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Chapter 1 – She’s not my girlfriend

 

Minnie cursed as the coffee seeped deep into her boots. The cyclist who’d swiped her hand didn’t even look back as he rode down the street. Leaving the scene of the crime and an angry journalist in his wake.

“Kill me now,” she muttered to the heavens.

Ten minutes and a handful of napkins stuffed into her shoes later, Minnie was striding into the hellhole that was her office. A too cramped, too loud, too cheap attempt at a millennial newsroom in downtown Manhattan. It was supposed to just be her stepping stone after college into a promising career as a journalist, but three years later and she was still here. Still grinding away at this thankless online print.

“Nice outfit, Minnie Mouse. I see you’re putting those girlfriend dollars to use,” Her jackass of an editor called out to her as soon as she sat down at her tiny desk.

“Not my girlfriend,” she deadpanned for what felt like the thousandth time that week.

“Not what HighStreet’s saying,” he mocked. Then he carelessly threw his phone at her, making her rush to catch the device before it met an untimely death. “Front page again. Picture’s good too. Gotta say though, your girl’s looking pretty hot.” His loud voice attracted the attention of quite a few of the other staff writers around them. Nothing much to do in a place that didn’t even offer health insurance than gossip and pretend to work. Man, she couldn’t wait until she got out of here. “When you gonna get us pics so we can print stuff like that too?”

Wanting to at least know what the hell he was talking about, Minnie looked at the phone in her hands. A browser was open to a familiar gossip website, HighStreet International—now why it was called ‘international’ when it only talked about American celebrities was a mystery she had no interest in solving. The extent to which Minnie cared about the gossip rag started and ended with the large picture she could see on the bottom left of the front page.

It was a paparazzi shot of Minnie and the woman she was currently seeing in a slightly-more-than-friendly capacity these days: Cho Miyeon.

More specifically, it was a picture of rising model and established socialite Cho Miyeon, with the girl that just so happened to be beside her as they walked out of a restaurant. Minnie had dreamt about the day she’d see herself on the front page of a national paper, ever since she was a little girl reading NYTimes stories with her dad. This… really wasn’t how she’d imagined it happening.

For one, HighStreet didn’t even know her name. The caption of the photo read: Model Cho Miyeon and new girlfriend out on the town.

But that was so far from the truth. She wasn’t dating Miyeon, they were just… talking. Often. And going out to eat at high-class restaurants and getting their pictures taken in tabloids. That wasn’t dating.

“She’s not my girlfriend,” Minnie repeated, somewhat defensively.

“I don’t care if she’s your long-lost sister, there’s people who dig that sick shit too,” her editor replied, perching precariously on the edge of her desk.

“Fucking gross, Jack. Seriously?”

“I’m serious as a heart attack, Minnie Mouse. If we get clicks, who cares?” He greasily grinned back at her. “So when’s the next date?”

She rolled her eyes and pointedly handed his phone back. “None of your business. What’s my next story?”

“Think we got something brewing on the whole soup or salad front again. Could even throw in some of that gluten shit too.”

“Salad. You want me to write about salad,” she echoed drily.

“That’s the story, babe. Don’t like it? We also got…” Jack twisted in place and pointed across the room to a mousy-looking woman whose cardigan was two sizes too small, “Brenda’s on brief or boxers, a female perspective, then…” he turned to a guy wearing non-prescription glasses that almost covered his entire face, “Patrick’s on top ten flannel picks for the summer and also…” he finally turned to a guy who was stuffing donuts into his mouth at an alarming speed, “Greg’s doing a ranking of the best donuts joints in the city. That one’s actually a personal project, but I’m letting him run it ‘cause I know it’ll get us what every good story does,” he smiled the smarmiest smile possible as he finished with, “Clicks.”

