*~*~» L o v e · i s · B l i n d «~*~*

Chapter 33

           The minutes were ticking. His hands were shaking. His heart was racing.
           "Doctor! Are you feeling well?" an assisting nurse asked. She peered at the doctor, concerned. She noticed how badly he was trembling and motioned for more assistance.
           "Con-Contact his family...they're..."
           "Doctor! Are you..."
           "I-I-I'm fine..he's losing blood. It'll probably damage his eyes even more. I can't stop the blood flow."
           An attendant ran off to find another doctor while Jiyong's doctor rushed to clog the problem and everybody ran around, frantic.
           It was the first. He had suggested a laser operation, but the board of supervisors were against it. It was safer, although new, but it wasn't bloody. But..
           "What's wrong?!" Dr. Jong barked, entering the operating room. He shoved the younger doctor aside and stared at the mess. "What's this?!"
           The younger doctor glared at his senior. "I told you all! Laser! But you didn't believe me!"
           Dr. Jong grunted and silenced the doctor in his thirties. "Just go and inform the family. I'll take care of this here."
           Dr. Kim stormed out of the operating room, angry at the world. Mostly at himself. He should've listened to himself and went on ahead with his original plan. Now...his career's over. Not entirely...Mrs. Ko, herself, didn't want the surgery to be used with laser. He couldn't operate without her consent. But..
           He was in for it. She's going to sue his ass and have him fired immediately and see to it that he'll never get a job ever again. Not even bagging groceries at a local market.
           As he neared the door, Mrs. Ko appeared before he could even stop at it. He took a step back, startled. She moves quick, he thought. How'd she find out already?
           But the little girl Jiyong had asked to follow came out. Mr. Ko followed not too shortly.
           Great. Now they're ganging up on me, the doctor thought miserably.
           Mrs. Ko was the first to stop and recognize him. "Dr. Kim!"
           Chomee and Mr. Ko turned in the direction of Mrs. Ko's voice. They both saw the doctor, pale and sweaty. Chomee's eyes widened and realized something was wrong. Jiyong was probably calling for her and she left.
           "Wh-What's wrong?!" Chomee cried before the words could even form in Mrs. Ko's mind. "It's Jiyong, isn't it?! Something happened!"
           Dr. Kim took a deep breath and looked down at the little girl before him. Her Bambi eyes were filled with worried and...guilt...
           Chomee, unknowingly, was about to reach out and grasp the doctor's arm. But Mrs. Ko moved faster and snatched the girl back. Just as Chomee flew back to the door, nearly tripping upon the sudden jerk, Susan ran down the hall towards them. Susan slowed and saw Chomee fall against the door and froze.
           It somehow hurted her. In a way, she was happy. But..she couldn't help but feel that something was wrong. She could see Jiyong's mother wasn't too happy. And the doctor..the doctor Jiyong had disappeared with. She picked up her feet and slowly strolled over to them. She kept glancing around her, looking for Jiyong's tall figure.
           "What happened?!" Mrs. Ko demanded quietly. She knew something was wrong. Operation was two hours. One hour hasn't even been up yet and the doctor came trudging back looking guilty.
           Chomee sniffled and felt a tear roll down her face. It's my fault..I left him..I shouldn't have left...I should've stay, she said mentally.
           Mr. Ko stood aside and took everything in. He saw Susan nearing them and turned to Chomee, who was quietly crying. He turned his attention back to his wife and Dr. Kim. "Did something...unexpected happen?" he asked timidly.
           Susan felt her heart stop. Unexpected...
           Chomee's tears stopped flowing as the word left Mr. Ko's lips. The dreaded, haunting word. Unexpected...
           Mrs. Ko's deadly snake eyes stilled. Why must her husband phrase his questions like that?! She waited for an answer. The answer. Jiyong's fine. Nothing's wrong. Nothing could go wrong. She's spending millions and billions. He can't lose hope. Everything's supposed to be fine. Nothing unexpected is supposed to happen. She kept her eyes on the doctor as the word echoed in the deepest valley of her brain. Unexpected...
