Yoo-hwa couldn’t shake the memory of Seol Do-hyeok’s cruel laughter as he spoke to her. “Seol-A Financial did not intervene in that operation. Just finish it yourself. If you solve it, will you clean it up? Is this your chance?”
His words rang in her ears, and she couldn’t help but feel her fists shaking with anger. But as much as she wanted to lash out, she knew that he was right. The price of freedom was often confinement, and the idea of being isolated for a brief period in exchange for her freedom was a price she was willing to pay.
She tightened her grip on the straight glass, her knuckles turning white. She had to be careful, as the solid glass could easily shatter if she wasn’t careful. She took a deep breath, trying to calm her frayed nerves as memories of her past flooded back to her.
She had been abandoned in front of the orphanage on a cold winter day, barely a year old. She had been bundled in clothes with a note tucked inside, reading: “Named Seol Yoo-hwa , born on 3rd February. Please take care of her for a moment. I’ll be back.” She had spent her entire life waiting for that moment, waiting for the person who had left her there to return. But they never did.
Yoo-hwa couldn’t help but wonder how much time had passed in that “moment” that her birth parent had left her for. No matter how much she thought about it, she couldn’t wrap her head around it. It had to have been a very long time, and yet they never returned.
But Yoo-hwa didn’t allow herself to dwell on it. She had grown up well and was doing well, despite the lack of a family to call her own. She had always been a quiet and rational child, quick to make calculations and quick to give up when things seemed insurmountable. She was precise in her understanding of what she could and couldn’t do, and she had a good sense of what she should and shouldn’t do.
Maybe it was an innate personality trait, or perhaps it was a survival instinct that had developed over time. Either way, Yoo-hwa seemed to understand her own limitations and never pushed herself beyond them.
It was during her early years of elementary school that Yoo-hwa became aware of the opportunity that had been presented to her. She was helping a group of volunteering aunties wash the duvets when one of them mentioned a gifted child who had recently been adopted by a wealthy family.
“Last week, the adopted boy had a Wechsler Test, and he came out as a gifted child. His IQ is 146… They say that such children are worth investing in, so they take them from families with some money..”
“It’s a bit harsh to say that the boy is worth investing in,” Yoo-hwa protested, but the old woman was insistent.
“Well, it’s true. Anyway, the world these days is all about being smart, and you have to be ready to seize opportunities when they present themselves. You understand, Yoo-hwa ?”
“Yes,” Yoo-hwa replied, even though she couldn’t shake the feeling that something about this conversation didn’t sit right with her. The “opportunity” they were talking about seemed to be a chance to break free from her predetermined limitations, and Yoo-hwa couldn’t help but be drawn to the idea.
From that day on, she threw herself into various contests and worked hard to win prizes. Fortunately, she had a good brain, and with a little effort, she was able to produce the desired results. By the time she entered middle school, she had established herself as one of the top students in the entire school.
The opportunity that Yoo-hwa had been waiting for arrived in the winter of her second year of middle school. A wealthy couple, who ran a securities company and a savings bank, expressed their intention to adopt her as a younger sister for their twenty-year-old son.
The middle-aged man who would become her new father, Seol In-seop, happened to have the same last name as her, and Yoo-hwa couldn’t help but feel that it was fate bringing them together.
The house she entered was a mansion, and everything was more luxurious than she could have ever imagined. Her room was on the second floor, and she loved everything about it, but the thing she loved the most was the warm mat on her bed. She had never felt anything like it before, and she couldn’t help but cry tears of joy as she lay under the blankets, feeling the warmth wash over her.
But just a little over two months after she was adopted, something happened that would change everything. It was the night when Yoo-hwa was awoken by a loud clanking noise, and she couldn’t help but investigate. As she walked out into the hallway on the second floor, she noticed that Seol Do-hyeok’s door was wide open, which was unusual.