Chapter 1: Born a Princess (1)
A week had passed since our gas bills was shut off… and today, our electricity suffered the same fate.
My toes were frozen. Gone was the feeling of warmth.
The weather reports said the temperature would go down as low as 12 degrees fahrenheit. It was true. I could see smoke from my breath while sitting inside the comfort of my home.
My fruitless efforts turning on the gaslight several times bore no fruits and I’d given up, proceeding to cover myself with layers of clothing instead. And it was midnight. I had no place to go should I choose to leave for the night, therefore, I did my best. I sat tightly, body curled up into a ball.
The blanket over me barely provided any semblance of warmth as I held onto my phone that had a bit of battery left.
In this suffocating and small home, the only faint light of hope came from my phone.
The heat from my phone was the last best source I had left. If it shuts off as well, then I’d need to survive this long night with only my body and warmth.
Absentmindedly, I opened the KakaoTalk app and saw many messages I’ve yet to read.
‘Gyeo Ul-Ah, what are you up to these days? We’re going to a ski resort. Do you want to come as well?’
‘What have you been up to? You haven’t replied. Are you dead?’
‘Gyeo Ul-Ah… Gyeo Ul-Ah…’
‘Hey! Yun Gyeo Ul-Ah..!!’
After mindlessly staring at the message for a while, I turned off the screen.
A sigh escaped my lips unconsciously. I was thankful, thankful for the friends who cared for me, but I live a different life from them. I had no freedom. I had no money. To go to the ski resort my friend offered would mean that I’d have to starve for a month. And because of my stubborn pride, I could not, would not tell them of my current situation. I would never tell.
‘Sorry, I’m busy… let’s play together next time.’
I’d keep making excuses… one after another…
On top of my extremely impoverished and destitute environment, I had a father with previous criminal records. It was better to keep my distance from them. I’d only trouble them…
‘I don’t blame you, mother.’
If I had a husband like my father, I too would leave as soon as possible. Though I would not dare to leave my child behind… like mother did. Mother taught me too much of a burden to be with me. And so she left. Alone.
Since then, I’ve spent most of my childhood under the shadow of my father. Once I came to adulthood, I tried to run away. I did. But somehow, he always found me, proceeding to violate me for as long as he wished.
Abuse was in his blood, in his authority. Father stole all the money I worked hard to save up for university. Now that dream became a broken piece and something far out of reach. Currently, I jump from job to job, all part-time, to earn for my… our living expenses. On top of a massive debt piling one after another, father kept getting trouble with the authorities for multitudes of crimes. I’d receive mails notifying of his presence inside the jail. He probably would not be able to come home even if he wished to.
‘I wouldn’t be in these troubling times if I hadn’t gone to the ER back then…’
I let out another sigh.
Two months ago, I had no choice but to be sent to the ER. The bill was unexpectedly high and I was unable to pay off the gas and electricity bill that was long overdue. Even working daily was not enough. I could barely afford to pay off rent and living expenses.
A melancholic smile appeared on my lips. I wrapped the blanket tighter on my body, then suddenly…
“Open the door!”
The hairs from the back of my neck stood. The familiar voice caused my heartbeat to quicken and beat sporadically. The man’s voice, a needle to my thorn, was a voice I was no stranger to.
He was supposed to be in jail. When did he get out? Father did not give me a moment to think of the possibilities.
His violent pounding brought out a familiar feeling, like the time the owner of the place called the authorities… I ran to the front and quickly opened the door.
“Hey! I nearly froze to death! Why’d it take you so long?!”
He spat out vile words of anger, each and sentence followed by the disgusting stench of alcohol. I managed to control myself from pinching my nose from the horrid smell and stared at father instead. He wore a weathered old coat that had not been clean for ages and an indistinguishable stains printed all over his clothes along with the dirt coating onto shoes.
“When did you get out?”
“Yesterday. Besides that, give me some money. I don’t have any left and I need a few more drinks.”
He held out his hands, demanding that I give him cash. I shook my head lightly.
“I don’t have any… I don’t even have enough to pay for the electricity or gas bills.”
“Don’t joke with me. Though you say that, I know you’re hiding something. I’m warning you, give me some before this turns into a big mess.”
Father lifted his hand threatening to hit me.
I knew the pain that would follow. I flinched unconsciously.
“Fine. If you’re not going to give it to me, then I’ll look for it myself. You stay right there, Yeon Gyeo Ul.”
His mannerisms were of a threatening fashion and strides intimidating. He walked inside, shoes still on, and opened drawers after drawers. The apartment was turned inside out.
I used this opening window as a chance and bolted out the front door and into the freezing, cold winter.
“Hey! Yun Gyeo Ul!”
Father realized all too late of my means to escape and hurriedly chased after me.
I ran down the stairs as fast as I could, but the ground was frozen, wet, and slippery.
I slipped and fell.
I let out a moan. During my bouts of pain, father soon caught up to me while I quickly sucked in a breath of air and used my two hands to prop myself up. My hands and knees, scraped from the fall, stung with great pain. I tried to escape and run down the stairs, but…
‘…..It’s too late…’