My Beloved

My Beloved
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"Irene there is a new boy in our class."

 

"Uh uh," she replied absentmindedly.

 

"His name is Kangjun and he is handsome. Like really handsome. Everyone was talking about how handsome he is. On top of that, he is also very intelligent. You would like him!"

 

"Sure," she says as she brushes Seulgi's hair from her eye who is oblivious to it as she continues blabbering about the new boy.

 

"No, you just don't understand how handsome he is. Wait till you see him you will be gobsmacked. Don't blame me later that I didn't warn you."

 

Irene meets him in the chemistry class. He is sitting on the first bench. The people in the class have apparently found him just as handsome as Seulgi said and they are not shy about talking about it loudly. The boy looks around offering a shy smile.

 

Irene knows that he is handsome but she finds someone else more beautiful. She knows that she is being biased but she feels that Seulgi is lovelier when she beams at her and talks to her animatedly with her eyes twinkling.

 

But she does not only like Seulgi because she is beautiful. Irene also likes Seulgi because of how intelligent she is, how optimistic she is when things are going down, and just how persistent she is. After all Seulgi’s persistence made them the friends they are today.

 

 

Irene met Seulgi when they were in 3rd grade. She was the new kid and was made to sit with Seulgi who was then the class monitor.

 

Irene and her mother had just moved from Seoul after her dad left for the US. Her mother had told her that they to going to Daegu to stay with her grandmother on her maternal side for the summer holidays and that when her father would come back from the US, he would take them along as well. 8-year-old Irene had quickly believed the promise.

 

Her mother had a hard time keeping up with the lie so she let her on the secret a few days later. Irene felt betrayed and refused to talk to her for days.

 

She remembers how she barely interacted in the class, didn't talk much at home, and even avoided her grandmother. She wanted people to know how displeased she was living here.

 

After all, Irene hadn't known that she was staying here forever. She was just here for a vacation and all she wanted was to go back. She did not even want to go to the US; she just wanted to stay in Seoul. She missed her dad.

 

 

Seulgi had tried really hard to talk to her. She would ask her all sorts of questions but Irene briefly answered them. Hearing questions about her life in Seoul made her sad. Seulgi tried to invite her to lunch with her friends but Irene just ignored her and decided to sit in the class.

 

The teachers thought she was being bullied but she cleared their misunderstanding. Then they decided that she probably had a hard time fitting in and took her to the teachers' lounge for lunch.

 

No one seemed to understand that Irene didn't have trouble fitting in; she just didn't want to fit in.

 

So Irene decided to be more aggressive about her not liking it here. She became stubborn. She would not listen to her teachers, her grandmother, or even her mom. She didn't do her homework and became the worst child her mother could possibly imagine.

 

Mrs. Bae when got a call from the teachers complaining about Irene was shocked at how once a lovely child who was adored by everyone had changed drastically. She tried beating her, scolding her but nothing seemed to work.

 

All the children slowly started avoiding her. They would move away whenever she came and avoided talking to her. They were warned by their parents to not talk with the new bad kid who no one wanted to understand.

 

All but one, Seulgi. Seulgi would share her book with her in class when Irene purposefully removed it from her already packed bag in the morning. She tried shoving it back to Seulgi's side but after some time it was again moved back in the middle, inching very slowly. She too reluctantly accepted it as she was curious to read more about the topic they were studying.

 

Irene really enjoyed studying and paying attention in class but she had started on the wrong foot and she just couldn't be a good student now. And after all, she creating problems in the class meant her mom would see how she hated it here and Irene thought that he should definitely see this. She had started resenting her mom for taking her away from her dad.

 

 

By 5th grade, she was used to sitting for detention after class. Her mother had also gotten used to the countless calls he received from the school office. She was tired of her shenanigans. They just didn't seem to have the bond that they had earlier.

 

Mrs. Bae was a housewife before coming to Daegu. She used to wait for Irene at the bus stop after school ended. They would go home, eat something that Irene craved or asked for, watch cartoons, and then she would help her study. Later in the evening, she would take Irene to the park where she played with her friends. Then at 8, they would go back home. Irene would then play with her dad while her mother made them dinner.

 

It was just hard for Irene to leave behind those memories. She considered her mom at fault for spoiling her good life. Her dad wasn't coming back and neither was her mom taking any initiative to get back in contact with him.

 

Irene's mom was working at an office now and would come home late tired. She would eat and then go to sleep quickly. In the morning, she used to leave before Irene woke up for school. Her grandmother used to go to the village community center and spent her day there.

