Yeona sighs as her legs dangle over the fire escape, watching every car and person who goes in and out of the buildings below with an amused smile. She isn’t used to having quiet neighbors, so she wasn’t expecting the place to be as quiet as it is. When she finds herself starting to miss her nightly adventures with Ji, she shakes her head, wanting nothing more than to go back to the way things used to be, minus her father. Sighing, she turns to look back into her room and notices the bland brick wall right next to her window. She smiles slightly, getting up to retrieve her duffel bag from inside, looking for her cans of spray paint and protective wear. She puts on a mask and goes back outside, shaking the cans as she begins to spray.
She doesn’t really know what she is drawing, only that it is an accurate representation of her best friend. Putting the cans down, she scoots away from the wall to admire her work: a small monster with caramel brown eyes and cropped light brown hair. The more she looks at it, the more she realizes Ji was the only friend she had in her entire life. Blinking, she takes off her mask and throws it on the open bag inside her room. She lights another cigarette, taking a drag before holding it up to the creature she drew.
“Here’s to you, Ji.”
“Who’s Ji?” Hee-Chul’s voice asks from inside her room.
She sneers. “No one.”
“Look, if we’re going to be living together then you need to open up to me, Yeona,” he says.
She glares at him, shifting her body to dangle her legs from the edge of the fire escape once again. She sighs and closes her eyes, trying not to open herself up just in case this dipwad decides to turn his back on her.
“Ji was my best friend,” she starts. “He was the only one who was ever there for me, who could truly understand me.”
There is a beat of silence, so she looks behind to see Hee-Chul sitting on the window sill, deep in thought.
“I’m sorry you had to move away from him, but it’s for the best,” he says.
“Is it? Is it really? Who the fuck wants to be friends with the daughter of a murderer?” she asks, feeling anger rise in her.
“Don’t cuss. Look, your new school starts tomorrow. Give it time and a chance. I know no one can replace your best friend, but can you at least try?”
She scoffs. “How about no?”
“Alright, fine. Dinner’s here,” he says as he stands, trying his best not to scoff back.
She doesn’t say anything as she stares at the painting, not wanting to move from her spot.
“How long has that been there?” Hee-Chul asks, pointing to the wall, snapping her out of her thoughts.
“I made it. There a problem, officer?” she asks, slightly challenging him to lose his professionalism.
“Still doing this, huh? Make sure no one catches you,” he says, going back into the room.
She stares at the spot he was just at before turning her gaze to the painting again, slightly smiling at it.
“So you can smile,” he says.
She scowls at him. She thought he had left her alone. “Everyone can smile. You just need the right person to bring it out.”
She shifts her gaze back to the painting, knowing it is practically impossible to see him again. She sighs, getting up from her spot on the fire escape to go inside and eat. Hee-Chul is on the couch with sushi on the coffee table.
“The force was kind enough to pay for your school supplies and arrange a tour of the school. Be ready at seven,” Hee-Chul says, noticing she entered the room.
She nods, taking in a mouthful of food, earning a chuckle from him.
“You must really like sushi,” he says.
“Food is food.” Her mouth is still full of the sticky rice.
He raises an eyebrow and slightly nods, allowing her to continue eating in silence. Yeona is thankful she doesn’t have to eat the same three things anymore as jail only serves variations of mandu, kimbap, and bulgogi. Of course, there was rice. She will not say it was bad, but she got sick of the taste after three months. She always treats sushi like a delicacy since she was rarely allowed to eat it when she lived with her father.
Her thoughts get interrupted when the TV gets turned on. The theme song for the show COPS blares through the speakers, and she almost drops her chopsticks. She scoffs and rolls her eyes, glaring at Hee-Chul.
“What?” he whines.
“You’re so stereotypical. A cop watching COPS. Really?”
“What did you expect?”
“I don’t know,” she snaps.
He falls silent and watches as she goes back into her room, where she pulls out another cigarette. She sits on her window sill as she takes a drag from the roll of tobacco, catching sight of someone passing the building. The person is walking a dog and has hair that made Yeona sit up straight to see its color. The person stops walking to check their phone, and Yeona sees violet hair under the light of the lamppost. She half-smiles as she decides then and there she will dye her own hair the very next day.
