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 Umbrella for a Rainy Day

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Jay
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PostSubject: Umbrella for a Rainy Day   Sat Feb 27, 2016 8:37 pm

Her uniform felt clean when she boarded the plane. It felt clean when she started her journey from Changchun to Paris to New York to Chicago to Bismarck, a mess of hops paid for by an unknowing man she had called her jìfù, her seuteb abeoji. 继父, 스텝 아버지, Stepfather. It was a word she learned before she learned Mandarin. The money was not her mother's, money she acquired because it was around the house and the man didn't care to hide it. It almost seemed he would bait her mother. He'd flip through it wordlessly every other night, eyeing her as he ran his fingers over the edges like a deck of cards. She took the bait.

Her uniform felt lousy as she exited the train in Rosebury, to the pitpatter of a dreary rain that she held a small umbrella to. It didn't make her happy she stole it, but a looming melancholy drifted over her like the clouds over North Dakota, as she breathlessly came to the conclusion that her mother was likely dead. 孤儿. She wrote it in her small notebook, filled to almost the last page.

The girl walked through the streets, unable to talk to the people she passed, to get directions. She was lucky to have been accepted into the school, and promised there would be people she could talk to, a teacher to teach her English. There, however, she was a stray dog in a storm of language. To not communicate was the loneliest feeling in the world.

The gates were an archaic steel, the rusted shell of something once grandiose. She frowned at the garden beyond it, the empty wettened courtyard.

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PostSubject: Re: Umbrella for a Rainy Day   Mon Feb 29, 2016 5:38 pm

It wasn't often that Joseph found himself wandering around the yard, but today had just happened to be one of those days. He had been fortunate not to receive any homework for this afternoon, and instead of sitting around and playing cards with the rest of his roomates, he'd somehow wound up ambling haphazardly around the campus, scarcely seen without a cigarette burning between his lips.

Joseph had always liked winter, but this recent on-and-off business of alternating between semi-warm and cold wasn't very pleasant, as evident by the mud and grit that the odd weather pattern left in its wake. The ground was a marsh beneath Joseph's boots. Earlier that day, snow had been drifting steadily through the air, liquefying as it made contact with solid objects. Though it was no longer snowing, the sky remained a mixture of various greys. How vibrant.

The Winter exhaled a thick cloud of smoke as he spotted a lone figure standing at the edge of the property, scrunching her face up as she gazed across the courtyard. She looked a little unsure of her surroundings. A new student, he figured, dousing the embers of his cigarette nonchalantly between his index finger and thumb. He tossed the now useless object onto the damp ground and made his way over to the iron gates that framed the front entrance.

"Need any help?" he inquired as he approached the girl, unaware of her inability to understand his question. Joseph halted a few feet away from her. "I can show you to the office, if you'd like."
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PostSubject: Re: Umbrella for a Rainy Day   Tue Mar 01, 2016 4:26 pm

The girl stood there. Her shoulders ached in her dirty clothes and she was tired from jumping to transport to transport, but the heavy feeling that had weighed her down left, and she felt light in the moment. She looked at the boy for a few moments, listening to the steady patter of rain on her umbrella, watching him get wet and exhale fire. She breathed as softly as butterfly wings. He could have said nothing, simply standing in front of her like that and staring, and it would have heeded the same affect on her.

Silently she shook her head, pointing to her mouth with her free hand. Her eyes just scanned him, took him in. A true American. He looked very Korean for an American, and wondered if all Americans looked like that. She'd seen a few white people, but were they lies? Puppets? America had a lot of puppets. She imagined the awful life he had, this boy, the awful life she was told he had as an American.

She had bought her first American fast food at the New York airport. Jiefkay was its name, or something to that affect. Was this boy surrounded by capitalism twenty-four seven? Did he want to die like her?

"I is nice meet you." Her voice cracked from disuse and uncertainty. What a strange voice that was. It was not her language, not her own. This was someone else. This was the American her.

You are very lucky, the elders had said. A true North Korean, born on His day!

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PostSubject: Re: Umbrella for a Rainy Day   Tue Mar 08, 2016 5:33 pm

The girl scrutinized him thoroughly from beneath her umbrella, like a child discovering a strange object in the grass. He supposed it was only natural to wonder why someone was taking a stroll in the mud and rain, but the gesture towards her mouth and her hesitated response to his offer caused him to wonder if his lack of proper rain gear was not quite the reason she was looking at him that way. Her broken English and stark Korean accent, easily recognizable to Joseph thanks to his father, only helped solidify his thoughts - She was not American. Someone had moved all the way across the world just to come to a weirdo school in the middle of nowhere? Did Beata have networks around the whole planet, scouting for more abnormal freaks?