 

Irene was stuck in the house after school. She would have gone somewhere but she just hated the place and didn't want to roam anywhere. She would heat food or make herself some ramen and spend time surfing the web. She tried finding her dad online quite a few times but was unsuccessful. Irene always held hope that her father would come back for her one day and take her back with him.

 

The only saving grace for Irene was that she had not let her grades fall a lot. She scored B's which her mom didn't mind as she just had left any and every expectation from her. She tried to show as if she didn't pay attention in class usually by laying her head on the desk or just staring out of the window. Seulgi would try to give her her notes because she felt Irene wasn't paying attention. Irene just scoffed at her and went back to looking out of the window.

 

She wished that Seulgi would also stop trying to help her. She found the other dumb and pitiful. The other children continued avoiding her, why couldn't Seulgi do the same? They sometimes laughed behind her back and talked about how their parents thought how spoilt of a child she was. Irene didn't pay any heed to it. Their talks didn't bother her at all. She had a mission to accomplish.

 

Seulgi tried to move her attention away from the insults by blabbering about random things but Irene didn't even pay attention to that. Seulgi just seemed to want to bring Irene out of the character that Irene was set on portraying for the last two years and Irene had firmly decided that she wouldn't leave it until her dad came back to take her. Then she would change back to the lovely Irene she once was. Till then she was fine this way.

But day by day she was starting to feel less hopeful and more pessimistic. What if her father didn't want her anymore? She quickly brushed away her thoughts as she remembered how much her dad loved her.

 

There is no way she did not want Irene anymore. It must have been her mom's fault. She must be keeping her away from her dad. She refused to believe that her dad didn't try to contact her even once after they moved here. There must have been something that her mom was hiding. And she was going to uncover that and go back to her dad.

 

Irene felt sad when she saw everyone's parents attending PTMs or even picking up their kids from school. Irene's mom was too busy to pick her up or even come to her meetings now. Her grandmother attended it on her behalf. The poor woman tried to pay utmost attention to the feedback that the teachers gave and in turn relayed it to her mother diligently.

 

But all the time getting the same feedback was tiring. The teachers were also tired of giving the same feedback. Irene or her family wouldn't talk about their problem or what was affecting Irene specifically.

 

When the teachers called Irene's mom he would reply hurriedly and promise that he would discipline Irene better. But Irene used to return to school the next day without any changes. Even if Mrs. Bae gave her any lecture she did not pay any heed to him.

 

 

For the holidays as long as Irene could remember she used to stay at home or spend her day at pc cafes. Her family didn't have enough money and nor did her mother have any time to spare to go somewhere. Irene felt trapped in her house, in Daegu. All she wanted was to fly away somewhere. Her hopes of getting to meet her father were dwindling day by day. She was just not interested as she was earlier.

 

She could never get herself to ask her mother about her dad. Even her mom seemed very hesitant to speak about her dad. Irene had walked onto her mom and grandmother seemingly talk about her dad but once they realized her presence, they would quickly change the topic or go completely silent. She didn't pester them about it as she knew that it would be fruitless.

 

She grew more and more envious of people coming from functional families. Where parents seemed to have time and love for their kids. She would wait near the school gate in the afternoon to see parents picking up their kids. Although it made her sad it also reminded her of the time when she and her parents were a happy family.

 

 

With all the feelings that were boxed up within her, it was no surprise that she had punched Seulgi right in her face. She would have not acted like that she had someone to at least vent her feelings to.

 

Seulgi in her sad attempts to get a small conversation out of Irene talked about the new game her dad got her. She was willing to show it to Irene. Seulgi even smirked at her stating that she would only let Irene play with it. But all that went through Irene's head was that Seulgi was bragging about having a loving father who would buy her stuff. So she had punched her.

 

The teacher was very shocked at the scene unfolding in front of her eyes. Shee had never expected to see Irene actually hit someone. The girl always did seem angry but hitting someone seemed ridiculous even for her, especially hitting Seulgi. After all, she was a nice girl and the only one who actively tried to become friends with Irene.

 

Miss Shin scolded her and called her mom. She didn't even know if her mom would come to school or not. Meanwhile, she ordered her and Seulgi to go to the principal.

 

The walk towards the principal's office was very awkward. Seulgi walked slowly clutching her jaw while Irene just decided to march forward and get over with the issue she had caused.

 

Mr. and Mrs. Kang came in. They just looked at Seulgi without sparing Irene a glance. Even if Irene didn't show it she was very scared of the outcome. Seulgi told them that she was alright and it was just a misunderstanding.

 

Her mother came running in. Irene knew she was going to get heavily scolded after going home. She was quickly given a glass of water by Miss Shin as she was ushered to sit next to Mrs. Kang. She glares at her and Irene just rolls her eyes hiding her nervousness.

