Chapter o2. The News
With morning, comes the parting. Quietly, I follow Chanyeol down the halls, through the curves and turns of the military base to the send off area. One by one, his comrades board the helicopters. My brain alerts me to act brave but my worried heart continues to cling onto Chanyeol’s hand. For once, he lets go of me first. I gasp and automatically reach out to reclaim his hand. My attachment is so foreign to the both of us. He’s seen my brave send offs with YiXing.
“I’ll wait for you,” I repeat the words from last night.
“Park Chanyeol! What are you waiting for?!” one of his superior calls for his attention.
Chanyeol turns back to me with a deep and longing expression. I reply to it with a brave nod and mouth, “Stay safe.” Squeezing my hands, Chanyeol leans in and presses his lips on the center of his forehead.
“I’ll try my best,” he whispers back. “I love you,” he blows into my ear before letting go and immediately dashing over to his platoon’s helicopter.
That night, just like the nights after sending YiXing off, I couldn’t catch any sleep. It’s just this time, the sleepless nights lasted another five nights. It made me realize that often, I was soothed by the notion that Chanyeol would protect YiXing, vis versa.
With a sigh, I get up and instead try to distract myself with work and tidying up the place. Inevitably, I come across the row of picture frames, featuring YiXing and me.
“He’s gone,” Chanyeol’s voice replays in my head.
For the first time, I gaze into the photo with fondness, instead of agony. Blinking back tears, I whisper, “YiXing, thank you for coming into my life, for loving me and teaching me courage and kindness. I will always love you.” With one last kiss, I place the frames into a keepsake box and shelf them in a safe corner of my wardrobe.
That same day, I put in the request to finalize YiXing’s declaration of death in absentia.
A month passes by. Everything is bearable, except for the random moments of panic attacks where I want more than anything to hear of Chanyeol’s safety. But I remind myself, no new equals good news. And just like that, another month passes by…this one, not as normal as the one before…
“Chanyeol?!” I pick up a call as soon as I recognize the military service number.
“Hey,” his recognizable deep voice sends a wave of relief down my spine, “Are you taking care of yourself?”
“Yes,” I breath into the phone, unable to calm myself down that we finally got to communicate after so long. “What about you? Are you okay?”
“Mmhm. I’m fine. The signal here is just not so good.” Static noise from his side only proves his point.
“That’s okay. Knowing you’re safe is enough,” I earnestly reply.
I can hear Chanyeol softly chuckle. It makes my tummy flip and flop.
For the next two months, Chanyeol and I managed to get in another three calls.
“What are you doing now?” my lover asks while nibbling on his army pastries.
“Hmm…not sure that you really want to know,” I tease.
“Are you cooking?”
“Yes,” I laugh, “Your favorite too. Samgyeopsal.”
He exaggerates a prolonged groan that makes me hold my stomach in laughter.
“When you come back home, I’ll make them for you,” I suggest. Immediately, my cheeks flush and heart flutters with butterflies. After all, I had never cooked for Chanyeol with the identity of his lover.
“Argh. I can smell it from here,” the foolish man jokes.
“That must be some super—“ I start but a rush of acid sends me barreling to the bathroom.
I could hear Chanyeol’s worried calls for my name.
When I return two minutes later, the line had already been disconnected.
“Are you okay?” Chanyeol whispers into the phone.
“Yeah,” I reassure. “Are you sneaking in this call?”
“Yeah, I was worried,” my lover honestly replied.
“We’re fine, don’t worry.“
“You, Little Piggy, probably inhaled all that samgyeopsal in one go,” Chanyeol chuckles.
“What? I don’t know what you are saying!” I laugh and deny.
“You ate your own kind!” he continues. His laughter echoes into my ear. My heart feels so full.
“Shh, don’t talk that loud or you’ll get in trouble—”
“Park Chanyeol, what are you doing?!” his superior’s scolding could be heard from the other end.
“Did you get into a lot of trouble last time?” I pout when he calls eight days later.
“That sounds like a ‘yes’,” I counter.
“Just had to run a few extra miles,” he downplays and then jokes, “I have thunder calves now.“
“Chanyeol-ah…” I break his humor with my more mellow tone.
