“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.
“Valerie, I asked for those files on the Nexo product line ten minutes ago, where are they?” I hold the intercom button on my phone on my desk, for my secretary. My tone harsh and snappy. Irritated that even after five years as my assistant she doesn’t understand how much her slowness annoys me. She’s efficient in so many ways but when it comes to moving with speed, she is aggravatingly snail like. Maybe it’s time I switch her out for another because I have no patience the older I get and my last was fired for a similar reason.“I’m sorry, Vice president Park, I’m right on it.” The waver in her voice calms my inner anger, knowing that she is easily intimidated by me, and I exhale heavily and slump back in my seat. Spinning around to view the city skyline from up here and facing another grey and wet day that covers most of the buildings in smog. My mood is so so, like any day of my existence these past years and I stare bla
“Not today. I have plans.” It’s a curt and cold response and despite not shedding a single tear since the day my parents died, I feel one rise up and clog in my throat like a sharp boulder that threatens to choke me. I know he avoids today and maybe it still hurts him after four years, but I can never tell if it’s grief or hatred. He still blames me for it, and I know it’s where any possibility of us was completely destroyed. Just another notch cut out of my heart, along with the dozens of other times when life blew us apart so cruelly.“Right. I guess I’ll eat with them. I’ll have the housekeeper keep yours warm.”“Don’t. I’m staying out overnight. I won’t be back.” Again, another quick, cold reply to cut me off and make it clear that today of all days is not one he will ever spend with me. Whether it makes him sad or mad, it won’t ever be in my presence.My face aches wit
“Sohla, eat with Yoonha tonight. I have plans.” Mother meets me in the lounge when I arrive home from work, passing by in the process of me coming in and her going, and I paste on my bright smile. She’s oblivious to what day of the week it is, let alone the date, so she’s at least one person who won’t acknowledge today. Thankfully.“Something fun?” I ask and stop to adjust her collar of the coat she’s pulling on. Admiring her beauty even at her age. She’s not aged a day in the last decade and is still as pulled together as she was when I was a girl, when she’s dressed up like this. It’s easy to forget everything and bask in how happy she seems.“Bridge with the girls. I shouldn’t be home too late. Yoonha is in the dining room already.” She pats me on the cheek with a loving smile. Elegantly dressed and poised as the picture of
“I’ll start over with you. We can make it work. We were always closer than you and Jyeon…he doesn’t love you, but I do. I’m not a kid anymore.” His words stop me in my tracks, and I mentally count to five and try and reel in my internal reaction. Breathing slowly as my hands start to tremble and I stop the impulse to yell at him that he still behaves like one.The wounding pain of knowing that, no, Jyeon doesn’t love me, and I’ve known it since forever, but I still don’t want to hear it. This isn’t the first time he’s said these words to me, and it angers me that despite telling him not to say it anymore, here we are again. I don’t want to hear them; I don’t want the burden of his feelings on top of me along with everything else I carry every day and I don’t need his reminder that his brother married me out of duty and never once felt more than resentme
“Stop thinking and go to bed.” I chastise myself loudly, wavering and push it all back down. Taking slow deep breaths and reminding myself that from time to time I feel this way. I get scared and I momentarily think the worst and yet he’s never yet done anything. He’s too upright and solid to hurt his family name or OLO with something dirty.Impulsively I pull out my cell and dial his number before I can stop myself, otherwise I might go crazy and imagine the worst and rip my brain to shreds with the fear of the unknown. It rings three times, and he picks up. Something that despite our years of strained interaction that he’ll always do. He never ignores my rare calls. No matter how mad he is at me. Texts, calls, emails… Jyeon always replies to me within minutes.“What is it, Sohla?” he sounds pissed off, his tone low and husky and I can tell he’s had a dri
I tap my nails on my desk in agitation as I watch the hands of the clock tick on and on in what feels like slow motion. It feels like this morning is dragging more than a month in a jailhouse, and neither Yoonha nor Jyeon has shown up for work at all yet. I’m listless, I can’t concentrate or focus and nothing I do is easing the tightly wound ball in my abdomen that I know is stress. It’s after ten, and I’m pissed at both of them for this impromptu AWOL behavior when we have so many things going on before lunch.I have a pile of documents six inches thick that need both of their signatures next to mine, and we’re supposed to have a strategy meeting with senior staff in under an hour. We run our own departments and we need to regularly bring one another up to speed. They never miss them and now, more than ever it’s important we stay on top of it with all the new investments these few months.I’ve resisted calling Jyeon to find ou
“Pleasure’s all mine.” I reach out and shake it briefly, my cold hands are like ice cubes compared to her warm velvet skin and despite having no reason, I instantly dislike her. There’s nothing obvious standing out, it’s just a feeling.“Oh, you’re so cold. Do you have indigestion? That can really mess with the circulation in your hands. I have some antacids in my bag if you’d like some.” She smiles widely, soft, sweet, and overly caring, and I shake my head, sensing this is an act to redeem herself to me. I didn’t eat today so my blood sugar is low and has nothing to do with acid if my body temperature is low. I’m so used to it that I don’t notice anymore.“I…”“You skipped breakfast, didn’t you? How many times have I told you not to do that?” Jyeon cuts in, his tone aggravated and stern and he eyes me with a furrowed brow before I can speak. Getting up,
“You just can’t help yourself, can you?” Jyeon throws the words my way as he walks to his desk and not back over here. Making it clear he’s not bothered about my presence and he’s no intention of talking to me. All warmth gone from his tone now she has too, and I get up, snatching the files, and march over to him instead. Tossing them on his desk with a show of aggravation and hating the change in him now we’re alone.“Did I interrupt your cozy little meeting? Might want to call Dee back and cancel the food you so thoughtfully ordered me, now the act is over.” I spit back and pick up his fountain pen from the holder before tossing it on top of the paperwork in a brisk manner.“I need those right now.” I order him, inwardly hostile and not sure why I’m feeling this way from the second I got up this morning. It’s like a growing storm in my belly that I can’t stop from expanding.“W