Ji Hyuk’s decision to take his wife to the beach for their wedding anniversary hadn’t been a sudden one. It had been building up over time. After a visit to his mother-in-law, he couldn’t help but notice the undercurrent of her depression.
The memory of her pale, tear-streaked face and muffled sobs in the hospital haunted him. He longed for the warmth of her smile, the one she reserved for Mrs. Seo, their helper. He pondered whether a trip to the sea might help lift her spirits. It was the first time since their marriage that he had contemplated planning an anniversary celebration.
Ji Hyuk sat by the window, idly rubbing his chin with his fingers, gazing out at the thunderstorm raging outside.
Suddenly, a piercing, frantic voice shattered the tranquility of the moment. “Youngest wife!”
Ji-hyuk froze, the name reverberating in his ears. There was only one person in their house who was referred to as the youngest wife. Slowly, he turned his head.
“Youngest wife!” the voice cried out again, urgency in every syllable. Ji Hyuk sprung to his feet, his long legs carrying him swiftly in the direction of the screams.
“What are you doing…?!” he exclaimed as he approached the source of the commotion. Jihyeok’s eyes widened to tears. He couldn’t even see the woman covering her mouth and shaking.
The world turned red. Red blood was flowing from her body. What the hell? “Yunseul!”
Ji-hyuk stops breathing and rushes to her on the floor. He kneels and shakes her, but she doesn’t stir.
He can’t even hear her breathing, just like she’s not alive. He can’t feel anything warm in her palm.
“911! Call 911!”
He’d never yelled out loud before, and he’d never felt so helpless. No, he had never been so taken aback. “Yunseul, open your eyes. Yunseul!”
His voice is trembling. His breathing is rough. He is becoming worried since she does not awaken when he shakes her.
“Open your eyes. Wake up.”
His fingers tremble as he feels blood flow from her body. Ji-hyuk raises his hand and cups her cold face in his palm.
His nose was stung by the scent of blood, leaving him disoriented and unable to determine its source. All he desired was for her to awaken, fervently hoping and praying that nothing had gone wrong. Ji-hyuk’s hand, which cradled her unconscious form, suddenly detected something warm.
Ji-hyuk’s eyes were filled with fear as he gazed down at his palm, now drenched in crimson and dark blood. It was a quantity of blood he had never witnessed before, causing his stomach to churn and his head to spin with dizziness.
“Yunseul, please open your eyes. Please!” he implored desperately.
Frustrated by the absence of the 911 call response, he was on the verge of lifting her and rushing her to the hospital himself when he suddenly heard the arrival of the 911 responder.
A paramedic entered the house and requested him to step aside so he could assess her, but he couldn’t bring himself to release her. He felt as though if he let go, she would simply vanish.
Ji-hyuk backed away from the crowd. Ji-hyuk staggered to his feet. The smell of blood lingered deep in his nostrils. He wiped the blood from his palms onto his clothes.
Now that it’s cooled, the congealed blood shouldn’t be hot, but it feels like it’s burning.
“Did she fall down the stairs?”
the paramedic asked, and Ji-hyuk’s gaze shifted to Mrs. Seo who was shaking with her mouth covered.
“Yes. She was already rolling down the stairs when I saw her.”
His brow furrowed. There was no reason for her to fall down the stairs. The stairs weren’t high, and even if she had lost her footing, there was no way she could have been hurt enough to roll down the stairs and bleed out.
The paramedic examined her and exchanged quiet words with a colleague.
“Is there any chance she could be pregnant?” he asked.
“No,” Ji-hyuk responded immediately, but the paramedic shook his head.
“She’s bleeding from between her legs,” the paramedic stated urgently.
Between her legs? The paramedic emphasized the need to rush her to the hospital and placed her on a stretcher. Ji-hyuk entered the ambulance with her and noticed that there was no visible bleeding at all.
He couldn’t fathom what had transpired. She had fallen down the stairs, so why was there unexplained bleeding from her legs?
“Are you certain she’s not pregnant?” the paramedic attaching the blood pressure machine to her inquired once more.
“Yes I am,” Ji-hyuk replied with conviction, fully aware that she wasn’t pregnant.
“You’ll need to go to Seoju Hospital.”
“Okay,” Ji-hyuk acknowledged.
The paramedic in the ambulance used the phone to inform him that they should head to West China Hospital. The paramedic driving in front of him nodded in agreement, and they set off on their way.
A few minutes later, Ji-hyuk arrived in front of the emergency room at Suzhou Hospital, rain pouring down relentlessly. As the ambulance doors swung open, he was met by a team of medical professionals who had been alerted in advance.
“Quickly, what’s wrong with this woman… No, this woman…”
Seo Ji-hyuk struggled to articulate, his speech faltering as he bent over and clutched his knees. His vision swirled, and he found it difficult to catch his breath.
The medical staff swiftly attended to her and placed her on a stretcher, while Ji-hyuk willed his heavy feet to move. Each step felt like he was trudging through mud with a weight on his toes, but he had to reach her.
She was rushed into the operating room without delay. The bleeding had not abated, and the medical team was determined to locate the source of the bleeding.
He couldn’t bring himself to sit down in front of the operating room; instead, he stood there, frozen in place, anxiously awaiting the moment when the door would swing open.
In that tense moment, it hit him, and he begrudgingly acknowledged what he had been avoiding. He had known it somewhere deep down, even before she had tearfully pleaded for him to find her mother, perhaps even before that.