           Dr. Kim licked his lips and adjusted his glasses. "Uhhh..."
           Chomee willed herself to move, but she couldn't. Her legs were stuck. She felt helpless. She pushed herself off the door and fell forward, falling onto the floor in a heap. Susan jumped back, surprised by the sudden collapse.
           "Chomee!" Mr. Ko gasped, attending the girl.
           Dr. Kim hurried to her too, pulling her up. When he lifted her head, he saw streams of tears all over her face. She was sobbing quietly, painfully...
           "Lemme..." she whispered very lightly. "Lemme see him.."
           Dr. Kim nodded and helped Chomee to her feet. When he realized she couldn't stand he picked her up and carried her to the waiting room by the operation room. Jiyong's parents and Susan followed close behind. They didn't dare to utter or make a single sound. Dr. Kim placed Chomee on a nearby chair and left for a wheelchair. Chomee sat alone, aloof. The tears dried up and hardened.
           Then a yell came.
           Chomee snapped out of her mental shell and sat up straight. Jiyong...
           "JIYONG!!!" Mrs. Ko screamed, advancing towards the operating room.
           Chomee fell out of the chair, trying to stand. She collapsed on the floor while Jiyong's parents and Susan crowded around the doorway, trying to pry it open. The frustrated tears came again, spilling carelessly all over the place. She grunted as she gradually pulled herself towards their feet.
           It was hard. She bit down on her lower lip and went on dragging herself. She had to see Jiyong. She owed it to him. He trusted her and wanted her to be there. She whimpered and felt she couldn't go on. But she stretched out and found somebody's heel. She inched forward and gently tapped on the shoe.
           Another yell.
           "Jiyong," Chomee breathed, inhaling as another tear rolled off her cheek.
           All of a sudden, the door burst open and everybody flew away from the door. Chomee screamed as the three pairs of feet trampled all over her.
           Shocked and startled, everybody jumped everywhere, realizing they stepped on something warm and gushy. Chomee laid still on the floor, the pinching pain attacking her from all sides. She moaned then grew silent and wished she was at home with her mom. Then she blinked. She forgot all about leaving. When she left the waiting room with Jiyong's parents, they had planned on leaving. Then the doctor showed up.
           "Chomee?" Dr. Kim said softly. He nudged her gently and and turned her over. "Are you alright?"
           Chomee nodded, one last tear slipping from the corner of her eye. "I'm..fine," she whispered.
           "Jiyong's calling for you. I guess he wants you inside. He just woke up," the doctor informed her.
           Chomee nodded as the doctor picked her up again and placed her into a wheel chair. She sank into the chair, her body aching. Dr. Kim wheeled her in, Mrs. Ko eager to follow.
           "I'm sorry. The patient only wishes to see Chomee," Dr. Kim said flatly.
           Mrs. Ko's face fell. "W-W-What? Th-Th-There must be some mistake. I-I-I'm his mother!"
           "Well, he only wishes to see Chomee. Nobody else," Dr. Kim repeated and closed the door firmly behind him.
           Chomee looked tiredly around her. Nurses were running all over the place. Bloody clothes and red was everywhere. "Ji..."
           "Jiyong.." she murmured.
           Dr. Kim pushed her closer to the operating table and motioned for her to be still. "You're not supposed to be in here."
           "Cho...Cho..." Jiyong croaked.
           "He still has some of the shots in his system. He's not supposed to wake up so soon. Afterall, the surgery was set for two hours. I don't think he got the right doses. Be careful."
           "Cho...Chomeeeeeee..." Jiyong moaned.
           "Ji...Jiyong," Chomee whispered, leaning on the table.
           Jiyong's hands searched for hers and she reached for him. "Chooooo...Chomeeee..."
           "Hi," she said gently. "You okay?"
           "Cho...Chomeeeee...Where's Chomee?"
           "I'm right here," Chomee answered, her weak smile faultering.
           "He's still drugged. He might not know you're talking to him," Dr. Kim explained.
