Almost There

The year 2015 is almost done! This is probably one of the rockiest, craziest year for me… There’s been trouble with family and with myself lol. Over the summer, the family wasn’t very much like a family and family being my number 1 priority, it was hard on my soul, my heart and my mind. It was always there, I could never really put it in the back of my mind no matter how hard I tried. The issue at hand has been around for years, ever since I was a little girl and I’ve always urged my mom to just get a divorce since she didn’t seem happy anymore. But she always had excuses. And for me, I had enough of trying to pretend like everything was okay. I found a way to distract myself and I started meeting people from online and dating them. It was short lived but it did the job. I was worry free for a good three months; the entire summer. Of course, meeting those people didn’t come without any signs of trouble and I somehow overlooked that from my wanting to at least not be thinking about my family troubles at the moment. So I kept on going, knowing in the back of my mind that I would be fairly disappointed at the end, but I thought that would be a fairly small price to pay in the long run. Which eventually did get to that point. I shed a tear or two, was missing the guy then hating the guy, back and forth for a good month or so. Then I told myself, enough with the self pity. It’s time for me to re-prioritize my life again. Having been distracted long enough from my family issues gave me a sort of outsider look to the entire thing and I figured, I really have to get away from the life-sucking environment at home. And so that’s how I got to this point. Now, I had all my ducks in a row and for a good three months and I realized I still had my dating profile. I had to log back in to delete the damn thing and of course, the moment you log in, you are met with a barrage of messages from X number of guys. I was fairly confident I didn’t want to date anyone at the time so I looked through them and was mostly replying to the most entertaining messages. This one guy scared the hell out of me and said there was another account that had my pictures. He couldn’t send me pics through the app and so I gave him my fake phone number so he could send me a snapshot of the account. I was laughing so much but I was kinda annoyed he got my fake number. It wasn’t even my pictures; it was a totally different girl. I bugged him about his eyes needing to be corrected lol. Long story short, I am now dating this guy. I like him but at the same time, I’m wary coz of how sneaky he can get. Not really expecting much out of it, but he is a lot of fun to talk to. We’ll see what the new year brings. Happy New Year everyone!!

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Yes, I Admit It: I Talk Weird.

I know as a fact that, at work, I half talk in my brain and with my mouth so sometimes, things don’t come out as clearly as I think they are coming out. Why talk about this, you might ask? Because it took me a while to finally accept the truth.  My co-workers find it weird, how I talk to them, but they are so nice that not a lot of them mention it. Hahaha!  I usually notice when the face or faces of whoever I was talking to becomes blank or confused. Then I have to explain it again, but this time, consciously making sure that what I say in my brain, also comes out verbally. It’s happened a few times, and I’ve gotten enough “What?” asked right back at me to know that I talk weird at work. I don’t know why, but I do. I have a feeling it’s because when I talk, I also analyze the other things going on around me and so instead of focusing on the conversation and the words, half of me is absorbed in the commentary that’s going on in my head about (i.e.) the other person’s non-verbal communication, or their eyebrows aren’t plucked properly or there’s a faint hint of bad breath from this one, or I’m reprimanding myself for staring only at one eye of that person during the whole conversation and I’m trying to find a way to move my eyes but not make it weird so that I’m now staring only at the other eye . See? My brain works weird; it notices quite a bit.

It doesn’t help me either because I lose part of the conversation and I, in turn, have to ask “Pardon me?” since my brain was processing something else besides the conversation at hand. Which makes me look like a total weirdo all the same.

And so I’ve learned to somehow to block off bigger distractions, which can sometimes be good but also bad on the other hand. Sometimes, I can totally ignore someone calling me from across the hall, because I trained my ears to focus on things only close to me. This is so that I don’t pay attention to unnecessary stuff that would potentially distract me, but as you can probably tell, it has it’s bad sides. I can tell you a bunch of examples, but honestly, it’s super embarrassing so I won’t. Instead, I will tell you that this weird way of dealing with the world absolutely sucks.

LOL. So far, it’s only gotten me out of situations where random people would be staring (ie) in malls, and I would see them and feel awkward because they’re staring. That much I’ve managed to block out. You know how when you feel like someone’s watching you and you involuntarily look that way, you find that person? Well, if it’s a weirdo (as in suspicious looking people) or even if it’s just a regular Joe, it feels weird. Then I start acting like a robot in hopes of making them stop staring. Believe me, it gets very uncomfortable. But this part, I’ve already figured out how to deal with; it’s when I’m at work that is hard to fix. LOL! I’ll let you know if I get any better.

Those Crazy Moments

I’m positive everyone has had their fair share of random crazy moments. Here is one, among the hundreds, that I’ve had when I was in University 1. My best friend and I are often found by others laughing like maniacs, but since we’ve grown up a bit now (LOL), we try not to do it so much out of doors… anyways, I dug this up when I was cleaning my room, a monologue play that we made as we rode the 50 minute bus ride home:

Bleeditis:

(a man in a tuxedo has a top hat and a cane with tap-dancing shoes)

(the man tap dances for a while…)

he sings:

(1st verse)

i am sad man; mr. vojangles.

i like your spangles, and i think drink.

it makes me happy, all night and day.

i love my fat cat, & Swedish berries…

i hate the diapers my grandma wears.

she is half frozen, she is half thawed.

she is supposed to be dead but just won’t die!!!

i am forty, have uvulitis,

but someone cut it and now i bleeditis!

