Title: Reparation- Chapter Twenty Four
Summary: Park Yoochun blames the loss of the woman he loved on Kim Junsu and seeks to vent his grief on the other.
The earlier chapters can be found under my 'memories' section(click on this)
Chapter Twenty Four
“I lost again.”
The young man picked up the gathered black and white seeds carefully, his features deliberately unconcerned as the quiet voice contained a hint of wounded pride.
“You just need more practice.”
The cause of his misery comforted him easily, barely hiding her smile.
“You are loads better than me.”
Yoochun kept his head down as he sorted the seeds carefully into the separate containers, looking up only with a mock hurt expression when he was done.
She laughed lightly at his face.
“I had loads of time to practice.”
The soft voice held a comforting warmth that was marred only by the slight sorrow that flashed across her eyes as she folded up the board and placed it beside the seed containers.
“I shall practice then.”
He did not miss the sorrow, keeping his reply deliberately light-hearted to preserve the cheerful atmosphere of the moment.
“You should play with Junsu sometimes, he enjoys the game too.”
A slight tenderness appeared in her smile at the mention of her son.
“Maybe I should.”
Yoochun replied easily.
“It’s nearly one.”
She turned her attention towards the clock, a slight reluctance sudden written across the pale features.
“You are hungry?”
He mistook the mild sombreness in her manner for hunger.
“No. I usually eat later.”
His hostess paused for a moment.
“Don’t you need to get back to work or something?”
She asked carefully. After all, he had mentioned this morning that he had dropped by since he was in the vicinity. She assumed he had to get back to work later in the day.
The reply came thoughtlessly.
His department had concluded a major deal the day before, there was no real need for him to return to the office today.
He saw the slight joy that flitted across her face.
“What about going out for lunch?”
There was a moment of silence before the words emerged, the sudden invitation that escaped his lips surprising even himself. He knew that the nurse was on her day-off today and all she could possibly have for lunch was cold sandwiches made in the morning.
The woman repeated his words, appearing dazed briefly. The idea of going out for lunch was a distant one; she only ever left the house for check-ups and the hospital and for walks at the park nearby. The fact that there were no eateries nearby and her inability to work for long distances made having lunch out a frivolous if not tedious option.
“I drove here.”
He understood the hesitance in her eyes that followed the initial excitement at the suggestion.
“Well, if it’s not too much trouble…”
She trailed off, staring at the walking stick at one corner of the room, she could walk perfectly well; the stick was merely a tool to lean on when she turned breathless.
“It won’t be any trouble.”
He interrupted before she could find the next words to complete her sentence, standing up to extend a gentlemanly arm towards her as she slowly got up from her chair.
“It’s cold today.”
He picked up her coat on the table and passed it to her.
They left the house chatting joyfully, a perfect picture of family joy.
The journey in the car was a long and silent one.
She looked out of the window quietly, the half-opened eyes carefully fixated on the passing scenery, drinking in the rapidly blurring surroundings as he drove in equal companionable silence.
He brought her to a tiny French restaurant near the sea, a homely cottage hidden away from prying eyes by miles of empty country road and tall trees, a small, simple place that was reminiscent of the European country side, its air scented with the fading fragrance of fresh lavender even in mid-autumn by the withering lavender bushes in the tiny, well-kept garden.
He knew instinctively that she would like the place.
She loved it.
She said nothing. But he saw the rapt joy in her eyes as they set sight upon the tiny cottage, the slightly trembling of the frail fingers as he opened the door to help her up, the barely contained excitement in her step as she moved towards the house.
He was not surprised to see that she understood the fine details of French cuisine better than he did.
“How was the food?”
He asked politely as they walked back to the car.
“Excellent. Thank you.”
She gave the answer expected of her.
“You come here often?”
It was almost an afterthought.
He chose not to elaborate as he closed the door politely for her.
The frail voice sounded as soon as he entered the car on his own side, pulling the door shut, he turned to look at her enquiringly.
“Thank you for taking care of Junsu.”
She spoke slowly, reaching out to take his arm in a gesture that combined tenderness with a touch of formality.
“He is taking care of me.”
Yoochun replied easily, drawing easy reference to the fact that the other was the one who did the cooking and grocery shopping.
The middle-aged woman laughed lightly, mild pride combined with tenderness in the slight brown eyes.
“He acts more like my parent sometimes.”
She agreed with him easily, a hint of pride in her eyes before her expression turned sombre.
Yoochun waited for her to speak once more, understanding the slight uncertainty in the carefully light-hearted yet serious tone in the pale features.
“He went through a lot.”
She drew back her fingers from his arm and placed them on her lap, sighing softly as the words finally emerged, a short, concise summary of the torrent that she held within her. The older eyes searched the face of the young man opposite her, hesitant and mildly embarrassed, before continuing.
“He was a child but he had to grow so fast.”
She continued slowly, the soft voice shaking only slightly.
“He doesn’t have many friends.”
Her voice turned stronger.
She knew that her son’s social life was being constrained by her, by his own willingness to take care of her.
“He comes home immediately every day.”
The short statement contained both her guilt and regret for the loss of what she saw as a normal, happy childhood, drawing a conclusion to everything that she felt over the years, the burden that she knew she was placing on her child yet tried to ignore, the pain of a mother who watched her own flesh and blood suffer as a result of her own weakness.
There was no more to be said. She looked down nearly instinctively, staring trance-like at her hands that had grown old and wrinkled over the years.
“He’ll be fine.”
It was Yoochun who broke the silence first.
He placed a hand carefully over her folded fingers.
“He is a strong person.”
There was no doubt in him when he spoke.
The words emerged after a short while, her eyes were grateful as she cast a final look at the young man before drawing her hands from beneath his and placing her fingers on his wrist.
She repeated once more, the thin lips curving slowly into a smile.
His words did not remove her guilt; they could not absolve the blame that she deserved as a parent. But they told her what she always knew deep down, that her son was fine at present.
That was all that mattered to a mother.
The drive back was as silent as the journey out, with only the mild roar of the engine that accompanied the gentle whistle of the heating system as they returned once more to the light-hearted, comfortable silence.