A Certain Smile
Author: Margie L
Strolling along the embankment of Thames River, the tall and
handsome Asian man was attracting many admiring glances from the ladies. Some
even taking second and third glances at him. To them, Asian men with his kind
of good looks were rare. However, the man was totally unaware of the attention
focused on him and was only intent on admiring the beautiful lights reflected
on the Thames.
Yun Hyun Chul loved the evening scene in London, specifically the embankment of Thames River. He loved to stroll along the embankment and admire the creative art painted by the many artists plying their trade. Nevertheless, although he thinks that there is no other country more beautiful than his homeland, Korea, he considers London a close second.
He had stayed in London for a total of 10 years and had returned to Korea two years ago to help his father. However, he found himself missing London and when his father had expressed interest in opening a branch in London, Hyun Chul jumped at the chance to return to scout around for a suitable location for their branch office.
Walking along the embankment, Hyun Chul suddenly spotted what he thought to be a familiar figure. He stopped and looked again, just to be sure.
'Hey, Jin Woo Jin!'
On hearing his name, the man head snapped around. 'Yun Hyun Chul? Old man! What are you doing in London, of all places?'
Shaking each other's hand vigorously and pumping each other on the back, they were obviously glad to meet up with each other.
Hyun Chul laughed, 'Old Man? May I remind you we are the same age? Anyway, since I am happy at seeing a familiar face so far away from Korea, I forgive you. What are you doing here of all places? How many years has it been since we last met?
Woo Jin scratched his chin thoughtfully and replied that the last time must have been 6 years ago when Hyun Chul returned to Korea for a holiday, just before his permanent return to Korea.
'These are all your art?
'Yup! I bet you did not know I could draw?
'That's because you have never given me any indication that you are were good in art. Hyun Chul looked through the paintings one by one and his eyes came to a halt before an oil painting. It was of a young girl sitting on a bench. Her laughing face was facing upwards at the sky, arms outstretched. Her hair was short and curly. A German Shepard was at her feet, watching balefully at the artist, as if to tell him to keep away from his mistress.
Hyun Chul picked up the painting and studied it thoughtfully. He liked the way the artist has captured the girl's face. Her happiness seemed so infectious and Hyun Chul found himself smiling as he looked at the portrait.
'This is terrific. Did you paint this? May I buy it?'
Surprisingly, Woo Jin took back the painting from Hyun Chul. 'Yes, I painted it. She beautiful, isn't she? Sorry, its not for sale'.
Hyun Chul would not be deterred so easily. 'Why not? If it's not for sale, why did you display it?
'I have just finished painting it'. Woo Jin emphasized, 'IT'S NOT FOR SALE'.
'Who is the girl by the way? A personal friend of yours?'
Woo Jin smiled and touched the painting lovingly. 'This is Sun Mi, my cousin. You have never met her because her parents were very protective of her and seldom let her out of their sight. When her parents moved to London 3 years ago, my mother and I joined them for a holiday. One day, we went on a boating trip for which we were ill-prepared and my mother and Sun Mi's parents drowned. Sun Mi knocked her head very hard against the boat and was unconscious. I managed to drag Sun Mi and myself to shore.'
Hyun Chul patted Woo Jin on his back. 'I'm so sorry. I did not know of your mother and your aunt and uncle's demise. Forgive me for making you recall this tragedy. How is your cousin?'
Woo Jin thanked Hyun Chul and his face suddenly creased into a smile.
'That's Sun Mi'.
Hyun Chul looked up. He saw a beautiful girl in dark glasses, tapping a white cane along the embankment, making her way towards them. The German Shepard was chained to the leash she was holding in her hand.
Surprised, Hyun Chul quickly turned to Woo Jin.
Woo Jin nodded sadly, 'Yes, Sun Mi is blind. I saved her but I could not do anything to save her sight'.
Title: A Certain Smile
Author: Margie L.
Woo Jin hastened towards Sun Mi and held her arm. While the dog was quiet when Woo Jin walked up to Sun Mi, it growled and bared its teeth when it noticed Hyun Chul heading in their direction.
Woo Jin immediately patted it on the head to ease its fear. Easy there, boy. He's a friend. Hyun Chul, let Judge sniff at your hand.
Sun Mi immediately asked Woo Jin - You're with a friend? Did I interrupt your conversation?
'No, no, you didn't.' Woo Jin reassured her.
Hyun Chul did as Woo Jin instructed. An animal lover, he did not feel threatened at all by the dog's faked growl and patted him on the head. Being a sucker for tender, loving touches, Judge immediately stopped growling.
'Judge? What kind of a name is that for a dog? Hyun Chul asked Woo Jin. If he's a judge, he would know immediately that I'm an animal lover and quit checking me out. Does he think I plan to cart him off to the dog pound?'
Sun Mi and Woo Jin laughed simultaneously. Unaware that he was being made a laughing stock, Judge continued walking around Hyun Chul, sniffing at his hand and clothing and deciding finally that everyone's safe and this human is harmless. He looked up at Hyun Chul with an expectant look, wagging his tail enthusiastically.
Woo Jin grinned at Hyun Chul, 'That's where we got him from. He likes to check out everyone; hence, his name. Congratulations, you passed. He likes you. Even though he's a male, you can add him to your long list of conquests'.
'Come on, you know very well I don't have a long list of conquests. Don't give Sun Mi the wrong idea that I'm a Casanova!'
'With your looks, who would believe that you do not leave a trail of broken hearts in every town?'
Hyun Chul ignored Woo Jin's barb and turned to face Sun Mi. "I won't shake your hand because Judge has done a perfectly slobbery job on mine. Hello, I am Yun Hyun Chul, a friend of Woo Jin from school days. I am very pleased to make your acquaintance, Sun Mi.'
'Hello, Mr. Yun. I'm sorry about Judge. He's normally very well behaved. I don't know what's got into him'. Sun Mi smiled as she said this and Hyun Chul was struck by the loveliness of her smile.
Even with her dark glasses on, Hyun Chul noticed her entire countenance changed when she smiled. He was overcome with emotion that she could still be so cheerful despite her handicap.
'Since I have taken the liberty of addressing you by your first name, I would be honored if you would drop 'Mr.Yun' from mine.
'Thank you, I will.' She heard Woo Jin meddling around with his things and asked, 'Woo Jin, are you packing up?'
'Yes, I am. Its late, so we should be heading back. Hyun Chul, can you give me a hand, please?' Woo Jin did not know when the little green monster had suddenly popped up in his head. He had noticed the way Hyun Chul eyes seemed to linger on Sun Mi.
After packing up all his things in a big bag, Woo Jin hoisted it over his shoulder and cupped Sun Mi's elbow.
'My car is parked nearby. How about you, Hyun Chul? Are you staying in your old apartment?'
'Yes, I am. It's just a stone's throw from here, so Il just walk back'.
Although Woo Jin offered to drop him off at his apartment, Hyun Chul declined saying it was late and both Woo Jin and Sun Mi must be tired. He took out his business card, wrote his mobile phone number behind the card and handed it to Woo Jin.
'May I have your number too - just in case I need to contact you?'
