*~*~» L o v e · i s · B l i n d «~*~*

Chapter 25

           “I’d thought you’d never ask!” Seonghoon declared, delighted.
           “Don’t get cheesy on me,” Jiyong warned.
           Seonghoon chortled. “I’ll have hyung come and get you. After that we’ll get you some color on that pale colored ass of yours.”
           Jiyong laughed. It felt good. When was the last time he had a good laugh? Especially with Seonghoon? Too long. “Well, you better come now. It’s a long ride.”
           Seonghoon agreed. “Man, tell your mom that if she wants to deport you from home at least choose some place closer. Jeez...”
           Jiyong laughed again and bid his good-bye.
           Soon...I’ll be normal again...


           Chomee sipped the orange juice, anxious for Mrs. Ko to start the discussion. She nervously darted her eyes sideways, glancing at other elegant patrons of the café.
           “How’s Jiyong?”
           The question brought Chomee’s attention back to Mrs. Ko. “He’s alright! In fact, he can’t wait till tomorrow.”
           Mrs. Ko accepted the reply. “I have to speak to you about that.”
           What have I done now?
           “Now that Jiyong’ll be able to see...your services will no longer be needed,” Mrs. Ko stated flatly, choosing her words cautiously.
           Chomee sat still, not quite sure of how to react. Jiyong will see, no service. No service, no money. No money, Mother gone. Chomee gasped. A sudden rush of tears flooded her eyes.
           Mrs. Ko wasn’t surprised with the reaction. Somewhat amazed though. So she does like Jiyong... Who was she kidding? What girl haven’t liked Jiyong before?!
           Chomee shook her head slightly, not believing what her ears are taking in. She felt her lips quiver at the information. Her tears blurred her vision and soon she couldn’t see Mrs. Ko anymore.
           Sensing a breakdown drawing near, Mrs. Ko quickly thought of something else. “Tomorrow. You can leave tomorrow. Today’s too soon and all of a sudden.”
           Chomee blinked a few times, her eyes clearing a little. The tears slowly evaporated and she sat back in her chair, quietly sipping the orange juice.
           “You have to understand, Jiyong will want his girlfriend there. She would like to be there.”
           Chomee nodded numbly, her mind reeling. This wasn’t supposed to happen. She still have a few more months before school starts and she depended on the money she was earning for tuition and for her mother’s illness. This isn’t fair. Why is everybody doing this to her?
           “Are there any questions?”
           Yes, why are you doing this to me?
           “Don’t worry about transportation and your pay. Since this is on such short notice, I’ll have everything arranged. I recall Ajuma telling me that your mother’s in the hospital. As soon as she recovers, I’ll have a house ready for you two to move in. You can forward the hospital bills and all those other matters to me. I’ll see to it that they are to be taken care of.”
           Chomee nodded. “Am I to leave first thing in the morning?”
           Mrs. Ko sat back in her chair, thinking. She stared at the coffee that stood before her, the steam disappearing into the air. She pursed her lips. “Yes.”
           Chomee felt a shiver crawl up her spine at the reply. She nodded again and settled the half glass of juice onto the table. “Where exactly am I moving to?”
           “That’s a good question. I suppose you’ll need to live someplace quiet? I think I know somebody down in Pusan that can help me scour something up. Your mother needs to live someplace nice and quiet and plenty of fresh air, right?”
           Chomee agreed.
           “Then it shouldn’t be a problem.”
           Chomee kept her head low, not wanting to meet the woman’s eyes. She mumbled ‘thanks’ and struggled to keep her emotions down.
           “Well, we should be getting back. Don’t want to keep Jiyong wondering where we went.”
           Mrs. Ko paid for the bill and together they left the café. Along the way back, Mrs. Ko picked up a few items for Jiyong. Chomee also bought a few accessories for her mother and decided against buying too much. She was to leave tomorrow. It would be difficult to pack later on tonight.
           “I’ll walk with you,” Mrs. Ko told Chomee when she was getting out of the car. “Remember, no word about this to Jiyong.”
           Chomee nodded. She led the way to the house and quickly retired to her room. She heard Ajuma announce Jiyong wasn’t home and that his friends had taken him out. Mrs. Ko waited around a while longer and left.
           Chomee started packing right away, not wanting to waste her time wallowing in self pity. By the time she was finished, everything had fallen into place. Jiyong came home, dinner was ready, she was done crying.
           “Chomee!” Jiyong shouted. “Chomee! You have to come with me tomorrow!”
           Chomee froze in her tracks. Come? But she was to leave once she wakes up! She quickly hurried out of her room and halted before Jiyong’s towering figure.
           “Chomee?” Jiyong cried. He reached for Chomee’s hand and led her away. “Seonghoon and Jiwon has agreed to come. Everybody else. Miyoung and Soowon, too. I want you to be there.”
           Chomee swallowed the lump that formed in her throat and forced herself to speak. “Ji - ”
           “Can you believe it’s tomorrow!? I can finally see again!”
           “Susan’s gonna be there,” Chomee let out.
           Jiyong stilled, shocked with the outburst. “You’re just saying that, right?”
           Chomee shook her head. “No. It’s the truth. Your mother told me.”
           “What?” Jiyong growled.
           Chomee gasped silently.
           “When did she say this?” Jiyong demanded.
           Chomee stayed silent, her eyes wide with fear.
           “When?” Jiyong repeated, squeezing Chomee’s hand.
           “Ow! Today!” Chomee yelped, her hand hurting.
           “I’m sorry,” Jiyong apologized, letting go of Chomee’s hand.
           “It’s okay,” Chomee mumbled, shaking off the pain.
           “Well, it’s me that’s recovering. I don’t want Susan there. So she won’t be there,” Jiyong confirmed. “She’ll know she’s not welcomed.”
           Chomee regarded Jiyong skeptically. “Well...”
           “I’m sorry! You’re hungry, right?”
           “Ji - ”
           “C’mon!” Jiyong took Chomee to the dining hall and chattered away, not heeding to Chomee’s discomfort of the whole situation.


