Abba | Teen Ink


December 17, 2021
By LunaArt7d, Lexington, Massachusetts
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LunaArt7d, Lexington, Massachusetts
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Author's note:

This is a story based off my greatgrandmother and grandmother's experince of the Korean War. 

The author's comments:

- Shows reader relationship between Heeyoung and father

- not first chapter (next one is)

-one blank page seperating from next chapter

“Heeyoung! Get down from there young lady!” Giggling, I started to climb higher up the tree. Abba was down below me, trying to make sure I didn’t fall. As I climbed the tree the leaves got in my face and the smell of nature surrounded me. Finally when I reached the top of the tree I was instantly hit by the wonderful breeze. Spellbound by the wonderful feel of the breeze on my face I started to close my eyes and breathe in the wonderful air. It seemed like only seconds had passed when Abba called to me again, this time in a gentler tone. “Heeyoung,” he called “Amma will be worried, please come down.” Smiling, I decided that I would come down and I started to climb down to my father. When I was almost all the way down I jumped into my father’s arms. He caught me like always and started to spin me around. Laughing, I screamed with delight and everything seemed to fade as if this happiness would always last. Finally Abba threw me in the air, caught me, and then held me tight. I rested my head on him and he whispered in my ear “I love you Heeyoung never forget that.” I smiled and whispered back “I know, I love you too”. And together we started to walk towards home.

“And that is what your duty as women of today is!” concluded Mrs. Kim. Sighing I looked at my watch hoping that this lecture would be over soon. Seeing that it was far from over I let out a small groan, and started to slouch in my chair, as Mrs. Kim continued with her speech of what was wrong with the girls of today. “ You girls are so irresponsible!” exclaimed Mrs. Kim, “ when I was your age I was already married, and the head of a respected group”. I sighed as I knew where this was headed. Mrs. Kim continued with her speech, but the more she talked the more faded her voice became. Soon I had drifted off, thinking about the wonderful things we had to eat back at home. 

Finally after what seemed to be an eternity, the bell rang and I was free to go. Jumping out of my chair, I rushed out of the classroom, and ran all the way home. My house was not far, and was not hard to spot, as it was huge. Abba was a military general, and was held in high esteem, so he was paid quite well. As I ran home I smiled, feeling the wind against my face, and the sun against my skin, and as I got home, I was welcomed by the maids and butlers that happened to be there. Nodding my appreciation, I headed into our foyer. As I entered I was instantly hit by the wonderful smell of our chief’s delicious pastries. I jogged into our kitchen, and snagged a freshly made yakwa, and put the yakwa into my mouth, instantly my mouth was tugged upward into a 

smile. As I continued to enjoy my treat I rushed outside, as the weather was so nice that day. When I got outside I had just finished my yakwa, and so I took off running, mouth filled with sweetness and heart filled with joy. Finally I got to my favorite spot in our yard, though it was so big it was more of an endless plane of land. I plopped down under one of our many cherry trees, and lay down basking in the sweetness of the breeze and sun. Soon I began to let my thoughts fill my mind, and my hopes to fill my heart, and before long my eyelids started to flutter, and I fell asleep.

“ Heeyoung! Where are you Heeyoung!”. Frowning, I slowly started to open my eyes. Yawning, I sat up and started to stretch my arms out. Finally shaking my head I get up from under my favorite cherry tree. Then I called out “ Cho- hee I’m here!” rushing over to me my sister came with an exasperated look as she said “ Heeyoung! There you are, I've been looking all over for you!``In confusion I tilled my head the slightest bit and asked “ didn’t you know I'd be here? You know that this is my favorite spot” in response my sister nodded, and replied “ of course I knew, but Amma kept insisting that I go to the fields to pick up some rice first” then smiling sheepishly Cho-hee then said “ but I got lost in the fields so it took longer.” looking at each other, Cho-hee with the sheepish smile, and me with the confused look we both couldn't help but laugh at each other's expression. Soon enough we started to recover from our laughter, and in a fit of giggles Cho- hee said “ come on Amma told me to get you, dinner should be ready.” Then we continued to laugh, and we started to walk home. Grinning, I said “race you home! Last one there is spoiled milk!” shrieking in laughter we started to run, together, happy, towards home.

Finally after much laughter and running, Cho-hee and I made it home just in time for dinner.

As we entered the foyer, we both smiled simultaneously, for we could both smell our dinner. We continued to walk, following our noses, though we knew our way around the house well. Soon enough we were greeted by the delightful aroma and sight of food. Smiling, we both rushed over to our parents and gave them a brief bow of respect and said “ dan-yo-o-sun-me-da” nodding, our parents smiled and signaled us to go to our seats. Giggling, Cho-hee and I went to our seats, but just as we were about to sit down, Amma said “ girls please go wash up” Cho-hee and I looked at each other eyebrows raised, with grim expressions. Meanwhile a tired Amma repeated “ girls go wash up, you were outside you know the rule.” Cho-hee and I knew better than to talk back to our mother, especially since she had given birth recently. So we both responded to our mother’s request with “ yes Amma” and with that we both rushed out of the dining room, and jogged through the parlor, and living room, and eventually up the stairs. When we got up the stairs, we continued to jog all the way to the bathroom we both shared. There was a separate bathroom for our parents, and there was one for our older brother, and eventually Cho-hee and I would have to share a bathroom with Aera, our newborn sister, but that wouldn’t be in the near future since Aera had been born just a few weeks ago. 

As I thought about this I started to wash my hands with soap, and tried to wash them as thoroughly as possible. And as I continued to think I suddenly remembered a game that I had made not too long ago, remembering the game I started to play, and tried to wash my hands more thoroughly than my sister. Finally after much scrubbing, I was satisfied and felt oddly proud of my newfound victory. Then I got up, and grabbed a towel to dry my hands. When I finished I looked over my shoulder to see my sister drying her hands. I decided to wait and stood near the door looking at my sister, and started to realize that we looked very similar. We both shared a similar face shape, and we both had long smooth black hair, we both had almond shaped eyes, and we both had slightly flat noses. Thinking about this I realized that we look more similar than I had thought. Amused by this I quietly laughed to myself, but found that I am hungrier than I was a few minutes ago. Biting my lower lip, I say “ Cho-hee I’m really hungry, so I’m going to go down first okay?” nonchalant Cho-hee nods, and so I take my leave. I jog all the way down the stairs, and eventually into the dining room. Once I enter, I find that the meal has already started, and so I quickly get into my seat. I take my chopsticks, and reach for the beef. Taking a piece of beef I place it onto my bowl of rice, and ladle the rice and beef together on my spoon, once I do that I bring the spoon to my mouth, and eat. As soon as food touches my tongue I feel joy, smiling I decide that this is what food from heaven would taste like. I continue to eat, taking as much food as I please, bite after bite, sip after sip, bowl after bowl, soon my stomach is so full that I feel like a balloon. Just as I take my last bite of food, Cho-hee appears, and takes her seat 

next to me. Whispering, I ask “what took you so long? I just finished my meal, amused, Cho-hee whispers “ you finished your meal already?!” Now I am amused, I nod and whisper “you know I’m a fast eater, besides I was really hungry.” Suppressing a laugh, Cho-hee nods and says “ that’s true, but let's stop talking before Amma or Abba catch us talking during a meal” smiling I nod because it is true that we shouldn’t have been talking at the dinner table. I turn and face my empty bowl of food, while Cho-hee starts to eat her full bowl of rice. Since I was done with my dinner, I started to look around the table only to see my older brother Ji-hoon staring into space, Amma, trying to keep Aera asleep, and Abba, sitting at the head of the table using a toothpick for his teeth. Inwardly I smiled, for everything was normal, and nothing had changed. Then I myself started to blank out, and started to think about an assignment that Mrs. Kim had given me. Groaning, I realized I hadn’t even started the assignment, and it was due tomorrow. Soon thoughts flooded my mind, and I started to shake my leg, and bite my lower lip. Eventually my mind was so full of thoughts I completely zoned out, and unconsciously started to shake my leg faster, and bite my lip harder. And so as a result of this, my leg hit the table, and it made a loud bang. Everyone jumped at the sound, and looked towards me. 