           Chomee nodded and edged closer. It was a nasty sight. He had blood splattered all over his face and white bandages wrapped around his eyes. Something had gone wrong. She turned to the doctor and in her most softest voice asked, "Is..Is he gonna see?"
           Dr. Kim looked away. He chewed on his thumb for a few seconds and stood behind Chomee. In a husky, deadpan voice, only spirits can hear, he replied: "Most likely not."


           "What?!" Miyoung shrieked. "Why?!"
           Jiwon pulled Miyoung back and quickly stepped up to the receptionist. "Excuse me, miss. You don't understand. This is deathly important. You have to let us see him."
           The girl behind the desk frowned. "Well, I have special orders. You can't see this patient. I'm afraid you'll have to wait. He's in surgery right now."
           "What?!" Jaeduk shouted. "Surgery? What happened?"
           "I'm not allowed to release medical conditions or more information. Please step aside and wait in the waiting room."
           Miyoung felt the urge to walk behind the counter and smack the rude bitch upside her head. But Jiwon saw the urge and dragged her back. Miyoung had to bite down on her tongue to keep from kicking the desk. She spat on the pile of papers before the receptionist and let Jiwon and Jaejin take her away.
           Seonghoon, being nosy as usual, had left the others when he entered the hospital. He went snooping around and found himself drifting away from his friends. When he realized he had gone too far, he tried to retrace his steps back to the main lobby where he left his friends. Then something caught his eyes.
           Gucci watch. LV purse.
           Seonghoon felt his heart skip a beat. Susan. He tiptoed towards her and saw her pacing back and forth in a room. It looked like another waiting room. He saw Jiyong's parents sitting in the far end corner. Somebody was missing.
           He knocked on the window pane and waited. He saw Susan stop and turn towards the window. Thank God he was tall enough to see past the gap over the curtains. He saw Susan narrow her eyes and headed towards the opened door.
           A hiccup escaped Seonghoon's lips as he neared the door and waited for Susan to appear. When she did, her expression changed from one of a great mixture to pure surprise.
           "Hoonie!" she greeted a bit loud. "W-W-What are you doing here?"
           "Funny, I was gonna ask the same thing," Seonghoon replied, folding his arms across his chest. He leaned against the wall beside him and stared at Susan.
           "I'm waiting for Jiyong. Chomee's inside the operating room," Susan mumbled.
           "That's the operating room?" Seonghoon asked, nodding at the room Susan was in.
           "Yeah. Hoonie! It's not good. They're taking forever. And...And they said something happened. They didn't tell us what. But Chomee knows. She's inside and won't come out!" Susan finally blurted.
           "What?" Seonghoon said. "Something happened? What do you mean by that?!"
           Then the door to the operating room opened. Chomee was wheeled out by Dr. Kim and Seonghoon bounced off the wall. Everybody went to the doctor and Seonghoon allowed himself in after Susan and found Chomee on a wheelchair. "Chomee!"
           Chomee looked up slowly from her bloody hands. Her eyes wandered for a while and eventually found a friendly face. "Seonghoon," she whispered with a smile.
           "Chomee!" Seonghoon cried again and ran to her. He knelt before her grabbed her hands. "What happened? How come you're bloody? Are you alright?"
           "We'll give her a checkup and clean her up a bit. She shouldn't have any problems," Dr. Kim responded, still holding onto the wheelchair.
           "B-B-But...what's with the wheelchair?" Seonghoon asked, looking into Chomee's expressionless face. "What's wrong, Chomee? Chomee?"
           "He's not fine," she said in a very small voice. She stared at her hands entwined with Seonghoon's and repeated herself. "Jiyong's...not good."
           "What?" Seonghoon murmured in the same tone as Chomee. "What..What do you mean.."
           Dr. Kim turned to Jiyong's parents. "I'm afraid I have bad new for you. But I have to see to it that this girl here gets proper treatment. I'll be you shortly. Dr. Jong is now attending your son. He'll be out with Jiyong and he'll be placed in a room."
