He brings his arm down.
Seungcheol gives out a forced smile at some parents cooing at his son who never fails to make everyone laugh. They’re at the playground in front of the school building as it’s already time for the kids to go home. Seungcheol was pretty much late when he exited his car, but seeing Soonyoung dancing around while another kid was playing a xylophone was enough to make him feel at ease.
He’s never late when he picks Soonyoung up.
“You really have a great son,” The awkward smile falls down and he faces Mingyu, tall man in a navy blue suit with a child in his arms. “I wish Seungkwan’s like that.”
“Did you just—“ Another male, probably his husband, sighs and hits his forehead. He takes the sobbing boy from Mingyu’s arms then looks at Seungcheol. He smiles. “I’m sorry about that. My name’s Jeon Wonwoo.”
That took Seungcheol by surprise. He takes a hand out as he observes Wonwoo’s very striking features.
They don’t look compatible at all.
“Is Soonyoung your son?”
“Yes, he is my son.”
They look at the direction of the mini stage some teachers set up. The boy is still dancing energetically in front of the parents as they clap in amusement. Even the baby in Wonwoo’s arms stops crying when they erupt in loud cheers. Soonyoung’s laugh is louder than the voices and music combined.
He stops abruptly though, when he catches a glimpse of his father by the side and his eyes widen slightly.
Seungcheol isn’t a confident soul out there. So when all eyes turn to him he goes in a deep shade of red that gets hidden by his scarf. Mingyu chuckles.
“Right, I forgot about your people phobia.”
“Appa!” Soonyoung is clinging on his legs in an instant. “Did you see me dance?! I did great, right?! Even Jihoon’s laughing!”
“Yeah! That kid over there!” The four of them look at the same direction but find no one sitting on the swing. It’s slightly moving though, all they see are leaves falling from the branch on top. “Huh. I guess he left?”
“You did great today!” Mingyu gives him a high-five. Soonyoung grins widely then makes grabby hands at the baby—Hansol’s his name, Seungcheol heard—who laughs at him back. “We better get going. See you at work tomorrow, hyung.”
“It was nice meeting you!” Wonwoo then takes another child’s hand who came running to them. “Say bye to Soonyoung, Seungkwan.”
The parent and son duo approach the car in front of the playground, Seungcheol making sure that Soonyoung’s belt is completely secured. He runs around the car to get to the driver’s seat.
“Appa, do I have taekwondo today?”
“Um not today, Soonyoung.” He drives away.
The father sees the flash of disappointment on his face. He gives out that forced smile he’s accustomed to before he parks the car in front of the house. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, appa. There might be a reason?”
Seungcheol could just watch as his son exits the car, his bang clinging around his neck. He has his own house keys that the parent doesn’t bother worrying about him as he enters the house.
He takes out his wallet and looks at their family picture.
“Younghee, what should I do?”
Seungcheol wakes up extra early the next day. He does his usual routine; stand from the bed, wipe his face with his wrinkled hands, get up, go straight to the bathroom, take a piss, then go straight to the kitchen. Taking a bath is his last priority. Forget about being late, his son needs him more.
He opens his internet browser to search for simple recipes that he can cook for Soonyoung. Right. Seungcheol’s never the good cook. He constantly looks for child-friendly stuff, despite having to raise Soonyoung for 3 years already.
He’s not that confident.
“Okay, here we go!” He wears the pink apron, suddenly feeling nostalgic about something but he shakes his head. “Now’s not the time to think about that.”
As he cooks more of the eggs he already cracked open, his son pops out of the living room with half-opened eyes and a deep frown.
Seungcheol’s almost finished and he’s just transferring everything in the lunch box.
“Good morni—What’s that smell?”
Seungcheol takes both his cheeks and kisses him straight on the lips.
After having breakfast and taking both their baths, Soonyoung jumps on the passenger sit. Seungcheol locks both their seatbelts then the engine is turned on.
It only takes 15 minutes to get to school, sometimes Seungcheol would have a few more minutes to spare before going to work. There are also times Mingyu and he would go to work together as they also live near the school. More time for their kids.
Everyone hears Mingyu’s dramatic scream followed by his son’s bag falling from his grasp when he closes the car door, Seungkwan running toward Soonyoung and his dad. Seungcheol snickers at him. Whenever he sees his colleague at school he can’t help but expect something clumsy happening. Mingyu grins at him then takes the bag, running to his overly excited son.
“I’m going to leave you for now, okay?”
Soonyoung smiles brightly at his dad. The single parent gives him a hug and a chaste kiss before dragging Mingyu back to his car. He’s always so dramatic whenever he leaves Seungkwan like he hasn’t raised him for 6 years.
“Let’s go to work, buddy.”
“Wonwoo’s in the car. Gotta drop him off to work.”
“Oh. Really?” Said guy emerges from the car. “Hey, Wonwoo.”
“He works at a—“
“Don’t. Kim Mingyu—“
“—flower shop he owns.”
Seungcheol hums in amazement. He then notices Wonwoo’s laid back fashion like he’s not going to work at all, then the huge bouquets at their car’s back seats.
“Okay! See you at work!”
“Yeah.” He watches the car speed away.
“Bye appa! I love you! Take care!”
Silence greets Jeonghan. The parent sighs, feeling his way inside his own house. His eyes are wide open but he can’t see anything, rather trying to sense if he’s in the right direction or not.
“Jihoon already left for school, hyung.” He slightly jumps at the voice. Chan walks toward him, takes his hand and guides him toward the counter. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine.” Jeonghan takes a sit. “How come you’re here? Don’t you have any class?”
