Farewell

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

A fictional love story about a real tragedy that happened in South Korea a few years ago. It is a story about love, parting and the concept that true love is immortal!

That morning when her daughter, Ae Che, said goodbye, Cho Hee, marvelled at how lovely and gorgeous she was turning out to be. At sixteen she was a tall, lissome girl with flashing black eyes and flawless complexion.

Ae Che was so excited! Her high school term was coming to an end. The exams done, students looked forward to a period of relaxation, fun and enjoyment. The School, like every year, had arranged for a field trip for its students as a parting gift.

This year it was a rather ambitious program. It involved a stay of three days on an island in the sea. When Ae Che told about the planned trip about two weeks ago Cho Hee had a misgiving of sorts. She felt uneasy. She could not point out exactly why. She was opposed to the idea. Ae Che’s dad, however, thought it was a great idea. After a few minutes debate over the dining table the family agreed to let Ae Che go for the excursion.

For about a week hectic preparations were underway. Ae Che and her mother went to the store in the mall dealing exclusively with sports adventure gear and bought all the necessary provisions. For days, Ae Che was on her i-phone at different periods of the day and night chattering excitedly with her friends, planning, discussing about things to do during their vacation.

The night before the trip Ae Che was nervous. Mother and daughter sat at their favourite breakfast table and had a cup of hot chocolate. They did not say much to each other just sat and enjoyed each other’s company. The sound of the TV was in the background. Ae Che’s father was catching up on the news.

“ Ma will you miss me?”. Ae Che asked suddenly. She did not want to ask the question but somehow the question popped itself.

“Of course I will. Though you are going for just three days”, mother replied. She did not want to tell her that she missed her every day when she left for school. She led a quiet uneventful life. She was no career woman or a woman of the world. She was a simple home maker and her world revolved around her daughter and husband.

 On the day of the trip  Ae Che woke up at the crack of dawn . The daily planner on her I-phone read: “Trip to Island! So Excited!”. It was the 4th of May. She showered, dressed and got ready. The weather was gradually getting warm so she wore a printed floral skirt with a denim jacket. Cho hee asked her to check her back pack and ensure that she was not missing anything. Before she stepped into the black Santa Fe with her Dad at the wheels Ae Che came and hugged her forty two year old mother. Her mother was beautiful. Many of her friends said she looked like  her older sister. The mother’s eyes clouded with emotion. The sixteen year old kissed her on the cheek.

Years later, when she would recall this morning, Cho he would say that she heard a voice asking her to stop her daughter from going. She clung tightly on to her only child.

“Take care. May God be with you”. She mumbled.

Tears were already beginning to gather at the corner of her eyes. Ae che’s father said it was getting late. They had to beat the traffic. The car door closed and she saw the black SUV sprint forward. She saw Ae Che wave from inside the car.

There was a sea of people at the dock from where the ferry would take the students to the island in the sea. Mr Park , the vice principal, was there with a placard “ Island field Trip”. Already many students were milling around him, laughing, cracking jokes. Ae Che looked around and saw her friends, Jae Hwa and Jin Ae in the crowd. She went over to them. They looked radiant and were as excited as her. They hugged each other. Soon they got immersed in their girls’ gossip. For sometime,” Rihana”, “Forever 21” and “gel nails” kept them engrossed.

 Presently an Elantra stopped close to them. The door opened and a boy of medium height stepped out. His dark thick hair was brushed back and he had a fine strong build. What was special though was his eyes. They were dark and full of life and humour. He was dressed in blue GAP jeans and black un-branded T shirt. He wore white inexpensive sneakers. His face lit up when he spied Ae che among the group. With a broad frank smile he approached her.

Ae Che’s  heart skipped a beat seeing the boy walk towards her. OMG! It was Bae. She was in love with him. They had been studying together since grade nine. They had always liked each other’s company, however, the spark of love had ignited only recently. It was during a Physics project that they realised that their relationship was more than just fondness. She had fallen sick during the assignment and could not complete her part. Bae worked long hours and spent sleepless nights helping her. When the project was done and the teacher had graded it  an  A- , she asked him why did he work so hard for her. It was a fall afternoon, a ray of sunlight streamed in through the class  room window and fell on his forehead, his dark eyes smiled and he said, “because I love you—that’s why. I always wanted to tell you. Good that you asked me.” She looked at him. He was quite good looking but what was important to her was that he cared for her. She felt a warmth gush all though her body. She blushed. A smile began at the corner of her lips and rippled across her angelic face.

That day as she returned from school the streets of Seoul looked different. It seemed everyone she saw in the subway, the sidewalks were smiling at her. The song “ Viva la Vida” by her favourite band, Cold Play played on in her mind. The sky was blue and clear, strangely, she felt that little bits of sky were inside her. Butterflies lilted across and she felt as if she was gliding, floating in the air like them. Was this love? If it was, there was no better feeling than this.

Bae opened his arms and gave her a big tight hug. They kissed each other. Her Bae was here. The nervousness she was feeling subsided. There were two persons in the world that could instil confidence in her, one, was her Dad and the other was Bae. Things will be fine. Why and how do certain people have this ability? Bae was holding her in his arms. She felt so comfortable. He was saying something about her being the loveliest girl in the world. A strand of  hair fell across her face, gently, he swept it up her forehead. His touch was so light, so sensuous.

Mr Park was now making an announcement with a megaphone. He was asking the students to line up. The ferry was ready for boarding. They would leave the harbour in about half an hour. Some of the students cheered and whistled.  

They could see the ferry now. It was a large one. On the side, just below the bridge, “Sewol”, was written in Korean. The sun was breaking through a wall of clouds. A dull yellow sunlight fell on it. Under a combination of morning haze and sunshine it looked surreal.

For some unknown reason Ae Che had a sense of foreboding. A voice inside her told her not to go. She held on to Bae’s arm.

“I feel afraid, Bae, let’s not go, let’s go somewhere else”, she said. He looked at her with a puzzled expression. He was unable to comprehend the basis of her apprehension.

