The next time we met was almost a whole year later. My Dad’s new wife was your Mama’s best friend so it seemed only natural that our paths would eventually cross again.
It was a particularly tough winter that year, and Oppa Bae Jun had insisted that I spend Christmas with Appa. He said that it was about time I made peace with Papa’s new wife. I was eleven, moody and still very resentful towards my father.
The first day I spent there was, honestly, one of the worst days of my life and also the best. Know why? It was the day I met you again, although I didn’t really know it then.
Umma Eun Jin had sent me on an errand to the bedroom when I noticed the closed room - a purple painted wooden door right next to theirs. Curious, I opened it to discover a nursery. It was beautiful, to be honest, but the sight of it broke my heart. I knew then that Appa was never going to come back to us, not with a new baby on the way and so, with a heavy heart, I trudged back downstairs with tears in my eyes.
Sitting at the kitchen table, head in my hands, I was mourning the loss of my family as I’d known it. The possibilities of my parents ever reconciling were now dead and their divorce was as real as my name was Iseul. I was never going to be my Appa’s little dove anymore, and I was never going to see my Umma happy again.
But my self-pity wasn’t meant to last because suddenly, you walked in. You were wearing a pressed dinner suit, and your hair was combed to the side like it had been that day at the park. Your mother had sent you to look for me, mostly because she wanted to talk to Umma Eun Jin alone.
“Are you Iseul?” You asked me, dark eyes critical. I just stared at you, despondent. I was in no mood to make new friends, or speak. All I wanted to do was go back to my room, in my home, far far away from my Appa and his vile new wife.
“You are Iseul, aren’t you? Emo Eun Jin says that her new daughter has short hair. You have short hair.” Pointing at my short bob, you came and sat next to me.
I touched my hair and frowned at you. “She is not my mother, and I am not her daughter.”
You looked puzzled. “Huh? Are you talking about Emo Eun Jin?”
Silently, I nodded. I was so angry at myfather, at this woman, that I couldn’t even make myself say her name.
“What will you call her then, if she is not your Umma ? Isn’t she married to your father?”
I turned to the patterned tablecloth beneath my arms. “That doesn’t make her my mother.”
A long moment passed before you spoke again. This time, when you did, your tone had changed. “A friend of mine has two mothers and fathers too, you know.”
“What do you mean?” I queried, my curiosity suddenly piqued. Whoever had heard of two mothers and fathers?
Patiently, you explained. “Her father married again after her mother left him. Now, she has two houses, and two sets of parents. Her real father has two children - both boys, and her real mother has three other children.”
I thought about this for a moment and imagined myself in this strange girl’s shoes. I know that you were trying to make me feel better but the idea only hurt me even more.
“Does she like them, her other siblings?”
Your hand covered mine and you tried to look reassuring. “She says that she loves them with all her heart.”
When I met your gaze, I couldn’t help but smile. You weren’t done talking though.
“Are you really Iseul?”
When I nodded, you grinned. “Do you want to play a game?”
In a manner so characteristic of childhood, I agreed and not ten minutes later, we were playing knights and dragons in my room.