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Your loss, not mine.

Chapter Text

Soojin

 

22 September 2016

2.38 am

Her mind is filled with thoughts of Shuhua.

She's remembering every whisper, every word that her lips had uttered, and Soojin's head slams against a fistful of self-hatred. Her tongue burning at the thought of the other girl's lips, stomach drowning in its own burning pit.

She remembers the way how Shuhua would let her hands roam at the expanse of her ribcage, how she would put her ears to Soojin's chest to hear every breath she was taking.

She remembers the way Shuhua's face fell when she couldn't hear anything.

She remembers thinking it was her own fault that she pushed the girl away.

She remembers questioning herself for hating the other girl for leaving, when all she did was stop her from staying.

 

2.45 am

She's choking from her own breath, unsurprised that she would die from her own preservation. She thought that if she let herself fall without Shuhua, she could survive. But in the end, she only let herself suffer.

She remembers the Sunday mornings with cups of hot tea. The early mornings they shared the bathtub. The quiet nights they shared the story of a book they've finished.

She remembers the reason why she woke up early in the morning, to see the smile adorning Shuhua's face like sunbeams. She remembers thinking that Shuhua was made of too much sunshine, and she had to cover herself to resist the light.

 

2.59 am

Soojin remembers how Shuhua had mended her heart with her slender fingers, ignoring every explosion and every indifference that she had given her. Shuhua's insistence on fixing her, that Soojin sometimes almost couldn’t breathe.

How Soojin wanted to set herself free from her utter destruction, too stupid to realize that Shuhua was her satisfaction.

She remembers Shuhua realizing too late that Soojin wasn't a broken bird, but a ticking bomb.

 

3.00 am

Soojin realizes too late that Shuhua was already gone.

The demons are inside Soojin's mind now, they know how much she misses her. So they understand where she's been. The pulse of her veins throbbing at her wrists.

Maybe that's why she feels desperate to feel something, anything.

The silence lingers on to her like a second skin, stinging her like burning ice. Cold. Heartless. She stares at her hands, feeling nothing, and thinking nothing.

Except for the wave of all the old feelings she's been trying to drown. It's been days, the same emotions following her: Tasteless and insipid, almost as if it was mocking her. Making her feel more lost and alone, but she swallows it down. It's easy to get used to something when it happens everyday.

It's easy to get tired of something when it happens everyday.

 

6.38 am

There's something melancholic waking up to an empty room, Soojin knows, because when her eyes flutter open, all she could see is a ghost.

She isn't sure what time it is, because the sunlight could never really seep in through the windows. Her eyes are trying to follow the small stream of light. While ignoring the burn of the empty space beside her.

Sadness and anxiety are no strangers to her. They've introduced themselves in her life without invitation, and have burrowed themselves deep within her.

She's not a fan of them, and she doesn't make it obvious. There's no point, however, in running or hiding or even denying it right now.

No matter what she does, she won't ever be sure of what's wrong with herself.

She closes her eyes, and can hear nothing but the silence that she hates.

 

10.28 am

Soojin doesn't know where she is going, her feet are moving without any plan. Just taking her anywhere through autopilot.

She doesn't know where she wants to go, but her mind can't focus on anything and just want to escape to somewhere quiet.

The road is familiar to her, but she's never actually walked down here by herself before. These streets are ones she's never walked here anymore. They pull her back and she surrenders to the memories she's been running from.

 

19 September 2016

3.32 pm

She watched her go.

She didn't say anything.

She felt nothing, either. As soon as she left the room, she went on to pick up the pieces.

Small metal bits from a tiny metal figurine that was one of the few collateral damage from the event. She cleaned up, nicely as she could. Even her side. Especially her side.

But the entire time, she was quiet. Saying nothing. Trying to feel nothing.

She lay down on her own bed, but for once, the sheets weren't as comforting without that familiar weight and warmth.

In the end, it took a while, but she still fell asleep.

 

22 September 2016

5.42 pm

The halls echo with each step she takes.

Echoing.

Echoing.

Echoing.

Until it shouts in her ears; the laughter and shrieks they shared, that used to fill up the empty spaces of the room, Shuhua's cute broken korean, haunting her everyday.

It's been a day. Going out and coming home.

She wipes her eyes. They were red and sore from- from dust. Yes. She had been cleaning. Again. Going through all their- her belongings. Running her fingers over her desk, her works, her- She keeps herself busy. Distracted. Procrastinating by being productive. Her phone was vibrating an awful lot in her hand. Not that anyone was contacting her. Anyone important, anyway. She knows she have to go back to work, but it won't be soon.

She took a few breaths. Guilt was creeping in, but she still had enough of her facade intact to ignore it.

Shuhua's number, already etched into her memory for a long time now, effortlessly appeared on her screen. She bit the inside of her cheek as it finally began to dial. She waited. A moment, now gone...

She didn't pick up. Why wouldn't she pick up? Why-

No. No. Not yet. Try again. She steels herself once more, only to be met by the same result. The number you dialed is out of coverage area. Pl- She hung up ahead of it ther time. Her phone was off, or she was out of range, or, or...

No. Shuhua can take care of herself,  she's strong. She'll be fine, they'll be fine.

Gods, why did she have to go. Why did she let her go? Please. Please, come home.

 

7.41pm

A letter sits untouched on her desk. She ignores it. She's been ignoring it for a while now. Acting as if the presence of the letter didn't burn through her. Past all the lies and walls that she's built around her. The silence screams at her, with all the words she's never said. And all the secrets that she's tried to keep. She wishes that she could be aloof about all of this, ignorance can be comforting as it is terrifying.

A letter sits on her desk, untouched, unopened. Almost as if opening it would mean erasing the last bits of Shuhua's self that she gave to her. Opening it would mean accepting that Shuhua was gone, and all that she left was a piece of paper.

