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Warm Hands and Cold Realities

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Hey Jeongyeon.

 

Do you still remember?

 

Nayeon fluttered her eyes open, yawning and stretching in the process. Wearing woolen sweater and thick sweatpants, it was quite obvious that it was cold. She hummed and took a deep breath while turning in the opposite direction of her bed, facing the window outside. Snowflakes were falling freely and slowly. The scenery outside was lovely yet lonesome to look at, in her case. Couple holding hands that had places to go and it seemed like everyone was in love. It left a bitter taste on Nayeon’s mouth as she is now sitting on her bed, surveying them walking near her street.

 

We used to be something like that…

 

She was swept off her feet when those lovable images entered her mind. It was somehow similar. Snowy, cold, but there was a tinge of warmth lingering around. Everything that was magical, it was all because her beloved made it special for them. She was used being the clingy one, but they knew which one’s the most in need.

They used to sleep together in this room, cozy and warm. One wouldn’t get up unless the other did as well. It was like a bandwagon kind of thing that neither of them really cared. Funny how the other one seems to be more disciplined than her partner, but who wouldn’t say ‘no’ to cuddles? They never wanted to leave each other’s grasp, for warmth is what the seek and love for what they need.

 

“Hey, Jeongyeon…”

 

A hum.

 

She took this as permission to go on, knowing that person being called is listening.

 

“Would you spend each Christmas with me, to keep me company and to keep me warm?”

 

Snorting, Jeongyeon almost pinched the bunny’s cheeks for being cheesy and uncanny. It was like the most oblivious question with the most obvious answer. Instead of doing the former initiative, she just let her arms rest on Nayeon’s torso while burying her nose on the crook of her neck.

 

“Just stop talking and get some rest” A long yawn, “you have a shift later this afternoon”

 

“Like you don’t have work later this evening as well. You’re leaving this bunny alone!”

 

Chuckling resonates from Jeongyeon, “I get home earlier than you dimwit. And that is why you should do well on your job”

 

“Just because you are a manager of a famous café, doesn’t mean that you can look down on me!”

 

“But I’m not”

 

“Oh, are too! Being a businesswoman – “

 

“Alright, alright. Just don’t forget to bring your coat and add more paddings later when you go. Don’t want to get sick now do we?” Jeongyeon cuts in, knowing that they will have another useless banter. They were supposed to be resting and she doesn’t want their time to be consumed in futile squabbles. A pout formed on Nayeon’s plump lips, knowing that Jeongyeon was right and there’s no way around it.

 

Anchor Jeongyeon snuggled up close behind Nayeon, inhaling the soft lavender perfume. “Besides…” She began with a whisper that only she can hear. Noting that the latter’s snoring quietly, she then opts to answer, “I would always stay by your side no matter what season ahead of us. Just to keep us both warm, and to never be alone”

 

A ding on her phone resonated in her isolated room. Raising an eyebrow, she reached for it with much effort – she didn’t bother standing up from her place because she thinks that it’ll be tiring. Unlocking it swiftly, a message caught her eyes.

 

[9:00 am] Sanake: Me and Dahyun will be waiting for you at our apartment.

Bring the things we told you and you could drop them off.

You can still roam around after if you want ^^

 

[9:00 am] Okay.

But you really don’t have to do this you know.

You and Dahyun shouldn’t burden yourselves with me

 

[9:01 am] Sanake: And I’m telling you that you aren’t one.

Come on! It’ll be fun, trust me.

We even have Mina and Momo coming over

 

Nayeon almost scoffed jokingly at the mention of her other two friends.

 

[9:02 am] Those two lovebirds? LOL

Are trying to make me a 5th wheel?

 

[9:03 am] Sanake: Jihyo will be coming as well.

 

Nayeon sighed. Well, it was not like she doesn’t want to go. It may look like she has these excuses that’ll interpret wrong intentions; but utterly and absolutely, in fact, she does want to go. Being with her friends calms her and makes her think clearly. She doesn’t want to drown into the abyss of emotions ever again. If was thanks to her friends that she has been able to stand on her two feet again and swim through obstacles that are her priorities. That phase she was talking about was the small whirlpool in the pool she just thought of herself. It meant that natural whirlpools don’t occur on man-made platforms, it was your mind that controlled you, and only you can have the command to release from the imaginative mess you’ve made in that pool.

 

Her hands were stuck, hovering above the device she was holding where communication occurs. She doesn’t know what to answer nor does she want to admit that she has all the free time to go to their gathering. Her parents needed to go to their relatives outside the country because there was an emergency about some certain issues Nayeon already forgot. During that time, she was doing her certain projects that require several unannounced meetings and gathering data – thus she was left behind. Not that it really bothers her, she understands.

 

Biting her lip, attempting to think of an appropriate reply, she glanced at the top right of her phone to check the time and notice that she was staring at the message for far too long. It’ll be rude not to drop a message of her decision. She does conclude that indeed she does want to walk around the city after dropping off the things Sana wanted her to bring over for the party later. This will be the day where she gets at least to be productive, not only for the sake of time but also for her sake to cool off. It had been hectic these days anyway. A moment with herself will not hurt much.

 

Sighing after, she then typed in a quick response before jumping off the bed as she starts her usual routine.

 

[9:30 am] Okay. Fine.

I’ll just come to drop off the stuff,

but I’ll do my thing first before joining.

When does it start?

 

[9:31 am] Sanake: 7 pm.

Great! Thought you’ll never reply~

See you later then nabongs (~uwu)~

 

The urge to roll her eyes at the emoji was strong. Typical Sana.

 

Shutting down her phone, she walked towards the mirror to check her reflection. Oversized white top with printed pink letters, light gray thick cottoned pants and her fluffy socks. She grabbed for a dark colored sweater with a layer underneath to cover herself more from the cold. Going back to the mirror, she twirled slowly to see if every angle was worth the beauty before smiling to herself and grabbed for her coat that hung at the closet she has.

 

‘It’s better to be safe than sorry’ She thought. Clicks echoed at the hallways as she locked the door to her small condominium.

 

-

 

A knock on the door caught the attention of the couple that was living in a cozy apartment, decorating their home for the present season. Dahyun was putting up the ornaments when Sana dashed through the tight spaces of the room – since their living room was full of boxes and groceries that they did earlier for their reunion soon – and opened the door, revealing a slightly shivering Nayeon and her disposable bags.

 

“Hey” She mumbled, stretching her arms to give the said things.

 

“Nabongs! You finally came! Have you eaten lunch yet?”

 

“No, I – ”

 

“What are you standing for? Come in!” Sana didn’t even let Nayeon respond when she dragged her inside despite the loud protests and pulling her hand out of Sana’s grasps.

 

“Nayeon-unnie!” Dahyun greeted from the where the Christmas tree was being held up, her hands occupied with the decorations.

 

“Dubu” Nayeon returned the greeting as she smiled and waved – while trying to stop Sana from dragging her any further. They arrived at the kitchen where Dahyun’s out of sight. That’s the time she finally got out of the snake’s clasps when she said, “Stop it Sana! I told you I’m going somewhere else after I drop off these. I’ll come back later for the gathering”

 

“You didn’t answer my question though. It’s obvious you skipped breakfast. Lunchtime has already started so I just figured, as a good friend I am, why not eat together with us? Just for lunch before the party. I mean, you still have a lot of time on your hands”

 

It didn’t take long for Nayeon to reject the offer. “I’m telling you, I’m okay. I’ll eat lunch as I do my small errands”

 

Being invited to eat isn’t something Nayeon usually dislike. She just doesn’t feel like talking to someone, or maybe it’s because she wanted her space for the meantime? Socializing could take up a lot of energy, is conserving the right term? Her mind was occupied that she didn’t realize that her lips are sealed after the uncomfortable exchange with her friend. Seeing that the other is not responding, she took this as a cue for her to leave, clutching her coat and purse bag when a hand grabbed for her wrist that turned her around to face Sana again.

