(09) Of little children and joy

The chill atmosphere in the cafe was broken by the high-pitched voices of children. Jessica looked up from her phone, irritated by the noise. She had been waiting for Tiffany to arrive and her best friend was almost an hour late.

Jessica blinked twice when she saw Tiffany approaching her. There was a little girl on either side of Tiffany and the two girls were busy chatting and laughing.

“Hey Jess, sorry I’m late,” Tiffany apologised once she caught her breath.

The chatter from the little girls disappeared the moment they saw Jessica. They were shy in front of a stranger. Jessica had a puzzled look on her face. She wondered who the two little girls were.

“Minah, you sit here and Eunji, you sit next to Aunt Jessica,” Tiffany said, pointing to the respective empty seats. “Say hello to Aunt Jessica. She’s my best friend!”

Minah and Eunji sat down quickly. They greeted Jessica politely with a quick bow and smiled sweetly at her. They had almost identical expression; their eyes turned into crescents when they smiled and it resembled the way Tiffany smiled. Jessica guessed they were probably related to Tiffany in some ways.

“These are my nieces, Minah and Eunji. They’re Khloe’s daughters. She went to Jeonju early this morning to attend to some personal matters at her in-laws’ house, together with her husband. They would be back tomorrow. I’ve got to look after them in the meantime, hence they would be joining us today. Hope you don’t mind,” Tiffany explained, flashing a grin at Jessica.

Tiffany’s cousin, Khloe, was in Seoul with her family for a short holiday during the Christmas week. They resided in Los Angeles and took the opportunity of the Christmas break to visit their relatives in Seoul.

No wonder they share a similar eye-smile. It runs in the family. Jessica thought to herself.

“I see. How old are they?” Jessica asked.

“I’m five years old while Eunji is four,” Minah said softly, sticking five fingers on one hand and four on the other to signify their ages.

They placed their orders and chatted. When the food arrived, Jessica was concerned if she had to feed Eunji. She wasn’t good with children and didn’t quite know what to do. Fortunately, the little girls were relatively independent and they could eat by themselves.

Midway through lunch, Eunji had cream sauce all over her mouth as she ate her carbonara. Tiffany noticed it and told Jessica to use a napkin to wipe Eunji’s mouth. Jessica did so but fumbled a little, causing some cream to splatter onto Eunji’s dress. Jessica cursed inwardly at her clumsiness and tried to wipe the cream off Eunji’s dress.

A little later, Minah accidentally spilled the small milk pot on the table, causing the white liquid to drip from the edge of the table. Luckily the waiter at the cafe was attentive and quick to clean up the spillage.

Tiffany could sense that Jessica was feeling frustrated. She suggested they finish up their lunches and head to the nearby mall to shop.

While they were shopping, Tiffany had to attend to a phone call. She instructed the girls to stay close to Jessica while she took the call outside the clothing store where it was less noisy. Jessica felt a little uncomfortable with two little girls following close behind her wherever she walked. After a few minutes, she decided to leave the store with the girls and to look for Tiffany.

Tiffany had a grave expression on her face when she ended her phone call. Jessica had a bad feeling as Tiffany approached.

“What’s wrong?” Jessica asked, concerned about the change in her friend’s mood.

“I’ve got a call from my boss. There’s an urgent job which my overseas client requires. My team and I are all supposed to go back to the office for a few hours. This means that…,” Tiffany paused. By now, her eyebrows were knitted tightly.

“You’ll have to leave the kids with me while you go back to the office,” Jessica completed Tiffany’s sentence.

Tiffany nodded nervously. “Sorry Jess. Please help me look after Minah and Eunji. I promise I’ll try to be done soon!”

Leaning closer to Jessica, Tiffany whispered, “The girls are generally well behaved. They like to drink strawberry milk so get them those. Do try to be patient. I don’t want to be collecting dead bodies after I’m done with work.”

Jessica gave Tiffany a hard smack on her arm, causing the latter to squeak.

“Tiffany Hwang, you owe me a BIG favour,” Jessica growled, increasing her grip on Tiffany’s arm.

Tiffany was trying to shake Jessica’s hand away. “Yes madam! Two big favours, one for each girl ya.”

Tiffany bended down and hugged each girl.

“Bye, I love you Jess. Thanks for helping!” Tiffany called out before dashing off towards the taxi stand.

