Chapter 1: The Bet
Tzuyu had always wanted to live abroad. There was nothing particularly wrong with Taiwan, she was just impatient to see more of the world. So, when the time came for applying to colleges, she applied for every country she could think of: Korea, America, Japan, England, but only two courses in her home country as last resorts. Her parents were overjoyed when the acceptance letter came, even though they had been hoping she’d choose a course that ensured a secure future instead of performing arts.
But Tzuyu had dreams, and they respected that. She dreamt of being a dancer, or a singer, or maybe even a member of a girl group. She’d been blessed with parents rich and supportive enough to buy her a house near her college despite it being in a foreign country, and with an enjoyable course, a part time job modelling and a fairly good grasp on the new language she needed to speak, she thought she was well on her way to achieving her dreams.
Then she’d met Chaeyoung, and six months later here she was fighting to stop one of their drunk friends from making themselves sick.
“Momo put that hamburger down I swear to God.”
“Fuck you! I do what I want.”
Tzuyu made another grab for the burger, but Momo dodged away with surprisingly good reflexes, and Tzuyu was once again left contemplating how this had become her life.
“You’ve had three of those already, if you have another on top of the six shots you’ve downed you’re going to throw up.”
“Psh, no I won’t.” Momo slurred, waving the burger tauntingly in front of her mouth. “And even if I do Mina will just clean it up along with the rest of the mess.”
“Mina’s threatened to kick us out if you get sick on her carpet tonight.”
“Mina always threatens to kick us out. But she won’t because she loves us.”
“She’s threatened it four times already this week. We both know that if she says it the fifth time she means it.”
Momo pouted, staring longingly down at her burger.
“Sana said it would be ok.”
“Oh, Sana said it’s alright?” Tzuyu rolled her eyes. “Well in that case I’m sure it’s fine.”
“Great!” Momo said cheerily, either ignoring or not understanding the sarcasm in Tzuyu’s voice.
She shoved the burger into her mouth, and Tzuyu dove at her.
Five minutes later she was trying to find a bin for the half-eaten hamburger in her hand. Mina’s house was packed and noisy, with people dancing and laughing and the speakers booming. Tzuyu struggled to manoeuvre around them, eventually squeezing into the back garden. It was just as loud, but there was more space around the pool to walk without bumping into anyone.
She found Chaeyoung sitting on a plastic chair, watching in amusement as Sana and Dahyun drunkenly attempted to waltz around the edge of the pool. She tossed the burger into Chaeyoung’s lap, and sat down next to her.
Chaeyoung got her phone out just in time to catch Sana tripping and falling into the pool, dragging Dahyun with her. Laughter and sarcastic clapping broke out around them, and Tzuyu couldn’t help but smile. Her friends were idiots, but they were her idiots.
“She almost bit my finger off by the way. But I don’t think she’ll throw up tonight so you’re welcome.”
“Hate to make your bad mood worse, but Jeongyeon’s invited her new girlfriend and her friend along tonight, so you have to actually smile and be polite when they arrive.”
“Nayeon?” Tzuyu wrinkled her nose. “Think I’m going to avoid them entirely. What’s that phrase? If you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything?”
“She’s not even that bad.” Chaeyoung rolled her eyes. “And you like her friend, don’t you?”
“Jihyo? She seems alright.” Tzuyu shrugged. “But I don’t know her that well so it’s not worth it.”
“Well too bad because they’re headed our way right now.”
Tzuyu had only a few seconds to send Chaeyoung a death glare before the three arrived in front of them.
“Hey kids,” Jeongyeon smiled at them. “I see Dahyun and Sana have already fallen into the pool.”
“How do you expect us not to call you the mom friend when you call us kids?” Chaeyoung smirked, causing Jeongyeon to scowl.
Meanwhile Tzuyu locked eyes with Nayeon, and an intense staring match began.
“You look as happy as ever.”
“Have you been fired yet? Because that would cheer me right up.”
“No because I’m actually a professional with a full-time job. How’s that degree coming along? Performing arts is such an adorable thing to have on your resume.”
“All right, settle down.” Jeongyeon stepped carefully between them. “We’re all friends here.”
They glared at each other while the rest of their friends struggled not to laugh.
“Come on babe,” Jeongyeon grabbed Nayeon’s arm. “Let’s go talk to my friends who don’t pretend to hate you.”
Tzuyu wanted to protest that she wasn’t pretending when she judged Jeongyeon’s terrible taste in women, but Jeongyeon had already dragged Nayeon away, leaving Tzuyu and Chaeyoung with Nayeon’s friend.
Jihyo seemed as amused as Chaeyoung was with Tzuyu and Nayeon’s petty bickering, and Tzuyu found herself studying her smile a little too closely. She had a pretty smile, one that seemed far less fake than most people. It was… cute? Warm? Bright? Tzuyu couldn’t quite put her finger on what made it so endearing to her.
She shook her head and forced herself to stop staring. How much had she drunk again? Thankfully Jihyo hadn’t seemed to notice.
“I’m gonna go get some water. Anyone want anything?”
“Yeah can you find me a blunt?” Chaeyoung laughed at the look Tzuyu shot her. “Kidding, kidding, I smoked one before we came.”
“You’re such a wannabe hipster.” Tzuyu shook her head fondly. “Jihyo you want some water?”
“That would be great!” Jihyo practically beamed at her, and Tzuyu was a little taken aback because damn she just offered her some water. “Mind if I come with you? I haven’t seen much of the party yet.”
“I mean, it’s not that different from out here, just louder and more cramped, but sure.”
Jihyo’s smile got brighter, which shouldn’t be humanly possible. There was no way that was a genuine smile, but at the same time Tzuyu had a pretty good radar for sensing fake bitches and for whatever reason Jihyo felt honest.
They made their way into the kitchen, shoving past people making out or doing shots. Tzuyu finally found a place in the corner to pour some water without anyone jostling her, as her glare kept everyone but Jihyo away from her personal space.
“I’m guessing parties aren’t your thing?” Jihyo said sympathetically.
“Really? How could you tell?”
Jihyo just laughed, which made Tzuyu smile in response. People who took offense at her blunt humour normally didn’t last long as friends, so she was glad Jihyo understood not to take her sarcasm too seriously.
She was going to say something nice, maybe complement Jihyo’s smile, but before she could the kitchen door flew open.
“Ohyo ohyo ohyo ohyo.”
Tzuyu closed her eyes in a futile attempt to block out the sheer loudness of Sana and Dahyun’s presence. She was forced to open them again when Dahyun whipped her damp hair around in a circle, showering everyone in the kitchen with droplets of pool water.
“Guess what time it is?”
“Time to go home?” Tzuyu shot at them.
“Karaoke time!” They yelled excitedly, completely ignoring Tzuyu.
The crowd in the kitchen began to whoop and cheer, moving in towards the already cramped living room. Tzuyu was tempted to just go back outside, but Jihyo seemed curious and she couldn’t find it in her to abandon the new girl.
“Come on.” She sighed. “Let’s go watch drunk college kids butcher iconic songs. I have spare earplugs if you need them.”
