“You want me to take Shinhae to her dad?”
“Yes. In truth, there is a nasty cold going around, and we had to send several kids to the hospital. Of course, we couldn’t send the children to the hospital by themselves, so a couple of teachers had to accompany them. That is why we are short on staff and don’t have the time to take Shinhae to her father.”
“Doesn’t her father usually pick her up?”
She gleaned from the director’s words that Shinhae would be meeting her father outside of the orphanage. The director’s expression turned for the worse. She looked regretful and sad.
“I told you last time, right? Shinhae’s dad visits her often, so the other children shun her. That is why we tried to come up with several solutions. One of the ideas was to stop the other children from witnessing the meeting between Shinhae and her father. Of course, the children know what is going on, but there is a difference in witnessing the meeting and imagining it.”
It was a pretty convincing argument, and Jiyoon nodded.
“But just because we are short on manpower, I can’t tell them not to meet.”
This was Shinhae’s day for meeting her only family member. It would be too cruel to rob this day from the child.
“After you deliver Shinhae, you don’t have to stay with them. You just have to accompany her to the promised location and pick her up at the agreed time. You just have to bring her back.”
When Jiyoon heard the director’s words, she realized that it wasn’t a difficult task. It was why she agreed to the request.
“Where do I have to take her?”
“So you are agreeing to do it?”
“Yes. It isn’t as if I’m a stranger to Shinhae, and this won’t be a difficult task.”
The director’s face brightened.
“Thank you very much. The location is the bank next to the orphanage.”
“It is close.”
It was really close. Jiyoon didn’t even need directions to get there.
“They just have to avoid being seen by the other children, so there was no need to go far.”
“Should I go right now?”
“Yes. He’s probably waiting for her currently.”
After the director thanked her, Jiyoon went to look for Shinhae. It wasn’t too hard to find the little girl, who looked like she wanted to run outside. She was pacing around the front gate.
Jiyoon had a bright smile on her face as she called out to the little girl. They had become quite close, so there was no disagreeable tone to her voice.
Shinhae gave a big wave. Her reaction was different than normal. Normally, she would pump those little legs to jump into Jiyoon’s arms.
“You are going to meet your dad today?”
Usually, she had a sad expression on her face, but right now, no traces of such expression were on her face. It was as if Jiyoon was witnessing a small flower bloom on a warm spring day. The little girl’s bright expression was too cute. There was an atmosphere of joy surrounding her, and it highlighted her cuteness.
“Unni will be taking you instead of the teacher.”
“Huh? Unni will?”
Shinhae’s eyes turned round.
“Yes. All the teachers are busy today. That is why unni will be going instead.”
The little girl was a bit surprised, but she soon put on a big smile.
In the first place, Shinhae didn’t care if the person delivering her was a teacher or Jiyoon. If she could meet her father, she was willing to go out by herself. Of course, her father and teachers told her that she always had to be accompanied by a teacher. That was the only reason why she hadn’t gone out.
Jiyoon firmly grasped Shinhae’s hand. She felt the warmth that was unique to a child in her hand.
“Unni’s hand is cold!”
Shinhae let out a trilling laugh. Jiyoon had never seen Shinhae be so happy. She had thought she had gotten close to Shinhae, but as expected, she couldn’t hold a candle to her father. For some reason, she was a bit jealous.
They walked parallel to the wall of the orphanage and soon arrived at a crosswalk on an intersection. Shinhae raised her one hand that wasn’t in Jiyoon’s hand. She was also careful to look at both sides of the street. Her actions made Jiyoon smile.
After crossing the crosswalk, it didn’t take too long to arrive at their destination. There were a lot of people going in and out of the bank’s glass door. Everyone looked busy, but one man was standing next to the entrance.
It felt as if Shinhae spurned Jiyoon’s hands. She let go of the hand and started running. It drew the eyes of passersby, but Shinhae didn’t care about them.
The man reacted to the little girl’s voice, and his face lit up.
He ran forward to greet the running Shinhae.
Shinhae jumped into Sungyoon’s arms, and he let out an ‘oof’ as he received his daughter.
Shinhae had suddenly let go of her hand to run forward, so Jiyoon had been a bit taken aback. However, a smile appeared on her face when she witnessed the warm reunion between father and daughter.
“Have you been well?”
Shinhae’s expression was brighter than the sun in the sky. She buried her face in Sungyoon’s chest.
The father and daughter remained that way for a while as they talked.
Jiyoon watched them and wondered what she should do. Shinhae had met her father, so she thought about returning to the orphanage without saying anything. Still, she thought she should say goodbye to the little girl.
Jiyoon approached the father and daughter.
It had been a while since Shinhae had met her father, so she had totally forgotten about Jiyoon. Shinhae finally registered Jiyoon’s presence again. She escaped Sungyoon’s arms and then she pulled on his rough large hand.
“Dad, dad! She is the unni that brought me here today!”
When Sungyoon looked at her, Jiyoon could observe the man's face more closely. She was a bit surprised.
He hadn’t groomed himself, so his hair was unkempt. It seemed he was leading a rough life, so he looked gaunt. It made his cheekbones more prominent. He had also worn squalid clothes that looked to be falling apart. He looked shabby. However, his face was much better than she had expected. If he was given a makeover, she thought all the freshmen girls on their date dash would fall for him.
