Perhaps by Azzurri

10:23

(Picture credit to DC)


My son finally finishes his meal, washes his hands, slings his schoolbag over his body, and with a curt nod to me, walks out of the house.

I just heave a sigh of relief when he leaves, as it gives me a little free time for myself. He is my son, but sometimes it just gets so tiring when he’s around because I find myself talking non-stop, finding fault with everything he does. I try not to, but it gets so difficult because he’s so stubborn and talks back to me all the time. It’s a wonder. This child, I brought him up with my own hands from the day he was born, and yet he has nothing nice to say to me. Unlike his brother, my eldest.

I let out another sigh when I think about my eldest. JungHoo, my son from my first husband who died. This child, when he was 8 years old, I had left him with his grandmother and never came back. In his teens, his grandmother died, and he was in juvenile detention for while after which it was Young Jae, my first husband’s good friend who brought him up. Until now, I have been a useless mother to him.

And yet this son, JungHoo... when he sees me, I don’t feel an ounce of resentment in him. This son, he looks at me with warm eyes and a kind smile. And that just breaks my heart – I wish he would shout at me, and blame me and get angry sometimes. Perhaps it would appease my guilt for what I have done to him, but no, he smiles happily when he sees me. My heart breaks a thousand times seeing that smile.

It’s been awhile since the last time I saw JungHoo. The last time I saw him, it was strange. JungHoo had told me then that it may be awhile before he could see me again. Then a strange man sat behind us, listening to our conversation, and JungHoo had announced loudly that he was leaving the country and would never see me again. He had said that loudly, but with his quiet voice and a concerned look in his eyes, told me not to cry. He had left me, and I knew it was mostly an act, and I wasn’t to cry, but my sobs just got louder and louder after he left.

That was the last time I saw him. I don’t know when I will see him again, or if I will ever see him again. He told me once, never to ask what he does for a living or even for his phone number, and he will be the one to find me but it’s been so long that I’m growing increasingly impatient and worried. I don’t know what he does, but my instincts tell me that his work is dangerous. Perhaps he’s in trouble, or lying hurt or sick somewhere, and can’t get to me. The thought scares me so much, I push it away, locking it in the deep recesses of my fear and my loss.

My phone rings suddenly, and I pull it out of my apron pocket. It’s an unlisted number, and my heart skips a beat as I press the answer button.

“Omma,” His quiet voice rings like a distinct bell in my ear, and I grab a nearby chair to catch myself before I fall to the floor in immense relief.

“JungHoo.” I try to control my voice, so that the hysteria that is rising in my throat does not reach it and I sound calm and nonchalant. I try to, just hoping he doesn’t catch the tinge of relief and desperation in my voice. “How are you?”

“Omma,” he repeats again in that smooth deep voice of his, so very much like his father. “Do you have time? I am in that shop with the red bean ice.”

“Ahhh,” I say... and is that a sob that just escaped me? “Can you give me 10 minutes?”
“Alright,” his voice sounds hesitant suddenly. “Are you alright? Shall I come get you instead?”

I try to pull myself together, even though the tears have started pouring from my eyes like a leaky faucet. “No, I mean yes... I’m alright! I’ve been doing housework, so I need to wash up a bit. And no, you don’t need to come get me. I’ll be there in 10 minutes.”

His voice seems to relax, and I am flooded with relief that he doesn’t seem to notice my shaky voice. “Alright. I’ll order the red bean ice. See you soon, Omma.” And he hangs up, allowing me finally to collapse into a heap on the floor, and to succumb to my relieved sobs.

It was 15 minutes later that I finally walked into the cafe, after spending a good 5 minutes putting on as much BB cream as possible to hide my puffy eyes. I wasn’t altogether successful, so I had to pray that JungHoo wouldn’t notice, or if he did, I hoped he wouldn’t mention it. He is usually very thoughtful in that way - he never puts me on the spot about his step brother and step father, even if I know sometimes how curious he is about them. Let’s just hope he is going to assume I quarrelled with my husband, and be done with it.

When I walk in, the cafe is pretty full, but I see him immediately. My very handsome son, looking so much like his father – tall and broad shouldered in his dark brown coat. His eyes light up immediately when he sees me, and he gets up from his seat.