“Why, Che? What’s wrong? We waited so long to go on this trip”, he said.

“ No . I don’t know, I just feel weird” she replied.

 “ You are tired. That’s it. Once you are aboard and the fun starts you will love it.” He gave her a friendly peck on her forehead.

The line up was long. The mood was upbeat. Students were, chatting, joking, snapping pictures, holding hands, kissing, while slowly moving along. The sun shone. Sometimes it hid behind the clouds. Gusts of wind blew. Mr Park was tirelessly exhorting the youngsters to step forward so that they could set sail on time. Ae Che checked the time on her I phone. It was 9.07 a.m.

It was almost 10 when the last person stepped on the ferry. The ferry’s hoot was loud and long. It was time for it to leave harbour. The boarding planks were withdrawn. A slight jerk indicated that the anchor was pulled in and the 300 plus people were on their journey. Some boys let out a loud cheer. Cell phones feverishly clicked the view of the city from the ferry.

Bae  and Ae che stood on the bridge watching the Sewol move away from the dock. Bae held Ae Che in an embrace from behind. With his arms around her she felt comfortable. The unexplained fear that had gripped her was slowly easing. Nothing is going to happen. Bae was right, once they were on onboard things would brighten up. It certainly looked that way. A group of pupils had begun to sing. With guitars strumming the young voices sang Psy’s famous gung man song. A boy did the gung man dance. Many in the group clapped and hooted. She would have missed something if she did not come. The fact that she was in the comfortable embrace of Bae would have been another thing she would have not experienced.

Mr Park made an announcement that students were required to proceed to the canteen for breakfast. The canteen was in the main lobby. Bae nudged her and they started on their way. A girl in a little black dress with long lovely legs was before them. Bae pinched Ae Che and said , “ nice legs!”.

 Ae  Che turned around and covered his eyes with her hand, “ you pig!”.

 “ Come on che! I was simply admiring , not doing anything”-----, he protested.

“ You only admire me”, she exhorted.

 “OK. You already know I don’t need to go anywhere so long you are here with me”, he said and kissed her. She felt on the top of the world. Over their head she saw the blue sky with specks of little white clouds. An eagle soared above. Why do they have to fly so high?, she wondered.

The canteen was small. There was already a milling crowd. People were talking, eating, and trying to socialize at the same time. There was confusion and chaos. Ae Che and Bae slowly trudged their way through the throng of people towards the food counter. It was almost after a decade it seemed that they were able to order  food. Balancing their plate in their hands they looked around for a place to sit. All the tables were taken so they stood and ate the meal.

It was at this time that things started to go wrong. First, Ae Che heard a loud blast, and the ferry shook violently. Many students screamed. Ae Che clung to Bae. A spasm of fear ran through her body. Bae was afraid too but maintained a brave face before her.” Don’t worry Che it’s only a minor glitch. It will be alright”, he said. He did not believe what he said. He hoped though that he was right. The lights began to flicker. Ae Che could hear her heart pump feverishly. Amongst the sea of people she saw Jae Hwa and Jin Ae both holding on to each other. A mask of fear covered their faces. She called out to them but her voice was lost in the rising din.

All of a sudden the lights went off. There was absolute pandemonium. Screams and cries filled the air. “Bae, Bae , what’s going on ?Will we be safe?” , she asked. Though a paralysing fear was beginning to creep inside, Bae, knew he had to stay calm if they were to remain safe. “Don’t worry, it might be just a minor electrical problem. It will be taken care of shortly.” His mind was racing. The black- out was definitely not a good sign. Something was really wrong. He figured that the best thing to do in the present situation was to come out and go to the bridge. There would be daylight and also he would be able to assess the condition of the ferry.

With his arms tightly around Ae Che he charged through the wall of bodies. He thanked himself for his fine work-out regime and intense boxing training. He was strong and fit. Quickly he was out of the crowd and moving towards the bridge. He could now sense clearly that the ferry was tilting. The bridge was already crowded with students. Dazed and terror stricken faces were everywhere. Bae looked around for Mr Park. He was the only person who could guide them but he could not see him anywhere. He looked at his love. Poor girl. Her lovely cherubic face was a mess. The black mascara was smudged and her dress crumpled. He saw the fear in her eyes. He had to do something.

“We will be OK dear. This will be over soon. Then we can put in on Face book with the caption, how we survived a near disaster.  You know what, let’s take a selfie, and post it right now ”. He pulled her to his side, took out his Samsung S4, put an arm around her shoulder and snapped a picture.

“Let me see, let me see –how I look in the picture.” She crooned. He showed her. “ Oh my God! I look so terrible. Bae why did you post it?”

“You always look lovely dear.”

The ferry was swaying badly. He looked around for a member of the crew. No one was to be found. Suddenly the PA system came to life.

ATTENTION! ATTENTION ! ATTENTION! WE ARE FACING SOME TECHNICAL  PROBLEMS. THERE IS NOTHING TO WORRY. PLEASE REMAIN WHERE YOU ARE AND DON’T MOVE. KEEP CALM. WE ARE WORKING TO RECTIFY THE PROBLEM. PLEASE WAIT FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS.

“ There I told you. It is a minor problem. It does happen sometimes. We will be ok.” He told her in a confident voice.

The tall , lovely girl, who had the ambition of becoming  a doctor hugged him. Dark eyes looked up and she said, “ I believe you. I love you”.

Loud piercing cries could be heard. They were absolute cries of terror. It was coming from the opposite side of the bridge. That part was slowly going under. They could feel and see it.

Help! Help! Help!Help! the voices could be heard.

“Oh My GOD! Why don’t they release the life boats?”,Bae gasped.

Ae Che watched in horror as the people fell into the water. She froze in terror. Her nails dug into Bae’s arm.

“Che, quick we have to get life jackets. It does not look good”, Bae said. She knew from his tone that the situation was indeed grim.

