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at least i got you in my head

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Hana is halfway through her assigned reading for the night when she hears the first sigh. Her initial response is to ignore it: no one can deny Seungyeon’s flair for the dramatic, and if Hana wants to actually get back in the elusive category of “satisfactory academic standing,” she’ll have to learn how to prioritize getting shit done over bending to her best friend’s wishes whenever she so much as pouts in her direction.

Pathetic, is what Mingfei calls it, but Mingfei’s been dating the same girl since she came to Seoul and thinks that means she knows everything. Which she doesn’t.

(She knows too much, but not everything.)

By the fifth sigh, Hana has been reading the same sentence for as many minutes, and Elinor Dashwood’s calculated benevolence can only be so distracting. She closes the book with a sigh of her own and pointedly drops it on the floor, landing in an audible plop. Seungyeon plays coy for a minute, avoiding eye contact as she scrolls through her phone—her own twitter, probably—until she lets out what’s been bothering her: “I miss Seungja,” she bemoans.

Hana rolls her eyes. “You’re the one who said no when she asked you out,” she reminds her. Seungyeon scoffs and sits up from where she’s sitting at the end of Hana’s bed to flick her forehead.

“I don’t want to date her,” Seungyeon whines, shoving Hana against the headrest so she can lie her head on the other’s flat chest. It can’t be that comfortable. Alright, Hana thinks. This is fine.

“You don’t miss Seungja, then. You miss her strap game,” Hana says, her hand hovering over Seungyeon’s forearm where it comes to wrap around her waist.

Two years ago, she would have no hesitation in nestling against the other, but everything was easier with Seungyeon then.

Pathetic, she hears an imaginary Mingfei whisper in her ear. She wouldn’t be wrong, this time.

“Not just her strap game,” Seungyeon corrects, digging her too-long nails into the skin of Hana’s back. It really has been a while since she’s gotten laid—Hana hates how easy it is for her to tell. “Give her more credit than that, Vernonie. You don’t rap that well without picking up some tricks with your tongue.”

Hana wants to comment that Seungja isn’t that good of a rapper, but she’s never petty about Seungyeon’s tumultuous love life where Seungyeon can hear. That’s what Mingfei is for. “Just download Tinder like every other horny university student,” she says instead.

“That’s so much effort, and only like, three percent of the people you match with actually message back,” Seungyeon says. Which isn’t wrong, in Hana’s experience generally being part of the other 97 percent.

Seungyeon shifts against her, exposing a sliver of stomach. Hana’s eyes fixate on it, even as she tries to look away.

Against her own best interest, she lets her thumb drag against the bare skin.

There’s only one way this is going to end.

 

 

 

The thing with being in love with your best friend when you’re the one who broke her heart is that, after the fact, there’s not much you can do but live with yourself.

“You’re pathetic,” Mingfei reminds her, when Hana shows up at 2 am in the other’s apartment. Minjoo had disappeared into their shared bedroom as soon as she showed up, doing whatever it is that fashion students do when they want to avoid their girlfriend acting as makeshift therapist. Sketching? Watching Queer Eye? Getting her finger stuck in her sewing machine? Who knows.

“I can’t say no to her,” Hana says. The glass of water in her hands is shaking. She sets it down on the coffee table, and draws her knees up to her chin.

“You mean you don’t want to say no,” Mingfei corrects, sounding unimpressed. “You do realize that the only reason you two aren’t together is your own dumb shit, right? Even though you’ve been doodling ‘Chwe Seungyeon’ all over your notebooks since like, the day you met.”

“That’s not true,” Hana argues. Usually it’s just Seungyeon’s name in assorted fonts, Hangul and romanized. Sometimes there are hearts. Sometimes there are Dean lyrics. She’s not a simple woman.

Mingfei glares at her, because she’s a bitch when she wants to be, which is most of the time. And Hana is self-aware enough to recognize when something is her responsibility, but there’s only so much she can do when the girl she loves—the girl who loves her—the girl she’s been dreaming about for the past two years is sighing against her mouth, Hana’s thigh between hers, Hana’s hands sliding over her shorts to feel the curve of her ass—

So yeah, it’s Hana’s fault. But admitting is half the battle, right?

