Ji-soo held her hand in the air to block the Sun that was shining through the window into the classroom and right in her view of Mr. Shepard. She shielded her eyes with both her hands before Mr. Shepard noticed her discomfort and reached up to pull the blinds down further.
“Ji-soo!” Mr. Shepard taunted. “You don’t have to go blind in my class.”
Ji-soo’s classmates giggled at the comment. Mr. Shepard was constantly making them laugh with his teasing. Ji-soo didn’t mind the attention when it was meant for her.
“I am already blind,” Ji-soo said calmly in Korean.
“What do you mean?” So-young, a classmate next to her asked in Korean. “You say such strange things.”
“I’m blinded by Mr. Shepard’s assets,” Ji-soo continued in Korean, and nodded towards Mr. Shepard’s backside.
So-young and the others in class who could hear Ji-soo’s comment glanced over at Mr. Shepard. His back was to the girls on that side of the classroom. Muk-Young, one of So-Young’s loyal supporters, gasped and then began to laugh riotously, stopping only to put her hands to her eyes, spreading them wider, and saying with a melodic croon: “Mr. Shepard’s assets!”
“Ji-soo is blind!” So-young exclaimed. “Blind with white fever!”
The other girls now joined in on the laughter. Several began to whisper among themselves and point in Ji-soo’s direction.
Mr. Shepard had already handed out the next day’s assignment. He was writing example sentences on the board.
“Let’s make sure you get your commas right for your self-introductions,” he announced. “I don’t want to see commas where periods are supposed to be.”
Ji-soo noticed that Mr. Shepard had red freckles on his nose and forehead. She imagined what a child might look like with him. She hoped it would have his blonde hair and strong thighs. She certainly didn’t want freckles on her baby’s face. Somehow she didn’t mind them on Mr. Shepard though. It was okay for him to be exactly as he was.
“Does anyone have the answer for number two? Ji-soo?”
“Um, yes,” Ji-soo said and glanced from Mr. Shepard to her paper quickly. “It’s—“
“Blind again?” Muk-young barked in Korean.
“Yes!” Ji-soo shot back at her, and then regained herself and responded calmly in English to Mr. Shepard. “The answer is “E.” Someone who is “anxious” is overly nervous or worried.”
“That’s right,” Mr. Shepard agreed. “Has anyone ever felt anxious before?”
Ji-soo poured hot water from the kettle on the stove into three short and rounded ceramic glasses on the black tray on the kitchen counter. She filled each glass before lifting the tray and carrying it into the dining room for her mother and father who were seated with dishes half eaten in front of them.
“I don’t see the point in going to the church one hour before the ceremony. No one will be there. It’ll be a waste of time,” Mr. Kim said to his wife in Korean. “We might as well arrive when the ceremony begins like everyone else.”
“If you do that, then all the seats will be taken,” Mrs. Kim replied.
“None of the seats will be taken. It’s on a Saturday morning. No one will be there.”
“Don’t you want to support me?” Mrs. Kim asked with an arched eyebrow.
Mr. Kim lifted some sprouts from the plastic container with his chopsticks and put them into his mouth. He chewed and looked over at Ji-soo.
“What are you doing today?” he asked her.
“I have to go to my English class,” Ji-soo replied. “Then I’m going out to meet friends.”
“Any word on schools?” Mrs. Kim asked.
Ji-soo shook her head. It had been time to receive word of whether she had gotten into any universities, but she had yet to hear from her top choices.
“Maybe, next week,” she said to her parents.
“I heard Min Hye had gotten into Seoul National last week. It’s strange that you have had no contact.”
“Maybe, I didn’t get into the school.”
“Oh!” Mr Kim gasped. “Don’t give yourself bad luck.”
Ji-soo grabbed a tea from the tray and sipped it quickly. It burned the tip of her tongue. She liked how her taste buds had no feeling for a moment. She rubbed the pain out against her teeth.
Ji-soo had been standing behind Mr. Shepard for only a moment. She was close enough to smell the aftershave she had tried to find in an international market in Itaehwon. It wasn’t “Old Spice” or any of the other brands the Pakistani clerk had behind the counter. It must have been a more expensive cologne from England, his home country.
“Ji-soo?” Mr. Shepard asked with one hand wiping the board. “Did you need anything?”
“Ye-yes,” Ji-soo stammered. “I need help with this sentence.”
Ji-soo held up her notebook for Mr. Shepard. She pointed to a sentence midway down on the page with the pen in her left hand. “That one,” she said.
“Ah, okay! Let’s see,” Mr. Shepard smiled and took the pen from her hand, moving it over the sentence. “Hmm. Looks fine to me, Ji-soo. Yes, it is. ‘The weather has grown colder since yesterday.’ It’s a nice comparison.”
Mr. Shepard handed the pen back to Ji-soo. She took the pen and held his hand in the process. She managed to grab a few fingers and held them tightly.
“Mr. Shepard,” she began, “I am not in high school anymore.”
“I know, Ji-soo,” Mr. Shepard said and took Ji-soo’s hand in hers to lead her to some seats in the back of the classroom. “You should have heard about schools by now. How’d you do?”
“I did—“ Ji-soo paused slightly. “I did well.”
“So you got into Seoul National? That’s great.”
“What is it?”
“That means that I won’t need to come to this class anymore. I got in. That was the agreement with my parents.”
“I think I understand. Well, you’ll definitely be missed, but you can certainly visit anytime you like.”
“Mr. Shepard!” Ji-soo suddenly shouted. “Mr. Shepard I have to make you—I have to show—“
Ji-soo pulled the zipper down on her jumper. Her skin was pale from lack of exposure. She had a brownish mole in the center of her chest. It was hidden slightly by a see-through black lace bra that peaked through the fabric as Ji-soo let the zipper go and the sweater swung open slightly.
“I am not a child,” Ji-soo said and opened her sweater. “I am here.”
Ji-soo pulled the sweater open a bit further. Her breasts loose in the bra peaked slightly outside of their cups. She noticed Mr. Shepard’s eyes dart towards them. She pulled her bra down slightly and massaged the edge of her nipple between her thumb and forefinger.
“Ji-soo, I am not sure why you’re doing this, Mr. Shepard exclaimed, and put his hands in the air to block his view “Whatever pressures you’re going through. I am sure—“
Ji-soo lunged close to Mr. Shepard and kissed him on the mouth. She put her nails into his back and dug deeply into the skin.
“Ji-soo, I’m not—“ Mr. Shepard managed to say and stepped back slightly. “Please, Ji-soo!”
“Don’t you want me?”
Mr. Shepard bent down in front of Ji-soo. He placed the sweater’s halves together and zipped them up gingerly, careful that the zipper wouldn’t catch against Ji-soo’s skin. He peered up at Ji-soo . “I’m sorry,” he said and dropped the zipper. “I am still your teacher.”
“Alan,” Ji-soo said. “Mr. Shepard—“
“I understand you’ve been under a lot of strain lately. I’m not about to let you jeopardize your good news. Please go home now. I won’t mention this to anyone.”
“But, Mr. Shepard! I know you feel the same way I do.”
“Ji-soo, I’m sorry.”
Ji-soo looked down at her fingers. They were trembling slightly.
“I am not a child, Alan.”
Mr. Shepard stood and walked towards the door of the classroom. He opened the door and waited for Ji-soo to approach...
NEXT WEEK: The Near Death Experience