The PA system came back on.

PASSENGERS ARE REQUESTED TO REMAIN CALM. DO NOT MOVE. WE ARE LOOKING INTO THE PROBLEM.

“They are lying. We have to go get life jackets. Come Che”. Bae gripped her arm and pulled her along with him.

Many students did not move. They followed the directive issued by the crew. Days later it would be evident that the crew acted with malicious intent.

Bae and Che ran towards the row of cabins. Bae had been on a ship before and knew that  in the aisle infront of the cabins, life jackets were kept.

Ae Che was in a state of shock. She could barely move. He carried her in his arms. Panting, dizzy, with fear eating into his mind he reached the aisle. Frantically he looked around for life jackets. The hooks meant  to keep them secure to the walls were there but the jackets were missing.

He heard voices further down the aisle and what he saw made him sick with anger, grief, loathing and distaste. A large group of crew members unmistakable in their uniform had got hold of the life jackets and were preparing to disembark from the ship.

After the initial shock had worn off he charged at them like a raging bull.

“ You son of -------, you are asking us not to move so that you can take all the life jackets and escape. You mother----------- you should be ashamed. Don’t you have an ounce of decency? What sort of men are you----leaving behind so many women and children and running away?” he shouted at the men.

A  crew member, a young man of about twenty five said ,“ if you are so brave ---you save them-----you------- A few seconds later  he was in the water floating to safety thanks to the life jacket he had illegally taken .

Bae knew there was no point in wasting precious seconds thinking about the grave wrong the crew members had indulged in. Ae Che in his arms was becoming hysterical. She was  wailing  , “ this is the end, we are all going to die. I  will never see my parents again”. He could hear the cries of distress become more and more frequent. The ferry , it was now pretty clear, was going down. He could see and hear  the roar of the sea.

Oddly two things happened in quick succession. A wave of fear swept through his body and he almost fell down and lost grip of Ae Che. The very next instant, though,  a steely calm , a dogged determination to survive took over. He immediately realised that there would still be some other places where he could find life jackets.

He ran inside a cabin. Sometimes in high end cabins they had spares. It did not have any. He darted into other one and desperately began searching. When he was almost on the verge of giving up he entered into the bathroom and there behind the door was a life jacket. It did not matter if he did not have another one. So long his love of his life had one he would be okay.

“Che come on quick, you have to put on this life jacket, dear”,  he unzipped it and swiftly put  it on her.

“And you ? Where is your life jacket ?” Ae che asked.  A cloud of worry and fear swept across her face.

“ Oh don’t worry about that. I will find one in due course.”, he said.

Ae Che began to take her life vest off. “ If you don’t have one, I will also not have one”, she said. Bae stopped her.

Do you truly love me, Che?

She nodded.

Then do as I say. “Don’t take off your vest. Just jump in. They will eventually find you. Remember I am always with you. Here, take my phone with you”.

A huge wave came crashing in. Ae Che screamed. The next instant there was a blur and she found herself in the cold frigid waters of the sea. She tried searching for Bae but... she saw no signs of him. The ferry was slowly disintegrating before her. Life less bodies floated around her. Cries of horror and terror filled the air.

A wave of despair, grief and sorrow gripped her. She began to cry. And then pray.

A memory from her childhood came back to her. Once  when she was very young Mother was taken seriously  ill. She had to be moved to the ICU. She remembered being worried about her. That night after they had returned from the hospital, she had asked , “ is there nothing we can do for her Dad?”. He had looked at her with a kind but sad look, “yes dear we can do one thing---pray and ask God for his kindness”. She had stayed up for a long time and asked God for his help. Mother recovered after a few days. The teaching of her father was engraved in her mind.

After about ten hours they found her clinging to the very last leash of life.

It was almost after four days of valiant fight they could bring her back from the jaws of death. The first thing she asked for after she opened her eyes was Bae’s phone. Miraculously it was fine. Scrolling through the pictures, she found, the last picture, a selfie of his , with the caption, “Farewell”.

A tear drop streamed down her cheek and stopped at her lips. It tasted of life.

 

 

 

 

 

That morning when her daughter, Ae Che, said goodbye, Cho Hee, marvelled at how lovely and gorgeous she was turning out to be. At sixteen she was a tall, lissome girl with flashing black eyes and flawless complexion.

Ae Che was so excited! Her high school term was coming to an end. The exams done, students looked forward to a period of relaxation, fun and enjoyment. The School, like every year, had arranged for a field trip for its students as a parting gift.

This year it was a rather ambitious program. It involved a stay of three days on an island in the sea. When Ae Che told about the planned trip about two weeks ago Cho Hee had a misgiving of sorts. She felt uneasy. She could not point out exactly why. She was opposed to the idea. Ae Che’s dad, however, thought it was a great idea. After a few minutes debate over the dining table the family agreed to let Ae Che go for the excursion.

For about a week hectic preparations were underway. Ae Che and her mother went to the store in the mall dealing exclusively with sports adventure gear and bought all the necessary provisions. For days, Ae Che was on her i-phone at different periods of the day and night chattering excitedly with her friends, planning, discussing about things to do during their vacation.

The night before the trip Ae Che was nervous. Mother and daughter sat at their favourite breakfast table and had a cup of hot chocolate. They did not say much to each other just sat and enjoyed each other’s company. The sound of the TV was in the background. Ae Che’s father was catching up on the news.

“ Ma will you miss me?”. Ae Che asked suddenly. She did not want to ask the question but somehow the question popped itself.

“Of course I will. Though you are going for just three days”, mother replied. She did not want to tell her that she missed her every day when she left for school. She led a quiet uneventful life. She was no career woman or a woman of the world. She was a simple home maker and her world revolved around her daughter and husband.

