The man brought the cigarette to his lips again, waiting for the house to be silent again. He just saw the girl enter the house and estimated it would take her about half an hour to settle. He squinted his eyes in the dark, digging his shoe into the soft ground as he waited for time to pass.
It would be an easy mission. The woman was right. The girl was fairly small - a little elf, if he may call her that. He hadn’t seen the girl himself since eight years ago and she’s still the same. Small and petite. It’s a pity Jinjoo had to go on living all alone. Since Shikbae’s death, she made sure Chomee had the best of everything. Sad how all that seems to be a waste now.
He checked his watch again. It was a little after two-forty. He approached the house, stalking like a panther, soundless like a ghost. He stood directly under Jiyong’s room, which was the side of the house. He slipped on the black leather gloves and leaned against the wall, still smoking his cigarette. As he finished the last of it, watching the trace of smoke disappearing, he decided it should be time.
He placed a firm hand on a piece of the wall jutting out, using it as an aid to start off his climb. He then carefully and professionally placed his foot on the ledge. Slowly, he scaled the wall like a spider, grunting along. Finally, once reaching the balcony, he rolled onto the platform and knocked the chairs noisily to the side. He cursed softly under his breath, hoping the people sound asleep didn’t hear the slight commotion. And definitely not the girl.
He reached out to pull the curtains aside, surprised to find the sliding windows wide open. He rolled into the room with ease and paused in the middle to listen for noises.
Chomee felt her ears go stiff at the muffled crash. It sounded like it had just come from Jiyong’s room. She paused a bit longer, waiting for more sounds of motion. She let out a shaky breath and changed out of her outfit to her sleepwear.
She picked up the folded sheets and tossed them in the air, spreading it wide across her bed. No matter the weather, she always slept with blankets covering her. She glanced at the pictures on her desk and climbed into bed, snapping off the light.
He stared down at the sleeping figure and stilled, listening for movements in the rest of the house. He reached for the extra pillow that laid by the pale girl. Her face was turned facing the wall, again to his surprise, she was already asleep, purring softly with each intake of breath.
He reached for her chin, turning it so she faced him. As quick as lightening, he slammed the pillow onto her face, pushing it down. Just as he expected, a muffled scream escaped her throat as she thrashed around wildly. Her long arms found his and tried to yank it off the pillow. The screams continued on like she was at a singing contest. He pressed harder, in hopes of smothering her screams. He used his free hand and grabbed her thin, flailing arms, pinning them against the bedpost.
Chomee laid flat on her back, staring off into space where the bright moonbeams reflected off the smooth, white wall.
“Sumthin bad...” Jaejin’s warning gnawed at her nerves deeply. She wrapped her arms around herself, trying to warm off the sudden chill that overtook her body. She threw the covers over her shoulders, wrapping it tightly around her arms.
She kicked off the covers and rose out of bed. She glanced at the digital clock by her bed that glowed two-fifty.
Jiyong clawed at the hands of the person that was suffocating and stopping his supply of oxygen.“Ch-Ch-Choooooooooooooommmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”
The hands pressed down harder, hurting his nose.
He knew Chomee wouldn’t be able to hear him. She lived in the other end of the house. The distance between the two rooms were far too great. “Ch-Chooooomeeeeeeeeeee!” he tried again, hearing his own muffled voice. “Ahhhh...jooooooooooooooomaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”
Chomee stopped dead in her tracks as she heard a soft howl crying for her.
“I’m sleepwalking,” she said, trying to pinch herself awake. But it seemed so real. “I must be imagining it,” she told herself.
“Chooooooomeeeeeee!” the voice came again. It sounded so familiar.
“Jiyong?” She looked up at the staircase, realizing she was now in the living room. She chewed on her lip, waiting for another cry. “It’s me,” she said firmly to herself.
“Sumthin bad...” Jaejin’s voice echoed.
Chomee bolted up the stairs and advanced to Jiyong’s door, pressing her ear against it.
“Ahhhhjooooomaaaa...Cho-Chomeeeee,” Jiyong’s soft voice cried out weakly.
“Damn it! Die, you bitch!”
Chomee jumped back from the door, shocked someone else was in the room with Jiyong. She pressed her ear to the door again, hearing a struggle between the two.
