Over fifteen years of being trapped, Jung Mi-sook thought that the rest of her waking days would only be filled with endless horror and no salvation but fifteen years later she was brought back to the light. There was the littlest crack in time and through that crevice, she saw the faint light of hope. Her heart was cold and wary, every hand that reached out to her bore teet has if it would devour her whole, everything that would dare to go near her distorted in her mind, all blood and flesh and all darkness and it haunted her to the bone.
But then Do Hyun-soo came to her life.
As she was shivering, cold, and suffocating in the cage as she was stuck in a pit of trepidation, she held onto the rusting bars of the cage as if a poor and abused animal. She felt vulnerable as if she had just been skinned alive and every inch of her existence could be seen. The way Hyun-soo looked at her wasn’t any different — he looked at her as if he knew her and oh, his eyes — it terrified her.
Everything that existed before her eyes terrified her and there was nothing she could trust.
“You are the only person who can open this lock.” he looked at her thoroughly, “No one else can.”
And it terrified her, something only she could do? In all fifteen years of life, everything that had happened was done for her — to walk, to sleep, to eat — everything felt almost surreal with how each second passed, the way her organs breathed for her, the way the spoon was shoved into her mouth as food made its way down her throat, her tongue wouldn’t even budge and lay flat.
“You’re safe. I promise you that.”
But, then, at those words he said, there was the slightest warmth she saw and, through that tiny crevice, she thought she imagined finally grew warmer. She blinked once, then twice and her body began to quiver. Her heart wanted to leap out of her chest as she swallowed hard, “Are you saying… you’re going to help me?”
And, slowly, he nodded.
But her heart wouldn’t just run off — it had cages around it, the way her chest felt stiff and her lungs felt suffocated — her throat shivered as she gritted her teeth, eyes filled with venomous mistrust, “You’re lying. I don’t believe you.” give me something more to believe in.
And yet he was silent as if he trusted his own words enough not to desperately try to waver her perspective.
Mi-sook noticed it. “Why? Why are you helping me?” To her, it felt as if she was looking through a mirror.
“Probably because… I’m in a similar situation… as you.”
Those words had boggled her mind — there was nothing more insane than what he had just uttered her brows furrowed and her head felt hot with rage and disbelief. The same? “How are we in a similar situation?”
“You probably don’t get why this had to happen to you. And I feel the same way.”
The way his words echoed and seeped through the cages of her heart made her quiver and melt — her body began to warm up as she felt her face hot with the urge to cry. As she slowly inched her body close to the key, she looked at him — and he looked at her with the same expression, trust. She didn’t need pity, she didn’t need the eyes of a man who would notice her, he just needed the eyes of someone who could trust and help her. As soon as the little metal was on her palm, she gripped it tightly and crawled quickly back to the safe corner.
She looked up at him and, suddenly, the light that simply peeked through a crack grew brighter and brighter.
The bells chimed and the door was pushed open. A baritone voice echoed through the shop, “Welcome, feel free to look around.” The chair was pushed back, the metal scraping against the wooden flooring and the man set his tools down on his work table and turned to look at the customer. His expressions softened at the familiar face. “Have a seat, I’ll go prepare some tea.”
Jung Mi-sook never would have thought that after nine months, she’d find herself back into the life of someone too deeply intertwined with her traumatic past. But there was something in her heart that she couldn’t deny — the endless and eternal appreciation, gratitude, and relief that swelled all for her savior. She bowed meekly as she took a seat, looking at the lovely and quaint workshop and seeing the gold and silver trinkets gleaming under the light.
“It’s my first time to see you since that day — you have a really good eye for art.” Mi-sook began as she marveled at the lovely jewelry and little figurines.
Hyun-soo only chuckled as he placed the teapot and two cups on the tray, walking up to the table and placing one up in front of Mi-sook then poured tea. “I hope chamomile is fine, I haven’t bought any new tea leaves.” Hyun-soo smiled warmly then took his own seat. “How have you been?”
Mi-sook bowed her head, taking a sip of the tea and drawing a long sigh of relief and relaxation, “Thank you for the tea, it’s lovely and just the right temperature.” She smiled then set the cup down, her hand wrapped around the ceramic cup, feeling the warmth by her palms — it was a familiar warmth that dawned upon her. “I’ve started working again around a few months ago, at this tea shop actually and—” She shuffled around her bag, chuckling to herself, “I never would have thought it could be useful — it’s a few boxes of tea leaves from our shop.” She slid the box to his side and Hyun-soo nodded.
“Just at the right time.” And he laughed, thanking her for the box of a variety of tea leaves, “I’ll definitely go and visit your shop with my wife when she gets a day off.”
Mi-sook beamed a smile, “that would be lovely, I’d be thrilled to serve you and your wife.” And she drew a long sigh, a comforting silence followed after — the more she looked at Hyun-soo, the more she felt her heart sink into a comfortable ocean, “I heard that you lost your memories — how has it been?”