Jihyo laughingly declined, but two minutes into Sana’s off-key rendition of I Will Always Love You she looked like she was seriously considering Tzuyu’s offer.
“She can actually sing this ok when she’s sober.” Tzuyu informed her. “But tragically she only gets the courage to belt it out after a few drinks, so we’re stuck with this.”
Next up was Momo’s cover of BBA SAE, which was mostly just an excuse for Dahyun to go wild on the dancefloor. Tzuyu was careful to drag Jihyo out of the way of Dahyun’s flailing limbs, because she knew from experience how much those flapping hands could hurt.
Nayeon and Jeongyeon did an embarrassingly sappy rendition of I Think I Love You, and Tzuyu pretended to gag when they shyly sang the chorus to each other. Jihyo chuckled a little at that, clearly not too bothered about Tzuyu’s blatant distaste for her friend. Tzuyu wondered absently if anything actually offended Jihyo, because the older girl seemed far too chill despite being flung headfirst into the madness that was Mina’s house parties.
Chaeyoung had snuck in sometime in the middle of the performance, and she and Dahyun jokingly covered Panda, which everyone pretended to dance to ironically while actually enjoying themselves wholeheartedly.
“I see now why all of you are studying some form of music.” Jihyo grinned, cheeks flushed from dancing. “You’re a pretty talented bunch.”
Tzuyu studied her for any sign that her remark wasn’t genuine, because so far, her friends hadn’t exactly been showcasing their musicality. But Jihyo actually seemed impressed, which baffled Tzuyu. Did she just have low standards or was she the kind of positive person who saw the good in everything?
Chaeyoung sat in next to them as Mina calmed things down with a rendition of She Said by Toy. Tzuyu nudged her and nodded to Jihyo.
“Jihyo liked your performance.” She explained. “I didn’t know how to tell her that you can rap so much better than that. She’s going to go home tonight thinking we’re a bunch of barely talented losers.”
“She said all that did she?”
“It was implied.”
“Of course.” Chaeyoung smirked. “I’m guessing you want me to go back up there?”
Tzuyu winked at her, and Chaeyoung sighed, faking reluctance. Tzuyu nudged her again and she stood up and walked over to where Mina was finishing her song. Tzuyu grinned at Jihyo, who looked confused but intrigued.
“Kill it Young Money!” Tzuyu called up onto the stage, laughing when Chaeyoung flipped her off.
“Mina, you still have Rap God on this thing?”
A buzz of excitement swept through the room, excluding Nayeon and Jihyo who didn’t quite understand what was going on. Tzuyu couldn’t hide the smug smile on her face as Chaeyoung grabbed the mic. She may have befriended the first year with the most ridiculous group of friends, but that first year happened to be the most talented girl in her course, so it evened out.
Five minutes later, her smile had become a full-blown grin. Chaeyoung left the stage to the heartiest applause of the night, and a few new customers asking to buy her mixtape. Tzuyu’s eyes were still drawn to Jihyo, who looked completely stunned.
“Woah.” She said at last.
“Yep.” Tzuyu smirked.
“She’s an amazing rapper. I get why you’re such a proud girlfriend now.”
“She is.” Tzuyu agreed, before the second half of the sentence registered with her. “Wait girlfriend? No, Chaeng and I are just friends.”
“Ah, my bad.” Jihyo said, nodding apologetically.
Tzuyu could have let the conversation die there, she wasn’t the most talkative person in general, but something about Jihyo tempted her to keep going.
“I’m very much single at the minute.” She said, cringing internally as soon as the words had left her mouth.
“Me too.” To her relief, Jihyo smiled, and Tzuyu felt her stomach flip flop.
In front of them, Momo started singing some new song. People danced along, but it was kind of hard to hear her over Sana’s chanting.
“Go best friend that’s my best friend that’s my best friend!”
Tzuyu began trying to puzzle out where Mina had hidden the aspirin this time, because she had a feeling she’d need it by the end of the night. Glancing across at Jihyo, she saw the older girl staring longingly up at the karaoke machine.
“A little.” Jihyo admitted. “But I’ve never really sang much in front of anyone but Nayeon.”
“Well it’s not like the standard here is super high.” Tzuyu shrugged. “You should give it a shot. Most people here are too intoxicated to care if you’re hitting the notes or not.”
Jihyo bit her lip and Tzuyu deliberately avoided staring at her.
“Alright.” Jihyo decided abruptly, standing up and making her way over to the stage. “I’ll give it a shot.”
Momo gave her a warm smile as she passed the mic to her, which didn’t sit right with Tzuyu. She was probably just reading into things, but Jihyo seemed like the kind of girl interested in meaningful relationships, whereas Momo was more into casual flings. Hadn’t Momo been a bit flirty the first time they met Jihyo?
“Damn, Momo was that bad huh?”
Tzuyu jumped, not having noticed Chaeyoung sit down next to her.
“She was alright.” Tzuyu muttered, still keeping her eyes trained on Momo until the dancer had sat back down away from Jihyo.
“Then why the long face?”
Tzuyu was spared from answering thanks to the music starting up again. Jihyo looked nervous on stage, but as she moved to the rhythm of the beat she seemed to relax a little, a smile appearing on her face as she began to sing.
The song started off slow and soft, but Tzuyu was impressed by how good Jihyo’s legato was. For someone who claimed to not be a singer she hit the notes cleanly and easily. Tzuyu couldn’t take her eyes off her as she sang along to the soothing piano instrumental.
Then the song picked up the pace, and Jihyo belted.
For the rest of the performance, Tzuyu sat there in stunned silence. Jihyo had to have been fucking with her when she said she didn’t sing much, right? Because that performance was easily the best one of the night. Tzuyu knew she wasn’t being biased because when the song ended, the applause Jihyo got was equal to Chaeyoung’s. Jeongyeon started the chant for an encore, and soon a blushing Jihyo was picking another song.
A finger pressed under Tzuyu’s chin, and she snapped her mouth shut. She felt her cheeks go red as Chaeyoung laughed, and when she saw the look in her best friend’s eyes she got a sinking feeling in her chest.
Tzuyu knew that look. That was the look Chaeyoung got when she had an idea that would make her laugh at the expense of one of their friends. None of their others seemed to fully realise that Chaeyoung was a mastermind at messing with them, and part of the reason Tzuyu came to all these dumb parties was to watch Chaeyoung wheedle their friends into doing stupid stunts. When it came to convincing Dahyun to egg a police car or encouraging Jeongyeon to eat a week-old hotdog, Tzuyu found great enjoyment in being Chaeyoung’s right hand woman as she orchestrated her various schemes.
What she didn’t like was being the victim of one of those schemes.
“Whatever you’re thinking I won’t do it.”
“No fair.” Chaeyoung pouted. “I was just going to poke fun at your adorable crush on our new friend. She’s got quite a voice am I right?”
“I don’t have a crush on Jihyo.”
“You’re dropped jaw says otherwise.” Chaeyoung chuckled as Tzuyu buried her head in her hands. “But I know you, and I know you won’t do anything about it without some incentive.”
