When she felt happy, misfortunes came. That was the unchangeable law of Min Jae-hee’s life.
When she was 14 years old and happiest, both of her parents died in a car accident. At the end of the year, only her four-year-old brother and herself remained in the world. Her aunt took in the two orphaned children, but that was all. Their aunt always said that their parents had a small business and they had a debt left behind.
Jae-hee was standing there holding her brother, desperately wanting to see her mother instead her aunt shouted hysterically at her, “You should grow up and give it back to me.”
And when she was 18, the fall she didn’t want to remember. Jaehee dropped out of school.
As her aunt told her, she began to pay off her debts. To be exact, the debt of her uncle who borrowed money from several places and disappeared. It worked out somehow as her aunt said.
A succession of misfortunes.
Jaehee believed that. Otherwise, her parents wouldn’t have left her all at once.
At 18, she left school in the extremely sunny autumn and plunged herself into the depths of misery. ‘I may have been happy for a little while.’
“Jaehee! You have a call!”
Jae-hee who was washing and removing salted cabbage with water finally stretched out at the sound. The place where she worked was a small kimchi factory. There was no automatic machine there, so people have to make kimchi by hand all day long. The auto parts factory where she worked last time was closed for a while because of bad economic conditions.
“Oh, work is hard, isn’t it?”
“It’s all right.”
Jae-hee took off her mask and went into the office saying it was okay to Mrs. Choi who was wearing a sanitary suit and a mask. It was already the fourth month since she started working. They were short-staffed and didn’t want to tell her how hard the job was. People who took jobs there would come out for about a week at the longest, and they would demand that their daily allowance be sent to them by phone. Everyone had expected the same from her, but surprisingly, she had grit.
It was a busy time because of the large volume of orders. Even for a short break, the working team leader was wary of swearing loudly.
“Come to think of it, I have never seen that kid smiling all the way.”
Mrs. Choi treated Jaehee like a daughter and she cared for her in many ways. She erased her thoughts about Jaehee when she heard the voice of the working team leader cursing under her breath.
The boss was sitting in front of the desk with a warm stove on. He was absorbed in the cell phone game. He sent her a quick wink of pressure to answer the phone and quickly go back to where she was working.
-” Oh, I’m in trouble!”
It was ahjussi. She had asked ahjussi several times to contact her if he saw her younger brother. She couldn’t answer the phone while she was working, so she asked ahjussi to call her at the company number. She was desperate because she had to find her younger brother quickly.
“Ahjussi, what’s going on?”
Jae-hee thought it was scary even though she asked like that. He was a talkative, meddlesome person, but not malicious. If such a person makes such a pitiful and out-of-breath voice, it was definitely bad.
“Did something happen to Jaewon?”
-“Ah, he’s the one who caused an accident! Go to the hospital now.”
Jae-hee closed her eyes tightly. This year, Jae-won turned 18 years old. In the spring, he will go up in the second grade of high school. Min Jae-won was at the same age as she was when she left school but he was out of control. He left home three weeks ago and didn’t even contact her. Fortunately, it was vacation, but if it was like this even after the semester began, it would be dark. That’s why I asked the ahjussi to contact me if he saw Jae-won.
“Was he hurt?”
-“The problem is not whether he’s hurt right now! He crashed into a parked Mercedes on a motorcycle! Do you know how much a Mercedes costs? It’s worth 300 million won. 300 million won! The Mercedes-Benz owner took Jaewon to the hospital. Hurry up and go! Hurry!”
“Jaewon wasn’t hurt, was he?”
“-It’s not the time to worry about him!”
The man who usually enjoys reading car magazines knew all kinds of cars. If even ahjussi said not to worry, Jae-won may not be in such a bad condition.
“Yes, I’ll be right there.”
At Jae-hee’s words, the boss raised his face while playing the game. And as soon as Jae-hee hung up the phone, he asked where she was going. She said that her younger brother was taken to the hospital. The boss was upset to hear that she as his guardian had to go quickly, but she promised to come out early in the morning only then she was allowed to go.
She went to the dressing room, changed her clothes, and clasped her cell phone with a bunch of missed calls in her hand.
And after hesitating, she got a taxi soon. Jae-hee was the only family member of her younger brother even if he caused a lot of trouble. A brother who lost his parents at the age of four. The child was more like her own child than her younger brother. When Jae-hee heard that Jae-won was injured, Jae-hee thought about the unforgettable accident and kept her mouth shut.
She was afraid a scream would burst through any gap that opened up in her mouth.
The hand holding the cell phone snapped under the taxi seat. Her wrist was numb from her elbow. This was a symptom that appeared after she began working at a kimchi factory. Jae-hee rubbed her arm with her other hand, her thumb twitching and her strength failing to penetrate.