Copyright 2000 SeChsKieS GurL. All rights reserved.-->
Jinjoo hoisted herself up on the bed, leaning on her weak elbows.
“Cho...meeeee....” she wheezed.
It’s been weeks since she last saw her daughter and she yearned for her now. It was drawing close to July and Chomee left home around mid-June. She decided to let Chomee leave home and go to school in Seoul, even if it meant not seeing her everyday of the school year.
She turned to find a girl about Chomee’s age standing in the doorway. It was her neighbor’s daughter, Myunghee.
“Ajuma! Are you alright?” she asked worriedly, rushing to the choking woman.
“Cho...meeee....I....want...I...want my-my-my Cho-Chomeeeeee.”
“Chomee dongseng’s at school. She’s not here,” Myunghee said hurriedly, patting the woman’s back.
“I’ll go get her! I’ll get her! Wait ajuma! Wait!” Myunghee cried desperately, running back home. “Oma! Oma! Call Chomee! Call Chomee! Ajuma can’t...can’t hold on anymore!”
Myunghee’s mother dashed past her, stumbling into her neighbor’s house. She approached the bed that supported the ill woman and held onto her hand tightly. “Jinjoo,” she whispered.
“Chomee’s away at school.”
“Tell...tell her...to...to...co-co-come home...It-It’s ge-getting dar-dark ou-outside...Cho...meeeee....”
“I’ll tell her! I’ll tell her! I’ll tell Myunghee to go get her! I’ll tell Myunghee to get her! She’s coming home soon! Jinjoo!”
As if right on cue, Myunghee reappeared in the doorway with a glass of water.
“Oma! What are we going to do?!” Myunghee fretted, handing her mother the glass.
“Call Chomee! Call her right now!”
“I dunno Chomee’s phone number!”
“It’s in the kitchen! You’ll see it. Chomee’s name written on a piece of paper with her phone number on it. Go now! NOW!!!”
Myunghee vanished again, nearly colliding with her older brother on her way home.
“Oppa!” she cried, tears streaming down her face.
“It’s Jinjoo ajuma! She’s ill! She’s crying for Chomee! And Chomee’s away at school and I dunno what to do!”
“We don’t have - ”
“Saving her’s more important! Tell oma to wrap her up good in a blanket, I’ll drive around to pick her up. You in the meantime call Chomee and tell her to come back home,” he instructed, whirling around on his heel. Myunghee, taking it all in at once, ran back into Jinjoo’s house, screaming, “Oma! Oppa’s home! Oppa’s home! Hurry!”
“Did you call Chomee yet?”
“No. Oppa said to wrap up ajuma, I’m going to call her right now. Hurry! He’s sending her to the hospital.”
“No...” Jinjoo murmured.
“Yes,” Myunghee’s mother said firmly. “You have to go. Can’t worry about money at a time like this. You’re going! I’m sure Chomee will find a way, you have to go right now!”
Outside, the horned blared loudly.
“Get me a blanket!”
Myunghee fumbled for a blanket and tossed one onto the bed. “I’m going to call her now.”
“They’re coming! They’re coming!” she shouted, running to her brother.
He pushed past her and gently lifted Chomee’s mother. With great ease, he stalked out of the tiny room and out into the sun.
“Hold on ajuma. She’s on her way back.”
“Tell her....Tell her....”
“Don’t talk ajuma. You’re tired. Try to rest now.”
“She’ll be back soon. Watch.”
Back at home, Myunghee switched from hopping on one foot to the other. “PICK UP!!!”
The phone rang on endlessly. Finally someone picked up and it wasn’t Chomee’s voice Myunghee heard.
“You’re not Chomee,” Myunghee accused.
“No, I’m not. Who’s this?”
“I’m Myunghee. Who are you?”
“Her roommate, Miyoung.”
“She’s away. Would you like to leave a message?”
“Do you know where I can reach her? It’s an emergency.”
“I’m not to tell. Do you want to leave a number? I’ll have her call you right away.”
