*~*~» L o v e · i s · B l i n d «~*~*

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Chapter 36
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           Jiyong held his breath as he felt each layer peeled away from his face. He was seconds away from seeing Chomee. It was only a matter of seconds and he could open his eyes and see the world again.
           The material was getting lighter and lighter. Soon he felt the last of it fall from his eyes and sending a feeling of coolness to his head. He blinked, not seeing anything.
           It was pitch dark and he kept blinking. Holy, fucking crap! I can't see, he thought. He closed his eyes and tried to keep his peace. He slowly reopened them to see darkness.
           Mrs. Ko returned just in time to find her husband and Susan hovering over her son. She quickly scurried over to join the others. She gasped softly, watching her son's eyes flutter like a butterfly's wing.
           He was blinking furiously, still not seeing anything. He felt something deep within him about explode. All the hope and wishes he had built up inside him was all a waste. He suddenly stopped and squeezed his eyes shut. He had to see. He just had to! He promised himself he'd see. He vowed to himself that he'd see Chomee. Before he dies, he had to see her.
           "Chomee!" he cried, the anger now dissolving to fear. "Chomee!"
           Mrs. Ko stopped in her tracks. She looked over to Susan. They stared at each other for a good minute before tending to Jiyong. Mrs. Ko neared Jiyong on the other side of the bed and reached out to smooth the hair back from his face. "Jiyong.."
           "Oma! Where's Chomee?" Jiyong demanded, taking his mother's hand.
           "She..She's in the bathroom, darling."
           Jiyong nodded and his eyes flew open. It was so unfair. All the hope he had worked up was all for nothing. He stayed still as his head rolled from side to side, waiting for Chomee to come back.
           Then...
           He saw something. It was faint. Very, very faint.
           "Jiyong?" Dr. Jung called. "Jiyong..can you see anything?"
           It was dark, then it got lighter. Lighter. Lighter. A lot lighter. White..he saw white. "N-N-No.." Jiyong stammered uncertainly. "I can't see anything."
           "What do you see?"
           "White light."
           Dr. Jung raised a brow. White light? "Anything else?"
           Anything else? Jiyong squinted, the light surprising him. He was momentarily blinded by the sudden light and held up a hand. A shadow came over his eyes. He moved his hand and saw the shadow move. His hand. It was his hand. He pulled his hand closer to his face, the color getting darker. He could see!
           Mrs. Ko bit her lip. Pray to God he's able to see. She looked down at her hands that were tightly clutching the rails of the bed, her knuckles snow white. She released her grasp and continued watching her son observe his hand.
           He could see a shape. It was his hand. It was blurry, but getting clearer. A face appeared before his. Chomee! It was Chomee! He blinked a few more times, his vision clearing by the minute. Chomee looked somewhat familiar. Then he saw long hair. Immediately he knew something was wrong. Chomee has short hair. Not long.
           "Chomee?"
           Then it got clearer. Susan. Her face was still blurred, but he could tell it was her. A few other heads appeared with Susan's and he was hoping one of them would be Chomee.
           He slowly let his eyes adjust to the images around him. He turned his face to look at the room before focusing on the people.
           "Jiyong," Susan said with a smile.
           "Where's Chomee?" He knew Chomee wasn't in no bathroom. "Where is she?!"
           Susan's smile fell. She glanced at Jiyong's mother and held her breath. All she knows is that Chomee's leaving. Where to? She has no idea.
           "Jiyong, honey," his mother cooed. "I'm so glad you can see. Can you see me? What am I wearing?"
           "What you always wear. Clothes."
           Mrs. Ko stared at her son in shock. Is this the good Chomee left behind in her son?!
           Jiyong sat up on the bed and swung his legs over the rails.
           "Jiyong," the doctor said sternly, stopping him. "You can't move around. Please remain still."
           Jiyong, regardless, hopped off the bed and ran to the door.
           "Stop him!" Mrs. Ko shouted, pushing her husband after her child. "He's not completely well!"
           Susan tried her best to go after Jiyong, but her shoes weren't helping compared to Jiyong's flat soles. Plus he had long legs. She clattered down the long hallway while Jiyong ran here and there, trying to find his friends.
           Jiwon, just leaving the restroom found Jiyong running past him. Startled, Jiwon blinked and rushed after the tall boy. He pulled on Jiyong's arm, jerking him back. "Jiyong!"
           Upon hearing the familiar voice did Jiyong stop. He spun around to find Jiwon staring at him. "Jiwon!"
           "What are you doing?"