“So you’re saying if I came up with a good story, you’d let me write it.” Minnie grasped onto the tiniest thread of hope she could find. “Then what about—”

“I’m always saying that, Minnie Mouse,”  he interrupted, getting to his feet as he explained. “But all I’ve heard so far is housing problems, income inequality, the job crisis, blah, blah, blah. What I’m not hearing from you is anything good.”

And once again Minnie was struck by just how much she hated her job. It shouldn’t be possible to utterly despise the only thing that put food on her table, but here she was. Wishing she could be anywhere else.

“Fine, Jack,” she ground out. “I’ll write your fucking salad story.”

“Or…” He teased, smirking down at her. He knew he had her interest because the alternative was just so soul-crushingly bad. “Or…”

“Or what?” She finally snapped.

“Give me something that HighStreet would kill to have.”

She should’ve declined the second she saw that creepy-ass smile on his face. Well. There were many things she should’ve done in her life.

 

--

 

“What does he want?”

“Nothing much, really,” Minnie tried to downplay it as much as she could without invoking suspicion over the phone. “It’s pretty much a fluff story.”

“About what? Jack’s promising you the front page, there’s gotta be a catch in there somewhere.” And of course Yuqi would pick up on it already. This was the downside to being friends with an ex-coworker, there wasn’t much she could hide from the other reporter. “Hold on, is it that stupid soup or salad piece again?” Minnie had to pull her phone away from her ear as Yuqi’s cackles filled the speaker. “I swear, he pulls that out every three months. And he wonders why the LooseThread’s dropping subs like crazy? Nobody cares about salad!”

Minnie could only nod helplessly as she bit into the BLT she’d grabbed from a food truck she’d walked past. She was technically on her lunch break, but she knew she didn’t have to get back into the office any time soon. After accepting Jack’s deal, he’d graciously allowed her some time to get her ‘sources’ together. But she knew he really only had one source in mind: Miyeon.

And Minnie was nothing if not stubborn, so she’d avoided making that call in lieu of contacting the only other person she could tolerate in her industry: former coworker and current reporter at a rival print, Song Yuqi.

“It’s not the salad story,” Minnie clarified once she’d finished chewing. “But I could still do that if I want. It’s backup. The real story is…” She sighed.

“What? You’re making me nervous.”

“Seo Soojin.” And the silence that followed was exactly what she’d expected to happen. “Have you heard of her?” She pointlessly asked.

“Have I heard of her?!” Yuqi bellowed through the phone speaker.

“So, yes.”

“Are you crazy?! The actress from that Red Fox movie that blew up last year? That Seo Soojin? I haven’t seen a single story on the ice princess that didn’t make me feel sorry for the poor journalist who had to talk to her. She hates the media! Literally hates our guts!”

“I know, but—”

“And you said it’s a fluff piece? How fluffy do you think it’s gonna look when all you get on record is her telling you to go fuck yourself?”

“I know that. But—”

“I knew you were crazy when you started dating that model but this is a whole other level. Might as well quit now, this is pretty much a suicide piece.”

“Yuqi!” Minnie yelled, gritting her teeth to stop herself from hanging up on the other girl. “I am aware of how… difficult this story is.”

“Exactly, so why on Earth did you accept it?” Yuqi asked, somewhat calmer now but still far too excited for Minnie’s taste. “Seriously, why don’t you just quit? You’ve been saying it forever, just do it. You hate your job.”

“I do,” Minnie couldn’t help but agree to that. “But that’s why I have to do this story.” And the more she thought about it, the more she saw this impossible task for what it was: an opportunity. “Say I do get the Soojin story, just imagine it for a second. There’s not a single paper coast-to-coast that wouldn’t pay an arm and a leg to get it. It’s the perfect resume. If I get this story, I’m out of LooseThread for good and then, I don’t know—Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Elle, who cares? Even fucking HighStreet would be begging to sign me on.” She wasn’t a sell-out by any means, but financial security and a job that didn’t make her want to rip her eyes out were too good to pass up.

She was an adult. And making hard choices was a part of that.

“That does sound… if you do get it, I mean,” Yuqi reluctantly conceded.

