Chapter 53: The Mom Faces Reporters and the Aftermath of the Free Spirit’s Decision

             Jaejoong had already decided where to take Kannei, except he hadn’t told her at all what he had intended to do. In fact, she had to ask, “Jaejoong . . . where are you going? I thought you knew where I lived . . .”
            “Actually,” Jaejoong said while adjusting her seatbelt into a more comfortable position, “we’re going on a detour. You’re coming with me to a press conference.”

            “Don’t worry,” he chuckled in between his words. “You won’t be facing them.”
            “Oh, that’s bett—“
“You’ll just be a part of them.”
            “What?” Kannei shrieked, almost grabbing Jaejoong by his collar.
            Jaejoong had to suppress his own laughter to the point where he was choking own his breath. Kannei had her arms folded, constantly sighing, but it was exactly these that made him laugh even harder. She was too cute, he thought. So, he blurted once he had parked the car, “You’re adorable, mochi.”
            Before Kannei could even scream at him, he had tugged at her cheek and escaped out the door. Still, he remembered to open her side’s car door. As expected, she shot him a ferocious glare, to which he responded with a quick peck to her cheek. As expected, he had anticipated that she would become angrier, so he tugged her hand. He wasn’t afraid if there’d be paparazzi watching. He loved her, and he wanted the world to know that as well. In fact, he didn’t even notice Yumi until she tapped him on the shoulder.
            “Congrats,” Yumi murmured. “You know, I think I have the perfect gift to celebrate the start of your relationship.”
            There was a tender smile creeping from Yumi’s mouth. That sort of courteous smile was too affectionate for Jaejoong’s liking. Still, in public, he couldn’t show what he truly felt. He faked the same type of grin towards her. Even Kannei had squeezed his hand, which he knew was to tell him how cheesy he was. To ease Kannei’s mind, Jaejoong handed an identity card to her and whispered in her ear, “Take this, and join the reporters. I’ll get you when I’m done, okay?”
            “Okay,” she muttered as Jaejoong placed another peck to her cheek.
            With loving eyes, Jaejoong watched Kannei exit. Yumi, on the other hand, scoffed, “Aren’t you afraid that other people are going to see you and her? Don’t forget that you’re still in a scandal.”
            Jaejoong just answered before leaving for the stage, “I don’t care. If anything happens to her, I’ll protect her.”
             “You’re too innocent, Jaejoong.”
            Yumi’s scoff turned to a jolt of laughter. Truly, Jaejoong didn’t care what sort of advice anyone offered to him. He was already sitting almost at the centre of the stage, right beside Yumi. The reporters already had their notebooks, cameras, video cameras, and pens ready. There were flashes and flashes of light almost blinding him. Still, he was able to find Kannei. After all, she didn’t have any gear in her hands and wasn’t even dressed like a worker. With her there, he was at ease. He wasn’t afraid anymore for he wasn’t by himself now.
            So, question after question, the reporters interrogated Yumi until she finally passed the microphone to Jaejoong. The question had been: “Are you in a relationship with Yumi?”
            “No,” Jaejoong answered, “I already have a girlfriend who I love very much.”
            “Then, why did you and Yumi kiss?” another reporter hollered.
            This time, Yumi stole the mike and responded, “That was for a rehearsal for a new drama that he and I will be participating in. We were rehearsing a scene together.”
            Immediately, Jaejoong glanced at her, but he stopped himself from shouting anything aloud. He allowed the same reporter to ask, “What drama is this and what roles do you two play?”
            Yumi, again sporting a polite smile, told him, “This is a romantic comedy. I will be playing the lead female, while Jaejoong is playing the second lead. Actual filming hasn’t started yet, but we’ve been having actual rehearsals to get into our roles.”
            “Then, this will be Jaejoong’s debut?”
            “Yes,” Yumi uttered.
            “Why the sudden change, Jaejoong? According to our findings, you were . . . a makeup artist?”
            Even that . . . Jaejoong couldn’t answer for himself. He hadn’t anticipated this to happen. He looked again to Yumi, who was still facing the reporters with such confidence that Jaejoong understood that she had planned all of this. For what purpose though? Why was it so important for him to be an actor now? His dream was . . . Had that even been his dream before?
            Knowing that he couldn’t pause any longer, he just rambled, “People change.”
            “Then, is it because you’d want to become closer to your supposed birth mother, Adalia Reynolds?” a bald reporter bolted.
            Jaejoong took a bow, and apologized, “To answer your question, no, and I am sorry, I will not be answering anymore questions. If you have any more to ask, then please contact Yumi’s manager.”
            As he walked down the stage, he was bombarded by hordes of eager reporters. Jaejoong had to push past the crowd to head for Kannei, who still remained in her seat. Then, he grabbed her hand and dragged her to his car. Questions and flashes were attacking him on their way, and even when he drove away, there were other cars following him.
            “Jaejoong . . . tell me what the hell just happened,” Kannei urged while Jaejoong pressed for the accelerator.
            Switching lanes, he explained, “You’re gonna be in the entertainment section tomorrow. Sorry. I didn’t know this would happen.”
            “You could have just left me there,” she murmured.
            “You were my only hope,” he stated. He shot her a glare, one that made her shudder before she grew quiet. When he parked the car at the top of a small hill, he finally said, “Sorry. I didn’t mean to get mad at you. I just . . .”
