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First pages

1

I don’t remember when I first started to Dream. I don’t know why I began to Dream, either, or even how the way I Dream is possible. It could have been because I was bored. Perhaps it was because I’m nosy. Yes, that’s far more likely. I was bored, and nosy, and for the first fifteen years of my life I couldn’t walk, so what else was there to do but Dream?

I didn’t know I was spying on people. Not at first, at least. And when I did find out, what was there to be concerned about? I couldn’t stop the Dreams, and it was pointless to feel badly about something I couldn’t help. The Dreams came by night or by day, intruding upon the real world until it was almost impossible to tell which was real and which the Dream. My nights were long, but my days were longer, and the Dreams were a welcome distraction from the beige ceiling and the window from which I could see only grey sky. In Scandia the sky is always grey and the ceiling always beige: there’s probably a moral in there somewhere.

You have questions. That’s all right. Ask away.

Oh, that’s a clever one: no one has asked me that before. Did the Dreams come first, or the paralysis? I don’t know for sure, but I can guess. I think the Dreams came first, tugging my soul away from my body, and I became so used to being away from my body that I never learnt how to use it or really live in it.

But it’s more than that. I’m left alone in my quarters most of the time, simply forgotten. People don’t see me. Servants sweep past me without bowing, and if I’m not very careful, I get left out in the garden when I take the air on my chaise lounge. I used to think it was because I was actually dead, and perhaps I wasn’t so far off.

After all, what is a body without a soul, and why should a soulless body be seen?

***

The year that made me nineteen, my Dreams of Eppa began a few weeks before I actually arrived in that country for my annual visit. It wasn’t unusual for me to Dream about Eppa, though I didn’t often Dream about it when I wasn’t there. My Dreams chiefly follow people rather than places, and I normally Dream of the people I’m with. Unless it’s Jessamy, of course. I Dream about Jessamy no matter where he is. That’s probably why the Dreams began early, if it comes to that.

I was a perpetual nomad, flitting between Eppa and Scandia, and though my father made sure I spoke both Eppan and Scandian, my real home was Scandia. My house was small and light, one of a long line of seaside houses that faced the bare, open shore: a great waste, since I couldn’t see the water from my windows. I spent the bulk of my time on my chaise lounge, my view alternating between beige ceiling, empty sky beyond the frame of my window, and the Dreams that visited me by day and night.

Despite insisting upon my coming to him in Eppa every year, Father didn’t otherwise concern himself with me. He had never said so, but I knew he was ashamed of a daughter who not only looked like the wife who had abandoned him, but was crippled into the bargain. He still made the correct overtures, however: once I was thirteen, summer meant Eppa and three months in the house of Kang Eun-hee, one of Eppa’s brightest, richest, and most social widows. She loved me unreservedly, for whatever reason, and though I didn’t have the capacity to love anyone but Jessamy, I was fond of her in a distant sort of way.

After the summer came the autumn, when I would be conveyed from Eun-hee’s estate to Father’s estate to spend the next two months. He would see me on the first day I arrived, his face blank and unreadable, to remark: “Are you walking yet, Clovis?” and for me to reply: “Aniyo, Abeonim.”

Then he would leave me entirely alone for the remainder of the two months, until the last day came and he appeared in the doorway to ask: “You’re to return tomorrow?” and hear me reply: “Ye, Abeonim.”

By then, unless Jessamy had also visited the estate, I would be thoroughly chilled with boredom, my mind far from my body with Dreams and slow to be recalled even by the return to Scandia. The small amount of walking that I was periodically capable of was always just a little bit harder than usual in the weeks after my return, the disconnection with my body leaving me less responsive to my surroundings than usual and without any interest in my arms and legs.

It was no surprise to me, therefore, two weeks before my expected journey to Eppa, to lose sight of my breakfast tray in the surge of a powerful vision of elsewhere. It was a surprise to find that I wasn’t Dreaming of Scandia: the street I was seeing was filled with Eppan faces and Eppan fashions, colourful and outlandish by contrast with the more modern, pinched Scandian ones.

