“Do I look okay?” you asked your mom as you turned in different directions in front of the bathroom mirror in your outfit.
“I think you’ll be turning heads there.” Your mom smiled as she helped you with the final touches to your hair and makeup. It felt really nice to be with your mother this way again, to let her doll you up instead of having to decide everything on your own. “Don’t lead the poor boys on too much, okay?” your mom joked.
You were wearing a tight black cocktail dress and heels for the little party invitation that your mom passed on to you from a good friend you hadn’t seen in years. It was a big party that was being held at his fancy home, so you had to dress up a little bit. You walked out of your bathroom and into the living room to the men.
Your boyfriend was speechless as he drank in your form, from your beautiful up-do hairstyle to your sleek shoes. Your father was impressed too.
“Beautiful,” your boyfriend said as he stared at you. Your father glared at him for beating him to the compliments.
“That’s my daughter.”
“That’s my future wife,” he murmured in Korean next to your father, but not loud enough for you to hear.
“What did you say?”
Your boyfriend got up and took your hand to help steady you as you were weak from the earlier happening in the bathroom. “Will you please eat something before we go?” he whispered into your ear.
“There will be food there, it’s okay.”
“You have to eat there, though. Promise me.” You both pinky-swore.
Your father grumbled at the sight of your arms linked with his arm, but that wasn’t unusual at this point, and your mom looked at you happily. Your father volunteered to drive you both to the friend’s house a good thirty minutes away from your own home.
Upon arrival, you exited the car first, but before your boyfriend could too, your father pulled him back. “Watch over her, you hear? There might be someone there that’ll mean some bad business, so you have to watch over her. Even though I don’t like you, I’m going to trust you. Don’t lose it.”
“Yes, sir.” Your boyfriend wasn’t really sure what this warning meant, but he took it to heart. “I will take care of her.”
“You better. I’ll be back to pick you both up later on,” your father said. “And she had better be in one piece when I do.”
With one final nod in acknowledgment to your father, your boyfriend took your hand and supported you up the stairs to the grand house as your father drove away.
Friends you hadn’t seen in years greeted you from all directions. It almost felt like a party for yourself! They were pleased to hear that you were doing well in Korea and had found such a lovely man to be by your side (although of course, most of them didn’t know who he was). Lots of hugs and kisses were exchanged between you and your friends, and your boyfriend watched you happily as you seemed to glow. He saw how your aura was getting better, healthier, livelier in comparison to this afternoon, at the sight of all these people that comforted you.
“______!” The host of the party, your best guy friend, opened his arms wide to you. “I haven’t seen you in so long! It feels so good to see your face.” You both chatted excitedly over all the things that have happened to you in Korea in summary, for although you were quite excited, you didn’t want to bore your man too much. Truthfully, he didn’t mind standing silently by your side tonight; he was happy to see that you were having a good time.
When you went off to find more of your friends, your guy friend kept your boyfriend to get to know him a bit better.
“So you’re her special guy, huh?”
“Uh, special maybe no. But boyfriend, yes.”
“So modest.” They both engaged in some small talk and became more familiar with each other through simple background information and overall feelings. Your friend could tell this was a good man… a very good man.
“I can tell you’re really good to her. She deserves it. She deserves all this love after all she’s been through. I’m happy she was able to find you.”
“I am too.”
“Take care of her, will you? I don’t want to see her broken again. I can tell you’ve already done so much for her. She lights up whenever she sees you.”
“Broken? What do you mean?” What is he talking about?
Your friend looked at him with a tilt of his head in surprise. “Did she ever tell you about her ex-boyfriend?”
“If she hasn’t, I don’t know if I should…”
“Did she use to have… bad dream?”
“Yes, very bad ones.”
“Because of him?”
“…Yes…” Your friend debated a moment as to whether he ought to tell your boyfriend everything. In the end, he knew you were a good man, so he sighed and decided to explain. “He hurt her in so many ways. The dreams were only the aftermath…”
Your boyfriend suddenly gripped your friend’s shoulder in anxiety. “Tell me. I need to know.”
