Abandoned Chapter 2
I know what I want to do and where I want the story to go…but getting from point A to point B is a lot harder than it sounds. I’ve been working on and reworking. Still not completely satisfied, though. Here is Chapter 2 of Abandoned at last. You can read the first chapter here: Abandoned Chapter 1.
Choi Kang Ju
I close the door behind the woman and stare hard at her. Her auburn hair is pulled back into a tight ponytail and she is dressed in a no-nonsense charcoal gray business suit. Everything about her is very professional and free of frills. The suit is not a designer one and she is only wearing simple black flats. She gives off a very calm and collected vibe. I wonder what would have happened if my uncle had answered the door instead. He would probably have slammed it in her face after saying some harsh things about her employer. Just what was Uncle Kim in the US thinking in sending this woman here? As much as I know that my mother has a soft spot for her beloved little brother who had gone astray, I know just as well that my eldest uncle has no such love and had already called Uncle Eun Su to tell him to quickly sign away the inheritance and stay away.
The loud arguing calms down with the arrival of this stranger—this foreigner. Her already upright posture seems to straighten out even more. She gives a slight bow and reintroduces herself. Uncle Eun Tae jumps up from the couch, papers scattering everywhere. He demands to know why we let such filth into the house. My father tells him to stop and calmly walks over and greets the woman who called herself Arissa Leonard. He first asks her a question in Korean, but when it appears she doesn’t understand, he reluctantly switches to English.
“Why are you here? Did you not get the notice?”
The woman’s lips curve into a slight grin which quickly disappears. “Mr. Kim did, indeed, get the papers that you sent him last week. He has also instructed me to tell you on his behalf that he will not be signing away his inheritance rights. He plans on coming to Korea at the end of this current business deal to work things out. Until then, I am here in his place.”
Uncle Eun Tae immediately lets out more curse words. It is rare to see my cold and calm uncle acting like this. Myself and my cousins were never filled in on just what caused the breech between the Kim siblings, but it must have been big for my stoic uncle to behave so badly. To give this American woman credit, she did not flinch away from the harsh language she did not understand. She stands very firm and resolute.
“I know that this is not what you wanted to hear, but you have no grounds to take away my employer’s right to what his deceased father left him. We have, by the way, consulted with our own international law attorney and do know you have no legal ground to stand on.”
This earns her more cursing from Uncle Eun Tae, which of course, stresses my own father out. His dark skin pales even more as he hears what his brother-in-law is calling this girl. He forces a smile onto his face. Being the company’s lawyer, he also knows that she is perfectly right. My uncle had hoped that Uncle Eun Su would be ignorant of this or would just agree to sign the papers to make up for the past.
“You are very right about that part,” my father says. “It was not our intention to rob your employer of his rights as the deceased CEO’s son. If you leave your contact information with us…” My father’s voice trails off as he finally notices the luggage this Arissa Leonard is carrying.
She smiles, although it does not reach her ocean eyes. “To ensure fairness, I will be staying here until Mr. Kim arrives from the States.” She then pivots on her heel and turns towards my mother. “I do hope you have a room to spare. Ma’am.”
My mother being my mother, keeps her mouth shut and just nods her head. She looks at me before going off to tell the housekeeper to prepare a room. I can’t hide a smirk. Uncle Kim in the US really knows just how prim and proper his nuna is. There is no way she’ll be rude and kick this woman out of our house—even if that is what Uncle Eun Tae would prefer. When my mother comes back, I sweep my arm towards the staircase and motion Ms. Leonard to follow us upstairs.
The Kim and Choi family did give me the anticipated reaction. I am left to wonder just what happened between Kim Eun Su and the rest of his family for them to have such a violent reaction to hear that he will be returning to Korea at long last. Knowing the man I call “uncle”…I can’t imagine him doing anything bad enough to warrant such a reception.
I pick up my bag and follow Choi Kang Ju and Kim Euni upstairs. She shows me to a small room at the very end of a long hall. I have a feeling that she wants me as out of sight as possible. My arrival is wholly unwelcome. I am certain she would prefer if it had been Uncle Eun Su here instead of myself. She could handle his arrival with more aplomb than some foreign woman she’s never met before and knows nothing about.
