Chapter 9: Chapter 9: New York 92nd Street (4)
On that evening after dinner, Lucas explained everything to Cho Min Joon. It was a bit touchy to say it in front of a stranger, but it might have been easier to tell because they just met on that day.
Lucas explained that he was the CEO of a jelly factory. When people hear the word ‘factory’, they easily assume that it’s low-quality food, but Lucas worked very hard to break that stereotype. Of course, his efforts resulted in decent sales.
But the factory went down overnight. An American program discussing the safety of foods targeted Lucas’ factory. They put a jelly made in Lucas’ factory as an example for food that contained contaminants, and that fabricated program went viral.
Lucas immediately sued the broadcasting company, but the company had already gone downhill. Lucas, who had dreamt of starting a jelly company since he was little, explained that he lost the will to live at that point. So, he ran away from home and wandered from place to place.
He lived for three months as a homeless man. And after those three months, he returned to 92nd street, but he didn’t have the courage to walk back into his house. And that’s the time when Cho Min Joon handed Lucas 5 dollars. As soon as he received that bill, countless thoughts went through Lucas’ head. He felt ashamed that he was being treated like a beggar, and also felt comforted by the 5 dollars. He had mixed feelings, but Lucas finally had the will to go back home.
“Jessie won’t forgive me.”
Lucas mumbled with a sad voice. Jane went upstairs to comfort Jessie, but all that could be heard was Jessie crying and Jane yelling. Lucas sighed and said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to drag you into this.”
“…it’s because she’s young. Once she gets it out of her system, you’ll be able to go back to old times.”
“I’m not sure about that… I abandoned everything and ran away. I forgot about my wife and child. All I could think about was my own misery. I’m a horrible father.”
“No father can be Superman.”
In response, Lucas smirked and answered, “But all kids hope that their fathers can be superman.”
Cho Min Joon had nothing to say to that. Lucas was too sad to comfort with just a few words.
And so, the conversation ended there. Lucas went upstairs to rest, and Cho Min Joon returned to his own room. His problem was his own, and their family’s problem was theirs. Besides, family matters were too sensitive for him to butt into.
The problem was his upcoming plans. He had to go downtown. He had to get a new card and find accommodation outside Lucas’ home.
“…I should ask if I can get a ride from them tomorrow.”
There was nothing harder than asking for a favor, especially from a family going through troubles. Cho Min Joon sighed and went under his sheets when the door next to his creaked. It was Jessie’s room. ‘Where’s she going at this hour? Is she running away?’
Out of worry, Cho Min Joon peeked out. Jessie was tiptoeing through the hall. She was going to the kitchen. After seeing Jessie eating the leftover mac and cheese, Cho Min Joon sighed. ‘Yeah, she’s probably hungry. She skipped dinner.’
Cho Min Joon hesitated before going downstairs. Jessie flinched and looked at Cho Min Joon. Her eyes become incredibly alert as Cho Min Joon smiled awkwardly.
“…What are you doing here?”
“Are you hungry? Do you want me to… Oh yeah. This isn’t my kitchen.”
It wasn’t right to lay hands on someone else’s kitchen. However, Jessie was allowed. Cho Min Joon continued, “Add some water and vinegar and then boil it again. It’ll taste much better that way.”
Jessie didn’t say anything, but she did add water and vinegar before putting it on a boil. The vinegar brought the macaroni’s texture back to life. But since it would get rid of the sour flavor, it was best to add as little water as possible.
A moment later, Jessie began her meal with her leftover macaroni. Meanwhile, Cho Min Joon watched. In the end, Jessie spoke first.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
“I heard from your father.”
“…if you’re thinking of lecturing me, spare me,” Jessie replied sharply. She showed a resisting attitude, but he had worked for 2 years as a teacher. He was used to dealing with kids in puberty. Cho Min Joon shook his head.
“I’m not going to lecture you. I just wanted to congratulate you.”
“Your father’s back. Isn’t that something to be celebrated?”
Jessie didn’t answer. Her long Caucasian eyelashes sunk low. That was a sign that she didn’t hate her father as much as it seemed. She actually missed him.
“I’m going to leave soon.”
“So you can act however you want in front of me. Aren’t you happy your father’s back? You should welcome him. When you can’t eat something, you keep thinking about it. This is the same thing.”
“…Do I do then?”
“What do I do then?” she asked tearfully. Jessie bit down on her lip. She didn’t really want to look weak in front of someone she barely knew. Jessie continued talking amidst the tears.
“I get mad whenever I see him. Back in the day, he was so confident and cool, but he’s so small now. Why is he so pathetic?”
“…He’s not pathetic. He’s just older, that’s all.”
There wasn’t a single father in the world who didn’t get smaller. All fathers were worried about getting smaller in front of their children, but it was inevitable. Unless children grew up, they eventually found out that their father became weaker. Cho Min Joon continued talking.
“I’m not going to lecture you, but let me ask you a question. Because your father’s weaker now, don’t you want to hug him or see him anymore?”
“It’s not that I don’t want to see him.”
“Then you want to hug him.”
Cho Min Joon flashed her a smile. Jessie’s ears turned red as she turned around. She was a good child. She didn’t really know how to hate her parents. That’s also why her rebellion landed her back in her own room. If she was really immature, she would have run away from home. Cho Min Joon then asked, “Do you want to cheer him on?”
Cho Min Joon replied, “With what your father loves the most.”
‘Like jelly for example.’