“Exactly. I need to get it.”

“But how—oh… your model girlfriend probably knows her.”

“Not probably, definitely. Miyeon mentioned that she got invited to a birthday party the other day and guess whose party it is?” Minnie grinned as all the pieces started coming together. Almost as an afterthought, she added, “And she’s not my girlfriend.”

“Wow, you could really do this, I can’t believe it.”

“Me neither. But I have to, right? This is my chance.”

And the voice in the back of her head that had been scared of calling Miyeon was suddenly silent. She was just asking a favor from a friend. A very well-connected friend who she’d been having slightly romantic meetings with over the past couple of months. That’s all. And, in any case, Miyeon knew better than anyone else how important it was to network. That’s practically all she did when she wasn’t getting her pictures plastered on the side random buildings on Fifth Avenue. She would understand.

 

--

 

Minnie had no doubt that Miyeon would understand. Which is why… she avoided telling her altogether.

No need to have a conversation if she knew exactly how it would turn out, right? Right?

Even to her own hopeful ears, it sounded like a pitiful excuse.

“Hmm, I’m still not sure about the neckline here… Do you think it looks too tacky? And especially without a big necklace to draw the eye…”

Minnie sat in the larger-than-her-living-room fitting room as she absentmindedly watched Miyeon twirl in front of the mirror and stylist. The boutique they’d come to didn’t technically offer personal styling services, but when Cho Miyeon walked through your door, you made adjustments. (You also kicked out the rest of your clientele, but that’s probably not something you wanted to publicize.)

“You look wonderful, Miss. The cut works perfectly with—”

“It looks weird,” Miyeon spoke over the stylist, ignoring his pandering. “And from the left it looks, ugh. Minnie, what do you think?”

Said girl was fully zoned out, contemplating things people often didn’t think about when shopping for clothes—like morality, inappropriate networking practices, and how to tell if you were dating someone or not.

“Minnie?”

“Hmm?” She snapped out of it quickly enough to catch the inquiring look on Miyeon’s face. Minnie hadn’t heard a word she’d said, but she wasn’t a reporter for no reason. Her eyes flitted around for context clues—Miyeon’s frown, the worried look on the stylist’s face, the way the model’s hands kept touching her collar—and with a fairly confident tone, she said, “If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. We can always get something else.”

“I know,” Miyeon pouted, looking back at the mirror. “But I promised I’d wear Valentino to the party.”

“I’m sure he’ll forgive you,” she deadpanned.

“Hmm, you’re right. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.”

“That’s right.”

“Okay,” Miyeon resolved, turning to the anxious stylist. “I’ll take it.”

His eyes bugged out before he could stop himself. “You’ll tak—but I thought you said you didn’t like it.”

“No, I said it’s tacky and it doesn’t work. So I’ll just have to make it work.” The model gracefully stepped down from the podium and started reaching for the zipper by her shoulder. “Fashion is all about change and adaptability.”

The stylist looked flustered but he recovered well, bowing as he inched his way out of the room. “Ah—yes, you’re right. Sure thing, Miss. I’ll get it all ready for you.”

Once he stepped out, Miyeon turned a mischievous eye to her seated friend. “Do you think I could get him to lick my boots, too? It feels like he’d do it if I asked nicely.”

“You could get him to do whatever you want,” Minnie shrugged.

“What about you?”

“Hmm?”

“If I ask nicely…” Miyeon carefully zipped down the top part of her bodice, letting the fabric peel down around her shoulders. “What would you do… for me?”

“I…” And Minnie was a fully-functioning, hot-blooded human being with a pair of working eyes so it was no wonder she fell suddenly speechless. It was only natural. When faced with a goddess like Miyeon, how else could she react? She grasped for a thought, any thought, in her suddenly vacant head. Finally, she said, “I’ll go to the birthday party with you.”

“Wait, really?” Miyeon asked hopefully.