My Dream had me outside a familiar restaurant: Father quite often met business acquaintances and potential clients of his publishing house at this restaurant. Approaching the entrance from different directions were three men, who met and bowed on the stairs as they recognised each other.

I recognised all three straight away. Jessamy was the easiest: he’s my brother. Half-brother, actually, but unlike me, he looks properly Eppan. My mother’s Scandian blood never sullied his complexion, so my father’s creamy brown skin sits oddly beneath Jessamy’s dyed blonde hair. That dyed hair is an Eppan affectation that I don’t much care for, but on Jessamy it looks bright and happy instead of pretentious. The fact that he has such a mobile, expressive little mouth that’s always making odd grimaces and amusing jokes only adds to his brightness. I’m always glad to see Jessamy again, though I would have preferred to see him in real life. We’re so different, but he’s the only person I love. He’s the only one I’m capable of loving.

The second was a tall, thin, elegant man with what seemed to be a permanent scowl, and wild black hair. The hair would have you believe he didn’t care how he was seen, but it was so artfully done that I knew it must take at least an hour to work it into such a careful disarray. His name was Park Hyun-jun, and he was an author of some fame. Truth be told, I enjoyed his books, but found the author himself too much work to enjoy his company. We’d met once or twice before; both of which times he’d stared at me with that disturbing scowl for a full half-hour before abruptly rising and striding from the room. At first I’d thought my paleness disgusted him—or that he, like most others, simply hadn’t seen me and had been staring through me—but a few years later I found myself written into one of his books, drawn in with such care and desolation that it was obvious that my inability to walk had hit him unexpectedly hard. I wondered who I’d reminded him of, and from then on dismissed the scowl as a defensive mechanism to keep at bay anything that might cause him to feel more than he chose to feel.

The third man I recognised almost as easily as I recognised Jessamy. Not his name, but himself. I’d never seen him before, but I knew that faint air of languor, that flitting look he sent around the street in search of any distraction. This man, whoever he was, was utterly, achingly, numbingly bored. He was a beautiful thing, his hair perfectly combed and worn long over the forehead and ears in the true Eppan style, and diamond earrings glittered in each ear-lobe. An exquisitely moulded mouth was set softly closed below heavy-lidded brown eyes that didn’t quite seem to be awake. I saw the long-fingered hands that were playing aimlessly with his silver-topped cane and wasn’t surprised to hear Hyun-jun address him as Ma Yong-hwa, a famous Eppan composer and musician. Besides composing music, he played both the gayageum and the violin, leading me to wonder exactly why such a talented man was obviously as bored as I was. But he smiled when he saw Jessamy, and that smile was a warm, faintly affectionate thing very different from his cool boredom. I decided that I would like him.

My father met them in the vestibule as they removed their shoes, a young agassi standing quiet and neat beside him. That was new, so I was already watching her when her eyes flew to Hyun-jun’s face in horrified consciousness. Had she had an unpleasant meeting with him previously, or was she simply shy? Unpleasant meeting, I decided. That was particularly likely when it came to Hyun-jun.

The agassi’s head dropped forward to provide a screen of hair as my father said in the deep, welcoming voice he uses only for clients: “Ah, Hyun-jun-ssi! Come and eat.”

He bowed, as did the agassi, her hands clasped at her waist. Her bow was just a little too shallow at first and then a little too deep as she hurriedly atoned for her mistake. Fortunately for her, she was a little behind my father, who didn’t see, but Hyun-jun’s lip curled slightly as he followed them both down the hall. On Yong-hwa, the botched respect had quite a different reaction: there was a faint glow of interest in his sleepy brown eyes as Jessamy ushered him into a different room.