Woo Jin wrote the number on a piece of paper and handed it to Hyun Chul. 'I'm staying in Sun Mi's apartment.' When he noticed Hyun Chul's questioning look, Woo Jin hastily explained, 'It's not what you think. There are three rooms in the apartment.'
'You did not have to explain. It's none of my business, after all.'
'I know. I just did not want you or for that matter, anyone else - to jump to conclusions.'
Sun Mi suddenly spoke up. 'Well, then, I guess we should not hold up Hyun Chul any longer. Good night.' She waved in Hyun Chul's direction.
'Good night, Sun Mi, Woo Jin. I'Il call you, okay?'
Having said their goodnight, they went off in opposite directions.
In the car, Woo Jin turned on the radio and the haunting lyrics of an oldie, "Yesterday", brought memories flooding back in Sun Mi's mind. She recalled how devastated she was when she learnt of her parents and aunt's deaths. She recalled the sense of panic she felt when she learnt she had lost her sight from the hard blow she received when she knocked her head against the capsized boat. She was very grateful to Woo Jin for being there for her when she needed a friend. He was her rock and for a long time, she had clung to him. But now, it was time to let go.
Her parents had provided well for her and she had sufficient funds to see her through University. However, she decided that she had to come to terms with her blindness and would need to learn Braille; in order to enable her to get her degree. Within another 3 years, she earned the degree she wanted. She got a job as a Pediatric Speech Therapist in the same hospital she was wheeled into 3 years ago.
Sun Mi reflected back on what the eye specialist had told her on the day of her discharge from hospital, which is, that she did not suffer permanent blindness. There is even a high possibility she could regain her sight from a second trauma to her head or that her sight would come back gradually. Unfortunately, he could not predict when that would happen.
Sun Mi did not disclose the doctor's prognosis from Woo Jin because she did not want to give him false hope. It has been three long years since the boating accident and she is still blind. What if it takes forever before she could see again? She feels that she should just accept her blindness and tries her best to cope with her handicap.
'Sun Mi, are you tired?' Woo Jin voice roused her from her thoughts.
She turned and smiled at him, 'No, I'm not tired.' Recalling Woo Jin's haste in explaining to Hyun Chul about their sharing an apartment, she asked him why he felt he had to explain to his friend about their living arrangement.
'I did not want Hyun Chul getting the wrong idea that we are cohabitating. He may be broad-minded in his thinking, but he's still of Korean stock - just as I am. I will not compromise your reputation.'
'You mentioned that he has a long line of conquests. Is he a playboy?'
Woo Jin laughed. 'I was just pulling his leg. Hyun Chul is very handsome, very rich and a very good person. In spite of having been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he is not a typical rich brat, but a genuine nice guy. There was always a group of girls following him around in school, but he hardly noticed them, because his nose was always buried in a book. All of us guys were jealous of him; yet at the same time, we couldn't help liking him, because he's such a good-natured and unassuming chap. He would give his last dollar if you asked for his help.'
'You sound as if you're his publicity agent.' Sun Mi laughed. 'I can't believe that men like him exist in this world today.'
'Well, Yun Hyun Chul is proof that they do exist.' He half-jokingly added, 'If you want to know, another proof is sitting beside you!'
'Sun Mi giggled, 'You're absolutely right!'
Woo Jin parked his car in the car porch, got out his bag and helped Sun Mi alight from the car. Sun Mi's parents loved their apartment and had taken great pains to furnish the place. Every detail reflected the love her mother had poured in this apartment. Sun Mi moved around the apartment with ease. Judge whimpered to let her know he was hungry. She patted him on his head and went into the kitchen to open a can of his favourite dog food.
'Sun Mi, have you eaten?'
'Yes, my colleague had treated me to MacDonald's. You haven't eaten yet?'
'It's okay; Il just heat up a packet of instant mee.'
'I'll take a shower, then go to bed. Goodnight.'
Woo Jin replied, 'Goodnight' and added under his breadth '..my love.'
Today, being a Sunday and with time on hand, Hyun Chul
decided to invite Woo Jin and Sun Mi to join him on a picnic. He called Woo
Jin’s number and was surprised when no one picked up the phone at the other
end. Just as he was about to hang up, someone answered.
“Wei, is that you, Sun Mi? I’m Yun Hyun Chul.”
“Yes, yes, I’m Sun Mi. I need help…. oh….. please….” An upset Sun Mi was sobbing over the phone and Hyun Chul immediately asked her what had happened.
“Where’s Woo Jin. Isn’t he home?”
“No, he isn’t. He left for the countryside very early in the morning.” A fresh bout of sobbing started again. “It’s Judge. Something has happened to him and he’s not moving, Please help him!”
It took a few seconds for Hyun Chul to recall that Judge is Sun Mi’s dog.
“I’m hanging up now. I’ll be right there!”
Hyun Chul dashed out of his apartment and drove at lightning speed to Sun Mi’s house. If it weren’t a Sunday, he would never have been able to cut through the traffic the way he did.
The door was immediately opened by Sun Mi. She had been standing by the door, waiting anxiously for him. Her face pale and nose red from crying.
“He’s in my bedroom.” She led the way and Hyun Chul found the dog lying motionless on the carpet. He looked at the dog and found that it did not look as though it was injured in any way. He gently touched the dog and quickly realised that the dog was not breathing.
Sun Mi anxiously asked him, “Is he hurt? How is he? Please tell me.”
“We have to get him to a vet.” Although he knew that the dog was dead, he did not have the heart to tell her. Lifting the dog effortlessly, he quickly headed for the door. “I’ll put Judge in my car and you get your things. I’ll come again for you, all right?”
The vet confirmed what Hyun Chul had already known.
“I’m sorry, Sun Mi. Judge is gone.” The vet tried to break the news to Sun Mi as gently as possible. As Judge’s vet, he knew how much she loved that dog. He was not just her ‘seeing’ dog but had also been a companion to the lonely Sun Mi.
“No, he’s not! He’s just tired and sleeping.” Sun Mi refused to believe the vet.
She felt her way to the examination table where Judge lay motionless. “Judge, get up.” She held on to the dog and shook him gently. She put his leash on him. “I’m taking you for your walk now. I know you enjoy that very much. Get up, Judge. Please!”
Finally realizing that Judge is really gone, Sun Mi broke down and buried her face in her beloved dog, refusing to let go.
Witnessing her distress was one of the most heartbreaking Hyun Chul had ever felt. He went up to her and gently disentangled her hands from the dog.
“Sun Mi, let Judge go in peace. He’s an old dog and very tired. He needs his rest.” He comforted her.
The vet removed the leash from the dog and handed it to Hyun Chul.
“Sun Mi, your friend is right. Judge is already 11 years old and that’s quite old for a dog. Be glad that he died peacefully of old age and not from any disease. I can get you another guide dog.”
“No! I do not want another dog ever again. It hurts too much to lose them!”
She turned on her heels and tried to walk out of the examination room. However, she stumbled on a small basket on the floor and would have fallen if Hyun Chul had not quickly held her up.
She pushed him away and made her way out of the veterinary clinic. As she did not bring her cane, she groped her way along the fencing without a backward glance at the clinic.
Hyun Chul knew she wanted to be alone and kept his distance, while keeping his eyes on her.