 

⭒⭑

 

First year went like this: Hana and Seungyeon as assigned roommates in the ratty freshman dorm. Seungyeon hanging a rainbow flag on her side of the room, and quirking an eyebrow: the performing arts major equivalent of, you have a problem with that?

Hana, with a flannel around her waist and a backwards snapback, who hasn’t worn hair longer than her chin since she was fourteen, who went to see The Handmaiden in theaters with her mom, like, a week ago, did not have a problem with that.

First year continued like this: Seungyeon dating Somin, a second year from her vocal class with the brightest smile Hana had ever seen, and Hana subsequently realizing that her roommate was the horniest person she’d met in her entire life—and that includes Wen Jia-li, whose finsta has shown Hana more of her body than she could have possibly been prepared for. Hana getting sexiled once, twice a week, or worse: waking up in the middle of the night to Seungyeon’s equivalent of “staying quiet.” Realizing that there was something really, really entrancing about the way her roommate’s melodic voice cracks when she’s about to come. Waiting until Somin had crawled back up from the covers, falling asleep alongside her newly-satiated girlfriend, to slip a hand beneath her own pajama pants.

That, as they say, is where it all began.

Through Somin, Hana met Minjoo: a girl in some of her classes who she never really bothered to speak to before. Through Minjoo, she met Mingfei: a dance student from China with a mean streak the size of her trust fund, but a heart just as big. As long as you’re Kim Minjoo. Or a cute dog. Or, eventually, Chwe Hana.

“You’re like the little sister I never had,” Mingfei explained once, joint dangling between her thin fingers. She had been sitting in Minjoo’s lap, the taller’s teeth grazing against her neck. Sometimes Hana thinks Minjoo forgets that she’s human, and supposed to act like one; even scarier, sometimes she thinks that’s what Mingfei finds attractive in her.

“I might be in love with Seungyeon, but mostly I want to fuck her,” is what Hana had said in lieu of a reply.

And, yeah, Mingfei and Minjoo were Somin’s friends before they were Hana’s. But this wasn’t about Somin, really. It was about wanting to feel Seungyeon’s hands in her hair, and wanting to be the reason her perfect voice cracks, and maybe wanting to hold her hand when they go to the movies together. Because Seungyeon was still her best friend, regardless of any attraction Hana might have felt beyond that. And they did go to the movies together, and they did eat at fancy restaurants sometimes, and, honestly? It did feel like it could be something more. But it couldn’t, because Seungyeon had a girlfriend. And because Hana’s head breaks, sometimes, when she's too overwhelmed by the shit she brings on herself.

As far as Hana knows, Mingfei and Minjoo never said anything to Somin; either way, she and Seungyeon broke up a few weeks later. It was a huge ordeal—neither of them ever learned to love by halves. Maybe they had only been together for four months, but in that period they were always each others’ first thought.

So at the beginning of the next school year, when Somin started seeing a girl from another university that she had grown up with, it was enough for Seungyeon to snap.

(“To snap,” here, was to tell Hana she loved her.)

(They weren’t roommates anymore, so it was easier for Hana to run away).

 

⭒⭑

 

Hana comes home to an empty apartment. That’s not surprising: Chun is away this weekend for a dance competition, and Seungyeon had gone back to her own place after taking what she wanted.

Well—that’s not fair. Hana’s the one who got herself into this.

Jane Austen is glaring at her from its place on the floor, so Hana glares back. The last thing she needs is another reminder of her mistakes, like the D’s littering her transcript, or the splotchy UFO stick-and-poke by her ankle, or the pills she has to take every morning to get through the day.

And Hana hates when she gets like this, because she knows there’s more to herself than the bad things, but sometimes they overwhelm her. And Seungyeon is—not perfect, but kind of close. Everything Hana wishes she could be. Like an old movie heroine: someone who captures attention, with permanently pink cheeks and neat posture, with soft lips that make the harshest words sound sweet. Someone dynamic. Someone who deserves better than a girl who can barely recognize herself most days.

