Chapter 28: The Mom Goes to the Hospital and the Innocent Boy Meets the Innocent Girl’s Family
Why? Why hadn’t he known earlier? Why didn’t his sisters tell him sooner? Why was he always left behind? Jaejoong was sprinting down the hallway of the cardiology department of a hospital.
“Sir!” A nurse had hollered. “Sir, you can’t run—“
            He had opened the door to room 718, panting vigorously. “Jaejoong—“
He had cut off his sister, Mari. “Why didn’t you tell me?” He pushed past his mother, and his other sister, Gina, to his father’s side. His father lay in bed with tubes connected to his body.
“I didn’t want you to worry,” his father gently croaked.
“You should have told me! Why am I always the last to know about these things?” he thrashed. “I shouldn’t be hearing about this from a friend!”
His mother, who patted Jaejoong’s back, explained, “Honey, we didn’t want to disrupt your happiness. You seemed fine with your friends.”
His father smiled at Jaejoong and added, “This is nothing, son. This is just an old man’s cold.”
“Liver cancer is a cold?” Jaejoong retorted, glaring at his father.
“Son, don’t worry about me.” Again, he flashed his crooked teeth at Jaejoong. His wrinkled, droopy eyes made him seem like a hound. “Mhm, it’s the afternoon and you dare leave your work like this? Your boss will be furious. Hurry.” Jaejoong could feel his father’s callous palms push his arm as his father demanded, “Get back to work.”
“Don’t be stubborn now.” His father said and continued to shove Jaejoong away.
 “Go back to work!” his father had roared too fiercely that he had coughed harshly.
“Dad!” Mari had dashed to his side and patted his back.
Gina then eyed Jaejoong before showing him out the door. “Look, Jaejoong,” she remarked once they had walked to the waiting area in front of the reception. “I don’t know what you’re trying to do, but . . . don’t come here again. Dad doesn’t want you to worry about him, and . . .”
“You’re still mad at me for moving away?” Jaejoong glowered.
He wouldn’t have been surprised if she was. They had practically been glued to each other. She was the older sister, who played Lego with him and sang songs for him. She was the one who made sure no one bullied him at school because of his blonde hair, yet he . . . had left.
“No, Jaejoong, we were never mad at you.” She stroked her hands through her hair before hugging him. “We knew one day you’d leave. You never wanted to be part of this family, and now that you’ve grown up, Jaejoong, don’t give us hope. Just . . . be like before. It’s better, okay?”
As he felt her gently pat his back, he pushed her away. “So, this is it, isn’t it? You want me to leave, right?” Seeing how her eyes had widened, he knew his answer. “So much for family,” he scoffed before turning his heel, marching in the opposite direction.
His hands sunk into his jean pockets and his shoulders sulked forwards. He didn’t need her pity or theirs. If they didn’t want him, then he didn’t want them either. He was never theirs from the start; he was never anyone’s. He didn’t know why he continued to ascend the stairs. He could have taken the elevator down. Instead, he wanted to venture to the rooftop. Maybe, it was out of nostalgia, he thought while staring at the pastel coloured sky. Leaning at the edge of the railing, he remembered how he and his father used to go to the park to fly kites that the two had made together. Their family had been too poor to afford toys, so Jaejoong and his father were a duo that built everything.
“One day, I’m going to go to Hollywood!” Jaejoong had run across the field with his kite.
His father, who had been busy untangling the string to his kite, had asked, “Why is that, son?”
“I saw Mommy on TV, and the people said she was in Hollywood!” he had chirped.
“But, your mom has never been to Hollywood.”
“No, no, Dad, it’s my real mommy!”
He chuckled at himself while quickly brushing his hand under his eyes. He must have hurt his father too much then. Accidental, yet so detrimental. Raising his head, he heaved a hefty sigh. What was he even chasing after? A lost dream? A broken family? He didn’t know anymore, and so he turned away. He followed the path that had brought him here, a step at a time. He only stopped when he heard a few nurses gossiping. He was a floor above the nurses, who were climbing the steps one by one.
“Did you know that Taka Yumi is at this hospital?” a squeaky voiced girl uttered.
“You mean the daughter of the president of this hospital?”
“But, isn’t she also a celebrity?”
“Yeah. That’s why they’re staying here. Her dad doesn’t want the press knowing that his precious daughter fainted on set out of exhaustion.”
Once they saw him, they had toned down their voices, and quickened their pace. Jaejoong scoffed, knowing that they should be ashamed for gossiping. That piece of information was interesting, but not interesting enough for him to investigate. Frankly, he didn’t care about anyone or anything now. He just wanted to be ignorant, oblivious to all the mistakes that he had made, and he didn’t need more problems added to his list.
 Oh, but there was one more problem that came in the form of a phone call.
“Hello?” he asked.
“Hey, Jaejoong. It’s me, Rhett.”
Rhett? Rhett calling in the afternoon? Odd.
            “Yeah?” Jaejoong said. “What’s up?”
            “I need you to do me a favour,” Rhett explained.
            “Sure, what do you need?” Jaejoong had agreed too easily.