He looked anxiously when Sun Mi crossed the road when a traffic intercession without stopping. He ran up to her when he saw a car heading her way and was just in time to pull her out of the way.
The driver honked at them and yelled, “Are you trying to get yourself killed?”
Hyun Chul led her to a bench close by and held her while she quietly sobbed. Some early morning passers-by looked curiously at them as they walked by. He even received some resentful glares from the older women. They probably thought he was the cause of the young lady’s tears.
“Thank you. I’m fine now.” Sun Mi moved away from him.
“Sure you’re okay now?”
She nodded. “Yes. I know Judge is old but it’s so hard to let him go. He has been with me since I lost my sight.”
Hyun Chul let her talk about Judge because he knew it was something she had to do. She told him how Judge had once attacked a ruffian who tried to snatch her bag. Sometimes he alerted her when some playful children almost ran into her path. Lots of times, the dog had suffered minor scrapes protecting his mistress.
“Sun Mi, although Judge is gone, you should get another guide dog. The vet said he would help to find you one.”
“Yes, he did – but I do not want another dog. Judge is irreplaceable and I do not want to go through losing another companion.” She smiled sadly, “I guess I’m jinxed.”
“Don’t say that!” Hyun Chul sternly told her.
“It’s true. I lost my parents, my aunty and now Judge. Everyone I loved is dead.” She stood up abruptly. “I’d like to go home now, please.”
“All right. I’ll send you home.”
Woo Jin was sorry he was not there for Sun Mi when she lost
her beloved dog. If he had not accepted a friend’s proposal to paint his family
portrait, he would have been the one, comforting her, instead of Hyun Chul.
As Sun Mi had been reliant on her dog ever since she became blind, he was worried how she would cope without Judge. Woo Jin had thought of insisting on getting her another dog. However, he was also aware of her stubborn streak and once she has made a decision, nothing and no one, could sway her mindset.
She rejected his offer to send her to work and to pick her up in the evening - citing the reason that she wanted to learn to be independent and not has to rely on anyone. Woo Jin had to be satisfied with her mere promise that she would be careful.
After a particularly long day at the hospital, Sun Mi left locked up and slowly made her way out of the Speech Therapy Clinic. Her new patient and the events that occurred earlier that day were still fresh on her mind.
Catherine Brown, a teacher at a kindergarten and a good friend, had told Sun Mi about little Brenda Cole.
Brenda is 4 years old and had just been enrolled at the kindergarten where Catherine teaches. Unlike children of her own age, who are boisterous and inquisitive, Brenda is introverted and insecure. She refuses to speak, answers questions or play with the other children. She still sucks her thumb and would ‘talk’ only to the raggedy doll she clings to all the time.
When Catherine tried to coax her out of her ‘shell’, she refused to respond. But she would cry, whenever anyone tried to take the doll away from her. Mrs. Cole, a widow, informed Catherine that Brenda was not always that way. It was only about a month ago that Brenda started behaving strangely.
Having seen how Sun Mi worked with children, Catherine was confident that if there’s anyone who could help Brenda, it was Sun Mi. Even though the child’s self-enforced silence is more psychological than physical, in view of Brenda’s age, a child psychologist would be the last resort.
She refused to let go of her mother’s hand when she was brought into Sun Mi’s room. However, Sun Mi knew was extremely patient and gentle with Brenda. After a bit of time when she felt Brenda was comfortable enough with her, she asked to be left alone with the little girl.
Sun Mi sat down on the carpet near the little girl and talked to her softly.
“Brenda, I like your name very much. Mine is Sun Mi. I know it’s hard to say my name, right?” As Sun Mi did not expect Brenda to answer her questions, she just continued talking. “You see, I’m Korean, so I do not have an English-sounding name like yours. Why don’t you call me ‘Sunny’ instead of Sun Mi? Would you like that? But I don’t want other people calling me ‘Sunny’, not even Ms. Brown – so don’t tell anyone else, okay? Only you can, because you’re special.”
“I bet you do not know where Korea is – would you like me to point out it out on the globe?” Sun Mi did not hear any response from the little girl but she sensed that she was being observed.
“Oh, I forgot. I’m afraid I won’t be able to do that because I can’t see - I’m blind, you know. I can’t see you too but if I can touch you, I would know how you look. But I know you won’t let me do that because you’re afraid of me, aren’t you Brenda?”
Sun Mi waited for the little girl’s response. In the next room, Catherine and Mrs. Cole are both watching the interaction between the child and Sun Mi through the 1-way mirror. They were both surprised when they saw little Brenda walk hesitantly towards Sun Mi. Mrs. Cole shed tears when Brenda reached out to touch Sun Mi’s face. Catherine was not surprised at all but she was just as moved as Mrs. Cole.
The little girl stood in front of Sun Mi and gently touched her unseeing eyes. She thought by doing so, she could help ‘Sunny’ see again . Sun Mi was extremely touched by the little girl’s response but did not want to startle her by being too forward.
“You have such a small hand, Brenda. I have to touch your face to ‘see’ how you look. May I? I can’t see if you nod or shake your head, so I have to hear you say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. May I touch your face, Brenda?” Sun Mi prompted the little girl to speak.
After a few seconds, Brenda whispered “Yes.” Sun Mi had to control and to stop her tears from flowing. She had managed to reach out to the child!
“Thank you, Brenda.” Sun Mi slowly and very lightly used her fingers to touch the child’s face, eyes, mouth and eyebrows.
“Oh my goodness, Brenda! My fingers ‘tell me’ that you’re beautiful. Look, I will describe your features and you will tell me if I’m right or wrong, okay?” Sun Mi smiled when she heard a whispered “K”.
Title: A Certain Smile (5)
Author: Margie L
After attending to a long list of must-dos that had kept him busy for a week, Hyun Chul decided he needed to see for himself how Sun Mi was doing. The regular phone calls he had made to Woo Jin did not elicit the answer he sought. He was also convinced that the slight coolness in this friend's attitude, whenever he asked about Sun Mi, was not mere figment of his imagination.
He had thought of calling Sun Mi at the hospital, but was reluctant to distract her from her work. It was only towards evening, when he knew that she would be getting off work, that he called her.
Sun Mi initially demurred when he told her that he would like to take her out to dinner. However, she accepted when he said he merely wanted to see how she was and that he wanted company since he hated dining alone. He was glad that she had sounded cheerful during their brief conversation.
He drove to the hospital, got out of his car and waited for Sun Mi at the entrance of the building.
When she emerged from the glass doors, he walked up to her, calling out 'Hi' so as not to startle her.
She smiled and returned his greeting. 'Oh hi. You're punctual.'
'I dislike people who are tardy, so I make it a point to be always on time for appointments.' Linking her arm through his to guide her, he walked her to his car.
As he started the engine, he asked, 'Where would you like to go for dinner?'
'Anywhere will be fine. I'm not fussy about where or what I eat.'
'If that is the case, the man who gets to be your boyfriend is a lucky man; because you're so easy to please.' He teased her and waited for her reaction.
'I never intend to have a boyfriend. I do not want to be a burden to anyone.' She said quietly and added with a bright smile, 'Besides, I'm perfectly happy in my present situation. I really am!'
