Hyejin had been practically holding Yewon’s hand the whole time she had hanahaki. The disease that could silence any room. The mere mention that could make anyone stutter. Where the person who has it coughs up, or rather sometimes throws up flowers. Hyejin still remembers the pale white petals that used to fall from Yewon’s mouth. They were gardenias, which means, “you are lovely,” or “secret love.” Definitely described what the girl meant to Yewon. The one who didn’t love Yewon back, the one who never would.
Hyejin remembered how it all started. Afterall, she, Yewon, and Hyojung share an apartment together. She went to wake up Yewon for her morning classes, she was still in college. Yet, when she opened the door to the younger girl’s room she was surprised by her bed covered in white flowers. Yewon was sitting on the bed with red eyes from crying. “Did you by chance go to a florist shop?” Hyejin asked, she didn’t want it to be what she felt in her gut that it was.
But it was hanahaki, and Yewon told her she’s had it for a while. No matter how Hyejin tried to get it out of her she never knew how long a while was. Maybe it was all for the best after all. Hyejin could barely stand Yewon hacking flowers into the toilet, let alone think about how long she had been doing just that.
Hyojung found out a few days after Hyejin. Hyojung had brought home dinner and Yewon coughed up petals in her bowl. “Yewon, who is it?” was all Hyojung asked. It was something even at the time Hyejin hadn’t known. It was bad enough she had walked in on her. She didn’t dare ask Yewon that.
Yewon looked up at Hyejin and then back to Hyojung before muttering quietly,” It’s Seunghee.”
Hyejin looked at Hyojung worriedly before Hyojung gave her a reassuring smile. Maybe it would be okay, but even Hyejin was no fool to know that it was a long road ahead for all of them.
Yewon told both of them not to tell Seunghee about it. Yet, it was so hard seeing the girl everyday at work. Always waking up early to check on the younger girl, to make sure she was okay. That the petals didn’t have blood on them. Seunghee had no idea the effect she had on Yewon. She must’ve supposed they were just friends at most, but merely acquaintances. Hyejin had little chats in the middle of the night with Yewon to know how she felt like the back of her hand. To Yewon, Seunghee was stardust, coffee on a rainy day, everything you could ever want but never get. She talked endlessly about her wavy brown hair and glistening eyes. Hyejin always had to stop herself from telling Seunghee. No matter how unfair it wasn’t her secret to tell.
A couple months later when Yewon’s condition grew worse and began the talk of surgery. Without it Yewon would die, but if she got it all her feelings for Seunghee would wash away like rain on the pavement.
“This must be a lot for you,” Mihyun said, another one of their friends who’s also dating Yooa. Hyejin protested to the couple’s usual coming over for their bi weekly dinners, but Hyojung insisted. Hyejin felt if it was her a couple who were in pure bliss never having had hanahaki disease would feel like a slap in the face. No matter if they're your closest friends.
“I was looking up hospitals with Hyojung unnie, we are all really worried about you,” Yooa said as she reached from across the table to hold Yewon’s hand.
Yewon slipped her hand from Yooa’s grasp and it looked like her eyes were going to burst into tears,” I don’t want to stop loving Seunghee.”
“I’m not going to let you die!” Hyojung shouted. Yewon had always been a little sister to Hyojung ever since they were little, next door neighbors as Hyejin remembered from the countless drunken stories she had heard from Hyojung. That showed just how protective she was of Yewon.
A few days after the diner incident Hyejin was stuck in her midnight routine. She walked in the younger girl’s room seeing she was in fact awake,” Still up I see.”
“So are you,” Yewon pointed out.
“Can I lay with you? We don’t know how many more times we have left to talk about her.”
“Yeah like how many more times do you want to wake up with petals all over you?” Yewon asked. But Hyejin never cared for the petals, she just wanted to be their for the younger girl.
“Do you think you’ll ever tell her?” Hyejin questioned as she was laying next to Yewon. They were both looking at the ceiling which Yewon had decorated with glow in the dark stars. They never matched up to the real thing, but it was her favorite part of Yewon’s room. Before the whole disease thing Hyejin used to stay up and look at the stars. It had become a habit when she used to stay up studying in high school and college. She would take breaks and just stare at the night sky.
“Why would I?” Yewon answered back.
“What harm could it do? You're already coughing up flowers everyday anyway.”
Yewon had told Seunghee before she went to the hospital for the operation. Hyejin had heard the story the night before she and Hyojung took her to the hospital. The last night she and Yewon talked under the green stars. Seunghee had felt bad for causing her all that trouble and promised to visit her in the hospital. Hyejin was almost a bit sad that night that there would be no flowers.
Yewon’s operation was a success. But Hyejin couldn’t help but notice the younger girl looked a bit empty. Her eyes lost a bit of their glimmer and shine. It was nothing that you could really pinpoint but Hyejin felt it still.
“You must be sick of gardenias so we got you some tulips to cheer you up,” Yoobin cheered giving the bouquet to Yewon.
Yewon smiled a bit,” Yeah I guess I am. Thank you both so much for coming.”
“It’s no problem. Just glad you're all better now,” Jiho said as she held hands with Yoobin. Hyejin wanted to scream how much she knew that Yewon was not okay. But she couldn’t. That girl who she stayed up with talking about Seunghee with petals coming out of her mouth was gone.