           "Chomee," Seonghoon pleaded. "Talk to me. What's wrong?"
           Chomee kept the faraway look. "Everything.."

Chapter 34

           Seonghoon left with Chomee and spotted his friends milling around. He went to his friends and reported what Chomee had told him seconds ago.
           "WHAT?!" Jiwon screamed. He grabbed Seonghoon by the collar and shook the boy hard. "What happened?! Nothing was supposed to happen!"
           Seonghoon flopped for a while longer before Jaejin and Soowon removed Jiwon's hands. Jaeduk stood behind Seonghoon as support and helped still Seonghoon. "You think I know?! I'm telling you what Chomee told me!"
           "Chomee? She's here?!" Miyoung asked, joining Jiwon. "Where is she?"
           Seonghoon turned to Miyoung. "She looks horrible. I think whatever happened shocked the living hell outta her. It must've been bad. She look so lost. She had blood all over her hands..."
           Jiwon's jaw fell open, his eyes gone soft. "Blood? How'd that happen?"
           "That what I'm trying to find out. She was in the operating room while Susan and his parents were outside waiting," Seonghoon told them.
           "Where is she now?" Miyoung asked, worried.
           "She's getting a checkup now. And..she was in a wheelchair," Seonghoon said in a hushed voice.
           "What?" Jaeduk squealed. "Wheelchair?"
           Seonghoon nodded and looked directly at Jiwon. "I think Jiyong's jinxed."
           Enraged, Jiwon hollered: "Don't fuckin say that!"
           Seonghoon and Jaeduk shrank back. Everybody else remained silent and all thought about what to do for the time being. With the newly discovered information Seonghoon provided, nobody wanted to believe a single word of it. But all they could do was wait. Pray for the best. Hope for the best.
           Yet, wait for the worst.


           Jiyong, close to gaining conscious, opened his eyes. Or at least thought he did. He remained still and felt himself move backwards. Somebody was pushing him. Wait..it wasn't somebody. It was some people.
           He felt himself turn. They must have rounded a corner and down another long corridor. He knew that because they kept going in a straight line. Something wasn't right. It was dark. The hospital must be out of power again. Then he slowed down to a halt.
           His room. They're pushing me into my room, he realized. But he felt like he's entrapped in a daze. He was wrapped in a cacoon and he was suffocating. Where was Chomee?
           Chomee...he just remembered. Where was she? They've taken her away. Where were his parents? Why is it so dark? He kept quiet and waited for everybody to leave, then turned to his side. It was strange. He felt drowsy. Then clear a few seconds later and then he'd feel stuffy and sleepy again.
           He returned to his original position on the bed and stayed still again. He felt stiff. He tried turning his head and found his neck sore. He then remembered he was at the hospital. He was there and so was Chomee. She was right next to him and then...and then she disappeared. They took him some where and she was left behind.
           Surgery. His eyes. It all came to him. He was supposed to have a two hour surgery on his eyes. Was the two hours up already? He felt confused and lost. Was it night or day? It was so dark. Was the power out again?
           He reached up to feel his eyes and nearly jumped out of his skin. Instead of feeling his face, he felt something else. Something else was in place of his eyes. He gently touched the thing and felt around his face.
           He was bandaged. The material was coarse and itching the hell out of him. He stayed still and waited. It was all silent and chilly. Could he see again? He wanted to see Chomee first. But..what if she left? She said she'd to leave once he regains his vision. She couldn't leave him. Not now. Not after he's able to see again.
           He went on worrying and his head spun in so many different directions. It was so dark. He remembered the night of the attack. The night when the killer climbed in and tried to kill him. He shivered at the flashback and tried to hide further into his bed. He felt dizzy and fought to still his mind.
           His temples pounded as he felt the effect of the shot kicking in once again. Everything became a blur and he couldn't think clearly anymore. It was all silent as he fell into a deep ravine of unconsciousness.