Finally, he comprehended why her presence had always unsettled him, why she had seemed like a constant source of irritation and frustration.
Ji-hyuk’s head drooped, and just then, the door to the operating room creaked open. Ji-hyuk hurried over to the doctor. The doctor, who had removed his mask, hesitated for a moment before speaking.
Ji-hyuk swallowed hard, his desire to urge the doctor to speak quickly and provide an update battling with his inability to find the right words.
“She had a miscarriage.”
Ji-hyuk was stunned. “What… What did you say?” Miscarriage?
“Yes, it was at 15 weeks.”
“What does that mean…?”
Ji-hyuk’s eyes widened in utter confusion. She had been pregnant? It was inconceivable. Nobody had even informed him about her pregnancy, let alone the fact that she had undergone such a procedure.
“Really… She had a baby?”
“Yes,” the doctor confirmed. “The surgery was successful, and we’ll be transferring her to the recovery room shortly.”
She fell, and fell, and fell, and fell, and fell. Even after the doctor disappeared into the operating room, Ji-hyuk didn’t move a step, staring unblinkingly at the room where she was.
There was a child, a child in her womb. He had initially thought that having a child would be a terrible burden, but now… Why… why did he feel this way? Is she going to die?
He hadn’t even realized she was pregnant, and the blood-soaked state of her body served as a stark reminder. His legs gave way, and she trembled uncontrollably, prompting the hospital director and the staff standing behind her to grasp her arms for support.
Ji-hyuk shook off the staff member’s hand. The secretary, who had rushed to his side upon receiving a belated call, attempted to clean his bloodied hand, but he couldn’t bring himself to move.
“Boss… Are you all right?”
He felt a surge of almost hysterical laughter. He shouldn’t be worrying about her; he should be concerned about her child. He had lost her child, and he should be worrying about her.
Yet now, it seemed everyone, from the chairman to the employees to the secretary, was more concerned about him, and he didn’t like it.
Ji-hyuk waved everyone away except the secretary. He clenched his trembling hands, his nails digging into his palms, but he felt no pain. The coagulated blood seemed to constrict his throat.
She appeared drowsy, her heart racing, and she was pleading with him to be gentle with her. He recalled her earlier request when she had said she wasn’t feeling well and wanted to postpone the procedure.
“What have I done? What have I… I… what have I done…”
Guilt weighed down on his entire being. He watched as she was transported from the recovery room to her hospital room, unable to approach her.
The thought of touching her pale form felt like it might bring about his demise. He stood there, frozen, unable to move, his head bowed as if he were a sinner.
He couldn’t bring himself to utter an apology. He didn’t believe he deserved the right to cry or to seek forgiveness. The memories of all the times he had treated her poorly haunted him, each one a sharp blade cutting through his heart.
“How dare you! How dare you! How dare you! How dare you! How dare you! How dare you!” her mother exclaimed as he entered the room.
“Leave this place immediately. Don’t ever return.”
He didn’t even glance at his mother; his eyes remained fixed on her. Ji-hyuk issued cold instructions to the secretary who stood behind him.
“Get a bodyguard, keep everyone out. “ Secretary Kim, depart.
When she eventually awakens, he’s uncertain about the expression to wear. Should he tell her that she’s lost their child? Fear courses through his body because he’s all too aware of how she will shatter when she learns the truth.
The hospital room is now quiet, with everyone else gone. His eyes welled up with tears at the sight of her, sleeping as though life had left her. He took a hesitant step closer, struggling to hold back his emotions.
When she woke up, he didn’t know how to compose his expression. Should he tell her about the loss of their child? Fear coursed through his body because he was fully aware of how she would break down when she learned the truth.
The hospital room was now silent after everyone had left. His eyes welled up as he looked at her, sleeping as though life had left her. He cautiously took a step towards her, suppressing his emotions.
Her eyelashes fluttered slightly, then lifted. Ji-hyuk froze in his tracks.
“Are you awake?”
She was gazing at the ceiling when she heard his voice and turned her head. Her eyes were filled with sadness, her brow slightly furrowed, as if she were uneasy with herself.
“Why… do you look at me like that?”
She pulled herself up, sitting on the bed. He had the urge to rush to her and offer support, but his feet remained rooted to the floor. Avoiding direct eye contact, he couldn’t bring himself to look at her squarely.
Suddenly, she reached out, wrapping her arms tightly around her stomach and hugging herself as if she were protecting something. Ji-hyuk’s eyes welled up with pain.
“I can’t help but feel angry,” she declared.
Initially, he was terrified and struggled to grasp the meaning of her words.
“No matter what you say, I’m going to give birth to this child. It’s my child.”
It appeared that she hadn’t yet realized the loss of their child. He found himself at a loss for words and simply stared at her.
“Why? Is it because I’m going to have this baby? I know you don’t like children. I’ll raise it on my own. It’s not your child; it’s mine. I’ll live quietly, away from your sight. So…”
Every word she spoke felt like a secret piercing his heart.
Her words left him speechless. She began to examine herself, and the sight was so heart-wrenching that it brought tears to Ji-hyuk’s eyes.
“I won’t, I won’t, I won’t!”
She choked out. She had worked so hard to hide her pregnancy, how frightened she must have been. She ran her hand through her hair and suddenly covered her mouth in fear.
Ji-hyuk, who had been standing a few feet away, rushed over to check on her.
“About the child!” Ji-hyuk inquired, and she closed her mouth, his eyes downcast.
“What about the child? Is the baby okay?” she asked with concern.
