A year ago.
She sits there, tapping her feet on the floor anxiously as she stares at the middle aged woman whose eyes are paced back and forth between her and Hyunjung. She recalls what had happened a few days back as she listens to whatever is coming out of the middle aged woman's mouth.
"Jiyeon-ah, listen to me." Hyunjung says as she grabs hold of the said girl's hands, pulling her so that she's looking at her.
"No! Let go of me!" Jiyeon squirms in her touch.
"Listen to me, Jiyeon! Let's talk this out!" She says, hands gripping tightly onto Jiyeon's. Jiyeon feels the pain around her wrists and tries to wriggle out her hand. Eventually it is starting to become unbearable, so she hits Hyujung on the shoulder.
"Stop! You're hurting me!" She hits Hyunjung's shoulder as strong as she could, and finally she felt the grip on her arms loosen.
"I'm sorry. But can you just listen to me?" Hyujung says, still holding onto Jiyeon's hands as Jiyeon evens her breathing and drops her head to Hyujung's chest, too tired to fight back.
"There's nothing for you to explain. I don't wanna hear it anymore." Tears are starting to well up in Jiyeon's eyes. She grips Hyunjung's shirt as her eyes sting and starts to get watery.
"Jiyeon, please. I'm doing this for our own good." Hyujung doesn't even know anymore. She doesn't know what to say anymore so that Jiyeon would stay. Jiyeon is silent for a while, and for a second Hyujung thought they're finally okay. But of course they're not.
"Bullshit." Jiyeon whispers, head still looking down and Hyujung doesn't really catch it.
"What?" She asks.
Jiyeon raises her head, and it makes Hyunjung's heart wavers. Jiyeon, with tears-filled eyes, looking up at her with despair and anger in her eyes. Her grip on Hyujung's shirt tightens and her hands ball up into a fist. Not only is her eyes hot, but her skin is also flushed. For a second, Jiyeon stops breathing, and she pulls herself away from Hyunjung, all the while Hyunjung's staring at her. She steps a good few centimeters away from Hyunjung and speaks slowly, like it's only for Hyujung to hear even though there's nobody there except them.
"It's bullshit. Whatever is going out of your mouth as of right now is bullshit." She says as she wipes her eyes, but the tears wouldn't stop flowing.
"You think it's ridiculous? I'm just making our life easier. A few months from now, You, me and Yeoreum can live however we want." She tries to reason, staring at Jiyeon with hopeful eyes.
"It's not about the life we're living right now."
"Then? If it's not about that, why are you so against it? Can't you see? I'm doing this for our own good!"
"It's the fact that you choose that job over me and our daughter. You hesitated when I asked you which one meant more to you."
"You see, I want you to appreciate the people around you more. Put us first before anything. I just want us to live a normal life, Hyunjung, I really do. It's just that you're making it hard for me to cooperate with you." Jiyeon sounded like she has fully given up on this relationship, but deep inside, she still has hopes that her words will get through Hyunjung's head.
" I just want you to spend more time with Yeoreum. I want you to be a good parent figure for her. You're already so busy, and now you're making it worse. Do you understand what I'm saying?" Jiyeon is trembling while she wipes her cheeks using the sleeves of her shirt.
"You know that it's always going to be that way, Jiyeon. Whatever you say or whatever you do, I'll stand with my decision." She whispers as she rethinks about the offer her father had given her earlier that day.
Jiyeon knows, one day, Hyujung is going to become the head of her father's company, but she doesn't expect that it's going to be this early. Out of all the times, why does the offer stand when they're about to start a family with Yeoreum? Why does the offer stand when Yeoreum needs both of her parents the most? Yes, she's not her biological daughter, but even though she's only been with Yeoreum for a few months, Yeoreum already has a special place in her heart. The same situation cannot be said with Hyunjung however, since all that she's thinking about is the position offered to her so easily.
"Forget it then. You choose." Hyujung who is looking down on her feet, with gears working through her brain, fixes her gaze on Jiyeon, and seeing how red her eyes are isn't helping her control her emotions at all.