And, well, Hana doesn’t hate herself all the time. She tried that, but it’s tiring to find faults in everything you do; it’s easier to limit herself to moments like this, when her sheets smell like the grapefruit body wash she would never wear herself.

Seungyeon has always been good at leaving a mark, whether she means to or not.

 

 

 

Hana can tell that the next day is going to be a rough one when she wakes to an instagram notification proudly proclaiming that boo_sy98 just posted a photo. Seungyeon’s instagram is usually pretty innocuous, littered with pouty selfies and Melon music screenshots and more pictures with Hana than she’d like to think about. The post should be nothing to cause her anxiety, but something stirs in her stomach nonetheless.

When Hana clicks on the notification, she nearly drops her phone on her face. It’s only appropriate when the picture staring back at her is Seungyeon at brunch with her ex-girlfriend and her ex-girlfriend’s current girlfriend.

And, okay—she knew that Seungyeon and Somin were on better terms again, but she thought that just meant one wouldn’t leave the room when they ran into the other at a party. Seungyeon had said nothing to indicate that the two were willingly hanging out, especially not with Sooyoung, whose name Hana associates with a certain curl of Seungyeon’s lip. Is there really that much Seungyeon doesn’t tell her anymore?

She spends a good three minutes examining the smile on Seungyeon’s face for signs of hidden discomfort, and another five on Somin’s arm around Seungyeon’s waist. Sooyoung is leaning her chin on Somin’s shoulder, looking like she has no problem with whatever is going on. Like her girlfriend isn’t draped all over the girl she dated for a whole semester, which in lesbian time is like, practically a decade. It’s honestly a surprise that they weren’t engaged by the end of it.

The caption is a simple “boososoo” with a mimosa emoji. Hana screenshots the post and texts it to Mingfei, along with five question marks and all the disgruntled emojis she can find.

Mingfei replies almost immediately, sending an “LOL” all on its own. Hana pouts at her phone until the three dots next to Mingfei’s picture appear again. “ya they’ve been cool since they had that project together last month,” says her next text.

Hana sends even more question marks. “what project???” she continues frantically.

ask seungyeon lol,” Mingfei replies, followed by a tongue emoji. Which is the last thing Hana wants to do, especially as she increasingly realizes how much Seungyeon has been keeping from her.

It’s not like Seungyeon has any obligation to tell Hana everything, of course, but she’s kind of used to her doing it anyway. They’re best friends. Seungyeon is, by nature, an oversharer. It just happens organically, and now there’s been a shift to that.

Instead of texting her, Hana opens instagram again and sends the post to Seungyeon in a DM. “u guys are hanging out?” she writes, debating for a minute how to play it casual.

The reply takes a while, but it comes: a “yeah, we’re good,” with no hint of any elaboration on its way. Hana feels like she’s been transported to a fantasy world where oxygen is replaced by nitrous and trees talk to each other and, like, exes can be friends and she’s the only one who thinks that’s weird.

cool,” she writes back. She hesitates, then continues: “fei says u had a project w/ her?

This time, Seungyeon’s reply comes quicker. “you asked mingfei?” she sends.

And Hana can begin to feel the familiar way her heart beats when things become too much, so she closes the app and shoves her phone under her sheets. She runs her hands over her face, practicing those breathing exercises her mom taught her that she hates to admit kind of work.

Seungyeon doesn’t have feelings for Somin anymore. Hana knows that, maybe. And Somin isn’t out to get her back, or whatever; she and Sooyoung have been together for around a year now, and Hana is pretty sure Minjoo said, like, a month ago that they’re looking into hamster adoption. But seeing the two of them together brings Hana back to the feelings of first year, and falling for a girl who loved someone else. Being trapped in her and Seungyeon’s dorm, surrounded by reminders that she’ll never be the one Seungyeon loves, forcing herself to be supportive as Seungyeon waxed poetic about someone else.

