Chapter 77 - One Step Forward
Stepping out into the hallway took me some courage. I repeatedly grabbed and let go of the door handle. What pushed me to do it was, ironically, Keith.
“You’re very troublesome.”
When I remembered Keith’s words, strength returned to my trembling hands. Even then, actually doing it took me some more time, but I managed to do it in the end.
With my heart beating out of my chest, I stood in the hallway. For a moment, I felt a surge of dizziness wash over me and was forced to close my eyes. It took a little while until I could regain myself and open my eyes again. I clenched my fists as hard as I could and managed to peel one foot off the ground.
But that was it. I couldn’t bring myself to move anymore. Determined, I pulled out the meds and popped one in my mouth. My mouth was completely parched, and swallowing the pill without water was torturous, but I wasn’t in a position to be picky. I hastily pushed the pills into my esophagus and waited for them to take effect.
After 10 minutes had passed, I took another step. The dizziness was much better this time, and moving my feet felt more doable. Relying on the effects of the meds, I stumbled along the hallway. When I finally reached the secretary’s office downstairs, a considerable amount of time had passed.
But I had done it. I had left the office, walked along the hallway, taken the elevator, and finally arrived here all by myself. When I opened the door and saw Emma’s face, the tension in my body disappeared and I almost collapsed to the floor.
“Yeonwoo, oh my!” Emma cried gleefully as soon as she noticed me.
I glanced around the empty office and asked, “Are Jane and Rachel not back yet?” I was feeling more proud of myself than ever.
Emma nodded. “No. After all, there are still 30 minutes of lunch left. Have you eaten yet?”
“No, not yet. What about you?”
“I packed a sandwich for myself,” she replied as she picked up and showed me a paper bag from her desk. “If you haven’t eaten yet, care to join me?”
Flustered, I waved my hand around. “No, it’s all right. I have some food back in my office.”
Emma wasn’t fooled by my words. “No, it’s really fine. In fact, I packed too much, so I was thinking about sharing them. Hold on a second while I make some tea. Actually, what would you like to drink? Sparkling water?”
She had asked knowing full well my preference. I nodded and answered, “Yes, thank you.”
Emma, who had turned around and entered the break room, returned with sparkling water and a can of juice in each hand. Looking at Emma’s sandwich reminded me of the lunch that she had made me last time—the one that unfortunately ended up in the trash.
Emma must have recalled the same memory—although, of course, her last memory of it must be different from mine. “How was the sandwich that day? Was it okay?”
“Oh, yes. It was very delicious. You’re a very good cook. Did you learn how to cook anywhere?”
I added more compliments than necessary because I felt bad about what had happened. In all honesty, there was no way for me to know how it tasted. However, I told myself that I would eat it gladly no matter what it tasted like.
Emma beamed happily at my flattery. “Of course not. I just learned a little from my mother. She makes amazing dishes.”
“I see. Not everyone can cook so well just from lessons. You must have a special gift, Emma.”
I complimented her some more and brought the sandwich to my mouth. The sandwich full of ham and eggs was thankfully very delicious.
“Mm,” I murmured as I nodded, “It’s very good. Is it really okay for me to just take something so delicious?”
“If you feel bad about it, you could take me out on a movie next time,” responded Emma with a smile.
However, I hesitated. Could I really go all the way to the cinema?
When I didn’t answer right away, Emma quickly added, “I was just joking. Don’t take it too seriously.”
“Oh, it’s not that… You know that my health isn’t all that great right now. That’s why… Once I get better, we can go together then,” I explained apologetically.
She smiled understandingly. “Yes, it’s all right. No need to feel pressured.” As I felt a little more relieved, Emma asked with concern, “Then you must have not been able to eat lunch all this time. What did you do? You should have told me. I could just make some for you while making mine, so you don’t need to feel bad about it.”
“No, no. It’s okay,” I quickly refused. “Recently, I’ve been tagging along with Mr. Pittman’s lunch schedules, so I haven’t been skipping lunch. It seems like it would happen often from here on, too. You don’t need to worry about me.”
I gave her a lengthy explanation so that Emma wouldn’t be offended, but she still seemed a little disappointed.
I quickly changed the subject. “And how are you these days? Nothing new?”
Even after that day, Emma came to work in the afternoon a few times. She must also have thought about the same thing as she said, “Yes, thanks to you. My mother has been having some health concerns and has to visit the hospital regularly, but she finds it difficult going by herself. Thank you very much for being so understanding.”
I was surprised. I didn’t know about what was going on with Emma at all. Did any of the other staff members of the secretary team know?
It was obvious that I wouldn’t know; after all, I couldn’t even come downstairs to check on everyone even though I was the head secretary.
I internally scolded myself and asked, “Is it bad? Would you like me to ask the staff welfare team for some support?”
“Oh, would that be possible?” Emma brightened up and blinked. “My insurance actually just ended. I used it up until its limit, so I was told that I wouldn’t be able to get any support… We also got some loans with our house as collateral, but it seems like any more would be impossible.”
I had no idea that Emma’s personal circumstances were so serious. I patted her hand, feeling both sorry for her and guilty that I couldn’t check on her earlier.
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