Hyun-soo only sighed, his lips pressed in a thin line then drew a small smile afterward, “I still have gaps in my memories, but mostly the time with my wife — everything that happened with the case… all those struggles, they’ve flashed before my eyes one by one through the months, it’s a little overwhelming at first, but my wife helped me through it — I feel bad I remember most of the horrible stuff more than the moments I spent with my wife.”
She only gave him a somber look and a melancholic smile, ‘But, it seems to me, you’re still quite happy now that you’re making more and more happy memories with your family now, hm?”
Hyun-soo nodded, “Ah… I… I wanted to thank you — I know my gratitude is overdue, but, I heard from my wife how desperate you were to call for help while I was in a manic episode.” Hyun-soo drew a sharp breath, his hands clasped hard, “Thank you, thank you for calling her and even vouching for me if it ever came for the worst and I had killed someone.”
Mi-sook only smiled as she shook her head, “You were the little light that cracked through my miserable life and you grew warmer and brighter — I couldn’t let something else cage you the way it caged me.” Mi-sook felt her emotions clogging up her throat and her face began to warm as tears slowly welled up by her eyes until it couldn’t be contained and it streamed down her cheeks, “In such a horrible, horrible sequence of events — I had given up for such salvation — but I wouldn’t want to be saved at the cost of ruining someone… that much, I understand and cannot take advantage of.”
Hyun-soo swallowed hard, drawing a shaky breath as he felt his own heart quivering as he watched Mi-sook drown in her sentiments, “I admire you, Jung Mi-sook-ssi, despite fifteen years, yu still found it in you to think of others — I don’t think anyone else could have made such a decision.” he remembered the way the world grew dark, the way his heart hardened and the way every sound felt like a blur.
“I know… I know — the way your tone changed, the way your voice cracked… I couldn’t bear to see it, you worked so hard to live a normal life and you made a family you loved and a family who love you back, to see yourself finally crawling back to the justice you deserve only for that happiness to be taken away — I felt my heart break into the tiniest pieces just hearing that your wife died, I begged any god out there to tell you that it isn’t true and I couldn’t do anything but desperately beg for you to stop.” Her words slurred the more she talked as she cried heavily, her hands shaking as she brought the cup of warm tea to her lips, breathing in its relaxing scent and she drew a small smile while taking a sip.
She looked back at Hyun-soo whose face paled and eyes reddened ever so slightly, “I am just happy that you’re in a happier place.” Mi-sook gave a loud breath of relief and emitted a small laugh, “I am so thankful that you didn’t suffer anymore.”
Hyun-soo held in a breath before exhaling slowly, “Thank you, thank you for stopping me that night, thank you for everything. And, I hope that our fates won’t intertwine so horrible again.”
Mi-sook smiled and nodded, “Not anymore.” As she took in the last few sips, she sighed, “I’ve already lost my family but it doesn’t hurt anymore — my life feels a little better and I’m now just musing with my thoughts, I plan to release a book sometime next year and I wanted to relay a message of being trapped but still finding a way to have some sort of hope, even if it’s brittle.” She laughed embarrassed to herself.
“I think that’s wonderful, I’ll look forward to it when you release it,” Hyun-soo noted.
Not before long, the bells chimed once again and the door opened. Mi-sook turned once Hyun-soo’s gaze averted and her face brightened upon seeing the sight of Detective Cha Ji-won and a little girl, mi-sook knew that the little girl must be Hyun-soo’s daughter and her heart melted at the heartwarming sight.
“Jung Mi-sook-ssi!” Ji-won chirped with a smile, “it’s been a while, what brought you here?” Her smile was ever radiant and her presence was endearingly warm.
Mi-sook laughed and wiped her teary face, “I just thought of dropping by, I wanted to have a small chat with Do Hyun-soo-ssi, I wanted to extend my gratitude to you, too, Detective cha, you’ve done so much — and I want to thank you so much for protecting his light.” And Mi-sook glanced at Hyun-soo who happily cuddled his daughter.
Ji-won smiled warmly, reaching her hand to hold Mi-sook’s trembling ones, “Thank you, too, for reaching out to him. If you’d like you can still stay for tea—”
And Mi-sook shook her head and raised her hands to wave it dismissively, “Oh no, no, I must get back to work later — ah, I have given Do Hyun-soo-ssi some gifts, it would be nice if your family could visit the tea shop where I work at, I would love to give you a really good tea blend and…” she looked warmly at the sweet daughter who clung onto her father, “serve some delicious snacks to your daughter. Then.” She bowed and smiled at the family and eventually left the workshop.
Once the bell chimes and the door was shut close, the workshop was once again filled with laughter, giggles, and the merry voices of a happy family. There was nothing more that Jung Mi-sook wanted but for the light she once saw to continue brimming so brightly and warmly.