I never thought I would set foot here again, but mom said not to run away.
After visiting the crematorium where Kim Tae Won’s parents and brother’s remains are, here I am in front of Tae Won’s grandmother’s restaurant.
Travis has gone back to the US with his 30-year-old mistress.
I’ve decided to stay here; I can’t live mom alone. So I’m in Korea to visit and keep her company. Since I’m not good at anything, I’ve found a job as a translator; it isn’t tricky. I mean, all I do is talk.
Days pass, I meet and interact with people as though I’m just like anyone else. I spend a lot of time in cafés reading or writing down what’s going through my head. Oh, I go to the cinema a lot, and I hike. I think Seoul has no more secrets for me.
As you can imagine, I do all these activities alone. Brad doesn’t hang around with me anymore. Being with him annoys his fiancée, but I see something else. I don’t know why, but I get this impression that Brad runs from me as if I’m Kryptonite or something.
Mona hasn’t shown up since I woke up, and Brad avoids the subject.
I’ve sent her tons of emails, but she hasn’t replied. Mona has enrolled in the Beaux-Arts school of Paris, and she’s swamped from what I’ve been told.
I ignored Mona for so many years when I left Korea this silent treatment on her behalf seems legit.
There are so many people I need to apologize to, and Mona is one of them, but there are priorities on my list. Coming to Pusan is the last step, the part I should have started with when I arrived here.
“Omo,” says the older woman.
Without a word, I get down on my knees to apologize. There are customers, some smiles at the weird scene, and others snigger. It confuses me since I mentally prepared myself to be insulted. Instead, the older woman ignores me and forbids her employees to do anything to me.
The service carries on, and its almost closing time; the last customer leaves, and the old lady stands in front of me, “나 한테 원하는게 뭐야?” [na hante wonhaneunge mwoya? What do you want from me?].
“I want to apologize.”
When I say those words, she leaves. I remain there as she closes the lights, my legs are numb, and my stomach grumbles. I kneel on the same spot. Tae Won’s gran goes to sleep.
In the stillness and darkness of the restaurant, I recall why I came back to Korea in the first place.
I came to pay my respects, but I didn’t do that. Instead, I threw myself in a shameless love story with the victim’s son, preferring to pursue living a lie. Not once did I say sorry, and so I came to receive whatever punishment Tae Won’s grandmother wants to inflict me.
Tired, I’m exhausted. I rest my head on the floor in front of me as I remain in this position. Used to the numbness of my knees, I don’t even feel the strain. Before I know it, morning dawns, and Tae Won’s grandmother appears once more.
“Omo,” is the second cry of surprise Tae Won’s gran gives when she sees me exactly where she left me the night before as she comes downstairs, “can you leave, please? I don’t want customers to run off because of you.”
“Mwo? What do you want from me? Do you think we are in the Joseon era or something? Get off my floor and leave?”
She doesn’t seem to understand that I can’t before she listens to what I have to say, “I don’t if-if you don’t hear me out.”
“Okay, say whatever you have to say.”
The older lady purses her lips. I know she doesn’t want to listen to anything coming from my mouth. Her eyes are scorching with hate, yet she contains herself with a lot of dignity.
So I begin, “I killed your child; I was young and stupid, but it doesn’t take away the fact your daughter, son-in-law, and a grandchild died by my fault. I will never forget as long as I live. Also, I’m indebted to you as long as-.”
The old lady’s eyes widen, she rushes off and comes back with a knife, “indebted, then take your life. Kill yourself right now, pay your debt, what are you waiting for, isn’t it why you came here?”
As you can imagine, I didn’t expect this reaction, but I’m not shocked by the woman’s request. This is how things should end.
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, isn’t it what is written in the bible?
I take the blade she gives me. I don’t hesitate; it’s in my cords. I’ve had tons of practice, and I lift the knife; I’m ready to push it into my carotid when the older woman gasps. Her stare isn’t upon me; there’s something behind me.