There were no other Dreams to be had, and the room around my physical body was coolly white, creating an open emptiness around me that didn’t invite me to stay, so I followed the Dream with a weary half-interest to where Jessamy and Ma Yong-hwa were discussing the publication of Yong-hwa’s music. That puzzled me at first. Father was undoubtedly meeting with Park Hyun-jun, and Jessamy might be the only son, but he was still only sixteen. Moreover, he was a junior assistant at Father’s publishing company, and the idea that someone as important as Yong-hwa had been fobbed off to a junior assistant seemed odd. I had only been listening to their conversation for a few moments before I understood it, however: Jessamy was discussing Yong-hwa’s compositions with a passion and quickness that I hadn’t realised he was capable of. Jessamy had attended the famous Silver Heart College of music for the last four years, but my Dreams of him had most often caught him either out of the campus or in mischief. Nor had we previously had the opportunity to discuss music, and since Jessamy had always struck me more in the light of a large, clumsy, happy puppy than an insightful student of anything, it was something of a surprise.

Ma Yong-hwa knelt at the table, watching him with a soft line of amusement to his lips.

“We’ll have to redo the fingering,” said Jessamy. He was kneeling with his elbows planted on the table between them and poring over the sheets of hand-written music. “Of course you can manage it, Hyung, but normal people can’t change position that fast. Or right there.”

“The position affects the sound,” countered Yong-hwa. “If the fingers aren’t in position on the d-string the mellowness of the notes will be ruined.”

“There isn’t going to be any mellowness, anyway,” said Jessamy. “Rich parents will want to buy music by the great Ma Yong-hwa for their little brats. And those little brats are going to make a huge mess of third position fingering on the d-string.”

“My music is not for little brats.”

Jessamy grinned. “With the kind of skill you’d need to play it, it’s not really for anyone but you, Hyung; but if you want it to be published, you’ll need to make some concessions. What if we keep your original fingering, and add a second set below that?”

Yong-hwa gazed at him in silence for a long moment, and Jessamy’s mouth grimaced upward hopefully. A reluctant smile stole over Yong-hwa’s face. “Very well: two sets of fingering,” he said. “Don’t think you’ve won the game, Jessamy-a. I will be very capricious with the rest of my demands.”

“All right,” said Jessamy cheerfully. “There’s food. Let’s talk about it.”

One of Yong-hwa’s long fingers was tapping against the table-top. “Yes,” he said. “We’ll discuss it. Jessamy-a, who was the young agassi who met Park Hyun-jun?”

“Oh, that,” Jessamy said, with an obvious lack of enthusiasm. “That’s Ae-jung-ssi. She’s pretty useless, but everyone seems to like her a lot.”

“Everyone,” murmured Yong-hwa, with a brief look at Jessamy’s scowling face. “Yes, I see. Your father finds her useful?”

Jessamy’s scowl deepened. “I don’t know why. She keeps making silly mistakes.”

“Such as?”

“Don’t worry, she’s not part of your publication team,” said Jessamy, hunching his shoulders. “I won’t let her touch anything I’m working on. Anyway, I don’t need help. Hyung, why are we talking about a boring girl?”

“I really have no idea,” said Yong-hwa. I thought he looked faintly amused, and I couldn’t tell if he was amused at himself, or at Jessamy. But his curiosity about the agassi had in turn faintly interested me, and I left them to their discussion of finger positions and pushed the Dream after Park Hyun-jun and Ae-jung.

I found them both with Father in their own private room. Unlike Jessamy and Yong-hwa, who had begun discussion of their manuscript almost even before they sat down, Father and Hyun-jun were still in the midst of a rather abrupt form of small talk while Ae-jung poured tea for them. She wasn’t very good at it, and besides trying to keep a screen of hair between herself and Hyun-jun, she often forgot to position her hands correctly. She remained lucky, however: Father was pretty fully occupied. I don’t often see Father in my Dreams, and I was rather distantly amused to see that while he was exceedingly good at small talk, Hyun-jun wasn’t. Father was persevering, but his mouth wasn’t usually so thin and tight. One side of my mouth curved up briefly, and I turned my attention back on the young agassi, Ae-jung. There was nothing that obviously occurred to me as out of place, but I could feel the same tickle of puzzlement that must have bothered Yong-hwa. He had seen something that I hadn’t—or had, at least, understood something from what he had seen—which was mildly annoying. What was it about Ae-jung that struck me as wrong?

