It had started casually enough, Sojung thinks. Yerin had knocked on their door at six p.m. one day, a perfectly reasonable time and Sojung didn’t think much about it, actually, she didn’t think about it at all. What was there to think about Yerin coming over to spend some time watching TV with them? Nothing.
And for a long time, Sojung doesn’t pay any mind to it, even when the frequency of Yerin’s visits starts to increase, the singer gently knocking on the door, flashing them a bright smile, and asking if it’s okay if she stays for a bit a couple of times per week.
Sojung thinks it takes five to six weeks for her to actually stop and wonder if something is going on. Sojung wonders, one morning, looking at her roommates all eating their breakfast, if Yerin had a fall out with the others, but she immediately discards the thought.
If something like that had happened, things would be different between Yerin, Yewon and Yuna. And that isn’t really the case, Sojung concludes, thinking about how just the other day they were loudly laughing at the photoshoot.
But there is something and it starts to worry Sojung, especially tonight.
Sojung has been watching TV alone for an hour or so, the girls going to bed after a long day of dance practice. Sojung is tired as well, but she badly wants to take her mind off the new choreography and so she says good night to the Eunbis and turns on into a silly drama.
It’s almost midnight when an almost inaudible knock echoes through the living room. Sojung peels her eyes away from the TV and frowns at the door, because who could it possibly be? She gets up, a little bug in her ear saying that maybe it is her imagination, but she wants to check it out anyway. Getting close to the door, she waits for another knock, but it doesn’t come. Sojung squints her eyes at the door and is ready to turn on her heels and go back to the couch when she can hear a sigh.
Sure that there is someone there, she looks through the peephole and sees none other than Jung Yerin with her head hanging low and Sojung is unlocking the door, swinging it open in the bat of an eyelash.
Yerin startles taking a couple of steps back.
“Eonni,” her voice is all but a whisper and Sojung frowns.
“What is wrong?”
Sojung knows her voice comes out a bit harsher than she means to, but, usually, in this kind of situation, Yerin would just let out a guilty laugh, tell her something silly, like she did it on a whim, but it doesn’t happen. And it is at the moment that Yerin averts her eyes to the floor and is silent that Sojung starts to really get worried.
“Come in, it’s cold,” Sojung steps aside and there’s a beat of hesitation before Yerin enters the apartment. Sojung softly closes the door. “The kids are sleeping,” she says, easily falling into the habit of calling the others kids every time she is alone with Yerin. “I was watching some TV.”
“Ah,” Yerin slowly nods and her face contorts in what Sojung thinks is a failed attempt at Yerin’s bright smile. “Did… did I interrupt you?”
Sojung quirks an eyebrow up. Asking these types of things isn’t like Yerin.
“No,” she says slowly and decides that this will be better if they’re sitting down. “Come on, watch TV with me.”
“You came all the way here at midnight and you won’t watch a bit of TV with me?” Sojung teases a hurt tone and Yerin smiles, finally smiles, and Sojung feels like she can breathe better. “It’s late too, just stay over.”
“Ok,” Yerin follows her to the couch and they slouch against each other, eyes on the TV and minds far away.
Sojung thinks it’s getting better. Yerin is showing up less after that midnight episode, she doesn’t make weird questions anymore and she surely doesn’t seem sad.
But Sojung knows that is wishful thinking.
After that night, Sojung starts to pay more attention to Yerin. She does it discreetly, of course, because she knows how much the other doesn’t like worrying anyone, doesn’t like feeling as if she is a burden. Sojung does it and she goes unnoticed, but the most important part is, she doesn’t like what she is seeing.
They are wrapping up things for promotions, their MV will be released in a week and they are the busiest around this time, so they don’t really spend that much time at home, but the little they do, Sojung can see how distant Yerin is. Sojung can see that Yerin’s eyes often go unfocused and she has to smile and pretend to know what they are talking about when someone calls for her attention. Sojung can see Yerin is not feeling well.
She doesn’t do anything about it, though.
Sojung doesn’t want to admit it, but it’s kind of scary seeing Yerin like this and if it was any other of the girls, she, as their leader and friend, would promptly be fussing over them, demanding to know what is happening and getting to fix it.
But this is Yerin and Yerin is different.