"Don't do this to me, Jiyeon-ah." Hyujung steps closer to her, making the said woman step back instead.
"Don't." Her voice shakes.
"I'm asking you. Me,"
"Me!" She cries out, pointing at herself while her swollen eyes look at Hyunjung's restless ones.
"Or that stupid fucking position." She breathes out, her chest heaving.
She's tired. And scared. She's scared that Hyunjung's answer is going to be what she expected it to be. She backs up, and sits down on one of the couches in the living room. Hyunjung remains silent as she lets Jiyeon cry her eyes out while she's holding onto her forehead.
She hears after a minute of silence. She looks up, frowning at Hyujung who's now standing in front of her.
"What?" Her voice is quiet and she's breathing unevenly.
"You're asking me to make a decision right?"
Jiyeon nods her head slowly, not getting where this is going.
"Let's get a divorce. It'll solve everything."
She hears her heart shatter in pieces after those words leave Hyunjung's mouth. Her eyes hurt like hell, her nose is runny, her face flushed, her mouth struggles to let something out. She wants to say something now. She doesn't care what. Anything. Anything at all to ask Hyunjung to take back her words.
But I love you.
When she lay her eyes again on Hyunjung, something in the older's gaze had changed. It turns darker. It becomes colder.
Jiyeon can't bring herself to say anything. She looks down because she couldn't bring herself to look eye to eye with Hyunjung. Her words are stuck in her throat, her hands tremble with fear and anxiety is eating her up. She lets the tears flow down and it drops onto the hardwood floor underneath. She sucks in a deep breath as she cups her face. A lot of things are going on in her mind now.
How could Hyunjung say that?
How could Hyujung do this to her after all those years they've been through together?
Does Hyunjung care?
Does Hyunjung even love her?
Hyunjung who is sitting on the couch opposite of her is startled when Jiyeon suddenly stands up, wiping away whatever's left out of her eyes. She stands there, for a while, choosing her words carefully and finally, she says,
"I--" Jiyeon practically feels Hyunjung eyes boring holes through her, while she refuses to look at her. Suddenly the hardwood floor looks more interesting than her lover.
"I need some time alone." For the last time, and she's tired of it, she wipes her eyes and starts to walk towards the front door.
"Inform me when everything's ready." She tilts her head a bit before picking up her handbag and her shoes on the shoe rack.
Hyunjung follows Jiyeon to the front door, but before she can say anything, the door shuts in front of her face. She stops in her track, right in front of the door, and sighs. She shuts her eyes and leans her head on the door.
"Great." Her voice comes out as a hiss. Her eyes are starting to sting. She's been holding herself from crying in front of Jiyeon and it just dawns upon her now.
"I'm so stupid." A hit to the door, pain surging through her fist.
The reason that she does that impulsively with her already frail hands is whether to make her realize her selfish action or just because she wants to hurt herself just like how much she had hurt Jiyeon, she doesn't know. But she feels like she deserves it.
She cries her heart out, and turns around while she gasps for air as she slides down to sit and lean on the door, her body too tired now.
"Jiyeon-ah." She mutters.
"Jiyeon-ah. I'm sorry." She ducks her head and lets her tears fall down on her lap.
"I love you."
"Please stay with me."
She sits there, motionless as tears fall down her cheeks and she knows it's not going to stop any soon. Her hands shake violently because of the guilt that's eating her up from the inside. She really just broke their relationship like it's nothing to her, when in fact, that's all there is to her. Her relationship with Jiyeon is the only thing coloring her tedious life. Instead, her life has gone back to being plain black and white.
Jiyeon parks her car in front of a double story bungalow. As she shuts her engine down, she stays still for a while, bringing up her hand to her face and pressing her forehead on the steering wheel. Yes, it was dangerous of her to drive late at night while crying. Hell, she could barely see anything while she was on the road. She almost drove into a cat a few minutes ago. Jiyeon tries hard to even her breathing, before finally stepping out of the car, locking it as she walks to the front door. She grabs the set of keys in her handbag and unlocks the door, stepping in and taking off her shoes.
"Jiyeon, is that you?" She hears as soon as she closes the door.