           “She’ll leave first thing tomorrow,” Mrs. Ko said definitely. “By then, Susan’ll be with us at the hospital.”
           “How can you be so sure?” her husband asked, getting ready for bed.
           “I’ve never failed yet. Have I?”
           “I guess not.”
           “Good. I’ve called Susan already. We’ll bring her along and we’ll get Jiyong later. They should really catch up.”
           “Some supportive male figure you are!”
           “Whaaaaat?! I didn’t object! Isn’t that good enough?”
           Mrs. Ko shrugged. “Hmm...”
           “You seem more enthusiatic about this than Jiyong is.”
           “I’m his mother! Shouldn’t I be?”
           “Me and my golden mouth. Ignore what I’ve just said.”
           “Yeah, yeah, yeah...and the song goes on. Go to sleep.”


           “Go to sleep.”
           “No! It’s too early!”
           “Jiyong, it’s two already.”
           “It’s early!”
           “Jiyong...you’re forgetting that you’re going to the hospital at ten.”
           Chomee sighed. “Never mind. I’ll sleep, you talk.”
           Chomee picked up a pillow off her bed and threw it at Jiyong. “What?”
           “It’s early.”
           “Yes, it is! I should be sleeping.”
           “No! I’m having fun!”
           “Doing what?”
           “Annoying you.”
           Chomee had to chuckle. “You’re doing a mighty fine job.”
           “I wanna ask you something.”
           Jiyong hesitated. “How should I put this?”
           “My pillow? You can return it.”
           Chomee waited patiently as Jiyong collected his thoughts.
           “What are you gonna do now that I’m gonna see?” Jiyong asked instead.
           “Uh...I dunno. Back to school?”
           “You’ll leave?” Jiyong couldn’t resist feeling suprised.
           “Are you asking me not to?”
           Jiyong blinked, silently wishing that he could see Chomee. Too bad the hours don’t pass fast enough. The bandage around his head was getting aggravating. “No...I’m asking...”
           “What do you think of my mom?” Jiyong smiled meekly.
           “Your mom?” Chomee was confused. “What’s wrong with her?”
           “Errr....never mind...”
           Chomee was baffled. She reclaimed her pillow and waited for Jiyong to ask his question.
           “Never mind,” Jiyong said again. “Good night.”
           Chomee clutched the pillow close to her heart, not sure of what had happened. She watched as Jiyong marched out of her room, her emotions set in a frenzy. “Oh, God...what’s happening to me?”

