- a Jiyong fanfic
The window was left open and dampness of the rain drifted in. He sat in his favorite chair, staring ahead, listening to the light taps of rain touching everything it came in contact with. He let out a sigh, not a bored one, but a lonely one. He stood up slowly and made his way towards the kitchen, taking cautious steps, yet, big ones for being so familiarized with his big house. Then he let out a bitter sigh.
Guess you’re not so rich when you don’t have every essential thing in life.
Sweet aroma danced into the cool room and upon hearing the shuffling of feet, he knew it was one of his many hired nurses exiting the cooking room.
“Young Master, it’s time to eat.”
He ignored the tired voice like he did every other day since he moved to live here.
“Young Master, your food is getting cold,” the servant informed dutifully.
“I’m not hungry,” he snapped.
“But Young Master, it is Puyin’s orders that you are to be taken care of….”
He drowned out the rambling voice. Sure, it was his mother’s orders that he gets special attention and care in this holed up place, but she didn’t care. Ever since his incident, he was unable to see. Shunned by society, his parents forced him to move out of the grand house they owned and into another one they purchased some years ago which was vacant. His sister, Jiyoon was off in the States, studying, never came back to see him. Having to live in luxury didn’t satisify his needs, although he had more than enough necessities supplied.
Somewhere in the house, the phone rang.
“Master, it’s for you.”
“Tell whoever it is, I don’t want to speak to them,” he growled.
“But it’s Sunghoon sir.”
“I don’t care. Tell him to not call again.”
Not only had this incident changed his parents but him also. He stayed away from society. Rejected phone calls from his closest friends.
“C’mon! Lemme talk to Jiyong!” Sunghoon’s small voice whined.
“My Master asks that you are to not ever call again,” a servant mocked tartly.
“He didn’t say that! C’mon! Lemme speak to him! You’re not his mother! You can’t control his life! Give him the phone!”
Jiyong reluctantly gave into hearing Sunghoon’s shrill, whining voice and ordered the servant to bring him the phone.
“Jiyong?” Sunghoon smiled, amazed that his friend would speak to him.
“Wuddo you want?!” Jiyong barked.
Sunghoon winced at the response. “How are you?” he asked timidly.
“You called me just to find out how I am doing?! I’m very well, thank you. If there’s nuthin else – ”
“Jiyong, meet me.” Sunghoon blurted.
Jiyong let out a bitter laugh. “Meet? Really Sunghoon. At a time like this, you still manage to be your funny self.”
“No, Jiyong. I’m not trying to be funny. I’m serious. It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen each other and I want to see you.”
“But guess what, Sunghoon? I don’t. Even if I could see you, I still wouldn’t want to. Have a good day.”
“No, wait!” Sunghoon shouted.
“Wut?” Jiyong snapped impatiently.
“Wut if I came to see you?”
A silence came between the two and Sunghoon thought he had won the argument. Only to be let down by a gruff ‘no’ took all the happiness he had started to work up.
“But-But…why not?” he protested.
“Really, Sunghoon. You just dunno when to stop, do you? Don’t call me again. I’m thoroughly annoyed with you. Bye!” Jiyong thundered, slamming down the phone.
Damn kid. Why won’t he just get a life?!
But Jiyong couldn’t blame Sunghoon for being annoying, afterall, he is his best friend. It’s just natural for Sunghoon to be that was when it comes time for him to find things out. He’ll work his way through annoying your nerves and strikes you in your weak spot. He’s a caring kid, but right now, Jiyong just wanted everybody to leave him alone.
“Will my son be able to see?” Mrs. Ko shouted hopefully at the doctor.
“Right now, as of the conditions…”
“I don’t care about the conditions! Will my son be able to see again?” the ferocious woman bellowed.
“Honey, let the doctor talk,” her husband said softly, pulling her back.
“I want to know if Jiyong could ever see again! And you want me to calm down?!”
“You won’t be able to find out by yelling at the doctor,” her husband chided.
She glared at her husband before giving the doctor her full attention.
“Right now, our doctors are discussing with scientists and they are coming up with a way to help the blind see. I think Jiyong has a positive chance of regaining his vision.”
Mrs. Ko opened her mouth to say something but closed it again, letting the doctor finish his statement.
“It is new and I can’t guarantee if it’ll work a hundred percent. Do you want Jiyong to be the first patient to test this new technology?”
“No! Of course not! What are you, crazy?!” the woman fired.
“Why not?” Jiyong’s father asked, curious.
“What if insteada curing Jiyong, it worsens his chance of seeing? Don’t you think that’s too risky?”
Her husband nodded in agreement and look at the doctor for consolation.
“Which is why I’m asking you. We don’t have enough evidence to prove anything yet, but just to let you know sumthin is bound to come out and help your son,” the doctor said reassuringly.
Jiyong’s mother beckoned the doctor and smiled for the first time in days.
Jiyong, there is hope. You will be able to see again, my son. You will love Oma for this. You won’t regret Oma’s decisions or hate me for them because they’re for your own good.
It happened right on his birthday of last year. His closest friends – Sunghoon, Jiwon, Jaejin, Jaeduk and Suwon – all five of them chipped in money to buy him a new car. The very car he was desperately in love with. It was a red, chic Toyota Supra he thought only real racecar devils owned.
Of all friends, who could have known him better? Sunghoon, of course. It was his idea to buy Jiyong a gift that would only mean life to him. His sister who was long gone from his life, missed out on the celebration. Turning eighteen, right on that day, was absolutely the best day of his life. Until he decided to test drive his car.
Jiyong was a little racer himself. On the highways, he taunted Jiwon about driving too slow and when it was his turn at the wheel…Let’s just say, he’s the main reason why seatbelts were invented.
Time drew close to 2 a.m. and the party poopers were really pooped, Jiyong escorted them out the door and had one of his servants drive them home. It was deep in the night when Jiyong retired to bed and in his room he grew restless by the minute. Time slowly ticked to five in the morning and as the adrenaline pumped through his arms, he made up his mind to go drive his car.
It was all silent throughout the house. His parents cuddled in bed, sound asleep and the servants were in their quarters napping their precious seconds away. Jiyong jiggled his keys to the brand new Supra and stoled away in the night. He tiptoed out to the garage and quickly slid into his car. It was just pure paradise. He back out of the driveway and out onto the track.
His parents built a track for him and his sister. Way back when Jiyoon was only eight or so, claimed she wanted horse back riding lessons. She got her wish. Two years later, she wanted something else and pretty much, the track was abandoned. Up until when Jiyong reached eight.
On weekends, he’d take his bike outside and race around, goofing off with Sunghoon and Jiwon. Then from bicycles to motorcycles, from that to cars and the chain goes on! It was in his blood…he was born to race.
He now rounded the car and faced the opened arena. Slowly, he circled aound the track then picking up speed, he skidded to a stop. He sat in his car, shifted his gear and zoomed off again. He skidded again and came to another halt.
Finally making up his mind, he set forth in his car and drove off, the wind screaming in his ears. Within an instant, he wasn’t even sure if he was still on the track.
The sensation being too overwhelming.
Everything went by him in a blur. The sounding screech of the wind pierced his ears, his heart beating rapidly against his ribcage.
Suddenly, he felt himself flying. He felt himself jerk forward and his brain pulling in the back of his head. He heard a terrible screech of metallic against concrete and raised his hands to cover his ears. Only to find that he couldn’t move them.
He looked down at his arms, which were pinned to his sides and felt crushed in the car. Glancing out the window he decided he must have crashed into a spider web (due to the cracked window). Then peering through the side window, he saw the most disturbing sight.
He was upside down!
But how could this be?! he wondered.
As he waited for help to arrive, he prayed hopefully the servants heard the loud scrape of his car against the graveled ground. Seconds dragged to minutes and minutes dragged onto hours. His world started blacking out. He batted his eyes to keep himself awake, but he wasn’t tired at all. The first rays of light began to dim and soon, he was engulfed in pure darkness.
“HOW DID THIS HAPPEN??!”
“You have to keep still,” an attending nurse commanded sternly.
Mrs. Ko sobbed as she watched her son being wheeled away to the emergency room on the hospital bed.
That morning she had awaken to a frenzy in house. Servants ran about, shouting orders and suggestions at each other. She heard her name being mentioned several times and hurried downstairs to see the uprising riot.
Of all things, she found her son’s eyes squeezed shut and servants around him. His arms laid in a strange position and blood soaked his shirt. He could only mumble ‘Oma’ and then start screaming like a madman. She rushed to her delirious son and realized he was in shock. She slapped him twice and his eyes popped open. He gazed at her momentarily before letting his head loll off to side. She watched his eyes roll to the back of his head, lasping into the state of unconsiousness before letting out a bloodcurdling scream.
She had no idea how long she kneeled on the floor, screaming her son’s name and desperately trying to shake him awake.
The ambulance arrived without her notice, by then she could only utter her son’s name. As attendants pulled her away from the motionless body of her son, the only thing that ran through her mind was, What happened?
To think someone had deliberately set out to harm her son sent a chill coursing up her spine.
But who would do this kind of a thing? she wondered.
The doctors rushed about in the operating room, trying to calm Jiyong down. His cries grew more frantic and desperate by the minute. His arms rested by his side, ached and burned as if it was on fire. Shots were injected and more screams and cries erupted from him. Slowly, his voice died; him, falling into a deep sleep.
He was quickly stripped of his bloody attire and the usual rountine of the emergency room was once again performed. The nurses cleaned him up good and then he was observed by several doctors. They all came to the same conclusion that nothing was physically wrong with the boy, at least not visibly to the naked eye. Except for his arms and legs.
His arms lost their senses from staying in the car too long and his legs were crushed from the sudden landing of the car. But other than that, they haven’t found anything majorly wrong with him. Soon he was wheeled away to the ‘critical condition’ section of the hospital.
Day faded into night and the stay at the hospital was tiring. Mrs. Ko looked down at her only son, who was sleeping angelically on his hospital bed. She smoothed his hair back, fighting back tears. She had learned of her servants that he was found in his car. Flipped! He was still conscious, but in shock. His arms bled and a gash formed on the side of his face.
They, too, were clueless as to how the Young Master ended up in his new car, flipped and dazed.
Mrs. Ko shook off the bothersome thoughts and looked at her son.
“O…oma…” he moaned, his eyes fluttering.
“Jiyong,” his mother murmured, caressing her son’s bony hand.
“Mom’s here. Open your eyes, baby.”
As if a robot, Jiyong’s eyes opened mechanically and wandered, not focusing on anything.
“Jiyong, how do you feel?”
“Mom…where am I?” he whispered hoarsely.
Jiyong shook his head vainly.
“You’re in the hospital.”
“Hospital? For wut?!”
He has no idea…
“For wut, Mom?!” Jiyong repeated.
“You were in an accident.”
“Accident? Wut accident? Mom! Wut happened to me?”
“Wut were you doing in your car early in the morning?” she questioned, the sudden anger returning.
“Morning? Wut are you talking about?”
“Don’t mess with me! Wut were you doing in your car early this morning?!”
Jiyong paused before answering. “This morning? I was test driving my car.”
“You were doing WHAT?”
“Test driving my car.”
She felt cold. She thought she was about to faint upon hearing the crazy excuse her son had offered her.
“Mom, why is it so dark in here?”
Mrs. Ko gazed down at her son, watching his unfocused eyes still wandering.
“Whaddid you just say?” she asked, feeling faint.
“Why is it so dark here?”
“Dark?” she echoed, her heart raced.
“Yeah. Is the power out?”
Mrs. Ko glanced at the light that stood on the table next to the bed and up at the dimly lit light of the room. “How many fingers am I holding up?” she asked, her voice wavering.
“Fingers? Mom, stop playing games. You’re not holding anything up. Or I can’t see if you are. Turn on the light.”
Her deepest fear was confirmed. She waved her hand over Jiyong’s wide eyes and still, his eyes wandered of a lost child.
“Mom, what are you doing?”
“Look at me, Jiyong,” she choked, hearing her voice shake.
“I can’t see you, Mom. It’s too dark. Shouldn’t it be afternoon now? I remember I went down to my car at five.”
“Jiyong, it’s eleven right now,” she informed, her voice thick.
His mother nodded.
“I was sleeping for that long!?” he screeched.
“I thought you weren’t going to wake up,” she said softly to herself.
“Say wut, Oma?”
“Can you at least turn on a light? It’s getting annoyingly dark in here.”
“But…Jiyong…the lights are turned on.”
Jiyong’s ashen face was still like a stone. His eyes stopped wandering and stared straight up at the ceiling.
“Wut are you saying?”
“How are we doing?”
Mrs. Ko turned at the cheery voice. A doctor strolled in, clicking his pen with a clipboard at his side.
“Wuz wrong with me, doctor?” Jiyong asked gruffly.
“Wrong? You haven’t given me the chance to look at you yet,” the doctor answered with a chuckle.
“Well, can you get to it!?” Jiyong snapped.
The doctor raised an amused brow at the still body that laid on the bed. “Very well,” he replied, setting down his clipboard and pen. Mrs. Ko stepped away from the bed and sat in a chair close to her son. The doctor quickly examined Jiyong and shook his head.
“Follow my finger,” the doctor instructed with a sigh, already knowing Jiyong was blind.
“I can’t see anything. It’s too dark,” Jiyong complained.
Mrs. Ko chewed on her botton lip from crying out loud. Her son was blind and there was nothing she could do to help or comfort him. He’s an invalid.
“I’ll let you rest now. I’ll come back again to check on you tomorrow,” the doctor informed with a nod, motioning for Jiyong’s mother.
“Jiyong, Oma will be back tomorrow.
“I’m blind,” Jiyong stated flatly, finally realizing what was going on.
Mrs. Ko froze.
“I’m blind,” Jiyong repeated in the same cool tone. “Isn’t that right?”
“YES, JIYONG!” Mrs. Ko screamed, her voice cracking.
The room was silent except for his mother’s violent sobs. Her shoulders heaved with every intake of breath and the doctor patted her softly on the back.
“Good night, Oma.”
It seemed like only yesterday when he was in the hospital, trying to accept the new concept of himself being blind. His mother’s last minute love for him. His last time ‘seeing’ his friends. His last time living like a ‘normal’ person.
He shook off the grim memories and retired to his room. Leaving his food to cool as he did every other day.
“Looking for a caretaker…”
“Wutcha looking at, Chomee?”
Chomee looked up from the newspaper and at her classmate, Miyoung. “I need a job.”
“Are there any good ones?”
“I’m looking at one. But I’m not so sure about it,” Chomee said with a frown, pointing at the ad.
Miyoung peered over Chomee’s shoulder and giggled.
“Wuz so funny?” Chomee demanded.
“I can’t believe they have the nerve to put out an ad like that,” Miyoung said disgustingly, shaking her head.
“What, why?” Chomee fired eagerly, jumping up and down.
Miyoung regarded Chomee strangely. “Oh, yeah! You’re from Pusan. I keep thinking you’re from here. You’ve never heard of any rich people down there?”
Chomee shook her head, confused.
“Well, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard about the accident involving a boy about our age, possibly older.”
Again, Chomee shook her head.
“You haven’t?!” Miyong shrieked.
“What is it? Tell me!” Chomee pleaded.
“Ko Jiyong – ” Miyoung started.
“Wait! I’ve heard about him! Wasn’t he like really, really smart and his nuna’s in the States studying?”
“Uh-huh. Anyways, that’s him,” Miyoung replied, pointing at the newspaper.
“But why does he need an extra caretaker? Isn’t he rich?” Chomee implied, waving the newspaper.
“He’s blind,” Miyoung whispered.
Chomee gasped, horrified.
“It happened last year. He was driving and he got into an accident. I think he was racing again,” Miyoung guessed.
“His parents kicked him out of the house,” Miyoung continued.
“They did?!” Chomee shouted, her heart wrenching with pain. “But why?!”
“Guess they can’t deal with a handicapped son,” Miyoung answered with a shrug.
“Poor kid,” Chomee said remorsefully.
The servants stumbled out of the room before Jiyong picked anything up to hurl at them.
“Master! Let us in! We need to clean your room!”
“I don’t want it clean! Go clean your rooms!” Jiyong roared.
The sound of the phone interrupted the quarrel.
“Yeboseyo?” a scared servant squeaked into the phone.
“Sangah ni?” a familiar voice barked.
“N-Neh…” Sangah replied fearfully, recognizing Mrs. Ko’s voice.
“Master’s up in his room,” Sangah choked.
“I want you to scrub the house clean. There will be a new girl working with you. She’s coming tomorrow. Hear?”
Mrs. Ko hung up without further comment and turned to her husband.
“Do you think she’ll be our answer to help Jiyong?”
“I dunno. She sounded pretty sincere and honest when I spoke with her on the phone,” Mrs. Ko commented lightly.
“How old is she?”
“Quite young. Sixteen or seventeen.”
“She’s younger than Jiyong?!” Mr. Ko exclaimed, surprised.
Mrs. Ko shrugged. “We’ll give it a try, if she’s not good, then we’ll dismiss her.”
“Try? What could she do?”
“Don’t underestimate the powers of a girl,” his wife warned, drawing out a stick of cigarette.
“What’s her name?” Mr. Ko finally asked.
“Yoon Chomee,” his wife replied as she exhaled, blowing out a steam of smoke, her eyes tracing it as it disappeared in thin air.
“Miyoung! Miyoung! I got it! I got it!” Chomee yelped gleefully.
“Wut, wut? Wuddid you get?!” Miyoung’s voice raised with alarm.
“I got the job! I got the job!”
“Job?” Miyoung echoed, batting her eyes in confusion.
Miyoung appeared in the doorway of Chomee’s room. “What’s going on?”
Chomee pointed at the newspaper on her bed, “I got the job!”
“Being Jiyong’s personal slave?” Miyoung raised a brow.
“Then wut do you call it? You’re going to his house, alone, a girl above all that and if you’re not serving him, then what do you call that? I don’t think he has enough room for a girlfriend. Especially not after Susan dumped his ass.”
“How do you know so much?”
“My father works with his and my brother liked his sister,” Miyoung shrugged.
“Lemme guess. You liked him,” Chomee taunted.
Miyoung lowered her head as her face boiled. Chomee let out a deep chuckle and pulled her friend in her room.
“You’re so mean,” Miyoung finally said.
“No, not mean. Just nosy,” Chomee corrected, watching the color of Miyoung’s face elevate to crimison. “His girlfriend…Was she like his mother too?” Chomee probed.
“She’s a gold digger. She only went out with him because their parents know each other and she wanted him for his money and good looks,” Miyoung snickered, making a face.
“I sense that you know an awful lot about them,” Chomee sang.
“I used to go to school with them. That was when Jiyoon was still here before some school up in Boston offered her a scholarship.”
Chomee gasped. “Was she really that smart? What school was it?”
Miyoung squinted at the question. “Harvard, I think it was,” she said uncertainly.
“Damn her. I wish I was that smart.”
“And rich,” Miyoung added.
“What about Susan?” Chomee inquired, switching back to the subject.
“Nuthin. She just never called him or anything. She didn’t even stop his mother from kicking him out of the house.”
“That is so mean. My mother would never let me out of her sight if I was in his shoes,” Chomee tsked.
“Well, your mother’s different from rich mothers. She had already lost so much, how could she afford to lose you?”
Chomee remained silent, thinking of her mother that laid on her deathbed back at home in Pusan. Day by day, her health status declined. She coughed and wheezed like an old woman, yet she was only forty. Hardly any aging signs. Chomee gave up going to doctors. They were all the same. They were either cheats or stupid people that can’t tell the difference between a cold and an illness.
Chomee jolted back to the present. “Huh?”
“Thinking ’bout your mom again?”
“I hope she’ll forgive me,” Chomee whispered as her mother’s face of disapproval flashed in front of her.
“Ahnyonghaseyo.” Chomee curtsied, peering through her lashes at the stone faced woman.
“Are you Chomee Yoon?” the woman spoke flatly, observing Chomee.
“Neh,” Chomee replied politely.
The eyes narrowed to silts as they continued to roam freely over her body. “Do you know who you are working for?”
“For the Ko family?” Chomee answered with a question.
“For my son. You are to take care of him. He is blind and needs special care. His nurse couldn’t attend to him anymore, so you’ll be in place of her, understand?”
“Very good.” Mrs. Ko smiled coldly.
“Are you Yoon Shikbae’s daughter?” Mr. Ko interrupted.
Chomee’s eyes widened at her father’s name.
Mrs. Ko threw a piercing glance at her husband. “I think it’s best that we get going. We don’t want Jiyong to be waiting.”
“Yes, yes, of course,” Mr. Ko said hurriedly, his eyes glued on Chomee.
“Did you bring any luggage?” Mrs. Ko inquired, getting up from her throne.
“I didn’t know I was to live – ”
“It’s okay. We’ll drive you home and pick that up on our way,” Mrs. Ko cut off.
“Am I to live there?” Chomee questioned.
“I thought we made it clear,” Mrs. Ko replied briskly.
“Noooo,” Chomee drawled. “You only asked to see me and said we’ll go over the options and the requirements.”
“You have to live with Jiyong and attend his needs. It’ll be more convenient if you lived in the house and don’t worry about your salary. Is four hundred a month enough?”
Chomee’s eyes bulged at the offered amount. “Four hundred? As in Migook tonl? Or won?”
“Do you think I am that meager? I’ll give another two hundred if you can stay more than two years.”
Chomee nodded her head vigorously. She didn’t care about what her mother thought anymore. Four hundred dollars a month was more than enough to cover both her mother’s future medical bills and her school tuition!
“Very good. Now, we will go see Jiyong,” Mrs. Ko beckoned.
Chomee tailed behind the tall woman as she made her royal exit to the garage. Her quiet husband fell into step beside Chomee and he tugged at her arm. “Is your father Yoon Shikbae?” he whispered.
Chomee gazed up at the giant and nodded briefly.
“Hurry! Puyin will be here any minute!”
A parade of feet stomped up the stairs and the servants busied themselves by making last minute preparations. Jiyong, who sat in his messy room, was thoroughly annoyed. So what if his mother came? It’s not like she was the President or anything. Since yesterday, the whole house was upside down. Windows and floors were scrubbed and washed over and over again. Dishes, laundry, the rooms were all cleaned. They practically sanitized the whole place and his room…nobody had dared to step in.
“Jiyong,” his personal servant’s voice rang out in harmony.
“Wut?” he replied with an edge in his voice.
“Would you like to see your mother?”
“Do I need to remind you? I’m blind.”
“You know what I mean.”
“No, I don’t. Tell her I don’t wanna see her. I’m sleeping.”
“You’re gonna have to face her, you know. Might as well get it over with.”
“I’m not up to it. I’m tired.”
“Fine. I’ll be cooking your favorite and you can eat it after your mother leaves.”
The servant disappeared to the kitchen. Moments later the doorbell chimed. Mrs. Ko made her grand entrance with her husband accompanying her and Chomee still trailing behind with her head bent low.
Chomee surveyed the grand hall of the enormous house and gawk openly at the vastness of the place.
This is a maze.
Just two days ago she thought she was prepared to handle all the surprises and shocks awaiting her, but to think this was beyond imagination. This isn’t an ordinary house. It was a castle. It instantly reminded her of ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ Miyoung tattled on deep in the night and even in her sleep, she could still hear her friend’s chipper chatter.
“Don’t forget to call me when Jiyong picks on you. Or for anything else,” her close companion reminded her, as she was leaving.
“I will,” she promised, pinching Miyoung slightly on the cheeks.
“Jiyong tends to have a temper. So watch it. Out yell him if you have to. He likes to think of himself as ‘King’ of the Jungle.” Miyoung smiled through shimmering tears.
With that in mind, Chomee left. Now she was standing in the living room that sparkled around her, overlooking the driveway.
“This is Chomee. She’ll be looking after Jiyong,” Mrs. Ko introduced.
Chomee gazed at the row of servants that lined up before her and nodded tentatively.
Turning to Chomee, “If there is anything you need, just ask Jiyong’s personal servant, everybody calls her Ajuma. She’ll tell you everything.”
Chomee nodded again, her eyes fixed on the woman.
“Alright then. I’ll leave you here.” Turning to the servant, she added, Send Jiyong my regards.”
All heads bowed simultaneously as Mrs. Ko glided out of the room.
“Are you really Master Jiyong’s new maid?” a girl piped as soon as Mrs. Ko was out of earshot.
Chomee whirled around at the voice. “No. I’m his nurse.”
“Wuteva you say,” Chomee muttered beneath her breath.
“Here. Bring this up to Jiyong. I have to go get sumthin real quick,” Ajuma announced, sauntering over to the crowd of maids with a tray in her hands. As quick as lightening, the group backed away, leaving Chomee to stand in the open by herself.
“I’ll bring it,” she offered, feeling awkward.
“No, It’s Sangah’s job to do so.”
“But I don’t wanna go!” a shrill voice cried out.
“I’ll go. Which room is it?” Chomee insisted, taking the tray from the old woman.
“If you don’t wanna go, at least show her where the room is,” Ajuma said as she pointed at a girl who Chomee assumed was Sangah.
Sangah nodded eagerly and motioned for Chomee to follow her. Chomee flopped after the girl in her summer sandals and looked back at her suitcase.
“It’ll be in your room,” Ajuma answered, reading her mind.
Chomee ascended the dark, gloomy stairs, which supposedly led to Jiyong’s room.
“He-He-He’s in there,” Sangah stammered, her face white as a sheet of paper. She quickly darted down the stairs and disappeared.
Chomee watched the little body bounce away before pushing the door open. The room was filthy and the strong stale stench nearly knocked her out. She slowly made her way into his room, taking small cautious steps. Balancing the tray with both hands, she managed to have found her way into his room without tripping over things that have been careless thrown all over the floor.
Making out in the dark, Jiyong’s still figure, she gradually settled the tray down on a table in front him and gently tapped on his shoulder. “Time to eat,” she murmured softly.
Jiyong turned to the new voice, somewhat curious and startled, and stared blanky in Chomee’s direction. “Get out,” he whispered just as softly.
When Chomee didn’t move, he overturned the tray and yelled for her to leave. Chomee shrieked as the scalding liquid nearly came in contact with her skin and backed into one corner of his room.
To her surprise, he rose from his chair. She found him amazingly tall like his parents and from the angle she was looking at him, he was remarkably handsome. Without warning, Jiyong stalked forward, nearly stepping on the tray. Chomee made a hasty grab for the wet bowl that was about to come in his way and scurried back to her place in the corner. He continued his way towards the door, his arms still by his side. She saw an alarm clock lay lifelessly in his path and again, made a grab for it, not realizing her mistake. Like a hawk, Jiyong’s head snapped around and his arm sliced through the air, seizing Chomee’s arm. He pulled her up from her hiding place and close to him.
“Who the hell are you?!” Jiyong demanded dangerously, his hand squeezing Chomee’s wrist.
“I-I-I’m Cho-Chomee,” Chomee stammered, fear climbing up her throat.
“Chomee? I dunno no Chomee! What are you doing here?! Who are you!? Did my mother send you out here? GET OUT! I don’t want to hear of you again! OUT!” Jiyong thundered, pushing Chomee to the door.
Chomee ran downstairs, sobbing. She ran as far as her legs could carry her. Her tears blurred her vision, but she didn’t care. Running into the beautiful garden, which was another part of the castle Jiyong lived in, she plotted herself on the ground and brawled her eyes out.
Now I know how Cinderella feels.
And she truly did. The soft curls of her black, ebony hair clung to her gentle jaw and provided a shade to her eyes. Her hair was always short and shaggy which made her felt worse than the fairy tale princess. Her mousy personality made things even worse. Back in grade school, kids always teased and taunted her. When she ascended to middle school, girls made fun of her and boys stayed away from her. All because she was too shy and petrified of people.
Now with her mother’s illness and her needy of money to go to school, she had no other choice but to serve other people. She knew that if her mother found out, she would die of a heart attack. But Chomee refused to be like her father, who acted like a fool and gambled his life away. Instead of winning fortunes from other people, he lost his money, jewelry, house. And even Chomee and his wife. He betted his wife and only child for a measle dollar and in the end, he lost. Realizing what he had done, he went around looking for jobs and asking people for loans.
Borrowing is easy, but what about returning?
He lost bet after bet and still asked for money. His so-called ‘friends’ were, of course, glad to help him. They gave him large amounts of money and knowing that he could never repay them back, they bargained with him for his priceless treasures, such as Chomee for one.
When her father refused to give Chomee’s future hand in marriage to anyone, chaos broke out. Demanding hands reached for his empty pockets and angry shouts of ‘money’ echoed. He couldn’t even produce a single won and there he knew he was going to be well rested.
Chomee, who was only eight at the time, remembered the frightening sight of her brutually beaten father. Blood coarsed down his chin and one eye was swollen shut. He staggered forward to her and she remembered screaming her lungs out. He fell face forward and landed at her feet. Evil laughter filled the room as he whispered something to her.
“Appa…” she sobbed, holding his dying body in her thin arms.
“Tell…Tell…o..omoni…Tell her…I’m…I’m…soh…sorreeeee….” he wheezed.
“Appa…” Chomee cried.
“Chomeeee….Sa..Sa…Sara…Sarang..hae…haeyo….” he breathed.
The body went limp beneath her arms. He stopped breathing and time stood still. Roars of laughter still circulated the room and Chomee glared hatefully at each and every individual in there with her. Among the hated ones was her father. She hated him for leaving her. She hated him for leaving her mother. She hated him for gambling. She hated him for everything.
She closed her eyes and whispered a ‘sarang hae, appa’ and freed herself from his heavy corpse. A pair of strong arms lifted her and she let out a surprised yelp.
“Now the old fart’s dead. His daughter’s rightfully mine!”
“What are you saying! She should be mine!”
“No! She is mine!”
Chomee struggled against the arms that held her high in the air. Her legs swung back and forth and finally she kicked the man hard in the back of his head, causing him to drop her.
A stampede toward the girl resulted in a wild combat. Men and women tore at each other’s clothes in attempt to grab Chomee but she darted out the warehouse before anyone could even catch the sight of her. She ran back home as she always did after a day’s play to eat her mother’s beautiful and delicious cooking. She ran into the house panting like a frightened fawn.
“Ma!” she shouted, entering the house.
“Chomee? What are you – ” her mother started, coming out to greet her.
“Ma! We have to leave! The people that Appa owe money to are coming after us!”
She watched her mother blanch at the news. She covered her mouth and looked tearfully at the child.
“Oma! We have to go! NOW! I saw them kill Appa and now they’re coming for us!” Chomee shouted, shaking her mother’s hand.
Without further thought, Chomee spun around and bolted the doors and windows. She closed the blinds and the curtains, preventing her pursuers from looking in. Her mother ran into the bedrooms and quickly reappeared with two suitcases.
“I knew this day would come! I just knew! Chomee! Quick! Out the cellar,” her mother instructed, heading to the kitchen.
Chomee obeyed her mother silently and held onto the small suitcase her mother carried in one hand.
Her mother dumped the food she prepared for dinner into three containers, leaving some to throw intruders off track. She stuffed the containers and two forks into a plastic bag and handed it to Chomee.
Slipping her thin arm through the handle of the bag, Chomee threw back the rug that covered the secret staircase to the cellar. Throwing the contained food down, she pulled the stairs out beneath her and slid down. Her mother followed and managed to cover the trapdoor as best as she could with the rug.
“Break the stairs, Chomee,” her mother whispered, tugging on the luggages.
“I can’t. I’m too small.”
Her mother stepped forward and yanked on the wooden steps. It gave way easily and crashed against the cement flooring. “Let’s go!”
Chomee nodded in agreement. She picked up the plastic bag and grasp onto her mother’s freezing hand. They tunneled through the cellar like moles and above them, they could hear angry outbursts and curses of Chomee’s stalkers and glasses breaking.
They’re in the house, Chomee thought, feeling a sudden chill.
Sensing her daughter’s fear, Jinjoo held the child closer. “Don’t worry. They won’t find us.”
Feeling safe and assured in her mother’s embrace, Chomee knew her mother wasn’t lying. They hopped into the silver Lexus her father had bought her mother a few years back for her birthday.
“This is probably the best gift your Appa has ever gotten me,” Jinjoo said with a laugh, starting the engine.
“Oma..I thought you sold the car,” Chomee implied in a strange voice.
“What are you, nuts?! Of course not! I hid it here ever since your Appa started gambling.”
“You knew this was going to happen?” Chomee asked increduously.
“You are too naïve,” her mother commented, smiling.
“Guess I don’t watch enough t.v.” Chomee shrugged.
“You’re right. You don’t,” her mother agreed, laughing.
“Where are we going now, Oma?” Chomee asked, changing the subject.
The brows scrunched at the question. “Only one place now. Where nobody knows us,” her mother replied quietly.
“Pusan,” her mother murmured, driving into the sunset.
Chomee dried her eyes and looked up at the soothing voice.
“Miss Chomee, don’t take it too hard. That’s the way how our Master is. He wasn’t like this before the accident. His mother…” the servant trailed off.
Chomee dried her tears and stood up. “Please, Ajuma. Tell me more. What of his mother?”
“His mother didn’t want him around and so she sent him away. It was terrible of her to do so. We all thought it was. She sent us out here to care for him and day by day he grew bitter. His sister’s away and…oh dear,” the servant’s voice shook.
“But why would he need someone to look after with all of you here serving him?” Chomee asked, disturbed with the thought.
“Many of us are leaving. Some can’t take it anymore. Many of them were too scared. I find it fortunate that nobody’s killed living here,” the servant stated matter-of-factly.
“Why?” Chomee frowned, strolling down the the aisle of the big garden.
“He’s always throwing things. And you know how he can’t see! He could have just easily hit anyone!”
Chomee giggled at the servant’s explanation. “Are you staying?”