 

Sana gave her a displeased look before lifting Nayeon’s hand for the both to witness.

 

“Stop this stubbornness of yours. Look at yourself, you’re trembling more often than before” She commented. She stared at the older’s wrist and saw that the fingertips were shivering at a fast pace. It was abnormal in her eyes, but Nayeon denied it immediately.

 

“I was taking too much coffee recently these days. I’ll try to take less of it now. Though this is none of your concern, I can handle this. I’m not as weak as I was before” Nayeon lowered her voice at the last statement. She silently prays that Sana didn’t hear it. Other than that, she never meant her words to be somewhat offensive, but she doesn’t want to bother anyone else further, especially her friends. The people who helped her rise above the daunting ocean, they’ve helped her long enough to be independent, she doesn’t want them to burden themselves any longer just because of how broken she still is prior to what front she made for herself.

 

Sana heaved a sigh before wrapping her hands around Nayeon, trapping her in an embrace.

 

“You shouldn’t be afraid of leaning your problems onto our shoulders. What’s the point of being friends if they can’t help? I want to scold you so much with your display of attitude, but what you’re going through now is different from mine. So, I can’t really blame you…” She tightened the grip on the clothes, memories came rushing in and tears were threatening to fall out of her eyes. She internally shook out the weakness before continuing, “You’re trembling now not because of the coffee. I know how much you hate those”

 

The older bunny chuckled and closed her eyes while embracing back, “I hate how much you know me so well”

 

A knowing smile touched Sana’s lips when she teased, “I’m not the Sanake for nothing~”

 

“Are you implying that you have your way around with girls?” Nayeon raised an eyebrow this time as she lets go, facing the flirty girl.

 

“Hey! I’m taken by my one and only amazing tofu! That was all in the past and I’m not planning to go back to that pit again”

 

Nayeon chuckled but her eyes didn’t match the emotion being portrayed. “Ditto” was all she said, pointing her finger at the other, indicating that she agrees with the last thing her friend has mentioned.

 

A howling voice that didn’t exactly exist, however, said otherwise.

 

Do you remember?

 

“Jeongie! Where are the Christmas balls I told you to borrow from Mina?”

 

Nayeon was wearing the iconic earmuffs, ugly sweaters and a Christmas hat that seemed so out of place. Her cheeks were in a shade of rushing red, not because of embarrassment nor of flatter, in fact, it was just cold for her. She gets colds and fevers easily that’s why she gets nagged by Jeongyeon whenever she forgets to bring her own portable-pocket heater. Currently, aside from those familiar scolding, she was adorning the healthy and newly bought pine-tree (clearly fake) that was on sale. While they were walking around the mall to get some late-present shopping, they saw that this thing was at least 75% off because well, it’s the only tree that wasn’t extravagant and it looks like no one was buying it nor paying attention to it despite the huge font of the markdown. The clerk even urged them to buy it, so they can finally remove it from the spot since it’s the last stock. Jeongyeon was reluctant at first, but with all she needed was a little petulant bunny (Nayeon murmured how they don’t have a tree while Mina and Momo does; Jeongyeon just wanted to punch herself because heck, that couple is rich, and they can even afford a new tree every year if they wanted – correction, Mina’s rich) 

 

In the end, thanks to Nayeon’s childish behavior (which Jeongyeon will never admit to how cute she is), they manage to afford it with no inconvenience – truly because of the cheap price.

 

“R-Right here!”

 

A huge box was pushed its way inside, various types of trinkets were sticking out as Jeongyeon pushed it. When she arrived by Nayeon’s side, she panted, totally out of breath. She sat down, till she plopped on the carpeted ground with a thud. Nayeon laughed shortly but then when her eyes gazed at the box, her eyes widened.

 

“What the heck? I thought I only told Mina to deliver the ones that she doesn’t need any more” As she was complaining, she inspected each one followed with a gasp when she sees that they were all in a clear box, making it look all new, “And I believe I told her not new ones! She’s using her money again! – stupid rich Myoui and her wealth” Nayeon grumbled.

 

“These…are not new” Jeongyeon tried to make herself more cohesive to hear, but failed, losing her breath.

 

“Wha – So you’re telling me these are ALL used?!”

 

“She just placed them back to their old cases”

 

“How many times has she used all of these?”

 

It took a moment for the other to answer, recalling what Mina might’ve said before sending the box to them. She gave out a prolonging hum, “I think she mentioned that they’ve used these at least once – “

 

“At least ONCE?! – ONCE IS TOO LITTLE – Whut is this – “

 

“Chill Nabongs. At least after Mina started dating Momo three years ago, she’s been controlling her extravagance. Well, that’s what Momo said”

 

“I suddenly feel jealous of Momo, I bet she gets these latest brands and trends from Mina for her to indulge in. What an easy life to think about” Nayeon let out dreamy and envious sighs, her thoughts swallowed with her own desires that will not ever come.

 

“It should be the other way around” Dropping the case out of the box, Jeongyeon didn’t budge from her place. She turned to face the bunny, smiling when she saw a questioning look. “They should be envious of us”

 

Hearing that from the cleaning freak was way off track than Nayeon has anticipated. Sure, she thought of the luxuries Mina has for her beloved Momo making her the desirous about claiming a lot of things that she just wanted for herself but catching Jeongyeon say something out of ordinary truly caught her attention – removing all those she craves to have abruptly. Her brain overlaps, complicating the words as if deciphering them and trying to guess what it really meant. Is this a new metaphor she has never heard of? It could be sarcasm or pure idiomatic expressions. Maybe it’s a simplification, conceivably just Jeongyeon herself. The look on Nayeon’s face was a mix of confusion and doubt since there was no further clarity towards the said utterance. It almost threw off the person laying down on the carpet, it was difficult to hold a serious conversation when it’s just the two of them. When it comes to affection, teasing is just the best route to start – or maybe it’s because they are Jeongyeon and Nayeon. Or possibly they just suck at holding a conversation that involves focus and sensitive timings.

 

Leaving that aside, Nayeon tried arranging the cases and balls by their sets. Still trying to comprehend the last words that the blonde-haired girl said. It came to a point where she just doesn’t get it at all. So, she swiveled slowly and asked with a hint of hesitance and uncertainty. 

 

“W-what do you mean? We barely can even afford a tree – “

 

“Because I have the cutest girlfriend that no one can ever replace”

 

Oh.

Oh.

 

Oh.

 

Silence enveloped them, and Jeongyeon was the one to break it first by saying, “C’mon, let’s finish decorating” while a furiously blushing Nayeon – who would’ve thought that red is sticking onto her so much –  just nodded with a leaping heart.

 

It was cheesy. SO DAMN CHEESY. It was something that she can never tolerate when hearing from Jeongyeon – especially THE Jeongyeon. But why is it that Nayeon didn’t get to say anything at all in return? It was at that moment, Nayeon hated herself for not retorting immediately. Though again, maybe it’s not so bad to stay silent. After all, she did get a sincere compliment from her usually sarcastic girlfriend.

