Till Death do us part
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Sohla Kim has everything you could want in life. Born rich and smart, to a family that has status, money, and power, while dominating the investment world. A pre-set betrothment to her childhood best friend, Jyeon Park. The handsome, equally wealthy, and smart, future heir of OLO, their joint family company. An unbreakable bond between two families, a future that looks bright and rosy. Only the perfect picture is only that, and ten years on, alone, holding her head above water, in a loveless marriage laced with tragedy, her entire world is turned upside down. Everything she thought she had and knew comes crashing down one fateful night. New waters, new faces, and a denial of the past will bring her back full circle to really question everything she was born for. Was it always about money? Was she always a tool to elevate Jyeon to higher levels? Did none of them really love her?
“Jyeon, take her hand.” Jyeon’s mother picks up his hand by the wrist and forces it into mine, stopping me from venturing into the open doorway of the ballroom where she’s standing guard for our arrival. I squirm, hating that we are always forced to interact this way, pushed together, and made to act like young sweethearts. My face flushes with heat and I chew on my inner lip.
“Yes, mother.” Jyeon does as he’s told, his blank tone and non-reaction, sliding my tiny hand into his and holds it loosely. His obvious coldness in his manner, like always, since we got into our young teen years, and my heart sinks. His skin contact and warmth don’t remove the chill from the air between us and I look away from him, gazing at my feet in downhearted depression. I cannot remember the last time he looked upon me affectionately or gave me any kind of kindness even though I’ve known him since I was born.
“Sohla, lift your chin, smile. You two look beautiful together, as always.” She chirps at us, tweaking his bow tie and smoothing his lapels before turning to me and fixing a strand of my hair.
“Yes, mother.” I do as I’m told, lifting my face up to meet Jyeon’s mother’s eyes on mine. Calling her the title she prefers, given one day I will be her daughter in law. I try to correct my posture and stand tall because I know she hates my slouching. She’s stern as a mother figure and doesn’t tolerate slackness.
“Where’s your brother, Jyeon?” She turns back to him, irritation in her tone evident and then glances over us at the hallway that’s filling with guests arriving.
“Following. He’ll be here shortly.” Jyeon doesn’t move, just awaits her approval before we get set free to join the others inside.
“That boy. You need to get him in hand. You’re older and should be showing him how to behave.”
“Yes, mother.” Jyeon answers robotically, knowing fine well his brother is not a handful at all and his lateness will definitely not be his fault. He’s a sweet and caring boy who looks after me continuously, even though he’s a year younger. I miss him right now, standing here with this awkward tension.
“Okay, go inside. Remember to keep Sohla on your arm. All eyes are on our future heirs. Enjoy your birthday.” She leans in and air kisses him and then finally let’s us move past her. My body sagging slightly with relief, and I catch Jyeon giving me side eye.
“I hate that dress.”
It’s all he says to me. Looking down at the overly childish, sequin dress his mother bought for me and although I agree, it wounds me to the core. My heart aches and I swallow a knot that forms in my throat, nodding his way without showing him that his words always hurt me. He leads me into the crowded room with reluctance and our appearance causes minor reaction from the guests.
Some rush forward to say hello, some smile and raise glasses, but the whole affair is completely fake. I grin and bear it and play the part of young rich daughter of the Kim family, knowing my place well.
“The big sixteen…. Your parents are really going all out for this one.” Bryant, Jyeon’s best friend slides between us from behind, shoving me aside while unlatching our hands. “Don’t worry, I’ll save you both from forced romantics. Your parents really like to shove it in everyone’s faces that the Parks and the Kims will be continuing their joint supremacy by marrying off their kids to keep their corporation undented.”
“Please tell me there’s an escape route.” Jyeon relaxes his stiff posture, loosening up his naturally wide shoulders and quickly darts a glance around for his father or other watchful eyes. I find myself drawn to watching his mannerisms, that over the past year or so have changed from awkward child into more of a bro type of demeanour. He’s grown taller, filled out and his naturally handsome dark looks have lost their puppy fat. Next to a smaller and fairer Bryant, Jyeon is mysterious and suave and is starting to look a lot like his father.
“Bide your time. Hang out here for an hour or so until the old folks get drunk and push off to their VIP lounge upstairs, and then we young uns can get a party started.” Bryant winks, moving to stand in front of us and turns to face us. Eyeing me up and frowning with instant dislike.
“Sohlly bolly …. What are you wearing? You look like a ten year old in that.” He disapproves as much as Jyeon does and I glare back.
“I didn’t pick it….. Jyeon’s mom did and I’m thirteen, not ten.” I stick my tongue out at him and slap him on the shoulder. Sassy initiated from deep inside when away from the watchful eye of the seniors and Bryant leans in and pinches my cheek. Grinning at me before rubbing my head and messing my hair. He’s always been like an older sibling that loves to rile me at every opportunity.
“Oooh, attitude, missy. And here I thought all these lady lessons you were getting had culled the tomboy spirit and turned out something tolerable.” Bryant tries to poke me in the face, and I slap his hand away with instinctive impulses.
“Stop it.” Jyeon elbows me and nods towards the far right of the room where my own parents have turned this way. My eyes following his gaze and I catch my father’s cold and intense stare. That I’m behaving in a manner he doesn’t approve of.
“Yeah, Sohlly. Your dad will send you away to reform school if you don’t behave. Listen to your husband.” He jests at me and then sticks his hands in his pockets and looks at his feet when Jyeon glares coldly, right at him. Visually shutting him down and making it clear he doesn’t find that term amusing.
Jyeon hates this whole arrangement, although he’s never verbally said it to me, or around me. Ever since we were told, when I turned eleven, that our future had already been mapped out and we would be officially engaged when I turn seventeen, he’s turned aloof and cold towards me. What used to be a warm and sometimes fun sibling relationship turned sour and he avoids me now when not forced into close proximity.
I can feel his efforts to keep us apart. The lack of emotion when he’s close and the rebellious aura when he’s made to take my hand. He’s obedient to a fault though and would never refuse what’s expected of us. Our family decided when we were born that they would put us together for the sake of our company, to keep the shares and money as one, even when our parents are no longer here. Jeon will obey.
“Where’s Yoonie, anyhow? Isn’t he late to your formal soiree?” Bryant changes the subject fast and looks around for him, taking the icy hint. “It’s not like him to be
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