“I have to. I have children back at home starving and cold. They need the money to go to school and I can’t leave! I’ve been with Master Jiyong ever since he was born! I practically raised him and his mother probably doesn’t even know him as well as I do!”
“You’re doing this because of money, too?” Chomee mumbled.
“What was that, Miss Chomee?”
“Oh! Nuthin!” Chomee smiled sheepishly.
“Plus, even if I planned on leaving, I would have to teach you how to do a lot of things.” Ajuma sighed.
“Like how to cook his favorite food?” Chomee winked.
“I think Jiyong may come to like you.” The old servant winked just as mischievously.
Susan stood in front of the mirror, taking in the beautiful image that reflected of her own. She clicked her tongue with satisfaction as she ran her eyes over the lower half of her body, eyeing her shoes in particular. She turned to the empty seat behind her, forgetting she came shopping alone.
Damn…I miss Jiyong already, she thought dreadfully.
Her smile overturned to a frown at the thought but was still content with her selection without Jiyong’s help. She paid for the shoes and strolled briskly out of the store.
She glanced idly at the window displays, grappling at the empty space next to her. She found herself groping for Jiyong’s invisble hand and looked down at her bag, embarrassed by the situation. She casually entered an apparel store and fiddled around with the garments that hung on the racks.
“By yourself?” a voice behind her snickered.
She whirled around to find Jiwon leaning against one of the racks with a look of disgust on his face.
“Wuddo you want?” she asked acidly, facing the other direction, avoiding his eyes.
“I find it surprising. Jiyong, not with you?” Jiwon faked a gasp, glaring at Susan.
“That’s a stupid question.” Susan semi-laughed, looking out the corner of her eyes.
“Really? I don’t even recall asking you a question,” Jiwon retorted.
Susan rolled her eyes. “Wuddo you want?”
“Kiss my ass.”
Susan was stunned by the response.
“You heard me. Bow down to Jiyong’s too while you’re at it.”
Susan reeled around to face him. “You are one little bastard,” she said through grinded teeth.
“Not a bigger bitch than you are. Admit it. You never liked Jiyong.”
“Wussit to you if I didn’t?”
“Nuthin. It’s a shame how Jiyong couldn’t see through that pretty face of yours and tell right away that you’re an ugly hag with an empty heart.”
“Well, I guess he chose not to.”
“Nah, I think he finally saw how ugly you really are and was blinded instantly.”
Susan’s mouth was filled with a sour taste at the insult. “Get away from me.”
“I don’t have a disease. I’m completely harmless. Can’t you see? Or are you just as blind as Jiyong? Or possibly worse?” Jiwon mused, tilting his head to one side.
“You know what? Go suck a cock,” Susan fired, pushing past him.
“I think that’s your job, slut,” Jiwon shot back, pulling Susan back.
“Let go of me!” Susan screeched, swatting Jiwon’s arm.
“You’re coming with me! I think Jiyong’ll be quite surprised to hear from you,” Jiwon sneered, wrestling with Susan’s thin arms.
“If…If you don’t let go…I’ll scream!” she threatened weakly.
“Think I care? I’ll just yell right back!”
Susan clammed her lips shut as Jiwon dragged her out of the store. Right when they stepped over the threshold, Susan squeezed her eyes shut and let out the most loudest and deafening scream ever heard by anyone.
She felt the tight grasp around her wrist loosen and a sudden rush of wind brush past her face. Her voice was suddenly caught and she couldn’t scream anymore. She opened her eyes and found a surrounding crowd of people around her and Jiwon yelling at her (he really wasn’t kidding).
“It’s just a damn cockaroach! Do you have to scream your life out?! If only you can scream like that when we’re in bed together! Dumb bitch!”
Susan clapped her hands over her flaming cheeks only to find them stinging like she had been slapped. “C’MON!” Jiwon bellowed, reaching for her wrist again.
She trailed after him willingly and realized a moment later that he had smacked her. “You bastard!” she suddenly shouted, pushing him from behind.
“You fucking slapped me!” she accused, throwing a shaking finger in his face.
“Boy, you’re awfully slow if you just knew that now,” Jiwon whistled.
“Er, you!” Susan snarled through gritted teeth, flailing her fists at him.
“If you don’t stop, I’ll beat you!”
Susan jumped back from him, taking his word. “Wuddo you want from me?”
“Go home. I’m getting tired,” Jiwon said cooly. He decided it wasn’t torture to Susan, but torture to Jiyong to hear from the materialistic bimbo.
“Tired? Is this your idea of some game?” Susan shrieked, stalking closer to him.
“I guess. Get outta my face!” he thundered, shoving Susan away.
“Ugh! Don’t touch me!” Susan frowned, brushing her shoulder where Jiwon had just touched her.
“You think I wanted to? You’re contaminated. Dunno wut Jiyong saw in you,” Jiwon sneered, wrinkling his nose.
“You’re just jealous.” Susan smiled wickedly.
“Of him and you?!” Jiwon scoffed. “I rather go out with Sunghoon’s mother than go out with you!”
“Ewww…she’s all old and wrinkled,” Susan squeaked with disgust.
Jiwon shrugged at the comment and began to walk away. He stuffed his hands in the pockets of his jeans and strolled in the direction they had just come in.
“Jiwon! I really like Jiyong! Honest! I’m not lying!” she shouted after him, hoping he would turn back.
But Jiwon continued forward, without looking back at her nor give her any sign that he had heard her last statement.
Chomee surveyed her small but comfortable room. She settled in with no problem and became fast friends with the servants. She stared longingly at the picture of her and her mother that stood on the corner of her table. Next to it was a family picture taken a lot of years back. She giggled at the snapshot which portrayed a toothless, goofy grin from her and her parents looking so heavenly in love with their darling child.
A soft knocking at the door interrupted her thoughts.
“Yes?” Chomee murmured, pulling the door open.
“Do you wish to eat in your room or in the dining hall, miss?” Sangah whispered, poking her head through the door.
“Why are we whispering?”
“I dunno.” Sangah shrugged.
“I’ll eat in the hall,” Chomee answered with a smile.
Sangah returned the smile and motioned for Chomee to follow her. Chomee stepped out of her room and closed the door firmly behind her. Sangah led her to a wide hall where everybody was seated and ready to eat. Chomee looked over at the packed table and noticed Jiyong wasn’t there.
“He doesn’t eat with us,” Sangah informed with her mouth full.
“Does he ever eat?” Chomee inquired, remembering his bony arms.
“Even if he does, we wouldn’t know.”
Chomee raked her hand through her bangs and sat down to join the festivity. The food looked ravishly inviting and made Chomee’s mouth water. She scuffed down the food like she hadn’t eaten in days and grinned impishly when she looked up from her bowl.
“Aiya, Chomee! You’re done already?” Ajuma gasped, peering into Chomee’s bowl.
“Hehe…” she winked.
“Be careful! You’ll choke at the rate you’re going!” Ajuma scolded, instantly reminding Chomee of her mother.
“What’s Jiyong gonna eat?” Chomee asked quietly, pushing her bowl away.
“Jiyong?” Ajuma drawled as if trying to remember who her master was.
“Yeah. Rice, too?”
“His food’s in the kitchen. I’ll bring it up.” Ajuma swallowed another mouthful of rice.
“No, Ajuma!” Chomee objected, jumping up from her seat.
All eyes turn to her with a questioning look.
“I mean, I’ll bring it up. Since I’m done eating and you’re tired with the day’s work…” Chomee desperately groped for words.
Ajuma let out a deep chuckle and patted Chomee’s hand, “Don’t worry. I know what you mean. It’s on the tray. Just go right in and you’ll see it.”
Chomee collected her bowl and chopsticks, backing out of her seat, headed for the kitchen. She gently placed the china in the sink along with the chopsticks and lifted Jiyong’s tray.
She ventured out of the kitchen, taking a shorter path to Jiyong’s room through the back stairs. She held her breath as she kicked his door open upon arrival and slid the tray onto his dresser.
“Jiyong sir,” she called out.
The blinds in the room were drawn and Chomee could make out a silhouette on the far end of the room. She tiptoed to the still torso, cautious of making any sounds, picking up thrown clothes as she went along. As she neared the silent figure in the chair, she realized he had fallen asleep waiting for his dinner. Letting him sleep on peacefully, Chomee deposit the clothes she had just gathered into a basket. She pushed the opposite chair that faced him against the wall, giving her room to move about. She threw fearful glances at the giant that snored softly in her presence, afraid his anger would erupt unexpectedly.
Chomee’s ears pricked at the familiar voice.
“Did you give him his dinner?”
Chomee let out a breath of relief and tiptoed back to the entrance of Jiyong’s room. “He fell asleep,” she whispered through the cracked door.
“No wonder you’re in there for so long. He wouldn’t even have me in there for more than three minutes. You’re a piece of art,” Ajuma complimented, looking smug.
“I’m gonna clean up his room while he’s asleep,” said Chomee.
“Good idea. We can never get to it…Even when he’s asleep, we still can’t get in without coming back out with some sort of an injury. Did you knock him out?”
“You’re funny, Ajuma.”
“Guess not.” The elderly woman shrugged, answering her own question.
“Does he need fresh sheets?”
“The boy needs everything freshened out! Even himself!”
Chomee looked at Ajuma incredulously. “You mean to say Jiyong’s been living up here without a shower or a bath?”
“That’s what I’ve been thinking,” Ajuma grunted.
“Help me change the sheets and everything, I’ll straighten the furniture and clothes away,” Chomee bargained.
“Good. Let me get Sangah first. Bring his food down,” Ajuma murmured as she disappeared. Moments later, she reappeared with a mountain stack of linens and sheets and curtains…everything.
Chomee quickly disposed Jiyong’s scented clothes into baskets, three already overflowing and hiding the rim. She sent Sangah running up and down the stairs, washing and drying the laundry, folding and sorting them. It was late in the night when all was accomplished and Chomee fell back against one of Jiyong’s chairs. “Miss Chomee, you should go rest. It’s late. Almost two o’clock in the morning,” Sangah yawned, rubbing her eye.
“You go on ahead. You still have a whole day tomorrow,” Chomee managed to utter.
Sangah could only bob her head and exited the room. Chomee looked over at Jiyong, who was still snoring like a baby while the three of them sanitized his room.
He’s so pretty…If only…
She let the thought hang and shook her head clear of it. She gave him a final look of pity and retired to her own room. Leaving Ajuma to say ‘good night’ to the sleeping ‘beast.’
The loud clattering of the phone woke Chomee of her misty dream. She tossed and turned at the racket, hoping to get rid of it, only to realize it was morning.
She bolted upright on her bed and snatched the receiver off the hook, uttering a dreamy, “Yeboseyo?”
Jaeduk on the other end, was surprised to hear Chomee’s voice. “Yeeeaaaaboooohoooseyoho!” he yodeled.
Chomee winced at the howl. “Who’s this?”
“Jaeduk?” Chomee whispered hoarsely, trying to recall if she ever met a ‘Jaeduk.’
“Jiyongie chingoo,” he provided. Beside him, Sunghoon raised a brow at his friend’s strange encounter on the phone. “Who’s that?” he mouthed.
Jaeduk would only reply with a shrug.
“Jiyongie?” Chomee echoed softly, trying to shake herself awake.
“Yep, yep! Who are you?” Jaeduk chirped.
“Me? I…I’m Chomee.”
“Chomeehee?” Jaeduk squeaked in his Pusan accent.
“Uh-huh. Who are you?” she repeated absentmindedly, still sleepy from the night before.
“I told you, I’m Jaedukee.”
“Ugh…Call back to…mor…row…” she mumbled, falling back on her bed.
“Tomorrow!” Jaeduk shrieked, his voice causing Chomee to bolt up straight on her bed again. “I can’t wait till tomorrow! I’ll die! It’s an emergency! Call – huh!”
“Hello? Hello?” Chomee shouted into the receiver as she heard Jaeduk’s phone drop to the floor. “JAEDUK!” she screamed.
“Hello?” another voice spoke.
“Jaeduk?” Chomee squealed, worried Jaeduk had stopped breathing.
“Who’s this?” the same quiet voice asked.
“Is Jaeduk okay?” Chomee asked, ignoring the question.
“Jaeduk?” The voice sounded confused.
“Yeah, it sounded like he had a heart attack…”
A deep chuckle escaped the person’s mouth. “You must forgive Jaeduk. He’s always scaring people. That’s his habit, there’s nothing wrong with him.”
Chomee let out a breath of relief.
“I’m Sunghoon. What’s your name?”
“Pretty name. Is Jiyong home?”
Chomee remembered where she was now. She arrived at Jiyong’s house yesterday and spent the whole night cleaning his room. “Yeah, of course. Or at least I think so.”
“Chomee..Chomee Yoon…are you new? I haven’t heard of your name. Or maybe I just never knew…”
“Yeah, I just arrived last night.”
“Hold on,” said Chomee, tossing the receiver on her bed. She dashed out of her room in her sleepwear across to the living room and up the stairs. She tapped on Jiyong’s door lightly and waited for an answer.
“If it’s for me, I’m not accepting.”
Chomee looked up at the voice. For an awkward moment, Jiyong towered over her and she had forgotten at that same moment that he was blind. His smooth olive skin glowed with the radiant sun, his ebony colored hair was parted in the middle, bringing an exotic look to his eyes. His thin frame stood awkwardly beside her and she stared up into his eyes. “Jiyong sir,” she greeted.
“You’re in my way. I need to get in my room,” he said gruffly.
Chomee moved aside and reached for his hand, forgetting that Jiyong doesn’t depend on anyone.
“I don’t need assistance. Thank you.”
Chomee stepped away and followed him into his room.
“It’s Sunghoon sir.”
“Tell him I’m not speaking to him.”
“But why?” Chomee couldn’t help herself.
“Would you just go? I want to be alone!”
Chomee obediently left his room and told Sunghoon exactly what Jiyong had asked her to do.
“What?! Why not?!!” Sunghoon screeched.
“I dunno. I asked him the same thing, but he waved me away,” Chomee mumbled.
In the background, Chomee could hear a few other people in the same room as Sunghoon. Somewhere in the house, another person picked up another extension. “What she say?” another voice demanded.
“That’s Jiwon,” Sunghoon introduced.
“Hi,” Chomee said timidly.
“Hi? Who’s this?” Jiwon asked Sunghoon, confused.
“Chomeeeheeee,” Jaeduk hollered in the background.
“Is Jaeduk from Pusan?”
“Yeah, heavy accent, huh?” Sunghoon chimed.
“Uh-huh,” Chomee agreed.
“Who’s Chomee?” Jiwon asked, switching back to the subject.
“New servant,” Sunghoon answered.
“Nurse,” Chomee corrected.
“Nurse,” Sunghoon repeated firmly.
“Oh…Where’s Jiyong?” Jiwon asked, repeating all of the questions Sunghoon had asked earlier.
“He’s in his room. He won’t speak with you.”
“Me? How dare him! Did you say Sunghoon or Jiwon?”
“Tell him to drag his ass right this second to the phone! Tell him Jiwon hyung told him to!”
Chomee shifted uncomfortably at Jiwon’s command. Jiyong had already dismissed Sunghoon, how could she get him to talk to Jiwon?
“Wuddo you want?” a deep voice came on.
“Jiyong!” Jiwon exclaimed, voicing Chomee’s thoughts.
“You can go now, Chomee. I got it,” Jiyong said softly.
Chomee slowly returned the receiver to its place on the cradle. Jiyong..Jiyong…how can I get him to be normal again?”
“Ugh!” Susan shrilled, shattering the silence.
She threw herself onto her bed, with the encounter she had with Jiwon yesterday still stuck in her mind. She rolled her eyes at the ceiling, trying to clear her thoughts but with avail.
“Er! Jiwon!” she screamed, frustrated.
She had pushed Jiyong to the very end of her brain and Jiwon just had to come along and dig all back out. She jumped off her bed and sauntered to her full length mirror, making funny faces.
“Damn you, Jiwon. I hate you.”
Although she was saying that, but at the moment she know she can’t deny the fact that she used to have a crush on him. His exotic, dark, sexy eyes and cute mouth drawing a smirk. His thin frame, not too tall like Jiyong and not too short displayed an arrogant and haughtiness of him. His moves made him look even more gorgeous. Slick and clean cut. Definitely a player.
Before she started dating Jiyong, she met Jiwon through Suwon and Miyoung. At the time, Suwon and Miyoung made the cutest couple Susan had ever laid eyes on and still to this day, Susan still thinks they’re the most compatible match.
Jiwon, who was about seventeen or eighteen at the time was a straight up player. Red convertible, shades, hats, flowers, his lines, his flows, his smirk, his eyes….To think she would ever end up with him was a dream, until her parents decided to pair her up with Jiyong.
It was a complete ‘mission impossible.’ Jiyong was like an ‘oppa’ to her, being a few months older and so…so…unmanly-like like Jiwon. It took Suwon and Miyoung and Sunghoon’s and Jaeduk’s loud mouths to convince the two to give the relationship a try.
Jaejin, being the quiet guy he is, just wished Jiyong luck and never spoke to her. He continued about with his business with his dance group and his other friends, always ignoring her.
She finally give into all the nagging and found herself growing quite fond of Jiyong. But picturing herself with him wasn’t the way how she saw herself with Jiwon.
As time went on, she got closer to Jiwon, knowing him first hand. But what she learned of him wasn’t pleasing to the ear. He snapped at her too often and was always cold to her. She never fully understood the reason why nor know what the reason was. Whatever it was, it was bad and ugly. Soon the rest of Jiyong’s friends were being rude and mean to her. It wasn’t obviously shown, but they’ve hinted it. Even Miyoung, who she wasn’t even familiar with, showed a little difference.
While she reminisced the old times, the cell phone on her dresser table rang forever. Finally jolting back to the present, she strode over to her dresser and picked up her phone. “Yeboseyo?”
“Yeah, have you talked to Jiyong lately?”
Susan rolled her eyes at the question. “Of course I have,” she replied sarcastically.
“I’m serious, Susan.”
“No. I haven’t spoken to him since the accident.”
“Why do you want to know everything?”
“Why can’t I know everything?”
“Miyoung, get a life.”
“Susan, get a personality.”
Susan pursed her lips, ready for the next attack.
“Has he called you?”
Susan ignored Miyoung and held the phone away from her ear.
“Fuck you, bitch.”
Susan brought the phone to her ear once again upon hearing silence. “Hello? Miyoung?”
Miyoung slammed the phone down and whirled around to face Jaejin. “Some nerve!”
“What happened?” Jaejin asked softly.
“She’s being her usual bitchy self,” Miyoung said scathingly.
“She’ll call him.”
“How would you know?”
“I just do.”
Jaejin just shrugged. “I just do, don’t ask me.”
“I wonder how Chomee’s doing?”
“How – ”
“Jiyong didn’t beat her up…Yet.”
“Yet?!” Miyoung shrieked.
Jaejin nodded, looking up from his drawing. “I think Jiyong may come to like that girl. She’s quiet.”
“You haven’t even met her!”
“No, but Jaeduk was mocking her when I was over at Sunghoon’s house earlier.”
“That boy is so cruel.”
“He scared the living hell outta her. She actually thought he had a heart attack.”
“It’s not funny. Her mother’s ill.”
“Just tell him to stop. He’ll have a heart attack soon enough if he keeps on doing that.”
“Uh-huh. Jaeduk tells me she’s cute.”
“He met her?”
“So did Sunghoon and the rest. They were taking turns telling me on my way here.”
“Suwon met her too?”
“Yeah. Trust me, he still likes you.”
Miyoung shook her head, disagreeing. “Nah-uh.”
“Yesuh. He won’t say it, but it’s the solid truth. He likes you.”
“Jiyong’s finally opening up?” Miyoung asked, ignoring his comment.
“Nah. They’re only going to meet Chomee. I can’t go.”
“I know. I dunno.”
“Well, my job here is done. How ya like it?”
“Is it really that bad?”
Miyoung gawked at the sketch Jaejin made and choked, trying to speak. “Cho-Cho- ”
“Chomeeeee,” she hissed, grabbing her throat.
Jaejin stared hard at his drawing, perplexed. Chomee?
“How do you know she looks like that?”
“I dunno. I seriously don’t.”
“What’s taking Jaejin so long?” Jaeduk cried impatiently, jumping up and down.
“Jaejin?” Chomee murmured, looking up from her tray of lemonade.
“Yeah, he said he going to get something over at Miyoung’s house and it’s taking forever,” Jaeduk whined, stomping on his feet.
“Miyoung? You guys know Miyoung too?”
“Yeah, why you know her too?” Sunghoon asked, watching Chomee’s wide eyes.
“She’s my roommate!”
“Roommate?” Suwon said slowly.
“When was this?” Jiwon asked curiously, sipping his glass of lemonade.
“Uh…way back in – ”
“Jaejin sir’s here!” a servant announced.
“He’s here! He’s here!” Jaeduk cried, running to the door.
“Where is she? Where is she?!” Jaejin hollered, running into the room.
“Whoa! Calm down my boy! She’s cute, but hold your horses!” Jaeduk laughed.
Jaejin froze at the sight of Chomee, dropping the box he carried as she turn around to face him.
“Jaejin,” Sunghoon began, getting up from his seat.
“Yoo-Yoo-Yoon,” Jaejin stammered uncontrollably.
“Jaejin, are you alright?” Jiwon asked as he set down his glass and strode over to his friend.
“Hey, hyung, what’s going on?” Suwon whispered, jabbing Jaejin.
“Cho-Cho-Chomee?” Jaejin managed to mumble weakly.
Chomee looked around at Jiyong’s friend uneasily before nodding.
“Jaejin,” Sunghoon repeated, stepping in front of Chomee.
“Yoon…Yoon…You’re the girl,” Jaejin muttered unbelievably.
“Cute, huh?” Jaeduk smirked.
“JAEDUK!” Jiwon’s voice rang out angrily.
Jaejin made a move towards Chomee, but Sunghoon backed away. “What are you doing?”
Chomee buried her face into Sunghoon’s shoulder as frightened tears sprung to her eyes. Jiwon reached for Jaejin’s arm before anything else happens.
Sunghoon stepped further away, nearly stepping on Chomee’s feet.
Chomee’s lips trembled at Jaejin’s wild look.
“Hyung,” Suwon called out softly.
“You’re that girl in my picture. Yoon Shikbae’s daughter,” Jaejin finally let out.
“Yoon Shikbae?!” the five other voices cried out in unison.
“Yeah. She’s Yoon Shikbae’s daughter,” Jaejin confirmed.
Chomee stared wordlessly at the strange man.
“Aren’t you?”Jaejin asked, the wild look still on his face.
Chomee could only utter a cry similar to an animal and lifted her face from Sunghoon’s shoulder.
“Your father’s the one that got beaten by the public?” Jaeduk asked in awe.
Chomee nodded, her father’s bruised face flashing in front of her.
“Wow. You just disappeared,” Jiwon breathed, his face glowing.
“I had to,” Chomee replied thickly.
“What’s all this racket?”
All six of them whirled around at the voice. Jiyong, dressed in his baggy jeans and a t-shirt, towered over them on the landing of the stairs.
“Jiyong!” Jiwon and Sunghoon chorused.
Jiyong cocked his head to one side, recognizing his best friends’ voices. “Jiwon and Sunghoon?”
“Me, too!” Jaeduk squealed like a little boy.
“Who let you in?” Jiyong demanded.
“I did,” Chomee answered, anchoring her head.
“Who asked you to?” Jiyong asked angrily.
“I-I-I…They said they wanted to see you.”
“Without my permission, you are not to do ANYTHING! Hear me?!” Jiyong screamed with rage.
Chomee bit back her tears. “Yessir.”
“Jiyong, be fair. Chomee – ”
“I don’t care,” Jiyong cut off.
“HOW DARE YOU?!” Jiwon thundered, his voice shaking the floor.
Chomee shrunk behind Sunghoon again and Sunghoon reached for her hands.
“How dare you talk to your hyung like that?” Jiwon stated, his voice low and dangerous.
“Easy,” Jiyong responded mildly.
“Don’t think just because you are a TAD richer, you can be an ass when you want to be,” Jiwon fumed furiously.
“You’re in my house! You abide my rules! I don’t give a rat’s a – ”
“Would you all just SHUT UP!!!!” Suwon exploded.
Silence took over the room and everyone stood around looking grim.
“I’m sorry,” Chomee apologized, her hands tightening Sunghoon’s.
“It’s not your fault,” Jiwon croaked, wiping a tear off Chomee’s face.
“First you take over my servants, now you invade my home. What next?! My life!??”
“I’m sorry,” Chomee apologized again, pushing Sunghoon and Jiwon to the door.
“Cho – ” Sunghoon started to whisper.
“Just go. It’s only getting worse. Just go,” she choked, shoving Sunghoon away. She turned around to pull Jaeduk to the entrance of the room and had to slapped his hand off her in order to break away.
“I’m sorry, Jaejin. You have to leave.”
“It’s not that. Miyoung asked me to bring that over. She said you might need them,” Jaejin explained, acknowledging the box.
“Oh!” A weak smile. “Thank you. Tell Miyoung I said ‘hi.’”
“I will. Be careful.”
“I will,” Chomee vowed, walking them to the door.
Chomee closed the door after Jaejin and went back to the living room.
“Yes?” she replied, raising her head.
“Who are you?”
“I am positively sure! She is Yoon Shikbae’s daughter!”
“But how?! I thought she’s dead!”
“I thought so too! But isn’t it obvious that she isn’t?! She looks just like him!”
“No. She looks more like Jinjoo.”
“But she has his cheekbones.”
“But where’s her mother?”
“No. If she’s dead then why would Chomee come all the way out here? There has to be a reason. Jinjoo can’t be dead.”
“So what if she isn’t? What’s it to us? They don’t have anything to do with us!”
“Are you kidding?”
“Who knows what that michinom Jinjoo’s thinking! She’s probably out for revenge!”
“Revenge?! For what?”
“Do you think she knows?”
“I think so.”
“That’s why Chomee’s here?”
“What’s going on!!!?!”
The two men looked over at a baffled Mrs. Ko. She glared at them furiously, dragging from her cigarette occassionally.
“Yoon Shikbae? You have to remember him. He was that guy – ”
“Of course I do!” Mrs. Ko snapped at her husband.
“Chomee’s his daughter.”
“So? What does that have anything to do with us?”
“Jiyong. She’s probably out to kill Jiyong.”
“KILL JIYONG!!!!?? WHY?!”
“You remember how it was all over the newspapers that Yoon Shikbae was beaten to death?” Mr. Ko’s friend piped.
“Yes,” Mrs. Ko hissed, shaking uncontrollably.
“Because he – ”
“GET ON WITH IT!!!”
“Well…we lend him some money like the rest of the people,” Mr. Ko quickly finished.
Mrs. Ko remained silent at the new discovery and very slowly and quietly, she asked, “You know Yoon Shikbae?”
“Used to go to school together,” Mr. Ko answered.
“And you lent money out to him?” Mrs. Ko asked, her voice growing softer.
“Thinking he would repay me.”
“And at the end?” Mrs. Ko whispered.
“And so you decided to be idiotic and beat the stupid man,” Mrs. Ko murmured inaudibly.
“Say wut?” Mr. Ko’s companion asked.
“SO NOW YOU PUT MY SON’S LIFE ON THE LINE!!!!?” she scream with blinding fury.
“I thought we killed them,” Mr. Ko frowned, exchanging glances with his friend.
“No, we followed to see if they got killed. We didn’t kill them,” his friend corrected.
“I don’t care. You! You’re a hitman, aren’t you?” Mrs. Ko pointed at her husband’s friend.
“Sure. Your – ”
“Kill her. Tonight, before she kills my son.”
“But Miss! We’re not cer – ”
“What if you are?! What if you’re certain at the very end and my son’s dead?!”
“Alright. I’ll do it,” the friend said reluctantly, giving in.
“Do it at night. Smother her with a pillow, make it clean and keep the noise level down. Here’s the address,” Mrs. Ko commanded, scribing down her son’s address. “There’ll be a handsome reward when you’ve completed it.”
“Do, did and done,” the friend smiled, pocketing the address.
Jinjoo hoisted herself up on the bed, leaning on her weak elbows.
“Cho…meeeee….” she wheezed.
It’s been weeks since she last saw her daughter and she yearned for her now. It was drawing close to July and Chomee left home around mid-June. She decided to let Chomee leave home and go to school in Seoul, even if it meant not seeing her everyday of the school year.
She turned to find a girl about Chomee’s age standing in the doorway. It was her neighbor’s daughter, Myunghee.
“Ajuma! Are you alright?” she asked worriedly, rushing to the choking woman.
“Cho…meeee….I….want…I…want my-my-my Cho-Chomeeeeee.”
“Chomee dongseng’s at school. She’s not here,” Myunghee said hurriedly, patting the woman’s back.
“I’ll go get her! I’ll get her! Wait ajuma! Wait!” Myunghee cried desperately, running back home. “Oma! Oma! Call Chomee! Call Chomee! Ajuma can’t…can’t hold on anymore!”
Myunghee’s mother dashed past her, stumbling into her neighbor’s house. She approached the bed that supported the ill woman and held onto her hand tightly. “Jinjoo,” she whispered.
“Chomee’s away at school.”
“Tell…tell her…to…to…co-co-come home…It-It’s ge-getting dar-dark ou-outside…Cho…meeeee….”
“I’ll tell her! I’ll tell her! I’ll tell Myunghee to go get her! I’ll tell Myunghee to get her! She’s coming home soon! Jinjoo!”
As if right on cue, Myunghee reappeared in the doorway with a glass of water.
“Oma! What are we going to do?!” Myunghee fretted, handing her mother the glass.
“Call Chomee! Call her right now!”
“I dunno Chomee’s phone number!”
“It’s in the kitchen! You’ll see it. Chomee’s name written on a piece of paper with her phone number on it. Go now! NOW!!!”
Myunghee vanished again, nearly colliding with her older brother on her way home.
“Oppa!” she cried, tears streaming down her face.
“It’s Jinjoo ajuma! She’s ill! She’s crying for Chomee! And Chomee’s away at school and I dunno what to do!”
“We don’t have – ”
“Saving her’s more important! Tell oma to wrap her up good in a blanket, I’ll drive around to pick her up. You in the meantime call Chomee and tell her to come back home,” he instructed, whirling around on his heel.
Myunghee, taking it all in at once, ran back into Jinjoo’s house, screaming, “Oma! Oppa’s home! Oppa’s home! Hurry!”
“Did you call Chomee yet?”
“No. Oppa said to wrap up ajuma, I’m going to call her right now. Hurry! He’s sending her to the hospital.”
“No…” Jinjoo murmured.
“Yes,” Myunghee’s mother said firmly. “You have to go. Can’t worry about money at a time like this. You’re going! I’m sure Chomee will find a way, you have to go right now!”
Outside, the horned blared loudly.
“Get me a blanket!”
Myunghee fumbled for a blanket and tossed one onto the bed. “I’m going to call her now.”
“They’re coming! They’re coming!” she shouted, running to her brother.
He pushed past her and gently lifted Chomee’s mother. With great ease, he stalked out of the tiny room and out into the sun.
“Hold on ajuma. She’s on her way back.”
“Tell her….Tell her….”
“Don’t talk ajuma. You’re tired. Try to rest now.”
“She’ll be back soon. Watch.”
Back at home, Myunghee switched from hopping on one foot to the other. “PICK UP!!!”
The phone rang on endlessly. Finally someone picked up and it wasn’t Chomee’s voice Myunghee heard.
“You’re not Chomee,” Myunghee accused.
“No, I’m not. Who’s this?”
“I’m Myunghee. Who are you?”
“Her roommate, Miyoung.”
“She’s away. Would you like to leave a message?”
“Do you know where I can reach her? It’s an emergency.”
“I’m not to tell. Do you want to leave a number? I’ll have her call you right away.”
Myunghee couldn’t stall anymore. She had to leave a message with this roommate, whether if she wanted to or not. “Tell her to come home immediately.”
“Her mother’s deathly ill.”
“Oh, no! Is she alright?”
“She’s on her way to the hospital.”
“I’m on my way over! I promise! It won’t take more than twelve hours! Please pray for her!” Miyoung screamed, slamming down the phone.
“I’m Chomee Yoon,” Chomee sighed, climbing up the stairs.
“That, I know,” Jiyong pointed out dryly.
“I’m from Pusan,” she continued, ignoring the remark.
“No, you’re not. You don’t even have the accent.”
“Neither does Jaejin.”
“We’re talking about you, not him and you’re not from Pusan.”
“Then where am I from?” Chomee challenged, her hands icy cold.
“You’re from here. You’re a Seoul kid. I can tell; where exactly in Seoul, I dunno. But you’re from Seoul, not Pusan.”
Now Chomee was truly scared. How could he possibly have known she was from Seoul and not Pusan? Unless…
“You know I’m not from Pusan because of the newspapers,” Chomee guessed.
“Newspapers? You were in the newspapers? When?”
“It makes no difference. I’m from Pusan now,” she said with such sterness even it sounded harsh to her own ears.
“Your origin’s Seoul. Why were you in the newspapers?”
“Because the public wanted to compare the rich to the poor. They wanted to see how you live and how I lived,” Chomee fibbed, stopping in front of Jiyong.
“I was never in the newspapers,” Jiyong recalled, his forehead wrinkling at the thought.
“Yes, you were. You never knew and neither did I, but it was all over Korea. Ko Jiyong, son of Ko – ”
“No, it wasn’t!”
“You’re stupid if you think the public doesn’t know you! They all know you family falls in the category of the top ten millionaires of Korea. They all know you’re blind and a maniac – ”
“I’m not a maniac!”
“Well, you’ve proven yourself to be one. You don’t treat people like they’re human. You throw things at people for no reason. You yell at them for stupid reasons, you -”
“Fine,” Chomee replied softly. “I’ll be in my room packing. Tell your mother to send the money to my mother in Pusan. I won’t be needing it.” With that, she spun around and hopped down the stairs, leaving Jiyong to stare blankly after her.