The way Sojung feels about Yerin is different. It’s not like she loves Yerin any less than the others or that she doesn’t want to make Yerin feel better, that is definitely not the case. But Sojung has always seen Yerin in a different light than the others. At the beginning, Sojung thought what everyone did about Jung Yerin: bright, happy, talented, voice of an angel. But time goes by and everyone starts to get to know each other better and if there is one thing about Yerin that most don’t notice is that the girl is very reserved.
Surely, Yerin will throw herself over any of them, kiss and hug them, laugh and talk about everything they want. But about herself? Yerin is not like that. It’s not like Yerin refuses to tell them what she feels, the truth is that Yerin is always so busy making sure they are okay, helping them in subtle ways, that it doesn’t leave much space for them to do the same. And Sojung thinks, with guilt biting on her chest, that they forget to do that too.
This brings it to why it is scary to see Yerin so out of it. Sojung is scared of trying to talk to the singer and getting one of those forced smiles and being turned down. Sojung is scared and she is hesitating.
One morning, though, that comes to a stop.
Yerin spent the night there again and this time she slept in Sojung’s bed.
Sojung carefully pulls herself out of the bed, not wanting to wake Yerin up, and Sojung just stands there, looking at her. Maybe it is a bit creepy, but she doesn’t think about that. What Sojung thinks about is that something is very wrong and something needs to be done.
Last night, Yerin had knocked on the door, a bit earlier than the previous time, and they were all awake. The Eunbis were surprised, but they just smiled at Yerin and made her watch TV with them. Sojung prepared some snacks and tried her best to laugh with them, but she couldn’t help how her mind kept drifting to Yerin’s presence.
When it became late enough to sleep, they said good night to the girls and Sojung watched Yerin’s smile disappear as the bedroom doors closed.
They were silent for an awkward second and Sojung sighed. “It’s late, just sleep here.”
And Yerin nodded, getting a cushion and slowly laying down on the couch and Sojung doesn’t know what came over her, but she just couldn’t take it. “Come on,” she simply said and hoped Yerin had got the hint as Sojung gestured to her room.
It took Yerin a second of staring at Sojung, who was increasingly uncomfortable there, before she stood up and followed her to the bedroom. They laid in silence, Yerin taking the right side of the bed and keeping a few centimeters of distance between them.
It was not good and, when enough time had passed, Sojung just sighed and squirmed closer to Yerin, throwing an arm over her waist, pressing her chest against Yerin’s back, because she knew Yerin liked that and didn’t understand why the girl wasn’t moving on her own. Sojung decided at that moment that if Yerin didn’t feel like it, she could just move away and Yerin didn’t. So they slept.
But, now, Sojung is awake, and she is starting to overthink.
Breakfast, I’ll prepare breakfast, she turns away from Yerin’s sleeping figure and leaves to the kitchen.
It doesn’t take long before everyone is up and gathering in the room, sitting on the stools with their sleepy faces and hungry stomachs. Yerin is with them, yeah, and she smiles once or twice, but she seems distracted and there’s an itching in Sojung’s heart that is growing and growing and she needs to know what is going on.
Sojung sits with them, silently, and listens to the girls’ chatter, but her mind is focused on Yerin, especially when she starts humming to a song. Sojung doesn’t recognize it, and it’s just humming for a while, but then there are quiet and mumbled words.
“Sometimes I wanna die,” Yerin circles a spoon inside her teacup, “I don’t care if it’s sad, I want to die.”
And Sojung can only quirk an eyebrow, eyes darting to the Eunbis and they haven’t noticed and Yerin is back to humming as if she doesn’t know the rest of the lyrics and Sojung is panicking. Sojung is panicking for real. Sojung tries to reason with herself that she is still learning English and maybe she just heard it wrong, that maybe Yerin is singing something else entirely and Sojung is imagining things.
Sojung’s heart is sinking in her chest.
Yerin looks distracted and she keeps humming and it seems like she hasn’t noticed it herself, but Sojung has and she doesn’t know what to do. What should she do? Sojung could call her out right now, but she knows that wouldn’t be good, she knows that Yerin will be embarrassed and maybe sad and the others won’t take it well either.
Suddenly, Sojung isn’t hungry anymore.
Yerin turns to Ddin, smiling at something the girl said and it feels like none of it ever happened.
Sojung knows it did, though.
And Sojung is scared.
In all honesty, Sojung wants to corner Yerin.
