Hyun stepped off the bus. He nodded to the driver as the doors closed and then began to walk along the sidewalk. He held a suitcase in one hand, two medals clutched tightly in the other. The city appeared as if he had never left. The neon lights still flashed in metallic strobes…the store windows still displayed their newest and most improved merchandise…the metropolis still seemed to be in one giant rush. It looked as if the only thing that had changed was himself.
Hyun looked in a store window, catching a glimpse of his own reflection – his five-o-clock shadow, his neatly positioned military cap, the awards pinned to his coat. He remembered looking into the mirror at the training camp just over two years ago; how he distinguished every identical feature to his twin brother. Now he just saw an emaciated, army veteran with no ties to an outside life.
Hyun pulled his coat tighter around himself as the winter wind blew across his face. He smiled at himself in the window, knowing it was time to see his brother again. The thought made Hyun take off running down the crowded street, hardly caring who or what he bumped into along the way. He ran until his own home came into view, slowing to a walk a few buildings away. The neighbors had all gotten into the holiday spirit, adopting some of the western customs and decorating their homes animatedly for the holidays. Hyun saw the glow of a Christmas tree through a window and grinned. He was finally home.
He hadn't been able to inform his family that he would be returning for the holidays so of course he didn't expect the kind of welcome Sang had received. Hyun hadn't even been informed until the previous day that his excellent service in the military permitted him to return to his family early to celebrate Christmas. That, and he had become very friendly with his daejang. Hyun knocked on his front door, noticing how brown his mom had let the lawn get.
"Door's open," Hyun heard his dad call. Min must have been expecting one of his siblings.
Hyun opened the door, removing his shoes in the entry way before making his way into the living room. The fire in the mantle warmed him immediately and Hyun removed his scarf from around his neck. "Hello, appa."
Min turned his head immediately from his spot on the couch. "Hyun Wook!" He stood slowly as a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes broke across his face. "Hiromi!"
Hyun's mother came running into the living room a moment later. "What's wrong, dear?" Hiromi spotted Hyun and nearly dropped the glass she was drying. "My baby!" She threw her arms around her son in an attempt to smother him.
"Hi, omma." Hyun hugged her back, nearly lifting his mother off the ground.
Hiromi pulled back after a few moments of a backbreaking hug to take a good look at her son. "You look so grown up!" she cooed.
Min walked slowly over to his son, a slight limp in his step. "How are you, Hyun?"
Hyun smiled, remembering the medals still in his grip. "Great! I brought you something." He held the medals out ceremoniously for his father to see. "This one is for... um...'gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty,'" Hyun quoted. "And this one was for…wait, let's see if I can remember. For 'superior meritorious service in a position of significant responsibility.'" Min looked at them carefully before Hyun placed the ribbons around his father's neck. "For Kim family honor." Hyun bowed low.
"I'm proud of you, son." And indeed, Min did look proud.
Hiromi dismissed her husband with a wave of her hand. "Why didn't you call us? I haven't prepared anything, honey!"
Hyun shrugged. "Don't worry about it. Where is everyone?"
Hiromi set her glass down on the coffee table, drying her hands on her apron. "Let's see, let's see. So many of us!" She started counting her children off on her fingers. "Sang bought a home with Iseul," Hiromi said matter-of-factly. "They got married!" Hiromi added excitedly. "And Iseul is pregnant!"
Hyun tried to keep the disgusted look from his face. "Where's Jin?"
"Oh, yes. Jin is at work but should be home in an hour or so. Ae Cha is out with her boyfriend. Sun is studying in her room, Kyuri is at tae kwon do, and Cho Hee is with her little playmate." Hiromi smiled warmly. "I can't get over how handsome you look!" She exclaimed, running her palm over Hyun's cheek.
"I'll have to call up everyone and let them know you're here!"
"Where's Chihoon?" Hyun questioned, wanting to see his brother more than anything.
"Hmm?" Hiromi asked, barely paying attention.
"Chi? Where is he?" Hyun felt a wave of panic as the smile left his mother's face. "You forgot him?"
Min looked away in what seemed to be disgust as his wife looked to the floor. "Still in therapy?" Min muttered.
Hyun's mouth dropped.
"No, he came back about an hour ago," Hiromi replied softly.
"Therapy? Why is he in therapy?" Neither parent replied but it was just as well as Hyun didn't give them time anyways. He walked off down the hall, nerves peaking. The door opened two from his old bedroom and Sun peeked her head out.
"Hyun!" Sun attacked her older brother in a hug. "I thought I heard you!"
"Hey, little sis!" This time Hyun did pick up his family member, momentarily distracted and spinning her around. "Look at you!" Hyun exclaimed, setting his sister down. "You're so gorgeous!"
Sun blushed, brushing her hair behind one ear. "And look at you!"
Hyun laughed. "Glad to see me?"
"So glad! I can't believe you're home."
"Me neither, really," Hyun said, remembering his twin. "So, I heard Chihoon's in therapy?"
Sun nodded sadly.
Sun looked devastated. "Do you want to come in? Talk for awhile?"
"I want to see my brother," Hyun insisted.
"I really think there are some things you need to know before you do."
daejang – general officer
appa – father
omma – mommy
tae kwon do – Korean martial arts
Back with a sequel. (: Oh dang!