“I miss you,” I confess and instantly regret as emotions are a human’s pandora box.
“Same,” Chanyeol admits and susurrates under his breath, “Probably more than you miss me.”
I prepare myself to counter but have to press a hand against the phone’s speaker to block out my sniffling from Chanyeol. Still, he hears and his heart both aches and mends at the same time.
“Are you okay?” he questions.
“Lately, you’ve been sounding a bit off,” Chanyeol remarks, “At first, I just thought it was connection problems…”
“Erm…you just sound exhausted and nasally? Your breathing is kind of heavy,” he observes, “Are you taking care of yourself?”
My stroking of my stomach halts. I stare at my reflection on the mirror.
“Hello? Hello? Did the call disconnect?”
“I’m here,” I quickly answer. Chanyeol sighs in relief. “Hmm…Chanyeol…”
“When are you coming home…?” It’s the question families of service men are taught not to ask but for some reason, with Chanyeol, I suddenly become so vulnerable. “…I have something I need to tell you…”
“Soon…it depends on our mission tonight,” a half-shake of his voice betrays his anxiousness.
He finishes the call with a, “I love you,” as I try my hardest to suppress my excitement as to not burden him with my expectations.
Two days later I receive a call from the military base that started with, “Good News.” Those two foreign words sent a shiver down my spine as I had been accustomed to hearing the words, “No News.”
“What is it?” I ask in apprehension.
“He’s back,” the voice on the other end informs with pride.
With a gasp, I press the phone close against my cheeks and inquire, “Really?!”
“Yes. He will arrive at the base in two hours. Please clear your schedule to welcome him home with us,” the soldier suggests to which I eagerly agree.
The vibrations of the phone continue to tickle my fingertips even after the line goes dead and I place it back onto the kitchen counter. A fluttering feeling overtakes my heart and I think I am going through young puppy love again.
“Appa is back,” I pat my slightly swollen abdomen and deliver the good news. “The mission must have been a success.“
Unable to calm my gleeful heart, I pace over to my closet and choose my favorite cable knit sweater and jeans to welcome my lover back home and return his good news, with one of my own. My palms mold around my stomach forming a heart-shape.
It’s a cool pre-winter night. Chilly winds and Heaven’s tears sweep the icy pavements but my heart is warmed to the thought of Chanyeol’s wide goofy grin, his impeding foolish state of shock at my news, and his cozy hug. This would mark the end to sleepless, worried, and fearful nights.
The guards greet me with smiles of recognition. “It’s finally here. The day you’ve waited for, for so long,” one congratulations and I nod in euphoria.
“Yes, he told me two days ago, he may be back soon. I didn’t know it would really happen!” I cheer.
Brows raise. “He told you he would be back, two days ago?”
Oblivious, I joyously nod. Situating myself in the waiting area, I rock my heels back and forth in anticipation. The savory scent of the packed samgyeopsal drifts into my nostrils. I hug it close against my chest, hoping it’d keep the food warm before my lover’s arrival.
Slowly, the sound of a helicopter’s chopper resonates into my ears. A gust of wind stages the grand landing. I inhale a deep breath of air and press the soles of my shoes against the floor to stop myself from running forward and ruining the order. One by one, soldier exit, accept recognition from their superiors, and reunite with loved ones. I rub my arms to induce more heat into my body and slowly regret not wearing a coat. But the thought of Chanyeol’s presence is enough to motivate me to endure. Tiptoeing, I gaze into the crowd, trying hard to pick up the silhouette of a certain tall and handsome man.
“There he is!” a soldier alerts me and points to the direction of an advancing shadow.
Instantly, like a switch, my spirits liven; my expressions grow animated. “Chan-“ I start but my voice cuts off in my throat. The heels of my shoes fall back against the pavement as cold blood runs down my face. Deep dimples stare back me. Its owner throws his strong arms over my shoulders and presses my shivering body against his warm one. My name repeats over and over from his lips as my watery pupils cluelessly dart from left to right in attempts to process the information.
“Yi…Xing…” I mouth against the fabric of his uniform.
A/N: Irony~~ YiXing is back…
…but where is Chanyeol…? Stay tuned ;) Happy Thursday, Everyone!