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Kim Miyoung reached down and picked up a rock about the size of her balled-up fist, hurling it at her younger brother. She felt satisfaction run through her as the rock met its target, hitting his shoulder dead-on. Kim Jinyoung yelped and fell to the ground, looking up to see his attacker. He blinked for a moment and smiled when he realized Miyoung was standing there, waiting for him. She narrowed her eyes at his response, and Miyoung had the strongest urge to send another rock flying in his direction, but Jinyoung didn’t give her the chance to. Instead, he quickly stood, plucked whatever it was that he was studying off the ground, and ran over to her.
Miyoung waited impatiently, her irritation growing, as Jinyoung made his way over to her as quickly as his short, 11-year-old legs allowed him to. Once he came to a stop in front of her, Jinyoung opened his hand, revealing to Miyoung, a bright, yellow daisy, its life and radiance contrasting greatly with the harsh coldness of the cruel winter of Incheon, South Korea.
“You made me stand in the cold just so you could pick a stupid flower?” she asked in disbelief.
Jinyoung simply stared, not a word or sound reaching his ears. Miyoung growled in annoyance and swatted the flower out of her face, unconcerned that the delicate daisy landed in the snow. Pulling Jinyoung in by the collar, she angrily growled, “Next time, I’m leaving you to freeze to death, got it? Don’t you ever waste my time again!”
She let go with a shove, rolling her eyes when he landed on the ground by her feet. She turned on her heel and listlessly called over her shoulder, “Hurry up, or I’m leaving you.”
She felt a pang of disappointment when she heard him clamber up and rush to catch up to her.
She could only wish that next time, he would choose not to get back up.
Two-week suspension for punching stupid Jung Songmi in the face. She got in trouble for punching Songmi in the face, yet Songmi got away with calling her the “Idiot Deaf’s” older sister? Where’s the justice!
Before she could get further in her mental rant, Miyoung paused, the fury caused by Songmi intensifying and targeting a new victim the moment her eyes fell upon the 11-year-old figure standing beside the iron gates. Jinyoung smiled as he quickly ran toward her. Miyoung wanted nothing more than to run away, but before she could get away, Jinyoung stopped in front of her, handing her a blue slip of paper. She blinked for a moment and took the paper even though she wanted nothing more than to rip it to shreds.
Saengalchukka hamnida, Miyoung noona!
I have a present for you!
I can’t afford to buy you a cake, so… here’s your make-believe 18th birthday cake!
Blow out your candles and make a wish, noona!
Miyoung stared at the surprisingly well-drawn image of an intricately-decorated cake with 18 candles. Anger filled her once again when she remembered that Jinyoung couldn’t even speak these words. He had to resort to writing a note, once again branding her as the girl with the “stupid” little brother. Her lips curled in disgust as she crumpled the paper and threw it on the ground.
“Happy birthday? You have the nerve to tell me happy birthday? What’s so happy about it! The only one I’ve got to celebrate it with is you, and you can’t even speak or hear me! If you weren’t born a stupid, deaf mute, appa would still be here! Your medical bills made him work harder at the factory! It’s your fault appa’s dead! It’s your fault umma ran out on us!” Miyoung screamed in his face, unfazed by the terrified look that washed over his features even though she knew he couldn’t, and never would, hear a word she was saying. Miyoung spat in his face in anger and screamed, “My birthday wish is for you to get out of my life! I don’t need you ruining things for me any longer!”
Before Jinyoung could raise his hands to explain himself, Miyoung pushed past, bumping shoulders hard enough for him to fall to the ground with a thud. He twisted to look at Miyoung’s retreating form, tears pooling in his eyes. He had no clue what Miyoung said, but he knew he had done something to upset her. Why couldn’t he ever do anything right? All he wanted was to make Miyoung’s life easier, but he’s only failed miserably at the simple task. Jinyoung sighed, wiping the snow off the rear of his dark blue slacks as he brought an arm up to wipe away Miyoung’s spit.
He didn’t care.
He knew for a fact that Miyoung was only acting like this because she was stressed out.