'Why would you be a burden to someone who loves you?' He continued earnestly, 'If he loves you, he should also accept your faults and weaknesses. Otherwise, it cannot be called love. At least, it how I would feel about the girl I love.'
'Your girlfriend-to-be would be the luckiest girl in the world.' She teased him back, 'Have you found her yet?'
He looked at her, gave a low chuckle and hedged, 'Maybe I already have.'
Sun Mi smiled, 'Really? Then, I wish you good luck in your pursuit.'
Driving away from the hospital, Hyun Chul did not notice Woo Jin was just getting out of his car and had seen them. If he had, he could not have missed the look of disapproval on Woo Jin's face.
During the dinner, Hyun Chul made Sun Mi laugh at the naughty pranks he had been up to when he was a child. He told her that he had received so many lashes by his father's belt he was probably marked for life!
Sun Mi was reluctant to talk about herself but told him a bit about little Brenda. She told him that although the little girl was still timid, she was slowly warming towards her. Even if she would only respond to her mother and Sun Mi, it was still considered a step forward in the child's attitude.
She smiled when she described the little girl to him. He could tell she was genuinely fond of her little patient.
When they returned to Sun Mi's place after dinner, he did not immediately make a move to help her out of the car. He wanted to prolong the evening and asked if they could just sit in the car and talk a bit longer.
'How could you describe Brenda so well just by touching her face?'
She shrugged matter-of-factly. 'A blind person sees a face by touch. The remaining senses of a blind person are more acute. I may not be able to tell the colour of your hair or eyes, but I would be able to describe your features.'
Hyun Chul removed his seat belt and moved closer to Sun Mi. 'Touch me then.'
She laughed embarrassedly, 'Oh, it's not necessary. She moved to open the door. should be going in.
He put a hand on her arm and said, 'It'll only take a minute.'
Taking her hands, he moved them to his face and repeated quietly, 'I want you to touch me, to get to know my face.'
With him holding steadfastly to her hands, she had no choice. She allowed her fingers to roam over his face, starting from his forehead. When she hesitantly moved her fingers over his mouth, he held her hands there. He kissed her fingers. Feeling a searing jolt at his sensuous touch, she quickly pulled away from him.
Without saying a word, she turned away from him and groped for the car door. He did not stop her this time but got out of the car, and went to her side to open the door for her.
Trying to ease her tension, he asked lightly, 'So, how do I look?'
Sun Mi reciprocated in a similar tone, 'Well, you have a high forehead which indicates you're a very intelligent man, thick but well-shaped eyebrows. I suspect you trim them to keep them in shape.'
'I'm really offended now! Do you think I'm such a vain man? I must punish you.'
He lightly pinched her cheek.
She laughed and brushed off his hand. 'I was just joking. Also, you have a broad and squarish face, a mole on the left cheek near your ear. You have very large eyes, fanned by long eyelashes. A sharp, slightly aquiline nose and your mouth.. em, well, a very nice mouth! I would say you look like the Greek God, Adonis!'
'Wow! I am impressed. You got everything down pat, including the mole! But how could you tell its a mole and not a pimple?'
She shook her head, 'I just know its a mole. Hey, you mean you agree with me that you look like Adonis? Now, I do believe you're vain!'
He laughed, 'No, not that! I mean, I agree that you described my features accurately.'
He walked her to the door. Before either of them could say anything else, the door on the other side was opened. A glum looking Woo Jin was standing in the shadows.
Hyun Chul raised his hand in greeting. 'Hey, Woo Jin, you're still awake? Waiting up for your cousin?'
Woo Jin stepped out of the shadows and took Sun Mi's elbow. He offered Hyun Chul a faint smile and replied, 'That's right. I could never sleep if Sun Mi is not safely home. You had dinner together?'
Although he tried to say it lightly, the harshness in his eyes did not escape Hyun Chul. Woo Jin did not wait for Hyun Chul to reply and turned to Sun Mi.
'Sun Mi, you go in first. I would like to talk a bit with Hyun Chul.'
Woo Jin closed the door after Sun Mi had said goodnight to Hyun Chul and entered the apartment.
Hyun Chul faced Woo Jin. 'I have the impression you do not approve of my time with Sun Mi. Am I right?'
'Yes, you are. I would appreciate if you do not see Sun Mi behind my back.' Woo Jin said tersely, his inscrutable face hard.
'I would have found another opportunity for the three of us to have dinner together. I dont see why you should be angry over such a trivial matter.'
'I'm angry because I think you are playing on my cousin's feelings. I do not want to see her hurt. She has suffered enough.' Woo Jin fists were clenched, as if he was trying to control aiming them at Hyun Chul.
Hyun Chul calmly replied, 'You have got everything wrong. I'm not playing on her feelings and I would never have hurt her.'
'Let me tell you now you can forget any intentions you may have on Sun Mi. She's not for you. Goodnight.' Without giving Hyun Chul a chance to reply, he turned on his heels, entered the apartment and closed the door firmly.
Hyun Chul could not understand why Woo Jin was so dead set against his friendship with Sun Mi. As far he was concerned, he likes his cousin for herself, her optimism towards her handicap, her beauty and her gentleness.
Driving home, he had time to reflect on the exchange of words with Woo Jin. He realized that jealousy was the only reason why Woo Jin wanted him to stay away from Sun Mi. He would probably have displayed the same reaction as Woo Jin if the shoe were on his foot.
Hyun Chul had always considered himself to be a compromising man. He would compromise if the situation warrants it. However, it was entirely a different situation when it came to matters of the heart.
Moreover, he was sure that Sun Mi does not have any romantic feelings for Woo Jin. If she had, they would have been married by now.
He decided that no matter the outcome with Woo Jin, he would fight for Sun Mi's love.
Title: A Certain Smile
Author: Margie L
Knowing that his warning would not deter Hyun Chul, Woo Jin attempted other ways to throw a spanner in Hyun Chul’s intent to court Sun Mi. He insisted on sending Sun Mi to work and picking her up in the evening. He ignored her protests that she was perfectly capable of finding her way home. If his cousin was puzzled by his attitude, she did not question him on it.
However, he could not prevent Hyun Chul from calling Sun Mi, and Hyun Chul used this to his advantage. He would call Sun Mi everyday near her lunch hour to invite her to lunch. As obstinate as he was tenacious, she would give all kinds of excuses to turn him down.
She did not want him to waste time on her when she had no intention of furthering their relationship. As it is, she was already getting to like him too much. She neither needed, nor welcomed, this distraction to her well-organised life.
It was different with Woo Jin, because of their mutual understanding that their relationship could not be anything more than a platonic one. For this reason, she felt safer with her cousin.
After another session with Brenda, Sun Mi decided that it was time she has had a talk with Mrs. Cole. She had tried several times to meet with the young widow; but she was always too busy to keep their appointment. Sun Mi finally had to insist that Mrs. Cole meet with her on that day, saying that she has important questions to ask her. She refused to reveal anything on the phone.
Mrs. Cole finally turned up for their appointment. “Mrs. Cole, I understand you send Brenda to her uncle’s place when you have to work. Can you tell me about your brother’s family?”
“Why, Ms. Jin? Is that the important question you wanted to ask me?” A sudden thought occurred to her and asked Sun Mi again, “Do you think my brother has something to do with Brenda’s problem?”
