Chapter 17 – The Substitute (1)
“Did you paint all night again?”
The room was filled with the smell of linseed and terpene oil. Unfinished canvas and painting tools were all over the room. Feeling dizzy, Hye-yeon hurriedly opened the window to let in some fresh air.
Slumped on the settee, hair like a bird’s nest, dazed eyes squinting at the sudden onslaught of sunlight–Yuri’s perfectly disheveled state was quite a sight.
“What time is it now?”
“I want to sleep some more. I’ve only slept for two hours.”
“No, I have a favor to ask of you.”
“A favor? Hotel thing again?”
Hye-yeon smiled awkwardly when Yuri replied flatly.
Ever since Hye-yeon graduated from college, she had been working at her father’s hotel after. It was President Myung-je Jin’s preemptive strike to thwart all attempts of his shopaholic, unemployed daughter running rampant. As much as her father loved her, he loathed this side of her so much that he’d even threatened to suspend all her cards if she didn’t work sincerely. Thus, this shopping addict would diligently drag herself to work every morning to appease the tyrannical patriarch.
However, even though she was forced to work hard, it did not deter her from keeping to ‘up to no good’ ways. As soon as her father went away on a trip, she would jailbreak. And in such situations, she needed Yuri to pull off a ruse for her father’s eyes were everywhere.
“Yes. Dad’s on a business trip and he’ll be back in three days. Please cover me for three days. I’ve decided to go on a trip to Japan with my boyfriend.”
“Boyfriend? I heard you broke up a while ago. You’ve gotten back with him again?”
“What are you talking about? This one’s brand new! This time I found a really nice one. I mean, please… be my substitute for the last time?”
When she saw Yuri’s figure burying itself under a blanket not caring a hoot, Hye-yeon panicked, “I’ll double… no, triple the hourly wage,” she said in desperation.
When the pitiful voice reached the sleep-deprived ears, the blanket was voluntarily pulled off. Money or not, Hye-yeon could never be refused.
By the time she entered middle school, Yuri’s father, who had failed to do business in Seoul, returned to his hometown of Jinseong City and took up a job as the driver of President Myung-je Jin. Thereon, Yuri had lived in the president’s house for five years before going to art school in Seoul.
Even though Hye-yeon and Yuri were friends, a huge social division was wedged between them. But that didn’t stop them from helping each other and most importantly trusting one another. They knew of all the skeletons hidden in the other’s closet, and well, they’d even helped put some there.
“You said you lost the chance to study abroad, but then why are you putting so much effort into drawing?”
“I can’t just let go. I’ll look for another chance.”
“Your dad didn’t say anything else about you losing the opportunity?”
“He thinks it’s just because I’m not good enough. I didn’t tell him the details. So you keep it a secret, too.”
“How can I tell him that the professor blatantly offered you a ‘sugar daddy-baby’ relationship? Don’t worry.”
Using her delicate fingers, Hye-yeon then made a gesture of zipping her mouth to express her solidarity.
Upon entering the bathroom, Yuri dipped her hands into cold water. She held them there until they were tingling. She looked alternately at her hands and herself in the mirror. She didn’t think that she’d lose everything in such a short time. Years of hard work was gone in a jiffy.
She was a top graded student that had never missed the grand prize and the first place in the art contests, from elementary school to all the way to high school. The university she went to was also the most well-known art school in Korea, where her talent was recognized and she was successful. She would be the only student who would have won a chance to study abroad and hold an exhibition if it wasn’t for the absurd demands of the professor who called her to his studio that day.
She was neither young nor naïve to not know what he was asking for. It was very common in the art field. Nevertheless, Yuri couldn’t stand the unpleasant touch from the professor who was groping her body. Disgusted at the very sight of him, she had stormed out of his office.
However, the cost of refusing his offer was worse than expected. The exhibition that Yuri had been nominated for was canceled, and the opportunity to study abroad was also gone with it. As the professor held the highest authority in this field, it was a child’s play to raze Yuri down to the ground and bury her dreams and aspirations.
In vain, Yuri had vehemently complained and protested. There was no one to support her or worse hear her claims. She didn’t have any evidence to back her and given the other party’s lofty status, she was simply insignificant to be bothered with. The pervert professor had even assured her that he was going to destroy her career in the future.
In the end, she was forced to take a semester break before graduation. Even so, she did not intend to visit the professor and beg him. She didn’t want to gain her chance in that way nor give him the satisfaction of subjugating her.
Yuri tried to smile at her pale face in the mirror. Life had pushed her into a corner, whether she had to climb over or dig under to escape, she would.