She was happy to say she had very few regrets in life. Most unhappily, those very few were all regarding her family.
If she had had her way, she never would have come back to Hawai’i again. After graduating Punahou, she’d escaped, as she saw it, first to Radcliffe for a degree in Economics, then on to Harvard for her JD.
As far as she was concerned, Hawai’i was a nightmare from which she’d awoken. Happy to find herself practicing corporate law in her father-in-law’s New York firm of Goldstein, Rhee, How, and Takemoto, she had married Richard Rhee, an East Coast Korean, after the two had met in law school.
Of course, she always knew that there might be funerals, but in mind they were part of an amorphous future, somewhere way, way down the line. Of course, she would be expected to come home for them. But would she? A brother who might be worse than her father. A nephew who was just plain evil, maybe worse than his father and grandfather combined?
She wasn’t sure. She did know, however, that she would travel all the way to Korea if her mother passed away. They had been close. It was as if her mother had served as the solid buffer between her and a her father’s world, a world that reviled her.
And then the funerals had come so suddenly, so early in the scheme. She couldn’t understand what made her consent to come home for her bother and his son’s funeral. And it bothered her even more that she’d consented to give the eulogy. She didn’t like her brother, she didn’t like her nephew, and in addition, her husband feared the Yu clan.
That was perhaps the one bright light about being a part of the family. She knew Richard Rhee would never stray. Her father had joked, it appeared, to him at the wedding that Richard Rhee had better do right by his daughter otherwise he’d personally cut off his balls. Everyone at the table had laughed, except Richard Rhee.
Despite his concerns for his balls and the rest of him given what he knew of his wife’s family, Richard Rhee loved his wife with all his heart, which was a good thing, as well, but it never hurt, she figured, to have that threat of death to keep the embers of the heart stoked.
Gi Yu did, however, give in to her mother’s request to come back to Honolulu for the funeral and to eulogize the two. On the flight from New York, she’d had eleven hours to weave together a few words about the two deceased, and it took every second of those eleven hours to come up with enough positive things to say about the two sociopaths whom she had the great good fortune to call family.
She refused to stay at the Kāhala estate, nor would she stay at the Mānoa house. She and Richard Rhee were fine at the Kāhala Hilton. Which is where her father asked to meet with her the day after the funeral.
The three sat poolside, and Kang Yu, who was never particularly happy to think about his son-in-law, wondered why Richard Rhee was sitting there alongside his daughter.
“Richard,” he said, “would you mind going over to swim with the dolphins or something. I want to talk to my daughter alone.”
Richard Rhee excused himself with alacrity and did not look back.
“Thank you for meeting with me,” Yu said. His tone was quite unusual for him. It was a quality of voice that only his daughter, not even his wife, could bring out of him.
If Kang Yu could love a child, he loved his daughter. Gi had proven that at least some of what he’d accomplished and what he’d done to accomplish it over time was of value. She had received the finest education possible, had exceled at school, and now sat in a very powerful position with a very prestigious law firm. She was so legitimate and squeaky-clean, it made his teeth hurt.
Yu, on the other hand, lived so dark a life that he sometimes wondered if he had already died and were living in a kind of hell. If it were not for his wife, he sometimes thought he would go insane. If he wasn’t already.
Yu knew how his daughter felt about him and the family business. She had never held back in her criticism. She had found it horriffic from the time she discovered what it was, and she said so on every occasion possible growing up.
In a strange way, however, Yu appreciated his daughter’s honesty. He knew it meant she had the mind of an individualist, a free and clear thinker. He was staggered, sometimes, by the lengths to which he was willing to go to preserve his position of power in Hawai’i. Sadly, this made him quite happy most of the time, so he figured he was indeed lost to the side of darkness.
“I wouldn’t have agreed to meet with you if mom hadn’t begged,” Gi said. “You’ve lied to me so many times, Dad, that I don’t know if I can believe anything that comes out of your mouth. What are you going to tell me now.”
Yu smiled at this and nodded. “Gi, if anyone else had just said that to me, well, you know. But coming from you, it’s almost a compliment. Yes, Gi, I lie all the time, but it’s part of my business. It is perhaps my most important tool.”
Gi shook her head. “Okay, whatever you say, Dad. So what is it now?”
Yu looked off toward the dolphin pool. Richard was laughing and clapping his hands as some children were being towed through the water by the captured mammals. “As you know, Gi, our local enterprise was run by your brother and his son after I left for Busan. Now that they’re no longer in a position to do that, your mother is worried that our income may drop to a level where she will not be able to maintain the lifestyle to which she has grown accustomed.”
“Good job of you to couch in terms of mom’s worries. I guess you’re not at all concerned?” She took a sip of her scotch rocks.
“And,” Yu said, “you may not know this, but the number two and number three persons who were in the running to step up and manage our enterprise won’t be able to do so.”
