DD Chapter 6
“Is it because work is hard these days? Should I appoint one more employee to PR Team 2?”
Seokheon has always been like this. He evaluated Yeonwoo’s life as he pleased and solved the obstacles in front of her. Although such things didn’t make her life more peaceful, he acted as if it was his mission to do it.
“Or you can resign.”
“I don’t like seeing you working for someone else.”
He stretched out his arm toward the passenger seat and gently held Yeonwoo’s hand. Yeonwoo didn’t speak as he stroked the palm of her hand with his finger.
Seemingly interpreting her silence as a good sign, Seokheon smiled. “Yeonwoo.”
“About my proposal.”
“To marry you?”
“Yeah. I’ll wait, so tell me when you’re ready. Looking back on what happened yesterday, I think I was too sudden.”
It sounded like an apology, but she didn’t even hear the words he said on the way to his house in Pyeongchang-dong. Instead, Yeonwoo’s nerves were all directed to his grandfather and stepmother, who lived in the house.
“If you talk about that in front of your grandfather or stepmother, I will never see you again.”
She hoped they didn’t notice this strange tension between the two of them…
“Yes, I won’t talk about it.”
Yeonwoo could relax a little only after she got him to promise multiple times.
“I know, I know. I promise.”
They arrived at Seokheon’s home in Pyeongchang-dong.
The lights along the fence were on; so were the garden lights and every lamp inside the house. People in this house usually did that when they were waiting for guests.
“Managing Director, you’re here.” An employee accompanying Seokheon’s grandfather, Chairman of Mirae Construction, approached.
After a short answer, Seokheon handed him the gift box he had brought from Dubai. The man took the item with both hands.
The people who worked here in this house were polite to him, especially since he would be their employer in a few years.
Seokheon, who had great pride about his birth and status, didn’t talk to employees carelessly and went straight to the front door.
As the heir of a large corporation, it was natural for him to keep an appropriate distance from his employees.
As he entered the house, Jeongae, Seokheon’s stepmother, approached and smiled at the two of them. Seokheon greeted her wordlessly, and Yeonwoo followed suit.
“Grandfather is waiting in the dining room.”
Yeonwoo stared at Jeongae, a woman with a graceful face and an elegant outfit. After briefly making eye contact with Yeonwoo, Jeongae took the lead and walked towards the dining room.
A large table was already set in the dining room, big enough to fit ten people. A large yellowtail fish was at the center, its head cut off and thickly sliced flesh beautifully arranged.
Jaesik, the Chairman of Mirae Construction and Seokheon’s grandfather, sat at the head of the table.
“The people from Jeju sent this giant yellowtail.”
Jaesik smiled kindly and beckoned Seokheon and Yeonwoo to take the seats closest to him. Yeonwoo bowed, went to her seat, and sat down.
Jaesik’s kind eyes were on her. The old man always thought of her as a real granddaughter. He didn’t often nag her to visit him, but he always called her home and fed her whenever there was good food.
“When I saw it, it reminded me of you, Yeonwoo.”
Yeonwoo quietly shook her head. Maybe it was because of Seokheon’s proposal last night, but Yeonwoo felt more guilty when she met Jaesik today.
“Yeonwoo, you should visit Grandfather more often. He talks about you a lot.”
“Jeongae, what are the chances that a hardworking entry-level employee would have time to visit home often?”
“Ah, that’s true,” Jeongae immediately agreed with Jaesik.
Although Jaesik was still technically the company chairman, he rarely went to work. Since he found it too taxing to go to and from the office, he would only receive reports on how the company was.
“Yeonwoo, take care of yourself, okay? And Seokheon, you should always look after her like she’s your little sister.”
Yeonwoo was about to answer when Seokheon, sitting next to her, said, “Strictly speaking, Yeonwoo isn’t my little sister.”
There was a moment of silence at the table.
“Foolish boy. Still immature,” Jaesik said, clicking his tongue. “Why isn’t Yeonwoo your sister?”
“I have nothing to say on that subject.”
Hearing Seokheon say Yeonwoo wasn’t his sister, Yeonwoo remembered what happened eight years ago.
It was the coldest day of winter that year. When the temperature dropped to -15 degrees Celsius, eighteen-year-old Yeonwoo buried her one and only family.
That day, Yeonwoo came to this unfamiliar house holding Jaesik’s hand.
Jaesik introduced Yeonwoo to his family, and finally, Yeonwoo met his only grandson.
‘From now on, this kid will be our family and your younger sister. Take good care of her.’
Twenty-four-year-old Seokheon, who had just been discharged from mandatory service and his hair still cut short, stared at Yeonwoo with eyes colder than the winter wind.
That unfeeling gaze stayed on Yeonwoo for less than a second. He turned around without acknowledging her and said a single sentence before the door closed.
‘She’s not my sister.’
“She came to this house during a difficult time, depended on us and stayed with us, so it’s natural to treat her like a little sister. Don’t people who have gone through difficult times together do the same thing?”
“Yeonwoo and I–”
“Grandfather!” Yeonwoo interrupted Seokheon in a hurry.
If she waited any longer, Seokheon might say he didn’t see her as a little sister but a woman, and his grandfather might find out what he was doing with her.
“I’ll visit you often.” She was just as guilty, but she couldn’t look as calm as Seokheon. “I’m still not good at work, so I fall asleep as soon as I get home.
“Yes, yes. Don’t strain yourself. Do you want me to send you some medicine? After Mr. Seo passed away, did you not feel refreshed after taking some when you were having a hard time after Mr. Seo passed?”
“It’s fine, Grandfather.”