Chapter 26

           Susan settled into bed with a smile on her face. She would see Jiyong and he could see her. But what about the other girl? Would she be there too? She’d have to wait till tomorrow...


           Jiyong sat in his room, not sure if he should approach Chomee again. He liked her and cared a lot about her. She kindled his heart the way Susan didn’t. She's so many things Susan's not. She’s not fake and disgusting like Susan. Chomee...if only he could see how she looked like...


           “No...I do not like him...Susan...Susan...his girlfriend...” Chomee told herself, her eyes aimlessly roamed the bare ceiling.
           It’s true. She don’t like him. But she likes him. She has her share of concerns for him and she thinks of him like a friend, but she wouldn’t dare to exaggerate the word ‘friend.’ She only considered him as a mere associate and nothing more. Oh, the shock if her mother finds out.
           “Oma...I’m coming home tomorrow...” she murmured. “Home, where I belong...”


           Jinjoo pried her eyes open to find the room pitch dark. “Chomeeeeee....” She then remembered Chomee was away at school. But Jiyong’s name created a disturbance. It sounded so familiar, she was sure she had met him or seen him somewhere before.
           “Jiyong...” Jinjoo thought back to when Chomee’s friend had mentioned the name. Funny, Jinjoo just realized her daughter’s friend was a male! And now that young man had said Jiyong was another friend, Jinjoo felt her heart chill. “Oh, Chomee...you’re too young to have a boyfriend...”

Chapter 27

           The shrilling alarm startled Chomee and awoke her. She jumped out of bed, dazed and confused.
           “Morning,” Sangah chirped, sticking her head in through the door.
           “Uh?” Chomee turned to her clock, her eyes finally focusing. Seven. “I’m going back to bed.”
           “Sure. I’ll wake you when Jiyong goes to the hospital.”
           Chomee nodded off, Sangah’s voice rambled on. She fell back onto her bed and curled up into a ball, sleep drowing her out.
           Purring softly, she whispered, “Oma...”


           Jiyong laid wide awake in bed, patiently waiting for the day to start. It was pitch dark and Jiyong wondered how things would look like when lights and color come flooding back. How did he look? He wanted to see Chomee and recognize her visually. He wanted to check his watch for the time. He wanted to do so many things!
           “Soon....” he sighed. “Soon....”