 

She then beamed.

-

 

After bidding her friends a “see you later”, Nayeon stepped out of the building. A gust of cold wind breezed its way at the people that were walking on the streets at winter. It was the 24th of December and Nayeon suddenly recalls that it was Christmas eve and the couple she just visited just decided to hang up the decors when it was the day before Christmas? It was funny.

 

Nayeon had other priorities though, so the laughter never came.

 

Yesterday is a strong word, but the feeling is just as mutual as the term when she was referring to the old good times when she wasn’t alone on an occasion like this. If only her heart tries to accept the veracious status of her life, maybe it wouldn’t be punishing to reminisce. Thoughts were disrupted when she noticed that she had been standing in the same place for a while now, people are bumping into her by accident. Letting out a misty breath, she covered half of her face with the scarf wrapped around her neck and began sauntering; wherever her feet will bring her. Her on-the-season boots clacked its way on the asphalt sidewalk. Her eyes scanning the people, buildings, lights, snow, and couples. The lights decorating the gloomy road really took Nayeon’s mind off from solemn contemplations, smiling whenever it flickered. She adjusted her glasses and went forward again. It was cold, and her hands are placed in the pockets of her coat; the place where her hands are not familiar with.

 

‘It’s still cold’ Nayeon thought, gripping onto the warmers tightly tucked inside her pockets. Is it because she hasn’t exactly gone outside for a long time now? She should’ve adjusted with the temperature already with all the walking she has done. Or maybe she’s just missing someone’s warmth.

 

Bumping into someone isn’t exactly on her bucket list – with how much she has encountered strangers when standing in the same place for more than 10 minutes – but when she did (while cleaning her foggy glasses), she was surprised to inhale a familiar limited-edition perfume (that god only knows who can afford it more than once). A small yelp was heard and a high-pitched ‘watch it’ followed but when their eyes laid on each other, several gasps resonated.

“Nayeon-unnie!” A familiar husky voice called out and it was Nayeon’s turn to squint her eyes as she placed back her glasses.

 

“Oh! Mina, Momo!” She greeted the couple. She was about to ask what they were doing here but she was immediately bombarded with questions.

 

“Are you going to the party later?”
“How are you?”
“Sorry about bumping into you while you were cleaning your glasses earlier, are you alright?”
“I apologize for being harsh for a moment there. Mina had a mild fever a few days ago and she can be still weak despite her recovery”
“Did Sana and Dahyun inform you about the people coming later?”

 

“U-Uhm…” Nayeon couldn’t exactly process their questions quite clearly for her mind was occupied with something else till she collided with them coincidentally. “Can you guys let me comprehend everything you’ve just asked? My mind’s kind of fuzzy these days”

 

Mina, knowing how much Nayeon has gone through, nodded and asked Momo if they could sit in a café to keep themselves warm and to maybe catch a bit before seeing each other later for the gathering that will be held this evening. Nayeon still has her glasses fogged, that’s why she was lagging, behind the other two when they entered a well-known café that the duo chose. Well, it was the nearest and they didn’t really mind (correction, they forgot). When they stepped in, they were instantly greeted with the bustling place full of coffee aroma and a cozy atmosphere. Sitting down on a location near the window, they covered a table for four and made Nayeon uneasy, knowing that she’ll be alone on her side of the table. Who could she blame though? She’s undeniably single and she can do nothing about it for now.

 

“What will you be ordering Nayeonnie? Momo shall line up for us” Mina let Nayeon decide for a moment, reaching her wallet for her to give Momo. Which was straightaway pushed away by the latter, saying that she will pay.

 

“I’ll be getting some herbal tea”

 

“Don’t you like coffee– ” Momo was nudged by Mina abruptly giving her a glare, and just nodded before walking away to get in line.

 

“Aren’t you gonna order anything?” Nayeon asked, pulling her scarf down while creating heat by rubbing her hands together.

 

“Oh, Momo already has that covered” Mina giggled softly, staring at her significant other from their chairs. When she and Momo had eye-contact, she began waving slightly like a little teenager waiting for her crush to notice her. Momo greeted back with a bashful grin, her heart flipping on several heights. Her attention went back to the line when she began checking the available sweets on display.

 

Nayeon didn’t know if she should barf with the immense amount of sweetness these two have or let out a squeal for being cute. Clashing reactions and emotions, is this what they call bitterness?

 

“You guys…are something” She really tried giving a compliment. She really did try. “Not that I’m judging you guys or anything”

 

Mina chuckled, “Sorry. We’ll lower down the affection for you”

 

“Okay, now I don’t know if that’s out of pity or out of shame”

 

“It can be a little bit of both if you put it that way”

 

A burst of fit laughter resonated from the two, leaning on their chairs when they are sharing stories back and forth.

 

“So, how have you been? With all…well, this?” Mina didn’t want to sound too direct. This topic can be quite sensitive towards the older bunny.

 

It looked like Nayeon didn’t mind on the outside, but internally, she was affected by it and no matter how much she denies it, this remaining discomfort never left, “Nothing much. I’m trying to get back my usual momentum, you know? With my old routine and self-sustenance”

 

Mina nodded with interest, “It’s good that you are trying to get back to your healthy lifestyle. It will benefit not only you but also your body and us – your friends” She smiled with great delight.

 

“Now don’t be all mushy towards me Myoui. But I have to say I’m grateful that I have my very own therapist friend who cares about me” Nayeon chuckled softly, eyes glimmering with gratitude and relief.

 

“Consider yourself lucky that you don’t need to pay for all the sessions”

 

This caused Nayeon to once again roll her eyes, “Yeah yeah don’t rub it onto me too much. Though you have my thanks, Mina”

 

Her (rich) therapist (friend) giggled as their conversation went on. The little concerns and short funny stories are all Nayeon needed to feel secure. She missed this kind of hang out. Maybe she might’ve isolated herself too much that she tends to forget the things that mattered to her. To those who missed, cared and loved her for who she is without thinking how much ruckus she might’ve caused. Maybe it really was the time to move on and focus on the things that should be prioritized more. She glanced at the couple in front of her – after Momo came back with a tray full of desserts and the orders they’ve said – seeing them laughing and being so comfortable with each other, kind of makes her miss those certain feelings as well.

 

She let them be with their usual banters of who’s cuter and to those words that are full of compliments that she doesn’t even know if they are even disgusted with what they are saying as of now (seriously? Cupcake? Mitang? Momoring? Sweetie? Nayeon almost vomited at the sight); she glances out the window with a forced smile on her face. (She swears to god that if these two wouldn’t stop she’s gonna –)

 

“I’m telling you that I can go buy bread on my own. You don’t need to come with me the next time we will run out of stock” A whine resonated from Momo’s throat, her eyes focused on her partner.

 

On the other hand, Mina placed her hand on Momo’s as she soothes the smooth skin under her palm, still trying to convince the peach, “And I’m telling you that you could always use my car if you are going to go out”

 

“The bakery’s only two blocks away. What in the world are you talking about?”

 

“You could get tired” Mina tried to make her reasons more plausible for Momo to understand. She only wanted what’s best for her.

 

“I’m not even going to break a sweat, Mina.”

