If one word can make Hyeonju’s body temperature drop in a second, it’s this one. She hates it with passion, almost as much as Byeol hates wearing matching socks.
That means it’s a whole lot of hate concentrated on one little word. 5 letters, holding this much power.
If she had to find the source of her hatred, Hyeonju would say that the two winters she spent in Canada were definitely what was the beginning of a long toxic relationship with the season. Coming back to Korea had surely helped her get over it, at least a little bit. In Seoul, it only snows a few times a year, and it almost always melts immediately. The temperature is never too cold, nothing compared to the bone-chilling -25 degrees Hyeonju encountered in Canada, but it’s still considered cold and Hyeonju hates it. On the first day of November, she takes her winter coat out from the depth of her closet and wears it until the first day of March, layers adding up as the temperature drops.
It makes Byeol laugh. She says Hyeonju is always cold because she gives her warmth to people around her.
Snow is probably what she hates the most about winter, even more than the cold. In movies or books, it’s always depicted so beautifully, white flurries falling down from the sky. The part they always forget to mention is the one where once it touches a human body, it melts into cold water. On days Hyeonju wears her hair up, she forgoes her hat, but she always makes sure there’s no snow on the weather forecast first. She hates the sensation of cold, melted snow running down her scalp, tickling her neck and ending its course inside her coat, wetting the collar of her shirt.
She doesn’t only hates snow when it’s falling, but also when it’s melting. It makes puddles everywhere, and Hyeonju’s winter boots are meant to keep her warm, not keep her dry. She hates the grey, gross half melted snow on the streets. Winter’s terrible, and Hyeonju simply doesn’t understand why she can’t move to a tropical country as soon as possible.
That’s a lie. She knows why, and the answer is very simple.
Hyeonju’s butt stays in Korea as long as Byeol is there.
Not many people can say they met the love of their life in a club.
It’s a few days after they turn of age that Chohyeon decided she wants to go dancing in a club. Joa accepts easily, and Hyeonju has no choice but to come along.
Byeol, Hyeonju finds out later, is with a few of her friends from dance school. She’s holding her drink close to her, laughing as her friends chat together. Hyeonju sees her from across the room.
There’s a hole cut through her chest, and her heart jumps out, onto the floor, almost nagging her.
Hyeonju can’t help but stare at her from across the room, her mouth wide open. She has never seen a prettier girl in her entire life. Chohyeon looks through the crowd until she finds the girl Hyeonju has her eyes on.
“Wow, she’s just your type. You should go talk to her,” she says as she elbows her, pushing her towards the crowd of dancers.
Hyeonju shakes her head. “She probably doesn’t even like girls.”
“Honey, this is a gay club,” Joa reminds her, playing with the paper umbrella in her pink drink, leaning against the bar.
“Oh, right,” Hyeonju says. She looks up, only to find her possible nemesis gone. Her eyes scan the crowd frantically until they find her, a few feet away talking to the barman.
She’s getting two colorful drinks. She laughs to a joke the barman tells her and Hyeonju’s entire universe is shaking.
The pretty girl looks aside and her eyes fall on Hyeonju, for a second until she looks down. She tries a small smile and takes a few steps towards her.
“Hm, I saw you look at me earlier and, well,” she pauses, taking a breath and handing Hyeonju the extra drink she was holding, “I thought that I would, I mean, my friend said I should offer you a drink. I mean if you want it.”
Hyeonju’s eyes widden and she takes it. “T-thank you. I, my name is, erm, Hyeonju.”
Byeol picks up Hyeonju’s heart that had fallen to the ground and puts it in her purse instead of giving it back.
On the next day, Hyeonju shows up at Byeol’s dance school with a single red rose. Byeol’s cheeks turn the color of the flower, and from that day on not a day goes by without Hyeonju’s love multiplying by 10.
Hyeonju still hasn’t found where Byeol hid her heart.
Byeol’s favourite season is winter. She often tells Hyeonju the tales of her childhood in Seoul, when she’d get up after her parents were asleep, climb on a chair and look out the window on snowy nights.
The first time she ever saw a ballet, it was The Nutcracker , on Christmas Eve when she was 6. It was then she decided to start ballet. She was 21 the first time she got the lead role in that same ballet, and so winter reminded her of how she first felt when she started ballet. Winter is Byeol’s roots, in a way. Every year, it comes back, and so does Nutcracker, and for the fifth time, Byeol disappears for over an entire month to prepare for the only ballet that truly mattered to her.
As if Hyeonju doesn’t hate winter enough, she now has to spend it without Byeol by her side. Their appartment is colder when Byeol isn’t around. As frail as she is, the older girl is like a heater and Hyeonju always cuddles up to her when she’s cold, lacing her frozen fingers with her girlfriend’s warm ones. If her health wasn’t so important in her field of work, Byeol would go outside in a light sweater during winter and not feel the cold. Hyeonju every morning makes sure Byeol wears a warm coat before going outside.