Instantly my face grew redder, and my ears turned pink, and sheepishly I said “oops sorry”. Suddenly Aera woke, and started to cry. Shutting my eyes, and pursing my lips, I clenched my hands, for I knew I was in big trouble. Shockingly though, my mother just sighed and got up from the table taking the shrieking Aera with her. As soon as she left there was a silence, the quietness spread over us like a thick blanket, and soon I felt like I was choking from it. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore, and I squeezed my eyes shut. Then after some time I started to open my eyes, slowly. Bit by bit I opened my eyes, to see Abba looking at me with his eyebrows arched, and his lips forming a small smirk. Confused, I ask “ aren’t you mad?” Now this time my father looks confused and says “ why would I be mad?” clenching my teeth I look down, and say “ I thought you would be mad” slowly I dare and look up, but to my surprise Abba’s expression was completely blank, then after some time Abba’s face turns into a smile. Then he says “oh, you mean banging the table with your knee” I nod, feeling my stomach twist, and my head pound. However, instead of hearing the expected sound of Abba yelling, the oddest sound hit my ears instead. Slowly looking up I am shocked to find that Abba is laughing! Slightly shocked by this I turn my head to see an equally confused Cho-hee looking at Abba. Then turning my head again, I look at Ji-hoon who looks completely baffled. After that I then looked at Abba again, who was still chuckling to himself. Finally after some time Abba had recovered from his laughter, and turned his head to me, smiling and said “oh, my dear Heeyoung why would I punish you for doing that!” looking back down I mimike Mrs.Kim and say “ because it is not proper for a girl to move so much.” Once again Abba laughs, and once again I slowly look up. Then Abba extends his arms towards me, and says “come here Heeyoung” gradually I get up and sit in Abba’s lap. Once I get in Abba’s lap, Abba looks at me and says “now who taught you that silly nonsense?” I look up at Abba, with a frown and say “Mrs. Kim.” Nodding, Abba says “ah, I see she is your teacher right?” Now it is my turn to nod, so I reply to Abba with a nod. With this Abba smiles, and he says “Heeyoung you are a wonderful person, never let anyone change you.” still frowning, I ask “even Ms. Kim?” hearing this Abba lets out a chuckle, and looks back at me and says “yes even Mrs. Kim” after hearing this I smile, and in exchange Abba smiles back. Then Abba says “now go along now, to your room” grinning, I hop up from Abba’s lap, and say “come on Cho-hee let's go and play in our room!” laughing Cho-hee gets up and says “what should we play?” I think for a bit, but can’t decide so I say “let’s figure that out later” Cho-hee smiles, and replies with a simple “okay” and with that we both run all the way to our room. 

CRASH!!!! Cringing, I look over to see Mrs. Kim’s face red with anger. Looking at her I realized that she looked like a beet, as her face was now turning into a deep shade of purple. Then I looked over to the girl who had dropped the teapot. Well she’s dead I thought, since I hadn’t seen Mrs. Kim this angry since...well now that I think about it Mrs. Kim was always this angry. It was just who she was, getting angry at people for no reason, frankly I was shocked she ever got married. Sighing I decided to stay focused on my own teapot, since I didn’t want to end up like that girl. I can hear shrill screams of Mrs. Kim in the background, but I try to ignore it, and focus on pouring the tea in my teapot. Now, normally pouring tea was an easy job, and I usually never had to do it, as it was Amma who always poured the tea. Nonetheless, Mrs. Kim had made the job harder and insisted that we pour the tea with tongs, saying that it will help us “to acquire balance” for when we pour the tea for our future husbands. However, I couldn’t care less about pouring tea or having a husband, as I was only ten years old. But Abba had paid a handsome amount of money to send me here, since girls usually did not attend school. Little did he know that he probably could have saved a lot of money by just sending me to a bridal school, since that was pretty much all Mrs. Kim taught us. 

As I continued to pour my tea, I started to think about the moment I got home, and the warmth of my bed. Then I looked over to my teacup, and sighed. Moving on to my second cup, I carefully lifted the teapot up. Then leaning over, I started to pour tea into the second cup. Just as I had started to pour tea into my second cup, I could feel someone breathing down on my neck, momentarily distracted, my tongs lost grip on the teapot, and the teapot crashed to the floor. Dismayed, and appalled by this my mouth dropped open, and my eyes squeezed shut. Furthermore, Mrs. Kim came over, clicking her tongue. Then she said “ah, Ms. Moon, I see you have dropped your teapot, no?” feeling quite numb, I nod, and brace myself for the punishment I was sure to get. However, instead of yelling, or giving me a punishment, Mrs. Kim looks over to the girl next to me and says “Ms. Chong clean up this mess, and do it quickly” baffled by this, I dare and ask “uhm...Mrs. Kim, why must she clean it up? Didn’t I make the mess?” Mrs. Kim looks back at me, and instantly I start to feel like I shouldn't have said that, but instead of glaring at me, Mrs. Kim smiles! Then she replied to me in a polite tone saying “oh my dear why would you need to clean up the mess, after all it was Ms. Chong that made you lose your balance” boggled by Mrs. Kim’s smile and reply I can only nod. Then Mrs. Kim looks back at the rest of the class, and says “class dismissed!” Still baffled by the experience of Mrs. Kim’s smile, I slowly got up from my seat, and walked out of class quite dazed. Head tilted, and walking slowly, I continued to walk this way until I got home. I still couldn’t understand the odd kindness I had just experienced, after all I was probably Mrs. Kim’s least favorite student. I always talked too much, moved too much, or laughed too much, well according to Mrs. Kim anyway. 

Moreover, Mrs. Kim would always shout, yell, and beat me for my actions saying that I would never become a proper woman. It was just the way it was, but now Mrs. Kim had just shown me an odd kindness, that looked a lot like she was favoring me. Still dazed by this I entered our foyer, and walked up the stairs, all the way to the room Cho-hee and I shared. Then I got to my bed, and flopped on with my arms extended, and my legs dangling from the edge. Looking at the roof, my mind was filled with confusion. Then after some time, I bolted up, and shook my head vigorously, but it did me no good. Sighing, I sat back down onto my bed, with a grim expression, I started to wonder why am I so bothered by this? pondering on this, I started to tap my chin. Eventually, I gave up on thinking about the situation and lay back down on my bed. Staring at the ceiling, I smiled, remembering the stories I had heard again and again about the night sky from Amma. They were about gods and goddesses, constellations, and magical creatures. I liked many of the stories, but liked the ones with tigers most. 

Remembering the stories, brought a light smile to my face, and made my life seem a little brighter. I closed my eyes, and imagined gods and goddesses, stars, and tigers, men, and women. And just like that it seemed as if the myths, and legends that Amma had told me were getting closer and closer to coming to life. As my eyelids got heavy, and my body went limp, my dreams became more vivid, and it seemed as if my imagination was engulfing me whole. And before I knew it, I was asleep.

I can feel shaking, frowning. I turn over in my bed but this does me no good and the shaking does not stop. Slowly I open my eyes, to see my brother Ji-hoon shaking my arm, sitting up I yawn and ask “what is the matter Ji-hoon?” with a quavering voice Ji- hoon replies “we have to go” confused I ask “why?” shaking his head, Ji-hoon picks me up and starts running. “What are you doing!” I yell, and without turning back Ji-hoon replies “ saving our lives” Ji-hoon is now running down the stairs, and as he does I can see Amma and Cho-hee, panic written on their faces. They shove in food and clothes into big cloth sacks, and run around the house stuffing in whatever they think will be needed. This included huge amounts of food, some clothes, tools, and Amma’s jewelry. Placing me down Ji-hoon rushes over to help, and takes another bag and joins the ‘packing’. Baffled by the actions of my family I ask “what are you doing, what is going on!” without looking up Amma replies “ it's a long story honey, now help us pack please we need to have as much supplies as possible.” Confused and dazed I only nod, and take a cloth sack and head to the kitchen. When I get there I see Cho-hee is already there stuffing in as much food as she can into the sack. I join her, and help her pack as much food as we can fit into a sack. Still quite confused with this whole situation, I ask Cho-hee “ what’s going on? Why is everyone so panicked?” biting her lower lip Cho-hee replies “ I don’t really know myself...all I know is that a servant has betrayed us.” tilting my head in confusion I ask “ a servant has betrayed us? How does that happen?” swallowing hard Cho-hee says “ um Heeyong do you remember when we snuck downstairs after we were tucked in bed and saw Amma and Abba talking really quietly 

with very concerned looks on their faces?” yet again confused I say “ uh yes, but how does that connect to my question?” taking a deep breath Cho-hee replies “ apparently they were talking about a war.” “ A war!?” I exclaim. “ Yes, a war,” Cho-hee replies. “ Who are we at war with?” I ask, once again Cho-hee swallows hard, and opens her mouth to answer my question, but no words fall out. Then Cho-hee tries again and says “koreans”. 