When he didn’t respond, her anxiety grew, and she tightly embraced her stomach, raising her voice.
He wanted to hold her, seeing how close she was to breaking down.
“By the time I got to the hospital, it was already… too late,” Ji-hyuk confessed. He had realized that he couldn’t conceal the truth any longer.
“He or she is still here, but… I can feel that… something is different,” she continued.
She placed her trembling hand on her stomach and caressed it gently. Ji-hyuk took in a deep breath, his heart heavy with concern.
“Why… didn’t you tell me?” His words weren’t a question, her eyes empty, unable to hold her.
“Why? What difference would it have made?” Her voice wavered as she struggled to keep her tears at bay.
“To take me to the hospital?”
Would self-blame have lessened this sense of guilt?
“You were the one who advised me to go to the hospital when I found out I was pregnant and delete it.”
Her calm tone made the situation all the more heartbreaking.
“…I’d prefer if you cried.”
He wished for her to cry. She had always borne so much, and if she were to continue doing so, she tightly sealed her lips and turned her head to gaze out of the window, as though she didn’t want to face him.
“I’d rather want you to cry, don’t bottle it up… Get angry…” he pleaded silently. “Please… be angry, be resentful.”
He continued to stare at the side of her face, unable to discern her thoughts.
Not a single tear had fallen from her eyes, but a solitary tear escaped from Ji-hyuk’s own.
* * *
Dressed in all black, Ji-hyuk had some bodyguards to attend to. He ran a hand through his hair and stood before the hospital room door. All he needed to do was reach out and open it, and there she would be, but he couldn’t help but hesitate.
Just the sight of her, unable to cry, lost in his thoughts, shattered his heart, and he felt as though he were about to be engulfed by a sea of guilt.
Ji-hyuk’s arms drooped as he reached for the doorknob.
“…No. I’m sorry for her, and I’ve left her alone for too long,”
He thought, raising his hand once more to grasp the doorknob. He hesitated for a moment before finally opening the door.
He found her sitting on the hospital room floor, hungrily devouring food. She had neglected to close the refrigerator door and was eating with her hands as though in a ravenous frenzy. Ji-hyuk’s eyes widened with anguish.
Ji-hyuk approached her slowly. She continued chewing and swallowing her food, seemingly oblivious to his presence, even though she must have been feigning nonchalance.
What was even more striking was the smallness of her back as she reached for another morsel of food. With that diminutive frame, she was carrying a child.
At that moment, it struck him with a jolt how he had tormented her for so long, treating her as though she might crumble at the slightest touch.
“Stop eating,” Ji-hyuk urged.
She must have heard him, but it seemed she didn’t care, as her hand reached out to scoop up more food. When her hand moved toward her mouth, Ji-hyuk swiftly seized her wrist.
Her vacant gaze locked onto him, and she clenched her teeth as their eyes met. Back when she and Mrs. Seo had chatted and laughed in the kitchen, her eyes had shone like the morning stars, but now she… seemed devoid of life.
Could he ever bring back that light? Could he rekindle it within her?
“I’m hungry,” she said, gesturing for him to release her wrist, indicating that she still felt unsatisfied even after eating.
She appeared so unsteady that Ji-hyuk followed her closely to the restroom. She clung to the toilet seat, retching and vomiting up everything she had consumed.
She wiped her face, although it felt like she was the one being wiped away. Her stomach churned and twisted.
“Ha…a… Ha…ah…. ugh….”
He approached her, murmuring, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Her body felt as heavy as a waterlogged cotton ball. He continued to apologize repeatedly.
“Who are you apologizing to? Why are you apologizing? Apologize as if you’re a sinner.”
She crawled across the bathroom floor, scraping it with her nails. Unconcerned if her nails might break, she scratched the floor, then lifted her bloodied hand to touch her stomach.
Ji-hyuk’s eyes welled with tears as she sought the child who had been there, but he couldn’t allow himself to cry in her presence. It wouldn’t change anything if he wept before her.
After some time, he gazed silently at her, seated on the bed as though the world had crumbled around her. He used a blow dryer to dry her recently washed hair, and her pure white brow furrowed slightly in annoyance.
Relieved that she hadn’t lost her emotions, Ji-hyuk’s mouth twitched at the way she kept her lips tightly sealed as if she didn’t even want to engage with him. He glanced at the back of her hand, where the IV needle had been inserted, and then at the broken nail that had suffered from her scratching at the floor.
He wondered if telling her that he had found her mother-in-law awake would bring even a slight glimmer of hope to her eyes.
“Your mother is…”
Her expression remained lifeless as if she didn’t comprehend his words.
“Your real mother…,” he persisted.
Finally, she responded, “She’s awake.”
She raised her gaze, and their eyes finally connected. Her lifeless eyes seemed as if they were on the brink of being ground into dust and carried away by the wind.
“Do you want to go?” Ji-hyuk inquired, offering to accompany her to her mother, but she remained silent.
She lay in bed, appearing helpless, and he had a vague sense of what she might be thinking. Perhaps she believed it was all her fault.
She was infuriatingly kind, and here he was, the one who had caused her pain, the one who had tormented her, the one who had never been there for her. As she continued to gaze out of the window, cold words spilled from her lips.
“…Isn’t this what you wanted?”
Ji-hyuk’s shoulders trembled.
“Is it what you wanted?”
She paused for a moment, let out a sigh, and continued. There was no follow-up, but Ji-hyuk didn’t want to hear it.
