“Who are you?”
“It’s unexpected to meet you like this. I’m Kwon Kyung-sun. On paper I’m Sunwoo-ssi’s older sister. Nice to meet you.”
It was so sudden that she felt flustered and her heart raced.
A person claiming to be her older sister on paper suddenly appeared. She was confused by the sudden presence of this person and wondered why she was here and what she wanted from her.
Sunwoo stared blankly at Kyung-sun’s outstretched hand and awkwardly reached out to shake it. The hand she held felt clean and cool.
“I have plenty of reasons to come and meet you, Sunwoo-ssi. Don’t you think so?”
Without waiting for a real answer, Kyung-sun continued speaking.
“But today, it’s not a personal visit from me. Our chairman is waiting for you downstairs in the car. Shall we go down together?”
“Who is the chairman and why do they want to meet me?”
Observing Sunwoo’s expression filled with suspicion, Kyung-sun smiled faintly.
“I think you’ll find out quickly if you go and meet the chairman in person rather than me telling you.”
For some reason, it made her feel uneasy, ominous, and not at all inclined to go.
“Do I have to go and meet someone without even knowing who they are? If they want to meet me, they can come up here.”
Kyung-sun looked around. The bustling noise of people chatting and the pop songs playing from the speakers made it feel lively and noisy.
“The chairman just wants to have a quiet conversation with you, Sunwoo-ssi. Excluding these people.”
Looking down the window, she could see two bodyguards standing across the street. It was reassuring to know that they were the only ones there.
“Don’t look so scared. Sunwoo, you’re the one causing trouble, but your face makes it seem like we’re the ones up to something. If you’re worried, why not ask Chairman Dan Taeju? He’s aware of our meeting already.”
Sunwoo raised her head at Kyung-sun’s words.
“Yes. He had lunch with the chairman two hours ago and they already had a conversation.”
Who on earth is this chairman…
“Can I call Taeju-ssi and ask him now?”
In response to her skeptical gaze, Kyung-sun raised her palm as if to say she could do whatever she wanted. Sunwoo kept her gaze on Kyung-sun and pressed the speed dial for Taeju’s phone.
The signal went through, but no one answered the phone.
“He’s not answering?”
Kyung-sun seemed to have expected that.
Dan Taeju is a busy person, so he might be in a meeting or doing something else. However, Sunwoo didn’t want to blindly trust Kyung-sun this woman’s words and go meet this chairman without any confirmation.
“Then, can I go with my bodyguard?”
“Sure, go ahead.”
Kyung-sun chuckled as if she was going to say something but then suddenly turned back as if something had crossed her mind.
“Oh, before meeting the chairman… There’s something I want to say first. Even though I’m called your sister, can I say a few words?”
Were there times when people asked for her opinion and spoke to her like that?
“Are you not curious about how mother is doing in prison? After all, she’s the one who raised you, right?”
Sunwoo gripped the railing tightly. Did that person really have a time when she was her mother?
“That person is not my mother.”
“And you’re not my sister either.”
With her quiet yet firm attitude, Kyung-sun’s gaze became sharp as if it could pierce through.
“You’re more audacious than I thought.”
Kyung-sun swiftly turned her body and descended the stairs again. As Sunwoo stepped out of the coffee shop, she looked towards where the bodyguards had been earlier.
At least one of them should have been on duty. But now, both of them were nowhere to be seen.
“Why? Where are the bodyguards?”
She was about to ask them to wait for a moment when Kyung-sun spoke first.
“Are you unable to take a single step without your bodyguards? What on earth is so terrifying? The person who raised you, the island residents who treated you like family, are all being labeled as criminals and thrown into prison by someone so ruthless? Ah, you must have accumulated a lot of resentment, so there must be many things that frighten you.”
Her voice was calm, but it was filled with malicious intent as if she wanted to hurt her. But she didn’t want to argue back. She just wanted to leave this place and go back home.
Sunwoo thought of Dan Taeju. She wanted to fall asleep in his arms, where he would embrace her and she would feel safe. In the early morning, she wanted to wait for him as he ran up the hill, and when he took off his sweaty clothes, she wanted to touch his strong and energetic body.
She wanted to laugh at Hee-won’s sarcastic jokes, go to good restaurants with Hyo-in, and visit art exhibitions together. There were so many things she wanted to do.
That’s why she didn’t want to be hurt by these people anymore. Because to them, she was nothing anymore.
“Think about it. If the chairman had ill intentions towards you, would she do it so openly, in broad daylight, in such a crowded place?”
“Alright. Let’s go meet this chairman.”
Who on earth is this person? Even her so-called sister came along and asked to see her. She also wanted to confirm.
