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Yuqi has never been this bored.

It was about halfway through her evening shift. She isn’t even sure why the convenience store was open since it seemed like everyone in the town had either disappeared during the school break, or decided to live without food. 

Whatever it was, it was causing Yuqi agony.

She leans against the palms of her hands, lets out an exaggerated sigh, and continues to stare at the dragging clock hands. Hadn’t it been half past six an hour ago?

After a while, Minnie unsurprisingly picks up on her boredom.

"The time isn't going any faster, if you haven't noticed from the intense one-sided staring competition you've been having with the clock, Yuqi."

Yuqi shifts her blank gaze from the wall, and blinks her bleary eyes into focus. The faint rays of sunlight graze the few, narrowly placed full shelves on the partially stained tile flooring (which is impossible to clean, trust her; she has tried), while one amused looking girl with long dark hair and bangs leans against the wall to her right.

"Do you have any suggestions for something better to do, then? We've barely even had customers all week, let alone today," Yuqi sighs, giving her friend slash co-worker a scrutinizing look.

Minnie just grins, pushing herself away from the wall. She walks towards the counter Yuqi was sitting at. “Do you want one of my Sudokus? I have a stash.”

“You have a stash of Sudokus?”

“Yeah. Miyeon gave me a bunch on my last birthday.”

Yuqi stares at Minnie in disbelief, but gives the older girl a nod nonetheless. It was better than nothing, right? And Minnie’s smile could be really convincing.

A delighted glint appears in Minnie’s eyes from her confirmation. She practically skips her way to the backroom, leaving Yuqi at the counter.

They had become great friends despite the fact that Minnie was one grade higher than Yuqi. They met a few years ago, when the older girl helped a lost Yuqi find her classroom, all the way back in her first year of high school.

Yuqi really appreciated the other girl. Even though she didn't like the fact that Minnie constantly described their friendship as ‘me and Miyeon adopting our little Yuqi’ .

“I’m just going to arrange the things on the back shelf," Minnie says after returning and handing Yuqi the Sudoku notebook. She walks off with her shiny combat boots squeaking along with her steps. 

Yuqi guessed that ‘arranging things’ most likely meant flirting with Miyeon over text.

Letting out another heavy sigh, Yuqi leans back on the chair she’s sitting on, and props her legs up on the counter. 

Who even did Sudokus? 

She curses silently at herself for forgetting to charge her phone before coming to work today. 

Instead of filling in the numbers, Yuqi opts for doodling little giraffes on the side of the paper. Maybe it would be better than playing tag with Minnie; at least the shelfs would be less likely to almost collapse. 

Their boss hadn’t been all that happy.

After a while, Yuqi ends up being so engrossed in her drawing that she doesn’t hear the little bell that’s a sign of a customer walking in. A few minutes later, light footsteps walk up to where Yuqi’s sitting, still looking down at the paper.

A clutter of things being laid on the counter shakes her out of her daze.

“Hey.”

Yuqi snaps her eyes up to find the source of the voice. What she sees makes her response stick to her throat; in front of her stands a fairly short girl, practically drowning in a worn out black hoodie – that’s probably at least five sizes too big on her – with a beanie on top of her head keeping her short jet black hair behind her ears, leaving her delicate features on display. 

The girl was probably around Yuqi’s age, if she had to take a wild guess. She notes her smooth skin, playful smirk and mischievous eyes, which are observing Yuqi’s goggling in amusement. And even though her clothing choices screamed cute and she was shorter than Yuqi, the aura that surrounded the girl made her shrink back in her seat just a bit.

Yuqi wouldn't deny that she’s a little intimidated.

“Are you going to do your job or just stare at me?”

“Oh! Umh, sorry," Yuqi mumbles, scrambling to stand up, still not completely out of her stupor. She tries to move fast, glancing at the girl from time to time. 

The girl’s carefully manicured yellow nails drum on the surface of the table rhythmically as she hums along with the quiet tune playing on the radio. It makes Yuqi feel a little more at ease. 

But unfortunately, she forgets all about the Sudoku notebook she accidentally left open on the table while hurrying to scan the pretty girl’s items.

The girl in question leans forward, resting her hands on the counter completely, and takes a better look at the little doodles on the paper. “Cute giraffes.”

Yuqi snaps her eyes back to the girl once again, then at the animals clearly visible on the page. Clearing her throat, Yuqi swiftly moves the notebook on the back table and resumes the scanning with burning cheeks, wishing the ground would just swallow her up. 

What was up with her today? She was usually really good at her job, making all the customers love her. That’s why she was usually the one at the counter instead of Minnie, who in turn couldn’t always remember what were appropriate conversation topics while working.

In fact, one of her rules of outstanding customer service was not to judge what the customers were buying. But right now, she couldn’t help but be a little bit confused. Who buys this many tangerines?

Shaking her head, Yuqi croaks out the total after carefully placing the last item in front of the girl. 

Yuqi looks up and smiles politely at the girl when she’s met with silence. The girl still has the smirk planted on her stupidly attractive features as she hands Yuqi some cash. She almost flinches when the girl’s smooth skin brushes her own hand. Was she suddenly afraid of physical contact, too?

“Keep the change," the girl says in a teasing tone. “Consider it as a tip for your outstanding work.”

Yuqi’s eyes widen, while the girl just winks at her and turns around with a full bag in her hand.

“T-thank you,'' Yuqi manages to stutter while looking at the girl’s retreating figure.

Still slightly dazed and staring at the already closed door, Yuqi doesn’t notice Minnie until the older girl is directly in front of her with an almost manic smile plastered on her face. 

It kind of terrifies Yuqi, if she’s being honest.

“Did I just witness Song Yuqi gay panicking? You, the one who can make friends with anyone? Wow, I can’t believe it! I have to text the others," Minnie squeals while jumping up and down, reaching for her phone in her pocket.

“NO!” Yuqi yells, stopping Minnie’s hand. “I mean, I was just a little startled. She caught me off guard.”

“You almost threw the notebook when she pointed it out.”

“No I didn’t.”

"And let's not forget that you couldn't even return her greeting. You always greet customers; even if they look at you like you were a 6-year-old working in a convenience store."

"That's beside the point! And were you spying on me–"

“And when she left, you definitely were looking at her with your ‘ I want to make out with you in that empty classroom’ -look.”

“My what now? And that was one time! Maybe you should just learn how to knock before–”

“Just admit you thought she was pretty!”

“Okay, okay!” Yuqi raises her hands in surrender. “Can we just go back to work? I think you’ve been spending too much time with Shuhua.”

Minnie giggles, satisfied with the result from her efforts, and just pats Yuqi on the head. “I’m still texting the others. Shuhua and Miyeon are going to love this!! And even Soojin, I think..."

Yuqi lets out a huff while Minnie walks to the backroom with the widest grin Yuqi has ever seen on her face. Yuqi pats her still warm cheeks a few times, before slumping back down on her chair and burrowing her scowling face in her arms.





~~~





“So… who’s the girl you’re crushing on? The things going on in that store are definitely spicier than I thought...”

Yuqi gives her best friend a disapproving look. “I’m not crushing on anyone. And if I were, it definitely wouldn’t be on a stranger I completely humiliated myself in front of. She probably thinks I’m a childish moron who can’t even do her job when an attractive girl is standing a couple of meters away from her.”

“Aren’t you just describing yourself, though?”

“Yeh Shuhua!” Yuqi exclaims. She’s seriously considering throwing her bike she’s walking with at the annoying girl next to her. She frowns at Shuhua, who in turn was laughing loudly at the look on Yuqi’s face (which, paired with her stomping, reminded Shuhua more of a toddler than a 17-year-old high school student).

“But seriously, you could’ve just asked for her number. Then she wouldn’t have been a stranger anymore," Shuhua states after her breathing has returned back to normal.

Yuqi sighs. “My phone was dead.”

Shuhua hums. “You wouldn’t have been able to get it anyway, judging from what Minnie told us.”

In truth, Yuqi had purposefully ignored the messages sent to their group chat. She didn’t want to endure any more clowning from her friends than she had already been forced to deal with.

“I-," Yuqi stops on her tracks. “Why did you say I should’ve, then?”

Shuhua just grins with a playful glint in her eyes. “I just like to tease you, Yuqi. I thought you already knew that.”

Yuqi pretends to look at the clouds in the bright sky in order to hide her smile.

Shuhua had been a big part of her life for a long time, especially for these past few years after Yuqi’s mom got a new job at the city, making Yuqi live basically by herself most of the time. 

Even though Shuhua usually showed her affection through teasing her, she did know how to be mature and comfort others when it was needed. She was the first person Yuqi came out to, and was there to let Yuqi cry on her shoulder when her childhood pet dog passed away. Latest example was during the last winter, when Yuqi was dumped just before Valentine’s day. Shuhua had offered to get Soojin to use her taekwondo skills on Yuqi’s ex-girlfriend, but she insisted that ice cream and a romcom was enough.

Shuhua straightens up suddenly, waking Yuqi up from her memories. “Ah!! Soojin unnie texted the group chat this morning and told us that her old friend moved here during the break. I know you like to sleep as late as possible and ignore the messages from your wonderful friends.”

Yuqi raises her eyebrows at the exclamation and decides to just ignore the end of Shuhua’s sentence. “Really? She hasn't mentioned anyone from Seoul before.”

“Yeah. And I think she’s rich, too, from what I gathered. Like, Soojin level of rich.”

Yuqi lets out an acknowledging hum. It was no secret that Soojin’s family was wealthy; Yuqi and her friends had visited Soojin’s house (or rather mansion) plenty of times during the past couple of years she had lived in the town.

“Are they moving to the house next to Soojin’s? It has been empty for ages, I think.”

Shuhua looks at her and tilts her head. It kind of reminds Yuqi of a puppy. "I guess so. Makes sense. We'll find out once we get to school, right?"





