|MH| Sunshine: Chapter 6


STORY 1 | STORY 2 | STORY 3 | STORY 4 | STORY 5


SUNSHINE

Chapter 1: Let Go

Chapter 2: Rest

Chapter 3: Damaged

Chapter 4: Afraid to Lose You

Chapter 5: Take Care of Me

Chapter 6: Closure

AUGUST 20, 1998, Thursday

      “Am I still pretty?”

      Stephanie asked Hyuna, Hannah, Haneul, and Yohan tiredly, hoping to feel a little better about her well-being after staying in bed for two days. She really hasn’t paid much attention to herself and focused completely on her baby, even though the little child didn’t do much but sleep, eat, and poop. With bloodshot eyes, eye-bags, and hair that hasn’t been properly washed for a while, Stephanie definitely didn’t look, felt, or smelled that good. She knew she had to clean herself up for the baby.

      “Of course you are!” Yohan said softly hoping not to wake or stir little Eunji who was sleeping in his arms. On the other hand, Hyuna just shuddered at the sight of Stephanie’s mess but didn’t say anything.

      “I think I trust Hyuna’s expressions more than yours, Yohan,” Stephanie chuckled.

      “Hey, I meant what I said, you don’t look that bad,” Yohan said.

      “Are you sure?” Stephanie said and stood in front of him. She looked like a wilted flower that has been trampled on by a passerby.

      Yohan bit his lip and nodded, “Ah… yeah, I guess you do kinda look horrible right now.”

      Hyuna laughed and proceeded to help Stephanie clean herself up. They went to the bathroom, leaving Hannah, Haneul, and Yohan in the bedroom with Eunji.

      “I wonder what it’d be like to have my first child,” Yohan said while softly caressing Eunji’s thin hair.

      “Well how do you feel right now?” Haneul asked.

      “It’s really nice… Eunji is really warm. She’s so small that she only fits one arm. And look at her tiny little hands! Look how vivid details of her finger print are—ah, what an art! Everything is so small. It’s so fascinating!”

      “Do you feel like a dad right now?”

      “Hm, not really. It feels more like I’m an uncle, and I guess I am?” Yohan shrugged and chuckled. “I was really close with her father back then… It just seems fascinating to me how this little thing kind of looks like him and Stephanie both at the same time. And you know they both mean so much to me, right? To be able to be holding my best friends’ child seems like such an honor.”

      “What if it was your baby?”Read More »

|MH| Sunshine: Chapter 5


STORY 1 | STORY 2 | STORY 3 | STORY 4 | STORY 5


SUNSHINE

Chapter 1: Let Go

Chapter 2: Rest

Chapter 3: Damaged

Chapter 4: Afraid to Lose You

Chapter 5: Take Care of Me

AUGUST 17, 1998, Monday

      That night, Yohan couldn’t stop thinking about how Haneul shed tears earlier in the afternoon. Haneul was never a dramatic person in general but it seemed the thought about separating from him made her emotional. He used to always understand what girls mean when they talk or bring something up vaguely but not this time around. He knew Haneul might just be sad that he’ll go to the army in December, but it was too early to cry about something like that. He kept replaying it in his mind until he couldn’t stand it anymore.

      While he was massaging Stephanie’s back to ease some back pains, Yohan started, “Fany-ah, can I talk to you about something?”

      “Sure, fire away.”

      “Haneul kind of broke down a while ago.”

      “Haneul? About what?” Stephanie gasped.

      “About me…”

      “Oh… what about you?”

      “Well, she cried saying she was afraid to lose me because of my enlistment this year. We still have three months to be together but it seemed she was pretty upset that we’re going to be separated. A lot of things can still happen in three months, and it’s not like we’ll break up either. Does she not trust me enough? I don’t really know why she’s so afraid… am I overthinking this?”

      “Probably,” Stephanie shrugged. “She’ll miss you and that’s understandable, don’t you think?”

      “Yeah but… we’re talking about Haneul here. Why would she just cry like that? I told her I loved her and promised I won’t leave her or forget her, but she just kept… crying.”

