Chapter 197: Chapter 197
Jooin stopped his awkward laugh after my remark. He then directed his eyes on me. I pulled a face at him. This time, I moved my hand to grab his hand.
There was then a short and obstinate silence. The black branches outside the window swayed with a rustle. Jooin blinked his eyes. At last, he detached his lips.
“An incredible thing?”
As if his screw fell out, Jooin’s voice came out with a rattle. He opened his mouth again.
“Do you think that it’s such an incredible thing?”
“Look. Earlier, you said that the reason you got mad about what happened to me was that my good deed wasn’t compensated. Since I behaved respectfully to them, they should’ve, at least, treated me the same; however, they didn’t even feel sorry for me, which drove you nuts.”
“So was I, who got upset for the same reason. I overlooked what they did wrong to me and just moved on. Of course, it was because I didn’t want to waste my energy on such a thing; besides, I thought that they would reflect on their conduct and zip their lips. The kids, however, lost their tempers while blaming me that I had my mouth shut because there was something shady about me. That was why I also threw a fit.”
Jooin’s head moved up and down to a small degree. Drawing my breath in, I continued my words.
“On the one hand, it means that I wanted to be rewarded for my commonsensical behavior. Compensation for my good deed, which is equivalent to others treating me kindly.”
“You, however, spoke to me that you aren’t gonna get mad despite others turning their back on you. Neither get angry nor revenge, that was what you just said. Still, you treat others as nice as you should, even if you don’t want anything from them. That’s just…”
“That’s just volunteer work. Come on, you’re not a volunteer.”
Regardless of him calling me, I spat out my words and gasped for breath.
Ever since we had our feet in this different universe, the air surrounding us turned extremely frigid. Still, a bead of sweat ran across my forehead and was about to drop under my chin.
Dropping my gaze at the floor, I didn’t say a word for a while. That was when Jooin, in front of me, slowly opened his mouth. I lifted my eyes.
“Mama, how can you call a swindler a volunteer? Aren’t you being too optimistic?”
What he just said made me furrow. I raised my eyes to glare straight at Jooin’s face. Between his wet lashes, Jooin’s brown hair shone dimly under the moonlight. I opened my mouth.
“If you were a swindler, you should’ve laid this down. Who gets hurt by your fraud?”
“They are, of course, those who trust that I’m a good person.”
“Well, then if you reveal your true nature, what will they do?”
Jooin opened and closed his lips for a second. He then opened his eyes wide and looked at me as if he had realized something amazing. I could see in the dark that his cheeks were tinged pale.
“How would’ve they reacted if you were yourself from the very beginning instead of acting a different personality as yourself?” I asked as if I were about to cry.
“They will, what?”
“They will no longer find interest in being with me and get hurt…”
Jooin paused to continue his words and shut his mouth eventually. ‘Geez…’ Sinking my head on my chest, I fetched a deep sigh.
Jooin remained silent. I could, however, tell that he was lost in thought from the slight loosening of his grip on my hand. Averting his gaze, I just bit my lips.
I could hardly believe that neither Jooin nor Eun Jiho had something this simple in mind. Well, in Eun Jiho’s case, the emotionless image he saw from Jooin as a child was so big that it might have been too much for him to grasp Jooin’s true nature. Jooin, on the other hand… the woman’s remark was too deeply engraved inside him to think further and positively about himself.
‘But still, how could he…’ rambling those thoughts, I firmly grabbed the other side of his hand that wasn’t holding mine.
I said, “You, eventually, didn’t want to hurt anyone.”
Looking pale, Jooin made no response. I bit my lips again then kept on my words.
“You said that you are a bad person; that’s why you’re acting nicely in fear of hurting others. You, however, told me how guilty you were to keep acting. Why would you feel guilty? I mean, what’s so bad about it? You don’t need to treat yourself as a sinner. All you wanted to do was to not hurt other’s feelings but please them. Is that so wrong? I don’t know. I really don’t understand at all that you’re bad.”
“That’s why you’re an easily understandable person. Geez, you’re a good person, Jooin. That’s all I could think about.”
“And there’s something else… that I’m concerned about.”
Jooin, at last, raised his gaze. Our eyes met in the air again. Drawing my breath in, I slowly continued.
“… The fact that you’re feeling tough… I never knew until now that you were smiling at us with those feelings inside you. You may have that sweetest look in front of us, but later feel so unbearable. I hate that, Jooin.”
“I’m afraid you’re forcing yourself to smile when you’re not having fun to make us happy. I think it’s going to scare me. That’s what I’m worried about.”
Jooin stared at me with a pale look. Holding his hand, I flung a question.
“Do you remember back then, when Yeo Ryung had something going on, talked about it in our house, and later cried?”
He responded with a nod.
“No one among us would’ve felt excited about it. How did you feel at that moment, Jooin? Were you annoyed because you weren’t happy with the kids?”
“Then, do you think we’ll be disappointed since we’re not having fun with you? In your perspective, you’re the one who should always entertain us, but you didn’t play that role. Thus, do you think we’ll get angry and turn away from you because you let us down?”
Jooin quickly lifted his head at last. He opened his mouth as if there was something to say; however, he closed his lips and sealed the words. With his face waving in confusion, Jooin directed his eyes on me in silence. Locking eyes with him, I smiled weakly then asked him again.
“Of course, not, huh?”
Jooin then nodded his head. Holding his hands for a while, I waited for his next response. His cheeks were still pale; eyes were lost in thought. I decided to wait a little longer for him. With that thought, I suddenly moved my eyes out of the window.
A world where time was frozen like a picture on canvas… The swings outside the window were still swaying back and forth; the black branches shook in the dark… In the meantime, the only proof of a time flow seemed to be Jooin’s warm hand grabbing mine, so I grasped his hand a bit more firmly, thinking, ‘Anyway, I wish he’s no more in pain.’
It was now that I finally understood the exasperated remark Eun Jiho spat out to the woman. The reason why Eun Jiho, who seldom hate other people, was averse to the woman was that she made Jooin fall into self-hate for the whole time.
We can think for ourselves about whether we are a good person or not. We can distinguish and conclude it with our heads. It is, however, so different in the end to say that I am a good person by myself and by others. Looking at Ban Yeo Ryung, I am very aware of this.
Holding her own hands together, she repeated that she didn’t do anything wrong; however, when I quietly stepped closer to her with my hand on her shoulder and replied, ‘Yeah, you did nothing wrong,’ Ban Yeo Ryung collapsed with tears. From that experience, I clearly knew about the power of positive words stated by others.
Ban Yeo Ryung was in need of supportive comments. I, however, never knew that these were necessary to Jooin as well.