           "Where's Chomee?!" Jiyong demanded, his hands on Jiwon's elbow. He shook Jiwon. "Where is she?"
           "Chomee? The little girl?"
           Jiyong nodded.
           "Isn't she with you? You asked her to stay and we left her behind. Didn't she stay?"
           Jiyong released Jiwon and tiled his head back.
           "Can you see now? What am I wearing?"
           Jiyong looked down at Jiwon's outfit? "What's with everybody asking me what they're wearing?"
           "So, can you go home now?"
           The question reminded Jiyong his parents are still in pursuit. "Yeah, c'mon!" He pulled Jiwon after him, breaking into a run.
           "Why are we running?"
           "You got your car?"
           "Yeah."
           "Good. Lemme use it."
           Before Jiwon could agree, a nurse stopped them and warned them of running. Jiyong and Jiwon nodded again and again before dashing off again.
           "Where are we going?" Jiwon asked, slowing down. He headed towards the waiting room and placed his hand on the door just as it swung open.
           "Where are you going? Your car's in there?" Jiyong asked.
           Seonghoon stepped out and screamed.
           Miyoung and Jaeduk fell off their chairs right when Jaejin clamped a hand over Seonghoon's mouth. Everybody tripped over each other just to get to the door to see what Seonghoon was screaming about.
           "It's Jiyong!" Seonghoon cried, pointing at his friend. "It's Jiyong and his eyes are moving!"
           "What am I wearing?" Miyoung asked.
           "Did you see my present?"
           "How does my hair look?" Seonghoon asked, standing directly in front of Jiyong. He brushed aside a lock of hair and smiled.
           Jiyong laughed. "A gay bastard. That's how you look."
           Jaeduk and Miyoung cackled at the comment as Jiwon screamed, "Oh, shit! He can see!"
           Seonghoon stuck his tongue out at Jiwon and snorted.
           "So we can leave now?" Soowon asked.
           Jiyong looked around him and nodded vehemently. "The sooner the better."
           "What's wrong?" Jaejin asked.
           "Where's Chomee?" Miyoung asked, realizing Chomee was missing.
           "I'm trying to find out myself!" Jiyong replied.
           "Uh-oh," Jiwon interrupted with a hiccup.
           Jiyong looked in the direction Jiwon was looking at and found his parents approaching them.
           "Uh-oh? What do you mean by that?" Jaeduk demanded.
           "RUN!" Jiyong screamed and sprinted down the hallway. Jiwon and Seonghoon followed close behind, pulling and pushing each other towards the exit to the parking lot.
           They flew out the door and slowed to find their friends but stopped short when nobody was behind them.
           "What the..." Seonghoon started but got cut off as his phone rang. He dug into his the pocket of his jeans and flipped the cell open. "What?"
           Jiyong cocked a brow.
           "That's how he answers his phone. Either that or he screams 'WHO?!' like an owl."
           "WHAT?!" Seonghoon bellowed. "Okay, okay, okay...yeah.." He started pushing Jiyong and Jiwon towards the Beemer. "Go! Go, go, go, go!" He nodded a few more times and ended the call. "Go! They're holding your parents and Susan back. Miyoung's fighting with Susan right now."
           "Word?" Jiyong scoffed. He took Jiwon's keys and climbed into the car. "I hope Miyoung gives her a good smack across the face."
           "I hope Miyoung kicks her in the face. I already smacked her," Jiwon told Jiyong.
           "You what?!" Jiyong and Seonghoon chorused.
           "When?" Jiyong demanded, pulling out of the space. He headed towards the exit ramp, trying to think of which direction to go.
           "A while back. I slapped her cause she screamed. I forgot what about though," Jiwon answered with a frown.
           Jiyong snickered. "Probably cause you wouldn't buy her that LV wallet she wanted. Don't matter. As long as you slapped the bitch."
           Seonghoon couldn't think of anything to say just nodded and agreed. He remained silent while Jiyong drove and Jiwon toyed with his system. It occured to him a while later that he had no idea where they were going and why they were running from Jiyong's parents. He looked over to Jiyong who was gripping on the steeling wheel with one hand and racing through the traffic in the city while Jiwon was changing cds and playing with the mirrors.
           "Slow down!" Jiwon yelled, holding onto the dash board.
           Jiyong ignored his request and sped up.
           "You dumb ass! Are you forgetting that you were blind not too long ago?!" Jiwon thundered. Only the screeching wind could be heard as the three second pause in between tracks came on.
           Jiyong kept his eyes on the road and picked up speed. He had to see Chomee. He just had to.