A smile formed on his face as his thoughts drifted to Miyoung’s birthday present hiding away safely in the depths of his tattered backpack. Thoughts of his sister’s smile after opening his present was enough incentive to rush home and get everything prepared, which he did the moment he resituated his backpack. He ran all the way home, throwing the door open once he arrived and ransacking his room for ribbon to tie his gift with. Jinyoung smiled in happiness once he found a roll of silky, purple ribbon, knowing it was Miyoung’s favorite color. He spent twenty minutes tying a perfect bow around the box, only accepting perfection. Once he was done, he slipped an index card with his birthday message underneath the ribbon and grabbed the box, heading to Miyoung’s room.
With a smile, he opened the bedroom door and walked in, laying the box gently on the twin-sized mattress. He smiled at how perfect the gift looked and was about to walk out when he realized that her backpack wasn’t in the room. Jinyoung found this odd. He knew Miyoung was possessive of all her things, keeping everything she owned in her room and out of sight. Jinyoung shrugged his shoulders, thinking that maybe she decided to leave her stuff in the living room instead. He exited the room, shutting the door behind him, and walked down the hallway toward the kitchen to find himself something to eat when he felt something wet. He looked down, eyes widening, as he realized he was standing in a puddle of blood.
Blood on the floor and empty bedrooms were never occurrences in this household, which let Jinyoung know something was seriously wrong with his sister. He began pounding on the door, crying when it remained shut. Deciding there was nothing left to do, he moved away from the door and charged full speed, shouting in pain when he heard his shoulder popping out of place.
He didn’t dwell on the pain, though. Once the door broke away in splinters, he looked around for his sister, dropping to his knees and bursting into tears when he realized Miyoung was lying on her side on the tiled floor in a puddle of her own blood. He scooted closer to her, turning her body and trying to shake her awake, only crying harder when she didn’t respond. Feeling helpless, Jinyoung placed a hand on his sister’s chest. After a few terrifying seconds, he breathed in relief when he felt her faint heartbeat.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Jinyoung hoisted his sister onto his back and stumbled toward the front door. He knew Miyoung was on the verge of death, and he also knew that her death would be on his conscience if he didn’t get her to the hospital in time. He ran, not caring about shoes or jackets or shutting the front door, only concerned about the wellbeing of his sister. It wasn’t until he was standing in front of the hospital, feet, numb, face, raw, and fingers, frozen, did he stop running. He entered the hospital, feeling as though he were about to pass out from exhaustion.
Jinyoung didn’t have a chance to register anything. Before he knew what was happening, nurses appeared seemingly out of nowhere, taking Miyoung away from him and carefully laying her atop a gurney before rolling her out of sight; the last thing he saw before she disappeared was one of her jaggedly-slit wrists hanging over the side of the gurney. It all happened so fast that Jinyoung couldn’t comprehend it all. So many questions were asked of him, of which, he had no answers to. The only thing he knew for sure from the way a doctor was screaming while waving around an empty blood bag was the fact that his sister needed blood, and he was the only one who could give it to her. After what felt like an eternity of pleading, Jinyoung found himself in a hospital bed beside his older sister, a rubber band tied tightly around his arm while a nurse began prepping the needle and bag.
Right before the nurse stuck the needle in, Jinyoung reached across the gap and grabbed hold of his sister’s hand.
He never once let go.
Miyoung could faintly hear the sounds of soft beeps as an unfamiliar, antiseptic smell filled her nose. She stirred for a moment, fighting to open her eyes. Once she pried her lids open, Miyoung was greeted by blank, white walls. She tried sitting up, but quickly found she was restrained by multiple wires and tubes. Her eyes widened as the events of last night hit her. Locking herself in the bathroom. Sobbing by herself. Grabbing the knife. Slitting her wrists.
Miyoung blinked for a moment, a sudden dizziness overtaking her, as she looked down to see her heavily-stitched wrists lying uselessly beside her on the bed. She shut her eyes, shaking her head when she realized that she had failed at killing herself. She frowned before opening her eyes again; however, this time, she noticed she wasn’t alone in the white hospital room.