By some stroke of luck, the right student had run into this new girl today. Joseph's father had forced him through ten years of Saturday morning Korean school, so he was practically as fluent in it as he was in English. "You don't speak very much English, I assume," he said with a faint stroke of amusement present in his voice. The words flowed off of his tongue with practised precision. "Sorry about the confusion. I'm Joseph, and welcome to Beata Academy. I meant to ask if you needed any help getting to the office, or wherever it is you need to go."
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PostSubject: Re: Umbrella for a Rainy Day   Tue Mar 08, 2016 6:25 pm

To hear the language was a surprise. She could sense the accent, but it was a language she understood nevertheless, and it flowed through her ears like an orchestra. She wanted to cry. She wanted to say something grand, something to display her incredible relief in finding someone, anyone. But with the dozens of speeches she'd memorized in her times, the routines and notes, her curiosity peeked through. And with the smallest inkling of a smile, the first she'd given in the year since she crossed the border to China, she spoke Korean with an interrogative: "Where are you from?" One question of many, from a life in an isolated land.

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PostSubject: Re: Umbrella for a Rainy Day   Wed Mar 09, 2016 8:02 pm

Well, that had been a little out of the blue. Joseph swept his slicked-down hair away from his forehead. Well, perhaps her question wasn't all that random, now that he thought about it. It was rather coincidental--and unusually lucky, one might add--that this new student had immediately run into someone who spoke her native tongue upon her arrival. It only made sense she'd inquire about him. "I was born here, in America, in the state of Wisconsin," he explained. "My mother was born there, as well, but my father is from North Korea. He moved here nineteen years ago." A lot of family members from Joseph's father's side still lived in their country of origin. Emigration wasn't a simple process in such a nation, his father had told him.

The pale young man peered upwards into the washed-out greys of the sky for a brief moment. The rain didn't look like it was going to cease any time soon. Oh, well. Joseph was soaked to the bone anyway, so it didn't really matter. The Winter brought his attention back to the stranger, tucking his hands into his coat pockets. "What about you?" It was natural to guess she was from the same land as his father, but he didn't want to make any assumptions.
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PostSubject: Re: Umbrella for a Rainy Day   Thu Mar 10, 2016 4:48 pm

North Korea. It was such a strange think to be linked so close to someone so far, and she couldn't help but smile, but look down at a puddle rippling distorted images of the gray sky. The gray sky and her, and she smiled at herself and saw that she was smiling at herself and smiled harder. A look up to the boy, a steady hand holding the umbrella over her head, a serene moment in the rain where she stood still under the pitpatter, the downpour, she answered, "Pyongyang." The city of wide, empty streets and darkness. She looked past him at the school, saw the lights on in its ancient frame, and her thin lips curved. She did not know what that Wisconsin place was. They never taught her too much about America. It seemed dreary, however, and she wondered if the clouds had followed her to enemy territory, to drench her in the cold realization that she was stuck with awful people. She remembered being stopped by the airport agent and questioned. The tapping of his pen mimicked that of her heart.

"I play violin for our Great Successor." 'For' was a peculiar word. She'd only done it once, only seen him once. She practiced her whole life, only to see him once. They left shortly after that. She looked down at her suitcase, a miniature leather suitcase, too small to hold her stuff and a violin. Her backpack was the same way; too small, unstretched by the frame of a wooden instrument. She was without a soul. So much work and her soul was left in Pyongyang.

Her soul was left in China.

Did she have one to begin with?

"Where are the offices?" Her voice came out in drones, in tired questions. Her eyes were sleepy, were headached with the throbbing of cries long past and a bad night's sleep, a bad year's sleep. She just wanted to sleep, to lay down in the American bed and die, for her body to be found cradling her bag, the small North Korean flag stitched on the bottom. I'm not normal, it said, I don't speak to you, I can't and never will.

She just wanted to sleep. The rain patterned in a rhythm she'd never heard before, and the breeze gave a warm westward crawl across her nose as she stared at the boy, unable to move her eyes.

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PostSubject: Re: Umbrella for a Rainy Day   Sun Mar 13, 2016 5:50 pm

Pyongyang. The "flat land". Joseph knew of the city, though he had never visited the place himself. That, of course, was impossible, and he didn't particularly desire to visit such a place, anyway. His father hadn't actually been to the capital of his homeland for nearly two decades, but he was still able to accurately describe how it looked, and how it felt. He seldom spoke of it, though, and at the odd time when he did, he answered few questions and spoke with a careful reservation in his voice that wasn't usually there. Even if he wasn't associated with North Korea any more, he still felt the need to watch his tongue when it was brought up, as if his words and actions were still being monitored by those he could not see. It was an innate behaviour of many who had managed to emigrate from the nation, according to Joseph's mother, and did not go away easily.