           "Hey, kid," Seonghoon interrupted. "How do you know which way Chomee went since she left the hospital while you were still in there?"
           "Shit," Jiwon muttered.
           "Call my mom. She has to know," Jiyong said bitterly.
           Seonghoon flipped open his cell and handed it over to Jiyong.
           "Oma?! Where the hell is she?!!" Jiyong barked.
           Jiwon sat back in the seat, stunned by Jiyong's hostility.
           "Oma, if you don't tell me what you've done to her, you better get ready to call the morgue!" Jiyong threatened.
           "No!" Seonghoon shouted. "I'm too young to die!"
           "Jiyong? Jiyong, honey! Where are you?!" Susan squealed, snatching the phone from Mrs. Ko.
           "I was talking to my mother," Jiyong replied coldly. "Where is Chomee?"
           "Chomee? She went — "
           "Jiyong, come back!" his mother commanded, taking the phone away from Susan. "I'll call Chomee and have her come back."
           "That's not good enough. Which way did she go?" Jiyong repeated.
           Mrs. Ko reluctantly gave in and started to answer not realizing her phone was dying out. "I-I-I sent her — "
           "Oma? OMA! OMA! Dammit! Shit's fuckin dead!" Jiyong tossed the phone back to Seonghoon, cursing loudly out the window.
           Seonghoon stared at his phone, baffled. "Jiyong, your mom's phone died. Not mine."
           "I know that. Her phone's always dead."
           "Oh!" Seonghoon closed his cell and slipped it back in his pocket.
           Jiyong thought back to the times when he had conversations with Chomee. Where would she go?
           "Where are we going?" Jiwon asked, noticing Jiyong's slowing down.
           Jiyong's mind wandered, searching for hints Chomee left in their conversations together. She said she attend school in Seoul but her home's in Pusan. She didn't have any friends other than Miyoung. Where would she go?
           "Where would she go?" Seonghoon asked, voicing out Jiyong's thoughts.
           Her mother. Chomee constantly spoke of her mother. Home..the only 'real' home she ever had was with her mother in Pusan. Her mother's there! That night Chomee had to go away...
           "What's the quickest way to Pusan?"
           Jiwon blinked. "Pusan? Train, bus? Car? I dunno! I've never been there!"
           "Didn't Jaejin say that you have to take a ferry or sumthin like that?" Seonghoon piped.
           "Chomee didn't take no boat out here." Jiyong dismissed the idea.
           "No, wait...she did. Soowon brought her home one night and he called me for a ride," Jiwon said, recalling the night.
           "Fuck it. Which way to Pusan?"
           "South," Seonghoon answered.
           "I know that. Which exit do I take?!"
           "Bus terminal next exit. Go ask," Jiwon suggested.
           "Dammit. I hate girls," Jiyong growled.


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           After a long debate with herself, Chomee decided to take the boat home. She'd prefer the bus, but it'd be a hike to her house. "How much longer?"
           "Not long, miss. About another hour?"
           "Is it possible..I would like to take the ferry home."
           "I have orders, Miss Chomee."
           "Puyin won't know. If you don't tell, I won't tell...besides, you'll get back to the city late."
           The driver nodded, agreeing.
           "You can just drop me off at the next stop. It's not too far. I'll go from there."
           "What about your luggage?"
           "It's not much, I can manage."
           The driver nodded again and kept his eyes on the road. Chomee settled back in the seat and turned to watch the scenary go by again.
           "It won't be long, Miss Chomee," the driver announced.
           Chomee smiled. She was going home. Once again.


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           "Kamsa hamnida," Seonghoon said, bending slightly at the waist. He hurried back to Jiwon's car, his hair bright in the afternoon sun. "Kids, we're in for a longggg ride."
           "How far?" Jiwon asked.
           "We gotta turn back. We missed the route to the ferry. If we continue along this way, it'll take us there, but it'll be more than 48 hours since everybody travels this way."
           "Shit!" Jiyong cursed loud enough to wake up the dead.
           Seonghoon's cell rang annoyingly and he dug inside his pocket for it. "Yeboseyo?"
           "Jiyong?!"
           Seonghoon handed the phone over to Jiyong. "Your mom."
           "What?" Jiyong growled.
           "Jiyong, she came back!" Mrs. Ko lied.
           "Man! You're so full of it!" Jiyong hung up before his mother could even reply. "Let's go. We're wasting time."
           "You're wasting my gas," Jiwon pointed out.
           "I'll pay for it, don't worry."
