Sometimes, I wonder if I should’ve listened to Mina when she first told me that something’s aren’t what they seem to be.
“Jaemin,” Mina said over dinner one night a little over a year ago. “Are you sure you want to go to the States for this case?”
“I don’t really have any other chose, Noona.” Mina would raise her eyebrows when she didn’t agree with me on something. I would look at Lia, mimicking the expression as well. Sisters, man.
“We just worry about you, Jaemin-dongsaeng.” Lia chimed in. I smiled at my older sisters to reassure them that I would be alright.
“It’s only for a couple of months,” I started. “Besides, I think it would be good for me to explore a bit. It’s New York City.”
“Is that the fancy place in America?” Lia asked.
“It’s like Seoul, but just in America. A lot of lights, busy streets…”
“And people who are dangerous.” Mina added. I rolled my eyes at the comment.
“It’s a company case, Mina. I’m not going to be the only Korean walking the streets of New York City.” I stated.
“I’m just saying, Jaemin. Some things are not what they seem.” Mina said.
I sat at my case going through the case files over and over again. I held my head in my hands in exhaustion; nothing in this case is coming together the way the team wants it to and it just makes me worry that this might be the case I don’t win. The first case in the states, and I can’t solve it for the life of me.
I lean back in my chair and take in the office. Little by little, I’ve been making it more of my own. I have pictures of my life in Korea: Mina-noona, Lia-noona, Eomma. and then I have pictures of my life here in the States: Grace and little bean. I smile to myself, suddenly feeling a sense of guilt for not being around as much as I would like to. It makes me wonder if Grace feels like this when she’s active on a case; wants to be with the people she loves but she literally can’t because a case eats her up alive.
My eyes quickly scanned the person at the door. It’s Ari, Grace’s closest friend. She knocks and opens the door.
“Hey there,” Ari greeted. I smiled and greeted her back with a wave of my hand. She checks her watch for the time and looks back up.
“You’re not about to do overtime and stay here all night, man,” Ari stated. “You people gotta learn how to turn it off when it’s time to go.”
I smiled and cocked my eyebrows up. “Does Grace get this same message on her days on a case?”
“Pretty much, but they are way meaner.” Ari confidently smiled.
“May I help you with anything, Ms. Johnson?” Ari laughs; I’m assuming because of the name change.
“I’m just here to tell you that you’re off and you can get the hell out of here and go home to your woman.” Ari said in a sassy manner.
I don’t know if she noticed just how red my face got when she spoke about Grace like that. It was hard to explain what Grace and I were; nowadays we’re just so busy and just tend to meet up at night on the sofa to be in each other’s company. More like friends than anything else.
“Also,” Ari continued and nodded her head in a direction across the room. “Do you mind taking that with you when you leave? It’s Grace’s stuff from her office; I figured since you two live under the same roof, you can bring her her shit she left behind.”
I looked at the box on the floor across from me. At first, I was confused. Why would she just leave her things here? Why are they even in a box? I looked back at Ari, who’s expression quickly changes as soon as she sees mine.
“What’s going on with Grace?” I sternly said. Ari takes in a deep breath and looks more annoyed than worried.
“Now I’m the bad guy for telling you something that she should’ve told you ages ago.” Ari defensively says.
I’m in complete shock. So many different things are running through my head. When did she leave the firm? Why did she leave in the first place? How is she going to support herself and Willow? Why would she leave the one thing she loved doing the most? Why wouldn’t she just tell me?
I don’t remember when the pieces started to be put together. All I remember is taking Grace’s box of things and walked to my car at the end of the work day. I remember looking at the box in the back seat. I remember seeing the case file that I tossed into the passenger’s seat. I remember looking into it and finally driving uptown towards Harlem.
Harlem doesn’t look like the rest of the city. I know that The Bronx is just a couple of train stops up North, and this isn’t the safest neighborhood to be in, but a case was a case and I just needed a distraction from everything circulating in my head.
I remember getting out of my car and walking towards some sort of building. I remember being so caught up in the details that I didn’t realize someone had stopped me on the street. I looked up to see this guy, who was asking me for the time. Stupid me went to look at my watch and all I felt was something hit my face extremely hard.
Everything else is a blur. I saw multiple feet on the pavement. I felt the ringing in my ears when I hit the ground. I saw blood and then felt my stomach being kicked in by a boot. I gasped for air, trying so hard to regain some normal breathing.
Mom hugged me when I was leaving her house the night before I was set to leave Korea to go back to America. She looked at me with sad eyes, but she smiled every time I would catch her looking sad.
“Eomma,” I gently began. “Will you be okay when I’m away?” My mother nodded her head, hoping she could believe herself in the process of convincing me she will be.
“Of course I will be okay. No matter where you go, you’ll always find your way back home.” She smiled as she said that and a part of me regrets feeling like this will be the last time I’ll be in Korea in a long time. I hope she understands that home for me is in another country, and I have to go after that home.
She hugs me and I could sense her not wanting to let go. She looks up at me, happy that I’m going after what I want despite how life-changing it could be. She takes a deep breath and shoos me out of the house playfully.
You’re going to be late for your flight; I’ll talk to you when you land.” I smiled back at her and left her house that night.
Everything was a blur after a while. My watch was not on my wrist, and my bag was tossed all over the sidewalk. My glasses were split in half. I couldn’t see much. I just remember taking my phone out of my pocket; it was also pretty cracked and damaged. I called Grace and there wasn’t an answer. I don’t remember how many times I called her, and every time I tired to get through, I couldn’t remember what was going on around me. I faintly heard her voice.
I don’t remember what I told her. I don’t remember even hanging up the phone. It was just darkness.
“Jamie,” I heard her voice and smelled her freshly-washed shampoo. I opened my eyes and saw her looking down at me. She tassled my hair. “We gotta get up.”
I smiled and held her close to me. “It’s too cold to get out of bed today.” I said. Grace placed her hand on my chest and looked me in the eyes.
“I know, but who else is going to run this city?” Grace jokingly said. She got up from the bed and stood on it with her hands on her hips in a superhero stance.
“We got to serve justice in this city!” She said out loud. I quickly get up and grab her by her legs and bring her down to bed, she laughs as I tickle her.
“Okay, okay , okay! You win! We’re back in bed.” Grace said in defeat. I smiled at her and stared. If anything, she won.
If anything, I lost.