“Cho-Chomee,” he wailed.
Chomee halted at the cry of her name and raised her chin.
“You still haven’t told me where you’re from.”
“I’m not telling and I won’t tell and you’ll never find out.” Chomee picked up her feet and quickly went to her room to avoid more of his questions. She sat idly on her bed, not quite sure of what to do. She didn’t really mean what she said about going home. She couldn’t. It’d be throwing away a free lottery she had just won.
The phone by her bed screamed, startling her momentarily. She stared at it, uncertain of what to do. She slowly reached for it, her heart pounding. “Yeboseyo?”
“CHOMEEEE!?” Miyoung yelled.
Chomee winced at the loudness of the greeting, her ear unable to handle the loud screech. “Who’s this?”
A racket responded to Chomee’s question as Miyoung chased Suwon out to his car. “Hurry! Why you coming?! No! I asked Suwonie! What?! Why! You!”
“Hello?” Chomee mumbled again, the noise level on the opposite end rising.
“Chomee! Get dressed! We’re on our way to get you! Hurry!” Miyoung said hastily and ended the conversation. She pocketed her cell and jumped in the car with Jaejin and Suwon.
“Why is she at the wheel?” Jaejin asked Suwon.
“You think I know?!” Suwon replied, buckling the seatbeat.
“It’s your car!”
“So?” Suwon said with a shrug.
“Shut up!” Miyoung shrieked as she started the engine. “Another word from either of you, you’re dead!”
Suwon and Jaejin exchanged glances before settling back in their seats. Miyoung backed out of the parking space and drove menacingly to Jiyong’s house.
“I’m pretty sure her room should be next to Jiyong’s. She’s his personal nurse! So, she’ll have to sleep close to him in case of an emergency. Right?”
“So, it’s one of the corner rooms. No doubt.”
“I still say we kidnap her and have her as bait to lure Jinjoo out.”
“No. Jinjoo’s too sick to leave her bed.”
“I asked the girl. She said she’s from Pusan. Her mother’s back in Pusan, living under a neighbor’s care. She came here to earn money for school and for her mother.”
“Sounds pretty sincere. Serious, too.”
“Don’t be fooled.”
“So, I’m just gonna smother her?”
“It won’t take long. She’s fairly small.”
“CHOMEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Miyoung howled, pulling up the driveway with Suwon and Jaejin in the car. She had to bug Suwon for his car and as usual, Jaejin always had to butt in, causing her to drag the both of them with her. She hopped out of the car and jogged to the door, beating it up with impatience. “CHOMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”
“Miyoung!” Ajuma exclaimed, yanking the door open.
“OUTTA MY WAY! CHOMEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Miyoung belted out, running past the curious and bemused woman.
“She has issues,” Jaejin said playfully.
“Which is why I’m not with her anymore,” Suwon added.
“CHOMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Miyoung drew to a stop at the sight of Jiyong in the dining hall, a bit surprised. “Blind boy decided to get a breath of fresh air?”
Before Jiyong could even establish the voice of his vistor, Chomee appeared from the kitchen with a bowl of soup.
“Miyoung!” Chomee gasped, surprised to see her classmate.
“C’mon! Let’s go!”
“Go home! Chomee, your mother’s in the hospital!”
Chomee dropped the bowl at the news and jumped out the way as it shattered to a million pieces on the floor. “My mom?”
“Some girl named Myunghee called. She told me to tell you to come straight home. I’m guessing your mother’s in a really bad condition.”
“C’mon! I have the car. I’ll drive you.”
“I-I-I don’t even know the way home! I-I-I took the bus and then a boat out here.”
“Jaejin does. If it’s a hospital in Pusan, then he has to know,” Miyoung said hastily, jerking Chomee’s hand.
“Oh, my God,” Chomee mumbled again and again, letting Miyoung guide her away.
Chomee looked back at Jiyong who had a lost expression on his face.
“What’s going on?” he asked, his face pouty.
“Something you rich wangja byung nowadays don’t understand. Come, Chomee. No need to waste your time with this insensitive bitch.”
With the help of Jaejin and Miyoung’s support, Chomee managed to stumble out the house with wobbly legs.
Susan lingered at the thought of calling Jiyong. It’s been months since she last heard his sexy voice, the thought just made her skin tingle.
She stared at the Gucci purse Jiyong had gotten her on her fifteenth birthday. Thinking in retrospect, maybe it wasn’t even his idea to get such a gift. She sucked on her teeth at the possibility. She pawed through her bag for her phone, another gift from Jiyong.
Damn, everything I have is from him, she thought sourly.
She dialed the first three digits of his number but stopped, not quite sure how she would ask for him.
Wait…maybe he’ll talk to me later. The later, the better.
She dropped the phone back in her purse and sighed heavily. She glanced at her Guess watch – another one of Jiyong’s expensive presents to her, and her eyes grew wide.
“It’s eleven already?” she wondered aloud. “My t.v.!” She flung the door to her room open and sped down the stairs to where her best friend stood against the wall. She clicked on the remote and sank in snugly on her couch, letting the show drink in her attention until late tomorrow morning.
“Oma!” Chomee yelped, bursting into the room. She searched frantically for her mother who was the only patient in the room. “MAAAAAA!”
“Ma,” Chomee whispered tearfully, pain stabbing her heart.
“I’m home. I’m home,” Chomee sobbed, running to her mother’s side. “I’m home, Oma. I’m home.”
Chomee cried harder, realizing her mother was thinking back in the days when Chomee was only in elementary school.
Chomee ignored Miyoung’s soft voice that crooned her. She kept close to her mother, aware of Suwon, Jaejin and Miyoung all filed into the room together.
“Oma,” Chomee whimpered, fresh tears flooding her eyes.
“Is school hard?”
“No, I’m trying. I have Miyoung helping me.” Chomee have never felt so guilty in her life. She lied to her mother about going to school in the summer just so she could find a job instead of tending to her mother’s illness. She had been out of school for almost three weeks and she never notified her mother.
“Don’t study too hard. Oma knows you’re trying…but…don’t…don’t…..”
“Oma, don’t talk. Go to sleep. Go….”
“You…you must be hungry…and…and tired….” Jinjoo continued, not hearing her daughter. “Fin-Finish you home-homework to-tomor-morrow….”
“Ma!” Chomee screamed. “Ma! I don’t have homework! I don’t have school! I don’t have anything! Oma! Please…”
Miyoung reached for the girl who was close to being hysterical and held her tight. “It’s okay. Your mom will be fine.”
“No, no, no, no, no….no….no!” Chomee shook her head defiantly. “Don’t do this to me now. No….”
“My mom still lives here in Pusan. I’m pretty sure she’ll let us stay the night,” Jaejin said uneasily.
“But I don’t want to leave,” Chomee objected thickly.
“They’ll make you eventually,” Miyoung said soothingly, stroking Chomee’s hair.
“I can’t…I can’t!”
“How can I?! Look at her!” Chomee shrieked, jerking away from Miyoung.
“My mom’s house is not that far away,” Jaejin said convincingly.
“How about this. Chomee has to get back to Jiyong – ”
“But my mother’s more important!”
“Lemme finish,” Miyoung said calmly, holding up a hand. “I’ll stay with Jaejin and sleep over his house and I’ll be with your mother until you can get away from Jiyong’s madhouse. I would love to go and substitute for you, but I don’t think the servants are that dumb to not see the difference between me and you. Plus I think Jiyong would rather have you aiding him instead of me. I’m not that patient with rich snobs like him, so you’re stuck with that job.”
Chomee opened her mouth to protest but Miyoung continued her speech. “Suwon will bring you back. Jaejin knows Pusan better, of course, being his home and all. Don’t worry, I’ll be with you mom day and night. I’ll call you to let you know her daily progress. Now be gone!”
“Be gone!” Miyoung faked a cough, turning Chomee away. “You, too.” She pointed at Suwon. “If anything happens to her on the way back, I’ll make you regret we ever went out, let alone meeting me.”
“Ouch, aren’t you being a little too harsh?” Suwon asked, faking a wince.
“I’ll drive you back to the docks,” Jaejin offered.
The three of them left Miyoung behind to look after Jinjoo. Jaejin drove the two to exactly where he said he was going to drop them off at.
“Be careful,” Jaejin warned, pecking Chomee’s cheek.
“I will,” she assured him.
“No. I mean extremely careful. Sumthin will happen tonight. Sumthin bad.”
Susan sipped at her coconut drink, captivated like a zombie, her eyes nearly popped out of her sockets. Her back ache from long hours of slouching and her hands were numb from gripping too tightly on her cup.
“No! Behind you! No, you stupid! Turn around! He has a knife!” she screamed at the t.v.
Chomee arrived to Jiyong’s castle shortly after the shaky boat ride. Suwon called Jiwon for a ride and they escorted her home. She rubbed the back of her stiff neck and sauntered sulkily to her room.
“Boy, it’s awfully quiet tonight,” she said aloud to herself. Everybody was snoring away in bed just as she had expected. She glanced at the grandfather clock that loomed ahead. Two-thirty.
She then remembered her daily rounds to check in on Jiyong before going to bed. She approached his room and gently pushed the door ajar, sticking her head in through the gap.
The bright moonlight reflected on his beautiful, angelic face – making him seem flawless. His lashes had a natural curl of a girl’s which made him look so heavenly in peace. His lips curved into a satisfied smile as if he was dreaming for the perfect Christmas day.
Chomee stepped into the room and planted a slight kiss on Jiyong’s cheek. He turned to sleep on his side, his smile stretching wider than before. She stalked silently away into the night, retiring to her own room.
The man brought the cigarette to his lips again, waiting for the house to be silent again. He just saw the girl enter the house and estimated it would take her about half an hour to settle. He squinted his eyes in the dark, digging his shoe into the soft ground as he waited for time to pass.
It would be an easy mission. The woman was right. The girl was fairly small – a little elf, if he may call her that. He hadn’t seen the girl himself since eight years ago and she’s still the same. Small and petite. It’s a pity Jinjoo had to go on living all alone. Since Shikbae’s death, she made sure Chomee had the best of everything. Sad how all that seems to be a waste now.
He checked his watch again. It was a little after two-forty. He approached the house, stalking like a panther, soundless like a ghost. He stood directly under Jiyong’s room, which was the side of the house. He slipped on the black leather gloves and leaned against the wall, still smoking his cigarette. As he finished the last of it, watching the trace of smoke disappearing, he decided it should be time.
He placed a firm hand on a piece of the wall jutting out, using it as an aid to start off his climb. He then carefully and professionally placed his foot on the ledge. Slowly, he scaled the wall like a spider, grunting along. Finally, once reaching the balcony, he rolled onto the platform and knocked the chairs noisily to the side. He cursed softly under his breath, hoping the people sound asleep didn’t hear the slight commotion. And definitely not the girl.
He reached out to pull the curtains aside, surprised to find the sliding windows wide open. He rolled into the room with ease and paused in the middle to listen for noises.
Chomee felt her ears go stiff at the muffled crash. It sounded like it had just come from Jiyong’s room. She paused a bit longer, waiting for more sounds of motion. She let out a shaky breath and changed out of her outfit to her sleepwear.
She picked up the folded sheets and tossed them in the air, spreading it wide across her bed. No matter the weather, she always slept with blankets covering her. She glanced at the pictures on her desk and climbed into bed, snapping off the light.
He stared down at the sleeping figure and stilled, listening for movements in the rest of the house. He reached for the extra pillow that laid by the pale girl. Her face was turned facing the wall, again to his surprise, she was already asleep, purring softly with each intake of breath.
He reached for her chin, turning it so she faced him. As quick as lightening, he slammed the pillow onto her face, pushing it down. Just as he expected, a muffled scream escaped her throat as she thrashed around wildly. Her long arms found his and tried to yank it off the pillow. The screams continued on like she was at a singing contest. He pressed harder, in hopes of smothering her screams. He used his free hand and grabbed her thin, flailing arms, pinning them against the bedpost.
Chomee laid flat on her back, staring off into space where the bright moonbeams reflected off the smooth, white wall.
“Sumthin bad…” Jaejin’s warning gnawed at her nerves deeply. She wrapped her arms around herself, trying to warm off the sudden chill that overtook her body. She threw the covers over her shoulders, wrapping it tightly around her arms.
She kicked off the covers and rose out of bed. She glanced at the digital clock by her bed that glowed two-fifty.
Jiyong clawed at the hands of the person that was suffocating and stopping his supply of oxygen.“Ch-Ch-Choooooooooooooommmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”
The hands pressed down harder, hurting his nose.
He knew Chomee wouldn’t be able to hear him. She lived in the other end of the house. The distance between the two rooms were far too great. “Ch-Chooooomeeeeeeeeeee!” he tried again, hearing his own muffled voice. “Ahhhh…jooooooooooooooomaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”
Chomee stopped dead in her tracks as she heard a soft howl crying for her.
“I’m sleepwalking,” she said, trying to pinch herself awake. But it seemed so real. “I must be imagining it,” she told herself.
“Chooooooomeeeeeee!” the voice came again. It sounded so familiar.
“Jiyong?” She looked up at the staircase, realizing she was now in the living room. She chewed on her lip, waiting for another cry. “It’s me,” she said firmly to herself.
“Sumthin bad…” Jaejin’s voice echoed.
Chomee bolted up the stairs and advanced to Jiyong’s door, pressing her ear against it.
“Ahhhhjooooomaaaa…Cho-Chomeeeee,” Jiyong’s soft voice cried out weakly.
“Damn it! Die, you bitch!”
Chomee jumped back from the door, shocked someone else was in the room with Jiyong. She pressed her ear to the door again, hearing a struggle between the two.
Chomee turned the knob and threw the door open. She found a man dressed in all black with a ski mask covering his face. He was bending over Jiyong’s wild, thrashing body, smoldering his cries with something in his hand.
“MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” came Jiyong’s muffled cry.
She then realized he was being smothered to death. “Jiyong!” she croaked, her voice caught. She approached his bed, trying to see the man.
The man whirled around, shocked to find the small girl standing before him.
“What are you doing to him!?” she demanded, storming closer to the hitman.
The man backhanded her, sending her reeling sideways to the floor under the impact. In a flash, she rolled onto her stomach and crawled over to him. He stepped forward and kicked her chin, muttering, “Damn you, Jinjoo,” before disappearing through the wide windows.
Chomee cupped her stinging chin as blood trickled down the corner of her mouth.
“Chomee?” Jiyong choked, flinging the pillow away.
“Yeah,” she spat, wiping away the blood.
“Is that really you? You’re back? Are you okay?” He felt around his bed for her, his eyes wide open with fear.
“Uh-huh,” she answered, crawling to him. She hauled herself up and plopped on the side of his bed, his arms entwining hers.
“Who was that?”
“Uh-uh no,” she mumbled, her lips numb.
“Did you see how he looked like?”
Chomee shook her head, wincing at the pain that shot through her. Jiyong traced a finger around her face, finding the small stream of blood that flowed at the corner of her mouth. He continued his way up her cheek and around to the other side of her face. “He hit you,” he concluded.
“If not dat bad,” Chomee lied, chewing her lip.
“But you’re bleeding!” Jiyong protested.
“If nuh fing big. Jessa cut.”
Jiyong cradled her in his arms, resting his head on hers. She sighed and leaned back in his embrace, perturbed by the attack.
“It’s June and he’s bundled up like he’s going skiing,” Chomee whispered to herself, feeling some sensation returning to her lips.
“It’s too hot to be dressed like that…and…”
“What are you talking about?”
“The man was after me. Not you.”
Uncomfortable silence hung between the two.
“If he was after you, he wouldn’t have covered his face. How would he have known you live up here unless he dug up some history? Everybody in Korea knows you’re blind, so there’s no need for him to hide his face. And he shouldn’t have to worry about servants because they live in the other end of the house,” Chomee babbled to herself.
“Still…what if it was random?”
“No. He knows me. He said ‘Jinjoo’ before leaving.”
Jiyong pulled away, baffled.
“Jinjoo’s my mother’s name. He was after me. Probably my mother, too,” Chomee said quietly, the sudden thought striking her.
“My mom! I have to go home!” Chomee shouted, breaking from Jiyong’s hold.
“Chomee, calm down!”
“It’s easy for you to say! Your mom’s rich, she can hire bodyguards! My mom can’t!”
“Chomee…Miyoung called not too long ago. She and Jaejin’s with your mom. Jaejin’s big and muscular. Trust me. She’s fine.”
“She’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”
Chomee fell back on the bed, her shoulders and heart heavy with grief. Tears climbed to her eyes and spilled endlessly onto her lap. Jiyong brushed away a tear and pulled her to his chest again, feeling a wet spot grow. She placed her head on his shoulder, letting him stroke her hair.
“Oma,” she croaked, feeling Jiyong’s strong arms tighten around her. He kissed her forehead and pulled her down onto the bed, letting the tears soak his shirt.
As the sun blazed highly in the sky, Sangah slept. Her room was cool, shaded by the blinds and curtains. Her breathing was imperceptible.
Suddenly a ray of sunlight, slipping under an open shutter, found a crack in the curtains and splashed across the bed. At its touch, Sangah stirred, pulling the coverlet over her head. She could still see the red box filled with jewels and willed herself to dream again. But it was no use.
She groaned at the sound of her name and snuggled deeper into her bed.
“Wake up, silly girl! Your buns are already toasted by the sun and you’re still sleeping!?”
“Uhm…” she replied dreamily.
“Still uhmming? It’s nine already and you’re still in bed! You’re the most laziest pig I know!”
The blind snapped open, burning the back of Sangah’s head instantly.
“AHHHHH-JOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” Sangah screamed, pulling the blanket tighter around her head.
“The spell is broken, Sleeping Beauty.” Ajuma laughed, exiting Sangah’s room.
Sangah sat on her bed with her cover still draped over her head. She reluctantly pulled on her working clothes and yanked off the thin cloth on her head, folding it neatly neatly onto her bed.
She cleaned herself and made sure was presentable. She sauntered to the bathroom and pulled out the water basin, filling it with lukewarm water. She dropped in Chomee’s face towel as she turned the facets off and threw Jiyong’s towel over her shoulder.
She balanced the mini tub in her two palms and trudged to Chomee’s room. She knocked on the door upon arrival and entered without hesitating.
“Good morning, Miss Chomee,” Sangah greeted, slipping the bucket-like instrument onto the dresser. She looked over to the unmade bed and glanced at the floor, noticing both Chomee’s shoes and her slippers were present in the room.
“Chomee?” Sangah heard her voice raise with alarm and fear. She retreated out the room and ran straight to the kitchen where Ajuma was putting finishing touches on the day’s breakfast.
“Sangah, why are you running like that? Are you well? You don’t look too good,” Ajuma commented with a frown.
“Cho-Chomeeee! She’s gone!” Sangah gulped, beads of sweat appearing on her forehead.
“Of course she is! You think the girl’s lazy like you?! She wakes up at seven you know!”
“No, Ajuma! Chomee’s gone! Kidnapped! Poof in thin air! Her shoes and slippers are in her room and her bed’s unmade!”
“Shoes and slippers?” Ajuma’s frown deepened at the information. “Are you sure?”
“I’m positive!” Sangah’s voice quivered.
“Hmm…” Ajuma stared at her feet, trying to remember what had happened the night before. “Aha!” she cried, snapping her fingers.
“Didn’t she say she was going home? She’s probably at home right now!”
“But her shoes are here!”
“Maybe she wore a different pair.”
Poor Sangah. She was eager to believe anything at the moment. She let out a breath of relief at the reminder.
“She’ll call back today,” Ajuma reckoned.
Sangah nodded in agreement and returned to work. She returned to Chomee’s room and dropped in Jiyong’s towel in the basin and wrung out Chomee’s, hanging it by the window to dry. She carried the tub to Jiyong’s room, worried if he would start throwing things at her again. She came to his door, surprised to find it ajar.
“Ah? That’s strange. The door’s open,” Sangah said to herself. She set the basin down on his desk and cautiously stepped over to his bed. She squinted her eyes as they began to adapt to the darkness. She tripped over a pillow that was probably flung at a servant who tried entering his room. She found the opening of the window and was amazed to find herself getting all the way across his room without waking him up. She found the string to the curtains and gave it a light tug, illuminating the room with the bright morning sun.
“Wakey, wakey,” Sangah sang harmonically, spinning around. She stared hard at the head of his bed, shaking her head as if trying to wake herself of a bad dream. She rubbed her eyes, hoping it would stop her from seeing doubles.
But she was seeing two heads! Unmistakably, Chomee’s and Jiyong’s! Her hand crept up to her throat and stopped at her mouth. Her eyes watered from unblinking, captivated by the sight in front of her.
Chomee snuggled closer to Jiyong and she threw an arm around his waist, purring softly like a kitten. Sangah watched a moment longer before belting out a mortified scream.
Miyoung’s arm slipped off the table, waking her with a start. She opened her eyes just in time to see Jaejin tumbling to the floor, his chair falling right on top of him. “Jaejin!”
“I’m alright,” he assured, rolling onto his back, pushing the chair away.
Miyoung got up from her chair to check and giggled at the funny sight.
“Call Chomee,” Jaejin said abruptly, pulling himself up.
Miyoung stopped laughing. “What?”
“Call her. Sumthin happened,” Jaejin said hastily, picking up the chair.
“What time is it?”
“Just call her. It’s early enough.”
Chomee felt Jiyong squeeze her wrist, making her squeal with pain. She heard a cry that matched her own and blinked to the morning light. She placed a hand on the side of her face that was hard and dried of tears. Jiyong, beside her, stirred to the shrieking symphony. Ajuma pranced into the room, shaking Sangah like a rag doll.
“Ah-Ah-Ah…joooooooooooooooomaaaaaa! Look!” Sangah pointed a shaky finger at the two entwined bodies.
“Chomee! Jiyong!” Ajuma gasped, horrified.
“Uh?” Chomee mumbled, propping herself up on Jiyong’s bed.
“What are you two DOING!?” Ajuma thundered.
“Doing?” Chomee echoed, still sleepy. “Slee…sleeping…”
“Oma…I don’t wanna go to school today,” Jiyong muttered.
“I don’t either!” Chomee agreed, falling back on the bed.
“Ajuma!” Sangah whispered loudly.
“I think they just fell asleep together. That’s all. They still have their clothes on.”
“But!” Sangah protested, her face livid with pure terror and hatred.
“Just let them sleep a little longer. We’ll ask them what happened when they wake up.” Ajuma walked over to the end of the bed and pulled the cover over the two children.
“How come you treat Chomee better than the rest of us?” Sangah demanded crossly.
“Appa…” Chomee murmured. “Sarang haeyo.”
Jinjoo coughed as saliva started to build up in her mouth. The back of her head hammered as she choked on. She heard someone say ‘ajuma’ before she brought the coughing down to a control. She slowly pried her eyes open to find two strangers peering down at her. A handsome young man and a pretty little girl. Both about Chomee’s age or possibly older.
“Ajuma,” the girl called out softly, smiling.
“Where am I?” Jinjoo mouthed, too tired to speak.
“Hospital,” the boy answered.
“Chomeeeeeee,” Jinjoo rasped.
“Chomee’s away at school,” Miyong lied.
Jinjoo nodded, somewhat pleased with the response. She felt herself relax and shifted to a more comfortable position on the bed.
“I’ll call Chomee later. Ajuma, do you want to talk to her?”
Jinjoo nodded to everything, unaware of her surroundings. “Anything. Anything for Chomee…” She soon lasped into the state of unconsciousness, darkness swallowing her whole.
“Did you kill her?”
The man hung his head low, avoiding the woman’s piercing gaze.
“I was in the wrong room,” he said slowly and cautiously.
“Wrong room?!” the voice rose to a shrill.
“I climbed into your son’s room by accident.”
“But I didn’t kill him,” he was quick to add.
Mrs. Ko felt the room tilt beneath her big chair. She felt as if she were perched, teetering, on the edge of a cliff, nothing but a black abyss before her. The temperature seemed to have dropped down ten notches, her heart pounding wildly against the rib cage. “Kill my son?”
“No. I slapped the girl hard enough though.”
Mrs. Ko raised a brow.
“She still managed to crawl to me on all fours after I smacked her.”
“Where did she come from?”
“I have no idea! I didn’t even hear her! She came in like a ghost!”
“But…is Jiyong alright?”
“He should be.”
“What do you mean ‘he should be’ ?!”
“He was still breathing when I left.”
“You don’t mean…” Then it struck her. She refused to believe it, but she was left with no choice. “You son of a bitch! You touched my son!?”
“It was a mistake!”
“A very big one! Why didn’t you look?!”
“I did! I thought it was the girl!”
“But – ”
“GET OUT!!! I don’t ever wanna see you again!”
“Is Chomee there?” Miyoung whispered hoarsely, her throat clogged up.
“What about Jiyong?” Jaejin asked, snatching the phone out of Miyoung’s hand.
“He’s sleeping with her.”
“That’s odd. Chomee usually wakes up at seven. It’s eleven already and she’s still sleeping?” Miyoung murmured to herself.
“That’s good,” Jaejin said, relieved and smiling. Then he let Sangah’s reply sink in. “Wait! What did you just say?!!”
“He’s sleeping with her,” Sangah repeated.
“HE’S SLEEPING WITH HER???!!!!” Jaejin shrieked, mortified.
“WHAT?!” Miyoung was quick to follow.
“They didn’t…they’re just…sleeping,” Sangah said uncomfortably.
“Oh…” Jaejin let out, understanding. “But still! Him…never mind.”
“What happened?!” Miyoung demanded, grabbing Jaejin by the shoulders. “I wanna know too!”
“I’ll call back later. Bye,” Jaejin told Sangah, hanging up the phone.
“What happened?” Miyoung said again, spinning Jaejin around.
“They’re still sleeping,” he informed her.
“I know that, but together?”
“They’re sleeping. Nothing else.”
Miyoung just simply nodded.
Chomee stirred, breaking from the heavy sleepy trance she was locked in and blinked her eyes. Beside her, Jiyong slept on, not letting a single movement disturb him. She yawned as the radiant sun shift to its afternoon colors, blinding her momentarily. She shook her head, trying to climb over Jiyong’s still body without waking him. She rolled off the bed with a thud, forgetting she had spent the night in his room. “Ahhhh…”
Her mouth was dry like a clean popsicle stick. She stumbled her way out of his room, her arms outstretched as if she was sleepwalking. She felt around the familiar ways, sleep still hanging over her. A heavy, dreadful feeling she was unable to shake off. She heard a sound, like someone calling her. But it didn’t register.
She continued paddling all the way to the bathroom, the voice drifting to her ears closely.
“Chomee…Chomee? Are you alright?”
A dark figure appeared by her side and she shook her head, willing herself to see the person. She dipped her hand into the sink, turning on the faucet to the let the lukewarm water slip between her fingers. She splattered some water onto her face, feeling the iciness shock her.
“Chomee…” the voice babbled on.
Chomee reached for the knobs and stopped the water. She patted her face and stood at attention, seeing Sangah’s blurred face. “Hi,” she finally said.
“Are you alright?” Sangah asked again, her brows knotting together.
“Tired. What time is it?”
“A little past twleve.”
“Twelve?!” Chomee was shocked she had been snoring for that long.
“That was quite a beauty sleep, huh?”
“That was called a coma, not beauty sleep. What time did I sleep last night?” Chomee tried thinking back to last night, but her mind keeps drawing up a blank scene. Her mouth twitched in one corner and triggered pain, suddenly the events from the night before came flooding back.
“Jiyong!” she exclaimed, remembering the man that was choking Jiyong.
“What about him?”
“Where is he?!” Chomee pushed past the servant girl and rushed back into Jiyong’s room, forgetting she had just come from there.
“In his room,” Sangah replied, running after Chomee.
Chomee sighed in relief when she saw Jiyong sprawled on his bed, his limbs spread out. “What a pig,” she muttered at the sight.
“Funny. You were just sleeping with the pig,” Sangah reminded Chomee.
“Sleeping…wait. With the pig?” Chomee was baffled.
“Yeah, you really don’t remember, do you? Do you remember where you woke up?”
Chomee bit her lip at the question as she wandered out of Jiyong’s room. Indeed, she didn’t remember. She only remembered climbing over someone’s body and stumbled into the bathroom. “In my room?” she said weakly.
“What did you two do last night?! You don’t even remember?!” Sangah drew an incredulous look.
“I honestly don’t. Only remembered that he was being attacked by some man and the man disappeared through the window.” Chomee returned to the bathroom to brush her teeth.
“Attack? Man? What man?!” Sangah cried in alarm.
“Uh-uhno. Uh jussaw a mun uhn he jes diahar on me,” Chomee replied, stroking her teeth with the brush, the foam crowding around her lips.
“You mean…Master Jiyong was in danger last night?”
Chomee winced as hot pain shot through her mouth and numbed her chin. The brush fell out of her hand and clattered against the sink. She spat out the white foam, blood coloring it she rinsed it down the drain. “Chomee!” Sangah gasped, her face paling.
“He…kick…kick eeee,” Chomee explained, spitting out more discharge. “Owwww…”
“He kicked you?! In the mouth?!!”
Chomee nodded, cupping her chin.
“Wait. I’m getting Ajuma.”
Chomee reached out and grabbed Sangah’s wrist as she started to sprint away. “Uh…” She shook her head. She didn’t want the old woman to worry and secure bars in the windows. Her mind was quickly filled with different reactions Ajuma would have if the incident was reported.
“But Chomee! You’re hurt!” Sangah protested, pointing at Chomee’s mouth as more blook trickled from the cut.
Chomee shook her head again, her hair flying out of control. The room started to tilt under her and she closed her eyes to still herself, trying to stop the madness.
“Okay, okay! I won’t tell her,” Sangah promised, resting her hand on Chomee’s arm.
The room whirled on for a minute or so and Chomee re-opened her eyes. She spat another mouthful of saliva mingled with blood into the sink and rinsed her toothbrush clean. “Uh be okay,” she managed to say, wiping the corners of her mouth.
“I’ll get you something to eat,” Sangah said softly and hurried away.
Chomee went into her room and changed into another pair of shorts and a t-shirt. She made her bed and combed the tangles out of her short, apple bobbed hair. She looked into the mirror, groaning at the sight of the bulging bruise and patted the residing pain. It was impossible to that thing from Ajuma. She could fool Jiyong, but not the nosy woman. She’s always finding things out. One way or another.
She left her room and reappeared in Jiyong’s room, picking up the pillow he had flung away when the man laid eyes on her. She gave Jiyong’s arm a hard slap, nearly sending him tumbling off his bed. He jumped, his arms flailing out to reach whatever had stung him. Chomee stumbled backwards and fell on the floor as Jiyong’s arms sailed over her head.
“Is that the way how you wake up every morning?” Chomee couldn’t resist asking.
“Chomee? I thought it was something else.”
“What or who else would have the guts to come in your room? After you’ve threatened to everybody that does.”
“Time to wake up.”
“What time is it?”
Chomee looked around for a clock. “It’s after twelve.”
“Like I said, you’re a pig.”
“Oh, I told Sangah that when she was in here earlier. You should’ve seen yourself. You looked like a bum with your arms and legs spread out.” Chomee giggled, remembering the sight.
“I had a hard time falling back asleep. I was so scared,” Jiyong said sullenly.
“Tell me later. I’m eating breakfast…wait. Lunch.”
“Fine. But I’m not eating until you tell me where you’re really from.”
Chomee frowned at the reminder of yesterday’s conversation before she left for the hospital. “If…you promise not to throw your food at me like you did the first day we met.”
Susan blinked. The t.v. blared loudly in her ears. She sat up with a start, trying to clear her mind as she wondered how she ended up on the living room couch. She glanced at the clock that was hanging high over the t.v. and sighed. Twelve-thirty. She rose out of the leather seating and stretched out. She rubbed her eyes, cleaning out the debris that was stuck to the corners.
She entered the bathroom and washed her face, feeling refreshed as she took in a gulp of air. She quickly brushed her teeth and hair, feeling close to perfection with every stroke. She smiled at her reflection and studied the slight dimple on the right side of her face. Suddenly the self-confidence she had felt when she was dating Jiyong, returned. She felt energized and pumped. Staring at her shiny, radiant hair, she replaced the brush close to the bathroom sink and left.
She went to her room and picked up the purse, feeling for her phone. She plucked it out gingerly and quickly dialed Jiyong’s number. Five rings went by and she was losing patience. Finally someone picked up and the sudden clammy, nervous feeling slammed her stomach again.
“Yeboseyo?” a small voice said.
Susan frowned at the voice. It was a voice she never heard. It was of a new girl. “Yeboseyo?”
Chomee waited for more. She was getting ready to replace the receiver when the voice requested for Jiyong. “Who’s this?”
“His girlfriend, Susan,” Susan replied, growing suspicious of Chomee’s voice.
“Hold on, please,” Chomee said sweetly. She ran to the dining table and bit another mouthful of bagel before letting Jiyong know Susan was on the phone. She pounded up the stairs and poked her head into his room, surprised to see he wasn’t there.
“What?” his deep voice spoke, standing awkwardly next to her.
Chomee jumped. She jerked her head back and saw his damp hair in a messy heap, the soft scent wafting subtly to her nose. “You were showering?”
“Was I so much dirtier earlier that you noticed the difference?”
Chomee ignored the cocky response. “Susan’s on the phone.”
“Who!?” Jiyong hooted, surprised to hear his ex-girlfriend’s name.
“Susan. The great, bootiful one.”
“Yeah, she has a booty alright,” Jiyong said dryly.
“Hurry! I don’t think she’s too happy to hear my voice.”
“She’s always thinking the worst of things.”
Chomee bounced down the stairs and returned to her food. Chewing slowly, she listened attentively to Jiyong’s end of the conversation.
“Hello!” Jiyong barked into the phone.