 

23 September 2016

9.31 am

On the very rare occasion that Soojin gets to see Minnie, they usually have their monthly meetings in the coffee shop Minnie absolutely adores. The interior is slightly small – somewhat the size of one of the bathrooms in her parents mansion. The tables are all made of mahogany wood, tiny stools barely fitting the two seated across each other.

"What is it?" Soojin asks. She settles her elbows on the table and links her fingers together. She hides her lips behind her cup of tea. "You seem to be observing me." Soojin shouldn't have questioned that, Minnie was always observant.

The older girl purses her lips together, her eyes were flooded with concern. She takes a small sip of coffee before continuing.

"How are you holding up?"

 

19 September 2016

9.16 pm

Minnie is surprised to hear a knock on her door. Even more so when she sees it was her bestfriend. After graduating, Soojin had moved out of their place to stay in an apartment she wanted to share with Shuhua.

"Moon must be pretty blue for you to come back here."

She was taken aback when she noticed that the girl in front of her was different from the Soojin she usually sees. Her normally bright brown eyes were dark, like they've lost the spark. Soojin looks down, unable to meet with Minnie's eyes. Her friend looks like a dying candle trying to stay lit in the middle of a storm. Minnie ushers Soojin inside the apartament they used to share.

Soojin says nothing, letting the silence fill in the gaps of the conversation. She shuffles towards the couch, sitting down gingerly. Picking apart the storm from inside of her. What can she tell Minnie?

"Hey," Minnie voice is soothing, her hand moving. Reaching out to her bestfriend, the person that has and always will be there for her. Already guessing why Soojin came back here. "You don't have to share if you're not ready yet."

Minnie envelops her in a hug. And Soojin leans into the touch, inhaling deeply. She's taken back to simpler times, to happier times, and she closes her eyes one more time and just loses herself in her memories.

 

23 September 2016

9.32 am

Soojin feels an ache where Shuhua used to put her head on, to listen to her breathing. She finds herself wondering if the other girl thought of her, if the other girl knew how much Soojin cares for her. If Shuhua still knows the taste of Soojin's kisses.

Soojin remembers how Shuhua sat in front of her in the classroom, her beautiful black hair glinting like it held Soojin's every secret. She remembers the way Shuhua's eyes were the color of the night sky the first time they talked. How her voice was as raw as the promise she'd never kept.

She remembers the first time they kissed two years ago. She remembers wanting to touch Shuhua's light skin, as if it were her lifeline.

Minnie calls rear her back out of her thoughts, and Soojin blinks to find her hand reaching over to the woman's face. Her fingers are trembling, her breathing unsteady.

She's remembers how it felt like she tasted everything she ever wanted in Shuhua's lips.

"I'm sorry," she says, drawing her hand back to curl it into a fist.

She remembers thinking how the sun looked different.

"It's fine," Minnie hesitates. "Are you fine?"

Soojin's breath hitches, her eyes unable to break contact. "I'm fine."

Soojin remembers Shuhua saying how she was the only person she would ever love. She remembers the taste, the sound, the shape of that moment.

"But why-?" Minnie bites on her lower lip. "Soojin."

She remembers how she felt like when Shuhua returned the all the parts of her heart she'd given her.

"Yes?"

She remembers that she had already lost Shuhua. Right in that moment, right in that room they shared.

"Why are you crying?"

"I don't," Soojin whispers, finally feeling the tears strained on her cheeks. "I just-"

"I don't know how else to love her. I don't know how to be what she needs."

She remembers-

"I don't know," Soojin says, her heart gripping in her chest. "I don't know how she left me so easily when I can still see her smile when I close my eyes."

She remembers–

Minnie transfers to the bench where Soojin sits on, allowing her to let down her walls with her.

 

6.08 pm

She walks with Minnie back to the empty apartment. Despite the conspicuous burning absence, Soojin can't bring herself to leave.

"Soojin," Minnie starts, not sure on what to say to her. On what she could say to make the pain of loss more bearable. "It's not your fault. Okay? It's not always going to be your fault."

"How can it be not my fault when I never gave her a reason to stay?"

They stay silent in front of the door, staring with one another. Minnie's heart hurting at the fact that her bestfriend was in pieces. Sighing, Minnie tells her that she should open the letter, a kind of closure that she deserves. Soojin barely registers the words she said, nodding automatically without any understanding.

They exchange their farewells, Soojin steeling her nerves as she walks inside. Towards the desk with the letter.

With trembling hands, she opens it. An elegant script that Soojin knows all too well, words that are illegible with the tears staining them.

Was it hers or was it Shuhua's?

 

Soojin,

I--

I am so sorry. It's just that my life has been a constant question of whether I'm doing this right or if I'm actually good enough for you. I sometimes think that loving you is hopeless because your mind is a mess of colorless palettes and mine is made of  flowers and kisses with no other purpose than to catch your self destruction. I just wish that yearning for you wasn't a crime.

But if there's one thing I've learned, is that I can't force myself to someone who no longer wants me, or that never wanted me at all.

You always told me that I was never a burden, but I just think that this isn't all worth it.

You picked up my heart in your hands and placed it in your pocket. You're all I prayed for, all I ever needed, wanted. And I wanted to be the one for you too, but deep down... I knew I weren't.

Even when my throat closes up every time I think of how I fall like a fool for the way that you smile, for the darkness that are dwelling in your eyes, and how I can almost taste the stars on your lips.

If I could, I would count all the times I thought about losing you and tally it on my wrist. But you would grab my arm and kiss the pain away. Somehow you always know exactly where I ache.

All I wanted was for you to see how much I adore you. I wanted to show you how much I could love you if you let me. I hoped you realized that it was worth fighting.

Soojin, I--

I don't know how to say this. My bones are broken from trying to fix you. I've tried everything, but we are very much different, you've said that yourself. I just can't comprehend how much you hurt the people you love.