           "You're talking to rich boy here," Seonghoon reminded Jiwon. The cell sounded again and Seonghoon answered it as Jiyong pulled away, heading towards the highway. "Your mom said she had one of the servants drive Chomee home. He's not back yet."
           "Which way?" Jiyong demanded.
           "She hung up."
           "Dammit!"
           "Soowon told me the other day she only knows the way home by boat," Seonghoon said. "You think she knows how to get there by car?"
           Jiyong shook his head. "She wouldn't agree to a ride home. She's probably on a boat or a bus."
           "I knew I should've had my airbags checked out! Put your seatbelts on! We're gonna die!" Jiwon screamed.
           "Hyung! You got insurance, right?!" Seonghoon shrieked.
           Jiwon, too frightened to utter a word, bobbed his head slightly.
           "Good! Once we find Chomee, we're leaving them two behind!"


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           Chomee tugged on her luggage, now left all by herself. It was a weepy goodbye. She had to push the chauffeur away in order to get him to leave. He insisted on driving her home and she was grateful. But she felt so cold and uncomfortable. She sat down at a nearby bench and waited. The ferry runs quarterly. She peeked inside the small little house by the docks and sighed. It just left. There was nothing else to do but wait. She stared at her sandals and kicked at the small rocks by her suitcases.
           Her mind was blank and suddenly the thought of Jiyong recovering invaded the vacancy. She couldn't help but wonder if it was successful. She left when he was stripped of bandages and so she wasn't certain whether or not he could fully see.
           Besides, the doctor said he had a 50/50 chance due to the excessive blood loss. She sighed and hoped for the best.
           Slight wind picked up and she tapped her feet on the ground. She was bored and wished that the ferry didn't leave. She was so close to making it and it left. She folded her legs beneath her and sighed.
           She was to wait. Again.


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           "What's gonna happen, ajuma?" Susan wailed, feeling rejected.
           "You think I know?!" Mrs. Ko snapped. "Just wait and see. I'll think of sumthin when they gets back."
           "Back?!" Susan shrieked.
           "That's what I said."
           "But...why?!" Susan cried.
           "Don't worry. She won't stay."



*~*~*~*~*~*
Chapter 37
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           "STOP!!!!" Seonghoon hollered, his fist pounding on the head rest of the passenger seat.
           Jiyong slammed on the brakes, screeching to a halt. "What?!"
           "Go back!" Seonghoon commanded, his head turned back.
           "Did I miss it?"
           "Isn't that one of the servants' cars?"
           Jiwon's head turned and followed Seonghoon's gaze as Jiyong threw the shift back and backed up till the car lined next to the broken down vehicle. "That's the driver's car." He jumped out of the car and ran around it to the family driver. "Ajoshi!"
           Startled, the driver looked up. "Master!"
           "Why are you here?" Jiyong asked. He looked inside the car. Empty. "Where's Chomee?"
           "Miss Chomee? She's on her way home."
           "I thought my mother said you were taking her home."
           "I was. Miss Chomee insisted on taking the boat."
           "Where'd you leave her?"
           "Go further down and you'll find a dirt road. Follow the dirt road and you'll see the side of the dock."
           Jiyong ran off.
           "What's wrong?" the servant asked, sticking his head out the window.
           "I gotta bring her back!" Jiyong yelled.
           "Is something the matter?" the driver asked. "Puyin wants her back?"
           "I want her back!" Jiyong replied. "Seonghoon'll wait with you. He gotta phone and he can call for a tow truck. Just have it towed to my mother at the hospital!"
           "What?! Why me?!"
           "Cause you gotta phone," Jiyong replied, slamming the door shut.
           Seonghoon grumbled and got out. "At least I won't have to worry about dying young."
           Jiyong drove off with Jiwon as soon as the door closed. Jiwon held onto the door as Jiyong breezed through the streets.
           "You'll find her. Stop driving so fast!" Jiwon said, bouncing as Jiyong ran over a speed bump.
           "She probably left on the boat already!"
           Jiwon realized what Jiyong said could be true. He kept quiet and kept his eyes on the road.
           "Where's the dock?"
           "Find dirt road."
           Jiyong sighed. The only dirt road he knew of was still a ways to go.
           "What are you gonna do when we find her?"
           Jiyong considered the question. "Bring her back."
           "You sure?"
           "Why?"
           "What if she won't agree?"
           Jiyong pressed harder on the gas pedal, the needle on the speedometer going up. "I'll bring her back."
           Jiwon remained silent.
           "I'll think of something." And he raced down the road, thinking.