Byeol leaves the house, wrapped in a scarf, wool mittens on her hands and warm boots on her feet, Hyeonju goes back to bed. She mostly works as a substitute English teacher in hagwons, night schools, so she rarely has to leave home in the morning.
When Byeol isn’t home, Hyeonju has more freedom when it comes to food. The ballerina has to follow a strict diet, and Hyeonju usually doesn’t have the patience to make herself a separate meal. As soon as Byeol stops eating at home for more than a few days, Hyeonju reverts back to chinese takeout. She always gains a few pounds she knows she’ll lose once she won’t turn into a snowman as soon as she steps foot outside, but Byeol loves those few extra pounds. Herself doesn’t have much freedom over her body, and she acts as if nothing is different, as if Hyeonju’s thighs aren’t rounder, or her cheeks slightly fuller. If Hyeonju does bring up her weight gain, once Byeol starts spending more time at home after The Nutcracker production is over, she compliments her in a subtle way. ‘ It’s smart to gain weight in the winter, to keep you warm’ or something cheesy like ‘You’re the prettiest girl in the world no matter what.’.
On Christmas, Byeol always gets Hyeonju a front row ticket. Hyeonju always cries, even if she’s seen Byeol dancing as Clara five times. She waits for her afterwards, and they walk home together, holding hands inside of Hyeonju’s coat pockets. Even though Byeol’s always exhausted after a show, she stays up with Hyeonju, they skip to the end of a Christmas movie and drink hot chocolate. They exchange letters instead of gifts, and then they go to bed. Byeol fidgets with her hands, blinking rapidly to keep her eyes open so they can talk for as long as possible, whispers and giggles shared into the night. It’s how Hyeonju’s spent Christmas for five years, and she wouldn’t change it for anything.
Hyeonju hates winter. She hates the snow and the cold, and she hates being home alone while Byeol prepares for the ballet, but if she has to choose one day of the year as her favourite, this one wins.
After New Year, Byeol and Hyeonju have more time to themselves. There’s always that one special morning where Byeol cheats her diet and they make pancakes. Hyeonju’s brother still lives in Canada, and he sends her maple syrup as a Christmas gift every year. Hyeonju keeps it preciously for special occasions such as that morning.
They stay in bed until Hyeonju’s stomach starts to make embarrassing sounds. They follow the same pancake recipe Hyeonju printed all those years ago on that sheet of paper whose corners are now folded. They eat as much as they can and leave the dirty dishes in the sink.
They sit down at the table again, and they talk about the future. What their plans for the upcoming year are, until December comes back again and Byeol is swept up in The Nutcracker preparations again.
Byeol’s beautiful in her pajamas, her hair up in a bun that reveal her cute ears and Hyeonju doesn’t miss an occasion to tell her. Byeol blushes and it makes Hyeonju stand up and walk around the table to kiss her. She missed her so much in the past month.
Byeol becomes serious quickly after that.
“What if…what if I tried doing something different?” she asks, and it makes Hyeonju frown, trying to read between the lines.
“You mean stopping ballet?”
Byeol’s eyes widen and she immediately shakes her head. “That’s not what I mean.”
Hyeonju laughs softly to reassure her and reach across the table to take her hand with a whine. “Just tell me.”
“How about we leave Seoul?”
Hyeonju’s jaw drops at that. She knows foreign companies would end up finding Byeol, one way or another. She has an entire career in front of her, and she’s far from her career peak. Hyeonju believes Byeol’s destiny is to be one of the brightest stars of the industry.
“You got contacted by another company?” Hyeonju asks, and Byeol nods.
“They came to the last show. Flew all the way from Paris just to see me,” Byeol beams, looking down timidly.
“PARIS?” Hyeonju repeats excitedly. She stands up from her seat. “Byeol, that’s incredible!”
The dancer seems surprised at her reaction. “You want to go?”
“Of course I want to go! Paris, Byeol. This means so much to your career, and wherever you are, I’ll be there too,” Hyeonju says, and then she pauses to think. “If you want me there, of course. You’ll probably have to support me, until I find a job there, if that’s okay. Am I even allowed to come with you?”
Hyeonju sits back down on her chair. Her eyebrows are furrowed together, and she seems worried.
“Of course you’re allowed to come. And supporting you is not a problem… I’ll make much more money there. I might be busier, so I’d understand if you’d refuse. We can stay here too, it’s totally fine,” Byeol says quickly before looking down at her hands.
“Byeol, you ballet makes you happy and there’s nothing I want more than to see you happy,” Hyeonju reassures her, smiling softly at her girlfriend.
“And you,” Byeol adds. “You make me happy too.”
Pink dust covers Hyeonju’s cheeks.
Paris it is.
“What’s winter like, in Paris?” Hyeonju asks the flight attendant once they’re in their seat. The lady laughs, and it makes Byeol quirk an eyebrow from the seat beside Hyeonju, unable to follow the conversation in English.
“It’s rainy, but once in a while, it snows, and it’s so beautiful,” she answers, and Hyeonju groans, throwing her head back.
Winter follows Hyeonju everywhere she goes.