Life, Once Again! - Chapter 1014
Chapter 1014. Han Haneul
Spinach, radish, onions, spring onions, garlic, bell peppers — I indifferently looked at the ingredients I put in the shopping cart before putting the bell peppers back on the shelf. It cost around a thousand won around a week ago, but it had nearly doubled in a week. I had heard that vegetables were the price of gold every single year, but it had gotten worse this year.
“Ma’am, this is a brand new coffee product. Please have a taste before you go.”
A young woman offered her a small cup of coffee with a smile. She looked like a college student doing a part-time job. I quickly received it and drank it in one go. It was slightly sour and just to my taste.
“It’s good, isn’t it? They used cherry-picked coffee beans and a special type of brewing method, so it has a clean taste.”
“It does have a clean taste.”
“It’s on sale right now, so you can buy a pack for cheap. How about it?”
It was good, so I looked at the price tag as I threw the empty paper cup in the trash. Under the words ‘special discount’ was the red price tag of 40,000 won.
“It’s 40 thousand won?”
“It’s 70,000 won normally, but it’s on sale for 40,000. It’s definitely different from your usual coffee, so you won’t regret this investment. Also, it usually costs about 4,000 to 5,000 won to buy coffee in a café. If you think about that, this is a very reasonable price.”
“But 40,000 is still too much. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. If you have an opportunity next time, please buy it then.”
The young woman was very amicable, so I felt sorry. I pushed the cart towards the counter and looked back. A man who just tasted the coffee was putting two boxes in the cart. My fingers on the cart wriggled. It was good, but I wished it was cheaper. I glanced back a few times before giving up. 40,000 won was not some child’s play. Instant coffee sticks were more than enough. If I was ever in the mood, I could just buy some cheap coffee from a nearby café.
I put the items on the counter as the cashier lady greeted me. Beeps sounded out whenever the POS device scanned the barcode. I watched the subtotal increase nervously like it was the taximeter increasing. Why was it that everything was increasing in price except for my husband’s salary? I desperately needed an explanation from a famous economist. Why was it that everything from housing prices, land prices, and even item prices were increasing, but not my husband’s salary?
“That will be fifty-two thousand, seven hundred won in total.”
Please give me a cash receipt, and here’s my membership card, oh, wait a second, I’ll give you a coupon — while apologizing, I gave her a coupon that I cut out from a coupon book. Hearing the lady telling me to wait, I put the items back in the cart again when a box of almond containers on the shelf caught my eye. It was Belgian chocolate, and it was 7,000 won per box. That palm-sized box was 7,000 won? Even though I thought it was expensive, I grabbed it and checked the back of it. I saw on TV a while ago about how to differentiate good chocolate and bad chocolate, and the description seemed to match the good chocolate.
“Oh, and give me this as well.”
I put the items in the cart into a cardboard box and taped it up. Then I put my hands below the box before lifting it. It was slightly heavy, but I could handle it. It would take 20 minutes to go home. I could save on transportation costs at the cost of my arms being a little numb, so it was a beneficial trade.
When I got back home, it was 4 p.m. I put away the ingredients and put the chocolate box in the top compartment of the refrigerator. After I folded up the laundry I had hung up in the veranda and finished sorting out the trash for recycling, it was time for my daughter to come home. I also got a text message saying that she would be coming soon. I took the elevator down to the front of the apartment. I could see a yellow kindergarten bus coming from afar.
The teacher got off and greeted me. Following that, my daughter got off.
“Gaeul. You should say ‘I’m home’ at a time like this, shouldn’t you?”
My daughter placed her hands on her stomach and bowed. I greeted her back. Maybe because she was my child, but she was too lovely and cute.
“Then we’ll take our leave now.”
“Be careful on the way back.”
The kindergarten bus left. I grabbed my daughter’s hand and walked down the pavement to the apartment.
“What did you do in kindergarten today?”
“I drew pictures.”
“What flowers did you draw?”
“Sunflowers and lilies.”
“Did you have fun, Gaeul?”
“Yeah, but Minji said it wasn’t pretty.”
“You didn’t fight with Minji again, did you?”
My daughter got along with all of her friends at kindergarten, except for Minji. She narrowed her eyes. She grumbled, saying ‘you don’t know anything, mommy.’ I had heard that kids were quick to grow up these days, and my daughter seemed to be no exception. I was worried that she might hit puberty as soon as she entered primary school.
“Gaeul, what did I tell you you have to do first when you come home?”
I pointed at the bathroom while looking at my daughter, who flung away her kindergarten bag and sat in front of the TV. After glancing at me for a bit, my daughter went to the bathroom to wash her hands. She was a really good girl other than a few times when she made me worried sick. The girl’s father always said that she got that from her mother, but from my point of view, it was definitely a paternal inheritance.
“Mom! I’m hungry.”
“Wait a bit.”
I boiled the soup and set up the table. I called for my daughter, who seemed like she was being sucked into the TV.
“Can you show me the picture you drew today?”
It seemed I almost made a grave mistake of not asking. Gaeul grinned and brought the bag that she had flung away. With her little hands, she took out a rolled paper from her bag. When she opened it up, there were some flowers drawn in crayon.
“They really look like flowers. Draw mommy later too, okay?”
“When I have time.”
She swung her legs back and forth as she answered. While she said those words, I could tell she was going to be holding a crayon tonight. She might even tell me to stay still so that she could draw.
“Let’s draw daddy first when he comes home, okay?”
I decided to sacrifice the girl’s father to watch a drama in peace.
Sorry, honey. Today’s the day that the female lead finds out that she’s actually the biological daughter of her stepmother.
