Music Hyperlink: The Truth Untold, by BTS.
Yena was currently in a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand, her wish was finally granted. She had finally met her neighbour whose voice had been lighting up her night, and she was right to say that Yuri was a hundred percent as pretty as she imagined. On the other hand, this was definitely not the right time to chat up one’s neighbour, considering how hard she was sobbing in Yena’s embrace.
Was Yena only privy to her cries, her sadness and emptiness and everything else in the landscape between? And if so, was it in any way bad that Yena was somehow relieved (if that was the right word to use in these sorts of scenarios) that Yuri trusted her enough to be vulnerable before her? Questions like this flickered through her mind as she held a sleeping Yuri, all those hours ago in the back of a taxi, and now still.
Yena really didn’t want Yuri’s first impression of her to be through a tear-filled haze, which explained her insistence on wearing that mask last night. Yena was secretly hoping that she could somehow act all cool and brave in front of Yuri, like taking her hand all prince-like and leading her home - something she often saw in dramas and hoped to replicate someday.
How was she supposed to stay cool when her heart broke at the sight of Yuri sitting limp on the floor? Yena could only offer apologies, but what good did that do? She had draped her sweater over the crying girl then, keeping her warm as she picked up the items scattered across the floor. She did it slowly, taking her time as she attempted to collect herself, gather her thoughts and control the grief that swirled inside her - and no doubt hovered over Yuri like a thunderstorm. No point in both of them being sad. One was more than enough.
Even now as she held Yuri she tried her best to keep calm. Patting Yuri’s hair, she allowed herself to run her fingers through locks of melted chocolate. She revelled in the way her fingers easily flowed through Yuri’s hair, each strand smooth under her skin. And the feeling of Yuri in her arms, breathing in the sweet scent of passionfruit and pomegranate-
Selfish thoughts. In this time of need, Yena only had selfish thoughts, and she hated herself even more for it.
“Yena?” Yuri mumbled into her shirt.
Plastering a smile on her face, Yena peeled herself away from Yuri, staring at her with concern in her eyes. “I’m sorry, Yuri.”
Yuri shook her head, wiping at her nose with the back of her hand. “There’s nothing to be sorry about, Yena. There was nothing you could do,” she said in her soft, tired voice.
There was. That was the worst part. Yena could have fought to convince Yuri to stay back with her grandmother, even if it was for just one night. She could have acted on her hunch, could have brought up the strange manner in which Yuri’s grandmother had spoken to her with, but no.
Selfishness kept her silent.
Trapped in her thoughts, she almost missed Yuri sagging in her arms. Yuri’s voice was barely a whisper as she pressed herself against Yena’s front, eyes closing from exhaustion. “Yena…”
As if it were a wake-up call, Yena hurriedly tightened her grip on Yuri. “What’s wrong?” Yena asked, concerned. Rivulets of sweat dripped down Yuri’s forehead and mixed with her tears. She felt warm under Yena’s hands, a bit too warm for comfort. The horrid, intrusive thoughts that lingered in her mind made way for worry, and she quickly lifted Yuri up, bridal-style, to place her in bed.
Yuri slept the whole day away. Yena flitted in and out of the bedroom at regular intervals, bringing in water and medicine in case Yuri needed it. Painkillers - as if that would quell the ache in Yuri’s heart; antacids - as if that would soothe the churning feeling in her stomach when she would next wake up alone. And there was no medicine to be taken for the dreams that chased her in her sleep, if they could even be called dreams at all.
They scared Yena the most, these nightmares that haunted Yuri’s sleep. She’d toss and turn in Yena’s bed, sweat drenching her clothes, drenching the sheets, crying out for help. Her nails, blunt like paper, scraped against the bedsheets and ripped red in Yena’s skin, as she fought the demons in her head. Sometimes she’d call out for her grandmother, her parents, straining against the invisible chains that tied her to her mind - and then once, voice a whisper, breath catching in her throat before it was released: “Yena.”