The way his father had described it, Pyongyang had sported many magnificent architectural feats and beautifully crafted historical monuments, but the cultural aura they gave off was always overpowered the stench of authoritarianism. No matter how much one tried to keep themselves distracted with the trivial aspects of life, like admiring buildings, there was always an unsettling feeling lingering in the pit of their stomach. Courteous smiles and casual conversation were only a means to mask the constant anxiety one had to bear with in order to keep themselves in line. This ran especially high in the Tseung family, who just so happened to be infested with supernatural genes that had the potential to raise dangerous suspicions. These stories had made it very clear to Joseph why his father was such an energetic man in the present day -- Many of his worries had been lifted since moving to a different nation.

"I'll take you to the office," Joseph offered, putting his recollections aside and gesturing lightly for the girl to follow him. He took a few steps in the direction of the academy's main structure. "I don't know if anyone there will understand you, so I can help you out with that."


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PostSubject: Re: Umbrella for a Rainy Day   Mon Mar 14, 2016 2:20 pm

When he mentioned the issue with understanding, it sunk in once more that she could not talk to anyone else. Her eyes widened and she swallowed. It seemed this boy was her only lifeline until she could learn more English. Would she even be able to speak it well? It seemed that Mandarin was so hard in itself, and she wasn't sure that there was room in her head for a third language. On a shaky voice, to prove something she did not particularly know, she said, "Thenk you." It was an attempt at English. She smiled timidly and bit her lip. It could have gone better; she only heard it from kids on the playground a few times, years ago at primary school. She couldn't remember much else; all the faces were cloudy, but they were chastised quickly.

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PostSubject: Re: Umbrella for a Rainy Day   Fri Mar 18, 2016 12:11 pm

Joseph paused for a moment, glancing at Yuni, and then began walking in the academy's direction once more. This girl wouldn't have an easy time in America. The languages of the east were vastly different than the languages of the west. They followed completely different lettering characters, pronunciations, flow, sentence structures, grammar, reading orders.. The list went on and on, and that was to say nothing of the cultural polarity. A man of the west may as well be an alien in the east, and a man - or woman, in this case - of the east may as well be an alien in the west. He felt a twinge of pity for this girl, and at the same time, realized how lucky he was for being accustomed to two vastly different ways of life.

"You're welcome," he responded in English, and then added alternatively, "You're welcome."

Joseph didn't walk too slowly, but slow enough to allow the initiate to take in the setting that she would have to get used to and live in for the next couple of years. After a few minutes of relative silence, Joseph's pace slowed to a halt as they reached the office entrance. He reached for the iron handle on one of the doors and held it open to allow Yuni passage. "If you're lucky, our omnilingual teacher may be in here right now. If not, I'll translate everything for you. It's no bother."
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PostSubject: Re: Umbrella for a Rainy Day   Sat Mar 19, 2016 8:18 am

Yuni looked over the school with a relative lack of enthusiasm. It seemed no different than some of the buildings in North Korea. Granted, the power did not seem ready to burn out and there weren't strange cameras in the corners of each room (which didn't stop Yuni from glancing around from time-to-time to check just in case). Nevertheless, as he slowed to let her take in the scenery, Yuni was instead facing forward, eyebrows raised to his back, wondering why he was taking his time. Sure, he wasn't crawling, but it was a noticeable relaxation in his steps.

The office was headed with a jutting stoneslab sign, a light carving of 'Admissions Office," though Yuni could not read it and stared at it futilely for a while, almost to take in the language. This is what 'office' is spelled like, or 'enrollment office,' or 'admissions office,' or 'new-students-come-here' office. At the mention of this teacher, who would be her new best friend indefinitely, she yanked her head down from her distraction and focused on the door, the old brass doorknob that was peppered with corroded metal spots. She turned it. The door clicked. And as she walked inside, she saw an adult woman look up, and from her seat at a row of chairs along the wall she rose. "You must be Kun Yu Ni," she said in perfect Korean, to which she responded with a nervous smile. She must had been waiting for her. Maybe her arrival wasn't so unplanned.

"It's nice to meet you," the teacher said with a smile, "Let's get you settled in, and I can start teaching you some basics.

Yuni turned to Joseph, and repeated a "Thenk you," before nodding at the teacher and walking further into the room.

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