I gasp trying to understand what Cho-hee has just said. “Koreans?” I murmur, then looking at Cho-hee again I ask “ aren't we koreans?” Cho-hee nods and says “ Kim Il Sung, he is the reason all of this is happening” I look down at my shoes and try to focus on the pattern of the floor, not believing what I had just heard. Then I look up again and open my mouth to say something, but before I can I hear Amma’s voice shouting “ girls we have to go now!” Cho-hee and I both shake out of our gloom and dismay, and grab the cloth sacks, and rush to the foyer, where we see Amma holding a sleeping Aera on her back, with Ji-hoon next to her holding two cloth sacks. Suddenly I realize that Abba is missing, but decide that he is probably helping with the war, since he was a war general. Then rushing over to our family’s side we exit our home. As we walk out of our lovely home, I turn around and look around. Our house was still beautiful, our yard was still green, and the cherry trees were as vibrant as ever. A wave of sadness washed over me as I started to wonder if I would ever be able to see my home again. Ji-hoon must have sensed my sadness, because he came over, and said “ don’t worry we will come back soon.” However, this did not comfort me but instead made me realize in that  moment that I would never see my home again. And upon realizing this I look over to Ji-hoon and say “ I need to do something, I’ll be back soon” Ji-hoon nods, and so I drop my bag and take off running into our yard, towards my favorite cherry tree. Then I kneel down, and carefully remove my hair clip. It was my favorite hair clip that I had received when I was five, and was made of silver. It had a beautiful jade, ruby, and silver design that spelled my name. I then dig a hole in near the roots of the tree, and bury the hair clip in the dirt. Then I look up to the sky and pray to the gods that they might bring me back home. Once I finish my prayer I stand up and take one last look at the cherry tree, and whisper “ be well my dear cherry tree” then I run off back to my family.

We had been walking for hours, though it felt like an eternity, and I couldn’t feel my feet any longer. I look around and can see that everyone is as tired as I am, but just isn’t saying it. Grimacing, I continue to focus on walking, as does everyone else; in silence. However, one question hangs over us all, like mist, but now one dares to ask it. Unfortunately, that question is the only thing I could think about, where was Abba? Was he safe? Would I see him again? Fortunately Ji-hoon had decided to end the silence with this question saying “ Amma, where is Abba? He didn’t leave with us, how come?” Amma stiffens when she hears this question, but she answers his question. However, she does it in an odd way. First Amma says “ let’s go and sit down.” No one disagrees with Amma since we are all very tired. Then once we were all settled down, Amma began to describe the war saying “ you all know about the war, correct?” looking at each other we all nod. Then Amma continues, saying “ there is a man named Kim Il Sung, and I believe he is the cause of the war, you see he strongly believes communism, and his goal is to make all of Korea like this, and so he has toppled the government, and is trying to kill all people who have worked for the government.” I interrupted Amma asking “ wait, is’t Abba technically a government worker?” At this question Amma clenches her jaw, making her mouth a grim and straight line. Then after some time Amma whispers “ yes that is true” I swallow hard as do my other siblings and then Amma says it. She said the words that I had feared she would, she said these simple words “ my dears….your father is dead.” Upon hearing these words my world went cold, and my heart seemed to stop beating, time seemed to slow, and I could hear Amma’s words repeated over and over again, and each time I heard it again it seemed as if another part of me had been chipped away. I would have cried except that I couldn’t feel anything, and my bones rattled inside me. Numb from this explanation, I  could barely hear Cho-hee crying, and Ji-hoon desperately asking Amma “ you're lying right! Abba can’t be dead!” My world felt cold and lonely, and disbelief hung over me. Then after some time I was able to utter these words from my mouth “ how….how did he die?” Everyone looked at me, shock written on their faces, normally my face would have flushed, and my ears would turn red, but this time I felt nothing, and so I looked up and repeated my question. “How did Abba die?” I ask, this time my tone more urgent. Then swallowing hard, Amma answers my question by saying “ he died from a gun” hearing this I relax a bit, assuring myself that Abba had had a quick death. Still my soul is unsettled and I bite the inside of my lip, and squeeze my eyes shut. And I try to block out my imagination of how Abba had died. I stay like this for some time, and so does everyone else, we are all quiet and still and no one questions Amma when she gets up and starts to unpack some of the things from our bags. For it was quite obvious that we would all need some time to register that we no longer had a father. I look up and see that Cho-hee is crying waterfalls into Amma, I turn my head again and see Ji-hoon just sitting there this body slouched, and is eyes distant and finally I look down again to see my hands on my lap, limp and lifeless. Suddenly my emotions caught up with me and I too 

started to cry. I couldn’t believe it! My father was gone, my one and only Abba was gone! The war had taken him from me, and life would never be the same. I felt so hollow, so hopelessly lifeless, and I thought I could never be happy again. Soon enough night started to fall, and for once I didn’t even mind the dark, it reflected how I felt, and it seemed as if the world was mourning with me. I cried and I cried, I cried like I had never cried before, and I didn't stop, I couldn’t stop. I had lost my dear Abba and he was never coming back, in that moment I learned the heaviness, and the grief of the word death. Before the war, before Abba had died, when I got really angry I would cry in my bed and wish I were dead so that I could make the person who made me mad sorry that they did bad to me. However, it was upon Abba’s death that was able to realize and phathom the concept of death. 

A few hours later Amma called me saying “ Heeyoung come here! You're going to get a cold!” lifelessly I look over to Amma who has a desperate teary look on her face. I relent, and slowly get  up from the ground, as if gravity was preventing me from standing up. Finally, once I stand up I slowly walk over to where Amma stands, with her arms extended. Once I am within an arm's reach I collapse into Amma’s embrace. Cho-hee was in the mosquito tent trying to sleep,  Ji-hoon had gone to get more firewood, and Area was fast asleep in a makeshift bed that Amma had made out of our clothes. I crumple in my mother’s embrace and I hold tight feeling that I would never let go. I let out a shaking sigh, and Amma held me tighter. Then after a brief silence I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I had had Amma all to myself. Saddened even further by this I squeeze my eyes shut and let the tears roll down my cheeks. Tenderly, Amma wipes my tears away and whispers “ now now Heeyoung you know your father loved you right?” I let out a sad laugh and nod. Then Amma says “ good, now always remember that alright, remember that your Abba and I love you no matter what, and nothing can ever change that. Do hear me Heeyoung” shakily breathing I nod, and allow a light smile to cross my face. Then I lean into Amma and whisper “ I love you Amma” now Amma is crying, and she holds me tighter, and responds “ I love you to so much…” and with that we stop talking, and cry together in grief of loss, but also in love for each other. And with that I realized I hadn’t lost everything, I still had my Amma, and I still had my siblings, and in that moment I let myself smile, because I realized something. I realized that we were going to be alright.

I wake up the next morning next to Amma in our mosquito tent, sitting up I look around and see that everyone is still sleeping. Quietly I get up from the ground and tiptoe out of the tent. As soon as I exit the tent I am blinded by the light of the morning, and to my surprise I find that Ji-hoon is sitting outside. Slowly I walk over to him, and before I sit down Ji-hoon turns around and upon seeing me lets a weak smile cross his face. At this I am able to relax a bit, and let a light smile cross my face in return. Ji-hoon pats the ground next to him, as a motion for me to sit down next to him. As I do, I realize that he looks more tired and old than I had ever seen him, and at this I start to wonder what he was feeling. We sit in silence for some time, and eventually Ji-hoon breaks the silence by saying “I wish I had never asked that question yesterday” I look up, to find that Ji-hoon is looking blankly before him,  and then he says “I really wish I didn’t” I frown and say “Ji-hoon if you had never asked Amma, then we would have never known that…'' Abba's name gets caught in my throat, and I find that I cannot utter his name, upon realizing this I look down and swallow a large lump that seemed to have formed in my throat. Ji-hoon must have sensed what I was going to say because he bites his lip, and I could  tell that he was fighting tears. Then we sit in silence, Abba’s name hanging over us like fog that no one dares to mention. Eventually I am able to whisper saying “he died a quick death you know..” I say this to assure him, but mostly myself that he had died a painless death. Ji-hoon does not respond, but continues to stare at the ground fiercely. I sigh and we sit in another long period of horrid silence, Ji-hoon eventually responds in a shaking tone saying “how do you know?” I bite my lip and say “I don't” then I look up to Ji-hoon and to my surprise I find that there are tears in his eyes. Swallowing Ji-hoon says “then how do you know that he died a painless death” I take a shaking breath, and say “you heard Amma he died of a gun...guns are painless enough, there better then torture or swords” Ji-hoon only nods and then starts to draw in the dirt. 