 

Chuckling, Nayeon rolled her eyes. It was another petty banter, but somehow the activity reminded her a lot of memories that was encrypted in the depths of her mind that somehow isn’t rising – isn’t clicking inside her brain. It wasn’t jealousy, well maybe a little bit. But who wouldn’t be? Witnessing and sensing that they are meant for each other – bound by the red string of fate – made Nayeon’s gut churn out of frustration. She wanted to experience something like that; maybe she did, but it didn’t exactly turn out the way she hoped it would be. Fumbling with the tip of her sweater, she gave them a solemn gaze, silently wishing them the best. It would be devastating if anything were to happen. Familiar with the both, she’s aware of their fragile and undying love for each other. Imagining it, it was like they would not last more than five minutes away from each other – based on their initial conversation just several seconds ago.

 

It was quite a sight to behold. A couple not sure of what the future holds yet that doesn’t stop them from being them. Nothing can ever stop the fondness created for both and for them alone. No matter what hardships (Nayeon prays) they would overcome it together. That’s what this bond is for. To be able to trust one another without the hint of hesitance present in their hearts nor minds, because they’ve already formed this devotion contract with each other’s sentiment, is everything that a pair need. Regardless of the small misunderstandings and spaces that might’ve been created in the process, staying together creates this haven where you can lean against each other for support; where longingness is quenched.

 

The feeling of having that security any time, and anywhere, made her miss the times where she wasn’t as helpless. Suddenly, she was in a trance, keeping her eyes at her cup with its hot contents spewing a fairly high temperature of air; hands wrapped around it. She wouldn’t take a sip, as an alternative, however, she would use her eyes to digest its spectrum instead. It never really occurs to her just to finish its qualified amount, since she isn’t – after all – thirsty. She could be wasting money (Momo’s money, rather) but that wasn’t part of her intention at all. Contemplation about life perhaps? That’s holding her back from intaking. It’s a process that can never be fulfilled once she has accomplished it. Knowing that she hasn’t really done anything productive that could’ve moved her own self-isolation from the world, it was a hard task for her to achieve, thus the result of fragmentary. Could it be cowardice though? Nayeon shook out the thought, here she goes again. Calling oneself an essence of a fearful nitwit will not bring justice to the threatening notions.

 

Gripping onto the container a bit tightly, she let the heat sink in her cold palms, sighing after. The phone beside her vibrated for quite some time now, but she let it go unnoticed. She was in a lapse for a moment because she forgot that she was with Mina and Momo that her mind flooded itself with the things unnecessary to their small hangout.

 

“Nayeonnie, you okay?” Mina reached for Nayeon’s hand on the cup, giving her a worrisome look.

Not wanting to ruin the mood, Nayeon shook her head, implementing her denial, “No. I mean, I’m fine. Just a bit tired, I guess” She tried not to sound weak but unfortunately Mina’s sensitive about any changes from previous conversations: like the tiny switch of tone and slight adjustment with the demeanor. The therapist let it slide though, for now.

 

“If you say so. Tell me if you need anything, okay? I’ll add another food from the menu if that’s what you want”

 

“N-No. No. It’s okay Mina, really. I haven’t even touched my tea yet” A forced chuckle was punched out of her lungs.

 

Propping up an elbow and leaning onto her palm, Nayeon then reminded herself that she should really try drinking coffee again to sustain her mind’s sanity.

 

Her afternoon was spent talking with Momo and Mina about the things that they’ve missed during the past years, and life currently. It was starting to get dark, so the couple bid their “see you soon” to each other since they will still see each other later at the gathering,

 

“Don’t be late later! We’ll be anticipating your arrival” Momo shouted back, they were a meter of a distance away from Nayeon at the small balcony outside of the café while waving goodbye.

 

“I won’t back out this time, don’t worry!” Nayeon shouted back, but it wasn’t as loud.

 

Mina can be seen waving back as well while clinging onto Momo’s clothed arm, smiling. Nayeon went back inside because it was still cold and well, it was comforting indoors. Something inside Nayeon was calling for her attention, but she was too preoccupied to even notice or recognize. She sat back down, surveying the atmosphere. They (when MiMo were still with her) sat at the far corner of the café, so it was easy to get the sight of the interior without turning her back.

 

Sighing in contentment, Nayeon got her book out of her bag. She was told that reading can destress anything that comes in mind, and she could use this opportunity to try it out. The title of the book was “Warm Hands and Cold Realities”. Nayeon wasn’t really a fan of reading in the first place, yet the book reminded her of the things she missed when she was focusing on her recovery. She came across it when Mina invited her outside to go to the mall with her – after locking herself in the room for months – and the therapist thought that this will be a good opportunity for Nayeon to have a change of scenery. The bunny even took note of what Mina said, “You can’t hide away from your problems. Sometimes, you just have to face them despite the outcome”

 

When they arrived at the mall, they decided to take it slow and go to some shops where several clothes were aligned. The progress was going well, and Mina dragged Nayeon to her favorite bookstore containing all sorts of literature where they were carefully arranged. The glass doors open when steps dug onto the sensor underneath the rug, and they were greeted with a sight that overwhelmed both – Nayeon the most as she hasn’t been outside for a long time.

 

“Pick any book that interests you” Mina beamed, her fingers dangling onto the shelves, feeling the polished wood.

 

“I’m not that illiterate” Nayeon chuckled.

 

“Oh, I know that. I just thought that maybe you want to try and read something. You know, to keep your eyes relaxed and for your mind to be exercised a little bit every once in a while”

 

“You sound like an adult, it’s gross”

 

“But aren’t I?”

 

Nayeon chortled, “Not a chance, Princess. We all know who’s the real adult here”

 

Mina didn’t even defend herself when she responded with ease, “Alright grandma, I get it”

 

“Grandma?! I – “

 

“Just pick a book already” Mina waved her off. A buzz from her pocket erupted, she grabbed it and read the name of the contact. Her eyebrow rose slightly, questioning herself quietly to why Momo was calling her. Not that she hated it though, in fact, she loved talking with Momo 25/8.

 

“Who is it?” Nayeon wondered, peering slightly to see the caller.

 

“It’s Momo. I’ll be right back, go find your book now while I take this call” Mina went outside, her phone already stuck onto her ear. The barriers beeped and slid open when she set foot on the carpet.

 

Nayeon scratched the nape of her neck steadily, not knowing what to do next when it wasn’t her intention to go to a bookstore in the first place. She glanced around quietly, noticing some people minding their own business. Some were walking around the aisles, scanning their preferred genres. Others were sitting on the vacant chairs provided for readers that wanted to scan the sample books before buying them. Cashiers on their designated posts, same as the customer's service and other staffs. Nayeon took in all the happenings in once glance, still thinking whether to get a book or not.

 

‘It’ll not hurt to look around’ She thought to herself before letting her feet take her to wherever.

 

She came across the section named, “Young Adult” where books for mature people (coughs) with detailed concepts were portrayed. Her shoes scraped the carpeted floor, sauntering her way at the categorized sections, scanning each panel with a scrutinizing intent as if she knew each books’ layout and overall content. An attractive book may get her attention, she thought. Her eyes landed on the letter W when her eyes grasped at the sight of a book at the very corner of the shelf alone. It was separated with a book stand like it was a hindrance to the other collection, discrete from its fellow phonemes.

 

Curious, she asked aloud, “What’s this?”

 

She grabbed it and read the back for its synopsis. Mina returned after a short while and when she did, she saw Nayeon reading a book at the chairs provided. She smiled slightly and went to where her patient was.

 

“Found a book already?”