*~*~*~*~*~*



           Chomee looked up. Winds were picking up and the day was still stuffy. She looked out towards the ocean, the sea breeze drifting towards her. Only twenty minutes went by. She sighed and got to her feet. She stretched for a good five minutes and walked down the board walk. She left her belongings in front of the lodging house and continued her way down to the docks. She took a seat on the wooden flooring and allowed her legs to dangle over the edge. She looked up in the sky and frowned.
           Such a pretty day.
           Yet she couldn't help but feel that something unexpected's going to happen. Like something bad. She returned her eyes to the waters set out before her. Minutes. Only a while longer.
           Where was the ferry?


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           "Jiyong.."
           "Hmmm..."
           Jiwon glanced at the tank again and sucked in his breath. His quick eyes caught the turn off and he directed Jiyong off the main road. "Jiyong...we're running out of gas."
           "What the?!?" Jiyong muttered. His eyes trailed over the guaze and felt his heart stop. The needle was so close to the E margin and he loosened up on the gas. "Wasn't this thing filled up?!"
           "It was," Jiwon replied, watching the needle faulter. It was shaking in between and as Jiyong slowed, the needle began to fall back a little. It still continued to lose gas and Jiyong tried his best to not go at a slower rate than he's already going. "Isn't there a station around here?"
           "Not that I know of," JIwon replied. He rode along and waited. He had expected for his car to stop any moment, but was surprised to find it lasting for quite a while. He kept his eyes out on the road for sight of Chomee while Jiyong looked on his side.
           "Where is she?!" Jiyong muttered, squinting his eyes.
           "You think she left?"
           "I hope not. I dunno the way to her house. Or else I'd kidnapped her already and be on my way back home."
           "Well, the place looks empty. I think she left for real. There's no ferry."
           Jiyong edged closer and found himself entering a lot. It was a parking lot. "We'll find out. Maybe they can stop it. Or we could catch up." Jiyong hurried and found a parking space by a few other cars. He hopped out of the car and braced himself against the car.
           A gust of strong wind hurled past him as he tried to slam the door shut. The wind died down and he stretched his neck to see over the tall, wild bushes. Nothing. He couldn't see over them. He ran along the bushes, trying to catch site of the main dock. What if Jiwon was right? What if Chomee left for real?
           Chomee looked up, startled by the familiar sound. It was the ferry. She turned around and spotted the boat coming closer. Delighted, she jumped to her feet and watched it pull closer and closer to the dock. She picked up her luggage and hauled it after her to the dock, waiting for the ferry to stop fully. It was only moments later she'd reunite with her mother again. Only moments..
           She waited as all the passengers got off and milled around before departing. Chomee leaned forward but was let down by a loud voice telling her the ferry won't leave for another ten minutes. She sighed and plopped down on the wooden fixture. A ten minute delay...that seemed forever. She couldn't wait another ten minutes just to go home and see her mother. Her heart was aching badly. Then her mind flew to Jiyong at the hospital. What would his reaction be if he found out she was gone? Would he blame it on Susan? Or his mother? Or would he do something stupid, like hurt himself? Or he could possibly forget her.
           "Jiyong!" Jiwon gasped, trying to catch up. He tried shoving past the sudden mob of people that appeared, apparently all passengers of the ferry. "Jiyong, wait!"
           Jiyong charged forward, Jiwon's voice a million miles away. He couldn't wait. What if the boat left already? His Chomee could be on that ferry right this minute, pulling away!
           "KO JIYONG!" Jiwon bellowed, climbing up onto a statue. "STOP RIGHT THERE!"
           "WHAT?!" Jiyong growled, pivoting on his heels. "What now?!"
           "Jiyong!" Jiwon shouted. "Do you even know how she look like?!"
           It came to him like a hard slap across the face. Jiyong felt the sudden blow of Jiwon's inquiry and realized—no, he didn't know how Chomee looked like. He was going after a girl he had never seen, never met visually. But..
           "Hey! What the hell you doin?!" Jiwon screamed, jumping off the statue. He ran past the crowd and towards his car. "You fuckin bastard!"
           Jiyong climbed onto a nearby railing and saw Jiwon slam a guy onto the trunk of his car.
           "You fuckin ass! Wanna steal my car?!" Jiwon hollered into the thief's ear. "Bitch! You gonna die!"
           Jiyong chuckled to himself. He and Jiwon are so much alike. If anybody messes with their car, that person's dead. Jiyong watched the entertaining scene for about another six minutes as Jiwon and the thief locked themselves in combat. He hopped off the railing and went on to search for the lodge house.
