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there's a flower in my lungs

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Chaewon didn't think she could go a month with flowers scurrying up her throat every second, but that's exactly what happened. She walked to her calendar, grinning as she crossed out the previous day. "Seventy days left," she muttered under her breath.

It was her countdown to death. Once her one-hundred days were over, the Grim Reaper would come knocking on her doorstep, scythe in hand. Once her one-hundred days were over, she'd just become a memory in her sisters' minds. Then soon, a dead memory. Memento mori. The old words were like a spell she kept chanting.

Memento mori.

Chaewon uttered the words one more time before going inside her shared closet. She was unlucky to share a room with three other people. But luckily, she wasn't roommates with her. Chaewon grabbed a mint-green crisscross tunic sweater and slipped on some double-layer shorts. She quickly brushed her hair, taking a pair of fluffy slides and closing the closet door behind her. Eunbi walked in as Chaewon was about to head out.

"Morning, Chae, how're you feeling?"

Chaewon shrugged. "How about you?"

"Alright, but you're my ultimate focus. Chaewon, you're dying."

"Stop reminding me," Chaewon hissed. Without thinking, she walked past Eunbi, hardly acknowledging that she just bumped into her without saying sorry. She expected Eunbi to yell at her for her behaviour, but this had happened plenty of times in the weeks of sickness Chaewon experienced. Nothing was new for the elder or Chaewon now.

Unexpectedly, Chaewon crashed into another one of her sisters. Usually, she'd just mutter an apology.

But for her, it was different.

Chaewon froze on the spot, heart caught in her throat. Her lungs went into overdrive and she desperately tried to avoid coughing in front of her.

"Sorry, Minjoo,"

"It's okay, unnie. You haven't been feeling well, have you?"

Chaewon scoffed. I've been feeling fucking great and I wish these flowers would go away but whenever I see you, I can't help but fall into the endless pit that I keep creating for myself, was what she wanted to say. But she knew she couldn't.

So, Chaewon just nodded. "Yeah, sorry I've been rude."

"No need to apologize, unnie. I guess they still don't love you. Is there anything I can do to help you?"

Love me so that these flowers can stop growing. "No, I just need to sit down for a bit and calm down."

Minjoo's mouth hung open, her eyes sparkling against the light of dawn. Chaewon's heart fluttered at the sight but she couldn't smile so easily especially with an army of petals beginning to climb up her windpipe.

"Well, okay. I'll just be in the room if you need anything, 'kay?"

Chaewon nodded and forged a smile on her face. She mumbled a quick thanks before settling down on the couch in the grey living room. Outside, the skies were dark and rain battered down heavily. It was a quiet rhythm, beating along with her heart.

All of a sudden, the door flew open. A tall girl kicked off her shoes and collapsed onto the seat next to Chaewon. Chaewon caught a quick glance at her then dismissed her. Just back from another study session, huh?

"Minjoo-unnie..." Yujin whined. A sigh escaped Chaewon's lips as a train of footsteps approached the girl next to Chaewon.

"Yujin-ah, you were only gone for a couple of hours to study and you're this exhausted?"

"Well, yeah! Math is so confusing!" Yujin complained, elongating the 'o' in so to emphasize her point. Chaewon wanted to scold the girl for at least being grateful for her studies but she had no energy to scold.

Minjoo giggled. "Well, your bed's ready if you want to doze off, you know?"

"No, I just want a hug from you."

Chaewon gagged, trying to stop her body from convulsing. She coughed once, then twice, petals climbing up her throat with every movement.

Chaewon heaved herself up. She tried her best not to run to the bathroom to puke once again, wanting to avoid suspicion from the two youngsters. Once she reached the bathroom, she locked the door and collapsed in front of the toilet bowl.

Gripping onto the bowl tight, a few petals from her lips as she violently coughed. A pain in her chest struck, and with every punch, petals continued to fall like a waterfall. At this point, her knuckles were white and sore from gripping so tight, her heart broke like glass with every passing second, and her throat burned, thorns scratching mercilessly.

