swallowing bitter medicine

the baby trap

When I was sixteen, I had the idea that turning twenty-one would be the turning point in my life that I needed.

No more curfew.

I could drink without a fake ID.

My parents would be more open with me being in a romantic relationship.

I could have in my own bedroom without worrying about anyone barging in.

I’d be adulting. So, naturally, I entertained that thought when things got hard. As the youth of my childhood diminished and I began seeing the world through the lenses as an adult, I hated it.

People lied. And the worst lie of all was that everything is better as an adult. Having more freedoms didn’t necessarily equate to happiness. There are bills. Then, there are more bills after that. Then, groceries seemed optional. Were you able to eat at the expense of not being able to afford your rent? Did more freedoms mean that I would be happy?

Don’t even get me started on the notion of finding love. Crushes didn’t exactly exist in the adult world. Rather, they were romantic aspects. You hear people say that there was plenty of fish in the sea.

But they never tell you how to differentiate between romantic feelings or temporary fixations. They also never tell you that when you’re stuck on a guy, no matter how much logic you’ve got on your side, you’ll be completely blindsided.

You’ll think about him. You’ll delude yourself into thinking that this can be a maybe. That maybe, him being your dead sister’s boyfriend isn’t that bad. Or, rather, you’ll fall in love with the idea of dating him—the idea that you’ve created because reality is a harsh mistress.

And no one ever tells you that after the baby fever dissipates, it’s like being placed on a battlefield against your will—completely defenseless.

“God, I know I haven’t believed in your existence ever before in my entire life. Definitely not after you took Dad away from me. But if you can hear me—please, I’m begging you. Make him stop crying.”

It feels like I’m watching another version of myself in an alternate reality. There’s no way this girl is me. Bare-faced, jaded eyes, purplish-blue eye-bags. I haven’t washed my hair in two weeks. My old, stretched t-shirt from high school hangs off of my malnourished frame. I’m wearing sweatpants ripped at the crotch.

I’m exhausted. I don’t think I’ve slept for more than two hours at night. It’s truly frightful how much my life has changed.

Sure, my sleep schedule’s been whatever I wanted before fostering Ai. I’d been able to get videos and photos archived months back to post on my OF. I’d been streaming on Twitch at the dead of the night.


I can’t even dream of it. I haven’t touched my set-up in ages. Hell, I haven’t gone to the bathroom in peace, afraid that Ai would wail and my neighbors would thump on my walls in annoyance—making him cry more.

He’s colicky, so I’ve been living these past two weeks with ringing ears. Quiet is a long-lost paradise.

I hear a knock on my door, and the sigh that I let out is absolutely miserable. I’m praying that it’s not that neighbor.

An eighty-year-old man who liked to stick his nose in my business way too often. When I first moved into my unit, he made a snide comment about how free-range parenting would destroy future generations. He’d been disgusted by my pink hair then and my “skimpy” clothes then.

He didn’t like me speaking to his fourteen-year-old granddaughter, in fear that my “ty” attire was somehow contagious.

I didn’t usually care about what others thought of me. It took adequate self-confidence to be able to brush aside these little cruel situations that were inevitable happenings of my lifestyle.

But I wasn’t sure if I could muster enough patience to deal with that in the midst of raising my difficult nephew.

My nerves were wearing thin each coming day, and I certainly couldn’t take it out on an infant who didn’t know any better.

When I open the door, I’m not sure whether I should be happy that it’s my mother and not my nasty geriatric neighbor.

Though, my expression probably says the opposite because it elicits dissatisfaction from my mother.

“You haven’t called,” she grumbles.

I’m a little speechless at her priorities. “I’ve been a little…busy.” I signal to somewhere behind me.

I’ve just gotten Ai to go to bed after an entirely sleepless night. He hasn’t been reacting well to the thin walls of my apartment.

She crosses her arms. “I thought you would need help. Jia’s always asked for my help.”

My jaw ticks in irritation. I wasn’t going to do this with her in the hallway. Partly because my senile neighbor would never let me hear the end of it. And I also wasn’t going to take this inside either where there was a sleeping infant.

“I’m not Jia. I can handle things here on my own,” I tell her.

My mother presses her lips into a thin line. It’s a long moment of tense silence and unspoken conflicts before she responds, “are you really handling it? You look…” She doesn’t finish her sentence because she probably believes that I can do it myself. Her eyes do a once-over on my body.

She fixates on the vomit stain on my collar. Then, she does this thing where it’s like she’s scrutinizing every single flaw that I have. A look that I’m very familiar with.

“I’m being responsible, mother. It’s more than what you’re doing.”