“He… Well….” your friend struggled to find the right words. “He had her falling head-over-heels for him and -”
“He made her fall?!”
“I mean, she was in LOVE with him.” Your boyfriend winced at the thought. “He was a real charmer, I’ll admit that. Any girl would fall for him. He was a smooth talker, he had the looks, the good background, rich, a seemingly good guy… he had all the things an ideal man would have.”
“He became abusive.”
“Became abusive.” Your boyfriend didn’t understand the meaning of the word. “He hit her.”
“He hit her, he screamed at her, he damaged her in every way… mentally, physically. He became such a monster to her. And the worst part is, she couldn’t take herself away from him. She wanted to believe that he would come back some day and the nightmare would be over. The next day, he’d always promise he wouldn’t hurt her, and he’d apologize and say he regretted it. But did that ever happen? No! He’d do it all over again when he got angry or even when he simply saw her with another man.
“We were all fooled just like she was. He seemed like such a good guy at first. But she started changing. Her smile went away, she became extremely lightweight, pale, weak… She told us it was because she had trouble sleeping, but she’s a terrible liar. In the end, we found bruises all over her. She kept all of this from us because she believed that he still loved her. When we asked about him, she got overly anxious and denied everything. We all tried to separate them. And it worked for a while. She knew deep down that he would never change and that their relationship wasn’t healthy… but that didn’t stop the nightmares from coming. When we finally talked to her about it and convinced her this was all wrong, she finally realized it. And that’s when her world flipped. Suddenly he became a monster in her dreams. I think in the end, that’s the biggest reason why we all encouraged her to go to Korea. To keep him away from her, so she could be away from him, so she could start a new life, away from all this crap she has back home.”
Your boyfriend’s mind was in a fit of chaos. He understood most of what your friend had told him, but this only made it worse for him.
Why didn’t I know about this?
Who is this bastard?!
What should I do?
I can’t believe…
“That guy… is not a real man,” your boyfriend said in between gritted teeth.
All he wanted to do right now was to hunt this vile creature and destroy him in every possible way over and over so that he could be sure that that thing would never haunt your dreams ever again. He wanted the bastard to burn, to let you watch it happen. Every bruise, every scratch, every beating, every scar that he ever gave you, your boyfriend wanted to burn into that man hundred-fold. Every single fucking thing.
It made sense now; he understood why you responded to him the way that you did when you were not yourself. That bastard screwed with your life, manipulated it, mutated it into something dark and ugly, and your boyfriend couldn’t do anything about it. He blamed himself for not inquiring about your past; he regretted not having taken the time to try and heal your past wounds that you had to mend yourself. Why didn’t I… I should have…
She’s scared to death even when she sees my face because she thinks I am him.
So scared and so alone.
I don’t want her to lose herself again.
I don’t want to lose her.
He felt so many different emotions all at the same time: rage at your ex, anger at himself for not knowing and for not being able to stop it, fearful for how you were dealing with this on your own…
“Are you alright?” your friend asked him with concern. To your friend, he looked like he was staring at the ground with a blank expression.
“No. Not okay.”
“Is there anything I can do? I know it’s probably a lot to take in…”
“_______-ah. I have to find her.”
Before your friend could utter another word, your boyfriend shot off through the crowd of people in search of you.
Where is she?
What must she be thinking right now?
As he dodged confounded individuals, flashes of thoughts, of worries, horrible images raced through his mind. He had to find you.
She shouldn’t have had to go through that alone.
Where is she?!
I need her in my sight, in my arms so that I know she’s okay.
I need to find her.
I need her with me.
I need her to be okay.
The moment he saw you with your back facing him a few feet away standing in the middle of a golden room, he wanted to sweep you into his arms, into his protection, into his shield.
But when he got close enough to see what made your body so abnormally upright and so tense, he stopped dead in his tracks.
There, standing on the other side of the room, facing you, dressed in a suit with his arms open to you as he walked closer, was the nightmare in the flesh.
“______~ It’s been so long…You look as beautiful as I last left you. Have you been well…?”