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Picked Up In Winter - Chapter 14

Published at 11th of August 2018 04:51:17 PM

Chapter 14

Picked Up In Winter <14>



Seon Hyung-nuna entered the room, mumbling absent-mindedly . Though it was clear that she had just woken up yet she looked refreshed . On noticing her, I who sat quietly on the sofa abruptly stood up . She was puzzled by my actions .


“What’s wrong, Happy? Did you possibly wait for me?”

“…… . ”


I nodded . Whether heaven was on my side or luck, I didn’t really know, as fortunately, Seon Hyung-nuna woke up before Jun Hyung . As Dae Hyung mentioned, it was already past 11 o’clock, but anyway, Jun Hyung hadn’t woken up yet .


“I have something…… to ask . ”

“Something to ask? From me??”

“…… . ”


When I once again nodded with a determined look, she got even more confused .


“Happy has something to ask me…… What could it be? What is it?”

“What you told me the other day… about Jun Hyung . That you would tell me about it in detail later… . ”

“Ah…… . Ahhh . ”


Only then has her expression morphed into one of understanding . She hardened her face and looked around warily .


“Jun Hyung?”

“It looks like he’s still asleep . ”


Dae Hyung answered .


“How odd . He’s an early riser . What work did he do to make him this tired?”

“Well, I don’t think he did anything tiring yesterday…”

“Then did he went to sleep late last night?”


Perplexed, she walked towards Jun Hyung’s room . After opening the door a little, she peeked inside, and then came back .


“He’s sleeping like a baby and anyway, you can’t make head or tail of that guy . ”

“It’s just for today, oh well . ”

“…… . ”


Though I don’t think he slept late last night…… .

But on hearing their conversation I also got curious . Yesterday, he definitely turned off the lights and fell asleep as usual . Something special, yesterday… I don’t want to think about that distraction . Instead, it was me who was unable to sleep because of it, rather than Jun Hyung, who laid in bed early and slept well . I also didn’t hear the sound of anyone leaving the room .


“Anyway, it’s good . Looks like we have time to talk today . ”


“I told you before that I’d tell you about Jun Hyung later, right? That’s because it’s difficult to say . And talking about it when he’s around, is a little…”


She smiled awkwardly while speaking .


“If I’m going to talk, it would be better to do it outside . Because we don’t know when Jun Hyung will get up . I’ll be ready in a minute, could you wait, Happy?”


I nodded again in place of a reply . She looked at me and grinned cheerfully .




“You can hear about it . Because you…… are… Happy . ”





“Here . ”

After that, Seon Hyung-nuna quickly grabbed her bag and took me to a coffee shop that wasn’t that far . Located in a rather remote place, the coffee shop’s interior was a bit dark, but thanks to its antique design, it gave this place a novel look . Besides, since it was still early to visit a coffee shop, the store was quite empty .


“When it rains, I usually visit here to appreciate the rain and sort out my feelings…… . Well, the story I am about to tell you isn’t a light matter . ”

“…… . ”


…… Even so, the atmosphere was perfect for a ghost to show up .

She led the way to a secluded window seat and we sat down . Maybe it was because the store was located in an alley that the view outside gave off spooky feeling, apart from a villa, a shop and a building, nothing else could be seen .


“Let’s order something first . What do you want to eat? I left the house in a hurry, and didn’t eat breakfast so I’m a little hungry . ”

“I don’t really…… . ”

“Uhm… I’ll have a hot cocoa and strawberry cheesecake . ”

“Then I’ll have an espresso . ”

“Blegh . That bitter thing? You like coffee?”

“Just, it became habitual after I continuously drank it while studying…… . ”


She looked at me in amazement for a moment, and then repeated our order to the shop assistant, handing over the menu .


“Then I guess, I’ll have to tell mom to buy some coffee . In our home, no one drinks coffee…… . ”

“Ah, no… There’s no need to buy it…”

“It’s okay . You don’t have to feel uncomfortable . We do it because we want to, ok . ”


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I’m even more uncomfortable with you saying that .

… is what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t say it aloud . I just came here to listen therefore I could only sit in a big discomfort . At first, sleeping on that bunk bed felt as if I was sleeping in a bed of thorns . But now, because of me, they were willing to buy food that they don’t buy…… . I was sure the coffee would taste as poison .


“Even with just that, if you’d stay longer with us…… we would be in your debt for that alone . ”



She suddenly muttered with a sombre face . In those weightful words, it seemed that a story was hidden in there, I was very nervous . Because it felt like I was finally going to get my answers .



“About Jun Hyung…… . When he was little, he had an Autism . ”

“…… . ”


An autistic child…… .

As I’ve already heard it once, I didn’t react much and nodded in silence . At my reaction, she spoke with a bit of a surprise .


“You’re really not surprised? Is it because his actions are similar to that of an autistic child?”

