Music Hyperlink: All For You, by Seo Inguk and Jung Eunji.
“You have to be kidding me.” Chaewon stared at Yena in disbelief as they sat face-to-face in their regular cafe. Her spoon slid from her grasp, clattering against the plate of half-eaten cake. “You’re taking an impromptu trip to Busan for some girl?”
“You know she’s not just some girl, Chaewon. She’s my neighbour, Yuri, did you forget?”
“You barely know her!” Chaewon threw her hands up in the air in frustration. “This is literally the first time you’ve met her, and now you’re going to Busan together?”
“She needs me, Chaewon,” Yena insisted. The memory of Yuri crying in the cold train station, collapsing from exhaustion and grief in her arms, was too much to bear.
Chaewon sighed and massaged her temples. Fidgeting in her seat, silently observing Chaewon, Yena began to question whether her offering (insisting, nearly) to accompany Yuri to Busan was too far-fetched an idea. Was it that illogical to want to give her everything to a new friendship? Was it too pretentious of her to offer her company as solace?
“Yena,” Chaewon said after a few moments, “are your obligations here - your work and your people - do they mean nothing to you?”
“Of course they do!”
“Then why would you leave them aside so easily for a girl?”
“Because!” Yena shot to her feet, slamming her hands down on the table. Chaewon flinched, her chair shoving back in shock. Yena’s heart was thumping wildly, red filling her vision. Her breath came out in quick puffs. Her hands clenched into fists, and she was filled with an urge to punch something, punch someone. She just couldn’t understand - why didn’t Chaewon get it?
Chaewon gulped. “Because?”
Yena blinked at her small, quiet voice. Never had she heard Chaewon use such a tone with her, and for a minute she froze in place. As the fire faded from her eyes, she glanced around at the rest of the cafe. Customers were staring at her, baristas avoiding eye contact as they served customers, discreetly swerving around her table as they made their way back and forth. Her keen gaze spied a phone sneakily being held up, its camera facing her. Instinct had her cracking a patient smile even as she nodded at the camera, and to her satisfaction the phone was quickly retracted.
“Calm down, Yena,” she mumbled under her breath. “They're everywhere.”
Yena carefully sat down again, attempting to maintain a tranquil demeanour. “Yuri is a very important person to me, Chaewon,” she stated in a calm voice - or as calm as she could get, with the aftertones of her rage lacing it, turning it into an underlying threat. “I want to be by her side.”
“Seems a bit dramatic to me,” Chaewon said, her eyes narrowed.
Yena lifted her shoulders in a shrug. “Maybe you just don’t know what that feels like because you’ve been single your whole life.”
“I’m sorry, what did you just say?” This time it was Chaewon’s turn to glare at Yena. “I’ll have you know girls flirt with me everyday.” When Yena rolled her eyes, Chaewon pouted. “Anyway, this isn’t about me. You… what do you see in Yuri, really?”
What did Yena see in Yuri? She saw the world, its light and its darkness, a pearl among specks of sand. Like a flower seeking the sun she found herself wanting Yuri more and more. It wasn’t as apparent before, not when they were separated by balconies, but now that they’ve met her heart was close to bursting. Every little action Yuri did, every little word she said - Yena clung to them, drawing them in her mind, keeping them in a mental diary. Yuri’s scent was so alluring, citrus dancing on her senses, enticing her like a sheep to a wolf.
It took every ounce of her will to control herself around Yuri - and she had to control herself, for Yena was sure that if for even the briefest moment she let herself go she would be consumed by temptation.
But if - and only if - she did give in to temptation, would it really be all that bad?
The train’s washroom was awfully cramped. Yena had to make herself comfortable on the cover of the toilet bowl as she listened to her manager nag her about contracts and responsibilities and everything else boring. When he took a break to breathe, Yena quickly jumped in. “I’ll be back in a few days, don’t worry. It’s not as if I’m going to be away for weeks and weeks.”
“But still!” Yena stifled a chuckle at her manager’s whine, though she did feel a tad apologetic, having left him to deal with calls from PDs and whatnot. “And what am I supposed to tell everyone? What if the CEO calls?”
“Say I’m sick or something, I guess.”
“Yena, can’t you go another time?” Her manager sobbed. Yena could actually picture him clasping his hands together in prayer.
“The problem is, I’m actually on the train right now,” Yena answered, a sheepish grin on her face even as she heard her manager literally breaking down on the other end of the line. Before he could continue his rant, she quickly hung up and scrambled out of the tiny cubicle, pulling on her mask to avoid any fans who might notice her. To her relief, most of the passengers were asleep. She tiptoed her way down the carriage aisle and silently slid into her seat.
Yena glanced over at the girl sleeping next to her. Yuri was even prettier now, nearly ethereal, sleeping peacefully without the demons in her head chasing her. From where she sat Yena could easily trace the outline of Yuri’s profile with her eyes, from her long lashes down to her pouty lips. Yuri slept with her head on the glass pane of the train; Yena wondered whether it was too uncomfortable, whether she should - if she could - perhaps shift Yuri’s head over to rest on her shoulder instead.
Would it be too much, too self-righteous an act? Yuri seemed to mumble in assent, her eyebrows quirking down as she murmured incoherently. As she shifted in her sleep, her hand twitched, coming to rest on the armrest between them. Yena stared at the hand, at every slender finger from knuckle to nail. She lifted her own hand, reaching out to touch Yuri’s. Millimeters, just millimeters, between their fingers before she retracted it again. Despite her wanting to hold Yuri’s hand, the small gap of air between them felt like a bridge that could not be crossed, should not be crossed.
Leaning back in her seat, Yena heaved a sigh and closed her eyes. She might as well take a nap before arriving at Busan, before she was thrust into a world completely foreign to her.
Yena dreamed of lights that flashed in her face and faceless people shouting directions at her. Even in her sleep cameras continued to follow her, capturing her every move, waiting - just waiting for her to slip, waiting for the right moment to pounce. And behind the rows of cameras was one woman, staring at her expressionlessly with arms crossed, eyes teary and distant.
Stirring, Yena felt someone lightly tapping her cheek. Groaning, she awoke to a pair of warm eyes gazing down at her and the touch of gentle fingers cupping her face. “-uri?” she murmured softly, her voice hoarse. Clearing her throat, she tried again. “Yuri. You’re awake.”
“We’re here.” Yuri stood up, her hand leaving Yena’s face to grab their backpacks. The sensation of her touch lingered on Yena’s skin, and as they disembarked the train Yena reached up to where Yuri had cupped her cheek, grinning like the fool in love that she was - if love was the right word for it, that heady feeling that burned her throat and rushed through her veins.
“Where are we going?” Yena asked, shrugging on her backpack and trailing after Yuri.
Yuri turned to look back at her. Her smile was sweet against the sorrow that swam in her eyes - almost like those in Yena’s dream.