It was a rainy day. Dark clouds covered the clear sky, and water kept pouring down hard in a cantankerous manner. It was raining so heavily that one would get wet even if one had an umbrella.
The dark and heavy rain made people feel gloomy. Even in such weather, Sungyoon stood at the front door of the building. He was facing Shinhae.
The building was large. It was a three-story building made out of bricks, and it looked like a sturdy and practical building. However, the most eye-catching part of the building was the large letters written on the outer wall. It said orphanage in large letters.
Sungyoon raised his hand and brushed Shinhae’s cheek. Her face was clean and pale, and she still looked intelligent. The only difference was that she had lost some weight compared to before. Unlike his daughter’s appearance, Sungyoon’s hand was skinny and rough.
His hands weren’t the only thing that had changed. His mental health had suffered, so his face looked gaunt. He had lost so much weight that his pot belly was nowhere to be seen. He had worn a shabby coat, jeans, and dirty sneakers. It spoke volumes as to what kind of life he was leading now.
On the other hand, Shinhae hadn’t changed much compared to him. Compared to before, she was just wearing worn-out clothes.
“Shinhae. You have to listen to your teacher. You have to be nice. Alright?”
He wouldn’t be able to meet her for a while. He felt his daughter’s body temperature as he knelt in front of her. He got on her eye level then he placed his palms on her cheeks.
“... can’t I continue living with you, dad?”
Tears started to form in Shinhae’s eyes. Sungyoon felt his throat constrict. He was having a hard time speaking.
His eyes also turned red, and he felt a burn in his nose as if he was about to cry. However, he did his best to smile at his daughter.
“Dad has to go to work, so that can’t happen. On the other hand, I’ll visit you often.”
“How long do I have to sleep to see you?”
Shinhae raised her fingers. She started to fold her fingers as if she was already counting the days. Sungyoon firmly grasped her hand.
“Thirty nights. Yes. I’ll come see you before you sleep 30 nights.”
“That is too long....”
Shinhae lowered her head in disappointment. Sungyoon felt as if his heart was going to be ripped apart.
Until now, Shinhae hadn’t complained at all. She knew what kind of situation her father was in. She had been a good child up until now, but now, she started throwing a tantrum. The reason was quite obvious. She hated the idea of being separated from her father.
If he had his way, he would just say, 'Ok. Let’s live together!'. He would leave the orphanage with his daughter in his arms. However, circumstances wouldn’t allow him to do that.
The poor living conditions and meals would negatively affect Shinhae’s growth. Then there would be the creditors that would come daily to harass him. The sight of her father being accosted by creditors would mentally scar her. Moreover, he had to travel to different regions to find work. There was no way Sungyoon could raise a young child in such conditions.
He had no idea how many times he had thought over this problem. He had no idea how many times he had cried. He had no idea how many times he had shouted out loud in despair. However, this was the only way that would allow his daughter to grow up without adversely affecting her.
“I’ll do my best to visit often. I promise.”
Large drops of tears started to fall from his daughter’s eyes, and the only thing he could give was his word. Shinhae hugged her dad tight around his neck.
“You promised. You’ll come visit me often.”
He could hear Shinhae’s tearful voice next to his ear. His shoulder had become wet from his daughter's tears and runny nose, but Sungyoon didn’t mind it. In fact, he hugged her closer.
“Yes... I’ll come often... to meet you.”
There was a lump in his throat, so he was almost gasping out his words. He was barely able to give her his promise while his cheeks were also flowing with sad tears.
The father and daughter hugged each other for a long time.
However, they couldn’t stay like this forever. Sungyoon wiped away his tears with his hand. Then he grabbed Shinhae’s shoulders and separated her from his embrace. Shinhae didn’t resist as she moved away from Sungyoon’s arms.
“Alright. Please take care of her.”
Sungyoon got up then he bowed his head. He had bent to almost a 90-degree angle. The nursery teacher had been off to the side. She quietly watched the father and daughter say goodbye to each other. She was someone that would be taking care of Shinhae, so Sungyoon showed utmost respect towards her.
“Yes. Please don't worry.”
The teacher gave a slight smile in order to put Sungyoon at ease. She looked like a virtuous woman in her early 40s. She carefully grabbed Shinhae’s hand. Shinhae was still tightly grasping Sungyoon’s clothes.
“Well, Shinhae. You have to say goodbye to your father now.”
The moment that he didn’t want to arrive had finally arrived. A copious amount of tears kept falling from Shinhae’s eyes as she shook Sungyoon’s hand.
“You have to come back quickly!”
“Of course. Of course, I will.”
Sungyoon raised his thumb as he let out a bright smile towards his daughter.
Then he finally turned his back on his daughter and opened his umbrella, walking into the rain. Maybe it was the massive amount of rainwater flowing across the ground, but his footsteps felt heavy. He looked back several times. Shinhae continued to wave her hands towards him. However, all things must come to an end. When he exited the front gate of the orphanage, his line of sight was blocked by a wall.
He could no longer see his daughter.
The tears he had been holding back up until now started to flow unhindered. He didn’t bother using his umbrella. The heavy rain covered up the tears flowing down his face. However, he couldn’t stop the wail that emanated from deep within him.
“S... Shinhae. Dad is sorry. I’m really really sorry.”
He wasn’t aware of the fact that everyone was staring at him as if he was a weirdo. Sungyoon looked like a mad man as he kept apologizing to Shinhae.
He had promised that he would protect his daughter at all costs. But in the end, it had been an empty promise. His creditors wouldn’t let him keep his promise. The world wasn’t that easy.
