The comfortable home was not the smallest in the county – yet neither was it anywhere close to the largest. It was bricked in a yellow-orange stone, and despite the signs of wear and tear – clear indicators of the tightly stretched finances – the charming exterior shone through, evident in the blooming climbers that grew along the outside and up the sides of the house, and the general happiness and peace of the servants that tended to the family in the house and the tiny plot of land to which they were allowed.
A high pitched squeal rang out across the pristine fields – disturbing the creatures surrounding the comfortable property of the Chwe Family, and making all near persons wince.
“MY DARLING HANSOL! I HAVE NEWS! SURELY YOU HAVE HEARD?”
“I may not hear anything ever again after that racket.”
“Oh hush now, haven’t you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?”
“But it is! I just received the post, and Mrs. Lee told me all about it.”
A pause – a distinctly irritated and expectant pause.
“Don’t you wish to know who has taken it?”
“You want to tell me – and I suppose I have no objection to hearing it.”
Clearly this was suitable incentive for the owner of such exciting gossip – because the next words exploded forwards with all the usual flutter, characteristic of the husband of Hansol Chwe; Seungkwan Boo was excitable at the worst of times, and this was one of the best.
“Why, my darling, if you must know – Mr. Chae says that Netherfield has been snapped up by a young man with a considerable fortune… And that he came down on Monday to see the place, and without a thought, he seemed enchanted with the place and was moving in the next day – and he is expected to be here by Thursday!”
“And did your informant specify a name?”
“Of course, you give me so little credit, darling – his name is Choi. Seungcheol Choi.”
“And is he married or single?”
At this there was a slight titter.
“Oh… single. A single man of large fortune – what a fine thing for our babies!”
“How so? How does it affect them?”
Hansol’s voice was gently teasing; equal parts amused and affectionate. This was not the first time that his husband had been in a tizzy over the prospects of marriage for their children, and it wouldn’t be the last.
“Oh! Hansol! You vex me so! You must know that I plan on him marrying one of them!”
“And is that his design in settling here?”
“Design?! Nonsense, how can you talk so!? But it is very likely that he just may fall in love with one of them, and therefore you must visit him as soon as he comes!”
“I don’t see a need for that. If you want to ensnare him, then you and the boys should go, or you should send them alone – which might be a better idea, for you are as handsome as any of them, and Mr. Choi may like you the best of the party.”
“My darling, you flatter me so – though whilst I am beautiful to you, I am older now – and raising five children was rendered me quite… exhausted. I am afraid it is reflective in my outer appearance. But my darling, you must go and see him – what was that?”
Quick footsteps to the door were all the warning the two eavesdropping members of the Chwe family got, and with a screech of excitement, Soonyoung and Mingyu fled as their father wrenched open the door.
“Heathens! Get back here!”
Of course, Hansol had no such inclination to ignore his beloved husband’s request. Contrary to popular belief – that once married to Seungkwan he would grow tired with the demanding man – Hansol’s love for his impulsive and passionate husband remained as strong as the day they met. Five children later, and despite all the worries and tribulations that came with upholding a family so large – Hansol wouldn’t change it for the world.
And he would like to see one of his eldest married well.
So, his audience with Mr. Choi Seungcheol went ahead – and armed with the promise of seeing the man at the welcoming dance to be held soon at the Lee’s, he ventured home in happier spirits. Taeyong and Mark Lee, and their son, Seokmin, had a modest estate – not nearly the size of Netherfield – but large enough so that the aforementioned ball could take place comfortably.
His family were sat in the sitting room – his husband pointedly facing away from him as he entered, darning one of his favourite shirts. Predictably, Soonyoung and Mingyu were engaged in some sort of contest, involving forehead flicking as punishment for losing. Joshua was sat near them, sniffing haughtily at them, whilst privately hoping to be asked to join, hand clenched around his piano forte notes. His two eldest sons sat together by the window, beauty illuminated by the setting sun perfectly framing them. He supposed that his eldest – Jeonghan – knew of the effect that this particular positioning had upon his aesthetic beauty, but his second eldest, Junhui, remained – as always – oblivious to his own handsomeness. Jun’s eyes were running fervently over the pages of the book he held, Jeonghan fighting his usual sleepiness as his eyes blinked slowly, and Hansol smiled with fondness at the sight of them all.
Soonyoung – still suffering from an affliction of a mild cold – broke out into another bought of coughing, making Seungkwan sigh irritably. “Do not cough so, Soonyoung, for heaven’s sakes! Have a little compassion on my nerves! You tear them to pieces… much like many in this room.” He said pointedly.
Soonyoung, red-faced with the effort of suppressing his coughs, looked at Hansol in supplication, and he decided to take pity on his son. “Soonyoung has no discretion in his coughs… he times them ill.”
Indignant, Soonyoung made a squawking sound. “I don’t cough for amusement!” Huffing, he looked around for a subject change, eyes zeroing in on his elder brother. “Junnie – when is the next ball to be?”
Jun looked up from his book, squinting in thought. “Tomorrow week.”
“Yes it is so!” Seungkwan cried suddenly, throwing a hand over his eyes dramatically, “And Miss Manoban won’t be back till the day before – so it will be impossible for her to introduce him, for she will not know him herself!”
Hansol couldn’t help it, and smiled, taking a seat in his armchair. “Then, my heart, you may have the advantage of your friend, and introduce Mr. Choi to her.”
“Oh how you tease and torment me, Hansol! It is impossible – for I am not acquainted with him myself.” Seungkwan moaned, and slumped further into his chair – wondering whether or not it was occasion to squeeze out a fake tear or two – if only to show his husband how poorly his treatment was. “I am sick of Mr. Choi!”
But Hansol’s next words stayed any and all desire to punish him wonderful husband.
“Well, if I had known that you were sick of him – I would have not bothered to visit him this morning.”
The resulting excitement from all in the room – bar his three eldest sons – took a little while to settle, and when it did, Seungkwan was still seated on his lap, from where he had flung himself in adoration. “You are too good to us, darling!” Seungkwan pressed another kiss to Hansol’s cheek, still breathless in excitement. “Isn’t your father good, boys?” There was a chorus of affirmatives, and Seungkwan beamed. But then his smile dropped, and he leapt from Hansol’s lap as if burned. “But there is much to do! New clothes, and carriage fixings, and Mingyu shall need new shoes, and-”
Hansol sat back and let the bustling of his husband wash over him, content with his actions. It did not escape his notice that the look shared between Jeonghan and Jun was tinted with barely veiled excitement. His heart panged as once again, he wished privately for their happiness.