As I put my bag down on the bed, Kang Ju closes the door behind me, but not before I catch another smirk spreading across his face. Just what is with him? Is he that amused by the chaos surrounding his grandfather’s death? I shake myself. No time for speculation. The shareholder’s meeting is at the end of the week and there is much to be done. Uncle’s plan is to simply put in an offer that the rest of the board cannot possibly refuse. Even though he has never once mentioned his family or what happened, the boys and I could always feel that sense of desolation that comes from abandonment—we knew it ourselves entirely too well. Even though he has been successful in the US for nearly 20 years, I can sense that deep yearning for his home. As much as he tries to hide it…he wishes to comeback. He wishes to be with his family once more—whether he’ll admit it to himself or not.
I open my briefcase and pull out the international cellphone that my uncle had given me before leaving LAX. I should call and give a report, but I won’t. Not yet. First things first. I briefly text Jay to let him know I arrived safely before putting in a call to my beloved baby brother—Hyeon Seong. He tells me his at a retreat for the next two weeks and will give me a call once he’s back. I cannot wait to see him again. It’s been nearly a year since he came back on one of his very brief breaks. Plus, I am looking forward to meeting the grandmother that Uncle spent so much time tracking down so he could reunite the two.
I toss my phone on the bed and head to the window. This is Seoul. Will I have enough time to explore this unknown city while I am here? I feel something slide down my cheek. I brush my hand across my face and it comes back wet. Tears. Why am I crying? I take a look around the room and am hit with a wave of loneliness. For the first time in 16 years, I am completely alone again and I don’t like it.
“How are things now?” I quietly ask my husband.
“Eun Tae is calm…for now.” Gi Tae sighs and slowly stretches. He looks out our bedroom window. The sun had set an hour ago and the neighborhood was wrapped in velvety darkness. “It would have been better, maybe, if your younger brother had just come himself.”
I twist my wedding ring back and forth on my finger. Should I tell him how much I had hoped that it would be Eun Su and not this strange, young woman who could freeze you with just one look? No. Gi Tae would already know that much anyways. “You do know that if Eun Su had come, Eun Tae may have completely snapped and used violence and not just curse words.”
“It is amazing. I have never seen your brother so out of control as he’s been since father’s death and learning that Father split the inheritance equally between you siblings.” Gi Tae turns and comes to my dressing table. He wraps me in a hug, chin resting on the top of my head. “Don’t worry. I’ll try to keep Eun Tae in check—I know how much you want your younger brother to return.”
I smile. Gi Tae does really know me well. I am so curious about my little brother. It’s been almost 20 years now since he packed his bags and left the house…left the family…left our country. Is he married? Does he have any children? Is he happy? All these questions have been whirling much more so in my mind since that woman’s arrival. But how can I ask? I learned flower arrangement, traditional housekeeping and cooking. When I was forced to learn another language, I chose German back when I dreamed of going abroad and studying at a music conservatory in Vienna. I do not know how to communicate with that icy, drab girl. What is more…would she even know all that personal information about her own boss? That I doubt. Eun Su was freer and more reckless, but he was never one to talk about himself or his family.
“One thing has been bothering me for a while now—why send someone who can’t speak Korean to stand in for him?” Why indeed.
Choi Kang Ju
The day of the shareholder meeting dawns bleak and gray. It looks like more rain is on the way—maybe even a storm to match the one raging inside. Uncle Eun Tae is hoping to turn the board someone against Uncle Eun Su to have the youngest ousted. Will that be possible? In this week, that Arissa was like a silent cloud hanging over us. She is quiet and keeps to herself, but we all know she’s there and we are all careful of just what it is that we say, but there’s just something about those cold eyes of hers…it’s as if she knows everything already.
The meeting starts and the first thing on the agenda is the now empty position. As the eldest and the managing director, shouldn’t Eun Tae be the new CEO? The board votes all in favor of this. Oddly enough. This Arissa woman does not disagree or voice her opinion. In fact, she sits very silent. Her presence is very oppressive in that boardroom for some reason. Talk then begins of the faltering stock prices due to Grandfather Kim’s death and worry of the continuation of the company. What plans do my father and uncle have to combat this?
