When she opened her eyes, she saw a high blue-gray ceiling, walls of the same color, and a double curtain made of lace, cutting sunlight into pieces by its intricate patterns. Yesterday and the previous days, the landscape has never changed in as many as two years.
In the midst of it, Hae-gang got up.
The surroundings were too quiet. Except for the quiver that followed her movements, there was no ticking of the second hand of the clock or the creak of the bed.
Hae-gang lifted her head slightly and looked up. It was just an artificially created blue-gray sky with no clouds in sight.
The chandelier above her head hung stably without any shaking, and she couldn’t feel so sorry for that fact.
In fact, she wished it fell on her while she was sleeping so she could die.
She lowered her head and saw a horrifying sight. There were red traces all over her upper body from the neck to the collarbone. She couldn’t even laugh.
How long do I have to live like this?
It was a question that she had been asking herself about a thousand more times, without exaggeration. But Hae-gang still didn’t get the answer. The person she had talked to had kept his mouth shut about the subject, and even though she wanted to find out the answer, she couldn’t.
She lowered her legs under the bed and put her feet in thin slippers. Her skinny body staggered before she could stand up completely.
Just before her knees collapsed, she leaned to the wall and stood still, waiting for the dizziness to go away. Her eyes went black, and it took her quite a while before she came back.
She strengthened her body so as not to stumble twice and opened the sliding door of the bathroom. The light automatically turned on, and Hae-gang, standing in front of the mirror, burst out laughing.
This was the best curse that Hae-gang, who was born into a wealthy family and has been constantly educated in language and behavior, could do.
If there was a word that could express her disgust at once, no matter how vulgar it was, she would put it in her mouth.
To her dismay, there was no such curse in the world. Perhaps it is not enough to add any slang and insulting words.
The slip she was wearing fell on the bathroom floor. She wrinkled her forehead at the slight noise.
They were in the middle of the winter; the cold water filled the basin, but she couldn’t move.
“You have to stop.”
There was no end to this despair. Hae-gang gave up thinking because she knew that it would only burn her mind if she thought any longer.
When she turned the lever, hot water poured out from the faucet. If she’d submerged herself in hot water for a while, perhaps her body would melt. Perhaps ‘He’ would never tolerate it.
When she came out of the shower, her portion of the meal was prepared on the table, and the chef and two guards were guarding it.
Hae-gang, who haphazardly threw the towel on the floor, pulled back her dripping hair and picked up a plastic fork. The steak, placed on a matte melamine plate, was already cut into bite-sized pieces.
“People might think that the person who lives here is a kindergarten student,” she muttered sarcastically.
There were three people monitoring her, but none of them answered. The reason was obvious.
It must have been written in the contract they had signed before being hired. Provisions such as refraining from talking to her unless under special situations and prohibited from touching her body unless necessary.
Other than that, one thing was certain. Everything they saw and heard was to be kept secret.
In the end, to break the silence, she had to talk to herself.
“Oh, isn’t it living? That expression is a bit ambiguous.”
The chef didn’t look too pleased when she stopped eating after five pieces. Her health and safety were of paramount importance to them. If the day comes when she gets malnourished, he will lose his job.
In the end, he took a step closer to the table and asked lest he lose his position, “How about some more, madam?”
“If you want me to eat more, mind me. I heard that plates are an important element of plating, but what is this?”
Hae-gang’s fingers moved roundly along the edge of the melamine plate. Chasing the sunlight scattered on the floor and looking at the sky outside her window, she murmured to herself.
“I like the heavy and classy one. It’s even better if it’s easy to break.”
She left the table as if she couldn’t bear to feed herself anymore.
With her condition, she wouldn’t last a week.
* * *
The vast sky beyond the window quickly darkened, and with the sound of the door opening, ‘He’ entered.
Hae-gang, who was sitting on the sofa with her knees folded, didn’t even look at him. She merely stared blankly at the TV like a doll.
She could hear the characters on TV, laughing and talking to each other about what was so fun, but she didn’t even feel like laughing together with them. ‘He’, who had been waiting for Hae-gang’s attention, gave up on receiving her greeting and walked inside.
“How are you feeling today? I want you to be better than yesterday.”
What an outrageous remark, Hae-gang thought.
She burst into laughter. Her distorted eyebrows and slightly opened mouth finally created a look on her passive face.
‘He’, who took off his coat and threw it anywhere he could, approached the sofa. Hae-gang didn’t even budge.
‘He’ did not have to be disappointed as he was very familiar with this reaction. Instead, he sat next to her and brushed her pale cheeks.
His hand was always cold. With winter added to it, the temperature had dropped to a level that could be described as cold as ice. Hae-gang wrinkled her eyebrows only for a split second, even though she should shudder at his cold touch.
His hand then fell from her cheek and traced the reddish marks left around her neck and collarbone.
The corner of his lips softened slightly. Because Hae-gang’s skin was exceptionally soft, traces lingered for a long time on her skin.
‘He’, who was looking at the marks he left last night with satisfaction, lowered the shoulder strap of the thin slip and buried his lips on her skin.
Hae-gang bit her lower lip.
Today was her defeat.
‘He’ was perfectly aware of how Hae-gang reacted.
“Don’t do it.”
Hae-gang, who expressed her refusal by waving her arms, stood from the sofa where he was sitting stubbornly. On her shoulder, there was a new, darker trace than the ones ‘He’ left last night.
“Come here, Seo Hae-gang.”
How could her name sound so terrible coming from his mouth? She never imagined this day would come.
After the accident that happened to her two years ago, ‘He’ showed an unusual obsession.