I approach him with a nod, and his face breaks into the biggest smile I’ve ever seen, as he envelops me into his embrace. I couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t stop it. When he took me into his arms like that, all my resolve just left me and I crumbled as I sobbed into his shoulder while he held me for what seemed like a very long time.

When my sobs seemed to have subsided, we pull apart and he looks thoughtfully at my face. I see that his eyes aren’t dry themselves, and he had cried right along with me. “Omma, have you been well?”

I wipe the tears from my eyes and give him a bright smile as I take both his hands in mine, “Yes, I have been fine. How are you? I’ve been worried.”

He nodded to our seats as he smiles sheepishly. “Our red bean ice melted.” I just smile and shrug my shoulders to tell him it didn’t matter. We sit down facing each other, my hands still holding on to his, my eyes searching his face, drinking in every detail and every inch because I did not know when I would see him again after this. “You have been alright, JungHoo? After the last time, I have been wondering...”

“Ahhh Omma, there is so much to tell you. I don’t even know where to start,” He smiles kindly at me and I’m thinking to myself, please don’t be kind to me, this bad mother of yours. “Maybe I’ll start at the end and answer you. I am alright. Better than I’ve ever been in a long time.”

I look carefully into his eyes and see a different light in it. A light I have never seen before. My JungHoo, everytime I see him, has been good and kind to me, but I have always felt his loneliness. It always cut me like a knife, because I know that I am the reason that he became that way, and there is just no way. No way for me to absolve my sin toward him.

“JungHoo,” I begin as he held my hand tightly. “Omma has always wanted to say this... Omma is very sorry. Sorry for leaving you alone, for not being a good mother to you...” my voice starts to falter as my tears start to fall. He looks at me with those kind eyes, and shakes his head in concern.

“Omma, no. You don’t have to say it. I understand about the past. We were all victims – you, me, Appa, Appa’s friends, their families.... I know all this while I’ve told you not to ask me what I do. I won’t go into much detail, but because of what I do, I found out about Appa. And what happened in 1992.”

I gape at him in horror but let him continue.  The mere mention of the year 1992 caused a flood of memories to overwhelm me. “I don’t know if you know, Omma, that Seo JungSeok has been absolved of his murder charge. It has been proven that he didn’t kill his friend Oh Gil Han in 1992. It’s official.”

This time I couldn’t stop it, my tears. I began to sob, and he tightened his grip on my hands. “And Omma, those people who threatened you... you don’t have to be afraid anymore. They will never trouble you again.”

I looked at him in wonder now, curious how much he knew and how much has been resolved. ‘Those people’ he talked about, has been around for 20 years, always in the shadows and around some corner, to remind me that I had to stay away from my own son, for his own safety. “Kim Moon Shik is in a mental asylum now, Omma. His Lawyer Baek will not trouble you again.”

I am so shocked that I let go of his hands. “Kim Moon Shik is in a mental asylum? How? What happened? And what of his wife? What happened to Choi Myung Hee?”

He smiles at me kindly again, and takes my hands in his again, squeezing them reassuringly. “She is well. She’s working now, as the Editor in Chief of Someday News, where I also work. She’s doing well, and she’s very happy.” And then he looks into my eyes, his smile wide and his eyes bright. “And she found her daughter again.”

“Ji An?” I am beyond shocked. “You mean Ji An is alive?”

He nods his head, happily, his smile getting increasingly bright. “Yes. Ji An is alive.”

I stare at him. His smile just stays bright and happy, and suddenly it dawns on me, why my son is the same but is not the same. Why that aura of loneliness has left his demeanour, and he seems at peace and happy. I smile at him, “You found her?”

He nods happily as he squeezes my hand. “Samchoen... Kim Moon Ho, you remember him?”

I nod, and I think now my jaw dropped at hearing another name from the past come out of my son’s mouth. “How did you come to know Kim Moon Ho?”

JungHoo grins, “He owns Someday News. So basically he’s my boss now. But before that, he hired me to look for Ji An... not knowing who I really was. Everything was like a freaky coincedence. Ji An and I don’t remember very much, and what we remember are just vague images and snatches of conversation, but Samchoen told us about babysitting us when we were kids, and how all our families were so close.”

“Ji An and you were so close as children. You both would cry when we had to go home, because you didn’t want to be separated,” I smiled at him as I told him.