“Jiyong?” Susan whispered, relieved to hear his voice and not the girl’s.
“What do you want?”
After all that time, he was still bitter and grouchy.
“Who was that?”
“I know that. But who is she?”
“What’s it to you? What do you want?”
“I want to know who she is!” Susan was furious now. Jiyong knew she hated it when she demanded an answer and no one would give it to her.
“Why? What’s it to you?”
“Jiyong! I have a right to know! I’m your girlfriend!”
“Oh…are you?” The comeback was light and cool. Very casual. More like a meaningless comment. “I could have sworn when Mom kicked me out, you didn’t stop her from doing so. Instead! You agreed to it! You two probably planned it together to have me disappear from the face of Earth!”
“No, Jiyong! That’s not – ”
Jiyong continued on. “Anyways. We both know deep down inside how we feel about each other. Why don’t you just tell me what you want, ’cause I got things to do.”
“Who’s that girl?”
Chomee chewed on, aware the exchange between the couple was nasty. Jiyong’s replies. Exactly the way the same when she first met him.
“You really wanna know?! You really insist on knowing?!” Jiyong bellowed. “You asked for it, bitch!”
Susan felt her shoulders slump under the impact of the name. He had just called her a bitch! How unbelievable! “Who is she?” she asked again, quiet.
“Chomee…” he drawled, feeling his insides getting all tingly and warm. Happily picturing Susan squirm at any girl’s name other than hers.
Chomee’s ears pricked at the mentioning of her name. How did she get into this?
“Chomee,” he repeated smugly. “She is my girlfriend.”
Chomee dropped her bagel and started choking. The chewed up and swallowed muck found their way back up her throat and dropped on the table like pudding. Piles and piles lay in front of her as she fought to bring the coughing under control. She felt a hand patting her gently on the back. She whirled around to find Jiyong’s face scrunced up with worry. “What did you tell her?!” Chomee shrieked, still choking slightly.
“I expected her to drop dead choking, but instead you did. Are you okay?” he asked sincerely.
“No, I’m not okay! How did I get into your business with her?!”
“I wanted to piss her off so I told her you were my girlfriend.”
“What if she comes after me with an axe?!” Chomee fumed, cleaning up her mess.
“Now, how come you’re so confident?”
“I went out with her, remember?”
“Trust me. She’ll be broken hearted, but not after Chomee Yoon.”
Susan clutched the phone to her chest. Jiyong’s words stunned her. Stunned her to the very core. In such a short time, how did he manage to find a new girlfriend?! And how could he do this to her?! Plus, he couldn’t see, how would he know how she looked like!? Questions filled her mind. Strange and demanding questions.
She dropped the phone back in her purse and sat back, leaning against the bed post. She wanted answers. That Chomee girl was a threat. A threat to her. A threat to her future.
Mrs. Ko paced around her room, heated with defeat. There was nothing she could do to help her son now. Absolutely nothing. She picked up the neatly folded newspaper and opened it. The phone rang to her dismay as the headache worked its way back up the dark ravine of her brain, pounding mercilessly against her skull.
“Yeboseyo?” she snapped, plucking the phone off the hook.
“Puyin?” a trembling voice murmured.
“Puyin! You won’t believe what happened!”
“Yes?” The sick feeling of dread coiled in her stomach again.
“It’s the Young Master! He was attacked last night!” Ajuma reported.
Mrs. Ko let out a breath of relief at the information. She had already learned of it this morning. “Is he quite well?”
“Thanks to Chomee. She saved him.”
“Yes! I dunno how that girl knew he was in trouble! But she saved his life!” Ajuma said proudly.
“How?” This wasn’t what Mrs. Ko had in mind.
“A man was in the room, strangling the poor boy. She said she couldn’t sleep and so she came out for a walk in the gardens when she heard a slight scream. Like a muffled shriek, she said. Then she followed the voice and found Master Jiyong under a pillow, suffocating! And she wasn’t sure what had happened. The man just took one look at her and flew out the window. Said it looked like he had seen something worse than a ghost.”
Mrs. Ko nodded. Indeed, the girl was a saint. “Thank you. I hope Jiyong’s all well.”
“Oh! He is very. They’re laughing and giggling over something right now. Poor kids. They were so frightened last night, they spent the night together. They’re such darlings. You should see them together, Puyin.”
Mrs. Ko let the happy comment sink in. “What do you mean by that?”
“I think our Jiyong’s quite fond of her. He’s more happier, that’s for sure. He laughs and talks. While he was with the other girl…he name…I don’t quite remember – ”
“Yes, her. When he was with her, he seemed mad and angry all the time. Rather annoyed.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear such progress. I will be up to visit him shortly.”
“Yes, Puyin. You have a nice day now.”
“Thank you. Same to you.” Mrs. Ko settled the receiver and was seething with hate. Now she has to find a way to separate the two. Now she knows Chomee’s not harm, but a thief stealing her son away from her and Susan.
“C’mon! When are we getting to it?!” Jiyong demanded.
“Getting to what?” Chomee asked innocently.
“Why did you come here?” Jiyong asked abruptly, starting off the interrogation.
“Here?” Chomee shook her head, puzzled.
“Here, to work. Did my mother tell you to come?”
“Oh!” Now she understood what he meant. “No. It’s…It’s something else.”
“What is it?”
“I’ll tell you what happened to me. Fair?” Jiyong suggested.
“If it’s a long story, then I’d like to hear it before it hits eight. It’s three already.”
Chomee stared at Jiyong, utterly amazed.
“Don’t stare at me like that. I can feel your eyes, you know.”
Chomee looked down at her hands sheepishly, not sure of how to respond.
Chomee let out a shaky sigh before starting her story. “You only wanna know why I’m here, right?”
“No…who you are.”
“I was eight at the time when my father died…”
“Chomee lost her father when she was eight. We ran away to Pusan,” Jinjoo explained, her tired eyes on Miyoung and Jaejin.
Miyoung nodded. “She told me.”
“She has?” Jinjoo asked softly.
“It took her a while. She didn’t start opening up till at the end of the school year.”
“End? I thought…”
Miyoung bit her lip, realizing her mistake. Chomee lied to her mother about being away at school! “Uh…I meant, for me. She signed up for summer courses. It was the end of the school year for me.”
Jaejin raised a brow, making a face at Miyoung.
“Oh…” But Jinjoo was skeptical. “Is that where is she right now? At school?”
“Yes…” Miyoung whispered, her voice caught.
Turning to Jaejin, Jinjoo murmured, “You’re…”
“Jaejin. Miyoung’s friend.”
“Aren’t you two a pair?” Jinjoo smiled, admiring the two children. “Beautiful, too.”
“Uh…” Miyoung started, glancing at Jaejin. She was getting ready to say Jaejin was only a friend, not her boyfriend, but she sensed Jaejin’s warning.
“Is Chomee well?”
“She’s doing very good. As a matter of fact, she has a job now,” Jaejin answered.
Miyoung threw dagger-like glares at Jaejin. Jaejin only chuckled.
“Yes, she works as a tutor to the little kids at a nearby elementary school,” Jaejin lied easily, his eyes mocking Miyoung.
“She’s very well liked. The kids didn’t want her to go. She’s an excellent teacher. Very good with kids,” Jaejin went on.
“Excuse me,” Miyoung interrupted, smiling sweetly. “I’m going to make a call to Suwon. I’ll be right back.” Miyoung made an about face and exited Jinjoo’s hospital room.
“Suwon’s our friend,” Jaejin told Jinjoo.
“I hope Chomee’s not taking things too hard.” Jinjoo sighed.
“She is a tad upset.”
“Why?” Jinjoo asked, worried.
“You fell ill and she hurried in, crying very hard.”
“Crying? She was here?” Jinjoo nearly shouted.
“Last night. She had to hurry back to the dorm because Miyoung made her. We promised her we’d be here with you so she wouldn’t have to worry.”
“Oh, my child.”
“She’s fine though. We talked to her earlier. Jiyong’s taking care of her.”
Jaejin gasped quietly as he realized the name had slipped out. “Yeah…he’s our other friend.”
“Well, I’m gonna go see what’s taking Miyoung.”
Jinjoo nodded as Jaejin left, the name still lingering on her lips. “Jiyong…”
Jaejin closed the door behind him, sighing in relief. He waited at the door for Miyoung to return, not wanting to be in the room with Chomee’s mother by himself. He felt uncomfortable lying and especially without anybody there supervising him, he’d eventually slip out with the truth.
Jinjoo’s eyes drifted to the ceiling, her heart skipping a beat. “Could it be..? Ko Jiyong?”
“Ajuma!” Sangah whispered loudly, tugging on the sleeve of Ajuma’s shirt.
“Whuuuhuuuut?!” Ajuma grumbled, hoisting up the hose in her hand.
“Chomee and Jiyong!” Sangah croaked, pointing at the two.
“Where?!” Ajuma shouted, dropping the watering hose.
“Ahhhhh! The flowers! They’re drowning!”
“I’m old. I can’t see that far!”
“Smiling? He never smiled when he was with the other girl.”
“He’s laughing now!”
“Chomee, Chomee…” Ajuma sighed. “Didn’t I tell you so?”
“My mother was a housewife, never applied for a job. My father loved to gamble and drink and I lost him to that; and he the same.
“He gambled and lost money and asked people to lend him money so he could repay other people he borrowed from. Instead of keeping his promise, he gambled more and lost more. He even gambled away out house and all our precious jewlery and cars…everything! Even my mom’s wedding ring and all the other family heirlooms from my grandmothers of both sides. We were finally homeless and one time during the year, it was extremely cold, I fell sick – deathly ill and we had no money to call for a doctor.”
“Then what happened?” Jiyong interrupted, his heart wrenching with sudden pain.
“Nuthin. My mom brought me to a church and prayed every day, every night. She nursed me back to health. My mom is wonderful. She knows everything. It’s a shame how she ended up marrying my father and not someone better.” Chomee waited, not wanting to continue on.
“By then, we had hoped Appa had stopped gambling. But the debts he had to pay were far too great. So, then people didn’t want money anymore. They made him give away everything he has and at the end, it still wasn’t enough. My mother was still young back then and very beautiful. Men knew she was married and still wooed her. I was only a child, anybody would have taken me and say I’m their future daughter-in-law. As long as they got back what they’ve given my father, they didn’t care. They’re heartless bastards. I’d rather have Appa rot in jail, than having them torture him like that.
“One day, I saw my father being dragged away to a warehouse. By that time, Oma found a part-time job and supported the both of us. She wouldn’t let my dad see me, so she found a small apartment. Somewhere far away, I dunno where.
“I was out playing that day and I found a mob of people screaming and cheering. I followed them and slipped in without being noticed.”
“Sounds like James Bond to me,” Jiyong joked.
“I wish,” Chomee said dryly. “Then it was just so horrifying. Everybody taking turns beating up my father. The women stood aside and cheered and cursed at him. I was just petrified. Then I was spotted and pushed to the middle of the room with my almost-dead father. I remember screaming my lungs out at the sight of blood. Not that I’ve never seen it. But it was like pools and pools of it.” Chomee shivered at the memory, her voice caught, preventing her from continue her story.
Jiyong patted her hand and gently stroke it, comforting her to the best of his ability.
Chomee recollected her thoughts and decided to leave out the graphical events. It was too painful for her to relive them and telling it. “Soon…he died. My mother and I fled to Pusan, where nobody knew us. I continued school there and now my mother’s sick. There’s nothing I can do since I’m starting new and going to school up here. The doctors up here are much better than the ones down there. I need the money for school and my mother needs money for her illness.”
“How’d you find this place?”
“It was advertised. I was going through the newspaper one day and saw this ad saying a nurse was needed to care for an eighteen year old. So I called and I’m here.”
“Now for your end of the bargain. What happened to you?”
“Me?” Jiyong blinked. “Do you take rain checks?”
Chomee sighed. “It’s late. I’m tired.”
“I was only sixteen at the time and my parents thought I would look cute with Susan. She comes from another rich family and her parents were associates of my parents. They were such great friends, they’re inseparable. So, they decided to hook us up. Great plan, huh? So they can keep all the money inside the family. I never really liked Susan. Only she was just drop dead gorgeous, but she was a dumb bitch. Even Jiwon who was a player said he wouldn’t want to play her ass. She was too rich for his blood.”
Chomee sat up in her chair, fully alert. “Is she really that hateful?”
“She’s always mad for some reason.”
“Have you ever really, truly loved her?”
“Didn’t I just got through saying – ”
“Never mind my big mouth. Go on.”
“They expected us to have kids and all that blah blah blah.”
“Is she really that pretty?”
“She was beyond that. I dunno, I guess her beauty was far too great and it blinded me from staring at her too much.”
Chomee giggled, easing slightly into her chair.
“You have such a cute voice. I wonder how you look like,” Jiyong wondered softly with a smile.
Chomee froze. Not quite sure of how to answer.
“I-I-I’m not pretty,” she finally managed to utter.
“Nah! You’re kidding. You have such a cute voice.”
Chomee was actually glad Jiyong was blind at the moment. Her face was flushed deeply scarlet. “Really. I’m ugly.”
“Never had a namja chingoo?”
“Not even a guy friend.”
“Are you really that cute? I’ve heard the servants talk about you. And I heard Jaeduk’s loud mouth screaming you were mad cute to Jaejin.”
“Don’t listen to them. I think they’re referring to my personality. Anyways, I thought we were done analyzing me and were talking about you. ”
Jiyong sighed. “I’ll find out how you look like!”
Chomee stuck her tongue out at him.
“I saw that!”
Chomee sat back in her chair, for a moment, really believing Jiyong had saw what she did.
“Well, we were dating for a while and then she had to go somewhere on the night of my eighteenth birthday celebration. So it was only me and Sunghoon and the rest of them.”
“I didn’t want to make it a big deal.”
“I thought it was always a big deal.”
“It was five in the morning when I went to test drive my car. Sunghoon and them bought me a new Supra for my birthday.”
“Well, I was driving along just fine and I think when I skidded and started again, it was too fast. There was this nasty noise that made my stomach churn. My car scraping the graveled ground. I was unconscious for how long, I dunno. But when I woke up, I was already blind.”
“Soon after, Susan left me, so did my parents. They made me move out here to live on my own.”
“It’s not that bad. As least I got rid of Susan. Sunghoon and the rest still calls to see my weekly progress.”
“They care about you.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s what my mother and Susan said too.” Jiyong frowned sourly.
Chomee sat still, her mind wandering off. Jiyong accompanied her, enjoying the light breeze.
“Do you think you still stand a chance?” Chomee inquired after a moment of peace.
Jiyong cocked his head to one side. “Do I think? I know I don’t have a chance.”
“Don’t be so negative. At least give it a try.”
“Because…I don’t want to.”
“Don’t want to and can’t are two different things,” said Chomee.
“I know that.”
“I still say you should make a trip to the hospital or some specialist. I mean, it’s not a big problem.”
Jiyong shook his head, objecting to Chomee’s suggestions. “No.”
“But why?! You have the perfect opportunity!”
“Trust me. If I had the chance to see again, don’t you think I would be living at home right now?”
“I’ve gone to every possible doctor, every hospital, looking for a cure. If neither I nor my mom has found one last year or several months ago, what makes you think they’ll have a cure now?”
“Jiyong! That was then!” Chomee cried, raising her voice. “Now…you dunno how much better technology has gotten! Maybe your case is different! Maybe you have to wait a little longer before regaining your vision, but it’s not impossible! I mean, you didn’t have a pausible reason to be blind. It’s not like I stabbed your eyes out or anything.”
“Nah, Susan maybe. You’re too nice.”
“I’m serious here!”
“I am, too! Can’t you see this is pointless?!”
“If it’s money you’re worried about, then you shouldn’t! You’re loaded!”
“It’s not the money!”
“Then what is it?! Not time, I know. You don’t have anything to lose!”
“Can we drop the subject?”
“Only for the time being.”
“Boy, you’re more persistent than Susan.”
“Haha. Isn’t that the role of a girlfriend?” Chomee threw back.
Jiyong chuckled at the reminder. “Sure.”
“I’m having problems.”
“Kid, you’ve been having them!” Chomee said playfully.
“I’m serious. I don’t think I can ever sleep again.”
“After last night. I’m too scared to sleep.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. I’m scared, too. But you shouldn’t be. I mean, you dunno how the guy look like, so you don’t have to worry about him haunting you.”
“That’s what makes it even scarier. I won’t know when he’ll come again and kill me. I won’t be able to see anything!”
“Sometimes, I think it’s an advantage…being blind. Although many people think of it as a flaw. I think a person could be just as beautiful and perfect when they’re blind. It’s just all wonders.”
“Yeah. I wish I could see again.”
“Go – ”
“Fine. Just don’t tell me you wanna see again.”
“But you didn’t see the guy, so why are you worried?”
“Hmmm? I didn’t see his face, but I saw him and all these little images of him would float into my mind. Ya know? Scary…” Chomee shivered at the thought.
“Yeah, but you can’t beat me.”
Chomee blew a raspberry. “Well, I think it’s your loss. Not getting to see the wonders. I think it’s good too. Not as tiring or stressful. Everybody has things to worry about and you don’t. You’re handicappedm, people won’t be expecting you to perform as well and so they won’t ask you to do so much. It’s better…not having too many things to think about. Makes you old and wrinkly.
“You know what? Never thought of that. I like the way you think,” Jiyong said slowly, a lightbulb going off in his head.
The phone rang again, rocketing Mrs. Ko’s annoyance. She snatched the phone off the hook again and thundered a loud, “Hello?!”
“Ko Puyin?” came a short, choppy reply.
“I am,” she responded promptly.
“Hi, I am Jiyong’s medical doctor. Remember?”
“Uhm…regarding the latest technology techniques. We do have a breakthrough. Although it may not promise your son full vision, but it does provide him a better chance for the future. And we would like to examine his eyes. Do you agree to this?”
Mrs. Ko hesitated. “What are his chances?”
“From the very last checkup, records show he has a seventy-thirty. But statistics could change over a period of time. So, as of now, we won’t be able to know.”
Mrs. Ko nodded, absorbing the detailed exchange. “When will be the best time?”
“Anytime. We are thinking the sooner, the better. It will give us more time to seek assistance to your son’s vision.”
“I’ll call you when my son and I reach an agreement,” Mrs. Ko said crisply.
“That’s fine. We’ll be waiting.”
Mrs. Ko replaced the receiver on the cradle and whooped with joy. She felt the heavy, dreadful feeling she have had endured for over a year lift off her chest and shoulders, making her grin spread even wider. She quickly called her son and notified him of such news and once again laughed giddily to herself once she was done.
“My mom,” Jiyong replied, sighing loudly.
“What did she say?” Chomee asked, her brows scrunching.
“She wanted me to got to the hospital. The doctors say I have a chance of regaining my vision.”
Chomee gaped openly at him. “That’s great!”
“Yeah, but what if they’re just saying that? Don’t you think it’s a waste?”
“No! At least something’s happening!”
“Yeah. Sumthin,” Jiyong snickered.
“Why..? Aren’t you happy?”
“I’m not gonna work myself up for nothing.”
“But what if…”
“Yeah, what if? That’s the question. What if?”
Chomee ignored the comment. “When are you seeing them?”
“In two weeks.”
“Are you going?”
“I guess. I did say I wanted to see again.”
“So…did your mother say anything else?”
“Funny. She sounded a lot more cheerful.”
News was out – Ko Jiyong was recovering.
“Ouch! This thing is stiff!” Jiyong complained, rubbing the bandage.
“You’ve been saying that ever since you went into therapy. It won’t be for long,” Chomee assured him, patting his head.
“Dammit, two weeks! I’ve been wrapped up for two weeks!”
“Just be glad it’s not two months.”
“That’s very charming,” Jiyong said sarcastically.
“Very,” Chomee agreed.
“Can’t wait till tomorrow. I’ll be free of this hard shit and I’ll be able to see again.”
Chomee smiled. “Oh, the humanity!”
“Don’t get soupy,” Jiyong warned.
Chomee laughed. She stopped short when the phone started ringing and hurried to answer it.
“Yes?” Chomee whispered, feeling queasy.
“This is Jiyong’s mother.”
Chomee was breathing normally again. “Puyin! How are you?”
“Good. Do you think it’s possible that I see you for a few minutes?”
“Perhaps later on? Around three?”
“Is something the matter?” Chomee asked.
“There is something I would like to discuss with you.”
Chomee bit down on her lip, feeling nervous.
“I’ll come around at three,” Mrs. Ko repeated.
“Sure,” Chomee agreed slowly.
“See you then,” Mrs. Ko replied.
“Bye,” Chomee murmured, hanging up the phone.
“Chomee!” Jiyong called.
“Coming!” she answered. She stared at the phone, her heart beating rapidly. She returned to Jiyong, wondering what Mrs. Ko wanted to speak to her about. She thought back to the day she started working, trying to figure out where she had gone wrong. Maybe Mrs. Ko thought she wasn’t good enough and wanted to get rid of her. Maybe because she made too many mistakes –
“Huh?!” Chomee yelped, startled.
“What’s wrong?” Jiyong asked, concerned.
“Nu-Nuthin,” she stammered.
“Who was that?”
“On the phone.”
“What did she say?”
“Why are you scared?”
“Scared? I’m not scared,” Chomee lied.
“Chomee, I may be blind, but I’m not deaf.”
“It’s nothing, really.”
Jiyong gave her a skeptical look.
“Well, I have to run an errand later.”
“Is that what my mother called for?”
“Seriously, no. I have to find a few things for my mother,” Chomee said uneasily. She hated lying. Even if it was something small. She hated lying.
Jiyong shrugged. He trusted her. “Fine. Can you help me ask Ajuma when I can get this thing off? I wanna know when.”
Chomee sighed. “Tomorrow. Sit still and wait.”
“But I’ll die waiting!” Jiyong cried dramatically.
“That’s something I’d look forward to,” Chomee replied just as playfully.
Jiyong smiled, feeling happy for the first time in years. “I’m gonna finally see how you look like!”
“Don’t be too disappointed,” Chomee reminded him.
Jiyong nodded. “I won’t, I won’t.”
The hours quickly passed and soon enough Chomee was in the same car as Mrs. Ko, her breathing short and nervous.
The ride was quiet and Chomee kept her eyes stuck to the window pane. She watched the beautiful scenery fly by, not quite sure of where they were headed. She tried sitting back and felt herself tighten up with uneasiness and sat stiffly in her end of the car. She clapped her hands together and rested them in her lap, cold sweat washing over her. She couldn’t help feeling queasy. Being in the same car with the bossy woman was frightening and with matters waiting to be discussed…she was ready to hide in a bomb shelter.
“I’d thought you’d never ask!” Sunghoon declared, delighted.
“Don’t get cheesy on me,” Jiyong warned.
Sunghoon chortled. “I’ll have hyung come and get you. After that we’ll get you some color on that pale colored ass of yours.”
Jiyong laughed. It felt good. When was the last time he had a good laugh? Especially with Sunghoon? Too long. “Well, you better come now. It’s a long ride.”
Sunghoon agreed. “Man, tell your mom that if she wants to deport you from home at least choose some place closer. Jeez…”
Jiyong laughed again and bid his good-bye.
Soon…I’ll be normal again…
Chomee sipped the orange juice, anxious for Mrs. Ko to start the discussion. She nervously darted her eyes sideways, glancing at other elegant patrons of the café.
The question brought Chomee’s attention back to Mrs. Ko. “He’s alright! In fact, he can’t wait till tomorrow.”
Mrs. Ko accepted the reply. “I have to speak to you about that.”
What have I done now?
“Now that Jiyong’ll be able to see…your services will no longer be needed,” Mrs. Ko stated flatly, choosing her words cautiously.
Chomee sat still, not quite sure of how to react. Jiyong will see, no service. No service, no money. No money, Mother gone. Chomee gasped. A sudden rush of tears flooded her eyes.
Mrs. Ko wasn’t surprised with the reaction. Somewhat amazed though. So she does like Jiyong… Who was she kidding? What girl haven’t liked Jiyong before?!
Chomee shook her head slightly, not believing what her ears are taking in. She felt her lips quiver at the information. Her tears blurred her vision and soon she couldn’t see Mrs. Ko anymore.
Sensing a breakdown drawing near, Mrs. Ko quickly thought of something else. “Tomorrow. You can leave tomorrow. Today’s too soon and all of a sudden.”
Chomee blinked a few times, her eyes clearing a little. The tears slowly evaporated and she sat back in her chair, quietly sipping the orange juice.
“You have to understand, Jiyong will want his girlfriend there. She would like to be there.”
Chomee nodded numbly, her mind reeling. This wasn’t supposed to happen. She still have a few more months before school starts and she depended on the money she was earning for tuition and for her mother’s illness. This isn’t fair. Why is everybody doing this to her?
“Are there any questions?”
Yes, why are you doing this to me?
“Don’t worry about transportation and your pay. Since this is on such short notice, I’ll have everything arranged. I recall Ajuma telling me that your mother’s in the hospital. As soon as she recovers, I’ll have a house ready for you two to move in. You can forward the hospital bills and all those other matters to me. I’ll see to it that they are to be taken care of.”
Chomee nodded. “Am I to leave first thing in the morning?”
Mrs. Ko sat back in her chair, thinking. She stared at the coffee that stood before her, the steam disappearing into the air. She pursed her lips. “Yes.”
Chomee felt a shiver crawl up her spine at the reply. She nodded again and settled the half glass of juice onto the table. “Where exactly am I moving to?”
“That’s a good question. I suppose you’ll need to live someplace quiet? I think I know somebody down in Pusan that can help me scour something up. Your mother needs to live someplace nice and quiet and plenty of fresh air, right?”
“Then it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Chomee kept her head low, not wanting to meet the woman’s eyes. She mumbled ‘thanks’ and struggled to keep her emotions down.
“Well, we should be getting back. Don’t want to keep Jiyong wondering where we went.”
Mrs. Ko paid for the bill and together they left the café. Along the way back, Mrs. Ko picked up a few items for Jiyong. Chomee also bought a few accessories for her mother and decided against buying too much. She was to leave tomorrow. It would be difficult to pack later on tonight.
“I’ll walk with you,” Mrs. Ko told Chomee when she was getting out of the car. “Remember, no word about this to Jiyong.”
Chomee nodded. She led the way to the house and quickly retired to her room. She heard Ajuma announce Jiyong wasn’t home and that his friends had taken him out. Mrs. Ko waited around a while longer and left.
Chomee started packing right away, not wanting to waste her time wallowing in self pity. By the time she was finished, everything had fallen into place. Jiyong came home, dinner was ready, she was done crying.
“Chomee!” Jiyong shouted. “Chomee! You have to come with me tomorrow!”
Chomee froze in her tracks. Come? But she was to leave once she wakes up! She quickly hurried out of her room and halted before Jiyong’s towering figure.
“Chomee?” Jiyong cried. He reached for Chomee’s hand and led her away. “Sunghoon and Jiwon has agreed to come. Everybody else. Miyoung and Suwon, too. I want you to be there.”
Chomee swallowed the lump that formed in her throat and forced herself to speak. “Ji – ”
“Can you believe it’s tomorrow!? I can finally see again!”
“Susan’s gonna be there,” Chomee let out.
Jiyong stilled, shocked with the outburst. “You’re just saying that, right?”
Chomee shook her head. “No. It’s the truth. Your mother told me.”
“What?” Jiyong growled.
Chomee gasped silently.
“When did she say this?” Jiyong demanded.
Chomee stayed silent, her eyes wide with fear.
“When?” Jiyong repeated, squeezing Chomee’s hand.
“Ow! Today!” Chomee yelped, her hand hurting.
“I’m sorry,” Jiyong apologized, letting go of Chomee’s hand.
“It’s okay,” Chomee mumbled, shaking off the pain.
“Well, it’s me that’s recovering. I don’t want Susan there. So she won’t be there,” Jiyong confirmed. “She’ll know she’s not welcomed.”
Chomee regarded Jiyong skeptically. “Well…”
“I’m sorry! You’re hungry, right?”
“Ji – ”
“C’mon!” Jiyong took Chomee to the dining hall and chattered away, not heeding to Chomee’s discomfort of the whole situation.
“She’ll leave first thing tomorrow,” Mrs. Ko said definitely. “By then, Susan’ll be with us at the hospital.”
“How can you be so sure?” her husband asked, getting ready for bed.
“I’ve never failed yet. Have I?”
“I guess not.”
“Good. I’ve called Susan already. We’ll bring her along and we’ll get Jiyong later. They should really catch up.”
“Some supportive male figure you are!”
“Whaaaaat?! I didn’t object! Isn’t that good enough?”
Mrs. Ko shrugged. “Hmm…”
“You seem more enthusiatic about this than Jiyong is.”
“I’m his mother! Shouldn’t I be?”
“Me and my golden mouth. Ignore what I’ve just said.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah…and the song goes on. Go to sleep.”
“Go to sleep.”
“No! It’s too early!”
“Jiyong, it’s two already.”
“Jiyong…you’re forgetting that you’re going to the hospital at ten.”
Chomee sighed. “Never mind. I’ll sleep, you talk.”
Chomee picked up a pillow off her bed and threw it at Jiyong. “What?”
“Yes, it is! I should be sleeping.”
“No! I’m having fun!”
Chomee had to chuckle. “You’re doing a mighty fine job.”
“I wanna ask you something.”
Jiyong hesitated. “How should I put this?”
“My pillow? You can return it.”
Chomee waited patiently as Jiyong collected his thoughts.
“What are you gonna do now that I’m gonna see?” Jiyong asked instead.
“Uh…I dunno. Back to school?”
“You’ll leave?” Jiyong couldn’t resist feeling suprised.
“Are you asking me not to?”
Jiyong blinked, silently wishing that he could see Chomee. Too bad the hours don’t pass fast enough. The bandage around his head was getting aggravating. “No…I’m asking…”
“What do you think of my mom?” Jiyong smiled meekly.
“Your mom?” Chomee was confused. “What’s wrong with her?”
Chomee was baffled. She reclaimed her pillow and waited for Jiyong to ask his question.
“Never mind,” Jiyong said again. “Good night.”
Chomee clutched the pillow close to her heart, not sure of what had happened. She watched as Jiyong marched out of her room, her emotions set in a frenzy. “Oh, God…what’s happening to me?”
Susan settled into bed with a smile on her face. She would see Jiyong and he could see her. But what about the other girl? Would she be there too? She’d have to wait till tomorrow…
Jiyong sat in his room, not sure if he should approach Chomee again. He liked her and cared a lot about her. She kindled his heart the way Susan didn’t. She’s so many things Susan’s not. She’s not fake and disgusting like Susan. Chomee…if only he could see how she looked like…
“No…I do not like him…Susan…Susan…his girlfriend…” Chomee told herself, her eyes aimlessly roamed the bare ceiling.
It’s true. She don’t like him. But she likes him. She has her share of concerns for him and she thinks of him like a friend, but she wouldn’t dare to exaggerate the word ‘friend.’ She only considered him as a mere associate and nothing more. Oh, the shock if her mother finds out.
“Oma…I’m coming home tomorrow…” she murmured. “Home, where I belong…”
Jinjoo pried her eyes open to find the room pitch dark. “Chomeeeeee….” She then remembered Chomee was away at school. But Jiyong’s name created a disturbance. It sounded so familiar, she was sure she had met him or seen him somewhere before.
“Jiyong…” Jinjoo thought back to when Chomee’s friend had mentioned the name. Funny, Jinjoo just realized her daughter’s friend was a male! And now that young man had said Jiyong was another friend, Jinjoo felt her heart chill. “Oh, Chomee…you’re too young to have a boyfriend…”
The shrilling alarm startled Chomee and awoke her. She jumped out of bed, dazed and confused.
“Morning,” Sangah chirped, sticking her head in through the door.
“Uh?” Chomee turned to her clock, her eyes finally focusing. Seven. “I’m going back to bed.”
“Sure. I’ll wake you when Jiyong goes to the hospital.”
Chomee nodded off, Sangah’s voice rambled on. She fell back onto her bed and curled up into a ball, sleep drowing her out.
Purring softly, she whispered, “Oma…”
Jiyong laid wide awake in bed, patiently waiting for the day to start. It was pitch dark and Jiyong wondered how things would look like when lights and color come flooding back. How did he look? He wanted to see Chomee and recognize her visually. He wanted to check his watch for the time. He wanted to do so many things!
“Soon….” he sighed. “Soon….”
“Up! Up!” Mrs. Ko bellowed. “We have to go get Susan! I have to go send Chomee off! Up!!!”
Mr. Ko moaned. His wife never left him alone.
Mr. Ko tossed the blanket away and stormed off to the bathroom. He slammed the door shut and sat stiffly on the toilet, his wife’s ailing simmering. He prayed to have peace while he quietly dozed off, but his wife returned to pound on the door, rattling his bones.
Mr. Ko, startled, jumped out of his skin. It took a while for the banging to register and once it did, he immediately hopped off the toilet seat and started brushing his teeth.
“Are you dead in there?!” his wife screeched. “I’m going to pick Susan up! I’ll be back!”
“Why can’t you tell the girl to meet us there?!” Mr. Ko asked his reflection in the mirror. He shrugged and went on brushing his teeth as he listened to his wife’s movements in the bedroom. She had already changed and he heard her march out of their bedroom, yelling for a servant. He rinsed out his mouth and quickly shaved before he gave his face a bath.
The phone rang loudly and Mr. Ko took his time opening the bathroom door. A maid appeared and informed him his son was on the line. Mr. Ko waved the woman away and reached for the receiver.
“Appa?” Jiyong’s deep voice inquired.
“No, Jiyong. I’m one of your friends,” his father replied.
“Haha, that was so funny,” Jiyong retorted sarcastically.
“How are you feeling?”
“Nervous,” Jiyong answered truthfully. He never failed to tell the truth when he’s talking to his father. His mother…on the other hand…
“Well, I guess that’s normal. Your mother’s on her way to get Susan.”