“Y-yeah. I mean,” she cleared her throat. “Of course. You said you were looking forward to it, right? And you wanted me to meet—”

“Paulo and Jean and Francine and Giorgio and—oh, I think Dolce’s going to be there too.”

“Right. I can finally meet all your friends, like…” Minnie gulped. “Like Dolce. Of… Dolce and Gabbana. Right.”

“I can’t believe this. Are you serious? You’re not joking, are you?”

“I’m not, I swear.” Minnie stood up and felt familiar comfort from the fact that she was taller than Miyeon was. Not by much, but enough to give her some ground in the face of their social imbalances. She wasn’t rich or famous and she didn’t have friends whose names sounded more expensive than her entire college education. But she was tall. So… she had that, at least.

She liked to imagine that that’s what drew Miyeon to her in the first place, because it sure as hell wasn’t her job or social standing.

“You know you don’t have to do this, right?”

“A few days ago you were begging me to come.”

“I know, but that’s just… I know you’re not always comfortable being around…” Miyeon gestured vaguely to the private fitting room they’d commandeered. “All this.”

“Maybe. But I want to be around you, so.”

The model smiled beautifully then, more picturesque than anything she’d done so far today. It had a hint of an emotion that should not be named. And it was the best thing Minnie had ever seen.

Too bad they weren’t dating.

 

--

 

“You said you wouldn’t be surprised,” Miyeon smirked as their car was finally allowed through the gate.

“I said I would try not to be. You forgot to mention we were going to a private island, though.”

“Must’ve slipped my mind.”

“Ah, seriously. Cho Miyeon,” Minnie grumbled as they drove onto the private dock. It was no different than many of the other docks in the area—it had a couple of boats and yachts lined up beside each other on the water. The only big difference was that apparently all of it was owned by just one person. Only daughter of the reclusive founder of tech giant Yehtube and heir to the billion-dollar company: millionaire-for-now Yeh Shuhua.

Apparently she was the one throwing the party for one Seo Soojin, since they were such good friends. And, instead of having a regular high-society party in a club or mansion or boat or whatever, they were going to take a yacht to Shuhua’s mansion on her private island and party with one of the biggest DJ’s in the world. On a private island. Minnie felt like it couldn’t be understated the fact that they were going to an island that was owned by a single, very rich person. She’d thought one of the richest things you could do was have a private driver, like Miyeon did, but apparently not.

“Okay, do you have everything?” Miyeon checked as they alighted from their town car.

“Who knows?” Minnie quipped. “Not like it’s worth much around here anyway.”

“Hey, don’t be like that. If you want to go—”

“No, it’s fine. I was just joking.”

“Are you sure?” Miyeon asked, grabbing her hand and playing with her fingers. The model looked absolutely divine in her reconstructed Valentino dress, definitely a cut above the other partygoers that Minnie could see filtering in around them. But here she was, eyes focused on Minnie alone, trying to make her feel better. Truly a goddess among men. “Soojin and I aren’t even that close, so if we leave now I’m sure she won’t mind. I don’t want you to have a bad time.”

“I won’t,” Minnie promised. She had to be better than this. Her entire life was on the line here, she couldn’t chicken out before she even got in. “I’ll be fine.”

“Okay… Let’s go, then.”

They walked hand-in-hand towards the large yacht that everyone was boarding. It was clearly outfitted for a party—music and lights and champagne filling it to the brim. Minnie felt like she was stepping into a whole new world. Or, at least, she would’ve felt that way if they’d managed to get on the ship. As it was, they were stopped and pulled aside by security merely steps away from the entrance.

“Sorry, Miss, we were told to stop you from joining the others,” the white-suited security detail haltingly explained to them.

And Minnie started to freak out.