Jessica looked at the two little girls who were staring back at her. She sighed inwardly, wondering what to do with them. She wasn’t good with children and had no idea what would interest them. She brought them to a clothing store, intending to shop for a new trench coat. However, the girls were getting bored and they were playing with the clothes on the racks, inviting unpleasant stares from the shop assistants. Jessica had no choice but to leave the store to avoid being embarrassed.

Jessica was about to step into the wine shop to grab two bottles of white wine but was worried that the girls might knock over the bottles on the shelves. Letting out a sigh, she knew she wouldn’t be able to shop with the girls around.

“What would you like to do?” Jessica asked.

“We want to go to the toy store!” Eunji exclaimed excitedly. Minah’s eyes lit up immediately and she was equally excited about the prospect of visiting a toy store.

Jessica nodded. “Let’s go then.”

Jessica was totally caught offguard by the girls’ behaviour the moment they stepped into the store. The girls ran off in opposite directions, causing Jessica to panic as they weren’t within her sight. She frantically went around the store to look for them. It was an uphill task since it was near Christmas and the store was packed with children and parents who were busy shopping for gifts. After searching for a while, she found Eunji behind a tall stack of Lego boxes. Eunji was studying the various Lego play sets and was too engrossed to notice Jessica calling out for her.

“Eunji, do you know where your sister might be?” Jessica asked in an exasperated tone.

Looking up from her box of Lego, Eunji muttered, “Unnie should be at the Barbie doll section.”

Holding Eunji by her hand, Jessica brought her to hunt for her elder sister. Just as what Eunji said, Minah was indeed found at the Barbie dolls section. Minah was holding onto a Barbie doll and didn’t seem to want to let go of it. She pleaded for Jessica to let her buy the toy, saying that it was a special edition that was not found in the States.

However, Jessica wasn’t convinced by Minah’s story. The constant noise and shouting of the children in the store were driving her nuts. It was definitely worse than listening to house music at a bar. She wanted to leave the store immediately.

Minah pleaded once again, flashing the distinctive eye-smile at Jessica. The next instant, Eunji joined her sister, hoping to get a free box of Lego. Their pleads were getting louder and people around Jessica were staring at her.

Embarrassed, Jessica told the girls to pick a toy they wanted and quickly paid for them so that they could get out of the store soon. It took quite a while for them to decide as the girls wanted a few toys but was only allowed to buy one each.

Jessica’s phone rang once she stepped out of the store. She was struggling to hold onto the girls, the shopping bags and pulling her phone out from her handbag almost simultaneously.

“Hey baby, what took you so long to pick up the phone?” Taeyeon asked on the other line.

“I’m trying to manage two young girls while holding onto their toys and hunting for my phone in my handbag.”

“Whoa, you sound really busy. I’m off work now… I…”

Before Taeyeon could finish her sentence, Jessica commanded the baker to come to the mall to meet her. She needed help to look after the girls. Looking after the girls was far more stressful than being at work.

Jessica brought the girls to an ice cream parlour to eat while waiting for Taeyeon to arrive. It was a place Taeyeon suggested, knowing Jessica wasn’t able to handle the both of them at the same time. It turned out to be a fantastic idea as the girls were busy enjoying their ice cream in their seats and not running around.

Jessica heaved a sigh of relief at the sight of Taeyeon entering the ice cream parlour. Taeyeon greeted the girls and laughed at the sight of her frustrated fiancée. She gave Jessica a tight hug and rubbed her back, hoping the latter would feel better.

When they were leaving the ice cream parlour, both girls wanted to hold Taeyeon’s hands. Taeyeon made them laugh and was friendlier unlike Jessica.

“Can’t help it if I’m popular, even among little kids,” Taeyeon smirked as she handed the shopping bags to Jessica. She was awarded with an icy glare from her fiancée.

On the way to the carpark, the four of them saw a choir singing Christmas carols. The little girls tugged at Taeyeon’s hands, wanting to watch the people sing. Taeyeon looked at Jessica and saw the latter shaking her head. Jessica was worried that the girls may be lost among the on-lookers.

“Off you go. We’ll be waiting right next to this bench in case you can’t find us after the performance ends okay?” Taeyeon instructed.

The little girls nodded with glee before running off to the front of the crowd to watch the performance. There were a few children who were standing in front of the stage and singing along to the songs. Minah and Eunji followed suit, joining the ‘children’s choir’ in front of the stage.

Jessica was busy looking out for the both of them, worried they may be lost among the crowd. She was standing on tip-toes, keeping at a keen eye on them.