Jiyong nearly bit his tongue.
Jiyong finally found his voice and the letters started forming in his mind. “SUSAN?!!”
“Yes. Susan. Remember? Once upon a time, there was a girl by the name of Susan and she was your girlfriend.”
“B-B-But…WHY?!” Jiyong cried. He was sure it sounded more like a whine than a question, but he was confused. “I thought Chomee was only joking!”
“Never mind that. How…no, why is Susan coming?” Jiyong repeated.
“Why, I thought you wanted her to be there!” Mr. Ko exclaimed. It was a strange plan, indeed. After all these years and months, Susan haven’t even paid a visit and now all of a sudden she’s interested in Jiyong again.
“NO! I never wanted her to be ANYWHERE! Did Oma set this up?! I hope that stupid bitch drops dead!”
“Jiyong!” his father thundered.
“I meant Susan, Appa,” Jiyong explained.
“That’s unfair! Oma never asked me how I’d feel about this! Now, how are we all going to fit?! I wish Chomee wasn’t as nice so she can tell Susan to fuck off!”
“JIYONG!” his father bellowed again.
“Jiyong,” a small voice chorused.
“Chomee?” Jiyong said almost too eagerly.
Chomee nodded. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I had no idea where you were in the house. Ajuma wants you to get ready. I have to go soon.”
“Go? Go where, Chomee?”
“I have to go. Sorry again,” Chomee apologized and quickly hung up before Jiyong could ask any more questions.
“Cho — ”
“You better get ready. Your mother wouldn’t like to wait once she gets there.”
“Yes, Appa. Bye,” Jiyong said hastily.
“Take good care,” his father advised.
They both hung up simultaneously and returned to their business. Jiyong hurried downstairs to question Chomee of her sudden announcement and his father went on to change out of his sleeping attire.
“Hurry, I’m late already,” Chomee instructed Sangah and helped push her suitcase out of her room.
“Late? Jiyong’s not due at the hospital till later on in the day,” Sangah said, confused.
“I know that, but I was supposed to leave early in the morning. I have to get home to my mother,” Chomee lied. Well, it is partly the truth.
“Chomee!” Jiyong cried again. He felt his way around the servant quarters and managed to find his way back to where he wanted to go.
“If he asks, just say I’m visiting my mother. She’s in critical condition,” Chomee told Sangah.
“Really?” Sangah gasped.
“She’s actually alright, but I’m worried,” Chomee said hastily, running back into her room for her pictures.
“Are you coming back?” Sangah whispered.
Chomee hugged her pictures and followed Sangah out, “I doubt it.”
“Why? I thought school don’t start till…don’t you still have a few more months?” Sangah questioned. “Or are you going home and care for your mother?”
“I want to spend more time with my mother. After I go off to school, I won’t be able to see her till vacation. And that takes a while.”
Sangah nodded sadly. “But…you and Master Jiyong…”
Chomee slowed her pace. “What?”
Sangah stopped and spun around. “You two…”
“What?” Chomee repeated. “What’s wrong?”
“Jiyong’s much nicer now. Because of you. And I think he’s beginning to like you,” Sangah said softly.
Chomee stood rooted to the floor, not sure of how to react.
“Chomee!” Jiyong exclaimed, coming towards them. He came closer, not aware of the suitcase that stood in his way.
“Master! Watch out!” Sangah shouted, reaching for the luggage.
Chomee rushed over to Jiyong to stop him and waited for him to calm down. “What is it?”
“What was that?” Jiyong demanded. “Why’d you stop me?”
“You were going to trip,” Chomee replied, signaling for Sangah to move the suitcase out.
“A box. Ajuma wanted us to take out the platters, she’s cooking up a feast in celebration,” Chomee said as the thought came to mind. Something’s wrong with her. She has learned how to lie in such a short period of time and she’s doing it very often now.
“Oh,” Jiyong responded with a smile. “Well, then. I guess that’s good. Where are you going though? You said you had to go.”
“I meant I had to go help out. You were on the phone and I didn’t want to disturb you,” Chomee lied again.
Jiyong nodded. “Well, my mother’s on her way over and I think Susan’s coming with us.”
Chomee’s hand slipped and the picture frames tumbled to the floor. “N-N-Now?!”
“Oh, it’s nothing. Just some things Ajuma wanted me to get for her,” Chomee answered uneasily as she watched Jiyong bend to pick up the items.
Jiyong slowly examined the things with his hands and turned them over to Chomee. “Picture frames?”
Chomee remained silent, not wanting to answer.
“Well, my mother’s gonna be here soon, better go get ready,” Jiyong said one final time and returned to his room.
Chomee quickly stole away to the driveway, where her ride awaited her. Just as she made it to the car, another one, a Mercedes Benz appeared, freezing the flow of her blood.
Mrs. Ko saw the petite girl staring at her approaching car and immediately her eyes narrowed to slits. “Shouldn’t she be gone by now?”
“Who, ajuma?” Susan asked innocently.
“That little wretch,” Jiyong’s mother replied. “Well, that’s one of the reasons why I came early. After I get rid of her, we’ll be on our way.”
Chomee stood by the car and waited for the Benz to come closer. Her legs are numb like jello. Although her mind is telling her to go, but her legs aren’t following command. The Benz rolled forward and soon it came to a halt. Chomee shielded her eyes as the beam of the bright sun bounced off the hood.
Mrs. Ko stepped out of the vehicle with such coolness, the heat was no longer bothering Chomee. “I thought you were gone already.”
“I got a late start,” Chomee said meekly. “I was just leaving.”
“Oh,” Mrs. Ko said amusingly. “Well, I’ll escort you,” she offered.
Susan had already gotten out of the car and observed Chomee from a distance.
Chomee kept her eyes on her sandals and waited as the driver unloaded her luggage from the car and into Mrs. Ko’s.
“Wait inside, sweetie,” Mrs. Ko told Susan.
Susan nodded and glued her eyes on Chomee for a while longer. Definitely not his type.
Chomee fidgeted under Susan’s gaze, not looking up. She waited as the driver removed her luggage and piled it into Mrs. Ko’s. Susan finally shifted her eyes away and headed up towards the stairs just as Jiyong found his way out.
“CHOMEE!” Jiyong shouted, shoving past a protesting Sangah. “CHOMEE!”
Chomee gasped as she spun around. “Jiyong!”
“Chomee? What are you doing out here?”
Chomee blinked, trying to think of a reply. “Uh…Uh…”
Jiyong paused. “Where’s my mom?”
“I know she’s here. Her Mercedes is right in front of me.”
Chomee glanced at the exquisite car, amazed with Jiyong.
“I’m right next to the car, darling,” his mother finally spoke up.
“Yes, we’ll be on our way shortly.”
“Chomee, too. She’s coming with us,” Jiyong informed his mother.
“What?” Mrs. Ko demanded with a nervous chuckle.
Chomee bit her lip as she tried to move towards the Benz. She could feel Susan’s eyes ablaze now. They were burning holes into the ground, causing the heat to spread. She could still hear Jiyong rambling on, catching the last phrase.
“I don’t want Susan there. Save yourself time and tell her to go to Hell.”
“C’mon, Chomee! We gotta make you pretty. Gotta give me a good first impression of you,” Jiyong finished coyly, reaching for Chomee.
Chomee threw her Bambi eyes on Mrs. Ko, a seething Mrs. Ko, and waited for permission. When she got nothing, Jiyong yanked her after him, running into the house, shivering uncontrollably.
“Jaeduk…” Jiwon growled menancingly.
Jaeduk giggled childishly and fingered the curly ribbons one final time. “A present.”
“Jiyong, you silly poop.”
“Oh, damn, ya dickhead! We’re just gonna go see him, it’s not even his birthday!”
“I know. But I feel bad for him.”
“What did you get him?”
“A new car,” Jaeduk shouted with a bright smile.
“New car?” Jiwon repeated dumbly.
“Yeah. Remember how we got him one before and it’s completely f-ed up now?”
Jiwon had to chortle. Jaeduk may act like a dumb ass but he is one mighty fine gentleman. “Yeah.”
“So, I got him a brand new car. That way, no accidents, no injuries. Even if there is one, it’ll be minor,” Jaeduk finished with a squeak.
“Oh, is that so?” Jiwon managed to let out through subdue laughter. “I see. I thought you got him a real car for real.”
“I did!” Jaeduk cried. “And it’s in this very box!”
“Okay, okay. We’ll see when we get there.”
“But I didn’t get Chomee anything.” Jaeduk said with a frown.
“I’m sure she don’t mind,” Jiwon replied, slipping his celluar into the pocket of his khakis.
“You think so?” Jaeduk asked hopefully. He picked up Jiyong’s present and held it with both hands, following Jiwon.
“Of course. Just give her a big, wet kiss.”
Jaeduk halted in his tracks, looking uncertain.
Jiwon chuckled under his breath and pulled Jaeduk after him. “Let’s go!”
“You serious about kissing her?” Jaeduk finally squeaked moments later.
But Jiwon held onto that mischievous smile, leading Jaeduk towards his car.
“C’mon, c’mon!” Sunghoon shrilled. He chased after Jaejin with a towel in hand. “Hurry, hurry! Yiya, yiya, yiya, yiya!”
“Stop snapping me with that thing!” Jaejin yelled, spinning around to a halt.
“If I hadn’t climbed in through your window, come after you with this towel, you’d still be on that toilet! Reading this-this-this…this stupid comic!” Sunghoon sputtered.
“It’d be nice if you had rang the bell,” Jaejin answered dryly.
“Well, it would have been nice if you had come to the door,” Sunghoon argued. “If you weren’t so engrossed with this stupid comic, you would have heard the bell.”
“Oh…” Jaejin said sheepishly. “Well, if I may, then…”
“No!” Sunghoon shouted, hitting Jaejin with the towel again.
Jaejin shrugged and limped his way back upstairs.
“And for God’s sake! Wipe your ass!” Sunghoon hollered after him.
“Wipe your dirty asssssssss!” Sunghoon hissed.
“You just said no, you freak!” Jaejin screamed, changing into a different outfit.
“What?!” Sunghoon muttered, throwing down the towel. “I’ll be outside.”
Jaejin prepared himself for the trip to the hospital and hurried outside when the phone in his room rang. As he locked the door, Jiwon’s car pulled up before his house and Sunghoon was getting in the back. Jaejin hopped down the stairs and entered after Sunghoon.
“Did you wipe your ass?” Sunghoon asked, inching away from Jaejin.
Jaejin paused. “Uhhh…I forgot?”
Jiwon froze. “What?”
“Hyung! You didn’t wipe your butt?!” Jaeduk shrieked overly dramatic. “Then that means you didn’t wash your hands?!”
“Hey! It wasn’t my fault! Blame it on the manhwa!” Jaejin cried. “Besides, this pervert climbed in through my window, chasing me out of the bathroom before I could even pull my pants up!”
“Ewwwwwwwwww!” Jaeduk wailed.
“Could you shut up?” Jiwon shouted.
“Could you tell him to go clean his ass?” Sunghoon retorted.
“Don’t have time! He can do that when we get to the hospital. I’m pretty sure they got Baby Wipes there,” Jiwon sneered.
Jaejin and Sunghoon exchanged glances before sticking their tongues out at each other.
“Hey! Guess what?!” Jaeduk chirped.
“What?!” Jaejin and Sunghoon chorused.
“I got Jiyong a car!” Jaeduk replied with a goofy smile. The smile remained on his face throughout the entire ride. Sunghoon and Jaejin bickering like an old couple, Jiwon rushing through the crazy afternoon traffic as Jiyong and Chomee departs for their trip.
“You’re cold,” Jiyong said quietly, holding Chomee’s hand.
Chomee nodded. Although it was midsummer, the sun blazing bright over the city of Seoul, she felt cold and frozen.
“Would you like for the AC to be turned off?” Jiyong asked in the same quiet tone.
Chomee actually wanted the heat to be turned on. “It’s ok.”
“Are you sure?”
Chomee nodded again and turned to look out the window. She left her hand in Jiyong’s, unmoving. It didn’t occur to her that he was holding onto her. She watched as other cars drove past theirs. Jiyong’s mother’s car for one. She could feel herself grow colder, the situation now in a mess.
“What are you thinking about?” Jiyong questioned gently.
“My mother,” Chomee murmured, not taking her eyes off the traffic.
Jiyong sighed and kept his unseeing eyes straight ahead. It was hard to keep still. He wanted to know what Chomee was thinking about. How she looked like. Why she was so quiet. It’s hard to imagine a girl like her…single? Of course, Chomee isn’t shallow or materialistic like Susan. She’s…human.
“Jiyong…” Chomee whispered absentmindedly.
“Why can’t I be rich?”
Jiyong didn’t know how to answer. He kept a straight face and left the question hanging.
Chomee leaned back in the seating and closed her eyes. Her mother. Jiyong. Miyoung. Money. School. Tuition. So many things to worry about. She leaned towards Jiyong and rested her head on his shoulder. “Love is so blinding…”
“Is that her luggage back there?” Mr. Ko asked, glancing behind him.
His wife grunted as a reply and took another drag from her cigarette.
“I thought she was gone. Or at least you said she was.”
“But our precious son doesn’t want her gone. She’s in the other car with him.”
Susan sat beside herself, thinking in her own world. Jiyong chose the poor bitch over her. How was that…possible?! The little girl don’t match him. He was tall and she was…tiny. And they’re in the same car…TOGETHER! This infuriated her. Jiyong was hers. Chomee had no right to interfere.
“There’s no way we can get rid of her now,” Mrs. Ko said, surrendering.
“Jiyong’ll know how she looks like.”
Susan felt her ears prick as a thought came across her mind. “Unless…”
The couple fell silent, waiting for Susan to continue.
“Jiyong has to undergo a few hours of surgery, right?”
“Two hours, yes,” Mrs. Ko replied.
“During the two hours, he has to be unconscious, right?”
Mrs. Ko gasped as it dawned on her. “We have her luggage.”
“She can still leave while Jiyong’s in surgery,” Mr. Ko finished.
Mrs. Ko smiled. “What would do without you, Susan?”
Susan returned the smile. “You would do just fine.”
“Okay, great!” Jiwon bellowed, kicking his tire.
“See! I knew we should have came in two cars!” Sunghoon exclaimed, waving madly at Jiwon’s car.
“Does that mean we’re not gonna see Jiyong?” Jaeduk asked, his expressions of a little boy.
“NO!” Jiwon screamed. “We’re gonna see the damn bastard, alright?! Now stop whining!”
Jaeduk gave Jiwon his pouty lip and sat on the curb, toying with the ribbons wrapped around the gift box.
“Damn! I just had this car in the shop the other day!” Jiwon continued in his angry voice. “Fuck this Beemer! I should have stuck with a Jaguar!”
Jaejin giggled as Jiwon went on rambling. He sat down next to Jaeduk, comforting the disappointed grown up baby. “We’ll get there.”
Sunghoon pulled out his phone and started pressing all sorts of buttons, bored with Jiwon’s ailing. Jaejin, stared off into space, watching Sunghoon’s thumb move smoothly over the keys. Then it hit him.
Jaeduk dropped the box and covered his ears, Jaejin’s sudden outburst blew his eardrums out.
Jiwon paused in the middle of his ranting and stared quizzically at Jaejin as Sunghoon looked up from his phone, his brows raised.
“Suwon! He’s not with us!”
Jaejin’s friends exchanged glances, not quite catching up.
“Yeah? So?” Sunghoon said, leaning against Jiwon’s car.
“Call his ass! He gotta car! He DRIVES!!!” Jaejin finally screamed.
“Oh, yeah,” Jiwon cried, realizing what Jaejin said was true.
Sunghoon punched in Suwon’s number and waited for someone to pick up the phone.
“Tell him not to bring Miyoung!” Jaejin reminded Sunghoon. “Her big ass takes up the whole backseat!”
“Yeboseyo?” a husky voice mumbled.
“Suwon!” Sunghoon hooted. “Where are you?!”
“Well, what number did you dial?” Suwon asked.
“Oh, you’re at home. We need you to come down and get us. Jiwon’s car broke down.”
Suwon sighed. “Didn’t he just had that thing fixed?”
“Apparently not,” Sunghoon snorted. “You busy?”
“No. Was getting ready to pick up Miyoung,” Suwon replied, pulling on his socks.
“Speaking of her. What’s with you two?”
“What’s going on with you two? Getting back together?” Sunghoon teased.
“Fuck no,” Suwon growled.
Sunghoon, taken aback by the response, didn’t reply. Changing the subject, he asked, “So, you’re gonna come now?”
“After I get Miyoung,” Suwon answered, picking up his keys.
“Suwon, how are we all gonna fit?”
“Hmm? You can go in the trunk. You’re small enough.”
“I’m coming in my dad’s van. Don’t worry.”
“Van? The UHaul thingy?!!” Sunghoon shrieked.
“No, hyung. There are seats inside the van. I’m leaving now.”
“Fine. We’re by the exit.”
“What?!” Suwon shouted.
“Great place to break down, huh? Hurry! We’re the second to the last one by the hospital!!”
Suwon groaned. “You bums! You could walk there from where you’re at!”
“Hey! Jiwon’s driving a BEEMER! We can’t leave that here,” Sunghoon reminded Suwon.
“Okay, okay. I’m coming. Laters,” Suwon mumbled.
Sunghoon pushed a button and turned to his awaiting friends. “Suwon’s coming.”
“Miyoung in his dad’s van,” Sunghoon finished.
“How did I know?” Jaeduk piped.
“Now we gotta sit out and wait,” Jiwon said to no one in particular.
Jaeduk frowned. “I’m gonna die.”
“Why?” Jaejin asked.
“I can’t stand the sun and I’m bored.”
“Oh, then…try standing on your head,” Jaejin suggested.
Jaeduk’s eyes lit up. “That’s exactly what I’m gonna do!” With that, he handed the box over to Jaejin and immediately started on the task.
Sunghoon grunted at the silly boy and continued playing with his phone. “Make sure he don’t bust his head open. We already have Jiyong in the hospial. Can’t have a Jaeduk in the hospital. Let alone a normal hospital.”
“Shut up! I don’t see you doing anything as entertaining!” Jaeduk retorted, standing on his hands.
“Huh!” Sunghoon stuffed his phone in the pocket of his white jeans and puffed his cheeks out. “Like what?!”
“Walk from car to car in your boxers, asking for phone numbers!”
Jiwon’s mouth fell open. “You don’t seriously consider that entertaining!”
Sunghoon’s evil grin. “Watch me.” He jumped into Jiwon’s car, unbuckling his belt.
“Goodness, you dyke! Not in my car!” Jiwon screeched. “Get the FU…WHOA!” He spun right around, not wanting to drag Sunghoon out anymore.
Sunghoon leapt out of Jiwon’s car, shirtless with boxers. His socks pulled all the way up to his knees. His scruffy sneakers untied, his jewelry all inside Jiwon’s car. “Wuh wuh?!” He screamed at Jaeduk.
Jaeduk fell over, the sight painfully hilarious. “You boner!” he yelled. But it was also a horrible sight. Sunghoon was nothing but bone. He looked like he was just released from a concentration camp.
“Oh, my virgin eyes,” Jaejin muttered.
“This should be interesting to watch,” Jiwon mumbled, still facing the other direction.
“Paper and pen, please?” Sunghoon squealed. He snatched a notepad in Jiwon’s car and rummaged around for a pen. “Aha!”
“I want you to skip from car to car, knock on windows and get numbers. Let’s see how many you can get without your pretty clothes,” Jaeduk dared, an evil grin plastered on his face.
Miyoung pulled the one strap bag over her shoulder and clasped it shut. She approached the front door to wait outside for Suwon. Since the rest went with Jiwon and she couldn’t go until later in the day, she nagged Suwon for a ride to the hospital. Afterall, everybody was invited to this big, special event. Jiyong…he’s able to see again!
She locked the front door and plopped down on the front steps of the house, waiting for Suwon to arrive. She checked her watch and sighed. A gorgeous day. It wasn’t too hot in her area of Seoul. Just perfect. Breezy.
As she drifted further away into her thoughts, Suwon pulled up, honking loudly. Miyoung snapped back to the present and jumped up from her spot on the steps. She hopped down the stairs and skipped to Suwon’s car, a bright smile on her face. “Hey!”
“Sup?” Suwon replied as Miyoung slammed the door shut.
“Nothing much. Pretty day, isn’t it?”
“Uh-huh,” Suwon answered, pulling away. He drove towards the highway, the traffic growing heavy as he approached. “Ughhh…”
“Why must this always happen?” Miyoung demanded, shaking her open palms at the massive numbers of cars before her. “Why?”
“And Sunghoon’s waiting for us, too,” Suwon moaned. He let his head fall against the steering wheel in despair as the words he had just spoken sank into Miyoung’s mind.
“WHOOOOOOO?” Miyoung hooted shrilly.
With his head still down, Suwon replied, “Sunghoon. Jiwon’s car broke down.”
“WHAT?!?!” Miyoung shrieked. “How many’s with them?!”
“The four of them,” Suwon said in a muffled voice.
“Soo..” Miyoung’s voice faultered. She glanced around her. “Suwon. You came in your car. Dammit! YOUR car! Where’s the UHaul?!”
“What must you people insist on calling what my father drives a damn UHaul?!” Suwon fired. “To answer your question, I didn’t want to drive his van! I like my car better.”
Miyoung pursed her lips, willing herself to be quiet. Five minutes passed and she blurted, “How are they gonna fit?!”
“They will. Sunghoon can go in the trunk. He’s small.”
They slowly moved along in the slow traffic, still arguing loudly about the ride. As they approached the exit where Jiwon’s car sit, Miyoung saw a stick figure bounce a few yards away.
“What was that?”
“What was what?”
“That. I saw a scarecrow walk from car to car. A naked one, too.”
Suwon raised a brow. “Are you okay? Maybe you need a checkup at the hospital too.”
“No, I’m fine. I know I saw — THERE!!!” Miyoung hollered, jumping in the passenger seat. She stabbed at the window wildly. “You see it? You see it?” she cried eagerly. “He’s right there!”
Suwon squinted his eyes due to the glaring sun, trying to catch a glimpse of Miyoung’s scarecrow. “No. I don’t see anything.”
Miyoung growled. “How could you have not seen him!? He was right there!” She gave up and fell back against the seat, sighing loudly.
Suwon scratched his head, not quite catching up.
Miyoung turned to look out of her side of the window, her eyes just watching the nearby cars. Then…she saw him.
“What did you say he was wearing again?” Suwon asked, his eyes found bare skin. It was a guy.
“KANG SUNGHOON!!!!!!!!” Miyoung screamed on top of her lungs. She rolled down the window and yelled again. “KANG SUNGHOOOOOOON!!!!!”
“That’s Sunghoon! Look! He’s naked!” Miyoung exclaimed pointing the bony figure.
Suwon looked in the direction of Miyoung’s finger and sure enough, he saw what she was screaming about. “WHAT THE FUCK!?!?”
“Oh, the torture,” Miyoung moaned. “He should join the freak show.”
Suwon agreed without hesitation. “I wonder what everybody else is doing?”
“One’s probably humping a car or jacking one,” Miyoung grunted.
“He’s coming over!”
“Let’s laugh in his face!”
“No! Get down!”
“Wait…get his number!”
“Why? I have his number,” Miyoung said disgustingly.
Suwon laughed. “He’s prostituting himself.”
Miyoung’s eyes lit up.
“Uh-oh,” Suwon murmured. “I know that look.”
Miyoung’s lips spread to a smile. “Watch.” She turned away and stuck her head out the window. She placed two fingers in her mouth and released a loud whistle. “Hey, you bitch!”
Suwon bursted out laughing. “This should be good.”
“Thanks,” Sunghoon said sweetly, flashing his irresistable smile.
The girls in the car squealed with delight and waved as Sunghoon pranced away to the next car. Behind him, Jiwon and Jaeduk were jeering at him while Jaeduk was on a laughing marathon. Jaeduk imitated one of the girls and swatted a playful hand at Jaejin, giggling feverishly. “You’re sooooooooooooo cute,” Jaeduk drawled.
Sunghoon turned to them and stuck his tongue out at them. He kept his head turned to them, not realizing he was so distracted, he paused right before Suwon’s car.
“Thank God you have tinted windows,” Miyoung told Suwon.
Suwon cackled again.
“Hey, you fuckin whore!” Miyoung barked, opening the window to a slight crack.
Sunghoon turned his head abruptly at the gruff feminine voice. Uh-oh…
“Yeah, you! Fuckin bitch! How much you charge?”
Sunghoon froze. He wanted numbers, not sex. Did he really look that sexy?
“Hey, dumb broad! I’m talking to you!” Miyoung went on. “Are you fuckin stupid?!”
“Uhh…hi,” Sunghoon said meekly.
“Get in! Where’s your clothes, boy?!” Miyoung demanded, trying to smother her laughter.
“Did the previous bastard that fucked you keep it?! Boy, are you mute?!” Miyoung blasted. “You can’t talk, can you? Are you stupid? How good’s your service? Take off your shorts! Let’s see what’s inside!”
Sunghoon stood rigid straight, his blood draining from his scrawny body. He clutched his sex, his eyes bulging at the stranger’s request. “Uhhh…”
“What are you doing prostituting on a highway like this? Get in, baby!” Miyoung shrieked, her sides hurting.
Suwon bit on his lower lip to keep from roaring. “You scared the shit outta him. Look, he’s gonna pee!”
“Why you holding onto your penis like that?! Scared you’re gonna lose it!?” Miyoung screamed.
That was it. All the laughter Suwon had fought to hold back came out like thunder. He belted out with all his strength, as Miyoung shrieked with laughter. Petrified, Sunghoon ran back to his friends, his face masked with fear.
“Hide me!” he cried, looking from Jiwon to Jaeduk, Jaeduk to Jaejin. “There’s a maniac on the road!”
“What?” Jiwon asked, looking up from his Beemer sign.
“Some girl wanted sex. She thought I was a prostitute!”
The three trade amused glances before choking on laughter. They threw their eyes on Sunghoon again, giving him another once over and released it all on him. Their mouths tumbled open, pouring out the most nastiest noise Sunghoon have ever heard. Their hooting laughter.
“I wonder if Sunghoon’s coming..” said Jiyong.
“Is he supposed to?” Chomee asked.
“Well, he said he was.”
“Well, we can always call him and find out.”
“Are we there yet?”
“I have no idea,” Chomee admitted. “I think so.”
“We’re close. Ten more minutes,” the driver replied.
“Ten minutes…” Jiyong repeated softly to himself.
Once the cars were parked, side by side, everybody unloaded the cars and huddled in a circle. They approached the hospital together, Chomee with Jiyong, Susan with Jiyong’s parents. The drivers remained in the vehicles, chatting with each other as they wait for further instructions.
As they entered the hospital, the cold air rushed out to greet them. Chomee looked around with her big eyes, the sparkling cleanliness striking her. She felt a shiver course through her, just being in a hospital brings up a wave of guilt. She thought to her mother, sick in a hospital…God knows how far away.
They checked in at the front desk and were sent to the waiting room. The front desk attendants scurried about, each of them recognizing the Ko family. They quickly went to look for the doctor while Chomee went on staring about her.
“Such a bumpkin,” Susan muttered disgustingly.
They entered the empty waiting room and all took seats. The married couple together, Chomee and Jiyong, and Susan by herself. They waited in silence, the quietness between them growing tense. Chomee stared out the window to avoid conversations, Susan flipped through the old magazines before her and Mrs. Ko back in her cacoon and Mr. Ko’s eyes wandered around as Jiyong played with Chomee’s hand.
“Chomee?” Jiyong said meekly.
Chomee jumped slightly. “Huh?”
“Where are we?”
“In the waiting room.”
“Where’s my parents?”
“They’re right here.”
Mrs. Ko’s mind snapped back to the present and stared at her son. Did she just hear disappointment in his voice?
“Ko Puyin!” a loud voice boomed.
Startled, all eyes turned in the direction of the voice. It was a doctor. Jiyong’s doctor.
“Who’s that?” Jiyong whispered, tugging on Chomee’s fingers.
“A doctor,” Chomee murmured, keeping her eyes on the big man in white.
The doctor exchanged a few words and handshakes with Jiyong’s parents before turning to the kids. “You must be Jiyong.”
Jiyong smiled warily.
“Here’s what will happen, since this is the first time a surgery like this is performed — it’ll take approximately two hours. Probably longer, but at least two.”
“What?!” Jiyong shouted. “How come I wasn’t notified of this?!”
Everybody exchanged glances and shrugs, all waiting for the doctor to go on.
“I was never told about this,” Jiyong said again, breaking the silence.
“You’ll have to undergo two hours of surgery,” the doctor repeated.
“Well, what are they gonna do for two hours?” Jiyong asked. “Can Chomee stay with me?”
The doctor raised a brow and turned to Susan. “I’m assuming that’s you?”
Chomee chewed her lip, her eyes on Jiyong’s mother.
When the doctor didn’t get a reply, he shrugged it off. “It’s fine. She’s not allowed in the operating room though. She can wait in the next room.”
“You’re not gonna run off, right?” Jiyong asked jokingly.
Chomee managed to force a tight smile upon her lips. “No.”
“Good. I’m gonna be alright,” Jiyong said more to assure himself than to everybody in the room.
“Come along,” the doctor said, leading Jiyong away.
Jiyong, sensing Chomee not following, called out, “C’mon Chomee!”
Chomee hesitated. She reluctantly picked up her feet and shuffled after Jiyong, all eyes on her.
“I thought the other young lady was your…” the doctor started.
“What other lady?” Jiyong inquired.
The doctor turned to Chomee. Chomee made eye contact, signaling to him that Jiyong doesn’t know Susan’s with them. “Never mind.”
“This way.” Chomee placed a hand on Jiyong’s arm and guided him to the operating room.
“Finally, moving along!” Suwon cried.
“Hey! Where’d Hoony go?”
“In search for his darling penis,” Suwon replied, cracking up.
Miyoung shrieked with laughter.
“See if you can spot them,” Suwon managed to say with a sniffle.
Miyoung kept her eyes on her side of the road and scanned the lanes. “Hey…”
“What the hell is that?!” Miyoung shrilled, pointing out the window.
Suwon squinted in the direction of Miyoung’s finger. “L-L-Legs?”
“I thought I was losing my mind!”
“What the hell?!”
“It must be Jaejin practicing for the circus.”
“We’ll see.” Suwon sped up, edging closer and closer to Jiyong’s friends. Sure enough, they found Sunghoon fully clothed — and Jaeduk’s legs in the air.
Sunghoon screamed and ran to hide behind Jiwon.
“Oh, my God,” Suwon muttered, pulling over. “Who requested duck legs? They’re not exactly on today’s menu.”
Miyoung giggled. “Where’s the giggalo?”
“Behind Jiwon. I’m more interested in Jaeduk’s head stand performance. Is the blood flowing to his brain?”
“Brain?” Miyoung echoed blankly. “What brain?”
Suwon hooted with laughter. “Let’s go see what’s up.” He turned off his car and waited for Miyoung.
“They found me!” Sunghoon squealed, squeezing Jiwon’s arms.
“The maniacs! The ones that asked for sex!” Sunghoon trembled at the flashback. “Hide me!”
“Where?” Jiwon asked, looking around.
“I mean..where are they?”
“Hey, bitch!” Miyoung bellowed, sneaking up on Sunghoon.
Sunghoon screamed like a bitch, howling like a hoochie. “They found me! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! It was a dare! A dare! No sex! Please don’t rape me!”
“Why were you prostituting then?” Miyoung demanded in a gruff voice.
“I-I-I-I wasn’t!” Sunghoon protested with his eyes still closed.
“Whoa? Who would wanna fuck this boner?” Jiwon chortled. “Suwon’s better. Stick with him, girl.”
“What?!” Sunghoon eyes popped open. “Suwon’s better?!!! What—”
“Hey, baby,” Miyoung purred in a husky voice.
Sunghoon squeezed his eyes shut. “Noooooooooooo!”
Miyoung placed a hand on his neck. “How about it? Tonight? I promise I’ll fuck REAL hard.”
“Man, open your damn pussy eyes! Stupid cunt!” Miyoung growled, slapping Sunghoon upside his head.
“Owww!” Sunghoon cried, rubbing the back of his head. He spun around to find his friend walking away, heading towards the black car. “MIYOUNG?!!!” He stared at the familiar black Honda SI, realizing it was Suwon’s car. “What the F—”
Jiwon nudged Sunghoon, cutting him off.
“The hell?!” Sunghoon shrieked. “It-It-It was…THEM!!”
Jiwon raised a brow. “Them what?”
“They-They-They…They’re the ones who wanted to have sex!! Miyoung!” Sunghoon wailed. “What the?!!! That’s not the van!!”
Suwon looked around sheepishly at the accusation. “Yeah, so?”
“How are we gonna fit?! And dammit! That..That was you!!!!” Sunghoon screamed, tearing his hair out. He screamed again, realizing Miyoung and Suwon had seen him…naked.
Miyoung laughed evily and approached Sunghoon again. “Hey..not bad. Do you parade around the streets like that all the time? What are the hours of your business? Lemme know and I’ll come by and holla at cha sometime.”
Sunghoon shuddered at the suggestion.
“Pop the hood,” Suwon called out to Jiwon. “I bet there’s nothing wrong.”
Jiwon turned to Suwon.
“Oh, yeah! His brother’s a mechanic!” Jaeduk reminded them, letting his feet down. He adjusted his clothes. “Pop it! Maybe Suwon can fix it.”
Jiwon glanced at the small Honda parked behind his car and sighed. He popped the hood open and Suwon, along with Jaejin and Jaeduk all gathered around to inspect the engine.
Suwon frowned. “You sure this was at the shop?”
Jiwon narrowed his eyes. “Why?”
