"What are you doing for a living?" The five-year old asked. Ryeowook snapped at the sudden question, only to stare at her in bewilderment.
"Right, sorry." Ryeohyun realized for a fact that her father always asks her to address someone before speaking. “Teacher in English class said the parents are supposed to earn money for the family, which means you have to have a job.”
And Ryeowook remained like that - expressionless; it made the little girl thought twice whether to keep asking or not. But, her father didn’t say anything, so it’s okay, right?
"Could you tell me what are you doing to have the money, Daddy?"
Blinking slightly, Ryeowook let a small chuckling. "Of course, hmm, you know what drawing is?"
She ran to the coffee table and lifted a sketching paper with the blank side is facing her. “This?” A picture of a house with a beautiful garden on the right side, flowers are blooming everywhere.
Standing to his feet, Ryeowook walked towards her. “And what I’m doing for a living is basically the same thing like drawing, except I only draw clothes.”
Ryeowook sat on the sofa, lifting his daughter in process, only to place her beside him. “Where did you get the money? You sell the drawing?”
"No, it's... Okay, the term is fashion designer." Taking a better look at the little girl, he asked. “Think you get what that means, dear?”
"...No?" Confusion was written all over her face.
Smiles reassuringly, he lifted the daughter of his up as he stood on his foot. "That's alright. You'll understand later." Walking towards bedroom, he inquired. What me to read you a story?"
"Don't. I hate fairy tales. Surprised, Ryeowook lost his words. “But maybe, you can read me for the last time?”
Beauty and the Beast.
"Thanks, Daddy. Goodnight. I love you."
They were in living room. The screen was playing a family-based cartoon - they're speaking in French though.
"I could have another parent, right?" And like always, the absurdity of things questioned by the curious kid.
"Why would you think so?" Ryeowook eyed her.
"My friend, Lauren has two parents, and so does Adele. But Damien said his two parents are gone and he lives with his grandpa now.” She was so cute that Ryeowook had to resist himself from pinching her. “Are my other parent is gone, too?"
Looking at her in the eye, "Do you know what gone means?"
"Like I'm walking away from you?" She broke the eye-contact first before saying, “And you would never come back.” She suddenly defended herself, eyes widening. “Damien said that.”
Nodding, he filled some blanks. “Gone could be that one is resting in a place you could never imagine, but they are going to be happy eventually.” Smiles softly, he looked at her again. “And everyone does have two parents. So, yes you could have another parent. And he’s not gone.”
Grabbing colorful pens on the table in front of her, she timidly questioned. “Are you going to tell me why?” Then, she turned to have a look on her Daddy, her hands fumbling with the pens still.
"Let's wait for another two years. You could do that, right?" She agreed immediately with it.
"Don't eat all of them at once." Ryeowook firmly said.
But of course, she was just five years old. What did you expect? She craved that, plus it looked so delicious. That was why when she tasted the first candy, she almost had the six but her father came in suddenly.
"Ryeohyun, put that down."
Yet, she stubbornly held onto two candies on his right hand.
"You're going to damage all your teeth. Put that down.” He didn’t bother himself to let the grasp loosen as he was taking all the remaining sweets in one handful hand. Ryeowook then looked into her hazel eyes. “You can have it again tomorrow. Please, put that down.”
"But, they're sweet. I like sweets." She was pouting, her eyes though spoke otherwise. It was the determination.
"I like them too, sweetheart. But, look I don’t need to eat all of them.” Ryeowook persuaded her some more. “Really, I give you again tomorrow.”
"I want to eat sweets now." She tilted her body sideway.
"Have a glass of water first?" He filled the glass with water after putting all the sweets into a small storage container.
And she had a different thinking when she decided to run away from Ryeowook. Her hand worked on the first sweets and quickly threw it into her mouth. Then, she saw her father put the glass down on the coffee table. She waited for another words from him, but nothing.
She dared herself to open the last wrapped-up candy, but she stopped halfway. Her father has walked away from her. A glass of water left untouched. Yet her hand worked its way towards her mouth, she savoured the last mint-flavoured candy.
Munching on it too fast, she went to search for her father. She thought she heard noise behind the closed door. A tap was running. Just then, the bathroom door is opened wide.
"Oh, did you finish all your sweets?" His father's eyes were red; though it wasn't like the blood red.
Nodding, she still had her eyes on her father. Feeling a hand on her shoulder, she heard her father. “Drink the water, okay? I’ll go make us dinner.”
Thus, she went back to the living room. Staring blankly at the glass, she sipped the water - slowly.
When she came to the kitchen sometimes later, she saw her father's radiant smile. And she smiled, too. But, her father's eyes were still red.
"Why would you choose to be a designer?" She tapped her Daddy on the arm.