(2nd verse)

i am in heaven… la la la la la.

my only uvula, got finger-buried.

it grew up so fast, i had to hurry,

but someone cut it and now i bleeditis!

but someone cut it and now i bleeditis!

but someone CUT IT AND NOW I BLEEDITIS!

NOOOOOOOoooooooooo……………..!!!!!!!!!!!

(he kneeels on the ground and stands up looking mad)

(3rd verse)

PAIN! PAIN! PAIN! MY PAIN! IS NOT! YOUR PAIN!

WHO MADE MY PAIN!  DON’T LAUGH! (points at a laughing girl in audience)

DON’T YOU GET IT? coz someone cut it and now i bleeditis!

(he walks around agitated and tensed and furious)

my uvula got cut in half, and i fell down low on my calf;

then everything just got so dark, i heard an old dog bark…

WOOF WOOF ARF ARF, then i had to barf

MY BLOOD, MY BLOOD, MY BLOOD, MY BLOOD, MY BLOOD!

and then she came with tongs and prongs, and said she would just see;

but my uvula got pulled so strong, it broke and i was dizzy.

I DIED! I DIED! DON’T YOU THINK I DIED?

coz someone cut it and now i bleeditis!

PAIN! PAIN! PAIN! MY PAIN! IS NOT! YOUR PAIN!

WHO MADE MY PAIN! DON’T LAUGH! (points at a laughing girl in audience)

DON’T YOU GET IT? coz someone cut it and now i bleeditis!

(runs to the laughing girl and pulls out her uvula)

AND NOW I’LL CUT IT AND NOW YOU BLEEDITIS!

(he runs back to the stage)

(he starts laughing evilly)

your uvula got cut in half, and you fell down low on your calf;

then everything just got so dark, you heard an old dog bark…

WOOF WOOF ARF ARF, then you had to barf

YOUR BLOOD, YOUR BLOOD, YOUR BLOOD, YOUR BLOOD, YOUR BLOOD!

COZ NOW I CUT IT AND NOW YOU BLEEDITIS!

(he runs to the back of the stage, laughing and holding up the bloody uvula)

——The End——-

Omg, I just now realized what kind of brain I had about 6 years ago… I still find this funny, but I’m appalled at how we even managed to think up this thing. LOL but it’s all good…

Gong Yoo – Short Story Part 3

Okay! Sorry it’s a bit of a rush, I’m writing this way past my sleepy time. LOL! Here is the 3rd part of my Gong Yoo short story: (Click here to read the previous part.)

She looked worried for a second, before attempting a small smile. “Okay, but it’s not really guy material. It’s a bit of a drama type of story.”

I just nodded, somehow fearing if I talked more, she might stop talking to me altogether.

She heaved a sigh and shook her head. “The main protagonist is this guy that escapes from his rich and controlling parents to try and make it on his own. He ends up getting mugged and he even got forced into joining a gang. The whole story revolves on how he manages to escape all that and in the process, know himself more and mature into this more cautious and wiser person. He eventually returns to his family but with a stronger sense of self.”

“Wow,” I managed. “That sounds like a very interesting story. I’m a guy and I like the plot so far. Would I be given the honour of getting to read it sometime?”

Her brows were knitted together. “Well, I don’t really know you, even if you are a movie star.” She chuckled a tad nervously.

I smiled my sweetest smile as I extended my hand to her. “I’m Gong Ji-chul, better known as Gong Yoo. It’s very nice to meet you, miss…?”

She laughed as she took my hand and shook it firmly. “Kaori Johnson. It’s nice to meet you too, Mr. Gong Ji-cheol.”

“Ji-cheol is fine. None of that polite stuff; we’re not in Korea. So you’re of Japanese descent? If you don’t mind me saying, you don’t look Japanese.”

“I get that a lot. My mother is Japanese and my dad is British.” She shyly pushed back a lock of hair behind her ear.

“Ah.” I nodded, noting her slightly blondish brown hair and her pale and slightly freckled complexion. “I want to meet them so I can tell them that they have very good genes.”

“That’s just ridiculous,” she said, as she burst out laughing. I could see a faint hint of blush creeping into her cheeks. “Compliments are not going to get you to read the story.”

“Would dinner do it then?” I don’t know why, but I was feeling confident for some reason.

She stopped laughing. “What if I was a serial killer?” She gave me a reprimanding look. “You shouldn’t just ask random people on a whim, you know.”

So she was a cautious person. Understandable at this day and age. I just had to back off a little bit. “Alright. But are you going to ignore me then if I happen to see you the next day?”

“I would be tempted to, but I won’t. I promise.” She was smiling again.

“Good enough for me,” I replied. I remembered I had ordered food, and took a bite out of my sandwich. “I’m guessing you’ll want some space so you can finish that, huh?”

Kaori nodded. “That would be very helpful, actually.”

I scooted off to my own table and munched on happily.