She always wanted to dye her hair. She knows her card can buy any color she wants, but that is the thing: she doesn’t know what color to get. Sighing, she extinguishes the remains of the cigarette and gets up from the window to close it. She can figure it out tomorrow once she is at the hair salon. She stretches before collecting her clothes, searching for a towel, and making her way to the bathroom for a shower. She locks the door behind her and starts humming as she gets the water ready, singing out loud when she climbs into the tub.
She always liked to sing, but she never wanted to do it in front of people. The showerhead and her shampoo bottles are enough of an audience. She lets the warm water run down her face and body, making her feel safe from the world. She doesn’t know how long she has been standing there, but soon enough, she hears a knock on the bathroom door.
“Yeona, everything okay in there?” Hee-Chul asks, his voice a bit muffled from the running shower.
“Yeah, just give me a minute.”
She doesn’t hear a reply, so she assumes he left. Turning the water off, she steps out into the now-steamy room to grab her towel and dry herself. She puts on her pajamas and opens the bathroom door to find a dark apartment in front of her. Using the wall as a guide, she tries to navigate back to her room.
She feels a doorknob and twists it open to see her belongings waiting for her return. She puts her things away and turns around to see Hee-Chul standing in the doorway in nothing but underwear. Her eyes widen in shock as she looks away, feeling bile come up the back of her throat as she makes her bed.
“Good night, Yeona. I’ll see you tomorrow at seven,” he says, acting like nothing was wrong.
“S-Sure. Good night,” she replies, trying not to look at him.
She hears him leave the room and lets out a sigh of relief as she hurries to close the door. She didn’t expect her parole officer to be so open like that, and she really doesn’t like it. If that is how it will be from now on, she doesn’t want any part of it. She shakes the thought of him from her head and climbs under her covers, plugging her phone in the charger before setting her alarm for six.
Laying her head on her pillow, she closes her eyes for what seems like a minute before her alarm rudely wakes her. She stands at attention almost immediately when she hears it go off and scoffs at herself when she realizes she is no longer in jail. Sitting on the bed, she fumbles with her phone, trying to turn off the alarm. She throws the device onto the bed, stretching her back before getting dressed, trying to be quiet so that she won’t wake the man sleeping down the hall.
She pulls her hair up in a messy bun to complete her look before going into the kitchen to make herself some food. She eats her scrambled eggs in peace for about five minutes before she hears the door to Hee-Chul’s room opening. She looks away in fear of seeing the man almost naked again.
“Wow, you didn’t make me anything?” he asks.
When she sees him in yoga pants and a t-shirt, she relaxes. “Sorry, Your Highness, I didn’t know I needed to make your food, too,” she says, moving past him to do her dishes.
He turns to her and pouts, trying his best to make her feel bad. She glares at him in return, making a shiver go down his spine. He didn’t know he could be scared of a teenager.
“After the tour of the school, I’m dying my hair,” she says, the glare still in her eyes.
She walks past him, goes back into her room to grab her phone, and looks around. Deciding she doesn’t need anything else, she goes out into the living room to turn the TV on, watching a movie that happens to be on before she feels her phone vibrate in her hand. She looks down, and excitement runs through her body when she sees a text from Ji.
Ji the B
Heard you got out yesterday
Where you at?
Looking to party?
She gets ready to text him back but stops, contemplating where exactly she is, and finds she has no idea. She exits Messenger and tries to go to Maps to search for her location, but Maps has been disabled and deleted from her phone. She taps back on the Messenger.
Tbh I have no idea where tf I’m at
Ji the B
Oh, have you watched the news yet?
They found over 40 bodies in your backyard
She isn’t surprised. She knows they will find more if they really keep looking.
Ji the B
Mega oof is right
She chuckles slightly and sees Hee-Chul walk into the room, fixing his shirt as he gets ready to leave.