“There’re so many children doing the same thing. They will be alright. Don’t worry, baby. Let’s just enjoy the Christmas carols.” Taeyeon slipped her hand into Jessica’s and gave it an assuring squeeze as they watched the performance among the crowd.

Everyone was singing along with the choir to the various Christmas carols. It was a joyous occasion and it united everyone in the crowd. The children formed a line in front of the stage and faced the crowd, singing to their hearts’ content. It was a heartwarming sight. Even the once-frustrated Jessica couldn’t help but smile.

Jessica couldn’t imagine how the girls could be monsters at one moment and such angels in another. It was something profound to her. What’s more, it seemed that Taeyeon had a way with the girls. They seemed to love her so much and kept sticking to her.

When the choir sang the chorus for ‘All I want for Christmas is you’, Minah and Eunji pointed to Taeyeon and Jessica amongst the crowd. Both of them made a heart shape with their arms over their heads and flashed their eye-smiles at them. Taeyeon waved to them while Jessica gave them a wide smile. Both of them also sang along to the popular Christmas song, dancing to the tune of the upbeat music. The couple looked at each other while singing the last two verses of the song and were giggling away at the lyrics.

Oh, I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
Baby all I want for Christmas is
You, You baby.

All I want for Christmas is you, baby
All I want for Christmas is you, baby
All I want for Christmas is you, baby
All I want for Christmas is you, baby

At the end of the song, Taeyeon took the opportunity to plant a quick kiss on Jessica’s nose, catching the latter by surprise. Taeyeon let out a laugh when she saw Jessica’s cheek turning pink in a flash. Jessica gave Taeyeon a smack, causing the baker to laugh even louder.

In the car, Eunji suddenly asked a question.

“Aunt Taeyeon, why do you hold hands with Aunt Jessica while driving?”

It was a habit for the couple to hold hands. They were a little stunned at the question and couldn’t answer the girls instantly.

“My Papa and Mama do that too, sometimes,” Minah added. “Do all adults hold hands when they’re driving?”

Taeyeon and Jessica looked at each other. Both of them didn’t know how to reply to the children.

“It’s a sweet thing to hold hands, just like how you would hold your sister’s or mother’s hands when you’re walking,” Taeyeon replied. That was probably the best answer for now.

Along the way, the girls kept asking all sorts of questions.

Why are some people homeless?
Why are there so many languages in the world? Doesn’t everyone speak English or Korean only?
Why do adults cry when they’re happy?

Taeyeon answered each one of them. Jessica was amazed at her fiancée’s patience and ability to explain each answer in a simple way so that the girls could understand.

Back in their apartment, Taeyeon brought out the chocolate brownies she made yesterday and played the popular animation Frozen on television. The girls were extremely delighted at the treat and insisted that Taeyeon join them for the movie.

About two hours later, Jessica heard a knock on her door. She set her glass of Baileys on the bar counter and went to open it.

“Hey Jess, sorry I’m late. The project ended later than I had expected. Are my nieces alright? Did you strangle them to death or mashed them up into minced meat?” Tiffany greeted as she walked into the apartment.

“Shhh… Taeyeon and the girls are sleeping,” Jessica said in a hushed tone, pointing at the couch in the living room.

Tiffany walked away and let out a giggle. Taeyeon was sitting in between Minah and Eunji. Minah’s head was on Taeyeon’s chest with one of Taeyeon’s arms wrapped around her little body. Eunji was lying across Taeyeon’s lap and Taeyeon had her other hand on the little girl’s back. All of them were sleeping soundly as the credits were rolling on screen.

“Such a lovely sight. Doesn’t it make you want to start a family and have kids soon?” Tiffany cooed.

Taking a sip of her Baileys, Jessica replied, “Not at the moment for sure. I’m grateful Taeyeon was around to handle them. She’s good with kids. This is one side of her I’ve not seen.”

“Isn’t it great to learn something new about her? That’s what being in a relationship is about.”

“At one point in time earlier, I felt like I was managing three kids. That Taeyeon ah, trying to take advantage of the situation and behaving like a kid too.”

“Isn’t that one of the many reasons why you fell in love with her in the first place?”

The wide smile on Jessica’s face revealed her true feelings.

Tiffany draped an arm around Jessica’s shoulders and gave her a squeeze on the arm. The two friends drank Baileys while watching the sleeping trio. It was a good way to end the night after a day of activities.

= The End =

A/N: This is the first time the TaengSic couple deals with children.

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