Mai Kim-Woo vigorously rubbed her hands together over the basin in the bathroom. Her head was spinning, her breath coming in short, cold gasps. There was just so much of it; she’d been tracking it all over the floor since she’d come in. It was all over her clothes; her hair, her face, her arms. The smell of it made her sick, travelling down her throat and hitting her in the pit of her stomach.
It wasn’t coming out. No matter how hard she tried, it just wasn’t coming out. The smell wasn’t leaving her. It was all she saw everywhere she looked; her world had suddenly turned red.
Mai’s stepsister, Blaine, was in the other bathroom using the shower. There was no doubt in Mai’s mind that Blaine was scrubbing just as hard as she was. Tears clouded her vision over the basin and she couldn’t help but let out a sob and then another. She took a long, deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to calm herself.
Outside, the rain came down hard. There was a flicker of lightening followed, seconds later, by a light sound of thunder. Mai’s black hair hung over her face and she couldn’t bring herself to pull it back behind her ears.
Suddenly, the aggressive scrubbing stopped. Her mind started to wander. Flash back outside in the rain with Blaine. How they’d heaved the bag outside, dragging it through the mud....
Mai angrily shook her head as she tried to push the thought away. She couldn’t think about that. She wouldn’t allow herself to think about that. So she scrubbed harder, wanting to eliminate any trace of it; wanting to rid herself of it all over until there wasn’t a single trace of it anywhere on her.
Blaine Harper couldn’t get herself out of the shower. Every inch of her body felt dirty; she had washed her hair three times and scrubbed her body starting from her little toe all the way back up to her hair. Her shampoo bottle was just about finished, the soap just about worn thin.
It didn't help though; every time she reached the top, she would see a trickle of red and brown and she would start again.
“The first thing I’m going to do when I marry James is throw that Korean tramp and her runt of a daughter on the street.”
Blaine stopped scrubbing abruptly. She stood in the middle of the shower with the water pouring down on her head. Arielle’s words ran circles around her brain over and over again. Suddenly her body was shaking in the hot water. She was cold, her body numb and vision blurred.
Her mind went back to merely hours ago to the laughing housekeeper. How Arielle had seemed so happy about pushing Mai around and failing acknowledge Min’s role as Dad’s wife. She was trying to break up their family. She was after Dad and she deserved it. She did.
She turned off the tap and leaned forward, placing her palms against the wall. She gathered herself together before turning to grab her towel. She covered her face with the towel and then she saw it; Arielle’s laughing face. She heard the high-pitched screech that was Arielle’s laugh; she saw the stick figure that was Arielle’s body. She saw Mai being pushed by Arielle; she saw Mai grab one and herself grab the other….
Blaine pulled the towel down from her face and wiped herself down with it. She quickly got dressed in a pair of track pants and a white T-shirt. She stepped out of the bathroom and walked through the darkness to her bedroom. The darkness scared her; she didn’t know what to expect in the dark.
When she reached her room, she found her stepsister Mai standing in the middle of the room. She was crying, the way she had been almost the entire night. She was in a pair of shorts and white socks with a long-sleeved shirt that she wiped her tears away with. Mai hated walking around barefoot; she didn’t like not knowing what she stepped on.
After a moment’s hesitation, the two of them approached each other and did what was once considered impossible by their parents: they hugged.
Mai let herself cry in the safety her stepsister’s arms and Blaine tried to remain strong for Mai. Mai’s knees gave out and she dropped to the floor, Blaine failing in an attempt to break her fall. Tonight had been a long night for both of them; they were both exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally.
“It’s okay, Mai,” Blaine whispered, “It’s not your fault. If anything, she deserved what she got.”
Blaine was unconvinced by her words. Had Arielle really deserved it and was everything really going to be okay?