My mother huffs out an indignant laugh with an aggressive shake of her head. “Hea. You know—if CPS wasn’t so insistent on letting an inexperienced twenty-one-year-old care for a baby, we wouldn’t be here.”

“It’s saying a lot that this inexperience twenty-one-year-old was given custody and that her mother is the one haggling her.”

“You think that I’m haggling you?” She stumbles forward when she takes a step, but she quickly catches herself with my doorframe.

I scrunch my nose. “You’re drunk.”

“It was one glass of wine. Besides, I’m tipsy, not stupid.”

“That’s what alcoholics say, mother. They always say it’s one glass, but then that means that one more shouldn’t hurt. And then it’s suddenly the entire bottle. Tell me—was it really just one glass?”

She rolls her eyes.

I give it another second for her to grow the awareness that she’s not needed here. But she doesn’t get the clue and stands, craning her neck to see around me. Perhaps hoping that she’d catch sight of her dearest grandson.

A dearest grandson that she couldn’t even stay sober for.

“Did you drive here?” I ask. At first, it was supposed to be a dumb question. She had to have known better. But her silence stuns me. Was this really the mother that I remembered? “Did you drive here?” I repeat the question through gritted teeth.

She squirms under my death glare. “I can handle a lot more. It’s fine.”

“Are you ing kidding me?” I snap, throwing my arms up. “And you’re here on my doorstep lamenting about not having custody of Ai? You obviously aren’t able to make logical decisions.”

“Do not speak to me that way. You are still my daughter.” Her face is flushed red when she presses herself against me, her index trembling right in front of my face.

I take a step back. “And you’re still the same old emotional abuser, mother. Do you think that we as children asked to be born? Am I supposed to be grateful that you did the bare minimum?”

She laughs, shaking her head like she couldn’t fathom that I was her daughter at all. “You—“ She pauses. “You can’t take care of Ai. I may have not been the mother that you wanted, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have the experience that it takes to be one. You have no idea what it takes. You’re still a child yourself.”

I slap her hand away from mine. “Don’t touch me.”

My mother scoffs. “Hea. Are you hearing yourself right now? How would Ai feel if he grew up and discovered that you’re depriving him of his own family?”

“I’d tell him the truth,” I quip, my tone like ice.

She furrows her brows. “The truth?”

“That his mother died a cheater. That his grandmother didn’t love him enough to quit abusing alcohol—“

A sharp slap echoes in the hallway. I couldn’t tell if it was my own anger or the reverberation of the slap that made my ears ring. I also couldn’t tell if my lungs were contracting enough because I was starting to feel lightheaded. And my eyes were misting over.


She says nothing else after. She’d already insulted me in her mind. I’m sure.

I begin to turn, so I can pull myself away from this situation. A familiar flare of pain that chokes me from uttering my next words. An embarrassment that creeps up my neck, reminding me that I’m still very much that trapped teenager in an adult body.

Even when I slam my door, I can hear the words that she must’ve been dying to tell me the day I left.

It should’ve been you. Not Jia.

I inhale, trying to fill my lungs again.

A cry interrupts me. And for the first time, I’m grateful for his startling wails. It’s the only thing that’ll keep me busy.

And it’s the only thing, for now, that’ll keep me from dealing with the truth.

It’s a truth that hadn’t rung clearer than now.

A truth I’ve been ignoring since Dad passed away.

It’s always only been me against the world.






I’ve been friends with Park Bitna since high school. In the beginning, I was always grateful to have Bitna as a friend and not a person who talked to me because I was Jia’s sister.

During high school, Bitna got my sister and her friends off of my back, and since then, we’ve always stuck together. She was probably more my sister than Jia.

But since the beginning of this year, Bitna’s been busy with her internship and graduate school. Bitna and I attended the same university, and during that time, we were roommates up until she moved in with her boyfriend.

We had plans this weekend to go out to brunch, but with my hands full, there was absolutely no way I could leave my apartment.

Even with the aid that I got to take care of Ai, rent in LA wasn’t cheap. For my small apartment, I had to have had at least a steady income. And because I hadn’t been streaming for a while now, I was down to OF as my primary source of income. It was okay, but long term, things weren’t looking good for me.

I dial Bitna’s number and on the third ring, she picks up.

Hello?” Her voice comes out reedy.

I pause. “Is this a bad time?”

No,” she says. “It’s—uh—it’s okay. I’ve been meaning to call you anyway.”

Her line goes silent for a couple of seconds, and I hear shuffling before a door closes. “Are you with someone?”

I was, but no worries. I can talk. I’m in his bathroom.”

“Right,” I mumble.

So—“ She trills. “What’s up? I haven’t seen you on social media at all.”