Maybe, he shouldn’t have said yes that quickly. Maybe, he should have listened to what Rhett had proposed first, but even then, Jaejoong would have helped. That was what a best friend did: help each other sans thought.
There were many indicators to illustrate the sincerity of a couple’s relationship. It was possible to affectionately demonstrate acts of love in public, such as through kissing. It was also possible to say amorous remarks, phrased in a simple manner. For Junsu, however, it was the fact that Naomi had allowed him to meet her family that dissipated his doubts about their relationship. He was now convinced that he was truly her boyfriend and that she truly wanted to be his girlfriend. 
Although Jaejoong, Yoochun and Rhett believed that as a couple, Junsu and Naomi were progressing too quickly, Junsu ignored their warnings. He was simply pleased that his previous efforts hadn’t been fruitless. So, when it was the day of meeting her family, he couldn’t have been happier. He could also not have been more nervous. He had all of the classic symptoms: sweaty, cold hands, fluttery feeling in his stomach, inability to eat, muscle aches, shortness of breath, trembling, dry mouth, and even insomnia. Once he and Naomi reached the front door of her house, he took a deep breath and told himself to be charismatic and cool.
After ringing the doorbell, the two waited and waited until out popped a woman who appeared to be in her early forties. “So, you must be Naomi’s boyfriend,” the woman greeted. “I’m Naomi’s mother. You can just call me Okasan.”
Okasan? Junsu couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Naomi’s mother was already accepting him. Junsu reached out his hand and politely said, “Okasan, it’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Junsu, but you can just call me Junsu.”
He knew what he had just said sounded so ineloquent, but at least he had tried. Unsure of what to do next, he just stood there, whereas Naomi had already entered her home. She turned around and chuckled, “Junsu, don’t be nervous. I’m sure my mother will love you as much as I do, or maybe even more.”
Feeling a sense of encouragement, he followed Naomi into the home. They walked past a long corridor decorated with aristocratic paintings and then turned to the right to an elaborate living room, fully furnished with 18th century French furniture. A grand chandelier dangled above the vintage sofas that were not comfortable at all to Junsu. He preferred sofas that were made to sit. The slightly hard seating emphasized his prickly state. He, however, felt support from Naomi, who slipped her arm between his.
“I believe that this is the first time Naomi has ever brought a man home,” Naomi’s mother signaled the maid beside her for tea. “So, I am thrilled to meet you. This is, however, rather sudden. She just told me about you yesterday. Bizarre isn’t it?”
Junsu just smiled, hoping that that was enough. Smiling showed his genuine heart, right?
“Mom!” Naomi whined.
Naomi’s mother giggled while receiving her tea from the maid. “Honey, don’t act like you’re surprised! I’m the one that is surprised here. Oh, Junsu, did you know how worried I was when she did not even have any boyfriends during university? I thought she was . . . well, you know.”
“Mom!” Naomi felt embarrassed by her mother’s behaviour. Her mother had always been blunt, but this was severe. Conversely, Junsu felt more at ease. At least, her mother was making jokes.
Junsu genuinely proposed, “I’m interested to hear more about her university life. Naomi has never mentioned anything about her past.”
“Well,” she sipped her tea before continuing, “Naomi has always been quite the rebellious child. Well, she wasn’t so bad when she was nine, but you know, once puberty struck, she was off the hook and god knows what she has been swimming in.”
“Haha.” Junsu tried to laugh. “That must have been difficult for you.”
“Why yes,” she bitterly complained. “I have to profess that it was tough, yet somehow we managed. Of course, I had no say in it. I mean, she rejected Columbia for some university here. Can you believe that choice?”
Junsu simply shook his head, while Naomi tried her best to blank out what her mother had to say about her.
“As I was saying,” she recalled, “Naomi is hard to manage, always going against me. Oh, and did you know that in university, she became obsessed with this guy. She literally had paparazzi-like photos of him. Gosh, I don’t remember his name. Was it . . .”
“Mom!” Naomi now bellowed. “Can you stop acting this way? You’re always trying to make a fool out of me and now you’re even trying to do that in front of my boyfriend!”
Naomi’s mother innocently confessed, “Honey, I’m just trying to answer Junsu’s question.”
Junsu added, “Naomi, I’m fine. I’m really fine and I don’t think it’s embarrassing. I’m happy that she is comfortable enough with sharing your past.”
“Well, excuse me then,” Naomi mumbled before departing. “I need to go to visit the powder room.”
Junsu heaved a sigh. He had probably said the wrong thing and ended up upsetting her. Naomi’s mother perceived his frustration and comforted, “Junsu, don’t worry too much about Naomi. She’ll get over it. I do have to warn you though that you’ll have to be patient with her. Ever since her father disappeared, she hasn’t been the same.”
He finally started to understand why he felt unsteady with her. Her troubled childhood still harboured some influence on her feelings and thoughts. He understood then why he needed to keep that promise. He needed to be there for her at all times to help heal her from an everlasting wound. As a result, Junsu stated with assurance, “Don’t worry. I’ll be there for her.”
“Then, the weight of my shoulders has been lifted.” She beamed a warm smile. “Naomi has finally found the person for her.”