Why had they been singled out like this? Was it because of her? Sure Miyeon was famous, but maybe there was some kind of plus-one standard that Minnie hadn’t met. Maybe they’d found out the real reason why Minnie had come tonight. It seemed impossible, but well-paid security like this were supposed to know everything, weren’t they? Now Minnie and Miyeon were going to be thrown off the yacht—or no, they didn’t even make it to the yacht yet. They were going to be booted from the island—but they hadn’t made it that far either. They were going to be carted away in chains—

“Are you sure you’re feeling okay?” Miyeon double-checked as they waited towards the side. No, Minnie was the furthest thing from being okay right now. But she didn’t say that. She looked up to utter some mollifying statement, but her eyes caught sight of something that made her freeze. “What’s wrong?”

“N-nothing. It’s just, I think I see someone I know.” There was no mistaking it.

“Oh?” Miyeon swiveled to try and see who she could be talking about, but of course she had no idea. Neither of them had met the other’s friends yet. “Can she go talk to her friend? Just for a second.” She asked the white suit beside them.

He nodded without argument and Miyeon gently pushed her toward the crowd still on the docks.

“Are you sure?”

“Mhm,” she nodded with a smile. “I’ll be right here when you’re done, don’t worry.”

Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Minnie took her chance and walked up to the familiar face she’d spotted. She slapped an unforgiving hand down on their shoulder.

“Fancy seeing you here, Yuqi.”

“A-ah,” the other girl grimaced in pain as she turned to see a less-than-impressed Minnie. “Oh, Minnie… Yeah, fancy that, huh?”

“Start talking.”

“Alright, alright.” Yuqi held up her hands in surrender and Minnie finally backed off. Might as well give her a chance to explain before she killed her. “So, you know how you were talking about this whole birthday party thing—”

“Yes, my one chance at a lucky break. I remember,” Minnie gritted out.

“I know. But it kinda sounded… like a pipe dream? If I’m being honest—not to hurt your feelings or anything.”

“Trust me, it’s not my feelings you have to worry about.”

“Okay, okay,” Yuqi rushed out. “So I did some digging to see what it was all about. You know, stay informed. And I found out…” she carefully lowered her voice, “I found out that the whole thing was organized by some kind of millionaire heiress or something. Her name’s Yeh Shu—”

“Yeh Shuhua, I know,” Minnie sighed irritably. “Still haven’t heard the part that somehow magically got you invited.”

“I’m getting there, jeez,” Yuqi muttered. When she saw the glare focused on her however, she quickly continued, “So this Shuhua chick is crazy rich, right? But she doesn’t really do the whole rich girl party act that you’d expect from someone like her. She doesn’t party, there are almost no pics of her online except a few times a year. It’s always some benefit to save the planet or clean the ocean or whatever. She’s super clean. But there are a couple rumors flying around… that she might be dating Seo Soojin.” Minnie’s eyes widened when she heard that piece of information. “Some random sightings, anonymous stories, but nothing concrete yet. Soojin’s pretty private too, so it’s almost impossible getting any proof. But a big party like this?” Yuqi’s face lit up with her excitement. “They’re absolutely banging, no doubt about it.”

“Don’t be gross,” Minnie chided. “And what if you’re wrong? Miyeon says she’s just a benefactor.”

“Oh, kind of like Miyeon is for you? Nice jacket by the way—the whole oversize thing, looks very designer?” Yuqi jeered, causing Minnie to self-consciously smooth out the lines of her outfit. She’d thought she looked nice.

But very quickly, Minnie managed to arrange her thoughts on all of what Yuqi had said and came to a conclusion that left a sour taste in her mouth. “You’re scooping me.”

“What? No! I’d never—”

“You’re trying to steal my story you piece of shi—”

“Listen,” Yuqi quickly tried to plead her case. “You’re targeting a fluff piece, right? With Soojin? I’m not interfering with that, that’s yours. I’m just trying to get some kind of proof pic of the biggest celebrity couple since Brangelina.”

“And when you sell your seedy pap shot for half a million bucks, where does that leave me? Who’s gonna want my story then?”