“I heard a little bit from Dae Hyung earlier . That Jun Hyung was an autistic child . And that Happy is really a dog’s name . ”

“…… Is that so? But Dae Hyung doesn’t know much, right? It’s because we have never told him this story . ”

“…… . ”


When she said it with a bitter smile, the food we ordered finally arrived . Thus, the story was put on hold for some time .

I took a sip from the hot espresso that was in a beautiful antique cup . The coffee inside it, however, only served to remind me of the coffee I drank, before running away from my home .

… Somehow the feelings that were starting to settle down were disturbed, though I didn’t feel good from the start, now, it felt as if a deep pit had opened within me . We both had an expression of melancholy .

Seon Hyung-nuna put down her half-eaten cake, even though she has said that she was hungry .


“To be honest… I don’t remember much either . I was a kid myself . ”

“…… . ”

“It wasn’t until Jun Hyung was 36 months old that we found out he was autistic . ”

“…… . ”

“As a matter of fact, his behavior was no different from any other kid . At first, he rarely spoke . We thought that he was a late learner and would learn to speak soon, but he never looked back when he was called . He also couldn’t maintain eye contact, and upon meeting kids his age, he wouldn’t socialize at all . From then on, our parents understood that something was wrong . ”


“At that time I was 7 years old . Although it’s a bit hazy I still remember . That child wouldn’t look back even after we called ‘Jun Hyung’ . And above all, he never laughed . Even though he was my younger brother, I was really scared of him, he was too expressionless . ”


She shuddered while recalling it . Then she continued in a calm and low voice .


“Only after going to a specialist who treated Autism, and receiving counseling, did we find out that Jun Hyung was autistic . So he started receiving treatment from there . At that time, mom was pregnant with Dae Hyung and was resting after taking a leave of absence from work, but with Jun Hyung, she probably was having a hard time . Maybe that was what Dae Hyung’s personality was largely influenced by . After all, after his birth, since mom and dad went back to work as usual and didn’t pay much attention to him, they feel very guilty about it . ”

“…… . ”

“Even after receiving the treatment, Jun Hyung’s condition… it didn’t really improve . We tried everything we could . The Autism specialist had said, ‘I believe in a full recovery of the child, and will do everything I can to help him . ’ From then onwards, I also decided to help, therefore whenever I saw him I would embrace him, but that child didn’t know where to look, didn’t shake me off and only used to stand still . I was so scared . Mom and dad cried every day, and my personality also became gloomy due to Jun Hyung’s behavior . During the treatment, the house was always filled with depression . To my young self, it really looked like a blue gloomy air . ”

“…… . ”


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Speaking so far, she paused for a moment and sighed deeply . It seemed it took all of her energy to speak . I continued listening silently, mum as a mouse . I resented myself who thought that his own family was depressing and did not think seriously about <a family with an autistic child> like this . It was an even more depressing and unhappy story than I had expected .


“Autistics usually have a strong obsession with one thing . Jun Hyung was especially obsessed with . ”

“…… Alpha… bet?”

“Yup . Whenever he an alphabet, he wouldn’t let go of it, in any way . ”

“…… . ”

“About the time when everyone was getting tired in body and spirit . Two years had passed since the treatment started, and that child had not shown even a slight sign of progress . If there were any signs of improvement, we would have been comforted, would have been hopeful, and gained more courage . But that child didn’t get any better . It was about time that the word started to creep upon us . ”

“…… . ”

“At that time, I had entered elementary school and started learning a little bit of simple English . I didn’t learn at school, but I learned alone, with the book my parents bought me, which had big words on one side . ”

“…… . ”

“Jun Hyung seemed excessively interested in that book . And from there, was the word he liked . Happy . It was a thick book, but he liked the page with the word ‘Happy’ on it so much that he tore it off and carried it with himself . When other people tried to take it, he would bawl loudly like an animal while banging his head on the wall . ”

“…… . ”

“Since Jun Hyung liked the word so much, I told him while doing the eye-contact training . That the meaning of the word ‘Happy’ is to be happy . When you are happy, you get a very good feeling . I was just boasting to my little brother about the little English that I had learned . ”

“…… . ”

“But at that moment, that child looked me in the eyes for the first time! We made eye-contact for the first time! I still can’t forget that day . While asking ‘Happy…?’, he looked me in the eyes . It wasn’t that unusual since we had been practicing echolalia1, but it was the first time our eyes met . It was the first time we began to see signs of improvement . ”


She spoke excitedly with a vivid recollection of those days . Somehow, I also could imagine the younger years of Jun Hyung by listening to her . The little boy uttering the word ‘Happy…?’ from his mouth while making eye-contact . His family who was completely tormented and broken down by anguish had finally found a ray of hope . Her feelings seemed to be transferred to me by the story .


