Her Real Mask
Two years passed by in a flash. Minah and Jongup had grown a lot closer. They always played together after school. Minah had finally started opening up again, momentarily forgetting about the scars in her heart.
Although, to Minah, Jongup could never replace Joon as her absolute best friend. But Jongup was still very important to her. He was the one who had broken through the first mask she placed on herself.
It was now the summer before they entered middle school. They were going to be sixth graders. Just the thought of leaving elementary school frightened them. But, it was also exciting to grow up.
Minah skipped through town, on her way towards Jongup's house. She was carrying a basket of food and a picnic blanket. They were going to go to a park and have a picnic.
The people who were out and about avoided her as she bounded by them. Minah noticed of course, but she didn't let it bother her, not anymore.
Jongup's house came into sight and Minah smiled happily. She picked up her pace as she reached the pathway leading to the front door.
Right when Minah was about to knock on the door, it was thrown open. Minah stepped back in surprise. Jongup was standing there, tears brimming in his eyes.
"J-Jongup oppa? What's wrong?" She asked. Jongup sniffled and threw his arms around her, squeezing her gently.
"M-Minah!!" He wailed loudly. Minah dropped the basket and blanket, lifted her arms, and rubbed circles on his back. "What is it?" She asked again.
"I-I'm...moving." Jongup said, hiccupping every now and then. Minah froze, her hands stopped moving and her brain couldn't function properly.
Jongup's words resounded in her mind. It was just like what happened with Joon. Another person she loved was leaving her. She was going to be all alone again.
*No, that can't be true. He can't leave me. I don't want him to.*
"M-Minah?" Jongup whimpered. He pulled back to look at her and instantly noticed how dull her eyes looked now. She didn't cry, she didn't frown, she didn't say anything. All she did was stare blankly into space.
"Are you a-alright?" Jongup asked, forgetting about his earlier sorrow and worrying more about Minah. He gently shook her, trying to snap her out of her daze.
Minah didn't respond. It was like she had lost her whole world again. Just when she had been opening up and becoming the person she was before, she had to be seperated from the person who had been the catalyst for her change.
Jongup had no clue what to do, so he lead Minah back to the orphanage. When they got there, Jongup hugged her one last time before letting go to leave.
"Bye, Minah." He whispered. Minah didn't reply at all. Disappointed, Jongup turned around and began to walk away. He gasped in shock when Minah ran over and threw her arms around him.
"Don't leave me. Please don't leave me." She whispered. She buried her face into the back of his shirt as she clung to him. Jongup bit his lip, feeling his heart breaking.
"I don't want to leave, but I have to." Jongup said. He turned around and wrapped his arms around her. Leaning down, he kissed the top of her head softly. "I'm sorry. I'll never forget you, Minah." He murmured before gently removing her arms from him.
He turned to go, glancing back one last time, before walking away and disappearing forever.
Minah didn't cry that day. No matter how badly she wanted to, she couldn't. It was like Jongup had taken away everything about her with him. Her tears, her laugh, and her smile.
While Minah was walking home that day, she noticed something in one of the small stores. There were a variety of masks, the kinds that you would wear at a masquerade ball.
Something about them attracted Minah to them. She found her legs taking her into the store. The bell on the door twinkled a little as she entered the shop.
The owner looked at her and greeted her. "Welcome." She said. Minah was surprised that the woman had even spoken to her. *She must be new to town.*
Minah politely bowed in return and went back to browsing through the masks. She scanned them all, finding each one to be unique and beautiful.
One of them stood out to Minah the most. It jumped out at her, almost as if it was made for her. She found herself reaching towards it and grasping it in her hands.
(It looks like this but just imagine that it also covers the rest of her face too)
Minah was mesmerized by the beauty of the mask. It was attracting her to it with some unknown force.
"Do you want that one?" The store owner's voice came from behind her. Minah flinched in surprise and dropped the mask. She caught it before it could hit the floor.
"Umm, I-I was just looking." Minah stuttered. The owner gave Minah a smile, her bright white teeth flashing under the light. "That mask belongs to you." She said.
Minah stared at the owner, completely bewildered. "W-what? What is that supposed to mean? I didn't buy it yet." She questioned.
"It chose you." The woman said. Minah was puzzled by the woman's cryptic answer. *What is with her? Although, I do kinda want this mask, it's beautiful.*
"Then you should buy it. I'll give you a discount since it is rightfully yours."
"Wait, what?" Minah sputtered in disbelief. *Did she just read my mind?*
The woman had taken the mask from her and began to place it in a bag. "That'll be 10,000 won." She said.
"But, I never said I wanted to buy it." Minah protested. The woman didn't say anything, she just stared at Minah with a knowing smile on her face. "I-I guess I'll buy it. It isn't too expensive." Minah muttered, pulling out her wallet and handing the woman the money.
Minah walked out of the shop with the bag in hand. She sighed as she trudged back home. *That lady is one good salesperson.*
Glancing into the bag, Minah saw the mask practically glowing. She reached in and pulled it out to examine it once more. It seemed to look a little different every time she looked at it.
Slowly, Minah lifted the mask up to her face and slipped it on. Immediately, she felt something coursing through her veins, some unknown force that seemed to warm her entire being.
It felt safe to have the mask on, as if nothing could harm her. People were afraid of her scar, now they didn't have to see it anymore. Minah hoped that her classmates wouldn't be scared to talk to her now.
When she got back to the orphanage, the owner didn't want Minah to wear the mask. She attempted to take it from her but Minah would not allow anyone to touch the mask. She kept it on no matter what. Even while she slept. The only time she didn't wear it was in the shower.
Once school started, Minah had been excited to see the kids reactions. She was disappointed, devasted, when they shunned her even more.
They called her the normal insults like freak or weirdo, but they came up with even more names because of her mask. And this time, Jongup wasn't there to support her. Joon wasn't there to protect her.
Minah ended up miserable. She shut herself off from the world, using her mask to hide herself. Nobody could see behind it anymore. No one knew just how much she was suffering beneath that mask.
Eventually though, Minah didn't feel sad anymore. She didn't feel at all anymore. Just like how she was when her father had scarred her for life.
And yet, Minah didn't want to take off the mask. It would have saved her from some unnecessary pain, but the mask had become her life line now. It hid the pain and the scars. It concealed her weaknesses.
Seven years passed by uneventfully for Minah. She was scorned and resented her entire life. Although when she turned sixteen, she moved out of the orphanage and back to Seoul, where she got several jobs in order to rent an apartment for herself.
Now, she was eighteen, starting her senior year at Seoul High School. A year that would prove to be one of the hardest, yet most important years of her life.
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