 On the day of the trip  Ae Che woke up at the crack of dawn . The daily planner on her I-phone read: “Trip to Island! So Excited!”. It was the 4th of May. She showered, dressed and got ready. The weather was gradually getting warm so she wore a printed floral skirt with a denim jacket. Cho hee asked her to check her back pack and ensure that she was not missing anything. Before she stepped into the black Santa Fe with her Dad at the wheels Ae Che came and hugged her forty two year old mother. Her mother was beautiful. Many of her friends said she looked like  her older sister. The mother’s eyes clouded with emotion. The sixteen year old kissed her on the cheek.

Years later, when she would recall this morning, Cho he would say that she heard a voice asking her to stop her daughter from going. She clung tightly on to her only child.

“Take care. May God be with you”. She mumbled.

Tears were already beginning to gather at the corner of her eyes. Ae che’s father said it was getting late. They had to beat the traffic. The car door closed and she saw the black SUV sprint forward. She saw Ae Che wave from inside the car.

There was a sea of people at the dock from where the ferry would take the students to the island in the sea. Mr Park , the vice principal, was there with a placard “ Island field Trip”. Already many students were milling around him, laughing, cracking jokes. Ae Che looked around and saw her friends, Jae Hwa and Jin Ae in the crowd. She went over to them. They looked radiant and were as excited as her. They hugged each other. Soon they got immersed in their girls’ gossip. For sometime,” Rihana”, “Forever 21” and “gel nails” kept them engrossed.

 Presently an Elantra stopped close to them. The door opened and a boy of medium height stepped out. His dark thick hair was brushed back and he had a fine strong build. What was special though was his eyes. They were dark and full of life and humour. He was dressed in blue GAP jeans and black un-branded T shirt. He wore white inexpensive sneakers. His face lit up when he spied Ae che among the group. With a broad frank smile he approached her.

Ae Che’s  heart skipped a beat seeing the boy walk towards her. OMG! It was Bae. She was in love with him. They had been studying together since grade nine. They had always liked each other’s company, however, the spark of love had ignited only recently. It was during a Physics project that they realised that their relationship was more than just fondness. She had fallen sick during the assignment and could not complete her part. Bae worked long hours and spent sleepless nights helping her. When the project was done and the teacher had graded it  an  A- , she asked him why did he work so hard for her. It was a fall afternoon, a ray of sunlight streamed in through the class  room window and fell on his forehead, his dark eyes smiled and he said, “because I love you—that’s why. I always wanted to tell you. Good that you asked me.” She looked at him. He was quite good looking but what was important to her was that he cared for her. She felt a warmth gush all though her body. She blushed. A smile began at the corner of her lips and rippled across her angelic face.

That day as she returned from school the streets of Seoul looked different. It seemed everyone she saw in the subway, the sidewalks were smiling at her. The song “ Viva la Vida” by her favourite band, Cold Play played on in her mind. The sky was blue and clear, strangely, she felt that little bits of sky were inside her. Butterflies lilted across and she felt as if she was gliding, floating in the air like them. Was this love? If it was, there was no better feeling than this.

Bae opened his arms and gave her a big tight hug. They kissed each other. Her Bae was here. The nervousness she was feeling subsided. There were two persons in the world that could instil confidence in her, one, was her Dad and the other was Bae. Things will be fine. Why and how do certain people have this ability? Bae was holding her in his arms. She felt so comfortable. He was saying something about her being the loveliest girl in the world. A strand of  hair fell across her face, gently, he swept it up her forehead. His touch was so light, so sensuous.

Mr Park was now making an announcement with a megaphone. He was asking the students to line up. The ferry was ready for boarding. They would leave the harbour in about half an hour. Some of the students cheered and whistled.  

They could see the ferry now. It was a large one. On the side, just below the bridge, “Sewol”, was written in Korean. The sun was breaking through a wall of clouds. A dull yellow sunlight fell on it. Under a combination of morning haze and sunshine it looked surreal.

For some unknown reason Ae Che had a sense of foreboding. A voice inside her told her not to go. She held on to Bae’s arm.

“I feel afraid, Bae, let’s not go, let’s go somewhere else”, she said. He looked at her with a puzzled expression. He was unable to comprehend the basis of her apprehension.

“Why, Che? What’s wrong? We waited so long to go on this trip”, he said.

“ No . I don’t know, I just feel weird” she replied.

 “ You are tired. That’s it. Once you are aboard and the fun starts you will love it.” He gave her a friendly peck on her forehead.

The line up was long. The mood was upbeat. Students were, chatting, joking, snapping pictures, holding hands, kissing, while slowly moving along. The sun shone. Sometimes it hid behind the clouds. Gusts of wind blew. Mr Park was tirelessly exhorting the youngsters to step forward so that they could set sail on time. Ae Che checked the time on her I phone. It was 9.07 a.m.

It was almost 10 when the last person stepped on the ferry. The ferry’s hoot was loud and long. It was time for it to leave harbour. The boarding planks were withdrawn. A slight jerk indicated that the anchor was pulled in and the 300 plus people were on their journey. Some boys let out a loud cheer. Cell phones feverishly clicked the view of the city from the ferry.

Bae  and Ae che stood on the bridge watching the Sewol move away from the dock. Bae held Ae Che in an embrace from behind. With his arms around her she felt comfortable. The unexplained fear that had gripped her was slowly easing. Nothing is going to happen. Bae was right, once they were on onboard things would brighten up. It certainly looked that way. A group of pupils had begun to sing. With guitars strumming the young voices sang Psy’s famous gung man song. A boy did the gung man dance. Many in the group clapped and hooted. She would have missed something if she did not come. The fact that she was in the comfortable embrace of Bae would have been another thing she would have not experienced.

Mr Park made an announcement that students were required to proceed to the canteen for breakfast. The canteen was in the main lobby. Bae nudged her and they started on their way. A girl in a little black dress with long lovely legs was before them. Bae pinched Ae Che and said , “ nice legs!”.

 Ae  Che turned around and covered his eyes with her hand, “ you pig!”.

 “ Come on che! I was simply admiring , not doing anything”-----, he protested.

“ You only admire me”, she exhorted.

