The La-Iin Series
That morning during breakfast, La-Iin noticed that Mit-Sun seemed depressed. She ate her breakfast slowly and kept her head bowed, keeping La-Iin from seeing her expression.
“Mama, if you don’t like it, you shouldn’t have made it,” La-Iin said.
“It’s not that…” She sighed.
La-Iin huffed. She finished her breakfast, then walked over to Choungetsu, who was resting lazily on the kitchen floor next to his food bowl. She scratched behind his ear, then noticed the calendar in the kitchen.
The current date was “11 September (2014)”.
La-Iin’s eyes widened. She glanced back at Mit-Sun, who continued to eat her food in lethargic motions, and started to feel conflicted.
Though the calendar made no note of it, La-Iin remembered that today was Mit-Sun’s birthday.
“What’s wrong, La-Iin? You’ve seemed down all day.”
“Today is Mama’s birthday,” she sighed.
“You shouldn’t be upset about that! Or are you upset ’cause you can’t spend time with her right now? Don’t worry, school will be over soon enough and you two can have some mom and daughter time. Maybe today will make up for your birthday!”
“Nothing can ever make up for that,” she spat. “And it’s not either of those. I feel conflicted.”
“Because you know how I feel about Mama.”
“…no, I really don’t. You’re confusing with that, La-Iin. Somedays it seems like you hate her, others days you seem like a bully, and somedays you seem like you love her lots. If it weren’t for the fact that how you feel towards her changes so much, I might understand, but….”
“Conflicted. I feel as conflicted about Mama as I do about today. So one part of me wants to treat her horrible and give her as terrible a birthday as I had, and the other part of me wants her to have a really good birthday that’s better than what I had. And I don’t know what to do. If I do nothing, both of us will have a miserable day today.”
“Well, if I were you, I’d give her a good birthday. Even if you feel conflicted about your mom, seeing how you’ve acted sometimes, I know you really love her. She’s the one who’s raised you most and you live with her. She’s the one who was pregnant with you and she’s done all sorts of things for you. And if you need another reason, well, if you treat her badly, she might treat you badly, too. She could spank you or ground you–”
“More than I’m already grounded?” La-Iin scoffed.
“Not like that…anyway, I think you should treat her good. Even terrible people should have good birthdays, I think. Well, except for super-terrible people like murderers…”
La-Iin smirked. “Do you think San-Kyung should have good birthdays?”
Fer-Shi swallowed hard. “He may be scary and a jerk, but he’s also your friend. And he doesn’t really do many jerky things at school and he works hard….I think he should have good birthdays, too, I guess….”
La-Iin sighed. “Okay, Fer-Shi. I’ll try to give Mama a good birthday. But if I have another bad birthday next year, then I won’t try for her at all.”
“Well, er….I guess I’m glad you decided to try…?”
When La-Iin arrived home from school, nobody responded save Choungetsu when she called for Mit-Sun. La-Iin realized that she must have gotten home first.
‘That doesn’t usually happen.’
She remembered what she had told Fer-Shi and huffed. She still felt conflicted about the day, but had figured that if Fer-Shi thought that San-Kyung deserved good birthdays–a thought that La-Iin shared–then she owed it to Mit-Sun to try and give her a good birthday.
‘You shouldn’t let love make you weak.’ San-Kyung’s words rang in her head, and she sighed. ‘I need to get better…maybe I should ask him about how I could.’
She shook the thought away for now. She had already decided that she would swallow her pride and set everything up nicely for Mit-Sun. She locked the door and dashed into the kitchen. Choungetsu ran after her.
“We’re going to set this up all nicely. You’ll help me, Choungetsu!”
Choungetsu cocked his head to the side.
“Why? Because Bes-Isa hates Mama and she won’t help. She’ll just sabotage it all. I want to sabotage it too, but I promised Fer-Shi and myself I wouldn’t. And you too. I promise you now too, Choungetsu.”
Choungetsu gave a yip.
“I hate promises,” La-Iin groaned. “Now let’s do this.”
She reached for blank pieces of paper and colored pencils and started to scrawl pictures and decorations on them. Some of the pieces of paper she covered entirely in color, which ground down the pencils and made it so that she had to sharpen them several times.