Tzuyu peeked suspiciously up at Chaeyoung, who blinked back with false innocence.
“What kind of incentive.”
“Well it just so happens that I might find Jihyo quite attractive myself. So, I was thinking a little friendly competition might help you work up the courage to ask her out.”
“You want to make a bet?” Tzuyu said sceptically.
“Yep!” Chaeyoung grinned. “If Jihyo agrees to be my girlfriend you have to buy me lunch for a month, and vice versa. Sound fair?”
Something about this didn’t sit right with Tzuyu. She didn’t want her relationship with Jihyo to be based on a silly bet, but at the same time Chaeyoung was right. Tzuyu knew that she was likely to quietly pine after Jihyo until her crush eventually wore off, and right now, with Jihyo looking so elegant and beautiful singing some old-fashioned jazz song, Tzuyu didn’t want that to happen either.
“Deal.” She said, and hoped she hadn’t just made a huge mistake.
Chapter 2: The Dance
Tzuyu doesn't have a crush. And if she does it's only a little one, really. Not a big deal. At all. No matter what Chaeyoung says.
This chapter went strange places, so I feel like I should add a violence warning as well as the warnings from chapter 1. I guess that's what happens when incorrecttwicequotes inspires part of this chapter.
Truth be told, Tzuyu easily forgot about the bet as soon as the party was over. She had assignments due and a part-time job to work, so she really didn’t have much time to hang out with any of her friends aside from the occasional lunchtime meet-up.
That all changed Saturday night, exactly six days after the party. Exhausted after practicing for her dance performance, Tzuyu was ready to fall into bed and get a nice stress-free sleep.
So of course, her phone rang.
She buried her face in her pillow and ignored it, but the ringing persisted, someone either desperate or annoying enough to keep calling her. She reached her hand out to check who was ringing, and sighed when she saw it was Chaeyoung.
Annoying it was then.
She answered reluctantly, the refusal already on the tip of her tongue.
“What do you want?”
“Why do you assume I want something?”
Tzuyu waited silently.
“Funny story actually.” Chaeyoung said in a terrible attempt at casualness. “Remember when I made a diss track about those local rappers?”
“When you said they were more interested in looking like rappers then actually rapping? And you told them that their attempts at swagger came across as desperate and tacky? Yeah I remember.”
“Well turns out they didn’t like that very much.”
“And they may be planning to fight me tomorrow night.”
“Oh my god.” Tzuyu shut her eyes again, resisting the temptation to throw her phone away. “Just tell them no. Stay at home until this all blows over.”
“I can’t. If I don’t put my money where my mouth is I lose all credibility.”
“Chae, I love you, but right now you’re just a soundcloud rapper. You have no credibility to lose.”
“Tzuyu please.” Chaeyoung whined. “This is important to me!”
“What do you want me to do? Show up and support you as you get beaten up?”
“Of course not! That would be stupid.”
Tzuyu bit back a comment about how this whole conversation was stupid, because the rare occasions she actually managed to hurt Chaeyoung’s feelings were not pleasant.
“Then why are you telling me this?”
“Well there’s two of them and one of me, so I was kind of… maybe… sort of… hoping you would help me fight them?”
Tzuyu took a second to wait for the punchline. When there was silence from the other end of the phone, she realised that Chaeyoung was being serious.
“Please? We’re best friends!”
“So are you and Dahyun. Go ask her instead.”
“Listen, I love Dahyun but we both know she’s terrible in a fight. I pretended to hit her once and she dropped to the ground and curled up in a ball.”
Tzuyu couldn’t deny that logic, but she also liked living and not getting punched in the face. She was tempted to sell Chaeyoung out to Jeongyeon and let her handle it, but nowadays Jeongyeon would probably join in the fight so that she could see her girlfriend at the hospital.
Stupid Nayeon, always making everything more difficult.
“They might actually kill me. Do you want that on your conscience?”
“Will you be able to look my parents in the eye at my funeral and tell them that you did everything you could to help me?”
“Jesus.” Tzuyu groaned, feeling a migraine building up behind her eyes. “Fine. Whatever, you win. I’ll help you fight these guys and then you are going to help me with my music theory tutorials for the rest of the semester.”
“Deal! No take backs!”
Chaeyoung hung up then, and Tzuyu went back to burying her face in her pillow, already aware of how bad that decision had been. Two teenage girls fighting two grown men, there was no way this would end well.
But she did love Chaeyoung, even if the girl was responsible for ninety per cent of Tzuyu’s suffering, so after twenty-four hours of worrying she turned up at the local sports club parking lot at midnight. Chaeyoung grinned happily when she arrived, as if Tzuyu being there would magically intimidate the men into calling the whole thing off.
To be fair, she kind of understood why Chae had dissed them, because they really did look pathetic. Both of them looked incredibly pale, although that could be due to both their complexion and the lampposts illuminating them. The bigger man squaring off against Chaeyoung was shirtless, his hair in dreads and an honest to god gold tooth showing when he sneered at them. The smaller guy lacked the cultural appropriation, but his bucket hat looked stupid so Tzuyu didn’t think too highly of him either.
“I don’t like to hit girls.” The bigger guy drawled. “So if you want to apologize we can all go home, otherwise I’m going to have to defend my honour, and your girlfriend here won’t be able to stop me.”
Tzuyu was still hoping Chaeyoung would realise that this was all ridiculous, but the shorter girl had her own sense of pride that was clearly keeping her from realising how embarrassing this whole ordeal was.
“Sorry.” Chaeyoung shrugged. “I stand by what I said. You can’t rap for shit and your lyrics use slang in a way that makes no sense because you want to sound cool. ‘You be shookin when I’m deadass servin’. Really?”
“Talk shit all you want,” The man growled, moving closer “But you better be ready to deal with the consequences.”
The man swung at Chaeyoung, who dodged backwards and tried to kick his shin. Bucket hat guy pulled out a knife, his hand shaking and his face unsure. Tzuyu stared blankly at him, completely unimpressed.
“What are you going to do, stab me?”
He took her by surprise when he actually stabbed her, but then he screamed and took off running, so she had been mostly right in assuming he was all talk.
“Dammit Jeremy!” The big man snarled, turning his back on Chaeyoung to chase after his friend.
There was silence as Tzuyu tried to process the fact that she’d just been stabbed.
“I think we won.”
“Yeah.” Chaeyoung agreed. “Should I call an ambulance now?”
“That would be nice.”
She woke up to bright lights and a beautiful face smiling down at her.
“Are you an angel?” Tzuyu mumbled softly.
“Aw.” Jihyo patted her cheek. “You’re sweet. Congratulations by the way, we’ve mostly stopped your internal bleeding. Looks like you’ll survive.”
Jihyo was really pretty. How had she forgotten how pretty she was? It had only been six days since the party, right?
“Six days since what?” Jihyo asked, and Tzuyu jumped when she realised she’d said the last part out loud.
Damn these painkillers. She’d only been lightly stabbed; the dosage was completely unnecessary.
