TRACKSIDED

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BLACKMAIL

“Jane, can I come in?”

Mom takes my lack of response for a yes and comes inside my room.

“Here’s another towel.”

She hasn’t asked about Tae Won, our relationship isn’t worse than before, but whereas old Rebecca would have bashed the bush, here mom is treading on eggs. I know she doesn’t want to seem nosy though she’s dying for me to tell her something.

“Sorry, I didn’t want you to meet Tae Won this way.”

“Is that his name?”

I nod as she takes the towel from me and starts to dry my hair.

“The red of your hair is appearing. Do you want me to book you an appointment to dye it blonde again?”

Rebbecca is making mad efforts because I feel I'm developing some positives sentiments for her. It's a form of empathy that makes me want to call her mom, but my vocal cords get all strangled up when I want to say the word out loud.

“No, I want to give them some rest.”

“He’s very handsome, your boyfriㅡ, I mean Tae Won.”

She’s really trying.

“Tae Won at SNU Law, he’s twenty-four.”

“I see, he must be smart, I wonderㅡ,” she stops.

I know what she wants to say, how can such a smart man pick a girl whose brain is on vacation three hundred days, on maintenance for sixty, and in the world of the living for five days per year.

“I don’t know what he sees in me.”

“But you get along.”

“It seems like it,” I reply.

Of course, I leave out the part where I should tell her that Tae Won is the son of the couple I killed that he’ll kill me if ever he finds out the truth. I’m scared to death about what’s happening. It’s wrong in all the laws of the universe and that I’ll burn in hell for the next million years.

Mom doesn’t ask other questions, and she doesn’t need to. I’m acting like a typical 20-year-old. I go to college, hang out with friends, and now she thinks I have a boyfriend. The normality of my life reassures her as she imagines I’ve left Nutcase Ville.

Taw Won could be anyone; she’s just happy that he’s contributing to making me appear as an ordinary citizen.

I doubt she would be relaxed if ever she finds out who Tae Won is.

My phone buzzes:

I’m home. Sleep tight.

Tae Won isn’t the type of guy who sends sweet messages with hearts, emojis, or tender words, but he tries and replies on the dot. He’s Mr. reliability.

The messages are short, but it reassures me, I reply:

I’m going to bed. See you tomorrow.

I don’t go mushy either; I feel that style would tint the purity of what we are living.

Purity.

The word seems pretentious coming from me, I send my message, and gloom takes its toll on me as reality knocks. Now I face the horror of what I’m done; the sin is too grave. What was I thinking?

Why did I kiss him back?

I’m supposed to get him back with the archer.

I’m supposed to disappear and fade into the decor without a word.

I kissed him, even though he did it first. It’s not the point; I responded when I should have pushed him away. The feeling was stronger than me though I was shocked; I wanted to do it so badly. What’s worst is it felt right; at that instant, nothing else existed except Tae Won and me.

As if I wasn’t 6ft under, my phone buzzes with another Jane annyeong mail.

But this time is different; there are files attached.

The first lasts ten seconds, Tae Won and I are walking along Cheongacheon river. The person filming must be across the bank from us.

The second shows us at Hongdae on market day; we’re picking fake glasses.

And the third shows us in the pool kissing.

I grasp my phone as it threatens to drop from my trembling hands. I run to the window; it’s very dark; I can’t see a thing.

My heart throws its self against my rib cage. I go and fetch my phone. The video is long and stops when my parents arrive.

My phone buzzes again with a message:

I KNOW WHAT YOU DID.

I’m burning; everything around me appears to be in shades of red and double as the objects' shapes distort.

My breath halts, I’m in apnea; my room swirls around me; I don’t feel my feet.

Blackout.

I wake up in my bed. Rebecca holds my hand. I look around the room and see my phone is on the nightstand.

“Oh, God, Jane, you scared the life out of me.”

“Mom, what?”

“Your midnight dip got the best of you, 104°F fever, you were old cold for the day.”

“The day, you mean I missed a whole day,” I exclaim in dread.

My thoughts run off to Tae Won. I promised to meet him the next day. I turn to grasp my phone; it’s turned off and visibly needs to be charged.

“Jane, what’s the matter?”

“Tae Won, I promised.”

“He called Mona, who called here. I think she relayed the message to him.”

I sink back into bed, and then I remember. Sweat breaks out on my forehead, which mom immediately sponges.

“The doctor said you need some rest, Jane, don’t get all worked up. Get some rest; I’ll come and check on you later.”

Mom gets up and leaves; I get out of bed and put my phone on charge. I don’t even wait. I turn it on and go directly to my messages.

Everything is still there, the videos an the message:

I KNOW WHAT YOU DID.

Mona was wrong; this isn’t about Tae Won and the archer, it’s about me.

There’s someone out there who knows what I did, and they seem to want to make me pay. What was I thinking?

What goes around, comes around, and this is it. I crossed the threshold by kissing Tae Won, I shouldn’t have, and I have to receive my punishment.

“Jane, are you okay?

“Ah, ehㅡ.”

“Still getting those messages,” Mona says.

I need to talk, I held up till now, but now I need to tell someone; otherwise, my mind will implode.

“Mona, I don’t think it’s Tae Won’s ex-girlfriend’s fanbase. I think it’s something else.”

“Something else?”

Mona is my cousin; she has never hidden anything from me. I shouldn’t leave her like this. We made a deal.

“Mona, there’s something I need to tell you.”

We’re alone in my room, and both of my parents are out. I start to tell my story, and I say everything, even the part about who Kim Tae Won really is. Mona’s eyes grow big enough to engulf the universe in them when I speak her that, but still, she says nothing till the very end.

“You should tell the police.”

“No, Mona, I can’t. Are you crazy?”

Mona gives me a nameless stare.

She must think I’m a monster.”

I doubt whether I said my thought out loud as Mona pulls me into a hug and whispers, “only God can judge us, bae.”

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