I am keeping my tongue inside my lips to prevent myself from exploding, but you're making it harder when you're giving me all this pain.

-Shuhua

PS: "Maybe, we'll meet again. When we're slightly older, and our minds less hectic. And I'll be right for you, and you'll be right for me. But right now, I am chaos to your thoughts, and you are poison to my heart." is a line by Chris Cadle. I hope it rings out true for us.

 

Chapter Text

Shuhua

 

19 September 2016

The air is saturated with the saccharine taste of peach and cherry blossom. A deliberate clash with the messiness of the haphazard blankets, a sign of utter defeat. The desk is littered with tears and torn letter-paper. Shuhua's hand shakes as she opens up a new page once again and writes, with all the ferocity she can muster,

Soojin, 
I am so sorry.

And Soojin, the black-haired beauty Shuhua had so revered, the butterfly kisses and late-night closeness and Soojin's amusement as she'd tapped Shuhua's nose playfully and whispered into the shell of her ear, "You're so cute Shuhua-yah"

That Soojin is gone, replaced by tiredness, and a desire to sleep the pain away.

 

---

 

Flashback

"You don't understand." Soojin's voice is acerbic, the tang of vitriol infused in her words. "You can't fix everything. The world is not a pretty package revolving around us, Shuhua. One day you'll grow tired of what we become. When you're done trying to save me."

Shuhua physically feels the tears stab into her cheeks as they wash past her flushed skin and stain her blouse with a languid pain. The room is silent, the live-wire bullets of Soojin's darkness and Shuhuas vulnerability ricocheting around the walls.

"And what will we become, Soojin?" Shuhua's answer trembles with tears and fear, and if Soojin notices it, she does not reach a graceful hand out and save Shuhua the heartache.

"Nothing." The retort is clean, cuts through Shuhua's chest like a knife. "Nothing, because you and I Shuhua, we're too different."

 

---

 

Flashback

Shuhua realises too late that her lover cannot be fixed. But she doesn't really cares, she loves her too much.

Granted, there are nights when Shuhua believes. The nights when Soojin's arms fit beautifully in the cusp of Shuhua's waist, just close enough for Shuhua to lean into the warmth of Soojin's chest and nestle inside the bedcovers. The nights when the two of them nuzzle into each other, like the perfect match.

"Are we going to be forever?"

A night comes when Shuhua murmurs sleepily into the crook of Soojin's neck, sweetly, drowsily - she isn't sure what the question means herself, yet she waits, idly, for Soojin's answer. And it comes inevitably with Soojin's kiss to the top of Shuhua's forehead and a whispered,

"Of course baby, if you want to... Forever and infinite."

"What if we live beyond infinity?"

"Then," Soojin laughs, and the sound is music to Shuhua's waiting ears - "I'll love you as long as it takes for you to get tired of me."

"I'll never," Shuhua mumbles without really comprehending her words, and she's rewarded with Soojin's hand ruffling her hair fondly, "I'll never fall out of love with you."

Shuhua realises too late that words can always be regretted, can be taken back until her lips forget the taste of Soojin's name, the girl she so loved, with all the passion and fury in the world - that names can perish.

 

---

 

Flashback

"Why can't you see sense? I'm just trying to help!"

They're pacing the room, the air charged with crackling electricity. Shuhua is the first to scream, her anger ripping out of her smaller body like a deadly missile. The rift between them torn wide open.

"See sense?" Soojin's reply, in contrast, is calm. Collected, with the arrogant poise she so loves and hates at the same time. "Okay, maybe I'm not logical enough to see sense".

"Now you're talking logic, huh? I just want to save you! You know, this wouldn't be so toxic if you opened up to me at times! Made sure this relationship was two-way, instead of you forcing me to play this impossible guessing game!"

Too late Shuhua bites her lip, almost drawing blood. Soojin's eyes grow dangerous, the cadences of her voice deceivingly lilting as she retorts,

"So now our relationship is toxic, Shuhua?"

Shuhua falters. A frisson of regret entering her gaze, before she answers hesitantly.

"It wouldn't be if you listened."

"Practice what you preach, really." Soojin starts pacing across the room, half-agitatedly, half with the precision of a hunter closing in on its prey. She does not catch the slight wobble of Shuhua's lip, the hot tears that have gathered in the far corner of Shuhua's eyes. "Have you ever contemplated the fact that we're not the best match for each other?"

There is a beat of silence. Then Shuhua whips her head up. In her stare's something Soojin have never seen before, a dullness that could even rival Soojin's own maelstrom.

"Actually, yes. I think about it every-single-day."

 

---

 

22 September 2016

Incoming Call: Jinjin

Shuhua almost twists her ankle as she limps back from the bar, her head fuzzy with the temporary comforts of alcohol, the bitter taste in her mouth numbed by the universal liquid of heartbreak. Her phone vibrates, she glimpses the contact name, and her finger promptly cuts the connection of its own accord.

Shuhua cries, slowly and steadily, as she narrowly misses hurling her phone into the gutter and the beeping ringtone of the End Call button resonates in her ears.

Is this what heartbreak tastes like?

 

19 September 2016

"Let's end this."

It is Shuhua who says it - Shuhua the affectionate, the defenceless, the romantic. Shuhua the sunlight to Soojin's darkness. It is Shuhua who gives the order for it all to cease.

An eternity passes before the blinds fall shut on Soojin's expression, she closes off like she always does, and raises her chin in a dignified manner,

"Fine. Take your things so you can leave." 

The phrase hangs in the air for a quavering, infinitesmal second before Shuhua is moving. That was the most painful thing she ever heard.

Shuhua's heart started to beat so fast that it was almost defeaning her, a rapid tornado tearing through the room - gathering her belongings, trying to distinguish what is hers, of what scream Shuhua and Soojin. Two different entities from now. Separated. Broken.