A black sedan was parked on the street near the cafe. Even though she didn’t know much about cars, it looked luxurious and solid. When the window in the back seat of the car was halfway down, Kyung-sun approached and bowed her head. It seemed like she was having a conversation with someone inside.
Although she couldn’t see inside from where she was standing, it must be the chairman inside the car.
Kyung-sun flicked her hand towards her, and the back seat door of the car opened. Sunwoo swallowed her dry saliva nervously and entered the back seat, feeling tense. Deep in the back seat, adorned with brown leather, an elderly woman who appeared to be in her seventies was sitting comfortably.
“Hello. You want to see me, Ma’am?”
“Yes. You’ve grown well, and you look beautiful.”
“You know me?”
“I know, I know you very well.”
There was a partition in the seat. When the old woman tapped the front seat with her cane, the car slowly started moving.
“Let’s not beat around the bush. Your father, Lee Sang-cheol, is my son. So, you are my granddaughter.”
She was taken aback and looked at the old woman.
“You’re my grandmother?”
She remembered her father’s face, but had no idea she had a grandmother.
“It’s so sudden…”
“Let’s go home now.”
It was already strange enough for a woman claiming to be her sister to suddenly appear, but now someone is saying to her she has a grandmother. And to top it off, she was being told to come home?
“What are you talking about?”
Sunwoo looked at Park Eui-rye with a bitter expression.
“Why would I go there? I have no intention of doing so. I’ll pretend I didn’t hear what you just said. If you’re going to say such things, then you must have come here by mistake. I don’t want to see you again like this.”
“I know what you’re thinking and I understand.”
“You understand? You know?”
The terrifying moments that piled up like dust, the fear created by those moments. Even if she tried to convince herself that it was all okay now, the memories of that island constantly tormented her.
What was truly draining for her right now was that the past was not something that had already passed. The anger that surged within her, triggered by that past, was hurting her. It was preventing her from living a happy life.
This old woman who claimed to understand her so easily became repulsive to her.
“You’ll be angry, resentful, and everything will be uncomfortable. But what happened to you was just an accident.”
Park Eui-rye interrupted her thoughts.
“An accident? You’re saying it was just an accident?”
“Yes, it was just an unfortunate accident.”
Her mother suddenly died.
Even if she mulled over the incident again and again, she didn’t think it was a simple accident. Because at that time, her father left her and her mother lying on the street and just walked away.
If only her father had protected her mother until the end. No, even if he had just reported the accident right away, so many things would have been different.
After that, she was trapped on the island for a staggering 17 years. If she hadn’t miraculously escaped like that, she would probably still be living on the island, and by now, she might have even become a shaman.
She felt her breath catch in her throat.
“Do you resent me?”
“I resent you. I get angry and feel unjust at times. But more than that, I just want to know the truth.”
“It was me who put you on the island.”
Sunwoo looked at the old woman in surprise.
“At that time, as a mother, I didn’t think of anything other than saving my son. That scandalous mess would have ended that child’s life, which was just beginning. So I did what I had to do. When I sent someone, your mother was already dying. And your father thought you were dead because of the accident. It was all my doing.”
“So what? What about the 17 years I was imprisoned on the island? Why are you suddenly appearing like this? Why are you saying these things to me? Is it because I remember the face of the man who killed my mother in front of reporters? Are you trying to defend my father in his place?”
Her voice trembled with anger.
“Oh, tsk tsk… Defending, you say.”
In response to her words, Park Eui-rye smiled awkwardly and clicked her tongue.
Her face seemed genuinely kind, to the point where she felt like a naive granddaughter begging in front of her grandmother.
“After being in business for about 50 years, I have experienced all sorts of things. Well, the tricks journalists play… A few worthless words like that can be erased without a trace for a few pennies. I didn’t even consider such things.”
“Then what is the meaning of telling me to come home all of a sudden? I clearly told you that I didn’t want to. I absolutely… “
Park Eui-rye’s gaze felt eerie and sharp.
“I can’t stand your way of speaking. I’m informing you, not asking for your opinion.”
She couldn’t help but find it strange how similar she was to her stepmother on Umyeon Island.
They looked so alike that it was almost laughable. But now, she didn’t want to cry at the slightest provocation and beg, not knowing what she had done wrong.
“So what? Even if I don’t want to, are you going to forcefully drag me along? Or maybe you’ll confine me somewhere until I listen to you?”
“It’s possible. But you will walk in on your own.”
“No, no. That will never happen. It absolutely won’t.”
As she locked eyes with the old woman, strangely enough, a chilling shiver ran up her arms.