           Chomee ended up the last in line as everybody filed onto the wobbly boat. She handed her suitcases over and stepped foot onto the ferry with a steady hand aiding her aboard. She sighed and looked back. It was the end.
           Finally.
           All over.
           She was going home. To her mother. Alas.



*~*~*~*~*~*
Chapter 38
*~*~*~*~*~*

           Jiyong barged into the tiny house served as an office and gasped for breath. He found one desk but with nobody behind it. "Hey! Anybody here?!"
           Still silence greeted him. Impatient, Jiyong turned to storm off but stopped when he heard a voice ask, "Looking for something?"
           A middle aged man appeared through the back door and took the seat behind the desk. He adjusted the glasses he had on and picked up the day's newspaper. He didn't even bother casting a glance at Jiyong and cleared his throat.
           "When's the next boat coming in?" Jiyong demanded, not moving away from the spot near the door.
           The man blinked and looked up. "It already did. It's out there waiting. In fact, it came in early."
           "Did you see a girl with short hair, petite.." Jiyong hacked his brains out trying to think of something to describe Chomee. But he didn't know how she looked like. "She's going to Pusan."
           The man chuckled. "There's so many girls that fit that description. I dunno which one you're talking about."
           "She couldn't have came in too long ago. Or left too long ago. Please tell me if you've seen her."
           "She could've left on the last boat or be on this one. The last boat left over twenty minutes already. You know when she left?"
           Jiyong felt his heart sank. The density of the words were dragging his heart down...down..down..
           "I would suggest you go out there and look for her instead of standing in here. If you know where you're supposed to meet her, then get on that boat. It's leaving in two minutes."
           "Two?!" Jiyong shouted. He flew out the door and halted midway. He rushed back to the door and yelled, "Where's the boat?!"
           "Follow the strip. You'll see it."
           Jiyong followed the man's directions and ran along the path that lead to the dock. There it was, a boat floating upon murky waters. He jogged along and soon came before the rocking boat. It wasn't small for a boat. "This leaving soon?"
           "Another ten minutes," the man standing by the boat answered.
           Jiyong nodded and got ready to step aboard when a girl suddenly appeared before him and bumped into him, causing him to hold onto the bars by the sides of the boat for support.
           Chomee gasped as she tilted sideways, nearly tripping over her bags. An arm grabbed her and steadied her as the boat wobbled on the water. She turned around to thank the person...not expecting to find the person was someone she knew.
           "I'm sorry," Jiyong apologized. "I didn't see you."
           Chomee gulped, too terrified to speak. How did he find her? He was supposed to be at the hospital. How...
           Jiyong stared back at the girl, a strong grip of curiousity coursing through his mind. Why was she staring at him that way? "Are you alright?"
           Snapping out of her daze, Chomee nodded and kept her head down. He could see. His operation went well. But..but the doctor had just told her it was impossible for Jiyong to regain vision..then..what happened? She reached down to pick up her bag that was toppled over and was suprised to find Jiyong's hand right next to hers. She was baffled and stood facing him.
           "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to knock it over," Jiyong apologized again, handing the suitcase over.
           Chomee accepted the luggage and bowed. She kept her eyes low and turned to proceed further into the boat until a sudden cry from Jiyong froze her in her tracks.
           "Chomee!"
           Chomee felt her eyes bulge and her heart suspended. She didn't dare to move nor breathe. She closed her eyes and stood very still, hoping it was all a mistake. Jiyong couldn't have known it was her. He never saw how she looked like. She left before the bandages were completely removed. He couldn't..he couldn't...
           Jiyong nearly choked, hearing what he had just said. The name came out so...randomly..it surprised him too. But now that the mute before him stopped, he noticed what he had failed to notice before.
           Petite. Short cropped hair.
           Chomee.
           "Chomee!" Jiyong repeated. He took two steps and placed a hand on the girl's shoulder. He reeled her around and stared into her face. "You're Chomee!"
           With her heart in her throat, Chomee immediately starting shaking her head. No, no, no..I'm not Chomee. How could...how did he know?
           "You are Chomee!" Jiyong declared, taking the girl's hand.
           "I'm sorry, sir. You've mistaken," Chomee finally choked out, on the verge of tears. She tried pulling away but Jiyong held on tighter.
           "You are Chomee," he whispered. It had to be. He gasped quietly . It was her. She was standing in front of him...denying him.
           Chomee blinked, hoping the tears wouldn't show. She tried backing up but Jiyong won't budge.