“So what,” Gi said, “you had them killed?”
Yu laughed. “You’re such a kidder, honey.”
“Oh God, Dad, you make me sick. I guess I really do appreciate how you’ve scrambled to make it to where you are today, given your lousy childhood and all, but look at where you are? Who you are?”
He laughed again.
“Dad, so what am I supposed to do? Give you some kind of advice about choosing the next bloodthirsty lunatic who’s going to preserve your retirement income?”
“Well,” said Yu, “If that’s your plan, please don’t suggest your husband.”
She stared at him. “Richard? You’re kidding, right? He’s a hundred times a better man than any of you.”
Yu scoffed. “Yeah, he’s a far better man than I. Right. I keep trying to convince myself of that. I think I see him a bit differently than you do.”
Gi stood up. “Dad, I am outta here. I think our discussion is over.”
“Please, Gi, please sit, sit. I want to speak to you seriously about business. I think I have to make a major shift, and I want your advice.”
“I can’t see, now that my line of succession is finished, how I can keep the business going the way it is going now. Not with me living in Korea. I need your advice about what I should do to change course. I want a business that I, for as long as I’m able to do so, can run from Korea. It has to be from Korea. Your mother will never move back here. You know how little she cares for living in Hawai’i.”
“Can you blame her, Dad. If I were her, I’d want to forget about Honolulu too. And well,” she said, “I guess I am a lot like her. I do want to forget about Honolulu too. I hate this place.”
“All right, enough with the venting, please. I’m serious,” Yu said. “With your job, with your education, you have a great business head. Unlike you with me, I respect you. So tell me. What do you think?”
Gi looked over at the two penguins sitting on little stands in a tiny pool. She wondered if they always stood there. Why wouldn’t they just run down to the ocean and swim away to freedom? Were their feet glued down?
“Okay, Dad, I’ll tell you what I think. You see how statehood has spurred the visitor industry, how hotels are beginning to pop up? You could get in on that. Invest your money in real estate development. There’s a hell of a lot of money to be made, Dad. You should think about that.”
Yu rubbed his chin. He had noticed, especially with the introduction of jet travel, that the planes were getting bigger and dropping off more tourists every day. Would that be a trend, could he buy up the State and then sit back and let his money ride?”
“I’d still be worried to a certain extent,” Yu said. “I believe it could be much less of a hands-on business, but I’d still prefer to have someone I could trust handle it here. I don’t’ suppose,” he paused, “that if I went legitimate like this, you’d consider moving back here to help run the business?”
Gi looked at him, open-mouthed. “Dad, you have got to be kidding me. I know, I’m hoping, that it would never come to the point where you would actually kill me, but the last thing I’d want to do is work for someone like you. Make a mistake? Fatal error. That’s the Yu way, no matter if it’s running drugs or outfitting nuns. Dad, seriously, who on earth would ever want to work for you?”
Yu was not angered by his daughter’s words. She was bright, and she was right. Maybe, outside the family, only a fool would work for him? Even his son and grandson, if they were still alive, were probably smart enough to know that one slipup might mean death. That was the way business worked in Kang Yu’s world.
Richard Rhee had apparently come back, stood behind them, and overheard the last part. He came around to face his father-in-law.
“Mister Yu, Sir. I’ve always wanted a chance to really prove myself to you. I know how you feel about me, and I’d like to do my best to make you understand that your daughter and I are a great match, that I’m a good husband to her, and that I can be a good son-in-law to you.”
Yu’s facial expression was one of shock and amusement. Gi was speechless. She had a horrible feeling about the words that were about to pour out of her husband’s mouth.
“Mister Yu, if you’ll give me the chance, I would like to help you run the legitimization of your business concerns.”
Neither of the Yus knew quite what to say. Gi could not get over that her husband, Richard the Coward Hearted when it came to her father, was willing to put his neck in the noose like this. Kang Yu was amazed that the kid had any balls at all.
After everyone began to breath normally, Yu stood up, extended his hand, and said, “Welcome to the family, Richard Rhee. You know, I think this could be the beginning of a very profitable partnership?”
Richard Rhee nodded enthusiastically. “Mister Yu, I love your daughter more than anything else in the world. I know you never felt I was worthy of her. I would do anything for her, Mister Yu, and as such, I would do anything to make you see that I am indeed worthy of your respect.”
A half hour ago, Kang Yu, hearing these words from him, might have cursed and spit on the ground. It was true he had little respect for this East Coast Yobo. Never could he fathom how his daughter had been attracted to Richard Rhee.
“Okay, Richard, ah, as I say, I think this could proceed well.” He let go his-son-in-law’s hand. “We’ll get going on this together. Starting tomorrow morning.”
Gi could not think of anything to say. This whole scenario was preposterous. And what? She would (snip)
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Today’s word is
Use it in a piece of writing, and then post that piece below. I’d love to read it : )