Chomee turned the knob and threw the door open. She found a man dressed in all black with a ski mask covering his face. He was bending over Jiyong’s wild, thrashing body, smoldering his cries with something in his hand.
“MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” came Jiyong’s muffled cry.
She then realized he was being smothered to death. “Jiyong!” she croaked, her voice caught. She approached his bed, trying to see the man.
The man whirled around, shocked to find the small girl standing before him.
“What are you doing to him!?” she demanded, storming closer to the hitman.
The man backhanded her, sending her reeling sideways to the floor under the impact. In a flash, she rolled onto her stomach and crawled over to him. He stepped forward and kicked her chin, muttering, “Damn you, Jinjoo,” before disappearing through the wide windows.
Chomee cupped her stinging chin as blood trickled down the corner of her mouth.
“Chomee?” Jiyong choked, flinging the pillow away.
“Yeah,” she spat, wiping away the blood.
“Is that really you? You’re back? Are you okay?” He felt around his bed for her, his eyes wide open with fear.
“Uh-huh,” she answered, crawling to him. She hauled herself up and plopped on the side of his bed, his arms entwining hers.
“Who was that?”
“Uh-uh no,” she mumbled, her lips numb.
“Did you see how he looked like?”
Chomee shook her head, wincing at the pain that shot through her. Jiyong traced a finger around her face, finding the small stream of blood that flowed at the corner of her mouth. He continued his way up her cheek and around to the other side of her face. “He hit you,” he concluded.
“If not dat bad,” Chomee lied, chewing her lip.
“But you’re bleeding!” Jiyong protested.
“If nuh fing big. Jessa cut.”
Jiyong cradled her in his arms, resting his head on hers. She sighed and leaned back in his embrace, perturbed by the attack.
“It’s June and he’s bundled up like he’s going skiing,” Chomee whispered to herself, feeling some sensation returning to her lips.
“It’s too hot to be dressed like that...and...”
“What are you talking about?”
“The man was after me. Not you.”
Uncomfortable silence hung between the two.
“If he was after you, he wouldn’t have covered his face. How would he have known you live up here unless he dug up some history? Everybody in Korea knows you’re blind, so there’s no need for him to hide his face. And he shouldn’t have to worry about servants because they live in the other end of the house,” Chomee babbled to herself.
“Still...what if it was random?”
“No. He knows me. He said ‘Jinjoo’ before leaving.”
Jiyong pulled away, baffled.
“Jinjoo’s my mother’s name. He was after me. Probably my mother, too,” Chomee said quietly, the sudden thought striking her.
“My mom! I have to go home!” Chomee shouted, breaking from Jiyong’s hold.
“Chomee, calm down!”
“It’s easy for you to say! Your mom’s rich, she can hire bodyguards! My mom can’t!”
“Chomee...Miyoung called not too long ago. She and Jaejin’s with your mom. Jaejin’s big and muscular. Trust me. She’s fine.”
“She’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”
Chomee fell back on the bed, her shoulders and heart heavy with grief. Tears climbed to her eyes and spilled endlessly onto her lap. Jiyong brushed away a tear and pulled her to his chest again, feeling a wet spot grow. She placed her head on his shoulder, letting him stroke her hair.
“Oma,” she croaked, feeling Jiyong’s strong arms tighten around her. He kissed her forehead and pulled her down onto the bed, letting the tears soak his shirt.
As the sun blazed highly in the sky, Sangah slept. Her room was cool, shaded by the blinds and curtains. Her breathing was imperceptible.
Suddenly a ray of sunlight, slipping under an open shutter, found a crack in the curtains and splashed across the bed. At its touch, Sangah stirred, pulling the coverlet over her head. She could still see the red box filled with jewels and willed herself to dream again. But it was no use.
She groaned at the sound of her name and snuggled deeper into her bed.
“Wake up, silly girl! Your buns are already toasted by the sun and you’re still sleeping!?”
“Uhm…” she replied dreamily.
“Still uhmming? It’s nine already and you’re still in bed! You’re the most laziest pig I know!”
The blind snapped open, burning the back of Sangah’s head instantly.
“AHHHHH-JOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” Sangah screamed, pulling the blanket tighter around her head.
“The spell is broken, Sleeping Beauty.” Ajuma laughed, exiting Sangah’s room.