~~ 0 ~~

To my dismay, I didn’t see her at all at the cafe the next day, but she must live close by because exactly a week later, when I was going home from the airport where I had said goodbye to Jo In Sung, I saw her again at the cafe. I usually come to The Bean once a day to get a cookie or two. On my way home, I remembered her and that was why I went and actually had lunch at the cafe. Half an hour later, there she was, walking and then sitting a few tables from me, all alone, failing to see me. I wanted to call out to her but she was texting on her phone. I was thankful for the fact that the people sitting in between our tables weren’t blocking my view of her. I ate at a leisurely pace, watching her every move. She ordered from the menu after a waiter came to her table and she smiled politely as he left. She must have gotten a message on her phone because she looked at it and smiled widely. She had a very cute smile. I was just realizing how I was beginning to really like that smile. I noticed the way she dressed today was very different from before. She wore a classy outfit, donning a beige silk buttoned top with dark slacks and a pair of heels. She had her hair tied loosely behind her back and small curls were framing her face. The smile remained although she was trying hard to suppress it as she texted on the phone. Setting it aside, she looked up just in time as the waiter came with her order. She smiled again at him and said thanks, then set out to eating her green salad. Texting intermittently, the smile got wider and wider; I was sure she was trying really hard not to laugh and her expressions made me curious about what it was that was causing her to smile so happily.

My own phone vibrated on the glass table and brought me back from my thoughts. I looked at it; a little irritated with it’s bad timing.

“Hello?”

“Ji Cheol.” It was my manager. “Ji Cheol? It’s me, Joon Kim. How are you doing over there, eh?”

“I was doing just fine, until you called.” I didn’t bother to hide the irritation in my voice.

“Oh? Are you busy? Out on a date or something?”

I shrugged. “Something like that.” I didn’t want him to think I was stalking someone, which wasn’t that far from the truth.

“Oh, I see, I see. Who’s your date? Anybody we know?”

“Nah. Not really,” I remarked in exasperation. I can hear his excitement through the phone. Was my life that sad, that my manager was like a parent when it came to my personal issues? I shook my head, unable to believe I was having this phone call with my manager.

“Wow, somebody unknown, huh. Okay, okay. Tell me more.”

“Hyung, listen. If I keep talking on the phone with you, I won’t have a date.”

“Oh, okay, okay. Tell me later, then.” He snickers excitedly. “Have fun!”

I turned off the ringer on my phone so nobody else could bother me. I looked up just in time to see her looking at me. I smiled and waved. Kaori smiled back, then looked down at her phone again. She didn’t have her paper and pen today. Must be meeting a friend, I thought. It better not be a guy, I suddenly thought. I frowned and took a sip from my coffee. Since when did I care who she was friends with? I tried to focus on my lunch and seem like a stalker, glancing her way every now and again. She was on the phone for a little bit, finished the rest of her salad and then she stood up. As she walked towards me, I almost choked trying to quickly swallow the food in my mouth as she got closer to my table.

“Hello, Ji Cheol. Nice to see you again. How have you been?” she asked.

Nodding, “I’ve been good. Nice to see you, too.” I offered a hand shake, which she took, just so I can touch her before she left. Suddenly, a divine plan came to me. “But you know what?” I put on my best puppy-dog eyes for effect.

“What?” She was looking at me a little suspiciously, but I ignored that.

“I’ve been trying to do some sight-seeing but I don’t really understand Japanese, so it’s hard for me.” That was mostly true.

“Aw, that’s too bad.” She looked at me for a few moments. The suspicious look faded and she looked more empathetic. “I can probably help you out with that, if you like. Nihongo ga wakarimasu,” she added, with confidence.

I was so happy that she offered to help. Although I had learned the basics of the language–mostly for work–I still wasn’t fluent in Japanese. “That would be awesome. I’m planning to see the famous Hachiko statue tomorrow.” I know that the statue was a famous meeting spot, so I wondered if she would get the hint.

She tilted her head to one side. “Really? The statue, huh.” Her eyes narrowed ever so slightly. I kept my face blank. “Well,” she eventually said, “I guess I can spare one day. We’ll be seeing Shibuya then.” She looked at her phone then back at me. “I’m sorry, I have to go. I’ll meet you here at ten in the morning, then?”

I grinned widely. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

————————————————————————————–

Author’s Note: I edited it and also added some details here and there. =)

Wacky Dreams

Ahh, reminiscing about my wacky dream can be such a fun thing to do.. I’m sure you’ve all had those moments too.. I haven’t been able to dream lately since i’m so tired from work that I’m usually out like a lamp when it’s bed time. So anywho, here’s one of my weirder dreams from a long time ago… It went like this:

there was a warlock who owned a bookshop and he had these magic plants that talk whenever you water them. he didn’t seem to know the plants could talk. he hired school girls to water his plants inside the bookshop, which was pretty small and old and cheap looking. then for some reason, i found myself walking toward the bookshop and all i know was i had a mission: to get a specific book from his hidden collections. so i applied to water the plants and the warlock was looking mean but he said go water those four plants at the front. so i go and do that with two watering pots. i was watering the first two when one said ‘i look so good, don’t i? i’m the best!’ then the other said ‘water dear #3 please, she knows everything.” so i water the other two. #3 said “oh my #2 is honest as a baby, you should give her more water.” then #4 said “i’m telling the truth! i’m telling the truth! are you listening? i’m telling the truth!”
then i had to water them all again to make them talk until i figured out which one was #2 and so i kept watering 3 and 2 coz they were the sane plants compared to the other two… i finally got the book’s location from the plants and the warlock was at the back of the bookshop, so i got up on a stool and picked the book off the high shelf with a small sliding door. for some reason, i forget to close the damn door. as i was out and quite far from the store, i heard the warlock scream and when i looked back, he was running towards me, looking like he wanted to kill me.

then i woke up.