There are some things that can’t be easily overcome.

 

⭒⭑

 

Seungyeon had decided to be an RA for their second year, so Hana found someone else to room with: an incoming freshman named Chun, who Mingfei immediately adopted as her dance protégé. The change did Hana some good, especially as summer break came on and Seungyeon went back to stay with her family in Jeju. It’s easier to escape your feelings for someone when you can only see them through a phone screen.

Then the school year started, and Seungyeon ruined everything by loving her back.

And, well, technically Hana didn’t lie. She looked Seungyeon in her eyes, tear-swollen and smudged with mascara. And she knew what she should have done: told her, I hated seeing you with her; I want you next to me every morning I wake up; I’ve loved you since the moment I met you, it feels like, and it scares the shit out of me. She should have done many things, but what she did was—

“I can’t do this,” she stumbled out, rushing over her words. “I’m sorry.”

And then she left.

The week after, she didn’t hear from Seungyeon once. It was the longest they had gone without speaking since they met, and the entire time Hana played the same scene in her head: the words she had dreamed of hearing for months, and how instead of freeing her, they felt asphyxiating. Like anything she did wrong would be that much worse because of how much she wanted it. Like it would be easier not to try at all.

 

 

 

But that wasn’t the end of things, because that wouldn’t have been teen movie enough.

That Saturday—the first Saturday in a row she had spent without talking to Seungyeon in like, a year—she went over to Jess’s apartment, because Jess is a breath of LA in the Seoul air, and by that Hana just means she smokes a ton of weed.

It’s comforting, in a way. She’s comfortable. She feels like Hana’s mom, maybe, if her mom ever passed her a bong as a default comforting mechanism.

“By the way, Seungja’s coming over in a bit,” Jess had said, because everyone knew Hana was Seungja’s favourite kid in the dyke friend group she’d somehow found herself a part of.

“Just Seungja?” Hana asked, peaking at the cheese cloth to see if the stems had filtered out. She had gotten roped into helping Jess make cannabutter with the promise of brownies later, but if Seungja was coming on her own, it was probably for a booty call—if she wasn’t on her own…

“I think some others from the squad are coming with her,” Jess said. For some unknown reason, that’s what she always insisted on calling their little gathering of lesbians that naturally drift towards each other in any university setting.

And Hana actually did want to see Seungja—she liked being doted upon sometimes, and it hadn’t been since before summer break that they last saw each other, now that the older had graduated. But Hana was getting the impression that this was not going to be the chill hangout Jess seemed to be trying to disguise it as, and if the rest of their group was coming, that meant—well.

She was getting tired of walking around eggshells, anyway.

“Sure, I’ll stick around,” Hana said, slouching a bit and pulling her beanie down on her ears. Her hair was getting too long, and she hated it—it brushed against the tops of her cheekbones and made her flinch. She hated it. She hated feeling like this.

“Awesome! I’m trying to get DK to bring her new girlfriend, apparently she goes to SeoulArts for dance? Isn’t that so cool?”

Hana blinked. “DK?”

Jess laughed, like she always does in response to anything. It’s incredible, really. “It’s Somin’s stage name,” she explained. Hana had forgotten that they formed a musical project—not a band, Jess insisted—along with Jess’s intimidatingly beautiful roommate Jeonghwa, Hana’s butchspiration Seungja, and some mysterious fifth member that Hana only knew as Woozi. “It stands for Dyke.”

“Of course it does,” Hanna mumbled to herself, but she had to admit it was a pretty great stage name. She wondered where Somin even learned the English word from.

They finished filtering the butter, and left it to settle in the fridge. Hana had never made edibles before, but she found it was kind of fun. Jess was generally fun to be around, especially since she had graduated and now spent her time living it up during a gap year before her Masters. (Hana had to wonder just how rich Jess’s family is, since her only source of income was teaching English a few hours each weekend at some church. Hana’s parents are artists. She couldn’t relate.)