~~~





The morning classes went by in no time, and soon it was time for lunch. Yuqi is sitting at the corner table with Shuhua, Minnie and Miyeon, who are once again arguing with each other. Today the topic was whether or not it’s possible for Minnie to drink a whole bottle of water under five seconds.

Apparently Shuhua spent the previous night doing a deep dive into Youtube (again). 

And since Soojin hadn’t arrived yet, Shuhua's attention was directed towards Miyeon, which, as usual, meant annoying the living hell out of the poor girl.

“I think you’ll drown, baby,” Miyeon says worriedly while holding Minnie’s hand.

“No, you dumbass. She can’t drown from drinking water," Shuhua huffs, rolling her eyes. “And I did it just last night and I’m still alive.”

Yuqi follows the scene unfolding in front of her as she munches on her lunch. She should probably intervene, but the way Minnie’s wide eyes move from Shuhua to Miyeon as they argue is way too amusing to ruin. The light chatter in the school cafeteria isn’t nearly enough to hide Shuhua and Miyeon's loud voices, but thankfully everyone is so used to their banter by now that the best option for the other students was to just ignore them altogether.

“I say, if she can do it, you’re doing my math homework for the next week," Shuhua challenges smugly, leaning back in her chair. Miyeon narrows her eyes at Shuhua.

“Do I have a say in this?” Minnie pipes up.

“We don’t even go to the same grade!” Miyeon points her finger at Shuhua. “And I’m not putting my girlfriend’s health at risk, you imbecile.”

Shuhua and Miyeon’s bickering is interrupted, however, when the cafeteria doors open, and in walks none other than Seo Soojin, who always managed to look entrancing; even in their (not so flattering) school uniform. Behind her walks another, shorter girl, but Yuqi can’t really see her face from where she’s sitting next to Shuhua, who’s beaming at the sight of the wealthy girl.

Soojin stops near the entrance and turns back to the girl. They exchange a few words, inaudible to the four girls sitting at the back of the room, giggling loudly after. Yuqi doesn’t miss the way Shuhua's face falls immediately and turns into something unreadable. But judging from the way she was almost breaking her chopsticks in half with how forcefully she was squeezing them, the girl wasn't very happy. 

Shuhua’s intense gaze is trained on the girl behind Soojin the whole time the two walk up to their table.

“Hey guys," Soojin greets the group with her soft voice and shy smile. “This is Jeon Soyeon, my old friend from the city. Soyeon, these are my friends I mentioned earlier. Shuhua, Miyeon, Minnie and Yuqi.”

As Soojin says her name, Yuqi lifts her eyes from Soojin to meet the gaze of her friend who has stepped forward to stand next to her. 

But the girl is already looking at Yuqi. 

With the same sharp, mischievous eyes and stupidly annoying smirk Yuqi encountered just yesterday.

Oh. Oh.

How she hadn't connected the dots earlier, Yuqi didn't know. But now that she thought about it, it wasn’t exactly a surprise that Soojin’s rich friend from the city and the pretty girl from the store were the same person, considering the fact that not many new people came to this town, unless they moved here. 

Did the universe hate her this much, though? She just had to meet Soojin’s (very pretty) friend while not exactly succeeding in selling her cool image. And now she had to see her basically every day? 

On top of it all, when she opens her mouth to say something, Yuqi starts choking on the piece of chicken she had been chewing on.

“Are you okay?” Shuhua asks through Yuqi’s coughing fit, smacking her back a little too forcefully as Minnie gives Yuqi her water bottle.

As tears start to flow down her cheeks, Yuqi manages to sputter, “Yeah, if you’d stop hitting me.”

As the table, excluding a blushing Shuhua, erupts into laughter, Yuqi is soon back to normal with the help of water. Soojin takes the seat next to Shuhua, the younger girl immediately clinging to her arm. That leaves the only free seat right in front of Yuqi.

"Hi again, Yuqi," Soyeon says in her smooth voice as she sits down, smoothing down her skirt. "No giraffes today?"

Yuqi stares at the older girl with wide eyes, sparing a glance at Minnie who’s staring back and forth between them with a knowing smirk.

"Wait, so this is the girl from yesterday you called pret– AH!"

Yuqi smiles innocently at Soyeon while Shuhua stares at her with a murderous glare, rubbing her now sore leg. "Ahah, no, just eating my lunch. Like what you'd normally do during lunch. Which is what’s happening right now."

Miyeon tries to hold her laughter, rather poorly, while Soojin just observes Yuqi in amusement.

"Right," Soyeon drawls. "Well, it's nice to meet you guys, even though I guess Soojin hasn't told anything about me. She's always been quite reserved, I think." 

Soojin rolls her eyes. She opens her mouth to protest, but is stopped by a loud voice. 

"No, not really. Just that you're rich. But I'm sure you're a great person since you're friends with Jinjin," Shuhua jumps in while Soojin blushes, leaning her head on Shuhua's shoulder.

Soyeon hums while looking between Soojin and Shuhua. "So, Soojinie, is this your girlfriend?"

Soojin sits up abruptly with wide eyes, completely missing the way Shuhua's demeanour darkens at the sudden lack of contact. "NO! I mean, why would you think that? We're not dating," Soojin laughs nervously.

"Too bad," Shuhua mutters, almost inaudible to everyone else but Yuqi.

Soojin turns to Shuhua in confusion. "What."

"What."

Soojin blinks while Shuhua just stuffs her mouth full of rice. Minnie clears her throat, making everyone focus on her. "Miyeon and I are dating."

"Yeah, nobody could tell from the way you're basically attached by the hip," Yuqi says.

Minnie glares at her. "Is my lovelife a joke to you?"

"She's just bitter about the fact that she hasn't had a girlfriend in ages," Miyeon giggles. 

Yuqi almost kicks her too, but Soyeon's voice stops her before that could happen. "So you guys are basically just a group of lesbians?"

Shuhua and Miyeon burst out laughing while Yuqi is trying to find a subtle way of sinking to the floor. 

"I guess you could say that," Minnie replies, a wide grin on her lips. Even Soojin has a hint of smile on her usually stoic face.

"You aren't homophobic, are you?" Miyeon suddenly deadpans. Soyeon chuckles while glancing at Yuqi. "No, I'm not. That would be very hypocritical of me if I were."

Yuqi stops her sliding at Soyeon's words. Does that mean…?

Shuhua gasps while Minnie's face lights up. "So you're gay?!"

"Yeah, I am. Not the way I planned to come out to you guys, but I guess it works," Soyeon smiles genuinely. "Can we continue our lunch, now? I'm starving."





~~~





Over the next week, Yuqi finds out that Soyeon fits their little circle fantastically. She was in the same grade as Soojin, Minnie and Miyeon, but Yuqi gets to know her during lunch, and sometimes after school when they go to hang out as a group. 

Soyeon tells them that the reason she moved was because her parents had an abrupt but apparently very important business trip abroad. They thought it would be better for Soyeon to finish her high school somewhere she could have someone to look after her; that being Soojin's parents. Apparently they were long-time friends; that’s also how Soyeon and Soojin met.

On another note, Yuqi has also become the victim of Soyeon's neverending teasing. When she asks Soojin about it, though, the older girl only shrugs.

"She's always been like that. I guess you just have to get used to it."

Despite their playful bantering, Yuqi has also learned some things about Soyeon. Like that she absolutely despises vegetables (Miyeon almost lost an eye when she tried to offer some to her), she likes to watch anime and that she loves music.

Yuqi likes the way Soyeon’s face lights up every time when the topic is brought up.

Shuhua has also been acting a little different compared to usual due to Soyeon's appearance; the girl had become even clingier (if it was possible) when it came to Soojin. Yuqi thought she was almost possessive of the older girl. Every time someone even smiled at Soojin in the hallway, Shuhua magically appeared next to her; not that Soojin seemed to mind. 

Which was exactly why Shuhua ditched Yuqi today – in order to 'go hang out with Jinjin' – leaving Yuqi all by herself on her way home. Which would be totally more than fine if it wasn't raining buckets and if Yuqi wouldn't have forgotten her raincoat home in the rush she left in the morning.

The heavy rain isn't the only reason her mood is as gloomy as the clouds hanging low in the sky above her, as she rides her bike through the deepening puddles on the road; she had completely forgotten the test she had for history today, meaning that the 10 minutes she tried to quickly memorize the neverending list of years and names wasn't nearly enough to get the grade she was aiming for. Yuqi’s sure she failed the test. 

The disappointment she feels makes her pedal the bike even angrier, which is why she doesn't notice the rock in front of her before it’s too late.

The loud ' pop ' is more than enough to tell Yuqi the tire is ruined.

"Fuck."

Yuqi hops down from her seat, the cold water seeping through the thin material of her blazer. The puddle she lands in swallows her feet – clad in old sneakers – in a way that makes her grimace. She just hopes that the rain hasn’t ruined the books in her backpack.

She lets out a heavy sigh, defeated. What should she do now? It was at least a 25-minute-walk home from where she’s currently, and judging from the trembling in her body, she would definitely get hypothermia in the process.

Swiping her wet bangs away from her face and squinting her eyes, Yuqi silently cheers from relief when she sees a bus stop not too far from her. 

And in no time, the shivering girl could see the headlights of the bus glowing in the heavy rain.

As the vehicle stops in front of her and its doors open, Yuqi silently gulps when she meets the stern eyes of the grim bus driver. Yuqi gets on the bus, dragging her bike with her, and stops at the front. Her drenched clothes create a puddle on the floor. 

The driver gives her a disapproving look that makes Yuqi almost run back outside.

"Umh," Yuqi tries to search her pockets for any spear coins, but without success. 

Shit.  She spent the last of her money on her lunch today. 

As she’s ready to result in begging the scowling man to spare her life and let her ride for free, a familiar sharp voice stops her before anything can come out of her mouth.

"I got it, sir."

Yuqi turns to see none other than Jeon Soyeon, wearing a bright yellow raincoat, a few coins already in her hand. Her sleek, short black hair looks as gorgeous as always, and her light makeup from the school day is still in a perfect condition. Yuqi thinks it’s unfair to look that good.

She gives the older girl a grateful smile, which Soyeon returns with a nod and a small upturn of her lips. The drived just grunts and continues forwards.

"Thanks, you didn't have to," Yuqi says quietly as she follows Soyeon down the aisle, a few people occupying a seat here and there.

"You did look kind of lost there. But don't worry about it, I’m always happy to help," Soyeon says, giving her a wink. Yuqi blushes, and sits down next to the older girl, setting the bike to lean on the side. She can faintly smell the heavenly scent of Soyeon’s shampoo from how closely they are sitting. Lemon. She likes lemons.

"So," Yuqi says, taking a look around the bus, "why are you taking the bus? You're rich. Couldn't you just, I don't know, buy your own bus?" Yuqi looks at Soyeon in confusion.

Soyeon giggles, poking Yuqi's cheek. "Is that all you think of me? That I'm just a rich girl?"

Yuqi widens her eyes. "No, of course not!!" she rushes to reply, but stops when she notices the playful glint in Soyeon's eyes.

"Relax, I'm just teasing you. And I like to take the bus, it makes the whole small town experience better, I guess. Actually, I was planning on going to study at the café downtown…" Soyeon trails off, looking at Yuqi expectantly.

Yuqi just stares at the girl, not seeming to be getting the hint.

Soyeon sighs, looking at her hands before flitting her gaze back up with a raised eyebrow. "Would you like to come with me, Yuqi?"

"Oh," Yuqi says with flushing cheeks, slightly caught off guard by the question. She doesn't have work today, though, and considering the fact that she had flunked her test today, doing some extra studying wouldn't hurt. 

"Sure."

Soyeon smiles at her, before her eyebrows suddenly furrow. Yuqi follows her eyes down to her own soaking wet clothes. 

Right, she was freezing, even though the air inside the bus was definitely warmer compared to outside.

"Maybe you should change your clothes first. That doesn't look very comfortable, to be honest."

Yuqi nods, feeling the warmth creeping up her neck once again under Soyeon's concerned gaze. She turns in her seat, deciding that for her own sake, looking out the window was better than looking at Soyeon.

Maybe she’d be able to survive this without embarrassing herself completely.