I spent the evening drifting in and out of my Dreams, alternately watching Ae-jung and Yong-hwa and Jessamy. Yong-hwa and Jessamy proceeded from dinner to soju at a covered stand somewhere in the city streets, Jessamy louder and merrier as the evening proceeded and Yong-hwa more inclined to smile into his hand, his eyes glowing. He wasn’t exactly lively, but he was certainly not as painfully bored as he had been earlier in the evening. That didn’t surprise me: I defy anyone to stand proof against Jessamy’s tongue-lolling and tail-wagging. I can’t do it.

Ae-jung was less lucky. She was stuck with Park Hyun-jun, on my father’s orders. When I found them again (with some difficulty, since my Dreams of Jessamy tend to be tenacious), Father was gone and Ae-jung was showing Hyun-jun around the room Father had rented for him in a nearby boarding house. I raised my brows a little at that: there must be a lot to discuss with Hyun-jun’s new manuscript if Father was renting a room in the city for him. Perhaps Hyun-jun wasn’t turning in his promised chapters on time. Father had just acquired Hyun-jun from another publishing house, and I could only imagine his frustration if Hyun-jun had succumbed to writer’s block at this juncture.

“There are three eateries within walking distance of the front door, Seonbae,” said Ae-jung. The shoulder nearest to Hyun-jun was awkwardly hunched, her hair still hiding her face. She would end up falling over if she couldn’t see where she was going. “The ahjumma will provide breakfast and you can buy lunch boxes at the–”

Hyun-jun’s terrifyingly wild eyes widened in a sort of frenzied recognition. “You!

Aish!” moaned Ae-jung to herself. She emerged from her hair with a pained smile and met Hyun-jun’s eyes for a brief moment. “About last time, Seonbae–”

You!

Seonbae, it’s like this: I really didn’t steal your lunch box! And perhaps I shouldn’t have tried to struggle, but it was my lunchbox and I didn’t mean to let go right then–”

Hyun-jun, who seemed to have frozen on the one concept, said one last, strangled: “You!

Ye, but about last time, Seonbae,” squeaked Ae-jung. She was looking more and more pained by the moment. “I didn’t know there was a fishpond just there and I really thought the lid would be tighter on a custom-made lunchbox, so–”

Hyun-jun drew himself up, taut and positively quivering with rage. “There were prawns in my hair. I found more of them in there the next day.

“Ah, ye.” Ae-jung sounded a little strangled herself. “That is, I apologise, Seonbae: it was completely my fault.”

“My trousers got torn on the pebbles in the bottom of the pond,” said Hyun-jun, his voice sinking into the most menacing quietness I had ever heard. In direct contrast, his eyes grew more fixed and wild for every level his voice sank. “I had to walk the entire length of the street with the back of my trousers in ribbons.

Ae-jung made a small sound that could have been a cough or a quiet sort of choke. I thought at first that she was laughing, but her face was genuinely horrified. She took a faltering step toward Hyun-jun, one hand half-outstretched. “I– really, I– Seonbae, I didn’t mean to–”

Hyun-jun’s eyes grew to an almost impossible size, his gaze as rigid and glazed as a stuffed owl. “Stop! Don’t touch me! Stay over that side of the room!”

Ye, Seonbae,” sighed Ae-jung, her head dropping. “Perhaps I’d better go. The ahjumma will also prepare dinner if you prefer to eat in your room, and there’s a small coffee-shop next door, if you care for coffee. Sohn Sajangnim has instructed me to bring you tea or coffee each morning when I um, come to type for you.”

I was watching Ae-jung’s wincing face as she spoke, and it wasn’t until the silence grew heavy that I turned my attention on Hyun-jun. He looked offended—no, appalled—his dark eyes fixed on Ae-jung’s troubled face.

“You, type for me? Aniyo. I type for myself.”

“But Sohn Sajangnim–”

“That’s none of my concern,” said Hyun-jun coldly.

“I’m very sorry,” said Ae-jung, miserable but resolute, “but Sohn Sajangnim has instructed me to present myself here every morning. I will return at nine o’clock tomorrow morning, Seonbae.