"Yeah. It's me." Her voice sounds hoarse, and it's not a good sign. Her eyes are puffed up too. Guess she can't get away from her mom when she looks like this.
"Is Yeoreum asleep?" She asks. She still hasn't seen her mother, assuming she's in the kitchen.
"Yes. What brings you here? Isn't she staying until Sunday?" In the corner of her eyes, Jiyeon sees her mother's head pokes out from the kitchen wall that's dividing the kitchen and living room, where she's standing right now. Her mother doesn't budge though, so she takes it as a sign for her to go to the older woman instead. She breathes in, preparing herself for the questions that's about to shoot at her.
"Yeah. She's staying until then." Jiyeon plops down on one of the dining chairs and sighs. Her mother, who's apparently baking cookies at, what, 10 p.m.? looks at her weirdly.
"What happened to you? Why are you here? Aren't you going to spend time with Hyunjung?"
Being asked that, she feels like crying all over again.
"Y-yeah. About that…." Mrs.Kim, who is busy searching for a container in a cupboard full of them, turns around when she hears her daughter's voice crack. Quickly, she drops everything she's doing and sits opposite Jiyeon, who's looking down on the table, hair covering her face.
"Jiyeon-ah, what's wrong?" The elder reaches out to hold her daughter's hand, which is trembling with coldness. She hears her gasps and slowly, ever so slowly, she sees a drop of tears landing on the dining table. That does it for her. She stands up and pulls the chair besides Jiyeon, sitting down and pulling her close to her.
"Jiyeon-ah, why are you crying?" Tears fall down Jiyeon's cheeks more prominently now. It just doesn't seem to stop, the anguish and the miserable feeling in the pit of her stomach. Her head has gone back to hurting.
"H-Hyunjung." She manages to let out as she buries her head in her mother's shoulder. Her breathing turns shallow.
"What? What did she do to you?" The older woman asks rather angrily, rubbing her back in circles, trying hard to comfort her. Jiyeon sobs painfully, her mother's shirt wet with her tears. And after a few moments, she stops and starts telling her mother about what happened between her and Hyunjung. She recalls the words they threw at each other and how hurtful those words were. She remembers Hyunjung's transparent eyes and the way she snaps at her. She's weak. She knows that. She's weak underneath Hyunjung's stare.
Jiyeon tells her mother everything. She talks as she cries desperately on her mother's shoulder, while her hands tremble and her voice turns hoarse.
"It's okay, Jiyeon-ah. It's okay. Just let it out." Her mother lets out while sitting next to her. Jiyeon is no longer in her arms, and instead weeps on her own, trying hard to hold back the tears from falling.
"You know," Mrs.Kim's voice pierces through the silent sobbing of her voice, grabbing her attention.
"I've never really trusted Hyunjung." Hearing that confession almost makes Jiyeon snap her neck looking up at her mother, but her mother remains still, looking at the oven that's baking the cookies.
"She always strikes me as that type of person. No, not only her. The whole family, actually. They're all about money and power and stepping on other people's lives. God knows what they have been doing behind our backs." Her mother spits as she turns to stare at Jiyeon, who's looking at her like she couldn't believe what she had just said. The woman continues.
"You're better off without her."
Head pounding, veins appear clear on her forehead, Jiyeon scoffs, but she doesn't say anything. Her heart hurts, and her mother's words aren't helping either. As a matter of fact, it only made it worse. She looks away, not wanting to meet her mother's eyes as huge tears roll down her cheeks, angry at the statement her mother just made.
Even if Hyunjung's family is well off, they have always remained as humble as they can get. The first time Jiyeon met Hyunjung, she had never guessed that the older girl was going to be the heir to one of the richest manufacturing companies in South Korea.
"Hyunjung is not like that." She mutters under her breath while she stares at the painting hanging on the kitchen wall. She plucks at the strings of her shirt. Now her mother scoffs at her.
