Chapter 15:


The Ballad of the School Hallways

Hey, I’ll just take a bath. Take care of the rice, will you, Stephanie?”

“Okay, Mom! I’ll watch for it,” Stephanie, who was watching her favorite Korean show on the sofa, assured her mother. It was Saturday, and a rest day for the students, so she gets the license to binge watch all the episodes of the drama she was following. Their house was small anyway; a few steps away from their living room was the kitchen/dining area, so Stephanie could always rush to turn off the stove when it’s necessary.

As she had been on her phone for hours already, its battery was left with only 20% power. Stephanie was notified to charge her phone, though because she was too engrossed in her show, she waited for a bit more…until the battery went further 10% down, automatically switching her Wi-Fi off.

Man, just when I was in the middle of the episode!” she muttered, tossing her phone in frustration. Stephanie couldn’t hide her irritation; it was the show’s climax. And though she could always replay it later, she wanted to watch it now.

Dragging herself into her room to fetch for her phone’s charger, she went past the dining table, where her mother’s phone was. Then, an idea came into her mind; she took her mother’s phone, intending to watch there while waiting for her own gadget to charge.

Stephanie knew the password for the other phone. Her mother, who was not that technically-inclined, asked her to set it up, so she could still remember the lines and the numbers that could unlock the device. And since Mom was still at the bathroom, she took the opportunity to use it.


Just as she unlocked the phone, however, Stephanie was surprised to see a notification popped on the screen. It was a message from someone her mother named ‘Honey’ from her ‘contact’s list’. The chat simply said, ‘Where are you? I miss you!’. Stephanie thought it was her father, though she was puzzled as to why her dad would use another username to message her mom. Add to that, was the empty profile picture of the sender.

Stephanie has her dad in her friends’ list, too. As far as she is concerned, he is using his picture there.

So, overwhelmed with curiosity, she opened the message. But, as Stephanie was about to read the previous messages, she smelled something—the rice that her mother asked her to watch was starting to burn.

“Stephanie,” her mother called out to her from the other side of the bathroom. “I can already smell the burnt rice from over here!”

Wasting no time, Stephanie rushed to the stove and quickly turned off the gas and the knob. Then, she opened the cauldron and checked if the rice was completely charred. Much to her relief, only the bottom and the sides got burned beyond use.

Nevertheless, at that moment, her mother came out of the bath. She was irritated, “You child! What are you doing? Why did you leave the rice?”

“Err, uh…” panicking, Stephanie found herself confused and surprised. She was looking for reasons, though as it turned out, her mother’s attention shifted from the rice to the phone she had on her hand.

“What are you doing with my phone?” Stephanie’s mother blurted out as she yanked it off her daughter. “I don’t remember giving you permission to use it!”

“I-I’m sorry, Mom…” she told her. “I only saw someone named ‘Honey’ message you, that’s all!”

Stephanie’s mother glared at her, “See? Did I raise a disrespectful child? Why did you read the messages?”

“I didn’t!” she defended herself. “But, uhm…Mom, who’s ‘Honey’?”

“It’s none of your business!” her mother countered, hiding the phone from Stephanie’s sight. “Honey is a friend, and you’re not old enough to meddle in the affairs of us adults! You have your phone, right?”

“But it’s low on batteries.”

“Charge it then! Just don’t lay your hands on my phone, do I make myself clear?”

Stephanie had no choice but to agree to her mother’s demands. In her family, the children’s concerns were shared by them and the adults, and the business of the adults were for the adults alone. As such, the talk was already over; she was expected not to raise that issue anymore.


This ‘Honey’ may be her mother’s friend; nevertheless, the doubts in her heart remained.