Myunghee couldn’t stall anymore. She had to leave a message with this roommate, whether if she wanted to or not. “Tell her to come home immediately.”
“Her mother’s deathly ill.”
“Oh, no! Is she alright?”
“She’s on her way to the hospital.”
“I’m on my way over! I promise! It won’t take more than twelve hours! Please pray for her!” Miyoung screamed, slamming down the phone.
“I’m Chomee Yoon,” Chomee sighed, climbing up the stairs.
“That, I know,” Jiyong pointed out dryly.
“I’m from Pusan,” she continued, ignoring the remark.
“No, you’re not. You don’t even have the accent.”
“Neither does Jaejin.”
“We’re talking about you, not him and you’re not from Pusan.”
“Then where am I from?” Chomee challenged, her hands icy cold.
“You’re from here. You’re a Seoul kid. I can tell; where exactly in Seoul, I dunno. But you’re from Seoul, not Pusan.”
Now Chomee was truly scared. How could he possibly have known she was from Seoul and not Pusan? Unless...
“You know I’m not from Pusan because of the newspapers,” Chomee guessed.
“Newspapers? You were in the newspapers? When?”
“It makes no difference. I’m from Pusan now,” she said with such sterness even it sounded harsh to her own ears.
“Your origin’s Seoul. Why were you in the newspapers?”
“Because the public wanted to compare the rich to the poor. They wanted to see how you live and how I lived,” Chomee fibbed, stopping in front of Jiyong.
“I was never in the newspapers,” Jiyong recalled, his forehead wrinkling at the thought.
“Yes, you were. You never knew and neither did I, but it was all over Korea. Ko Jiyong, son of Ko - ”
“No, it wasn’t!”
“You’re stupid if you think the public doesn’t know you! They all know you family falls in the category of the top ten millionaires of Korea. They all know you’re blind and a maniac - ”
“I’m not a maniac!”
“Well, you’ve proven yourself to be one. You don’t treat people like they’re human. You throw things at people for no reason. You yell at them for stupid reasons, you -”
“Fine,” Chomee replied softly. “I’ll be in my room packing. Tell your mother to send the money to my mother in Pusan. I won’t be needing it.” With that, she spun around and hopped down the stairs, leaving Jiyong to stare blankly after her.
“Cho-Chomee,” he wailed.
Chomee halted at the cry of her name and raised her chin.
“You still haven’t told me where you’re from.”
“I’m not telling and I won’t tell and you’ll never find out.” Chomee picked up her feet and quickly went to her room to avoid more of his questions. She sat idly on her bed, not quite sure of what to do. She didn’t really mean what she said about going home. She couldn’t. It’d be throwing away a free lottery she had just won.
The phone by her bed screamed, startling her momentarily. She stared at it, uncertain of what to do. She slowly reached for it, her heart pounding. “Yeboseyo?”
“CHOMEEEE!?” Miyoung yelled.
Chomee winced at the loudness of the greeting, her ear unable to handle the loud screech. “Who’s this?”
A racket responded to Chomee’s question as Miyoung chased Soowon out to his car. “Hurry! Why you coming?! No! I asked Soowonie! What?! Why! You!”
“Hello?” Chomee mumbled again, the noise level on the opposite end rising.
“Chomee! Get dressed! We’re on our way to get you! Hurry!” Miyoung said hastily and ended the conversation. She pocketed her cell and jumped in the car with Jaejin and Soowon.
“Why is she at the wheel?” Jaejin asked Soowon.
“You think I know?!” Soowon replied, buckling the seatbeat.
“It’s your car!”
“So?” Soowon said with a shrug.
“Shut up!” Miyoung shrieked as she started the engine. “Another word from either of you, you’re dead!”
Soowon and Jaejin exchanged glances before settling back in their seats. Miyoung backed out of the parking space and drove menacingly to Jiyong’s house.
“I’m pretty sure her room should be next to Jiyong’s. She’s his personal nurse! So, she’ll have to sleep close to him in case of an emergency. Right?”
