Chomee stirred, breaking from the heavy sleepy trance she was locked in and blinked her eyes. Beside her, Jiyong slept on, not letting a single movement disturb him. She yawned as the radiant sun shift to its afternoon colors, blinding her momentarily. She shook her head, trying to climb over Jiyong’s still body without waking him. She rolled off the bed with a thud, forgetting she had spent the night in his room. “Ahhhh...”
Her mouth was dry like a clean popsicle stick. She stumbled her way out of his room, her arms outstretched as if she was sleepwalking. She felt around the familiar ways, sleep still hanging over her. A heavy, dreadful feeling she was unable to shake off. She heard a sound, like someone calling her. But it didn’t register.
She continued paddling all the way to the bathroom, the voice drifting to her ears closely.
“Chomee...Chomee? Are you alright?”
A dark figure appeared by her side and she shook her head, willing herself to see the person. She dipped her hand into the sink, turning on the faucet to the let the lukewarm water slip between her fingers. She splattered some water onto her face, feeling the iciness shock her.
“Chomee...” the voice babbled on.
Chomee reached for the knobs and stopped the water. She patted her face and stood at attention, seeing Sangah’s blurred face. “Hi,” she finally said.
“Are you alright?” Sangah asked again, her brows knotting together.
“Tired. What time is it?”
“A little past twleve.”
“Twelve?!” Chomee was shocked she had been snoring for that long.
“That was quite a beauty sleep, huh?”
“That was called a coma, not beauty sleep. What time did I sleep last night?” Chomee tried thinking back to last night, but her mind keeps drawing up a blank scene. Her mouth twitched in one corner and triggered pain, suddenly the events from the night before came flooding back.
“Jiyong!” she exclaimed, remembering the man that was choking Jiyong.
“What about him?”
“Where is he?!” Chomee pushed past the servant girl and rushed back into Jiyong’s room, forgetting she had just come from there.
“In his room,” Sangah replied, running after Chomee.
Chomee sighed in relief when she saw Jiyong sprawled on his bed, his limbs spread out. “What a pig,” she muttered at the sight.
“Funny. You were just sleeping with the pig,” Sangah reminded Chomee.
“Sleeping...wait. With the pig?” Chomee was baffled.
“Yeah, you really don’t remember, do you? Do you remember where you woke up?”
Chomee bit her lip at the question as she wandered out of Jiyong’s room. Indeed, she didn’t remember. She only remembered climbing over someone’s body and stumbled into the bathroom. “In my room?” she said weakly.
“What did you two do last night?! You don’t even remember?!” Sangah drew an incredulous look.
“I honestly don’t. Only remembered that he was being attacked by some man and the man disappeared through the window.” Chomee returned to the bathroom to brush her teeth.
“Attack? Man? What man?!” Sangah cried in alarm.
“Uh-uhno. Uh jussaw a mun uhn he jes diahar on me,” Chomee replied, stroking her teeth with the brush, the foam crowding around her lips.
“You mean...Master Jiyong was in danger last night?”
Chomee winced as hot pain shot through her mouth and numbed her chin. The brush fell out of her hand and clattered against the sink. She spat out the white foam, blood coloring it she rinsed it down the drain. “Chomee!” Sangah gasped, her face paling.
“He...kick...kick eeee,” Chomee explained, spitting out more discharge. “Owwww...”
“He kicked you?! In the mouth?!!”
Chomee nodded, cupping her chin.
“Wait. I’m getting Ajuma.”
Chomee reached out and grabbed Sangah’s wrist as she started to sprint away. “Uh...” She shook her head. She didn’t want the old woman to worry and secure bars in the windows. Her mind was quickly filled with different reactions Ajuma would have if the incident was reported.
“But Chomee! You’re hurt!” Sangah protested, pointing at Chomee’s mouth as more blook trickled from the cut.
Chomee shook her head again, her hair flying out of control. The room started to tilt under her and she closed her eyes to still herself, trying to stop the madness.
“Okay, okay! I won’t tell her,” Sangah promised, resting her hand on Chomee’s arm.
The room whirled on for a minute or so and Chomee re-opened her eyes. She spat another mouthful of saliva mingled with blood into the sink and rinsed her toothbrush clean. “Uh be okay,” she managed to say, wiping the corners of her mouth.
“I’ll get you something to eat,” Sangah said softly and hurried away.
Chomee went into her room and changed into another pair of shorts and a t-shirt. She made her bed and combed the tangles out of her short, apple bobbed hair. She looked into the mirror, groaning at the sight of the bulging bruise and patted the residing pain. It was impossible to that thing from Ajuma. She could fool Jiyong, but not the nosy woman. She’s always finding things out. One way or another.