      Stephanie analyzed the situation for a moment and wondered. “What did she say to you exactly?”

      “’I’m just afraid to lose you’ and ‘I really am afraid of losing you’,” Yohan replied. “Then she burst into tears.”

      “Are you sure there’s nothing up about her?” Stephanie asked.

      “Huh? Like what? She was happy just a few minutes before the army thing was brought up.”

      “Because the last time I used those kinds of words, it was when I confessed to Jinwon…”

      “Confess?”

      “That I’m carrying his child…” Stephanie stared at Yohan like a stern mother. At first, Yohan couldn’t understand her, but then it quickly clicked and furiously backed away from her.

      “Wait, are you implying she’s pregnant!???”

      Stephanie just shrugged.

      “No, no, no way!” Yohan puffed like a blow fish and turned a little red. “Get that out of your head right now, Seu-Te-Pa-Ni Hwang! We never did that! You know I’m not that daring!”Read More »

|MH| Sunshine: Chapter 4


STORY 1 | STORY 2 | STORY 3 | STORY 4 | STORY 5


SUNSHINE

Chapter 1: Let Go

Chapter 2: Rest

Chapter 3: Damaged

Chapter 4: Afraid to Lose You

JULY 29, 1998, Wednesday

      “Hey, stop eating already,” Sunny slapped Stephanie’s thigh. “You’ve eaten literally everything Jaejun Oppa had served you! Aren’t you bloated?”

      “Not one bit!” Stephanie said with a mouthful. “I am pregnant. It’s only natural that I eat for two, right?”

      “Yeah, I guess… but seriously, you weren’t like this before. I mean you eat just enough,” Sunny said. “Now you just look like… a pig.”

      “Whatever. Pigs are pink. I like pink,” Stephanie smiled at her and gulped down what she was eating. Sunny just scoffed at her.

      While Stephanie was drinking water, she suddenly choked and dropped the glass. The glass shattered and one of the shards pricked Sunny’s leg.

      “Ow!” Sunny yelped in pain. A quite large shard pierced through her skin, but it didn’t seem to hurt as much as she thought. She took it off and stared at the shard in confusion. She was about to tell Stephanie that something about this painless wound seemed strange, but then she noticed Stephanie breathing raggedly.

      “W-woah, hey, what’s wrong?” Sunny asked. Stephanie couldn’t talk and her body shook. Tears started falling and she fell on the ground. Her hands were immediately wounded by the broken glass shards.

      “Stephanie!” Sunny gasped and ran to get the bandages. When she came back, Stephanie started vomiting. But it wasn’t vomit, it was blood. Sunny couldn’t get any closer and her head pounded. The sight of blood made her paralyzed her eyes rapidly blinked out of shock.

      “Unnie!” she heard Hyuna shout.

      “Unnie!”

    

      “Unnie! Sunny-Unnie! Wake up!” Hyuna shook her and Sunny eyes immediately opened.

      “W-what… what just…” Sunny panted as her body shook.

      “You just had a nightmare again, didn’t you?”

      “Wh-where’s Stephanie?” Sunny said, still uneasy and nervous from what she had seen in her dream. “I-I-Is she alright?”

      “Woah, hey, calm down,” Hyuna said. “Unnie…”Read More »

|MH| Sunshine: Chapter 3


STORY 1 | STORY 2 | STORY 3 | STORY 4 | STORY 5


SUNSHINE

Chapter 1: Let Go

Chapter 2: Rest

Chapter 3: Damaged

JULY 28, 1998, Tuesday

      A new Lexus LS400 parked right at the front of their hanok house. A woman wearing baggy, hip-hop clothing and sunglasses, sleekly came out the car as if paparazzi were hoarding around her with that prideful smirk on her face.

      “Finally here!” she held her chin up high. The gas almost run out trying to keep up with how desperate she wanted to reach this place. It truly was an accomplishment to drive nonstop from Seoul to Yuchiri, Gangwondo.

      After seeing the view of a plain land with nothing but grass, dirt, and small, old houses, she took off her sunglasses. She expected to see something like huge mountains or maybe even a lake, but nothing. It was all just the countryside—the flat plain kind. And though there were hills all around her, she didn’t consider it majestic enough.