She wants to just forget about their schedule and appointments, pull the girl to somewhere private and make her talk. But Sojung can’t do that. She reasons, after some hours have passed and they are deep into recording, that the best moment to talk with Yerin is when she appears at night and sleeps over. But, now, Sojung has no idea of when that is going to happen, no. So, when the night approaches and it’s eight and it seems like Yerin isn’t coming over, Sojung says, “Eunha-ya, I’m going to spend the night with the girls, ok?”
And Eunha just nods, too focused on her mobile game to actually look at Sojung.
Sojung is in the elevator just a few minutes later and she feels anxious.
Knocking on the apartment’s door, she wonders if this is how Yerin always feels every time she is waiting for Sojung, and she hates it.
Yewon is the one who opens the door with big surprised eyes and a smile.
“Eonni! What are you doing here?”
Sojung looks over Yewon’s shoulders and she can see Yerin standing up from the ground. There is a magazine opened on the center table and Sojung doesn’t see Yuna anywhere. She smiles at Yewon. “I missed you! ‘Came to stay some time with you all.”
Yewon lets her in and closes the door and there is a bit of embarrassment in her voice. “Aw, eonni. That’s the best. But… I was just going to my room. There is something I wanted to do…”
“Oh, don’t worry about that! You can go,” she says as sincerely as she can, because, well, she isn’t really there for them. “Where’s Yuna, by the way?”
“Hum… she’s definitely in her room! I don’t know what she is doing, though,” Yewon laughs, “I actually just came out to get some water.”
Ah, so, they are all doing their own things, Sojung nods. “Okay, then,” and she locks her eyes with Yerin for the first time that night.
Yerin is still wearing the clothes she went out with, jeans and a pretty top, and Sojung wonders why she hasn’t changed out of it yet. Maybe she was planning to come over, after all, Sojung tries for a smile, expecting Yerin to return it, but she doesn’t.
Why doesn’t she?
“So!” Yewon claps and, catching her glass of water, she waves them good night. “Until tomorrow, eonnis!”
Sojung watches Yewon close the door to her bedroom before saying anything.
“Have you had dinner yet?”
She turns to look at Yerin, who is awkwardly standing besides the center table and studies her face.
Yerin looks tired. More than that, she looks upset. Yerin, who lately tried so hard to give off smiles, seems exhausted, probably from trying. There is a paleness to her cheeks, a gloomy glimmer to her eyes, a drop to her shoulders and Yerin looks one step away from fainting.
“Eung,” Yerin nods and slumps on the couch. “Is everything ok?” She asks, reaching for her magazine and Sojung frowns.
Is she really going to act like that? Sojung walks and sits probably closer than she should to Yerin, Sojung’s shoulder slightly overlapping hers. “I think I should be the one asking you that.”
Yerin doesn’t take her eyes off the magazine. “What do you mean?”
“I mean…” Sojung slowly starts, “that I heard what you were singing today,” and Yerin’s fingers ever so slightly twitch.
“What was I singing,” Yerin forces out a chuckle, “I can’t really remember.”
And Sojung knows she is lying and this is exactly what she was afraid of. However, Sojung thinks she has come this far and she is more scared of whatever Yerin is feeling getting worse than of rejection now. “I think you can.”
Sojung is looking at Yerin’s profile, closely watching as the girl’s eyes fill up with dread and that panic from before is starting to come back. Sojung can see Yerin struggling, it is clear as a summer day how much Yerin is fighting it all back and bottling it up inside her, hands clutching to the magazine as if it was a life vest.
Sojung realizes that there is nothing she wants to do more than hug Yerin right now, but she doesn’t. Sojung holds onto the silence and she lets it get awkward. Awkward enough for Yerin to say something.
“It’s nothing, eonni.”
“If it’s nothing then you can tell me.”
Yerin chuckles, “I don’t think that is how it works.”
“Well, just try.”
Yerin shakes her head and flips her magazine and Sojung has had enough. Pulling it out of Yerin’s hands, she hears the girl’s indignant sound and Yerin is finally looking at her. “Eonni.”
“Yerin,” Sojung mimics her tone and adds, softly at the sight of Yerin’s eyes. “Whatever has you looking like that isn’t just nothing and you know that.”
“You don’t have to worry about it,” Yerin furrows her eyebrows and there is defiance in them. Sojung knows that look and she returns it at the same level.
“But I do and there is nothing you can do about that,” tossing the magazine elsewhere, Sojung pulls one leg up, turning completely to Yerin, who is still with both feet on the ground, still looking distant. “You think I haven’t noticed it? You’re not okay, Yerin.”