Sangah sat on her bed with her cover still draped over her head. She reluctantly pulled on her working clothes and yanked off the thin cloth on her head, folding it neatly neatly onto her bed.
She cleaned herself and made sure was presentable. She sauntered to the bathroom and pulled out the water basin, filling it with lukewarm water. She dropped in Chomee’s face towel as she turned the facets off and threw Jiyong’s towel over her shoulder.
She balanced the mini tub in her two palms and trudged to Chomee’s room. She knocked on the door upon arrival and entered without hesitating.
“Good morning, Miss Chomee,” Sangah greeted, slipping the bucket-like instrument onto the dresser. She looked over to the unmade bed and glanced at the floor, noticing both Chomee’s shoes and her slippers were present in the room.
“Chomee?” Sangah heard her voice raise with alarm and fear. She retreated out the room and ran straight to the kitchen where Ajuma was putting finishing touches on the day’s breakfast.
“Sangah, why are you running like that? Are you well? You don’t look too good,” Ajuma commented with a frown.
“Cho-Chomeeee! She’s gone!” Sangah gulped, beads of sweat appearing on her forehead.
“Of course she is! You think the girl’s lazy like you?! She wakes up at seven you know!”
“No, Ajuma! Chomee’s gone! Kidnapped! Poof in thin air! Her shoes and slippers are in her room and her bed’s unmade!”
“Shoes and slippers?” Ajuma’s frown deepened at the information. “Are you sure?”
“I’m positive!” Sangah’s voice quivered.
“Hmm…” Ajuma stared at her feet, trying to remember what had happened the night before. “Aha!” she cried, snapping her fingers.
“Didn’t she say she was going home? She’s probably at home right now!”
“But her shoes are here!”
“Maybe she wore a different pair.”
Poor Sangah. She was eager to believe anything at the moment. She let out a breath of relief at the reminder.
“She’ll call back today,” Ajuma reckoned.
Sangah nodded in agreement and returned to work. She returned to Chomee’s room and dropped in Jiyong’s towel in the basin and wrung out Chomee’s, hanging it by the window to dry. She carried the tub to Jiyong’s room, worried if he would start throwing things at her again. She came to his door, surprised to find it ajar.
“Ah? That’s strange. The door’s open,” Sangah said to herself. She set the basin down on his desk and cautiously stepped over to his bed. She squinted her eyes as they began to adapt to the darkness. She tripped over a pillow that was probably flung at a servant who tried entering his room. She found the opening of the window and was amazed to find herself getting all the way across his room without waking him up. She found the string to the curtains and gave it a light tug, illuminating the room with the bright morning sun.
“Wakey, wakey,” Sangah sang harmonically, spinning around. She stared hard at the head of his bed, shaking her head as if trying to wake herself of a bad dream. She rubbed her eyes, hoping it would stop her from seeing doubles.
But she was seeing two heads! Unmistakably, Chomee’s and Jiyong’s! Her hand crept up to her throat and stopped at her mouth. Her eyes watered from unblinking, captivated by the sight in front of her.
Chomee snuggled closer to Jiyong and she threw an arm around his waist, purring softly like a kitten. Sangah watched a moment longer before belting out a mortified scream.
Miyoung’s arm slipped off the table, waking her with a start. She opened her eyes just in time to see Jaejin tumbling to the floor, his chair falling right on top of him. “Jaejin!”
“I’m alright,” he assured, rolling onto his back, pushing the chair away.
Miyoung got up from her chair to check and giggled at the funny sight.
“Call Chomee,” Jaejin said abruptly, pulling himself up.
Miyoung stopped laughing. “What?”
“Call her. Sumthin happened,” Jaejin said hastily, picking up the chair.
“What time is it?”
“Just call her. It’s early enough.”
Chomee felt Jiyong squeeze her wrist, making her squeal with pain. She heard a cry that matched her own and blinked to the morning light. She placed a hand on the side of her face that was hard and dried of tears. Jiyong, beside her, stirred to the shrieking symphony. Ajuma pranced into the room, shaking Sangah like a rag doll.
“Ah-Ah-Ah...joooooooooooooooomaaaaaa! Look!” Sangah pointed a shaky finger at the two entwined bodies.
