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Aphasia

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Sunmi is more than an escort.

 

This is her job, though. It’s routine, having dangerous amounts of liquor every other night and somehow keeping her wits. She’s become a master conversationalist because of this work. Acting confident and enthusiastic is as easy as breathing, even when she feels the exact opposite. Hearing the same stories and seeing the same faces over and over again is just as boring as it sounds, but it’s what she gets hired to do. She’s not hired to actually care about her clients. She’s hired to pretend like she does.

 

However, Sunmi is more than an escort.

 

She’s human, and that means sometimes she doesn’t have to pretend to eat up her clients’ attention. It sounds like a thing she should be thankful for, actually enjoying a client’s company. But it only makes things difficult. It hasn’t happened a lot, though. She can count each time she’s fallen for a client’s charms on just one of her hands.

 

The problem with Taeyeon is that Sunmi isn’t sure what she’s fallen for exactly. Taeyeon doesn’t even seem like she’s capable of thinking about charming someone. It was only funny for a couple dates before it became cute. Cute turned into admirable. Admirable turned into Sunmi sitting on her couch at 3AM with a glass of wine wondering how and why she couldn’t get Taeyeon out of her head.

 

She’s gonna need to get some answers soon.

 

Saturday nights with Taeyeon are just as stressful as they are exciting. Sunmi always has to make a conscious effort to keep her feelings at bay. It’s unfortunate, as most of her client’s love when she’s flirty and touchy. But Taeyeon’s the exact opposite. She’s shy. Maybe a bit too respectful. Sunmi still can’t imagine how Taeyeon found her in the first place considering how reserved she is.

 

One of these days, the question as to how Taeyeon found her will come up. She’s sure. Alcohol always makes her a bit more thoughtless with her words.

 

Usually.

 

Like with everything else, being drunk around Taeyeon is kind of different too. They go to the same bar every single time, order the same drinks. But the more Sunmi downs, the more her ears love hearing Taeyeon talk about anything and everything under the sun. Her clients normally do her job for her, nerves always fueling endless chatter, but Taeyeon’s the only one she doesn’t mind letting do so.

 

It’s been at least 10 minutes, but Taeyeon’s still talking about neuroscience and sleep.

 

“We’re the only species that fights off sleep for absolutely no beneficial reason at all. We have no reason to stay up late. Maybe during the era of hunting-and-gathering it was excusable, but not now.”

 

Her eyes have a glint in them that Sunmi likes better than the shine of the watch on her wrist.

 

“So, what about insomnia or stuff like that? Are we the only ones that have that?”

 

“No, animals have sleeping disorders like we do. But I’m not necessarily talking about sleeping disorders. Just in general, we willingly put off sleep for dumb things like video games or sunrises.”

 

“You’ve stayed up to watch the sun rise?”

 

Taeyeon's lips curve into a crooked smile, “A couple times.”

 

“Sleeping has always been hard for me. I don’t like sleeping alone, especially in my new apartment. It’s a lot bigger than my old one. More spooky.”

 

“You sleep alone?”

 

“Geez, Taeyeon. I don’t sleep with all my clients.”

 

Taeyeon’s innocent questions are always bait. She’s just so easy to mess with that Sunmi can’t ever resist. As soon as she smiles, it’s obvious she’s just messing around. Taeyeon acknowledges it with color still faintly staining her cheeks. She makes an effort to defend herself as well.

 

“I wasn’t implying that. I mean, all  kinds of escorts still have normal relationships outside of work. Like a boyfriend or girlfriend, you know?”

 

“I know.”

 

Taeyeon’s eyes dart elsewhere as she looks for her train of thought. Taeyeon is pretty cute when she’s flustered. Even when she’s not trying to be, she’s attractive. Sunmi just watches the way the tendons in her throat make an appearance as she takes a drink of her wine. Her middle part makes it so all of her features are on display and that always makes it harder for Sunmi to focus when they talk.

 

“What about you?” Sunmi adds, “Do you have someone?”

 

“Me? No.”

 

“Why did you laugh?”

 

She shrugs, “Dating is um… It’s just weird for me.”