She bowed sadly to Hyun-jun and took her leave while that gentleman was still staring after her in a combination of shock and outrage. I followed her on a whim, and heard Hyun-jun say in a strangled voice as she left the apartment: “Nine o’clock? I’d rather die!”

Ae-jung either didn’t hear him or pretended not to, hurrying down the stairs with her head ducked. I wafted along behind her, my interest tepid, but my interest in returning to my cold, silent room even more so. Ae-jung was moaning to herself again, a tiny, keening wail of babbling words that said: “Why was it him? How could it be him? And it wasn’t all my fault, after all!”

When she was safely out of the boarding house she crouched against the courtyard wall, burying her head in her arms. She stayed like that for a few moments before emerging with a frustrated growl.

Aish! I’m going to be fired! Why did it have to be him? When his books are so good! Aigoo, I was so excited to meet him! I’m going to die of embarrassment.” She gave vent to another low wail of despair and ruffled her fingers through her hair with the abandon of anguish.

Fortunately, just as I was beginning to think that she planned to spend the night below Hyun-jun’s balcony in a kind of demonstration of self-flagellation, Ae-jung gave one last, soft wail of regret and climbed sadly to her feet. She took to the street again, her steps lagging and heavy, and walked a few streets until she could board one of the city’s Contraption trolley carts. Much to my surprise, the trolley cart took her higher and higher through the city until she was in the richest area, looking down on the lights and noise. At first I thought she was simply taking in the nicer parts of the city as an exercise in cheering up before she went home, but I found my mind dwelling on her bowing faux pas and the clumsiness with which she had served tea, and was unsurprised to see her spring lightly from the trolley car somewhere high on the hill. Ae-jung wasn’t clumsy and ignorant because she was new to her position– any young Eppan girl growing up with limited means would have been very well aware of exactly how much respect she needed to show in her bowing as well as her serving. No, she was a very well born young woman who was used to being waited upon and having respect shown to her.

Sure enough, she entered one of the palatial residences on the hill by the front door, which was opened to her by a small, bent butler, who did so with a furtive look around. Ah, so he was in on the secret, was he? What was a well-born young agassi from the Hilltop district doing hiring herself out as a publisher’s assistant?

I pulled away from the Dream at length, thoughtfully. Did Father know? I very much doubted it. This was turning out to be a very interesting Dream.

When I woke the next morning, I was back in the Dream immediately. Since I had roughly the same opinion of the dawn hours as Hyun-jun seemed to have of nine o’clock, I wasn’t exactly pleased with the turn of events. I tried to push it away and ring for Carlin to bring me breakfast, but long before he arrived I had been irresistibly swept back into the Dream, my sight consumed by Ae-jung’s Hilltop house. The door was opening as I recognised it (I always seem to have particularly good timing in my Dreams), and Ae-jung was just slipping out.

Her butler, his venerable old brows knit in worry, said: “Ae-jung-ssi, won’t you reconsider? You can’t keep up the pretence forever! Eomeonim was so distressed to hear that you didn’t go to the party last night, and I had nothing to tell her.”

“Last night!” sighed Ae-jung. “I really couldn’t help that. And you know I can’t stop now, Ahjussi! Not while Eomma is still with us. She grew up in this house, and I won’t let it be sold if I can earn enough to keep her in it. The move would be enough to kill her. Please keep the secret just a bit longer. The doctor said she doesn’t have much time left now, and what else can I do?”

“You could get married.”

Ae-jung stiffened so briefly that I almost missed it. “Trick one of the families into marrying a penniless girl? I couldn’t live with myself. It’s no good talking about it, Ahjussi. While Eomma is alive, I’ll keep working to pay for the food and staff. It’ll be soon enough to sell the house and find a smaller one when she’s gone.”

“You know–” the butler stopped short, then looked away and said in a rush: “You know you don’t have to pay me, Ae-jung-ssi. Not right now. You can pay me later, when things are better. I have no wife or child to support. What do I need the money for?”

Ae-jung made a sound that could have been a small laugh or a small sob, and said: “Oh, Ahjussi! You’re so good to me! I wouldn’t stop paying you by so much as a single penny!"