      “Eehh… this place…” she clicked her teeth and softly banged on her car’s window. “Hana-yah, come out!”

      At the backseat was a girl the same age as Sunny and Stephanie named Hana or Hannah. She had fallen asleep in the car ride and was startled that she and her sister were finally here. She came out of the car and stretched.

      “Woah, where are we?” Hannah looked around, startled that she was seeing entirely different scenery from what she last saw before she fell asleep. She saw high buildings a while ago and now they’re just in a farmland. There were no high buildings, no skyscrapers, nothing grand at all. Only trees, fields, and one-floor houses.

      From the hill where the hanok house sat, Stephanie spotted them immediately. She got up to her feet and walked to them.

      “Sasha Unnie! Hannah!!” she smiled with her arms wide open. The two sisters quickly recognized her and were happy that they were in the right place. Sasha ran to her cousin and hugged her tightly. Hannah just followed awkwardly from behind but also took a turn to hug her cousin.

      “Wow, you really are very pregnant!” Sasha exclaimed and touched Stephanie’s belly. Stephanie felt a little violated by the sudden touch though tried to brush it off since it wasn’t anything new. A pregnant woman’s belly is apparently like a dog that everyone just wants to pet. Hannah, on the other hand, quickly hit Sasha, feeling embarrassed that her older sister might have done something rude. Sasha didn’t really notice anything inappropriate about what she did or said. “Oh, I remember you when you were only 4 years old. Now you’re all so pretty and grown up!”

      “Ah… haha thanks Unnie, why don’t we go in?” Stephanie awkwardly said and tried her best not to show her mixed feelings towards Sasha.

      Hannah could easily read Stephanie as if she was herself. The two cousins didn’t really know each other that well but they were very similar in character. She met Stephanie’s uneasy eyes and she just bowed her head apologetically.

***

      Since no one was notified that they were coming, no one was at home with Stephanie but Hyuna and Sunhwa. They panicked for a little while when the unexpected guests came but Sasha told them not to stress themselves out. They didn’t need any special treatment.

      “Who are they?” Hyuna asked Stephanie.

      “They’re my cousins from my mother’s side,” Stephanie said. “I invited them to live here for just a month or so with me.”

      “Ya’ guys are livin’ here?” Sunhwa asked.

      “Did you get Pap and Sunny Unnie’s approval?” Hyuna said, raising her voice as if she’s not happy two more people are going to live with them.

      “Yeah… I talked about this with Uncle Munsik,” Stephanie nodded but quickly averted her eyes away from Hyuna. She didn’t really talk about this with anyone else but Sunny and Hyuna’s father because she thought they wouldn’t properly understand her real intentions.

      “So why are you guys here exactly?” Hyuna asked.

      “Oh you mean you don’t know yet?” Sasha said. “I’m here to adopt Stephanie’s baby.”Read More »

|MH| Sunshine: Chapter 2


STORY 1 | STORY 2 | STORY 3 | STORY 4 | STORY 5


SUNSHINE

Chapter 1: Let Go

Chapter 2: Rest

JUNE 5, 1998, Thursday

      Handprints and footprints—once in a while they rise and fall on random corners of Stephanie’s belly. It was an unusual thing to see and it felt like someone was punching her from the inside. Mothers would usually take much pride and joy over the fact that they have come as far as seven months nursing the new life, but she could not share the same feeling. She felt like there was a monster living inside her that drove her physically and emotionally askew, but she couldn’t really call it a “monster” since everyone around her would shake their heads in disapproval. This was a blessing, they say, and truly, it was, but to her, it was a curse, too.

      Still in denial and grief, focusing on the welfare of the baby was something she hasn’t been good at. Life got heavier day by day the more she buried her tears under the smiling mask she has created. She thought being away from the land of her tragic teenage love-story would expel her of things that used to haunt her, but how would that be possible? Those memories didn’t just stay at one place. It scarred her whole body, heart, and soul, and it will stay wherever she goes. She did not want anyone to see just how deep those emotional cuts have been, so she hid them in any way she can. But oh, how careless was she to hide those wounds without sealing them first.