Looking to her left, her eyes widened at the unexpected sight.
Kim Jinyoung lay beside her, various tubes and wires hooked up to him, connecting him to beeping machines around his bed. In that instant, she didn’t have to wonder what had happened after she passed out from blood loss.
She knew what her little brother had done for her.
Pulling against all the wires and tubes, Miyoung reached across the small gap between her and her brother’s bed and grabbed hold of the tiny hand hanging limply over the edge. She gave the hand a gentle squeeze, a silent thank you.
Miyoung’s heart broke as the sound of an incessant, monotonous beep from the heart monitor filled the room.
She wasn’t quite sure whose heart it was that gave out, but a tiny part of her secretly wished it was hers rather than her brother’s.
Miyoung numbly walked up the steps, not wanting to enter the house. It pained her to come home without Jinyoung following behind, picking flowers for her.
Reluctantly, Miyoung turned the doorknob, silently entering the dark ruins of what used to be a happy home. She began walking toward her room, not knowing what else to do since she didn’t have school to attend or a brother to take care of. Miyoung carefully stepped over the puddle of dried blood in front of the shattered bathroom door, shuttering slightly when she realized Jinyoung had seen all this, and continued to her room. She shut the door, not exactly registering her actions, but more or less going through the motions.
Having no obligations, Miyoung simply wanted to crawl into bed and sleep for the rest of her life. Had it not been for a carefully-wrapped box sitting on her bed catching her attention, she knew she would have done just that, too. Curiously, Miyoung approached the box, taking the index card with her name and flipping it so she could read the other side.
She choked on her tears the instant she recognized Jinyoung’s neat handwriting.
Saengalchukka hamnida, noona!
I’m sorry for being born the way I am. I’m sorry for being a deaf mute. I can see it upsets you, and I try my hardest to change so I can make things easier on you, but I guess I’m not doing so well.
Don’t worry. I’ll try harder, just for you, noona!
Thank you for loving me, noona. For staying and being both my umma and appa now that my real umma and appa are gone. I couldn’t have asked for a better sister!
Anyway, it’s your 18th birthday today, so I decided to get you something. I’ve been saving up for a long time, but it’ll be worth it because once you open it, you’re going to smile, I just know it. Okay, okay, I’m ending this note now so I can watch you open your present.
Saranghae, Miyoung noona.
Love, Kim Jinyoung
Her tear-filled eyes rose to look at the box, and, setting the index card aside, she instantly pulled the purple ribbon and lifted away the lid. She began outright sobbing, falling onto the floor while clutching the box in her hands, when she saw a pile of about 200,000 won sitting inside the box. She was crying so hard that, for a moment, she didn’t realize there was another slip of paper sitting atop the neatly-stacked pile of bills. Hand trembling, body shaking, she carefully reached for the paper and brought it close to her face to read what it said.
Surprise, Miyoung noona!
Did you like your gift?
Here’s 195,000 won, enough for you to get a ticket to Super Show 4 whenever it comes around. It took me forever to save up for it, which is partially why I gave you such terrible gifts in the past, but this is just a small token of my appreciation for everything you’ve done for me.
I couldn’t have asked for a better sister!
Saranghae, Miyoung noona! I hope this was the best birthday you’ve ever had!
Love, Kim Jinyoung
Miyoung carefully set the note back down and slumped against her mattress. She didn’t deserve this. She didn’t deserve to live. Jinyoung should be alive right now, not her. Jinyoung understood life better than anyone she’s ever known. It was she that had no understanding of anything whatsoever, and it took the death of her far-too-kind little brother to realize this.
“ D-dongsaeng-ah,” Miyoung stammered through her tears, speaking to the empty air of the house. “D-dongsaeng-ah. Noona’s sorry for everything she’s ever done to you. Noona’s sorry for not being able to give you a better life. Noona always did the best she could for you, but it’s obvious that the best just wasn’t enough. Noona’s not embarrassed of you as her brother, okay? Noona doesn’t wish for you to be out of her life, okay? And… Noona loves you. She loves you so much. Saranghae, Jinyoung dongsaeng. Saranghae…”