Five years ago.
“What did the doctor say?”
Haeun dropped her head, unable to maintain direct eye contact as she answered. “Five w-weeks,” the anxious girl stuttered her words. She kept her eyes preoccupied anywhere else but on her partner, fearing nothing more than his burning wrath at the moment. It felt as if her heart could burst right out of her chest at any moment with the silence that washed over them.
The man before her scoffed as he ran a hand through his disheveled locks out of frustration, “You wait until that thing is five weeks old to tell me?”
“Take care of it,” he cut her off, not the slightest hint of remorse in his cold gaze. Jun pulled himself up, walking straight into their kitchen as his college sweetheart trailed behind. He scanned the small space for a finger snack, almost nonchalant at this point after his girlfriend’s big reveal.
“What do you mean by take care of it?” Haeun stopped him, her hand gripping on to the sleeve of his demin jacket in disbelief. She wanted to somehow misinterpret those words and having to ask him nearly destroyed her.
Jun was a college classmate turned boyfriend, a well respected senior at her university. After two delightful years together, she really had good faith in him despite all the bad experience with the men in her household. To witness his unconventional response caused the girl rethink her skewed judgment.
I’m such an idiot, she told herself.
“Oh sweetie…” Jun cooed as he halted his tracks before her, an apologetic smile masked those pitiless eyes. The way his whole demeanor changed as if he did not just blatantly brushed her off earlier.
“I’m sorry,” he continued with a light frown, “I had a rough day at work. Let’s talk about this tomorrow, okay?”
Maybe it was foolish of Haeun to believe him until the very end. The next day, Jun was never seen again. His belongings were packed, seemingly in a hurry as a lot of it were left behind. Reality began to to sink in while she stood in their empty home, carrying an unborn child with the man she thought loved her. It turned out, he only ever loved the reputation she gave him.
When she thought her luck can’t possibly hit anymore rock bottom than this, Haeun was proven otherwise. Nearly less than a week since Jun’s disappearance, the news reached her father— a man she desperately feared for many reasons. Upon approaching the old man’s office located just right under his luxurious, 50th floor penthouse; the elevator ride alone had Haeun fighting back the many waves of nausea. She pulled herself together before entering but the sight of her father’s secretary on his lap may have triggered that last wave in her knotted tummy. Haeun rushed to the nearest restroom to take care of her pregnancy symptom and to let them finish whatever they were doing first. Learning from her previous mistake, she made sure to knock first before poking her head in this time around.
“Got everything out of your system yet?” He asked, not looking up from his computer screen once. The businessman pulled out a file from one of his cabinet drawers before motioning a hand for his daughter to sit. Like an obedient puppy, Haeun waited for the signal to be seated.
In front of her was a manila folder, carefully organized by the man’s employees. Haeun reluctantly went through the content as instructed, unclear at what she was looking at. Inside the folder contained background information of several men, their employment history, and practically everything she needed to know about them.
“What is this…?”
“Choose your husband. You know, since that baby’s father—“ the man peered at his daughter’s perfectly concealed tummy as he continued, “…won’t be around to raise my future grandchild.”
Haeun felt her limbs retracting, unable to process his words during that moment. She was far more worried at the fact that he knew about the pregnancy than these random men he wanted to set her up with. Her father was ruthless, and to think she could possibly hide something this big from him— Haeun simply overestimated herself.
“H-How…” she stuttered, her fists clenched tight to prevent the nervous trembles.
Her father laughed hysterically as he made his way over to where she stood. “Did you really think your old man was that dumb?” He mocked.
“Pick your candidate and follow the instructions on file. Don’t even think twice about your useless college boyfriend. This could have been avoided if you weren’t so stubborn about attending school! Women like you always try to act smart and look what it did to you. Pathetic.”
Those harsh words barely had any effect on her now, she practically grew up being trashed by her own father for as long as she could remember. The man treated women like they were merely objects, degrading even his own daughter if it boosted his ego somehow. At the same time, growing up in this type of environment molded her to accept his demeaning orders.
After her father’s mini rampage on the misconception of gender roles in this modern era, Haeun was promptly dismissed while he began to pull some strings to potentially save his face. The man was not going to let his daughter ruin his reputable image by being a single mother, especially when most of his business partners were equally ist pigs. Whether he needed to buy her a husband or force a marriage, he will do anything to keep the humiliation afloat. But if his daughter were adamant about raising the child by herself, he had no problem eliminating the kid either. It was his own pride on the line after all.
Maybe a part of her grew selfish, but if ruining a stranger’s life could save her child, Haeun will follow through with her father’s dirty deeds. She studied the chosen profile carefully, making sure to catch him when he got out of work. What she figured was an easy task had her waiting outside the school gate for two dreadful hours. At last, matching up the picture provided to the only other adult exiting the school, Haeun finally locked eyes with her target.
“Mr. Byun,” she called out, a soft smile played on her lips.
The high school teacher stopped to familiarize himself with the stranger, who apparently knew his name. This new school year was already starting out weird, he thought.
“My name is Oh Haeun. Your parents— well, our parents wanted us to meet?”
Ah, right. A few months back, his pestering parents kept bothering him about some blind dates. Baekhyun avoided every calls and text messages just to avoid this sort of awkward situation.
“Sorry, I’m a little busy right now.” He coldly turned Haeun down without a second thought.
In his attempt to dodge her, Baekhyun decided to pick up his pace until a group of men, much larger in built than he was, stepped in to block his way. Not once in his life did he imagined being targeted like this for a simple blind date.
“Why don’t we just get this date over…” Haeun shot him an apologetic look in advance, she was just as embarrassed about her father’s old tricks.
Baekhyun found himself being passively forced inside a vehicle with his ‘date’ beside him, while two men occupied the front seats. This was not how he envisioned his Monday night, the man simply wanted to rest but that was apparently too much to ask for. He eyed Haeun, who had been avoiding him since the very beginning.
“A-Are you not freaked out by this?” She whispered as they were approaching their destination. Before Haeun could open again, they were instructed to get out of the car. Beside appearing as if they were top celebrities with body guards surrounding them in the public’s eyes, Baekhyun felt more like a wanted criminal being held captive instead.
Inside the decadent restaurant, they were led to a reserved room where the pair would be served privately. This whole getup did not stop her father’s men from observing along the sideline. Not once di