      No one can ever seal these scars anyway, Stephanie thought. They were so deep not even family could help her. Her family consists of broken people just like her. If fact, the unspoken discord among her family was caused by her mother’s death. Her distraught father had a hard time getting by taking care of her and her brother Leo, so they were sent to the care of trustworthy people. At first, Stephanie thought it was utterly foolish to separate at such a devastating time, but she couldn’t do anything about the decisions that were made. But she was thankful that she was able to continue with a normal teenage life under the roof of the Jungs, at least for a few years.

      On the first few weeks of being separated from her best friend who cared about her so much, she’d wonder why she even agreed to live here in Yuchiri. What would it have been like staying under Jessica’s roof? There was no one else who truly understood her situation but her best friend. Both of them could’ve strengthened each other. If she stayed there a little longer, maybe, just maybe, she would be able to go back to her normal stance and feel normal again.

      As she tried getting past that thought, she noticed that there was one family member that truly felt like home to her after all. It was Sunny, her cousin. She grew up with her for a few seasons back in the States when they were only children and they were almost inseparable. They were like twins who knew each other back to back. Hurting one would also hurt the other. So to hear how much family complications Stephanie had stumbled to, Sunny and her family wanted to help her in some way. She didn’t want Stephanie to lose touch of what a family should be—a family that never gives up on one another. So now that Sunny has taken the role of accompanying her in any situation, Stephanie had at least a small but growing sense of hope that the days will gradually get brighter.

      Whenever Stephanie could not do any tasks because of her depression, Sunny would be there by her side trying to help her and cheer her up. She was the busiest girl of her age, yet all of her free time consisted of nothing but spending it with Stephanie. It was still a mystery to her how Sunny was able to balance her time. Sunny had numerous jobs around town like feeding cows, cleaning out dung, catching a few chickens, and gathering eggs.  She also had jobs harvesting crops, taking out weeds, and picking out different kinds of fruits. She even babysits the folks’ children and tutors some of them. And still after all that, Sunny often took her to walks around town with Prince Charming the dog, treated her with the love of family that she had lost touch in the past few years, and also personally checked the baby herself with the folks’ pregnancy and ultrasound equipment. Sunny was one of the most inspiring people she has ever met. “If she had a past life, she would probably be superwoman,” Stephanie always thought.

      “She can basically run the whole place. I would totally vote for Mayor Soonkyu,” Stephanie would joke to most of the folks by calling Sunny her birth name (which Sunny really isn’t fond of). She was indeed, after all, the deceased mayor’s grand-daughter. It was no doubt that she came from the upright, hardworking Lees. Rumor even has it that their family line dates back to a successful king in the Joseon period—maybe King Jeongjo or even an older line, Sejong the Great. With that said, Sunny really does act like a superior who’s more than able to lower her status for anyone in need. Whenever and wherever she was needed, Sunny would come rushing over without question, and she would always do a job well done.

      There was also Hyuna, Sunny’s sister. Like Sunny, she was fierce and strong physically and mentally. The only clear difference between them was that she was more vocal about things that displease her unlike her soft-spoken and laid-back sister. She was three years younger than Stephanie and Sunny, and she was infamous for being blunt and immature. But as the teenage philosopher that she kind of was, the elders deemed her very wise compared to the other kids her age. Stephanie cannot even begin to count how many times this teenager insulted her on something (or on everything) for her good. She was good at pointing out what was bad, but she was also good at showing the right way. It was slightly irritating to be nagged by someone younger than her, but she tried her hardest not to resist them. To her, Hyuna was that buzzing conscience sitting right on her shoulder; she took every scolding at heart.

      When Sunny and Hyuna are not available, there’s Sunhwa, a girl a year younger than Stephanie who quit school and is now homeschooling since she can’t seem to catch up to the normal school system’s standards. She lives at the neighboring house of the Lee’s old hanok house. She’s the closest teenager around that Stephanie could come to. Since Sunhwa can’t really do basic math and on other subjects well, the least Stephanie can do was to tutor Sunhwa in whatever she found hard to do.