This is where the woman speaks up for the first time…in Korean! For the entire week, if anyone had addressed her, she always replied in English. It seemed rather odd for Uncle Eun Su to send someone who doesn’t know the language to Korea, but she had all of us fooled into thinking she didn’t understand a single word.
“With the foundation of your business shaken with CEO Kim’s death, now is the perfect time to show just how strong you are and just how much you are moving forward—into the global market. Your company is very successful in all of Asia, but has failed many times before to successfully break into the US and European markets. Mr. Kim Eun Su of L & G would like to join his company in the US with what this company has to offer in Korea. It’s the perfect way to get into an already established and trusted brand in the US and fully beneficial to both companies.”
The board stares at the report. I flip through the pages, impressed. In only two weeks, how could they have gathered all of this data and put such a proposal together? It’s nothing short of amazing. But maybe this wasn’t some hastily thought out game plan. Maybe my uncle in the US has been planning something like this all along.
“At the end of this month, L & G will have successfully completed a merger with European powerhouse company Ciel. This will open up even more opportunities for Shinhwa Group and your subsidiaries.”
The boardroom breaks out into murmurs. Uncle Eun Tae sits seething in a corner, the proposal crumpled in his first. If the board likes this idea, then there is no way he can stop it. He would need my family’s vote and my father would not vote against anything that could be beneficial to the company as a whole—even if it means working in conjunction with the black sheep of the Kim family. Despite this woman’s cold demeanor, there is something completely compelling about her as she presents the ideas and facts and figures. I can definitely see why Uncle Eun Su had sent her in his place.
Much to Uncle Eun Tae’s dislike, the board is pleased with this idea. My father is then tasked with putting together fuller reports and research data into this planned partnership. If we can expand Shinhwa into a global company as we had always hoped, they would not mind working with the devil himself.
I feel weak and shaky after the meeting. Thankfully, the board was happy with the proposal. A team was created on the spot to explore the details and fine tune things. If all goes well, then Uncle Eun Su’s goal will be easily obtained, but I know things in business rarely go so smoothly. To make matters worse, I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Eun Tae will do what he can to stop the motion if he can to keep Eun Su at bay and far, far away. How I wish I had Hyeon Seong or Jay here with me right now. It would be nice if there were someone on my side.
I walk down the busy street looking for a café I had seen on the way, when I feel a jerk on my purse strap. I then hear a man’s voice yelling. I turn my head and catch a police officer with a young girl whose hand is half out of my purse. Great. Instead of lunch, I get to go to a police station instead.
Once there the officer has the teen apologize and starts to write up the report. The child complains of family hardships and really needing the money. I can see the officer buying into this hook, line, and sinker. He asks if I would be willing to let this go with just a simple warning. No. I won’t let it go that easily. I look the gangly teen up from head to toe. While older designs, the girl is wearing designer clothes in top condition. Her skin is a healthy tone, her hair is freshly washed and artfully disheveled, but the most telltale sign is her eyes. They show that she has never known hunger and desperation yet.
“No harm was done, but this child needs to learn a lesson,” I tell the officer. This seems to take him and the girl aback. “I want you to call her parents. NOW.” The girl’s healthy complexion turns a sickly shade of green. I know I’m right. She’s definitely not pickpocketing because she has no other choice. The girl’s parents come and are abashed and angry at their daughter’s actions and lies. They offer profuse apologies and beg that I don’t have their teen sent to jail. I’m not that hardhearted—yet. I tell them I have no intention of pressing charges and that I hope they can keep a more watchful eye on their daughter in the future. Hopefully she has learned her lesson.
I look at my watch. What a waste of time this has all been. I take a look back at the girl and glare angrily. I don’t know the reason why she lied, but I sincerely hope she’s learned her lesson now. I sigh as I pick up my purse (she would have been disappointed had she actually managed to steal my wallet—I actually keep my money and important ID and credit cards on my physical person and not in my purse) and head for the door where I run straight into Choi Kang Ju.