Abandoned Chapter 1
Because I promised misscupcakee at A Fairytale World that I would write her a story. That is what this is. It’s been awhile since I dusted off my writing cap and did anything somewhat creative. Thus, please excuse this attempt and take it for what it is worth. If you like it, I will continue to update with a new chapter for as long as I have inspiration to do so. If you don’t like it…well…you might just have to suffer through it anyways depending on my inspiration.
I wanted to have more life-like silhouettes on the cover. That didn’t work out like I had planned. Oh, well. My artistic skills have always left something to be desired, which I’m sure is easily seen in the drama headers I make for the dramas I recap and the actual headers for this site. The really nice ones are done by heisui @ My Drama Tea. Oh, and nichan contributed some rather nice ones, too.
What happens when your family abandons you? You abandon them right back. It’s not enough to leave the neighborhood nor the city nor the region. No, it’s best to go to another country altogether. One where the language is not your native tongue and where life is so strange and different there is nothing to remind you of those you left behind. And once you’re in that country? You create your own family—one that will never abandon you.
“What’s the matter?”
“There appears to be a fight in the streets up ahead, sir. I told you we should not cut through the back alleys in this town.”
I slowly raise my eyes from the documents I’ve been staring at for the past three hours while my chauffeur has unsuccessfully been navigating back alleys and side roads in the hopes of getting us home any faster than the main roads clogged with rush hour traffic. I can vaguely make out a small group in front of us of raggedly dressed children. Among the rabble was a tall and skinny beanpole who appeared to be trying to fight off the rest of the group. I looked around out the side windows. There is no way we can try to back out of the alley now and nor is there any other little cubbyhole to pull off into. We can only wait until the kids end their fight. But, as my family liked to tell me repeated when we lived together, patience was never my strong suit.
I toss my papers aside and slowly roll my stiff neck. I then reach for the handle shocking my chauffeur. “Mr. Kim…?”
“Stay here,” is all I say before getting up and walking towards the kids. I can’t make out what they are saying as they all don’t seem to be speaking in the same language. As I get closer, I see that the tall boy is standing in front of a girl with dirty red locks who is holding rightly to a little Asian boy who is wailing. From what little I can gather from the smattering of English I catch, the trio have something that the others want and the fight broke out.
As I get closer, I see the children start to take notice of me. They start whispering and nudging and pointing. Soon…I don’t know why, the pack starts to break up and run away leaving the trio behind. I look down on the ground and see a torn backpack with crayons and books scattered around and food smashed into the ground. The boy straightens out his awkward frame and meets my eyes with a glare that made me laugh. I, too, was like him once. Too much pride, too much distrust, too much defiance.
Looking back now, perhaps that raggedy trio that had adopted each other reminded me of my own family and how we had broken apart. Maybe each of them reminded me of myself. I’m not entirely certain. I just know that in that moment staring at that icy caramel glare and hearing the sobbing boy wheezing out broken English with Korean words while the girl continued to cradle him protectively, something resonated within me and I only asked then to come with me. Surprisingly enough…they did.
12 years later.
“Why are you suddenly asking Arissa to go to Korea now?”
I do not look up. I know already who it is. Jay. His mother gave him a name that would fit in the US while harken back to his father’s Korean roots. Jay had grown even taller over the years, but now his skinny frame had filled out with muscles and he no longer looked like the bean pole he once was when we met years ago.
“I do recall telling you that when coming into my office, you must knock first. Also, have I not told you to speak only in Korean within our home?”
Jay heaves a sigh. He hates conversing in Korean. From what he learned from his deceased mother, his birth father was a Korean tourist visiting the US who never looked back nor contacted the woman he left pregnant there after promising her the world. He does obey me, however, and quickly starts asking me the same questions.
I close the file I am working on and look up to meet his fierce caramel gaze. That expression never fully went away, even after all of these years. “Given the hatred you have towards your father’s birthplace, why would I send you to take care of my matters?”
“But why send Arissa? Why not go yourself or send your assistant to do your business?”