 

“You don’t have to tell me, but I just realized I don’t know. What are you into? Boys? Girls? Me?”

 

Taeyeon’s reaction makes Sunmi laugh before her own sleaziness does. Hiding her face, the foreign feeling of embarrassment washes over her. She really does like Taeyeon. Shame is never an issue with other clients.

 

“You’re really playful tonight.”

 

Resting her chin in her palm, Sunmi faces her, “I’m just in a really good mood tonight is all.”

 

“You mean drunk. You’ve drunk a lot more tonight than usual, you know.”

 

“Have I?”

 

“Why is that?”

 

“So, just to be clear, you’re avoiding my question?”

 

Taeyeon’s teeth reveal themselves and her grin makes Sunmi’s heart jump. Her soft chuckle does the same thing. Beaming, she continues to tease, “I just want to make sure before we change the subject.”

 

“I’m just not to big on labels. I’ve dated both.”

 

Sunmi isn’t sure what she was expecting to hear, but not that.

 

“I guess I’m not really too big on labels, either. I’m not picky or exclusive… My last partner was actually nonbinary.”

 

“Oh?”

 

Nodding, she explains as she plays with the condensation on her glass, “Yeah, I was with them for a couple months. It wasn’t anything serious. I didn’t even know what nonbinary was until them.”

 

“I hope you got some good sleep for those couple months, then. Seriously, people don’t realize how detrimental lack of sleep is.”

 

“I’m not gonna lie, in relationships, I get attached pretty quick. I was sleeping over at their place even before we made things official. Definitely got some good sleep. So, don’t worry.”

 

“That’s interesting.”

 

“Hm?”

 

“You said you get attached quickly. It’s interesting how you do this kind of work and are able to separate that.”

 

“Well, lots of the people who hire me are either borderline creepy or borderline boring. It’s pretty easy.” Sunmi insists in amusement.

 

“Which one am I?”

 

Her voice has subtle nerves in it. Sunmi feels bad even thinking about messing with her... but only for a second.

 

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”

 

Taeyeon’s pretty playful tonight too. With an over exaggerated sigh, she spins around on her bar stool to face the other way. Reaching out to grab her hunched shoulders, Sunmi doesn’t really even think about it until after. Taeyeon doesn’t tense up at her touch. She shakes her frame, trying to contain her giggles as she speaks.

 

“I was just messing around!”

 

“Mhm. Sure.”

 

“You’re definitely not creepy.” Sunmi stands up from her stool so she can get closer and wrap her arms around Taeyeon’s frame, “And you’re definitely  not boring. I actually love hearing you talk… even though it makes me feel dumb.”

 

“I wish I had different things to talk about, but work kind of takes up everything.”

 

Sunmi isn’t expecting to feel her touch in return. Callous palms rest on her arms, gently holding her there. Suddenly, the situation feels surreal. Taeyeon never seems comfortable when Sunmi touches her. This is a first. One that Sunmi enjoys more than she anticipates. Taeyeon smells lovely.

 

“Are you wearing cologne? It smells really nice.”

 

“Ah, yeah. I don’t know why. I just really like the smell of it.”

 

“I mean, it’s not weird. Girls wear cologne too.”

 

“Yeah…” she smiles, “They do.”

 

“Did you wear it to impress me?”

 

Sunmi is teasing, but her heart is starting to beat a bit faster in her chest. Maybe it’s because Taeyeon doesn’t answer right away. Maybe it’s because she can feel Taeyeon’s heart thumping as well. Maybe it’s because she wants Taeyeon to say yes.

 

“Would that make you happy?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Then, yes.”

 

Grinning, Sunmi can’t really find good words to respond with. Taeyeon’s hands tighten their grip on her forearms as she insists, “I don’t know if hugging like this makes you happy too, so I’m sorry if it does, but--”

 

Immediately, Sunmi lets her go.

 

There it is. She isn’t offended, as Taeyeon’s always like this. However, she can’t deny that she misses the closeness they’d been sharing as soon as she backs up to sit down again. Her smile only falters for a second, though. When Taeyeon spins back around, the blush on her cheeks in undeniable.