“Did you even look under here?”
Jiwon squeezed in with the trio and Miyoung hurried over to join the crowd. Sunghoon leaned on the passenger door, playing with his hair.
“Did you see them open the hood?”
“No. What’s wrong?”
“This!” Suwon picked at the piece of bubble gum, disgusted. “Somebody stuck a piece of gum into your damn Beemer!”
“What the FUCK?!” Jiwon bellowed, shoving Jaejin and Jaeduk aside. “When did this happen?!”
“Couldn’t have been yesterday. The gum’s black and dry. The mechanics obviously chose to miss that one.”
“Damn, fuck nuts! Good thing I didn’t have to pay.”
“There’s nothing technically wrong. You gotta get your oil changed.”
What?!” Jiwon shrieked. “They were supposed to do that!”
“And,” Suwon continued. “Your car needs to be jumped. It’s dead.”
Sunghoon jumped off the door. “I’ll be waiting in the car.” He pointed to Suwon’s car and hurried off. Miyoung ran after him and shoved him away. She ran to Suwon’s Honda as Sunghoon grabbed her by the waist from behind and threw her back.
“You bastard!” she screamed as she landed on her ass. She quickly got up and charged at Sunghoon. She pushed him and he hollered as he hit the seater. “Go in the back!” she yelled and pushed him through the small space.
“Wait! Lemme put the seat down!” Sunghoon wailed.
“No!” Miyoung barked. “Get in there!” She gave him a kick in the ass and he shot forward like a cannon, sprawling across the floor of the car, his feet still hanging out the door.
“Owwww…” he said lifelessly. “Miyoung..my pants. Now I gotta black foot on my ass. My jeans are white, Miyoung…”
She picked up his feet and threw them in, turning Sunghoon into a screwed up pretzel. “Shoulda considered your options.”
Sunghoon pulled himself up and patted himself clean. “I did. Jiwon’s car’s gonna break down again.”
“So…you put the gum there!” she accused.
“No, I didn’t!” Sunghoon cried, shocked at the accusation. “I said it’ll break down again! I didn’t say I made it die! Miyoung!”
She slammed the door shut and left Sunghoon in the car by himself and wandered back to the others. Jaeduk came up to her, talking 150 words per minute and Jaejin stood behind them—laughing. Suwon and Jiwon were still arguing whether to jump the car or not.
“That was great! I saw him fly across the backseat! You shoulda let me try!”
Miyoung smiled meekly and went o Jiwon. She pulled her hair back, the heat killing her. “Are we moving along or what? Jiyong’s probably home already.”
“Jump it!” Suwon growled.
“No,” Jiwon said through gritted teeth. “What if that fucks up my car even more?!”
“I’ll pay for the damages. My brother’ll fix your car.”
Jiwon contemplated the idea but Suwon was already moving. Jaejin and Jaeduk helped while Miyoung and Jiwon stood aside and watched.
“Wait, did I even agree to it and you guys are — ”
Jaejin cut Jiwon off by climbing into the BMW and started the engine.
Miyoung turned to Jiwon. “What were you saying?”
“You need to keep that boy. If you don’t look lock him up, some day, God knows when—I’ll turn gay and take him from you.”
Miyoung shrieked with laughter and went to Suwon’s car. Sunghoon had his face against the window, his hands banging away. She jerked the door open, allowing air into the stuffy vehicle. Sunghoon quickly stuck his head out, inhaling the fresh air.
“Oh, I love you, Miyoung!”
Miyoung stepped into the car and slammed the door shut. Sunghoon leaned back on the seat. “Still love me?”
Sunghoon ignored her.
“So, it’s only the two of us now,” Miyoung said coyly. “How about it?”
“You’re not serious, are you?!” Sunghoon inquired, horrified.
Miyoung turned around. “Of course I’m serious! You think I’m playing with you?!”
Sunghoon gulped. Miyoung’s fiesty. She’d rape him before he could even lift a finger. “What about Suwon?”
“What about him?”
“Won’t..won’t he mind?”
“Mind? Sunghoon, we broke up! It’s his idea to pick you up. I never knew he was into threesomes,” she said with a frown.
“Threesome!?!” Sunghoon gasped. “Suwon’s gay?!”
Miyoung fought to keep from screaming. It was funny. She bit on her lip and watched Sunghoon’s face grow from shock to mortification.
“Oh..my..God..W-W-When did this happen? H-H-How?!!!”
“K, we’re ready to go!” Suwon announced, pulling the door open. He started the engine and felt the tension in the backseat. “You okay, Hoon?”
Sunghoon couldn’t hold back any longer. “Lemme out! Lemme outta here! Why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t anyone tell me?!”
Suwon scoffed, glancing at Miyoung. “Tell you what?”
“You’re gay!” Sunghoon shouted, shaking the passenger seat.
Suwon stiffened, his eye balls close to falling out. Slowly he asked, “Whaaaaaaa?”
Sunghoon rolled his eyes, exasperated. “You’re gay! Why didn’t you tell me?!”
Miyoung burst out laughing, tears streaming down her face.
“Who said I was gay?” Suwon demanded, zooming off. He flew past Jiwon’s car, enraged. He looked over to Miyoung who was clutching her stomach and laughing with her mouth wide open.
“NO!” Suwon thundered. “You believe her?! Of all people!”
“Well…y-y-you know that girlfriend of yours can be pretty convincing at times,” Sunghoon stammered.
“Shut up!” Suwon bellowed, hitting Miyoung’s knee and drove off the next exit.
“Wait till I tell Chomee!” Miyoung gurgled, choking slightly. “She’s gonna flip!”
“Shut up!” Sunghoon cried, slapping Miyoung’s shoulder.
Miyoung simmered, still giggling to herself as Suwon raced with Jiwon down the ramp, nearby traffic honking crazily at them. She saw Jaeduk in the front seat, waving a white box and Jaejin in the back holding onto the headrest of the driver seat.
“Step on it!” Sunghoon gushed, glancing over at Jiwon’s car. “Ohmigod! Ohmigod, Ohmigod! Suwon!!!”
Miyoung focused her attention on the wheels, realizing she never noticed till now. “Oh, MY GOD!!!! SUWON!!!!”
“What?” Suwon said bluntly and kept gunning the gas.
“SUWON! STOP THE CAR!!!!!” Miyoung screamed, terrified. She kept her eyes on Jiwon’s determined face and the rims of his car. They were so close to touching. The cars…
“Why?!!” Suwon shouted.
“No! Don’t stop! That’ll actually scrape the cars..keep moving!” Sunghoon commanded, his face pale.
“Scrape…” Suwon quickly glanced over. “Holy shit!” His foot quickly eased up on the gas pedal, slowing down at least ten times the speed he was going at. Miyoung and Sunghoon jerked backwards in their seat, yelling as they sunk.
“Aha!” Jiwon sneered, shooting miles ahead. He slowed down as he approached the wide rotary to the hospital. “Told you no punk can beat my shit!”
“Actually…Jiyong beated you—” Jaeduk started to say.
“Ahhhh, shut up!” Jiwon cut in. It was true. Give Jiyong a beat up car and he’ll still beat Jiwon anyday. Even if it was a shopping cart and Jiwon’d still lose if he had a racer. “It’s not my fault he got long legs.”
“And Suwon—” Jaeduk tried again.
“I just kicked his ass.”
“Uhhh…actually…I think he slowed down on purpose. Did you see how close your cars were?” Jaejin asked. “He slowed a quarter of a mile down just so you can pass him at the turn back there. If not…we’re all gonna be with Jiyong in the same situation as he’s in.”
JIwon bit his lip and kept quiet. As he pulled up in an empty space, Suwon followed not too far behind. He got out with Jaejin and Jaeduk, all waiting for Suwon to find a parking space. They waited for them at the entrance, Jaeduk walking like a little boy and shaking the little box as if it was a Christmas present. He beamed and smiled.
“Oh, happy day!” he commented. “Hope Jiyong likes this.”
Suwon parked his car and got out. Miyoung and Sunghoon were battling with each other. Miyoung pushed Sunghoon back as Sunghoon kept kicking the seat and screaming for Suwon to help. Suwon laughed at the two and left for the hospital entrance.
“Stay in there!” Miyoung yelled and slammed the door shut. She ran after Suwon and rammed right into Jiwon. “Quick! Let’s go before he gets out! I couldn’t lock him in!” She pulled Jaeduk after her and they hurried to the front desk.
“Damn you…” Sunghoon muttered under his breath. He slammed down the seater and crawled out of the small Honda. He straightened out his clothes and checked out his hair in the mirror before advancing anywhere. “This is what I get for caring. I show a little sympathy and care for you and this is the trouble I have to put up with. Damn you, Ko Jiyong.”
With that, Sunghoon yanked a strand of hair straight and head towards the hospital.
Chomee could only wait. She sat on the stool, watching the hands on the clock tick by. It was slow. She hated it. She wanted to climb up on the wall and turn the time forward. She had to hurry home. She didn’t necessarily have to. She wanted to.
If only she had left earlier. She could tell Mrs. Ko wanted for her to leave. She could see the hatred in the woman’s eyes. Mrs. Ko didn’t like anybody. Period.
Chomee sighed and looked around her, bored. Jiyong had said Sunghoon and Miyoung were supposed to come. But they haven’t showed up yet. She sighed and kept her eyes on the curtain that hid Jiyong in the operating room. She grew impatient. It was going to be two hours and only half an hour passed. She couldn’t wait.
She got up off the stool and left the waiting room. She returned to the main waiting room and quietly entered. Upon her entrance, heads looked up in her direction.
Mrs. Ko the very first.
“What happened?!” Mr. Ko asked, surprised to find Chomee back. “Did something happen?”
Chomee hesitated and shook her head. “No. Nothing happened. I just wanted to come back.”
The tension she had felt two seconds ago, lightened. She silently tiptoed to the other end of the room and picked up a magazine. She took a seat by the window and began flipping through the magazine, feeling uncomfortable. She could feel Mrs. Ko’s eyes — burning a gigantic hole into her brain.
Susan looked and sighed. She soon stood up and left the room. She couldn’t stand sitting for two hours. She retraced her steps and went back outside, the hot sun firing her up a bit. She felt too cold in the waiting room. Especially in the presence of Jiyong’s mother. The woman sure does know how to go below zero. She walked towards the garden. Something she had missed when she first arrived the hospital. It was well hidden. Far away from the parking lot.
It surprised her, however. A hospital with a park…in the city? But then she reminded herself she was in Korea. Not America.
She looked up towards the sky, the sky bluest of blues. The clouds were white and fluffy like cotton candy. She approached a pinic bench and threw down her purse. She glanced at her Gucci watch. Only forty minutes passed. She had another lifetime to wait. She stared off into space.
What would happen…if..
Jiyong could see again? If he rejected her? If..If he saw Chomee? If he..
Susan panicked. There were too many if’s. She chewed on her lower lip. She had to get rid of Chomee. She had to get rid of her.
The minutes were ticking. His hands were shaking. His heart was racing.
“Doctor! Are you feeling well?” an assisting nurse asked. She peered at the doctor, concerned. She noticed how badly he was trembling and motioned for more assistance.
“Con-Contact his family…they’re…”
“Doctor! Are you…”
“I-I-I’m fine..he’s losing blood. It’ll probably damage his eyes even more. I can’t stop the blood flow.”
An attendant ran off to find another doctor while Jiyong’s doctor rushed to clog the problem and everybody ran around, frantic.
It was the first. He had suggested a laser operation, but the board of supervisors were against it. It was safer, although new, but it wasn’t bloody. But..
“What’s wrong?!” Dr. Jong barked, entering the operating room. He shoved the younger doctor aside and stared at the mess. “What’s this?!”
The younger doctor glared at his senior. “I told you all! Laser! But you didn’t believe me!”
Dr. Jong grunted and silenced the doctor in his thirties. “Just go and inform the family. I’ll take care of this here.”
Dr. Kim stormed out of the operating room, angry at the world. Mostly at himself. He should’ve listened to himself and went on ahead with his original plan. Now…his career’s over. Not entirely…Mrs. Ko, herself, didn’t want the surgery to be used with laser. He couldn’t operate without her consent. But..
He was in for it. She’s going to sue his ass and have him fired immediately and see to it that he’ll never get a job ever again. Not even bagging groceries at a local market.
As he neared the door, Mrs. Ko appeared before he could even stop at it. He took a step back, startled. She moves quick, he thought. How’d she find out already?
But the little girl Jiyong had asked to follow came out. Mr. Ko followed not too shortly.
Great. Now they’re ganging up on me, the doctor thought miserably.
Mrs. Ko was the first to stop and recognize him. “Dr. Kim!”
Chomee and Mr. Ko turned in the direction of Mrs. Ko’s voice. They both saw the doctor, pale and sweaty. Chomee’s eyes widened and realized something was wrong. Jiyong was probably calling for her and she left.
“Wh-What’s wrong?!” Chomee cried before the words could even form in Mrs. Ko’s mind. “It’s Jiyong, isn’t it?! Something happened!”
Dr. Kim took a deep breath and looked down at the little girl before him. Her Bambi eyes were filled with worried and…guilt…
Chomee, unknowingly, was about to reach out and grasp the doctor’s arm. But Mrs. Ko moved faster and snatched the girl back. Just as Chomee flew back to the door, nearly tripping upon the sudden jerk, Susan ran down the hall towards them. Susan slowed and saw Chomee fall against the door and froze.
It somehow hurted her. In a way, she was happy. But..she couldn’t help but feel that something was wrong. She could see Jiyong’s mother wasn’t too happy. And the doctor..the doctor Jiyong had disappeared with. She picked up her feet and slowly strolled over to them. She kept glancing around her, looking for Jiyong’s tall figure.
“What happened?!” Mrs. Ko demanded quietly. She knew something was wrong. Operation was two hours. One hour hasn’t even been up yet and the doctor came trudging back looking guilty.
Chomee sniffled and felt a tear roll down her face. It’s my fault..I left him..I shouldn’t have left…I should’ve stay, she said mentally.
Mr. Ko stood aside and took everything in. He saw Susan nearing them and turned to Chomee, who was quietly crying. He turned his attention back to his wife and Dr. Kim. “Did something…unexpected happen?” he asked timidly.
Susan felt her heart stop. Unexpected…
Chomee’s tears stopped flowing as the word left Mr. Ko’s lips. The dreaded, haunting word. Unexpected…
Mrs. Ko’s deadly snake eyes stilled. Why must her husband phrase his questions like that?! She waited for an answer. The answer. Jiyong’s fine. Nothing’s wrong. Nothing could go wrong. She’s spending millions and billions. He can’t lose hope. Everything’s supposed to be fine. Nothing unexpected is supposed to happen. She kept her eyes on the doctor as the word echoed in the deepest valley of her brain. Unexpected…
Dr. Kim licked his lips and adjusted his glasses. “Uhhh…”
Chomee willed herself to move, but she couldn’t. Her legs were stuck. She felt helpless. She pushed herself off the door and fell forward, falling onto the floor in a heap. Susan jumped back, surprised by the sudden collapse.
“Chomee!” Mr. Ko gasped, attending the girl.
Dr. Kim hurried to her too, pulling her up. When he lifted her head, he saw streams of tears all over her face. She was sobbing quietly, painfully…
“Lemme…” she whispered very lightly. “Lemme see him..”
Dr. Kim nodded and helped Chomee to her feet. When he realized she couldn’t stand he picked her up and carried her to the waiting room by the operation room. Jiyong’s parents and Susan followed close behind. They didn’t dare to utter or make a single sound. Dr. Kim placed Chomee on a nearby chair and left for a wheelchair. Chomee sat alone, aloof. The tears dried up and hardened.
Then a yell came.
Chomee snapped out of her mental shell and sat up straight. Jiyong…
“JIYONG!!!” Mrs. Ko screamed, advancing towards the operating room.
Chomee fell out of the chair, trying to stand. She collapsed on the floor while Jiyong’s parents and Susan crowded around the doorway, trying to pry it open. The frustrated tears came again, spilling carelessly all over the place. She grunted as she gradually pulled herself towards their feet.
It was hard. She bit down on her lower lip and went on dragging herself. She had to see Jiyong. She owed it to him. He trusted her and wanted her to be there. She whimpered and felt she couldn’t go on. But she stretched out and found somebody’s heel. She inched forward and gently tapped on the shoe.
“Jiyong,” Chomee breathed, inhaling as another tear rolled off her cheek.
All of a sudden, the door burst open and everybody flew away from the door. Chomee screamed as the three pairs of feet trampled all over her.
Shocked and startled, everybody jumped everywhere, realizing they stepped on something warm and gushy. Chomee laid still on the floor, the pinching pain attacking her from all sides. She moaned then grew silent and wished she was at home with her mom. Then she blinked. She forgot all about leaving. When she left the waiting room with Jiyong’s parents, they had planned on leaving. Then the doctor showed up.
“Chomee?” Dr. Kim said softly. He nudged her gently and and turned her over. “Are you alright?”
Chomee nodded, one last tear slipping from the corner of her eye. “I’m..fine,” she whispered.
“Jiyong’s calling for you. I guess he wants you inside. He just woke up,” the doctor informed her.
Chomee nodded as the doctor picked her up again and placed her into a wheel chair. She sank into the chair, her body aching. Dr. Kim wheeled her in, Mrs. Ko eager to follow.
“I’m sorry. The patient only wishes to see Chomee,” Dr. Kim said flatly.
Mrs. Ko’s face fell. “W-W-What? Th-Th-There must be some mistake. I-I-I’m his mother!”
“Well, he only wishes to see Chomee. Nobody else,” Dr. Kim repeated and closed the door firmly behind him.
Chomee looked tiredly around her. Nurses were running all over the place. Bloody clothes and red was everywhere. “Ji…”
“Jiyong..” she murmured.
Dr. Kim pushed her closer to the operating table and motioned for her to be still. “You’re not supposed to be in here.”
“Cho…Cho…” Jiyong croaked.
“He still has some of the shots in his system. He’s not supposed to wake up so soon. Afterall, the surgery was set for two hours. I don’t think he got the right doses. Be careful.”
“Cho…Chomeeeeeee…” Jiyong moaned.
“Ji…Jiyong,” Chomee whispered, leaning on the table.
Jiyong’s hands searched for hers and she reached for him. “Chooooo…Chomeeee…”
“Hi,” she said gently. “You okay?”
“I’m right here,” Chomee answered, her weak smile faultering.
“He’s still drugged. He might not know you’re talking to him,” Dr. Kim explained.
Chomee nodded and edged closer. It was a nasty sight. He had blood splattered all over his face and white bandages wrapped around his eyes. Something had gone wrong. She turned to the doctor and in her most softest voice asked, “Is..Is he gonna see?”
Dr. Kim looked away. He chewed on his thumb for a few seconds and stood behind Chomee. In a husky, deadpan voice, only spirits can hear, he replied: “Most likely not.”
“What?!” Miyoung shrieked. “Why?!”
Jiwon pulled Miyoung back and quickly stepped up to the receptionist. “Excuse me, miss. You don’t understand. This is deathly important. You have to let us see him.”
The girl behind the desk frowned. “Well, I have special orders. You can’t see this patient. I’m afraid you’ll have to wait. He’s in surgery right now.”
“What?!” Jaeduk shouted. “Surgery? What happened?”
“I’m not allowed to release medical conditions or more information. Please step aside and wait in the waiting room.”
Miyoung felt the urge to walk behind the counter and smack the rude bitch upside her head. But Jiwon saw the urge and dragged her back. Miyoung had to bite down on her tongue to keep from kicking the desk. She spat on the pile of papers before the receptionist and let Jiwon and Jaejin take her away.
Sunghoon, being nosy as usual, had left the others when he entered the hospital. He went snooping around and found himself drifting away from his friends. When he realized he had gone too far, he tried to retrace his steps back to the main lobby where he left his friends. Then something caught his eyes.
Gucci watch. LV purse.
Sunghoon felt his heart skip a beat. Susan. He tiptoed towards her and saw her pacing back and forth in a room. It looked like another waiting room. He saw Jiyong’s parents sitting in the far end corner. Somebody was missing.
He knocked on the window pane and waited. He saw Susan stop and turn towards the window. Thank God he was tall enough to see past the gap over the curtains. He saw Susan narrow her eyes and headed towards the opened door.
A hiccup escaped Sunghoon’s lips as he neared the door and waited for Susan to appear. When she did, her expression changed from one of a great mixture to pure surprise.
“Hoony!” she greeted a bit loud. “W-W-What are you doing here?”
“Funny, I was gonna ask the same thing,” Sunghoon replied, folding his arms across his chest. He leaned against the wall beside him and stared at Susan.
“I’m waiting for Jiyong. Chomee’s inside the operating room,” Susan mumbled.
“That’s the operating room?” Sunghoon asked, nodding at the room Susan was in.
“Yeah. Hoony! It’s not good. They’re taking forever. And…And they said something happened. They didn’t tell us what. But Chomee knows. She’s inside and won’t come out!” Susan finally blurted.
“What?” Sunghoon said. “Something happened? What do you mean by that?!”
Then the door to the operating room opened. Chomee was wheeled out by Dr. Kim and Sunghoon bounced off the wall. Everybody went to the doctor and Sunghoon allowed himself in after Susan and found Chomee on a wheelchair. “Chomee!”
Chomee looked up slowly from her bloody hands. Her eyes wandered for a while and eventually found a friendly face. “Sunghoon,” she whispered with a smile.
“Chomee!” Sunghoon cried again and ran to her. He knelt before her grabbed her hands. “What happened? How come you’re bloody? Are you alright?”
“We’ll give her a checkup and clean her up a bit. She shouldn’t have any problems,” Dr. Kim responded, still holding onto the wheelchair.
“B-B-But…what’s with the wheelchair?” Sunghoon asked, looking into Chomee’s expressionless face. “What’s wrong, Chomee? Chomee?”
“He’s not fine,” she said in a very small voice. She stared at her hands entwined with Sunghoon’s and repeated herself. “Jiyong’s…not good.”
“What?” Sunghoon murmured in the same tone as Chomee. “What..What do you mean..”
Dr. Kim turned to Jiyong’s parents. “I’m afraid I have bad new for you. But I have to see to it that this girl here gets proper treatment. I’ll be you shortly. Dr. Jong is now attending your son. He’ll be out with Jiyong and he’ll be placed in a room.”
“Chomee,” Sunghoon pleaded. “Talk to me. What’s wrong?”
Chomee kept the faraway look. “Everything..”
Sunghoon left with Chomee and spotted his friends milling around. He went to his friends and reported what Chomee had told him seconds ago.
“WHAT?!” Jiwon screamed. He grabbed Sunghoon by the collar and shook the boy hard. “What happened?! Nothing was supposed to happen!”
Sunghoon flopped for a while longer before Jaejin and Suwon removed Jiwon’s hands. Jaeduk stood behind Sunghoon as support and helped still Sunghoon. “You think I know?! I’m telling you what Chomee told me!”
“Chomee? She’s here?!” Miyoung asked, joining Jiwon. “Where is she?”
Sunghoon turned to Miyoung. “She looks horrible. I think whatever happened shocked the living hell outta her. It must’ve been bad. She look so lost. She had blood all over her hands…”
Jiwon’s jaw fell open, his eyes gone soft. “Blood? How’d that happen?”
“That what I’m trying to find out. She was in the operating room while Susan and his parents were outside waiting,” Sunghoon told them.
“Where is she now?” Miyoung asked, worried.
“She’s getting a checkup now. And..she was in a wheelchair,” Sunghoon said in a hushed voice.
“What?” Jaeduk squealed. “Wheelchair?”
Sunghoon nodded and looked directly at Jiwon. “I think Jiyong’s jinxed.”
Enraged, Jiwon hollered: “Don’t fuckin say that!”
Sunghoon and Jaeduk shrank back. Everybody else remained silent and all thought about what to do for the time being. With the newly discovered information Sunghoon provided, nobody wanted to believe a single word of it. But all they could do was wait. Pray for the best. Hope for the best.
Yet, wait for the worst.
Jiyong, close to gaining conscious, opened his eyes. Or at least thought he did. He remained still and felt himself move backwards. Somebody was pushing him. Wait..it wasn’t somebody. It was some people.
He felt himself turn. They must have rounded a corner and down another long corridor. He knew that because they kept going in a straight line. Something wasn’t right. It was dark. The hospital must be out of power again. Then he slowed down to a halt.
His room. They’re pushing me into my room, he realized. But he felt like he’s entrapped in a daze. He was wrapped in a cacoon and he was suffocating. Where was Chomee?
Chomee…he just remembered. Where was she? They’ve taken her away. Where were his parents? Why is it so dark? He kept quiet and waited for everybody to leave, then turned to his side. It was strange. He felt drowsy. Then clear a few seconds later and then he’d feel stuffy and sleepy again.
He returned to his original position on the bed and stayed still again. He felt stiff. He tried turning his head and found his neck sore. He then remembered he was at the hospital. He was there and so was Chomee. She was right next to him and then…and then she disappeared. They took him some where and she was left behind.
Surgery. His eyes. It all came to him. He was supposed to have a two hour surgery on his eyes. Was the two hours up already? He felt confused and lost. Was it night or day? It was so dark. Was the power out again?
He reached up to feel his eyes and nearly jumped out of his skin. Instead of feeling his face, he felt something else. Something else was in place of his eyes. He gently touched the thing and felt around his face.
He was bandaged. The material was coarse and itching the hell out of him. He stayed still and waited. It was all silent and chilly. Could he see again? He wanted to see Chomee first. But..what if she left? She said she’d to leave once he regains his vision. She couldn’t leave him. Not now. Not after he’s able to see again.
He went on worrying and his head spun in so many different directions. It was so dark. He remembered the night of the attack. The night when the killer climbed in and tried to kill him. He shivered at the flashback and tried to hide further into his bed. He felt dizzy and fought to still his mind.
His temples pounded as he felt the effect of the shot kicking in once again. Everything became a blur and he couldn’t think clearly anymore. It was all silent as he fell into a deep ravine of unconsciousness.
Mrs. Ko sat on the edge of her chair, wringing her dress. She sat in between Susan and her husband, waiting for the results.
Nothing could be wrong. Hopefully not, she prayed silently.
Dr. Jung, along with Dr. Kim, each reviewed the records. They exchanged glances and Dr. Kim sighed. There was no hope. Nothing at all. But there was some strange indiction on the file about Jiyong’s medical history…something wasn’t right.
Dr. Jung spoke up. “Mr. Ko. Mrs. Ko.”
“What are his chances?” Mrs. Ko blurted, her heart close to exploding with anticipation.
Dr. Jung sighed. Solemnly, he replied: “Not good.”
Mrs. Ko felt herself go. The whole world was closing in on her and there was nothing she could do. She released her grasp on her dress and clutched at her poor heart. She did all she could and still failed. Her first failure. She couldn’t stand failure and she shoot icy glares at the doctor, seething with anger. “How could this have happened?! I was told he’d see! He’d recover fully! What’s this bullshit?!!”
Dr. Kim remained silent and kept his eyes on the charts. It wasn’t right. Unless he’s right…
“Nothing is guaranteed, Mrs. Ko. Especially when you’re dealing with medical science. And most specially when you’re dealing with taking risks and chances. Nothing. Nothing is guaranteed one hundred percent.”
“Damn you medical fucks!” Mrs. Ko belted out. “I donated millions of dollars here and I spent fortunes! This is the fuckin shit I get for my generosity?!”
Dr. Kim sat up a little straighter and turned to the report on the next page. He quickly reviewed the notes and turned to Dr. Jung. “Are they still running tests?”
Dr. Jung, startled by the sudden inquiry, blinked several times. “Y-Y-Yes…I believe so.”
Mrs. Ko then shot her eyes over to the doctor responsible for Jiyong’s mishap. “YOU!”
Dr. Kim’s eyebrows shot up. “Uh?”
“You malpractitioner! Where’s your degree?! Lemme see your certificates!” Mrs. Ko demanded.
“My degree? Lady, there’s something wrong with you. Lemme ask you something,” Dr. Kim shot back. “Lemme see your tax forms. You sure you’re not corrupt? Lemme see your donation slips. How could I be sure you’re not donating black money to this hospital? Lemme see your I.D. You’re probably not even Mrs. Ko as you claim that you are!”
Mr. Ko shot to his feet and slammed a fist down on the desk that came in between him and the doctors. “Dr. Kim!”
Dr. Kim looked up at the man. “Just because you’re rich, doesn’t mean you get special benefits or priviledges. You don’t get to have everything your way. I understand you’re frustrated because Jiyong can’t see. But have you ever asked him how he feels about things? When we went into surgery, Jiyong stated he didn’t even agree to the surgery!”
The couple sealed their lips and looked off away from the doctors. Tension and uncomfortable silence hung between them as they all retreated back to their worlds. Dr. Jung looked over to Dr. Kim disapprovingly and frowed.
Dr. Kim sighed and closed Jiyong’s file. “I’m not allowed to discuss Jiyong’s medical history with you, but apparently…there has been some irregularities I’m afraid I have to point out.”
Mrs. Ko looked up. Though she hated the doctor, she couldn’t misdirect her gaze once upon hearing those words. “What irregularities?”
“Mrs. Ko, are you aware that your son has received none or close to not even having one session of therapy till the past weeks?”
Mrs. Ko forcefully dipped her head and swallowed. Jiyong was so angry he didn’t even talk to her for the whole year he was blind. He ignored her and didn’t even bother acknowledging her. He was so bitter and barked at everybody around him. She eventually backed off and didn’t even bother contacting him.
Dr. Kim sighed and gave up. “I’m going to see him. Hopefully the tests are over.”
“What test?” Mrs. Ko snapped, watching the doctor rise to his feet.
“We have assistants putting him through tests. They should be finished. I’m checking on him now.”
Dr. Jung didn’t hold Kim back and let him leave. He then spoke up. “Mrs. Ko. I hope you understand we’re doing everything we can.”
“Uhmmm,” Susan interrupted. She glanced around her and asked: “What exactly happened?”
“There was excessive blood loss. We’re afraid Jiyong won’t be able to see due to this tremendous loss. We’re doing all we can to help,” Dr. Jung replied.
“Blood loss? How’d that happen?” Mr. Ko asked.
“It’s…hard to explain. I’m not entirely certain of what happened. I only took over to stop the blood flow. I’m only aware that Jiyong’s chances of recovering’s 50/50.”
Mrs. Ko hissed and held her breath. Only 50/50. This is so unfair, she thought.
Dr. Jung nodded and studied each sullen face. They reminded him of gargoyles. He leaned back in his chair and watied. Maybe he should’ve gone with Kim. He wasn’t confortable waiting around with families of patients. He stood and cleared his throat. “I will be with Dr. Kim. I’ll return with the results.” He quickly left the room and went to find Dr. Kim.
If the patient does recover, he’ll be gratefully happy and retire in two weeks. If not, then he’ll feel guilty and wait for the board of superiors to bitch the fuck out of him. He sighed and spotted Dr. Kim standing outside Jiyong’s room. He found it strange and approached the man. “Dr. Kim.”
“Huh?” Dr. Kim looked up from Jiyong’s files.
“Why are you out here? Shouldn’t you be inside?”
“They’re finishing up. Look!” Dr. Kim shoved Jiyong’s file into Dr. Jung’s hands. “Tell me I’m not wrong.”
Dr. Jung gave Dr. Kim a strange look before accepting the charts.
“He’s stable at the moment. Remember how you checked him after you stopped the blood? These are the results. Tell me what you see.”
Dr. Jung carefully reviewed the grids and notes the other doctors scribbled down. They were all the same. Nothing he saw was out of the ordinary. “I don’t get it.”
“Look in between the numbers on pages one through five. Don’t they look disturbing?”
Dr. Jung stared at the numbers, taking the hint. He still couldn’t see what was wrong. He slowly walked away, from the door and without realizing it, he went to the lounge. He placed everything flat out on the table while Dr. Kim left to get coffee.
Numbers in between. One through five.
Then he spotted it. Page three. Dr. Kim returned with two cups of steaming coffee and handed one over to him. “Thanks.”
Dr. Kim nodded and sat on a nearby couch, waiting for Dr. Jung.
Page one and two, the numbers were low but steady. But on page three, one small mark skipped and went a notch higher. That made a difference. Pages four and five, the marks were higher and were expected to be.
Dr. Jung felt his heart stop at the discovery. He turned to the young doctor on the couch and paused. That would mean… “You’re thinking?”
“Let’s take his bandages off.”
Sunghoon held onto Chomee’s small figure as they all headed down to Jiyong’s room. With Jiwon and Jaejin leading the way, Miyoung, Suwon and Jaeduk were following close behind.
A nurse came by looking for Chomee in the waiting room earlier, announcing the good news. Chomee—cleaned up and refreshed—along with Jiyong’s friends all screamed with joy and surprise. Jiwon and everybody else jumped up and started hugging each other fiercely.
Meanwhile, Dr. Jung reported what Dr. Kim had found in the documentation. The excessive blood loss cleared whatever problem Jiyong had that caused the temporary lack of eyesight.
Mrs. Ko then recalled Jiyong never had a thorough checkup the day of the accident. The doctor responsible that day just cleaned him up and gave him treatment to the visible injuries. He never mentioned anything about vision problems. It was Jiyong who woke up and they all found out he was blind.
“Would you like to see him?” Dr. Jung asked, bringing Mrs. Ko’s attention back to the present.
Mrs. Ko bobbed her head and quickly got to her feet. Susan and Mr. Ko did the same and all four of them headed for the door.
“I’m sorry, immediate family only,” Dr. Kim said, blocking the doorway to Jiyong’s room.
“What?! Haven’t we waited long enough?!” Jaeduk shrieked.
Miyoung agreed. “We are his immediate family. We have to see him.”
“Please?” Chomee pleaded with her wide eyes. She hugged Sunghoon tighter, her arms circling his waist as his arm rested on her shoulders.