“No, Ae-jung-ssi,” he said, taking her hands. “It is you who has been good to me. Go along to work then. I will look after our Eomeonim.”

Ae-jung didn’t take the trolley car that morning. Instead, she walked briskly through the streets, her tiny booted feet twinkling past each other at a great rate of speed.

Lucky! I thought. Not only did Ae-jung have perfect little feet, they were graceful in motion. I gave a soft laugh and dismissed my envy, because there was something else happening; a small, sideways tug to the Dream. Was I getting another Dream at the same time? No, this was a tug in the Dream. I drew back to give myself a little perspective, and through the rooftops, along a connecting street, I saw the languid stride of Yong-hwa. His cane swung idly in one hand, tapping the street with its silver ferrule every third or fourth step. At that pace, he was very likely to meet up with Ae-jung, who, although moving more swiftly than he, had further to go before she reached the connecting of the streets.

Well, now. How would she explain herself being in the Hilltop district?

They met at the corner just as I had calculated they would, Yong-hwa swift to recognise and wonder, Ae-jung all surprise and dismay. They bowed, Ae-jung quick and stiff, Yong-hwa elegantly affable.

“Good morning, Seonbae,” Ae-jung said, recovering herself quickly.

“I’m beginning to think so,” agreed Ma Yong-hwa. “Are you on your way to work, Agassi?”

Ae-jung shook her head hurriedly. “Aniyo, aniyo. There was a– a– delivery to be made in the Hilltop District.”

Yong-hwa’s voice was the epitome of polite surprise. “So early! Who is up to receive deliveries at this time of day?”

“Well, Seonbae,” said Ae-jung, who seemed to have seen and resented the slight glint of amused challenge to his eyes, “you are!”

And then, to my surprise and the evident surprise of Yong-hwa, she bowed quite firmly and hurried away. He stared after her, blinking, and suddenly smiled. He was obviously in a playful mood today, and I didn’t think he had expected to be challenged. I left him to his amusement and followed Ae-jung once more.

I wasn’t surprised to find my Dream accompanying Ae-jung all the way to the offices. This deep in a Dream, I couldn’t see my clock or even hear its chimes, but I was quite sure that I had been woken ridiculously early. Why was she up and about so early when she didn’t have to report to the reluctant Hyun-jun until nine o’clock?

She was a dedicated little thing: she started up the Contraption coffee machine and arranged both coffee and teacups on several large trays, ready to be used. It was a job that was beneath Ae-jung’s apparent rank, and I wondered if she was really that dedicated to her job, or if she was deliberately making herself as indispensable as possible. I watched her for a little longer, wondering, because I hadn’t thought of her as the conniving type. Was she the sort to try and entrap my father? I huffed a small laugh and wished her luck if so. Jessamy’s mother was dead now, and mine hadn’t been seen for years, so the playing field was open. It might be interesting to see how Father responded to a match-seeking young lady.

I wasn’t quite convinced, however, and since Ae-jung did nothing more malevolent than thoroughly set up the coffee-and-tea-stand and leave a paper or two on the desk in Jessamy’s tiny office, I pulled myself enough out of the Dream to find that my footman and man-of-all-work, Carlin, was talking to me. He often did talk to me, and didn’t seem to expect me to speak in return, which was just as well, since I usually didn’t know what he had said. He was one of the few people who always saw me, no matter how far from present reality I was drifting.

When I was far enough out of the Dream to hear, he was saying, “…and it’s a fine day outside, after all. It’s been a while since you took a turn by the sea-side.”

“It has, hasn’t it?” I said, the words pushing unobtrusively through Carlin’s bobbing flotilla of chatter.

He stopped at once, grinning. “Hallo, Miss! Shall I prepare the Contraption chair?”

“Yes, please,” I said, and added, “and some bread.” It had also been some time since I fed the seagulls.

