“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 class and grace at all times, and I find it hard to sometimes associate her with the woman she is when no one’s looking.

She gets through her life by popping happy pills, and avoiding reality as much as she can, much like I do. The only difference is she has nothing in her life to distract her from long days, except us kids. She doesn’t work anymore as she retired so long ago, so her life of leisure means she spends her time yoyoing from manic bouts of activity and going out, with days endlessly in bed in a dark room and refusing to get up. She’s on a high lately which means a succession of social dates and coming home drunk after spending a fortune at whatever club or game she’s gone to.

I linger to watch her leave before I turn on my heel and wander slowly through our open plan and extravagant home to the formal dining area. Spotting Yoonie already set up with an array of dishes laid out before him. He’s picking at his food absentmindedly and seems way too serious and immersed in thought and I ready myself for what I expect to be coming. Bracing myself and pulling on the mask of indifference.

“Are you sulking or problem solving?” I jest as I slide into the seat opposite him, and instantly watch his face brighten up like a new dawning day with my presence. A complete change in his persona when I come home, as opposed to how he seems when I view him from afar. Yoonha has never really been the same since his father passed away. He carries so many sad emotions and they are way too obvious at times.

“Neither, just thinking….. How are you feeling?” he cautiously asks, and I tense, knowing that of all the people in this house, he’s the only one who would ask me that today of all days. Sometimes I feel like Yoonie is more of a walking diary of the disasters of my life than I am. He remembers everything and he carelessly always tries to pull it out of me.

“Same as every day, why would today be any different?” I brightly answer and lean back as Emily the housekeeper comes and lays my own dishes in front of me, the same as his, and ignore the way his eyes linger on my face as he tries to read me. I smile my thanks her way as she moves off.

“It’s okay to not be okay, you know. That’s what’s wrong with this god damn family. We all act like we’re fine and yet, none of us are. We’re dysfunctional as fuck.” I ignore his intense gaze and pick up my cutlery, eyeballing my food and making appropriate motions as though I’m eager to eat because I’m starving. The smell alone makes me realise I have no appetite.

“What’s with you today? Did your deal fall through? Work getting to you?” I dodge the conversation and adjust my fork to dig into my creamy pasta dish, ignoring what I know he’s dying to talk about. The wall goes up and he’ll never penetrate it. This is how I tackle all things.


I know the tone. The underlying quiver of emotion and the almost yearning need to talk about feelings. I know him too well and if I let him he’ll probe at things I don’t want to open up about and ruin my mood.

“So, today I gave Jyeon the approval file from accounting. It looks like his investment with Biotech might become a reality. He has a good eye. I think we’ll really see a long term return in them and bring funding to take OLO to another level.” I put the food in my mouth even though it tastes like ash when I’m feeling this way. My heart beating a little faster than normal because I want him to drop it and know he’s way more persistent than that.

“Did you go?” He disappoints me by being exactly that dog with a bone that I know he is.

“To Jyeon’s office? Of course, he’s been waiting four days for the risk report. I took it right away.” I feign ignorance and carry on swallowing even though it feels like razor blades in my throat. Unable to look his way and instead stare at my plate.

“The grave, Sohla.” Yoonha dives right to the sore point, and I pause with my fork midway to my mouth, unable to control the punch to my gut but refuse to look him in the eye. Hating him for being like this. He’s always the same. He can’t just let it go and let me move on. Same as his stupid brother, always living in the past and unable to stop.

“Hmmmmm. Did you get your out of office work done today? I passed by around mid-morning, and you were out.” I push it on again towards my mouth and eat it slowly, keeping my face calm and my mannerisms precise knowing he’s looking for any slight reaction. My tone level and my voice clear of anything but upbeat nonchalance. Never show a hint of weakness to anyone.

“Divorce him and start over, Sohla. This isn’t a life. He’s never there for you and now, today of all days, where the fuck is he?”

My cutlery clammers to my plate as I drop it with a spike of anger and throw a glare at Yoonie. Hating that he does this from time to time and never lets it go. Trying to count to ten before I say anything because I don’t want to fight with him of all people, but I don’t get why he makes this his problem every day of the week. He used to love his brother and idolise him to death, but now he barely spends time with him and is the first to criticise his life and choices.

“I don’t want to divorce him. We’re fine how we are, and I saw him today. I don’t need him here. He’s busy for our company, and it’s no more a special day than any other. Stay out of it Yoonie, you don’t understand our relationship.”

“Pfft.” He lets it out in aggravation, pulling a face that displays his anger and disbelief in my words. “Don’t I? I have lived here watching it all from my corner. You think I don’t see how miserable you are, and he never does anything to try and fix things between you. It’s always been him who pulled away and kept you at arm’s length. Are you going to waste your life on a husband that neither shares a bed, or a single meal with you? How is that an existence?”

“I’m not hungry anymore. Eat, you look thinner these days and you’re pale. I have a headache and I’m going to bed early.” I cut him off, making the decision that the best way to tackle Yoonie when he’s this way is to follow Jyeon’s example and leave. There’s a faint smell of whisky on his breath even at this distance and I know he’s not thinking clearly. He’s biased so it’s always Jyeon who is in the wrong.

He does this a lot too, just like his father did. When he can’t handle what’s going on in his head, he turns to booze and makes stupid mistakes. I love Yoonie with my whole heart, as a brother, but I can’t deal with him these days. He’s not that sweet puppy who used to listen to me anymore and I don’t want to mother him. I don’t have it in me to care about other’s deeply like I once did. It’s all weight and stress that I don’t need when I’m barely treading water myself.

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