“So, it’s one of the corner rooms. No doubt.”
“I still say we kidnap her and have her as bait to lure Jinjoo out.”
“No. Jinjoo’s too sick to leave her bed.”
“I asked the girl. She said she’s from Pusan. Her mother’s back in Pusan, living under a neighbor’s care. She came here to earn money for school and for her mother.”
“Sounds pretty sincere. Serious, too.”
“Don’t be fooled.”
“So, I’m just gonna smother her?”
“It won’t take long. She’s fairly small.”
“CHOMEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Miyoung howled, pulling up the driveway with Soowon and Jaejin in the car. She had to bug Soowon for his car and as usual, Jaejin always had to butt in, causing her to drag the both of them with her. She hopped out of the car and jogged to the door, beating it up with impatience. “CHOMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”
“Miyoung!” Ajuma exclaimed, yanking the door open.
“OUTTA MY WAY! CHOMEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Miyoung belted out, running past the curious and bemused woman.
“She has issues,” Jaejin said playfully.
“Which is why I’m not with her anymore,” Soowon added.
“CHOMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Miyoung drew to a stop at the sight of Jiyong in the dining hall, a bit surprised. “Blind boy decided to get a breath of fresh air?”
Before Jiyong could even establish the voice of his vistor, Chomee appeared from the kitchen with a bowl of soup.
“Miyoung!” Chomee gasped, surprised to see her classmate.
“C’mon! Let’s go!”
“Go home! Chomee, your mother’s in the hospital!”
Chomee dropped the bowl at the news and jumped out the way as it shattered to a million pieces on the floor. “My mom?”
“Some girl named Myunghee called. She told me to tell you to come straight home. I’m guessing your mother’s in a really bad condition.”
“C’mon! I have the car. I’ll drive you.”
“I-I-I don’t even know the way home! I-I-I took the bus and then a boat out here.”
“Jaejin does. If it’s a hospital in Pusan, then he has to know,” Miyoung said hastily, jerking Chomee’s hand.
“Oh, my God,” Chomee mumbled again and again, letting Miyoung guide her away.
Chomee looked back at Jiyong who had a lost expression on his face.
“What’s going on?” he asked, his face pouty.
“Something you rich wangja byung nowadays don’t understand. Come, Chomee. No need to waste your time with this insensitive bitch.”
With the help of Jaejin and Miyoung’s support, Chomee managed to stumble out the house with wobbly legs.
Susan lingered at the thought of calling Jiyong. It’s been months since she last heard his sexy voice, the thought just made her skin tingle.
She stared at the Gucci purse Jiyong had gotten her on her fifteenth birthday. Thinking in retrospect, maybe it wasn’t even his idea to get such a gift. She sucked on her teeth at the possibility. She pawed through her bag for her phone, another gift from Jiyong.
Damn, everything I have is from him, she thought sourly.
She dialed the first three digits of his number but stopped, not quite sure how she would ask for him.
Wait...maybe he’ll talk to me later. The later, the better.
She dropped the phone back in her purse and sighed heavily. She glanced at her Guess watch - another one of Jiyong’s expensive presents to her, and her eyes grew wide.
“It’s eleven already?” she wondered aloud. “My t.v.!” She flung the door to her room open and sped down the stairs to where her best friend stood against the wall. She clicked on the remote and sank in snugly on her couch, letting the show drink in her attention until late tomorrow morning.
“Oma!” Chomee yelped, bursting into the room. She searched frantically for her mother who was the only patient in the room. “MAAAAAA!”
“Ma,” Chomee whispered tearfully, pain stabbing her heart.
“I’m home. I’m home,” Chomee sobbed, running to her mother’s side. “I’m home, Oma. I’m home.”
Chomee cried harder, realizing her mother was thinking back in the days when Chomee was only in elementary school.
Chomee ignored Miyoung’s soft voice that crooned her. She kept close to her mother, aware of Soowon, Jaejin and Miyoung all filed into the room together.
“Oma,” Chomee whimpered, fresh tears flooding her eyes.