Minutes pass, and soon enough Amma emerges from the tent. Ji-hoon and I glance over and both give her weak smiles. When Amma sees us smiling, her face melts with relief, and she then walks over to us, her arm open wide. Ji-hoon and I rush over and melt into our mother’s embrace. None of us say anything, we only understand. We stay like this for some time, but eventually pull away from Amma’s embrace. Then we held her hand and walked over to where we had been sitting. Once we sit down, Amma sighs and gets back up to retrieve some food from one of our bags. Ji-hoon and I let ourselves smile and then we look at each other with odd looks on our faces. I suppress a giggle, but soon Ji-hoon makes an even more ridiculous look that makes me cover my mouth in order to stop myself from laughing. However, Ji-hoon persists, and starts making weird expressions, each odder and funnier than the last. Eventually I cannot take it anymore and let myself release a shrieking laughter. Ji-hoon jumps at this, but this only makes me laugh harder, I laugh until my sides hurt, and until I can barely breath. I laugh and laugh, and I must have seemed funny doing so, because Ji-hoon starts to laugh too. We both laugh long and hard, and cannot seem to stop! However, Amma soon calls us, and tells us to quiet down, and I can tell it is in fear of Aera waking. Ji-hoon and I also fear this, so we both try to stifle our laughter, but we still end up giggling. Amma eventually gives us our food, which is a small portion of rice, and some dried beef. The rice is cold, and the beef is tough, but it was the best thing I had tasted since yesterday. When I'm done I find that Amma and Ji-hoon are still eating, and I smile slightly relieved that some things remain in place and don’t change. Then I look around and sigh, and start to bite the inside of my cheek, while I wait for Amma and Ji-hoon to finish eating. I then start to wander off into my thoughts. 

I’m six again. Scared of the water I see before myself. Ji-hoon is already in the water, screaming with utmost delight. I, however, stay frozen where I am, not daring to move a muscle. Amma is back at the house with Cho-hee, and Abba is nowhere to be seen. I swallow and dart my eyes around to see how everyone else is doing. And to my dismay, I find that everyone is almost as ecstatic as Ji-hoon is. I look away, shamed by myself, and my behavior. Why couldn’t I jump into the water as freely as the others did. What was wrong with me? Just then Abba comes by, and sees how ashamed I look. I’m too caught up in my emotions to realize that he is next to me, so when he utters his first words, I flinch in surprise. “Heeyong are you okay?” he asked me. “Why aren't you in the water with your brother?” Once again I flinch at his words, this time for an entirely different reason. Looking at my father I realize that I can’t ignore his question, so I respond “I-I don’t know.”  which is, to my surprise, entirely true. Why couldn’t I get in the water? Why did the very thought send chills of fear down my spine? However, Abba sees my hesitation and asks “do you want me to go with you?” I look to the ground, ashamed to tell him that I am afraid of the water. But I can’t delay it forever, so I say “I-I- I’m scared of the water.” After that I clench my teeth and squint my eyes in shame. In my mind I conjured Abba’s response as something terrifying, though I know he isn’t that kind of person. However, what happened next was something I never expected. Laughing. While I looked at the ground in shame, Abba started laughing. This shames me even further, and I could feel hot tears poking at the side of my eyes. It feels like he is laughing at me, and the prospect of this makes me feel terrible. Seeing my dismay, Abba levels down with me, and smiles. It was a smile that made everything okay, and I almost forgot about the shame I had felt. Then, with a tone as kind and smooth as silk Abba says “Heeyoung, it’s okay to be afraid of the water. Everyone is scared of 

something, and you're just afraid of the water.” I look up to him and ask him in a meek voice “bu-but you were laughing at me.” Looking confused Abba says “Laugh-?. Oh. Oh no no no no. That wasn’t laughing at you honey. I would never do that.” sniffling I swallow and ask “then why were you laughing?” Abba let’s a warm smile across his face as he answers “it’s because you remind me so much of your mother. That’s why Amma didn’t come today, she has to take care of Cho-hee, but she’s also afraid of the ocean.” I widened my eyes in shock. Amma was scared of the water too? Still shocked I asked “really?” Abba nods, and says “yup, she is scared to death by it.” Then, taking my hands, Abba’s smiling face changes to a tender one, as he says “so don’t ever be ashamed of who you are, Heeyoung. Never ever ever ever be ashamed. Okay? You are one of a kind honey. Don’t change yourself.” I smile, as I feel all of my negative feelings melt away, and get replaced with a sense of bravery. I am relieved that my father wasn’t laughing at me, and I am relieved to find that I wasn’t abnormal. I looked out to the water, changing the way I looked at it. Then, turning back to my father I ask “can you go to the water with me?” Abba smiles and says “sure honey” We start walking towards the water, but before we can reach it, I tug on his sleeve and say “please don’t let go of me.” Abba nods, and as I reach the water, and as I live the new feelings and sensations of the ocean, through it all, Abba never, even once, let me go. 



I start to think I feel a tapping on my shoulder. Alarmed by this, my shoulders bounce in the air, and my body flinches. Then I look over to find Ji-hoon has his hand midair, in a tapping position, eyebrows raised, and his mouth forming a small smirk. I frown, and upon seeing my frown Ji-hoon shakes off his amused expression. Then shrugging his shoulders he gives me a sideways look, and says “ Amma told me to get you” I frown even further at this and ask “ what for?” Ji-hoon shrugs again and replies “ I don’t know she just told me to come and get you” then Ji-hoon bites his lower lip and adds “ I think it’s important” I nod as if that explanation is valid enough, and start to get up from the ground. Ji-hoon waits for me, and soon enough we start walking together towards Amma. As we walk we start to pass the tent, and as we do I turn my head over to Ji-hoon and ask “ should I wake Cho-hee up?” Ji-hoon shakes his head, and says “ she’s already up” hearing this I raise my eyebrows in shock and reply “ she is!?” Ji-hoon smirks and then nods. Still partly confused, I ask “when?” sighing Ji-hoon says “ she woke up a few minutes ago” then Ji-hoon turns his head to me, and adds “ how deeply were you daydreaming?” I look down and say “ um..I don’t really know, but from the looks of it I guess it was really deep” nodding Ji-hoon says “ you can say that again”. We both turn our heads to each other, and laugh at the small joke Ji-hoon had made. Smiling, we continued walking on our way. Finally we saw Amma sitting on a large stone holding A in one arm, and making breakfast for Cho-hee with the other. I smiled thinking of how at times it seemed as if my mother had multiple arms. When Ji-hoon and I finally arrive near Amma and Cho-hee, Amma turns her head to us, as if she had 

sensed us coming. Then, once she saw us, she nodded for us to sit down. Once we do, I look to see that Cho-hee was still groggy with sleep, and Aera had still not woken. Then I look at Amma to find that she is trying to look everywhere but us. Frowning, I ask “Amma? What's wrong?” Hearing my voice, Amma quickly turns her head around to look at us, and replies “oh nothing honey, it's just there’s so much to tell you..” Curious I continue to prod at my mother with my words by saying “yes? What is it?” Realizing that Ji-hoon, Cho-hee, and I were all waiting in anticipation for our Amma’s words, Amma bites the inside of her cheek, and then quickly scans her eyes through us. Then narrowing her eyes in worry she asks “are you sure you want to know?” Ji-hoon, Cho-hee, and I look at each other, and with that we all say “yes.” When Amma hears our answer, she starts to nod slowly, as if it made sense, while she starts to bring Aera closer to her body. Then after a few seconds of silence, Amma finally says “well, you know about your Abba..” 

At the mention of Abba, none of us need to look at each other to know that we were all choking up with held back tears, then taking a deep breath Amma continues saying “and I suppose I should tell you that we are going back to our home..” When we hear this Ji-hoon, Cho-hee, and I all say “WHAT!” at the same time. Startled by our outburst, Amma jumps a little, and then quickly puts her finger to her mouth saying “shhhhh” hearing our mother’s plea, Ji-hoon, Cho-hee and I quickly clamp our mouths shut. Then after regaining some composure, Ji-hoon starts to whisper shout to Amma saying “but it's not safe there! How can we go back to the place that we ran from?” nodding at this Cho-hee adds “I agree with Ji-hoon, we left there in fear of soldiers coming for us. And we left a few days ago, so by now the place will be swarming with them!” I nod through this all, not daring to disagree with my siblings. Then once they were done, Amma sighs as if she had expected this, and says “ I know you are all a bit, ah how should I say this… well shocked by this, as well as against it. But you mustn't worry about this, because we won't be going there to live, but only to regain some supplies.” Upon hearing that we were just going home for supplies, I sunk a little further into the ground in disappointment. But Amma continued to talk as if nothing had happened saying “we did certainly try to bring as much resources that we could, but I’m afraid that in our haste we didn’t pack as much stuff that was of use. The only bag that sustained us was the bag Heeyoung and Cho-hee packed. Other than that, well...there were only utensils, and house kicknacts and such.” Then Amma looked at us all intently to find that we all had frowning expressions on our faces. Seeing this Amma adds “Now don't look at me like that. For you information it currently is the only option we have if we want to have a chance of living, and frankly this certainly is not in my interest to do this, but alas we must!” I sigh, and so do Cho-hee and Ji-hoon. Then we all nod and Cho-hee says “okay, okay we'll go and get those stupid supplies. Then giving us a light smile, Amma says “now that’s more like it, lets go kids! We have got some packing to do!”