As much as I know those are all very valid questions, I see no reason to tell Jay all of my plans and just why it must be Arissa. Those two…those two are entirely too close for their own good. Sure, I am only their foster father. I never officially adopted the three children, but I have raised them together as siblings. I suppose my interference came too late in their lives. Arissa was already 14 and Jay 16 when I met them and they had already become like codependent parents thanks to taking care of the little Korean immigrant Hyeon Seong. Be that as it may, I would much rather see Arissa with a decent man of my choosing and the plot to have her got to Korea to handle the affairs of my father’s will was a step in that direction.
“As much as I would like to go back to my home country, I just can’t now with the merger going on. Plus, I need John here with me while we go through with this deal.” I can tell by Jay’s face he’s not completely convinced, but my excuses all sound logical enough where he cannot keep openly questioning them. “Besides, Arissa is all packed and ready to go.”
At that Jay leaves the room, slamming the door behind him to express his displeasure. He never really verbally disagrees or even really shows his emotions. I do not know all that happened to him with his stepfather after his mother’s death, but I know that it is not pleasant and it left scars. The children also refused to tell me the full tale of their life on the streets. I do know that they found each other when Arissa was 10 and Jay was 12 and Hyeon Seong was 5. Arissa had raise the abandoned toddler for one year by herself before meeting Jay. They all had scars and pasts that they can’t or won’t talk about. I do as well, so I never pressured them to tell me the whole truth of their lives.
“Don’t give me that look.”
“You’re not even looking at me so I how do you know?” I tease as I walk into the bedroom and sit down on the bed. I can see the edge of Arissa’s lip twitch upwards.
“I don’t need to see you to know what expression you’re wearing right now.” Arissa sighs and finishes checking over her suitcase before turning to look at me. Her eyebrow raises and her expression clearly states she was dead on in guessing my expression.
“Why did you agree to go so quickly without even talking to me?”
Arissa sighs deeply once more and she scuffs the toe of her worn out boot on the floor. “Samchon asked, didn’t he? That’s enough. After everything he’s done for us over the past 12 years, it’s the least I can do to repay him.”
Arissa and her repayment idea. From the moment we walked into that townhouse in Brooklyn 12 years ago, she always did everything with the mindset of earning her keep and repaying the debt we owed to Kim when he took us in. Even now that we were living in Sacramento and were both working at Kim’s company, she has that mindset. Half her wages go back to Kim at her own request and the other half…she saves for Hyeon Seong. I guess after all these years, she just can’t get that mother mentality out of her head.
“I don’t want you to go,” I say. Arissa refuses to meet my eyes. We both know the reason I really don’t want her to go, but we both know that we won’t say the words.
“I think you should really consider what John said,” Arissa suggests instead. I snort. I do not care to travel to Korea to track down the father who didn’t care of my existence when I was born 28 years ago. Her eyes raise and her boot stops moving at last. Her eyes narrow and she shakes her head. We’ve had this fight so often now that she won’t start, but I know what she’s not saying.
“I’ll think about it, I guess,” I say, but even I know I’m not telling the truth.
Arissa gives me a hard look with her blue green eyes. She then rolls them to the ceiling and throws up her arms. I always wondered where she picked that particular expression from. She then tells me that I should really consider it as that means I can see Hyeon Seong for the first time in four years since he went off to Korea for college and to reconnect with his grandmother there.
The next day I take Arissa to the airport. Jay stays behind. Arissa and I both know this is because he cannot bear to say goodbye, even if only for a few months. I tell Arissa to make certain that my family is unaware of her fluency in Korean at first. She doesn’t ask me questions. Arissa never asks questions, especially when it’s something I have asked her to do. Is this her version of loyalty? Of expressing faith in me as her guardian cum father? After 12 years, I still don’t have the answer to that question.
We walk towards the gates that separate passengers from relatives and friends. The atmosphere is awkward. I reach into my suit pocket for cigarettes, when her small hand stops me. She smiles and shakes her head. She then gently squeezes my hand before turning and walking away. That kid.
“Will this really be okay, sir?”
I turn and face my assistant John. He had started with me in the US as my chauffer and over the years made his way to be my assistant. “It has to be,” I say as I start walking back to the parking lot.