"Oh Jiyeon, honey. Why are you defending her after what she just did to you? She just asked you for a divorce, for goodness sake! And who's gonna take care of Yeoreum? You! Who's gonna send her to school? You! Who's gonna feed her? You! All of it is going to go to you. I don't trust Hyunjung to take care of Yeoreum." Jiyeon has always been an obedient daughter, but right now, all she wants to do is to tell the woman to shut up before Jiyeon's headache starts to get worse. And it's silent for a while before she starts to speak up.
"Hyunjung is more than that." She blurts out, softly.
"You don't know her, mom. You only see what you want to see. And she shows you, what she only wants to show you. But I know her. She's more than what you've just said." Jiyeon doesn't know why she's protecting Hyunjung. Why is she defending someone that a while ago hurt her?
And realization dawns upon her at that exact moment. Despite all that she had been through an hour ago, Jiyeon's love for Hyunjung is unchangeable. There's a part of her that wishes Hyunjung would just burst through her mother's door right now, apologize to her, hug her tight and promise her that she'd never hurt her again.
Love does weird things to people.
She's about to speak up again, but suddenly her phone vibrates in the pocket of her jeans. She pulls it out and reads the new messages.
The day after tomorrow. 11:34
Meet me here. 11:34
[Location attached] 11:35
"Jiyeon-ah," Her mother starts, but she stands up, pushing the chair back and starts walking towards a certain room. She opens it slowly, stepping inside and a weak smile creeps on her face. Jiyeon steps closer to the sleeping figure on the bed, and carefully, she kisses the little girl's forehead. She stares at her daughter, feeling guilty for what she's about to make her go through.
"I'm sorry, Yeoreum-ah. It's going to be a little bit lonely after this, but I hope I'm enough for you." She caresses Yeoreum's hand, holding back her tears then moving it to put it under the covers. She stands up, giving Yeoreum one last look and then walks out of the room. Walking to the front door, she glances at her mother who's looking at her while sitting on the dining table.
"Good night, mom." She smiles weakly at her mother before stepping out through the mahogany door. Droplets of water are starting to wet her coat and hair. It's raining. But even so, she's not rushing to her car, walking slowly as she lets herself be engulfed by the coldness surrounding her.
She snaps out of her thoughts when she hears her name being called. Jiyeon looks up to see the middle aged woman staring at her, while to her right, there's Hyunjung, sitting silently. The first thing she noticed when she entered the gloomy looking building through the glass door was Hyunjung standing while looking at her phone, and to Hyunjung's bandaged hand. Hyunjung didn't say anything about it.
"Jiyeon, are you there?" Jiyeon averts her gaze to the middle aged woman and nods her head.
"Yes, I'm sorry. Can you repeat that again?" She asks. The woman nods her head, and explains the terms for their divorce, and one of that includes Hyunjung providing money for Jiyeon and Yeoreum since Jiyeon's the one taking care of their daughter. They also agreed on letting Hyunjung meet Yeoreum once every month. As the woman babbles on, Jiyeon lets her eyes wander to Hyunjung, staring at her as she stares and nods once in a while as she listens to the middle aged woman. She looks calm, but at the same time troubled. Cold but at the same time warm.
"And so, if you two have come to an agreement, I would like for you to sign this document." Immediately, Jiyeon snaps her head at the woman, then her eyes travel to the document, in which Hyunjung is already grabbing a pen, ready to sign on top of her name.
Jiyeon contemplates not agreeing, but she doesn't want for this to continue anymore. She doesn't want to keep hurting. And she knows, it's better for them to stay away from each other for a while, if Hyujung even considers getting back together, but she pushes the thought away as far as she can to the back of her brain. God, they're about to get a divorce and she's already thinking of ways to pull Hyunjung back into the family. So she respects Hyunjung's decision or whatever bullshit she's on. But she couldn't really apprehend how everything looks so easy for Hyunjung. It's like she has erased everything that happened between them in just one night. Every hour that they had spent together, all those years, it seems like it means nothing to the older woman.
Something pokes her side, and when she turns, Hyunjung's looking at her while holding out the pen for her. She stares at her, hoping her best to try and find something in her eyes. Fear. Uncertainty. Anxiousness. Anything. Anything at all.
