It all starts when Chaeyoung Son chops off her hair.
Though more accurately, it starts when Saeron moves away and Yeri realises she’d been in love with her. But that is a bridge Yeri has left to burn another day.
“Remember how you made fun of me for being a lesbian in the sixth grade?” Chaeyoung slips onto the bench opposite Yeri when Donghyuck and Suhyun leave her to get their food. Her hoodie slips off to reveal her haircut, flopping across her eyes, and she runs a hand through it, a little sheepishly, like she’s still not used to the length.
Yeri sucks noisily on the rest of her orange juice, and says, “I’m really sorry about that.”
Chaeyoung leans forward, chin resting on the back of her interlocked hands. Each fingernail is painted a different colour - blue, yellow, green, white. She smiles, mouth small and pink and cute, but the sharpness of her teeth makes Yeri blink nervously. “That wasn’t very sincere.”
“I’m sorry,” Yeri tries again. She can see Suhyun raise an eyebrow at her from the line, but she ignores her. “I’m a late bloomer.”
“Hm. Not really,” Chaeyoung says, and her eyes dart down to Yeri’s chest. Yeri watches Chaeyoung run her tongue along her teeth and feels her face burn like it’s never burnt before. She’s always been the one in control.
Yeri sits up straight, willing her blush down and looks Chaeyoung right in the eye. “What else do you want me to say? Do you want someth--”
“I don’t want your money if that’s what you’re implying, but,” Chaeyoung says, shrugging. She moves to stand up, taking her tray (on it had been a styrofoam cup with a tea bag dangling over the edge and a single apple she hadn’t touched). “I do want you to meet me at the corner of Dawson and Maple after school, if that’s cool with you.”
Yeri crosses her arms. “Like a date?”
“Y’know, just ‘cause someone’s gay--” Chaeyoung starts to say, but she’s grinning.
“Fine,” Yeri interjects, smiling sweetly, “I’ll see you after school for this non-date then.” As she watches Chaeyoung walk away, the slight undercut at the nape of her neck looking soft and fuzzy to touch, she kind of hopes -
The whole school found out Yeri Kim was bisexual within a day of Somi walking in on her with her tongue down Student Council President Koeun’s throat in the girl’s room on the fifth floor. Reactions varied from that’s hot (Somi) to you know I love and support you no matter what (Suhyun) and why wasn’t it cool when I got caught making out with a guy (Donghyuck).
“I dunno, maybe it had something to do with the fact that the guy in question was a student teacher and like, ten years older than you,” Suhyun pointed out, rolling her eyes.
“Uncool,” Yeri agreed. She teared open a packet of strawberry wafers and offered one to Donghyuck.
“More like five years! And I’m eighteen!” Donghyuck protested, taking one of the wafers. He shoved it into his mouth, flopping onto his desk and mumbling, “Yuta was mfff.”
A week later, Yeri is sitting on a bench at the corner of Dawson and Maple, fiddling with the pompom on the back of her iPhone. She wonders if Chaeyoung is standing her up as payback. Making her wait here for hours like Yeri did to her in sixth grade when she was dared by Saeron to ask the lesbo out.
Karma got Yeri. It got her bad.
(She remembers the moment it hit her that she wanted to kiss Saeron. She’d almost laughed out loud, and Saeron, sprawled across Yeri’s bed in her silk pyjamas, looked at her funny. “Do I have something on my face?” she’d said.
Yeri shook her head, but her mind went: in an ideal world, my mouth.
But Chaeyoung is a better person than Yeri will ever be, and turns the corner, her yellow Kånken heaving behind her, a pair of sunglasses shoved onto her face. Yeri shoots up straight and her hands come down to adjust her skirt, to look pretty. For Chaeyoung Son.
God, Saeron would implode if she knew. But Saeron is in Europe somewhere, busy with her new life, and she never has to know that Yeri is getting a little hot under the collar thinking about going on a date with Chaeyoung, kissing Chaeyoung, doing things with Chaeyoung.
“Hi,” Yeri calls out. She doesn’t mean to smile so brightly but it makes Chaeyoung’s dimple show so she doesn’t regret it. “I wasn’t sure if you’d turn up.”
The dimple is gone. Shouldn’t have said that shouldn’t have said that shouldn’t have said that.