 

Nayeon gazed up and nodded a bit, “Yeah. I think I’ll get this one” following with a smile.                                                                                                                                             

 

Returning to where Nayeon held the book, she flipped it open carefully to avoid creating creases. She got out her bookmark ready and then she began scanning. Nayeon figures that the book had a simple plot, a girl going through a tough break-up and misses the warmth of her loved one. It was somehow relatable for Nayeon, especially in the first half. Feeling the air getting colder, she adjusted her scarf and pulled it up to her nose. Tilting her reading glasses in the process, she mumbled the words written on the material, the content filling her imagination.

 

She was at least a few minutes in, when her reading session was interrupted. Call Nayeon selfish, but usually, she would not answer to anyone who dares break the concentration she was building. This time, however, was different.

 

“Miss, do you want anything from the café? I can see that you’re reading, but perhaps maybe you would like something that would accompany it?” The voice sounded so familiarly annoying.

 

She knew that there were certain cafés wanted to push some customers a little bit, so they can persuade you in buying their desserts or beverages. Nayeon didn’t mind it, it was just part of their job. She knew that, yet why was she did she feel so screwed after laying her eyes onto the person who asked? This person was part of the staff, in fact, an important piece in the business. She was not just a person who has this “job”, no, it was not only that. Heart began pacing faster than usual and pupils shrinking and shaking; she wanted to hide. So that’s why her gut feeling was all over the place, the uneasiness spreading all throughout her brain signaling something wrong from the very start. The beginning when they set foot on this café that she forgot existed nor despise, everything was getting clearer by the second her vision was enveloped by this person.

 

She forgot to mention that this person who inquired was someone more, and to be treated with respect by the employees here. This person was the manager; wearing her signature uniform and beret. Nayeon wanted to curse at the couple that brought her here, forgetting that she hated this certain café. Why was she so blind? There was no way she could have forgotten this place. She knew that she would avoid this location every time she came across with it. She was conscious about literally everything, so why did she still end up here?

 

“Miss…? Oh…” The manager squinted her eyes and knew that she made a mistake for approaching primarily.

 

“J-Jeongyeon?” Nayeon managed to squeak out. Her scarf falling from her fingers, mouth agape.

 

“H-Hey Nayeon…” Jeongyeon scratched the back of her head, the awkwardness slowly seeping in the atmosphere.

 

“I-I’m sorry. I-I didn’t realize that this was your café – I! I-I should be going. P-pardon me for my unwanted presence” The older one didn’t bother in wasting any more seconds as she returned her book in her bag, fixing her stuff immediately.

 

Nayeon was about to pass through Jeongyeon when the other one just grabbed for the bunny’s wrist, stopping her from going. Surprised, the latter’s widened eyes and beating heart was all she needed to feel to snatch away her arm from the manager.

 

“W-Wait, Nayeon!” Jeongyeon called out again, this time gripping onto Nayeon’s wrist more securely, making sure she will not lose her this time. “L-Let’s talk”

 

“What are we going to talk for? You’re just wasting your time, you better go back to managing your café. I shouldn’t be here at all…” She didn’t look at Jeongyeon. Her eyes boring itself on the ground, avoiding the painful look that she can imagine on her face.

 

“M-My shift’s about to end anyway, another manager will take over. I promise we will not be talking about…that, if you want. I-I just want to see you and…hear your voice” The stutters and honest statements Jeongyeon made was all she needed for Nayeon to lift her head and to finally stare right into her eyes, rather than avoiding it.

 

“Okay… don’t make me wait too long, I still have other matters to take care of” Nayeon lied – partially. It’s somehow true, with the gathering happening later of course.

 

“O-Of course” And with that, she left.

Moments passed by and Nayeon was scrolling through her email feed. After the delayed pick up, she bit a flesh inside her mouth, there were several mails that were unread, and it was piling. There were others that mentioned about certain projects, while there were also upcoming events that she almost forgot and if it wasn’t for the messages, she would’ve missed it. There was a sudden migraine on the left side of her temple, because of the emotional break she took a few weeks ago, she neglected the consequences that will hit her once she returns from work. Till now, she hasn’t finished everything that was assigned to her and well, it was a holiday this week and the crew decided to take at least a break from all the deadlines. What they fail to remember is that they (Nayeon’s co-workers) will be the only ones taking that break. Nayeon still has a lot of tasks piled up at her home, and she only took the break just recently – specifically today.

 

‘Oh well’ Nayeon thought to herself, leaning onto her palm with her phone on the other hand that was still scrolling, ‘They will just have to wait for it the day after tomorrow. I’ve passed somehow half of it. I’ll to do the rest later’

 

Sighing – after checking her social media feeds as well – she closed her phone with its power button and placed it on the table. Crossing her arms, she now wonders where Jeongyeon is. Peeking on her wrist watch, the time indicated was [17:01].

 

“5 pm huh…” She mumbled audibly. At least two hours before the gathering.

 

She was interrupted when her supposed dark-gray haired companion arrived, wearing her dark over-sized coat, navy-blue beanie and her trusty black slim boots. Nayeon couldn’t deny the simplicity’s look, it was breath-taking to see Jeongyeon again.

 

“S-Sorry, did you wait too long?” It was a start, in Jeong’s case. This tightening feeling around her chest was unbearable but seeing Nayeon again eased her. It was still awkward, to begin with, she didn’t know what to do after calling out to the older one during her shift hours ago. The café has fewer customers now unlike earlier. The anonymous conversations were softer now compared to the premature period, making her boots echo louder than a normal amble.

 

Nayeon didn’t answer back and just wrapped her scarf around her neck closer. She nodded, waiting for the latter to reply.

 

“R-Right,” Jeongyeon expected this kind of demeanor. “Let’s go outside then, the café’s a bit stuffy for me”

 

“That, we can agree on” Nayeon gave her a curt answer to the suggestion.

 

It irked the other, but she argued to her usual short-tempered self that her pride isn’t the thing that is important here. She bit back her tongue, releasing the tension from her lungs, “Alright then”

 

With that, they both walked out. The door hits the bell as they saunter, leaving countless of dings.

 

The dense cold air brewing its way towards the people got them freezing, but surprisingly, strolling next to each other made it warmer than usual. Fingers grazing, both still wouldn’t look – nor a glance. They might still be on a rocky state but being able to be next to each other honestly is a huge step. Even Sana would be shocked to see them like this. Jihyo would rub her eyes and double check if this is even a reality that she is in. Momo would just stare wide-eyed. Mina would… Mina would just smirk from afar.

 

Another gust of wind hits them and Nayeon’s padded jacket can’t cover her from the shivering temperature. A warm hand suddenly envelopes itself on hers, she looked up to see Jeongyeon holding her palm.

 

“I-I’m only doing this because you and I are cold”

 

The bunny noticed the tinted cheeks on Jeongyeon’s cheek. She suppressed the urge to smile at the reaction, but she just kept the words in her mind, remembering that the situation they are in is still not okay, plus they already declared the closure. All the memories surged in her mind like a bullet, it hurts her knowing that things can never return to the way it was.

 

“R-Right” Was all she can mutter under her breath, before returning her gaze at the street as she chanted in her mind.

 

Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let the pain show.

