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 So please, hurry, leave me, I can't breathe
Please don't say you love me
Mune ga hachikire-sōde


 

Some say Irene is a demigod—a child of Aphrodite—and every time Seulgi hears it, she rolls her eyes in exasperation.

   Yet that's exactly what goes through Seulgi's mind the day they meet in the girl's bathroom, and she finds herself utterly infatuated by her beauty.

 


 

Irene has all the grace of a celestial being, so much so that she seems unreal—every single person around her is unworthy of her very attention—it's not hard to feel unwanted in her presence. Seulgi has never met anyone so deliriously captivating in their utter inattention—Irene is sharp and severe, her eyes almost clinical in their guarded curiosity. Daegu seems too small a city to hold someone like Irene, her mannerisms indicate her deserve to own the world.

   Whenever Irene bestows her with even the simplest of glances, Seulgi feels her heart swell to the beat of an unheard melody.

 


 

But from everything she's heard, Irene isn't one to fall in love.

   Irene is one to make people fall as if love is something so beneath her—something vile and untrustworthy.

 


 

One might expect Irene to dwell in Mount Olympus rather than in a drab city; somewhere majestic and solitary—just the way she is.

   To Seulgi she will always remain a goddess—her lovers vain and passionate only to perish underneath her touch.

   And as time goes, it becomes rather fated for Seulgi to fall for Irene.

 


 

Irene finds herself an Adonis to manipulate come senior year, a boy so faithfully forgettable that his demise at her hands is an almost predictable occurrence.

   It makes Seulgi feel so terribly useless—to see Irene gift him with her touch, to see her be paraded around at the arm of some no-name boy like she's some statue carved by the hands of Michelangelo.

   Except it doesn’t last long, relationships never do in Irene's life and when their eyes meet through the bathroom mirror once again—albeit a bit undramatically—Seulgi's stomach pools like rich honey in her gut, a moment so sweet she can nearly taste it on her tongue.

 


 

Being beside Irene always felt like a moment preordained in the fabric of the universe.

   Like they were always meant to be together, somehow, somewhere—as acquaintances, friends, maybe even lovers—maybe in another universe they knew each other since they were children, maybe, maybe...

 


 

Seulgi learns that Irene isn't as unaffected of a person as she claims she is.

   There are moments where even she bleeds, so fragile and human that it's unreal—that someone like Irene has a family she adores, that if you cut her you'd see blood instead of molten gold. Her favourite colour is purple and her favourite thing about Seulgi are her eyes; these discrepancies make Seulgi’s mind whirl. She wants to hold Irene in the security of her arms until there's nothing left to harm her.

   She knows—she knows that Irene is the one she should seek protection from but she isn't willing to see through the twisted lens of reality lest it destroys the only thing that brings her joy.

   In the dim light of her room, Irene tells Seulgi of her childhood and her mother, all subtle hints that establish her ephemeral state of emotions.

 


 

Seulgi has only ever wanted a few things in her life.

   When she was five, she saw a red bicycle she talked about every day until her dad bought it for her and when she was thirteen, she wanted an album for which she saved up for a month—but she's never wanted anything more than Irene.

   Maybe she wants a sense of ownership over someone so elusive or maybe it is real love, Seulgi isn't entirely sure but she's never felt so goddamn liberated being pricked by the thorns of Irene's rose. There’s nothing more comforting in the world than that lazy smile Irene offers her during their sleepovers right before she falls asleep.

   But recently she's fallen for that rare, easy smile that takes up Irene's whole face—eyes shining with unrestrained mirth and secrets, nose scrunched adorably.

   And it's so beautiful that her chest hurts.

   Seulgi wants to kiss Irene every time she smiles.

 


 

From afar, Irene is unattainable—immodest in a way only demigods can be, a ghost of a human being masquerading as an alien from outer space. She hasn't changed, no, she's still the same girl Seulgi met in the bathroom—

   —unreal and clinical, so vapid in her sincerity that Seulgi wants to run and run until her surroundings are as unfamiliar as the girl she'd imagined Irene to be.

   The first time she sees Irene kiss a girl she feels her blood being forced out of her veins.

 


 

It's not easy the second time.

   It's much worse.

   Of course Seulgi can't do anything—her opinions are terribly unimportant, she's just one of Irene's many useless admirers.

 


 

Irene reapplies her lipstick like it's a motion she's perfected, stare focused on Seulgi's uninterested stance.

   "Don't you ever feel annoyed?"

   "Annoyed at what?" Seulgi asks, confused—Irene's never one to simply ask, she demands and this felt more of a curious inquiry than anything else.

   "You know..." she trails off and Seulgi can feel a hot prickling sensation crawl up her neck at Irene's intrusive stare as if she can see beyond just the superficial niceties Seulgi has come to use, "the way people look at you—like they wanna fuck you."

   Do you?

   There's another layer to the conversation Seulgi isn't aware of but it pulsates wildly in the air. "I don't think—they don't. They don't."

 


 

Of course she doesn't want Irene to know what she feels for her.

   She's afraid of what it might entail—the after of her demise.

 


 

"You're free tonight, right?"

   Seulgi looks up at Irene from her phone, eyes closing as Irene weaves her fingers through her hair. "Yeah."

   "There's a party tonight," Irene says softly, a certain fondness to her tone Seulgi hasn't heard before, "and I need you there—with me."

   Seulgi catches a small, lopsided smile forming at the edge of Irene's mouth, it seems almost devious in its childishness—a fluttering feeling settles in her stomach. "But what about Chaeyoung?"

   "It'll be just you and me."

   And Seulgi can't stop herself from matching her smile, despite everything Irene still holds every ounce of power over her.

   Of course it's not only about herself anymore.

 


 

At the party, Seulgi finds herself increasingly bitter as the night progresses.

   After every shot, she wants nothing more to drown in the lethe and just forget. Irene looks small in Seulgi's tartan coat—the sleeves almost reach her knuckles—that despite the disadvantage of it not being a perfect fit, people look at her in various shades of awe and envy. It's not just you and me—it's just Irene and her fleet of rabid worshippers, the idol life might suit her after graduation.

   Seulgi finds herself in the company of a sophomore boy, an empty solo cup in her hands, practically sulking away and kind of drunk. Her eyes flick over to catch Irene's glacial glare and it takes Seulgi a minute to realise the silent threat is aimed at the boy, not at her. He excuses himself to refill her cup.

   Irene starts to come towards Seulgi that the light catches her hair and illuminates the edges of her frame with a silhouette—a fitting atmosphere for someone so unearthly. She grabs Seulgi's forearm and leads her somewhere secluded and constricted, her mind too addled to understand Irene's intention.

   "Now it's just us," her voice is low and controlled, like sharp icicles jutting into skin—she tugs on the collar of Seulgi's shirt harshly—but the heat from her body is so goddamn intoxicating, richer than any alcohol she's ever had.

 


 

Irene’s lips taste of the sweetest ambrosia.

   And maybe it's because they're drunk or maybe it's because Seulgi has always been malleable under Irene's touch that they don't stop. Irene bites her lip so hard it bleeds, the strange metallic taste infuses itself into the kiss. Stardust bursts behind her eyelids and Irene just doesn't let go.

   To Seulgi this is the end of an era—the road to her demise but she's somewhat happy to have gotten what she'd wanted since so long.