“You know, I waited for three hours in the arcade,” Chaeyoung says, expression wry as she gestures at the pavement. “Walk with me. Was kinda pathetic when I realised you weren’t coming. My milkshake melted.”
Yeri tuts. “I’m such a bitch.”
“No kidding,” Chaeyoung says. She tugs on Yeri’s wrist, turning them left. “But I guess I should thank you. Remember Nayeon?”
“Cheerleading captain Nayeon?” Yeri vaguely remembers them being close. She’d liked Nayeon a lot, was invited to a couple slumber parties of hers as a freshman, but she feels an odd tug of jealousy in her chest now. She bats it away, falling back into step with Chaeyoung.
“Yeah. She worked at the arcade. She asked me what was wrong and then made me a new milkshake and gave me a huge print of Princess Leia in that bikini that they had out back and said ‘listen here, kid, there is nothing wrong with finding a girl in a bikini sexy.’”
“Did it help?”
“Princess Leia in a bikini?” Chaeyoung asks. Her hand has migrated from Yeri’s wrist to her hand, and all Yeri can think is smooth. “Sure did.”
Yeri rolls her eyes. “You know what I mean.”
“Nayeon goes to UCLA now. I think she’s dating a guy called Johnny?”
“Oh,” Yeri says, mildly disappointed.
“And a girl called Jungyeon.”
“Oh,” Yeri repeats, “That’s cool.”
Chaeyoung hums. “We’re here.”
Above them flickers the neon piping of ARCADE GENESIS, the front door open a crack, air conditioning and the echoed pew pew pew’s of a trio of middle schoolers spilling out.
Yeri’s jaw almost drops. “We’re here?”
Chaeyoung grins, pushing through the door backwards. “You’re paying. I like strawberry milkshakes and cheek kisses and this one Snorlax plushie I’ve been trying to win for years.”
“Ugh,” Yeri says, but she follows Chaeyoung inside, heart hammering against her ribcage.
The date goes like this:
1. Yeri beats Chaeyoung at Asteroids, after five minutes of Chaeyoung raving about how good she is at it. “Beginner’s luck, bitch,” Chaeyoung says. Yeri just sticks her tongue out at her.
2. They share a strawberry milkshake, two striped straws sticking out of either side, and talk about life. School, Baz Luhrmann films, their favourite Greek deities, school, the future (Chaeyoung wants to go to RISD and Yeri wants to go to Brown. She tries not to think too deeply about what the both of them being in Providence might mean.)
3. Yeri doesn’t win Chaeyoung the Snorlax plushie her heart desires but she does get her claws around a Squirtle, and that seems to be good enough for Chaeyoung. She squeezes it tight, cheek squished against it, and calls it Yerm because it looks exactly like Yeri.
4. When Yeri kisses Chaeyoung’s dimple outside the arcade, Chaeyoung acting nonchalant like she hadn’t been waiting for it, Donghyuck passes by. He’s next to a guy with dark blonde hair that Yeri can’t get a look at, and his eyes almost bulge out of his skull when he sees her. Yeri glares back at him, mouthing move along or I’ll kill you.
Donghyuck makes a scissor gesture with his hand in response, but the second Yeri takes a step forward, he’s scrambling away, dragging the other boy with him.
“Would you rather have a finger as a tongue or have tongues as fingers,” Donghyuck announces, abruptly changing the topic when Yeri starts to bring up the poorly concealed hickey on his neck.
“Tongues as fingers, that’d come in handy,” comes a voice from behind them. A tray with an apple and an Earl grey tea is set down next to Yeri’s.
“Speak of the devil,” Donghyuck drawls, eyes sliding over to Yeri and honouring her with the most blatant smirk she’s ever seen.
“You were talking about me?” Chaeyoung asks, taking a sip of her tea and wincing when it burns her tongue. Idiot, Yeri thinks, but it’s with a touch of fondness that almost makes her slap her forehead right then and there.
“Of course,” says Donghyuck. “Had to fill Suhyun in on the disgusting PDA I had to witness with mine own two eyes yesterday.”
“Hi,” Suhyun says, giving Chaeyoung a wave.
“Hey.” Chaeyoung waves back, not missing a beat.
“So you two dating now or what?” Donghyuck butts in, pointing at Chaeyoung with a wafer stick.