“Chomee! Jiyong!” Ajuma gasped, horrified.
“Uh?” Chomee mumbled, propping herself up on Jiyong’s bed.
“What are you two DOING!?” Ajuma thundered.
“Doing?” Chomee echoed, still sleepy. “Slee...sleeping...”
“Oma...I don’t wanna go to school today,” Jiyong muttered.
“I don’t either!” Chomee agreed, falling back on the bed.
“Ajuma!” Sangah whispered loudly.
“I think they just fell asleep together. That’s all. They still have their clothes on.”
“But!” Sangah protested, her face livid with pure terror and hatred.
“Just let them sleep a little longer. We’ll ask them what happened when they wake up.” Ajuma walked over to the end of the bed and pulled the cover over the two children.
“How come you treat Chomee better than the rest of us?” Sangah demanded crossly.
“Appa...” Chomee murmured. “Sarang haeyo.”
Jinjoo coughed as saliva started to build up in her mouth. The back of her head hammered as she choked on. She heard someone say ‘ajuma’ before she brought the coughing down to a control. She slowly pried her eyes open to find two strangers peering down at her. A handsome young man and a pretty little girl. Both about Chomee’s age or possibly older.
“Ajuma,” the girl called out softly, smiling.
“Where am I?” Jinjoo mouthed, too tired to speak.
“Hospital,” the boy answered.
“Chomeeeeeee,” Jinjoo rasped.
“Chomee’s away at school,” Miyong lied.
Jinjoo nodded, somewhat pleased with the response. She felt herself relax and shifted to a more comfortable position on the bed.
“I’ll call Chomee later. Ajuma, do you want to talk to her?”
Jinjoo nodded to everything, unaware of her surroundings. “Anything. Anything for Chomee...” She soon lasped into the state of unconsciousness, darkness swallowing her whole.
“Did you kill her?”
The man hung his head low, avoiding the woman’s piercing gaze.
“I was in the wrong room,” he said slowly and cautiously.
“Wrong room?!” the voice rose to a shrill.
“I climbed into your son’s room by accident.”
“But I didn’t kill him,” he was quick to add.
Mrs. Ko felt the room tilt beneath her big chair. She felt as if she were perched, teetering, on the edge of a cliff, nothing but a black abyss before her. The temperature seemed to have dropped down ten notches, her heart pounding wildly against the rib cage. “Kill my son?”
“No. I slapped the girl hard enough though.”
Mrs. Ko raised a brow.
“She still managed to crawl to me on all fours after I smacked her.”
“Where did she come from?”
“I have no idea! I didn’t even hear her! She came in like a ghost!”
“But...is Jiyong alright?”
“He should be.”
“What do you mean ‘he should be’ ?!”
“He was still breathing when I left.”
“You don’t mean...” Then it struck her. She refused to believe it, but she was left with no choice. “You son of a bitch! You touched my son!?”
“It was a mistake!”
“A very big one! Why didn’t you look?!”
“I did! I thought it was the girl!”
“But - ”
“GET OUT!!! I don’t ever wanna see you again!”
“Is Chomee there?” Miyoung whispered hoarsely, her throat clogged up.
“What about Jiyong?” Jaejin asked, snatching the phone out of Miyoung’s hand.
“He’s sleeping with her.”
“That’s odd. Chomee usually wakes up at seven. It’s eleven already and she’s still sleeping?” Miyoung murmured to herself.
“That’s good,” Jaejin said, relieved and smiling. Then he let Sangah’s reply sink in. “Wait! What did you just say?!!”
“He’s sleeping with her,” Sangah repeated.
“HE’S SLEEPING WITH HER???!!!!” Jaejin shrieked, mortified.
“WHAT?!” Miyoung was quick to follow.
“They didn’t...they’re just...sleeping,” Sangah said uncomfortably.
“Oh...” Jaejin let out, understanding. “But still! Him...never mind.”
“What happened?!” Miyoung demanded, grabbing Jaejin by the shoulders. “I wanna know too!”
“I’ll call back later. Bye,” Jaejin told Sangah, hanging up the phone.
“What happened?” Miyoung said again, spinning Jaejin around.
“They’re still sleeping,” he informed her.
"I know that, but together?"
“They’re sleeping. Nothing else.”
Miyoung just simply nodded.
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