“Since we last saw each other.” She slurred out at last.
“Feels like longer.” Jihyo agreed. “I was kind of hoping I’d see you outside of the hospital instead of in the ICU, but I guess I shouldn’t have expected better from Jeongyeon’s friends.”
“It’s Chaeyoung’s fault.”
“That’s fair.” Chaeyoung piped up, curled up in the chair next to Tzuyu’s bed. “Also I may have had to lie about our relationship in order to be allowed in here, but don’t worry Jihyo knows we’re not really girlfriends.”
Tzuyu took a second to glare at her best friend, but she couldn’t stay completely mad when the woman she may be developing a small crush on was her nurse. She watched as Jihyo carefully injected more painkillers into her IV bag, and realised that this was an opportunity she shouldn’t let pass.
“If you want to meet up outside this place there’s an open mic night every Tuesday at the campus bar.” Tzuyu’s heart pounded and she was fairly certain it had nothing to do with her injuries. “I probably won’t be there this week because of, you know, all this, but I’ll definitely be there next week.”
“Yeah?” Jihyo smiled at her, and Tzuyu tried not to look too nervous. “I’d like that. Maybe-”
“So Jihyo!” Chaeyoung interrupted. “You got a girlfriend?”
And suddenly, Tzuyu remembered the bet.
“Oh, uh, not right now no.” Jihyo seemed confused at the abrupt subject change.
Chaeyoung smirked, and Tzuyu reached for her bedside locker, fumbling for the heavy water bottle on top of it.
“Are you interested in-”
Tzuyu flung the water bottle at Chaeyoung, proud when it hit its target even as the action sent her stomach into spasms of pain.
She may have blacked out a little, because the next thing she knew Chaeyoung was gone and Tzuyu was alone with Jihyo.
“Sorry about her.” Tzuyu mumbled. “She and Sana flirt with all our new friends, it’s just how they are.”
“I don’t mind.” Jihyo chuckled, leaning forward to fluff up Tzuyu’s pillows.
Tzuyu gulped as Jihyo’s chest came perilously close to her face. It hovered above her for a good ten seconds, and then mercifully, Jihyo moved back, and Tzuyu could breathe again.
“I like you guys a lot.” Jihyo told her, unaware of Tzuyu’s red face. “You’re a fun bunch to be around, even if you do get a little crazy.”
“’A little crazy’ is an understatement.” Tzuyu grumbled. “But I’m glad you aren’t spooked by all our drama.”
“Nah.” Jihyo grinned at her. “To be honest, I really enjoy taking care of you.”
The logical part of Tzuyu knew that the ‘you’ Jihyo meant was their whole friend group, but that didn’t stop her from replaying the words over and over again in her head with a huge smile on her face until she fell back asleep.
If the first thing Tzuyu did once she was allowed out of the hospital was google How to get a girlfriend, she made sure that no one could ever prove it.
It’s not like it was helpful either. The first step was ‘Stop trying to get a girlfriend’, which in Tzuyu’s opinion was completely useless and counterproductive advice. She considered asking her friends for help, but Jeongyeon had terrible taste in women, and Momo and Mina were just friends with benefits. Sana and Dahyun were in a pretty happy relationship, but Tzuyu had a feeling that what worked for them wouldn’t work for her, or for anyone else honestly.
So when Tuesday came around, and Tzuyu was fit enough to walk to the campus bar, she did so with no game plan. Naturally, she was nervous to see Jihyo again, and even the drink Chaeyoung bought her as compensation for getting stabbed did nothing to calm her nerves.
When Jihyo walked in Tzuyu promptly choked on her drink, and it took both Momo and Chaeyoung hitting her on the back for her to be able to breathe again. It would be embarrassing if it was just Jihyo’s presence that stunned her, but what actually caused Tzuyu to swallow the wrong way was Jihyo’s hair. It had changed since the last time Tzuyu saw her, and if Tzuyu thought she had been attracted to her before with dark hair and bangs, it was nothing compared to how she felt now, as Jihyo smiled at her with her straight, red hair.
“I’ve never seen you this gay before.” Chaeyoung whispered to her. “I’m so proud.”
Tzuyu thumped her on the shoulder, but forced a hopefully normal smile on her face as Jihyo walked over. A chorus of “Hey” and “Hi Jihyo” greeted her, and Tzuyu’s smile grew real at the genuine delight in Jihyo’s eyes. Regardless of crushes and bets, there was no doubt that Jihyo was fitting in just fine with their little group.
“I love your hair.” Momo piped up.
“Thank you!” Jihyo beamed, and Tzuyu forced herself to swallow the irrational jealousy she could feel bubbling up inside.
“I hope you’re planning to sing tonight. I was kind of hoping to make your voice my ringtone.” Chaeyoung’s tone was clearly flirtatious, and Tzuyu was tempted to ‘accidentally’ spill a drink on her.
Get a grip. She told herself, ignoring the way her heart sank when Jihyo blushed at Chaeyoung’s words.
Luckily, her bad mood didn’t last long, because Jihyo was quick to get up on the stage. Unlike Mina’s party, the cheers started before she’d even chosen her song, and Tzuyu’s smile grew wider as Jihyo ducked her head in embarrassment.
Unlike the silky jazz she sang at Mina’s, this time Jihyo chose to sing All About That Bass. Their table was up and dancing before she even got to the chorus, all except for Tzuyu. She remained seated, clapping along with her full focus on Jihyo. Something about the way she performed, her expressions and her voice, it was mesmerising. Jihyo looked like the kind of girl who belonged in Tzuyu’s performing arts class, not a nursing prodigy. Even singing a light pop song, Tzuyu was utterly captivated.
She stood up and cheered along with the rest of the bar once Jihyo had finished, a warm glow in her chest as Jihyo bowed shyly and made her way back over to the table. Tzuyu didn’t understand it, why Jihyo’s happiness made her own heart so soft. Realistically Tzuyu barely knew her, yet if felt like she would do anything to keep that smile on Jihyo’s face.
The night wore on, with different people going up on stage. Tzuyu clapped and cheered for them all, but her attention never left Jihyo. The older girl was just so… bright. Even just sitting there, Tzuyu’s eyes were drawn to her. Her laugh, her energetic way of talking, the cute way her eyes scrunched up when she was enjoying something, Tzuyu was torn between fear and embarrassment at just how many feelings Jihyo could elicit from her without even trying.
Around 2am people began heading home, although most of their table stayed for a bit longer. Tzuyu was surprised when Jihyo got up to leave, despite Nayeon being wrapped around Jeongyeon in a way that reminded Tzuyu of a squid trapping its prey.
“You walking home alone?”
“It’s fine.” Jihyo smiled at her, and even after hours of exposure Tzuyu still blushed. “I live pretty near.”
A large part of Tzuyu wanted to offer to walk her home, but that was too forward and she was a little too drunk to trust herself not to say something embarrassing if it was just the two of them.
“At least let me give you my number. In case something happens, I mean!” Tzuyu could feel her cheeks burning. “I just- I’d feel safer if I knew you could call someone other than her.”