The Life and Times of Me, Pencil (Part 4)

When I was about eight, nine or ten years of age (I was in third grade), I was becoming increasingly aware of social statuses and the difference between rich and poor. Constantly I would see the material things that spoke of money; in school or even close to home. My classmates were a good mix of high, middle and low class kids (which basically means: rich, not bad/middle, and poor). I saw the difference of old flip flops and sparkly new Sketchers worn to school. I saw cool hair accessories and new pens and rich looking parents. By then, I was getting shoes that were hand me downs from our cousins from out of the country. I’d get excited when I would get a new backpack from relatives out of the country as well. I still remember the leather shoes with the buckle and the loose long socks I wore. I remember thinking, ‘My feet are growing bigger.’ I remember thinking Milk, Brains and Hairy were in the rich side of society, and River, Fishie and myself were on the fine line between the ‘not bad’ and the ‘poor’. I was naturally a quiet kid and observing quietly and learning as I observe was one of the things I was (and still am) good at.

Whenever our relatives came to visit us, which was rare enough for us, I found myself being more observant than I wanted to be. I noticed how Hairy was favoured by Smiley. I noticed how Smiley would always take Hairy with her first before any other. Smiley is extremely affectionate and so this was something I was silently yearning for. I wished I was favoured just as much as Hairy was pretty and nice, as much as Brains was so smart, and as much as Milk was so cute. Being with Smiley back then was somewhat of a wake-up call for me, seeing as how apparent Smiley favoured whom she did before. Then with every one of us being excited about having relatives visit us, each cousin had their own traits pop out (I did say, I was good at observing). Chocolate Milk had always been the outspoken one in the bunch; very vocal and very confident. River was loud and playful and good looking, and Smiley was River’s godparent. Brains was pretty and smart and very witty. Hairy was the prettiest among the group and the nicest and sweetest. Fishie was adorable, cute, tiny and (I’ve heard this a million times) she looked like Smiley when Smiley was a little kid. Milk was the youngest in the ‘rich’ class among us so therefore had to be favoured by default among other things. Me? I had nothing to offer. I was quiet, and back then looked more like Softy than Eyeballs. Smiley’s personality was outgoing, so of course, Smiley gravitated to the outspoken ones. Chocolate Milk, River and Brains, and of course Milk were a shoo-in. Hairy and Fishie were personal favourites. I felt like I didn’t belong; I felt more like a background more than anything. You know that feeling when you watch people outside from a window? That’s what it felt like being with them all. I guess my personality was a factor in all of it, but it still didn’t make sense to me that I was so unremarkable to the rest of the family (and I mean very close relatives, including Smiley). I never got that reassuring feeling that it was okay to be me, to be myself. What I saw around me made me wish I was what I was not.

While all that was happening, I was realizing that Eyeballs would get really excited and happy whenever I get awesome marks in class, like exams and tests and projects. So I excelled in that. That was my moment of visibility. Eyeballs would tell the good news that I was in the honor roll when recognition/graduation rites came. And I was happy. I found my fifteen seconds of fame. I would get a very big smile on my face, all proud and excited. All for a quick pat on the back and a ‘Good job!’ to go with it. I get the occassional hug, too. That’s how I pretty much lived my younger years: aiming to please people through my academic standing because I thought I wasn’t good enough unless I was good at being something or someone. The only time our relatives would talk to me extensively–and by extensively, I mean about 5 or so minutes–would be about my grades in school. It was a lot of pressure and yet I was blind to that; I just wanted to be acknowledged. That was all I wanted.

All my life, I’ve been trying to establish this fact to myself: Pencil is important. Pencil is a human being worthy of respect and affection. Pencil is Pencil, and Pencil is enough. It’s a concept that was hard for me to accept for a long time, especially when I was younger. Everybody else had  such personalities in our big close-knit family. That was why I started looking for attention and acceptance from other people. My classmates since childhood like Rosebud, Timber, Dancer, Mango, became so close to me that at some point I developed this idea that my friends loved me more than my family. Well, from my point of view back then, my friends were the ones who were  with me and were happy that I was being myself, plain ol’ Pencil: one of the comedy acts in class, and got along with most of the class. At that point, my thoughts and feelings were usually excitement when I would go to school and see my best pals and on the other hand, I would be really mad and frustrated that I would be going home to people that barely noticed me. My mindset like that for a bit. I saw the toys that Fishie got from Smiley, I saw more and more the leniency towards River when it came to doing chores. I saw the amount of new house hold chores that Eyeballs taught me. I started hating house chores then. Everytime she would proudly say to random people how I knew how to cook already at that age, I felt exploited and used. The idea of the maids in Earrings and Boss’ household was a constant taunting in the back of my mind.

After a while, I looked up to Earrings’ family. They were rich and had a big house and everything that goes with that. In the meantime, my family barely owned a tube of toothpaste. I realized that if we didn’t have much food in our tiny little house, we’d eat plain steamed rice with either salt or sugar. And yet I loved that. I didn’t love the fact that whenever our relatives from abroad would send a package to the siblings Earrings, Eyeballs and Everhope (Chocolate Milk’s parent), Earrings’ kids would always get the coolest things. I felt even more unwanted every time I saw that. They’d have the coolest and prettiest Barbie dolls, the best backpacks, and shirts and shoes. It was too obvious to me that me and my siblings weren’t the favourite of the bunch. I wasn’t okay with it, but at the same time, I didn’t know what do except to accept that fact.