“What,” Yeri deadpans, at the same time Chaeyoung retorts, “Are you and Mark Lee dating now or what?”
Donghyuck sputters, “What,” at the same time Suhyun and Yeri yell, “Mark Lee?!”
“Fine! Yes! I’m dating Mark Lee!” Donghyuck huffs, crossing his arms across his chest. “Is that so hard to believe?”
“Uh huh,” Yeri says, leaning forward, chin in her hands. “Tell me everything. From the beginning.”
Donghyuck looks over at Chaeyoung, rolling his eyes. “You don’t have to stay for this if you don’t want to.”
“Noooo,” Chaeyoung says, imitating Yeri’s pose. Their shoulders knock against each other. “I’d love to hear how you managed to snag Mark Lee. You should start with the love letters in his locker.”
Donghyuck’s jaw drops, as do Yeri and Suhyun’s. “How do you know about that?” Donghyuck asks weakly.
Chaeyoung shrugs. “My locker is next to Mark’s.”
Donghyuck can’t argue with Chaeyoung’s cold hard facts, so he has no choice but to embark on the story of how he wrote letters to Mark and scented them with his sister’s Marc Jacobs’ Daisy (“All that was in them were quotes from Friends and bad pick-up lines, okay! He found them funny!”
“He once laughed so hard I had to do the Heimlich maneuver on him,” Chaeyoung confirms solemnly.)
“Hey,” Yeri whispers to Chaeyoung behind her hand, when Donghyuck finally reaches his first date with Mark. “Marry me, Chaeng.”
“Of course,” Chaeyoung giggles back, a confused little frown forming between her eyebrows.
Later that night, Yeri can’t sleep. Growing pains, of the mental kind. She sits on top of her striped sheets, a wooden box in the centre and letters dispersed across the bed, addressed from Saeron to Yeri. We’re going to be best friends forever, wifey dated March 12th 2012. I was standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower, looking out over Paris, and I couldn’t stop thinking about you, dated June 27th 2014, I’m sorry that your grandma was sick. I wish you could have come. We would’ve had a ball.
As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others - Audrey Hepburn, dated August 5th 2016, Huh, isn’t this that meme?
Yeri blubbers a laugh, rubbing the corner of her eye. Saeron’s right. She does have two hands. She grabs her phone from her nightstand, opening it to Messenger and pulling up her chat with Chaeyoung (it consists of two messages so far: 1) Hey! This is Yeri Kim! I’m running for the editorial position at the school paper this year. If you’re interested in voting for me, you have all week to fill out a physical slip outside the cafeteria or you can text #QUEENB to xxx-xxx. 2) [blinking white guy.gif]).
so did u end up voting for me? Yeri texts Chaeyoung.
hell no, Chaeyoung sends back, within two minutes, if u must know i texted #sushi4theppl to that number.
wow. ur one vote was the reason i lost to yukhei wong and why the paper only runs anime reviews and articles titled Top 5 Butt Exercises now. ur one vote tipped the scale!
my ass is beautiful now thx to yukhei jsyk
ur asking me to send u nudes?
Yeri huffs, face heating up. Why is Chaeyoung like this! no…
no… Chaeyoung repeats. Yeri places her phone face-down on the bed, taking a deep breath, and then snatches it back when she hears the notification tone for Snapchat.
Yeri opens Chaeyoung’s Snap with some trepidation, pink fingernails between her teeth. It’s not a nude, but it might as well be - Chaeyoung’s phone is angled down, her thumb hooked into the waistband of her track pants, and she’s smirking up at the camera, dimple showing.
Yeri flops against her pillows, long hair fanning out behind her, and groans. She sends Chaeyoung a selfie back, using one of the glittery cat filters, mouth pouting in frustration. The caption reads congrats ur hot. but i still should’ve been editor!
Chaeyoung texts her again on Messenger, five minutes after she opened Yeri’s selfie and sent her a shrugging Bitmoji. did u mean what u said earlier? abt marriage?
Yeri frowns, heart lurching with embarrassment. She’d forgotten she said that. It kind of just came out. if u don’t find someone prettier and smarter than me in the next 10 yrs, then yes
that’s gay yeri kim, Chaeyoung writes, and for the record, i don’t think i could ever find that person.