      There was also the Kim family (unrelated to Jinwon), a family of exceptionally good cooks with exploding senses of humor. There were a lot of members in this family but only three who were very close to the Lees. The trios were Taewoo, Shinyoung, and Jaejun. Taewoo, age 27, was a man known for his bear like strength and stature. He usually wears a cap, glasses, and soldier cargo pants along with his masculine stubble he dared to never shave or grow out. There was Shinyoung, age 24, a woman craziest in comedy lines out of the three, with a height a little too small for a normal adult. Then there was Jaejun, age 22, the super handsome and talented, adopted kid of the Kim family.  Since the three visit often, Stephanie was very fond of them, especially Jaejun who has become like her older brother. He’d sing to her and write songs with her whenever he’s free and cooks healthy meals that she likes whenever she loses her appetite.

      Stephanie likes being surrounded by people. It keeps her mind steady and distracted from falling onto the edges of depression’s cliffs. It doesn’t matter who it is as long as they keep her busy in doing something. It doesn’t matter who it is as long as they have no knowledge of Jinwon.

      However, it was still hard to avoid getting to the topic of the baby’s father. She had to create a consistent lie of what had happened, for every time someone new strikes a conversation with her, the same question’s echoed. “Who’s the father?” “How did he die?” It was hopelessly unavoidable. Seven months pregnant was hardly something that she could hide now. How much more will they buzz these questions to her ear once the baby comes out? She dared not think about it for now.

      “There’s so many things I want to do with you,” Jinwon said.

      “Like what?”

      “When the baby is born, I want to… hmm… something like take walks around parks with our child like a family. When it grows a little older, I want to take it to school myself… teach it to play guitar. Just some things like that,” Jinwon awkwardly said and laughed. He never really thought about those kinds of things until now. A family was far from his teenage mind until this happened. Now he’s just racking his brain for a way to look on the brighter side of things.

      “You seem excited,” Stephanie blushed. “I haven’t even thought about that part yet.”

      “C’mon, tell me. Just think of at least one—with me and the baby. What would you like to do in the future as a family? Tell me your wish.”Read More »

|MH| Sunshine: Chapter 1


STORY 1 | STORY 2 | STORY 3 | STORY 4 | STORY 5


SUNSHINE

Chapter 1: Let Go

       “Can we hang out tonight?”

      Yohan licked his dry lips and sighed. Although he and Jessica have been friends for three years now, it suddenly wasn’t easy to say yes to her request. He’s not particularly busy on anything; in fact, he could even stay at home all day doing nothing without being judged. However, many things trouble and sadden him, and he lost energy to do many things, especially hang out with someone who knew Jinwon, his closest friend.

     For the past few weeks, he had been drowning in a sea of desolation. He did not have many responsibilities and that slowly drove him crazy. His parents were currently somewhat in a financial crisis, and all they could send to college for now was his older sister. So at the moment college was far from his mind. The only thing that made him anxious was that he was required to enlist for the military this winter. He was happy with the fact that he was enlisted while nothing was particularly happening in his life and that he was still very youthful, but being physically weak made him little nervous. He may have a build that seemed firm and steady, but looks can deceive for he was not tough at all. He wanted to gain a bit more muscles before doing so but it’s hard to exercise when he has no energy to do anything at all. But at this time when nothing ever happens, what was he to do? He has to use his time on something productive somehow. He felt so useless not being able to do anything at all.

       To add to that, after Jinwon woke up to the time that his family moved away, he became distant from the friend he loved so dearly—Jessica. Since she became Stephanie’s caretaker 24/7 and almost abandoned every feeling that didn’t relate to her, Yohan felt like he was thrown out of her life. There were times when he called her just like this afternoon to ward away the loneliness Jinwon left, but she was too engulfed in many other things. Many times he tried to understand her situation, but after she declined his request too many times, he felt like he was nothing to her anymore. He only needed at least a day to be with her but she never made time for him.