Before Shuhua leaves, she throws behind a parting word,

"When I walk out that door, I want you to know that I hold you responsible for this. Don't you dare to contact me. It's over, and you know it."

The response she got, knifes deep into Shuhua's heart, twists the handle cruelly into Shuhua's bleeding chest. A deep, gradual rage starts building up in her clenched fists, her nails almost cutting her palms. She manages to unlock the door and step out, painstakingly, remembering to slam the hardened wood behind her as Soojin's voice echoes,

"I'd rather forget we existed."

 

---

 

And to this day, Shuhua wonders whether Soojin misses her. Whether she wakes up like Shuhua does, a casual arm thrown over to the other side of the bed, only to find it cruelly empty. Whether she wanders the streets and catches snippets of Shuhua in elegant shop windows. Whether she looks for Shuhua in every person she sees.

Whether Shuhua has infiltrated Soojin's memories, as Soojin has done hers.

For her it's impossible to believe that someday she'll ever be able to think about Soojin without it ripping her heart out, because she knows they didn't end like they were supposed to. And she find it difficult acknowledging that she made the right decision because she know she hurt Soojin the most.

"Soojin, I'm so sorry..."

 

Chapter Text

Soojin

 

24 October 2016

The taste of Shuhua's name still rattles Soojin's mouth. Their burn still haunting her like a graveyard of broken promises, of unkept secrets. Soojin would drown out a whole cup of espresso down her throat just to ease the burning Shuhua had left her. But she would end up clawing at her neck because she could no longer scratch at what was making her so empty.

Soojin rolls to her side, the empty space beside her doesn't scream anymore. Just a shallow aching, a hollow reminder, an empty auditorium that swoons with echoes of a heartbeat. She brings out her phone, and types yet another message she would never send.

'good morning baby, i know you're busy, i know you don't want to hear from me but the sun looks like the fresh bloom of your cheeks when you're laughing, and i can still hear the rising of the city smoke in my ribs where you planted your name.'

Slowly, she sits up and gets out of the bed, and letting her bare feet quiver in the chilly morning air. She finds herself looking at the cabinet, remembering the way they helped each other dress. The way Shuhua laughed at Soojin's house clothes – I didn't expect you to own a cute onesie! – and smile lovingly. The way they would— Soojin shakes her head out of those memories. It wasn't good to linger on them for far too long.

She walks towards the bathroom, even after a month she could still smell a hint of her. Still feel the entire presence of what's already over. She turns the faucet, listening to the water run as she stares at her reflection. And, instead, she sees more ghosts.

Slender fingers running through her long hair, as they expertly brush and curl it the way she likes. Laughter with red lipstick marking each other – reluctantly cleaning up – before they went out.

Soojin breathes hard, and stares at the bits of Shuhua she could never get back.

 

27 September 2016

The first cut is always the hardest. Soojin would have never, in a million years, thought she would fall down this rabbit hole. She would dip the blade down the soft patch of skin and watch a garden bloom on her arm. Twisted understanding the obsession with pain that some people have. The drive to feel something, anything, other than the numbing dullness inside of her.

She tells herself that her wrist is a temple, already old but still beautiful. She doesn't convince herself that her sun is still sitting on the square of her shoulders. She's still alive but she's only gotten colder.

Was that not good enough to bleed out Shuhua's love?

She waits for her bestfriend  to understand. She tells her over dinner, where the chicken has gone cold, and her stomach is full of ghosts. She is quiet. Her hands are shaking, and she counts off the last second before she speaks.

 

...

 

"Do you want to go to therapy?"

Soojin shakes her head no, her chest crumbling inside her body. Minnie sighs, echoing in the room that Soojin insists on staying at. "Here's the thing: the more you care, the more it hurts. I'm not telling you to stop caring, that's inhumane. I know how much you love her. But you shouldn't overthink. You should move on."

The red lines are still fresh, however dried. Standing out against her soft skin.

"Sometimes," Soojin looks down at her forearm "I run my thumb over my knuckles, and pretended it was Shuhua doing it. Sometimes, I wonder why she'd left me, but then I remember,"

"Soojin,"

"I pushed her away because I knew she was in pain because of me. But she promised-"

"Soojin," there's desperation in Minnie's voice, asking – no, begging for Soojin to allow herself to be saved. "Please don't do it again."

Minnie pleads, tears pricking at the edge of her eyes. "Maybe Shuhua it's not here anymore, but I need you too, I care about you too. Please..."

"I won't do it again."

She never does.

 

24 October 2016

Soojin still has an undying hatred for coffee – coffee shops included. Although certain moments with her friends makes her push through the abhorrence. She isn't sure if the strong and bitter taste curdling in her nostrils is from the coffee. While Soojin hates coffee with her entire – equally bitter – being, she absolutely cannot reject Minnie's invitation.

"We should meet out more often than once a month."

It is Soojin who says that, much to Minnie's pleasant surprise. Soojin who doesn't go out unless needed, Soojin who prefers to lie low, Soojin who doesn't want to take a chance on passing by a stranger. It is Soojin who starts the invitation. "I think it would be great."

Minnie can't help but laugh at Soojin's statement. She accepts the invitation, delighted at her friend's attempt of becoming more outgoing. "It would be more than great."

The rest of their meeting is spent with idle chatter, talking about anything and everything. An air of innocent happiness floating around them, enveloping them in comfort and serenity despite the gloomy weather outside.

'i like to think that you love the sound of my voice, and it helps calm you down when you're trying not to shake so badly'

 

14 February 2017

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think you actually want to be here."

Soojin can only stare at the other girl through the rim of her wine glass. The red liquid is the same shade as her dress – fitted tightly, as if it were clothed temptation. Miyeon is the fourth date she's had ever since Minnie told Soyeon, her second closest friend, about her invitation to go out more. Soyeon making it a point to be her annoying little matchmaker.