A couple days later, Chaeyoung knocks on the window of Yeri’s car as Yeri is fixing her makeup for school in the vanity mirror. Yeri startles, almost poking herself in the eye with her eyeshadow brush. She rolls down the window.
“Hey,” Chaeyoung says, flashing Yeri a toothy grin as she leans her elbows on Yeri’s doorframe. She’s got a beret on, a pair of black frames perched on her button nose. “Wanna play hooky?”
“Why not?” Yeri says, and Chaeyoung laughs. Yeri narrows her eyes. “Why, did you think I wouldn’t be game?”
“No, I definitely thought you would be. ‘S why I asked,” Chaeyoung explains, pushing herself onto her heels, leather satchel slapping against her leg. “Can I hop in, Your Highness?”
Yeri hums, cocking her head at the passenger’s seat. “What’s the plan?” she asks, once Chaeyoung has settled in comfortably next to her.
Chaeyoung taps at her temple, thinking, before letting out a little ‘a ha!’ “Ramen!” she decides.
So: they get three cup ramens and a thermos from a convenience store downtown and sneak onto the rooftop of an office building (“My dad works here,” Chaeyoung reassures Yeri, when they stroll into the lobby. She presses the button of the elevator, chin held high in confidence, but Yeri still suspects she’s bullshitting.) They share the last cup between them, Yeri using her chopsticks to feed Chaeyoung, and then lay back against the hard concrete, a radiator whirring in the distance and the city noise underneath them, so that they can cloud gaze.
Yeri points out a leprechaun, the birthmark on her little sister Yurim’s leg and a Dorito chip. Chaeyoung’s only contribution is, “That one sort of looks like Mark Lee. When he had the curly hair.” Yeri laughs and takes a photo of it to show Donghyuck later.
They spend the rest of the day ditching school. They visit an art gallery, spend two hours in a karaoke booth, and split a can of beer on the banks of the river. The whole time Yeri thinks about just taking Chaeyoung’s hand and kissing her. But she just can’t bring herself to do it.
But then -
Yeri offers to drop Chaeyoung off at her house after she collect her sisters from their elementary and middle schools. Chaeyoung declines at first until she realises she’d have to go back to their school to be picked up by her mom, and she’s never actually skipped the whole day before (“Amateur,” Yeri snorts.) Her sisters take to Chaeyoung quicker than she expected. Chaeyoung sits in the back between Chaeeun and Yeeun and uses a marker to draw fake tattoos on their arms after they see the little tiger Chaeyoung has on her upper arm.
“The parents are gonna kill me,” Yeri says, giving Chaeyoung an amused look in the rearview mirror.
“Hm, guess I should rub out this one that says ‘eff off’ then, shouldn’t I?” Chaeyoung bites her lip thoughtfully, then grins back at Yeri.
“No way,” Yeeun says, “Ivan’s gonna call me a badass tomorrow. He’s so dreamy.”
“Can’t argue with that, Yeri,” Chaeyoung laughs. “Take the next left, that’s my street. Number 25.”
When Chaeyoung gets out of the car, she comes over to the Yeri’s side, leaning in like she’d done in the morning. “Thank you for today,” she tells Yeri. “It was pretty fun. I would invite you inside but,” she tilts her chin at the inside of the car.
Her sisters are harmonising to an Ariana Grande song but Yeri still lowers her voice, edging forward until her mouth is barely centimetres away from Chaeyoung’s. “Invite me inside and…?” she asks.
Chaeyoung smirks. “You’ll just have to find out another time, won’t you?” She makes a move to leave but is stopped when Yeri tugs her in by her collar and brushes her lips against Chaeyoung’s mouth.
“Okay, now you can go,” Yeri says, a little wide-eyed at what she’d just done.
Chaeyoung seems surprised too, fingertips touching her bottom lip. “O-okay!” she exclaims, before rushing inside her house with a quick goodbye wave to Yeri’s sisters.
Chaeeun, not even looking up from her phone, says, “Donghyuck oppa told me to tell you you’re whipped.”
Yeri’s head whips around to glare at her sister. “What did I say about texting the devil incarnate?”
“I didn’t text him, I put it on my Snapchat story.” Chaeeun waves her phone, grinning.
