“Choo-ja, I’m pregnant.”
Choo-ja’s breathing stopped for a second upon hearing this unforeseen declaration.
“Is it something to be proud of?!”
Her gentle voice suddenly rose an octave like a spring breeze. At the same time, from the speakers, the melody changed to a tense one with approaching clouds and a stormy rain.
“W-what, what did you say! My ears must be wrong―”
“It’s been three months.”
Although Lee-yeon’s face was expressionless, she couldn’t keep her hands still behind her back.
“I, I, what is happening now…!”
“You said love is more intense when it comes late.”
Choo-ja looked back and forth between Lee-yeon’s belly and face, mouth agape.
“I’m not as lucky as you, am I?”
“I’m more… an upgraded version of kkwabaegi, right?” Lee-yeon bit her lower lip and hid her smile.
*kkwabaegi – a twisted Korean doughnut.
Of course, when she first saw the test result, she was shocked, bewildered, scared, and anxious with all sorts of negative emotions swirling around her. But that was only for a moment.
She felt a shiver down her spine, enough to surprise herself. It was the thrill of having a ‘real family’ that she had been wishing for since she was born.
“I thought our rootless and weak family had already been cursed to reproduce no more…” Choo-ja murmured to herself.
There was a strange glint in Lee-yeon’s eyes. The weak thoughts of pleasing her aunt and mourning after the man she loved were now abandoned. She saw a greater purpose.
“Choo-ja, I… I can be someone’s foundation too.”
Her voice trembled, but a new joy that had never been seen in her weary pupils began to bloom.
“Even for someone as lacking as me, I found someone that I can never sever ties with.”
That was another breakthrough for Lee-yeon.
“Someone who won’t ignore or discard my sincerity no matter what.”
Her face was full of life as if she was born anew.
“That’s why I don’t have time to whine anymore, Choo-ja.”
Choo-ja looked carefully at Lee-yeon’s face filled with newfound energy. It made Lee-yeon feel uneasy, as if she had interpreted her calm gaze in a certain way.
“I look so careless, don’t I? We were safe on the date for contraception, but…”
Of course, pregnancy was unexpected for Lee-yeon. There were days when she used contraception, and days when she didn’t, but at least she hadn’t had sex very often. She had always avoided ovulation, but she never expected to become pregnant so suddenly.
How difficult it is for a woman to raise a child alone in a harsh world, how fatal childbirth can be, all of these things were pushed aside by Lee-yeon’s excitement.
She had to sit in front of a tree that had been there for over a thousand years and feel the mountain breeze with her child. She had to lift small, green leaves with her little hands like autumn leaves.
From the moment she confirmed her pregnancy, Lee-yeon began to dream of a distant future. At that moment, Choo-ja embraced her with a heavy voice.
“It’s a baby, it’s a baby. Well done.” Of course, it would have been even better if she had had a proper relationship, marriage, and a baby, but according to Choo-ja, Lee-yeon was not that kind of person. If Kwon Chae-woo hadn’t trampled on her field, she would have lived her life as a lonely artisan.
The important thing is that a new being has been born into Lee-yeon’s life, not a so-called “normal” family as society dictates.
“Don’t blame yourself. There are bodies like mine that can’t have children.”
The fleeting bitterness that passed through Choo-ja was quickly buried under a heavy smile. It seems that last night’s strange dream was a premonition after all.
A young tiger, as big as a house, was relentlessly hitting a larger tiger with its front paws, but the fierce-looking beast could only whimper. The young tiger waddled its chubby bottom and disappeared under a large tree, while the adult only dug the barren ground and howled…
“So what if the father isn’t here? I have a bank account. I’ll raise the child as a single mother, even if it’s not with a biological father that I know.”
Choo-ja pretended to touch her eyelashes and wiped her eyes quickly. Lee-yeon hugged her tightly, both women smiling faintly despite the makeshift funeral.
“Just like how I missed uncle (Choo-ja’s late husband), I will probably feel the same way. No matter how much I try to bury it, there will always be an emptiness in my heart. But still-”
Lee-yeon released the embrace and looked directly at Choo-ja.
“I won’t live without love.”
It was a declaration that broke down the wall that Lee-yeon had built up due to her upbringing.
“Of all the things I’ve tried, that was the best. Love is also what I want to teach my child.”
It was a commitment to pour out love and care to not just one man but to the world around her, her life, and the whole world surrounding her child.