People often have two things they think of when they think of a poor family’s christmas . First, the idea that the family would have a happier Christmas than rich people . Second, the idea that they’d be envious of the rich while they themselves starved away without even a tree .
They weren’t very nice stereotypes at all . At least, to Kaya it wasn’t . The Christmas she spent in her life was neither energetic, nor tragic .
It was just normal . Of course, the tree was fake . The turkey was dry . The fruits weren’t even that sweet . But it didn’t mean she was unhappy . Her family enjoyed their humble lifestyle .
With that in mind, this Christmas was the most difficult one Kaya’s ever had to plan . It could become the worst Christmas in her life, or it could become the best . The first time her family’s gathered . It might sound great on paper, but all it really did was make Kaya feel afraid .
It was inevitable . As excited as she was, the more she was fearful of the meeting falling apart . Kaya Lotus was the type to reject people in the fear of ruining existing relationships . That cowardly mindset was rooted deep into her mind .
Was it because of that? At five o’clock in the morning, when the windows were fogged from the dawn fog, Kaya felt herself waking up . Her blurry vision cleared, and she realized Minjoon was looking at her worriedly .
“Are you alright? I woke you since you kept moaning in your sleep . Looked like you were having a nightmare . ”
“…I don’t know . I think so? It felt really bad . ”
Kaya slowly lifted herself up from the bed . Her shirt was wet from sweat . Kaya carefully turned to look at Minjoon .
“I reek of sweat, don’t I?”
“So what? You had a nightmare . ”
“Should I take a shower?”
“Try to calm down a bit . You still look really agitated . You look like you’re going to faint in the bathroom . ”
Minjoon left the room saying that . Kaya looked at the light streaming through the door from the kitchen as she thought . What should she say when she meets her family? Who’s supposed to lead the conversation? What if… they fight? The questions kept clawing at her mind, making her sigh in unease . Minjoon entered the room by the time she sighed for a third time .
“Here . Have some water . ”
“Thanks . ”
Kaya put the cup to her mouth with a slight smile . Minjoon took a wet towel and wiped Kaya’s face and neck . Kaya felt herself letting out a slight smirk as she drank .
“Why are you treating me like a patient? I’m not sick . ”
“Looks like it became a habit . I had to doctor you for too long, I guess . ”
“…Sorry . I won’t get sick anymore . So don’t get sick yourself, ok?”
“We have a saying back in Korea . If we live, might as well live together . If we die, might as well die together . ”
“Dying together my ass . Go die alone . I wanna live long . ”
Minjoon smiled .
“If I die… No, if . It’s just an if . Stop it with that face . What would you do if I died?”
“What do you think? I’d just keep thinking about you . I can’t just kill myself because of you . ”
“I’m not asking that . Are you never planning on meeting another guy?”
“What about you?”
Kaya’s eyes narrowed like a cat . Minjoon stopped in the middle of wiping Kaya’s arm and started thinking . It took a while, but the answer was short .
“I can’t . ”
“Yeah . I feel like if you love someone, the love won’t go away just because they’re dead . Yeah, you’ll feel lonely, but…”
Minjoon scratched his nose a little . He felt his face burn up a little . After some more time spent pondering, he finally spoke up again .
“…I might even end up enjoying that loneliness . ”
“…Idiot . ”
Kaya swore almost reflexively . The man’s words made her wince in disgust . Right then, Kaya hugged Minjoon . Minjoon could feel the sweat on her chest touch him, but he didn’t really mind .
Kaya continued . Her words were dripping with sadness .
“My mom wasn’t like that . She couldn’t take the sadness . ”
“The story’s different though . Your father…”
“Yeah . He ran . Ran from the debt . That’s why I understand her . And I also understand… . him . ”
“What’s the problem, then?”
“Is there still love between them? No, he probably still thinks about mom sometimes . I heard he’s never met anyone else . But does mom… Still like dad?”
“Who knows . You’ll have to think about forgiveness before you think about love in this case . They aren’t even married anymore, nor are they lovers . Could it be… You want them to be together again?”
Kaya opened her mouth, but closed them without saying anything . Minjoon understood . All children crave parents . They want their parents to be together . They want parents that love each other .
He felt like she was being greedy, but he couldn’t say this . She’s suffered for so long . Taking her tiny greed away would be too painful for her .
“I… Hope my dad isn’t a bad person . Really . I really do . I want to hold mom’s hand in one hand, and my dad’s on the other . I want to walk like that . Is that… too immature?”