“I’m in a situation,” I say.

That’s a little vague.”

For the next fifteen minutes, I launch into my story, telling her every single detail that I could possibly remember. I don’t tell her about my mother though. It was still a sore spot that I wasn’t ready to give up.

Wow,” is all she says when I’m done.

“Yeah, I still feel like this is out of my league.”

She laughs. “I know we’re not doing brunch this week, but can I visit you?

“I can’t promise that I won’t smell like vomit,” I warn.

We’ve been through worse. Remember? You were sleeping in Mark’s bed, covered in his vomit. And you guys were literally so baked that neither of you gave a .”

I cringe at the memory. I used to be that girl. Wild and unrestrained. It was just after I moved away from home. I rebelled. I did what the Christian kids did when they went to college. I binge drank. I skipped class. I got high on anything I could find. I had reckless at every party I went to.

Mark Lee was my last serious boyfriend. We dated the last year of college and broke up that same year. He wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t all that great either. We were both the result of toxic households. Two people who didn’t know how to love. We relied on physical intimacy, and so our relationship ended in a train wreck.

I called him a self-serving . And he called me a two-faced .

Truthfully, he wasn’t all that far off. I could do friendships just fine, but there was always a mental barrier when it came to relationships. I could never trust my boyfriends, and I knew that my innate ability to distrust others stemmed from the relationship I had with my mother and sister.

Apart from , we didn’t have serious conversations. Our relationship was shallow. We had no aspirations. No future.

Hey, I’ll be over, and it’ll be like old times sake—baby or no baby.”

The smile on my face may be instinctive, but I hadn’t felt it in my chest.






Bad mornings existed regardless of how my mental state was doing. I thought I had been hanging in there with Ai. It didn’t take much for me to realize that my thought was foolish. Not only did I get zero sleep, but I ran out of baby formula, so a starving Ai was ten times as vicious.

I basically sprinted at three in the morning to a Walgreens to get him formula. The clerk shot me a dirty look because I knocked over the display of stuffed animals at the end of the aisle.

After I fed him, he threw up on my bed. So after I put him to sleep, I had to clean up. After cleaning up, the sun already began to shine through my window.

Not to mention, we barely scraped by the month of January. I’d never been the one to mourn holidays. I didn’t really celebrate them. Today was Valentine’s day, and I was alone with a colicky child.

I called his pediatrician a week ago, and none of the things that I’ve tried worked out long term. Night drives only worked the first two days. By the third day, I’d been so exhausted that I was afraid my half-asleep driving would endanger everybody else on the road.

I tried everything. From music to reading to strolls around my unit. To my dismay, Ai was an extremely fussy child who craved skin contact all the time. He didn’t sleep longer than an hour if I wasn’t there.

Which meant my work life was nonexistent the entire month of January leading to February.

It would’ve been easier if Ai was the only fussy one because my followers were also complaining about my lack of updates. My internet friends were blowing up my Discord, and despite the hundreds of messages, I didn’t have time.

My time was torn in half by Ai’s needs and my own. I couldn’t muster enough energy to talk to anybody—much less do the things that I used to love.

My lack of sleep was catching up to me, and I’d fallen asleep when I gave Ai a bottle. He was squirming in my arms as I was passed out against my headboard.

It wasn’t that long of a nap because when he finished his bottle, I wasn’t able to burp him in time so he threw up all over me.

When I stumbled to the bathroom, I nabbed my toe against the corner of the door. The pain was tear-inducing, but I didn’t have time. He was whining again, and I had to get us clean before I could assuage him.

When I turn on the water, my doorbell rings. Initially, I assumed that if I didn’t answer the door, they would go away.

But the person was relentless. My door was being pounded on, and so, my neighbors took it out on me, banging on their wall adjacent to mine.

I curse under my breath. I was soaked with water, but it didn’t look like I had a choice. I scurry out of the bathroom to my front door with an overly active baby on one hand and the other hand clutching the towel around my chest.

When I pull open my door, to my utter surprise, it’s Jaehyun.

“What are you doing here?” I stammer, wide-eyed.

He flashes me a dimple, lifting the takeout in his hand up to my peripheral. The smell of food was exquisite. The smell of greasy fried food was even better. I was starving, and frankly, I couldn’t recall the last time I had anything to eat.

“Come in,” I urge, moving back to give him room. Unbeknownst to me, I end up triggering the flare of pain in my toe from earlier and trip.

I yelp, clutching tightly to Ai so he doesn’t get hurt from the impact.

Except—I don’t fall. Jaehyun has one hand around my back, and Ai is safely tucked between our chests.

“Thank you,” I breathe.