She left her room and reappeared in Jiyong’s room, picking up the pillow he had flung away when the man laid eyes on her. She gave Jiyong’s arm a hard slap, nearly sending him tumbling off his bed. He jumped, his arms flailing out to reach whatever had stung him. Chomee stumbled backwards and fell on the floor as Jiyong’s arms sailed over her head.
“Is that the way how you wake up every morning?” Chomee couldn’t resist asking.
“Chomee? I thought it was something else.”
“What or who else would have the guts to come in your room? After you’ve threatened to everybody that does.”
“Time to wake up.”
"What time is it?"
Chomee looked around for a clock. “It’s after twelve.”
"Like I said, you're a pig."
“Oh, I told Sangah that when she was in here earlier. You should’ve seen yourself. You looked like a bum with your arms and legs spread out.” Chomee giggled, remembering the sight.
“I had a hard time falling back asleep. I was so scared,” Jiyong said sullenly.
“Tell me later. I’m eating breakfast...wait. Lunch.”
“Fine. But I’m not eating until you tell me where you’re really from.”
Chomee frowned at the reminder of yesterday’s conversation before she left for the hospital. “If...you promise not to throw your food at me like you did the first day we met.”
Susan blinked. The t.v. blared loudly in her ears. She sat up with a start, trying to clear her mind as she wondered how she ended up on the living room couch. She glanced at the clock that was hanging high over the t.v. and sighed. Twelve-thirty. She rose out of the leather seating and stretched out. She rubbed her eyes, cleaning out the debris that was stuck to the corners.
She entered the bathroom and washed her face, feeling refreshed as she took in a gulp of air. She quickly brushed her teeth and hair, feeling close to perfection with every stroke. She smiled at her reflection and studied the slight dimple on the right side of her face. Suddenly the self-confidence she had felt when she was dating Jiyong, returned. She felt energized and pumped. Staring at her shiny, radiant hair, she replaced the brush close to the bathroom sink and left.
She went to her room and picked up the purse, feeling for her phone. She plucked it out gingerly and quickly dialed Jiyong’s number. Five rings went by and she was losing patience. Finally someone picked up and the sudden clammy, nervous feeling slammed her stomach again.
“Yeboseyo?” a small voice said.
Susan frowned at the voice. It was a voice she never heard. It was of a new girl. “Yeboseyo?”
Chomee waited for more. She was getting ready to replace the receiver when the voice requested for Jiyong. “Who’s this?”
“His girlfriend, Susan,” Susan replied, growing suspicious of Chomee’s voice.
“Hold on, please,” Chomee said sweetly. She ran to the dining table and bit another mouthful of bagel before letting Jiyong know Susan was on the phone. She pounded up the stairs and poked her head into his room, surprised to see he wasn’t there.
“What?” his deep voice spoke, standing awkwardly next to her.
Chomee jumped. She jerked her head back and saw his damp hair in a messy heap, the soft scent wafting subtly to her nose. “You were showering?”
“Was I so much dirtier earlier that you noticed the difference?”
Chomee ignored the cocky response. “Susan’s on the phone.”
“Who!?” Jiyong hooted, surprised to hear his ex-girlfriend’s name.
“Susan. The great, bootiful one.”
“Yeah, she has a booty alright,” Jiyong said dryly.
“Hurry! I don’t think she’s too happy to hear my voice.”
“She’s always thinking the worst of things.”
Chomee bounced down the stairs and returned to her food. Chewing slowly, she listened attentively to Jiyong’s end of the conversation.
“Hello!” Jiyong barked into the phone.
“Jiyong?” Susan whispered, relieved to hear his voice and not the girl’s.
“What do you want?”
After all that time, he was still bitter and grouchy.
"Who was that?"
"I know that. But who is she?"
"What's it to you? What do you want?"
"I want to know who she is!" Susan was furious now. Jiyong knew she hated it when she demanded an answer and no one would give it to her.
"Why? What's it to you?"
"Jiyong! I have a right to know! I'm your girlfriend!"
"Oh...are you?" The comeback was light and cool. Very casual. More like a meaningless comment. "I could have sworn when Mom kicked me out, you didn't stop her from doing so. Instead! You agreed to it! You two probably planned it together to have me disappear from the face of Earth!"
"No, Jiyong! That's not - "
Jiyong continued on. "Anyways. We both know deep down inside how we feel about each other. Why don't you just tell me what you want, 'cause I got things to do."
“Who’s that girl?”
Chomee chewed on, aware the exchange between the couple was nasty. Jiyong’s replies. Exactly the way the same when she first met him.
“You really wanna know?! You really insist on knowing?!” Jiyong bellowed. “You asked for it, bitch!”