It was nice talking to you boo But I gotta go now
Doing some shit for my
new school I’m dying my hair after that though
She turns the TV off and wears her shoes.
“Should we drive or walk?” Hee-Chul asks.
“Drive. You’re taking me to get my hair done.”
She raises an eyebrow. “Do you wanna follow me as I walk in the heat to get my hair done?”
He pauses for a moment, knowing she is right.
“That’s what I thought,” she says, walking out of the apartment. She takes her phone out and sees another text message from Ji.
Ji the B
Good luck with that
Send me a picture of ur hair when ur done boo
She looks behind her to see Hee-Chul fumbling with the keys to lock the door.
She puts her phone in her back pocket and follows Hee-Chul to his car, where she gets into the passenger seat when he unlocks the doors. Once he gets in, he turns to her and hesitantly reaches behind him to retrieve a bulky necklace from the back seat. She makes a face at it and takes it from him, pinching it between her thumb and index finger.
“Look, it’s supposed to be a tracker. It goes around your neck,” he explains.
She scoffs. “Yeah, I could tell that much.”
She puts it on and realizes it’s a choker that gives her a slight pinch, making her tense up. She rubs the spot where it pinched her and draws her hand back. There was a bit of blood on her fingers. She looks at Hee-Chul in disbelief and shows him her hand.
“It made me bleed!”
“It does that every three hours,” he says casually.
She shakes her head, crossing her arms as she looks out the window, not wanting to talk to the beast beside her. He sighs and starts the car, driving to the school parking lot. As soon as the car parks, she gets out and slams the door shut out of rage. The necklace flashes red in the window.
“Seriously? Isn’t this a bit much?” she asks, pointing to the red light on the necklace, getting angrier by the second.
“If you get away from me, the necklace will activate and let me know where you are,” Hee-Chul explains tiredly.
Shaking her head, she tries to adjust the necklace so she can breathe. She feels frustrated because she is being treated like a dog on a shock collar. She looks around the parking lot and sees other kids with their parents. Turning her back on them, she walks into the school with Hee-Chul. They pass the front desk and approach an office, which she assumes is the principal’s. Hee-Chul knocks on the door and enters the room, revealing a small woman in a big chair behind a desk. She looks up from a stack of papers and smiles at Hee-Chul, standing up to welcome him. Her smile slowly fades as she catches sight of Yeona standing behind him.
“My name is Officer Kim Hee-Chul and this is—”
“Kim Yeona Jung. Yes, I know very well who she is,” the woman says.
Yeona feels herself starting to become extremely uncomfortable as she sits in a chair, looking at the ground.
“Oh, dear, I hope I didn’t make you feel bad. Don’t worry, everything is just fine. My name is Lee Myung-Hee, and I am the principal of this school. I have your things for you,” she says kindly.
Yeona looks up at the older woman with wide eyes, surprised she is so nice. The principal goes to her desk, rummaging through papers until she finds a packet and gives it to Yeona. It is a schedule filled with every class she signed up for at her previous school. She looks over it in awe.
“How—” she starts.
“Everything that was at your old school comes here, dear,” Mrs. Lee says.
“O-Oh.” Yeona starts to feel a bit stupid about her question.
Mrs. Lee smiles. “I have arranged for a student to take you around the school to meet your teachers.”
“Alright. Thank you very much, Principal Lee.” Hee-Chul smiles and bows.
Yeona follows suit, saying a silent “thank you” in her head before a boy her age comes around the corner. He smiles at her, but she stares coldly back, stopping him dead in his tracks.
“Ah, Mr. Kim Taehyung, this is Kim Yeona Jung. Please show her around the school,” Mrs. Lee says, smiling warmly between the two of them.
Secret is an aspiring writer residing in the United States. She has a passion for writing fiction and is devoted to her readers. She has been expressing her imagination since 2005 and has been publishing works online since 2014. She hopes to publish a novel in the coming years and hopes her readers enjoy all she has to offer for the time being. This is an excerpt taken from “Changed Heart” by Secret with permission. Read the full story here.