           "You're Chomee," he murmured. "You are! Don't lie to me!"
           Chomee shook her head. "I'm sorry." Her hand slipped away as she took a step back. She didn't care about her belongings anymore. She just wanted to get away. Far, far away.
           It all came clear to him. All in a heap. He started spewing a hundred words per minute, his emotion in a frezy. "No, you are Chomee. I know you're Chomee. You have to be Chomee. I recognize your voice, Chomee! You can't lie about that!"
           Chomee gasped. He was right. He may not know how she looked like, but he knew how she sounded like.
           "I was blind, Chomee. Blind! Not deaf! I know your voice! And your hand! When I handed you your suitcase, I know I touched those hands before! Only Chomee has those hands!"
           The time stopped. She had completely forgotten about her voice. She had just given herself away. She was perfectly fine until she said something. But what bothered her was..where was his mother? She had expected Jiyong's mother to be tailing him, but so far the woman made no show. What was going on?
           "Chomee..." Jiyong started. "Why are you leaving me?"
           Chomee shook her head. She had to make him believe he got the wrong person. "I dunno what you're talking about. I'm not Chomee. Leave me alone."
           "Stop lying to me, Chomee! I've already told you! I know who you are! My mother's not here and she won't stop me from bringing you back! You can come back with me!"
           Chomee gave Jiyong a quizzical look. Go back? She wanted to go home, where her mother was. She couldn't be at both places. Jiyong's mother terminated her services. What good would it be if Jiyong brought her back? Mrs. Ko would still find a way to get rid of her. "I..I have to go home..."
           Jiyong took a step back. "What did you say?"
           Chomee sniffled as she replied, "I'm leaving. I need to be at home."
           At least she's not denying she's not Chomee, Jiyong thought. "But..youare at home!"
           Chomee shook her head. "No! My home's with my mom! I want to see her now!"
           Jiyong, surprised by the sudden tear of emotion, stepped aside. What Chomee had said just made him realize he was selfish. He had forgotten about Chomee's ill mother. Chomee had left home to work for him and he's trying to keep her away from her own mother. "But..."
           Chomee sighed. "Go home. Your mother and everybody's waiting."
           Jiyong stood aloof, not sure of how to respond. He didn't want ot leave. He came all the way out here to bring her back and she's going to leave him all the same? No. "Not unless you're coming with me."
           Exasperated, Chomee threw her hands up. When was the ferry leaving? It felt like a million years had gone by and they hadn't set sail yet. "Jiyong! You have a family that loves you! Go back home to them. They will take care of you. You once told me that once you're cured, your mother would want you back and live with her. Plus, you can see now...why else would you need me?"
           "You don't get it!" Jiyong cried, raising his voice. "My mother's blind! Susan's blind! Everybody in this goddamn world is blind!"
           Chomee shrank back.
           "But you, Chomee. You're not like them. You accepted me. My mother didn't. She loves me, but she's blinded
           by her love for me. She so badly wanted for things to get better for me, she ignored my needs and hired somebody else to take care of her problems. She couldn't handle the fact that I wasn't perfect and that I was an invalid. And I can't have a Susan in my life now that there's a Chomee."
           "But..Susan..." Chomee managed to mumble.
           "She only liked me, materialistically. She didn't care about me. You did. I may have been blind physically. But you opened my eyes. I wasn't going to accept myself, didn't want to. But then you did. You didn't pity me. You cared for me, about me and my welfare. Someone I don't even know cared about me while my family treats me like I'm another hobo off the streets."
           Chomee swallowed her ters.
           "I've never seen tears before. At least not real tears."
           Chomee bit her lip as a tear trickled down her left cheek.
           "I guess you're really unlike everybody I know."
           "Oma..." Chomee whispered. "I want my mommy."
           "I know you do."
           "I have to go home," Chomee continued in her soft voice.
           "Are you coming back?" Jiyong asked hopefully.
           "Maybe. Depends on my mother. I can't be too far from her."
           Jiyong remained silent, thinking.
           Chomee spun around and headed for a seat inside the boat. Her heart was aching. She was torn between her mother and Jiyong. She felt guilty for leaving both when they most needed her, guilty for lying to both. Guilty for all the troubles she caused.
           "You go to school here, don't you?" Jiyong asked abruptly.
           Chomee blinked, her mind blank. "Y-Yeah.."
           "Your oma's at home?"
           Chomee nodded, facing the entrance of the boat. "I gotta go..."
           "Let's go!" Jiyong cried, picking up Chomee luggage.