 

The teacher introduced her to the Kangs and Seulgi. She explained the problem at which Mrs. Bae seems very surprised. She would have never thought her child would do something like that. Especially to a sweet child like Seulgi.

 

She slumps her shoulders feeling defeated. Mrs. Kang squeezed the seemingly distraught woman's shoulder offering her a small smile. Mrs. Bae profusely apologized to the Kangs and the principal.

 

"Mrs. Kang I am really sorry. I will scold her for what she has done. Seulgi, are you hurt?"

 

"No, Mrs. Bae" she answered hesitantly. She didn't want to make this problem bigger.

 

"I am really sorry Seulgi. I don't even know how what is going through her mind."

 

"Mrs. Bae sorry to interrupt but I will have to suspend her for a week." the principal says as he interrupts Irene's mom. Mrs. Bae accepts the suspension but still continues apologizing to the people present while Irene just glances at Seulgi and walks out. Seulgi's eyes follow her. Both feel confused about the situation.

 

 

"Irene, did Seulgi bother you before?" Mrs. Bae hangs her coat on the rack while Irene removes her shoes.

 

"No."

 

"Then why did you punch her?" she questioned weakly.

 

"Just because"

 

"Just because is not a valid answer Irene, you must have had a reason. You wouldn't act like this. You are not like this."

 

"Then what am I like mom?" She looks at her menacingly. Mrs. Bae couldn't see any warmth in Irene's eyes. She does not understand where her lovely child had gone.

 

"I don't know Irene but not like this? I never thought you would hit someone."

 

"Well, I did."

 

Mrs. Bae does not even know what to say anymore. She does not understand why Irene is being so difficult. "Do you want to spoil your future? Are you going to start bullying people? Irene, I didn't raise you like this." she screamed, her eyes bright with tears.

 

"Why are you being like this? Stop it."

 

"I'll completely stop this if you take me back to dad. I hate it here don’t you see?. You are keeping me away from my dad. There is no way he didn't reach out to me once. There is no way. He loves me too much to do that. Why are we here? Why can't we go back home?" Irene screamed.

 

"This is our home Irene" she flinched as she looked up. She had never thought that Irene would think she was keeping her away from her father.

 

"No, this is your home. My home is back in Seoul." Irene scoffed. She felt guilty as she saw her mother becoming more and more distraught but she pushed her thoughts away.

 

"Do you think I like it here?" she screamed. Her face was red with tears spilling down. Irene had always seen her mom calm and composed and she just couldn't wrap her head around what she was seeing right now. Her mom shouldn't be the one crying she should.

 

"What?"

 

"I said… do you think I like it here?" Her mom just looked defeated. Irene could see how tired she looked.

 

"Wouldn't I want to continue living the happy life we had back then? Do you think I enjoy not getting a minute to breathe? To not get to spend a second of my time with my child who just seems to hate me more and more every day? Do you really think if I had a choice I would be here?" Her mother screamed.

 

"Your father does not want us, Irene. He found someone else to start his family with," she said as she burst into tears.

 

"You are making it hard for me Irene. I am really disappointed in you."

 

 

Irene was very confused. She just went to her room not knowing about what to talk about further. She did have some doubts about her father not wanting them but she had pushed them away not wanting to think of it.

 

Now she didn't only have one parent who didn't want her but probably two. She felt very guilty about directing all her anger towards her mom when she was not even at fault. She couldn't stop crying after coming to terms with the fact that her dad didn't want her in her life. What had she or her mom done so wrong that her seemingly loving father had wanted to keep no contact with them.

 

She had unnecessarily troubled people with good intentions for a person who didn't even want her. She had been such a rebellious child to her mother and grandmother. She even punched Seulgi who didn't even know her issues and why Irene became angry all of a sudden.

 

Irene realized that Seulgi didn't even know about her family conditions. Why would she brag if she didn't even know that Irene had an absent father? And as far as Irene knew Seulgi, she knew that the other wasn't cruel enough to about it even if she knew.

 

Seulgi had been nothing but an angel while dealing with her. No matter how standoffish Irene acted, she made sure to be as warm as she could be to the other. She would always make it a point to invite Irene to her birthday party even when she knew that Irene would never show up. That was the only invitation Irene got the whole year with the other classmates not even bothering with her.

 

 

She felt very remorseful. Irene didn't understand when she had punched Seulgi. It just happened so suddenly. Her anger should have never been redirected to Seulgi.

 

Her mom was right. She was not like this. What was she turning into? She didn't like it.