“But don’t you think that by doing this you’re pushing the kids too far?”
My stride doesn’t break. Of course I have always wondered how much the children will let me get away with. I was surprised when they did not put up a fight when I insisted on Hyeon Seong going to Korea for college. Arissa isn’t one to argue…at least with me, plus she knew of Hyeon Seong’s vague memories of his grandmother. After his mother abandoned him once they had officially emigrated, he had lost all contact and somewhere in his childhood memories, his grandmother’s stand precious and firm. I was also surprised when Jay did not fight when I insisted his degree be in advertising and Arissa’s in business. I did not know of the children’s dreams and they would not tell me if I asked. Hyeon Seong once told me that his nuna and hyung had given up on dreams by the time I came into their lives. Sometimes I wonder if this is really true.
“Mr. Kim…I really don’t agree in how you’re handling this.”
I finally pause to look at John. His pale hair falls into his dark brown eyes as he huffs to keep up with my pace. “You don’t have to agree,” is all I will say to him. I now he does not agree in what I have planned. I also know, and I’m sure my “children” will eventually understand that is only with the best in mind for them.
The plane lands in Incheon. I am strangely not nervous although I really don’t have any idea in why the man I refer to only as “samchon” or “uncle” really wants me to be his proxy while in Korea. I do know that after at least 12 years or more of estrangement, he has a yearning for the family he left behind even if he refuses to voice this longing. With his father’s death and the state of the family company, he has a chance to go back, to make amends for whatever happened in the past. If I can help him do that, then I will not question his entire motives, although I am certain of one thing. He doesn’t want Jay and I together in the same house any more. Will time and distance cool our feelings for one another? I wonder if Samchon’s goal can really be achieved.
I check in to a hotel for a nap and to get cleaned up. The Kim family does not know of my arrival and I doubt that I will be welcomed in their home, but to their home I must go and I’d rather go after feeling more like myself and not a worn out traveler. I look at my modest luggage. Samchon always wondered why I did not do more for myself. I never spent money on designer goods or bags and my closet of clothes is very bare. I wear things until they are completely worn out. After living most of my childhood in poverty, I just can’t change my ways and this is unlikely to change. After freshening up and putting on one of my business suits that I loathe. I never did like them for some reason. I take a deep breath and seek out the Kim’s house.
When I arrive I am in awe of the grandeur. Samchon told me of how his family had two houses, one traditional where the eldest son’s family lives and one more modern and grand where his sister’s family lives. I had thought the townhouse in Brooklyn quite grand, but that paled in comparison to the mansion Samchon had built in California. But both of those houses were nothing compared to this house. Of course, the amazement doesn’t last long. The trappings of wealth can never hold my interest for long, but the beauty of the architecture was something I will have to revisit later when I have more time.
I ring the buzzer on the gate and am shocked when I’m quickly buzzed in without anyone questioning who I was or why I was at the gate. I walk up the stairs to the front door when it opens and a young man steps out. The obviously expensive haircut was stylishly disheveled with a lock of hair hanging in front of hazel eyes and a regal, almost Roman nose. The young man’s mouth quirks into a smirk and I cannot believe just how full his lips are! Soon a middle-aged woman comes up behind him. I am guessing she is Samchon’s sister—just two years older than he as the two look an awful lot alike.
“Choi Kang Ju, you are NOT leaving yet!” The woman stops when she sees me. She asks who I am in Korean. I smile and pull out my card and introduce myself in English. “My name is Arissa Leonard and I work with Kim Eun Su.”
There is shocked silence. I am guessing at the mention of her little brother’s name as I was told she was not fluent in English. Although, I am certain she knows enough to understand that basic introduction. Kang Ju’s smirk fades into a feint look of surprise. His eyebrows knit up and he casts a glace back down at his mother. Will I get the door slammed in my face?
After a long and awkward moment, Kang Ju opens the door wider and his mother ushers me in. I feel a bit like Daniel walking into that lion’s den…or almost like a sacrificial lamb being lead to the slaughter. What will happen in this house?