Of course, it wasn’t like the dish cleared the air around the table immediately . It did provide some breathing room, though . Grace managed to smile, after all . She looked at Minjoon with loving eyes before turning to smile at Kaya .
“What a cheesy boyfriend you have, Kaya . ”
“That’s what I fell for . I’m cheesy too, after all . ”
“…Didn’t you say you liked his mature side before?”
Minjoon looked at Kaya with a disappointed face . Kaya simply waved him over with a smile . When he nervously stepped forward, Kaya grabbed his two cheeks with her hands .
What happened next was obvious . Kaya pulled him in, and Minjoon stumbled back afterwards with a blush . The customers were all looking at him with a smile on their faces . Minjoon shouted at Kaya as quietly as he could .
“What the hell are you doing at my workplace?!”
“Isn’t it exciting, doing stuff like this in a place where you shouldn’t?”
“For you, yeah, but I…”
“What are you doing? Now you’re making me feel embarrassed too . Stop acting like a little kid . ”
“Last time you asked me to act more like one, and…”
“Tsk tsk, you’re an adult, stop taking that kid thing so much to heart . ”
Kaya hit back pretty hard to everything Minjoon said today . Minjoon just ended up glaring at Kaya for a second, before giving up .
“It tasted like pomegranate, didn’t it?”
Minjoon wondered what she asked for a second, but it became obvious what she was talking about when he licked his lips a little . Minjoon looked away for a second with an even redder blush . It was such an unthinkable thing for him, an Asian . Doing something like this in front of adults…
‘The American soul, huh . How shocking . ’
Grace and Bruce didn’t really seem to mind, thankfully . Jemma was the one who seemed nervous, actually . She was supposed to be in high school by now . Her feelings must be going wild right now .
‘I never thought things would turn out like this . ’
It was a bit of a surprise, but at least the general mood of the table got better . Minjoon turned to speak to Jemma .
“How did you like the meal, Jemma? Was it good?”
“Y-yeah . I-it was as good as sister making it . ”
“Oh, sounds like I made something absolutely amazing, then . ”
Jemma smiled . Her trembling lips didn’t let her form a full smile, but… To Minjoon, there was no brighter smile than this .
There’s a stereotype out there for rich and poor people . That rich people live a shell of a life, unfulfilling and boring . That poor people find happiness in the smallest things . Of course, this isn’t true . Sometimes, it does happen, but not often .
It’s hard for poor people to find happiness in nothing . A whip can make a horse run, but it could also make the horse simply give up . A life with only whips, and no carrots . How cruel was that?
‘…No, I suppose they did have a carrot in their life . ’
Perhaps the family itself might’ve been a motivating force for them . No, for sure, it was . They might’ve been a deadweight to each other at times, but at the same time, they must’ve motivated each other well . That must be why they grew together so well . Minjoon looked at Grace .
“You’re amazing, Grace . ”
“Hm? What’s up with the compliment?”
“I was just thinking… It must’ve been hard raising such beautiful daughters in your situation . ”
Grace looked at him dumbly . Her eyes started reddening as she thought of the past . Bruce extended his hand to try to pat her, but flinched a little midway and gave up . Perhaps he thought he wasn’t even worthy of doing such a thing . Grace calmed down a little later, and looked at Minjoon with a smile .
“Sorry, hearing that all of the sudden… Just messed me up . ”
Her husband– he really wasn’t one anymore– appeared after two decades . Telling her that he was finally successful . The reason he ran was simple . Debt crashed down on him when his business failed, and he needed to run from his family as a result .
She knew all this . But she didn’t care . He was the bad one for running . That’s what she thought, and that’s what she wanted to think . She didn’t want to like a person who ran .
But he came back . Like Moses . With a fruit called success in his hands . He was different from before . He could easily lead them back into peace and happiness . But this made Grace worried . She spoke with a trembling voice .
“Bruce, I’ll admit it . You’ve succeeded . You can probably do more for Kaya than I could do for her . I always forced Kaya to walk by my side, but you can easily carry her and take her to places beyond where I could go . ”
Kaya glared at Grace . But Grace didn’t meet the girl’s eyes . That was what bothered her the most . The thought of being a mother who couldn’t help . No, she could take that fact pretty well . But thinking that Bruce, someone who’s been missing for 20 years could be a better parent than her… Hurt her .
Right then, Bruce opened his mouth .
“Grace, I’ve never even thought of such a strange thing . ”
“Why do you think it’s strange? It’s a perfectly logical thing to think . ”
“No, it’s not at all logical . Yeah, I’m rich now . I could buy Kaya a house and a car . But no matter what I do for her, I could never fill in your place as her parent . That’s what being a parent is like . ”
Grace couldn’t respond . She wasn’t really convinced . Kaya opened her mouth as well . She looked like a street thug with the makeup she had put on, but her words were incredibly soft .
“Mom, do you remember that Italian restaurant back at the marketplace?”
“…I do . The chef always said he was Italian, but he turned out to be Finnish . Damn scammers . ”
“The food was bad too . Al dente my ass, the pasta was bloated as hell . Plus, the tomatoes weren’t even that fresh . The pizza dough almost felt like baguette as well . ”
“Yes, they were . What of it?”
