Fate and Kimchi

17 year-old girl finds herself uprooted from her home, away from her secret crush and best friend to South Korea; where she has been unknowingly betrothed to a man she has never met her whole life...

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1. Take 1: Fate and Kimchi

Hello, my name is Se Rah (Koreans go by their first and middle name, don’t ask me why, I am not entirely sure myself), anyway I am an average Korean-American 17-year-old. At least that is what I thought until my life got shook upside down, by my mysterious unknown family in South Korea; the most interaction I get from them is the occasional awkward phone calls on Korean holidays. They put us down a different path that what I had planned or imagined and sometimes I wonder if I would have chosen a different road, what my life would look like now. I mean It’s not like I believe in fate or anything, but what happened last year felt like there was an invisible force that was pulling me fiercely towards a person, a person I never thought my heart would belong too, that I was for an instant almost positive fate did exist and this unseen gravitational pull drew me to him. I know what you’re thinking what would a 17 year old know about love and fate? Thinking back I couldn’t agree with you more, I really didn’t have any idea. Just that at that moment I felt like I was being sucked into a whirl pool that I couldn’t escape and at the bottom was a guy I had been betrothed to all my life and I had no idea until my 17th birthday that I was. Let’s go back to that day, the day that literally shook the foundation of everything I knew about my life.

 

It was an ordinary day in a very normal Korean American suburban household, except for the fact my Korean mother and I have been living alone in this huge two story house, ever since my father past away 3 years ago leaving me and my 4 year old brother, Jaejoong (pronounced the way it is spelled), alone with my mom who can barely speak English. It wasn’t like she didn’t know English, she just preferred to never speak it given the chance and had never bothered to master the language. In fact, sometimes I’m not sure if I can speak English myself till I get to school. I am also pretty sure that 80% of me is made out of kimchi, sometimes I wonder if there is any food outside of kimchi. My mom went on a huge health kick after my father’s passing, thinking that kimchi was going to save us all from every illness in existence. Don’t get me wrong, I love Kimchi, I am just saying that when you start fearing that your blood is actually just pretty much kimchi juice you have to wonder if there really is too much of a good thing.

On that fateful morning, my baby brother JaeJoong ran into my room yelling at the top of his four-year-old lungs and proceeded to climb on top of me while screaming “Nuna! WAKE UP!” directly into my face. I try hitting him away with my bunny pillow. Korean fact: Nuna is the term younger men in Korea give to their older sisters or older female friend’s: YES even girlfriends! Since my mom is the most traditional Korean woman in the world, I’m sure she was the queen of Korea in another life; she insists he calls me Nuna. My best friend Tyler thought my brother was yelling “Tuna” instead of “Nuna” and I have forever been known as Tuna to Tyler. Do you know how terrible it is to have your secret crush refer to you as something you make a sandwich out of? Not good, believe me. Anyway I yell at him in Korean to get out, but he stays on top of me and looks me in the eye and says in his 4 year old voice: “Nuna, getting married”? That woke me up. What in the world is that little squirt talking about? “Jaejoong, don’t be silly, Nuna is NOT getting married, I need to graduate from high school, and then there is college, then maybe…” I quit talking because I realize he is four and has absolutely no idea what I’m going on about. I throw the covers off of me and as I was getting up my little brother launched himself on my back, locking his little arms like a clamp around my neck. I get up and sigh and piggy back him downstairs, to where my mom is making my birthday seaweed soup.  She looks at me out of the corner of her eye in her cute purple apron with a bunny on it. She busies herself acting like she didn’t know I came in. I am standing there in the middle of the kitchen with a tiny Korean kid hanging off my back, I’m pretty sure I resembled a turtle, she was very obviously blatantly ignoring me. I stood there staring at her, my brother coming closer and closer to slipping off my back and she walks around me distractedly, like I was some kind of Kitchen Island and not a human being. I know my mom she is avoiding me because she feels guilty about something. She hates conflict and would rather process things by becoming a cooking and cleaning machine. I began to feel uneasy… It was at that moment I knew something big was going on and my mom definitely had something shocking hiding in her bunny-apron pocket.