Hyojung assured her that things would go back to normal as they picked up Yewon from the hospital. But it was all further from the truth. All this time watching the way Hyojung handled everything so easily amazed Hyejin. She often felt she was going to break at times when Yewon had been sick. Hyojung calmed her down with their coffee talks in the morning. Everyday it seemed the more Hyejin admired the older girl. From doctor’s visits to taking turns watching Yewon, Hyojung had been like super woman.
Which meant that maybe Hyejin shouldn’t have been surprised when she coughed up her first petal. She was alone in her room. The irony of just had gotten back from picking up Yewon from the hospital. The irony of another white petal. Only this one was smaller than Yewon’s had been. Which was lucky for Hyejin and hoped it would be less painful. Hyojung opened the door,” Ready to eat?”
Hyejin put the petal in her palm into the pocket of her jacket before turning around to face Hyojung,” Yeah I’m ready.”
They were daisies. The white flowers that Hyejin coughed up out of her mouth. They mean “innocence”, “purity”, “loyal love”, but one meaning really stood out to her,” I will never tell.” And she could never tell Hyojung.
Yewon was the first to find out, something else that was very ironic. But I guess it was fair for that time Hyejin had walked in on her one morning.
“Please don’t tell Hyojung,” Hyejin sobbed as she coughed up more daisies in her hand. Hyojung was going grocery shopping. To which Yewon had found Hyejin in her room.
“I won’t. I promise. We just have to be really sneaky,” Yewon said as she rubbed Hyejin’s back to comfort her. She didn’t even need to ask who it was. It was obvious and Yewon knew.
“Thank you so much.”
“It’s no problem. Now I can return the favor since you took care of me so well. And now we can have midnight talks in my room again!”
Hyejin couldn’t but smile. It was always Yewon who would try to turn things around to make them into something positive. “Hyojung did most of the work though.” But in the end Hyejin couldn’t deny all she did for Yewon.
The midnight talks became once again another routine. The one safe place in the world Hyejin had to talk about Hyojung. How radiant her smile was, and how warm her heart is. How Hyejin yearned to be able to wake up next to her everyday. As the months went by Hyejin only got worse. It had been a lot longer than Yewon had been sick. It has gotten to the point where Hyejin would cough up blood with the flower petals.
What could she do? She couldn’t lose Hyojung, her best friend. She was everything to Hyejin and she couldn’t let that go.
One night Hyejin was laying next to Yewon like always. “When will you have the surgery?” Yewon asked.
Yewon groaned,” You always say that. What happens if you die?”
“I won’t die, it’s just hard. You understand right? It’s so painful to have these feelings. But it seems like it would be even more painful if they go away.”
“I promise it’s not as painful as you think. We are going to the doctor tomorrow to at least get you looked at.”
“Fine,” Hyejin grumbled before she got up and went back to her own bed.
The news was much worse than either girl had anticipated on. Hyejin’s lungs had grown so weak being wrapped around stems. The doctor was worried that even with the procedure her lungs would be too weak to function for a long period of time. That Hyejin could die. If she didn’t get a lung transplant.
Hyejin was immediately emitted into the hospital. All Hyejin could think about was Hyojung. For as long as she still loved her all she would think about was Hyojung. No matter how much that hurt her.
Hyojung visited her a couple days after Hyejin had been admitted. “You got a donor!”
“Really? They said it could take months,”
“They were lucky to find a perfect match,” Hyojung said with a bright smile. Hyejin looked at her saddened that soon that smile won’t have the same effect.
“I guess you can call my parents to cancel my funeral,” Hyejin chuckled. Hyojung stayed with Hyejin a little bit longer before leaving. Hyejin feared it was the last she’d see of Hyojung feel like this. Every touch gave Hyejin a burning sensation in her chest. Which will soon be extinguished.
Hyejin’s surgery was a success. Hyejin patiently waited to see the familiar face she once had loved come visit her. All the rest of her friends were here but still her best one was missing. “Where’s Hyojung?” Hyejin asked.
“Should we go?” Mimi and Yoobin asked. Yewon nodded before the four girls left the room.
“What’s going on Yewon? Where’s Hyojung?” Hyejin asked.
Yewon handed Hyejin a envelope,” She wanted me to give this to you.”
Hyejin looked at Yewon quizzically before she read the letter. She couldn’t get past the second line without starting to cry. “If you're reading this then I’m dead by now.” Even with Hyojung’s requests that Hyejin shouldn’t cry she couldn’t help it. Not only did Hyejin lose her feelings for her best friend. She also lost her too in the worst way possible it seemed. “I could never give you my heart but I thought that I could give you something that you needed even more. Please don’t hate me for it. I really wanted to do this.” Hyejin continued sobbing all she could think was she could never hate Hyojung.
Hyojung was Hyejin’s lungs donor. Hyejin took a deep breath. It was almost like Hyojung was still breathing, almost. The girl who once made Hyejin breathless was the one who let her breathe again.
When they were at the funeral all Hyejin could think about was it should’ve been her being buried in the dirt. She had no romantic feelings for the late girl. Yet, it still was her best friend. Always stubborn and selfless, too much so. A bright star that was too bright that it blew out too early.
“It’ll be okay,” Yewon said giving her a hug. Hyejin hoped that for once someone was right about that. Ever since the white flowers came nothing had been okay. Hyejin had to pick up the pieces of her life again. So did Yewon. Hyejin was glad that she still wasn’t alone. Yewon and Hyejin still had midnight talks about Hyojung. Whenever they missed her they’d switch telling stories. It was part of the healing process. Step one in becoming okay again.