“Is school hard?”
“No, I’m trying. I have Miyoung helping me.” Chomee have never felt so guilty in her life. She lied to her mother about going to school in the summer just so she could find a job instead of tending to her mother’s illness. She had been out of school for almost three weeks and she never notified her mother.
“Don’t study too hard. Oma knows you’re trying...but...don’t...don’t.....”
“Oma, don’t talk. Go to sleep. Go....”
“You...you must be hungry...and...and tired....” Jinjoo continued, not hearing her daughter. “Fin-Finish you home-homework to-tomor-morrow....”
“Ma!” Chomee screamed. “Ma! I don’t have homework! I don’t have school! I don’t have anything! Oma! Please...”
Miyoung reached for the girl who was close to being hysterical and held her tight. “It’s okay. Your mom will be fine.”
“No, no, no, no, no....no....no!” Chomee shook her head defiantly. “Don’t do this to me now. No....”
“My mom still lives here in Pusan. I’m pretty sure she’ll let us stay the night,” Jaejin said uneasily.
“But I don’t want to leave,” Chomee objected thickly.
“They’ll make you eventually,” Miyoung said soothingly, stroking Chomee’s hair.
“I can’t...I can’t!”
“How can I?! Look at her!” Chomee shrieked, jerking away from Miyoung.
“My mom’s house is not that far away,” Jaejin said convincingly.
“How about this. Chomee has to get back to Jiyong - ”
“But my mother’s more important!”
“Lemme finish,” Miyoung said calmly, holding up a hand. “I’ll stay with Jaejin and sleep over his house and I’ll be with your mother until you can get away from Jiyong’s madhouse. I would love to go and substitute for you, but I don’t think the servants are that dumb to not see the difference between me and you. Plus I think Jiyong would rather have you aiding him instead of me. I'm not that patient with rich snobs like him, so you're stuck with that job.”
Chomee opened her mouth to protest but Miyoung continued her speech. “Soowon will bring you back. Jaejin knows Pusan better, of course, being his home and all. Don’t worry, I’ll be with you mom day and night. I’ll call you to let you know her daily progress. Now be gone!”
“Be gone!” Miyoung faked a cough, turning Chomee away. “You, too.” She pointed at Soowon. “If anything happens to her on the way back, I’ll make you regret we ever went out, let alone meeting me.”
“Ouch, aren’t you being a little too harsh?” Soowon asked, faking a wince.
“I’ll drive you back to the docks,” Jaejin offered.
The three of them left Miyoung behind to look after Jinjoo. Jaejin drove the two to exactly where he said he was going to drop them off at.
“Be careful,” Jaejin warned, pecking Chomee’s cheek.
“I will,” she assured him.
“No. I mean extremely careful. Sumthin will happen tonight. Sumthin bad.”
Susan sipped at her coconut drink, captivated like a zombie, her eyes nearly popped out of her sockets. Her back ache from long hours of slouching and her hands were numb from gripping too tightly on her cup.
“No! Behind you! No, you stupid! Turn around! He has a knife!” she screamed at the t.v.
Chomee arrived to Jiyong’s castle shortly after the shaky boat ride. Soowon called Jiwon for a ride and they escorted her home. She rubbed the back of her stiff neck and sauntered sulkily to her room.
"Boy, it's awfully quiet tonight," she said aloud to herself. Everybody was snoring away in bed just as she had expected. She glanced at the grandfather clock that loomed ahead. Two-thirty.
She then remembered her daily rounds to check in on Jiyong before going to bed. She approached his room and gently pushed the door ajar, sticking her head in through the gap.
The bright moonlight reflected on his beautiful, angelic face - making him seem flawless. His lashes had a natural curl of a girl's which made him look so heavenly in peace. His lips curved into a satisfied smile as if he was dreaming for the perfect Christmas day.
Chomee stepped into the room and planted a slight kiss on Jiyong's cheek. He turned to sleep on his side, his smile stretching wider than before. She stalked silently away into the night, retiring to her own room.
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