And yet, amidst all that, I thought and believed our whole entire family was the best family because we had some relatives out of the country (to me that meant I was a little closer to the ‘rich’ class by being associated with them), Earrings’ family was, in my eyes, in the ‘rich’ class so I was proud of the family as a whole. I was proud of everyone when they did something great, like be in a play or something like that. I was glad that as a whole our family was doing well. The cousins were cohesive and we mostly got along (unless someone was having tantrums). We were all pretty good with each other. Deep inside of me, it was a confusing mix of love and denial, of hurt and passiveness, and of pride and humiliation. To me, the different levels of feelings were what kept me observing. I couldn’t understand why, with the family, the gaps of understanding were so different and with different people, so small. I didn’t think much of it all after realizing these things, but they’re always there, buzzing around in my head. So to keep from thinking about it, I kept my focus in school instead.

Women of the Palace

I cannot remember how I allowed myself to be put in this palace. I mean, I never wanted to be a concubine for the emperor, and neither did the nine other girls in this room. I am not saying we are the only ones, but we are the ones who were forced into this lifestyle, partly by our parents and partly by the ministry of the emperor. All the numerous others are glad to be here, so more luck to them, but we, on the other hand, cannot find it in the life of us the reason to want to be here. I think that is why we are all sharing this hall, not to mention our living quarters, to pass the days groaning and sighing as our ladies-in-waiting fix our hairs and fan our faces. However, I am curious as to why, for the past years that we have spent here, the ladies-of-the-court never ever think of sending us home. Maybe because that would decrease the number of concubines? Who knows, really. Only the emperor of China can answer that question.

All ten of us have been in this place for four years now. Why, you ask? Well, because we are all from the same city. I shouldn’t even call it a city; the population size is just too small. It is more appropriate to be called a large village; and out of nowhere one sunny morning, it was announced to us villagers that our village was being scouted for concubines for the young emperor. Anyway, in the village where we are all from, I have come across some of them at least once. It’s a good thing too because here I at least feel somewhat at home when I’m with them.

There, at the middle of the room, the three older girls, and I say older because they are older than my twenty-four years, pouts and mumbles to each other. They always seem to be getting along so well with each other; maybe because their age differences are not too wide. Pruma, the red haired beauty, is the twenty-eight year old daughter of a merchant who wants to handle her father’s business, but instead she has been sent here to become the emperor’s concubine. She was practically steaming with anger when I first saw her called out by the emperor. Even the ladies-in-waiting were scared to walk behind her violent stomping steps. Since then, the emperor rarely called on her. He only calls her these days when he needs someone to play chess with, and she is one great chess player. Celina, the long-haired brunette of twenty six years of age, sits beside Pruma writing a letter to her parents with pursed lips. Ever since the day we arrived in the palace, she has been writing them, asking them to take her back to the temple of Xiao Hou where she longs to be the head priestess. She is truly great in meditating and telling us about all sorts of things about spirits, chakras and the such. Rarely have I seen her burst out in anger as well, she is that good in controlling her emotions, although of course, she has her moments. For example, when the emperor was reportedly bombarding her with personal questions one humid afternoon, she just stormed out of his Majesty’s room. Nobody dared asked her just what question triggered the outburst, even to this day no one can bring up the courage to do so. Although, I believe she’ll eventually tell us. Then there is Ginwa, the twenty five year old who longs to marry a handsome young man whom she had promised to give her love for as long as she lived. She is such a romantic, that one, but most of us cannot resist her dreamy stories of escapades and sweet conversations with her love. She even tells the emperor about him. Only the heavenly gods know how he reacts to the stories. She would never tell us no matter how much we pry, but since she is still being called on, we assumed he does not take offense or even get angry at her. I personally think the emperor enjoys her stories like we do. We sigh and swoon and lean in close towards her when a kiss is coming, but she’d always crush it with something like ‘but then our maid came running and we had to pretend we weren’t doing anything special’ or ‘but then I would remember what my grandmother told me.’ At those times, I’d shake my head in disappointment, and even Pruma would comment on how Ginwa loved to leave us hanging in the air when the story was going just right.

The six others are lounging or playing cards or mahjong while their ladies-in-waiting ran here and there, trying to keep up with the requests. Rosario, a half-foreigner of my age, has the blood of a Spaniard warrior within her. As she laughs boisterously, even slapping the table–I am guessing she won again, for the third time today–I can recall the times when she would wake up early in the morning just to train. The ladies-of-the-court would get extremely angry with her when she would come back sweating and heaving like a warehouse labourer, but she’d only roll her eyes and scoff at them. Oh, I almost forgot about that day when she showed off her skills to the emperor; it was said that he was so surprised beyond words and two ladies-of-the-court who had been escorting her were absolutely shocked at her behaviour that they forbade her to go see the emperor until she has stopped her ‘manly ways’ as they call it. I’ve seen her in the village running laps around the parks and lakes and I always admired her; I still do. Lately, there has been no one scolding her, so I assume she’s being extra careful and extra secretive about her training. Rosario acknowledges it, too, that she has no plans of stopping her training for anyone; she only refuses to tell us how she manages to do it without anyone seeing her or catching her in the act. Across the table from her sits the twenty year old Min-Lei, who apparently is a direct descendant of the legendary Chinese warrior Xiao Ming–and very proud of it, may I add (even the emperor now knows about it)–accusing Rosario of cheating for the tenth time. She is such a loud mouth but we all love her dearly because she cries a lot too. No, she is not a crybaby; she’s just very emotional and when she is thoroughly upset or mad, she tends to cry even if she doesn’t want to. The two other girls playing with them, who are both seventeen years old, Talis and Vera, are trying to calm Min-Lei down while also trying to hide their annoyance at Rosario for winning again. For some reason, those two look alike even though they are not related. The same curly hair, only different in shades, and even the same mannerisms. For example, when you catch either one of them staring off into space, they are inevitably twirling their hair unconsciously. It must be because of the amount of time they spend with each other. They are like twin sisters attached at the hip; we barely see them apart. When the emperor asks for one of them, the other tends to get lonely and introverted, but they are actually such sweet darlings who both are amazingly good painters and dancers. Seeing them in their art together, it brings forth a feeling of contentment.

