Music Hyperlink: Nostalgia, by Davichi.
Mornings were often uneventful for Yena. As filming usually took place in the evenings, when most people were leaving work for the day, Yena would usually wake up late, then laze around until her manager came to pick her up for some schedule or other. This morning, however, she decided to venture out to procure some groceries (by groceries, she means snacks). Donning the most casual attire she could throw together, she pulled on a cap and mask just in case someone recognises her. Not that she didn’t like being recognised; Yena knew it was a good sign that people actually watched the show she was on. It’s just that it was nine-twenty in the morning and she wasn’t exactly a morning person.
The trip to the shops was uneventful, save for the slight detour where she helped an old woman lug her awesomely heavy bags of food up a steep flight of stairs. Yena was rewarded with a pat on the head and an apple for the road. Considering that her first good deed of the day, she trudged to her favourite convenience store. It was the only one she knows that stocked her favourite brand of canned green tea latte, the same one that she chugged down everyday to feel like a human.
She toyed with the can in her hand, aluminium coloured green, brown swirls swimming across the can. Juri used to buy her one after a long day of filming, and their kisses would taste saccharine like sugary coffee, sharp like matcha. Like the latte, it was just a bittersweet memory now.
Making her way back to her apartment with her coffee in hand was a trial. Every little thing reminded her of Juri, from the lamppost they kissed under to the stray pebbles they would kick as they walked. The murals that adorned the footpath once guided them home as they walked hand-in-hand, stopping to take photos of each other against artistic backdrops. The bakery around the corner was Juri’s favourite, too. Peeking in, Yena took note of a new employee, a small girl who bounced with every step. Juri would have liked to meet this petite bakery employee, Yena thinks, all cute and bubbly with a deep dimple in her cheek.
Yena heaved a sigh and tossed her can into a nearby trashcan. She wished she could throw her inner turmoil away as easily as that, throw these damn feelings and memories away like how Juri did. If only she could.
The melancholy stuck with her as she went through the motions of the day. It bogged her down as she was driven to work by her manager, lingered in the back of her mind as she plastered on a smile for a photoshoot. On the way to her next schedule, Yena fell asleep in the car, and woke up with tears staining her cheeks. She hurriedly wiped them away and touched up her make-up.
Smile, Yena. Smile, like how your parents would want you to. Smile, like how the world expected you to.
Smile, because you had to.
By the time she crawled back home at night, the words “Shopping, G-Market!” and a weird yet catchy tune ringing in her ears, Yena just wanted to get some sleep. But first, food.
She pulled out some frozen leftover pizza and chucked it into the oven. After she showered and changed into her pyjamas, she plated her pizza and took out a can of beer. Drawing the door to her balcony open, she strained her ears, listening out for the faintest strum of a guitar. She waited, and she waited, and she waited… and was rewarded a few minutes later.
Yuri’s voice pierced through the night sky, filling the waxing moon with her song. Why was her voice so full of sorrow, Yena wondered. She felt it gripping at her heart, squeezing the life out of it, hurting her chest. She waited until Yuri finished the song before she started to speak.
“Yuri?” Yena’s voice faintly trembled, and she hated herself all the more for it.
“Hey, Yena.” Yuri’s voice was bright, a stark contrast to the songs she sang. Her sweet voice sparked a small light in Yena’s heart, chasing away the darkness that lived within. “Did you just get back?”
“Yeah. I’m having dinner now.”
“Hm.” Yena swore she could hear Yuri contemplate the notion of having dinner this late at night in her mind. “What’s for dinner?”
“Pizza and beer.”
“Sounds like a good time,” Yuri approved. “You know, I was sort of waiting for you to come back, sort of hoping that we’d be able to talk again. Isn’t that silly, Yena? I mean, we don’t even know each other.”
Yena’s heart swelled, and despite herself, a smile bloomed on her face. Yuri had been waiting for her. “We can learn about each other!” she replied excitedly, her morning blues forgotten. “I’ll start. Where are you from?”
They chatted across balconies, breathing in autumn air. Yena learned that Yuri is from Busan (obviously, with such a distinct accent), that she was turning nineteen this October, that she hated dieting, loved singing. She listened as Yuri enthusiastically listed her favourite singers and her favourite song associated with each one. They ranged from pop to R&B to rock to ballads, and Yena could tell how much Yuri loves music just from the joy in her voice.
In turn, Yena told Yuri about her family - parents and an older brother, living in a different part of Seoul. She glossed over her line of work, preferring instead to talk about the things she liked to do, about her childhood dream of becoming an idol. She offered to dance for Yuri, but the younger girl merely laughed and pointed out that even if Yena did dance, she wouldn’t be able to see it. It took Yena a moment to realise why, and she slapped a hand to her face once it hit her.
Yena found comfort in this, in lukewarm pizza and cold beer, in Yuri’s amused cackle and calm voice. Staring at the few stars above her, she took a chance and made a wish: she wished that they would always be like this, two girls sitting on their balconies, talking to the moon. A silly act, she knew, for what would stars as bright and brilliant and significant in all the galaxies do for someone as small as her? But she wished anyway.
“My turn!” Yuri exclaimed. “Yena, have you ever dated anyone, or been in love?”
Yena’s breath caught in her throat. The autumn air had suddenly grown very still, very stifling. Her heart twinged painfully - any more, and she might die of heartbreak.
She wanted to throw up. It was ridiculous how nauseating the idea of love was. Yena believed in love, once upon a time, wanted to keep believing in it still, but she couldn’t. She didn’t dare. But she couldn’t lie to Yuri, to this girl who was talking to her in the dead of night, keeping Yena company with only her calm voice.
“Yes, Yuri. I have been in love before.”
That night, Yena dreamt of Juri.