“…You didn’t want me to be pregnant.”
Her voice was harsh, and Ji-hyuk’s eyes darted around as if he were being pulled into an abyss of unfathomable depth.
Her voice cracked. “I am… I’m…” But Ji-hyuk was at a loss for words.
“What if I had told you the truth that I was pregnant? How would you have responded?”
“It’s okay, I’ve already…”
A little while later, Ji-hyuk watched her while she slept. He gently stroked her face with his hands. She didn’t deserve to be unhappy.
“You didn’t want children anyway,” she whispered.
She had frequently expressed her aversion to having children, deeming them burdensome. He had even been explicit with her mother, asserting that if she were to become pregnant, he would ensure she went to the hospital for an abortion. Maybe that’s why.
So, the prospect of a baby had… he must have disappeared. A man who should have embraced fatherhood, yet instead… the baby had vanished.
Her words and actions had transformed into sharp blades, piercing deeply into his heart. While her own heart throbbed with pain and bled, she had no way to alleviate his suffering, and so she bore the anguish in silence.
Her bloodstained fingertips clenched slightly. In comparison to her pain, his felt insignificant.
Ji-hyuk’s face contorted at the sound of her voice, searching for their unborn child, even in her dreams.
* * *
Ji-hyuk was in the middle of a meeting, trying to catch up on his work when he received a call from the bodyguard he had secretly assigned to her. The bodyguard informed him that she had suddenly left.
Ji-hyuk instructed the bodyguard not to intercept her but instead to send her a text asking where she was going. He couldn’t even wait for the meeting to conclude before he left the room, following the text message trail.
He could have dispatched a bodyguard to stop her, but he realized that would likely startle her, especially considering her fragile state.
When he inquired about her destination, she mentioned heading to Gangwon Province. Ji-hyuk instructed the driver to drive as fast as possible, and after a while, they located her car at a rest stop.
He could see the surprise on her face as she froze as if she had seen a ghost. He knew she was in distress, but he couldn’t let her go, driven by his selfish desires.
She had fallen asleep in the car, utterly drained, and he carried her into the hotel where a bodyguard handed him a bag.
She must have felt awful about leaving with just a small bag. Ji-hyuk couldn’t hold back his tears as he unzipped the bag. His hands trembled as he revealed the maternity book.
He ran his fingers over the ultrasound image of their baby moon, a sight he had never laid eyes on before. It was heartbreaking.
Ji-hyuk sank to his knees on the floor and buried his face in the couch, overwhelmed by grief.
He clutched the maternity book tightly to his chest, overcome by a sense of self-disgust. “I’m a worthless person. A scoundrel who never knew she was carrying my child and never spoke a kind word to her.”
It pained him to think that their baby must have witnessed and sensed it all. He had neglected her while she was pregnant with his child, choosing to care for his sister-in-law instead.
Hot tears streamed from Ji-hyuk’s eyes, his heart aching with remorse. “To my baby… I’m so sorry.”
His heart felt like it was shattering. What a terrible person he had been.
He buried his face deeper into the couch to muffle the sound, and Ji-hyuk’s shoulders trembled increasingly. He should have realized earlier, or better yet, he shouldn’t have been so unkind. Regrets washed over him time and again.
After staying by her side until dawn, Ji-hyuk left the hotel. His eyes were swollen and puffy. He settled into the driver’s seat of his car and carefully placed his bag on the passenger seat, handling it with the utmost care, as if he didn’t want to harm its precious contents.
When he hit the road and reached his destination, Ji-hyuk found it difficult to get out of the car. He clutched the steering wheel for an extended period, lowering his head onto it. Ignoring a call from his assistant, he took the maternity book from his bag and removed an ultrasound photo. Then, he finally stepped out of the car.
The place was serene, bathed in the early morning light. It was so quiet that only the sound of his footsteps echoed. He wouldn’t have liked being alone and hearing nothing but his footsteps, but now he couldn’t even express his fear. It weighed heavily on him.
Holding the photo close to his chest, he cautiously shifted his feet, ensuring it wouldn’t crumple. Ji-hyuk arrived at the mausoleum where their baby lay.
Ji-hyuk lowered his head, unable to find words to speak.
* * *
“…I regret marrying you, Mr. Seo Ji-hyuk, so much.”
Ji-hyuk curled up on the couch, gazing at her as she slept. A bitter smile crossed his lips as he recalled her words. Unable to cry for the wrongs he had committed, he chose to laugh instead.
He took a step, then another, toward the couch and extended his hand. The sweat on her forehead suggested she was experiencing a nightmare. His palm was moist as he wiped the perspiration from her brow. Seeing that she was sweating profusely all over her body, he grew concerned about her well-being.
He had come to realize how crucial self-care was, especially after a miscarriage. However, he couldn’t be sure if her fragile body could withstand the ordeal.
Ji-hyuk’s eyes darkened as he gently brushed a stray strand of hair from her forehead and caressed the contoured skin.
Her eyelids fluttered open, and he instinctively wanted to withdraw his hand, but he couldn’t move, captivated by her intense gaze. He felt engulfed in those deep, dark eyes like a night sea drawing him in.
Suddenly, she pushed his hand away with cold indifference and closed her eyes once more, as if she didn’t want to be seen. It was a natural reaction, but it somehow sent a tingling sensation through his tongue.
He sighed when he heard Mrs. Seo that she hadn’t eaten all day. Despite the hospital’s instructions, she had eaten until she vomited and had now refrained from even taking a sip of water. Ji-hyuk raised his eyebrows.
