I sat down at a desk in my room (shared by many, which I didn’t mind), paper and pen before me. I stared at it all, wondering what to do with it. I knew that, with letters coming to me at a rapid rate, accusing me of this and that, I had to pick up the offending pen and write on the white stationary to refute the charges. However, the black and white lines of works already written caught my eyes, teaching me, once more, former lessons, present ones and those yet to come.
Korean words even danced before my eyes on some of those written pages, characters of old and ancient ways that help me to communicate with the people of this country. Others stared at me blankly still, waiting for me to write on them with more of those morals or words of my own.
My little teacher, an older orphan named Hee Young, had left me to learn on my own, having duties of her own when Father Mulcahy came to visit, like that moment I was alone in my room (making sure that the children younger than her received food before anything else). She was a playful and cheerful child for someone of her age, always teaching me more than the words of her family and her ancestors. She taught me the meaning of life and what it truly meant to be living in a life of hell.
It was the summer of 1951: a summer in which I thought there was no end, working at each day (and garden, with Father Mulcahy) with as much grace and acceptance as I could. I was back at Sister Theresa’s Orphanage, ten miles away from the 4077th once more. I was ten miles away from my duties; ten miles away from what I considered, slowly, to be home; and ten miles away from Hawkeye, who I missed every waking moment of my existence here (and wrote me letters as much as he could). Granted, I am safer here and actually more needed here, but I still miss being at the 4077th. I missed having Dean around to talk to; I missed having Hawkeye to kiss or Trapper to tease.
However, a strange calm had descended upon me and I accepted it. I was happier than I had ever been and loved every moment I worked with the orphans.
Finally deciding to pick up the pen and write, a few minutes after thinking everything out most carefully, I moved aside the Korean words Hee Young had written out for me. Poor girl, who learned to read and write in English and Korean only just recently, lost her family when the North Koreans bombed her village. Granted, she was happy with her lot, but I was not. And I had not been in some time.
Heavily pregnant, hot and tired, I had to only write back to my mother and Clarence, to tell them the truth of the matter. However, seeing the single, small letter from Clarence froze my heart, no letter from my mother accompanying it.
Granted, the man wrote words of regret about my folly, as my mother had done before (his words in the letter after hers only repeated), but he had also wrote his own letter, mailed to me and arriving that day: that day I wanted to tell them the truth, though they would never listen to me…that day in which my heart froze and could not be thawed. I had to somehow come to grips with reality still.
No, I was. I was…I was…
My dear stepdaughter, Jeanette,
You have, by now, received the previous letter from your mother and myself, explaining how we are displeased with you. I also could not believe my eyes when I saw the letter, telling us that you were to have our first grandchild…and a bastard at that! Your mother fainted at the thought again, stuttering about Church and how they were going to throw her out for having such an ungrateful and undutiful daughter.
You are, indeed, my Jeanette, such a daughter and I am not happy with you. Even Henry Blake’s letter could not help your mother, as she is so discontented with you very much.
My Dear, I must confess to you my deeds, of course, which is the purpose of this letter. I have heard about Daniel Simmons and, I must say, I have taught him well, even before he went to Korea. I have helped him to get into your unit, with my connections here and there, and he has kept an eye out on you. He tells me all, in his letters, before your own father found him out and had him sent away.
Indeed, Daniel Simmons has been a good informant, you slut. You encouraged his advances and now, this is your folly, your sin, that you must carry. It is a burden that must be carried, as your mother said.
And what she does not know will not kill her.
It is your fault, Jeanette, and you know it. You could have been saved from Daniel, you could have married him even! Just name him as the father and you could be saved from a life of miserable proportions. You could come back to Bloomington and not be bothered by anybody anymore. You won’t be in Korea anymore, living in sin with that man named “Hawkeye” Pierce. Daniel will come out of Leavenworth and you can tell them, in the Army, that the charges were false and that he will watch over you and make sure that you will follow the American Way of Life.
You could have a happy and easy life, Jeanette. Just tell them what I said to and you’ll be fine. You will have a good ending after all. Marriage and children are your lot anyhow. You will be happy in your duties.
I cannot judge you anymore, my stepdaughter. Just write back to me, telling me of your beautiful daughterly love, and not to that man who fathered you and left you. Tell me everything, Jeanette, and be a friend to me.
As ever, I will love you more for begging for forgiveness.
The words continued to dance without passion on the page as I reread them, tempting myself to write back and tell him that I wanted it. I wanted that happy ending so badly…with Hawkeye. However, I knew the truth: I was to stay in Korea and my baby was going to be someplace else, out of my arms and on its own.
I could not contemplate it now. I could not have that happy ending I wanted in the near future, not even with Daniel Simmons. To have him out of Leavenworth for good – to ruin the last of my reputation in society horribly – was to court disaster. And I didn’t want it.
Daniel Simmons on the loose outside of prison, with my stepfather in the picture controlling the strings if he was not, was to doom my world forevermore.
I gulped, knowing what to write finally: with conviction, without regret.
Moving aside my Korean words to study and the miscellaneous things around the desk, I found the words to say to my stepfather. The blank pages of new could only give me courage to write more. However, I only needed a page to say my mind.
Sister Theresa’s, Korea, to Bloomington, Illinois
I have received your letter from about a fortnight ago and, I must say, what words you have written to me! Your offers are too tempting for me…FAR too tempting. It seems to great of an offer to be let up, although it might never come true.
You and you alone have made my life a complete misery. You alone helped to orchestrate the greatest trials of my life, my mother blindly behind you, because you have created an image in her mind from the very start: faithful and innocent. You should know better that it would come to an end soon enough. Your own time of trial will come and when it does, you will be alone.
Slowly finding out the truth of the matter has made me angrier, my dear stepfather. You and Daniel Simmons have plotted against me and, for that, I cannot forgive you for it, added to whatever else you did before I even left Bloomington. When you could no longer do your own work, you appoint another to continue it. Oh, how clever of you! What beautiful work you have made! And to blame me for it is a nice touch. It reminds me of how much you never change. You remain the same and, somehow, I am grateful that you are always predictable.
To my mother, I give her one message, if you dare to show this to her and name my “lies” at her: I remain her dutiful and grateful child, insofar as the Law of God allows it. I remain with her alone and will be as obedient to her as I dare myself to be.
And to you, I curse the day you came in our lives. May all of the heavens I cannot believe in curse you and your life, blighting your life and ending it soon enough.
As well you know me…Jeanette
I put the pen down, looking to my last sentences, curses of a different nature and something so unreal and unusual for me to say. My stepfather would be displeased, of course, and call me out to be a Communist pagan of all proportions (as will my mother, if she saw the letter). I do not care though. I believe in no religion, but call upon everything I could to make his last days (if they are coming, my mother saying how sickly Clarence looks already) miserable. May I never see him again in this life! May he die a slow, long-lasting death!
I sighed, folding up the letter of a single page and stuffing it into an envelope with a stamp and address on it already: the old and familiar ritual of my life. Sealing it without another thought, checking the address on it mechanically and smoothing out the stamp it easily enough (the actions itself were inane and even forlorn, as if I wasn’t paying attention), I got up and walked out of my room to find Father Mulcahy outside, playing with the children. He would be sure to mail it for me when he had the chance. He was good to help me in any way he could, as I did to him.