           “Up! Up!” Mrs. Ko bellowed. “We have to go get Susan! I have to go send Chomee off! Up!!!”
           Mr. Ko moaned. His wife never left him alone.
           “GET UP!!!!!”
           Mr. Ko tossed the blanket away and stormed off to the bathroom. He slammed the door shut and sat stiffly on the toilet, his wife’s ailing simmering. He prayed to have peace while he quietly dozed off, but his wife returned to pound on the door, rattling his bones.
           Mr. Ko, startled, jumped out of his skin. It took a while for the banging to register and once it did, he immediately hopped off the toilet seat and started brushing his teeth.
           “Are you dead in there?!” his wife screeched. “I’m going to pick Susan up! I’ll be back!”
           “Why can’t you tell the girl to meet us there?!” Mr. Ko asked his reflection in the mirror. He shrugged and went on brushing his teeth as he listened to his wife’s movements in the bedroom. She had already changed and he heard her march out of their bedroom, yelling for a servant. He rinsed out his mouth and quickly shaved before he gave his face a bath.
           The phone rang loudly and Mr. Ko took his time opening the bathroom door. A maid appeared and informed him his son was on the line. Mr. Ko waved the woman away and reached for the receiver.
           “Appa?” Jiyong’s deep voice inquired.
           “No, Jiyong. I’m one of your friends,” his father replied.
           “Haha, that was so funny,” Jiyong retorted sarcastically.
           “How are you feeling?”
           “Nervous,” Jiyong answered truthfully. He never failed to tell the truth when he’s talking to his father. His mother...on the other hand...
           “Well, I guess that’s normal. Your mother’s on her way to get Susan.”
           Jiyong nearly bit his tongue.
           Jiyong finally found his voice and the letters started forming in his mind. “SUSAN?!!”
           “Yes. Susan. Remember? Once upon a time, there was a girl by the name of Susan and she was your girlfriend.”
           “B-B-But...WHY?!” Jiyong cried. He was sure it sounded more like a whine than a question, but he was confused. “I thought Chomee was only joking!”
           “Never mind that. How...no, why is Susan coming?” Jiyong repeated.
           “Why, I thought you wanted her to be there!” Mr. Ko exclaimed. It was a strange plan, indeed. After all these years and months, Susan haven’t even paid a visit and now all of a sudden she’s interested in Jiyong again.
           “NO! I never wanted her to be ANYWHERE! Did Oma set this up?! I hope that stupid bitch drops dead!”
           “Jiyong!” his father thundered.
           “I meant Susan, Appa,” Jiyong explained.
           “Oh...but still!”
           “That’s unfair! Oma never asked me how I’d feel about this! Now, how are we all going to fit?! I wish Chomee wasn’t as nice so she can tell Susan to fuck off!”
           “JIYONG!” his father bellowed again.
           “Jiyong,” a small voice chorused.
           “Chomee?” Jiyong said almost too eagerly.
           Chomee nodded. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I had no idea where you were in the house. Ajuma wants you to get ready. I have to go soon.”
           “Go? Go where, Chomee?”
           “I have to go. Sorry again,” Chomee apologized and quickly hung up before Jiyong could ask any more questions.
           “Cho — ”
           “You better get ready. Your mother wouldn’t like to wait once she gets there.”
           “Yes, Appa. Bye,” Jiyong said hastily.
           “Take good care,” his father advised.
           “Yes, Appa.”
           They both hung up simultaneously and returned to their business. Jiyong hurried downstairs to question Chomee of her sudden announcement and his father went on to change out of his sleeping attire.
           “Hurry, I’m late already,” Chomee instructed Sangah and helped push her suitcase out of her room.
           “Late? Jiyong’s not due at the hospital till later on in the day,” Sangah said, confused.
           “I know that, but I was supposed to leave early in the morning. I have to get home to my mother,” Chomee lied. Well, it is partly the truth.
           “Chomee!” Jiyong cried again. He felt his way around the servant quarters and managed to find his way back to where he wanted to go.
           “If he asks, just say I’m visiting my mother. She’s in critical condition,” Chomee told Sangah.
           “Really?” Sangah gasped.
           “She’s actually alright, but I’m worried,” Chomee said hastily, running back into her room for her pictures.
           “Are you coming back?” Sangah whispered.
           Chomee hugged her pictures and followed Sangah out, “I doubt it.”
           “Why? I thought school don’t start till...don’t you still have a few more months?” Sangah questioned. “Or are you going home and care for your mother?”
           “I want to spend more time with my mother. After I go off to school, I won’t be able to see her till vacation. And that takes a while.”
           Sangah nodded sadly. “But...you and Master Jiyong...”
           Chomee slowed her pace. “What?”