“I miss it . ”
Kaya smiled . Her eyes drifted over to Grace’s neck . To her past .
“I remember loving that moment, going to that restaurant after work . I’m going to all sorts of luxury restaurants now, but… I still miss that flavor . I’m going to miss it, no matter what . And you were there with me, too . Father wasn’t . Nothing can change that . So stop thinking of such strange things . Please . If you do…”
Kaya choked a little, and sniffed . Jemma hugged Kaya lightly . She seemed rather sad as well . Grace looked at Kaya with a complicated look .
“…Right . I’m sorry . ”
Minjoon wasn’t sure what to make of this situation . Was it sad? Was it heartwarming? Well, in any case, it was a step the family had to take together for sure . But more importantly for now, there were other customers to serve .
He wanted to be next to them, but he needed to be in the kitchen .
‘People have places where they belong . ’
The only thing he could do was wish for their happiness . Minjoon headed off to the next table . He smiled with the kettle in his hand .
“How was your meal?”
Obviously, the family didn’t heal completely after just one meal . They still needed time . Though, it was nice that the meal had a happy ending . As Kaya took Grace and Jemma back to their hotel, Grace opened her mouth .
“You need to meet a good man . I don’t want you to suffer like I did . ”
“Minjoon’s a good person, you know that . ”
“Well, yeah . I’m talking about the next one . ”
“…Why are you talking like I’m going to split up?”
“It’d be nice if you stay together forever . But it’s not common for people your age to maintain a relationship for that long, you know?”
“I’m going to marry him . Or just live single . So don’t say that . ”
“Sure, sure . ”
Grace smiled . As Kaya looked at her with a dissatisfied look, Jemma smiled .
“I’d love to see you two together . ”
“Don’t worry . It won’t be far . We’ll even have a kid together . I even decided on a name . A boy would be Arnold, and a daughter… Agh, what was it again?”
“Two . More would be hard . Both for work and parenting . ”
“You sound like you’re already married . ”
Grace looked at Kaya incredulously . Kaya smiled . At that moment, Grace could only agree with the idea that love made a person more beautiful . There was nothing about Kaya that didn’t look beautiful right now . Grace sighed .
“I don’t know why you became the second most beautiful chef on that show . You looked so much better than that Chloe kid . ”
“Chloe’s mom probably disagrees . Don’t worry about that . Who cares about rankings? Minjoon thinks I’m the prettiest, and that’s just fine . ”
“Of course . ”
“You need to be careful . It’s hard to always show your pretty side when you’re living together . You’re not burping and farting in front of him, are you?”
“No! …Probably . ”
Kaya responded confidently at first, but she became unsure of herself . Grace sighed . The girl was mature, but she did have a very childish side to her . That made her worried . Once they arrived, Grace looked at Kaya one last time .
“I trust you . I can, right?”
“Of course . Don’t worry . ”
As Kaya walked back home, though, she started thinking about a bunch of things . Marriage . Children . They didn’t really sound real to her just yet . But they’ll become a reality, some time in the future . When she returned, she noticed Minjoon just arriving at home . Anderson dropped Minjoon off and took off without another word . Kaya asked Minjoon a question with a surprised look .
“What the, where’s he going?”
“Said he had something . I don’t really know . ”
“Is he doing that because of us?”
“I told him he didn’t need to . But it looks like he really does have something . ”
“Weird . I didn’t think he had any friends . Do you know who?”
“I mean, it wasn’t like I could ask…”
Minjoon smiled with a troubled look . Kaya thought of a candidate for a moment before smiling and pushing on Minjoon’s back .
“Whatever . It’ll be nice being alone together . Let’s go in, it’s cold . ”
A bit later, the two settled in nicely in each other’s bed . The TV on one side was showing a certain program on it . The MC was someone Minjoon had seen multiple times on Rose Island . Minjoon spoke up first .
“How was your mom?”
“She was fine . She isn’t that weak . No need to worry . ”
“…Who knows, I have different things in mind . ”
Kaya said this as she looked into her bag . What came out of it was a red sock . Minjoon smiled .
“Does that sock have my present in it?”
“Nope, nothing . ”
“Why’d you get it, then? You don’t believe in Santa, do you?”
“I got it for something else… Well, since Anderson isn’t here, I guess there’s no need . ”
Minjoon looked at her confusedly . Instead of responding directly, Kaya said something else .
“I thought a little as I looked at my parents . How can I not become like them? How can I reach a relationship where we really love each other?”
“Did you find an answer?”
“Yeah . We just need to trust each other . That’s all . But . ”
Kaya put some strength into her voice at the end . But her next words were rather soft .
“I don’t think we really trust each other . ”
“…There’s something we haven’t done . ”
Minjoon didn’t really understand . They hadn’t done many things together . But soon, Minjoon looked at Kaya with a shocked face . Kaya turned back to look at the door in embarrassment .
“This sock… I bought it to hang on that door . ”
Minjoon finally understood . Kaya opened her mouth .
Her words carried a lot of meaning . But at the same time, it was pretty straightforward . Minjoon answered . Kaya stood there for a moment, but soon walked over to the door .
The door shut . With the sock hanging on the doorknob .