 “OK. You already know I don’t need to go anywhere so long you are here with me”, he said and kissed her. She felt on the top of the world. Over their head she saw the blue sky with specks of little white clouds. An eagle soared above. Why do they have to fly so high?, she wondered.

The canteen was small. There was already a milling crowd. People were talking, eating, and trying to socialize at the same time. There was confusion and chaos. Ae Che and Bae slowly trudged their way through the throng of people towards the food counter. It was almost after a decade it seemed that they were able to order  food. Balancing their plate in their hands they looked around for a place to sit. All the tables were taken so they stood and ate the meal.

It was at this time that things started to go wrong. First, Ae Che heard a loud blast, and the ferry shook violently. Many students screamed. Ae Che clung to Bae. A spasm of fear ran through her body. Bae was afraid too but maintained a brave face before her.” Don’t worry Che it’s only a minor glitch. It will be alright”, he said. He did not believe what he said. He hoped though that he was right. The lights began to flicker. Ae Che could hear her heart pump feverishly. Amongst the sea of people she saw Jae Hwa and Jin Ae both holding on to each other. A mask of fear covered their faces. She called out to them but her voice was lost in the rising din.

All of a sudden the lights went off. There was absolute pandemonium. Screams and cries filled the air. “Bae, Bae , what’s going on ?Will we be safe?” , she asked. Though a paralysing fear was beginning to creep inside, Bae, knew he had to stay calm if they were to remain safe. “Don’t worry, it might be just a minor electrical problem. It will be taken care of shortly.” His mind was racing. The black- out was definitely not a good sign. Something was really wrong. He figured that the best thing to do in the present situation was to come out and go to the bridge. There would be daylight and also he would be able to assess the condition of the ferry.

With his arms tightly around Ae Che he charged through the wall of bodies. He thanked himself for his fine work-out regime and intense boxing training. He was strong and fit. Quickly he was out of the crowd and moving towards the bridge. He could now sense clearly that the ferry was tilting. The bridge was already crowded with students. Dazed and terror stricken faces were everywhere. Bae looked around for Mr Park. He was the only person who could guide them but he could not see him anywhere. He looked at his love. Poor girl. Her lovely cherubic face was a mess. The black mascara was smudged and her dress crumpled. He saw the fear in her eyes. He had to do something.

“We will be OK dear. This will be over soon. Then we can put in on Face book with the caption, how we survived a near disaster.  You know what, let’s take a selfie, and post it right now ”. He pulled her to his side, took out his Samsung S4, put an arm around her shoulder and snapped a picture.

“Let me see, let me see –how I look in the picture.” She crooned. He showed her. “ Oh my God! I look so terrible. Bae why did you post it?”

“You always look lovely dear.”

The ferry was swaying badly. He looked around for a member of the crew. No one was to be found. Suddenly the PA system came to life.

ATTENTION! ATTENTION ! ATTENTION! WE ARE FACING SOME TECHNICAL  PROBLEMS. THERE IS NOTHING TO WORRY. PLEASE REMAIN WHERE YOU ARE AND DON’T MOVE. KEEP CALM. WE ARE WORKING TO RECTIFY THE PROBLEM. PLEASE WAIT FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS.

“ There I told you. It is a minor problem. It does happen sometimes. We will be ok.” He told her in a confident voice.

The tall , lovely girl, who had the ambition of becoming  a doctor hugged him. Dark eyes looked up and she said, “ I believe you. I love you”.

Loud piercing cries could be heard. They were absolute cries of terror. It was coming from the opposite side of the bridge. That part was slowly going under. They could feel and see it.

Help! Help! Help!Help! the voices could be heard.

“Oh My GOD! Why don’t they release the life boats?”,Bae gasped.

Ae Che watched in horror as the people fell into the water. She froze in terror. Her nails dug into Bae’s arm.

“Che, quick we have to get life jackets. It does not look good”, Bae said. She knew from his tone that the situation was indeed grim.

The PA system came back on.

PASSENGERS ARE REQUESTED TO REMAIN CALM. DO NOT MOVE. WE ARE LOOKING INTO THE PROBLEM.

“They are lying. We have to go get life jackets. Come Che”. Bae gripped her arm and pulled her along with him.

Many students did not move. They followed the directive issued by the crew. Days later it would be evident that the crew acted with malicious intent.

Bae and Che ran towards the row of cabins. Bae had been on a ship before and knew that  in the aisle infront of the cabins, life jackets were kept.

Ae Che was in a state of shock. She could barely move. He carried her in his arms. Panting, dizzy, with fear eating into his mind he reached the aisle. Frantically he looked around for life jackets. The hooks meant  to keep them secure to the walls were there but the jackets were missing.

He heard voices further down the aisle and what he saw made him sick with anger, grief, loathing and distaste. A large group of crew members unmistakable in their uniform had got hold of the life jackets and were preparing to disembark from the ship.

After the initial shock had worn off he charged at them like a raging bull.

“ You son of -------, you are asking us not to move so that you can take all the life jackets and escape. You mother----------- you should be ashamed. Don’t you have an ounce of decency? What sort of men are you----leaving behind so many women and children and running away?” he shouted at the men.

A  crew member, a young man of about twenty five said ,“ if you are so brave ---you save them-----you------- A few seconds later  he was in the water floating to safety thanks to the life jacket he had illegally taken .

Bae knew there was no point in wasting precious seconds thinking about the grave wrong the crew members had indulged in. Ae Che in his arms was becoming hysterical. She was  wailing  , “ this is the end, we are all going to die. I  will never see my parents again”. He could hear the cries of distress become more and more frequent. The ferry , it was now pretty clear, was going down. He could see and hear  the roar of the sea.

Oddly two things happened in quick succession. A wave of fear swept through his body and he almost fell down and lost grip of Ae Che. The very next instant, though,  a steely calm , a dogged determination to survive took over. He immediately realised that there would still be some other places where he could find life jackets.