He wasn’t angry; he was genuinely concerned about her. She appeared to be stumbling and wobbling quite a bit, and he worried that she might be in trouble. Perhaps she should be thoroughly examined from head to toe.
He was terrified by her pallid complexion, making her look almost lifeless. If someone who knew her saw her in this state, they would be profoundly surprised.
Whether he was willing to admit it or not, his anxiety was steadily increasing. After seeing Mrs. Seo off from work, Ji-hyuk approached her.
He needed to nourish her, not because she was hungry, but for the taste of the food, to keep her alive. With a small sigh, he touched her forehead, feeling compassion for the fragile figure. He reminded himself not to react to anything she might say, focusing on the task of feeding her.
Despite the news of their impending divorce, he managed to compel her to sit at the table. It wasn’t an easy task, as he had to carry her over his shoulder when she resisted. Her eyes didn’t brighten at the sight of the carefully prepared dishes by Mrs. Seo. He admired her for feeling and attempting to express her anger.
When he told her that he would leave her alone after she finished eating, she mumbled something about not being hungry, but he wasn’t willing to give in.
He forcefully placed a spoon in her hand, insisting that she should eat even if she wasn’t hungry.
“No!” she exclaimed, tossing the spoon onto the floor. Her face was tear-streaked, and her knuckles appeared as if they could shatter with the slightest touch.
“You can’t sleep until you eat. We can stay here all night,” he declared resolutely. He wasn’t angry at her for her stubbornness, but he was deeply pained. He gazed sorrowfully at the fallen spoon, then picked up another one from the table and gently guided it into her hand.
After a brief struggle, she let out a sigh, eventually giving in to his insistence, and began to eat. He was about to caution her to slow down since she was eating too quickly when suddenly, she snapped.
She hurried to the bathroom, his heart pounding with worry about whether she might fall. His jaw clenched as he observed her gathering the food, and his shoulders slumped as he grasped the extent of his efforts for her. He inquired about her well-being, but she remained silent. Ji-hyuk’s eyes widened when she struggled to stand after flushing the toilet.
His gaze fixated on the pale skin of her neck, where visible traces of blood were apparent, and then descended lower. “What on earth are you doing?” Ji-hyuk tugged at her T-shirt, pulling it down as she brought her hands up to shield her chest, though it was already too late.
His eyes had already fallen upon her scarred chest, causing everything to feel as though it was trembling like an earthquake. “…It itched, so I scratched it,” she explained innocently, though it was far more than just a minor scratch. She had scratched and scratched until it began to bleed.
Once again, it was merely a scratch. He remained silent, staring at her in disbelief as she spoke as if it were a trivial matter.
He wished he could grab her shoulders and shout, “Don’t harm her body, don’t hurt her.”
Ji-hyuk gritted his teeth and exited the bathroom, quickly retrieving the ointment from the medicine cabinet. His hand trembled as he took hold of the ointment.
He gently led her to the bed and, without hesitation, removed her T-shirt and bra. Close up, the wound looked even worse, causing him to involuntarily grimace. “…Please don’t hurt yourself.”
As he applied the ointment to the wound, his eyes welled up with tears, and the unshed tears gathered and lingered. After finishing, he helped her put on a T-shirt.
She curled up in bed with her back turned to him.
“I need to go outside… I’ll be back soon.”
When she didn’t respond, he forced a smile at the corners of his mouth. Outside, Ji-hyuk sat in the driver’s seat of the car and closed his eyes, but then he reopened them and stared straight ahead.
Closing his eyes and envisioning her covered in scars tormented him. He couldn’t fathom the level of pain she must have endured, and just looking at her scars made him frown. However, she carried herself as if it were no big deal, as though she felt no pain at all.
A deep sigh felt like a heavy weight pressing down on his entire being. He felt like he was descending, falling into an abyss. His heart throbbed as if it were on the brink of shattering, but he chose to endure the pain in silence. He didn’t understand her pain, and he couldn’t bear to, so he wouldn’t.
The tip of his nose started to run, and his eyes stung. “Hold it in. Hold it in… Don’t cry.”
It was a night when he longed to weep on her behalf, for her inability to shed tears.
Ji-hyuk started the car and gripped the steering wheel. He missed her, missed his baby moon…
He used to believe that having children would be a terrible idea, convinced that they would hold him back, much like his mother did.
If he couldn’t love a child, he’d prefer not to have one at all… No, he detested the thought of having a child who resembled him.
However, it wasn’t until the hospital informed him of her pregnancy that he realized it was a misguided conviction.
He briefly considered drowning his guilt in alcohol but then remembered how she despised the smell of liquor, so he refrained from taking a sip.
Staying sober became increasingly challenging, and he finally succumbed to a breakdown, erupting into laughter—a laughter tainted with self-destructive undertones.
* * *
The overcast sky hinted at the possibility of rain, a weather he despised the most. He had an early morning meeting to attend, and after having a quick sandwich for lunch, his day was consumed by a lengthy, draining discussion. His eyes felt heavy, and concentration eluded him.
…Do you think we should go see the sea this weekend? Then, Mrs. Seo’s voice echoed in his mind: ‘Your mother and Hyungsoo with Mr. Jun Hyuk together….’ Ji-hyuk rhythmically tapped his fingers on the desk.
Ji-hyuk’s finger abruptly halted as his cell phone vibrated persistently on the desk. His gaze darted to the phone’s screen.
