"Hi," Yunjae looked up from the table where she was arranging the bottled medicines and smiled. "Hey," she greeted back as she watched her sister-in-law, Hana, approach, bearing a huge grocery bag. "Whoa, that's a lot!" Yunjae exclaimed as she moved to assist her in putting her burden on the table.
"Yihan told me you already ran out of supplies," the beaming Hana said, and Yunjae's eyes filled with tears. "Hey, don't cry," her sister-in-law cajoled as she came to her side, offering a sympathetic arm around her dainty shoulders.
"S-sorry," Yunjae said as she sobbed, wiping the tears from her eyes as she smiled gratefully at the kind woman. Lately, she was becoming more and more emotional. "Thank you," she told her, and Hana smiled back gently as she gave her arm a squeeze.
"Don't think about it," Hana said warmly. "These past few weeks have been hard on you, with Yuan sick and everything. Just think about Yuan, and take care of yourself more. You're losing a lot of weight. You look sick yourself," she continued as she reached out to give Yunjae's cheek an affectionate pat.
"Thank you," Yunjae said again as she turned to sort out the groceries. Her sister-in-law then eyed the medicine bottles on the table.
"Are these Yuan's?" she asked and Jae nodded.
"Yes, those are the bronchodilators the doctor asked me to buy. He has a nebulizer now too," she added wincing, remembering how the latter crippled her bank account.
"I see," Hana commented with a nod. "Are they working?" she asked again and Jae smiled.
"They are," she answered.
This was the reason why in spite of Yuan's medicine costing a lot, she didn't mind. Her baby was well. That's what's important.
"So where is he now?" Hana asked as she tried to look around, searching for that one-year-old nephew of hers. In her bag, she retrieved what appeared to be a violet plushie. "I have something for him here," she said excitedly making Jae laugh as she pointed at the living room.
"He's there. Yihan came home early today. They've been playing together for an hour now," Jae said and watched as Hana's brows rose.
"Awww, well, he better let me borrow Yuan. He already had him for an hour, it's my turn now," she announced as she marched towards the living room leaving Yunjae alone.
As soon as she went out of sight, Yunjae's smile turned wistful. She really felt grateful to be a part of this family, regardless that she was having difficulties at the moment. The three of them, Yuan, Yihan, and Hana gave her strength.
With a sigh, Yunjae turned her attention back to the medications. Her son, Yuan, had been having difficulty breathing, easily got tired and coughed a lot when playing. Then one day, her baby collapsed. She had been beyond scared. It was a good thing Yihan was at home that time, and they were able to bring Yuan to the hospital where her baby was diagnosed with asthma.
"My poor baby," Yunjae whispered as she reached out for one bottled medicine and examined it. Her thoughts however had already drifted into the past when someone told her about himself having the same malady when he was a child.
5 years ago
"Congratulations," Yunjae said quietly to the person sitting next to her without looking.
She felt the other person's movement though, and she knew the other had turned to her, watching her with those infuriatingly amused almond eyes. She knew that he was smiling at her with that boyish grin of his, flashing his white set of teeth so she dared not look.
The transferee's smiles just rubbed her off the wrong way – not to mention that Yunjae was still sulking because today was the first time she'd lost a match.
It was already almost seven in the evening, and yet she was here, sitting at the edge of the pool with her feet dipped into the water, moping. She was planning on doing it alone, to swim her frustrations away, but the blasted newcomer followed her here.
"That's the most cheerful congratulations I've ever heard," the amused baritone commented and Yunjae gave him a sharp look before turning away.
"If you're gonna be sarcastic, leave me alone," she growled, and Kang Jinho gave a hearty laugh, obviously enjoying her annoyance.
"Why? I came here to swim," Jinho said innocently, and Jae sighed as she turned to leave.
"Fine, I'll go then," she announced, but the other grabbed her arm and kept her where she was. "What?" she snapped irritably as she turned to face him. But when their eyes locked, Jae found her annoyance vanishing.
"Stay. I'll try not to annoy you too much," Jinho promised cheekily, making Yunjae eye him suspiciously for a while before she nodded and turned her attention back into the water.
Silence fell between them for several minutes, the two of them sitting side by side. Glancing at Jinho's profile, Jae broke the silence.
"Why swimming?" she asked, surprising the other.
"I asked, why among all the sport. Why did you choose swimming?" Jae elaborated on her inquiry. "You have a good build and height. You could have done a lot of other sports so why swimming?"
"Why, thank you for noticing my gorgeous body," Jinho teased, and when Jae glared at him, he decided to behave and answer truthfully. "Asthma," he said. "When I was a kid, I had asthma. It was so bad I couldn't do anything. I used to envy other kids because they can play while I had to stay in the house and watch them from afar."
"You had asthma?" Yunjae asked, almost in disbelief.
People who had the illness usually were thin, but Jinho's body was far from being that. In fact, the other's body was better toned than hers, and Jae had been a healthy person through and through.
"I did. That's why I started swimming. The doctors told my mom the sport would help me develop my lungs and so it did," Jinho explained with a smile. "When I got better, I found I enjoyed swimming so I decided to be good at it. Now, it's my aim to be the best out there. At least before I retire, I want to win a huge competition like the nationals," he continued and Yunjae studied his face, seeing the sincerity in them.
In that moment, she realized she wasn't annoyed at him anymore. "Good luck to you then," she said with equal sincerity making Jinho laugh, his voice reverberating pleasantly all over the place.
"How about you?" he asked her afterwards.
"Me?" The question made Yunjae thoughtful. "I don't know. Just to have something to do I think," she answered, and when the other looked puzzled, she explained. "I'm not my dad's real daughter. My mom had me with her first husband. The second dad's nice to me, but when they had their own kids I didn't want to intrude. I think I swam because I can stay at school longer."
"I see," Jinho murmured as he searched her face. "Thanks for telling me that," he added gently.
"It's nothing compared to your cheesy reasons," she countered as her lips broke into a smile for the first time.
"You're beautiful," Jinho commented in awe as he stared at Jae's lips and the latter suddenly felt awkward. "Oh no, please don't take it away. I like your smile," he added hurriedly which only worsened the awkwardness.
"I-I'm gonna take a shower," she announced as she stood up and turned, but Jinho followed her like an overgrown pup.
"Hey, Kim Yunjae, who was that guy with you earlier at the competition?"
"Who?" Yunjae asked as she tried to recall who Jinho was talking about.
"The tall guy, with chinky eyes and fair skin – the one who held your things," Jinho described, and her eyes widened in understanding. Yihan. "Was that your…your boyfriend?" Jinho asked in a small voice, his lips in almost a pout which made Jae snort in laughter.
"If he is, I think it's none of your business…" she announced as she turned away.