He ran inside a cabin. Sometimes in high end cabins they had spares. It did not have any. He darted into other one and desperately began searching. When he was almost on the verge of giving up he entered into the bathroom and there behind the door was a life jacket. It did not matter if he did not have another one. So long his love of his life had one he would be okay.

“Che come on quick, you have to put on this life jacket, dear”,  he unzipped it and swiftly put  it on her.

“And you ? Where is your life jacket ?” Ae che asked.  A cloud of worry and fear swept across her face.

“ Oh don’t worry about that. I will find one in due course.”, he said.

Ae Che began to take her life vest off. “ If you don’t have one, I will also not have one”, she said. Bae stopped her.

Do you truly love me, Che?

She nodded.

Then do as I say. “Don’t take off your vest. Just jump in. They will eventually find you. Remember I am always with you. Here, take my phone with you”.

A huge wave came crashing in. Ae Che screamed. The next instant there was a blur and she found herself in the cold frigid waters of the sea. She tried searching for Bae but... she saw no signs of him. The ferry was slowly disintegrating before her. Life less bodies floated around her. Cries of horror and terror filled the air.

A wave of despair, grief and sorrow gripped her. She began to cry. And then pray.

A memory from her childhood came back to her. Once  when she was very young Mother was taken seriously  ill. She had to be moved to the ICU. She remembered being worried about her. That night after they had returned from the hospital, she had asked , “ is there nothing we can do for her Dad?”. He had looked at her with a kind but sad look, “yes dear we can do one thing---pray and ask God for his kindness”. She had stayed up for a long time and asked God for his help. Mother recovered after a few days. The teaching of her father was engraved in her mind.

After about ten hours they found her clinging to the very last leash of life.

It was almost after four days of valiant fight they could bring her back from the jaws of death. The first thing she asked for after she opened her eyes was Bae’s phone. Miraculously it was fine. Scrolling through the pictures, she found, the last picture, a selfie of his , with the caption, “Farewell”.

A tear drop streamed down her cheek and stopped at her lips. It tasted of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 That morning when her daughter, Ae Che, said goodbye, Cho Hee, marvelled at how lovely and gorgeous she was turning out to be. At sixteen she was a tall, lissome girl with flashing black eyes and flawless complexion.

Ae Che was so excited! Her high school term was coming to an end. The exams done, students looked forward to a period of relaxation, fun and enjoyment. The School, like every year, had arranged for a field trip for its students as a parting gift.

This year it was a rather ambitious program. It involved a stay of three days on an island in the sea. When Ae Che told about the planned trip about two weeks ago Cho Hee had a misgiving of sorts. She felt uneasy. She could not point out exactly why. She was opposed to the idea. Ae Che’s dad, however, thought it was a great idea. After a few minutes debate over the dining table the family agreed to let Ae Che go for the excursion.

For about a week hectic preparations were underway. Ae Che and her mother went to the store in the mall dealing exclusively with sports adventure gear and bought all the necessary provisions. For days, Ae Che was on her i-phone at different periods of the day and night chattering excitedly with her friends, planning, discussing about things to do during their vacation.

The night before the trip Ae Che was nervous. Mother and daughter sat at their favourite breakfast table and had a cup of hot chocolate. They did not say much to each other just sat and enjoyed each other’s company. The sound of the TV was in the background. Ae Che’s father was catching up on the news.

“ Ma will you miss me?”. Ae Che asked suddenly. She did not want to ask the question but somehow the question popped itself.

“Of course I will. Though you are going for just three days”, mother replied. She did not want to tell her that she missed her every day when she left for school. She led a quiet uneventful life. She was no career woman or a woman of the world. She was a simple home maker and her world revolved around her daughter and husband.

 On the day of the trip  Ae Che woke up at the crack of dawn . The daily planner on her I-phone read: “Trip to Island! So Excited!”. It was the 4th of May. She showered, dressed and got ready. The weather was gradually getting warm so she wore a printed floral skirt with a denim jacket. Cho hee asked her to check her back pack and ensure that she was not missing anything. Before she stepped into the black Santa Fe with her Dad at the wheels Ae Che came and hugged her forty two year old mother. Her mother was beautiful. Many of her friends said she looked like  her older sister. The mother’s eyes clouded with emotion. The sixteen year old kissed her on the cheek.

Years later, when she would recall this morning, Cho he would say that she heard a voice asking her to stop her daughter from going. She clung tightly on to her only child.

“Take care. May God be with you”. She mumbled.

Tears were already beginning to gather at the corner of her eyes. Ae che’s father said it was getting late. They had to beat the traffic. The car door closed and she saw the black SUV sprint forward. She saw Ae Che wave from inside the car.

There was a sea of people at the dock from where the ferry would take the students to the island in the sea. Mr Park , the vice principal, was there with a placard “ Island field Trip”. Already many students were milling around him, laughing, cracking jokes. Ae Che looked around and saw her friends, Jae Hwa and Jin Ae in the crowd. She went over to them. They looked radiant and were as excited as her. They hugged each other. Soon they got immersed in their girls’ gossip. For sometime,” Rihana”, “Forever 21” and “gel nails” kept them engrossed.

 Presently an Elantra stopped close to them. The door opened and a boy of medium height stepped out. His dark thick hair was brushed back and he had a fine strong build. What was special though was his eyes. They were dark and full of life and humour. He was dressed in blue GAP jeans and black un-branded T shirt. He wore white inexpensive sneakers. His face lit up when he spied Ae che among the group. With a broad frank smile he approached her.

Ae Che’s  heart skipped a beat seeing the boy walk towards her. OMG! It was Bae. She was in love with him. They had been studying together since grade nine. They had always liked each other’s company, however, the spark of love had ignited only recently. It was during a Physics project that they realised that their relationship was more than just fondness. She had fallen sick during the assignment and could not complete her part. Bae worked long hours and spent sleepless nights helping her. When the project was done and the teacher had graded it  an  A- , she asked him why did he work so hard for her. It was a fall afternoon, a ray of sunlight streamed in through the class  room window and fell on his forehead, his dark eyes smiled and he said, “because I love you—that’s why. I always wanted to tell you. Good that you asked me.” She looked at him. He was quite good looking but what was important to her was that he cared for her. She felt a warmth gush all though her body. She blushed. A smile began at the corner of her lips and rippled across her angelic face.