His eyes are right in front of mine, and they twinkle when he says, “you’re very welcome.”

I clear my throat, pulling away from him.

“Did I interrupt your date?” He asks, pointing to Ai.

I snort. “He’s a horrible date. I’ve never met anyone needier.”

Jaehyun drops the food on my coffee table and urges me to pass over Ai with his eyes.

“We’re fine, Jaehyun. Don’t let me keep you from enjoying today. You must be busy—“

He steps toward me, gently taking Ai away despite my protest. “You’re going to take a shower.”


“Yes. and then when you’re done, you’re going to eat what I brought you.”

“What about Ai? He needs to be cleaned up—“

Jaehyun tilts his head. “I’ve got him. You worry about yourself first.”


“No buts. Tell me you understand what I’ve told you.”

“I understand,” I answer him with hesitation.

Jaehyun points to my bathroom expectantly.

For some reason, I oblige. I guess I still trust him for absolutely no reason. That’s a problem in itself. But I haven’t handled any of my problems. And I’m not sure if I want to let myself do that.

My hair has never felt cleaner. It’s the first time I’ve been able to blowdry my hair in ages. When I leave the bathroom, I’m refreshed and surprisingly content despite the day that I’ve had.

I practically scarf down the Chinese takeout that Jaehyun brought me while the two of them are in the bathroom.

When Jaehyun comes out, his shirt is soaked, and there’s an extremely peaceful baby in his arm. It’s hard to believe that this is the same Ai that’s been giving me a hell of a time.

“What did you feed him?” I ask.

Jaehyun glances down at the happy child. “He’s a good kid.”

I tilt my head. “Uh. Sure.”

He plops beside me, and despite there being at least a foot of room left on my couch, he chooses to sit close, his arms touching mine.

I look over to Ai who is shamelessly worming around. I’m not sure to be grateful or hurt by this turn of events.

“How much was the food?” I ask.

“Why?” He asks.

“So I can pay you back.”

Jaehyun makes a sound that’s between a snort and a chuckle. “Next time.”

“I feel bad. I was serious earlier. It’s your birthday today and all.”

At the sight of his amusement, I’ve realized I’ve just outed the fact that I ended up googling him after all.

“It’s not right. I wish you’d told me sooner, and I didn’t have to find out from your mother.”

I do a double-take. “What? She called you?”

Jaehyun gives me a strange look. “She loved Jia, and I don’t think she hated me when I dated her daughter.”

At the mention of our realities, I feel the unease that I should’ve been feeling churn in my stomach. Right. Of course. How did I forget?

“Jia wronged you,” I remind him, “you don’t have to deal with her shortcomings.”

Jaehyun levels a serious look at me. The intensity of his stare sends shivers down my spine. “You seriously believe that?”

“Yes, so what?”

“What Jia and I had—it was messy. How is it that, out of the two years I’ve dated her, I met you for the first time at the hospital?”

I open my mouth, but I end up closing it.

“I should’ve been the one to take care of Ai,” he tells me, “when was the last time you got any time to yourself?”

“I’m fine,” I grunt.

He raises an eyebrow, probably disbelieving my every word. “Hea. You’re struggling. It doesn’t take a psychologist to see that.”

“We all struggle, Jaehyun. Some of us more than others. You don’t owe my sister anything. She’s dead, and this isn’t your kid.”

Jaehyun leans forward—so close that I can almost taste the familiarity of him. “What about my brother? Did we forget that I’m related to the other party?”

“Jaehyun, please—“

“Do you hate me?”

His questions bring a sour taste to my mouth. Did I hate him? Absolutely not. I had no right. He was also hurt by this entire precedent.

At the sound of my silence, he says, “stop protecting me.” Surprise takes me by the throat. “I can tell that you don’t want to involve me because you think it’s better if one person endures the hardship, and that you’d rather be the one to hold the weight of the world than ask for help.”

I can only manage a weak okay. I’m not really sure why my face feels so hot, or why my throat feels so tight.

“Hey,” he murmurs. “Look at me.” He tugs my chin upwards so all that I see is into his eyes and nothing else. My heart explodes when he says, “let me move in with you.”

“What?” I stutter. “But what about your career?”

“I can find work in LA,” he tells me.

I bite on my lower lip, unsure of what to say next.

Jaehyun ushers me to look down at sleeping Ai. And it’s something of a miracle.

I burst out crying. Panicked, I try to stifle my sob with my hands, but Jaehyun thinks ahead and puts Ai down in the crib near us. Then, he pulls me into his chest, squeezing me so tightly that I can feel my ears pop. It does the trick, and I don’t end up waking up Ai at all because the rush of anxiety and frustration clear from my mind.

