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love on paper

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an honor student in the entire arts faculty, the president of the university’s student union, a naturally talented singer, and everyone’s friend. jungeun was the ideal student, she was the standard. she had it all and life was good. but it was far from perfect, for life lacked a little… something. that kick, that tiny bit of heat. 

 

she could always hear the loud whispers from the back. from both the ladies and the men. happened every year. the same old breaking news. “did you know she’s still single?”, “really? you’re messing with me. she’s got the brains, looks, talent, and personality. what are you talking ‘bout?”, “bro. i’m serious!” 

 

then again, she couldn’t blame them. her personal life was only known by haseul, jinsol and jiwoo - her top three closest friends. naturally, strangers would be shocked. 

 

it wasn’t like she was “saving it for marriage” or for "the one". she just happened to have been stuck on the same girl for two whole years. there were plenty of gorgeous girls on campus who made her jaw drop, but they were nothing compared to sooyoung - leader of the dance team and the entire university’s crush because of her intensity on stage and warm, mellow personality outside the theaters. 

 

there was a time jungeun opted to using dating apps. some girls seemed great but the first (and last) dates proved otherwise. that was the problem: everyone sounded too good on paper and led to a slight disappointment in real life. sooyoung was the standard. only sooyoung could make jungeun feel a certain way despite knowing each other for just a couple of years. her heart and mind would race every time; 10 p.m. quickly turned into 2 a.m. and facetime sessions, talking about dumb stuff until either one fell asleep. half of jungeun’s life revolved around her. whether it was the same for sooyoung, she didn’t know. 

 

she wanted to, though. the more days that passed by, the more desperate she got. it reached a point where she just had to ask her friends for help (which was weird because in the years she had known haseul, jinsol, and jiwoo, it was jungeun who had the “words of wisdom”). 

 

it was lunch and the four met up at the canteen. 

 

“i wanna tell sooyoung how i feel and you know, see how it goes,” jungeun said, eyes staring at anything but the three in front of her. “i don’t know how, though… what do you think?” 

 

“go for it! if the feelings are mutual, great! if not, surely you two are mature enough to not let it get in the way of your friendship, yeah?” jiwoo cheered her on, the huge bite of fried chicken in her mouth about to fall out from her infectious enthusiasm. 

 

“can you not talk when your mouth is full!” 

 

the red head rolled her eyes. if there was one thing that would never change, it was jungeun’s scolding. “yes, mother.” 

 

jinsol chimed in, “isn’t her birthday coming up too? i remember her being a gemini like me!” and finally, haseul completed her train of thought. “so, you can make it a birthday surprise and a confession!” then jinsol and jiwoo let out a loud “exactly!” and gave each other hi-fives.

 

“god, we’re such geniuses. we deserve to be in the dean’s list. watch out, kim jungeun.” 

 

jungeun let out a loud laugh, “we’re not even in the same faculty, genius. but alright, ooh i’m so scared. thanks for the idea, by the way. i appreciate you all.” with that, lunch went on as usual. 

 

eventually, the sun set and jungeun was in the comforts of her room. the planner was marked with red, indicating that her assignments were complete and she was finally deadline-free. it was already mid-may and that gave her about two weeks to make something for sooyoung. 

 

a direct verbal confession was definitely not an option, for jungeun would be too flustered and her public speaking skills would practically be non-existent. “i could just write something. i wouldn’t have to face her that way.” it was simple: all she had to do was to compile a hundred reasons as to why she had been falling ever since they met, along with some specific moments that were etched on jungeun’s mind. 

 

the writing had begun. 

 

#1: your “first love” smile that has everyone falling for you (me included). 

- remember when we would always run into each other every monday, at 9:33 a.m., in front of the elevator? you’d always smile at me - god, you’re like the sun - and like a sunflower, i’d always face you. thanks for making mondays tolerable. 

 

it was getting late. she managed to write twenty reasons that night without breaking a sweat. 

 

sooyoung had assignments to work on, so their facetime sessions were, as the dancer herself said, “postponed until further notice” (that really just meant a few days). the timing worked out rather well. “i can always say i’m sleepy. pros of naturally knocking out early, i suppose.” 

 

when they video called each other a week before. sooyoung mentioned having no plans to celebrate. 

 

“i got so caught up with school, my own birthday might have slipped my mind,” she chuckled and rested her head on her right hand. “why, wanna take me out? miss me already?” the way she asked got jungeun losing her mind internally. if they couldn’t see each other’s faces, she would’ve put the laptop on mute just to let out a delighted squeal. 

