“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 with the effort of staying composed and I force a small smile that I know won’t reach my hazel eyes, flicking my long brown hair off my shoulder with sass and I can’t help myself wounding him the way he’s wounding me.

“I guess you won’t come to the cemetery with me then. To leave flowers on her grave?” The oozing disdain is undeniable, and I hate myself for doing this, but he doesn’t understand what goes on inside of me. How I feel, how much it still hurts even if it was my fault. That I’m screaming inside while the outer shell is a blank and emotional heartless bitch who lives only to make money. That I was pushed and moulded and coerced and left Sohla Kim the girl far behind, so long ago, to be able to take a step day after day to continue living. The same way he did when his father passed away after abusing alcohol and destroying his marriage for years after he lost my father.

“Do you have a right?” He stays with his eyes on the report, his chest a little more noticeably heaving with his breaths but nothing else shows. A cutting question slipping out of that immaculate icy exterior.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I spit venomously, my tone instantly hostile, triggered by his words and stung with his ability to cut me down with so few of them. All these years, it’s always been his biggest weapon against me. Because I loved him even when I didn’t know it, and I think deep down, I love him still. I just don’t want to.

“I don’t want to do this today. Don’t make me the bad guy again. Go….do whatever you’re doing. Take the day off, go take flowers, whatever. Just leave me out of it. I’m not interested.” He closes the file with an exaggerated sigh, remaining composed, and flips it to one side, pushing his chair back and gets up. He shrugs his jacket from the chair behind him and makes it clear he intends on walking out to avoid this conflict. This is what he does. When I raise up to any kind of fight, any kind of attempt at bringing up everything that’s happened over the years, Jyeon leaves, and I hate it so much I feel like I could spit teeth. My anger rises inside like molten lava, and it takes everything me not to flip out and break loose.

“She was your daughter too….. don’t you think it hurts her that you never go there?” It’s out before I can stop myself. Years of this bubbling inside of me and his mid walk pause, and his instant tense posture give me an inkling of satisfaction. A flicker of emotion from him is so rare, that I cling to this even if it’s an unhealthy way of getting it from him. I know this is toxic and we’re dysfunctional, I just can’t stop it.

“Why are you like this?” He turns his head and glares at me over his shoulder. His eyes dark with anger and a deeper emotion that might be sadness, but I can’t back down. I never can. That’s been my problem for a long time. We push and we pull, and we are always at cold war even when the surface is calm, and things seem pleasant.

“Because you act like she never existed. Because you’re like this.” My voice trembles and my throat aches but it sounds like venom rather than genuine pain. Me accusing once more and Jyeon hearing only my shirking blame to him for everything. All he ever sees from me are daggers and bullets, he doesn’t think beyond that.

“Me? Are you really…….? Jesus Christ, Sohla. You’re really something, you know that” He breathily laughs in disbelief, shaking his head and turns to me fully. His face showing hints on internal rage, but he would never lose his cool completely, it’s not how he was raised. He’s the outstanding and impeccable head of the Park family. Master President of OLO and respected mature and calm businessman who shoulders everything for his entire family, without complaint. His mask is as fake and full of shit as mine. We’re products of bad parenting with non-existent coping mechanisms.

“You’re the reason she’s dead. Don’t come at me with this bullshit. I’m not the one who went back to work before we even laid her in the ground, Sohla. I’m not the one who never shed a tear or seemed to care about her and got rid every speck of her existence before her name was on a headstone. You’re cold and dead inside, and you took the one thing from me that might have made us….” He points at me and them himself in a flicking gesture “… worth something. You have no right to come in here and throw bullshit at me about how I am and how I never go to her grave. You don’t know anything about how I live.” He doesn’t wait for me, just storms off in haste without looking back and I know he won’t come back to the office today, slamming the door in his wake. Not now.

I stare blankly after him and yet don’t react. I don’t follow either, but instead lean over and adjust the files he left strewn on his desk and straighten his pen before brushing down my dress and fixing my appearance to go back to my office. Ingrained in me that appearances are worth more than emotions.