           "Where?" Chomee asked, baffled.
           "Wait here," Jiyong told her. He reached for her luggage and her bags.
           "What are you doing?" Chomee cried, running after Jiyong.
           With his long legs, he made it back to JIwon's car in a matter of seconds and dumped Chomee's belongings in the trunk.
           "She's coming back?" Jiwon asked, watching Jiyong.
           "Drop this off at my house. We'll be back," Jiyong said hastily and returned to the boat. "Don't wait up!"
           "Wh-What'd you do that for?!" Chomee demanded, trying to push past Jiyong.
           "We're going home," Jiyong said instead. "We're gonna go get your oma."
           "What?!"
           "Come," Jiyong said quietly, pulling Chomee along.
           "What's going on?" Chomee inquired, letting Jiyong drag her.
           "We're gonna help your mother pack up. I'm gonna move back home anyway now that my mom may want me back. The house's going to be vacant and nobody's gonna use it. You've going to school here. Your mom's in Pusan. You want her close by, don't you?"
           Chomee nodded again. She tried to comprehend what Jiyong was saying but he was going too fast.
           "Since I dunno anybody down in Pusan and all my mother's connections are up here. I say you and your mother should move in and stay. Permanently."
           Chomee halted just as she gasped. Permanently...the word echoed over and over in her head. She started shaking her head, whispering, "No," again and again. She couldn't stay forever. He wanted to hold her hostage.
           "What do you mean, no?!" Jiyong exclaimed. "Since your mom's ill, you have to attend school here, you might as well have her move in with you."
           "No..."
           "Chomee! What's wrong with you?! This is the best solution for all of us!"
           Chomee blinked. Solution? All of them? She didn't get it. How was it the best? She was already in debt. Her mother's hospital bill, her tuition, and if she moved in..how would she pay for the living expenses? "How would it be best? It's only a good solution for you."
           Jiyong grew silent at the accusation. He led Chomee to two empty seats as the boat pulled away. "You, here. Your mother, there. If the both of you lived together and closer to the city, wouldn't it be better?"
           Chomee agreed. Of course, it'd be better. But how would that be any good? They were financially challenged!
           "There are more doctors in the city, and I could help you better."
           It took Chomee a moment to answer. "But why? Why would you want to help me?"
           Jiyong lowered his head into his hands, the question annoying him. Wasn't it obvious enough? He liked her! She guided him through his worst and most fragile times and she won't accept his thanks by having him help her. "You helped me. Why can't I help you?"
           "But..I got paid for it. You don't need to help me," Chomee stated stiffly.
           "It's not even about you. Think of your mother."
           Chomee felt the hairs on her neck stand straight. Jiyong was right. She had her mother to think about. Living conditions back at home wasn't any better than the hospital her mother was staying in. If they moved into Jiyong's house...things would be so much better. Her mother would be happier and probably a lot healthier.
           "Since my mother bought the house more than seven years ago, it's been empty till I moved in. It's been left idle so long, they haven't even considered selling it. Since I'll be moving home again, it's going to be left alone anyway. What difference does it make if someone else lives in it? Make good use of it rather than standing empty and rotting away with dust?"
           "But..I don't have the money to pay for rent," Chomee said softly.
           Jiyong gaped at Chomee. "Who said anything about paying? I'm giving the house to you for free!"
           Chomee turned to Jiyong with her eyes wide. "What?!"
           "I'm the only person that've lived there, so you can say that's my house, right?"
           Chomee nodded.
           "Then it's like I'm saying you can have my house. Who said I can't do that? Besides, my parents have more property than they can handle. Losing one house they didn't even bother for years isn't gonna make a difference to their wealth."
           "But...it's so big!"
           Jiyong shrugged. "Have other people move in with you. A majority of the servants there can stay and service you. Since our house's overcrowded as is."
           Chomee kept silent as Jiyong went on talking. He painted such a beautiful picture with his words. Everything just seemed so perfect.
           Just like the fairy tales.
           But she wasn't ready to accept all that's going to happen. Everything was happening all too fast and she was locked in a hurricane. Where was her say in this? What about her mother? They were thrown into this pit too suddenly to react. Now Jiyong's coming home with her and they were to bring her mother back. What if her mother disagrees? What if she declined the offer? Jiwon has her things and...
           "What's wrong?" Jiyong asked, watching Chomee.
           Chomee shook her head and smiled. "Nothing. We better nap. It's going to be a long ride home."



*~*~» C h a p t e r · 39 «~*~*



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