. I'm so sorry I mess it up all the time, always choose to do the wrong thing. Mommy's parents died in a car crash, you might have heard from her."
Minhye nodded, calming down a little, looking at her father's guilty face. "Her relatives settled in her house, claiming that as theirs. She had nowhere to go. Grandpa Jihoon decided to help her in getting the house back but in exchange, she agreed to take care of you two, only for a time-being. I never thought we would all get so attached to her. I always kept forgetting that...that she's not here for forever, that she'd have to leave as soon as she got her house back."
"Why didn't you tell me before? Before I started getting fond of her, you could've told me, Dad."
"I-I didn't want to..." Sehun his lips, calm