I should never have come in here and started this because everything he said is true and I know it and I despise myself, but I can’t help it. We were ill-fated from the start, him and I. Pushed together by force so any real affections were always trampled to death by one thing or another over the years. Death came at us from all angles.

Mother broke down and became a mere shadow of herself while trying to raise me to an impossible standard that I could never reach, and she’s somehow etched her broken soul into mine. Her husbands death shattering and splintering us all as much as my own parent’s death did.

Yoonha introverted and couldn’t help hold up the crumbling walls all around us to help his brother, becoming more emotional and withdrawn as a person and clung to me, so Jyeon did it alone. Jyeon had to become the one to shoulder all things. Silently, without complaint. He lost his entire childhood and had to take on a position before he was even an adult that would make most men crumble.

I was on my own path of self-destruction and so immersed in appearing to be the worthy Park daughter to take my fathers place that I stopped being a human. I stopped having feelings. I couldn’t show my wounds or weaknesses while being a girl if I wanted to succeed in this business. It’s a man’s world and you have to become like them if you want to survive. It was easier to pull on a persona and leave everything I couldn’t face somewhere else.

Our baby, she wasn’t planned. She was a miracle that I never really acknowledged because she didn’t fit my goals and timeline. We had only been married a few months when I found out and still trying to find our feet as a couple, battling with the resentment he felt for being pushed this way. I never appreciated what she was, or why she was sent to me, and I ignored my body and my health despite everything Jyeon begged of me. His father had recently passed and were all dealing in our way with our own issues and not ready for more fallout. She was supposed to be our healing miracle.

I worked, I carried on pushing myself, and disregarded everything they say a pregnant woman should do because I was carrying so much inside of me that I couldn’t put down. Jyeon and I fought relentlessly over how I was being, trying to get me to step down until she was born, and yet OLO mattered to me more. His sanity and need to mourn mattered to me more. Our initial happy first months of growing closer came ripping down around my ears so fast because of the choices I made.

My father’s legacy. My image, my position, my ambition, was the driving force that covered the emptiness inside of me and enabled me to live without them. I was raised to be the ultimate Park daughter. Queen of the helm. There to make mother proud of my accomplishments. My entire identity was moulded to be this unfailing powerhouse daughter-in-law who could handle everything without tears or breaking down, so I couldn’t relinquish it and disappoint her. So many eyes were on me to be my father’s successor in investments, and I couldn’t let him down. I was the last Kim from my bloodline.

 I took an overnight flight when I had signs of bleeding, and warnings to slow down, to attend a three day conference in Germany, and I delivered our premature baby in a bar bathroom after taking clients out to wine and dine. She didn’t live a week, and not once could I show myself to her or take responsibility for what I’d done. I came to my senses too late. Destroyed with my guilt and heartbreak but no one saw it because this face of mine was a blank and dry picture, and Jyeon lost what little affection he ever held for me. Disgusted by my indifference in what he felt was the most painful tragedy of our lives.

I swallowed it down with every other loss and pain and I moved on with my life at a fast pace so I could forget. I wanted to forget her so I could pretend it never happened.

“Vice president Park, do you need anything?” Jyeon’s secretary interrupts my empty gazing into space as my thoughts ran wild and I blink at her in irritation. Coming back to earth and my surroundings with a bump. I shake myself mentally and return to my original façade.

“No. It’s fine, I’m leaving.” I smile insincerely and saunter past her as though all is right in my world. Playing the part.

Jyeon and I are always very careful about who sees us in our fake marriage, so we make a point of showing the world how happy we are. We act so well when the occasion calls for us to appear together in public that I think it’s fooled my heart all these years that I love him.

“Have a good day, Vice President.” The young girl opens the door to let me out and quickly moves so I can leave, without throwing her a glance.

I pull out my cell phone and immerse my focus there, checking my schedule for the day, knowing I didn’t leave any space to allow myself to go to her grave even though I said I would to him. I never intended to. I can’t put myself through that. As for dinner tonight with mother and Yoonha, that’s a given most nights of the week, not that Jyeon would know, as he rarely comes home before eleven pm on a regular basis.

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