“You… you really think I could get that much for it? I was thinking more like a couple thousand, but I guess you’re right—”

“You are dead to me, Song Yuqi,” Minnie scowled. “I won’t even go to your funeral, that’s how much we’re done.”

“Ah, you’ll get over it,” Yuqi waved off her threat. “It’s just business, Minnie Mouse.”

And with the added burn of that dreaded nickname, Minnie nearly saw red. She was sure she was well on her way to committing first-degree murder when a deep voice sounded behind her.

“It’s time to go now, Ma’am.” It was the security guard. He absolutely had to have some kind of sixth sense.

With a parting glare from Minnie and a perky “See you later!” from Yuqi, the two friends-turned-mortal-enemies went their separate ways. And just when Minnie thought things couldn’t get any worse, a loud foghorn blared out as she returned to Miyeon’s side. Shortly after, the rest of the crowd on the docks (including one traitor Song Yuqi) was efficiently herded up the gangplank and onto the ship.

“They’re leaving,” Minnie realized with a drop of fear. “We have to go—”

“No, Ma’am, you won’t be getting on that ship.” The white suit was resolute, his face as impassive as ever behind his thick shades.

“But we have to… I have to…” It felt like her dream was slipping through her fingers. And right into the traitorous grubby hands of Song Yuqi. It wasn’t an overreaction to say that she felt like crying in that moment.

Moments later, the yacht pulled away from the dock and that was that. Her dream was officially gone.

But just then, Miyeon turned to look at something just past Minnie’s shoulder. “And you say I’m the lazy one? Look at you, late to your own party.”

“It wasn’t my choice,” a soft voice drily proclaimed.

Minnie whipped her head around and her eyes bugged out. Because standing right behind her was the lady of the hour, Seo Soojin. That was her. That was definitely her. Dressed in a sinfully tight red dress and wearing eyeliner that made her face look absolutely predatory, the actress had finally arrived. But after the boat had left…?

“These guys insisted that we take a separate boat,” she offhandedly gestured to the white-suited security team standing by that had only multiplied upon her arrival. “And the boat guys wouldn’t start up till the other one left. Seriously…” she sighed, rolling her eyes. “Isn’t this too much?”

“It’ll never be too much for my honey,” a significantly louder voice cooed. Minnie saw the smug face first and then she realized that someway, somehow, she’d hit the jackpot. Because this new woman was dressed in the kind of unassuming but obviously outrageously expensive outfit that only the top 0.01% wore. So this had to be the heiress Yeh Shuhua. Another clue was the legion of bodyguards that followed her every move. Different from the white-team, this second team seemed more specialized, more… deadly. And that’s when Minnie also saw the armored truck that had apparently carried the two women to the docks under the highest levels of secrecy. Was this some kind of movie…?

“Shuhua, you say that, but I don’t think you even know what that word means. Do you?” Soojin teased. The heiress only giggled, practically draping herself over the stoic actress.

And Minnie was dumbfounded.

Wasn’t this too obvious? From Yuqi’s description, she’d expected the ‘couple’ to be more discreet, maybe exchanging secret glances at each other when no one else was looking. But this was… major PDA territory. How had no one leaked their relationship yet? A quick glance at the swarm of armed personnel surrounding them gave her a big clue as to why that might be.

“Happy birthday, Soojin,” Miyeon congratulated.

“Ah, yes,” Minnie rushed to say something, anything. “H-happy birthday. Uh, I’m—I’m—”

“You’re Miyeon’s little mouse aren’t you?” Soojin tilted her head, feigning thought. “What was it, Mickey?”

“No, it’s Minnie,” Shuhua chided lightly, not sensing that her girlfriend (what even was their status anyway?) had messed up her name on purpose.

“Ah, that’s right. Nice to meet you… Minnie.”

And the way that Soojin glared at her made her skin crawl with unease. Man, she really was the ice princess. What was her problem?

“Let me introduce you guys,” Miyeon quickly stepped in. “Min, this is Soojin, the birthday girl and biggest diva I’ve ever met.”

