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yellow chrysanthemums

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Perhaps
to make a Chrysanthemum bloom,
the owl must have cried since spring.

Perhaps
to make a Chrysanthemum bloom,
the thunder must have cried in the dark clouds.

 


Eunho isn't allowed many visitors once the trial begins.

Minki visits like clockwork, insisting he be allowed in regardless of the hours. After the first three times, the hospital staff relent and let him in on the promise that he won't cause trouble. He mostly sticks to that promise.

Jiheon is the next regular guest. Well as regular as a detective on active duty can be in a city where crime never stops.

Sometimes Sooyoung tags along but she never really knows what to do while Jiheon rambles on. Eunho doesn't mind. The situation eventually devolves into the detective sharing eye rolls with him at whatever incredulous story Jiheon decides to share.

On days where Minki and Jiheon show up together, Jiheon is calmer. He gives Minki life advice and concurs with Eunho when Eunho does the same. He still gets very excitable when Minki mentions anything that might cause trouble and Eunho is glad someone is there to help Minki stay on the right path when Eunho won't be.

Last but not the least, he gets a visit from the lawyer Taejoo appointed. His elder brother is in police custody so the lawyer is the only means of communication they have. Those discussions are brief and awkward. It's always news of developments in the trial and list of instructions on what to do and what not to do. Eunho takes them at face value and does his best to cooperate.

Most of the time he has moments of quiet with either his phone or the television running in the background for company. There are no other patients in the ward and the television is too far away for him to actually watch anything. It's not like a dramatized soap would actually hold his attention.

He thinks about reading sometimes. A book was always the quickest way to pass the time. But now books remind him of the study and what transpired in the Chairman's study and he decides that it isn't worth the revisit.

Maybe when his shoulder heals, he can sketch again.

Wookyung's visit is a surprise. It's not expected. People rarely try to visit someone who held them at gunpoint and threatened to kill them.

Wookyung defies expectations.

"How have you been?" she asks. It's the same time he has seen the psychologist use on little children in their first consultation. The formality isn't unwarranted. The care isn't unwelcome.

"I've been… healing" Eunho says, holding his arm up. He doesn't meet her eyes.

He thinks back to the day they drove down to the lighthouse. Would he have really killed her? Even in a fit of helpless rage, he couldn't have hurt the one woman who treated him with care and kindness. And perhaps Wookyung being here is a sign that she knows this.

"How is your daughter?" Eunho asks. If she's making an effort then he can too.

"Eunseo's doing well. We met Hana the other day for a playdate. Hana is doing well too" Wookyung tells him. "They hoped to visit once you felt better and you could play with them."

"I don't think I am allowed any more visitors" Eunho says ruefully. Wookyung sighs in resignation. In the end, it will only be the thought that counts.

Eunho leans back and closes his eyes. Wookyung shifts a little. The silence is awkward and both of them don't know how to speak what is on their mind.

Eunho knows he must apologize but he doesn't want to ruin the understanding they have established. Maybe he should let sleeping lions lie. What is Wookyung decides never to forgive him and never to return?

"I found the girl in the green dress" Wookyung starts first. Her voice quivers under the facade of determination she has built up.

"Where was she?" Eunho asks curiously. He remembers the sketch. He also remembers his conversation with Wookyung as clear as day. Some memories are better forgotten lest they make your life hell.

"The girl in the green dress… was my little sister" Wookyung tells him. Eunho frowns. That isn't possible. That girl is too young to be her little sister.

"She was my sister who died many years ago. We found her body."

Eunho nods. A hallucination or a ghost. Wookyung grieved for her little sister without knowing it for many years. How many years had he repressed the memories of his abuse? Suddenly Wookyung looks more troubled than he has ever seen her be.

"How did you find her?" he asks.

"The body… the body was buried in the fireplace of our childhood home. My step mother killed her and my father buried the body. I lost my memory as a result of the trauma, only for it to resurface years later" she explains.

Wookyung is on the verge of tears so Eunho reaches out to console her. But his arm hasn't healed yet and the movement causes him pain which he bites back. He puts an arm on her shoulder and let's her cry.

Wookyung wipes her tears away and looks at him. "I was so angry that day. I was so angry that I could have killed my step mother. Sekyung stopped me" she recounts.

Eunho nods. He knows Wookyung's other sister who went far away to live. But she had visited her at the children's centre once. She was rather tall and fashionable, just like her step mother. It made sense that she would have stepped in to stop her elder sister.

"If Sekyung hadn't, I would have committed a great crime" she admits.

"We didn't have anyone to stop us. Only people who agreed with our righteous anger" he tells her.

"I was one of them" she recalls in agreement.

"I wonder if things would be different if someone had" he muses. Would he have lived a happier life if he hadn't aided his brother in the vigilante justice? Or would his helplessness have wasted him away.

"There are so many what ifs. So many possibilities" she replies.

"Life never made sense after I regained my memories. There was only pain, anger and… detachment. All of it was worth nothing, not worth living. Being the Red Cry was the only sense of purpose I had" he confesses.

"When Jiheon and I offered to send you far away from the Chairman, why didn't you take the offer? You could have left all the pain and suffering behind you."

"I had to help the children. Someone had to protect them."

Wookyung nods. It's not an agreement but an understanding of Eunho's reasoning. He wasn't a bad man at heart. Only misguided. And it makes his suffering more painful to watch.

"I never apologized for that day" Eunho says. It's starting to become a trend now. These late and bittersweet apologies that he owes.

"You were only trying to protect your brother."

"I could have hurt you. Weren't you scared?"

"No more than you were" she says. It's a simple statement but it makes Eunho feel understood for the first time. Jiheon and Minki won't understand the way Wookyung or Taejoo can. Exclusivity is a special kind of loneliness.

"Jiheon says you might get mandatory mental health counselling. I'm thinking of trying it too" Wookyung says finally.

The two of them are more weary in their soul than you can tell from their faces. This walk down memory lane and revisitation of feelings is exhausting. It's one he will ruminate on for days. It's another aspect of closure, but you can never close a floodgate without being wet by the water yourself.

Before spring comes, winter will. Before flowers bloom and saplings grow, frost will cover the ground. They will bleed before they heal from the deep wounds left on them.

"Do you think they will let you come meet me again?"

Despite the scarring, they will heal.


Oh, Chrysanthemum, looking like my elder sister,
who stands in front of her mirror
after a long journey through the back alleys of her youth,
her heart tightened by her longings and regrets.

Perhaps
to make your yellow petals bloom
the first frost must have fallen last night.
I could not sleep.