It’s always such a bother, getting changed. Whether in Scandia or Eppa, even an invalid is expected to be fully dressed at all times, and though the standard of dress is different in each country, it is an unarguable expectation. I keep to the simplest of clothes: it’s so much trouble to get the maids to notice me that I usually do it myself, slowly and laboriously, and I prefer as little trouble as possible. What with the fuss of getting dressed and the fuelling of the coal-run Contraption chair, it was nearly nine o’clock by the time Carlin and I chuffed back into the house. I was settled on my chaise lounge in the sitting room downstairs by way of a change from my own room. There were gleaming picture windows down here, with a view that was by turns beautiful and interesting as a series of people passed on the street outside. Sadly, this panoply with its background of blue waves was wasted on me. As soon as my chaise lounge was brought down from my room and I was settled on it, I gave in to the Dream again. It had been pushing at my consciousness ever since I left the house, and now that something was really happening again, it was more insistent.

I drifted away from Carlin as he arranged my pillows and talked to my unheeding body, and caught a quick glimpse of Jessamy in his office. He was just entering, his hair ruffled at the front as if he had been running his fingers through it. What was he worried about? Jessamy always clutched at his fringe when something was wrong. His eyes fell on his desk, and I had a moment of comprehension just as they lit up. So that’s what Ae-jung had been doing earlier! Jessamy had lost some important papers, and she had found them for him.

I murmured a soft: “Hmm,” and distantly heard Carlin’s voice reply. I ignored him. Was Ae-jung angling for my father, after all? It was undoubtedly a sound plan to get on Jessamy’s good side, if so: he didn’t seem to like Ae-jung much, and Father paid at least some attention to what Jessamy did and didn’t like. She hadn’t left a note, though, and what was the use of helping out Jessamy if he didn’t know who had helped him?

I let the Dream slip on past Jessamy and followed it back to Ae-jung without too much trouble. That was new. If there was a Dream of Jessamy, it was usually very difficult to follow a different one. There was still so much I didn’t understand about my Dreams, but one thing of which I was very sure was that they always concerned myself, those I loved, or those who actively interested me. Ae-jung was obviously connected with Jessamy—since I could hardly count my father in the single count of people I loved—but what was the connection with Hyun-jun? Even Yong-hwa, with his friendly rapport with Jessamy, was more understandable than Hyun-jun. Still, I had noticed that the connections were sometimes tenuous, and sometimes related to future friendships rather than present ones. I wondered, with a faint smile, if Ae-jung was so very present because she was Jessamy’s future stepmother, or if there was another, closer connection to him. It would be amusing to see Jessamy in love, and Ae-jung had certainly affected him, even if that effect was a negative one.

Ae-jung was just entering Hyun-jun’s boarding house when I caught up with her. She bowed to the ahjumma at the counter, who bowed back in a familiar kind of way: Father must keep important guests there quite often.

It took her five minutes, stopping and starting, walking back and forth, to finally knock at Hyun-jun’s door. That didn’t surprise me: with my lack of sensibility I’m not very susceptible to scowling looks and unpleasant people, but Hyun-jun’s wild eyes are something to be respected, even by me.

An instant after she knocked, the door was wrenched open inwards. Ae-jung jumped, her eyes wide and flying up to meet Hyun-jun’s scowling ones.

“You’re late,” he said curtly.

Ye,” Ae-jung murmured, bowing. “Sorry. Good morning, Hyun-jun-ssi.”

Hyun-jun strode back into the room. “Sit over there. Don’t touch the typewriter. Don’t touch the papers. As a matter of fact, don’t touch anything.”

“Ah, ye,” said Ae-jung, this time even more uncertainly. “What will I be doing, then?”

“Sitting there without touching anything,” said Hyun-jun. “I told you, I don’t need anyone to type for me.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

W.R. Gingell is a Tasmanian author who lives in a house with a green door. She loves to rewrite fairytales with a twist or two-and a murder or three-and original fantasy where dragons, enchantresses, and other magical creatures abound. Occasionally she will also dip her toes into the waters of SciFi. W.R. spends her time drinking an inordinate amount of tea and slouching in front of the fire to write. Like Peter Pan, she never really grew up, and is still occasionally to be found climbing trees


Next in:
Romance
Bruin
It all started with an unexpected limousine…
GOLD FROM ETHER /novel/
The method of extracting gold from ether.
Healing Hearts
Will her abusive past stop her finding love?