Sometimes she wondered what had drawn her to Korean dramas (other than her desire to connect with her new mother-in-law to be). A woman who never let her obligations interfere with the latest episode of her drama, preferring the sweeping Sageuks and modern Makjangs to the lower-key romcoms. It was the one sliver of kinship she and the woman had. It was only when they were watching dramas that she felt it suddenly: short-lived and explosive like a burst jelly of happiness. Like they really were family.
Then it was gone.
There was more than that of course. Hadn’t she watched them before she met her own handsome male lead? Was it just that they were glossier pieces of television? Was it the pull of the global Hallyu wave; millions connecting across Asia over its visions of perfect beauty and consumer appeal? Or was it something deeper, something more fundamental, something she’d internalised that she didn’t even realise was within her.
“She’s so annoying!” her daughter would exclaim, after she’d forced her to watch a drama with her and before she left the room in frustration at the female lead. Her beautiful, luminous, stubborn and free-spirited daughter who had gone native, preferring cricket to studying and glorying in the freedom that came with being the second girl child in a second generation Australian-Korean-Vietnamese family.
Grandparents who worshipped her older brother, the desired first born male. While she – ignored – did whatever she wanted. Unaware of just how much her (secretly) proud mother covered for her (even while she quietly smarted from her child’s sharp tongue, withering Aussie sarcasm and learned bluntness).
“Why does she need to choose either of them?! Be single!” she bellowed in her increasingly broad accent and clumped out of the room as though her feet were clad in boots and not house slippers; spinning dangerously through the house like a post-adolescent tomboy cyclone.
She, secretly proud and envious of her daughter’s oblivious lack of consideration and Asian manners, had given her a sociocultural explanation of Candies. But while she had tried to intellectualise the phenomena she couldn’t help but let her mask slip. Thankfully her daughter’s brash rebellion against the family had made her poor at nuance. She hadn’t noticed. She’d simply rolled her eyes, yelled, “Whatever! They’re just saying women should be submissive and dependent!” and had left the room again.
She’d heard her a short time later doing angry laps in the pool. She could never get her out of the water. Just another way in which she was drawn in opposition to her mother and her grandmothers. Before long she’d be pulling her out of bars and telling her to wear makeup and she’d go out drinking till dawn; bare-faced and in jeans and doc martins just to spite her.
Not long now.
She thought back to her daughter’s angry curses at her favourite Candies and inside she had shrivelled a little more. But that’s me she wanted to tell her, that’s me!
Poor background. Difficult childhood. Large loving family. Hardworking. Three jobs. Never seeming to make progress in an unfair world. And then the ascendence of justice in an otherwise disordered universe. Marrying up. Disapproving in-laws. Financial security for life and a handsome loving husband. That’s me, she wanted to yell after her in an unseemly explosion of emotion. THAT’S ME!
Who still cleans her mother-in-law’s home? Spends days cooking for her husband’s ancestors? Who calmly takes every insult, every subtle piece of bullying, every backhanded compliment? Who visits her sick mother-in-law every day while her own mother, equally ill, gets seen barely once a week? Who smiled through 32 years of humiliation knowing how much worse it would have been if her husband’s parents hadn’t actually liked her?
I am Candy! That’s me! I’m Candy! Me! Me! Me!
Or was she?
She’d worked hard and she’d achieved. She didn’t marry her money, she’d made it. Her husband had barely brought a cent from his family’s vast wealth to the relationship . His family of four boys, her husband the youngest. His family that wasn’t interested in sending much inheritance his way. His family that had expected him to achieve and was likely to have been brutal if he hadn’t pole-vaulted up to their unrealistically high expectations. A family who had liked her a great deal and had supported the marriage enthusiastically believing her to be the perfect driver their incurably relaxed son needed.
And now she stood at the pinnacle of an empire, a family, a share portfolio.
Lately she looked in the mirror and saw the awful truth for the first time.
She wasn’t Candy at all. She was the evil Chaebol.
She was the moneyed elite, the predator at the top of the social food chain. And her beloved son? Her beautiful little boy who had started life apologising to flowers he accidentally trampled and had ended up torturing the house staff and acting as though the world was a playpen he would never have to clean up?
Her son was the worst tsundere second-generation Chaebol ever born.
And if she knew her dramas, she knew this. She knew what was missing from this story. If she wasn’t Candy then she needed to find one. Candy was the calm and stabilising influence she needed. Candy who understood the value of things, the need for hard work; who was ready to be swept off her feet by luxury, forbidden romance and a need to prove her own worth to a judgemental future mother-in-law. Candy who would redeem her son with her blinding goodness and purity; give him something to work for and to protect.
Neither grandmother would approve but she didn’t care and their opposition would even be useful. Her son’s soul was more important than his success. And she would save him if she died trying – even from herself.
After all, if she was the evil Chaebol then she should act like one. Chaebols used their wealth and power indiscriminately without consideration of others. Chaebols used people, broke the unspoken rules of society and would do everything in their power to have their way.
An evil Chaebol wouldn’t hesitate to drawn Candy in, use her and throw her away when she was done. It was time she embraced the truth of herself and what she had the power and resources to do.
Yes, she said to herself, as she drained the last of her bottle of wine and turned off the television (at the end of an episode 1 that, in her opinion, had had too much exposition and flashbacks).
She needed Candy. Candy would fix everything.
Then she sighed to herself as she headed to the kitchen to fix herself a late-night snack.
3 thoughts on “Craving Candy: Chapter 3”
Brilliant, can’t wait to read more. Also interested to see whether our candy will be the maid with the baby?
Hoping Mrs Park will have her own gang to put things right, like Avengers Social Club.
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Oh gosh, Mrs Park with her own Ahjumma gang?
I totally thought of that myself…. *gets scribbling*
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I love it I love it I love it! LT, what have you done?? Why have you taken the best part of Shining Inheritance, re-contextualised it to talk more meaningfully about immigration and cultural divides and parental love, AND played with classic tropes to make me now wonder if Mrs Park might be willing to become the villain in her own story? HOW DARE YOU.