And if they really were criminals

19/09/2022

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“It would have been fine if you had let me get out to the store before now.”
“It wouldn’t have helped any, dearie. The store closed thirty minutes ago. You know how long it takes to close up at night. I was just trying to be hospitable and give you some much needed time with your daughter.”
Jin Ling snorted as he turned away from his father to watch their daughter play in her tent. “You know she doesn’t like it when we go shopping together.”
“I don’t care whether or not she likes it! It was my idea; I think I should be allowed to enjoy a bit of indulgent fatherly time with my daughter who is growing up.”
“Mum, please don’t fight with Dad. They always fight.” Their oldest son sighed, looking between the two adults standing there. He looked older than Jin Ling did by three years but he still acted the same as ever, acting the perfect teenager to everyone else. But even though the three were all identical twins, they still looked very different when it came to their appearances. For Jin Ling, he didn’t have a dad; for Taeyong, he didn’t have a mum; and for Danyeon, he didn’t have a brother or sister. All he really had was his twin brothers, and that only happened because he and Taeyong decided to have him. It was hard for them, but Danyeon didn’t complain at all. She loved having a big family, even if no one could tell her why.
“Alright then. We are going to have a nice little girls’ day.” Taeyong’s smile was soft but full of mischief and his eyes lit up with joy as he thought about what exactly a girls’ weekend would entail. He grabbed both of his sons by the arms and tugged them gently over to his bed where there were piles of toys ready to be picked through. He quickly grabbed an elephant plushie and threw it into their eldest son’s arms. “Here. Play with this while I make us something for dinner.” With that, he dashed off to the kitchen to start preparing dinner.
While Danyeon was content enough to sit on the floor and play with her giraffe, Jin Ling took a moment to observe how peaceful things were at home. After so many years with little money, Taeyong hadn’t had the luxury of living at home anymore. He had found himself in a new job – which wasn’t easy for him – as a teacher at a small high school. He had taken an apartment nearby and lived with his parents. He also had another job at a local restaurant called Taesung’s. His life was good for the most part – he had never felt happier. But then came the accident…
Taeyong had gone to work after leaving the house to pick his daughters up. While on their way, he stopped at the gas station to get a soda and some snacks, but then he heard loud music playing loudly outside. At first, he ignored it, telling himself that maybe someone had set the radio stations up wrong. But it kept getting louder, until he realized that it was coming from inside a car parked right in front of the station. As he got closer, he heard the music change to a rap song and saw the driver of the car singing along. Suddenly the music changed back to the original tune, and Taeyong realized that someone must have switched the stations. That couldn’t be a coincidence. There were too many people involved in this situation to not have been deliberate.
When Taeyong opened the door, he was surprised at the scene before him: four men were sitting inside the car, drinking and making jokes as if they weren’t driving down the highway. One of them was clearly drunk and leaning against the window sill, barely able to keep himself upright. There was a girl with blonde hair and pink lipstick in the front seat of the car. Her hands were wrapped around one of the other men’s arms, her face red and blotchy as she tried to laugh at something one of the men was saying. Another man – who Taeyong guessed must be her boyfriend – was in the passenger seat talking to the other men while the others were watching a movie. The girl next to him leaned forward, reaching over to hold his hand under the table, but the guy pulled it away before she reached him. He laughed and continued to tease her.
“Don’t let the alcohol ruin your mood, honeybunch. You need your head clear.”
The girl pouted but then nodded, taking a gulp of water from the bottle on the floor.
There was silence for a few moments as Taeyong stood frozen, staring wide-eyed at the scene. The only sounds that could be heard in the car were the songs playing on the radio and the muffled sound of giggles from within. Finally, Taeyong made his decision. The longer he stood there without being noticed, the more damage he could do. So, he walked toward the car and tapped the window loudly. When the girl inside turned around to look at him, he smiled. “Excuse me, ma’am? Could I ask you all to step out of the vehicle? This area is restricted. I can call security if you don’t comply.”
The girl frowned for a second, confused by the words he said. Then she looked behind him and finally recognized Taeyong, whose expression seemed more stern than friendly. “We were just leaving.” Before turning her attention back to the driver of the car and putting her phone away, she winked at Taeyong. “Sorry about the inconvenience, sir.”
She got out of the car without further ado. Once she was on the ground, she leaned down and lifted her friend, who was apparently asleep on her shoulder, into her arms. The guy in the passenger seat started yelling profanities at Taeyong, telling him that he should mind his own business and stop ruining their fun. But it was already too late.
Taeyong stared in horror at the scene unfolding before him. He knew that this kind of behavior was a big no-no in society, and he wasn’t sure whether he should take action or not. But his heart screamed at him to help. If these guys were truly criminals, he might lose his daughter forever. And if they really were criminals, she wouldn’t grow up the normal kid that she was supposed to be, would she? She deserved so much better than what she had gotten.
Before he knew what he was doing, he opened the passenger side door and climbed onto the bench, grabbing his wife’s hand. “Come on. Let’s go.”
Taeyong’s mother looked at him in shock but nodded hesitantly nonetheless. She followed him silently out of the car, and soon they were walking toward the store with the girl trailing behind them.
Once they reached the entrance, Taeyong pulled his keys out of his pocket and unlocked the door. “Just wait here.” He turned to face the kids again and crouched next to Danyeon, giving her a reassuring smile. “Go inside. I’ll be right back.”
His daughter hesitated for a second before running off towards her friends. He stood up and ran after her. “Danyeon! Wait up.”
As soon as he entered the store, he spotted a large group of teenagers sitting around a corner. They immediately stopped talking as they watched him enter, staring intently at him and whispering amongst themselves. Taeyong ignored them and made a bee-line toward Danyeon, pulling her into his arms and holding her tightly.

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