“Cho Miyeon…”

But the model ignored the warning, “And this is Shuhua. It’s her island that we’re going to. Or not? Is that still happening?”

“We’re going,” Soojin answered, sashaying her way towards the much smaller boat that was currently being prepped. It was still an expensive vessel in every sense of the word, but it was no party boat like the yacht that they could still see in the distance.

Shuhua stepped out next to speak to them, “JinJin really wanted a smaller hangout with friends before we got to the party, so I asked the guys to stop you. Hope you don’t mind.” And the heiress was honestly too cute for this world. Her smile was earnest and her eyes shone with excitement. Her words were a bit short and choppy with her heavy accent, but her sincerity was clear to see. How this pure angel had ended up with that frosty devil of a princess was the world’s biggest mystery.

“That’s fine, Shuhua,” Miyeon answered for the both of them.

And just before Minnie and Miyeon could follow the other two onto the boat, Minnie just had to say one last thing. “I thought you said you weren’t that close. Now we’re going to a private party?”

“Oh, it’s not really a party…”

“What do you call all this then?” Minnie subtly gestured towards the boat that was now ready and rearing to go. She was sure Shady McShades security guy had probably seen her though, no matter how much she’d tried to hide it. Dude had eyes in the back of his head.

“I don’t know, it kind of feels like… almost like… a double date?” Miyeon trailed off.

“Oh… I guess it could be like that, too,” Minnie conceded in a murmur. And then the two of them were ushered unto the boat, as well. A double date? Hmm…

Too bad they weren’t dating.

 

--

 

Minnie felt like she was being pranked.

All the way leading up to where she found herself in that current moment, she’d thought she’d had to do the impossible.

Write a fluff piece on the notoriously icy Seo Soojin? Impossible. But there the actress was, sitting across from her on the deck of this private boat. And while she wasn’t exactly loose-lipped, she wasn’t silent either. They were talking. Almost like… friends.

Find proof of the secret relationship between Soojin and millionaire heiress Yeh Shuhua? Impossible. Except, there the two of them were. Right there. Right in front of her sal—tastefully arranged hors d’oeuvres. No investigative journalism required, the only proof she needed was her eyes. Shuhua had been practically glued to the actress’ side since the moment they’d all met. If she wasn’t leaning on her shoulder, she was brushing her hair or gazing into her eyes like some kind of lovesick teenager. And while Soojin wasn’t exactly bursting with affection, she was clearly fond of the other girl. Nonchalantly feeding her from the platter of hors d’oeuvres, playing with the fabric on her sheet-like clothing, wrapping a hand around her arm whenever Shuhua got too excited and then forgetting to let go. It was absolutely sickening.

Somehow Minnie had gotten extremely lucky.

All the things she needed for a better life were right here on this boat.

Now. If only she could get to her phone so she could fully secure her good fortune…

“Why are you wriggling so much?” Miyeon chuckled from her spot leaning against Minnie’s shoulder.

“No reason.”

“You’re not uncomfortable, are you?” Miyeon kept her voice low, just in case.

“No, don’t worry. I’m just…” And she found herself honestly saying, “I’m just really happy right now.”

Miyeon smiled shyly, ducking her head to try and hide it. “Me too.”

And Minnie would be even happier if she could just get her phone out of her pocket—

“Did you see that?” Shuhua gasped, springing to her feet.

“What? What?” Minnie felt her heart beating a mile a minute. “What?” But then she saw that the young heiress was pointing at the star-filled sky and she barely managed to calm herself down from a potential heart attack.

“That was a shooting star, right? Did you see that, JinJin?”

“I don’t think it was?” Soojin drawled in disbelief. She was already grabbing at Shuhua to drag her back down to her seat.

“I swear I saw it! Really fast, faster than an airplane—it had to be a shooting star, right?” The heiress turned to her security team that had hidden themselves away as best they could on the tiny vessel.