So Hana helped Jess make the brownies, and she helped herself to some of her ridiculously expensive-tasting red wine, and by midnight she was in Jeonghwa’s room with Seungyeon’s back against the door. She couldn’t think beyond Seungyeon’s lips against hers, her fingers tangled in Hana’s too-long hair, her mouth pulling a breath away to force Hana to chase it back. In that moment, she felt that if she had this, everything would be perfect. They could work out. She could be loved by someone, and maybe if she tried hard enough, she could deserve that love.

So she had sex with Seungyeon in Jeonghwa’s bed, and suddenly everything got worse, except that now she knew how Seungyeon sounded gasping her name. And that was enough for her, in a way.

 

 

 

What Seungyeon doesn't know—(because Hana never told her) (because she never asked)—is that she was her first time.

And Hana knows what people say: that virginity is a construct imposed for the purpose of oppressing women; that sexual experience doesn’t say anything about your value as a person; that your first time doesn’t have to be a big deal unless you want it to be so. She knows all that, but sometimes—sometimes things aren’t that simple.

She wasn’t holding out for someone special, or anything like that. The opportunity just never arose. Sure, there was that girl she dated for a bit in high school, but neither of them bothered to make a move beyond kissing in the ceramics room after class; after that, she left for university, and she never goes out unless she’s being dragged by Seungyeon.

It’s hard to look somewhere else when the person you want is right there, is all.

(It was worse when Seungyeon was dating Somin. At least now, Hana knows that the girls Seungyeon goes home with won’t stay past the night.)

So she wasn’t exactly saving herself. Which means it shouldn’t be a big deal, but for some reason it still is.

Every time Hana closed her eyes for a month, she replayed the night as though it were imprinted on her lids: the smudge of lipgloss around Seungyeon’s mouth, the way her chest shook as moans passed through her lips. Hana thought about Gothic conventions of the sublime and beauty through terror, and then hated herself for being that lit douche who thinks about Romanticism during sex. And then hated herself simply because that’s what she does best.

It’s not important, anyway. And it doesn’t matter what Seungyeon could possibly see in her, because what they currently have going on is the most she can realistically allow herself. It’s already more than she deserves.

In a way, though, sex saved their friendship. Isn’t that funny? Seungyeon told Hana she loved her; Hana rejected her, because that’s the only thing she could have done; they ignored each other for a week, until Hana got crossfaded in their friend’s apartment and fucked Seungyeon in a bed that belonged to neither of them. And suddenly, that was how they worked. And so for the past year, Hana has slept with Seungyeon more times than she can count, and after every single time she hates herself a little bit more.

Isn’t that funny?

 

⭒⭑

 

“You know,” Seungyeon starts, voice hitching as Hana’s mouth locks on the soft skin of her neck. It’s Wednesday, Hana thinks. It’s Wednesday, and you called me and said you wanted me, and now you have me. “I hate you, sometimes. You know that.”

Hana kisses an apology on the mole by her ear. I know, it says. I’m sorry. It’s my fault, it says.

She wraps her arms around Seungyeon’s torso.

She doesn’t know how to say: You deserve better; I never wanted to hurt you, but I did anyway; I love you, I love you, I love you I love you I love you—

She presses her lips against Seungyeon’s, so neither can say anything.

 

 

 

They stay kissing like that, hands above the waist, for so long Hana begins to lose feeling in her lips. She doesn’t mind it, though. Her arm has been asleep under Seungyeon’s ribs for—a half hour maybe? Twenty minutes? It’s hard to tell when they’re like this, is what she’s getting at.

Seungyeon is the one to finally pull apart, making Hana furrow her eyebrows in confusion before opening her lashes. “You should go,” Seungyeon says, brushing her bangs from her face and covering her mouth before a yawn. Her hair is dark blue, now, and brushes against her collarbones when she lies down, and Hana is in love with her.

“It’s Wednesday,” Hana says, aloud this time. Seungyeon opens her eyes, and rolls them to the back of her head.