~~~





The sound of rain hitting the window sills outside fills up the nearly empty café, save for a handful of customers scattered around the place. Yuqi occasionally sips her hot tea; she didn't plan on buying anything, but Soyeon insisted that she could treat the younger girl ("I don't want you to catch a cold, you dummy."). 

Yuqi glances at Soyeon, who in turn is highlighting some of her notes. Her short hair is pushed messily away from her face as her eyebrows are scrunched up in concentration. Yuqi's eyes trace over every inch of Soyeon's face, from her long eyelashes and squinting eyes to her defined cheekbones and sharp jaw.

"I can feel your staring, you know," Soyeon says, still looking at her notes on the small table they were sharing.

Yuqi snaps her eyes back to her own book (her books were thankfully unaffected by the rain) and starts reading with more attention than it was probably necessary. 

"Sorry," she mumbles after clearing her throat. Soyeon just chuckles and resumes her studying, her eyes staying put the whole time.

Yuqi tries, she really tries to focus. But the way Soyeon's legs occasionally brush against her own under the table, when Yuqi attempts to get into a more comfortable position, is quite distracting. She realizes this when she notices that she’s been reading the same sentence for nearly 15 minutes now. Yuqi sighs, giving up, and instead observes the clothes she picked in her hurry.

They had gone to Yuqi's house first. It wasn't much, but it still felt like home to her. After setting Yuqi's broken bike in the garage, Yuqi led them quickly straight to her room (as she hasn’t cleaned the house in a while), where the younger girl swiftly threw her giraffe plushie under her bed before Soyeon could notice. She then told Soyeon to wait while she changed in the bathroom into some grey sweatpants and the first sweater she could find, which was loose fitting and yellow. It kind of reminded Yuqi of Soyeon, now that she looked at the girl sitting across the table.

Soyeon then puts away her pen and closes her books, connecting her eyes with Yuqi’s. "I'm ready. Should we stay here while you finish your tea?"

Yuqi blinks and glances at her cooled drink, still only half finished. "Yeah, that's okay. I couldn't really concentrate on studying, anyway."

Soyeon raises her eyebrows and hums. "Sure. I'll just go get something to drink."

Yuqi lets out the breath she didn’t realize she had been holding, as she watches Soyeon walk to the counter. What on earth is wrong with her? It was like she couldn't act normally around the older girl.

 it was getting kind of frustrating. 

She shakes the thought out of her mind and puts her books away as well.

Soyeon soon returns with a glass of iced chocolate, setting it down before sitting back on her seat. It looks like she’s going to say something, but Yuqi beats her to it before she can stop herself.

"I'm sorry. I'm usually good at making new friends. Like, really good. One time I accidentally tripped this girl on my way to school and then managed to spill my coffee on her as well while I was apologising. And she still invited me to her birthday party, you know? So it's not like I'm some kind of idiot who lacks the basic knowledge of social interaction, quite on the contrary. Even though I, for some reason, only seem to be able to talk to you with a few words, at most. Maybe it's because you're really intimidating, and rich, and super pretty, but yeah, I just wanted you to know that I can be a good friend. Great one , even," Yuqi rushes, all in one breath. 

She slams her hand to her mouth in shock. She didn’t even know she had been thinking of all, well, that. The words just came out of her mouth without any control. 

Soyeon looks at her with wide eyes and her mouth agape, seeming to be totally at a loss for words. Yuqi looks down, and instead tries to ease her creeping nervousness by playing with the sleeves of her sweater, the flush once again heating up her face.

After a moment or two, Soyeon seems to have recovered from her initial surprise, and finally closes her mouth. She blinks a few times before speaking again. "Wow. That was something, I–"

She leans back in her chair and looks straight into Yuqi's eyes. 

Yuqi gulps nervously; she’s sure Soyeon can read her thoughts by the way her sharp eyes are boring into her own. Despite feeling slightly uncomfortable, Yuqi can’t bear to move her eyes.

"I don't think you're an idiot. I think you're really amazing – even though we haven't talked much aside from school and stuff – but from what I have already gathered, you're someone everyone would love to have as their friend. Me included," Soyeon says, not a hint of teasing in her tone.

"Oh." Yuqi blinks. She then musters up all of her remaining courage, and reaches her hand across the table to hold Soyeon's. 

"Thanks. Really, I mean it,” Yuqi smiles sheepishly. She could feel her stiff body relaxing. 

Soyeon smiles gently and squeezes Yuqi's hand before retracting hers. Soyeon sips her drink before the smirk Yuqi has grown familiar with returns. "So, you want to get to know me better? Fine, but I want to know things about you first."

Yuqi is kind of sceptical, if she’s being honest. But on the other hand, maybe Soyeon’s that kind of person who doesn't easily trust others when it comes to opening up about themselves.

Maybe all she needs is for the other person to take the first step.

"Fine. What do you want to know?" Yuqi sighs.

Soyeon seems to be thinking of a perfect question, before a sly smile finds its way on her lips. “Why do you like giraffes so much? You even have a plushie. I think it’s cute, though, don’t worry.”

Yuqi gapes at her. So she wasn’t as discrete as she initially thought. Clearing her throat, Yuqi plays with her sleeves once again as she answers. “I don’t know, I’ve just liked them my whole life, I guess. Even when I was little and still lived in China.”

Soyeon nods, her face taking a more serious expression. “When did you move here?”

“Around the time I was 7. It was just my mom and I, or it has always been just us. My dad passed away in a car accident a little after I was born so I didn’t get to know him at all. It doesn’t bother me, though, don’t worry," Yuqi smiles at Soyeon, who was frowning with her eyebrows furrowed, making a little crease appear between them. Yuqi doesn’t want her to apologize; she really was happy with just her mom. She does get lonely sometimes, as she was an only child, but she has her friends. 

And maybe Soyeon could fit in, too.

The older girl seems to ponder over something, first chewing on her lower lip, and then hesitantly opening and closing her mouth. Yuqi raises an eyebrow at her expectantly, and Soyeon finally decides to say what’s on her mind. 

"Is that… is that why you work at the store so much? Because of... your mom?" Soyeon seems to choose her words carefully, as if they could trigger something unwanted in Yuqi. The gentle tone of her voice makes Yuqi let out a quiet chuckle. It really isn’t as big of a deal as Soyeon makes it seem like. Not anymore, at least.

"Yeah. My mom had to make living for the both of us for years, and I wanted to take some of that weight off of her shoulders, you know? So when I met Minnie she was kind enough to get me a job at our local convenience store. My mom still works a lot, but it's better than it used to be," Yuqi finishes. It does get kind of tiring sometimes, balancing between school and work and healthy social life, but she has gotten used to it during the couple of years things have been that way.

Soyeon just takes her hand and grins. "I'm proud of you, Yuqi."

Yuqi returns her grin and playfully kicks the older girl's leg under the table. "Don't get too sentimental on me now, unnie. I thought you were supposed to be cool."

The other girl lets out a loud laugh as she leans back in her seat, and Yuqi's heart does a backflip from the sound. Now that she thinks about it, that was the first time she has heard Soyeon genuinely laugh. The happiness did look really good on her. Maybe Yuqi should make it her mission; to get Soyeon to laugh like that more often.