Minnie probably also had a say in this, considering that she wanted to Soojin to forget how to count all the beats in her heart that said Shuhua's name. But Minnie doesn't understand how Shuhua will always fit herself into Soojin's heart, as if she's a demon she can't bear to erase.

"No," Soojin puts the glass on the table gingerly, trying to be as gentle as she can with her words "I'm not really interested in dating. I'm sorry."

"Not interested in dating, " the woman's mouth curves up in an amused smile. "Or not interested in me? "

"Miyeon... you're very pretty, I'm sure you know that. But I'm afraid that you're not able to catch my full attention."

The woman slices her steak into tiny pieces, stabbing one of them with a fork and bringing it closer to her lips. "How cruel of you to say it so boldly," she murmurs, swallowing her piece down her throat. She grabs her wine glass and brushes the rim against her mouth. "Is this how you usually talk to your dates?"

"Maybe I wouldn't be so rude if I were trying to impress you." Soojin catches a delicately rolled sushi in her chopsticks, slowly chewing it. "However, there's an emptiness in me that I'm quite afraid you won't be able to fill."

"If there's something missing, why can't I fit?"

The question almost makes her choke, the food she's swallowed nearly wheezing back up her throat. But the moment she latches on to her senses, memories flood her. She's been asked nearly the same question, by a different person, years ago.

"I just," Soojin breathes, the words pebbling down "I just don't think there's any space."

They spend the rest of the night in a quiet atmosphere.

 

19 September 2017

It's been a year, and Soojin no longer looks for the ghost or the shadow in the mirror. She doesn't search for her under streetlights or sidewalks. Doesn't try to find her name in the cracks of her ribcage, or the Sunday breakfast she used to always give her. Because she knows where they are now. Tucked away, hidden in the tiny leather journal Minnie gave to her on their birthday.

"You should write your feelings, your words, your story here." she says, pushing the notebook on Soojin's hands "I remember you love reading. You should make your own poetry here."

Soojin no longer writes unsent messages, but a novel in her secret journal. Her feelings are all over the place. Some nights she whispers secrets against her pillowcase because it absorbs everything – dreams, feelings, tears. The moon doesn't watch her break, knowing too well a kindred spirit.

'the sun breathes your name into my sheets because it knows perfectly well that you belong to me.'

'you tell me, "did you know that the moon watches over your secrets and gives them back to me?".'

It's been a year, but the wounds reopen. The pain comes back harsher. The wave pushes back harder. It's been a year. It's been a year.

 

---

 

"Isn't it supposed to get better with time?" Soojin asks, twirling a pen between her fingers. Smudges of ink painting them. "I thought it was supposed to, you know?"

'sometimes, i wonder whether the bitterness in your teeth tastes like me.
i hope you can never get rid of it.'

The page she had been writing on is covered in black, words written then crossed out. Scribbles of a tale that will never get published. A six word story barely legible: our love didn't have enough sentences.

"It is," Minnie is used to coming to the rescue, coming to Soojin with only one call. It wasn't like she spent her time doing something that required her full attention. Meetings can always be delegated to someone else, tasks easily assigned to some poor soul. "But it all depends on what you mean by better. You can't keep picking at your scab and then get upset when it starts to bleed and hurt again."

At that, Soojin laughs. Something that she seldom does these days. "Why do you doubt me so much?"

"Because I know you, Soojin. You should write something else – anything but her. "

"No," Soojin shakes her head, a short laugh coming out. "That's the thing, I'll write about the sunset sky and then it will be about the beauty in her doe eyes. I'll write about bus rides, and suddenly it's about the way I counted the number of times she'd smile at me. I'll write—"

There's a choked sob, a pained moan. "—I'll write about anything else, but it all comes back to her, unnie."

'you are the cold on my feet,
and the bruised kisses on my skin.
it's not that you're toxic, no.
it's just that you are not my sun,
and i will not become your shadow'

"I mean, I know I've told you a couple of times that I want to be with her. These silly love poems don't seem to be enough proof. Somehow, in some way, these words – my love – are never enough."

"Soojin?" there's shaking, a staccato of a voice crying out. "It's gotten better, you've gotten better. Why are you...?"

"It's been a year, unnie. It's been a year on this day."

 

Chapter Text

Shuhua

 

19 September 2016

It wasn't like her to just leave. It wasn't like her to just give up. It wasn't like her to just walk away. She didn't have anywhere to go. Which is what she tells herself to explain why she's here, trying to find happiness at the bottom of a shot glass. The loud music blares out around her, but all she can hear is the stinging remark Soojin said to her. "I'd rather forget we existed."

The lights blind her, but all she can see are the ways she could never be enough. The alcohol burns her throat, but all she can taste is the heartbreak she caused.

And maybe she's a little bit drunk. Maybe there's a tiny part of her that's still trying to get over her last shot of whiskey. And maybe she's starting to get a little queasy – alcohol is drowning her in the pit of her stomach, an ocean tide trying to get to shore. Before she knows it, she begins to swallow down the lump rising in her throat, threatening to get out. She places a hand over her stomach, closes her eyes for a moment. And lets the silence sink in her bones.

She can't remember the last time she felt so alone.

"Does my eye deceive me, or is this Yeh Shuhua we have here?" a voice breaks her out of her pity party. She knows that deep voice anywhere, a scowl forces its way to her face. "Oh, Shuhua! It is you!"

"Leave me alone, Yuqi." An arm is thrown haphazardly across her shoulder. "I don't have time for you."

"You never do." Yuqi takes a shot of whatever Shuhua was drinking, cringing as it went down her throat like liquid fire. "This drink is shit."

"Thanks, I never offered it to you. Now leave me alone."

"Is that how you'd treat an old friend?" Yuqi just laughs at Shuhua, not offended in the slightest "Never thought Soojin would rub off on you like that."