Things went wrong almost instantly. First we had to trek all the way back to our home, just to find that it was swarming with soldiers just as Cho-hee and Ji-hoon had said. Then we had to find a way to somehow get into our ‘used to be house.’ The military had taken it over, and was currently using it as another place to stay. I cursed under my breath, as a soldier passed seeing that he was with the North side. Then turning my head over I whisper to Amma asking “ how are we going to get past those guys?” Amma bites the inside of her cheek as she ponders this question. Then she starts to scan our surroundings, she takes her time as she does this and finally after some time she locks her eyes on a small hole on the corner of our house and whispers “ there.” Cho-hee shakes her head in disbelief as she whispers “ you’ve gotta be  kidding me.” Then turning her head toward Amma she starts to yell in a quiet tone“ they can spot us so easily though!” Amma nods with a grim expression on her face and looks to Cho-hee, answering her question in a tone as hard as steel saying “ do you have any other ideas then.” sadly she does not and Cho-hee looks away as she mumers her apology to Amma. Amma nods and starts to look at the hole, and I can tell by her expression that she is trying to figure out a way to get us in safely. I am nervous about Amma’s idea, but I have no other suggestions nor do I want to anger Amma any further. I dart my eyes down to look down at Aera who is fast asleep in my arms, sighing a small breath of relief I start to wonder about the hole and how it would be possible to get in. As the time passes I can feel the tension grow as well. Luckily Amma breaks the silence by saying “ okay I have an idea.” However, hearing these words does not bring as much happiness as I thought it would, but instead brings a numb fear within my bones. I can tell that my siblings are as nervous as I am, seeing how their eyes dart around and how they shake their legs. Amma pays no attention to this and continues to explain her plan to us. “Cho-hee I want you to sneak around to the back of the house, and try and get in.” then she turns to me and says “Heeyoung, since you are the eldest here I want you to come with me, I will explain our part after your siblings have left” then she looks over to Ji-hoon and tells him what his part is, after that Amma continuous to elaborate on her plan making sure that not a detail is left out. Soon after much discussion Amma is finally done with explaining, and we all take off to do our parts, the plan is crazy, but it was better than nothing. I walk with Amma, both of us trying to walk as quietly as possible. However things go downward from here, when all of a sudden Amma and I hear the dreaded sound of a 

man’s voice. He is clearly Korean with his black hair and eyes, and he reminds me of many of the men that I had seen in our vicinity. However, he speaks with an odd accent, prolonging each word a bit. His eyes are narrowed in suspicion, and he has his hand hovering over the gun near his hip. I can tell that Amma has started to panic with her eyes as wide as saucers, her mouth starting to tremble. Luckily I was a quick thinker and crafted a story off the top of my head “oh sir, we’re so glad you found us! Oh thank the stars! We have been lost for days trying to find another person! Can you believe our luck” I try to paste a relieved smile on my face to match the act. I was hoping he would buy it, and it wasn’t a complete lie as it was true Amma and my job was to bring some distraction to the soldiers, we just hadn’t been expecting them to find us so fast. The soldier still seemed to be wary of us, but he lowered his gun and said “so you're just some lowly villagers huh.” Then he started to mutter under his breath saying “ they sure do look a lot like them…” I stiffen, but it is only momentarily, as I know who ‘them’ was. I shake by unease off, and start to ask the soldier “ So, would you be so kind as to guide us to the-” I never finished my sentence because the soldier apparently had not been as gullible as I thought he was, as he grabbed his gun and yelled “wait, you are them!” I mock a look of surprise as I say “what do you mean them? Who is this them?” The soldier’s gun is now level with my eyes, his hands are shaking, and his eyes are burning with hate. He doesn't reply but continues to yell on the top of his lungs yelling “ HELP! I'VE FOUND THE PRISONERS!” I myself start to panic, but I try to stay calm and huff in an annoyed tone “who are you calling a prisoner? For heaven's sake you'll wake baby!”  despite my effort the soldier ignored me, and I could hear the sound of more company. I muttered some unflattering comments about him, and looked at Amma, she understands my message, and together we run.

Running from the soldiers was not so fun. Amma and I ran cluelessly, as we ran through branches and tall grass, we grew tired quickly but the loud sound of stomping boots terrified us more. Luckily I had much practice with running, as it had been one of my favorite things to do when everything had been ‘normal’ however, that was not the case for Amma, and she lagged behind me wheezing out of breath. Despite this, neither of us dare to stop to catch our breath, and we both run until it seems as if our hearts will burst, and our heads are dizzy. Aera starts to stir under all of this commotion, and she starts to fidget within my grasp. Not daring to waste any precious time I shift my arms a bit tightening my grip on her and continue to run, as I do so, I start muttering under my breath saying “it’s a wonder she woke up just now..”Amma and I continue to run, until we spot a storage house for grain. Upon seeing this we both run toward it, and after reaching it we both bolt inside. The storage house smells musty and damp, as if no one had been here for a while, but none of that matters as all we needed was a hiding place. The storage house gave us just that with bags of grain scattering the area along with some large grain mills inside, making it the perfect place to hide. However, something does not agree with Aera, and she starts to whimper and whine twisting her body in my arms. Sighing I grasp Aera closer to my body and follow Amma to a hiding spot that she had discovered, it wasn’t  much, as it was 

just one of the many doors leading to another room filled with grain, but it was the best we could do at the moment. 

Soon enough, we hear the loud stomping sound of the soldiers boots. My breath begins to quicken and my heart begins to beat faster. I can feel the breath of Aera on my neck, and all I can do is pray that she will not cry. I glance over at Amma to find that she is as stiff and still as a stature. And I can tell that she is paralazyed with fear. We hear a loud bang and we both know that the soldiers have entered the storage house. My eyes widen, and so does Amma’s as we hear the sound of the boots coming closer and closer to us. My heart then starts to pound, and I can feel it beating from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. My breath quickens, but I try to breathe silently. It is hard work controlling my breathing, I do this so that I don’t give us away, and so that Aera does not get scared. So as a result they come out in quick little puffs of air from my nose. The boots get closer still, and I feel that I might faint of fear. At this point my heart is ready to leap out of my chest, and my eyes start to blur. Yet I clutch on to Aera, and try not to faint. Soon enough the boots are in the very same room as us, and I can tell that they are flipping the whole place over. I can hear the crashing of crates, and the thundering and almost deafening sound of their boots, and above all I can hear their voices and their harsh odd accents. It is Korean, the language I know so well, the language I used to speak my voice and tell my family I loved them. It was indeed the same language, yet they spoke their words with odd accents, and harsh words. And in that moment something deep within me burned with a ravaging rage, yet it was also the feeling of something breaking deep within my soul. I stifled a cry, and tried to control myself, for I knew if they ever found us they would do to us as they had done to Abba. This made me more furious, and I wanted nothing more than to jump out of the pile of grain and scream insults at them as I beat them up, but I knew I was only thinking this in my rage, but that did not really help me. So instead I thought of how terrified Amma was, and how fearful I felt as well. Thinking of this soothed my anger, but only for that time, and I continued to stay silent, shaking in fear, rage, sadness, and something else deep within me that I had never felt. My breath came quick and even and my heart continued to pound in my head with a thundering noise. But as soon as they came, they came, they left with their deafening boots, and all. None of us moved, and Amma and I stayed planted exactly where we were, even after we heard the loud bang of the storage house door shutting.