            “Adalia Reynolds is, just like they suspected, your real birth mother, right?”
Kannei looked at him with such innocence that he felt extremely guilty. Somehow, he felt safe. She could understand how he felt and how much he had endured. At last, there was someone else’s shoulders to rest on, someone else’s ears to listen to his woes.
Choking on his sniffles, he confessed, “Yes, but she abandoned me for her career. Ha . . . she even said, ‘Why did I ever give birth to you? You’re nothing but an impediment.’ I was only five and I even . . . searched through an old, heavy dictionary just to learn what that meant.”
            Jaejoong heard the rustling of plastic, and before long, there was a tissue pressed below his right eye. With his other eye, he saw Kannei staring at him forlornly.
“I’ll be here for you, Jaejoong,” Kannei declared.
            “Promise me . . . please . . . that you’ll always be with me,” he muttered almost too softly.
            There were tears rolling down Jaejoong’s cheeks and there was Kannei already wiping away his cries with her tissues. “Don’t worry,” she kept chanting. “I’ll be there just like you’d be there for me, right?”
            Jaejoong just chuckled while bobbing his head up and down. “You’re all that’s important in my life,” he admitted. “I think . . . you give me meaning to living. I . . . never knew how lonely I actually was until I met you.”
            He hadn’t realized how heavy his words sounded to Kannei, who still wore a weak grin. He just relaxed in this moment of silence. She was there, and he’d finally have a place for himself.
Everyone knew that the time would come for Yoochun to leave. They just didn’t want to speak of it. They simply carried on with their daily responsibilities. There was not much to say when a decision had been made. It wasn’t as if the boys hadn’t tried to dissuade Yoochun.
Jaejoong was the first to argue, “You can’t just leave like that! You’re being a player on your friends! That ain’t cool!”
“Yeah!” Junsu then added. “How can you make a decision without our input?”
Rhett harked back, “Yoochun, are you sure you want to do this? Have you thought it through?”
“Screw it,” Changmin impatiently uttered. “Do whatever you want. Just don’t come back home sobbing like some broken-hearted chick.”           
None of them wanted him to leave, yet none of them felt ready to accept a stranger into their household, a stranger who happened to be a child. Children needed attention and care. They weren’t prepared to be fathers yet. Yoochun who seemed the least likely to settle down, was the first to be on his way to parenthood.
None of them had also expected him to depart so quickly. They didn’t even ask any questions. They just helped him pack his belongings into cardboard boxes and then moved those into his car. Actually, not all of them assisted him. Jaejoong refused to lend a hand to a traitor; he needed some time to calm down. Changmin occasionally lifted a few boxes before asking Yoochun for food. Only Junsu and Rhett were truly cooperative.  
The question that all of them wanted to ask: Where was Yoochun living? They never posed such a question in fear of seeming desperate for him to stay. Yoochun was old enough to choose what he wanted to do with his life. It was his life. When the day came for Yoochun to transport all of his left-over belongings to his new place, all of the boys finally agreed to join him. Jaejoong claimed that he merely wanted to see Yoochun’s residence. Changmin said that he wanted to go for a drive. Rhett uttered that Yoochun probably needed an extra car to store everything. Lastly, Junsu stated that if everyone was going, then he would certainly have to tag along.
When everyone, including Sanghyun, arrived at Yoochun’s place, they were completely shocked. They knew this house. All of the boys had been here on many occasions before Yoochun severed his relations with his family. It was ironic then, for Yoochun to return to where he had departed. Yoochun was going to be living at his grandmother’s house.
“Yoochun,” Rhett announced as he stepped out of his car, “I thought you said you’d never come back here. Are you sure this is the place?”
Yoochun nodded, answering, “You followed my car here, so yes, this is where I’ll be living with Sanghyun.”
Junsu blurted, “Why here?”
“This is the best place to raise a kid,” Yoochun explained. “I’ve thought about this carefully. I have work and my grandmother doesn’t. I’ve told her everything and she has agreed to look after Sanghyun when I’m busy.”
“I thought you and your family . . . you know . . .” Jaejoong signaled the sign of death by running his index finger along his neck.   
Yoochun answered with a chuckle, “Yeah, it’s still like that, but it’ll be okay. They just think I’m . . .”
“You’re irresponsible?” Changmin interrupted. “Carefree? Aimless? Unfaithful?”
He slapped Changmin’s back as they proceeded with his moving. Still, they couldn’t stop feeling uneasy or queasy. Every item that was being carried meant that Yoochun was closer to departing. Farewells were never painless; it was more difficult for them since they couldn’t admit that.
“Hey,” Yoochun asked before all of them left, “I can drop by any time right?”
“Why the hell are you even asking that type of question?” Jaejoong screamed. “You’re supposed to visit us!”
“You’re not really gonna live with your family forever right?” Changmin raised his eyebrow to pose.
Rhett added, “Yoochun, you’re always welcome back. That empty room of yours will always be yours.”
“Aw man,” Junsu moped. “I wanted to have a gaming room!” Everyone glared at him, except for Yoochun, who laughed at his joke. “I was just kidding!” Junsu professed.
This would be a short journey, a departure from their road together, the four boys thought on their way home. That was all.