Seeing my daughter run to the sofa after the meal, I secretly took out the chocolate from the refrigerator. She might throw a tantrum wanting more if she sees the box, so I had to be careful. I peeled off the wrapping and took out just one ball-shaped chocolate. There were ten pieces for 7,000 won, which meant that each piece cost 700 won. It seemed quite cheap when I thought about it like that, but considering the cost of the box, it looked like a luxury item that I couldn’t buy very often.
Her eyes were glued to the TV. I then asked who wants chocolate. The girl jumped up and rushed over.
“You have to brush your teeth later okay?”
“You’re good at answering at times like this.”
Seeing my girl eat the chocolate with a happy face, the 7,000 won didn’t feel like a waste. I was glad I gave up on the coffee because I wouldn’t have been able to buy the chocolate if I did.
Rather than that, why isn’t my man coming back? — I thought as I looked at the clock. He said that he would come home early today. I was planning to watch a movie together over some beer, but did his schedule suddenly change?
An hour passed.
“Han Gaeul. Don’t play on the smartphone too much.”
I always became curious about what kids these days would do if they didn’t have a smartphone. I became quite wary ever since I heard that smartphone addiction was quite grave. If she didn’t listen after a few scoldings, I was planning to put a smartphone ban on the entire family. A child is supposed to take after their parents, so if we weren’t using it, the child wouldn’t have a complaint either.
As my thoughts reached there, I picked up the remote control when I got a call. It was from my husband. So there was something urgent after all? I picked up the call.
-There has been an accident, so I had no choice but to make a call using this phone. Do you happen to be Mr. Han Maru’s wife?
* * *
I opened my eyes to my daughter’s voice. I had a splitting headache. I felt like I had a dream of our house from a long time ago.
“Let’s go home. It’s late.”
I got myself together and looked at the time. It was 8 p.m. I was supposed to take a quick nap, but I ended up sleeping for two hours.
“You should’ve gone home. You must be tired.”
“If I go home, who’ll take care of my mom?”
My daughter smiled and put down her bag. She was in her third year of high school, so she must be very busy. I felt sorry for her once again today. A burden to a child was the last thing I wanted to be as a parent.
“Dad, I’m here. How do you feel today?” my girl said as she grabbed my husband’s hand.
My husband’s arm which poked out of the duvet was even thinner than my daughter’s. Ten years had thinned out his body. My daughter massaged his fingers and spoke,
“I had a quiz today, and I got full points. Physics quizzes are known to be notoriously difficult, but I scored full points. Dad, your daughter must be really smart.”
After that, my daughter spoke for about 30 minutes. I had a hard time watching that scene. It wouldn’t have been strange if I got used to this since, after all, a decade was definitely not a short period of time. However, there were some things in this world that just weren’t possible to get used to.
“Dad, I have exams next week, so I might not be able to come. Don’t be too disappointed.”
My daughter let my husband’s hand go. I lined up the duvet again to cover him.
She hesitated before saying that it was nothing. I knew what she wanted to say.
“Do you want to go to a cram school?”
“No, it’s not that.”
“I have eyes too. Let’s talk about it in detail once we get home.”
“We don’t have any money for that.”
“Mom has saved up that much. You can go down first. I have something to talk about with the doctor.”
My daughter faintly smiled. Ever since my husband became no longer able to do anything, she had matured. Sometimes, she cried so much that she almost blew the lid off of the house, but ever since that accident happened, she no longer cried. She seemed to know that she could not burden her mother. Until now, she had never asked me to do anything, not even asking me for any pocket money. It was stifling and sad, but I also found it relieving. It was just that cornered against the wall.
I called out to him, who did not reply. He was now forty-five. My hopes of him waking up one day had gotten dull now. My thoughts started to wander as I massaged his frail body. Honey, should I go over to your side? But I couldn’t even attempt that. If I left too, who would look after Gaeul? I did not want to burden her with something so cruel. Having a vegetable father was cruel enough suffering for her.
“Honey, you should wake up and see your daughter all grown up. She has grown up to be really pretty, so wake up.”
I stroked my husband’s face before standing up. Just then, a nurse came in. She seemed to be here to check up on him. I greeted her with a nod and went to the doctor in charge. I had heard that he had something to say regarding physical therapy. I sat in front of him and was about to have a talk when a female doctor who seemed to be an intern urgently called out to him. I had an ominous feeling. I left his office and had a look at the corridor. The doctor in charge was running towards the ward my husband was in.
I clutched my dizzy head and ran. It was a very short time. Not even ten minutes should have passed. The doctor, who activated the defibrillator, lowered his eyes and sighed. I could hear the doctor’s voice. The patient’s state was bad and whatever and whatnot.
I pushed the doctors aside and approached my husband. He looked no different from usual. He had been in this state for 10 years.
“My husband is not dead.”
“He’s always been like this. So he can’t be dead.”
I knew I was speaking nonsense. My mouth was rejecting reality, but my head was already accepting it. Despite that, I could not let go. I felt like everything would be truly over if I let go of his hand. I felt like a cloth would cover his face and indicate that he was truly dead.
“Mrs. Han Haneul.”
Someone called out to me. It was only then that I realized that the people around me had frozen up like plastic dolls. It gave me the shivers.
“Can we have a talk?”
I looked at the only human that was talking to me. He was dressed like a typical grim reaper.
“I heard that retro is the trend these days. Suits are quite out of fashion.”
“What are you?”
“As you can see, I’m the grim reaper. Please take my business card.”
It was a white business card. The name was Min Yoonsoo. The moment I saw his name, the business card disappeared.
“Mrs. Han Haneul, don’t you want to live your life again?”