Jiyoon gave a slight bow and a short greeting. That was it. Jiyoon wanted to be close to Shinhae, but she didn’t feel the need to be on familiar terms with her father. Moreover, she was a bit guarded right now. Even married men made passes at her. If the man showed too much interest in her, it would make it awkward for Jiyoon to interact with Shinhae in the future. She wanted to avoid that.
However, she had worried for nothing.
Sungyoon bowed towards Jiyoon. However, that was it. He neither showed any interest in her, nor did he make any moves. In fact, Sungyoon seemed a bit guarded towards Jiyoon. For the first time in her life, a man was looking at her with wary eyes.
“Are you her teacher?”
Sungyoon sounded a bit astringent. Jiyoon was flustered, but she kept that hidden.
“No. I came out to volunteer at the orphanage today. Children were sent to the hospital today, so several teachers had to accompany them. That is why I came here instead of them.”
After hearing her explanation, Sungyoon nodded. That was it. His eyes didn’t linger on Jiyoon.
“My cute daughter! What do you want to do today?”
If he was like the other men, he would have tried to continue the conversation. Jiyoon found his reaction quite refreshing. She was sure of it now. This man didn’t have an ounce of interest in her.
Shinhae put a finger to her lips, and she started thinking hard. How was she going to spend her day? What will allow her to have the most fun with her father? Jiyoon could almost hear Shinhae’s thoughts churn.
Sungyoon waited for his daughter to speak. His face didn’t show any signs of being bored. Jiyoon could tell by his look that the man loved Shinhae very much.
He didn’t look anywhere else. He looked only at his daughter’s happiness, and Jiyoon sensed a very good feeling from him. She felt a lot of favorable feelings towards the man.
Of course, this feeling wasn’t affection. It wasn’t like the movies or the dramas where the person fell for someone saying, ‘You are the first one to treat me this way’. Her feelings weren’t close to that. If she was to come up with a comparison, it was a pleasant smile that appeared when one saw a family that got along. It was that type of feeling.
“I’ll go for now.”
This was the time between father and daughter. She wasn’t family, so she didn’t want to intrude on their time. That was why Jiyoon had spoken those words.
“Then I’ll meet you later here, Shinhae. Ok?”
Shinhae gave a big hand wave towards Jiyoon. Jiyoon laughed as she gave a small hand wave.
“Thank you for bringing Shinhae here.”
“It was nothing.”
As a thank you for bringing Shinhae to him, Sungyoon lowered his head. Jiyoon was a bit embarrassed, so she let out a bashful smile.
After letting Jiyoon go, Sungyoon started to play with Shinhae in earnest. They went to a fast-food restaurant, and then he bought her a hamburger. There next stop was a movie theater, where they watched the latest animation movie. If he had his way, he even wanted to take her to an amusement park or a zoo. Unfortunately, his schedule wouldn’t allow it.
However, his daughter was truly happy at every little activity they did. It didn’t matter how much the director of the orphanage and the other teachers took care of her. It didn’t matter that Jiyoon came to play with her. Nothing could beat her time with her father.
However, time moved faster the more fun you had. While she was enjoying her day, the sun had already set. Only the lingering red color of the sun remained in the sky.
Jiyoon was waiting for the father and daughter in front of the bank. She came 10 minutes early.
She spotted the father and daughter duo coming towards her from across the street.
There was a big cotton candy in Shinhae’s right hand, and her left hand was in her father’s hand. The glow of the sunset washed over them. It was a very warm scene.
Jiyoon suddenly thought about her own family. When she was young, she had gone to the amusement park several times. She had so much fun there, but there always came a time when she rubbed her eyes as she yawned from exhaustion. When her father saw this, he had always given her a piggyback ride. Her father’s back was large and very warm. She hated the smell of cigarettes now, but when she was young, it was one of the smells from her father that comforted her.
‘It has been a while. Should I eat out with my parents?’
She wanted to get used to her college life, so she hadn’t spent much time with her family. She thought it would be a good idea to spend some quality time with them.
Jiyoon was having many thoughts when the father and daughter arrived in front of her.
“Did you have fun, Shinhae?”
Shinhae didn’t answer her. Jiyoon observed her expression. Her expression looked rough, and moisture was starting to appear near her eyes.
Sungyoon didn’t say anything as he put his hand on top of his daughter's head. Shinhae was like a puppy sticking close to her mother. She placed her hands above her father's hand as she clung to him.
“I want to stay with dad longer.”
Shinhae pouted, and she spoke with a childlike hope. She had spent a fun day with her father, yet she didn’t look happy right now. Jiyoon knew why.
‘She doesn’t want to part with her father.’
Shinhae had to live separately from her father at such a young age. Of course, she was having a rough time. Jiyoon felt sorry for her.
Sungyoon crouched in front of the little girl, and he extended both arms towards her.
“Let me hug you once, my daughter.”
As if Shinhae had waited for it, she hugged Sungyoon’s neck. Sungyoon also hugged her as he patted her back.
He wanted to tell her that he would come for her next time. At that moment, he wanted to tell her that they’ll live together once again. He wanted to say that, but he knew his situation wasn’t good enough to make such promises.Previous Chapter Next Chapter