She pointed at Nayeon, who was laughing so hard at something Momo said that she fell off Jeongyeon’s lap. Jeongyeon tried to grab her as she fell and got dragged down on top of Nayeon instead. Strange noises began coming from the floor, and everyone tactfully ignored them as they did things Tzuyu didn’t want to think about.
“Fair enough.” Jihyo laughed. “Pass me your phone and we can swap numbers.”
Tzuyu did just that, and when Jihyo finally said goodbye to everyone she remained clutching her phone, looking down at her new contact.
Park Jihyo :)
“Well look at you!” Chaeyoung sidled up to her with a grin. “I thought I had this in the bag, but you went right ahead and got her number. Keep it up and you might just win the bet.”
Something sour and uncertain seeped into the giddiness Tzuyu felt, and she didn’t fully understand where it came from.
“Maybe.” She shrugged in reply, wondering why she wasn’t more excited about that.
She wanted to be with Jihyo, right? Which meant she wanted to win the bet, right?
So why didn’t it feel that simple?
Exactly two weeks after Tzuyu’s visit to the hospital, Sana and Momo threw a small party in their dorm. It was nothing like Mina’s extravaganzas where half the college was invited, this was more intimate, just for the nine of them.
It was fun at first, until Sana got the idea to play spin the bottle.
Really, Tzuyu should have seen this coming. Sana loved kissing girls. Dahyun was obviously her favourite but she’d kissed every one of them except Jihyo and Nayeon at least once. When she spun the bottle to land on Nayeon, she didn’t even try to hide her delight, even though Nayeon didn’t seem as enthused.
Nayeon’s spin landed on Chaeyoung, who seemed equally as happy as Sana to kiss one of the newcomers. Jeongyeon just laughed, although she did seem slightly concerned about Nayeon’s comfort level, whispering reassurances that she didn’t have to do anything she didn’t want to. But Nayeon didn’t back down, and there were cheers and wolf whistles when she leant forward to aggressively kiss Chaeyoung.
Chaeyoung spun the bottle and sighed when it landed on Momo. Momo faked a dramatic gasp, pretending to look hurt.
“No offence Moguri but you know I’m trying to beat Sana here. I was hoping for Jihyo or Tzuyu since they’re the only ones I’ve yet to kiss.”
“Wow.” Momo pouted. “What, I’m not good enough for you anymore? That’s not what you said three weeks ago when-”
“Just kiss!” Jeongyeon hurriedly interrupted, seeing Mina’s face darken.
Everyone laughed and whistled when they kissed, tactfully ignoring how uncomfortable Mina was. Tzuyu had no interest in dissecting the clusterfuck that was Mina’s relationship with Momo, so she idly sipped her beer and smiled when Chaeyoung pointed dramatically at her.
“Next time your lips are mine.”
“I don’t think so.” Tzuyu snorted. “I want my first kiss to actually mean something.”
They all laughed at that, bursting into their usual uncoordinated babble.
“Wait you guys aren’t secretly together? Damn it I owe Mina money now.”
“Aw you haven’t had your first kiss yet? That’s so cute.”
Chaeyoung looked upset for a second, and Tzuyu worried that she actually hurt her feelings, but then her friend smirked.
“Let’s not forget I know exactly who you want to kiss.”
Tzuyu ducked her head, avoiding her friends’ curious looks. Chaeyoung decided to have mercy on her, and pushed Momo into taking her go. Unfortunately, Momo spun the bottle straight onto Jihyo, and Tzuyu decided she’d had enough.
“I need some air.” She muttered, standing up and leaving before Jihyo even realised she’d been picked.
Sana and Momo lived on the top floor of their apartment complex, so it was easy for Tzuyu to slip out onto the roof. Technically it was forbidden for anyone but staff to be up there, but some engineering students kept disabling the alarms on the door, so she pushed it open without a problem.
She sat for a while with her feet dangling over the edge, unafraid of the chill winds that gently brushed against her bare arms. Up here with the cars below nothing more than tiny lights, all her problems felt insignificant. Her little crush that wasn’t so little anymore and the pressing weight of the bet on her conscience, none of that mattered when the stars stretched out endlessly above her. Her problems would work themselves out, and in the grand scheme of things she was as insignificant as a molecule of dust.
Yikes, she was really spending too much time with Chaeyoung. Next thing you know they’d be going to slam poetry sessions together.
Speak of the devil.
Chaeyoung walked across and sat down next to her, her left hand side by side with Tzuyu’s right. Tzuyu expected her to rest her head on Tzuyu’s shoulder, but instead Chaeyoung looked at her with an expression she didn’t recognize.
That was strange. Usually Tzuyu could read Chaeyoung like an open book.
“This bet…” Chaeyoung said quietly. “Do you want to call it off?”
Tzuyu stared at her, but in the dim moonlight she couldn’t quite see Chaeyoung’s face properly.
“I can tell you like her. A lot.” Chaeyoung shrugged. “I feel like you’re in too deep. Even if you win you’ll feel guilty about it. If we call it off neither of us win, but we can both be friends with her without any complications. No harm done and she never needs to know about the bet.”
Tzuyu looked up at the stars, only the brightest ones visible through the light pollution. Right now, her mind felt as hazy as the sky above her. Was Chaeyoung right? Tzuyu did feel guilty, but she still wanted to date Jihyo even with the bet hanging over her. Should they call it off and just be friends? Was that the best option she had?”
“No.” She said at last. “It’s ok. I don’t… I don’t think I’d be happy just being friends if I didn’t at least try for girlfriend first.”
They descended into silence, Chaeyoung watching her carefully. Tzuyu kept her eyes on the stars, unwilling to let her friend know just how deep her feelings for Jihyo went. She wasn’t sure why she was trying to hide it from Chaeyoung, just some instinct telling her that it wouldn’t end well.
“Suit yourself.” Chaeyoung said at last, standing up. “If the bet’s still on I’m going to go back down to try and spin her. Want to come?”
“I think I’ll stay up here for a little while.”
Chaeyoung shrugged, turning to walk back to the rooftop door. Tzuyu lingered, idly kicking her feet off the wall of the building.
“Mind if I join you?”
She jumped a little, mostly due to surprise but also because of who that voice belonged to.
“Sure.” She replied, proud of her voice for staying steady.
Jihyo sat down on her left side, and Tzuyu hated how her body instinctively moved closer. She should have brought a jacket, because right now she had goosebumps and Jihyo had waves of tempting heat practically rolling off her.
“You ok?” Jihyo asked.
It was a simple question, but her tone contained so much genuine concern that Tzuyu was amazed once again at just how caring Jihyo was. Maybe in another life Jihyo was a singer, but at moments like this Tzuyu understood why she made such a good nurse.
“Yeah. Just needed to clear my head a little.”
Jihyo looked up at the stars, with such a soft look on her face that Tzuyu couldn’t help but stare.
“I think that one’s the North Star.”
Quickly flicking her gaze upwards, Tzuyu shook her head and pointed over to the left.
“That’s it over there. See how bright it is?”