           Mrs. Ko sat on the edge of her chair, wringing her dress. She sat in between Susan and her husband, waiting for the results.
           Nothing could be wrong. Hopefully not, she prayed silently.
           Dr. Jung, along with Dr. Kim, each reviewed the records. They exchanged glances and Dr. Kim sighed. There was no hope. Nothing at all. But there was some strange indiction on the file about Jiyong's medical history...something wasn't right.
           Dr. Jung spoke up. "Mr. Ko. Mrs. Ko."
           "What are his chances?" Mrs. Ko blurted, her heart close to exploding with anticipation.
           Dr. Jung sighed. Solemnly, he replied: "Not good."
           Mrs. Ko felt herself go. The whole world was closing in on her and there was nothing she could do. She released her grasp on her dress and clutched at her poor heart. She did all she could and still failed. Her first failure. She couldn't stand failure and she shoot icy glares at the doctor, seething with anger. "How could this have happened?! I was told he'd see! He'd recover fully! What's this bullshit?!!"
           Dr. Kim remained silent and kept his eyes on the charts. It wasn't right. Unless he's right...
           "Nothing is guaranteed, Mrs. Ko. Especially when you're dealing with medical science. And most specially when you're dealing with taking risks and chances. Nothing. Nothing is guaranteed one hundred percent."
           "Damn you medical fucks!" Mrs. Ko belted out. "I donated millions of dollars here and I spent fortunes! This is the fuckin shit I get for my generosity?!"
           Dr. Kim sat up a little straighter and turned to the report on the next page. He quickly reviewed the notes and turned to Dr. Jung. "Are they still running tests?"
           Dr. Jung, startled by the sudden inquiry, blinked several times. "Y-Y-Yes...I believe so."
           Mrs. Ko then shot her eyes over to the doctor responsible for Jiyong's mishap. "YOU!"
           Dr. Kim's eyebrows shot up. "Uh?"
           "You malpractitioner! Where's your degree?! Lemme see your certificates!" Mrs. Ko demanded.
           "My degree? Lady, there's something wrong with you. Lemme ask you something," Dr. Kim shot back. "Lemme see your tax forms. You sure you're not corrupt? Lemme see your donation slips. How could I be sure you're not donating black money to this hospital? Lemme see your I.D. You're probably not even Mrs. Ko as you claim that you are!"
           Mr. Ko shot to his feet and slammed a fist down on the desk that came in between him and the doctors. "Dr. Kim!"
           Dr. Kim looked up at the man. "Just because you're rich, doesn't mean you get special benefits or priviledges. You don't get to have everything your way. I understand you're frustrated because Jiyong can't see. But have you ever asked him how he feels about things? When we went into surgery, Jiyong stated he didn't even agree to the surgery!"
           The couple sealed their lips and looked off away from the doctors. Tension and uncomfortable silence hung between them as they all retreated back to their worlds. Dr. Jung looked over to Dr. Kim disapprovingly and frowed.
           Dr. Kim sighed and closed Jiyong's file. "I'm not allowed to discuss Jiyong's medical history with you, but apparently...there has been some irregularities I'm afraid I have to point out."
           Mrs. Ko looked up. Though she hated the doctor, she couldn't misdirect her gaze once upon hearing those words. "What irregularities?"
           "Mrs. Ko, are you aware that your son has received none or close to not even having one session of therapy till the past weeks?"
           Mrs. Ko forcefully dipped her head and swallowed. Jiyong was so angry he didn't even talk to her for the whole year he was blind. He ignored her and didn't even bother acknowledging her. He was so bitter and barked at everybody around him. She eventually backed off and didn't even bother contacting him.
           Dr. Kim sighed and gave up. "I'm going to see him. Hopefully the tests are over."
           "What test?" Mrs. Ko snapped, watching the doctor rise to his feet.
           "We have assistants putting him through tests. They should be finished. I'm checking on him now."
           Dr. Jung didn't hold Kim back and let him leave. He then spoke up. "Mrs. Ko. I hope you understand we're doing everything we can."