Shuhua flinches noticeably at the sound of Soojin's name. The name leaves a sour taste in her mouth, almost like gunpowder. Bitter, metallic, and destructive. Shuhua pours herself another shot, and downs it in a frenzy. Desperate to clean her palate from all traces of—

"Huh," Yuqi scratches her head, a look of confusion and concern painting her features at Shuhua's action "Do you, uh, want any help?"

"No," Shuhua gasps, sputtering as the burn of her throat spreads to her chest. "I don't want any help. I just want to be alone."

"Well, do you need   any help?"

Shuhua laughs, a short and pained laughing that comes from her ribs rather than her lungs. When was the last time somebody asked her if she needed help? When was the last time someone saw her ask for it? When was—

"Yah! Shuhua."

"No." Shuhua says firmly, staring into Yuqi's eye. She sees an emptiness in there that she feels. She sees the same girl she knew back in middle school. "Well, actually..."

 

27 September 2016

They're both in the living room, Yuqi just mindlessly scrolling on her phone and herself just staring blankly at the wall, fingers mindlessly tapping a tune that she could only hear.

(She flinches when she realizes what tune it is and stops.)

"So why aren't you two talking anymore?" Yuqi asks, looking up from her phone. "You've been ignoring her phone calls."

She could say it's a long story. She could say they had a fight. She could tell her everything. Make her hate her like she does (because, really, she does. Forgetting is hard when she remembers everything, back to the first word she said to her, when they were still strangers. When it didn't hurt when they didn't talk to each other).

"No reason, really."

Suddenly, a sharp pain crosses her forehead. She hastily puts a hand over her temple, bending down as she closes her eyes. She clutches her hair, tugging it upward. Her face begins to shape into pain, a misery that's been forming a root in her chest.

"Hey," Yuqi says again, more forcefully this time "Are you okay?"

"Yes," Shuhua breathes "I'm fine. I'm just. . ."

A little bit confused, maybe. A little bit hurt. A little bit heartbroken. And maybe, she's still trying to reassemble herself, to form the same bone pattern, to build the same home that Soojin has always been wrecking.

Because it's Shuhua. Shuhua who could never deny Soojin, even after all the pain. Shuhua who still loves Soojin, even when she was the one who left. Shuhua who sees Soojin's eyes in every brown that she encounters - the leaves falling from the trees, her morning coffee, even the teddy bear she gave her on her last birthday.

"I'm just tired."

Yuqi stares at her in concern, but shrugs. She wasn't the type to force people into sharing their feelings, their problems.

 

24 October 2016

Apartment hunting is difficult, especially when Shuhua could remember when the two of them looked for one together. She had been staying at Yuqi's place for a month now, and she doesn't think she could stand staying there any longer.

Not that Yuqi was a slob, no. It was the exact opposite, much to Shuhua's surprise. She kept the place pristine, she kept it organized. She kept it manageable. Which is why she couldn't handle staying there. The neatness and organization reminds her of an old flame. A burned out flame.

Tired and wet, Shuhua enters the first coffee shop that she sees. A small, unassuming coffeeshop that she passes by every time she went out. She sees a flash of black curls, and hears a laugh she hasn't heard in a while. Shuhua wishes the sun had shown itself today. But it's raining outside, pouring rain that drips its way down the windows in the melancholy way that rain does.

Regretting things is pointless. What-iffing is pointless, and it always will be. The way that it ended won't change. It won't magically become okay, and Shuhua knows that.

She can't seem to let go of her hate –of that feeling of betrayal, resentment. She can't let go because she's choked on words that she should've said.

She leaves without glancing back.

 

---

 

It's always the romantic who lies, the romantic who ignores the truth, the romantic who tries to weave everything into their happy narrative. She never was good at telling the truth. It was always so much easier to hide behind facades and lies, and she justifies herself by saying, well, I can, so why shouldn't I?

Shuhua the romantic girl, the clinging girl, the lying girl. It is Shuhua who lies. To herself. To everyone. Lies that she doesn't love Soojin anymore. Lies that it doesn't hurt. Lies that she doesn't regret leaving.

But the truth always finds a way back to her. She would find it in the oddest of places, like under the sheets where it's warm and the pillows smell like moonlight, or the heated scent of pancakes Yuqi prepares in the morning. Or, maybe the set of keyboards where they always seem to spell out Soojin's name.

Shuhua wishes she'd never have tasted Soojin's sweetness. She can still find her right where her lips can't erase the rest of her. But she still can't run away, can she? She's still trapped in the mess inside her chest, in the Valium that's been growing in her bones.

And maybe she should stop this, stop hurting herself, stop loving her.

Can she, though? Can she stop loving Soojin?

Is that even possible?

 

12 March 2016

Sometimes, Soojin came home with a ghastly ocean under her eyes. Shuhua couldn't get rid of the sight, even after she tries to scrub it off her eyelids. The way she would sweep the older girl in her arms, peppering her with kisses until both of them are laughing.

Soojin had a way of making the moon feel like perfect company.

They were dancing now, her hands on Soojin's waist, Soojin's hands on her neck, swaying to the beat of slow pop songs until their feet started to feel sore. Soojin is leaning on her chest, and she is supporting her with all her might because, really, Shuhua is a frail girl with a frail heart.

And they were singing together as well, even though most of the time, they were just humming to the tune because they had no idea what the complete lyrics were. Shuhua is enjoying that moment because it was rare. Soojin wasn't a sucker for romantics, not like she was. So she appreciates her gesture and the way she looks at Shuhua like she was her world.

Soojin looks at her and smiles. "Shuhua, I have something to tell you."

And Shuhua's heart beats ferociously against her chest. She was going to die any minute now if she didn't let go of her, but she couldn't let go of her. Not right now. Not when everything felt so perfect. "Hm?" she somehow managed to speak.