“It’s Thursday, Vernonie. I have morning class tomorrow.”

Oh, Hana thinks.

(When was the last time she took her meds?)

“You said you hated me, earlier,” Hana says instead. Because, well, she knows what she’s like. She knows she loses track of days sometimes, and she knows she should be more concerned about it than she is. But she’s tired, and the bed she’s in is just so comfortable, and everything feels a bit like a dream when they’re lying like this.

It was the wrong thing to say, anyway. Seungyeon tenses up, and her hand comes to stop the thumb that Hana had running against her arm. Hana tries to wrap their fingers together, but Seungyeon pulls away from her hold, and whatever spell had been cast over Hana’s brain finally crashes down.

“Hana, we’re not talking about this now,” Seungyeon says.

(When was the last time she called her Hana?)

Seungyeon sits up, readjusting her camisole straps so they sit comfortably on her shoulders. Hana raises so that she’s leaning on her elbows, their shared blanket shifting down to expose the stomach under her sports bra. She shivers and sits up instead, drawing her left knee to under her chin, and then her right one too. “You’re the one who brought it up,” she says.

“You’re the one who ignored it,” Seungyeon snaps back. Her arms are crossed in front of her chest, now, like they always are when she gets into a disagreement. “You don’t get to just pick and choose whether you care about me depending on your mood.”

Hana can’t hold back the bitter scoff that comes out of her throat. “As if I’ve ever put anything over you since the day we met.”

“Now that’s fucking rich,” Seungyeon says, her lips twisted in a crude approximation of a smile. “You know, I can’t tell how long you’re going to ride this victim complex, or whatever it is you have going on. I don’t know where you get this shit from when you’re the one who abandoned me after I told you I was in love with you, just to fuck me at a party a week later since you could only bear the sight of me if you were stoned—”

“You don’t get to tell me that!” Hana says with more heat than she expected. “You don’t get to live with me for a semester while you’re in love with someone else, and then for another semester where all you do is mope around after her, and then tell me you’re in love with me only after you find out that she has moved on.”

“If you honestly think I told you I loved you out of, of pettiness about an ex-girlfriend—one that I’d been broken up with for longer than the total length of our relationship—you think less of me than I realized,” Seungyeon laughs, devoid of humour.

And it’s a concern that Hana never acknowledged herself, but now that Seungyeon has given it a voice, Hana can feel a familiar nausea rise in the back of her throat. She scrambles off the bed, removing the flannel that she has tied around her waist to shrug it back around her shoulders. Her fingers tremble as she attempts to redo the buttons, and Seungyeon is probably saying something about her running away like she always does, but it’s hard to focus her hearing on anything beyond the sudden ringing in her ears.

“I can’t do this anymore,” she says, once she’s all buttoned up and her hands are only slightly shaking.

She hears a sniffle, and digs her toes into the carpet to keep herself from turning around. “Good, because I’m over being tugged around,” Seungyeon says, her voice cracking over the syllables.

And Hana has spent so long—her entire adult life, basically—holding it back, but without thinking, she lets the words fall out of her mouth: “We lived together for nine months, and not once did you look at me closely enough to see just how fucking in love with you I was.”

And like that, a weight finally lifted from her lungs, Hana walks home.

 

⭒⭑

 

“It’s funny,” Seungyeon said once, flipping through the pages of a book Hana was reading for class—Oliver Twist, Hana thinks it may have been. She was squinting, lips moving slightly as she looked over the English characters. They had been living together for a month, and there was something about her that Hana kept finding herself struck by, though she couldn’t quite figure out what. “Why would you study English in Korea?”

Hana had shrugged, digging her feet underneath Seungyeon’s thigh. They were cold, or something. “Korea is my home,” she said.

“You have family in America,” Seungyeon said. Hana shook her head.

“It’s different.”

Seungyeon hummed, and dropped the book on Hana’s bedside table. “You won’t get anywhere if you’re afraid of change, Vernonie,” she scolded.

And that was it, Hana realized. They’d known each other for a month and Seungyeon had the unique ability to see right through her.