I feel a pressure; a liquid is dripping, some dot the floor.
I turn, and my eyes are mortified by what they see.
“I called him,” says Tae Won’s grandmother before turning her back on us and leaving.
The blade is covered by his hand, and I can’t do anything without slitting deeper into his palm.
I let go, and the knife falls to the floor.
My knees crack as I get up and run before he can grab me.
I dart to the beach; I don’t turn back because I know he’s following, and looking will only slow me down.
Suddenly my legs fail me; the doctors said it could happen from time to time.
Why does that moment have to be now?
It’s like my brain forgets to give my legs orders when I panic.
I collapse on the sand.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I yell as Tae Won tries to grasp my hands, “I won’t do it again. I won’t appear-.”
I stop; Rebecca’s words suddenly start to hum in my head. I look at Tae Won’s eyes; there’s no rage, but something else. It’s more frightening than anything I’ve seen, I proceed.
“I’m sorry for killing your family. Thank you for saving my life all those times; I’m indebted.”
“Geurae [right], you owe me, Jane Austen, and I won’t let you get off free.” He tightens his grip around my wrists, “you are going to live, and you’ll never think of killing yourself again because you are going to live for me. You will die when I tell you, but till then, live within my eyesight. Never stray away from my side. Stay just like you are now, in my grasp for the rest of your life.”
“Tae Won, don’t tell meㅡyouㅡ.”
“Yeah, it’s exactly that, Jane, I’ve lived the last year bouncing every theory of the wall, but none held. Do you know what I see in my dreams? I see you pointing a gun to your head and shooting yourself. I wake up screaming and in tears. Aren’t you curious to know the reason?”
“Tae Won, no,” I say, shaking my head violently I don’t want to hear. I don’t want to know, but his grasp is firmer around my wrists as he forces me to listen to him.
“I don’t want you to die. That’s what I think every single time I have that dream. I want you to live, so these regrets and these sins we carry, we’re going to share them whether they tear us apart or bring us together, we’ll go to hell chained to each other becauseㅡ.”
“No, Tae Won, please, no, I beg you, please.”
I don’t want to hear him; they say eyes don’t lie and lips neither. At this instant, I wish Tae Won’s mouth to stay shut because I know this time his words will kill me.
“I love you.”
The screams are covered by the crashing waves and hug in which Tae Won grasps me. My cries suffocate in his chest. The blood on Tae Won’s hand smothers on my clothes, and he brings his hand to my face, which is also stained.
Both bathing in the blotches of his blood, Tae Won cups my face with his hands as he utters what seems like a devil’s pact, “let’s suffer and die together, Jane Austen.”
The waves roar and collapse on the beach as they protest against Tae Won, and we remain to stare at each other.
Nothing in life goes the way one wishes.
Time passes, I live in this house where the smell of seafood travels in every room, I work serving the dishes made by this woman whose child I stole. She calls me daughter, for I am a substitute.
Many have asked: “Aren’t you scared, Jane?”
“What if she poisons or something?”
Honestly, I would let her do. Yeah, I’m older, but none the wiser. Living here with her is like having cleaver above my head, but in an almost sadomasochistic way, it’s reassuring. This woman whose child I killed has found a place for a sinner like me; her heart is far more forgiving than anyone I know.
I am grateful.
I walk on this beach; I can’t leave, every morning holding the hand of this man who caught me captive.
A man, who now kisses this stomach swollen with the child, I swore never to have.
A husband who stabs my heart every time he says he loves me. Some prisons have no walls but can be far more frightful.
My name is Jane Austen, and I committed a crime, a deed that many would never forgive, but like the tide which comes and goes cleansing the shore, I erase my debt with every day that I live by his side.
Many will not understand, and I accept that this isn’t the right end for them, but some things are unreasonable by their existence.
I’ve accepted to be Kim Tae Won’s prisoner for better for worse till death do us part for the unreasonable reason of love.
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