“Oh, I see it now.” Jihyo smiled at her. “They’re all so beautiful tonight.”
“We can barely see them tonight.”
“Come on!” Jihyo laughed. “You were supposed to agree with me! The meme doesn’t work otherwise!”
“You wanted to go ‘you know what else is beautiful?’” Tzuyu found herself laughing along. “That’s so cheesy!”
“Well now you ruined the joke.” Jihyo kept laughing, and Tzuyu felt lighter than she had in days. “But you still haven’t topped Nayeon’s reply.”
“Why? What did she say?”
“Not as beautiful as me.”
“Wow.” Tzuyu deadpanned, making Jihyo laugh harder. “Jeongyeon sure knows how to pick ‘em.”
There was silence for a moment, the two of them basking in each other’s presence and the tranquillity of the empty roof. Tzuyu felt herself begin to nod off as the alcohol took effect, but was jolted away by Jihyo moving.
“Come on.” Jihyo stood up, still smiling, and held out her hand. “You’re going to freeze out here.”
She was right, but still Tzuyu hesitated. She wanted to stay forever on this rooftop with Jihyo. Everything was so easy between the two of them right now, she didn’t want to go back to uncertainty and hesitation.
“Five more minutes.” She said, curious if Jihyo would stay.
To her surprise, Jihyo shrugged off her coat and draped it around Tzuyu’s shoulders, and then she sat back down next to her.
“I see enough people with colds every day. Next time at least bring a jacket.”
Tzuyu wrapped the coat around her like a blanket, and buried her face in the soft material so that Jihyo wouldn’t see how big her smile was.
“I can’t believe you’re so soft. This is ridiculous.”
“What do you want me to do? Leave it in the middle of the road?”
“It’s not a bad thing.” Jihyo reassured her, smiling as Tzuyu gently carried a snail over to the grass. “It’s just, when I first met you, you seemed so cool and above everyone. And now you’re walking me home from bars and helping every stray creature you see in trouble.”
“Of course I help animals, they’re better than people.”
“I can’t argue with that.” Jihyo admitted. “But I see how you smile at Chaeyoung. You’re nowhere near as cold as you seem at first.”
“Take that back.” Tzuyu said with mock outrage, hiding her amusement when she made Jihyo laugh. “I am the most cold-hearted person there is! The only thing I like about people are their pets!”
“Mhm. Sure.” Jihyo smirked. “Then why are you walking me home right now?”
“You’re special.” Tzuyu mumbled, hoping it came across as lightly as the rest of their conversation.
“Aw.” Jihyo grinned at her, sliding her arms around Tzuyu’s waist. “You’re special to me too.”
Tzuyu laughed and brushed her off, holding it together up until she dropped Jihyo off at her house. Then as soon as she was alone she let the huge smile appear on her face, jumping up and down in a circle with delight. At this point, she didn’t even care if she was overreacting. Jihyo’s words were like a shot of concentrated dopamine, and Tzuyu practically skipped the whole way home.
This might be more than a simple crush, but if Tzuyu didn’t think too hard about it then it wouldn’t become a problem.
Something was different this week at the bar. Jihyo was there before her, and the rest of their friends were buzzing with a strange kind of energy. Tzuyu and Chaeyoung were the last two to arrive, and when they sat down Jihyo made her way up onto the stage.
Their table immediately started cheering, and Jihyo laughed with none of the embarrassment from her first time in front of an audience. She held the mic confidently, a spark in her eyes that Tzuyu had never seen before.
“This song is dedicated to a special someone.”
There were more cheers from the usual tables, along with some stranger going “Awww.”
As the instrumental to Seventeen’s Adore U began playing, Jihyo looked straight at Tzuyu, and suddenly she realised what was going on.
Well, part of her brain realised straight away. It took the other half until the chorus to fully comprehend the fact that Jihyo was serenading her. She sang the song with her usual flair and charisma, but while she interacted with all of the audience there was no doubt who she was singing this song to.
"Yeah right next to me is good. Yeah I have a lot of interest in you.”
Tzuyu smiled at Jihyo as the older girl winked at her. Her friends were looking at her with poorly concealed grins, probably expecting her to be embarrassed or surprised. But Tzuyu wasn’t, because some part of her had known for a while now that this was where they were headed. She hadn’t been able to admit it to herself, making everything unnecessarily complicated. But now that Jihyo was up there bearing her heart for Tzuyu to see, she couldn’t hide her own feelings anymore. Now that she knew that Jihyo liked her back, liked her enough to take the first step and confess, the bet seemed like the stupidest mistake Tzuyu had ever made.
It was all so clear now. She knew what she needed to do.
As the song ended Tzuyu was the first one up and clapping, but as Jihyo made her way down she turned to look at Chaeyoung.
“I have to tell her.” She said.
Chaeyoung nodded slowly, her face solemn but unsurprised.
“You know that she might hate us both afterwards.”
“She deserves to know.”
“I get it.” Chaeyoung sighed, that strange expression on her face that Tzuyu couldn’t understand. “Good luck.”
Jihyo reached the table, and Tzuyu flung her arms around her, savouring every second of the hug. Just like on the rooftop, she wanted to stay like this forever, but Jihyo deserved better and she understood that now.
“Can we talk?” She murmured as she leant back.
“Sure.” Jihyo smiled, a little nervous.
Tzuyu kept her face blank as she took Jihyo’s hand and guided her outside, to the smokers’ area that was thankfully empty. Taking a deep breath, she turned to face Jihyo, who was looking anxious and confused. Tzuyu felt her heart break a little, because that performance had been wonderful and romantic and none of this was Jihyo’s fault. She deserved better than Tzuyu and her stupid inability to handle feelings like a normal person.
Jihyo was staring expectantly at her, and the concern in her eyes was unbearable. She deserved the truth, regardless of what would happen afterwards. Steeling herself, Tzuyu looked straight into her soft brown eyes, and tried not to feel like the worst person in the world.
“I have something I need to tell you.”
Chapter 3: The Confession
It was raining. Tzuyu wasn’t surprised. The universe could be a bitch like that, setting the tone of the conversation.
Jihyo was watching her with those wide loving eyes, and Tzuyu felt like the scum of the earth. She liked to think that she’d done less dumb things in her life than the majority of her friends, but right now she felt like the biggest dumbass in their whole group.
“Did I… did I read this wrong?” Jihyo said quietly. “Because if so I’m really sorry for embarrassing you in there. I just thought you had the same feelings for me as I-”
“No!” Tzuyu yelled. “No, not at all! I do feel the same way! I loved your song!”
“Oh.” Jihyo frowned, confused. “Then what’s this about?”
Tzuyu took a deep breath. Her nerves had never been this jittery before, but she couldn’t chicken out now. Jihyo deserved the truth, and Tzuyu deserved to be judged for it.
“Remember that night at Mina’s party, when you sang in front of us for the first time?”
Jihyo nodded, looking even more confused.
“I thought you were the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. Chaeyoung could tell that I had a crush on you but being an idiot, I refused to admit it.”
“But you’re admitting it now, right?”