            “Oma….” Korean Fact: Oma is the term for mom in Korean well, it’s what you say if your very close to your mom there is a polite form Omanim (pronounced ohmaneem) but we are very informal in my household. Knowing all is not right in the Park household I begin to disentangle JaeJoong from my body, he is laughing and screaming thinking it’s a game, but even though he is laughing his cute four-year-old laugh, my heart starts to feel heavy, especially as she continues to ignore me and act like she didn’t hear me, or the notice the fact Jaejoong is now in a headlock so I can get him to stop climbing up my body like a little spider monkey, usually she would be yelling at me for the head locking my baby brother. It was at that precise moment that I knew something was wrong. , OMA” I shouted, she jumped and turned slowly towards me with her seaweed soup stirring spoon in her hand. She answers me in Korean: “SaeRah! Don’t scare your mother like that; help your little brother get the table ready for breakfast.” She turned back to what she was doing signaling me to be finished with the conversation I haven’t even gotten chance to start. I eye her doubtfully again but sensing I wasn’t going to get anywhere with her, began to set the table. I hand jaejoong chopsticks and long handled spoons to set out, and his cute Pororo training chopsticks Korean Fact #100: Pororo is the number one Korean cartoon; he is a cute little blue penguin with a pilot hat  and goggles, so famous he is known as the president of children’s cartoons in Korea. As he tried his best to set out the silverware, I began to set out the bacheon Korean Fact #205: bacheon are Korean side dishes, consisting of many different fermented and cooked vegitables, meat, eggs and kimchi. I set them out artistically on the table and served up three bowls of rice, and sat down as my mom served us bowls of my birthday seaweed soup. Why seaweed soup, I’m sure you’re thinking? Well in Korea it’s a traditional dish that is served at everyone’s birthday each year, normally I am happy to eat it knowing I am getting closer to adulthood, but this year JeaJoongs words about me getting married were distracting me from my happiness of growing older. Now that everyone was sitting at the table, I chanced another look at my mother to assess whether or not now was the good time to bring up my impending marriage. I look over at her she was concentrating very hard at spooning soup carefully into bowls and decided it’s now or never.

            I very tactfully and calmly broach the subject: “Oma, so JaeJoong told me I was getting married, I mean that’s ridiculous, right? I’m not even 17 yet.” My mom gives Jaejoong a scowling look… he didn’t care though, he is four so figuring out how to eat kimchi with his training chopsticks was taking up 100% of his focus, in fact not only did he not even notice or care about our precious mom’s scowl, unbothered he continued to attempt to grab a small piece of kimchi. My mom turned to me slowly and just stared at me, then down at the bowl of Seaweed soup that was rapidly getting cold. “SaeRah, eat your soup, it’s getting cold.” She turns back to JaeJoong busying herself with Jaejoong. Still ignoring me, she starts shoving a big spoonful of soup in poor Jaejoong mouth forcing Jaejoong to eat it. Her continuous avoidance of the subject matter was just making me more suspicious, nervous, and my left eye starts twitching. My eye twitches when I start getting stressed out. Not seeing anyway around it I tackle this head on:  “OMA!” I shout again as she cringes, finally giving me eye contact. I brace myself because in that eye contact I could see something, something that was potentially life altering, dangerous was going to come out of her lips. I brace myself for WWIII.

“SaeRah,” my mom started slowly, “yes, you will be getting married, everyone gets married, it’s not like it’s going to be today so stop worrying and eat your birthday soup.” She said matter of factly. “Oma, not EVERYONE gets married, especially not 17-year-old high school seniors…” I retort. She gives me a sharp glance, and sets down her spoon. I just continue to stare at her like my soul had left its body. Wow at that I knew it was something huge, most people would be like oh okay, that’s cool no big deal, but my mom is totally hiding something, something dangerously important: my marriage. Not giving up, I stare at her not touching my soup knowing the only way I was going to get anywhere with her was by threatening starvation, Asian mom’s can’t stand that, we must eat until their satisfaction at every meal. My mom seeing there was no way of avoiding the subject further, afraid I will starve myself and waste away, eyes me again sighs. She opens her mouth and begins the most life shattering news I have still ever received in my life.

            “SaeRah” She begins in this ominous tone, “You know your father has been gone and I tried to support you two on my own, but the fact is, we are out of money and my father has requested that we sell the house and return to South korea,” she says as if that is the most normal news of her life. The spoon I was holding drops from hand clang stop the floor meanwhile my mouth hangs open in utter  in utter shock. After gather my composure I blurt at the next logical question:

            “Oma, you’re kidding right? It’s the middle of my senior year, I am singing for the school musical, and I can’t even imagine in the slightest that leaving Clara and Travis to be an option! My whole life is here, BUT forget that JaeJoong said something about me getting married? That IS not happening right? I mean it just can’t.  Right?” Before my mom even tries to answer; I start laughing hysterically like I’m some kind of laugh track for Saturday night live. With the non-responsiveness of my mother actual real fear set down on me, like a heavy demon that had arrived to destroy the only normalcy of my life.

            “Yes, I was talking on the phone to my father, when your father was still alive we had betrothed you too your father’s bet friend’s son. So that is true but, we do want you to be of age and spend time with him first…” at this point I’m so utterly shocked I’m sure my mouth was so wide open I was letting every fly in the city in my mouth. The room was dead silent I’m pretty sure a tomb is not more silent than the room I was in, even Jaejoong had stopped eating seeing his sister in state he has never witnessed before, and so It began.

To be continued SaeRah’s reaction to her mother’s news. Tell me what you think. Yes I know there is grammar and spelling problems it’s just a rough draft. Tell me if you like what you read in the comments.

 

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