"You have to share something about you, too, unnie," Yuqi says, interrupting the comfortable silence that has fallen upon them.

Soyeon raises an eyebrow at Yuqi's pout, but then seems to relent and think about what to say.

"I make my own songs."

Yuqi stares at the other girl, surprised. "Really? Like, you do them all by yourself…?"

Soyeon just nods. "Yep. Writing, producing, vocals; all that stuff."

Yuqi can't believe that Soyeon thinks about it so nonchalantly; especially since she’s so young.

"Can I… can I hear some of them?"

An unreadable expression falls on Soyeon's face. Yuqi starts to fear that she has somehow crossed an invisible line that they aren't anywhere near close to yet – let alone ready to cross – but she visibly relaxes when the corner of Soyeon's lips curl up slightly.

"Maybe sometime."

Yuqi smiles softly. “Okay.” Maybe it’d be good if she dropped the topic for the time being.

Deciding that it would be best if she lightened up the weird atmosphere that has surrounded them, Yuqi crosses her arms and looks at Soyeon challengingly. 

"Want to see how many ice cubes I can fit in my mouth?" she quips, nodding at Soyeon's still nearly full drink.





~~~





The tall bushes surround the gravelly road Yuqi and Shuhua are walking on, gradually setting sun engulfing their surroundings in a golden light. Yuqi listens quietly to the faint sounds coming from the tiny pebbles hitting the ground, as Shuhua kicks them along her steps.

It had been a few weeks since that little hangout session in the caf é, and Yuqi felt as if the things between her and Soyeon had shifted. If it was up to Yuqi to decide, she would say that they were friends now. Sometimes they would text each other, and Soyeon would occasionally even visit her ( and Minnie , she reminded herself) during her shifts at the store. 

Yuqi was more than okay with that, though.

She has grown accustomed to the way Soyeon kept on teasing her every chance she got. She would even go as far as to say that she enjoyed the attention the older girl gave her (not that she'd ever admit it to anyone else). But she’s sure the affection she felt for Soyeon was purely platonic, and she blames the jittery feeling she gets whenever she sees the older girl on still not being that close. It would go away after a while. And people could think their friends were pretty, right?

They were just friends.

Great friends.

Yuqi glances at Shuhua next to her. The girl's long, straight black hair frames her angelic features – which at the moment are turned into something completely different compared to her usually animated look in her eyes and the blinding smile on her lips. Shuhua's eyebrows are furrowed, her lips turned into a slight frown, as she stares at the flying pebbles, lost in thought.

Now that she thinks about it, Shuhua has been gloomy all day. Yuqi can't really pinpoint the reason, though. Shuhua had been completely fine yesterday… except for when they were hanging out at Soojin's, and the girl mentioned a project her class had been assigned with. It was meant to be done in pairs. And Soojin couldn't stop gushing about the 'really intelligent and funny' Somi-girl she had been paired up with. 

Ah. So Shuhua was jealous.

It was no secret that Shuhua has been in love with Soojin since the day the older girl started tutoring her in the beginning of her first year in high school, after which Soojin became a permanent part of their friend group. 

Well, it was no secret to anyone else but Soojin.

For some inexplicable reason, Soojin was completely oblivious to the way Shuhua looked at her – like she had single handedly hung every single star in the sky. 

But Yuqi, Minnie and Miyeon were sure Soojin liked her back. Because the only person Soojin has ever looked at with that certain fondness in her eyes was Yeh Shuhua.

"Want to talk about it?" Yuqi nudges the sulking girl next to her as they walk onwards.

Shuhua jumps a little from the sudden contact. "Huh? About what?"

"The reason you're acting like someone kidnapped your puppies."

"Don't bring Haku and Mata into this!" Shuhua glares at Yuqi who’s smiling slightly. "And… there's nothing to talk about," Shuhua sighs as her shoulders slump in defeat.

Yuqi narrows her eyes. She would not let this go this easily. Shuhua was clearly bothered, and it was long overdue that she opened up about her feelings. Yuqi was sure the other girl would eventually break under them if she didn't.

"You can talk to me, you know," Yuqi says gently. "Maybe I can help."

Shuhua's demeanor changes slightly, and when she lifts her eyes to meet Yuqi's, they are glistening with unreleased tears. Yuqi's heart contracts uncomfortably when Shuhua exhales shakily.

"I… I'm in love with Soojin unnie."

Yuqi feels the corner of her lip turn up slightly. "I could have guessed. You aren’t exactly the most subtle person I’ve met."

Shuhua glares at her, and crosses her arms. “Shut up.”

"I think," Yuqi begins carefully, "you should tell that to Soojin unnie, instead of me."

Shuhua lets out a heavy sigh and turns to look at the field next to the road. "What if she doesn't feel the same way about me? What if I freak her out and she never wants to speak to me again? What if she'd rather be with that Somi-girl?! What if–"

Yuqi grabs Shuhua's arm, stopping the girl before she could get too ahead of herself. "Slow down, you haven't even talked to her yet. And I know for a fact that she loves you so you don't have to worry about losing her. And whether she's in love with you or not...” Shuhua's face falls from the latter option. "I think there's only one way to find out."

Shuhua nods, chewing on her bottom lip. "Yeah, you're right, Yuqi. I guess I have no choice but to talk to her."

Yuqi squeezes Shuhua's arm reassuringly once more before dragging the other girl forward.

"Cheer up, Shu, things are going to be okay. I'm sure."





~~~





"Thank you, have a nice evening!" Yuqi's loud voice booms after the elderly couple walking out of the door. 

The girl sighs and leans forward to rest her head in her hands. She rubs her tired eyes; after a 4-hour-sleep and a day at school, a shift at the store wasn't her first choice of resting.

"Are you okay, Yuqi-ya?" Miyeon's gentle voice reaches Yuqi's ears, and a comforting hand rubs her shoulder. "You look like shit."

"Gee, thanks unnie," Yuqi laughs and sits up completely, instead of leaning half of her tired body on the counter and taking a nap. Even though that would be nice.

Miyeon giggles at the younger girl's grumpy demeanor. Her lips turn into a wide grin as she looks behind her shoulder, where Minnie appears from behind the shelves, a playful smile plastered on her face.

"Hi baby, I was just thinking that I heard an angel speaking," Minnie says in her smooth voice, making Miyeon squeal in delight. She runs into Minnie's arms, and kisses her soundly on the lips.

"Didn't you two see each other just, like, 4 hours ago?"

Pulling away from their kiss but still clinging to each other, Minnie is the first one to speak up. "4 hours feels like forever when it comes to Miyeonie, Yuqi. And we’re closing soon, anyway."

Yuqi shrugs, quite used to their displays of affection already, and decides to just ignore them. Miyeon walks back to where Yuqi is checking the last things at the cash register and pokes her soft cheek.

"Did you two check the group chat yet? It's about the sleepover we were discussing at school today," Miyeon says.

Yuqi furrows her eyebrows. She had been quite sleepy during lunch, and can't really recall anything that came up in their conversation. The only thing she can remember vividly is that Soyeon's hair looked particularly soft that day.

"Oh! I did," Minnie said excitedly. She notices Yuqi's confusion, and decides to fill her in on the topic. "Soojin said that her parents are going somewhere during the weekend so we can go to her place on Friday."

Yuqi's face morphs into one of understanding. She digs up her phone, which had been on silent for her whole shift. They weren't actually supposed to be on their phones during work, and Yuqi liked that her boss considered her to be a loyal employee.

Swiping her phone open, she looks at the last few messages sent to their chat:

 

(8:13 pm) soojin:
Hi. Is everyone okay with the sleepover on Friday? My parents are leaving for a conference in the city.

(8:13 pm) shuhua:
YEEEEES
i mean im okay w it :DD

(8:14 pm) soojin:
Okay, cool. :)

(8:14 pm) shuhua:
:))))) <33333

(8:28 pm) miyeon:
same for me and minnie!!

(8:36 pm) soyeon:
me too

 

Yuqi stares at the latest message. Right. Of course Soyeon would be coming too, since she has become a permanent part of their group over the couple of months she has lived in the town. 

So why did Yuqi suddenly feel butterflies erupting in her stomach at the thought of having the girl there?