 

“Sorry, I just--”

 

Taeyeon’s wristwatch beeping makes her stop mid-sentence.

 

“It went by fast today.” she mumbles as she clicks the alarm off.

 

Sunmi’s heart isn’t floating anymore. Their couple hours is up. She’s never had a client keep track of time the way Taeyeon does. Normally, it would be appreciated, but Sunmi enjoys her company too much. Their two hours always goes by too fast for her. Parting ways is always a bummer.

 

Watching Taeyeon fumble for her wallet out of her back pocket, Sunmi asks, “It’s the weekend, right? You never go to the office on the weekends.”

 

“Not usually, no.”

 

“Okay, then…” she reaches out to stop Taeyeon from pulling cash out of her wallet, “Want to hang out some more? You don’t have to pay for it.”

 

“Um…” Taeyeon’s hesitance is more than obvious. She quickly reassures, “Sorry, that reaction came out wrong. I didn’t mean--”

 

“It’s okay. I’m used to you.”

 

A small smile takes her lips, mind still considering it, “I, um… Sure. Would you like to stay here?”

 

“There’s a park nearby. The weather is nice. Let’s go walk around.”

 

Sunmi grins as Taeyeon nods in agreement. She gets up in haste, but waits until Taeyeon is done tipping the bartender before hurrying off towards the exit. She can’t believe this is happening, that she even asked. Taeyeon actually said yes. That means something, right? Sunmi certainly wants it to.

 

Once outside, she holds a hand out and Taeyeon doesn’t even notice it right away.

 

“Yah, we’re gonna have to cross the street.”

 

Confusion settles on Taeyeon’s brow. It takes a couple seconds, but her countenance gets funny once she understands. The smallest things embarrass her. Sunmi isn’t sure what makes her more happy: Taeyeon’s sheepishness or the feeling of her hand in hers. Leading the way as they walk, she wishes she could turn around and face her. But she keeps her gaze ahead and makes an effort to get Taeyeon comfortable again.

 

“You said you’re not from this side of town, right?”

 

“Right. I live on the East side.”

 

“You have that really nice BSX outlet over there, don’t you?”

 

“How’d you know where I live?” Taeyeon snickers, “Really though, I love  that place.”

 

“Do you always dress like this?”

 

“Like what?”

 

“Fancy.”

 

Taeyeon’s always in a white button down. She’s always in well-fitting slacks as well, sometimes khaki, others a cute color like maroon. Her sleeves are always rolled up and she always wears her watch as well. She never wears heels, but Sunmi’s sure she would look amazing in them. Her glasses make an appearance every once in awhile, but not for fashion’s sake. She always jokes about being as blind as a bat. Tonight, she’s wearing her contacts.

 

It makes her laugh, “Is this fancy?”

 

“Fancier than what I usually wear.”

 

“I’m always super jealous of your outfits. I wish I could wear stuff like that.”

 

“I think you’d look amazing in a dress like this.”

 

“Maybe.” she chuckles.

 

The park is fairly empty. The street lights give it a relaxing glow. It matches the silence between them. Sunmi has plenty to say, but it's suddenly hard to find the words. She wants them to be the right ones. Never one to force anything, she wants to at least bring up her feelings. She didn't invite Taeyeon out for nothing. But, a part of her feels like things will fall into place naturally if they're really meant to be.

 

Taeyeon isn't necessarily a blank page, but it's hard to tell what she's thinking as they walk. Stealing another glance her way, Sunmi figures now is a good time to ask.

 

“So, why did you find me?”

 

“Find you?” Taeyeon’s lips twitch in amusement, “I… I mean, why do your other clients find you?”

 

“Hm. Because they're lonely would be my go-to answer, but I've realized over time that it's usually a lot deeper than that.”

 

“Oh?”

 

“Like, some people I think just get bored with their life or current lover. Sometimes it's practice, practice for when they go on a date with someone they actually want. Even though I make it clear on my site, some people think of it as a challenge and still try to go to bed with me.” she quickly adds with a laugh, “And these are the normal people. The creepy ones are just creepy.”