“Where’s his parents?” Jaejin asked, looking around. “Aren’t they here?”
“Another doctor has gone to speak with them,” Dr. Kim replied.
“Why can’t we just see him? Just let us in there for five minutes and we’ll leave,” Suwon said.
“Yeah! Before his meanie parents come!” Jaeduk added.
Jiwon laughed at Jaeduk’s input and turned to the doctor. “Please, doctor. We’ve all waited for this important day. We’re here to wish him luck and see how well he’s doing. Like Jaeduk and Suwon said, we won’t be long. His parents doesn’t have to know. You can kick us out after he talks to us.”
Dr. Kim debated with himself. If everything was entirely up to him, he’d let them stay 24 hours. But it wasn’t. And the young man did say he could kick them out later. “Okay. Make it quick. I’m doing this against policy.” He held the door for the children as they all scampered inside. He closed the door and kept guard outside. Just in case if things came up..
“Ddo Chi!” Jaeduk shrieked, the first to reach Jiyong. “Happy Get Up Day!”
Jiyong’s head cocked towards the voice. “Jaeduk?”
“Yes! Once you can see again, you open this box!” Jaeduk placed the present by Jiyong’s hand.
“What is it?” Jiyong asked, feeling the box.
“What if I don’t?”
“Who else’s here?” Jiyong asked, breaking the silence.
“We’re all here!” Miyoung replied happily.
“Where’s Chomee?” Jiyong demanded, suddenly remembering she came with him.
Sunghoon nudged her and pulled her closer to the bed. “She’s right here.”
Jiyong reached out and touched Sunghoon’s hand. “You’re not Chomee. She has small soft hands. Where is she?”
Jaeduk giggled and watched Jiyong caress Sunghoon’s hand then flung it aside. He took a seat by the window and scratched his head. Everybody else started talking all at once and for once, Jiyong actually laughed.
It was strange. Everything seemed like it was back to normal. Jiyong’s going to see and everybody wasn’t sure of how to act around him. They all wanted to be cautious, but didn’t want to treat him like a fragile piece of china. They laughed for about another five minutes before the door flew open, interrupting them.
Everybody stilled and all heads turned to the door to find Jiyong’s parents, Susan and both doctors standing by the door.
“Don’t worry. You’re not in trouble, but I do need for you to leave. There’s too many of you guys here,” Dr. Jung explained. “You all can continue this reunion after he’s released.”
Up till now, Jiyong’s friends all sighed with relief. They all bid Jiyong farewell for the time being and headed for the door.
“Wait!” Jiyong called out abruptly.
Everybody halted and didn’t dare to move.
“Can Chomee stay?” he asked quietly.
Glances were exchanged and Sunghoon looked down at Chomee as she looked over to the adults. Mrs. Ko and Dr. Jung nodded together. Sunghoon hugged Chomee one last time and smiled at her. He quickly followed Jiwon and Miyoung out, leaving Chomee behind.
Chomee looked helplessly after Sunghoon and her eyes traveled to Mrs. Ko. She shrank back and stood alone by herself by the door as the remaining people all went closer to Jiyong.
“Chomee?” Jiyong called. He heard at least ten pairs of feet shuffling around but nobody spoke up. “Did she leave?”
“N-No,” Chomee stammered and slowly approached his bed.
“Chomee!” Jiyong cried with a bright smile. “I thought you left me! Stand next to me. I want you to be the first person I see.”
Chomee gave him a small smile but kept her distance. She felt two hawk-like glares burning her entire body and she couldn’t help not shivering.
Mrs. Ko reached over and tapped Chomee on the shoulder. She leaned over to the girl and whispered one word in her ear. “Remember.”
Chomee felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. She gave Mrs. Ko the biggest her eyes could go. She wasn’t thinking of pulling the plan into action. Not now! Not when they’re so close…
Mrs. Ko nodded, understanding the risk and how much was at stake. But Jiyong must not see her!
Chomee could only dip her head and move towards Susan. Things weren’t going exactly how they had thought it would. Jiyong’s two hour surgery was cut back more than an hour which doesn’t give them much time. No matter what, Mrs. Ko had told her, they must leave before Jiyong could see.
As the bandage slowly unraveled around his head, Chomee back away from the bed. Susan stepped forward in Chomee’s place and waited anxiously for Jiyong to look at her.
“Chomee,” he called out, feeling for Chomee’s hand.
“I’m right here,” she responded, watching Jiyong’s hand inching for Susan’s. He smiled with satisfaction and nodded as if pleased.
“Jiyong,” Susan said sweetly.
Jiyong scowled at the fake voice and snatched his hand away. “Where’s Chomee? You’re not Chomee. I want Chomee!”
“Jiyong. I’m right here,” Chomee answered softly.
“No. I want you next to me. I need your hand. Not hers,” he spat.
Susan sighed, frustrated by the whole ordeal. Chomee squeezed in between the doctor and Susan.
“Jiyong,” Chomee said quietly.
Jiyong’s ears plucked at the voice. His hand shot out and held tightly onto Chomee’s hand.
“Jiyong. You’re hurting my hand,” Chomee lied, feeling uncomfortable under his mother’s fiery gaze.
He loosened his grip and nodded happily.
“I’m afraid you have to let go,” said Dr. Jung.
“It won’t be for long,” the doctor was quick to add. Mrs. Ko had explained the situation to him, hoping he could help distract Jiyong for a little while.
“Listen to the doctor,” Mrs. Ko begged.
“Yes, please listen,” his father agreed.
“Jiyong. The sooner the bandage comes off, the sooner you can leave,” Chomee said convincingly.
Jiyong immediately release his hold of Chomee’s hand and Chomee and Susan swaped places. Mrs. Ko and Susan exchanged glances and nodded simultaneously. Chomee silently tiptoed out of the room accompanied by Jiyong’s mother.
“Thank you so much for your services and cooperation. I really appreciate it,” Mrs. Ko smiled wanly.
Chomee responded with a slight smile, rather tight and reluctant. Uncomfortable silence hung between the two as they walked out of the hospital. It was all over. They made it. She made it.
“Here’s your money and I’ve included a bonus for being so wonderful to my son. I’m sorry this is so sudden,” Mrs. Ko said bluntly. She handed Chomee a check and locked her lips tightly.
Chomee accepted the check and folded it without looking at the amount and pocketed it. “Thank you,” she whispered, keeping her head low.
“When you get back home, wish your mother well for me,” Mrs. Ko said sincerely, her eyes on the petite child.
Chomee nodded numbly, not sure of how to reply.
“Don’t worry about transportation. I’ll have one of my servants drive you home. That way you don’t have to wait so long.”
Chomee nodded again and murmured another, “Thank you.”
Chomee looked up, startled by the way how the woman had said that. “Yes?”
“I’d appreciate it if you and Jiyong don’t meet. You know, with Susan and all. I’d allow letters, but in the current circumstances…”
Chomee nodded, understanding Mrs. Ko’s demands. “I understand. No contact what-so-ever.”
Mrs. Ko pursed her lips. “Yes.”
“Thank you for everything,” Chomee said humbly. “I must go now. Say goodbye to Jiyong for me.”
“I will,” Mrs. Ko assured her.
“Take care.” Chomee cast one last look at the hospital and walked away, heading towards the Mercedes Benz that awaited for her to aboard. The chaeuffer opened the door and she stepped right in, settling in quickly.
“I have to get away from here,” she said to herself. The overwhelming feeling she was suddenly having was suffocating her. She picked up her heavy feet and curled into a ball on the seat. She turned to look out the window, her heart heavy.
She promised Jiyong she’d be there.
And she broke it.
Jiyong held his breath as he felt each layer peeled away from his face. He was seconds away from seeing Chomee. It was only a matter of seconds and he could open his eyes and see the world again.
The material was getting lighter and lighter. Soon he felt the last of it fall from his eyes and sending a feeling of coolness to his head. He blinked, not seeing anything.
It was pitch dark and he kept blinking. Holy, fucking crap! I can’t see, he thought. He closed his eyes and tried to keep his peace. He slowly reopened them to see darkness.
Mrs. Ko returned just in time to find her husband and Susan hovering over her son. She quickly scurried over to join the others. She gasped softly, watching her son’s eyes flutter like a butterfly’s wing.
He was blinking furiously, still not seeing anything. He felt something deep within him about explode. All the hope and wishes he had built up inside him was all a waste. He suddenly stopped and squeezed his eyes shut. He had to see. He just had to! He promised himself he’d see. He vowed to himself that he’d see Chomee. Before he dies, he had to see her.
“Chomee!” he cried, the anger now dissolving to fear. “Chomee!”
Mrs. Ko stopped in her tracks. She looked over to Susan. They stared at each other for a good minute before tending to Jiyong. Mrs. Ko neared Jiyong on the other side of the bed and reached out to smooth the hair back from his face. “Jiyong..”
“Oma! Where’s Chomee?” Jiyong demanded, taking his mother’s hand.
“She..She’s in the bathroom, darling.”
Jiyong nodded and his eyes flew open. It was so unfair. All the hope he had worked up was all for nothing. He stayed still as his head rolled from side to side, waiting for Chomee to come back.
He saw something. It was faint. Very, very faint.
“Jiyong?” Dr. Jung called. “Jiyong..can you see anything?”
It was dark, then it got lighter. Lighter. Lighter. A lot lighter. White..he saw white. “N-N-No..” Jiyong stammered uncertainly. “I can’t see anything.”
“What do you see?”
Dr. Jung raised a brow. White light? “Anything else?”
Anything else? Jiyong squinted, the light surprising him. He was momentarily blinded by the sudden light and held up a hand. A shadow came over his eyes. He moved his hand and saw the shadow move. His hand. It was his hand. He pulled his hand closer to his face, the color getting darker. He could see!
Mrs. Ko bit her lip. Pray to God he’s able to see. She looked down at her hands that were tightly clutching the rails of the bed, her knuckles snow white. She released her grasp and continued watching her son observe his hand.
He could see a shape. It was his hand. It was blurry, but getting clearer. A face appeared before his. Chomee! It was Chomee! He blinked a few more times, his vision clearing by the minute. Chomee looked somewhat familiar. Then he saw long hair. Immediately he knew something was wrong. Chomee has short hair. Not long.
Then it got clearer. Susan. Her face was still blurred, but he could tell it was her. A few other heads appeared with Susan’s and he was hoping one of them would be Chomee.
He slowly let his eyes adjust to the images around him. He turned his face to look at the room before focusing on the people.
“Jiyong,” Susan said with a smile.
“Where’s Chomee?” He knew Chomee wasn’t in no bathroom. “Where is she?!”
Susan’s smile fell. She glanced at Jiyong’s mother and held her breath. All she knows is that Chomee’s leaving. Where to? She has no idea.
“Jiyong, honey,” his mother cooed. “I’m so glad you can see. Can you see me? What am I wearing?”
“What you always wear. Clothes.”
Mrs. Ko stared at her son in shock. Is this the good Chomee left behind in her son?!
Jiyong sat up on the bed and swung his legs over the rails.
“Jiyong,” the doctor said sternly, stopping him. “You can’t move around. Please remain still.”
Jiyong, regardless, hopped off the bed and ran to the door.
“Stop him!” Mrs. Ko shouted, pushing her husband after her child. “He’s not completely well!”
Susan tried her best to go after Jiyong, but her shoes weren’t helping compared to Jiyong’s flat soles. Plus he had long legs. She clattered down the long hallway while Jiyong ran here and there, trying to find his friends.
Jiwon, just leaving the restroom found Jiyong running past him. Startled, Jiwon blinked and rushed after the tall boy. He pulled on Jiyong’s arm, jerking him back. “Jiyong!”
Upon hearing the familiar voice did Jiyong stop. He spun around to find Jiwon staring at him. “Jiwon!”
“What are you doing?”
“Where’s Chomee?!” Jiyong demanded, his hands on Jiwon’s elbow. He shook Jiwon. “Where is she?”
“Chomee? The little girl?”
“Isn’t she with you? You asked her to stay and we left her behind. Didn’t she stay?”
Jiyong released Jiwon and tiled his head back.
“Can you see now? What am I wearing?”
Jiyong looked down at Jiwon’s outfit? “What’s with everybody asking me what they’re wearing?”
“So, can you go home now?”
The question reminded Jiyong his parents are still in pursuit. “Yeah, c’mon!” He pulled Jiwon after him, breaking into a run.
“Why are we running?”
“You got your car?”
“Good. Lemme use it.”
Before Jiwon could agree, a nurse stopped them and warned them of running. Jiyong and Jiwon nodded again and again before dashing off again.
“Where are we going?” Jiwon asked, slowing down. He headed towards the waiting room and placed his hand on the door just as it swung open.
“Where are you going? Your car’s in there?” Jiyong asked.
Sunghoon stepped out and screamed.
Miyoung and Jaeduk fell off their chairs right when Jaejin clamped a hand over Sunghoon’s mouth. Everybody tripped over each other just to get to the door to see what Sunghoon was screaming about.
“It’s Jiyong!” Sunghoon cried, pointing at his friend. “It’s Jiyong and his eyes are moving!”
“What am I wearing?” Miyoung asked.
“Did you see my present?”
“How does my hair look?” Sunghoon asked, standing directly in front of Jiyong. He brushed aside a lock of hair and smiled.
Jiyong laughed. “A gay bastard. That’s how you look.”
Jaeduk and Miyoung cackled at the comment as Jiwon screamed, “Oh, shit! He can see!”
Sunghoon stuck his tongue out at Jiwon and snorted.
“So we can leave now?” Suwon asked.
Jiyong looked around him and nodded vehemently. “The sooner the better.”
“What’s wrong?” Jaejin asked.
“Where’s Chomee?” Miyoung asked, realizing Chomee was missing.
“I’m trying to find out myself!” Jiyong replied.
“Uh-oh,” Jiwon interrupted with a hiccup.
Jiyong looked in the direction Jiwon was looking at and found his parents approaching them.
“Uh-oh? What do you mean by that?” Jaeduk demanded.
“RUN!” Jiyong screamed and sprinted down the hallway. Jiwon and Sunghoon followed close behind, pulling and pushing each other towards the exit to the parking lot.
They flew out the door and slowed to find their friends but stopped short when nobody was behind them.
“What the…” Sunghoon started but got cut off as his phone rang. He dug into his the pocket of his jeans and flipped the cell open. “What?”
Jiyong cocked a brow.
“That’s how he answers his phone. Either that or he screams ‘WHO?!’ like an owl.”
“WHAT?!” Sunghoon bellowed. “Okay, okay, okay…yeah..” He started pushing Jiyong and Jiwon towards the Beemer. “Go! Go, go, go, go!” He nodded a few more times and ended the call. “Go! They’re holding your parents and Susan back. Miyoung’s fighting with Susan right now.”
“Word?” Jiyong scoffed. He took Jiwon’s keys and climbed into the car. “I hope Miyoung gives her a good smack across the face.”
“I hope Miyoung kicks her in the face. I already smacked her,” Jiwon told Jiyong.
“You what?!” Jiyong and Sunghoon chorused.
“When?” Jiyong demanded, pulling out of the space. He headed towards the exit ramp, trying to think of which direction to go.
“A while back. I slapped her cause she screamed. I forgot what about though,” Jiwon answered with a frown.
Jiyong snickered. “Probably cause you wouldn’t buy her that LV wallet she wanted. Don’t matter. As long as you slapped the bitch.”
Sunghoon couldn’t think of anything to say just nodded and agreed. He remained silent while Jiyong drove and Jiwon toyed with his system. It occured to him a while later that he had no idea where they were going and why they were running from Jiyong’s parents. He looked over to Jiyong who was gripping on the steeling wheel with one hand and racing through the traffic in the city while Jiwon was changing cds and playing with the mirrors.
“Slow down!” Jiwon yelled, holding onto the dash board.
Jiyong ignored his request and sped up.
“You dumb ass! Are you forgetting that you were blind not too long ago?!” Jiwon thundered. Only the screeching wind could be heard as the three second pause in between tracks came on.
Jiyong kept his eyes on the road and picked up speed. He had to see Chomee. He just had to.
“Hey, kid,” Sunghoon interrupted. “How do you know which way Chomee went since she left the hospital while you were still in there?”
“Shit,” Jiwon muttered.
“Call my mom. She has to know,” Jiyong said bitterly.
Sunghoon flipped open his cell and handed it over to Jiyong.
“Oma?! Where the hell is she?!!” Jiyong barked.
Jiwon sat back in the seat, stunned by Jiyong’s hostility.
“Oma, if you don’t tell me what you’ve done to her, you better get ready to call the morgue!” Jiyong threatened.
“No!” Sunghoon shouted. “I’m too young to die!”
“Jiyong? Jiyong, honey! Where are you?!” Susan squealed, snatching the phone from Mrs. Ko.
“I was talking to my mother,” Jiyong replied coldly. “Where is Chomee?”
“Chomee? She went — ”
“Jiyong, come back!” his mother commanded, taking the phone away from Susan. “I’ll call Chomee and have her come back.”
“That’s not good enough. Which way did she go?” Jiyong repeated.
Mrs. Ko reluctantly gave in and started to answer not realizing her phone was dying out. “I-I-I sent her — ”
“Oma? OMA! OMA! Dammit! Shit’s fuckin dead!” Jiyong tossed the phone back to Sunghoon, cursing loudly out the window.
Sunghoon stared at his phone, baffled. “Jiyong, your mom’s phone died. Not mine.”
“I know that. Her phone’s always dead.”
“Oh!” Sunghoon closed his cell and slipped it back in his pocket.
Jiyong thought back to the times when he had conversations with Chomee. Where would she go?
“Where are we going?” Jiwon asked, noticing Jiyong’s slowing down.
Jiyong’s mind wandered, searching for hints Chomee left in their conversations together. She said she attend school in Seoul but her home’s in Pusan. She didn’t have any friends other than Miyoung. Where would she go?
“Where would she go?” Sunghoon asked, voicing out Jiyong’s thoughts.
Her mother. Chomee constantly spoke of her mother. Home..the only ‘real’ home she ever had was with her mother in Pusan. Her mother’s there! That night Chomee had to go away…
“What’s the quickest way to Pusan?”
Jiwon blinked. “Pusan? Train, bus? Car? I dunno! I’ve never been there!”
“Didn’t Jaejin say that you have to take a ferry or sumthin like that?” Sunghoon piped.
“Chomee didn’t take no boat out here.” Jiyong dismissed the idea.
“No, wait…she did. Suwon brought her home one night and he called me for a ride,” Jiwon said, recalling the night.
“Fuck it. Which way to Pusan?”
“South,” Sunghoon answered.
“I know that. Which exit do I take?!”
“Bus terminal next exit. Go ask,” Jiwon suggested.
“Dammit. I hate girls,” Jiyong growled.
After a long debate with herself, Chomee decided to take the boat home. She’d prefer the bus, but it’d be a hike to her house. “How much longer?”
“Not long, miss. About another hour?”
“Is it possible..I would like to take the ferry home.”
“I have orders, Miss Chomee.”
“Puyin won’t know. If you don’t tell, I won’t tell…besides, you’ll get back to the city late.”
The driver nodded, agreeing.
“You can just drop me off at the next stop. It’s not too far. I’ll go from there.”
“What about your luggage?”
“It’s not much, I can manage.”
The driver nodded again and kept his eyes on the road. Chomee settled back in the seat and turned to watch the scenary go by again.
“It won’t be long, Miss Chomee,” the driver announced.
Chomee smiled. She was going home. Once again.
“Kamsa hamnida,” Sunghoon said, bending slightly at the waist. He hurried back to Jiwon’s car, his hair bright in the afternoon sun. “Kids, we’re in for a longggg ride.”
“How far?” Jiwon asked.
“We gotta turn back. We missed the route to the ferry. If we continue along this way, it’ll take us there, but it’ll be more than 48 hours since everybody travels this way.”
“Shit!” Jiyong cursed loud enough to wake up the dead.
Sunghoon’s cell rang annoyingly and he dug inside his pocket for it. “Yeboseyo?”
Sunghoon handed the phone over to Jiyong. “Your mom.”
“What?” Jiyong growled.
“Jiyong, she came back!” Mrs. Ko lied.
“Man! You’re so full of it!” Jiyong hung up before his mother could even reply. “Let’s go. We’re wasting time.”
“You’re wasting my gas,” Jiwon pointed out.
“I’ll pay for it, don’t worry.”
“You’re talking to rich boy here,” Sunghoon reminded Jiwon. The cell sounded again and Sunghoon answered it as Jiyong pulled away, heading towards the highway. “Your mom said she had one of the servants drive Chomee home. He’s not back yet.”
“Which way?” Jiyong demanded.
“She hung up.”
“Suwon told me the other day she only knows the way home by boat,” Sunghoon said. “You think she knows how to get there by car?”
Jiyong shook his head. “She wouldn’t agree to a ride home. She’s probably on a boat or a bus.”
“I knew I should’ve had my airbags checked out! Put your seatbelts on! We’re gonna die!” Jiwon screamed.
“Hyung! You got insurance, right?!” Sunghoon shrieked.
Jiwon, too frightened to utter a word, bobbed his head slightly.
“Good! Once we find Chomee, we’re leaving them two behind!”
Chomee tugged on her luggage, now left all by herself. It was a weepy goodbye. She had to push the chauffeur away in order to get him to leave. He insisted on driving her home and she was grateful. But she felt so cold and uncomfortable. She sat down at a nearby bench and waited. The ferry runs quarterly. She peeked inside the small little house by the docks and sighed. It just left. There was nothing else to do but wait. She stared at her sandals and kicked at the small rocks by her suitcases.
Her mind was blank and suddenly the thought of Jiyong recovering invaded the vacancy. She couldn’t help but wonder if it was successful. She left when he was stripped of bandages and so she wasn’t certain whether or not he could fully see.
Besides, the doctor said he had a 50/50 chance due to the excessive blood loss. She sighed and hoped for the best.
Slight wind picked up and she tapped her feet on the ground. She was bored and wished that the ferry didn’t leave. She was so close to making it and it left. She folded her legs beneath her and sighed.
She was to wait. Again.
“What’s gonna happen, ajuma?” Susan wailed, feeling rejected.
“You think I know?!” Mrs. Ko snapped. “Just wait and see. I’ll think of sumthin when they gets back.”
“Back?!” Susan shrieked.
“That’s what I said.”
“But…why?!” Susan cried.
“Don’t worry. She won’t stay.”
“STOP!!!!” Sunghoon hollered, his fist pounding on the head rest of the passenger seat.
Jiyong slammed on the brakes, screeching to a halt. “What?!”
“Go back!” Sunghoon commanded, his head turned back.
“Did I miss it?”
“Isn’t that one of the servants’ cars?”
Jiwon’s head turned and followed Sunghoon’s gaze as Jiyong threw the shift back and backed up till the car lined next to the broken down vehicle. “That’s the driver’s car.” He jumped out of the car and ran around it to the family driver. “Ajoshi!”
Startled, the driver looked up. “Master!”
“Why are you here?” Jiyong asked. He looked inside the car. Empty. “Where’s Chomee?”
“Miss Chomee? She’s on her way home.”
“I thought my mother said you were taking her home.”
“I was. Miss Chomee insisted on taking the boat.”
“Where’d you leave her?”
“Go further down and you’ll find a dirt road. Follow the dirt road and you’ll see the side of the dock.”
Jiyong ran off.
“What’s wrong?” the servant asked, sticking his head out the window.
“I gotta bring her back!” Jiyong yelled.
“Is something the matter?” the driver asked. “Puyin wants her back?”
“I want her back!” Jiyong replied. “Sunghoon’ll wait with you. He gotta phone and he can call for a tow truck. Just have it towed to my mother at the hospital!”
“What?! Why me?!”
“Cause you gotta phone,” Jiyong replied, slamming the door shut.
Sunghoon grumbled and got out. “At least I won’t have to worry about dying young.”
Jiyong drove off with Jiwon as soon as the door closed. Jiwon held onto the door as Jiyong breezed through the streets.
“You’ll find her. Stop driving so fast!” Jiwon said, bouncing as Jiyong ran over a speed bump.
“She probably left on the boat already!”
Jiwon realized what Jiyong said could be true. He kept quiet and kept his eyes on the road.
“Where’s the dock?”
“Find dirt road.”
Jiyong sighed. The only dirt road he knew of was still a ways to go.
“What are you gonna do when we find her?”
Jiyong considered the question. “Bring her back.”
“What if she won’t agree?”
Jiyong pressed harder on the gas pedal, the needle on the speedometer going up. “I’ll bring her back.”
Jiwon remained silent.
“I’ll think of something.” And he raced down the road, thinking.
Chomee looked up. Winds were picking up and the day was still stuffy. She looked out towards the ocean, the sea breeze drifting towards her. Only twenty minutes went by. She sighed and got to her feet. She stretched for a good five minutes and walked down the board walk. She left her belongings in front of the lodging house and continued her way down to the docks. She took a seat on the wooden flooring and allowed her legs to dangle over the edge. She looked up in the sky and frowned.
Such a pretty day.
Yet she couldn’t help but feel that something unexpected’s going to happen. Like something bad. She returned her eyes to the waters set out before her. Minutes. Only a while longer.
Where was the ferry?
Jiwon glanced at the tank again and sucked in his breath. His quick eyes caught the turn off and he directed Jiyong off the main road. “Jiyong…we’re running out of gas.”
“What the?!?” Jiyong muttered. His eyes trailed over the guaze and felt his heart stop. The needle was so close to the E margin and he loosened up on the gas. “Wasn’t this thing filled up?!”
“It was,” Jiwon replied, watching the needle faulter. It was shaking in between and as Jiyong slowed, the needle began to fall back a little. It still continued to lose gas and Jiyong tried his best to not go at a slower rate than he’s already going. “Isn’t there a station around here?”
“Not that I know of,” JIwon replied. He rode along and waited. He had expected for his car to stop any moment, but was surprised to find it lasting for quite a while. He kept his eyes out on the road for sight of Chomee while Jiyong looked on his side.
“Where is she?!” Jiyong muttered, squinting his eyes.
“You think she left?”
“I hope not. I dunno the way to her house. Or else I’d kidnapped her already and be on my way back home.”
“Well, the place looks empty. I think she left for real. There’s no ferry.”
Jiyong edged closer and found himself entering a lot. It was a parking lot. “We’ll find out. Maybe they can stop it. Or we could catch up.” Jiyong hurried and found a parking space by a few other cars. He hopped out of the car and braced himself against the car.
A gust of strong wind hurled past him as he tried to slam the door shut. The wind died down and he stretched his neck to see over the tall, wild bushes. Nothing. He couldn’t see over them. He ran along the bushes, trying to catch site of the main dock. What if Jiwon was right? What if Chomee left for real?
Chomee looked up, startled by the familiar sound. It was the ferry. She turned around and spotted the boat coming closer. Delighted, she jumped to her feet and watched it pull closer and closer to the dock. She picked up her luggage and hauled it after her to the dock, waiting for the ferry to stop fully. It was only moments later she’d reunite with her mother again. Only moments..
She waited as all the passengers got off and milled around before departing. Chomee leaned forward but was let down by a loud voice telling her the ferry won’t leave for another ten minutes. She sighed and plopped down on the wooden fixture. A ten minute delay…that seemed forever. She couldn’t wait another ten minutes just to go home and see her mother. Her heart was aching badly. Then her mind flew to Jiyong at the hospital. What would his reaction be if he found out she was gone? Would he blame it on Susan? Or his mother? Or would he do something stupid, like hurt himself? Or he could possibly forget her.
“Jiyong!” Jiwon gasped, trying to catch up. He tried shoving past the sudden mob of people that appeared, apparently all passengers of the ferry. “Jiyong, wait!”
Jiyong charged forward, Jiwon’s voice a million miles away. He couldn’t wait. What if the boat left already? His Chomee could be on that ferry right this minute, pulling away!
“KO JIYONG!” Jiwon bellowed, climbing up onto a statue. “STOP RIGHT THERE!”
“WHAT?!” Jiyong growled, pivoting on his heels. “What now?!”
“Jiyong!” Jiwon shouted. “Do you even know how she look like?!”
It came to him like a hard slap across the face. Jiyong felt the sudden blow of Jiwon’s inquiry and realized—no, he didn’t know how Chomee looked like. He was going after a girl he had never seen, never met visually. But..
“Hey! What the hell you doin?!” Jiwon screamed, jumping off the statue. He ran past the crowd and towards his car. “You fuckin bastard!”
Jiyong climbed onto a nearby railing and saw Jiwon slam a guy onto the trunk of his car.
“You fuckin ass! Wanna steal my car?!” Jiwon hollered into the thief’s ear. “Bitch! You gonna die!”
Jiyong chuckled to himself. He and Jiwon are so much alike. If anybody messes with their car, that person’s dead. Jiyong watched the entertaining scene for about another six minutes as Jiwon and the thief locked themselves in combat. He hopped off the railing and went on to search for the lodge house.
Chomee ended up the last in line as everybody filed onto the wobbly boat. She handed her suitcases over and stepped foot onto the ferry with a steady hand aiding her aboard. She sighed and looked back. It was the end.
She was going home. To her mother. Alas.
Jiyong barged into the tiny house served as an office and gasped for breath. He found one desk but with nobody behind it. “Hey! Anybody here?!”
Still silence greeted him. Impatient, Jiyong turned to storm off but stopped when he heard a voice ask, “Looking for something?”
A middle aged man appeared through the back door and took the seat behind the desk. He adjusted the glasses he had on and picked up the day’s newspaper. He didn’t even bother casting a glance at Jiyong and cleared his throat.
“When’s the next boat coming in?” Jiyong demanded, not moving away from the spot near the door.
The man blinked and looked up. “It already did. It’s out there waiting. In fact, it came in early.”
“Did you see a girl with short hair, petite..” Jiyong hacked his brains out trying to think of something to describe Chomee. But he didn’t know how she looked like. “She’s going to Pusan.”
The man chuckled. “There’s so many girls that fit that description. I dunno which one you’re talking about.”
“She couldn’t have came in too long ago. Or left too long ago. Please tell me if you’ve seen her.”
“She could’ve left on the last boat or be on this one. The last boat left over twenty minutes already. You know when she left?”
Jiyong felt his heart sank. The density of the words were dragging his heart down…down..down..
“I would suggest you go out there and look for her instead of standing in here. If you know where you’re supposed to meet her, then get on that boat. It’s leaving in two minutes.”
“Two?!” Jiyong shouted. He flew out the door and halted midway. He rushed back to the door and yelled, “Where’s the boat?!”
“Follow the strip. You’ll see it.”
Jiyong followed the man’s directions and ran along the path that lead to the dock. There it was, a boat floating upon murky waters. He jogged along and soon came before the rocking boat. It wasn’t small for a boat. “This leaving soon?”
“Another ten minutes,” the man standing by the boat answered.
Jiyong nodded and got ready to step aboard when a girl suddenly appeared before him and bumped into him, causing him to hold onto the bars by the sides of the boat for support.
Chomee gasped as she tilted sideways, nearly tripping over her bags. An arm grabbed her and steadied her as the boat wobbled on the water. She turned around to thank the person…not expecting to find the person was someone she knew.
“I’m sorry,” Jiyong apologized. “I didn’t see you.”
Chomee gulped, too terrified to speak. How did he find her? He was supposed to be at the hospital. How…
Jiyong stared back at the girl, a strong grip of curiousity coursing through his mind. Why was she staring at him that way? “Are you alright?”
Snapping out of her daze, Chomee nodded and kept her head down. He could see. His operation went well. But..but the doctor had just told her it was impossible for Jiyong to regain vision..then..what happened? She reached down to pick up her bag that was toppled over and was suprised to find Jiyong’s hand right next to hers. She was baffled and stood facing him.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to knock it over,” Jiyong apologized again, handing the suitcase over.
Chomee accepted the luggage and bowed. She kept her eyes low and turned to proceed further into the boat until a sudden cry from Jiyong froze her in her tracks.
Chomee felt her eyes bulge and her heart suspended. She didn’t dare to move nor breathe. She closed her eyes and stood very still, hoping it was all a mistake. Jiyong couldn’t have known it was her. He never saw how she looked like. She left before the bandages were completely removed. He couldn’t..he couldn’t…
Jiyong nearly choked, hearing what he had just said. The name came out so…randomly..it surprised him too. But now that the mute before him stopped, he noticed what he had failed to notice before.
Petite. Short cropped hair.
“Chomee!” Jiyong repeated. He took two steps and placed a hand on the girl’s shoulder. He reeled her around and stared into her face. “You’re Chomee!”
With her heart in her throat, Chomee immediately starting shaking her head. No, no, no..I’m not Chomee. How could…how did he know?
“You are Chomee!” Jiyong declared, taking the girl’s hand.
“I’m sorry, sir. You’ve mistaken,” Chomee finally choked out, on the verge of tears. She tried pulling away but Jiyong held on tighter.
“You are Chomee,” he whispered. It had to be. He gasped quietly . It was her. She was standing in front of him…denying him.
Chomee blinked, hoping the tears wouldn’t show. She tried backing up but Jiyong won’t budge.
“You’re Chomee,” he murmured. “You are! Don’t lie to me!”
Chomee shook her head. “I’m sorry.” Her hand slipped away as she took a step back. She didn’t care about her belongings anymore. She just wanted to get away. Far, far away.
It all came clear to him. All in a heap. He started spewing a hundred words per minute, his emotion in a frezy. “No, you are Chomee. I know you’re Chomee. You have to be Chomee. I recognize your voice, Chomee! You can’t lie about that!”
Chomee gasped. He was right. He may not know how she looked like, but he knew how she sounded like.
“I was blind, Chomee. Blind! Not deaf! I know your voice! And your hand! When I handed you your suitcase, I know I touched those hands before! Only Chomee has those hands!”