        Now the tables have turned and she was the one personally trying to make time for him. He had the urge to give into her again as he had always done because of his undeniable feelings for her since day one, but the hurt he had gone through was finally warning him. Through rejection, manipulation, and insincerity throughout their friendship, he didn’t know whether it was okay to let her win this time. It was wearing his heart out trying to grant everything she wanted. Even though he was finally needed for something, being needed was not what he wanted their friendship to be about, at least not anymore.

     Trying to convince himself that she’s harmful was not easy though. Every time he puts the phone down after making excuses, his heart burns up like hell more than all of the things she did to him combined. It just wasn’t like him to turn her down. He could never deny that although she was cold as ice and had amazing control over her feelings, her heart was timid and warm, and she was actually very affectionate towards those close to her. Even though she was sometimes careless of his feelings, he cannot brush off all the times she made him feel special.

       He cannot deny all the times they enjoyed being together, all the sweet nothings they said to each other, and all the affectionate touches they timidly drew to. They once indirectly confessed their feelings to each other and both wished they could be something more if only Jinwon and Stephanie’s relationship did not scare them. They were almost more than friends—and that’s why everything hurts even more.

      “I’m sorry, I can’t tonight,” he replied, feeling dumb over the fact that he doesn’t even have a good excuse to give.

      “Why? You’ve rejected me so much this past few weeks. Do you even care about me anymore?”Read More »

|MH| Spicy Rice Cakes


STORY 1 | STORY 2 | STORY 3 | STORY 4


Spicy Rice Cakes (떡볶이)

April 28, 1998, Monday

There I was, Choi Hyungsoo, exhausted from a long day of Japanese language classes. I threw my bag on the couch and slopped my shoulders as I read this new book called “Forgotten Season.” Mr. Takeda told everyone to do a report on a fictional-historical book weeks ago and I didn’t really bother to do one. Now who’s into reading these days, anyway? Oh well, the report is due in about a week. I have no choice but to start on it. Ugh, I hate extra classes!

To be honest, the book didn’t bother me that much, I mean, I find the story really great. It’s not that I’m into tragedy-romance stories, it’s just that I feel I could kind of relate with the situations in the story. I mean “forgotten season” is enough of a description for the life my best-buddy Jinwon got into. I’m sure you get what that story might be about.

As I flipped through every page, my position on the couch would shift. Of course, until I noticed that my head already turned upside down, my face, turning red. The stuffy feeling made me sit upright again, but that’s not comfortable. So I stood up and leaned my body near the window. At least there I can read better with the sun shining through the dimmed room I was in. Sunlight is always a better lamp than room light.

Since the story I was reading was set in the Korean War, eventually topics of food that became popular at that time came up and my stomach started to grumble. I guess it’s that time again.

I marched to the kitchen and scanned the cabinets. Nothing. The fridge, even worse. It’s empty. Well… it’s not completely empty. It just didn’t have the exact dish my stomach was craving.

Getting hungry is like the end of the world. I have to survive by eating. I better get something to eat before it gets worse.

As I was about to enter a seven-eleven store, an ajjumma by the street got my attention. She was cooking up some food like a normal food-vendor would. She was cooking up ddeokbokki. Mmm… spicy rice cakes. Wow. I’ve never set sight at such a good looking ddeokbokki in a while… I knew in an instant, that ddeokbokki is going to be my snack this afternoon.

      “Thanks, Ajjumma!” I happily bowed my head as I received a toothpick and a cup full of those spicy rice cakes. I think my eyes comically widened as those heavenly beings were finally on my hands. This looks like good ddeokbokki alright.

I sat by a small bench just outside of my home and looked around. No one was watching and the street was silent. Well then, time to devour this thing. I know I should be reading, but who cares. I can do that later.

When I took one bite of that red-orange dish, I thought it was going to be the best ddeokbokki I’ve had in a while, but something tasted really off. It’s spicy… it’s chewy… what the hell is it missing? I chewed it as slow as possible but I still couldn’t find what was exactly wrong. It was bland… or maybe it wasn’t? Man, I really don’t get. Something was just off.Read More »