Severo, the bookworm, is sitting alone at the table beside the four. Books are piling at her left and right. She reads and reads and tells us about what she reads. I used to wonder if she was lonely deep inside, but when I see her face when she reads a book, there is always that twinkle in her eyes and the small smile on her lips as she comes across an entertaining character. She gets extremely animated when she retells the stories and the only one who doesn’t appreciate her extremely–and when I say extremely, I mean it takes us four hours to listen to one story–descriptive retellings is Min-Lei. Min-Lei would interject in the middle of the story and tell her to get on with the story. Once, both Pruma and Rosario whacked her on the head to keep her quiet. It was truly funny seeing that; Min-Lei, of course, made the entire room remember who she was by yelling out her family tree. The guards outside had called for the ladies-of-the-court thinking we were all fighting with each other. Then there is Alice, a girl of merely fifteen years of age, who lay sleeping on a red lounging chair. She is a fairly big girl who absolutely adores food. I had thought she was big because she is fond of food, but I recently found that her entire family are big people. I remember one time she was telling me that her father once forbade her to eat and when I asked her why, she told me that it was because she was too lazy. I don’t know if I would call her lazy after being with her for four years in the palace; she just doesn’t care very much about anything. She used to have a job before, when we were still in the village; she used to be a tax-collector. Tax-collectors were assigned to only three women who would have to dress up in thick layers of clothing to give off the impression of big bodied persons. Their faces would be painted white then they would wear black masks that would not even give a hint of their true identity. They would also wear those shiny, curly raven black wigs on top of their heads just to throw everyone off and so no one can guess who they are. It’s not because it was hard to guess or because the people hated tax-collectors, it was because no one cared, really. I still remember walking past them one afternoon and I remembered thinking, That’s Alice right there. I can easily tell because of that blank look she always has in her eyes. I don’t know why but over time I developed a really close friendship with her, as peculiar as her views are. I asked her a long time ago what she wanted to do if she wasn’t a concubine for the emperor and she answered me simply with one word, ‘Sleep.’ I think there is something beyond her beguiling words but I’m not even sure anymore. Sometimes I think the deeper meaning is there then sometimes I think she really did mean she wanted to sleep.

Looking at all of them, I remember all their ambitions and their goals for their own future and how they were all crushed the moment we entered the palace to become concubines for the emperor. Well, even Alice’s ‘sleep’ is a goal for her so it still counts. Sighing, I take a small sip of water as I shut my eyes, thinking I can have a short nap while waiting for the ladies-of-the-court to come and get one of us, or not. The other other women, who are all ecstatic to be here as concubines, occupied the living quarters far from ours. Of course, every day no one knows who the emperor will pick, but all ten of us can care less.

The emperor, Fy Song, is a year younger than me and although he has been educated into becoming a great emperor, it is evident that he doesn’t have much experience with women. Not even his good looks can get him anywhere. Those dark brown eyes and wonderful cherry lips won’t save him even if he tried. It’s something about his personality that nobody truly understands. He is such a shy person, or so we believe, when it comes to girls. He doesn’t really court anybody either. When he calls one of us, it’s only because he has to or he wants somebody to talk to or he’s bored out of his mind and wants somebody to bother. He has a habit of asking us women personal questions, from childhood days to our first loves. It’s something not all of us are willing to talk about, except for Ginwa of course, but there are limits when it comes to her lover as well. Yet I find that I tolerate him the most out of all of us in this room. He told me so, quite a few times, too. I think it’s because of my intuitiveness. It is, after all, what made me realize he has no interest in women.

I found out not too long after I have been assigned as a concubine. The two of us, alone in his room, happened to be talking about his friend, Chang, and that’s when I noticed it. Something about the way he described him to me, the way he had talked about their friendship that started years ago. Something in his mannerisms gives it away, too, no matter how subtle it is. Yet, after four years, only I know this fact. I have never thought of saying anything to the other women. They never ask, nor do they seem to even have an inkling about the matter. Thus, the secret remains between the emperor and me.

“Why don’t you tell anyone?” Fy Song had asked me then.

“Because I’m not obligated to,” I answered. Then I frowned, “Am I?”

He had laughed, giving me pat on the shoulder. “No one knows except you, Dalho.”

I had looked at him in confusion. “Not even your friend knows?”

Ah, how his reaction gave away his feelings that day. Since then, I ask him about Chang often but he replies as though we never had the conversation we did a few years back. I hate to see him that way, pretending he has no feelings for the man who protects his life day and night. I’ve only seen Chang in glimpses and personally I find him perfectly suitable for Fy Song, if ever he is interested in the emperor. He’s tall, with skin slightly darkened by the sun and he has that thin moustache that reminds me of my father. From far away, he looks stoic and he seems distant, but from what I hear from the emperor, seeing Chang face to face is a completely different matter. It is stressful to think about what the emperor feels whenever he interacts with his friend, Chang. It makes me sigh a lot; I wish I could help him, although I don’t know how.