Sun Mi hid her surprise at Mrs. Cole’s question and reassured her. “No, I’m sure your brother has nothing to do with this. I am just curious as to how Brenda gets along with them, since she spends a lot of time with your brother and his family.”
Mrs. Cole obviously did not believe it was as simple as that. Nevertheless, she told Sun Mi that her older brother, Michael and his wife, Jean were teachers. They quit teaching to set up a pre-school in their home. That was why Mrs. Cole found it convenient to send Brenda to them. Moreover, Michael and Jean were genuinely fond of her daughter. She was also grateful that her brother did not charge her any fees for taking in Brenda.
Sun Mi asked, “Do they have children of their own?”
“They have 2 sons – Jake is 18 and John, 16. They’re both well-behaved boys. I do not have any doubts at all, that Michael and Jean’s family is a happy and well adjusted family.”
“Mrs. Cole, please do not be alarmed by what I’m going to say, alright? But I feel very strongly that Brenda is fearful of someone in your brother’s family.”
“Oh no! You mean she has been sexually abused?” Sensing that Mrs. Cole was getting hysterical, Sun Mi quickly reassured her again.
“No! I don’t think she was sexually abused. Please calm down, Mrs. Cole, and let me finish what I’m trying to say.” Sun Mi had to be firm – otherwise, she would not be able to talk to her.
During her sessions with Brenda, Sun Mi sensed the girl’s fear whenever she asked about her uncle’s family. While she was normal when she talked about her uncle and aunt, she did not like talking about her cousin brothers, especially the older boy. She kept mumbling that Jake did not want her to talk to anybody. He told her that she must shut up or else, he would hurt her mum.
When Sun Mi tried to find out what she meant, Brenda refused to say anymore. She became fretful and cried when Sun Mi tried to probe. The little girl merely kept mumbling that she did not want her mommy hurt, so she must not talk. She hugged the little girl to her and pacified her, promising she would not ask anymore.
Sun Mi could not understand how anyone could threaten a child? A four-year old child, so innocent and sweet that anyone would want to protect her. The more she thought of how irresponsible that boy was, the angrier she got.
“I think you should stop sending Brenda to your brother until we had a talk with him and his family.”
Mrs. Cole had been listening to everything Sun Mi with a shocked look on her face. She heard everything but she could not believe a word of it. Yet, she knew her own daughter would not tell lies.
“Oh my poor little girl! How she must have suffered and I had no idea at all. What kind of a mother am I that I could not protect my little girl?” Mrs. Cole covered her face with her hands and wept.
Sun Mi patted her on her shoulder. “I think you should stop sending Brenda to your brother until we had a talk with them. If you have no one else to look after her, I can take care of her.”
“You, Miss Jin?”
She heard the surprise in Mrs. Cole’s voice and asked, “Why not me? You think that because I’m blind, I would not be able to take care of Brenda, is that right?” She stated matter-of-factly.
“No, it’s not for that reason. I have seen how independent you are, so I have no doubts you can take good care of Brenda – but don’t you have to work. Why are you doing this for us who are literal strangers to you?”
“Mrs. Cole, my time with Brenda may have been short, but I have grown very fond of her. I will do anything I can to help her. I plan to take a few days off from next week. You can bring Brenda to my apartment in the morning before you head to your office. I will leave word with the reception to give you my address. Don’t be alarmed if you see a man in my apartment. He’s my cousin.”
“I don’t know how to thank you, Miss Jin. You’ve made such a difference in my Brenda. I haven’t even thanked you yet and now, you’re doing this….” Mrs. Cole was too emotional to continue.
“Mrs. Cole, actually Brenda would be helping me. My cousin is an artist and he’s out the whole day, so I get lonely at times. She would be company for me. I would like to thank you instead, for allowing Brenda to keep me company. I will try to find alternative help for you in a few days’ time before I return to work. Do you need to call your brother first before we go and meet them?”
“It won’t be necessary as they are always in. Besides, they said I could drop by anytime.”
Talking to Michael and Jean Smith for the first time, Sun Mi found that they were a very nice couple. She told them what she had told Mrs. Cole – that she believed their son, Jake, had been threatening Brenda and would like to talk to him.
The Smiths could not believe that their son could do such a spiteful thing. They admitted that they were both so busy they had neglected their own kids. The boys seemed to be happy and well adjusted and had never given their parents any trouble. They were therefore, skeptical of Sun Mi’s allegation.
Sun Mi called little Brenda and talked gently to her. Holding her on her lap, she soothed her fears. “Honey, besides your mommy, you love your Aunty Jean and Uncle Mike, don’t you?” Sun Mi felt Brenda turning to look at her mommy, aunty and uncle. She also felt her nod, and heard her whispered affirmative.
“Brenda, they love you too. I love you too, very much.” She hugged the little cherub warmly. “Will you tell them what you told me about Jake? I know I promised not to ask anymore, but I want to help you.” But the little girl vehemently shook her curly blonde head.
This time, Michael Smith spoke up. Gently coaxing the child, “Brenda, please tell us. I promise you that whatever Jake may have said, your mommy will not be hurt. I will never let him hurt your mommy. Is it true what Ms. Jin said about Jake? That’s was why you would not speak?”
The little girl finally nodded and leaned against Sun Mi.
Ignoring his wife’s gasp, Michael gently probed, “Do you know what was it he did not want you to tell anybody?”
Sun Mi felt Brenda looking up at her and smiled encouragingly at the little girl.
The little girl whispered. “I saw him taking Aunty Jeannie’s money. He said he would hurt mommy if I told anyone.”
After asking his wife to check their bedroom, Michael softly spoke to Brenda. “I’m so sorry, Brenda. Jake did a very bad thing by saying he would hurt mommy. I promise you that I would never let him do that.” He caressed his little niece’s head.
Jean Smith had returned to the room and held an empty safe box in her hand. She looked at her husband. “It’s true, Mike. I had over a thousand pounds in this box. It’s all gone!”
When Mrs. Cole asked why she had not noticed it earlier, Jean replied that she had not checked the safe box for sometime. She had kept the money aside just in case of an emergency.
Jean went up to Brenda and embraced her. “Oh my darling girl, I’m so sorry too.”
Michael and Jean said they would have serious talk with their son when he gets home. They thanked Sun Mi for what she did and apologized again and again to Brenda and Mrs. Cole. They were upset that their son was the cause of Brenda’s problem.
Mrs. Cole told Sun Mi that she would like a few minutes to talk to Michael and Jean. Sun Mi said that since they have not had lunch yet, she and Brenda would wait for her in the deli near the pre-school.
Tapping her cane along the pavement and holding Brenda’s hand with the other, Sun Mi’s heart was light with happiness. She was wishful that her little charge would no longer have to live in fear.
Hearing a roar of a powerful motor engine from behind her, she whirled around. Someone was riding a motorbike on the pavement and heading in their direction!
Brenda was yelling, “Jake, stop!”
The sound of the engine getting nearer, Sun Mi pushed Brenda on to the grass kerb to get her out of the way. She was too late to move aside.
The last thing she heard before she was knocked down on the pavement was Brenda screaming “Sunny!”