Yeri groans, taking a moment to curse thirteen year olds under her breath before driving off the curb.
The first thing Yeri does when Koeun invites her to a party at her place the following night is to invite Chaeyoung, because apparently her life revolves around Chaeyoung Son these days.
what makes u think i’d wanna come, Chaeyoung replies, an hour later.
Yeri is laying on the couch on her stomach, chin hooked over the end and her legs kicking back and forth until her mother reaches over from the armchair to swipe at her foot, telling her to stop squirming. for me? Yeri texts back.
fine, it’s a date is Chaeyoung’s reply.
Yeri’s mother shushes her when she lets out a squeal. She types hurriedly, biting her lip. y’know just cos someone’s gay…
Chaeyoung sends her a row of eye roll emojis. i have an evening art class so i’ll be late but i’ll see u there x
When Chaeyoung shows up at the party at 10PM, Yeri’s already wasted. She went upstairs to sober up but instead ends up like this: sitting with Jeno and Jaemin on Koeun’s bedroom floor, passing a joint between them, and Donghyuck making out with Mark on Koeun’s bed. She doesn’t know how long Chaeyoung had been looking for her when she knocks on the doorframe, padding inside gently, but she looks a little frazzled, her phone in one hand and a red cup of beer someone must’ve given her in the other.
“Chaeng, you made it!” Yeri shouts, arms flailing. She falls against Jeno, burying her face in his shoulder. He pats her softly, blowing smoke rings through pursed lips, Jaemin stretched across the circle to catch them in his mouth.
“I promised,” Chaeyoung says, with a weak smile. She greets Jeno and Jaemin as she sinks down on the carpet opposite Yeri, and then spies the tangle of bodies on the bed. “Is that Mark Lee?” she whispers, taking the blunt that Jaemin offers her, holding it to her mouth for a split second, and passing it to Jeno.
“Mmm,” Jeno says, “He’s a bit of a secret freak apparently.”
“Really?” Chaeyoung raises an eyebrow.
“We were already sitting in here, and he drags Hyuck in without even knocking and goes, ‘I’m going to pin you to this bed and kiss you until you stop breathing,’” Jaemin whispers. He swirls a finger around the pile of weed in the centre. “Right in front of my freakin’ salad.”
“We can hear you, Nana,” comes Mark’s muffled voice.
“So, anyway I think it’s safe to say Mark Lee’s into choking,” Jaemin continues, pointedly ignoring Mark, who just scoffs and goes back to sucking face with Donghyuck.
“Scandalous,” Chaeyoung giggles.
Yeri stretches out a leg, digging her foot into Chaeyoung’s shin. She’s bored of the conversation, having socialised all night waiting for Chaeyoung before she ended up with Jaemin and Jeno. Chaeyoung looks up, smiling a little when they make eye contact. Bathroom? Yeri mouths. Chaeyoung nods, setting her cup down and pushing herself up.
Yeri follows, turning back to mime slitting her throat at Jeno when he whistles. Jaemin’s already opening his mouth to say something inappropriate, so she pulls Chaeyoung out of the room hurriedly, their fingers intertwining as they navigate through the house to find a free bathroom.
“How was art class?” Yeri asks, leaning over the bathroom sink. She turns on the tap, cupping her hands under the stream of water and directing what little she can into her mouth.
“It was okay,” Chaeyoung hums. She places a hand on Yeri’s waist. “Are you okay, though?”
Yeri shuts off the tap, swivelling around to face Chaeyoung. She’s standing so close to her, her bare legs underneath her denim skirt pressed flush against Yeri’s. “Just thirsty,” Yeri murmurs, “‘M kinda high.” Her eyes zero in on Chaeyoung’s chest, the little heart cut out on her crop top, and then further to where Chaeyoung’s hands are braced around Yeri’s hips, her forearms covered in paint splatters.
“Let’s go find water then,” Chaeyoung says, starting to pull away before Yeri tugs her back in again, with a firm nooo.
“Can you hear the song playing outside?” Yeri says, voice low.
Chaeyoung’s face twists in concentration. “Uhhh, Redbone?”
“Wanna find out what it’d actually sound like if you were making out in the bathroom at a house party?” Yeri grins, slowly leaning in.