Once she was done with the pictures and designs, she reached for a roll of tape and scissors. The tape and scissors were up higher than La-Iin could reach. She started to try and fly up to reach the tape and scissors. Since it wasn’t too much of a distance above her, she managed to grab them both without any incident.
She cut the colored pieces of paper into strings. Once all the colored pieces were cut, she took the tape and taped the pictures and decorations all around the kitchen. She left two pictures on the table for other uses–one she taped to the table, a crude picture of Mit-Sun, and the other was a folded-up piece of paper with an uneven rainbow drawn on it.
“I think it’s decorated enough,” La-Iin said. Choungetsu started to sniff at some of the decorations.
When she checked the time, La-Iin knew that Mit-Sun was late. Usually her mother was home much earlier than this. With a sigh, she decided to accept that she was just late and take it as a chance to finish her decorating before she got home.
‘What to do next….’ As La-Iin went over this in her head, she wandered into the living room. Choungetsu followed after her, his tail brushing the floor but wagging eagerly. She noticed out the window the ice cream cart, and an idea came to mind.
She put Choungetsu’s leash on and ran outside and up to the ice cream man. He waved to La-Iin.
“I want to get ice cream!”
“I can see that.” He looked behind her. “Where’s your mother?”
“She’s not home yet. I want to do this before she gets home to surprise her.”
He smiled. “That’s sweet of you.”
“I’m just doing it because it’s her birthday,” La-Iin said. She didn’t want him to think she was becoming soft.
“Oh? Today’s her birthday? Well, in that case, tell me what you want to get for her and I’ll give it to you for free.”
Choungetsu yipped. ‘What a gullible fool,’ La-Iin thought.
“Strawberry. All of it.”
“All of it?” He paled, then looked down at his cart. “….how about half of the strawberry?”
“I’m sorry, La-Iin, but I’ll already be losing vuyong by giving you half of the strawberry for free. I can’t just give it all away. I’m about to go near Nhagaio Street, and there’s lots of foreigners over there. They love strawberry….”
“…fine. I’ll take half.”
“Thank you, darlin’,” he said. He pulled a small box out of the cart and scooped large amounts of strawberry ice cream into it. He handed the box to La-Iin.
“Make sure to get that into the freezer, otherwise it’ll just melt everywhere!”
La-Iin nodded and started to run back home. With Mit-Sun already being late, there was no guarantee on what time she might get back. She held tight to both the box and Choungetsu’s leash and crashed back into the house, slamming the door behind her. She ran to the kitchen and stuffed the box in the freezer.
Mit-Sun didn’t seem to be home.
“Now what do I do….do you have any ideas, Choungetsu?” She unleashed Choungetsu, who walked over to his food bowl. La-Iin gasped.
“Good idea, Choungetsu! I can make dinner! Then I can make sure dinner’s something actually good and not any of that crap Mama usually makes. And she won’t have to cook on her birthday.”
She looked through the fridge for something to cook.
“I don’t actually really how to cook, Choungetsu, but I have an idea,” she said. Choungetsu sat down and stared up from his food bowl. “I’ve seen Mama cook before sometimes, so I think I can maybe do it.”
Choungetsu gave a yip.
“If you want to know what it has to do with you….” She walked over to Choungetsu and lifted her arms into the air. “It has to do with you because you’re going to be my taste-test subject!”
Choungetsu whimpered. La-Iin gave a confident cackle as she returned to the fridge. She took out a few various food items that looked good to her. ‘If Mama has them in here, she must like them too,’ she reasoned.
She put out some cookware and decided to get to work.
Mit-Sun felt exhausted as she trudged back home. She felt like she had no energy, no motivation, nor did she feel particularly happy. For some reason, she felt depressed. She wasn’t sure why. She had been searching for a reason but hadn’t found one.
She knew the day hadn’t been bad so far, slightly boring perhaps, but even at work she found that Mrs. Eteibreit, who normally treated her as if she were the worst worker she had, was treating her more kindly than usual. She had even wished her a happy birthday–and Leirhyn, along with some other coworkers who Mit-Sun didn’t know as well, had thrown her a mini birthday party at the workplace, complete with a Fairydevil cake.