She dreaded the day in which her petals became flowers and flowers with thorns on their stems. The first stage was done and complete; the second stage had begun.

Her vision flashed white before Chaewon lost all her energy and hung limp on the bowl. She stared at the petals, among them, a breathtakingly blue forget-me-not lay, stem in sight. A mix of blue, blood red, and striped petals. Two flowers in one disease. Who knew flowers could kill, yet bring such beauty?

Beauty is a pain, and there's beauty in everything.

After what seemed like a century to Chaewon, she heaved herself up and pushed the button as hard as she could, flushing down all the petals and flower.

If only love could be erased as easily as flushing down stupid petals.

Chaewon washed her hands and mouth, erasing the evidence of flowers being spewed. The blue and red tint on the corners of her mouth weren't easy to eradicate, but she had done it. Her sisters already knew her condition but she still didn't want to make it seem like a big deal.

"Unnie, you need me to get you some water?" Minjoo's voice echoed through the door.

"Sure, thanks Min."

"No need," Minjoo said before she walked away, her footsteps slowly fading away. Chaewon sighed yet again.

If only things could be different.

⊱ ────── {.⋅ ✵ ⋅.} ────── ⊰

"Unnie, tell me, please. Tell me who you like," Minjoo pleaded.

Forty-two days had passed and now, only twenty-eight were left. She had gone from coughing up a flower a day to two, then three, then a whole bouquet. Luckily, those bouquets hadn't been enough to kill her, but some days, she wishes they did.

 

Chaewon's vision blurred slightly as white dots covered the sight in front of her. She knew what it must've been. A whole bouquet of forget-me-nots and carnations. Their thorns had dug deep into Chaewon's throat. Blood flooded her mouth, coughing the red river violently.

A horde of footsteps came running to her side, yet, she only heard one voice.

"It's all right! You can stop now..."

Tears began to well in Chaewon's eyes. Her heart was beating vigorously fast. Her forehead trickled with sweat. But in the midst of all the pain she felt, she felt

safe...

"It's all right, Chaewon," the voice assured her, hugging her limp figure tight.

Chaewon coughed, her body convulsing fiercely, yet, she didn't release her grip. Instead, her grip tightened.

"M-Min...joo..."

Minjoo quickly hushed the sick girl who still had blood dripping from her lips. A drop of water fell underneath Chaewon's eye. Hesitantly, the latter opened her eyes to find Minjoo crying. Chaewon's heart shattered.

And at that moment, a tear fell from her eyes.

"D-don't leave," she paused with an overwhelming breath. "Don't leave me, yet."

"I still need you."

 

Chaewon shook her head. "They'll never love me, plus, I've only got twenty-eight days left."

"But-"

"Hush it, Min, there's nothing you can do now."

A heartbreaking silence blanketed the two as Minjoo's sobs filled the empty room. Chaewon wanted to do nothing but kiss her and her problems away. But that would only make her feel worse, only make her vomit more.

So, she sat quietly next to the crying girl, watching her break into a million different pieces.

⊱ ────── {.⋅ ✵ ⋅.} ────── ⊰

"It's all my fault! If I had noticed sooner, she'd still be alive. If I had noticed sooner, she would be here with us, laughing. If I had noticed sooner, she wouldn't be lying on that hospital bed."

Eunbi quickly took the girl into her arms, preventing her from trying to hit someone or something. "Minjoo-yah, it's not your fault-"

Minjoo thrust the girl away, tears falling from her eyes. "But it is! She's dying because of me! And now, I can't do anything to save her..."

Minjoo fell to her knees, the reality of the situation sinking into her skin. Reluctantly, Eunbi wrapped her arms around the girl again, her body shaking from sobs. There were so many 'what-if's' and 'if only's' that made Minjoo hate herself. Of all the people Chaewon could fall in love with, it was her.

And she was too blind to notice.