“‘Didn’t look like you did,” Yerin mumbles and it’s just a second before she is adding to it, a bit louder, “and I’m okay. You’re just overthinking it.”
“Yeah, right,” Sojung doesn’t hold back her scoff and she can see Yerin wincing. “If that’s the case, then, humor me,” she says, “tell me what is going on and then I’ll decide if I’m overthinking or not.”
“You’re overthinking,” Yerin draws out the word and there is annoyance in her voice, “because nothing is happening. There is nothing to--”
“You’re a great actor, Yerin, but a terrible liar.”
Yerin frowns and her lips angrily part, as if she is ready to say something and it is something mean, but she catches herself, settling for just glaring at Sojung. “You know, that is rich coming from you. You never tell us when something is wrong.”
“Correction,” Sojung sustains Yerin’s look, “I never tell you when something is wrong when I can fix it. Every time there is something big, I tell all of you.”
And Yerin can’t argue with that, so she looks away. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Of course, it matters,” Sojung sighs, “it’s you.”
There’s a pause and Sojung is scared. Her heart is racing, her mind is a turmoil, her hands want to shake, but she knows she needs to be calm. Yerin can’t see how affected she is. If Yerin catches a glimpse on how much Sojung is scared, she will manage to slip right through her fingers and they will never be able to talk about it again.
“Yerin,” it comes out almost as a plea and maybe it is, “talk to me.”
There are tears in Yerin’s eyes and it hurts.
“I don’t want to talk,” her voice comes out weak and Sojung feels it pierce through her chest. “I… I don’t even know what is going on, I just--”
“You just what?”
Sojung watches in despair Yerin shake her head and bury her face in her hands.
And Sojung just gives in to the urge that has been biting her heart. Wrapping both arms around Yerin, she pulls the girl’s body towards her and, as she meets no resistance, she moves her leg up and behind Yerin’s back and she leans back. Sojung tightens her arms around her and Yerin is between her legs, head slotted on Sojung’s neck, hands still covering her face.
They lie there for a couple of seconds, gently moving and making themselves more comfortable against each others’ bodies and Sojung is happy that none of the girls are coming out of their rooms. This is not for them to see.
“Yennie,” Sojung whispers and doesn’t think before nuzzling her nose on Yerin’s dark hair.
And there is a sob.
A real, low and heartbreaking sob and Sojung can only hug Yerin through it.
Sojung wants to say something, anything, whatever can help Yerin stop crying because there is nothing more agonizing than hearing that.
Jung Yerin’s laughter is Sojung’s favorite sound and her crying is Sojung’s worst nightmare. It makes Sojung’s mind go blank, her words get caught in her throat and her chest contracts. Sojung feels like dying and she didn’t know confronting Yerin would feel like that. For a second, as she raises a hand to caress Yerin’s head, she wishes this wasn’t happening.
But Sojung knows that she can’t leave Yerin like that.
“It’s okay, you’re okay,” she says at some point, to the both of them.
“I’m not,” Yerin answers.
“But I’m here,” and Sojung’s mind screams at her that it isn’t enough, that isn’t even a valid answer, but then Yerin is finally pulling back, puffy and wet eyes raising to meet hers.
Sojung wants to cry.
“I am,” she breathes out, a hand coming to cup Yerin’s tear-stained cheeks, “and even if you don’t know what is going on, even if I don’t know what is going on, I’m here.”
And there is a word that gets caught in her throat and Sojung knows it’s a forever .
Yerin looks into her eyes and Sojung leans a bit, pressing her lips on Yerin’s forehead. “Come on, it’s getting late.”
It’s not. It’s early to go to bed, but Yerin hesitantly exits Sojung’s embrace and they don’t comment about the position they were in. They simply head to the bedroom, close the door, quickly and quietly change into some sleeping clothes, and, this time, there is no space between them when they lie down.
Sojung knows that this talk isn’t over, shouldn’t be over, but Yerin looks exhausted and she feels exhausted and the only thing she wants right now is to hold Yerin and make sure she doesn’t go anywhere.
When Yerin finds her place, pressed right against Sojung’s body, she seems to be thinking the same. And they drift to sleep, under the weight of what had just happened, under the weight of Yerin’s words and actions, and it’s suffocating.
But Sojung doesn’t mind it that much.
With Yerin secure in her arms, she doesn’t mind anything.