“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 blankly into the nothingness, feeling like it could be a reflection or a self-portrait if I were a painter. If I had to assign an image to my inner voice it would look a lot like this city on a miserable day in August.
“Valerie, Is my husband back in the office yet?” I add in afterthought, leaning sideways to reach it this time, after catching sight of the funding approval report for one of his investments laid on top of the pile I have yet to get to. He’s been waiting for the accounting department to finish with it and go through me for approval, and I know he’ll want it pronto.
“Yes, ma’am. He walked by a few minutes ago.”
I tap my finger on the file and contemplate taking it to him, knowing he needs it, but not relishing a cold start to my day. We work together, we see each other daily because we can’t avoid it, but he’s long been a distant presence to me, and I don’t relish forcing conversation today of all days. I’m not in the mood for walking on eggshells and being made to feel worthless by his complete lack of interest in me, yet something deep inside of me wants to break the ice and see him. I know I shouldn’t, it’s pointless but my soul is crying out for him. It’s this stupid cycle, knowing it will only disappoint me, but I yearn for him.
Who knew that marrying him would only give me seven short months of possibility for happiness and then die a death as quickly as it began? Fate really hated my guts when she delivered me into this body and made me Sohla Kim.
I gaze at it blankly; all thoughts falling out of my head and know I’m only like this today because of the date, and I’m apprehensive because I’m more sensitive than normal. If it wasn’t for it being today I would make my assistant take it to him and avoid him at all costs.
I push down the hesitation and stand up, taking it with me and head out to go see him. Swallowing down pointless emotions that I don’t need and pushing thoughts aside that only serve to hurt me. It’s not who I am or how mother raised me this past decade. I’m stronger than that and I won’t show weakness even when I’m broken inside. She taught me well in this cutthroat society in which we exist, that as women we need to be stronger, fiercer, colder, than any man, if we are to succeed in the corporate world.
She helped me focus all my pain of my losses on work and being perfect. Polished and moulded me into something most women envy and I became a walking and breathing female version of Mr Park, before he passed away five years ago. All he lived for was work, status, and respect, and I became the same. Taking his place and helping my husband push OLO into world domination is my only goal in life now.
Jyeon’s project is a big investment with billions of dollars of our money on the line, nothing matters more than that today and that’s all I should think about. Not even this death anniversary that I know he won’t want to remember or care about anyway. In fact, three years ago, he made it blatantly clear that he never wanted me to mention it again in his presence or he would divorce me on the spot. Looking back; divorce would probably have been easier to accept than how we live now. Then again, we didn’t marry for love, we married for this, and everything we have, so why would we divorce over something so trivial. OLO is bigger than us and our problems.
I strut out and confidently walk across the main foyer between our penthouse offices looking unphased even if I’m feeling fragile. Passing Yoonha’s on the way and noting he’s still out and about doing Director related tasks. My feet are killing me in my new heels, and I catch Yoonha’s secretary admiring me from her own desk and checking out my new cream Louis Vuitton dress and jacket that looks killer on my slim body.
The only things in life that give me any kid of joy are finding nice clothes that catch people’s eye and achieving great things in this empire that no other woman in my field has accomplished. It’s all I live for, seeing as everything else carries only emptiness and hurt.
“Vice president Park, I’ll announce you.” Jyeon’s small blonde secretary is flustered at the sight of me. Another female employee who cowers at my feet and jumps up to bow and then quickly presses the intercom. I ignore her and swan past without a word. Walking without stopping, because I know I’ll lose my courage otherwise, and push into the wide double wooden doors of his office. He has the biggest, being the president of OLO and his spectacular view comes at you from two full walls of glass.
Jyeon is sat at his desk, head tilted forward, immersed in reading something on his laptop and doesn’t flinch or bat an eye at my strolling in without announcement. I know he senses me, heard me walk in, and can probably smell my perfume that he told me he hates with a passion. To quote ‘the smell makes me sick to my stomach’. It’s why I still wear it, even if the smell sometimes makes me nauseous from the memories it conjures up. He was the one who bought it for me as newlyweds, when we thought we might just manage to make this work. This is just how I’ve become to survive in this shitty existence. Hurting him for hurting me…. it’s immature but at least it’s the only way I can grab his attention from time to time.
I tense at seeing him, like I always do, because even after all this time I’ve never been able to fully oust him from my heart even if there’s no love between us. My stomach tightens and those irritating butterflies rise up and flutter around until I push them down with a heavy inhale. Steeling myself to regain immunity and hating that my stupid naïve heart can never remove the Jyeon of long ago from my head. Even though we have both changed beyond recognition in ten years. Our story is rollercoaster and long, and somehow all stops always end up at Hatesville no matter how much we try to pull it back.
He’s looking good in a white shirt and navy tie; no suit jacket, and his black hair has been styled up off his forehead in a way that brings out his best features. His straight black brows frame the darkest of brown, gorgeous eyes, and that faultless jawline enhances everything, even his full lips and the way he chews his lower one when he concentrates. Jyeon was always blessed with how he looked, and it only causes me more pain when I stare at him, seeing the boy I used to adore. He hasn’t been that boy for a long time, only in my memories. Only by name.
“What is it?” He asks without looking up, fingers on his keyboard although paused, and zero effort in making eye contact with me. The instant aura of closed off and aloof that he always serves me, and his tone is flat. I ignore it, walk forward, and dump the file on his desk with little grace, folding my arms over my chest with nonchalance to show him I don’t care. Always on guard, never hinting at weak.
“Your proposal results. It’s plausible if you can get the board to agree. It looks like a solid investment, and I don’t have any reason to not back it. I agree, we should go for it.” I wait for him to lift it and open and he takes his time about it. Glancing at me only for a few seconds as he scans my outfit, no facial reaction about it, no acknowledgement if I look good or bad, and then goes back to the task at hand. Lifting it and flipping through while he speed reads it. Infuriatingly unreadable as always.
“Hmmmm.” He flips some more pages and then goes back to the financial break down and risk report and reads it again. I wait and watch, my insides churning because deep down I know what today is and it makes me want to ask him to not be like this for one day. It makes me want to break my own mask of cold indifference I have worn for so many years and show him that girl he used to know and care for still exists inside the poster perfect Park daughter in law his mother polished for him. She sometimes wants to break free and curl up in his arms to cry it out like I did the day of my parent’s funeral. She still wants that boy who held her hand through those dark days and tried to be the comfort in her life. My fingers twitch with the effort of holding it in and I tap my foot to keep it under wraps.
“I thought we could have dinner together tonight, with the family.” I drop it casually, surprising myself because it comes out of nowhere and I hadn’t planned it and catch him stiffen even while sat reading. A pause, a furrow so subtle of his brow, but I can’t miss it.
“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
I stare absentmindedly ahead in the elevator as I travel down to the ground floor to go and meet Yoonha outside for lunch. It’s been a few days since his drunken confession, and two days of his AWOL childish behavior passed before he finally showed face to act like an adult once more. And like every other time, we never mentioned it again because this is what he does. Back into the swing of our ordinary lives, and it’s brushed under the table as though it never happened and became just another absurd ritual in my life.I’ve barely seen Jyeon all week as we’re all so swamped in work with three new company investments to launch by the end of the month that’s taking all our time. I’ve had an average of two hours sleep a night, missed so many meals from overtime, skipped lunch breaks that I’ve dropped a dress size. Hence my lunch date and making time to hang out with my little brother, forcing me to