 

“i mean… if you wouldn’t mind. i’ll go to your place at 7, you can order whatever you want. consider it as a treat after working so hard.” 

 

“so you do miss me! all you had to do was say it, baby.” 

 

ha sooyoung, you better shut the fuck up. oh my god, i’m gonna faint if she keeps this up. to prevent any slip-ups, jungeun changed the subject and their nightly routine went on as usual. 

 

may 24, 7 p.m. 

 

it was the day jungeun wins or loses everything. needless to say, she felt more nervous than all the times she had presentations. her favorite pens ran out of ink within those two weeks and she had no time to make it look too grand. the only option was to slip each paper into plastic pockets and clip them in a burgundy ringbinder folder. on the cover was a silhouette of two women dancing underneath the warm hues of lanterns. all painted by jungeun. 

 

she took one last deep breath before ringing the doorbell. a comfortable and casual sooyoung in a white shirt and grey sweatpants greeted her. “why are you also wearing white and grey? were you stalking me?” 

 

universe, is this a sign? don’t play with me. “am i not allowed to? damn, i know it’s your birthday and all but… what a way to greet your special guest, miss sooyoung.” she pouted angrily but that switched to a smile when sooyoung hugged her tightly. 

 

they quickly settled down and watched random videos while waiting for their orders. 

 

“so…” 

 

“hmm?” 

 

silence. 

 

“you okay?” 

 

“n-never been better.” 

 

the taller girl leaned in and scanned every inch of jungeun’s face. “something’s different today. like, you’re more fidgety than usual, your face is kinda red and you haven’t looked at me much.” before jungeun could protest or have a breakdown, sooyoung added, “not that it’s a bad thing. just different. you’re still glowing, don’t worry.” 

 

then the doorbell rang. “finally!” 

 

“i’ll get it! just sit down and enjoy being a year older, yeah?” jungeun sprinted across the room, carrying what looked like an entire five-star meal. “happy birthday!” 

 

sooyoung hugged her again. “thanks. you know, for remembering and visiting my lonely soul. it’s nice to have another voice fill this room.” with that, they drowned themselves in food and soju with music in the background. the awkward air from earlier finally left. 

 

11:45 p.m.  

 

“hey, isn’t it past your bedtime?” sooyoung teased with an annoying smirk on her face that jungeun loved so much. “just stay here for tonight.” 

 

the birthday girl jumped in bed first, allowing the gift to be discreetly taken out of the bag in the living room. “sooyoung, before the night ends, i have one last thing for you.” she held both hands out, showing the magical cover of the folder. sooyoung didn’t say anything and simply opened the folder, skimming through its content, while jungeun remained standing and looking around the room. it wasn’t an exaggeration when she could feel her heart destroying her ribs. 

 

three minutes felt like an eternity. when sooyoung closed the folder, shimmering eyes met her nervous pair. “jungeun... do you mean what i think-” 

 

“i’ve had feelings for you for a while now. i’m not sure if i can call it love but it certainly goes beyond a crush. i didn’t want to tell you directly so i made that for you. but look at me now, babbling nonsense like an idiot.” sooyoung patted the bed, inviting jungeun to lay next to her. instead of talking, she pulled jungeun into a warm embrace and placed a kiss as gentle as her personality on her cheek. 

 

“what are you trying to say?” 

 

more kisses on the cheek and forehead. “do you get it now or do i need to elaborate further?” 

 

she shook her head. 

 

“great! well, i have feelings for you too. i figured you had something for me ‘cause… who would change their sleeping schedule for one human being, a tiny speck in this universe, right? you were never really that lowkey, jungie.” she slid her hand across the side of her neck to her nape, drawing circles. “you’ve always been the highlight of my days. i’m definitely remembering tonight. thank you for your love. i'll read everything tomorrow morning.”

 

“what does this mean for us? where do we go from here?” 

 

“let's start with this: i’m all yours now.” 

 

although jungeun was aware of how poetic and romantic sooyoung could be with her words, it was the first time she was left completely speechless. hidden, fragile emotions spilled from the tip of her favorite pen onto paper. the message had reached the stars and there they were, connected like a constellation in the night sky. 

 

i’m so lucky to be calling you mine

 

the girl she yearned for was holding her, making her feel loved and blessed. 

 

her life was finally complete.