I am taken to my dorm to sleep.
I lie in my bed, miserably staring at the ceiling, realising my past is catching up to me.
The next morning, it's a struggle to even open my eyes. They only flutter open and stare at the trails of dust that have accumulated across the blades of the ceiling fan above me. My body, now recessed into the hard mattress beneath it, feels like a completely separate entity from my soul.
I dolefully stare at the ceiling, feeling tears well up in my eyes again. They trickle from the outer corners of my eyes and down the sides of my face, revisiting the hardened trails they had left last night, and eventually saturate the mattress.
I'm not sure what it is. Perhaps it's the feeling of betrayal that resulted when she broke my trust. Or regret that I had ever tried to get involved in this mess in the first place. Or perhaps my body has reached the pinnacle of exhaustion and this was its final cry for help. Whatever it is, it's enough to encumber me to this bed for days, unwilling to communicate with the outside world.
A few days pass.
Though I am bombarded with phone calls, messages and knocks on the door, I never feel as though there is anything to say to anybody.
Sometimes, I'll drag myself off the bed and nibble at the food they leave at my door, only for it to end up at the bottom of the toilet bowl.
I am well aware that this is my body's typical response to misery. I shut off—I turn myself away from the world, tied down only by my body's bare necessities for minimal function and spend my days, lying in bed, feeling pathetic.
My eyes open.
I once again drill holes into the ceiling, except this time my auditory senses kick in and my brain begins to process the background noises around me. It's windy today, I guess. The leaves are rustling quite heavily. I can hear distant chatter. Birds chirping. Any other day, I think I'd say this weather was perfect. But today, it's just another dreadful day in this hell-hole. I close my eyes again and throw the blanket over my head, feeling its comforting weight against my body as I force my body to shut down into a snooze.
Another knock on my door.
It happens every day. A staff member will unlock my door with their keys and slide a tray of food into my room, with nothing left to say. After days of silence, they know better than to try coax me into eating or drinking.
Today is different.
A staff member slips a note onto the tray to tell me that I have a visitor.
It isn't my mother—I have been rejecting her visits since I got here.
Today is the first day I look around at my surroundings.
If birds could out disgusting dorm rooms, that'd be exactly what my dorm room looks like.
It's a mess.
I don't even remember when they had brought in my luggage and belongings, but there are suitcases and bags everywhere on the floor, thrashed open with clothes and other items gushing out. I walk into the bathroom and see more clothes and towels messily hurled around the room. I have been so absent these past few days that I barely remember the mess I had left behind.
Feeling faint, I clutch onto the wall beside me to alleviate the excruciating pounding of my head.
I don't know what it was—perhaps the mention of my sister or the sudden realisation that my living space was a disgusting mess—but I open up my curtains I had shut before, thus allowing light to enter my room. I am too fatigued to tidy the clothes off the floor but compromise with a shower and clean change of clothes. My mirror reflection is, frankly, appalling. I have never looked more terrible. Eyes red and puffy; hair a completely tangled mess; skin dull and dry and aged two decades. I look like the evil witch in Tangled.
I've convinced myself to see my sister today.
I can sense that the staff member is rather delighted to hear that I am finally accepting a visit from somebody. She ushers me down the hallways and directs me into the visitation building, which is a small area in which family and friends can visit the residents here. She is kind enough to have booked a private room for my sister, which she orients me to. I shuffle toward the room, admittedly a little nervous, and discreetly peek through the window while my hand hovers over the door handle.
I observe the back view of my older sister, Soojung. She is only a few years older than me, a university student now, who technically lives with us but spends more time at her boyfriend's house than ours. She and I are fairly close, though recently at a distance, but I realise now it has been a while since I last saw her. She has since maintained her hair the same—straight brown hair snipped into a long bob, which she likes to tie slickly back into a low bun. As my hand slowly unlocks the door, her head snaps toward my direction and we meet eyes.
Soojung immediately springs from her chair and envelops me into her embrace. I return her action by wrapping my arms across her torso, indulging in the foreign warmth of another human being.
"Are you alright?" Her gentle voice whispers into my ear, causing me to hug her tighter.
"She's crazy, she's gone nuts! I'm trying to talk to her but she won't listen!" Soojung shakes her head and I sink into the chair across from her. I don't know how I feel about that—do I feel unsurprised at my mother's unyielding, obdurate ways or am I hurt that she can still stand by her actions?
"Seriously, this is ridiculous. You're not a kid anymore. She needs to treat you like an adult. But you know her—she's stubborn as hell. She won't listen to me."
My sister stretches her hand toward mine and clasps my fingers gently, squeezing them slightly. "You know she loves you, right?"
"Please," I withdraw my hand with a bitter scoff, "if this is her pathetic way of exerting power over me, it really crossed the line. This is completely selfish and way too far. I'll never forgive her for this," I fume, feeling my chest heave up and down.
"Juri, you don't mean that!" My sister shakes her head, "you guys just need to get over yourselves and make up."