Shaking her head, Yuqi sends a confirmation of her own to the chat, and continues to close up the store. She glances towards Minnie and Miyeon, who were holding hands now, giggling among themselves. And for the first time in a while, she almost longs for the same kind of relationship they share.





~~~





The last few days of the week slide past faster than Yuqi is prepared for. So when she arrives in front of Soojin's grand modern house, with Shuhua excitedly dragging her by the arm, she might have been gripping the strap of her backpack a little tighter than it was necessary.

"Hurry up, Yuqi-ya! I'm hungry," Shuhua whines.

"More like thirsty," Yuqi mutters, dodging Shuhua's elbow. She knocks on the large dark door. Even though she had been there countless times already, the intimidating entrance never failed to make a shiver run down her spine. Especially when it was as dark as now.

The door slides open smoothly, and behind it is a smiling Soojin. She looks at Yuqi first, and when her gaze moves to meet Shuhua's shining eyes, her subtle smile grows into a full-blown grin.

"Hi," Soojin breathes out, still looking at Shuhua. Yuqi feels kind of awkward next to the two, so she just moves swiftly past Soojin and inside the house, kicking her sneakers off in the process.

Yuqi knows for a fact that Shuhua has been prolonging her talk with Soojin. When Yuqi cornered her earlier at school today, Shuhua had insisted on being extra busy during the past weeks.

 

(“She’s been busy with school as well. I don’t want to distract her… or myself, for the record!”

“You literally sent me puppy videos for the entirety of last night after complaining about how bored you were. And you’ve been avoiding Soojin unnie like the plague.

“No, I haven’t…”

“Then why is it that every time we come across her in the hallway you bolt to the opposite direction? You’ve been late for class at least five times this week.”

Shuhua falls quiet after that, not being able to deny Yuqi’s accusation. The other girl sighs, squeezes Shuhua’s arm and continues, much more gentle now. “I love you, you know that right? And I’m never in a million years trying to pressure you to do something you’re not ready for. But I can see you’re hurting, and you avoiding Soojin is hurting her too.”

That makes Shuhua snap her gaze to the other girl, her widened eyes connecting with Yuqi’s sincere ones, realization dawning on her features. “Oh. I didn’t know that.”

“Trust me; as dense as Soojin can be, even she’s realized that something’s going on,” Yuqi continues.

When Shuhua stays silent, Yuqi’s smile turns into a teasing smirk. “And it’s getting quite frustrating to have lunch with you two; the sexual tension between you is suffocating.”

She has to run away before Shuhua could throw her bag at her.)

 

Walking along the overly spacious hallway connecting to a large living room, Yuqi couldn’t soon hear Shuhua and Soojin’s murmurs anymore. Her lips turn subconsciously into a slight smile at the thought of the two (who were very obviously in love, might she add) finally sorting their shit out.

When she arrives in the living room, Yuqi can see Minnie and Miyeon already sitting on the expensive-looking couch, completely engrossed in a quiet conversation. Yuqi drops her bag on the ground, making the other two girls lift their eyes to find her grinning at them.

“Yuqi-ya! You made it!” Minnie yells, waving her hands exaggeratedly.

“We have pizza," Miyeon adds while smiling, glued to Minnie’s side.

Yuqi feels her grin widen even more at the mention of food, and walks up to the couch. She takes a seat on the soft loveseat next to Minnie and Miyeon.

“Hi guys," Yuqi says, smoothing her jeans after she’s done shuffling around. “I think Shuhua and Soojin are finally going to talk tonight. I left them at the door.”

Miyeon lets out a loud squeal. Minnie tries to muffle the sound by slamming her hand on Miyeon’s mouth. “Shh! They might hear us! We don’t want to scare them now, they’re in an extremely delicate situation at the moment," Minnie whispers loudly, not being that quiet herself.

“You talk like they are your kids or something," Yuqi says, raising her eyebrows.

“They are! My little gay babies…” Minnie sighs dreamily.

Miyeon pulls Minnie’s hand from her mouth. “Stop being creepy.”

Before Minnie can start arguing with her girlfriend, Soojin and Shuhua round the corner and appear in the living room. Yuqi can see Soojin holding Shuhua’s bicep tightly as the two stop in front of them.

“Soyeon texted me and said that she should be here at any moment," Soojin says while waving her phone in her free hand as evidence.

The butterflies were back as soon as the words left Soojin's lips.

The conversation flows easily between them as they start to eat the pizza Soojin had ordered. Shuhua and Soojin squeeze themselves on the same couch Minnie and Miyeon are sitting on, meaning that Soyeon was going to sit next to Yuqi. 

But it was fine. She was fine. Totally.

Yuqi glances at Soojin and Shuhua. They were sitting quite closely, even though there was still a little room left. She catches Shuhua’s eyes, and tries to telepathically ask the girl whether or not things were okay between the two. Yuqi stops wiggling her eyebrows when she notices Soojin looking at her oddly. Shuhua tries to hold her giggling when she sees Yuqi’s perplexed expression, and just shrugs when Soojin goes back to talking with Minnie and Miyeon. 

Yuqi guesses that things were still in progress.

Four loud knocks cause the conversation to halt. Yuqi sits up straighter, and Soojin gets up to open the door, leaving the three other girls staring at Yuqi. She in turn narrows her eyes at her friends. Why were they looking at her so weirdly?

Shuhua clears her throat, and begins with her loud voice. “So we were thinking–”

Minnie hushes Shuhua rather aggressively. The girl starts again, this time whispering. “So we were thinking about your situation with you-know-who –”

“Voldemort?” Miyeon asks in confusion.

“No, you idiot. Soyeon!” Shuhua whispers harshly. Yuqi can see the vein in her neck almost popping with how frustrated she was getting, not getting to finish what she was saying. 

But what about Soyeon? Yuqi feels like she’s missing something essential.

She sighs exasperatedly and speaks up before Shuhua gets up and strangles Miyeon.

“Just get to the point.”

Shuhua snaps her eyes back to Yuqi and blinks. “Do you know about your feelings yet?”

“What feelings?” Yuqi asks, completely lost. Her feelings towards… what? Soyeon?

“Oh, she’s completely lost," Minnie says while looking at Yuqi sympathetically. Miyeon nods and wipes an imaginary tear from her eye as if she was in a drama.

“We should let her figure it out on her own, right?” Shuhua says.

“Um, guys, I’m still here…” Yuqi says carefully, looking between the three girls who were acting like she wasn’t sitting right next to them.

“Yeah, it’s more fun that way," Minnie says while grinning at Shuhua. She’s about to say something else, too, but is interrupted by Soojin and Soyeon who walk into the living room.

“Hi everyone.” Soyeon’s sharp voice cuts through the rather awkward tension building in the room. Yuqi looks at the girl, her jaw almost dropping. 

It wasn’t like she hadn’t known that Soyeon was attractive – that had been the first thought that came to her mind when she first saw the girl – but seeing the older girl in something other than their school uniform (or the giant hoodie) was somehow… different .

Yuqi, as subtly as possible, drifts her eyes down to look at Soyeon’s outfit while she and Soojin go to take their seats by the coffee table, the comfortable chatter returning to fill the spacious living room. Soyeon’s wearing a pair of baggy jeans, and a black crop top that showed off her rather toned stomach. Yuqi gulps as Soyeon sits next to her on the loveseat.

“Hey," Yuqi says quietly, giving Soyeon an easy smile, even though her heart is trying to beat out of its cage.

“Hey yourself,” the other girl smirks. Yuqi tries not to jump when their thighs brush together. 

"You haven't been overworking yourself like I told you, right?" Soyeon nudges the flustered girl.

Yuqi shakes her head. She has actually been paying more attention to her well-being, taking less shifts so that most days she has time for homework and could still go to sleep at a reasonable hour.

Soyeon gives her a genuine smile, which makes Yuqi’s insides twist. They fall into a comfortable conversation about nothing in particular, occasionally joined by their other friends. Yuqi felt like even though she and Soyeon were quite different compared to each other, they didn't really have those awkward pauses anymore. She always looked forward to talking with Soyeon. Actually just the thought of the older girl made a smile find its way onto her face.





~~~





A couple of hours later they were in Soojin's room, where the noise had risen notably compared to when Yuqi had first arrived. After they finished eating, Minnie suggested that they'd play something on one of Soojin's many consoles. After a very intense voting, they had chosen Mario Kart.

As it turned out, Soyeon was really competitive.

"YEAAHH!! Take that, Soojin-ah," Soyeon exclaims after passing Soojin's character just before the finish line. For the 6th time in a row. Soojin pouts, but Yuqi guessed that she wasn’t actually all that disappointed as Shuhua was clinging to her side, trying to comfort the girl.

The wide grin on Soyeon's face – coupled with her silly victory dance – makes Yuqi let out a deep laugh. She was really enjoying this more laid-back side of Soyeon. It was cute. Really cute.

"Yuqi-ya, you're falling out of the map again!" Minnie screams, making Yuqi look back to the television screen instead of staring at Soyeon (like she had been doing for longer than she realized).

At the end, she finishes last ("Not surprising," Shuhua quips), and after a few more games they decide to call it quits. And it may or may not have been because Shuhua threatened to throw her controller at Miyeon, who kept leaving banana peels in front of the younger girl.

"Can we sing karaoke now?" Miyeon asks, hiding behind Soojin. Some of them were sitting on the fluffy mat, and the rest on Soojin's leather couch. Yuqi was lying on the floor, her head on Minnie's lap, while the older girl played with Yuqi’s wavy hair absentmindedly.

"Yeah, I'd like that," Soyeon says, her face visibly lighting up. Yuqi's heart feels warm at the sight of a happy Soyeon.

"Okay, if I can sing first," Shuhua says, looking at Miyeon while raising her eyebrow challengingly.

"Can't we sing together?" Miyeon pleads while giving Shuhua her best attempt at puppy dog eyes. After staring at Miyeon for a while with narrowed eyes, the younger girl sighs and finally nods.

After a very loud version of a Red Velvet song, paired with a spot-on dance routine, the rest of them applaud enthusiastically. Yuqi has to cover her ears at the loud whooping and wolf-whistling Minnie’s doing above her. She can also see the endeared smile on Soojin's face, and how the girl immediately wraps her arm around Shuhua's shoulders as soon as she sits down on the couch.

"I want to go now," Minnie says. "I have a song in mind already."

"And what is that?" Yuqi asks, quite amused by the excited look on Minnie's face.

"You'll see," Minnie smirks, getting up and taking the microphone. Yuqi moves to sit next to Miyeon, and leans her head on Soyeon's knee.

As the song Minnie has chosen starts to play, Soojin, Shuhua and Yuqi groan in unison. On the other hand, Miyeon looks like she’s ready to cry, while Soyeon’s just confused.

"Not this one," Soojin mutters, shaking her head.

"Are you kidding me? I still have nightmares about what happened…" Shuhua shudders.

Soyeon taps Yuqi's shoulder. "What are they talking about?" she whispers while Minnie begins to sing the emotionally packed song.

Yuqi giggles at Soyeon's confused face. "Minnie confessed to Miyeon with this song last year. That's how they finally got together. And she did it during lunch while everyone was watching."