“Ehem!” A shrill voice calls out above the chatter and breaks through my thoughts. “Where is Dalho? The emperor wants to see her.”

I sigh before getting up and straightening my dress. “I’m right here.” As I look towards the ladies-of-the-court I see their eyes looking at me with contempt for reasons I know too well; namely the displeasure of being concubines. My reason for not wanting to be here is my own secret; I must not disclose it. One thing I will say is that I do believe in destiny. I believe I have been chosen to come here for a purpose and until I find that purpose, I will try not to be incredibly depressed about the whole concubine idea.

Walking down the hallway between the two ladies-of-court, I get a peek of the setting sun for moments at a time in between the rich red curtains. My lady-in-waiting walks not too far behind me. Upon reaching Fy Song’s chambers, the ladies-of-the-court and my lady-in-waiting stands aside and opens the door for me. Passing through, I murmur a thank you before they shut the doors behind me. Raising my head high, I walk down the carpeted marble floor lined with soldiers wearing armours of gold. Finally, two guards open the inner doors into the emperor’s private rooms.

“Your Majesty?” I call out. I can’t see him from where I stand.

Soon enough, Fy Song comes out from behind a curtained archway, looking despondent amidst his purple and gold robe. “Dalho. I want to ask you something.” He walks towards the huge bed and sits close to the pillows, hugging one to himself. I follow him and I sit at the edge of the bed.

“What is it?”

“Can you stay here for the night?”

I frown. If he calls one of us, it automatically means we stay for the night, which means we sleep in his private rooms. With him asking me that question only gives me ideas of what he could possibly be troubled by. “Of course I’m staying, Your Majesty.”

He sighs exasperatedly. “We both know you don’t really call me that.”

I grin at his expression. “I was checking if you were still yourself.”

He frowns. “Why would you say that?”

“Why would you ask me if I could stay for the night when we both know the fact that I’m here right now means I am staying for the night?”

He opens his mouth, about to say something to defend himself I’m sure, but he doesn’t say anything and instead lets himself sink back into the pillows. “Something’s bothering me.”

I put my hand on his lightly. “I can tell.”

He looks away from me, blushing slightly. “Well, I don’t think I want to talk about it tonight. Let’s go have dinner.”

We eat the scrumptious dinner in good spirits, like old friends, teasing and laughing at each other. Yet he is constantly trying so hard to avoid the subject but even I could tell what the matter is. There is only one thing that can make him like this. As I watched him talking on and on about random court stuff while he lounges on the bed, I sigh quietly. I have to get him to talk about it.

“Fy Song,” I cut him off mid-sentence.

His smile is frozen on his lips while his brows furrows slightly.

“Tell me what’s bothering you.”

The smile dies quickly and the emperor looks away, troubling or embarrassing thoughts in his mind. “Well, it’s not really all that important,” he mumbles.

I stand up from where I had been sitting to sit right beside him. “Oh, come on. If it’s bothering you this much, then just tell me; I might be able to help.” I give him an encouraging smile.

He sighs and shakes his head from side to side. “It’s too embarrassing.” Slowly, his face turns crimson from the neck up. I almost laugh at his reaction. His face is too cute; I want to hug him.

“Try me.” I look him straight in the eye in all seriousness.

Another sigh from Fy Song. “Chang’s getting worried,” he mumbles.

I lean closer to him, quite sure I misheard his words. “What’s he worried about?”

Fy Song looks at me, shocked at my question. I think he gasped.

I frown at him in return; I don’t know why he’s giving me that look. “You said he was getting worried. About what?”

The emperor pouts and hides his face in his hands after telling me that that was not what he said.

“Oh, sorry. Then what did you say?”

Hugging a pillow to his face, he mumbles his words into it. I hardly recognise the words.

“What? I can’t understand what you’re saying.”

Fy Song looks up, his face burning. “Dalho, Chang’s getting married!”

“Oh.” That is really shocking. Mixed feelings are swirling inside of me and yet part of me is already thinking of a way to help the situation. Suggestions are at the tip of my tongue. Stop him then, you have the authority. Tell him to pick you. Announce your feelings for him for all to hear. Or refrain from doing anything and just let it go. Forget your feelings for him. You have your duty as emperor. But I refrain from voicing them out. I have to truly understand the situation at hand. “What are you going to do about it?”

He sighs yet again. “I don’t know. Nothing.” He looks at me with pleading eyes. “I know he has to marry but…” The tears came. I hug him close to cover the sobbing noise; if he cries too much, I may end up crying alongside him.

“Fy Song.” Seeing him cry for the first time was a truly scary sight to witness; I feel like he wants to kill himself for some reason. “Fy Song, listen to me.”

The emperor tries to hush his crying as he looks up at me.

“If this is going to make you do something unwise, then I suggest you tell him your true feelings.”

“Unwise? What do you mean?” he asks, confusion in his voice.

“I’m not giving you any ideas, and stop trying to change the subject. Just tell him, Fy Song.”

He resumes his crying as he hides his face on my shoulder once more. “I can’t. I just can’t, Dalho.” A sniff. “He’ll hate me. He’ll hate me for sure.”