Jeongae, who had been quiet, intervened, “Father, these days, young people don’t like taking herbal medicine because it makes them gain weight.”
“Our Yeonwoo doesn’t gain weight easily. After CEO Seo passed away, I gave Yeonwoo medicine for half a year, but did she ever gain weight?”
Jeongae shut her mouth at Jaesik’s words.
In the ten years since the second wife, Jeongae, who came in after Seokheon’s mother died, her father-in-law has never trusted her.
Yeonwoo sensed the awkward air between Jeongae and Jaesik.
“Yes, Yeonwoo,” Jaesik answered Yeonwoo softly, a complete contrast to how he answered Jeongae.
“I don’t like bitter things.”
“Ah, this child. You’re still the baby of the family. I’m worried about how I will send you off when you get married.”
“Instead of medicine, I’ll eat a lot of what you prepared for me today.”
Jaesik then picked up a piece of fish and placed it on Yeonwoo’s plate. Yeonwoo picked up the yellowtail sashimi, dipped it in soy sauce, and put it in her mouth.
Actually, the fish didn’t suit her taste. But pretending to be okay even though she wasn’t, and pretending to be fine even if it hurt, was what she learned when she came to this house.
“That’s good. Let’s eat then.”
Towards the end of the meal, Jeongae, who had been quiet the whole time, opened her mouth.
After Seokheon joined Mirae Construction, Jeongae started calling her stepson by his title. She thought it was a good alternative than awkwardly trying to call him ‘Seokheon-ah’ affectionately.
“Grandfather told me to find you a partner as soon as possible.”
Jeongae looked at Seokheon, but he didn’t look up and continued to put pickled onions on his sashimi. Instead, Jeongae stared at Yeonwoo sitting next to him.
“Since Director Lee is thirty-two, I think we should start preparing slowly.”
Yeonwoo nodded awkwardly, unable to avoid her gaze.
“That’s right. Have you found someone who’d make a good wife for Seokheon?”
“The second daughter of Sungwon Bank’s president seems quite nice and gentle. I happened to meet her mother at the gallery and chatted with her. It sounds like they’re interested as well.”
Although she was Seokheon’s stepmother, Jeongae, as the hostess of the house, wanted to bring in someone who’d be on her side.
If it was the position to be Seokheon’s wife, no one in Korea would refuse it. Mirae Construction was the number one company in the industry with a strong and solid foundation. And recently, it has established a strong position overseas thanks to its cutting-edge construction method.
“Sungwon Bank is a good potential partner, but…”
“Grandfather, if it’s Sungwon Bank, my mother’s family will be against it.”
“Yes, they probably will.”
In an instant, Jeongae’s face darkened.
“Even though your mother has passed away, Seokheon is still here. So it wouldn’t be a good idea to make connections with First Bank’s competitor.”
Hearing about First Bank and its relation to Seokheon, Jeongae quietly ate her food.
The owner of First Bank was the family of Seokheon’s biological mother.
She mentioned the daughter of the owner of Seongwon Bank as a candidate for the Seokheon’s bride because Sungwon Bank was a company that could help Mirae Construction in the future, but also because it was a means of keeping her husband’s ex-wife in check.
She wanted to erase that woman’s shadow from the house, but for more than a decade, Jeongae hadn’t been able to do it.
“Grandfather, I’ll handle my marriage on my own.”
“Are you seeing anyone?”
Every word spoken at this meal felt like a sharp blade pointed at Yeonwoo.
“Yes, I am.”
Every time she swallowed something, food got stuck in her throat, but Yeonwoo continued eating without showing it.
After dinner, Yeonwoo and Jaesik had a short conversation in the living room before heading up to her room.
‘I also received sea bream and other things besides yellowtail from Jeju Island, so eat breakfast here tomorrow. We’ll have soup prepared.’
Jaesik seemed to want Yeonwoo, who came home for the first time in a while, to have breakfast with them before leaving.
‘Yes, I will. Good night, Grandfather.’
Compared to eight years ago, Jaesik had grown much older. So, Yeonwoo agreed to his request and apologized for not visiting him in so long because of her work with Seokheon.
“I’ll stop by my place first and go to work.”
She didn’t have work clothes in this house, so she’d have to go to her place to change. She had no idea that the bag she took to work today was that expensive, so she had to do it even more.
Yeonwoo showered in the bathroom attached to her room and put on the pajamas she used to wear in this house.
Even though she hadn’t come home for a long time, her room was kept clean, and a subtle lavender scent oozed out of her pajamas.
She charged her phone and lay down on the bed, blinking a couple of times as she stared at the ceiling.
She lived in this room for three years, yet it still felt strange to be here, as if it were someone else’s room.
‘Is this what it would feel like when I go to the house where Grandpa and I lived in Hwaseong?’
She shouldn’t have thought of it. Before her grandfather passed away, their house in Hwaseong was old and had to be demolished.
‘Let’s just go to sleep.’
She closed her eyes and tried to force herself to sleep, but her phone on the bedside vibrated.
She thought about ignoring it and going to sleep, but she couldn’t because she thought it might be a text from Seokheon.
On the second floor of this house, beside Yeonwoo’s room, was Seokheon’s room.
If she didn’t check his message, he might come to her room, and something unpleasant might happen even in this house.
Eventually, Yeonwoo got up from bed and checked her phone.
「Come to my room.」
As expected, it was from Seokheon.
 Grandfather addressed Jeongae as 어멈아, a term used by a parent to call their married daughter or daughter-in-law with a child or a respectful way to address a woman with a child. I wrote her name instead since there really it would be awkward to put in ‘daughter-in-law’ every time.