Chapter 9

I Is For Irony

Fallen leaves danced in the breeze.  Her hair whipped wildly in the wind.


And Kim Tae Hee stood before her house, baggage in both hands.  Four years.  After four whole years, she was finally home.  She rang the buzzer.  This was finally happening.  She was going to see her mom. 


“Hello?  Who is it?” A man’s voice.


Tae Hee stepped back and checked the house number.  8524.  Yes, it was correct.  As far as she was concerned, her mother hadn’t moved.  Then who was speaking?


“Hello?” he repeated.



She thought hard.  Who could this be? 


It couldn’t be her brother; Jiwoon’s voice was too high.  This speaker’s was far too low.

It couldn’t be one of those DBSK boys; they didn’t care about her anymore.



The door opened.  “Stupid kids and their pranks,” a man muttered as he stepped out of the house.  And then his eyes stumbled upon Tae Hee.  “Who are you?” he asked gruffly.



“Um, is Mrs. Kim Chae Byul here?” Tae Hee asked.  That was odd; the man was dressed in a suit----something none of her mother’s friends would ever wear.  Perhaps her mother really had moved.


“Oh yes,” he replied slowly, still eying her with wariness.  “CHAE BYUL!  Someone’s here for you!”



Footsteps quickly pattered on the wooden stairs.  “Who is it?”  The footsteps slowed to a halt.  “Tae Hee...”  But they didn’t run and hug each other.  It was different this time, though it shouldn’t have been.



“Tae Hee?” the man mimicked quietly. 



Tae Hee was silent.  You’ve changed, Umma.  You’ve changed.

It was an awkward moment, and then everything returned to its norm.



“Oh Tae Hee!  Why didn’t you tell me you were visiting?  We could have picked you up!”


“I thought I’d surprise you!”  Funny, I’m the one surprised.


“Well come on in.  You’re going to get sick from this weather.”  Mrs. Kim motioned to the man.  “Can you get her bags please?  Thank you.”



When all three had situated themselves comfortably in the living room, Tae Hee spoke up.  “I hate to sound rude and all, but who exactly are you?”  Her question was clearly directed to the stranger.



“Ah, I’m...” he faltered.


Mercilessly, Tae Hee’s mother continued, “Song Ji Hwan.  You don’t remember him do you?”



The name seemed so familiar, yet she couldn’t place a finger on it.





”JI HWAN!  NO!” Tae Hee’s mother cried out.  “You can’t do this!”


“Yes I can,” he replied gruffly, throwing the sobbing woman to the side.  “This is what I get for marrying a high school sweetheart: nothing.  I’m moving onto better things, Chae Byul.  And all you have...” he smirked, “is a kid that isn’t even yours.”


He grabbed his luggage, jerked the door open, and set out into the darkness forever.  Her mother crumpled to the floor as tears flowed down her cheeks.


And there, in the corner, a little girl of three quivered.  She tried to touch the purple things on her arms, but they hurt.  Bruises.


“UMMA!” she cried out.

But her mother would not look at her.





Anger surged through Tae Hee’s body.  She remembered him now.  How could she have forgotten him?  He was the reason why she didn’t have a father.


He was an alcoholic.  Every night he would stagger home drunk and perfumed with a woman’s “loving” scent.  But Umma didn’t mind.  So long as he came home.  But he’d come home angry---directing his anger towards the family.


Umma claimed it never hurt; that she knew he wasn’t like that.  He was a perfect gentleman when he was sober.  Except he was almost never sober---at least when they saw him.




Tae Hee shot a glare at him.  “Where’s Jiwoon?”


“Oh?  At school,” Mrs. Kim replied.





Angrily, she made her way to the front door.  Nobody stopped her.  And Tae Hee was gone.




“Ji Hwan,” Mrs. Kim put her hand on his arm.  “You can’t blame her.  It was sudden for her, not to mention me.  I just hope Jiwoon won’t feel this way too.  Give them time.”

He nodded.




“Noona?” Jiwoon, her brother, asked as he entered the gate.  But she brushed past him.


She was in her own world now.  Her world of confusion. 

But he wouldn’t understand.  He had never met that man before.




The last time she ran out of the house like this was when she found out she was adopted.  And who came to comfort her last time?  Park Yoochun.  Oh how she wanted to go find him again.  Somehow, she had always felt protected by him.  Like having an older brother whom she could always depend on.  It seemed as if she had always turned to the five of them for help.


But Park Yoochun was no longer the high school boy she knew.  None of them were anymore.  Junsu, Yunho, Changmin...  Jaejoong.  They had forgotten their past, hadn’t they?  They were too good for their past now.


So there was no hoping that anybody would come to comfort her this time.  She walked aimlessly.  But somehow she found herself back to the park, back to the same bench she sat on several years before.  In a way, nothing much had changed.  Her house was still her house.  The park was still the park.  Even the weather.




“Kim Tae Hee,” she sighed as the wind blew softly, “You are so hotheaded.”  She had always had issues with her fiery temper; she just blew so easily.  “But really... what is wrong with Umma?  How can she so readily---”




“Meh?  Is that you, Tae Hee?”


Her head jerked up. 



It was funny how fate played on things.  Right in front of her, as if four years had never passed, was Park Yoochun.  Sure he had huge sunglasses and a cap to disguise himself from stalkers, but it was him.  It seemed as if Korea had frozen in time the moment Tae Hee left, so nothing could change until she came back.




But how untrue was that?


The boys had debuted and become a successful band.


And Song Ji Hwan had come back.




Her lips curled up into a weak smile.  “Long time no see, huh?”


“Since when did you come back?  This is unbelievable.  I should totally contact hyung.  ACK, but we don’t know where he is!”  Yoochun frowned.  “If I haven’t told you before, and even if I have told you before, you and Jaejoong have horrible timing.”



Tae Hee sighed impatiently.  “Can we... can we just not talk about him for once?”


Yoochun was clearly taken aback by her sudden ferocity.  “Sure...”  He sat down beside her on the bench.  “So why’re you back?”




“Mandatory vacation, I guess you can call it.”


“AH!  YOOCHUN OPPA!”  Girls started screaming and running towards the two.


“I should’ve been more careful,” he cursed.  “I’ll be back.  Remember the tree at the high school where we first met?  I’ll meet you there tonight at 8.  You better go back home---and be on the lookout.  You never know where fangirls may be lurking.”



Tae Hee smiled as she watched his retreating silhouette.


Despite his advice, she still sat there.  Until that man left, she had no home to go to.

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