 

“I hope there's not too many of them. Creepy people.”

 

“I've been making good money lately. I've cut ties with a lot of them since I don't need their business.”

 

“You don't get tired of meeting with so many people all the time?”

 

“People like you keep it interesting. So, no.”

 

“Was… Was that a compliment?”

 

Sunmi beams as they lock eyes, “Definitely.”

 

A smile takes Taeyeon’s lips so quickly that it makes Sunmi’s heart skip a beat. She feels like their roles have reversed as she lets her eyes dart elsewhere, unable to hold Taeyeon’s warm gaze.

 

“What?” Taeyeon wonders.

 

“I’m about to be really unprofessional, but I think you're really cute. If you haven't noticed already.”

 

“I--”

 

Stopping them in their tracks, embarrassment makes Sunmi’s voice strong as she assures her, “If it’s weird or you don't feel like I feel, no biggie. You can tell me. You don't have to be polite about it.”

 

Taeyeon's eyes of confusion won't leave hers. Her furrowed brow doesn't move and Sunmi feels a bit short of breath. Each passing second takes far too long to do so.

 

“How-- How do you feel exactly?”

 

“I feel like I like this.” she squeezes her hand, “I like you. Like spending time with you.”

 

Tone and countenance still worrisome, Taeyeon doesn't respond right away, “I…”

 

“Taeyeon, really, it’s fine if you don’t--”

 

“I don't think you'd want to date someone like me.”

 

“I mean, we don't have to even talk about that yet, but why do you--?”

 

“I’m transgender.”

 

Sunmi’s mind falls blank the second the words leave Taeyeon’s tongue.

 

“Sorry. I've never been in this situation before. If you don't want me to see you anymore, that's fine too. I understand--”

 

“Can I kiss you?”

 

The fear in Taeyeon’s eyes suddenly extinguishes itself. It's still lingering in her brow, and Sunmi doesn't like it at all. Hand leaving Taeyeon’s sweaty one, she cups both of her cheeks as she steps closer. As much as she wants to, she wants to make sure it's okay first. Taeyeon’s tongue wets her lips before she gives a hesitant nod.

 

Just like her presence, just like the way Sunmi’s chest feels, Taeyeon's lips are warm. Soft. Tense, but soft. Sunmi wants nothing more than to take the nerves away from her stance. Thumb stroking her cheek, she tries leading Taeyeon somewhere more comfortable as their lips meld.

 

She’s surprised when a hand comes to rest on her hip.

 

Pulling away with a smile that hurts, her and Taeyeon laugh in embarrassment as soon as their gazes meet.

 

“I've thought about that a lot. Just F.Y.I.” Sunmi confesses with a whisper.

 

Taeyeon’s red cheeks show even under the dim lights above.

 

“Wow.”

 

“I don't care that you're trans and I'll forget you ever told me if you really want me to.”

 

“Sorry, I've just… This has never happened to me before. I'm relieved, though. About you not caring.”

 

“What's never happened to you? You've never had your escort confess to you? That's kind of lame.”

 

Taeyeon just laughs, that crooked grin appearing.

 

Maybe she is  a bit charming.

 

“So… What now?”

 

Words from Sunmi’s heart roll off her tongue with no hesitation, “Well, I want to keep seeing you. Just not as a customer. I don't want you to pay for tonight at all, by the way.”

 

“Are-- Are you sure?”

 

“100%.”

 

“Well… There’s that icecream shop down near the mall. At least let me get us something.”

 

Sunmi grins, anticipating the embarrassment she's going to trigger, “Asking me out on a date already?”

 

“Only if you’re saying yes.”

 

Excited for what the rest of the night will bring, she sneaks her hand back over Taeyeon’s. The curve of Taeyeon’s lips seems permanent as they intertwine fingers once more.

 

“Icecream it is.”

 

“You know, it’s funny actually…” Taeyeon starts as they start walking, “Icecream is terrible  for your body, but it does a lot of good stuff for your brain.”

 

With open ears and a swollen heart, Sunmi just listens with a smile.