Sungyoon leaned against the wall surrounding the orphanage. Shinhae was also loudly crying. She had waited until her father's figure become obscured by the wall. She let out all the sadness she had been holding back. The nursery teacher tried to console her, but the little girl didn’t stop crying.
On the day when the rain was pouring down from the sky, the father and daughter wailed in sadness as they were separated by a single wall.
* * *
Shinhae was his last treasure, yet he had to leave her at an orphanage. His pleasant and cheerful personality was gone, and what was left now was a husk of himself. If he didn’t have Shinhae, he would have been another corpse floating down the Han river.
However, he still had a lifeline called Shinhae. She possessed his heart. He had lost all motivation for life, but there was a single flame that remained burning inside his heart. When he had separated from his daughter, he had engraved how she had looked in their last meeting. The memory allowed him to move his body, which was like an old tree.
He no longer wanted societal position and wealth. The flame of his ambition had been extinguished. He only moved for one reason.
He wanted to live with his daughter once again.
For others, this might not be a hard goal to achieve, but for Sungyoon, it was very difficult to achieve this goal. Above all else, his enormous debt got in the way of his dream. In total, he owed 7.2 million dollars. It was a massive amount of money. It was a figure that a regular person wouldn’t see in their lifetime.
Sungyoon had lost everything, so it was impossible for him to pay it all back.
In the end, he tried to apply for personal bankruptcy. However, the amount was too large, so it was impossible for him to resolve the debt through personal bankruptcy. The process for applying for personal bankruptcy was too convoluted, and it would take too long for it to be approved. There was also no guarantee that it would be approved.
This was why he had to work for a living. Sungyoon moved busily. He barely had time to sleep.
A heavy weight was pressing down on his shoulders, and a short moan escaped his mouth. He thought he had somewhat gotten used to this work, but he was mistaken. It was a very ill-advised thought.
Sungyoon was using a back carrier to transport bricks. He moved as if he was dragging his feet. He had been an owner of a successful company, but now he had to do manual labor.
His shoulders were already aching. He wanted to make as much money as possible, so he didn’t even complain. He was already on the shit list for being the worst worker on the construction site.
He was barely able to drag his body to his destination. It was a building, but it only had its concrete frame built. It was an eyesore. Sungyoon entered the front entrance, which didn’t have a door yet, and started climbing the gray stairs.
It didn’t take long for him to start gasping for breath. Sweat was coming down like rain, and his legs were shaking. His steps were slowing, but there was no way he would stop walking. Even if he was slow, he diligently climbed the stairs.
It happened when he climbed two-thirds to his destination.
Suddenly, Sungyoon clutched at his chest. His body swayed, and he rammed into the wall.
The bricks, which he had been carrying on his back, fell. Several broke in the fall. However, Sungyoon couldn’t pay attention to that.
His chest... his heart hurt too much.
“Ah. Ah ahk!”
It felt as if a hydraulic press was pressing down on his heart. He was unable to scream out loud, and he just moaned like an injured animal.
The pain lasted only a couple of seconds. However, it felt as if it had lasted forever.
Sungyoon was on his knees as he took deep breaths. He rubbed his hand around the region over his heart. The pain from before was completely gone. It was as if it had been an illusion. However, he knew that it wasn’t an illusion. He could recall the pain in his memories, so he knew for sure that it had happened.
Sungyoon threw up all the content within his stomach. He kept throwing up until he felt stomach acid come out. He had a runny nose, and tears were falling. His body tried to cope with the side effects brought on by the pain.
* * *
Sungyoon pressed the switch located on the wall. Soon, the light turned on, and the room came into view.
There was a bed, a TV, and a small closet inside this small room. This was a hostel where Sungyoon lived.
He haphazardly threw all his possessions in one corner then he jumped into bed. He should have washed his body first, but he didn’t have the energy to do so.
Sungyoon rubbed where his heart should be located. He thought about the pain he had felt earlier.
‘What the hell was that?’
The pain was so horrible that it was beyond imagination. It was a pain that he never wanted to experience again.
In the end, another worker had witnessed him throwing up. The worker had notified one of the higher-ups, so he had to leave early even if he hadn’t wanted to leave.
‘I’m probably on the shit list.’
He was bad at his job, and now his body wasn’t feeling well. He worried the bad news would spread amongst his superiors. If he no longer received work, he would be at a dead end. When he was the president of his company, his current salary had basically been a pocket change. Now it was a massive amount of money that he couldn’t afford to lose.
However, that wasn’t the real problem. The pain had emanated from his heart. His livelihood depended on his body, yet it might have been a signal that his health was deteriorating. If that was true, his future looked very dark.
If it was the past, he would have immediately gone to a hospital to get checked up….
‘I don’t have any money.’
Money. It got in the way of everything Sungyoon wanted.
Sungyoon crawled into a ball. His body was shaking and he became worried. What if he died from a disease? He was afraid of leaving this world. He didn’t want to leave behind Shinhae.
‘That can’t happen.’
At the very least, he wanted to see Shinhae marry a good man. He had to live until his daughter had a happy married life. He had to check if the person who would marry his daughter was a good man or a wastrel. He had to make sure she didn’t make the same horrible mistake as him.
‘Please! Please hang in there!’
Sungyoon prayed. He didn’t pray to Jesus, Buddha, or Allah. He prayed to his heart. Maybe, it understood his feelings. His heart beat at a steady pace as it quietly continued to do its work.Previous Chapter Next Chapter