 

So she decided that on Tuesday when she could go to school she would sincerely apologize to Seulgi. Irene was not even sure if the other would even accept her apology but she had to do it. Not only because her mother said so, but because she herself felt guilty. Irene was not ready to lose her somewhat friend.

 

 

Seulgi avoided her like a plague. The teacher changed Seulgi's seat. Irene was made to sit alone. She didn't actually mind sitting alone although she missed the constant annoying presence of Seulgi a little bit. She was just embarrassed to face her.

 

All her plans to face the other and to say sorry went through the drain. She just couldn't face the other. And with the other wanting to avoid her just as much as Irene did, making it very convenient for her. She ignored the nagging feeling and just presumed it for the best. Now she can't harm anyone.

 

Irene was embarrassed to face anyone. She just felt as if she had wronged everyone. Her hate for her mother had ebbed away and all she left was immense guilt towards her. She still could not forget her mother's defeated face as she broke down. It was as if she was forced to accept the reason that day. Irene had wasted almost 3 years being the worst child to her poor mother.

 

She felt lost and confused. She didn't want to keep on her façade anymore and didn't even think she could keep it on any longer. But now it was just not an option for her. She couldn't just randomly strike up a conversation with the kids that avoided her and she them for so many years. Maybe she would be alone forever after all. There was a reason why no one liked her.

 

 

Seulgi slowly approaches her during lunch. Through the corner of her eye, Irene can see her hesitation. She seems to finally make up her mind as she walks towards her and slowly calls her name.

Irene does not know how this is going to go and she feels very nervous. Whatever the outcome good or bad she is ready to accept it all. After all, she deserves it.

 

"Hey."

 

"Hi," Irene murmurs softly.

 

"I just wanted to say that I am sorry for talking about my new game. I swear I didn't mean to brag. I just wanted to play along with you." Seulgi says as she fidgets with her shirt refusing to meet her eyes with Irene.

 

All Irene can think about was- why was Seulgi apologizing. She should be the one doing it.

 

"No, I should be the one saying sorry. I shouldn't have punched you. I am really sorry Seulgi." she fidgets awkwardly, shifting her balance from one foot to the other.

 

"Oh." Is all Seulgi seems to have to say? She looks like she wasn't expecting an apology in return which makes Irene think- was she that bad of a person?

"Yeah. I mean I am not saying this because I got scolded but I really regretted hitting you. You have been nothing but good to me over years and I was such a- I just shouldn't have hit you."

 

" I mean I understand if you cannot forgive me but I just wanted to say sorry." Irene continues looking at the bewildered Seulgi.

 

Irene reaches forward and snaps in Seulgi's face.

 

"Hey, earth to Seulgi." Seulgi flinches as she looks up.

 

"Oh, uh, sorry I was just not expecting this situation." Seulgi hadn’t really thought that Irene would actually apologize to her. "I don't know what to say… but I accept your apology." She says as she offers Irene a small smile.

 

Irene nods and smiles back.

 

 

Irene is now much more open to Seulgi's attempt at being her friend. Seulgi takes her to her house after school. She has the cutest dog named Koni who Irene comes to adore. After a few visits, the dog just nuzzles at her.

 

Irene's favorite place in Seulgi's house is its library. Irene and Seulgi build blanket forts and lie there after school finishes. She reads books while Seulgi plays games on her phone. She just seems so engrossed in it. Koni sometimes comes to sit next to them in the fort. Irene loves petting her while reading.

 

Seulgi loves to pet Koni as well. Irene laughs when Seulgi talks to Koni in her baby voice. It is very funny to her but over days she starts doing it too. I mean Koni responds more cutely when she talks in a baby voice, tilting her head. Seulgi does not laugh at her or even when she does Irene does not care anymore. She likes seeing her laugh.

 

It has become a routine for them. They rush home throw their bags on the couch and eat the snacks that Mrs. Kang brings them. Then they clean up and rush to the library where they spend their day till Mrs. Kang calls them for dinner.

Irene sometimes stays to have dinner with the Kangs. They all welcome her regardless of their previous encounter with her. Mrs. Kang tries to sneak Seulgi's dad something sweet once in a while keeping it away from Seulgi's sight. When Seulgi catches their not-so-subtle exchange she pretends to scold them, all while trying not to laugh. Irene loves the atmosphere of this household. She does not remember the last time she has laughed at her house.

 

Her mom seems a bit wary of her being at Seulgi's house every day but Mrs. Kang assures her. Irene's mom is also happy that Irene is finally making friends and not being aloof all the time.

 

Irene regrets wasting her years being a brat. She could have easily become friends with Seulgi as soon as she came to Daegu.

 

 

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