"Get over myself?" I fold my arms, feeling the anger surge, "what the hell did I do? She's freaking insane! And it's his fault, I didn't do anything—"
"You tried to hit him," my sister interjects, only infuriating me further, "and she's just worried about you because you've been so shut off from us—"
"If you're not on my side," I immediately stand from my seat, "then just say it. At least she isn't pretending to understand me. Don't you dare try to give me a lecture when you don't even know the full story."
With frustration, I stride toward the door when my sister grabs my arm. "That's the issue, Juri! You keep moping around, muttering angry but you don't tell us what's wrong! What else can we do? You're always doing this. You do what you think is best and leave us out of the loop. And then you get angry that we don't let you do what you want. Of course we're not! How can we understand when you don't talk to us?"
"You're supposed to trust me," I slap her hand away, "not antagonise me. You know what you absolutely shouldn't do when you want somebody to talk to you? Lock them in a ing detention centre! The fact that you're even arguing me about this is crazy!"
"She has given you more than enough opportunities to talk to her! She has asked you time and time again what was going on and you refused to talk—"
I lunge toward the door and slam it open, storming outside and rushing down the hallway with angry tears in my eyes.
Is she right?
I am once again lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling.
Is Soojung right?
Am I being delusional?
Am I in the wrong?
I wanted to protect my family from Sanghoon and it blew up in my face. My mother grew suspicious of me and thought I was rebelling against her. And her solution? Lock me in a detention centre. The more I repeat to myself that her actions were unjustified, the less I believe it. Perhaps I am the crazy one. Perhaps I should have been transparent with her from the start.
This is driving me clinically insane.
I'm not sure what Soojung's objective was when she visited me yesterday, but it has at least pulled me out of the hole I've spent the last few days digging myself. This morning, I muster enough energy to peel myself from the bed and pick up the clothes from the floor, albeit unsure of my future intentions here. What am I going to do for the next month that I'm in here?
I'm not sure I have many options.
I've considered devising a plan to get out of here, but then where would I go? I'd rather eat a rat than go back to Sanghoon's house.
But then again, I know that for as long as I'm in here, Sanghoon has a way of monitoring me, and giving him that privilege drives me nuts.
I absolutely hate that man and the more I feel this way, the more I am compelled to enact my revenge—but the more I do that, the more it blows up in my face.
It feels like I'll never win.
Do I tell my mother and my sister about his affair and let them deal with it?
I know in the future, I need to repair my relationship with my mother and my sister. They're my family. I love them. But I need time. My heart is so heavy with hurt that I'm not sure I can see them for the time being without saying things I'll regret. I'm already regretting how upset I had gotten yesterday with my sister. Perhaps spending a month in here won't be so bad. Perhaps a month from now, I would have decided what to do with Sanghoon and I can go from there.
The more I try to convince myself that a month away from the world would be good for me, the more I begin to truly believe it.
So I spend the next hour scrubbing every inch of my dorm, commerating my compliance with being in here by sorting out my belongings and settling in properly.
A clean slate.
A month off.
Perhaps it won't be so bad.
I am sitting at my study table when I hear a knock on my door.
Slightly irritated at the interruption, I stand from my chair and slink toward the door, opening it wide enough to realise there is nobody on the other side.
Deciding I must have been imagining a random noise, I shut the door and return to my seat.
But there it is again: a knock.
Slamming my hands on the desk, I rise from my chair and swing open the door, once again met with... nothing.
Is some immature little trying to prank me?
Eye twitching with irritation, I wait a few seconds for them to make an appearance.
People really have too much time on their hands these days.
The third time they knock, it's much more persistent and loud. I don't answer it for the first few seconds, but as the volume grows, I am filled with so much exasperation that I forcefully slam the door open with a loud yell.
I step outside the door to confront the perpetrators when suddenly a figure pounces in front of me, shocking me so much that I scream in fright and my fist forward, slamming my knuckles into the face of the person in front of me.
With little balance, they wobble to the ground and clutch onto it with a wail.
It's a guy.
He turns back, eyes rounded with shock and horror.
Nope. Not just a guy.
"What the ?" He cries as he clutches the side of his face, looking back at me like I had just punched him. Oh wait, I did.
"Why would you do that?" He slowly rises from the floor and pouts, staring at his face through his phone's camera. I assume he's checking for scratches and marks.
Memories of the last time I had seen him come to mind: the time I had run into his room while fleeing one of the security officers, how he had kept me captive in there to give him company, how he had discovered I knew Sehun and how afterwards he kept me captive for a different reason. He helped me navigate through the facility toward the back exit when suddenly he had taken my access card and dashed off with it: leaving me to rot in this place. Thankfully, my life was practically saved by Oh Sehun and his friends.
"You." I growl at him, "you deserve a lot more than one punch, you know that?"
Junmyeon's eyes round as his hands spring in front of him. I only just notice the two figures emerging behind him. A boy and a girl. They stare at me with innocent expressions. Perhaps they didn't witness what just transpired.
"W-Well, that really did wake me up, so I should thank you!" Junmyeon forces a smile, rubbing the side of his chin while the two other residents stare in confusion, "but anyway... My name