           "Uhmmm," Susan interrupted. She glanced around her and asked: "What exactly happened?"
           "There was excessive blood loss. We're afraid Jiyong won't be able to see due to this tremendous loss. We're doing all we can to help," Dr. Jung replied.
           "Blood loss? How'd that happen?" Mr. Ko asked.
           "It's...hard to explain. I'm not entirely certain of what happened. I only took over to stop the blood flow. I'm only aware that Jiyong's chances of recovering's 50/50."
           Mrs. Ko hissed and held her breath. Only 50/50. This is so unfair, she thought.
           Dr. Jung nodded and studied each sullen face. They reminded him of gargoyles. He leaned back in his chair and watied. Maybe he should've gone with Kim. He wasn't confortable waiting around with families of patients. He stood and cleared his throat. "I will be with Dr. Kim. I'll return with the results." He quickly left the room and went to find Dr. Kim.
           If the patient does recover, he'll be gratefully happy and retire in two weeks. If not, then he'll feel guilty and wait for the board of superiors to bitch the fuck out of him. He sighed and spotted Dr. Kim standing outside Jiyong's room. He found it strange and approached the man. "Dr. Kim."
           "Huh?" Dr. Kim looked up from Jiyong's files.
           "Why are you out here? Shouldn't you be inside?"
           "They're finishing up. Look!" Dr. Kim shoved Jiyong's file into Dr. Jung's hands. "Tell me I'm not wrong."
           Dr. Jung gave Dr. Kim a strange look before accepting the charts.
           "He's stable at the moment. Remember how you checked him after you stopped the blood? These are the results. Tell me what you see."
           Dr. Jung carefully reviewed the grids and notes the other doctors scribbled down. They were all the same. Nothing he saw was out of the ordinary. "I don't get it."
           "Look in between the numbers on pages one through five. Don't they look disturbing?"
           Dr. Jung stared at the numbers, taking the hint. He still couldn't see what was wrong. He slowly walked away, from the door and without realizing it, he went to the lounge. He placed everything flat out on the table while Dr. Kim left to get coffee.
           Numbers in between. One through five.
           Then he spotted it. Page three. Dr. Kim returned with two cups of steaming coffee and handed one over to him. "Thanks."
           Dr. Kim nodded and sat on a nearby couch, waiting for Dr. Jung.
           Page one and two, the numbers were low but steady. But on page three, one small mark skipped and went a notch higher. That made a difference. Pages four and five, the marks were higher and were expected to be.
           Dr. Jung felt his heart stop at the discovery. He turned to the young doctor on the couch and paused. That would mean... "You're thinking?"
           "Let's take his bandages off."

Chapter 35

           Seonghoon held onto Chomee's small figure as they all headed down to Jiyong's room. With Jiwon and Jaejin leading the way, Miyoung, Soowon and Jaeduk were following close behind.
           A nurse came by looking for Chomee in the waiting room earlier, announcing the good news. Chomee—cleaned up and refreshed—along with Jiyong's friends all screamed with joy and surprise. Jiwon and everybody else jumped up and started hugging each other fiercely.
           Meanwhile, Dr. Jung reported what Dr. Kim had found in the documentation. The excessive blood loss cleared whatever problem Jiyong had that caused the temporary lack of eyesight.
           Mrs. Ko then recalled Jiyong never had a thorough checkup the day of the accident. The doctor responsible that day just cleaned him up and gave him treatment to the visible injuries. He never mentioned anything about vision problems. It was Jiyong who woke up and they all found out he was blind.
           "Would you like to see him?" Dr. Jung asked, bringing Mrs. Ko's attention back to the present.
           Mrs. Ko bobbed her head and quickly got to her feet. Susan and Mr. Ko did the same and all four of them headed for the door.


           "I'm sorry, immediate family only," Dr. Kim said, blocking the doorway to Jiyong's room.
           "What?! Haven't we waited long enough?!" Jaeduk shrieked.
           Miyoung agreed. "We are his immediate family. We have to see him."
