“Don’t say things like that. We’re only able to hold it together because we still have you. They wouldn’t want you to be gone like they are. They would want you to go on and live your life as intended.” Jyeon continues cradling, swaying, patting, and holding me, but nothing eases the agony. It’s growing so big I feel like I might die.

“Sohla, please listen to Jyeon and come with us. I think my mom is going to pass out if she stays here any longer. You need to lay down and you need to eat. I’m really worried about you.” Yoonie’s voice breaks into my hysteria and I push my face up in the crook of Jyeon’s arm to see him. The now handsome fifteen year old, leaning over his brother’s shoulder and looking so devastatingly like him while retaining all the cute and sweet that is so Yoonha. He reaches out to stroke my hair as he moves close, and I can see his face is tear stained too. Pale and worn out. He’s been sobbing all day, standing at the back and unable to really do anything for me except watch and wait.

“Go. Both of you. Take her home. I’m not ready. I can’t leave.” I despair again, the tears now set free are relentless and my nose runs and my throat clogs with the sheer volume of them.

“I’m not leaving without you. Neither will she. You’re our family, we won’t abandon you here.” Yoonah holds my hand tight, squeezing it until his knuckles whiten, and I know I’m being selfish, but I can’t help it. I’m not the only one in pain but mine is so big it overshadows everything else. I can’t help him or her, I can’t care about anyone else’s heartbreak when I can barely handle my own.

“Take mom home with dad. I’ll bring her when she’s ready. Just go. Let Sohla have time here alone while all the guests leave. Let her say her goodbyes without people watching her.” Jyeon takes control, the commanding and mature side kicking in. For being only eighteen he has long felt like a man in my eyes, and I lean into him looking for shelter, relieved to not yet be torn away. Despite our normally formally and awkward interactions, he’s been a rock by my side since the moment I found out my parents perished. Someone to cling to when everything else I knew was washed away in the storm.

“I’ll stay with her. You go. I’m her best friend.” Yoonah tries to slide me out of his brother’s arms buy Jyeon tightens his grip and hauls me in closer.

“And I’m her fiancée. Know what’s proper, Yoon. People don’t stop judging and whispering just because we’re mourning.” Jyeon pulls me with him to standing, taking my weight easily. He wraps his arm around me protectively, pulling my face against his chest, and leans into Yoonha. “Be her brother. Empty the hall, see our parent’s home, and do what you should do.” It’s a low and hushed command. One that dares Yoonha to challenge his older brother and he knows better, relenting and nods. When it comes to hierarchy, Jyeon is the one who should be obeyed.

“Don’t stay here long. It’s cold, she get’s sick easily at this time of the year.” Yoonie can’t help himself from being that caring and reliable boy I depend on almost daily in normal life. These past years he’s been my shadow and kept me sane in a society that’s often cold and shallow. He’s probably the only real friend I have since Jyeon grew up faster than us and viewed us as little kids.

“You think I don’t know her?” It’s a snappish response and I, even in my dazed silent crying, glance up at his unusual attitude towards Yoonha. Shocked out of my grief at his irritation. I catch him frown, and then he swallows hard with regret at his own harshness as his features soften. Yoonah visibly scolded and wide eyed as he stares at him with definite hurt on his sweet face.

“I’m sorry. We’re all raw and in shock. Ignore me. I know Sohla as well as you do, I can take care of her, so trust me to do it. Please don’t do this today. She doesn’t need it. Take care of mom and dad. For me, Yoon, I’m depending on you.” He reaches out and rubs Yoonah on the side of his face and ear with genuine affection, to soothe over the bruised feelings and I quietly allow myself to be manoeuvred with his own body. Like a limp rag in his arms and too numb to even react to this unusual physical contact between us. The last time Jyeon hugged me this way was my eleventh birthday, before they told us about our fate.

Yoonah eyes me warily and seems upset that in his place as comforter and best friend, his brother is taking the role. I know Yoonah inside out, and he takes pride in the fact that we’re inseparable twins at times. He’s hurting too and he probably thinks that being together would be easier on both of us, buy Jyeon is right. All eyes are on us, with every single media outlet publicising my parent’s tragic accident. So many milling guests still in here, and rumours start so easily. If my official fiancée was to stand aside for his younger brother, the papers would be filled with scandals tomorrow and cause only drama to an already unbearable situation. That’s the reality of this heartless world of money and status.

“Give her to me. She needs a mother more right now than a fiancée or a brother.” Jyeon’s mother cuts in and appears behind Yoonah, moving him aside with a gentle slide and holds her hand out to me. Her own face pale, tear streaked and grey.

“Jyeon the press is outside still, go deal with them. Make sure everyone leaves. See your father home, he’s a mess.” She nods to her eldest son, and he exhales heavily before caving and transferring me from his arms to hers. My body cooling instantly without his immense heat, even through his suit. As though I’m a doll with no ability to choose for myself but I welcome the softer figure pulling me close and I’m surrounded with musky perfume and familiar scents of a woman who has been a second mother to me my whole life. I need a mom hug right now.

I bury my face against her chest and allow her to fully envelope me as fresh tears start to fall, and despite never in my life having this woman embrace me this way, it feels like I’m somehow safe and sheltered. That I can take a few more steps if she just won’t let go.

“From now on, Sohla, you’ll be with us. Our home is yours. My hugs are yours. You were always the girl I saw as my future daughter and now you’ll live that way. I won’t let Tayha down. I’ll raise you and love you and stand in her place, and make her proud and try my very best to be what you need. It’s what she would ask of me. I’ll stay here a while and we can say our goodbyes together. I want to say goodbye to them too.” She wraps her arms around me tightly and I try and blot the world out, unaware of Jyeon leaving to go deal with the lingering press, to take control, or that Yoonah walks off looking lost. That Mr Park is a walking zombie who doesn’t know how to deal with the loss of his best friend and business partner who created their empire.

His intimidating aura is non-existent, and he hasn’t been sober in seven days. That the staff, the family members, and distant relations, all slowly ebb away, lost in their own loss and misery, because my parents were truly good people, who were the glue for all of us. Unaware that this would be day one in the changes of my future that would forever haunt me and change the direction I would go.

The only thing I’m aware of is needing to anchor myself to Mother Park and to cling on desperately. I know this is only the beginning of the pain and grief I have coming, but it somehow lightens the weight knowing I don’t ever have to go back to that empty house where my parents will never appear again.

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