12th December 2019,
-Or the day that Kim Yae Na broke up with her boyfriend of six years.
The day started off like any other day. It was a cold early winter morning, just twelve days away from Christmas eve, and a few more to hers and Sung gyu’s wedding day. Unlike any other bride to be, however, Yae Na wasn’t looking forward to her big day for so many good reasons. She woke up with a splitting headache, knowing all the many things that she’d had to squeeze into her schedule due to the minimal time they had. It wasn’t the best idea to have a wedding in the Christmas season as it happened. But it was also not only the bride’s call to decide the right day as well.
On 12th of December 2019, Yae Na was startled awake by the sound of her two dogs barking. Sam and Coco, her Jindo siblings were breaking a havoc as usual, and she narrowed her eyes at the early morning sun seeping through the narrow gaps of her curtain. On her phone, the time read somewhere past seven in the morning. For someone who had so much compacted to be done in a single day, Yae Na was already late. While staying in bed for even longer felt so comforting, she managed to pull off the covers, stepping out into the December chill. She stumbled into the living room in search of her still barking dogs, and when she couldn’t find them there, she followed their barks into the kitchen where she found what their predicament was.
On an ordinary day, Sam and Coco would have been soundly napping on the foot of her bed, lying comfortably upon each other. But on this fine chilly morning, an unknown cat had snuck into her kitchen from god knows where and was protectively standing on top of her kitchen cabinet, cold and terrified, but still with enough energy to hiss at her dogs. As if she didn’t already have enough on her plate for the day. Yae Na rested her hands on her waist and let out a sigh. Seemingly she wasn’t up for a good start for the day.
“Sam! Coco!” She called them tiredly as both tried to climb up on the cabinet. It’s already been damaged by their nails which she never got around to trim, and fixing the scratched cabinets was going to be a pain. With much struggle, she made her way between the dogs, blocking the cat away from them. She’d never been very fond of cats, although her ground floor apartment was frequently visited by them. But she also did not want them hurt by her dogs.
“Go, go away” She hissed at the dogs yet again, and in the background, her phone started to ring. In a few minutes, she had to be at work, and to go to work, she had to remove the cat first.
“Come on now, you stinky little-,”
Yae Na reached out for the cat, her sleeves rolled up to save the trouble of cat fur sticking to it, and that came as a mistake, exposing her bare skin to a wild, terrified animal. In a swift movement, the cat who saw her extended arms as a danger, swished its claws.
“Ah, fuck” Yae Na hissed in pain, a grim cut appeared on her otherwise pale skin, a massive gash that bled , staining her sleeves. A scratch from a street cat resulted in her going to the emergency room and possibly protective shots were the last things she needed right now. The dogs, acting upon their protective instincts started to bark at the cat even louder, hopping up to the counter, their clawy paws on her back and her waist. In the background, her phone rang and her arms still bled; it was complete pandemonium.
Yae Na couldn’t help herself thinking grimly, at that moment, if the wedding was not to happen in a matter of weeks, all of this would have been fine.
Not to get her wrong, Yae Na loved her husband to be beyond words. They’ve been together for six years and been through thick and thin together. They first met through a mutual friend when they went out for dinner together; she accidentally spilled a glass of beer on his shirt and profusely apologized and attempted to wipe it off with her woolen scarf on that chilly winter night. He’d looked down at her then, this heart stoppingly disarming smile on his lips; that’s when she knew. They’d been together since then, despite the occasional ups and downs in their lives which was a given if they were to last as a couple for so long. The reason why she despised the wedding, however, was that it was too much a hassle to carry out on her own.
When he first asked to marry her, they hadn’t planned on a shotgun wedding. They had plenty of time, he said, and like they’d done with most things, they would slowly plan it together. That was until a few months ago when Sung Gyu’s mother found out that she had a brain tumor. It was benign, and could be surgically removed. The surgery was done just a few days after it was located and it went quite successfully, despite Sung Gyu’s constant worries. However, the surgery changed a lot of things about them; about Sung Gyu, about his mother. She thought the tumor would return, and so she believed that her days were numbered. This led her to believe that she wouldn’t have long enough to be there for her only son’s wedding day let alone to live long enough to see her grandchildren. Sung Gyu wouldn’t have been convinced to bring their wedding even closer otherwise. But upon her mother’s endless pleas, Sung Gyu was left with no choice. And with him engaged in quite a demanding, time consuming profession, Yae Na had to carry the responsibilities of her wedding on her own.
Now she hardly had the time to see her fiance let alone discuss their wedding plans. Sung Gyu was a prosecutor, which meant he himself hadn’t much time to spend with her himself. Yae Na, who wasn’t usually affected by his late night work and lack of time, started to become largely irritated by this. Yae Na had a demanding job herself; perhaps not as difficult as Sung Gyu’s, but it was equally important. Besides she had more than one concern to tend to; on one side, she had the wedding, and his family on the other. She didn’t even have time for herself. Why did it have to be only her who suffered because of the wedding that they were to have together? Why couldn’t Sung Gyu find a minute to spare? At least to check on her well being?
These weren’t the kind of things that they discussed nowadays. As far as couples went, Yae Na was sure, they were the only wedded-to-be pair who had the most minimal hours spent together. Even when he did call, it was only to check up on her as he routinely did, tell her that he loved her which hardly carried any feelings, or to tell her that she had to attend dinner at his place since he couldn’t make it herself. Speak of emotional support in her trying times. She had none.