“Let’s take a break,” Ji-hyuk said, springing to his feet, seizing his phone, and exiting the conference room.
“Hello? I need to talk to you. Is something wrong?”
He felt a sudden urgency to protect her. No, it was the bodyguard tasked with watching over her. A shiver traveled down his spine as he wondered if something had gone awry.
He felt a mix of sympathy for Jun-hyuk but also a sense of relief that nothing had happened to her. He provided the bodyguard with Jun-hyuk’s contact information and ended the call.
He then dialed Hyungsoo’s number and informed her that Junhyuk was in the hospital. Hyungsoo’s voice sounded harsher than usual, but one couldn’t help but feel a surge of emotion upon hearing that their child had been injured.
He stood by the window in the boss’s office, hands shoved into his pants pockets. The day after she had fallen down the stairs, he had a phone conversation with the woman who had called for her.
He couldn’t escape her, so he couldn’t go to visit Jun-hyuk.
As expected, that’s what she had initially claimed. Seo Junhyuk had been at the end of the stairs.
However, less than two days later, she changed her story. She attributed it to a thunderstorm and admitted she had been mistaken. She apologized for the confusion.
But there was an unsettling feeling gnawing at him. Something just didn’t add up. He questioned her about it, but her expression remained inscrutable. Ji-hyuk ran a frustrated hand through his hair.
“Mr. President, you need to go into a meeting,” the secretary reminded him.
Ji-hyuk snapped out of his thoughts at the sound of the secretary’s voice. “Let’s go.”
He could only head home after he finished the overdue meeting. A few days later, he was informed by her bodyguard that she had gone to her in-law’s house.
Ji-hyuk was signing papers when he made a call to his secretary.
“I need to find a house.”
“A house, you mean?”
Without further questioning, the secretary bowed and exited the room. He didn’t want his mother or sister-in-law visiting her when she wasn’t feeling well. Perhaps it was time for them to live separately. Another endless relay of meetings awaited him that day.
After the meeting, he visited his baby moon and spent a long time there. He spoke to her about various matters, offered his apologies, and made a personal commitment.
Ji-hyuk’s car glided along the road. Upon reaching the house, he retrieved a shopping bag from the car. Not knowing her preferences, he had purchased an assortment of items he believed she would enjoy, and it was quite a haul.
Upon entering the house, he found her fast asleep. He moved stealthily, ensuring not to disrupt her slumber, and carefully placed the bags down. Next, he organized her belongings and took a shower.
Now that she was asleep, he needed to be as quiet as possible, knowing that her struggle with insomnia often left her with restless nights. The humidity hung in the air.
He entered the master bedroom, adjusted the air conditioner, climbed into bed, and lay down. He stole a glance at her sleeping form at the foot of the bed, her sweet fragrance filling his senses just by her presence.
…If they hadn’t lost their baby moon, would they both have awakened?
Realizing the weight of responsibility lay with him, Ji-hyuk slipped his arms beneath her neck and held her small body tightly. His eyelids grew heavy as he cradled her.
* * *
Exhausted, he had fallen asleep. He was jolted awake by a loud noise.
He couldn’t see her next to him, her breathing faint. Ji-hyuk rose from the bed and checked the bathroom, but she was nowhere to be found.
Outside, a thunderstorm raged, and an eerie feeling washed over him. He proceeded to the living room in search of her, but she wasn’t there.
His shout was swallowed by the thunder as his voice grew more urgent, and his steps quickened.
That’s when he noticed the front door was slightly open. Ji-hyuk pushed the door open without even bothering to put on his shoes.
Ji-hyuk’s eyes welled up with tears as he saw her standing in the rain. Muttering something unintelligible, he hastily grabbed an umbrella and rushed over to her, her voice searching for their lost baby moon escaping from her lips. It was quickly drowned out by the rain, but Ji-hyuk heard every word. She was crouched on the ground, her body drenched by the downpour.
Unable to shed a single tear after the loss of their child, she was crying with her entire being. Ji-hyuk tightly closed his eyes, then reopened them, hoping it was all just a dream. However, the sight of her tearful sorrow caused his pupils to dilate, his eyes widening, and his heart to race.
The rain made it difficult to discern her words, but Ji-hyuk didn’t need to hear them to understand what she was saying. No, he was certain. She was crying out to their lost baby, apologizing, expressing her longing for their child.
Ji-hyuk paced back and forth, each step weighed down by the heavy burden of guilt as if she might wither away in the rain. His guilt slowed him down, but he couldn’t afford to let the rain reach her. Ji-hyuk clenched his teeth and positioned the umbrella over her head as if she might vanish like cotton candy dissolving in water.
In an instant, his own body was drenched. He gazed down at her, huddled helplessly under the umbrella, with her hands, legs, and feet covered in mud.
She raised her head when the umbrella shielded her from the rain.
Her face appeared as if she had lost… everything, prompting Ji-hyuk to grip the umbrella even tighter. She was suffocating under the downpour, and the rain stung her entire body.
Ji-hyuk knelt beside her, his eyes filled with sorrow.
“Get up. Let’s go inside,” he implored, trying to convince her that she had caught a cold, but she remained helpless. Instead, she slapped his hand away, insisting that he put the umbrella aside. The umbrella fell to the ground.
While Ji Hyuk didn’t mind being out in the rain all day, he knew she couldn’t endure it. She was on the brink of collapsing. He reached for the umbrella, feeling the need to practically drag her inside, and the pent-up resentment he had been holding back surged.