Chaeyoung makes a pleased little noise in the back of her throat when Yeri’s lips reach hers. Heat starts to curl in Yeri’s gut as Chaeyoung’s tongue licks into her mouth in a confident lazy sort of way, a thigh knocking her legs apart. They kiss for what feels like hours, Redbone already bleeding into some other song, and when they pull apart for air, Chaeyoung’s head immediately lowers, nipping at Yeri’s jaw.
Yeri’s lips shape into a smile. “Better than Saeron,” she mumbles into Chaeyoung’s hair.
Chaeyoung stiffens. Her mouth detaches from Yeri’s throat, and she wipes the string of saliva away, eyes dark. “What?”
“I - I didn’t say anything,” Yeri says. A sleepy haze washes over her. She doesn’t even really remember what she’d just said, but by the hurt look on Chaeyoung’s face she knows it was dumb.
“In the beginning I was scared all of this was just about your guilt,” Chaeyoung says, stepping back. “But I was wrong. I was replacing Saeron, huh?”
“No, no, I didn’t mean it,” Yeri stutters, making grabby hands at Chaeyoung’s skirt. “I like you, Chaeng, I--”
“Save it,” Chaeyoung cuts her off.
Yeri’s eyes squeeze shut, tears pricking at the corners, and when they open again, Donghyuck is squatting in front of her on the bathroom floor, wiping her face with a damp cloth.
“What happened?” Yeri rasps.
“You blacked out,” Donghyuck says, tucking Yeri’s hair behind her ear. “Chaeyoung told me to come find you in here.”
“Chaeyoung,” Yeri groans, knocking her forehead against her knees. “I fucked up.”
Donghyuck lets out a breathy laugh. “I know, I know. C’mon, I’ll get Mark to take us home.”
“He’s sober?” Yeri asks, letting Donghyuck help her to her feet.
“Yeah,” Donghyuck says. He leaves the cloth by the sink.
“So he said all that shit sober?” Yeri sputters in disbelief. She leans her weight on Donghyuck’s back as he drags her through the doorway and down the corridor, thankful for his warmth enveloping her after being left cold on the bathroom floor.
Donghyuck shrugs. “Like Jeno said, Mark’s a freak. But a freak with a car.”
Later, when Yeri’s been tucked into bed and Donghyuck has slipped out to go home with Mark, she takes out her phone and sends Chaeyoung an i’m sorryyyy before passing out again. In the morning, there’s no reply.
The next couple of weeks pass by like Groundhog Day:
1. During third period, Chaeyoung takes apart ballpoint pens and examines the individual parts with a detached sort of scrutiny. She uses the inkless tip to etch daisies and double D breasts and foxes and disembodied wings onto the desk in the far corner of her French class by the window.
2. Yeri studiously watches the postal tracker on her phone, her Gucci shoe tapping against the floor in impatience.
3. Chaeyoung sits with Tzuyu Chou in the cafeteria. She bites purposefully into a green apple and reads a different novel everyday if she isn’t talking to Tzuyu. It’s the only time Yeri ever sees her in person, so she zones out of whatever conversation Donghyuck’s having with Suhyun and stares at Chaeyoung the whole time. When she manages to make eye contact with Tzuyu, all she gets is a blank look. She’s not sure if Tzuyu does it on purpose. It might just be her face.
4. After lunch, Yeri enters the same classroom for Spanish. She takes the desk in the far corner by the window, and inspects what Chaeyoung had drawn that day. She sweeps the pen parts into her hand, the spring bouncing against the heart line across her palm, and discards them at the bottom of her bag. She thinks about leaving Chaeyoung a message, tu me manques or even just a heart, but she’s too scared to return the next Spanish lesson to find it etched out. She’s just scared.
The fever breaks on a Friday night, when Yeri’s phone starts to ring. She picks it up, fully prepared to chew Donghyuck out for bothering her about apologising to Chaeyoung again so when the first thing she hears is the sound of Saeron’s voice, yelling, “Hiiiiiiiiiiiii, Yerimmie!”, she almost goes into cardiac arrest.
“My ear, Saeron,” Yeri says, holding the phone an inch away.
“Sorry, sorry,” Saeron says, not lowering her volume at all. “Well! How’s it going then?”
“Is that a British accent I hear?” Yeri asks, mouth stretching into a wide smile before she can even think to stop herself.