AAE: A Certain Smile
Author: Margie L
“Mr. Jin, your cousin’s a very lucky girl.” An anxious Woo Jin was listening to the doctor’s words as if, it was his own life that hung in the balance. “If that chap had not held on to the pillion, you would be saying the last rites for her.”
The doctor’s serious gaze held Woo Jin’s. “When she was knocked down onto the pavement, she suffered serious head wounds and lost a great deal of blood. However, she has an indomitable fighting spirit in her. I am optimistic she has passed the critical stage with flying colours.”
Woo Jin turned to look at the unconscious Sun Mi on the bed. He would have liked to believe the doctor that Sun Mi would pull through. Yet, he was doubtful. She looked deathly pale and still on the hospital bed.
The nurses had shaved off some of her hair on the right side to stitch up the deep gashes on her scalp. The white bandage around her head enhanced the pallor on her face. Her face has several small cuts and a sling supported her right arm, which was dislocated when she fell heavily on her side.
Mrs. Cole had briefed him on the events that had caused Sun Mi’s accident. She told him that Jake had returned home and had been listening to their conversation, outside the window. He was enraged that Sun Mi had poked her nose into his affair. He had only intended to scare her, thinking that she would move out of his way when she saw him. He was not aware of her handicap.
When he noticed her white cane the minute she turned to face him, it too late for him to stop. He was, in fact, relieved that a burly guy had held onto his pillion. Otherwise, he would be facing a more serious charge of manslaughter.
Jake’s parents had advised him to give himself up to the police. He was now in police custody. Michael and Jean had met Woo Jin at the hospital and had conveyed their sincere apologies for what their son had done.
Little Brenda was traumatized by what she had witnessed. She kept asking if Sunny was hurt and if she was dead. She cried when she thought Sunny had died. When Mrs. Cole assured her that Sunny was not dead but badly hurt, she kept pestering her mommy to take her to hospital to see her Sunny.
The door to Sun Mi’s room was suddenly thrown ajar and a visibly shaken Hyun Chul burst into the room. He looked from Woo Jin to the doctor, before his eyes trailed to the motionless Sun Mi on the hospital bed.
He grabbed Woo Jin by the lapels and demanded in a low but angry voice, “Why didn’t you call to inform me? You were selfish to keep this from me. Who did this to her? Answer me!”
Woo Jin calmly removed Hyun Chul’s fists from his lapel and fibbed. “I was not trying to keep this from you. I had just arrived at the hospital.” Since the accident occurred during the lunch hour, he had in fact arrived several hours earlier. He had debated whether he should inform Hyun Chul. In the end, he chose not to call.
“How did you find out then?”
“I kept calling Sun Mi’s line but there was no reply. I called the reception and they told me that she had an accident and was badly hurt. I rushed here immediately.” Hyun Chul walked up to Sun Mi’s bedside and looked at all the bandages she was swathed in and asked the doctor for a first hand report on her condition.
Dr. Campbell repeated everything he told Woo Jin and reassured both of them he would his very best to help Sun Mi.
“Mr. Jin, would you follow me to my office please? As my patient’s next-of-kin, there are some papers you have to sign.”
Although he was hesitant to leave Hyun Chul alone with Sun Mi, he had no option but to follow on the doctor’s heels.
Hyun Chul stood looking down at Sun Mi. His eyes filled with tears at her pathetic state. He felt as if an unseen force was squeezing his heart. He sat down on the chair by Sun Mi’s bedside and tenderly caressed her face. He gently held her fingers poking out from the sling. He just sat there, quietly watching her and waiting for an indication that she would soon wake up. After some time, he dozed off.
Woo Jin returned to Sun Mi’s room and saw Hyun Chul asleep on the chair. He looked at both of them for a while and left the room. He decided to come back later after getting some personal things for Sun Mi.
A light sleeper, Hyun Chul sat up when he felt Sun Mi’s fingers moved. He looked at Sun Mi and noticed her eyes were open.
He was overjoyed that she was conscious. “Sun Mi, so you’ve finally decided to wake up? I’m Hyun Chul. How do you feel?”
She tried to talk but her parched throat prevented her from voicing out what she wanted to say.
Hyun Chul took the glass of water from the side table and held it under her chin. He gently placed the straw between her lips. She took a tiny sip and slowly shook her head.
She whispered so softly; he had to bend down to hear her.
“Your little friend? Don’t worry, she’s fine.” Actually, he did not know how Brenda was – he just wanted to put her mind at ease.
She turned her head in his direction and seemed to be looking at him. After what seemed like an eternity, she smiled and said weakly, “Don’t frown so.”
“Sun Mi, what did you say?” The surprised Hyun Chul tried to verify what he heard. However, Sun Mi had fallen asleep again – a tiny smile on her face.
He was certain she had told him not to frown. How could she have known he was frowning? Was it possible that she could see him? Leaning closer, he took his time to study her face.
Little does she realize how much she has grown to mean to him. She would probably refuse to see him again if she had any inkling of the intensity of his feelings for her. She has always said she did not want to be a burden to anyone. He knew he meant her blindness. But what if she regains her sight? Would she then allow him into her heart and give him a chance to make her happy?
He whispered in her ear, “It’s too late for me to turn back. No matter what, I’ll never let you go!”
Early the next morning, Woo Jin arrived at the hospital. Sun Mi was still asleep. He smiled when he saw the numerous baskets of flowers, fruits and even balloons in her room. He removed the card from an exceptionally large basket of flowers and recognized Hyun Chul’s scrawl on the card. He placed the card back on the flowers. The balloons were addressed to ‘Dearest Sunny’.
“Sunny?” Woo Jin grinned. It must be from Brenda – Sun Mi had told him about her little patient.
Dr. Campbell entered the room with another doctor following behind. Woo Jin was not pleased to see Hyun Chul was with them.
“Good morning, Mr. Jin. This is Ophthalmic Surgeon, Dr. Chan, who treated Ms. Jin 3 years ago.”
Woo Jin was perplexed. “Yes, I remember Dr. Chan.” He asked the surgeon, “Has her fall caused more damage to her eyes?”
Dr. Campbell turned to Hyun Chul and suggested he tells Woo Jin what happened last night.
“I have reason to believe that Sun Mi’s sight has returned. I told Dr. Campbell last night and he said he would call Dr. Chan to examine her.”
“Could it be true?” Woo Jin was so happy at the possibility, he gripped Hyun Chul’s arm.”
It was Dr. Chan who replied. “That’s why I’m here – to find out. As Ms. Jin is still asleep, we’ll let her wake up first.” He turned to Dr. Campbell and said jokingly, “Ms. Jin’s a real popular lady, isn’t she? Here, 4 handsome men are waiting for her to wake up and she doesn’t even know it!”
Dr. Campbell replied dourly, “I beg your pardon. It’s only 2 because old geezers don’t count!”
Dr. Chan argued, “Ok, 3 then. I’m too young to be labeled “old geezer.”
“Hah!” Dr. Campbell had to have the last word.
It was Hyun Chul who noticed that Sun Mi was stirring.
Dr. Chan suggested that Woo Jin and Hyun Chul wait in the reception lounge until he has examined Sun Mi.