That day as she returned from school the streets of Seoul looked different. It seemed everyone she saw in the subway, the sidewalks were smiling at her. The song “ Viva la Vida” by her favourite band, Cold Play played on in her mind. The sky was blue and clear, strangely, she felt that little bits of sky were inside her. Butterflies lilted across and she felt as if she was gliding, floating in the air like them. Was this love? If it was, there was no better feeling than this.

Bae opened his arms and gave her a big tight hug. They kissed each other. Her Bae was here. The nervousness she was feeling subsided. There were two persons in the world that could instil confidence in her, one, was her Dad and the other was Bae. Things will be fine. Why and how do certain people have this ability? Bae was holding her in his arms. She felt so comfortable. He was saying something about her being the loveliest girl in the world. A strand of  hair fell across her face, gently, he swept it up her forehead. His touch was so light, so sensuous.

Mr Park was now making an announcement with a megaphone. He was asking the students to line up. The ferry was ready for boarding. They would leave the harbour in about half an hour. Some of the students cheered and whistled.  

They could see the ferry now. It was a large one. On the side, just below the bridge, “Sewol”, was written in Korean. The sun was breaking through a wall of clouds. A dull yellow sunlight fell on it. Under a combination of morning haze and sunshine it looked surreal.

For some unknown reason Ae Che had a sense of foreboding. A voice inside her told her not to go. She held on to Bae’s arm.

“I feel afraid, Bae, let’s not go, let’s go somewhere else”, she said. He looked at her with a puzzled expression. He was unable to comprehend the basis of her apprehension.

“Why, Che? What’s wrong? We waited so long to go on this trip”, he said.

“ No . I don’t know, I just feel weird” she replied.

 “ You are tired. That’s it. Once you are aboard and the fun starts you will love it.” He gave her a friendly peck on her forehead.

The line up was long. The mood was upbeat. Students were, chatting, joking, snapping pictures, holding hands, kissing, while slowly moving along. The sun shone. Sometimes it hid behind the clouds. Gusts of wind blew. Mr Park was tirelessly exhorting the youngsters to step forward so that they could set sail on time. Ae Che checked the time on her I phone. It was 9.07 a.m.

It was almost 10 when the last person stepped on the ferry. The ferry’s hoot was loud and long. It was time for it to leave harbour. The boarding planks were withdrawn. A slight jerk indicated that the anchor was pulled in and the 300 plus people were on their journey. Some boys let out a loud cheer. Cell phones feverishly clicked the view of the city from the ferry.

Bae  and Ae che stood on the bridge watching the Sewol move away from the dock. Bae held Ae Che in an embrace from behind. With his arms around her she felt comfortable. The unexplained fear that had gripped her was slowly easing. Nothing is going to happen. Bae was right, once they were on onboard things would brighten up. It certainly looked that way. A group of pupils had begun to sing. With guitars strumming the young voices sang Psy’s famous gung man song. A boy did the gung man dance. Many in the group clapped and hooted. She would have missed something if she did not come. The fact that she was in the comfortable embrace of Bae would have been another thing she would have not experienced.

Mr Park made an announcement that students were required to proceed to the canteen for breakfast. The canteen was in the main lobby. Bae nudged her and they started on their way. A girl in a little black dress with long lovely legs was before them. Bae pinched Ae Che and said , “ nice legs!”.

 Ae  Che turned around and covered his eyes with her hand, “ you pig!”.

 “ Come on che! I was simply admiring , not doing anything”-----, he protested.

“ You only admire me”, she exhorted.

 “OK. You already know I don’t need to go anywhere so long you are here with me”, he said and kissed her. She felt on the top of the world. Over their head she saw the blue sky with specks of little white clouds. An eagle soared above. Why do they have to fly so high?, she wondered.

The canteen was small. There was already a milling crowd. People were talking, eating, and trying to socialize at the same time. There was confusion and chaos. Ae Che and Bae slowly trudged their way through the throng of people towards the food counter. It was almost after a decade it seemed that they were able to order  food. Balancing their plate in their hands they looked around for a place to sit. All the tables were taken so they stood and ate the meal.

It was at this time that things started to go wrong. First, Ae Che heard a loud blast, and the ferry shook violently. Many students screamed. Ae Che clung to Bae. A spasm of fear ran through her body. Bae was afraid too but maintained a brave face before her.” Don’t worry Che it’s only a minor glitch. It will be alright”, he said. He did not believe what he said. He hoped though that he was right. The lights began to flicker. Ae Che could hear her heart pump feverishly. Amongst the sea of people she saw Jae Hwa and Jin Ae both holding on to each other. A mask of fear covered their faces. She called out to them but her voice was lost in the rising din.

All of a sudden the lights went off. There was absolute pandemonium. Screams and cries filled the air. “Bae, Bae , what’s going on ?Will we be safe?” , she asked. Though a paralysing fear was beginning to creep inside, Bae, knew he had to stay calm if they were to remain safe. “Don’t worry, it might be just a minor electrical problem. It will be taken care of shortly.” His mind was racing. The black- out was definitely not a good sign. Something was really wrong. He figured that the best thing to do in the present situation was to come out and go to the bridge. There would be daylight and also he would be able to assess the condition of the ferry.

With his arms tightly around Ae Che he charged through the wall of bodies. He thanked himself for his fine work-out regime and intense boxing training. He was strong and fit. Quickly he was out of the crowd and moving towards the bridge. He could now sense clearly that the ferry was tilting. The bridge was already crowded with students. Dazed and terror stricken faces were everywhere. Bae looked around for Mr Park. He was the only person who could guide them but he could not see him anywhere. He looked at his love. Poor girl. Her lovely cherubic face was a mess. The black mascara was smudged and her dress crumpled. He saw the fear in her eyes. He had to do something.