“I actually do. But I figured I’d stop by since school’s on the way here.”
Jeonghan hums. “That’s very nice of you.”
They become enveloped in silence, Chan’s skillful hands all over the stove as he cooks something for the blind man. Jeonghan is occupied with a Braille book Jihoon gave him during fathers’ day, and he keeps on reading it even though he already did for hundreds of times.
As his hands scan the dots on the grainy paper he can’t help but feel devastated of his condition.
Jeonghan lost his sight 5 years ago, the same time his husband Jisoo died beside him. He remembers picking up the three-year-old Jihoon from his grandparent’s house, Jisoo promising them that they’ll come back sooner or later. What they didn’t expect was their son wouldn’t be able to visit them ever again as their car comes spinning on the slippery road, followed by blinding lights and the next thing Jeonghan knew, his eyes were wrapped with something, a very strong smell from his side, and then there was Jihoon crying and asking for his other dad.
Jeonghan remembers how much he screamed when he couldn’t take the bandage off. His whole body felt weak, Jihoon was clinging to him asking where Jisoo was. It was like the end of the world for him.
When they announced Jisoo died because of the crash, Jeonghan couldn’t feel any more pain. He felt numb.
He never had the chance to see his husband’s body before they buried it several feet under the ground. He remembers how their parents were on hysterics and assuring Jeonghan it was never his fault. It will never be his fault but how could they be so sure?
Chan takes the glass from Jeonghan’s hands. The younger sighs, wiping the sweat forming on his forehead. The water almost spilled all over the book and if Jihoon sees that he’ll get very upset.
“Are you okay?”
The house phone rings loudly and Chan takes it as an excuse from the growing awkward atmosphere. Time’s also ticking away and he needs to get to school before the clock strikes nine.
“Who is this?”
“Wait, who is this?”
“I think we dialed the wrong number.”
“ No, we didn’t.”
“ Hello ?” C han looks over his shoulder and sees Jeonghan looking at his direction. “This is Yoon Jeonghan’s friend. Do you need something?”
“Oh. Hi! My name’s Seokmin. Is he around?”
“Who is it?”
Chan puts the phone on his chest.
“He said his name is Seokmin.”
“Tell him I’m not around.”
Jeonghan closes his eyes. “Just tell him.”
Chan goes back to the phone. Several people are talking at the other side and he doesn’t know how to tell them. Seokmin goes back to the phone to ask about Jeonghan again.
“I’m sorry but he’s not around.”
“Are you sure? I think I just heard his voice.”
“Put the phone down, Chan.”
“I’m sorry. Bye!”
He slams the phone down, scaring both him and Jeonghan. He’s suddenly breathing deeply and he looks at the older’s eyes staring off the distance, a firm line on his face like he’s thinking of something.
Chan clears his throat and stands.
“I better go or else I’ll be late.”
Jeonghan holds on the couch.
“I’ll send you off.”
“Hyung, you don’t need to! You should just rest and finish your food, okay?” He pats him on the head before giving him a soft peck on the forehead. “Hyung, you know that I’ll always be here, right?”
“Yes Chan, I know that. But you don’t have to.” Jeonghan smiles at him. “Ace all your exams, kid.”
Jeonghan hears the click of the door and he whips his head around.
“Appa,” He can feel his kid walking toward him and then there he is on his lap, hugging him tight by the neck. “They bullied me again.”
Chan closes the door behind him silently, watching the two in pity.
He left school earlier than usual since they didn’t have study hall and decided to pick Jihoon up on the way. When he saw him waiting in the playgrounds, both of them gave each other big smiles but they turned sour in an instant as several children blocked Jihoon’s view.
Chan never felt so mad at kids before. He pushed through the small crowd, taking Jihoon in his arms and glaring at the others as hard as he could.
“Let’s keep this a secret, okay? Promise?” Jihoon shook his head at that.
“Again? What do you mean again?”
Jihoon isn’t the type of kid to cry so easily. It just became like that after Jisoo left them in tragedy.
“The other kids just keep on bullying me that’s why I don’t have friends.”
“Oh baby,” Jeonghan’s bottom lip quivers. Chan excuses himself with a small bow and leaves the house, feeling heavy he can’t do anything for the both of them. He’s good friends with Jeonghan ever since the older moved houses 4 years ago.
“Appa, don’t cry.”
“How can’t I? They’re bullying you and you never told me?”
“I’m telling you now?”
Jeonghan openly cries by now. Jihoon wipes his hands all over his dad’s face while giving him kisses.
“But I’m okay, though! They never touch me or hit me. I can fight them, too!”
“Don’t do that, Jihoonie.” He takes the child’s head and cradles him on his chest, sighing and letting the tears fall down freely. “Don’t do anything bad to others. But don’t let them do anything to you too.”
“Okay, appa. But stop crying!”
“I will, I will now.” He holds Jihoon’s hands as they wipe away his tears. “I love you so much, my Jihoonie. Never forget that.”
“Me too! I love appa and daddy!”
He stays silent for a while but Jeonghan cries again.
“Appa stop crying!”
“To—Tomorrow I’ll d—drop you off to your school okay? Okay?”
After having a light dinner and washing Jihoon with a bit of difficulty, both of them snuggle in the covers hugging each other. Jihoon falls asleep easily with his teddy bear in his arms, while Jeonghan hugs his own personal teddy bear with a small smile on his lips.
Good night, Jisoo.
He never felt so troubled falling asleep.