Instead, I’m reduced to muted sniffling and quiet exhales. It felt like pulling my head up from underwater to gasp for air.

“Friends help each other out,” he tells me. “And Ai needs both of us.”

I nod, glancing back up into his eyes. I pretend that the warmth burning bright in my chest isn't the opposite of just friends.

Instead, I let my exhaustion take over. The comforting smell of his soap and aftershave and his big, steady arms around me lull me to sleep. And before I know it, I’m gone.

In my dreams, I see my sister. She’s angry at me, but for what? I’m not so sure.

[a/n] i may not have a child but geez i really empathize with hea. her life . i'm a young adult myself so i wanted to write about the struggles that we all face but because we're "young," we get gaslighted by older adults. i hope you guys like the realism of this fic.

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Chapter 1: Oh wow that escalated fast indeed
Hiii.. this is really good ;)
Chapter 4: It's really hard nowdays to feel happy isn't it? I noticed that I am struggling more with my emotions and feelings of depression. I tried to bring it up to my family and even to my new doctor and it gets brushed off as just feeling down because I have been unhealthy for so long. It does a number on you doesn't it? It's hard to feel like you want to do the things you really like or love.
I can tell you this, you are really, really God at writing. It feels very natural. To read the dialogue and situations you have created are very realistic. I can read through your updates and not feel stressed that things do not flow. You have talent and the ability to tell a really good story and I want to thank you for sharing that.
This poor site is going through a down phase and I know a lot if people are leaving but if you stay to write, I'll stay to read. 😊 I hope you feel happier soon.
Chapter 3: I'm glad that Jaehyun came back into the picture because she would not have lasted much longer on her own.
Chapter 4: I was really clueless on what she does, now I found the light🤣
missmong79 #6
Chapter 4: girl..I think you are pretty good..keep doing what u love at your own pace. we wont rush you and I think this story is quite impressive. fighting!
Chapter 4: Oh girl..there are people out here waiting for you, appreciating you, your work, your effort. I know I do! I want to read more about the stories you write, about yourself from your little author notes. I am definitely hooked on this story especially! I admit this is the first time I saw your name and saw your story and I wonder why I didn't find it sooner because damn you wrote a masterpiece(s). I couldn't even wait to see your other stories before finishing this one (hence the confusion I got on the male lead that I have to reread the first chapter again with Jaehyun in mind XD). Idk how much my words can affect your mood, your state, condition. But I hope it did contribute a bit in any way. I know depression is hard. I've been there and sometimes I still found myself there, in and out.

I hope you found a way to lighten it a bit. And I hope you update this fanfic again^^

P.S. I have to say that Mark Lee is not like that XD I couldn't imagine Mark Lee being a jerk, spit out profanities, unsincere relationship, casual HAHAHAAHHAHA because he's our precious good boy Mark Lee! He's a CHILD lmao XD
Chapter 2: Idk what has come over me but I thought this is a KaixOC story until I read this chapter and Jaehyun's name popped out! I was so imagining Kai all over her!! MY BAD!!! I reconfirmed back to the prologue and yeah it's Jeong Jaehyun I am so sorry! Maybe because I was scrolling your other stories before reading the first chapter of this story and there was Baek (a lot of Baek) and Sehun and Kai(?) or maybe I was just missing Kai and yeah need to get laid!!!

Anyways I love your story!! Even more so because it's Jaehyun like I first clicked because of him alright! Anyways off to read the remaining chapters. XD
Chapter 4: I love your work and I am sure other people do too but please allow me to be brutally honest here. You don't need to think about us. You've said it yourself, you love writing but sometimes when something doesn't bring you joy and instead you just feel pressured, taking a break is okay.

Ofc there'll be lots of people here waiting for you in case you'd like to return or even just have goofy conversations so don't be afraid to choose what you really want right now. Trust me, we will be here :)

On the other hand, I did not expect an update on this. Why thank u, their set up is so awkward yet captivating. Both of them are infatuated to call it some way haha
Chapter 4: Oh love, please know that you matter, your writing is really good. You have a definite gift for creating relatable characters and believable dialogue that is great paced and just ing good. That being said I understand the urge to disappear, to just erase it all. But like most urges it will pass. It’s a symptom of the bigger beast of depression which is always an ugly fight just to even breathe through. I hate that anyone goes through it, but I have hope that you’ll get through because here you are writing, and sharing that you’re fighting through it. That’s big!
This was a good update. Hae is finally accepting the help and you can see it in her actions with Jaehyun- who is possibly the sweetest man, and I would have spooned him in sleep too if given the chance.