“I am.” Tzuyu said firmly. “I have a large crush on you that grows every moment we spend together. It’s so big that it terrifies me, but I’ve come to realise you’re worth dealing with all my issues.”
Jihyo smiled at that, this soft, happy smile that Tzuyu longed to appreciate. She couldn’t of course. Not when that smile would be gone very shortly, and it would be all her fault.
“So, what’s the problem?” Jihyo asked. “You like me, I like you. Seems like everything works out.”
“The problem is what happened after you sang.” Tzuyu steeled herself and forced the words out. “Chaeyoung noticed my crush on you, but she also knew I was too scared to do anything about it on my own. So…so we made a bet.”
There was silence. Tzuyu looked up, but Jihyo wasn’t even moving. She just stood there and stared, with a blank expression on her face.
God, Tzuyu had fucked this up so bad.
“We both thought you were super pretty and nice, and we both wanted to go out with you. So, we made a bet to see who could get a date with you first.”
“What was the prize?”
“The prize.” Jihyo repeated, her voice unnervingly neutral. “For winning the bet. What was it?”
Tzuyu couldn’t even remember. She racked her brain, trying to think.
“It was something really stupid.” she said at last. “I think…I think Chaeyoung suggested whoever lost had to buy lunch for a month.”
Jihyo stared at her, and Tzuyu’s stomach dropped when she saw tears forming in her eyes.
“So that was it, huh?” Jihyo whispered. “That was how much I was worth to you?”
“No!” Tzuyu tried to step closer, but Jihyo stepped back. “Jihyo no, it was a mistake. I didn’t take the bet for the lunch.”
“Is this what you and Chaeyoung do?” Jihyo spat. “Do you have fun messing with the new people? Stringing them along? Make me fall for you so you and your girlfriend can laugh about it? The others always acted like there was something between you two but I though no, you were into me not her. Boy do I feel like an idiot now.”
“Jihyo no!” Tzuyu paused. “What, what? Chaeyoung’s not my girlfriend.”
“No! I’ve just told you how much of a crush I have on you! She’s my best friend, but that’s all.”
“Why would you even think that?”
“Well I never thought you capable of betting on me, so excuse me of also believing you could flirt with me while in a relationship with someone else.”
Yeah, Tzuyu had that coming. She sighed, trying to collect her thoughts.
“Look, Chaeyoung and I made a bet. It’s fucked up and I regret it, and I understand if you hate me now. I just couldn’t start a relationship with you without you knowing the full ugly truth.”
“That I care about you, and I regretted the bet from the moment I made it. But I still made it, and up until now it’s still been a thing. I don’t give a damn about a free lunch, that wasn’t the reason I accepted the bet. I did it because I’m a coward. I’m a coward when it comes to feelings, and you deserve someone better. Someone who won’t use a silly bet to cover up how much they care about you.”
Jihyo was silent again, but the tears still trickling down her cheeks spoke volumes. Tzuyu stood there patiently, feeling her own eyes start to water. She blinked furiously, determined not to cry. This was pathetic and embarrassing enough as it was.
She kept her eyes on the ground, waiting until Jihyo finally spoke.
“Could you…could you give me a minute?”
Tzuyu’s head shot up. Jihyo still looked upset, but she wasn’t angry anymore. Tzuyu couldn’t tell if that was a good thing or a bad thing, but she nodded anyway.
“Sure. Should I just wait here?”
Jihyo turned and walked out of the smoker’s area. Tzuyu watched guiltily as she stood in the rain. She should be the one out there, not Jihyo.
Jihyo paced back and forth, her expression twisting every time she turned. Tzuyu stood quietly and waited. Whatever Jihyo had to say, whatever decision she landed on, Tzuyu would be there to hear it. She was a terrible person, but she could do that much.
Oh God, she was crying now. Fantastic. Tzuyu slapped her cheeks in frustration, but the tears kept running down them. She hated herself for crying. She hated Jihyo for being so amazing and making Tzuyu feel things. She hated Chaeyoung for taking advantage of her feelings for a stupid bet.
She really, really hated herself for going along with it.
Life had been so much easier when she hadn’t given a fuck about anything.
She jumped when she realised Jihyo was marching towards her. Part of her was dying to run away, but she stood her ground and met Jihyo’s eyes as she stepped under the roof.
“Right.” Jihyo said firmly. “Tell me, who came up with this bet, you or Chaeyoung?”
Jihyo nodded as if she’d been expecting that. Tzuyu had no idea where this was going.
“Ok then.” Jihyo said calmly. “I forgive you.”
Tzuyu blinked. She had to have heard that wrong.
“I said I forgive you.”
What. The. Hell.
“Because I want to.”
“But…but…” Tzuyu spluttered. “I’m a shitty person! I just told you that I’ve been betting on our relationship!”
“You did.” Jihyo agreed. “And now you’re crying and you look very ashamed. I’d like to believe that it’s genuine.”
“It is.” Tzuyu said quickly. “I regret it. So much.”
“Good. In that case I’m willing to forgive you.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that.”
This wasn’t making any sense to Tzuyu, but then again, Jihyo never had made much sense to her. She’d always seemed too good and kind to be real. Sure, Tzuyu had seen her angry, sad, upset, the full rainbow of emotions really, but at her core she had always seemed good. For Jihyo to be this forgiving… Tzuyu had to have fallen in love with an angel. It was the only explanation.
“I love you.”
Shit. She hadn’t meant to say that out loud. Tzuyu flushed even redder at the surprised look on Jihyo’s face. It slowly melted into a soft smile, and Tzuyu felt like squirming from the amount of tenderness in Jihyo’s gaze.
“I believe you.” Jihyo said softly. “So, I’m willing to forgive and forget. Are you?”
Tzuyu couldn’t believe this was real. She had come out here prepared for Jihyo to kick her, throw a drink at her, say she hated her, do anything really. Anything except this.
“Are you sure?” she said anxiously. “Because I don’t want you to feel pressured into a relationship with me now that you know. If you want to stay just friends that’s fine I mean it’s not fine because I love you but I’d accept it because your feelings matter more right now so if you want-”
Jihyo leant forward and kissed her.
It was everything Tzuyu had expected- fireworks in her head, warmth in her stomach, the softness of Jihyo- and it was also very different to what she had expected- tears and forgiveness, gentle hands coming up to cup her face, a bittersweet taste on her tongue.
When Jihyo stepped away, it took four embarrassing seconds for Tzuyu to stop being dazed.
“Does that answer your questions?” Jihyo smirked.
Tzuyu could have used her words; but kissing that smirk off Jihyo’s face was far too tempting a reply to pass up.
When they broke apart for the second time, Tzuyu felt giddy, like a million bubbles were popping inside her. Part of her was mildly disgusted that she could feel so sappy, and part of her still felt guilty.
“Seriously though, is there anything I can do to make this up to you?”
“Other than being my loving girlfriend?”
“Other than that.” Tzuyu smiled.
Jihyo actually considered the question carefully. Tzuyu gulped and tried not to seem too afraid.