"Promise me you won't overreact?" Soojin says seriously, though there was a playful tone in her voice.

Shuhua's palms were slippery and the heat in their room was contagious. She hopes Soojin wouldn't notice her grip on her waist wavering. She didn't want to let go. Not yet. Not now. Not ever. "I promise," she whispers into her hair.

"I love you."

Was she still breathing? She wasn't. She didn't think so. She isn't sure if she heard it correctly, but Soojin said it. The three words she's wanted to hear since they first meet. She never wanted this moment to stop. She never wanted to stop dancing with her, and Shuhua would bear with her clammy hands for years to come if it meant hearing those words again.

Their lips fall into each other, a collision of atoms. A soft boundary, a sigh, a heartbeat. Their lips are moving into each other. Their chests are beating against each other, breathing against each other, and the spaces between them are nonexistent. And the heat passes between their bodies, a fire that's been trampled on, but flaming again.

"I love you, too." she chokes out. She feels like crying, and when Soojin gazes at her with a littlest grin on her face like she was playing a practical joke, her heart broke into a thousand pieces in that room. Her grip finally lightens, and she lets go.

 

---

 

it's not the heights that scare me, i think.
it's not knowing if you'll be on the other end to catch me.

 

Chapter Text

Soojin

 

28 March 2019

The streets are painted pink with the petals of the cherry blossoms. The sweet fragrance floating around the air giving out an atmosphere of new beginnings. Soojin takes her time walking towards her favorite pastry shop, stopping by every once in a while and to smell the flowers so to speak. While there were countless other bakeries and pastry shop, this one was the only one she really likes – selling Chocolate Cream Puffs, Cinnamon Roll Twists, Cheesecake Napoleones, and of course, her favorite – Strawberry Muffins.

The interior of the pastry shop is as small as the cafe that Minnie and her always went to, but it smells sweeter and felt more homey to Soojin.

The cashier places the paper bag on the counter with a smile. "Here's your order, miss!" she says sweetly, sliding the paper bag closer to her reach.

Soojin's whole face brightens at the sight of the two strawberry muffins inside, immediately crumpling the paper bag in her fist. "Thank you," she quickly turns away from the cashier. As she opens the paper bag, the sweet scent of the strawberry muffins waft closer to her nose. She pushes her hand inside and grabs hold of a piece.

She feels ridiculous, being so obsessed with something like this.

But she takes another inhale of the strawberry muffin before she slowly fits the tiny bite in between her teeth. Soojin squeezes the slit of the paper bag back in her fist and carries the strawberry muffin like a cloud in her lips.

It isn't until she looks up that she sees a woman staring right at her – her eyes are the shade of the moon, bare and raw in Soojin's throat.

"Your strawberry muffin," Shuhua watches the muffin pounce on the floor and into her feet. She looks at Soojin, quickly realizing the older woman will make no move to get it. "Soojin," her voice breaching at the sound of the other woman's name. "Soojin!"

It feels like this is the first time she's heard it from Shuhua's lips, like this is the last time she ever will.

"Okay..." Shuhua hesitates for a moment before slowly bending down to take the strawberry muffin from the floor. But Soojin rushes over to grab Shuhua by the wrist. Shuhua's eyes snap towards her.

"Soojin?" Shuhua questions, her eyes staring at the careful fit of Soojin's fingers against her skin.

"Don't tell me to let go," Soojin hears herself say through the soft tremble of her mouth.

"But if I do," Shuhua's voice trembling even more, glancing at the tight grip Soojin's fingers had on her wrist, "...will you?"

Swallowing the fear gritting into her throat, softly, she says, "No. I won't."

"Then," Shuhua murmurs, slipping her wrist out of Soojin's hold and linking their fingers together in a fleeting breath, "Don't."

 

---

 

"You never moved out," Shuhua observes as she stares at Soojin unlocking the door.

Soojin ushers Shuhua into the apartment in a daze. Her fingers are still latching on to Shuhua's like she's afraid that the other girl will suddenly disappear. Her hand is beginning to sweat, but she doesn't dare loosen her grip. Shuhua doesn't bother to question her about it despite her obvious curiosity. They both know what happened the last they had met, how easily she let Shuhua walk away, like the relationship never meant anything to her. Instead, she lets Soojin lead her into the nifty interior of their– her apartment.

"It's," Soojin hesitates, not quite sure on what to tell Shuhua why she couldn't leave. I couldn't bear leaving this place. Your ghosts will follow me anywhere I go, anyway. This was the last thing I had of you. "It's practical."

That earns an amused twitch on Shuhua's lips before she finally gives in and lets a smile break over her face. Her heart skipped a beat. Soojin hasn't seen that in years. She doesn't realize how much she's missed it until now.

She turns to Shuhua for a moment, a blush rising on her cheeks. "Dinner," she murmurs. "Would you like to stay with me?"

Soojin doesn't know what she means when she asks Shuhua that, if she's asking to stay for the night itself or if she's asking Shuhua to never leave her again. But either way, the other girl's mouth opens like a fracture over Soojin's lips, and the other replies in fine greeting, exchanging the letters in between their lips – like a secret. A promise. Finally.

 

17 April 2019

This is the first time she's had to cook for anyone else.

Soojin is used to have Minnie over to cook her breakfast, until she eventually learned that she was never going to fend for herself unless she learned how to turn on the stove. Minnie had taught her – it took her more than a few hours to make Soojin actually understand what she was saying. It started with the easier ones: eggs, strips of bacon, white rice, and even the occasional mushroom soup. Until she learned to cook more difficult dishes. As time passed, she realized that cooking was one of the things she enjoyed the most since Shuhua left.

In a way, she kept hoping that it would have somehow brought Shuhua back.