In the lobby, the tension between Woo Jin and Hyun Chul was evident. Both did not quite know what to say to each other. Hyun Chul decided that it was an appropriate time that they both had a talk.
“Woo Jin, I do not know what had caused the strain on our friendship. All I know is – you do not approve of my proximity with Sun Mi. Even though we had lost contact for many years, I have not changed. I’m still the same person I was when we played together as children, when we were in school, when we were growing up.”
Hyun Chul waited for Woo Jin to respond. When he did not, Hyun Chul added, “If I can mend fences with you, I would do everything in my power to resolve our strained friendship. But if you want me to give up the one and only person who means the world to me - in exchange for our friendship - this, I am not prepared to do.”
Woo Jin got up and walked to the window. For a long moment, he did not say anything. Without turning to face Hyun Chul, he finally replied, “In all honesty, I do know you are sincere in your feelings towards Sun Mi. I know you would not never cause her hurt.”
He turned to face Hyun Chul. “You should know the real reason I disapprove of your relationship with Sun Mi. It’s because I love her too. I have loved her for so long, I can’t even recall the exact moment when I fell in love with her.” He sat down.
“After the accident, I thought she would give me a chance to prove my love for her. But I know she considers me the brother she never had. You know – I finally realised that I would never have her love because she has given it to someone else.”
Hyun Chul was in despair. “She loves another man?”
Woo Jin nodded sadly, “Mrs. Cole told me that just before Sun Mi lost consciousness, she called out your name.”
Tears brimmed in both men’s eyes for different reasons - Woo Jin shed tears for unrequited love – Hyun Chul’s tears were for the love he failed to protect when she needed him most.
It was at this moment that Dr. Chan and Dr. Campbell appeared before them.
“It’s good news!”
AAE: A Certain Smile
Author: Margie L
Two weeks after the miraculous recovery of her sight, Sun Mi sat on a bench on the hospital grounds. She reveled in seeing things with her newly restored sight. She could never get tired of looking at the lovely blue sky, the trees, plants, grass – just about everything she could lay her eyes on.
Dr. Chan had told her that it was highly probable her sight returned due to the head trauma she suffered when she fell onto pavement. He also said he knew of cases similar to Sun Mi’s – such as the blind without retinal or nerve damage could regain their sight from such traumas. However, it depends on the individual. In Sun Mi’s case, she should consider herself extremely lucky to have her sight restored. He also advised that Sun Mi should continue to attend regular check-ups to monitor her progress.
Sun Mi had refused to press charges against Jake. Michael and Jean had been to the hospital to visit her and to thank her for returning Jake to them. She told them that if Jake had not acted as he had, perhaps she would still be walking with a white cane. In a way, the accident was a blessing in disguise. She advised Jake to continue with his studies and not to threaten Brenda ever again.
Deep in her thoughts, she was startled when someone touched her hand.
“Hi!” The handsome man sitting beside was holding a big bouquet of red roses. Even though she had known he was good looking after she had touched his face for the first time – she still could not believe how handsome he is each time she looks at him.
When she woke up in the hospital room, she felt panicky when she realised she could see. It had taken her sometime to register everything in her room. When she turned her head and saw him, she knew immediately who he was.
She smiled at him and looked at the flowers. “Are the roses for me?”
“Who said they are?” He teased. “It’s for the beautiful nurse who takes such good care of you.”
She laughed. The “beautiful” nurse is middle-aged, rotund and motherly Nurse Cha.
Not for the first time, Hyun Chul noticed Sun Mi’s smile. She has that certain, impish smile that totally changes her countenance. He could not help himself - he hugged her and brushed his cheek against hers.
“I would love to see you smile more often.”
“Would you like to walk around the garden?” She nodded. He held her hand. Her head was still bandaged and some hair had grown back a bit. Although her shoulder no longer required a sling, she still experiences some soreness. She had lost so much weight, Hyun Chul worried about her health. However, he was greatly relieved when Nurse Cha informed him earlier that morning, her appetite has improved and she was eating more than before.
Sun Mi turned around. “It’s Brenda.” She told a bemused Hyun Chul. A little blonde girl with the most angelic face was running towards Sun Mi and Hyun Chul. A smiling, young woman with similar features was following behind her.
Sun Mi was just as happy to see her favorite patient. “Brenda!” The high-spirited little girl would have knocked Sun Mi down had Mrs. Cole not shouted out to her.
“Brenda! Stop right there!” Mrs. Cole caught up with her daughter. “Sunny’s shoulder is still sore. Don’t pull her hand!”
The little girl had stopped when her mother called out to her. She nodded. Sun Mi held out her good hand to Brenda and drew the little girl to her. They sat down on the grass. She introduced Hyun Chul to Mrs. Cole.
“Sunny, does your shoulder still hurts?” Brenda wanted to know.
“Just a teeny bit. I miss you so much, Brenda. How have you been?” She hugged the little girl. “Ooh, I forgot to thank you for the lovely balloons.” She kissed the little girl on her cheek. “Thank you. You know, all the nurses wanted my Mickey Mouse balloons; but I shooed them away. I told them they couldn’t have any of my balloons because they’re from a very, very special friend.”
Brenda giggled. “I will buy for them when they’re sick.” She said generously. “Sunny, I missed you too. You can see me now, Sunny?” She looked at Sun Mi’s eyes.
“I can see you as clear as day, honey. And I was right! You are the beautifulest little girl I have ever seen.”
The little girl was happy at being complimented. She giggled again but felt she had to correct Sunny. “Sunny, you have made a mistake.” She chided her Sunny. “It’s most beautiful, not beautifulest!”
Sun Mi laughed. “Oops! You’re right. What a clever little girl you are!” Mrs. Cole and Hyun Chul laughed too. It was obvious Sun Mi and little Brenda shares a strong bond.
“Who’s he?” Brenda asked pointing at Hyun Chul.
Her mother admonished her. “Brenda, it’s rude to point and you should say “Uncle”, not
Sun Mi replied, “He’s Uncle Yun, my friend.” She introduced Hyun Chul. “Uncle Yun, this is Miss Brenda Cole.”
Hyun Chul held out his hand. “My lady, I’m very pleased to meet you.”
She put her small hand in Hyun Chul’s. Brenda whispered in something in Sun Mi’s ear. Her lips twitched as she looked at Hyun Chul.
“Oh, Uncle Yun. Miss Brenda Cole wanted to know if she could call you Uncle Handsome!”
“Is that right, Miss Cole?” Brenda nodded solemnly. Hyun Chul’s face was serious as he pretended to think hard. He rubbed his chin, “Why not? It’s a pretty good name!”
Heads turned in the direction of their laughter.
Sun Mi took a good look around the apartment she shares with Woo Jin. After 3 years of darkness, everything looked different in colour. She looked at the many paintings done by Woo Jin. The one that Woo Jin had painted of her and Judge was suspended over the mantel. She ran her fingers over the artwork of her beloved dog. Tears misted her eyes.
“Thank you for everything, Judge. Are you happy where you now are?” She spoke softly.
Woo Jin entered the apartment with Sun Mi’s bag. Hyun Chul had wanted to help Sun Mi get discharged from hospital but Woo Jin had insisted he would do it.