As much as she wanted to stay vigilant by Yuri’s bedside, Yena ended up falling asleep, her head against the wall as she sat on the floor. When she woke the next day, the bed next to her was empty, blanket neatly folded and arranged on top of the pillows. Puzzled, Yena stood up, stretching her limbs. Her neck was especially sore. Massaging it, she stepped out of her room in search of Yuri.
She found Yuri in the kitchen - her kitchen, Yena thought bemusedly, yet Yuri was bustling about as if she lived there. Something was bubbling in a pot, and eggs were being fried in a pan. Cocking a brow, Yena edged a hip on the dining table and watched Yuri fiddle with utensils. “You seem to be feeling better.”
Clutching two pairs of chopsticks in her hands, Yuri turned around with a bright grin. “Good morning! I thought you might be feeling hungry, plus I feel really bad that you had to sleep on the floor last night, so I thought breakfast would be a good idea.”
She was smiling. Yesterday she wept in Yena’s arms, and today she was smiling. Slightly perturbed, Yena only nodded. “Are you feeling okay?”
“Yes, I am. Don’t worry about me too much, Yena, or I might think you’ve fallen for me.” Yuri might have been joking, but Yena didn’t miss the way her smile dimmed for a brief moment, her words faltering on her tongue.
Yena immediately berated herself for asking that question. “What are you cooking?” she asked in an attempt to lighten the mood.
“Ramen and eggs.” Yuri glanced over at Yena with a raised brow. “It seems that that’s all you have in your house.”
“Ah.” Yena made a mental note to stock up on cereal. “Um, need any help?”
“No, it’s alright.” Yuri lifted the pot lid and poked at the ramen cooking inside with a pair of chopsticks. “I’m a good cook, grandma” - she paused, her eyes turning downcast before plastering on another ambivalent smile - “grandma taught me well.”
Two packs of noodles swum in red broth, accompanied by eggs fried just right, with yolks that ran yellow rivers when you poked them. Yena picked at her ramen, pulling them out of the pot, swirling them in egg yolk before slurping the noodles up. Yuri gazed at her expectantly, like a child waiting to be praised.
“How is it?”
“It’s good! I mean, it’s just instant noodles, but,” Yena glanced up at Yuri’s pout and grinned, “it’s good.”
Smiling shyly, Yuri quickly averted her gaze. “That’s good to hear.”
It was as if Yena was having the most vivid lucid dream. The girl who occupied her thoughts in the day, the voice that accompanied her through dark nights, singing her lullabies in that sweet, soothing voice - here she was, sitting in front of her, eating ramen from the same pot. God, Yena couldn’t even remember the last time she had a meal with someone this beautiful in such a homely setting. It was almost romantic, in a sort of way, like waking up to a meal prepared by a girlfriend or wife.
In a way, it was as if Juri was back again.
And as if Juri had returned, then it was inevitable that she leave.
“Will you be going back to Busan?” Yena asked nervously. “For, you know…”
Yuri hesitated, her chopsticks hovering in mid-air. Ramen slipped from her grasp and sunk back into its soup with a gentle ‘plop’. The air was still. Outside, a cloud drifted to cover the sun.
“No,” she finally said. In the single word was her world, her youth and her memories, and like a block of concrete dropping into the sea it weighed her down. Placing her chopsticks down, she stared fixedly at the pot of now soggy noodles between them. “I don’t think I can.”
Relief - that was the word for it. Relief washed over Yena, dragging out the breath she had been holding inside her lungs with its spindly fingers. Then, almost as quickly, guilt overwhelmed relief. How dare she feel joy in the face of sorrow?
“Are you sure?”
“I don’t think I can,” Yuri repeated. “I just came back. I can’t shirk my studies and leave again, you know, I don’t think it’s very responsible for me to do that, and…”
Excuses. Yena could hear it in Yuri’s voice, the multitude of things she would say to avoid the subject. Yena could hear this too: fear. And in turn that granted her bravery.
Yena reached out a hand and placed it on Yuri’s own. “Yuri.”
Yuri’s voice broke, words clogging up in her chest. “I’ll be alone. I don’t want to be alone again.”
“Then I’ll go with you.” Let me go with you . “You won’t be alone any more.”
We won’t be alone any more.