Minjoon carefully took Kaya off, and held her hands . He could feel the little scars and calluses on it . Some would think of those hands to be strong and powerful, but Minjoon caressed those hands like a little baby’s .
“Kaya, we’re adults . I’ll hold your hands . Their hands… We’ll leave it to them, too . ”
Kaya didn’t respond, but her grip on his hands got tighter . Minjoon wondered what she felt when she let go . Was it resignation, or understanding?
It was Christmas Eve, and Rose Island decided not to take any guests at lunch . Instead, they took the time to gather all the staff and have a small party . They exchanged little gifts, too .
Minjoon prepared a pair of gloves, and he got a scarf in response . The scarf wasn’t very thick, since it didn’t get too cold in California, but Minjoon liked it . But the real present came later . Rachel handed a small box to all the chefs, and smiled .
“I got a gift for all of you, since I felt like I worked you a little too much . I should really be giving this to you on Christmas, but I really don’t think we’d have the time tomorrow . ”
Minjoon opened the present excitedly . He kind of had an idea of what the gift would be already, and his expectations weren’t betrayed at all .
It was a knife . The handle was made with wood, and the blade was steel as pale as bone . Both sides had a small rose engraved on it, and on the stem of the flower was Minjoon’s name . Minjoon looked at the knife with a look of amazement . Rachel smiled .
“I custom ordered it from my knifemaker . Unfortunately, only those who are demi chefs and above can get that knife . But the knives I gave the rest of you aren’t that bad either . If you want the rose knife… You’re going to want to get promoted fast . Understood?”
Maya shouted excitedly . She seemed happy regardless of what knife she ended up getting . Minjoon laughed a little before turning to look back at his knife . It felt almost familiar to him .
After the gifts, came the time to decorate the tree . Minjoon took in the peace of the moment as he lifted Ella to the very top of the tree . He was with the people he loved in a place he dreamed of being . Minjoon looked at Ella and smiled .
“Ella, are you having fun?”
“Yeah . Um, uncle… You want to put this on too?”
Ella offered a sock to Minjoon, almost as if she was giving it to him out of unparalleled kindness . Minjoon smiled as he took the sock in his hand .
“Thanks, Ella . You’re too kind . ”
“Hehe . Mom said Santa puts the presents in the socks if you hang it . ”
“Do you want mom’s happiness in the sock?”
Ella fumbled a little with a surprised face . She seemed quite conflicted . After a while, she opened her mouth again .
“I want mom’s happiness somewhere other than a sock, and in the sock I want candies, chocolate, jelly, and… a doll . ”
“Santa will give all that to you . Don’t worry . ”
“Mm . I can’t wait . ”
Ella smiled happily . Minjoon pat the girl’s head, and looked around . His eyes stopped on Javier . The man ended up failing from putting a dish on the menu this season .
It’d have been a little nicer if some of the others failed as well, but Javier was the only one out of the demi chefs who failed . Minjoon couldn’t imagine how disappointed the man would feel right now .
Minjoon walked toward Javier after much hesitation as he started preparing for dinner . He didn’t want to talk about the dishes with him, but the man just seemed so down .
It almost felt like the man would make a mistake while cooking with him being so down like that .
“Javier . ”
“Mm? Ah, Minjoon . ”
Javier smiled . But his eyes weren’t smiling at all . Minjoon grabbed Javier’s shoulders firmly .
“Runners don’t win because they take off fast . Don’t get too anxious . I believe in you . You’re a good chef . ”
“…Are you trying to make me feel better?”
“Sorry if you feel like I’m intruding . ”
“No, thanks . I needed to hear that . ”
“Most people do . So please cheer me up yourself if I ever get down . Alright? After all, we’re friends . ”
Javier’s eyes shook for a little . He spoke with a much calmer voice than before .
“Yeah, we’re friends . ”
“So can you cheer me on now? This might get really difficult for me tomorrow . ”
“Ah, your father and mother in law?”
“…I’m not even married, you know?”
“Same thing . But they’re the problem, right?”
“This is going to be really special this time . I’m making the food for someone’s most important moment in their life . I’m really happy, but I’m also really scared . ”
Minjoon was sweating . It was obvious how nervous he was . Javier smiled .
“Kitchens are difficult to stand in for anyone, huh . ”
“Rachel told me she still thought cooking was hard . And for us…”
It was especially hard . This time, someone’s very special moment was at stake . He wanted to make food that would make all the pain in the family get washed away . He wanted to gift them a precious moment . That was the only thing he could do .
Cooking . The only gift he could give them was food .