           "Please?" Chomee pleaded with her wide eyes. She hugged Seonghoon tighter, her arms circling his waist as his arm rested on her shoulders.
           "Where's his parents?" Jaejin asked, looking around. "Aren't they here?"
           "Another doctor has gone to speak with them," Dr. Kim replied.
           "Why can't we just see him? Just let us in there for five minutes and we'll leave," Soowon said.
           "Yeah! Before his meanie parents come!" Jaeduk added.
           Jiwon laughed at Jaeduk's input and turned to the doctor. "Please, doctor. We've all waited for this important day. We're here to wish him luck and see how well he's doing. Like Jaeduk and Soowon said, we won't be long. His parents doesn't have to know. You can kick us out after he talks to us."
           Dr. Kim debated with himself. If everything was entirely up to him, he'd let them stay 24 hours. But it wasn't. And the young man did say he could kick them out later. "Okay. Make it quick. I'm doing this against policy." He held the door for the children as they all scampered inside. He closed the door and kept guard outside. Just in case if things came up..
           "Ddo Chi!" Jaeduk shrieked, the first to reach Jiyong. "Happy Get Up Day!"
           Jiyong's head cocked towards the voice. "Jaeduk?"
           "Yes! Once you can see again, you open this box!" Jaeduk placed the present by Jiyong's hand.
           "What is it?" Jiyong asked, feeling the box.
           "You'll see."
           "What if I don't?"
           "Who else's here?" Jiyong asked, breaking the silence.
           "We're all here!" Miyoung replied happily.
           "Where's Chomee?" Jiyong demanded, suddenly remembering she came with him.
           Seonghoon nudged her and pulled her closer to the bed. "She's right here."
           Jiyong reached out and touched Seonghoon's hand. "You're not Chomee. She has small soft hands. Where is she?"
           Jaeduk giggled and watched Jiyong caress Seonghoon's hand then flung it aside. He took a seat by the window and scratched his head. Everybody else started talking all at once and for once, Jiyong actually laughed.
           It was strange. Everything seemed like it was back to normal. Jiyong's going to see and everybody wasn't sure of how to act around him. They all wanted to be cautious, but didn't want to treat him like a fragile piece of china. They laughed for about another five minutes before the door flew open, interrupting them.
           Everybody stilled and all heads turned to the door to find Jiyong's parents, Susan and both doctors standing by the door.
           "Don't worry. You're not in trouble, but I do need for you to leave. There's too many of you guys here," Dr. Jung explained. "You all can continue this reunion after he's released."
           Up till now, Jiyong's friends all sighed with relief. They all bid Jiyong farewell for the time being and headed for the door.
           "Wait!" Jiyong called out abruptly.
           Everybody halted and didn't dare to move.
           "Can Chomee stay?" he asked quietly.
           Glances were exchanged and Seonghoon looked down at Chomee as she looked over to the adults. Mrs. Ko and Dr. Jung nodded together. Seonghoon hugged Chomee one last time and smiled at her. He quickly followed Jiwon and Miyoung out, leaving Chomee behind.
           Chomee looked helplessly after Seonghoon and her eyes traveled to Mrs. Ko. She shrank back and stood alone by herself by the door as the remaining people all went closer to Jiyong.
           "Chomee?" Jiyong called. He heard at least ten pairs of feet shuffling around but nobody spoke up. "Did she leave?"
           "N-No," Chomee stammered and slowly approached his bed.
           "Chomee!" Jiyong cried with a bright smile. "I thought you left me! Stand next to me. I want you to be the first person I see."
           Chomee gave him a small smile but kept her distance. She felt two hawk-like glares burning her entire body and she couldn't help not shivering.
           Mrs. Ko reached over and tapped Chomee on the shoulder. She leaned over to the girl and whispered one word in her ear. "Remember."
           Chomee felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. She gave Mrs. Ko the biggest her eyes could go. She wasn't thinking of pulling the plan into action. Not now! Not when they're so close...