“Yes! I’m trying to acquire one,” Saeron explains, “I suck though, but the boys here love correcting me. It’s a win-win situation.”
Yeri laughs, falling back against her pillows. “Why do I feel like you’re only saying that ‘cause they’re cute?”
“Okay, so maybe I’m winning in more than one way,” Saeron says wryly. “Enough about me though. What’ve you been up to? Anyone got your fancy?”
“Do I like anyone right now?”
“Yes, that would be the correct translation,” Saeron says. She prompts Yeri to continue when silence follows for a few moments.
“I - uh,” Yeri starts, fisting around the hem of her nightgown. “It wasn’t like, an official thing but I went out with Chaeyoung a couple times.”
There’s a screech on the other end of the phone. “Chaeyoung Son?!”
“Yeah,” Yeri sighs.
“Oh my God, that’s so cool?” Saeron says, her American accent back in full force now, “Is she hot now? I bet she is, you always go for that type. I called it, bitch. I totally voted her Most Likely to Have the Hottest Glo Up in the yearbook two years back. I think Mark Lee won though. Is Mark Lee hot now?”
“A little,” Yeri offers, clearing her throat. Something akin to relief buzzes in her veins, but mostly she feels overwhelmingly confused. “He’s dating Donghyuck.”
“Finally,” Saeron laughs. Yeri can hear the sound of children playing in the background, the wind whipping past Saeron’s speaker. “So, are you going to make it official with Chaeyoung?”
“Maybe, I just--”
“Have you made out yet?” Saeron asks in a conspiratorial whisper, “What’s it like kissing a girl? I somehow always end up with boys during spin the bottle games here, it’s like the universe wants me to be straight until I die.”
Yeri snorts. “It’s mostly the same. But softer?”
“Right. Boobs,” Saeron says solemnly.
“Is it alright with you? Me dating Chaeyoung?” Yeri asks, heart in her throat.
“No kidding, Yerim. It’s 2017,” Saeron says. Yeri can’t tell if she remembers sixth grade or not, but it doesn’t really matter anymore, she guesses. It’s 2017 now. “And hey,” she continues, “I’m sorry for not calling you sooner. I’ve missed you so much.”
I was in love with you, Yeri wants to say, but I’m not anymore. “I missed you too,” she says instead.
“Ugh, you’re gross. Anyway, there’s a letter coming your way soon,” Saeron tells her.
“I’ll check my postbox everyday,” Yeri promises, like she hasn’t been doing that already.
“Good,” Saeron says, before launching into another topic.
At lunchtime on Monday, Yeri ambushes Chaeyoung. She slides onto the bench opposite her, squeezing in next to Tzuyu, her hands behind her back.
“What’s behind you?” Chaeyoung asks, a little smile playing at her mouth because half of what Yeri’s hiding is visible anyway, it’s that big.
Yeri places the Snorlax plushie on the benchtop, her fingers bunched around it’s middle so she can pretend to move its head. “On behalf of Yerim Kim,” Yeri starts, deepening her voice, “I would just like to say how sorry I am for the hurt she’s caused you. And that she takes full responsibility for all the dumb shit she’s said, sixth grade to present, stoned or not.”
Chaeyoung folds her arms across her chest, sharing a quick look with Tzuyu. “Anything else?”
“Yeri would also like to take this opportunity to say that she’s sorted out her emotional baggage. It didn’t really take her that long but she had to wait for me to arrive in the mail. I take all the blame.”
Chaeyoung raises an eyebrow.
“Okay like, half the blame. So, Miss Chaeyoung Son, do you take this beautiful, kind, funny, smart and extremely apologetic lady to be your lawfully wedded girlfriend?”
Chaeyoung looks up at Yeri, studying her face, and Yeri’s cheeks prickle with heat and she crosses her fingers underneath the table. “I do,” Chaeyoung says, after a minute.
Much to Yeri’s embarrassment, the cafeteria bursts into applause when Yeri leans over the table to kiss Chaeyoung, the Snorlax squished between their chests. She’ll have to murder Donghyuck later for starting it. Chaeyoung grabs her left hand as they kiss, her knuckles curling around Yeri’s ring finger, making her smile against Chaeyoung’s lips. Later.