"Oh." Realization dawns on Soyeon’s face as she glances at Soojin and Shuhua, who were trying to sink further into the couch, and then to Miyeon, who had the biggest smile on her face with tears glistening in her eyes. She looked like the happiest person on the planet.

Minnie finishes her song with an exaggerated bow, while Miyeon's clapping is the only thing that could be heard. They have heard Minnie singing that song so many times already, that Yuqi would be willing to pay for her to never do it again.

"Do you want to sing with me, Yuqi?"

Yuqi’s surprised to see Soyeon looking down at her, an uncharacteristically shy smile on her lips. She nods, although a little hesitant. It wasn't like she didn't like singing – she was actually quite good at it – but performing in front of others wasn't her favorite thing in the world.

While Soyeon is choosing the song, Yuqi turns to look at Shuhua for mental support. But the girl isn't sitting on her spot anymore. And neither is Soojin. She frowns in confusion, but is distracted when Soyeon calls for her.

The first notes of a relatively familiar song start to play; Yuqi had heard it on radio plenty of times a few years back. She sees Minnie giving her a thumbs up. Feeling a bit more at ease, she lets herself enjoy the flowy rhythm and brings the mic closer to her lips, and starts to sing when Soyeon gestures to her to do so.

As her deep, soulful voice fills the room, Yuqi can see Soyeon's surprised face from the corner of her eye. The older girl's eyes are wide, and her mouth is agape. Yuqi feels a slight smirk rising on her lips; obviously the short-haired girl hadn't expected for Yuqi to know how to sing, as she had never mentioned it before.

Soyeon joins her for the chorus, and Yuqi can still see her (not so subtly) glancing at her from time to time. Yuqi's heart skips a beat from Soyeon's sharp tone.

Yuqi knew that Soyeon excelled in rapping – as Soojin had praised her plenty of times before – so she just lets Soyeon handle the next part of the song. And if Soyeon's singing pulled at her heartstrings, Soyeon's rapping made her heart beat like crazy.

The way she doesn't miss even one beat, and the way her charismatic voice wraps around everyone listening, make it impossible to look away. Her entire presence was dripping with attitude.

(And maybe Yuqi could admit that it was really attractive.)

Singing the last chorus along with Soyeon, her voice is slightly shaky, and her grip on the microphone starts getting sweaty. She can feel her face burning up, as the air in the room starts getting a little too hot to be considered comfortable.

After sitting down on the couch, Yuqi almost jumps back up when she feels a gentle hand touch her knee.

"I didn't know you could sing! That was amazing."

Yuqi forces her eyes to move from Soyeon's hand, still resting on her knee, to her eyes which are shining with something that Yuqi guessed was… surprise? Joy? Pride? Whatever it was, it automatically made Yuqi happy.

"Thanks." Yuqi can't help the wide, giddy smile that spreads on her face at Soyeon's words and the way she’s looking at her. " I can't believe I've never heard you rap before. You were – are – incredible."

Soyeon tries to wave off the compliment, but her grin still reaches her eyes.

The easy chatter fills up the room once again, as Miyeon scrolls through the endless options for the next song. 

Yuqi stays silent, though. 

She can feel Minnie sparing subtle glances at her, probably wondering why the usually most talkative person in the room was now not talking at all. But the heat radiating from Soyeon's hand, and the way her expensive perfume smelled a little too good, was making Yuqi more and more light-headed as the minutes went by. It was actually getting kind of hard to breathe.

"Uhm." 

The chatter in the room quiets down when Yuqi stands up suddenly. She can see Miyeon and Minnie's worried eyes as her cheeks were most likely bright red, judging by the way she feels them burning up. She doesn't even dare to look at Soyeon.

"I- I'm just going to get something to drink." 

Yuqi fleeds the room before anyone has the time to respond. She almost jogs down the stairs, trying to find air that wasn't burning her lungs. She doesn't quite understand what’s going on; her body has never reacted like that because of another person. She has always found comfort in physical connection, explaining why she was normally so clingy with her friends. But for some reason, Soyeon's touch felt like it was burning, like it was trying to imprint the feeling onto Yuqi's skin. And the most confusing part was that it felt nice.

Shaking the thought out of her head, Yuqi takes a deep breath to cool herself down. She really needed some water.

But as soon as she arrives in the large, modern kitchen, she wishes she had stayed in Soojin's room instead.

Sitting on the kitchen counter is her best friend Yeh Shuhua, her lips connected with Soojin's in a very heated kiss, judging by how Shuhua's fingers are tangled in Soojin's long black hair, and how Soojin's hands sliding gradually up Shuhua's back, pulling her closer to Soojin’s body. The younger girl's green shirt is hiked up to her waist, making Yuqi see a little more than she would have liked.

An ear-splitting scream escapes Yuqi's throat before she can stop herself.

"MY EYES! MY EYES!!!" Yuqi falls to the floor dramatically, covering her eyes in the process. 

Shuhua and Soojin jump apart from the noise. While Soojin's cheeks are burning with the embarrassment from getting caught, Shuhua looks more irritated for being interrupted.

Yuqi can hear footsteps coming down the stairs; no doubt because of the inhumane noise she just let out. If she wasn't so traumatized, she would feel bad for putting Soojin and Shuhua into such a difficult position. She didn't want to make them come out as a couple – or whatever they were. Especially since Soojin could be quite secretive when it came to her private life.

"What's going on?" Miyeon asks, rushing to the kitchen. She lets out a gasp when she sees Yuqi curled up on the ground, still covering her eyes. "Yuqi-ya!! Are you okay?!"

Yuqi peeks from behind her fingers when she feels Miyeon's hand on her shoulder. "Yeah," Yuqi says while turning to glare at her best friend.

Everyone turns to look at Shuhua as well. The girl looks like a deer caught in headlights with her surprised eyes and her mouth opening and closing repeatedly, like she was trying to find the words to explain why exactly Soojin was standing in between her legs and why her hands were still in Soojin's disheveled hair.

Although it was pretty obvious what had been going on from their flushed faces and swollen lips. Yuqi could see Soojin’s smudged red lipstick even from where she was now standing.

What is surprising, is that Soojin is the one who speaks up first.

“Shuhua and I… we’re together. As in, we’re dating.”

The room falls quiet for a few seconds as everyone tries to process the fact that Shuhua and Soojin had finally done something about their suppressed feelings. Minnie’s the first one to run up to the two, squealing happily like a proud mother whose child just announced they were getting married. “YES! I knew it! Miyeon, you owe me a dinner date.”

“You bet on us?” Shuhua asks, disbelief evident on her features.

“Yeah, I thought you would take up at least until Christmas before you stopped being stupid," Miyeon mutters, but she’s soon congratulating the two with a dazzling smile along with the rest of them.

Yuqi strolls next to Shuhua, and pulls her away from the others. “When I said ‘talk to Soojin unnie’, I didn’t mean that you should make out with her when the rest of us are literally in a room above you,” she mutters, even though she can feel a smile threatening to appear on her lips.

Shuhua shrugs. “It worked, didn’t it?”

Yuqi rolls her eyes. “I guess,” she says. “I’m just glad this is Soojin’s kitchen and not mine.”

Shuhua pushes her away, causing her to laugh as she stumbles backwards. The laughter doesn’t last long, though, as she feels hands on her waist, steadying her.

“You okay?” Soyeon asks in a low voice, her warm breath tickling the back of Yuqi’s neck.

Yuqi jumps away in surprise. “Y-yeah, thanks,” she says as she turns around to face Soyeon. Her mouth goes dry when the girl gives her a blinding smile in response. She grazes her arm before walking away.