The only form of emotional support that she did get, she received from the school nurse. Yae Na was a school counselor and a teacher in ethics, a job that required more than a bad temper and a dull, unsmiling face. No wonder that she was called ‘the ghost’ by her students as the rumors said. Yae Na did constantly feel like a ghost herself, looming about the corridors, face blank, mind empty, with no will to live. The school nurse, namely Lisa Kim, was an American Korean who moved back to Seoul after her parents left for New York when she was still a child. Her Korean pronunciation was a little dodgy, but she was fun, quick witted, and most importantly, she had the easy access to an ample amount of painkillers that Yae Na frequently seemed to need.
“That’s a very ugly cut, Yae Na-Ssi” Lisa commented as she gently pressed the spirit soaked wad of cotton on her wound. It stung, only slightly but she didn’t even flinch. It was almost as if she’d been pushed and pulled and beaten so much that no pain could hurt her anymore. But Lisa was right, it was a particularly nasty wound.
“Are you sure you don’t want to go to a hospital?” Lisa pressed on, sounding concerned. “You might need to get shots, especially if it’s a stray cat”
Yae Na closed her eyes and threw her head back, exhausted although its still early in the day. “No, I don’t have time”
Lisa applied ointment and started to skillfully dress the wound. “Wedding things?”
“What will you be doing today?”
Yae Na opened just one eye to look at her and laid back again. “Leaving half day. Got to go to the hairdressers, then an appointment with the florist”
“Sounds fun,” Lisa giggled.
Yae Na gave her friend a sharp look. “You really haven’t planned a wedding, have you?”
Lisa only pouted in response. She’d lived a rather sheltered life, the only child of her parents whom they protected and cherished and given everything to. Yae Na couldn’t imagine how privileged her life must be. She liked her, nevertheless, for she was the only friend she had in this place while everyone else gave cold shoulder and side eyes.
“Anyway,” Lisa continued and rested Yae Na’s arm in her lap. “What’s stressing you out about it?” She tilted her head, quietly examining her friend. “Now that I think of it, you did seem kind of dull the past few weeks”
“Uh” Yae Na groaned, glad to be given an outlet to vent on. “The whole thing is stressful, Lisa. Nobody wanted a wedding so soon except for his mum, and…”
For the next thirty minutes, Yae Na poured her heart out to the only friend she had. She told him about her mother in law and her removed benign tumor that both her and her son had been obsessing over despite its low chances of a return. She then went on to tell her about her fiance and his job which had never been a headache for her but now. Sung Gyu was a well reputed prosecutor, one that was known for his good sense of justice, commitment and precise approach. He’d won many cases, given many people the justice they deserved. Yae Na was proud of her husband, and even then, she didn’t hold back on bragging about him. But this particular case that he’s been chasing the past month, the ‘Red cross murderer’ as he called it, felt like a long stretched out circle without an end. It had kept him away from home more often than not, and when he returned, it would be so late in the night and he’d be dead tired to even call her. Yae Na wasn’t mad at Sung Gyu; he was only trying to do his job. She was mad at the murderer who, in her opinion, couldn’t have found a better time to kill people than a few weeks ahead of their wedding day.
After she had laid everything out in the open, quite like a very badly sequenced tale, Lisa stared at her for a second thoughtfully before she headed on to the medicine cabinet.
“I would suggest anti-stress medication, but I’m not a therapist” Lisa said as she picked a bottle from her lot in the drawer. “But you can do with Paracetamol, if it helps”
“Yes, Please” Yae Na groaned again, holding her hand out pleadingly. Lisa kept the pills in her hand and handed her a cup of warm water before she sat down again, watching her friend hungrily down the pills.
“Maybe you should talk to him about it,” Lisa said once Yae Na was done with her medication. “The key to a good relationship is always communication”
She gave Lisa a long look. Sung Gyu and Yae Na did have good communication between them. They were both more of introverts and found comfort in each others’ presence rather than in words. Sung Gyu didn’t have to do much except for being there, in person or on the other end of the phone for Yae Na to feel better, and same went for him too. But these days, not even could she get hold of him on the phone much less talk to him in person.
“Have you ever tried going to his office or something?” Lisa helpfully suggested.
“Oh no, he wouldn’t like that” Yae Na shook her head. What with the red cross murderer stressing him out at work, having her lost and looming about in the prosecutors’ office was the last thing he needed. And they weren’t anyway the kind of a couple who needed that kind of confirmation.
“Then what if you call him out for dinner?” Lisa tried again. “Perhaps somewhere around where he works...I’ve heard guys like it when it’s convenient”
“They sure do” Yae Na laughed, thinking back to Sung Gyu to whom it was always about convenience. Speaking of which, Lisa could be right. With the hectic schedule that he had, Sung Gyu hardly had time to get himself a proper meal. Yet, if Yae Na would ask him to, he would at least try to make some time for her. It was worth giving it a shot.
“I guess I could try that,” Yae Na said, giving Lisa a grateful smile. “Thank you” Lisa wasn’t much, if she was to be honest. But, as her only friend, Yae Na couldn’t imagine herself without her either.
“No problem!” Lisa replied cheerfully, followed by a little clap. Her demeanor instantly changed then, to one of child-like curiosity. “Now, Miss Bride-to-be, what are you planning to do to your hair today?”