(They were younger then, and Seungyeon’s bleached hair was tied into a messy bun, and her skin was pink and translucent, and she’d been seeing Somin for a bit over a week. And Hana didn’t quite love her, yet, but how could she expect anything else?)

 

⭒⭑

 

This is what Hana knows about herself:

When she was in elementary school, a kid in her class pointed at her and called her a “halfer.” She asked the teacher what it meant, and he explained it to her gently—someone who is half-Korean, and half something else—and she could tell, despite him not saying it outright, that this was a bad thing.

People compare her to Western celebrities under the guise of compliments, examine her under microscopes and label her as something utterly different. It got worse when she became old enough to turn away the dresses her parents laid out for her, and worse again when she found herself staring a little too hard at a bubbly girl that seemed to be in all her classes throughout middle school. (She goes by Kino, now, and is in a moderately successful girl group. Hana streams their music videos, sometimes. She’s even prettier now.)

Hana has never once in her life felt like she belonged somewhere. Her parents tried to help her with art, and then with love when she came out to them at the tender age of thirteen, and then by bringing her to a therapist when she became too depressed to drag herself to school in the ninth grade. And she loves them for their efforts, but no amount of therapy, or SSRIs, or new age breathing techniques can counter the trauma of simply being forced to stay alive in a world so pointlessly cruel.

“Fuck,” she whispers aloud, because sometimes you have to physically say it. “Fuck.” She’s curled up on her bed, and she still hasn’t finished reading Sense and Sensibility even though she has a paper due on the weekend, and she has no mirrors in her bedroom but she still feels the eyes of all the world on her. She digs her head into her knees and hyperventilates until she sees stars, blunt nails pressing crescents into the palms of her hands.

She fucking hates when this happens.

She feels a hand on her shoulder and instinctively flinches away, before hearing an accompanying, shh, it’s just me. Chun, she distantly recognizes. The younger wraps her arms around Hana, and she allows it, her heavy breathing making way for sobs.

“It’ll be okay,” Chun says.

And Hana’s gut response is always the same: no, it won’t. But—like this, for a moment, Hana feels like she is welcome somewhere. Like people can care for her, and she can belong in a place, and no one is secretly wishing she were someone else.

You think less of me than I realized, Seungyeon had said, and she was wrong. It’s always been herself she thinks so lowly of.

 

 

 

“Are you feeling better?” Chun asks, after. They’re watching the Marie Kondo Netflix show, and Hana thinks about all the boxes she has herself packed up into.

“Yeah,” she says. “Thank you.”

Chun smiles and nudges their toes together. “Do you want any tea?”

Hana shakes her head, then rests it against her pillow. She always has a bit of a headache after these things—panic attacks, she forces herself to acknowledge by name.

After a few more minutes of the show, their doorbell rings. Hana’s eyebrows furrow, and she raises her head from its resting spot.

Chun seems to have been involved with whatever’s happening, as she coughs subtly into her hand. Little gremlin, Hana thinks fondly, because everyone under 20 is a gremlin. “Coming!” she calls out, then turns to Hana. “I’ll make some tea.”

Hana figures there are 3 options for who Chun could have texted to come look after her: Mingfei, Hana’s parents—who Chun had bonded quite closely with during the few times they’ve visited their apartment—or Seungyeon. As soon as she thinks it, she knows it’s the final option. This is confirmed when she hears Chun unlock their front door, greeted by Seungyeon’s distinct voice. (Is it that distinct, or does Hana just know it too well?)

Hana stays on her bed, forcing herself to keep from curling up again.

She hears them whisper for a bit, and worries what they might be saying. It doesn’t matter, she tells herself. She picks at the X Files poster on her bedroom wall—I want to believe, it proclaims. Her fingers trace the curves of letters.

Eventually, her bedroom door peaks open, followed by Seungyeon’s voice. “Can I come in?” she asks, voice full of the false confidence Hana knows how to instinctively recognize.