           Mrs. Ko nodded, understanding the risk and how much was at stake. But Jiyong must not see her!
           Chomee could only dip her head and move towards Susan. Things weren't going exactly how they had thought it would. Jiyong's two hour surgery was cut back more than an hour which doesn't give them much time. No matter what, Mrs. Ko had told her, they must leave before Jiyong could see.
           As the bandage slowly unraveled around his head, Chomee back away from the bed. Susan stepped forward in Chomee’s place and waited anxiously for Jiyong to look at her.
           “Chomee,” he called out, feeling for Chomee's hand.
           "I’m right here," she responded, watching Jiyong’s hand inching for Susan’s. He smiled with satisfaction and nodded as if pleased.
           "Jiyong," Susan said sweetly.
           Jiyong scowled at the fake voice and snatched his hand away. “Where’s Chomee? You’re not Chomee. I want Chomee!"
           “Jiyong. I’m right here,” Chomee answered softly.
           “No. I want you next to me. I need your hand. Not hers,” he spat.
           Susan sighed, frustrated by the whole ordeal. Chomee squeezed in between the doctor and Susan.
           “Jiyong,” Chomee said quietly.
           Jiyong’s ears plucked at the voice. His hand shot out and held tightly onto Chomee’s hand.
           “Jiyong. You’re hurting my hand,” Chomee lied, feeling uncomfortable under his mother’s fiery gaze.
           He loosened his grip and nodded happily.
           "I'm afraid you have to let go," said Dr. Jung.
           Jiyong hesitated.
           "It won't be for long," the doctor was quick to add. Mrs. Ko had explained the situation to him, hoping he could help distract Jiyong for a little while.
           "Listen to the doctor," Mrs. Ko begged.
           "Yes, please listen," his father agreed.
           “Jiyong. The sooner the bandage comes off, the sooner you can leave,” Chomee said convincingly.
           Jiyong immediately release his hold of Chomee’s hand and Chomee and Susan swaped places. Mrs. Ko and Susan exchanged glances and nodded simultaneously. Chomee silently tiptoed out of the room accompanied by Jiyong’s mother.
           "Thank you so much for your services and cooperation. I really appreciate it," Mrs. Ko smiled wanly.
           Chomee responded with a slight smile, rather tight and reluctant. Uncomfortable silence hung between the two as they walked out of the hospital. It was all over. They made it. She made it.
           "Here's your money and I've included a bonus for being so wonderful to my son. I'm sorry this is so sudden," Mrs. Ko said bluntly. She handed Chomee a check and locked her lips tightly.
           Chomee accepted the check and folded it without looking at the amount and pocketed it. "Thank you," she whispered, keeping her head low.
           "When you get back home, wish your mother well for me," Mrs. Ko said sincerely, her eyes on the petite child.
           Chomee nodded numbly, not sure of how to reply.
           "Don't worry about transportation. I'll have one of my servants drive you home. That way you don't have to wait so long."
           Chomee nodded again and murmured another, "Thank you."
           "Another thing."
           Chomee looked up, startled by the way how the woman had said that. "Yes?"
           "I'd appreciate it if you and Jiyong don't meet. You know, with Susan and all. I'd allow letters, but in the current circumstances..."
           Chomee nodded, understanding Mrs. Ko's demands. "I understand. No contact what-so-ever."
           Mrs. Ko pursed her lips. "Yes."
           "Thank you for everything," Chomee said humbly. "I must go now. Say goodbye to Jiyong for me."
           "I will," Mrs. Ko assured her.
           "Take care." Chomee cast one last look at the hospital and walked away, heading towards the Mercedes Benz that awaited for her to aboard. The chaeuffer opened the door and she stepped right in, settling in quickly.
           "I have to get away from here," she said to herself. The overwhelming feeling she was suddenly having was suffocating her. She picked up her heavy feet and curled into a ball on the seat. She turned to look out the window, her heart heavy.
           She promised Jiyong she'd be there.
           She promised.
           And she broke it.

*~*~» C h a p t e r · 36 «~*~*

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