Completely drenched, Ji-hyuk withdrew his outstretched arm, unable to utter a word, fixating on her face without blinking. He etched and captured her words within, every one of them.
“It was all there… It was all there!”
Her words resonated like a beast’s howl, piercing her eardrums.
“That child, smaller than a fist… She had arms, she had legs… fingers, toes… “
Hmph, his heart was beating!
Yes, everything was present. The small child had arms, legs, fingers, and toes – it was all there. Ji-hyuk tightly gripped his fists to prevent tears from welling up.
He had only seen their baby in the ultrasound image, and he deeply regretted uttering thoughtless words, recognizing more than anyone that he couldn’t undo the past, and feeling like a fool.
“What do you want to know?” she cried, tears streaming down her face. “You desire for me to weep in such a manner, don’t you? To weep in that way, to lay blame on me, to hold me accountable.”
When scratching her left breast isn’t enough, she clenches her fists and punches her in the chest, stomach, and thighs.
She smacks her so hard that she’ll be bruised the next day, seemingly oblivious to the pain.
She refrains from expressing a desire to end her life. Instead, it appears as if she is subjecting her own body to self-inflicted torment, repeatedly striking it, as if her very breath depends on this act.
Ji-hyuk reached out and grasped her delicate wrist. He yearned to shoulder all her suffering, every ounce of her remorse, and all the burdens she carried, or perhaps, he longed to shoulder just her pain, as he believed he could somehow endure it. He held onto this fervent wish, wishing and wishing for it to come true.
When he chose not to respond to her parting words, maintaining a resolute silence, she resorted to striking his chest. It shouldn’t have caused any pain, yet it did.
She questioned, “What if this feeble force hurts?” and repeatedly asked, “Does it hurt? Does it hurt?” Her grip tightened on his collar with each blow, releasing every last bit of pent-up resentment.
“What do you imagine my precious moon felt like, shattered and abandoned to wither away? My beloved moon!”
In response, he didn’t utter the words “You don’t know,” but instead, he embraced her tightly.
“I’m sorry, truly… I’m sorry, truly… I’m sorry.”
Her body slumped in his arms, and Ji-hyuk’s eyes were tainted with remorse as he lowered his head.
“I’m sorry, truly… I’m sorry.”
What had he done to such a delicate woman?
“I’m sorry for everything.”
Observing her shattered state, he realized that his desire to keep her close that had led to this. Ji-hyuk lifted her gently and carried her inside the house.
Without bothering to dry her damp body, he walked over to the couch, sat down, and embraced her with all his strength. He held her for an extended period, repeatedly whispering apologies.
He softly brushed her cheek against her tear-streaked face and clenched his teeth.
“…I’ll release you.”
He decided to send it to her, knowing that she couldn’t find happiness next to him. This gift would be his first and last offering for her.
He received a call from her bodyguard, reassuring him that everything was fine after she had gone to volunteer at the nursery school with her sister-in-law.
“Keep a close watch on her,” he instructed.
Ji-hyuk sighed as he ended the call and slipped his cell phone into his pocket. He worried about her health, considering she had been unwell for the past few days.
“We’ve arrived,” the secretary’s voice interrupted his thoughts. Ji-hyuk looked out the window and saw a familiar building.
Ji-hyuk picked up the briefcase he had left on the seat next to him and exited the car. He walked into the building with his usual cold demeanor, not allowing anyone to impede his progress until he reached a rather high floor.
“One moment, please.”
The secretary hurriedly entered the president’s office after recognizing Ji-hyuk’s face. Ji-hyuk’s rigid expression didn’t waver. He felt a pang in his stomach as he took in the opulent interior that mirrored the owner’s taste.
Ji-hyuk clicked his tongue impatiently.
“You can go in,” the secretary from the president’s office said, opening the door for him and bowing her head in greeting. Ji-hyuk passed through the open door.
“Well, look who’s here! Isn’t it my son-in-law?”
“Good afternoon. Hehe, what brings you here all of a sudden? Please, take a seat.”
Ji-hyuk settled onto the plush, opulent couch and leaned back. He placed the briefcase he had brought with him beside him, pondering how he could ensure her a good life free from her father’s interference after they broke up.
They hadn’t officially broken up yet, and he couldn’t help but feel responsible for pushing her to the brink, or was it now Mr. Yoon’s responsibility? It was Mr. Yoon’s indeed.
He was also the one who had abducted and confined his mother-in-law, making it clear what he might do to her now when they were separated.
“I understand. Are you here for business purposes only? What kind of a son-in-law are you? You turn me away every time I try to visit, saying you’re too occupied?”
President Yoon’s frustration was visible as Ji-hyuk’s lips curled in response. However, Ji-hyuk had no desire to delve into a protracted discussion.
“Do you plan to continuously cause problems for Yunseul?”
Mr. Yoon paused briefly, his expression turning empty. The moment he stepped into his office, an unpleasant odor assailed his senses, and he knew it emanated from himself.
He was a man who had committed a range of transgressions, including cheating, deceit, and criminal acts, yet shamelessly continued to lead his life.
“What do you mean, why are you mistreating my dear daughter?” Ji-hyuk couldn’t help but chuckle.
“What’s going on?” Ji-hyuk crossed his legs, dispelling any notion of maintaining politeness with Mr. Yoon.
“I’m not mistreating her, and what about you?”
Mr. Yoon arched an eyebrow in response to Ji-hyuk’s use of “you,” but Ji-hyuk continued speaking.