Two hours. Amma and I stayed where we were in the grain pile for two hours. Not talking, not moving, and almost not breathing. We all stayed there until our fear had subsided, and we were sure that there were no more soldiers near. Aera must have sensed our fear, because she stayed silent that whole time, not whining or crying. Yes, she too stayed silent breathing quietly and not even daring to move. However, such good behavior could only last so long, and after those two hours Aera began to get restless, and started to squirm in my arms letting a quiet whine out of her mouth. Hearing this, Amma and I snap out of our stupor of fear and look to Aera who was getting quite annoyed with the situation. Then Amma and I looked at each other, and started to realize that we had survived and not been found. Amma then started to breathe a little more naturally letting herself breathe through her nose and out her mouth. Hearing this I allow myself to breathe more normally as well, and we both look at each other with expressions of relief. We both then come out of the grain pile and let ourselves gasp in freedom. We then hugged each other like magnets colliding together, but of course we were careful as to not hurt Aera since she was squished in the middle of it all. I hug Amma as tight as I am allowed and we both sigh huge waves of relief out of our bodies. Amma holds me tight and murmurs a prayer of thanks to the gods. Aera is annoyed that she is squished and does not understand all of this commotion, so she starts to whine and pout. Upon hearing this, Amma and I pull apart, and let a little laugh escape from our lips. Then Amma takes Aera from my arms and scoops her into her’s. She then cradles her in her arms which surprises Aera, but it gives her surprising pleasure. She then starts to coo in her arms and snuggles into Amma’s arms. This makes us laugh again, and we start to fuss over the baby for some time. We do this because we want to, but above all it was to distract ourselves from something we did not want to face. However, Aera did not seem to care, and was taking much leisure from this attention, making Amma and I laugh quite a bit. But soon enough Amma and I had to stop, and face our greatest concern yet. Was Cho-hee, and Ji-hoon alive? If alive were they okay? These were questions that Amma and I could communicate through just a meer look. I swallow, and it seems as if a huge lump has blocked my throat, after a few tries I am able to verbalize my sentence saying “we should go look for them now.” I intended my voice to sound more sure, but it failed me, and instead my voice sounded very meek and quiet. Amma stiffened at this, as if it had been something she had been trying to avoid, but she then started to nod and unconsciously stroke Aera. I bite my lip and start to walk towards the exit, but I don’t hear Amma following. I turn my head around to find that Amma has not moved. Frowning, I look and Amma and ask “aren't you coming?” Amma swallows hard, and nods as she starts to walk towards me and door. I nod, and continue to walk to the door, until I reach it. Where I then start to open it. We are then hit with the soft light of the moon, and the brilliance of the stars. Spellbound by this, I let their light shine one me. Moreover, the world was dark, with only the moon and stars to provide any light. I stay like this for a while, but eventually I snap out of it, slightly shaking my head to and fro, in order to wake myself up from the view. Then I turn around to find that Amma seems to be as fascinated as I was. I smile seeing her like this, as it seems as if she was a small child fascinated by the world. I then look the Aera to find that she is fast asleep. Sighing I say “Amma lets go.” Amma’s head snaps up ever so slightly, and then nods. We then take off into the night in search of Cho-hee and Ji-hoon, walking towards the woods, where we said we would meet up again. Each step brings more fear into my heart, fear that my sibling might not be there. Nevertheless we trudge on towards the woods. Soon enough we were almost there, and my heart seemed to burst with anticipation. I bit my lip and prayed, I hoped they would be there. And sure enough, there stood Cho-hee squeezing her hands, and Ji-hoon who seemed to be pacing back and forth. I yelped with joy, which made Cho-hee and Ji-hoon turn their heads to see me. At that moment, none of us moved and none of us breathed. Then after what felt like an eternity, Ji-hoon broke the silence by asking “Amma, Heeyoung, is that you?” I stifle a cry as I reply “yes Ji-hoon it's us.” there is more silence before Ji-hoon replies, but when he does, he asks with a meek voice saying “ you sure? Is it really you?” I find myself nodding, until I realize that he can’t see me. So I then reply by saying “ yes Ji-hoon it's really us” Ji-hoon and Cho-hee both let out a cry of joy, as they run towards us, wrapping us in an embrace.  We all cry silently, letting tears of relief, fear, and joy stream down our cheeks. We stay like this for some time, not talking, not moving, just staying in the embrace and feeling grateful that we were all together again. Amma then starts to mummer intense and grateful prayers to the gods, praising them for bringing us together again. Cho-hee, Ji-hoon, and I just continue to listen to Amma’s prayers of thanks as we sniffle away the remainder of our tears. We then somehow manage to pull ourselves apart, and then Amma starts to fire questions at Ji-hon and Cho-hee, asking them if they were okay, or if they were hurt. Ji-hoon and Cho-hee manage to laugh through their tears, and tell Amma they were okay. Then after Amma was absolutely sure that they were fine, she started to ask them if they had gotten what they needed. The mood turned somber once again, as Cho-hee and Ji-hoon explained how the house had been profoundly guarded, with swarms of soldiers inside and out. They explained how they had just barely survived escaping from the house, with two angry soldiers at their heels. Amma noded, and in that moment Amma didn't seem to care that they did not retrieve the food that we needed so badly. Then Amma smiles, and looks down at Aera, who is still fast asleep in her arms. She then looks up to us, which seems to widen her smile a bit. Her eyes were soft and sympathetic, as she said “I’m sorry I had you all go through was a very unintelligent, and desperate decision that I made. I now realize what we could have lost today, what I could have done to us all.” She 

then sighs, as she looks up into the sky, Amma then continues talking saying “I’m glad you are all safe, and I don't care that we don't have food, I’m going to find a way to save us, that keeps you all safe. I promise.” Amma says this with so much determination in her voice that I have to believe her. I smile at Amma, as does Cho-hee and Ji-hoon. And we all look at each other knowing that when Amma promises something she means it. That was who Amma was, and she never broke her promises even if she wanted to. And with the determination that came with it really sealed the deal. It was the end of discussion. I then look at Amma and say “I know you will Amma. I know you will keep us all safe.” Amma then looks down from the star full sky, and smiles. Her smile is not one of joy, but rather a smile of knowing and understanding, but above all, it was a smile of determination. Amma then looks at us all and repeats her promise, and then says “let’s go home kids.” 

Home was not our huge mansion, but rather a beat up little area, with a small tent and a few pots and pans which were to and fro. When we all arrived, we all crashed into the tent and fell asleep almost immediately. Only Amma remained awake, saying that she needed to find a way to provide us food. I lost any feeling as I crashed into my makeshift bed on the floor falling asleep almost immediately. It was only after a good twelve hours of sleep until I woke up again. When I did, I found that I was the only one left in the tent, and it seemed as if everyone was already up. Moaning, I rolled over in my ‘bed’ making it so that I was then staring at the top of the tent. I start to blink rapidly trying to get the sleep out of my eyes, and when I do I sit up stretching my arms up into the air. Yawning from what feels like the depth of my soul. Then shaking my head, I get rid of the last after effects of my sleep, and then stand up and walk out of the tent. The moment I step out of the tent I get hit by a blinding light of sun, and its glare hits me hard. I squint at the sky and start to look around to find that everyone was indeed awake and it seemed that they had for quite a few hours. However, regardless of the wonderful weather, everyone seemed to be gloomy and somber. Confused, I walked towards them, and Ji-hoon turned his head around and then nodded to acknowledge me. I then look at Cho-hee who is holding a note in her hands, and shaking her head like she couldn’t believe it. The commotion is starting to scare me so I ask them “where is Amma?” Ji-hoon and Cho-hee don’t answer me and stay silent. I look at my siblings, first at Ji-hoon and then at Cho-hee. Still no answer. Then finally Cho-hee hands me the note wordlessly looking down at the ground as if she were guilty of this. I frown as I take the note from her and then look at Cho-hee and Ji-hoon who are both looking shamefully at the ground. Then I slowly shifted my eyes from them to the note, to find that the note had Amma’s handwriting on it. I then look up at Ji-hoon and Cho-hee with my eyebrows raised as I asked “what is this?” Ji-hoon swallows hard and then says “just read it.” I quirk my lip up to a side and then frown as I then look to read the note. I read the note in silence, and find that Amma has left to sell our house trinkets and jewelry in order to buy food for us. As I continue to read my breath comes quicker and shorter and my head starts to get lighter and lighter. When I am done reading the note I look up to my siblings with my eyes wide and my breath short. I look at them in disbelief and say “she left?!” Ji-hoon and Cho-hee nod and look mournfully at the ground. H- h-how could she just leave?!” I sputter. Cho-hee starts to tear up as she says “I don’t know, but she took Aera with her.” she then looks up and starts to moan saying “it's all my fault! If Ji-hoon and I had just managed to get some food then we wouldn't be in this mess-” Ji-hoon then cut her off as he started to groan saying “no, it's not your fault, it's mine! I could have grabbed some food, but I got too scared when I heard the boots of the soldiers!” I stare at my siblings in disbelief, were they seriously blaming themselves right now? I shake my head to break the moment, as I then say “it’s none of your faults! Are you really blaming yourselves right now! Get your act together!” Ji-hoon and Cho-hee both looked at me like mournful cows as they both shook their heads in dismay. I sigh in exasperation and say “look, Amma left us and now we only have each other. She will be back soon so don’t fret too much.” Ji-hoon and Cho-hee both look at me with what seemed like tears in their eyes and hopeful expressions as Cho-hee said “you really think so?” I then nod and smile at them and say “yes I am sure.” Ji-hoon and Cho-hee then sniffle and laugh and seem enormously relieved. I sigh through a smile and say “okay you two bring it in.” Cho-hee and Ji-hoon laugh at my imitation of Amma and scoot toward me. We then embrace and smile at each other. Then we pull away from one another and I manage to ask if there was any food left. Cho-hee nods her head towards a small bag. I smile and thank her and then get up to feed myself some food. 