 

Nayeon felt the grip tightening around her hand, she was getting nervous at every step they are taking. She told herself that she would leave the past behind, she will prove to everyone and to herself that once an oath has been made, it can never be broken. It was once mentioned that Nayeon loved herself; of course, she did. Abruptly, a bond was made a few years ago. Who would’ve thought that once you’ve patched yourself with another, it would make your partner be a part of yourself and creating “one”. Love was just beyond the concept of being jointly combined as two individuals. Nayeon understood that when she devoted herself – with her companion in this civil twilight hour – years ago. She also perceived what it meant to have the best moments of your life, can also mean your last. The truth can’t be appreciated once you have this feeling of doubt towards your significant other when everything was going downfall, and every single time Nayeon hears an explanation, she receives it as an excuse to not question her partner’s intentions instead of hearing it as the honest response that she was searching for.

 

It didn’t settle well enough. Nayeon knew it was bound to happen, yet she was blinded by the fear of losing her. Too busy with making everything right. Too occupied with her suspicions eating her alive, causing mishaps and fallacies. She loved Jeongyeon too much that she doesn’t want to believe all the rumors flying around. She hid herself away from the veracity to her questions. She was making everything seem like it’s alright when it’s not. Those years haunted her very being. Blaming herself over and over, nailing onto her head that it was her fault that they didn’t work out in the end. Nayeon was hurt. Nayeon was afraid. Nayeon did everything she could. She hated herself. She was not enough. She was too weak, too broken, too young to even know how to take responsibility. She detests herself whole-heartedly. Jeongyeon was too perfect for her.

 

“Nayeonnie, let’s go through this together, okay?”

 

There was an echo deep inside her brain. The voice was indeed sweet and caring, making her feel secure.

 

“Nayeon?” Jeongyeon called out, hands still linked. She gave a brief glance at the older one, they were standing at the middle of the sidewalk as the other civilians walked pass them.

 

Nayeon’s head was drooped, covering eyes. Jeongyeon knew that there was something else underneath but didn’t pry. Sensing that there was something wrong, she dragged them both to a near park that was covered in snow and a drop shuddering climate. Settling down a vacant bench, she gave Nayeon the time she needed to recover and leaned back.

 

“I-I’m sorry” Jeongyeon mumbled, still gripping onto their intertwined fingertips. Though it never really was mentioned what the issue was, she still apologized. Guilty with how their relationship ended, she averted her eyes for a moment before continuing, “It still hurts after all these months – years that we’ve gone through together. All the memories we spent, all the times we were happy and contented, and all we needed was each other; nothing less, nothing more”

 

A hiccup resonated.

 

“I-I didn’t know that it would still be this hard to confront you after all the distance we’ve created for each other. It makes my heart throb in torment because it spoke all the apologies I wanted you to hear though I know that you wouldn’t like it. I don’t know how to put this in clear sentences, but… I-I’m still sorry that you’ve been stuck with me, the idiot, for years”

 

Silence.

 

“I-It’s my fault that we’re like this. And, I wasted your time by being a heavy weight. Instead of comforting you and asking how your day was, all I do was scold you for being indolent, for complaining all the time, for being annoying… I was spiteful to you when you did nothing wrong”

 

Jeongyeon grabbed for a white handkerchief from her pockets and hesitantly gave it to Nayeon. The other one was holding back her tears for too long, though she let the waters run for so long now. This feeling was different however, with her ex-girlfriend beside her, listening to her regrets and shortcomings. She took this scenario differently from what she had imagined (she tried to prepare herself just in case they bumped into each other soon).

 

Nayeon held up her hand, stopping Jeongyeon from giving her the cloth. No, she shouldn’t let her frailty show.

 

“Thank you for the concern, but it’s not like that” She attempted to disguise the ache from her voice, it was easier when she was imagining this particular part of the encounter than actually facing her.

 

“R-Right. S-Sorry for assuming – ”

 

“No. No it’s okay, really. Thanks for your concern”

 

Jeongyeon knew that she must do something to turn this conversation around, “I didn’t invite you out for a fight, Bongs”

 

That nickname. God.

 

“Don’t call me that” Fists clenched crushingly, her self-control is slowly slipping out.

 

“Nayeon. Can’t we just talk? Like normal people?”

 

“And then what?” Nayeon snaps, “Pretend that we’re okay when we are totally not? Pretend that I should just let this pass since nothing happened when every memory engraved in me is combusting my brain for making me remember all the times we had? Pretend that I wasn’t hurt? Do you want me to put on a show just for your sorry-ass that wants to stay out of tension? Gee, thanks for your amazing tip-off”

 

“It’s nothing like that Bongs – ”

 

“And I’m telling you to stop using that nickname!” Nayeon finally settles her eyes on Jeongyeon. Time seemed to halt when their gazes fell on each other. Her cheeks stained with pang of affliction running down. She doesn’t know how if being in pain like this can also express the anger she felt, “J-Just stop it, please”

 

“Nayeon…”

 

“Just, leave me alone” Nayeon stood up from the bench. Her heart can’t handle these emotions anymore. It was confusing, irritating, agonizing and blissful all at once. She doesn’t know how she could cope up when the only thing right now on her mind is that, Jeongyeon’s here; and Jeongyeon look so pretty when she looks worried. Sadly, the times have changed because she needs to ignore these subtle distractions starting from now on.

 

“Nayeon, wait” This time Jeongyeon also rose up from her place and made the older one face her gently. “Don’t leave”

 

“Jeongyeon, let’s stop this. It was wrong of me to even wait for you, but I think it will be best if we don’t run into each other anymore”

 

“This isn’t only just about you nor is it about me, but about us. Don’t you want to resolve this hasty mistake we made?” Jeongyeon searched for the spark, but all she felt was frigid palpitating anticipation. She slipped her fingers between Nayeon’s, still waiting for any reaction that’ll mend them back together.

 

A gust of wind passed, accompanied with Nayeon’s longing sigh, “You know… your hands are awfully warm” A whisper in the chilled hazy air, eyes brimming, a finger tightening on a single thread. It was loud enough for them to hear, and it reassured them that this isn’t some fantasy right now – where they always dreamed for this moment.

 

“Yours too”

 

Nayeon let out another exhale, before looking at Jeongyeon – for real this time, “I wish that this kind of warmth I’m feeling right now is only for me”

 

The manager frowned, “What do you mean by that?”

 

Downcast irises, followed by a doleful look, Nayeon spoke “As time passes by, we can never be so sure that these feelings are everlasting. If right now, we, do really and sincerely do miss each other, what about those times where we would yell at each other everyday and all those sleepless nights trying to cast away our pride but failed? Other than that, what about the times where we would cuddle our worries away and have no care about the oblivion? Where we would say that it’s me and you against the world. No matter how much I want to bring those days when we’re together, it’s hard still hard on me Jeongyeon, especially if we both know that we already decided to stop”

 

“But that doesn’t mean we can’t go back to the way it was before, not unless we try”

 

The latter shook her head, she sat back down; Jeongyeon followed the action, “We’ve already scarred our relationship once and I believe I can never go back again”

 

“You don’t need to go back, we can always start anew” Jeongyeon doesn’t understand. Why is Nayeon being like this? She has never seen the bunny so crushed and pessimistic. Has their past really damaged her that much that it changed her? No, she doesn’t want this to be the end, just when she finally gets to see her. The absence was too much in her case perhaps.

 

“I-I’m sorry Jeongyeon. I already gave away a part of me, we both screwed up, and this resulted because of me being carelessly throwing my love just when I thought that I have found my eternality”

 

“No, Nayeon, listen to me. This isn’t how it's supposed to end. There could be a reason as to why fate has made us meet like this again, and I don’t want to lose my chance in getting back together” Jeongyeon was now holding onto Nayeon’s shoulder, making the business woman stare into her desperate eyes.