“You seem to enjoy mistreating others, so I can’t just stand by.”
“Have you forgotten who I am? I’m your father-in-law!” Mr. Yoon exclaimed, his voice rising, a mix of anger and apprehension. Ji-hyuk picked up the briefcase he had placed aside.
“I’m going to lay out all the wrongdoings you’ve committed thus far on the table. If you admit to them and pledge never to cross Yunseul’s path again, I’ll only hold you accountable for the sins we list,” Ji-hyuk declared.
“What does that even mean!” Mr. Yoon retorted.
“Or, you can choose to take it all the way,” Ji-hyuk said with a smirk, raising and lowering his shoulders nonchalantly.
“But what am I being accused of?” Mr. Yoon inquired.
“Securities manipulation,” Ji-hyuk replied, producing papers from his briefcase. These documents contained evidence of Mr. Yoon’s transgressions spanning several years. The pile of offenses was roughly the size of an A4 sheet of paper. Among them, the evidence of securities manipulation was placed on the table.
“I’m a businessman; such things happen in the industry!” Mr. Yoon retorted.
“Embezzlement. Purchasing properties and homes under different names,” Ji-hyuk continued.
“No… Well, that’s… Doesn’t everyone do it?” Mr. Yoon tried to rationalize.
Yet, he had been reprimanding Ji-hyuk about paying taxes earlier. The table was becoming increasingly stacked with incriminating evidence.
“Gift taxes and offshore properties.”
“I didn’t do that; the realtor I hired handled it!” Mr. Yoon protested.
Ji-hyuk couldn’t help but feel disdain for this shameless and foolish individual. He pitied Yunseul for having grown up under the influence of such a detestable figure, which might explain her perpetually somber demeanor.
“Next, the abduction and confinement of Yunseul’s mother.”
The mention of his mother-in-law made Mr. Yoon suddenly realize the severity of his crime.
“This time, it’s your and your wife’s responsibility.” Ji-hyuk asserted.
Ji-hyuk had the strong urge to smack Mr. Yoon as he observed the man’s stupefied expression.
“Is Yun Ina your sole daughter? Can’t you see the suffering of poor Yunseul, who can’t even confess her illness?” Ji-hyuk wished to inquire.
“Despite your involvement in drugs and wild parties, you remain oblivious to the fact that your wife financed the dissemination of those videos?” He contemplated voicing this question, holding back the urge to strike Mr. Yoon.
He flung the evidence onto the table. Mr. Yoon extended a trembling hand and snatched the paper, appearing as if he had no idea of its contents. Ji-hyuk rose slowly from his seat, intently watching as Mr. Yoon read the evidence.
“This is a list of all the times you’ve physically assaulted people and even taken lives…”
“Stop! Stop!” Mr. Yoon implored, his voice quivering. Ji Hyuk’s eyes glinted with a cold intensity.
“I’ve committed all manner of wrongs, so please, halt here. I swear I won’t torment that woman, Yunseul, any longer. Just stop it!” Mr. Yoon’s plea was met with Ji-hyuk’s resounding laughter.
“Stop?” Ji-hyuk repeated, scoffing inwardly. If he had any intention of stopping, he wouldn’t have bothered coming here. Yunseul had always been proactive, cutting off anyone who posed a threat to her.
“As I mentioned, you’ll only be held accountable for the sins we’ve discussed,” Ji-hyuk asserted, placing the last piece of evidence, the murder order, on the table.
“You’ll be spending your days in prison,” he continued, his tone icy. Ji-hyuk turned and walked towards the door, brushing his arms as if to rid them of contamination.
“Stop! Stop! Someone, catch him!” Mr. Yoon desperately shouted.
Mr. Yoon’s frantic shouts echoed behind him as Ji-hyuk grabbed the doorknob and pulled it downward.
“Get him!” Mr. Yoon ordered.
The door swung open, but to Mr. Yoon’s dismay, his henchmen were sprawled on the floor. Ji Hyuk exchanged a nod with the bodyguard who stood in front of him.
Knowing the kind of person Mr. Yoon was, there was no doubt that he had come with reinforcements. Yunseul, he imagined, must be a remarkable and upright person to endure being connected to this man. The thought of her brought some relief, causing Ji-hyuk’s tense muscles to relax.
He was escorted out of the building by the bodyguard. Before getting into his car, he lifted his head and gazed up at the sky.
“It’s such a beautiful day,” Ji-hyuk mused as he gazed at the clear blue sky.
Tonight, he planned to discuss their divorce with her. It wouldn’t be any less heartbreaking on a nice day, but he clung to the idea that it might provide some form of solace.
Ji-hyuk continued to stare at the vast expanse of the sky before eventually climbing into his car. His workday was coming to an end when he received a call from his sister-in-law.
She sounded inebriated and invited him to her hotel room. Instead of going directly to the hotel, Ji-hyuk made a detour to visit Yunseul and had a conversation with her baby moon for some time.
Later that night, Ji-hyuk stood before the hotel room. The moment he received the call from his sister-in-law, he could already discern her intentions.
Smiling with a touch of nostalgia, he lingered in front of the room. Even though he knew everything, he had come here because…
If this is what she desired if it was about her happiness…
He would do anything for her. Without hesitation, Ji-hyuk pressed the doorbell, and the door swung open. A smile spread across his face as he saw his sister-in-law stumbling around, clearly inebriated.
The door closed behind Ji-hyuk’s back, sealing his silent resolution to do whatever it took to ensure her happiness.