“I’m going to be angry at Chaeyoung for a while since she started the bet. I know she’s your best friend but I’d appreciate it if you don’t get upset at me for disliking her.”
“…That’s it?” Tzuyu said, surprised. “That’s all? I know Chae fucked up, and I know that you have every right to not be friendly with her after this. That’s not me making it up to you, that’s just me being a decent person.”
“Well that’s enough for me.”
“Seriously.” Tzuyu cringed at how desperate she sounded. “I messed up, really badly. It’s not fair that I should get away this easy.”
“Hm.” Jihyo tapped her finger against her chin, considering. “Well in that case, be nice to Nayeon for a month. If you can do that we’ll call it even.”
Jesus Christ, Jihyo played hardball. Still, Tzuyu smiled and nodded.
“I can do that.”
Jihyo raised an eyebrow.
“I can probably do that. Maybe.”
Jihyo’s lips twitched. Tzuyu sighed, knowing she wasn’t fooling her.
“Does it have to be Nayeon though?” she whined. “I’ll be nice to literally anyone else.”
“You’re the one that didn’t want to get away with everything so easily. If you want to stop feeling so guilty this is how you do it.”
“Fine.” Tzuyu sighed grumpily.
Jihyo reached over to kiss her again, and her frown vanished.
Walking back into the bar, Tzuyu knew they looked messy as hell. Her eyes were puffy from crying and her hands were shaking slightly. Jihyo was shivering, her hair and clothes soaking wet. Despite all this, they wore matching grins on their faces.
Tzuyu watched as their table of friends turned to stare at them. As she and Jihyo made their way over, she debated what to say to them. In the end, Jihyo beat her to the punch.
“Guess who has a girlfriend now?”
The whole table erupted into cheers, and the rest of the bar was quick to follow suit. Jihyo had picked up a lot of fans from her weekly audience, and they all seemed delighted by this dramatic romance happening right in front of them.
As Sana and Mina hugged her and clapped her on the shoulder, Tzuyu searched the table for one specific friend. She finally found Chaeyoung, hovering near the edge of the doorway. She’d probably been prepared to bolt if things had gone wrong, but now she looked absolutely stunned.
Tzuyu couldn’t help sticking her tongue out. The bet had been a terrible idea and she regretted it immensely, but at the same time, she couldn’t stop feeling like she’d won. Not the bet itself of course, but Jihyo. They’d been competing for her love with different levels of intensity and seriousness, and the rightful winner had taken the prize.
She didn’t expect Chaeyoung to take her teasing to heart, but she saw hurt flash across her friend’s eyes. She frowned as Chaeyoung stood up, moving towards the exit. Dahyun ran after her, and Tzuyu was tempted to go too, but Jihyo still had her arm around her. She had been the victim of this whole mess, so right now she was Tzuyu’s priority.
“I can’t believe we’re not the cutest couple anymore.” Jeongyeon sighed.
“Speak for yourself.” Nayeon flipped her hair. “No one can come close to matching my cuteness.”
Tzuyu opened her mouth to dispute that claim, but Jihyo nudged her and she remembered her promise. Sighing, she forced a fake smile onto her face.
“Well when your hair is in pigtails you do look very adorable.”
Nayeon stared at her, gobsmacked. Tzuyu cranked her fake smile a little wider on her face, ignoring Jihyo shaking with laughter beside her.
“I do look adorable in pigtails.” Nayeon said, her eyes narrowed.
“I agree.” Tzuyu said, with all the cheer she could muster.
Nayeon just stared at her, baffled. Jihyo gave her a pat on the shoulder, partly affectionate and partly proud.
Mina hopped up on the stage, and the music started up again. Jihyo nodded to the dancefloor, her eyes sparkling.
“May I have this dance?”
“You may.” Tzuyu smiled.
As the instrumental to U & I by Toy started playing through the speakers on stage, Tzuyu pulled Jihyo close, dancing slowly like they were the only two in the room. Jihyo looked up at Tzuyu, and her smile, oh it was dazzling. Seeing it this close, Tzuyu felt like she was staring into the sun. If she went blind from looking at Jihyo’s smile it was a price she’d gladly pay.
Here, slowly swaying in a circle with Jihyo, Tzuyu felt like every mistake, every piece of guilt and pain, had been worth it just to reach this moment. Jihyo was a warm, soothing presence against her, and Tzuyu loved her so, so much.
She leant in with a smile to capture Jihyo’s lips and prayed that the song never ended.
Dahyun drove them home in silence. She seemed to get that Chaeyoung wasn’t in a mood to talk. She probably knew why too, but if she wasn’t going to bring it up than neither was Chaeyoung.
She got out as soon as the car stopped at the dorm. As she made her way into their room and flopped down on her bed, she half expected Dahyun to drive back to the bar. Instead, she heard the door unlock and footsteps grow louder, until Dahyun sat down on her own bed.
“It’ll be ok Chae.”
“Fuck off.” She mumbled, her words muffled by a pillow. “Don’t patronise me.”
“I’m not.” Dahyun said softly. “I’m just saying, it won’t always hurt this bad.”
“Won’t it?” Chaeyoung laughed bitterly. “The girl you love loves you back. You don’t know shit about how much this hurts, Dahyun.”
Dahyun was silent, and if Chaeyoung didn’t already feel like crap she’d probably feel bad for being so rude to the one person who was trying to help her.
“If karma is real, then it’ll keep hurting.” she said, half into her pillow. “What kind of person sabotages their best friend’s love life just because they’re jealous?”
“Tzuyu won’t be mad at you for this.” Dahyun said confidently. “She loves you, Chaeng. You know that.”
“Not like she loves Jihyo.” Chaeyoung said, not even trying to hide her bitterness.
She thought about the joy on Tzuyu’s face as she came back in, holding hands with Jihyo. She’d never seen Tzuyu look that happy.
“Not the way I want her to love me.” she whispered.
She’d never said it out loud, but Dahyun’s lack of a reaction confirmed to Chaeyoung that she’d already known. She hoped to God Dahyun was the only one who’d figured it out. She didn’t think she could stand anyone else knowing.
“Why couldn’t she love me like that Dahyun?” she asked, hating how pathetic she sounded. “We’ve been best friends for ages and she never once saw that we could be more, but Jihyo comes along and suddenly she’s head over heels. Why wasn’t I ever an option?”
Dahyun sat there, thinking. Chaeyoung buried her face in her pillow, tempted to scream until her voice went hoarse.
“I don’t know Chae.” Dahyun said at last. “Love just sucks sometimes.”
There was nothing funny about that, but Chaeyoung laughed. If she didn’t laugh she’d start crying, and she really wasn’t up for that right now.
She flipped over and lay back in the bed, picturing the matching smiles on Tzuyu and Jihyo’s faces as they announced their new relationship status. Chaeyoung had wanted to throw up, realising that for the first time ever, her plan had failed.
They were probably still in the bar. Maybe they were out on the dance floor, or maybe they were cuddling on the seats near the wall. Either way, they were probably as happy as a pair of newlyweds.
Chaeyoung felt like she would never be happy again.