I was gasping for air and barely receiving any. I then look back and sigh, I could only hope that my children were safe. I should have told them in person, but I didn't have the time. I sigh as I feel an enormous wave of guilt. Then looking down I see Aera sound asleep in my arms. The sight of her warms my heart, and I bend my head down to kiss her head. I then shifted the weight of my bag, and made sure I had a tight grip on it. This bag was filled with my old jewelry that I had once worn to countless occasions, and even just at home. It was a painful memory of my past life, and many of them had been gifts to me from my husband. They once had been able to bring me the joy of a thousand people, but now they were only a bitter and painful reminder of all I had lost. After the war had started, I had found no value in the jewels, and struggled to find what to do with them. However, they were now going to have the greatest value of all. It was going to feed my children. I was determined to find food to trade my jewels for, even if it took months. I had left enough food to last the children a month or so, if they rationed it. So I knew that they had enough food. Now I was just worried about their safety, there were plenty of stories on robberies before the war, but now the robberies would be even worse. I swallow as my heart fills with fear. I could not lose my children, I could never lose them. I then take a deep breath, and let a silent prayer escape my lips. I pray that my children will stay safe, have enough food, and that my trip for food will be successful. Then I continue my long and hard journey, and trek on. 

The sun was scorching down on us and we had done everything we could. We went into the tent, but that did us no good, we tried making a canopy, but that failed, and we even tried to hide in the shade of a tree, but we couldn’t find any. Finally we give up and all lie in the tent not knowing what to do. Usually Amma would have told us, but she was gone, for now anyway. So we all lay in the tent sweating buckets, and not knowing what to do. I sigh and wonder when night will fall, and even better, when Amma will return. I think for a while and end up daydreaming about our old house and the delicious desserts our chef would have made in such hot weather. I swallow, as my mouth starts to water. I then open my eyes and feel disappointment when I realize it's not real. Then I sigh and turn over on the ground, and start to hope that Amma will return soon.


Two days pass, and still there is no word from Amma. I am starting to worry, and start to wonder if Amma is okay. It is noon, and I am sitting on the ground waiting for Amma to return. However, my optimism is starting to slip away and I am starting to fear the worst, what if Amma was hurt, robbed, trapped, or, no, I did not dare finish my thought. I needed to believe that Amma was alright and that she would come back to us. I had to, if Amma really was gone then I was alone in this world with no one. Sure, I had Cho-hee and Ji-hoon, but they were younger than me, and barely able to fight with the cold truth of Abba’s death. It left me having to take care of them, to love them, to care, and to sacrifice for. But if Amma was gone too, then who would do all of that for me? Who would love me, and care for me? Who would hold me close during those stormy nights and keep me close, keep me safe. Who would help me up when I fell down and tell me stories of our ancestors, giving me hope and wonder. I was barely eleven, and I could not lose all of that already. I could not be alone. Amma was alive, she had to be alive, I could feel it in my bones. However, I couldn’t tell if that feeling was really my gut feeling or my despair of the situation. I swallow hard at the lump that has seemed to have formed in my throat, and squeeze my eyes hoping to shake these thoughts away, but it only makes it worse, my thoughts become clearer and I can almost see Amma and her smiling face, her open arms ready to receive me. The vision almost convinced me that everything was still normal and nothing had happened, that everything was okay. I wanted to stay there, to not lose the moment, to not forget it. But as I open my eyes I do not see our house, my room, or Amma’s smiling face. Instead I was introduced to my new cruel reality. There would be no more parties, no more luxury, or no more dependence. I was on my own. That was it. End of discussion. Period. As I opened my eyes to the ‘new’ world I was seeing I realized that I had never really realized that my world had changed, I had never realized the seriousness of the situation, I had never even considered dying. But in that moment I realized that we could, that a bomb could hit us, some robbers could rob us, we could starve to death and a million other possibilities. I swallowed hard as I decided that I needed to do one thing, I had to make sure that we survived. 

It had been two days since I left my children. Two days. I was starting to get paranoid, terrified of the horrible things that could have happened to them. I was so scared, so so so  scared that my children could be hurt, even the possibility of it all scared me half to death. I had never in my life been so scared for them, and for me. What would I do without them? What would I live for? I quickly wave these thoughts away and focus on the one child I did have at the moment. Aera. My sweet daughter who was snug in my arms was fast asleep. I had to focus on her, if I didn’t then that would leave my thoughts wandering away back to the children I had left back at the ‘camp.’ I could not have that happening especially when I was so close to the ‘market.’ I had to 

reach it. The sooner the better of course. So I continued to walk every step for my children, every ache for them, every stumble, fall, and hurt was for them. The gasping pain of hunger was for them and the parching thirst too. Everything, and anything that got me closer to saving them I would do, there was nothing I wouldn't do. I grit my teeth as I trudge on with the pangging pain, the parching thirst, and my aching body. I was going to do it. I was going to save them. And with that my body simmered with steely determination, nothing would break me, not when I was so close. I then look down to see Aera getting hit by the sunlight, I immediately use my arm to give her shade and coverage from it all, and smile when I see her mumbling in her sleep. 

I couldn't believe my eyes. The ‘market’ was practically empty. There were almost no people, except an occasional person walking by, or making a trade. I swallowed as my eyes scanned the sparse crowd of people. They all looked poor, wearing nothing more than rags for clothes and a mixture of blood and dirt streaked across their faces. I feel a sudden pang of fear, and try to find someone to trade with. Trying my luck I tighten my grip on Aera, take a deep breath and approach a young man who seems to look cleaner than the rest. Then I try to muster my politest tone and say “Excuse me sir, may I interest you in a trade?” The young man turns around and upon seeing me, he frowns. Then he shakes his head and says “what have you got?” My breath starts to shake, not daring to hope, and I immediately answer him by saying “oh well I've got beautiful jewels! Just absolutely exquisite! I promise you they are worth the trade.” the man’s eyes narrow and I can feel his eyes boring into mine. However, his curiosity must have gotten the best of him because he says “ let’s see it.” I’m giddy with suspense, and I carefully move my bag so that he can see the jewels it contained. Upon seeing this the man’s eyes widen and he stares at the glittering jewels for some time looking absolutely spellbond. Then after what seemed like a long time, the man is able to tear his eyes away from the jewels to look at me. He then manages to rasp out “ are...are these real?” I allow myself to smile at him and I nod saying “of course it is” The man swallows what seems like a big lump in his throat, as he darts his eyes around looking nervous. He seems torn on whether to ask my price or not. Finally, after a bit of dilly dally, he heaves a great sigh and says “okay, name your price.” I am stunned. He..he wanted to buy my jewels! I had to stifle a great yelp of joy, and my heart was soaring. My hands are shaking, my heart is beating, and my mind is racing as I try to think up of a reasonable amount of food to ask for. Then after a tense silence I say “ a sack of rice.” The man looks up from the ground looking confused and asks “what?” I repeat my price, but this time more sure of myself by saying “a sack of rice. If you want my jewels, I want to exchange them for a sack of rice. If you want to get the sack full of jewels then I want a sack full of rice.” The man looks oblivious as he exclaims “and what makes you think that I have that?! Woman, we are in the middle of a war!” I swallow, but I don’t let his tone scare me. “Then you don’t get the jewels.” I reply in a clipped tone. I can see that the man is trying to conceal his rage, with his fists balled up, and this face turning red. There is a tense silence for what seems like forever. And I am so determined to get the sack of rice that I don’t even realize that the small crowd of people who were here were staring at us. I stare at the man, determined to get the rice, and he stares back at me determined to get the jewels. Finally, the man gives up, and he mutters under his breath looking defeated saying “fine.” I raise an eyebrow as I ask “what did you say?” the man grits his teeth and he manages to spit out “FINE.” I don’t smile, but merely nod at his reply. Then I look at him and ask “so when will you give it to me.” The man glares at me, but I am not bothered by this, I only ask my question again in a calm and stealy tone asking “when will you give it to me?” The man sighs and says “tomorrow.”  I nod and say “ okay, I will hold onto the jewels until then. If the food does not come by tomorrow then the deal is off.” the man only nods and says “see you here again tomorrow.” I nod and with that we part. 