Yuqi can’t help but stare after her, her heart beating loudly in her ears.





~~~





Yuqi lies on the soft mattress, staring at the ceiling. Shuhua and Soojin are dead asleep, cuddled up on Soojin’s grand bed, while Minnie and Miyeon are sleeping peacefully on the other guest mattress next to Yuqi. And Soyeon.

Yuqi can’t sleep.

It would have been an underestimation to say that she was confused. In fact, everything that has happened between her and Soyeon plays over and over again on her mind. Like a broken record that’s stuck on a single track, which is the very cause of Yuqi’s incoherent thoughts.

And then there were her friends. There was the way they keep teasing her like she hasn’t noticed something important, like she’s missing the key part of some inside joke everyone else knows. 

It frustrates her to no end.

She thinks about when she first met Soyeon at the store a couple of months back. She smiles at the memory of Soyeon being dressed in her adorable oversized clothes; she hasn’t really seen the older girl in that kind of outfit again, actually. 

But she likes all sides of Jeon Soyeon. 

She seems powerful and unreachable at times, but under all that is a softer persona, who also knows how to be comforting. She knows when it’s okay to tease Yuqi, never crossing a line that might have otherwise hurt her feelings. She knows when all Yuqi needs is a reassuring look or a slight brush of her hand on Yuqi’s shoulder.

Yuqi feels like Soyeon has somehow, without her noticing, sneaked into her life, making it impossible to go back to how things used to be. She feels like Soyeon makes everything in Yuqi’s life feel tenfold. She doesn’t remember if she has ever been as happy as she is now; she laughs much more often, and the constant pressure doesn’t feel like it’s crushing her anymore. She feels like Soyeon challenges her to be a better version of herself, and still gives her space when she needs it.

She thinks about every time her heart had skipped when Soyeon’s hand lingered that extra second longer, or when every time she had turned to look at the girl, she had already been looking at Yuqi with that one particular look in her beautiful eyes. Yuqi feels like she could stare at Soyeon’s eyes for the rest of her life and still be content.

Yuqi’s startled out of her thoughts when she feels a hand being thrown over her waist, grabbing a fistful of her shirt. Soyeon snuggles her face into the crook of Yuqi’s neck, the gentle exhales on her skin causing a shiver run down Yuqi’s spine.

Apparently Jeon Soyeon was also someone who likes to cuddle in their sleep.

Yuqi feels her whole body freeze when the other girl doesn’t move. She doesn’t want to move either, because that would probably wake her up, but Yuqi is sure the girl would wake up anyway from how erratically her heart is beating in her chest. She just hopes Soyeon wouldn’t be able to hear it.

She can still smell the faint scent of Soyeon’s heavenly perfume, but under that she can also smell something that was just Soyeon . It almost makes her heart feel at ease.

Yuqi releases the shaky breath she had been holding, and moves her hand into a position that doesn’t cut her blood circulation. However, that just makes Soyeon shift closer, slipping her hand under Yuqi’s shirt. 

Shit

Soyeon’s soft touch brushing against the bottom of Yuqi’s ribs makes her entire feel like it was on fire. But the weird thing was, that Yuqi doesn’t want to push Soyeon away from her. In fact, she wants to pull her even closer.

Oh.

Suddenly everything just clicks . Yuqi realizes why her heart seemed to have the rhythm of its own whenever she’s close to Soyeon, a beat that’s reserved just for the girl. She realizes why her thoughts were filled with Soyeon’s beautiful face, Soyeon’s charismatic voice and just Soyeon , whenever she was at work, sitting behind the counter, or at school when she was supposed to be concentrating on what the teacher was saying. She realizes why her friends were always exchanging knowing glances when she mentioned the older girl.

She has feelings for Jeon Soyeon. Romantic feelings.

Suddenly she wishes that she had chosen to sleep on the couch instead of on the narrow mattress. Because right now, having Soyeon wrapped around her – both her mind and body – was making her feel really overwhelmed. The whole thing almost makes her want to throw up.

Inhaling shakily, Yuqi forces her eyes to close, and tries to ignore the fact that the girl she just realized she really likes was sleeping basically on top of her. Maybe she could fall asleep, too, if she pretended to be somewhere else. Anywhere else.

Yuqi doesn’t sleep a wink that night.





~~~





“I can’t do this anymore!”

Soojin stares at Shuhua, who has collapsed dramatically to lean against the back of her chair, then at Shuhua’s carelessly thrown algebra textbook on the table, and then back at Shuhua. “We started five minutes ago.”

Shuhua groans as everyone – except Soojin – giggles. “You should really focus, Shuhua. The faster you finish your homework, the sooner we can leave," Soojin says gently while pulling her girlfriend back to the table by her arm. That seems to motivate Shuhua, who starts scribbling on her paper with a newfound enthusiasm.

Yuqi chuckles at the sight and returns to her own homework. It was a few days after the sleepover at Soojin’s, and Yuqi had been constantly on the edge. She has no idea how she didn’t realize her feelings for Soyeon sooner, as they were very obvious now that she thought about it. 

She glances next to her, where the girl in question is leaning over her own book, eyebrows scrunched in concentration. The feeling of déjà vu washes over her as she remembers the time after Soyeon had rescued her from the rain. Maybe that had been when she really started to fall for the girl.

Feeling eyes boring to the side of her head, Yuqi lifts her head to find Minnie raising a questioning eyebrow at her. Oh. It must have been quite obvious that she hadn’t been thinking about school.

Yuqi just shrugs. It could wait.





~~~





As the days go by, Yuqi comes more comfortable with her newly discovered feelings. But that doesn’t mean that things become any less confusing.

She doesn’t want to get her hopes up, but sometimes she could swear Soyeon’s actions couldn’t be counted as ‘friendly’ anymore. Whether it’s a lingering touch or a particularly intense look, it always manages to make Yuqi blush. She has become extremely aware of Soyeon’s presence around her, and it might have been only on Yuqi’s side, but she could always feel an underlying tension in the room whenever Soyeon was there.

But a part of her was also scared. What if she was just imagining things? Making little gestures into much bigger of a deal than they actually were. Perhaps she was just projecting her pining onto Soyeon.

All she’s sure about is that she doesn’t want to lose her. Not when they were just starting to become good friends.

But Yuqi felt that the tension between them was only growing, and she wasn’t sure how things would unfold when it finally snapped. Was Soyeon just as affected as she was?

Sometimes it seemed believable.

 

Like the one evening during Yuqi’s shift when Soyeon comes to visit her.

 

Yuqi is once again sitting by the counter, twirling a pen absentmindedly in her fingers, when the gentle ‘ ding ’ comes from the door. Yuqi smiles widely at the familiar sight of Jeon Soyeon, walking in. Her bright yellow converse squeak a little on the tiled floor, and her hands are buried in the pockets of her giant jean jacket. The warm rays of the sun create a golden hue around her, making her silky black hair look even softer than before. 

Yuqi thinks that she looks like an angel.

Soyeon walks up to Yuqi, removing her airpods. “Hey, Yuqi," she says, giving the younger girl a tender smile. Yuqi’s heart skips a beat.

“Hi," Yuqi says. 

She looks at Soyeon, who’s just standing before her, and gives the girl a confused look. “Were you going to buy something? We didn’t have any plans, didn’t we? Because I still have work for ” Yuqi glances at the clock ticking on the wall, “ almost two hours.”

Soyeon giggles at the bewildered look on Yuqi’s face. “What if I just wanted to see you?”

Yuqi can feel the heat crawling up her neck. She feels kind of vulnerable under Soyeon’s heavy gaze, the short-haired girl looking unwaveringly at her, with an almost unnoticeable smile grazing her lips. Yuqi swallows down the lump in her throat. Was Soyeon… flirting with her?

“But ” Soyeon says suddenly, breaking Yuqi out of her daze, “ I can buy something if it makes you happy.” She glances around the shelf closest to her, and picks out a yellow lollipop.

“There," she says with a smirk, placing the candy in front of Yuqi. After paying, Soyeon unwraps it and plops it in her mouth. 

Yuqi feels captivated by Soyeon’s presence. The girl is still in front of the counter, never once moving her eyes from Yuqi. She can almost feel the heat radiating from Soyeon’s body when the girl leans forward, leaning her upper body against the hand resting on the countertop. Yuqi’s eyes trails down to Soyeon’s lips when the girl takes the yellow lollipop out of her mouth. Soyeon’s lips look soft, Yuqi thinks. She wonders what it would feel like to kiss them.

She snaps her eyes back to Soyeon’s when she feels a hand tucking a stray piece of hair that has fallen from her high ponytail behind her ear softly.

“Your hair looks nice today.”

The air in between them grows heavy when Soyeon’s stare meets Yuqi’s, her hand still lingering by Yuqi’s ear. She can feel her breathing growing shallow from the intensity in Soyeon’s dark eyes, and when they drift somewhere lower, she feels like she’s going to faint.

“Hey Soyeon-ah! I didn’t know that you were coming today, did you send something in the group chat?” Minnie’s excited voice rings through the store as she appears from the backroom.

Yuqi and Soyeon jump apart from the intrusion, the tension disappearing as quickly as it had appeared. Yuqi’s face feels like it was on fire, and she pretends to organize some of the things on the table in order to hide it.

“Did I interrupt something…?” Minnie asks cluelessly, glancing between the two flushed girls who were looking at anywhere else but each other. Yuqi clears her throat; she fears that her voice would otherwise give away just how affected she was.

“No," Yuqi says a little too firmly. 

Soyeon nods, smoothing down her hair. “I was just walking by and decided to come visit you guys.”

Minnie grins, and while she and Soyeon fall into a casual conversation, Yuqi’s thoughts are still stuck on what the hell had almost just happened.





~~~





“Can you pass me the spatula, Shuhua?”

Yuqi watches as Shuhua practically jumps to Soojin, eager to (pretend to) help with the cooking. The small kitchen is filled with the smell of Soojin’s famous seaweed soup, and the quiet giggles coming from Soojin and Shuhua barely reach her ears. 

Yuqi feels her stomach let out a loud grumble.

The day hadn’t been the greatest; Yuqi didn’t sleep all that well so she had gotten a headache during the last lesson. Shuhua had insisted that she wanted to cook for Yuqi, as she knew the girl would otherwise just eat some instant noodles from her kitchen cabinet. But because Shuhua was one of the worst cooks Yuqi has ever encountered, the next best option in Shuhua’s opinion was to drag her girlfriend to Yuqi’s house and make her cook for the both of them.

Leaning her head against her hand, Yuqi turns to stare out of the window next to her. Watching the serene sky helped slightly with slowing down her running thoughts.

“Yuqi-ya? Are you okay?” Shuhua asks worriedly. “You haven’t said anything for the last half an hour.”

Blinking away the weariness in her eyes, Yuqi stares at the girl blankly. If she was being honest, whatever the thing going on between her and Soyeon is, has become like an additional weight on her shoulders. The doubt was constantly on her mind, and it was starting to affect not only her friendship with Soyeon, but also with her other friends. 

Maybe it would be a good thing to ask for an outsider’s point of view.

Glancing at Soojin, who was pretending not to listen, Yuqi lets out a heavy sigh, and says the only thing that has been running through her mind over the past week. 

“I think I like Soyeon.”

Shuhua looks at Yuqi incredulously. Even Soojin turns to look at her from where she’s stirring the pot at the stove. “What?! Did I hear you right? Like, like -like her?”

Yuqi nods, although a little hesitant. Shuhua’s face then melts into a proud smile, and she rushes to crush Yuqi in her arms. 

“I’M SO PROUD OF YOU!” Shuhua yells into Yuqi’s ear, practically vibrating with happiness. Yuqi tries to push the girl away, a disgruntled frown on her face.