"I don't want to lose her, unnie. I don't want to lose Chaewon, but-" Minjoo broke down once again, prompting Eunbi to hug her tighter.

Eunbi cooed until her sobs got a little less loud. "Minjoo-yah, Chaewon's gonna be just fine. She's strong," she said as her voice cracked in the middle of her sentence.

"Uhm, I'm sorry to interrupt, but are you all Miss Kim Chaewon's relatives?"

Eunbi pulled Minjoo up and held her as she struggled to stand. "Yes, we are. How is she?"

"I'm afraid I can't give details just yet, but she'd like to see someone. I think her name was... Kim Minjoo?"

Eunbi shook Minjoo lightly. "Go talk to Chaewon one last time. Who knows? You might save her."

Minjoo hurriedly dried her tears and nodded. She raised her hand. "I'm Minjoo, the one she's asking to see."

The nurse then leads Minjoo into a room far from where she, Eunbi, and the others waited. The door was wide open and at first, Minjoo found it hard to take her first step.

Just one step, Minjoo. Just one.

Minjoo inhaled deeply then stepped into the room. She was blinded by white lights as soon as she walked in. Everything seemed so dull and white. Yet, in the middle of it all, Chaewon lay in a bed surrounded by petals and blue flowers.

Minjoo walked to Chaewon's bedside, careful not to make a sound. Chaewon's hand flinched slightly and her eyes opened, stopping Minjoo in her tracks. Even when she looked so pale, so tired, and so sick, she still looked so beautiful.

Minjoo forced a smile onto her face. "You okay, Chae?"

Chaewon chuckled. "Fucking amazing, and you? You look like you've just cried a whole river."

Minjoo's smile faded as quickly as it came. Chaewon, even in her final moments, still talked as if she was just back from a long sleep. She still smiled as if death wasn't knocking on her door. She still laughed as if she would still be alive tomorrow.

But Minjoo knew damn well she wouldn't.

"Chae, I'm really sorry. Like, out-of-this-fucking-world sorry. You shouldn't be dying," Minjoo sobbed as she took Chaewon's hand, squeezing it tight. "I should be the one in that hospital bed, not you. I should be the one suffocating, I should be-"

"Minjoo, stop," Chaewon demanded.

Chaewon heaved herself up and hugged Minjoo, not bothered by the fact that her mouth was spilling with petals once again. "It's too late for me to undo my mistakes, but I had to make this choice. Either I had to sacrifice myself or let go of you, and I didn't want to lose my memories of you."

"Memories are the worst form of torture, you know," Minjoo snapped.

Chaewon chuckled. "But don't forget, I love you so much. I'm so glad I got to meet you, so glad to have debuted with you. You've given me so much, and I don't know how to repay you, but-"

A pair of lips crashed onto Chaewon's dry and cracked lips. She wanted to push Minjoo off, to stop her from kissing her, but it felt so right. Chaewon closed her eyes and cherished the moment. She felt like she was in heaven.

Minjoo coughed slightly, breaking the kiss but still had her eyes shut. A silky item fell into Chaewon's mouth as they both opened their eyes, Chaewon taking the item. Her eyes widened at the sight.

"Minjoo... You-"

"I don't care," Minjoo wrapped her arms around Chaewon.

"I love you, and that's the truth..."

A tear fell down from Chaewon's right eye. This wasn't how she wanted to leave the world. This wasn't what she wanted to remember before being taken by the reaper. This wasn't how she wanted to die.

But she didn't want to stop holding Minjoo.

"In another world, where we can be together, would you gladly take me?"

Minjoo nodded. "Without a doubt."

Chaewon smiled. "That's a relief."

Slowly, she closed her heavy eyelids and fell into the darkness. She could hear Minjoo's voice as she faded away, but she couldn't go back now.

And as for Minjoo, she knew it wouldn't be long until she could see her big sister again.

Chaewon didn't think she could go a hundred days with flowers scurrying up her throat every second, but that's exactly what happened.