The time stopped. She had completely forgotten about her voice. She had just given herself away. She was perfectly fine until she said something. But what bothered her was..where was his mother? She had expected Jiyong’s mother to be tailing him, but so far the woman made no show. What was going on?
“Chomee…” Jiyong started. “Why are you leaving me?”
Chomee shook her head. She had to make him believe he got the wrong person. “I dunno what you’re talking about. I’m not Chomee. Leave me alone.”
“Stop lying to me, Chomee! I’ve already told you! I know who you are! My mother’s not here and she won’t stop me from bringing you back! You can come back with me!”
Chomee gave Jiyong a quizzical look. Go back? She wanted to go home, where her mother was. She couldn’t be at both places. Jiyong’s mother terminated her services. What good would it be if Jiyong brought her back? Mrs. Ko would still find a way to get rid of her. “I..I have to go home…”
Jiyong took a step back. “What did you say?”
Chomee sniffled as she replied, “I’m leaving. I need to be at home.”
At least she’s not denying she’s not Chomee, Jiyong thought. “But..youare at home!”
Chomee shook her head. “No! My home’s with my mom! I want to see her now!”
Jiyong, surprised by the sudden tear of emotion, stepped aside. What Chomee had said just made him realize he was selfish. He had forgotten about Chomee’s ill mother. Chomee had left home to work for him and he’s trying to keep her away from her own mother. “But…”
Chomee sighed. “Go home. Your mother and everybody’s waiting.”
Jiyong stood aloof, not sure of how to respond. He didn’t want ot leave. He came all the way out here to bring her back and she’s going to leave him all the same? No. “Not unless you’re coming with me.”
Exasperated, Chomee threw her hands up. When was the ferry leaving? It felt like a million years had gone by and they hadn’t set sail yet. “Jiyong! You have a family that loves you! Go back home to them. They will take care of you. You once told me that once you’re cured, your mother would want you back and live with her. Plus, you can see now…why else would you need me?”
“You don’t get it!” Jiyong cried, raising his voice. “My mother’s blind! Susan’s blind! Everybody in this goddamn world is blind!”
Chomee shrank back.
“But you, Chomee. You’re not like them. You accepted me. My mother didn’t. She loves me, but she’s blinded
by her love for me. She so badly wanted for things to get better for me, she ignored my needs and hired somebody else to take care of her problems. She couldn’t handle the fact that I wasn’t perfect and that I was an invalid. And I can’t have a Susan in my life now that there’s a Chomee.”
“But..Susan…” Chomee managed to mumble.
“She only liked me, materialistically. She didn’t care about me. You did. I may have been blind physically. But you opened my eyes. I wasn’t going to accept myself, didn’t want to. But then you did. You didn’t pity me. You cared for me, about me and my welfare. Someone I don’t even know cared about me while my family treats me like I’m another hobo off the streets.”
Chomee swallowed her ters.
“I’ve never seen tears before. At least not real tears.”
Chomee bit her lip as a tear trickled down her left cheek.
“I guess you’re really unlike everybody I know.”
“Oma…” Chomee whispered. “I want my mommy.”
“I know you do.”
“I have to go home,” Chomee continued in her soft voice.
“Are you coming back?” Jiyong asked hopefully.
“Maybe. Depends on my mother. I can’t be too far from her.”
Jiyong remained silent, thinking.
Chomee spun around and headed for a seat inside the boat. Her heart was aching. She was torn between her mother and Jiyong. She felt guilty for leaving both when they most needed her, guilty for lying to both. Guilty for all the troubles she caused.
“You go to school here, don’t you?” Jiyong asked abruptly.
Chomee blinked, her mind blank. “Y-Yeah..”
“Your oma’s at home?”
Chomee nodded, facing the entrance of the boat. “I gotta go…”
“Let’s go!” Jiyong cried, picking up Chomee luggage.
“Where?” Chomee asked, baffled.
“Wait here,” Jiyong told her. He reached for her luggage and her bags.
“What are you doing?” Chomee cried, running after Jiyong.
With his long legs, he made it back to JIwon’s car in a matter of seconds and dumped Chomee’s belongings in the trunk.
“She’s coming back?” Jiwon asked, watching Jiyong.
“Drop this off at my house. We’ll be back,” Jiyong said hastily and returned to the boat. “Don’t wait up!”
“Wh-What’d you do that for?!” Chomee demanded, trying to push past Jiyong.
“We’re going home,” Jiyong said instead. “We’re gonna go get your oma.”
“Come,” Jiyong said quietly, pulling Chomee along.
“What’s going on?” Chomee inquired, letting Jiyong drag her.
“We’re gonna help your mother pack up. I’m gonna move back home anyway now that my mom may want me back. The house’s going to be vacant and nobody’s gonna use it. You’ve going to school here. Your mom’s in Pusan. You want her close by, don’t you?”
Chomee nodded again. She tried to comprehend what Jiyong was saying but he was going too fast.
“Since I dunno anybody down in Pusan and all my mother’s connections are up here. I say you and your mother should move in and stay. Permanently.”
Chomee halted just as she gasped. Permanently…the word echoed over and over in her head. She started shaking her head, whispering, “No,” again and again. She couldn’t stay forever. He wanted to hold her hostage.
“What do you mean, no?!” Jiyong exclaimed. “Since your mom’s ill, you have to attend school here, you might as well have her move in with you.”
“Chomee! What’s wrong with you?! This is the best solution for all of us!”
Chomee blinked. Solution? All of them? She didn’t get it. How was it the best? She was already in debt. Her mother’s hospital bill, her tuition, and if she moved in..how would she pay for the living expenses? “How would it be best? It’s only a good solution for you.”
Jiyong grew silent at the accusation. He led Chomee to two empty seats as the boat pulled away. “You, here. Your mother, there. If the both of you lived together and closer to the city, wouldn’t it be better?”
Chomee agreed. Of course, it’d be better. But how would that be any good? They were financially challenged!
“There are more doctors in the city, and I could help you better.”
It took Chomee a moment to answer. “But why? Why would you want to help me?”
Jiyong lowered his head into his hands, the question annoying him. Wasn’t it obvious enough? He liked her! She guided him through his worst and most fragile times and she won’t accept his thanks by having him help her. “You helped me. Why can’t I help you?”
“But..I got paid for it. You don’t need to help me,” Chomee stated stiffly.
“It’s not even about you. Think of your mother.”
Chomee felt the hairs on her neck stand straight. Jiyong was right. She had her mother to think about. Living conditions back at home wasn’t any better than the hospital her mother was staying in. If they moved into Jiyong’s house…things would be so much better. Her mother would be happier and probably a lot healthier.
“Since my mother bought the house more than seven years ago, it’s been empty till I moved in. It’s been left idle so long, they haven’t even considered selling it. Since I’ll be moving home again, it’s going to be left alone anyway. What difference does it make if someone else lives in it? Make good use of it rather than standing empty and rotting away with dust?”
“But..I don’t have the money to pay for rent,” Chomee said softly.
Jiyong gaped at Chomee. “Who said anything about paying? I’m giving the house to you for free!”
Chomee turned to Jiyong with her eyes wide. “What?!”
“I’m the only person that’ve lived there, so you can say that’s my house, right?”
“Then it’s like I’m saying you can have my house. Who said I can’t do that? Besides, my parents have more property than they can handle. Losing one house they didn’t even bother for years isn’t gonna make a difference to their wealth.”
“But…it’s so big!”
Jiyong shrugged. “Have other people move in with you. A majority of the servants there can stay and service you. Since our house’s overcrowded as is.”
Chomee kept silent as Jiyong went on talking. He painted such a beautiful picture with his words. Everything just seemed so perfect.
Just like the fairy tales.
But she wasn’t ready to accept all that’s going to happen. Everything was happening all too fast and she was locked in a hurricane. Where was her say in this? What about her mother? They were thrown into this pit too suddenly to react. Now Jiyong’s coming home with her and they were to bring her mother back. What if her mother disagrees? What if she declined the offer? Jiwon has her things and…
“What’s wrong?” Jiyong asked, watching Chomee.
Chomee shook her head and smiled. “Nothing. We better nap. It’s going to be a long ride home.”
Mrs. Ko paced around the hospital room, enraged. “You idiots!”
Miyoung stuck her tongue out at Susan, who in return rolled her eyes. Everybody was silent as their eyes wandered through the room. Jaejin and Jaeduk had left already in search of food while Miyoung and Suwon stayed behind, hoping Jiyong and Chomee would return soon.
However, Sunghoon and Jiyong’s driver returned with the tow truck and Mrs. Ko paid off the services while Susan sat by herself, fuming at the failed plan.
Sunghoon pulled on Miyoung’s hair and motioned for her to get up out of her seat. She looked up and gently kicked Suwon’s leg, motioning for the door. All three of them exchanged glances and slowly looked towards the Ko household.
Mrs. Ko was livid, while Susan was making funny faces and everybody was just sitting around. Miyoung quietly got to her feet just as Suwon rose to his. Together, the three of them tiptoed to the door and slipped outside. They leaned against the wall and sighed. They stood around for a few minutes before Sunghoon broke the silence.
“I say we leave. I doubt Jiyong’ll be back anytime soon,” Miyoung replied, checking her watch. “On top of it, he doesn’t know how she look like.”
Sunghoon shook his head. “Jiwon hyung’s with him, remember?”
“Oh, yeah…” Suwon murmured in agreement. “So…what we do now?”
“Go eat!” Miyoung replied in a cheery voice. “Where’s Jaejin?!”
Sunghoon let Suwon and Miyoung drag him off with them once they contacted Jaejin and Jaeduk.
Jiyong stirred as the boat thumped to a halt by the dock. He slowly opened his eyes and saw masses of people moving ahead. He gently shook Chomee awake as more people from the back poured through the cloth that hung over the doorway. Chomee stiffled a yawn as she pried her eyes open.
She was home.
Jiyong helped her up and they shuffled along with the crowd, everybody eager to jump off the ferry. They were all tired, hungry and their bodies ached. Jiyong and Chomee held onto each other as late noon began to settle. Jiyong looked around for a clock and asked for the time. It was four.
“We have to hurry,” Jiyong told Chomee, who was still looking around her. “Chomee?”
“Huh?” Chomee uttered, her eyes flying to Jiyong. Her mind was still a million miles away, thinking of her mother’s reactions to all this. She felt guilty without discussing it first with her mother and now…
A breeze lifted Chomee’s bangs from her face, clearing her mind as it drifted by. She shook her head and turned to Jiyong. She smiled meakly at him and brushed her hair aside. “Nothing. Let’s go.”
Jiyong looked around him, noticing people were still hanging around. He followed Chomee away from the people and out to a busy street. She was walking a quite a speed and he had to make long strides in order to keep up. For somebody that has short legs, Chomee was fast. “Isn’t there a bus or anything around here?”
Chomee turned back to glance at Jiyong. She remembered that he never left the boundaries of his home and that he never had access to the outside world. He hasn’t walked as much as she has and he probably wasn’t used to walking since he had rides to practically everywhere. “There’s one that takes up further into the city, but that’s too far away from my house.”
Jiyong halted on the sidewalk, his hands on his hips.
Chomee stopped too once she realized Jiyong wasn’t following her any more. She opened her mouth to ask why but stopped short wen she saw him dash out to the street. Her eyes grew wide, a scream stuck in her throat.
Jiyong ran out to the middle of the street.
He threw himself in front of a vehicle that stopped only a few centimeters away. The driver was clearly scared out of his mind. Jiyong called out to Chomee and waved for her to go over to him. She released a relieved sigh, realizing he hailed a cab. She quickly ran over to him as he got inside the cab. She climbed in and slammed the door shut as the driver as for the destination.
“The hospital,” Chomee answered without a thought.
“The hospital?” Jiyong echoed, his eyes full of question.
Chomee stilled as the driver pulled away, the question hanging in between her and Jiyong. “My mother’s still at the hospital. She hasn’t been released.”
“Is she well enough to leave?”
“I think so. She should be. She’s been in there for quite a few days.”
“No, wait!” Chomee screamed. “Stop! Don’t go to the hospital!”
“I need to go home,” Chomee said. “I need to get clothes for my mother. And other things too.”
The driver stopped at the next light and made a U-Turn and headed for Chomee’s house. The rest of the ride home was mostly silent. Chomee carefully planned out a greeting and how she’ll tell her mother of the sudden move. Jiyong stared out the window at the scenary that flew by, for once appreciating the ability to see. Chomee was right. He had nothing to lose. He had it all but now he’ll lose Chomee if her mother declines the offer.
He looked over to Chomee, who seemed to be deep in thought. Maybe she was thinking the same thing. He could tell she really wanted the best for her mother. He turned his eyes away and stared out the window again. He could only pray that God would be letting.
Jiwon pulled up before the small diner, a popular hangout in the area. His stomach was growling like a bitch and he hopped out of his car, pocketing his phone in his jeans. He hurried into the small restaurant, in hopes of grabbing something to go, but slowed when he heard loud familiar laughter drifting to his ears. He looked around the place and found no one he knew in particular and continued his way to the order line.
“Shut up!” Miyoung shrieked, throwing strips of fries at Sunghoon. She laughed harder as Sunghoon went on telling everybody about an embarrassing moment she had in the past. “I’ll tell them about you running off into the girls’ room!”
Jaeduk and Jaejin hooted with laughter as Sunghoon caught some fries with his mouth.
Jiwon turned his head slightly in the direction of the merriment. The laughter and voices were all so familiar, but he couldn’t pinpoint who it was. He ordered fries and a burger, along with a large drink. It should be enough to fill him up. He sat down at a nearby booth and sighed. He still had quite a way to go. He began to wonder what Sunghoon and the rest were doing when the loud laughter erupted again.
His drink came and he thanked the waitress as he stabbed his straw into the cover of the drink. It was six and he hasn’t heard from Jiyong yet. He thought about Mrs. Ko’s reaction to all of this and smirked. There was a Susan in the story too.
“Noooooooo!” Miyoung howled. “Dammit! Fine! You all won’t believe this gay pervert ran into the girls’ room — ”
Alarmed, Sunghoon jumped to his feet and clamped a hand down over Miyoung’s mouth. “Shhhhhhhh!!!”
Miyoung pried his hand away and started shouting. “He ran in there — ”
Sunghoon sat down and kicked Miyoung beneath the table, causing her to scream with pain. “That’s what you get.”
“You fuckin bitch!” Miyoung bellowed. She took the remainder of her food and tossed it at Sunghoon, causing the lettuce to come apart and scatter all over Sunghoon and the cushioned seat. She kicked him back and stuck her tongue out, making Jaeduk squeal at the sight.
Suwon laughed at the scene and calmed Miyoung down as Sunghoon rubbed his legs. He excused himself and headed off to the restroom, halting along the way when he noticed a guy that looked remarkably like Jiwon from behind. He approached the guy, but stepped back when the guy suddenly got out of the booth and turned about.
They stared at each other in utter shock, crying in unison. “Hyung!”
“What are you doing here?!” they chorused, pointing their fingers at each other. “Eating.”
Jiwon laughed at the scenario. It was rare having to have somebody saying the same thing as you at the same time. But it happens. “Where’s everybody?”
“They’re all over there,” Suwon replied, pointing further into the diner. “Where’s Jiyong? Is he back?”
Jiwon shook his head. “I’m going back. He wanted me to drop off his stuff and I stopped here cuz I’m hungry.”
Suwon nodded. “I see. Well, we’re almost done. We might as well all go together. We all got tired of waiting at the hospital so we left and went to eat. Then we were hoping that Jiyong would be back soon and we were gonna head off to his place and wait there.”
Jiwon nodded. “Sounds good.”
“I’ll be back!” Suwon ran off into the restroom, leaving Jiwon behind. The waitress showed up with Jiwon’s wrapped up food and Jiwon thanked her as he picked up his drink. Suwon returned shortly and they went to the noisy booth occupied by everybody else, thinking of how to get back to Jiyong’s house.
“Jiwon!” Miyoung cried, surprised. She looked around him for signs of her roommate. “You’re here! Where’s Chomee? I thought you and Jiyong went to get her.”
Jiwon shook his head again. “Jiyong did. I didn’t.”
It took a few minutes for the words to register. “B-B-But..”
“How’s he gonna get back?!” Jaeduk hooted, spinning Jiwon around. “Haha! You didn’t see me, did you?!”
Jiwon shrugged. “I dunno. And would it have mattered if I did see you? Your big ass’s everywhere I go!”
Jaeduk’s grin brightened. “You like my ass, don’t you?
Jaejin laughed. He got up and left with Suwon to pay for the bill while everybody else chattered on. They got ready and left the small restaurant together, all eager to get to Jiyong’s house. Jaejin and Jaeduk followed Jiwon to his car while Miyoung and Sunghoon followed Suwon. Everybody piled in respectively and Suwon led the way to Jiyong’s house. He raced with Jiwon for a couple of miles, other times, just riding along with the evening traffic.
The ride to the mansion was mostly silent (in both cars). Miyoung fell asleep in the front seat, her head lolled off to the right side of the headrest while Sunghoon stared out the window at the scenary that flew by. Suwon sighed every now and then, bored throughout the ride. Occassionally, he’d look out the window over to Jiwon’s car to see what was going on with the other three. He could see Jiwon was in the situation as he was in. Jaeduk fell asleep in the back and Jaejin just kept his eyes on the road.
When they arrived at the mansion, the sun was still shining bright and mighty. It was late in the afternoon and the sun’s close to ending its hours. Suwon gently shook Miyoung awake as everybody in Jiwon’s car got out and helped with Chomee’s things. Miyoung stumbled out of Suwon’s car with Sunghoon helping her and they all approached the silent house. It was awkward entering a home without its owner there to permit entry. Miyoung hugged herself and gave the huge door a glance. She nudged Sunghoon and nodded at the door. He stepped closer and rapped loudly on the hollow door.
Everybody waited for a servant to appear and it seemed a lifetime later that Ajuma appeared at the door, holding it at arm’s length. Once she saw it was the children, she opened the door all the way. She stuck her head out, looking for signs of Jiyong.
“Where’s the master?”
Miyoung yawned. “Don’t worry. Chomee’s taking good care of the young master. We got orders from him to move in. So, we’re here.”
Ajuma stepped aside and allowed the kids in, closing the door securely behind them. She followed them to the guest room, where they left Chomee’s things in the middle of the spacious room. “Aren’t those Chomee’s?”
“Yeah. Jiyong wanted me to bring them back. Where’s her room?” Jiwon asked, stretching.
“B-B-But…” Ajuma trailed off. She pointed in the direction of Chomee’s room, her mind going in a million directions. She didn’t argue and retreated to completing her chores. She assumed Jiyong must’ve told them to stay until he returns. But when will he return? His mother phoned time after time, asking if he came home yet. She didn’t know what happened earlier and didn’t bother asking. It wasn’t her business to question what happened so she left it at that. “Are you all hungry?”
One by one, they all shook their heads. They smiled politely and thanked Ajuma for asking. Miyoung answered her and told her they had eaten before coming by.
“You might as well watch some tv. There isn’t much to do here,” Ajuma said frankly, looking about. It was true. Since Jiyong was blind, there wasn’t much for him to do. He couldn’t watch, wouldn’t listen…the household was mostly quiet. “If you’re tired, you could sleep in one of the rooms upstairs.”
“It’s okay. We’ll wait. We want to be the first ones to know when he’s ready to come home.”
Ajuma raised a brow, yet didn’t ask a question. She was right. She knew right when she first laid eyes on Chomee, Chomee’d be the one to save them all. God had sent the girl to them. To Jiyong most of all. “I suppose you all will be staying for dinner?”
Miyoung and the rest of the guys traded glances and shrugged it off. “Yeah, I suppose…”
Ajuma nodded and went off to the kitchen. For once, she was actually glad the day was going by slowly.
Jiyong tipped the driver and stood upright, watching the driver drive off. Chomee stood behind Jiyong and watched the tail lights fade away before pulling Jiyong after her, leading him towards her home. Jiyong followed along, gripping Chomee’s hand tightly in his as she continued on before him, bearing off to her left. Jiyong pulled back slightly, his face masked with bewilderment as he looked directly before him, where Chomee was about to walk into.
Chomee looked back and smiled. She pushed forward and walked into the thick mounds of bushes, slowly walking down the trail. Jiyong hesitated, not given any options, he quickly dove forward before anybody could spot him. He winced at the sudden scratches that came in contact with his bare skin, the branches close to stabbing his eyes out. He bit down on his lip and stepped through the small path he spotted as he looked down. Ahead, he saw Chomee a few feet away and closer to getting out. He quickened his pace and rammed into her as they stumbled out into the clearing. He held onto Chomee, preventing them from falling to the ground.
They brushed off their clothes and hair, freeing themselves from twigs and leaves. Chomee helped straighten out Jiyong’s hair before starting off in the direction of her home. They walked in silence. Occassionally looking about them at the birds and trees, other than that, nothing happened. Jiyong stole sideway glances at Chomee, wondering what she had planned. Shortly he was engulfed in his own thoughts, Chomee halted a few steps before him, peering at the low concrete buildings before her.
“What’s wrong?” Jiyong asked, glancing at the ugly tanned color building.
“I forgot which one my mother lives in,” Chomee confessed, frowning. She pointed a finger to the building on her left and then moved it to the right. She moved it back and forth several times before spotting something that was invisible to Jiyong’s eyes. “C’mon!”
Jiyong nodded as he went after her to the building on the left. Chomee dashed through the door, gently tapping on the inner door that lead to the insides of her abode. She fished out a set of keys and selected the correct one and inserted it into the key hole. With a turn, the door swung open, dull walls greeting them. Chomee hurried in, leaving Jiyong behind in his own world.
Jiyong leaned against the doorframe, observing the tasteless room. It was very, very gray and still. He waited for Chomee to reappear and whistled quietly to entertain himself. After a few minutes later, Chomee appeared before him, her expression one of worry.
“I can’t find it,” she said softly to herself. She looked around her, her eyes not catching sight of the key. She crouched down and placed her head in between her hands and rocked herself.
“What can’t you find?” Jiyong asked, watching Chomee think.
Chomee remained silent with her eyes closed as she thought of every possible hiding place her mother could think of. She shook her head, her hair flying freely as she moaned. “Where is it?!”
“What are you looking for?” Jiyong repeated.
Chomee looked up. “My mother’s car key.”
Jiyong raised a brow. “I didn’t know your mother has a car.”
Chomee nodded. “She does. It’s a Lexus.”
Jiyong whistled. “Shall we find the key?”
Chomee hopped to her feet as she followed Jiyong outside, answering his questions as they walked around aimlessly. She told him where the car was parked and led him to it.
Jiyong eyed the lock. “I say we hot wire it.”
“No!” Chomee shouted. “I can’t!”
“I will. I’ll pay for the damages.”
“Still can’t!” Chomee said stubbornly. She blocked Jiyong’s view of the car and shook her head vigorously. “I’m not supposed to know it’s here. And most of all, I’m not supposed to touch it, let alone drive it.”
Jiyong peeked at the car. “I can see why.”
“Just help me find the key!”
Jiyong stepped past Chomee and walked around the car, feeling her eyes on him. He dropped to his knees and faced the door of the passenger seat. He placed his hand under the car, feeling for the key. It was a trick he had learned way back when he was a kid. He saw Jiwon’s older brothers did it with their cars and picked up on the trick a few years later. People who usually abandon their cars usually hide their keys within the car or somewhere on the car. He pawed around a while longer until he felt something of a strange pattern around the rear tire and ducked his head under the car.
Surely, there is was. The key.
He yanked the key out and stood up, waving the key at Chomee. She jumped and ran over to him, checking to see if it was the real key. She quickly nodded her head as Jiyong hurried over to the driver’s end of the ride and opened the door, unlocking the passenger side for Chomee to get in. He started the engine and they soon left for the hospital.
“Oma!” Chomee greeted happily.
“Chomee?” Jinjoo whispered, her eyes fluttering open at the voice. “Chomee?”
“Oma!” Chomee repeated, hurrying to her mother’s side. “Oma! I’m home!”
“Chomee..” Jinjoo whispered, unable to believe her eyes. Her daughter was standing before her…with a gentleman.
Chomee followed her mother’s gaze and introduced her to Jiyong. “Oma, this is Ko Jiyong.”
Jiyong, well taught with manners, bowed before the woma. “Ahnyong haseyo.”
Jinjoo blinked. The…rich kid? “Ko…Jiyong?”
“Hi, ajooma,” Jiyong replied.
“Chomee…what are you doing with him?” Jinjoo asked abruptly.
Chomee hesitated. “We’re here…”
“To take you home,” Jiyong finished.
“The doctor said there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re just exhausted from overworking. Oma..what did I tell you about working?” Chomee scolded.
“You need money for next year,” her mother protested weakly.
“But Oma! I told you not to worry. I’m working in school. They offer us summer jobs,” Chomee explained to her mother again.
“It’s not enough,” her mother whispered. “It’s never enough…”
Chomee remained silent as her mother closed her eyes to rest. She looked over to Jiyong, regretting she ever took the job.
“So, when do we leave?” Jinjoo inquired moments later, her eyes still closed.
“Whenever you’re ready, Oma.”
Jinjoo pried her eyes open. Chomee…so small and tiny…such a pain to watch her daughter grow up without all the things other girls had. She was so..giving and obedient, two things Jinjoo’s most grateful for. She loves her daughter, she’d give everything away just to keep Chomee by her side. “I’m ready.”
Chomee smiled. “Oma! You’re gonna love our new house!”
Jinjoo froze. New house? “What?”
“It’s a new place, it’s closer to school and the area’s quiet. Beautiful scenary, the place is nice and peaceful. Oma, you don’t have to worry about me all the time now. You can live with me!” Chomee said all in one breath.
“Oh…” It was too sudden, but she was happy. She could see Chomee everyday. That was all it took, she agreed.
“I’ll get the doctor,” Jiyong offered. He left the mother and daughter alone, in search of a doctor.
Once Jiyong disappered, Jinjoo asked,” What are you doing with him?”
Chomee stared blankly at her mother. “Well..we’re here to take you home, Oma.”
“Chomee, you know what I mean. How’d you get involved with him?”
“Involved? Oma, it’s not like that!”
“He goes to school with you?”
“How’d you meet him?”
“How long have you known him?”
“For a couple of months.”
Jinjoo nodded. She trusted her daughter and she knows Chomee wouldn’t lie. Would she?
A doctor entered shortly with a clipboard and asked a few questions. He quickly scribbled down the replies and announced, “You’re free to go.” He departed, tending to his other duties.
Chomee helped her mother out of bed and out of the hospital gown and brought her downstairs to meet with Jiyong. “We’re going home first.”
“We’re going to pack up first and then leave. Oma?”
“Don’t we need furniture and such?” Jinjoo wondered as Chomee and Jiyong led her to her Lexus. “What’s…isn’t that our car, Cho…”
“Yes, Oma. I let Jiyong drove it because we didn’t have any way to get here. I found the key under the tire. I’m sorry, Oma,” Chomee apologized. She knew her mother kept the car hidden, in fear of the past.
Jinjoo patted Chomee’s hands. “It’s alright. As long as you’re safe.” They all got into the Lexus and Jiyong drove off, racing through the small streets. Night was close to falling and Jiyong pulled up in front of the small, raggedy apartment building.
“We’re home, Oma,” Chomee told her mother quietly.
Jinjoo, who had her eyes closed, opened them with surprise. “Already?!”
“Yes, Jiyong drives fast,” Chomee answered with a proud smile.
Jinjoo observed the smile. It was one of true happiness. She nodded and allowed the two children to help her out of the car and into her home.
It was small, very empty. Since Chomee attend school in Seoul, there wasn’t much need for furniture or any other accessories. It was a one room apartment, other than the kitchen, there was a bed and television and a phone right over the top of the set. A clock laid on the bed, ticking away softly, remind them they had to hurry back into the city.
“There isn’t much to take,” Jinjoo started as she entered the room. “But..but..” She headed to the closet and fumbled around the bottom of the closet.
“But what, Oma?” Chomee asked, kneeling beside her mother.
“This,” Jinjoo whispered, holding up a small box.
“What is it?” Jiyong asked curiously.
Jinjoo held the box close to her heart and turned to Chomee. “Still remember your father?”
Chomee nodded vehemently.
“He asked me to give this to you. Your father wasn’t a bad man. He wanted the best for all of us. Don’t hate him for leaving us,” Jinjoo said, cupping Chomee’s adoring face. “Your Appa loves us. He lost his life because of this. Not because he owed money.”
Chomee’s wide eyes grew wider. “What?”
Jinjoo handed the box to Chomee, who accepted it eagerly. “Don’t open it.”
Chomee looked up. “Why not?”
“Your father asked me not to give it to you till you’re twenty-five. Hopefully, you’ll forgive him for leaving us.”
Chomee was confused. “Appa..knew?”
Jinjoo could only smile. “Jiyong, dear, could you help me with that?” She pointed to the suitcase by the far end of the closet.
Jiyong raised a brow. “Sure.”
Chomee watched Jiyong pick up the suitcase and left. “Oma—”
“You always have to be ready,” Jinjoo replied, cutting Chomee off. “You always have to have backup.”
Chomee smiled and looked at the white gift box in her hands. She’ll forgive him. As long as what’s in the box was worth the suicide. She turned to Jinjoo, her arms stretched out to walk her mother out the door. Out to the world again, out of hiding…moving one last time.
Jinjoo slowly recovered and learned of what happened during that summer when Chomee was away. It pained her to have found out that her daughter was a servant and had to stoop so low just to earn money for her medical bills.
Chomee continued school and Jiyong moved back home to live with his mother. However, his servants stayed under his command to serve Chomee and her mother. Miyoung moved in with Chomee shortly after Jiyong moved out and got back with Suwon.
Susan left for the States, embarrassed now that Jiyong’s made up his mind about her. He wanted to be with Chomee. That was that.
Chomee never knew what was contained in the box. She was certain it was the answer to the cause of her father’s death. It probably was the cause. But she was afraid of bringing up the past. She still has a few more years till twenty-five, she’ll wait. Afterall, curiousitydid kill the cat.
Jiyong’s mother learned that she was blinded by her own love for her son. She thought she had given him everything but then realized all she did was hurt him. In the end, it wasn’t Jiyong that was blind—it was everybody around him that was.
Chomee—her undying love and support for her mother. She didn’t realize all and everything she did was because of Jinjoo.
Susan—materialistically, she was blinded by her love for Jiyong’s wealth and property.
Mrs. Ko—power and her son. She was on top of the world until Jiyong broke it to her: she didn’t love him. Chomee did.
Chomee’s father—his love for money killed him. The present he had prepared for Chomee was the very thing that led to his ultimate death and he spent his whole entire lifetime getting it. He wanted to so many things for his family, but in the end, he lost more than gain.
“Do you think things were meant to be?” Jiyong asked one day while he was visiting.
“Hmm..” Chomee paused, thinking. “I guess so, why?”
“Do you believe in luck?”
“No, not really. Why?”
“If you hadn’t came along, I’d still be blind. Susan’d still be here, my mom would still leave me here and you would still be God knows where looking for a job and your mom would still be sick.”
“Yes, I suppose so.”
“What do you think of…” Jiyong trailed off.
“Of?” Chomee prompted, flipping a page of her book.
Jiyong quickly thought of something else and said the first thing that came to mind. “Uhhh..children?”
“Why? You wanna become a pediatrician, too?”
“Nah, I hate babies.”
Chomee laughed. “What is it?”
“I was wondering…”
Jinjoo sauntered to the door, attentive of the conversation. She leaned against the door, silently watching the two children. She had a feeling this day would come. Her Chomee all grown up, Jiyong not so young himself. Not a bad child, coming from rich folks.
Chomee closed her book and focused her attention on Jiyong. “Wondering?”
Jiyong froze. The question right at the tip of his tongue, but it quickly rolled off and another came in place instead. “When’s school over?”
Jinjoo rolled her eyes and smiled. Jiyong was just as shy and timid. She chuckled merrily to herself.
“Uhh..I believe I still have two more years left,” Chomee replied, sitting back in her chair.
Jinjoo left the doorway and retreated back to her room. “Some day, Jiyong…Some day…”
“Well..I’m going home—”
“So soon?” Chomee asked, surprised.
“Yeah..my mom wants me to be home when my sister calls,” Jiyong lied.
“I see. Drive safely,” Chomee teased.
Jiyong gave her a weary smile. “I will.”
Chomee returned her dimple smile and waved as Jiyong headed outside. In the garden, Suwon and Miyoung were conversating amongst themselves.
“I dunno why. He told me he likes her!” Suwon exclaimed, watching Jiyong’s tall figure leave the building. “Why?! Why won’t he just ask her?!”
“Hmm..I dunno..why didn’t you ask me before?” Miyoung asked coyly.
“We were different!” Suwon protested. “They have every right to be together! And if Jiyong doesn’t ask her..”
“What!?” Miyoung demanded.
“Sunghoon might,” Suwon answered with a wink.
They stared at each other, a plan brewing in their minds. It was the same number Sunghoon and Susan pulled on them a few years back. They shared the same smirk when they reached their final verdict. “It’s payback time,” they chorused.
Chomee returned to her reading and her mother appeared by her side. “Oma!”
Chomee closed her book again and sat up straight.
“He’s not a bad boy.”
“Yes, I know that, Oma.”
Jinjoo cocked her head to one side. Chomee was too naive. “I mean..a very good boy.”
Chomee nodded, waiting for her mother to go on.
Jinjoo stared at her daughter, debating with herself. Should she tell? Maybe Chomee knows already. Maybe not. She just smiled and patted her daughter’s hand. “Some day..some day…”
Chomee watched, baffled with her mother as she rose out of the chair and left the room. People were talking in circles lately and all she could do is just sit in the middle of it, trying to find a corner of the circle. She sighed and returned to her book. “Yes..some day..some day..I’ll be rich and find out what’s in the damn box.”