Jiyeon takes the pen from her, making their fingers touch on purpose. She brings her hand down, and scribbles her signature on top of her name.
She's having mixed feelings. She doesn't know what to do anymore. What is she going to tell Yeoreum? She couldn't bear the feeling of Yeoreum asking her questions about Hyunjung.
Putting a full stop at the end of her signature, Jiyeon drops the pen on the table and glances at Hyunjung.
Jiyeon and Hyunjung are nothing now.
That was a year ago. A year ago, and a lot has happened since then. At least from her perspective. She lays there, and she doesn't know when, but her fingers are caressing Hyunjung's face. She lets them glide slowly, from pushing her bangs back to reveal her forehead, to her soft cheeks, to her slightly ajar mouth, and then to her neck and her collarbones that's poking out of Jiyeon's white shirt.
She stares at Hyunjung's sharp features, but then she sees her stirs, and it is supposed to make her retract her hand, but Jiyeon lets it linger there, tickling the older girl's neck, making her eyes flutter open.
They stare at Jiyeon, through a half lidded, sleepy gaze, wondering what's bothering her. Hyunjung blinks, and then again, frowning at her, but then it disappears immediately, replacing them with a confused look.
"What?" Hyunjung croaks out, her voice raspy as she rubs her eyes tiredly. Jiyeon notes how she doesn't slap her hand away.
"Nothing. Just go back to sleep." She lets out quietly, as she stares at Hyunjung's dark pools. The moonlight reflects in her eyes in the darkness of her room, making Jiyeon concentrate only on them.
But immediately, Hyunjung breaks their eye contact, and turns her body 180 degrees, letting Jiyeon stare at her back instead. Maybe that's for the best. Maybe this is all that remains of them now.
On the next day Jiyeon opens her eyes again, she sighs quietly to herself as she looks at the empty, cold space next to her, zero traces of the person that was lying there the night before. She expected this, really. Moreover, she hates the fact that Hyunjung's scent is still faintly lingering on the bed sheet.
"Mommy?" Yeoreum peaks her head through the door, looking at her mother with her bright, big eyes, full of curiosity. When she finds Jiyeon awake, she steps inside and climbs up the bed that seems to be a little too tall for her.
"Do you need help?" The mother asks, offering her hand, ready for the little girl to hold onto it.
"No, it's ok. Mama told me that sometimes I need to be independent." At the mention of Hyunjung, Jiyeon freezes, but recovers quickly when she feels Yeoreum's small figure sitting next to her. The little girl lays her head on her lap, snuggling comfortably.
"Is that so?"
"Yeah! She also told me that I could be an artist when I grow up."
"I think so, too." Jiyeon grins unknowingly. Maybe she can start sending Yeoreum to art classes to make use of her talent.
"You do? Mama said that for a six years-old like me, my drawing is pretty good." She looks up and flashes a thumb up to her mother, to which the woman responds with the same gesture.
Couldn't contain her curiosity, she asks. "Speaking about Mama, has she gone back?"
Threading her fingers in Yeoreum's hair, the two of them bask in the morning sunlight that shines through the curtain of Jiyeon's room.
"Yep. This morning I woke up early and had scrambled eggs and sausages with her. Mama said to tell you sorry for using the kitchen without your permission."
And how does she manage to sleep through all that? She doesn't know. But she's grateful to Hyunjung for at least taking care of Yeoreum for her. Well she would do so anyways no matter the circumstances.
"It's okay. What time did you wake up?"
"I don't know, but when I woke up, Mama was about to go out already. But she saw me," Yeoreum grins, before continuing, "and she made me breakfast, and we ate together." If it's even possible, the little girl's smile grows wider, which makes Jiyeon do the same as well.
Comfortable silence, warmth shared with each other, the nice feeling of waking up after a good sleep, makes Jiyeon's smile less forced despite the unwanted memories she remembered last night.
Yeoreum sits up suddenly and scoots closer to Jiyeon, which makes her stretch out her arm voluntarily, pulling her daughter close.
"Mommy, can I ask you a question?" The girl ask as she stares at her mother hesitantly. Her fidgety fingers don't go unnoticed by Jiyeon.
