Bitna sat on the steps of sixth floor of the rundown apartment, listening to her father going back in forth with her dead mother’s mistress.
“Byulyi, please be reasonable.”
“What would be reasonable, would be you getting out of my ing apartment and leaving me the hell alone!”
Bitna chewed on the inside of her cheek as she heard something crash to the floor and more yelling. She wondered if her father had thrown the object or the mistress had.
Suddenly the front door slammed open and she saw her father being roughly shoved forward in his business suit and shiny leather shoes. It was strange to see her always smiling father ruffled and haggard as he stumbled to his knees. Standing above him was a small woman with dark hair just barely above her collar bones with a murderous expression.
“Are you trying to get me kicked out of my ing apartment complex?” she growled out as she sneered down at Bitna’s father. And then she glanced up at Bitna who was staring at her with wide eyes. There was a moment where something seemed to shift in her expression and maybe Bitna was imagining it but she seemed to soften just a little. The mistress’ shoulders drooped a bit and she bowed her head, eyes heavy on the dirty floor in front of her.
“Listen, Yoondo-ssi, I don’t know why she named me her beneficiary either. If you had any sympathy for me you’d stop coming here and asking about it.”
Bitna’s father rose to his feet and brushed off his dirty knees emphatically.
“The last thing I want is to be here. But I have to be. Bitna needs the money in Yongsun’s name for her college tuition. She’s only 13 now but what about when she has to go to university? I’m a single parent, Byulyi. Please understand.”
The mistress’s jaw clenched and unclenched at the comment and Bitna watched, fascinated at how conflicted she seemed. But that didn’t make any sense. She was a mistress who had been having an affair with her mother. How could she be guilty?
Baby, pick up the phone.
Everyone’s heads snapped up at the sound of Bitna’s mother’s voice coming from inside the apartment. In response to the pair of incredulous looks, a dark blush covered the mistress’ face.
“I-it’s my ringtone,” she muttered awkwardly as the voice kept repeating over and over, whiny and incessant. It was a voice that Bitna had never heard from her mother in all her years of existence. Her mother had always been vaguely professional and distant with her father. Occasionally warm, but never childish.
And yet that whining ringtone suggested that perhaps Kim Yongsun had not been the woman Bitna had thought she’d known.