It was the gloomiest day ever. People approached her to give some encouragement words or reassuring taps on her shoulders. She saw her mother, half lifeless, stood beside the grave with the support of some people. In her arms, Sanghyun cried hysterically.
Dara looked at the coffin being buried. The smiling and humorous daddy she had would never laughed at her cold jokes anymore. He had gone forever. He would never watch her on school dramas at the end of semesters again. She felt her chest tightened. Her eyes got teary, but she tried her best to hold it back. She couldn’t cry. She mustn’t cry. She had to be tough. She’s the eldest child; she’s the head of family now, practically, since her mother was extremely shaken.
The funeral ceremony ended a few moments ago. Sanghyun and her mother were fetched home by Jiyong’s parents. The family and relatives had gone. Dara stayed still in front of her dad’s grave. Her eyes locked on the gravestone. Out of blue, her whole body shook terribly. She sobbed, let all her emotions she couldn’t show earlier burst out. “Daddy…” she whispered weakly. She was about to fall on her knees when a pair of arms hold her from the back. Dara stopped sobbing for a while and turned around.
“You always have me, Nuna.” Jiyong said as he let go of her. “I will always be by your side. I will never leave you. I will protect you with all my heart.”
Dara stared at the boy whose height didn’t pass her shoulder. On normal days, she would have felt irritated on his cheesy lines. But that time she felt his words soothed her shaken self. Jiyong took her back into his embrace. Dara buried her head on his shoulder. “Thank you, Jiyong.” She whispered softly.
END OF FLASHBACK
Dara bumped her head to the pillow. It had been the three times she dreamt about that after Jiyong reminded her to buy him Christmas gift. The funny thing was the dream didn’t always replay the whole funeral ceremony, but it always replayed what happened after the ceremony ended—the part when she cried in Jiyong’s arms.
Maybe I should really buy him a gift this year, she shrugged.
Since it was her day off of teaching at the hakwon, Dara decided to go to a department store to seek the gifts. She walked into stores for hours until she decided to buy two thick mantels with the same model for both Jiyong and Sanghyun. She knew Jiyong would protest, but she couldn’t help to dress the two in ‘uniforms’. For her, the two were her younger brothers who needed to be uniformed so people would recognize them as siblings—because their faces were totally different from each other. Dara smiled on thinking how Jiyong’s reaction would be.
On her way out of the department store, she found some cute beanie that would look good on both Jiyong and Sanghyun. Guess it can be used as a makeup gift since I didn’t give them any last year, she thought. Her eyes widened when she saw the price tag.
The mantels were expensive enough, she made a mental note. But it’s not every day you buy the boys things… And you’ll receive your Christmas bonus soon, her other corner of brain spoke. However, you shouldn’t waste too much money on something not urgent. What if something happens later? Sanghyun’s school fees aren’t cheap, either, the other side argued.
The ring of her phone put the fight in her head into cease fire. Jiyong. What again?
“Nuna, where are you?”
“Department store, why?”
“Get some cheese, please. Mom is making lasagna for tonight but she forgets we’re running out of cheese.”
“Why don’t you go buy it?” she raised her eyebrow.
“I have business I don’t know when it’ll end; maybe I won’t make it on time for dinner.”
Curiosity crawled Dara. “Business? What business?”
“You sound like a girl suspecting her boyfriend to cheat on her, Nuna.” He chuckled.
“Whatever.” Dara rolled her eyes. “Tell Aunty I’ll be there in half an hour.”
“Okay. Thank you, sweetheart. See you tonight.” He said sweetly.
“Stop it, dongsaengie.” She said coldly.
“Don’t call me that. I hate being young.” He grumbled. She cracked a laugh.
“Gotta go Nuna. Ah, don’t forget to dress beautifully tonight. I love you~” Jiyong ended the call. Dara’s laughter died at his final words. Dang it, why do I feel stunned every time he said that?
Since he was ten, Jiyong had declared to the world that he loves Dara. He told everyone he’s her boyfriend and acted like one, when he had never really asked her to be his girlfriend. On the other hand, Sandara had always treated him the same way she treated Sanghyun. Everyone knew she looked at him as a part of her family, a younger brother. However, she had never forbid him to act as her boyfriend, even though she always showed disgusted face whenever he said cheesy lines or acted oh-so-sweetly.
Some girls from Jiyong’s high school tried confessing to him, but they all ended up being rejected. Those girls hated Dara because Jiyong flooded her with affections yet she still acted all coolly. They once tried to blackmail her but failed by Jiyong. Some girls from university Dara was attending envied her too as Jiyong often come to fetch her or drop meals for her when she was sick. Dara herself had never felt disturbed by those girls. The one that disturbed her was… when he flashed his sweetest smile to anybody beside her.
Come to think of it… Dara had questioned herself a lot for always being stunned by Jiyong saying those three words. She’s sick of hearing his sweet talks, so why does she have to flutter upon that phrase?
Being the head of her family, Dara didn’t let herself involved romantically with anyone. The only thing she has in her head is working hard to earn money so she can afford her mother and Sanghyun a good life. That’s the reason she had never had a boyfriend up until now—but is it really the only reason?
Just in case you forget, Cheondung's real name is Park Sanghyun.