 

Getting back together… A subtle bell just rang inside her brain. The flashbacks are coming back to get her again.

 

Have you forgotten, Jeongyeon?

 

“I think we need some space”

 

Nayeon blinked. Is she hearing things correctly? Or has her hearing gone bad just like her eyesight? She shifted from the couch she was sitting on and faced Jeongyeon – who’s hair was still blonde and cut short, “What do you mean?”

 

Jeongyeon sighed, grabbing for her cap near the counter, placing it on her head and before Nayeon could comprehend what is going on, her partner was already at their doorstep strapping on her shoes.

 

“W-Wait Jeong! What’s going on?! Why do you have your suitcase? Explain to me what is happening!”

 

“Sorry Nayeon, I think I need some time to think about our situation”

 

“What situation? What do you mean? Why aren’t you being specific?”

 

Jeongyeon rolled out her case, closing the door behind her but not without leaving her final response, “I’m sorry”

 

Nayeon was alone after that, not knowing what reason made Jeongyeon leave her. After that, she went on days without her and trying to proceed with life as if it was normal like she doesn’t have a girlfriend at all. There were certain times where she would ask their friends where Jeongyeon was, but it looks like they weren’t informed as well. She was devastated, and there were also times where she gets attached with the issue that she forgot that she was working, making some delays here and there.

 

Despite all those, still, she waited.

 

She reasoned with herself that if Jeongyeon really does love her, she will come back. There was a surge of hope running through her veins when the proverb resonated in her heart. The supposition can make the mind blind, but how can you blame her when all she wanted was just the truth? The patience will subside, but Nayeon believed that she wouldn’t have to stand by for too long. She believed in their love, they’re strong, and she wouldn’t want the doubt to grow as it was biting on the edge steadily. Have a little faith, they say.

 

Jeongyeon will come back.

 

She was sure of it.

 

-

 

Nayeon returned to their shared apartment (yes, it was still theirs. She insisted otherwise), exhaustingly, she plops near the cotton couch. She can smell that the furniture hasn’t been cleaned yet – because it was Jeongyeon’s job to begin with – but she perhaps felt that lying or sitting on it gave her comfort, despite the change of aroma. She was still not used to Jeongyeon not being here. She tried everything to forget the younger one, because she can’t admit to herself that she was the one going on a hysterical moment every passing hour she gets reminded that she was just left here alone without any sort of hint from the start. She heaved a sigh, getting swallowed by her thoughts will get her nowhere – she knew that already.

 

She sat up, only to fall on the floor, her head was spinning as the blood circulation from her head was abrupt. She grunted, whimpering later when she can finally feel the impact’s aftermath.

 

“You’re still as clumsy as ever”

 

Nayeon’s ears perked up. ‘Jeongyeon’ She swerved her head at the voice, and indeed Jeongyeon was there. “Y-You came back…”

 

“Yeah. I guess I am…”

 

“Why are you here?” The older one asked, knowing Jeongyeon will not return easily. She might’ve waited for her, but she knew that out of the blue without prior notice means that she may leave again. That thought alone makes Nayeon frown.

 

“Getting straight to the point I see,” She chuckled, “Right…uhm, I was just here to check up things on you and to…get my remaining pair of shoes”

 

It was heavy.

 

The atmosphere, she meant. A gulp was the first thing Jeongyeon did after talking (mumbling actually), and she could already feel the eyes burning her. It was a mistake to come here, but she did tell the truth. If she was only here for her shoes, she would’ve left hours ago.

 

“Okay. Now that you’ve seen me and got your shoes, shouldn’t you be on your way now?”

 

Harsh. But Jeongyeon knew that she deserved it, “Yeah, right”

 

“I can’t bear to see you yet,” Nayeon suddenly said, making Jeongyeon flinch at the change of tone. “Not when you aren’t coming back entirely”

 

There was yet another dead silence in the room. It was an ear-splitting mute, visions staring and boring at each other, seeing if anyone is willing to break. Who will gain victory in the end? None was answering, responding to the hanging sentence. The bunny was trembling, she knew that there is no going back if Jeongyeon will leave again, it just means that she will never set foot here again. It was scary, the thought of waiting for nothing at the end of the day.

 

 “I’m sorry”

 

“If you really are, you should tell me what’s going on and explain to me as to why you left,” Her surroundings were starting to get hazy, waves of emotions hitting her like a cruiser. She gripped on the fabric of the couch, eyes still focused on Jeongyeon. She can see the younger one biting her lip, her fingers scratching the back of her nape, trying to ease out the guilt building up.

 

“Nayeon…” Jeongyeon went closer to Nayeon with an emotion the older one can’t read. She grabbed for her hand, the soft gesture made her melt, but it wasn’t enough to quench the rage. “I-I’m sorry –”

 

“Just…Just tell me what’s going on. I can’t keep on going like this without knowing the reason,” She retracts her hand, “At least give me a concise explanation, that’s it” She tried not stuttering, and thank the gods she didn’t.

 

Her mind has gone haywire. She was digging her teeth partially on her bottom lip, she wants to desperately let Jeongyeon know how much she means to her, but if the latter doesn’t feel the same, she doesn’t have the power to alter the decision. It hurts, but they did say that if you really love the person, you will let her go.

 

And she did.

 

“You don’t have to love me back, or return here anymore, only if you tell me the reason why you left me” An explosion of scenarios was being shoved in Nayeon’s mind. She can already see the future, and she doesn’t want it. She doesn’t want Jeongyeon to leave. She doesn’t want it to end like this. She doesn’t like it.

 

It took for the other one to reply. She felt the world crashing into pieces, pommeled into extinction. There was no going back. The soon-to-be manager knew, the business woman knew. Both knew, yet why did everything go downhill.

 

“It was for the best”

 

A slam of the door confirmed Nayeon’s greatest fear – turned reality.

 

“Lose your chance? Jeongyeon, you must be kidding” Nayeon gave a sad smile, an almost wry gaze reached her eyes when she heard the pleas. As the flashback came into an end, she knew that there was no going back. She doesn’t want to go through the pain again. Not when she already made her own promise that she would love herself and would never take poor risks she had taken before. There was a pause, “You’ve already lost me the time you walked out of the door from our apartment”

 

Jeongyeon’s eyes widened, “No, Nayeon it’s not what you think it is – I just needed some time – “

 

“I’m not going to wait for you again Jeongyeon”  

 

Finally, the silence was brought up in the heated conversation. She let her hand fall beside her, leaving Jeongyeon’s grasp easily like running water.

 

“Nayeon…” There was hurt in her tone, Jeongyeon’s downcast sigh echoed in their ears.

 

“I would really appreciate it if you will not talk to me like this again later at the party”

 

She quivered partially, taken back a bit. “You know I was invited?” She chuckled softly.

 

“Of course. Jihyo wouldn’t leave you behind. No matter how much worry you’ve cause them for the past years”

 

“How kind of her” Jeongyeon, engaged with the sudden shift of subject.

 

“Well, you know Jihyo”

 

“And I’m pretty sure that the others are coming as well” Leaning back, she let her eyes shut for a moment, feeling the nature around them. Slight discontinuation, before adding a soft, “…I’m sorry”

 

At this, Nayeon’s ears perked up, earning her focus.