“Yeah,” Hana says. She closes her laptop and pushes it to the foot of her bed.

Seungyeon steps in with two mugs in her hands; Chun was serious about the tea, apparently. She takes a few more cautious steps, either unsure how to deal with the situation, or worried about dropping any tea. Hana wants to kiss the stress off her face.

“Thank you,” she says once Seungyeon is close enough to the hand her one of the mugs. It’s green tea, Hana recognizes. She takes a sip and wrinkles her nose.

“Oh, that one might be mine,” Seungyeon says. She always takes her tea with too much sugar—Hana takes hers with none at all. They trade mugs.

“Thanks,” Hana says again. She backs up against her wall, making more room on her bed. “You can sit down.”

Seungyeon does, with an uncharacteristic amount of hesitation. Hana sighs. “What did Chun tell you?”

The other looks confused. “Nothing? I texted her a half hour ago asking if you were home.”

Oh, Hana thinks, stomach tingling. In a good way, this time.

They sit like that in silence for a moment, before it’s Seungyeon’s turn to sigh. She puts her tea down on Hana’s bedside table. “Why did you never tell me you were in love with me?” she asks.

Right to the point, Hana sees. It’s Seungyeon, after all. “You were seeing Somin,” she explains, but Seungyeon rolls her eyes.

“Yeah, for like, four months. We lived together another five, and you never said a word about it to me,” she says.

“It’s different, though. I’m not good with, with words, or people, or feelings. Those are like, my top 3 least favourite things in the world, and that conversation would’ve involved confronting all of them,” Hana tells her.

Seungyeon hums, and Hana takes a sip of her tea. This one’s better. She thinks there’s a hint of mango, or maybe citrus. “If you were in love with me, why did you say no?” Seungyeon asks this time, and Hana burns her tongue with a wince.

“God, Seungyeon, you know—you know what I’m like,” she says. This is the second sentence in a row she’s stuttered, and she forces herself to take a deep breath. “I can’t put it on you to deal with all of that shit.”

“You’re a dumbass, Vernonie,” Seungyeon says, and Hana tries not to preen a bit at the nickname. “You just said I know what you’re like. That never stopped me from loving you before, though.”

Tears are beginning to fill Hana’s eyes, and she sniffles a bit. She can’t tell if they’re good or bad tears, yet. “You said you hated me,” she whispers instead.

“Yeah, but you know what I’m like, too, and you know I’m overdramatic. I’m not perfect, Vernonie. And I’ve been in love with this girl for like, almost 2 years, and she knows that, and she’ll sleep with me, but she won’t be my girlfriend.”

Hana does the math, and looks Seungyeon in the eyes for the first time since she came over. They look red, like she had been crying earlier, too. “Two years?” she asks.

Seungyeon blushes, hiding behind a sip of her tea. Her hair is in long, dark blue twin braids, and everything about her is so, so beautiful. “I realized in that March when we still lived together.”

March?

Two years?

Hana sniffles, and wipes her nose on her sleeve. Seungyeon makes a little “ew,” and passes her a tissue.

She puts her mug back on the bedside table, and curls up against Hana’s shoulder. They’ve done this many, many times, both platonically and as a precursor for sex, but now feels like neither. Hana shrugs out of Seungyeon's grasp to set her own mug down on the table, and then shifts back quickly enough to bang her head lightly against the wall. It’s the wall connecting her room to Chun’s, and she hears a muffled, “No sex while I’m home!” which makes Seungyeon giggle a little too hard.

Hana blushes, and burrows her head in Seungyeon’s braids. The other curls closer upon her, until her arms are around Hana’s waist, and her lips against her sweatshirt.

“I love you, Vernonie,” she says. “Please don’t walk away, this time.”

I won’t, Hana thinks. I love you so much more than you could possibly know.

“Okay,” she says instead.

But it’s a start.

 

 

 

(Seungyeon skips her morning class, and kisses Hana the moment her eyes peak open. Hana blushes, and presses her lips against Seungyeon’s chubby cheeks, and lets herself love and be loved.)