Susan felt her shoulders slump under the impact of the name. He had just called her a bitch! How unbelievable! “Who is she?” she asked again, quiet.
“Chomee...” he drawled, feeling his insides getting all tingly and warm. Happily picturing Susan squirm at any girl’s name other than hers.
Chomee’s ears pricked at the mentioning of her name. How did she get into this?
“Chomee,” he repeated smugly. “She is my girlfriend.”
Chomee dropped her bagel and started choking. The chewed up and swallowed muck found their way back up her throat and dropped on the table like pudding. Piles and piles lay in front of her as she fought to bring the coughing under control. She felt a hand patting her gently on the back. She whirled around to find Jiyong’s face scrunced up with worry. “What did you tell her?!” Chomee shrieked, still choking slightly.
“I expected her to drop dead choking, but instead you did. Are you okay?” he asked sincerely.
“No, I’m not okay! How did I get into your business with her?!”
“I wanted to piss her off so I told her you were my girlfriend.”
“What if she comes after me with an axe?!” Chomee fumed, cleaning up her mess.
“Now, how come you’re so confident?”
“I went out with her, remember?”
“Trust me. She’ll be broken hearted, but not after Chomee Yoon.”
Susan clutched the phone to her chest. Jiyong’s words stunned her. Stunned her to the very core. In such a short time, how did he manage to find a new girlfriend?! And how could he do this to her?! Plus, he couldn’t see, how would he know how she looked like!? Questions filled her mind. Strange and demanding questions.
She dropped the phone back in her purse and sat back, leaning against the bed post. She wanted answers. That Chomee girl was a threat. A threat to her. A threat to her future.
Mrs. Ko paced around her room, heated with defeat. There was nothing she could do to help her son now. Absolutely nothing. She picked up the neatly folded newspaper and opened it. The phone rang to her dismay as the headache worked its way back up the dark ravine of her brain, pounding mercilessly against her skull.
“Yeboseyo?” she snapped, plucking the phone off the hook.
“Puyin?” a trembling voice murmured.
“Puyin! You won’t believe what happened!”
“Yes?” The sick feeling of dread coiled in her stomach again.
“It’s the Young Master! He was attacked last night!” Ajuma reported.
Mrs. Ko let out a breath of relief at the information. She had already learned of it this morning. “Is he quite well?”
“Thanks to Chomee. She saved him.”
“Yes! I dunno how that girl knew he was in trouble! But she saved his life!” Ajuma said proudly.
“How?” This wasn’t what Mrs. Ko had in mind.
“A man was in the room, strangling the poor boy. She said she couldn’t sleep and so she came out for a walk in the gardens when she heard a slight scream. Like a muffled shriek, she said. Then she followed the voice and found Master Jiyong under a pillow, suffocating! And she wasn’t sure what had happened. The man just took one look at her and flew out the window. Said it looked like he had seen something worse than a ghost.”
Mrs. Ko nodded. Indeed, the girl was a saint. “Thank you. I hope Jiyong’s all well.”
“Oh! He is very. They’re laughing and giggling over something right now. Poor kids. They were so frightened last night, they spent the night together. They’re such darlings. You should see them together, Puyin.”
Mrs. Ko let the happy comment sink in. “What do you mean by that?”
“I think our Jiyong’s quite fond of her. He’s more happier, that’s for sure. He laughs and talks. While he was with the other girl...he name...I don’t quite remember - ”
“Yes, her. When he was with her, he seemed mad and angry all the time. Rather annoyed.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear such progress. I will be up to visit him shortly.”
“Yes, Puyin. You have a nice day now.”
“Thank you. Same to you.” Mrs. Ko settled the receiver and was seething with hate. Now she has to find a way to separate the two. Now she knows Chomee’s not harm, but a thief stealing her son away from her and Susan.
“C’mon! When are we getting to it?!” Jiyong demanded.
“Getting to what?” Chomee asked innocently.
“Why did you come here?” Jiyong asked abruptly, starting off the interrogation.
“Here?” Chomee shook her head, puzzled.
“Here, to work. Did my mother tell you to come?”
“Oh!” Now she understood what he meant. “No. It’s...It’s something else.”
“What is it?”
"I'll tell you what happened to me. Fair?" Jiyong suggested.
"If it's a long story, then I'd like to hear it before it hits eight. It's three already."
Chomee stared at Jiyong, utterly amazed.
"Don't stare at me like that. I can feel your eyes, you know."
Chomee looked down at her hands sheepishly, not sure of how to respond.
Chomee let out a shaky sigh before starting her story. "You only wanna know why I'm here, right?"
"No...who you are."
"I was eight at the time when my father died..."
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