As he sits there crying his heart out on my shoulder, I feel the tears form in my eyes. I have to be strong for him so I blink them back as I look up at the ceiling. “Well, you’ll never know that unless you try.”

And try he did. At least that’s what he told me two nights after our talk. He calls me again to tell me how it had went. I honestly am so surprised at seeing his expression. I can tell something good had come out of it. “It went well?”

He smiles sweetly at me as his eyes well up with tears. “I won’t stop him.”

I frown at Fy Song. I’m almost afraid to ask. “Are you sure about that?”

He nods and the tears fall down his cherry cheeks. He laughs as he grabs me by the shoulder and sits me on the bed. “You’ll think I’m lying if I told you.”

“Told me what?” I am thoroughly confused now.

“He knows but we both agreed. It’ll be alright.” He sniffed, then laughed once more.

“Tell me what happened already.” Judging from his ecstatic expression, it must be something wonderful.

“We slept together.”

I gasp in shock. “You did what?”

He laughs at my reaction. “Listen and I’ll tell you the entire story.”

I feel satisfied to have made him take action upon his dilemma. “I’ll listen to the very end.”

Fy Song smiles sweetly at me before he gets that distant look in his eyes. “As usual, he was visiting my quarters to check the area. I got into a little conversation with him.” He laughs bitterly. “I was only avoiding the topic of his marriage, however. Until the man mentions it himself. He was so serious about it that I had to joke around to delay what he would inevitably ask me.” He stops, breathing in deeply before continuing on. “Chang can be very blunt sometimes. He just went right out with it. ‘Is Your Majesty in favour of my marriage?’ It was awful. I couldn’t even face him. I mean, he was my friend. I did not want any ill wishes for him but I couldn’t answer him, Dalho. I couldn’t.” Fy Song hugs a pillow closer to his chest. “He knelt in front of me and then said that if I disapproved of the marriage, he would not continue with it.” He shakes his head. “Dalho, I couldn’t do that to him. Not ever.”

I nod and touch his hand gently.

“I told him to continue with the wedding and I was doing very good at hiding my feelings until he reached out and wiped a tear from my cheek. I didn’t know I was crying.” Fy Song’s eyes fills up. “I cried right in front of him. And you know what he did? He hugged me and said ‘I know how you truly feel and that is why I needed to ask.’ I must have looked pitiful. An emperor crying? What a hoot.” He smiles at me again and squeezes my hand. “Anyway, at that moment, I was at my weakest. I told him that I loved him. I thought he would hate me for sure for actually saying it, but he held me closer instead. ‘Know that I would be glad to return your feelings were you not under such scrutiny as an emperor. I do not want to endanger you by engaging in what our country considers a sin.’ Dalho, the happiness and the sorrow I felt at that moment, I don’t think I will ever forget the feeling. Then he kissed me.”

“Don’t go too much into details now.”

Fy Song laughs. “Of course. It happened all too sweetly but I would never tell anyone. Not even you.” He winks at me.

“Of course. Privacy is what everyone prefers.” I smile at him. “Curious as I may be at this moment, I would like you to stick to your word and not tell me anymore beyond that kiss.”

“Roger.” He gives me a mock salute.

“We should sleep.” I prepare the bed while Fy Song goes off to change into his sleeping attire.

That night, laying side by side, we stare at the ceiling. Thoughts are swirling around my head. “Fy Song, will Chang still be by your side?”

“Yes,” he whispers in the air. “Even though he will be bound to another, I will treasure what happened on that night. At least now, I can face the future knowing what he truly feels towards me.” He chuckles as he hugs me close. “Dalho.”

“Yes?”

The room is silent for a few moments. “I’ve been thinking about getting an official empress too. For the country’s sake.”

I smile. “That’s a good thought. When are you planning to get married then?”

“Not so soon, maybe in two or three years’ time. I hope by that time, I’m mentally prepared.” We laugh at that. Then he whispers to me. “Will you marry me then?”

I remain quiet for a while; shocked. “What?”

“Will you marry me? I mean, you’re a very dear friend and I may as well keep you beside me.”

“Fy Song, do you know what you’re saying?” I sit up on the bed. He pulls me right back down and embraces me.

“Dalho, tell me what I can do so you’ll marry me.”

I thought for a while. “Will you let the girls go and let them choose their future?”

“Your pals?” He sighs. “I will miss them, but yes. They are an interesting bunch.”

“All the more reason to let them go, don’t you think?”

He leans his head closer to my hair. “I’ll do even that so you’ll marry me.”

I feel like I’m being used for  substitute but I know better. I know Fy Song. “Okay. I will definitely miss the girls, too, though.” I sigh.

The room is silent again. “Really?” he asks.

“Yes, really.” I turned to pat his cheek. “But what are you going to do about heirs, dear?”

Fy Song let go of me promptly. “We’ll figure it out as we go along.”

I laughed before I gave him a kiss on the cheek. “We’ll figure it out.” I close my eyes, knowing that the rest of the girls are going to be back on their feet and walking towards their destiny. I guess my destiny is here in the palace, after all. I am the one who can help Fy Song fulfill his destiny.

“Thanks, Dalho. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

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That is one of my short stories that come to me in a flurry. No plot thought of ahead of time, or any of the characters for that matter. Sometimes, the writer inside me just knows what words to put down and it just flows out like a river. That’s why I feel a special connection to this piece, but then again that’s how I feel towards most if not all of my writings. How do you like it?? =)