And almost like they’d been doing this for years, a bodyguard stepped forward and reported, “The chances of a shooting star passing over our current location is approximately 34.77%.”

“Mhm,” Shuhua pouted.

“But with the added factors of the beautiful night and the fact that it’s Miss Soojin’s birthday, the odds are closer to 67.2%.”

“See, JinJin~” Shuhua proudly proclaimed. “Told you.”

“You’re impossible, you know that?” Soojin scoffed.

“You always say that, but still you…” and for the first time in more than an hour, Shuhua’s voice got too quiet for Minnie to hear what she was saying. A modern-day miracle. The only hint of the rest of her words was the tiny smile pulling at the corner of Soojin’s lips. That and the smug grin that was splashed across Shuhua’s face.

“What do you think of them?” Miyeon suddenly asked, out of the blue.

Minnie turned to give her full attention to her friend and realized she must’ve been staring at the impossible couple for so long that Miyeon had gotten curious.

“I’ve never seen two people so different in my entire life.”

“I know, right?” The model chuckled. “When Shuhua told me they were dating, I thought she was joking at first.” Minnie felt a rush of blood to the head at the direct confirmation. Finally! “But they also match too, don’t you think? Like they just… fit. Somehow.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Minnie nodded. “So you knew Shuhua first?”

“Yeah. She and I… we’ve known each other for a long time.”

“And Soojin?”

“She takes a while to warm up to. That’s why I said we weren’t that close. But,” Miyeon softly smiled as she thought, “Shuhua said Soojin wanted to ride with me as friends, so… I guess we’re friends now.”

“Just like that?”

“This isn’t reality TV, you know. People like us can be friendly without a big fuss.”

“People like you?” Minnie smirked. “What do you mean by that?”

“You know…” Miyeon slapped her arm, a bit embarrassed. “Like—”

“Goddesses?”

“Ah, stop it!” Miyeon practically shoved her off the bench they were sharing, hitting her once more when she started laughing. “Seriously!”

Minnie instinctively started apologizing, “Alright, alright,” but as she stood up, she met eyes with Soojin for a moment. It wasn’t particularly long, but it felt like a certain understanding passed between them. And then the moment was over. And Soojin went back to mostly ignoring her for the rest of the ride. That was fine too, they were all too busy stargazing to really have any substantial conversations anyway.

It wasn’t until they started pulling up to the island that Minnie finally returned to reality. The noise from the already docked yacht ahead was overwhelming. And in that moment she remembered that there was supposed to be a party going on. If she was going to get her Sooshu proof pic, it had to be before they docked on the island.

The boat crew carefully cleaned up their plates and chairs, and the security team started their docking preparations. In those few short minutes, it was more hectic than it had been for all of the past hour. So Minnie was able to slip her phone out of her pocket without much problem.

Everything was fine up until that point.

Everything was fine.

She just had to open her camera, lift it up and—

“Oh, my apologies, Ma’am,” Shady McShades security guy apologized as he roughly stumbled into Minnie with the boat’s rocking motions. An honest mistake. Except for the fact that her phone! Wasn’t in her hand anymore?! Minnie barely glimpsed the back of the pink case as it fell overboard and disappeared into the cruel, cruel sea.

“My... phone…” Minnie brokenly uttered.

“Oh no, what happened?” Miyeon quickly rushed to her side, trying to decipher her shocked expression. “Did your phone fall?”

Minnie tried to speak, but no words came from her mouth. She felt like she’d just lost her child.

“Don’t worry, Minnie,” Shuhua called out as the boat finally finished docking. “I’ll get you a new one. My gift to my new friend.”

Not even that could make her feel better. Because it was over now, wasn’t it? She’d gotten her once-in-a-lifetime chance and she’d fucked it up. Just like that.

And in the bustle of de-boarding that followed, Minnie swore she heard Soojin’s dangerously low voice warning, “People will take advantage if you’re too trusting, Shuhua. Be careful.”

 

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