“Then something even more surprising followed . That child, one day left the house alone and returned with a small dog in his hands he had picked up . It was a small white puppy, a Maltese . ”

“…… . ”

“We don’t know where he picked him from…… . When Jun Hyung came home holding a puppy in his arms, our whole family was taken aback . Mom asked, ‘Where did you get that puppy?’ And something even more astonishing followed . The child that rarely opened his mouth, apart from practicing echolalia with us, looked straight into mom’s eyes and clearly spoke . ”


“I…picked him . ”



She faintly smiled at my perplexed expression . Then took a sip of the cocoa that was starting to cool down, and again parted her lips to speak .


“The exact same way you were picked up . It also was winter that time . ”

“…… . ”

“What do you think my family felt like? The was a sea with tears of happiness . Two years of hard work and after that did we start to see a light . It was named Happy . Because Jun Hyung especially liked that word . That word also seemed to enter into Jun Hyung’s heart, he was always with it . And with the help of the treatment, his condition started to get better and better as the days passed, he often smiled brightly, and whenever he did, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed to the point of tears . ”

“…… . ”

“The name Happy is an existence that brought our family exactly that, <Happiness> . The puppy was definitely someone else’s pet, but we tried hard to overlook it . The doctor we consulted said that it seemed like he could recover completely, Jun Hyung’s condition improved day by day and we felt like we were the happiest people in the world until……”


“Happy left the house . ”



My eyes widened in shock . Her face also started to darken rapidly . I suddenly felt a dull pain in the corner of my heart . Somehow it seemed to refer as a hint about my future .


“Why…… if it had stayed a little longer, Jun Hyung would have certainly recovered fully…… But that dog left home . ”

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“…… . ”

“To soothe the heartbroken Jun Hyung, we bought a similar looking puppy . However, arousing Jun Hyung’s affection wasn’t a simple <puppy> . Jun Hyung never moved on . ‘It’s not Happy . This dog isn’t Happy . ’ The child who couldn’t speak properly until then was speaking clearly, can you imagine how torn his heart had to be?”

“…… . ”

“Eventually, Jun Hyung lost the opportunity to fully recover…… . but he liked the puppy . That’s why we are raising a similar looking puppy . We let Jun Hyung name it, but he never named it . ”

“…… . ”

“So in the end, he’s such a gloomy child, do you understand, <Happy>?”



After she finished speaking, her voice shook with emotions, but she forced a cheerful grin to cover it up . Deliberately calling me <Happy> . For the first time, I felt the weight of the name, the meaning of that name which Jun Hyung gave me, and deep sympathy overcame me . The name, which I thought was embarrassing and shameful, that word now represented a family’s hope, I was overcome with deep emotions . I squeezed my hand on my knee .  It indescribably ached my heart and I felt weird .


“But…… But Jun Hyung got better . ”

“…… . ”

“And he seems to have a lot of friends, also……”

“It is partially treated . Strictly speaking, it’s not completely cured . He has also received a psychiatric consultation, about the time he was little and the dog left our home, he received a great shock, and they said he seemed to have had developed a trauma due to it . It was only thanks to Happy that Jun Hyung, who was imprisoned in his own world at the time, for the first time, came into contact with the outer world, this world . Anyway, that’s why some of the behaviours of his years as an autistic kid have remained till now . ”

“…… . ”

“Luckily to other people, it seems to be only viewed as having <a slightly unusual character> . The doctor has also said that it doesn’t seem to be a problem . First of all, he’s doing well in personal relationships . And I also know that he has a lot of friends . ”

“…… . ”


She said so and for a moment shut her mouth . She seemed to be thinking something quietly, then suddenly she began to tidy her seat . It looked like it was time to go home . Her sudden behaviour also compelled me to stand up awkwardly .


“…… stay… for… ng . ”


As she picked up her handbag, she lowered her head and whispered in a broken voice filled with emotions . I couldn’t make out what she was saying, so I looked at her and asked her to repeat .



“As long as you can… I want you to stay for long . ”

“…… . ”


Her youthful voice quivered . My body couldn’t but stiffen as I stood up . A lone tear escaped her eyes and dropped on the back of her hand . She quickly raised her hand and rubbed her eyes, and started to blurt out quickly .


“Sorry, I am really sorry to say this . But it would be nice . I want you to stay with Jun Hyung for a long time . So that pitiful child can always smile, so he could always be happy, I want you to stay by his side . Mom said that you could always leave when you want to, afraid that you’d feel burdened by the pressure, but…… I don’t think so . You left home for a while, right? So, are you always thinking about returning? I’m anxious . I’m afraid that that child will change again after losing you…… . ”

“…… . ”

“I am sorry to say this…… Sorry, Happy…… . ”


Seon Hyung-nuna cried for a long time, hiding her eyes . I couldn’t say anything, I could only stand in silence . While looking absently at the crying girl, I also felt a ball of emotions choking up in my throat .

As long as possible…… .

If possible, I’ll try . Because I like him, too . Even if it was the Happy illusion that he seeks from me, even if it makes me very tired…… Even if it meant for me to be strong, not happy…… As long as possible, even for a little longer, I’ll stay in that house .

The unsaid words remained hovering in the air . And that made my heart even more despondent .


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