           Sangah stopped and spun around. “You two...”
           “What?” Chomee repeated. “What’s wrong?”
           “Jiyong’s much nicer now. Because of you. And I think he’s beginning to like you,” Sangah said softly.
           Chomee stood rooted to the floor, not sure of how to react.
           “Chomee!” Jiyong exclaimed, coming towards them. He came closer, not aware of the suitcase that stood in his way.
           “Master! Watch out!” Sangah shouted, reaching for the luggage.
           Chomee rushed over to Jiyong to stop him and waited for him to calm down. “What is it?”
           “What was that?” Jiyong demanded. “Why’d you stop me?”
           “You were going to trip,” Chomee replied, signaling for Sangah to move the suitcase out.
           “A box. Ajuma wanted us to take out the platters, she’s cooking up a feast in celebration,” Chomee said as the thought came to mind. Something’s wrong with her. She has learned how to lie in such a short period of time and she’s doing it very often now.
           “Oh,” Jiyong responded with a smile. “Well, then. I guess that’s good. Where are you going though? You said you had to go.”
           “I meant I had to go help out. You were on the phone and I didn’t want to disturb you,” Chomee lied again.
           Jiyong nodded. “Well, my mother’s on her way over and I think Susan’s coming with us.”
           Chomee’s hand slipped and the picture frames tumbled to the floor. “N-N-Now?!”
           “What’s that?”
           “Oh, it’s nothing. Just some things Ajuma wanted me to get for her,” Chomee answered uneasily as she watched Jiyong bend to pick up the items.
           Jiyong slowly examined the things with his hands and turned them over to Chomee. “Picture frames?”
           Chomee remained silent, not wanting to answer.
           “Well, my mother’s gonna be here soon, better go get ready,” Jiyong said one final time and returned to his room.
           Chomee quickly stole away to the driveway, where her ride awaited her. Just as she made it to the car, another one, a Mercedes Benz appeared, freezing the flow of her blood.
           Mrs. Ko saw the petite girl staring at her approaching car and immediately her eyes narrowed to slits. “Shouldn’t she be gone by now?”
           “Who, ajuma?” Susan asked innocently.
           “That little wretch,” Jiyong’s mother replied. “Well, that’s one of the reasons why I came early. After I get rid of her, we’ll be on our way.”
           Chomee stood by the car and waited for the Benz to come closer. Her legs are numb like jello. Although her mind is telling her to go, but her legs aren’t following command. The Benz rolled forward and soon it came to a halt. Chomee shielded her eyes as the beam of the bright sun bounced off the hood.
           Mrs. Ko stepped out of the vehicle with such coolness, the heat was no longer bothering Chomee. “I thought you were gone already.”
           “I got a late start,” Chomee said meekly. “I was just leaving.”
           “Oh,” Mrs. Ko said amusingly. “Well, I’ll escort you,” she offered.
           Susan had already gotten out of the car and observed Chomee from a distance.
           Chomee kept her eyes on her sandals and waited as the driver unloaded her luggage from the car and into Mrs. Ko’s.
           “Wait inside, sweetie,” Mrs. Ko told Susan.
           Susan nodded and glued her eyes on Chomee for a while longer. Definitely not his type.
           Chomee fidgeted under Susan’s gaze, not looking up. She waited as the driver removed her luggage and piled it into Mrs. Ko’s. Susan finally shifted her eyes away and headed up towards the stairs just as Jiyong found his way out.
           “CHOMEE!” Jiyong shouted, shoving past a protesting Sangah. “CHOMEE!”
           Chomee gasped as she spun around. “Jiyong!”
           “Chomee? What are you doing out here?”
           Chomee blinked, trying to think of a reply. "Uh...Uh..."
           Jiyong paused. "Where's my mom?"
           "I know she's here. Her Mercedes is right in front of me."
           Chomee glanced at the exquisite car, amazed with Jiyong.
           "I'm right next to the car, darling," his mother finally spoke up.
           "Yes, we'll be on our way shortly."
           "Chomee, too. She's coming with us," Jiyong informed his mother.
           "What?" Mrs. Ko demanded with a nervous chuckle.
           Chomee bit her lip as she tried to move towards the Benz. She could feel Susan's eyes ablaze now. They were burning holes into the ground, causing the heat to spread. She could still hear Jiyong rambling on, catching the last phrase.
           "I don't want Susan there. Save yourself time and tell her to go to Hell."
           Susan gasped.
           "C'mon, Chomee! We gotta make you pretty. Gotta give me a good first impression of you," Jiyong finished coyly, reaching for Chomee.
           Chomee threw her Bambi eyes on Mrs. Ko, a seething Mrs. Ko, and waited for permission. When she got nothing, Jiyong yanked her after him, running into the house, shivering uncontrollably.

*~*~» C h a p t e r · 28 «~*~*

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