 

“It was selfish of me…to let you wait when I’m not even so sure of myself why I did that. Giving you anticipation of false hopes, unknown to lots if I was ever coming back” It was a start, the flinching and uncertainty in her voice made it evident that she was confused on how to deliver her sentences properly without the other taking it wrongly.

 

Nayeon didn’t want to be rude, so she let her continue. She folded her hands in front of her lap, playing with the tips of her sweater underneath the layers.

 

“An infinite amount of time, yet the impression of waiting for the unknown is terrifying. Taking a risk, lacking credence of one’s return” Jeongyeon poetically murmured. Her fingers clenched around her own, marking the skin underneath the gloves momentarily. “This is all my fault…huh?”

 

Nayeon could only look at Jeongyeon with pity, eyes were wavering every now and then when those memories just keep on returning. Honestly, she does admit that it was Jeongyeon’s fault but,

 

“I was also accountable with what happened with our relationship, Jeong” The nickname she forbids herself to utter came out naturally. Returning her gaze, crestfallen, she pursued “I was too naïve with everything. About us, about those happy endings we thought we could get”

 

“Nayeon…”

 

“I – I think we were just too young to realize important things and that there are times where relationships should be at bay, y’know?”

 

“No…Nayeon wait”

 

“But it’s true? Isn’t it?” Nayeon almost snapped at Jeongyeon, she doesn’t want to hear the lame reasons she’s sure she will hear, “Ever since you left me, it took me several months – or a few years even – just so I can go back on my own feet and let all things sink in”

 

No response.

 

“It was harder to be independent than I thought, but I endured it and got through” Tears were running again, and Jeongyeon could only lean in and hug Nayeon’s fragile figure. The latter didn’t stop her, she was already tired trying to fight everything back.

 

“I just only needed to look behind before moving forward again” She hiccupped, clinging onto Jeongyeon’s jacket tighter.

 

“I’m so sorry, Nayeon” The girl with mid-hair length and dark locks could only apologize with her short-comings.

 

“I just needed to remember that there only me before there was you”

 

The conversation didn’t continue as Jeongyeon embraced Nayeon, rocking her slowly to subside the waters. All they could hear was the sniffs and hiccups that pained them both.

--

 

They walked along the park after finally facing each other. Since dusk is starting to set, they’ve decided to walk their way towards the location of the gathering. Though they were together, the pair were silent. The crushing sound of snow beneath their feet, the bells dinging as doors kept hitting the arch, people’s anonymous chats, cars honking, kids and their photoshoots with shifting “Santa”s; everything was busy, it was a holiday after all.

 

It didn’t take too long for them to finally reach the end. In front of them was an apartment. Jihyo actually owned two parts of the shared apartment, which makes it at least 6 people can fit in, that’s why it was then decided that they will hold the celebration here. Nayeon and Jeongyeon didn’t make a single move after halting themselves. It was like a barrier that was fending them off, a riddle that needed solving, or a password that is essential before passing through.

 

Jeongyeon was the first to disturb the silence, “Nayeon…”

 

The mentioned person shifted her gaze, her mouth releasing a hum to acknowledge the call out.

 

“I…I don’t think that we should stop here”

 

A beat.

 

Two.

 

Perhaps more than she could count, Nayeon let her ears throb along with the thumps. She doesn’t want to be dishonest about her feelings, or that realization that’s nagging behind her brain that she should stop and move on whilst her heart crying out to give another chance.

 

This was Jeongyeon she was talking about. The one who would give an earful every time she forgets to wash her own plates, or a single speck of dust would ruin a furniture’s worth. The one who would catch Nayeon every time her knees would buckle and not the ground. The one who needs her comfort every single night when nightmares come to haunt her. The one who cares enough for her friends that she would always check up on them. The one who loves her family a lot. The one who is Yoo Jeongyeon, her past lover.

 

Nayeon gave out a small smile, “I’m sorry, Jeong. But I don’t think those words will convince me enough”

 

She tried taking the first step forward but was immediately pulled back.

 

“I’m willing” Jeongyeon blurted out of nowhere.

 

At this point, they don’t know what’s running in their minds. Gears are turning perfectly fine, yet internally, there was something incomplete like a nucleus of some sort. The bunny shoots the ostrich a confused look, but in all sincerity, it was obvious that both are startled with each passing second Jeongyeon’s eyes stilled at Nayeon’s.

 

She let out a misty shake of breath, she tangled their fingers till they lock, and she responds.

 

“It’s my turn,” She started “and I am whole-heartedly willing…” A pause. A release of tension in the lungs,

 

“… This time, I will be the one waiting for you”

 

Nayeon smiled the truest form for the first time in years. Heart swelling more than a thousand of fountains bursting out in several shapes and forms in colors.

 

It seemed like fate doesn’t want to give up for bringing them both back together.

 

“It will not be easy though. After all, I’m not an easy girl as well, to begin with”

 

Jeongyeon flashed a cheeky smile, “I will do my best then”

 

“I can’t believe this” Nayeon was still uneasy. But it was just so different when it comes to Jeongyeon.

 

“We can take it slow,” Jeongyeon noticed the uncomfortable aura and secured their interlocked hands.

 

Nayeon pondered it for a short while. She was usually confident in all her decisions in life, she was the embodiment of luck and fortune – maybe excluding fortune – but whenever her guts tell her that everything was going to be fine, it will be. It always works. She hopes. As her feet was busy enough prodding itself against white snow, Jeongyeon was patiently listening to their breaths that creates foggy yet calming mists. There was always a way to make things flow its own pace. Everything will be fine. It will be.

 

‘For Nayeon’

 

From a distance, 7 heads were peeking through the thin sheets of the curtain, spectating the duo outside of the freezing weather. It was quiet, obviously waiting with no respiration happening with the anticipation of the drama in front of them.

 

“I really hope things will get better for them” Chaeyoung remarks, followed by a nod from the tallest.

 

“Whatever the outcome, let’s hope for the very best that their relationship as of now will not worsen” Jihyo commented as well, earning agreements from the rest of the party.

 

Returning shortly at the duo, Nayeon was already walking towards the door, leaving the statement hanging.

 

Five feet apart.

 

Was when Nayeon decided to stop in her tracks and face Jeongyeon again.

 

“All right”

 

Jeongyeon just felt imaginary pins stabbing behind her eyes. It was such a wonderful feeling, her heart soaring and the heavy boulder around her shoulders disappeared the instance Nayeon decided to give their relationship another try.

 

“I’ll give you another shot”

 

And this time, she wouldn’t let Nayeon wait in the cold.

 

She grabbed for the older girl’s hands, and warmth was seeping slowly.

 

In this cold reality, their warm hands indicate that there will always be chances. The warmth that signifies life and continuous flow of time. Warmth that symbolizes that there will always be something that contrasts the dreadful things in this world, and that opposites can attract. Nayeon only needed Jeongyeon’s warm hands, the reassurance that change is inevitable and perhaps, alterations for great adaptations are beneficial for both. There’s nothing wrong in trying this path once more, but this time, carrying the memories that serves as experience and that things are going to be better since they’ve matured. They were no longer teenagers that’s afraid of the future, though they are but at this moment, they will rise back up together and face each problem together. They will be inseparable.

 

Within this absence of warmth, the cold realities will always be paired up with warm hands.

 

Because there will be Yoo Jeongyeon.

 

“Hey. Nayeon”

 

And there would be Im Nayeon.

 

“Hm?”

 

There would be you and me.

 

“I love you”

 

And conceivably, that’s just what they need after a long time.