“Are you tired? Perhaps you should lie down for a while.” Woo Jin fussed over Sun Mi. She laughingly told him that she was no longer an invalid. She had recovered from her injuries and her hair had grown so long, she had to wear it up. Although thinner than before, Woo Jin thought she looked even more enchanting with her hair long.
“Here, sit down for a while. We have not talked for ages. I have something to say to you.” Woo Jin sat on the sofa opposite Sun Mi, looked at her and smiled.
“Now that you can see me, do you think I look as handsome as before?” He joked.
Sun Mi laughed and obligingly replied, “Certainly! Is it the only thing you wanted to talk about?” Woo Jin laughed too.
“Sun Mi, I’m very happy that you have regained your sight.” He told her in a subdued tone. “I feel that with Hyun Chul around to take care of you, I should return to Korea. My partner plans to open a new art gallery and he has invited me to join him. I am keen to take up his offer.”
“In that case, I am very happy for you. But I shall miss you.” She got up and sat down beside him. “You have been such a rock to me all these years – I do not know if I could cope without you around.” Sun Mi told him and took his hands in hers in sisterly affection.
“But I know I can’t depend on you and Hyun Chul forever. Both of you have your own lives to lead. I think Hyun Chul would also be returning to Korea soon.” She looked so sad at that thought; Woo Jin had to tell her.
“Even if Hyun Chul returns to Korea, I bet he would take you along with him.”
“Why would he want to do that? I’m just an acquaintance to him.”
“Haven’t you guessed his feelings for you? He has confessed to me that he loves you. I know you feel the same way about him.”
Sun Mi blushed. Woo Jin continued. “When you were blind, you had the silly notion that you would be a burden to the man who loves you. But you’re no longer blind. You should give Hyun Chul and yourself a chance to make each other happy.”
“Sun Mi, happiness does not come to you – you have to look for it. You’ve been unhappy for so many years. Now is the time for you to strive to find happiness with Hyun Chul. If you can assure me of this, my mind would be at rest when I return to Korea.”
“Woo Jin, I don’t know what to say. Why are you so good to me?”
“You’re my cousin and my only relative – that’s why.” He stood up, “Now, go and take a rest. I will prepare a snack for you. Hyun Chul said he would be coming over tonight.”
After dinner that evening, Woo Jin deliberately left the apartment – to give Hyun Chul and Sun Mi a chance to talk.
They were sitting on Sun Mi’s bed. She showed Hyun Chul photographs of her parents and aunt. Sun Mi lamented that the painting was the only picture she had of Judge.
“I like that painting very much and I wanted to buy it from Woo Jin. But he refused to sell it to me.”
“He has given it to me. I’m not selling it either, so you can forget it.” Sun Mi told him before he could get any ideas of persuading her to sell the painting.
“If it’s yours, it’s mine too!” Sun Mi looked at him, not quite understanding his innuendo.
He held her hand. “You know I love you. But if you want me to say it, I will say it a thousand times - everyday. I want to make you forget whatever sadness you experienced in your past. I want to see you happy. Please say you’ll accept my love.”
He waited tensely for her answer. He noticed her lashes were wet with tears. She hesitantly placed her arms around his neck and went into his arms.
“I love you too!” She replied so softly, he pretended he did not hear her.
She moved away from him and poked him in the ribs. “You heard!”
He laughed, “Yes, I did. And I want to thank you for giving me your love. I promise you I will treasure it forever. I will smooth away your frown lines.”
She touched her forehead. “I don’t have any frown lines because I never frown. You are the one who does that all the time!” She took a mirror Woo Jin had bought for her and held it in front of him. “See the lines?”
He laughed and took the mirror from her. Replacing it on her dresser, he pulled back on the bed.
But he was serious when he told her, “I have to return to Korea next month. My work here is almost complete and my father will be sending someone here to run this branch.”
Sun Mi got up and moved away from him. She was dreading this moment – even though she knew he would have to return to Korea one fine day. He went to her and placed his arms around her. “I want you to return to Korea with me. I want to introduce you my parents – as my future wife.”
She turned to face him. He took out a ring from the pocket of his jacket and took her left hand. He looked questioningly at her. She smiled tremulously and nodded. He slid the ring on her ring finger. They share a tender kiss.
A few moments later, Hyun Chul asked, “Where to do want to live – Korea or London?”
A few weeks later, on the day of their return to Korea, Sun Mi’s friends and colleagues were at the airport to see them off. Woo Jin has decided to return together with Sun Mi and Hyun Chul. Mrs. Cole and Brenda were also at the airport. The little girl was taking Sun Mi’s departure very hard.
She cried, and pulled Sun Mi’s hand away from Hyun Chul’s. She no longer wanted to call him “Uncle Handsome – now, he’s “Bad Uncle” to her, because he’s taking Sunny away from her.
“Sunny, don’t go with that bad Uncle!” Mrs. Cole looked apologetically at Hyun Chul.
“I’m sorry. She’s very attached to Miss Jin.” She explained to Hyun Chul.
“It’s okay. May I talk to her?” Mrs. Cole nodded and replied, “I would appreciate if you would.”
Hyun Chul bent down to talk to Brenda, who was clinging to Sun Mi’s neck. He gently pried the little girl’s hands from Sun Mi’s neck and drew her to him.
Teary blue eyes looked accusingly at him. “Brenda, see that table over there? Why don’t you and I go over there to have a little chat?”
He held out his hand. Brenda looked at Hyung Chul’s hand and then slowly, put her small one in his.
“Brenda, you don’t want to call me Uncle Handsome anymore?
“No! You’re bad! I don’t like you anymore!” The little girl pouted.
“Brenda, I’m taking Sunny back to Korea to get married. Then I will be bringing Sunny back to stay. You will see Sunny again very soon.”
When she heard that, her face brightened. “Really? You’ll bring Sunny home – for good?”
“Yes. I never lie to pretty little girls like you.” He touched her upturned nose. He took out a pocket calendar from his wallet, circled a date with his pen and handed it to Brenda.
“See the circle on this calendar. I promise you that Sunny and I will be back on this date. Then you can see Sunny everyday if you want.”
The little girl finally smiled. She was happy that Sunny would be coming back. Hand in hand, they walked back to their friends.
In the plane, with Woo Jin a few seats behind them, Sun Mi and Hyun Chul were oblivious to everyone around them.
“What did you tell Brenda? She was so happy after you had talked to her.”
“I told her the truth. That we’ll be coming back for good.”
“You didn’t tell me that! You said we’ll get married in Seoul, come back to England to finalise everything, then return to Korea to stay. I thought that was what you wanted too.”
“It was – but not anymore. I have told my father that after we’re married, I will return to England to run the branch office. You can continue to work in the hospital. I know you would have preferred to stay on in London. It was for my sake that you said you wanted to live in Korea.”
“What about your parents? Would they blame me for your decision? And are you sure you can get used to life in England?”
“What a worrywart you are. Just to put your mind at ease – my parents have always backed whatever decisions I make. They won’t blame you – they would love you.” He kissed her hand. “With you by my side, any place would be heaven!”
That's the way it is for Hyun Chul & Sun Mi. This is curtains for "A Certain Smile". Hope you all enjoyed reading this short sequel. Thank you.