“We will be OK dear. This will be over soon. Then we can put in on Face book with the caption, how we survived a near disaster.  You know what, let’s take a selfie, and post it right now ”. He pulled her to his side, took out his Samsung S4, put an arm around her shoulder and snapped a picture.

“Let me see, let me see –how I look in the picture.” She crooned. He showed her. “ Oh my God! I look so terrible. Bae why did you post it?”

“You always look lovely dear.”

The ferry was swaying badly. He looked around for a member of the crew. No one was to be found. Suddenly the PA system came to life.

ATTENTION! ATTENTION ! ATTENTION! WE ARE FACING SOME TECHNICAL  PROBLEMS. THERE IS NOTHING TO WORRY. PLEASE REMAIN WHERE YOU ARE AND DON’T MOVE. KEEP CALM. WE ARE WORKING TO RECTIFY THE PROBLEM. PLEASE WAIT FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS.

“ There I told you. It is a minor problem. It does happen sometimes. We will be ok.” He told her in a confident voice.

The tall , lovely girl, who had the ambition of becoming  a doctor hugged him. Dark eyes looked up and she said, “ I believe you. I love you”.

Loud piercing cries could be heard. They were absolute cries of terror. It was coming from the opposite side of the bridge. That part was slowly going under. They could feel and see it.

Help! Help! Help!Help! the voices could be heard.

“Oh My GOD! Why don’t they release the life boats?”,Bae gasped.

Ae Che watched in horror as the people fell into the water. She froze in terror. Her nails dug into Bae’s arm.

“Che, quick we have to get life jackets. It does not look good”, Bae said. She knew from his tone that the situation was indeed grim.

The PA system came back on.

PASSENGERS ARE REQUESTED TO REMAIN CALM. DO NOT MOVE. WE ARE LOOKING INTO THE PROBLEM.

“They are lying. We have to go get life jackets. Come Che”. Bae gripped her arm and pulled her along with him.

Many students did not move. They followed the directive issued by the crew. Days later it would be evident that the crew acted with malicious intent.

Bae and Che ran towards the row of cabins. Bae had been on a ship before and knew that  in the aisle infront of the cabins, life jackets were kept.

Ae Che was in a state of shock. She could barely move. He carried her in his arms. Panting, dizzy, with fear eating into his mind he reached the aisle. Frantically he looked around for life jackets. The hooks meant  to keep them secure to the walls were there but the jackets were missing.

He heard voices further down the aisle and what he saw made him sick with anger, grief, loathing and distaste. A large group of crew members unmistakable in their uniform had got hold of the life jackets and were preparing to disembark from the ship.

After the initial shock had worn off he charged at them like a raging bull.

“ You son of -------, you are asking us not to move so that you can take all the life jackets and escape. You mother----------- you should be ashamed. Don’t you have an ounce of decency? What sort of men are you----leaving behind so many women and children and running away?” he shouted at the men.

A  crew member, a young man of about twenty five said ,“ if you are so brave ---you save them-----you------- A few seconds later  he was in the water floating to safety thanks to the life jacket he had illegally taken .

Bae knew there was no point in wasting precious seconds thinking about the grave wrong the crew members had indulged in. Ae Che in his arms was becoming hysterical. She was  wailing  , “ this is the end, we are all going to die. I  will never see my parents again”. He could hear the cries of distress become more and more frequent. The ferry , it was now pretty clear, was going down. He could see and hear  the roar of the sea.

Oddly two things happened in quick succession. A wave of fear swept through his body and he almost fell down and lost grip of Ae Che. The very next instant, though,  a steely calm , a dogged determination to survive took over. He immediately realised that there would still be some other places where he could find life jackets.

He ran inside a cabin. Sometimes in high end cabins they had spares. It did not have any. He darted into other one and desperately began searching. When he was almost on the verge of giving up he entered into the bathroom and there behind the door was a life jacket. It did not matter if he did not have another one. So long his love of his life had one he would be okay.

“Che come on quick, you have to put on this life jacket, dear”,  he unzipped it and swiftly put  it on her.

“And you ? Where is your life jacket ?” Ae che asked.  A cloud of worry and fear swept across her face.

“ Oh don’t worry about that. I will find one in due course.”, he said.

Ae Che began to take her life vest off. “ If you don’t have one, I will also not have one”, she said. Bae stopped her.

Do you truly love me, Che?

She nodded.

Then do as I say. “Don’t take off your vest. Just jump in. They will eventually find you. Remember I am always with you. Here, take my phone with you”.

A huge wave came crashing in. Ae Che screamed. The next instant there was a blur and she found herself in the cold frigid waters of the sea. She tried searching for Bae but... she saw no signs of him. The ferry was slowly disintegrating before her. Life less bodies floated around her. Cries of horror and terror filled the air.

A wave of despair, grief and sorrow gripped her. She began to cry. And then pray.

A memory from her childhood came back to her. Once  when she was very young Mother was taken seriously  ill. She had to be moved to the ICU. She remembered being worried about her. That night after they had returned from the hospital, she had asked , “ is there nothing we can do for her Dad?”. He had looked at her with a kind but sad look, “yes dear we can do one thing---pray and ask God for his kindness”. She had stayed up for a long time and asked God for his help. Mother recovered after a few days. The teaching of her father was engraved in her mind.

After about ten hours they found her clinging to the very last leash of life.

It was almost after four days of valiant fight they could bring her back from the jaws of death. The first thing she asked for after she opened her eyes was Bae’s phone. Miraculously it was fine. Scrolling through the pictures, she found, the last picture, a selfie of his , with the caption, “Farewell”.

A tear drop streamed down her cheek and stopped at her lips. It tasted of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Submitted: April 26, 2020

© Copyright 2021 suj. All rights reserved.

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