"So, you know what designer means now?" Nodding profusely, she took out a paper from her backpack.
"Miss Damia listed these for me," she explained. The different types of designers were all written on the white paper. “She said they are all creative people that earn money.”
Pondering, he reached the paper as his daughter was offering it to him. "I want to help people."
"Why would you?" She looked at him.
"Because everyone should help each other; like how I help you to learn English, like how you help me to keep the house clean.” He brushed his finger gently on the cute little button’s nose. Smile spreading on his feature.
She scrunches her face at the gesture. "Is it really your dream?"
"I have many dreams." He moved his both hands to show the many dreams he had. "And being a designer is one of them. I want people to feel happy with things that I do.”
She wasn't sure whether she understood fully what the word designer means, but one thing she knew for sure, her father worked with clothes. “Making clothes make you happy?”
Still smiling, he wrapped her frame. "But being with you is more contend."
"Contend?" Her word rang at the back of his ear.
"If I had to choose my works and you, I would choose you,” Leaning away, he held her closed to him, “Because I feel a lot happier with you.”
Unconsciously, a smile framed the delicate feature. She played with her father’s button shirt. “You know Daddy, tomorrow is the last day for Lauren. Her family wants to go to Germany.”
Looking at her fondly, he inquired. "Are you sad that she's moving out from school?"
Nodding, she fumbled with the shirt-button more. “A little; she’s been with me for two years now. But, she’s with her family.” Lifting her head, she spoke softly. “I should be happy for her, right?”
And smile continued playing on Ryeowook's face.
"Is he my other parent?" A picture of young handsome men was looking at the camera with smile. Out of the eleven people in there, there was one she couldn’t fully recognize. And that the one she was pointing at, has an arm around his Daddy’s shoulder. They were all look so happy.
She was standing at the kitchen's doorstep, as she watched her Daddy turned himself around to look at her. His smile dimmed for a moment. When she met Ryeowook’s eyes soon after, she saw a smile on his face.
"Come here," he said.
Still staring at her daddy, she slowly walked into the kitchen. She however stopped up short in front of her father, trying to hide the Polaroid photo behind her back. Though Ryeowook saw the gesture, he didn’t say anything; smile still framed the beautiful feature. He then lifted his daughter as he seated on the chair with her on his lap, facing each other.
"So, what you want me to see?" He asked gently, brushing the little girl's hair.
She tilted her head in disagreement. "Are you sure, sweetheart?"
She paused before nodding. And Ryeowook kept on playing with her hair. "You won't get your answer unless you ask.” Soft like a lullaby, that was Ryeowook’s voice.
They stayed in that position for about half an hour when Ryeowook suddenly tried to lift her up, so that he can move around the kitchen, attending things. And as fast as she could, the little girl latched on him, hiding her face on the crook of Ryeowook’s neck.
"W-whoa," Almost stumbling, Ryeowook held her steady. Before he could actually try to reason out, his daughter beat him. “I’m sorry, Daddy.” She was crying.
He just stood there, patting on her head, waiting for her sob to die down. "It's okay, sweetheart." He spoke in reassurance.
Later at night, Ryeowook visited the little girl in her bedroom. “What are you doing?”
She however didn't answer him. Her hand was scribbling down numbers on the white paper, fast yet organized. Watching that, Ryeowook walked towards the bed before plopping down on the soft mattress. He found the photo on the bedside table though.
It was the only photo of him and his friends, the only photo he brought from Seoul. He stared at it long enough that if his daughter didn’t interrupt him, the photo might burn a hole. “It’s a math work,” she states softly.
Lifting his head, he smiled. "Are you done?"
Nodding, she glanced at the photo; her finger unconsciously gripped the pencil on the table tighter. Nervous was flooding her vein. “Here, sit with me.”
And she did just that - pacing towards her father and sitting beside him on the mattress.
"Is this the first time you found this?"
She was struggling as to be honest with her father, but her uneasiness dominated her mind more. And then there was this gentle caress on his shoulder, and she blurted out. “No.” She the continued herself, “I found the picture when I was five.”
Meeting her father's eyes, she said, her words were barely whisper. “You said I should wait, so I wait.” But then, her eyes glistened with un-shed tears. Her lips were quivering. Embracing the little girl, he let his daughter cried for the second time that day.
And he told his daughter everything that night. He said that the man’s name is Kyuhyun and that the man’s grandfather was a friend of her great grandfather. He said Jongwoon was the man’s cousin. He said that they were married for six months. He said that he left the house right after his birthday party celebration. He said he came to Paris, without telling the man. He said the man’s eye-color was the same with her – hazel. He said that she was genius like the man.
He was crying when everything ended. He was crying with her in his arms. The tidal waves of tears crashing within him.