That's why, when she finishes pouring all the mushrooms into the Brown Rice Risotto, she finds herself looking back at Shuhua, who's firmly seated at the table. Even after weeks of being with her –she still can't believe that Shuhua is here.

"Did it hurt?" Shuhua's voice is swollen and thick "Did–did you regret anything when I left?"

"Shuhua..." Soojin takes two plates and puts them on the table.

Carefully, she lays her palms on the table, ignoring the wobble of her knees. "Sometimes," she says, "I put out two plates, and pretended that you were here, that you came back to me. Sometimes, I put two pillows beside me on the bed, and pretended that you were sleeping next to me on nights I couldn't stop the nightmares. Sometimes, I just slept on the couch, to ignore your absence. Sometimes," she continues, her heart charring, "I pretended that you hadn't left me, that I could still feel your heartbeat even though mine was completely empty."

"When I said I'd rather forget we existed... It was because I didn't want to feel the burn of your absence. And there wasn't a day that I didn't regret not stopping you from leaving."

Shuhua's eyes snap towards her, her heart crumbling the pain found in Soojin's voice. She remembers the way she had found Soojin bleeding before anyone could have noticed, how Soojin had told her that it was nothing. Shuhua's voice comes out weak and struggling, like her words are about to split.

"Sometimes," Shuhua rises off her seat and grabs Soojin's wrist "I wondered if you woke up to an arm reaching out only to see the empty space beside you. Sometimes, I tried to take back the letter I wrote. Rewrite it in my head."

"Sometimes," Shuhua stutters, "Sometimes, I wondered if I meant anything to you."

"You do." Soojin chokes out, not hiding behind any facade anymore "You mean more than the world to me."

 

---

 

"Why did you leave me?" she whispers, afraid that vshe would scare away Shuhua and bring back the ghosts. "I thought you'd always be there for me."

They were lying on the bed, tangled together. Eclipsing each other, like the sun and moon. Dark and Light. Summer and Winter. She could hear the soft burrow of Shuhua's heart beating, listening to it like the rush of an ocean wave before it simmers down into the sea. "I did, as well."

Shuhua brushes a thumb against Soojin's cheek, and looks into the moonlight in her eyes. "I can't say that I didn't regret. I–I spent so much time thinking about us, about this."

"I understand why you left. I understand why you had to go."

'because I fed on my demons even when you tried so hard to not let them grow.'

"Tell me," Shuhua says, like a willow has burned into her teeth, "what else you're hiding."

Her eyes open like a burst, a thought, a constellation. She gathers Shuhua in her arms, their bodies tousled beneath the sheets. Their legs are vined together – hip touching hip, exchanging secrets in between their knees, their hearts jumping from ribcage to ribcage.

"Tell me," Shuhua urges, her finger touching Soojin's chest in a tremble, "if I'm still here."

Soojin's lips curve into a smile as she reaches closer to Shuhua's throat. "And here." Her mouth fractures over Shuhua's shoulder, at the side of her neck, the stiff line of her jaw, the mountain of her collarbones, her stomach, her wrists, the outer portion of her ribs. She says, "Here," in every kiss, in every second that her lips pass over Shuhua's skin.

"Everywhere," she murmurs, her voice a stitch over Shuhua's heartbeat. "Everywhere, entirely, like there's no other way to complete me."

 

---

 

she says, 
"i love you,"
so easily that it rolls on my tongue.
she is my world, a place i have grown to love.

 

---

 

26 June 2019

Finally, Soojin is getting used to the abomination– correction, blessing – that is coffee and coffee shops. She watches in amusement as Minnie and Shuhua talk, catching up to one another.

Morning rush hour in cafes are the worst– the hustle and bustle of people, all trying to get their liquid drug to stay awake for the nine-to-five hell that was their jobs. All trying to cut each other so that they wouldn't get late to work, but the time spent in line just proved to be counterproductive.

However, cafes in the afternoons– well, they're one of the things that Soojin can get used to.

It's because there are many reasons, such as they weren't as crowded in the afternoon. The way Soojin could listen to the soft music playing over the speakers, and not the chattering of people. But her favorite reason is meeting with Minnie for their monthly catch ups. They did meet out more often, but the cafe tradition was too sweet to let go. Or so Minnie justifies, relishing the way Soojin cringes and glares at caffeine. Sometimes, it's the way they would go to Soojin's favorite pastry shop after that.

But today, Soojin's reason was Shuhua. It's holding hands as they walk to the cafe and into the cabin, sitting together on the same bench as they overlook the skies streaming over the city. Sometimes, they're slightly pink before it turns into a wild shade of orange. Sometimes, they look like they're making love to the sea – lightly coated with cyan, and then turning far deep. Sometimes, they're lilies – catching lavender in her palms and giving them to Shuhua when she falls asleep.

And –

Shuhua always falls asleep in the oddest times. In fact, she's sleeping now. Her head is resting on Soojin's shoulder, her breathing light and easy. But their hands are still interlinked, as if Shuhua is unable to let go of her thoughts even when she's already sleeping. And Soojin is always brushing her thumb over Shuhua's knuckles, soothing her in her slumber. It's always like this, and Soojin always falls in love with it.

"You're right, unnie." Soojin smiles, brown eyes meeting brown eyes "It does get better."

Minnie smiles back, overjoyed at her friend getting the happy ending she deserves. "I'm glad you got better."

She watches the sky become three different colors at once as they continued talking to each other. Laughing at Shuhua's light snore, and how she could fall asleep while conversing with Minnie. I told you that you're such a boring person to talk to.

For a moment, it looks like spring, and then it doesn't, and then it looks like morning in the summer when she wakes. But every time Soojin looks at the same sky, she thinks of one thing.

Shuhua is her warmth. Shuhua is her sun. Shuhua is her phoenix. And she's thankful for giving her a chance for rebirth.

Sometimes, when i lean in, your hair smells like peaches and flowers and every good thing in this world.