Still, as she walked down the familiar sidewalk, her house now in view with Sale-Dessu’s peeking along the side, she couldn’t help but feel sad. She had no explanation for it, which was worst of all. And she had been late in getting home to La-Iin–if La-Iin was upset, that might sour her mood more than it already was.
With a sigh, she opened the door.
“I’m home, La-Iin,” she called, then sniffed the air. Something smelled strange, and it was coming from the kitchen. She started to feel concerned and dashed into the kitchen just as a bowl crashed to the floor.
Choungetsu was sitting next to a bowl, with La-Iin standing on a step-stool at the stove. She was covered in food stains and stirring something in a large pot.
“Hello, Mama,” she said. “Happy birthday.”
Mit-Sun gasped. La-Iin’s words made her realize what was going on. Decorations were hung all around the kitchen, colorful paper streamers and various pictures of people she knew–including one of Asul-Zenza, which made her scoff, but she could ignore it. On the table, a picture of herself was taped on tight, as well as a rainbow piece of paper that was folded, on top of it sitting a cup filled with lemonade. ‘….that is lemonade, right?’ She sniffed at it just to make sure.
La-Iin walked over to the table with two bowls of the strange soup. She placed one next to the cup of lemonade, and the other in front of the seat she normally sat at. She went to the freezer and pulled out a white box, then slammed it on the table.
She sat behind the bowl and beckoned to Mit-Sun.
“I cooked it for you, so eat it,” she said.
Mit-Sun sat down. La-Iin wore her normal, blank expression, but looking around at what she had done made her eyes water.
“I didn’t put any onions in it. I didn’t even put that tasty looking hemsquirt in.”
“Thank you, La-Iin,” she said.
“Don’t thank me. Thank Choungetsu if you wanna thank anyone. He taste-tested it.”
Choungetsu walked over to Mit-Sun and whimpered. She could see brown stains under his mouth.
“I want to thank you, though,” she said. “I actually wasn’t too happy today.”
“I could tell.”
“But you helped me cheer up. Thank you for doing this, La-Iin. I know you don’t want thanks, but I’m really touched. This isn’t like you.”
La-Iin bowed her head. Her voice was only slightly louder than a whisper when she spoke. “….I wanted you to have a better birthday than I did. I’m going to make sure Choungetsu and Bes-Isa have good birthdays too. ….besides, you have less birthdays than me. You should have some good ones in there too…”
Mit-Sun sniffled. She did her best to hold back her tears; after all La-Iin had said, she didn’t want to be laughed at for crying now.
“What’s the box for?” She asked, her voice wavering slightly.
“It’s full of ice cream. The ice cream man gave it to me for free.”
“That was nice,” Mit-Sun said.
“He said he did it because it was your birthday. Consider it your present. I don’t have enough vuyong to get you an actual one.”
“Honestly, La-Iin, all you’ve done for me is present enough.”
La-Iin started to pout, and Mit-Sun noticed her cheeks flush a faint pink. “Stop saying such stupid sappy stuff, you stupid sap.”
Mit-Sun rolled her eyes. “Never mind…thank you, La-Iin.” She stared down at the bowl of soup, and her stomach turned. It was a sickly color, one that she would have never expected to see in soup liquid, with unidentifiable chunks of food floating around in it.
To Mit-Sun, it looked like a failed Warlock Stew. She pushed the bowl away, starting to feel sick.
“May I be excused?” She asked.
“You won’t get ice cream if you don’t eat dinner,” La-Iin said, spooning some of the soup into her mouth.
Mit-Sun sighed. “Alright…” She spooned some of the soup into her mouth. She wasn’t sure if it was just because she still felt touched, but it tasted surprisingly good.
“This ice cream is delicious. It’s nice to have something cold after something so hot.”
“It wasn’t that hot. And blood ice cream is better.”
“There’s nothing wrong with strawberry.” Mit-Sun lifted La-Iin into her lap. La-Iin squeaked. “Thanks for giving me a happy birthday, La-Iin.”
“Was it really? You seemed pretty upset earlier.”
“I was. But what you did for me more than made up for it.”
“…you’re welcome,” La-Iin muttered. Mit-Sun smiled.
The two sat together outside and finished their ice cream while staring up at the Summer moon.