He laughed, “Really?” looking very pleased. I remembered something as I reached for my purse to take out a picture I had been safekeeping. It was a picture of Ji An sleeping as she held on to a sleeping JungHoo’s hand so many years ago.

I handed it to him. “I found this, after the last time when you asked if I still had any keepsakes of your father’s around. But I didn’t get to give it to you.”

He looks at the picture in obvious delight, “She’s still like this, Omma. She sleeps the best when holding my hand,” he laughs as he takes out his phone and makes a call. “And she’s waiting right now Omma. She’s here and wants to meet you.”

He pauses and talks into his phone,” Where are you? You can come in now.”

What a seemingly throw away line, I think when he says it. ‘She sleeps the best when holding my hand.’ What does that mean exactly? Did my son get married without telling me? I stand up when he does, and turn around. I smile to see this young woman, beautiful just like her mother, with big bright eyes and a broad smile.

She comes to me, and just like JungHoo, she throws her arms around me to hug me. “Omoni,” she cries quietly into my shoulder, “May I call you Omoni?”  And I am a tearful mess all over again.

This time it is I who pull us apart first. I smile at her, looking at her face, taking it all in. I can see GilHan in her – her smile is so like his, playful with a tinge of laughter. And I can see MyungHee too, in the way her kind eyes soften as she looks at me. “Ji An-nie?” I say softly as she nods her head vigorously to my question, “You have grown up so beautiful.”

Her smile widens as she hugs me again, and then letting me go looks at JungHoo, “You didn’t tell me Omoni is so beautiful.”

JungHoo just laughs, and ushers us to our seats. Ji An does not let go of my hand as she sits beside me. I pat her hand and look at her wonderingly, “The last time I saw you, you were this tiny thing. Now you are all grown up and so beautiful. Tell me, is my JungHoo treating you well?”

Ji An glances at JungHoo and winks at him playfully. “I don’t know what he’s been telling you Omoni, but I’m the one who has to take care of him.” JungHoo pouts in protest but she just laughs ignoring him, “See, he’s like a 13 year old boy sometimes.”

I see Ji An taking JungHoo’s hand in hers and beaming at him. His face breaks into this dazzling smile,  as they look at each other in silent understanding and I finally begin to understand. I finally begin to dare to hope. Perhaps things have really changed this time. Perhaps... I don’t have to second guess anymore when or if I will see JungHoo again after today. Perhaps... he will even give me his phone number. Perhaps....

JungHoo takes my hand in his and looks at me with his big kind eyes, “Omma... Ji An... nowadays she is called Young Shin. She was adopted you see, by a wonderful father and mother. Anyway, Young Shin and I... we’re... getting married, Omma. Will you come? Will you come to our wedding?”

When I heard his words, my tears started flowing again. Happy tears this time. I could not think of a better partner for my JungHoo than his childhood playmate, Ji An. Gil Han’s daughter – Gil Han, my JungSeok’s best friend. It seemed so fitting that now JungSeok’s name had been cleared from the murder charge that had haunted all our lives, that now my JungHoo can finally find happiness and not be alone anymore. I can only nod vigorously as my tears flowed and I sobbed.

JungHoo looks at my tears in horror, but I pat his hand reassuringly. “Omma is very happy, JungHoo,” I sob. “Omma is very happy to see you so happy. Don’t be too concerned with my tears. Omma is very happy.”

I take both their hands – Ji An’s tiny ones, and my JungHoo’s big warm ones, and hug them to me, crying my happy tears. They smile at me too, with tears in their eyes, and looking at them both, I see. I see happiness and I see love and I see that now my JungHoo will never be alone again, and I think to myself, that perhaps... this time, I can truly be forgiven. I can truly forgive myself.

FF Link

5 comments

  1. a very touching ending for the mother and son....thanks for giving a closure on them....

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  2. I was crying, it's so beautiful. I always feel bad for the relationship between Jungho and his mom. Thanks for your great fanfic, I love it so much!

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  3. I was crying, it's so beautiful. I always feel bad for the relationship between Jungho and his mom. Thanks for your great fanfic, I love it so much!

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  4. Thank you all. I love JungHoo for how good he is to his mom despite what she did. He really is rare kind of man. Thanks for loving my FF!!

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