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How do you know you are making the right choice?

Because it affects your life positively, or it relieves your consciousness?

How about the correct choice, which does neither for you?

Instead, it leaves stranded and lost.

Is it a decision worth taking? Isn’t it better to live in a mirage than to face the concrete brutality of reality?

And love, does showing you care always manifest itself in a caress, or can love also be a slap in the right direction?

These were the questions Jae asked himself as he strode into Hyeon Ju’s office.

“Jae, what brings you here? You know you can’t. You can’t be seen in such a place.”

“Hwang Hyeon Ju.”

Hyeon Ju shifted in her seat; her son never called her name out, neither did he stare at her the way he did then, “Jae, what’s wrong?”

Jae was forbidden to enter her establishment, and he was never to be seen with her. The reason why Jae took such risks scared Hyeon Ju, “what happened, Jae Kyeong?”

Undisturbed, Jae returned an unexpected question, “do you love me?”

The inquiry took Hyeon Ju by surprise, never did Jae ask about anything whatsoever.

Hyeon Ju gave him a crooked smile with quivering lips and replied in accordance, “of course, more than my own life.”

“Then, why? Why did you turn me into Ho Jae Kyeong when I was born Hwang Jae?”

Hyeon Ju’s left eye twitched. It was a bad sign; still, she answered, “because I love you, I wanted you to have the best from life. I didn’t desire you to end up like me.”

“I was born your son; I feel no shame of being your son. I never have up until now.”

Hyeon Ju’s eyes scanned the room to put her mind at rest as she did not want anyone to eavesdrop on their conversation. For the first time in years, Hyeon stressed to the point she broke a sweat.

“Jae, tell me, why are you doing this? Why are you asking such questions? Who have you spoken to?”

The boy could not come to this conclusion alone. Hyeon Ju already thought of how she counted silencing the person no matter who it was.

Jae threw the clichés of the heirs, the knights, clients, and all those showing Sonmi on Hyeon Ju’s desk.

Hyeon Ju’s stare widened in front of the photos, “where, where did you get these?”

“Does it matter? I knew your businesses weren’t clean. I knew you dealt with the Taiwanese mafia, but drugs, prostitution, and blackmail; it’s too much. Why would you do such a thing? Aren’t you wealthy enough?”

“Jae, please, I can explain,” Hyeon Ju stuttered in a panic. The woman could put up with everything except Jae’s confused stare of disgust.

“Tell me, malhae wae? Waé Eomma?”

It was a first; the woman’s heart shattered as her son’s words pierced her like a dagger.

“I did it for you, Jae Kyeong. Everything I have ever done since your birth was for you.”

Jae beat his palm on his chest, “for me, for me, you say. When did I ever tell you that I wanted this? When did I ever ask for an empire or money? I never asked for it, it’s you and harabeoji [grandad] who got the twisted idea to build me an empire, but I don’t care. I don’t desire this if the only means you have is destroying people’s lives and keeping them on a leash like underdogs. They say your drugs have infested the streets and that you blackmail chaebol kids into prostitution.”

“It’s not what you think, Jae Kyeong. These kids are bad to the core. They’re so rotten that you see the maggots swimming within their stare. These kids parents laughed at us, and the children mocked you. But I’m just setting things straight; no one will ever belittle you again or talk about your pedigree because everyone is smothered with the same filth now. All are tainted; I dare anyone to throw a stone at you.”

“You are crazy, Eomma, you’ve forgotten the simplest of children riddles: sticks and stones can hurt my bones, but wordsー.”

Hyeon Ju, who had tried to contain her anger, burst into a rage as she rose from her desk’s chair and walked up to her son, “you don’t know the reality, Jae, you are only able to stand there throwing your morals at me because of my efforts, I cleansed and purified you. I protected you from their spite. How can you do this to me, huh? Jae Kyeong.”

Jae shook his head in disapproval, unable to accept the absurdity of his mother’s arguments, “all I ever wanted, all I ever needed was a mother, not a baroness of drugs. I wanted you to be my mom. I dreamt of walking down the street by your side; I just needed you to be a mother, my mother.”

Hyeon Ju had forgotten the most important as she sought her vendetta. What children need above all is their parents, no matter who and what they are.

Jae cried as he pulled out the earpiece from his left ear.

“Jae, no,” Hyeon Ju said in disbelief. The woman had no time to run. She could already hear the screams from the halls as the narcotics squad invaded the corridors of her office. Instead, Hyeon sat down, took out her mirror, and applied her favorite lipstick.

When the police burst through the door, Hyeon Ju stood in the middle of her office. The woman’s wrists were already in the position to welcome the handcuff while Jae sat at a corner of the room crying like a toddler.

Hyeon Ju approached him and knelt to his level; she whispered,” qwenchana agaya [it’s okay, my child], thank you for stopping the monster in me. You are nobler than all of us. Never let the darkness eat you.”

The boy looked up at her; Hyeon Ju smiled and turned to leave.

In a spontaneous reaction, Jae got up and yelled, “I love you, mom.”

The woman did not turn; she had no desire for him to see her face undone by the tears. They streamed from her face and crushed and tore out the thorns in her heart.

Love, Hyeon Ju had to admit its power as it conquered and battled the outposts of her void.

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