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with you when you go

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It's not raining outside, but the sky is grey, clouds looming as though in anticipation of some announcement of which Hyejin knows nothing. The light lingering, tucked between the pages of her book, barely lights the lines of text.

The words, a letter that Sylvia Plath never sent, linger beneath her fingers.

Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing. [1]

The words shape silent sounds as her lips move—

and the door of the library swings open.

"There you are." Woojin's face is a little flushed; he was probably out riding after lunch. Hyejin wonders what he wants as she sets the book aside.

"Is everything alright?" It's strange, being at home again, when the definition of home has already shifted to her flat in the city, small and comfortable with her cats and her books. This time last week she'd been pouring bubble bath in the bath water. Shifting her weight, Hyejin's hand brushes against the velvet upholstery of the chair she's sitting in. The surface is pretty, but the seat is hard.

Woojin doesn't seem to notice any of her thoughts, or her reticence at being called back home to the estate, but then again, even though she loves her younger brother, her only brother, dearly, he's never been the most sensitive. "We were just doing a last taste test," he says, grinning. "Minjae just found out that her great aunt is allergic to peaches, so mother was scrambling like she always does."

His voice is careless, smile amiable, but Hyejin has always been good at reading beneath the surface, and she can see his hidden call for help.

"Of course," she says, brushing away the wrinkles of her dress as she stands, leaving the book behind on the side table. Sylvia Plath's unfinished letter, only partially read.

 

how are you doing?

Mihyun's message is waiting on the screen of her phone, the first thing Hyejin sees when she opens her eyes, and a knot forms in her throat before she can swallow it down. Her mouth tastes stale, too many flavours of cake lingering on her tongue regardless of how many times she brushed her teeth before bed.

Slipping out of bed, she wraps her fingers around the phone but only holds it cupped to the front of the oversized t-shirt of Mihyun's that she's wearing in lieu of a nightgown; her mother would be scandalized. Hyejin doesn't really care.

"So when are you getting married?" her mother had said last night at the dinner table; Hyejin had swallowed, controlling her expression, and Woojin had only stared resolutely at the salad on his plate. Minjae's expression across the table had been politely curious, and that unguarded presence had reminded Hyejin, once again, of why it wasn't the right time.

Not right now, with the wedding tomorrow.

"You know I've been busy with work," she had said, meeting her mother's frown without blinking. Her mother had only sighed, disappointment evident in the set of her chin, as she continued the conversation about child-rearing that she'd been having with Minjae.

The phone buzzes against her chest, another message from Mihyun and all Hyejin can think, in that instant, is how much she wants to go home. Not this home, tall and stately and chilled, but back in the city with Mihyun.

 

Hyejin knows that her mother will be expecting her for breakfast, yet another besieged meal with veiled glances and insinuations. She glances at the dress lying across the chair, ready to slip into, and instead of pausing to reach down for it, walks past it instead. The corridor is empty, though she can hear Woojin humming behind the door of his bedroom, and Minjae's door is still closed. Hyejin doesn't think about her mother's insistence that her brother and his fiancée sleep in separate rooms to preserve propriety, even though she must know that they've been sharing a bed in their flat in the city. She doesn't think about what her mother will say when Hyejin tells her about Mihyun, a fact that she's only put off for her brother's sake, even though he never asked. Bare feet slipping quietly across the smooth boards of the wood floor, Hyejin slips out of the house in her oversized t-shirt.

The dew is cold on her feet, blades of grass tickling her toes as she climbs the hill overlooking the paddock. The sky is still pink. Hyejin takes a deep breath, stretching out her arms to the sky, thinks about a meteor hitting the earth and swallowing everything in a final, hovering note.

Would I be scared? she wonders, and pictures her mother's face when she tells her.

The paint-washed sky hums as Hyejin continues walking along the crest of the hill.