"Yes baby, of course. You know you can ask me anything, right? Oh except for that Play Dough set you've been wanting. That will have to wait until your birthday." Jiyeon taps Yeoreum's nose lightly, which makes her giggle. But a few seconds later, she goes back to being nervous, which makes Jiyeon worry about the question that lingers in the girl's mind.
"Hey, Yeoreum, what is it? Is it something serious?" To Jiyeon's expectation, Yeoreum nods, looking down on her lap, not daring to meet her mother's questioning gaze. Her worried tone isn't helping the child either.
"Is it really okay for me to ask about anything?"
It brings anxiousness to Jiyeon considering how hesitant her daughter is being right now. What can possibly be so hard for her to ask? She can't help but reach out to grab hold of the small hands. Jiyeon rubs the back of Yeoreum's palms instinctively in order to soothe the fear of asking a single question.
"Yes Yeoreum-ah, go ahead.I won't get mad, or laugh, or criticize you or anything."
She takes a few deep breaths before asking though, which makes Jiyeon stare at her in amusement. Did she break one of Jiyeon's flower vases? Last time she checked, everything was still in place. Did she get into a fight at school? No, Yeoreum would never do that. Or would she? She's always had that rebellious side to her.
"Did you get into a fight--"
"Do you hate Mama?"
To say that Jiyeon is surprised isn't enough. She doesn't expect that at all. Out of all the questions Yeoreum could've asked, she chooses to ask a question that'll surely make Jiyeon wonder what's the best answer she can give to a six years old girl.
She knows she can't stay silent forever, it will just make Yeoreum and her anxious more than they are at the moment. But she doesn't know how to answer that question. Does she? She should have hated Hyunjung for what she did to her, but she couldn't bring herself to. No, she'd never hate Hyunjung. The Hyunjung that had always been there for her all the time. Hyunjung who had always comforted her in the past whenever she got a low grade on one of her university tests. Hyunjung who always held her hands because she couldn't stand the cold. Hyunjung who had told her countless times how much she loves her.
And now, Yeoreum is looking at her weirdly. What did she expect Jiyeon to say? That yes, she despises Hyunjung?
"If you don't, then why aren't we living together like we used to?"
Jiyeon doesn't blame Yeoreum for being curious. In fact, she'll also feel that way if she's in her place. So Jiyeon tries her best. To find the most suitable answer. To find an answer that will make Yeoreum understand but at the same time not question it.
"Well," The six years-old is looking at her so attentively that it almost makes Jiyeon's words get stuck in her throat.
"Some things are just meant to be that way."
"Why?" It's not that the little girl is unsatisfied, but she's genuinely curious. If Jiyeon's reading her right.
"Why?" She asks herself as well.
There's a period of silence to organize her words before she continues, "Maybe because life is never fair. You see, not everything can go back to the way it used to be. In this case, Mama and I are like that. Even if we love each other, we can't go back to being together. It just doesn't feel right. Do you understand?" Jiyeon speaks with such slow, careful words in order to not make it sound as heavy as it is. She knows that eventually, one day she or Hyunjung has to be the one to break it to Yeoreum and explains to her about the cold and harsh reality of life. It's just that Jiyeon doesn't think that Yeoreum will start asking at such a young age.
It takes a few seconds before Yeoreum could nod her head gradually. She looks down on her palms, fumbling with it again because she's starting to feel guilty about asking her mother the question that has been on her mind for quiet sometimes now. Jiyeon notices that. Really, she notices everything about her daughter, that it doesn't waste her any seconds to pull the child close and wrap her arms around her body.
"It's ok, Yeoreum-ah. I'm not mad." Despite saying that, she heard her own voice cracks. Maybe Yeoreum saw how she's struggling to explain what had happened between her Hyunjung. Or maybe Yeoreum noticed how her eyes were starting to water. She shouldn't cry in front of Yeoreum, not when Yeoreum viewed her as the strongest, smartest, coolest person in the world.
Jiyeon should be tough, because she and Yeoreum only have each other to rely on.