Heeyoung’s perspective

It had only been five days, but it seems like an eternity. It is starting to feel as if I am waiting in vain, as if Amma will never come back. The pain I feel is unbearable, but the thought of losing her hurts even more. I woke up everyday hoping to hear the soothing voice of my mother, but of course there was no such luck. Now it had been five days, and I was starting to lose hope in my mother. Cho-hee and Ji-hoon remained optimistic about the situation. While I nodded and managed to smile when they brought it up. However, the real problem was that we were running out of food. We had managed to ration the food for about a week or so, stubbornly thinking that Amma would be back by then. I should have known better, Amma would not be back in two days. If she had been gone for five what made us think that she would have been back in two? Now we had food worth two days rationed for another week, leaving all of us only able to take a small bite or two or rice. It was so unfair! How could Amma just leave us without even allowing us to say goodbye! At first when Amma left I felt sadness, but now I only felt a desperate anger. She had left us without even facing us, and she left me to take care of my siblings. We didn’t even know how long she would be gone! Instead of waiting for a certain day for Amma to return we only felt a suffocating anxiousness within ourselves. However, regardless of this I knew that my anger was all a cover up for my real emotions. For what I really felt inside myself, but to be fair I wasn’t sure that I even knew what I was feeling. It seemed to be a mix of pain and betrayal, sadness and desperation that Amma would come back. Finally it was the brokenness of my feelings that tied it all together. What did it mean? What was I feeling? The mixed feeling frustrated me to no end, as I was a very direct person who hated not knowing the answer. Moreover, not knowing what I was feeling was like breaking a porcelain plate over my head over and over again. It was killing me. I swallow, trying to calm myself down and then turn to see Cho-hee and Ji-hoon looking at me with a concerned look. I frown and ask “what is it?” Ji-hoon and Cho-hee both exchange nervous looks, and for a moment I think that they aren't going to tell me what the problem was when Ji-hoon says “you’ve been sitting on that ground for an hour.” he then mutters “ it was like you were in a trance.” I blink at him with an expression of pure blankness and then look and Cho-hee who shifts her weight from one leg to the other looking noticeably uncomfortable. I sigh and say “sorry, and say is that all? Do you need something else?” Ji-hoon and Cho-hee exchange looks at each other as if to debate whether to tell me or not, and then Cho-hee says “we’re hungry.” I nod and say “that’s natural, we haven’t had much to eat for about a month.” Cho-hee shakes her head and says “no, I mean Ji-hoon and I want to eat.” She then looks down at her toes and bites her lip. I looked at Ji-hoon and Cho-hee and from 

the looks of it, it seemed to be about right. However, I knew that we couldn’t afford to eat any more of the food. I sighed as I looked and Cho-hee and said “ Cho-hee we can’t afford it. We have to save that food for later.” Cho-hee swallows as if she had expected this and starts to cry. I am stunned. Cho-hee starts to wail and cry, her cries are true and genuine and are out of pure agony of hunger. Soon enough, Ji-hoon joins her and tears trickle down his face. I watched the both of them cry and cry out of their hunger and the sight almost tore me apart. I knew I shouldn't but then again they were SO hungry….but no, I couldn't. I had to stay strong, I could not succumb to them because of this. So instead I scooted toward them and gathered them in an embrace and cried with them.  


Another five days pass, and we have not eaten so much as a crumb of bread for about two days. The hunger is unbearable. A searing pain that seems to always be by my side. I always feel so faint and so light. It feels as if my consciousness is tied to a balloon, bound to fly up into the air at some point. I had never felt so weak, so helpless. And all I could think about was Amma Amma Amma…...  

Amma’s perspective 

I felt so light, so happy, regardless of the hunger and the thirst I felt. I hadn’t eaten almost anything in a week and five days, but in the end it was worth it. I had the rice. I had food to feed my children and that was all that mattered. Now all I had to do was get to them and feed them the food, I was so excited to meet them, and I hoped they would feel the same way.

Heeyoung’s perspective

I thought I heard a voice. I couldn't be sure but I thought I heard the dainty footsteps of my mother. I thought I heard a loud thunk, and then a yelling. I thought I felt the hands of my mother, I thought I felt her tears wet my face, but I was oblivious. I couldn’t be sure about anything, maybe I was hallucinating, it made sense since I felt such yearning for my Amma. But then I heard the cry of a baby, could that be Aera? Could that be her after so many days? After everything? Was it really them? I couldn’t be sure, I couldn’t be sure about anything. 

Amma’s perspective

My children looked dead. When I returned with such joy in my heart I saw Heeyoung lay on the ground with what looked like no life in her. I almost didn’t recognize my daughter. Her hair was matted with sweat and grease, her clothes  tattered and threadbare, and her body, oh that was the worst of all, her skin stuck to her bones with bug bites all over her skin. Her eyes seemed to be sunken in her face, and her mouth fell open as if she had breathed her last. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t speak, but I ran, I ran toward my death like daughter and scooped her in my grasp, and before I knew it I started to cry. I cried and I cried, was I too late? Were they gone, were they going? Were they leaving me? It was my fault, I should have been faster, I should have come back sooner. I should have demanded that man give me the rice that instant. I should have….I should have…My mind swam with regret, and I was overwhelmed with grief. There were so many things I would have done over again, too many to count. But all at once, I lost everything. I hold Heeyoung, my oldest daughter in my arms and weep.

A week had passed, and my heart was heavy. After I gathered myself together, I had carried Heeyoung, she had been so light that it broke my heart, and I had to restrain myself from breaking down again. Ji-hoon and Cho-hee were in a better condition then her and had only taken a few days to recover. They were still weak, but they could talk and walk to some extent. Heeyoung however, was still unconscious, but her heart was still beating. This gave me hope but it saddened me as well. I held her hand and prayed, I prayed that she would wake up, and that the Gods would not punish her for my foolishness. I prayed and I prayed, and hoped and hoped that she would wake up. 

It had been two weeks since I found Heeyoung on the ground. I had given up almost all hope, but one day while I was trying to feed her, she groaned. I was so startled that I almost dropped her bowl of food. I then put aside her food and started to shake her. Again she moaned. I almost cried with joy, she was awake! I continued to do this until Heeyong started to frown and then squinted her eyes open. I was ecstatic. She was awake! I called Cho-hee and Ji-hoon and told them to come immediately. When they came Heeyoung started to dart her eyes back and forth looking absolutely confused. I cried tears of pure joy, and hugged Heeyoung into the biggest hug I had ever given. Startled, Heeyoung pulled herself back and looked at me. Upon seeing me she freezes, and looks at me up and down and then says “Amma?” in the meekest voice I had ever heard. However, it was also the sweetest voice I had ever heard as I cried “ Yes Heeyong it's me! I’m here! I’m sorry for everything!” Heeyoung just looks at me and starts to tear up herself as she asks “ You came back?” I nod, and Heeyoung shakes her head in what seems like disbelief. And then swallows and repeats “you came back.” Once again I nod, as Heeyoung breaks into a smile and cries “ you came back!” and with that she tackles me into a hug. We laugh and laugh with Cho-hee and Ji-hoon laughing with us. I pulled Cho-hee and Ji-hoon into the hug with Heeyoung, and we all smiled and laughed and cried. We were together, and that was all that mattered, we were together, and that was all we needed. Though it may be tough we would survive, we would survive the war. 

Heeyong’s perspective

It had been years since the war, and now Amma, Cho-hee, Ji-hoon, Aera, and I had all relocated to a different place. It was a place that we could call home. It wasn’t as beautiful and luxurious as our old house, but it would do. Now we all stood in front of a small old building that Amma had managed to buy though the little money we still had left. This was where we would start our new life. I look to Amma who seems to be observing the house from all angles and testing the house with knocks. When she catches me staring she looks to me, along with the rest of my siblings with a sheepish smile and says “Well, what do you think?” I shift my eyes back to the small old house. It had a small leak, and a loose doorknob, it looked shabby and not at all like our old house. I then smile and say “It's perfect.” Amma smiles looking enormously relieved. And then looking at all of us with excitement in her eyes she asks, “Yeah?” I look at my siblings as we all smile, and Cho-hee says “Yeah.” Amma grins and looks at Aera who is toddling around the place, she then waddles up toward the building, looks at it for some time and hugs the building cooing “Home.” She then toddles to Amma and lifts her arms up towards her, indicating that she wanted to be lifted. Amma smiles and lifts Aera. She then looks at me and asks “You want to do the honors?” I look at Amma and ask “Me?” She nods and so does Ji-hoon and Cho-hee, while little Aera copies everyone else nodding her head up and down very vigorously. I laugh as I say “if you say so” I then turn my attention to the building and smile, taking a step towards the house I get ready to open the door. Then turning my head to my family I ask “Ready?” Everyone nods with smiles on their faces. I smile feeling grateful for my family, and then turn to face the door. I take a deep breath and then grab the loose door knob, I hold my breath as I turn the doorknob, and as I opened the creaking door I knew it was just right, and I knew right away that it was what we would call “home.” 

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This book has 1 comment.

Nephea said...
on Dec. 22 2021 at 4:48 pm
Nephea, Ithaca, New York
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
I'm not crying, I'm just chopping onions right under my eyes ㅠ~ㅠ