“That took forever," Soojin says, continuing her cooking.

“What do you mean?”

“We all could see that you were crushing on Soyeon from the very first day at school," Shuhua says, standing up properly. “I’m your best friend so I can always tell what you’re thinking!” Yuqi raises her eyebrow at that. “Not to mention that you weren’t exactly the greatest example of hiding one’s feelings from all the blushing and stuff. I’m pretty sure you were the only one who didn’t know you like her.”

That wasn’t exactly that far from the truth. Soyeon made her feel in a way she had never felt before. Actually, both of her ex-girlfriends had approached her first when it came to romance, now that she thought about it. She had never even had a serious crush before getting into a relationship; this was all kind of new to her.

“Do you guys think she likes me back?”

Shuhua’s face softens at Yuqi’s vulnerable tone. “Why wouldn’t she? You’re one of the greatest people I’ve ever met; anyone would be lucky to have you like them!”

Yuqi smiles slightly, playing with the sleeves of her sweater. “Are you sure, though? What if she doesn’t mean it the same way I do?” She had thought about that a lot, too. What if Soyeon had been flirting with her just for fun? Yuqi didn’t know what she would do if that was the case. She knew that her own feelings were genuine, and she thought that it would somehow hurt her more if Soyeon saw her as someone she could casually make flustered by teasing, instead of just straight up rejecting her.

“What do you think, Jinjin-ah? You know Soyeon the best out of all of us.”

Soojin’s stirring halts as she turns to look at the two girls staring at her expectantly.

“Umh.” Soojin shifts awkwardly, not that comfortable with being the center of attention. “I… Soyeon doesn’t like to be vulnerable in front of others, that’s for sure. So you might have to be quite patient if you want her to be completely honest with you, I’m afraid. I don’t really know how she acts when she likes someone since I moved here a couple of years back, but from what she told me over the phone, she hasn’t really had crushes. Or she just didn’t tell me.”

Seeing Yuqi’s bemused look, Soojin rushes to continue, “But I don’t think she’s ever acted like this with someone other than you, Yuqi. And everytime we talk, she never fails to mention you. Even if it’s about some stupid little thing you did that day. Or how cute you looked.”

Shuhua hums. “Sounds pretty gay to me.”

Yuqi groans and flops down on the table. “Why did I have to start crushing on our friend? It makes everything so complicated…”

“It doesn’t have to be complicated,” Shuhua says. She pokes Yuqi’s cheek, and continues, “Just talk to her, I’m sure you’ll find some kind of resolution.”

Yuqi turns her head so that her cheek is resting on the table. “Okay,” she whispers. 

Soojin sets a bowl full of soup in front of her and pats her head. “Don’t stress it over too much, okay?” she says gently. “You have a tendency to overthink.”

She couldn’t really deny that.





~~~





The cool late-evening air wraps around Yuqi, who buries herself further into her thin coat; she can almost feel goosebumps arising on her skin.

The girl looks around her surroundings: a few, well-trimmed and strategically placed tall trees, and neatly cut vibrant grass. Not to mention the intimidatingly grand house she’s standing in front of. 

Yuqi looks down at her pink sneakers, which were discolored from use. Perhaps it’s the fact that the natural light is slowly fading away, making everything in this place look even more dramatic, but she feels oddly out of place. 

She nervously switches her weight from foot to foot on the classy stone path. The whole place looked like it was from a magazine.

Taking a deep breath and tugging her backpack properly on her shoulder, Yuqi finally lifts her hand and knocks on the door.

After a few moments she hears the faint sound of feet padding towards the door, and soon it flies open.

"Hey," Soyeon says, smiling widely at Yuqi, "you made it. I'm sorry we couldn't meet earlier; I had to stay behind a little after school."

Yuqi smiles at her. "It's okay, unnie."

As Yuqi had (maybe slightly exaggerating) complained about the essay she had due the next day during lunch earlier today, Soyeon had kindly offered to overview it for her. Under Shuhua's narrowed eyes and Soyeon's expectant ones, Yuqi had no choice but to say yes. After that the older girl had suggested that they'd go to her place for a change. 

It was an understatement that Yuqi was nervous.

She follows Soyeon in the dimly lit kitchen, setting her bag carefully onto a barstool by the kitchen island.

"Do you want something to eat?" Soyeon asks, leaning her back against the counter.

"I’m fine, thanks," Yuqi says and smiles politely.

“Okay then,” Soyeon says. “I’ll be right back, I’m just going to get my books and stuff.”

Yuqi nods as Soyeon disappears behind the corner. She runs the pads of her fingers along the cool marble, the feeling sort of calming her racing heart. The house makes Yuqi feel a bit unnerved; it wasn't particularly cozy, as the rooms – for what she managed to see during their short walk – were filled with very expensive-looking furniture, the minimalist interior design costing probably more than Yuqi’s whole house doubled.

Yuqi sits down as Soyeon returns. She’s kind of relieved that the other girl decides to sit opposite her instead of right by her side. She probably wouldn’t have managed to concentrate at all in that case.

As they begin, she’s surprised by how much effort Soyeon puts into helping her perfect her work. It’s actually kind of heartwarming, if she’s being honest.

After a couple of hour filled with working on Yuqi's essay (which turns out to be a lot more helpful than Yuqi expected), Soyeon offers to give her a little tour of her home

"So you're just living here all by yourself?" Yuqi asks, shocked by the numerous rooms in the house.

"Pretty much. Soojin's parents check on me from time to time, though, so mine don't think I've run away or something," Soyeon chuckles. "And occasionally the housekeeper comes to make sure the house is fine."

"Ah." Yuqi doesn't really know what to say; she was sort of in a similar situation herself, but at least her mom came home every weekend.

"And here's my room," Soyeon says, opening one of the doors in the hallway.

Walking inside after the girl, Yuqi has to stop herself from gasping out loud. Soyeon's room is nothing like the rest of the house she saw; the walls are filled with posters of various artists and animes, the giant bed is full of soft-looking pillows, and everything else just adds to the warm atmosphere. And even though the room is spacious, it doesn't make Yuqi feel small.

"This is where I make my songs."

Yuqi turns to look towards the corner where Soyeon’s sitting in a big leather chair that makes her look even smaller than she already was. Surrounded by a laptop, microphone and various other equipment that were used to bring her talent to life, Soyeon looked like she was where she belonged.

"Wow," Yuqi breathes, slightly taken aback.

Soyeon smirks. "You've never seen a recording studio? If I could even call my corner that, though…"

Yuqi shakes her head. She perches herself on the edge of the firm mattress of Soyeon's bed, smoothing the soft cotton covers with the palm of her hand. "I haven't really met anyone who’s that passionate about music, to be honest."

Fiddling with her hands, Soyeon looks suddenly apprehensive. Yuqi frowns at the downcast look in her eyes.

"My parents… they don't really support me with this stuff. Music, I mean." Soyeon's voice is small, but it still manages to reach Yuqi's ears. She doesn't dare to move a muscle, as if any sudden move would scare the other girl.

Taking Yuqi's silence as a sign to continue, Soyeon speaks with a little more steadiness in her voice. "They always wanted me to take after the family company when they eventually retire, you know? So when I told them about me wanting to pursue a career in music instead, they weren't exactly happy.

"I stood my ground, though. I got them to understand why this is important to me. That I want others to recognize what I’m truly good at, if I say so myself." Yuqi gives the girl a reassuring smile, contemplating whether or not to take the girl's hand. In the end she reaches over and wraps her fingers around Soyeon's forearm, smoothing her thumb over the smooth skin in comfort.

Giving Yuqi a grateful smile, the girl finishes her story. "They agreed with my wish to study music after high school; they promised to even pay for everything. But I can still see that they're disappointed in me when they think I'm not watching. I know I should be used to it by now, but it still hurts. Knowing that my parents will never stand behind me completely."

The room falls silent, save for the quiet sniffles Soyeon tries to hide. Yuqi's heart clenches; this must have been weighing on the girl's shoulders for a while now.

She lifts her hand from Soyeon's arm, and as gently as she can, she wipes the lonely tear that’s gradually rolling down the girl's cheek.

"I'm sorry," Yuqi whispers. Soyeon shakes her head, rubbing her eyes with the heels of her hands.

"It's not your fault. And it doesn't really matter since it's my last year of high school. I'll be going to university soon."

Yuqi chews on her bottom lip, trying to find the right words to say. She waits a few seconds, until she speaks. "Still, it doesn't mean it can't bother you; they're your parents. But you have to remember that there are other people that support you – like me and Soojin and the others – even if someone else doesn't."

Soyeon lifts her head, and for the first time after pouring her heart out, looks Yuqi straight into her eyes. The air gets stuck in her throat by the honesty in Soyeon's gaze, and her insides twist when she sees that the older girl's eyes are still glistening with tears.

"Thank you. For listening," Soyeon says, breaking the eye-contact right after.

Yuqi grins softly. “I’m sure you’ll show your parents and make them listen, too. When you become famous for being a genius.”

That makes Soyeon let out a laugh. “You haven’t even heard any of my songs, yet.”

Yuqi only shrugs. “Doesn’t matter.”

Soyeon smiles at her for a few seconds, before she stands up and runs a hand through her hair. Yuqi can still see that the look on her face is much lighter than before.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to make things so sad," she says, laughing sheepishly.

"It's fine." The fact that Soyeon had the courage to show her more vulnerable side in front of her makes Yuqi’s heart bloom.

Soyeon glances at Yuqi, the familiar quirk of her lips returning. "Can I show you something?"





~~~





Yuqi stares at the sight in front of her in wonder

A sizable swimming pool reflects the moonlight that shines through the glass wall, the dim in-ground lights adding to the captivating feel that fills the otherwise empty room. 

Carefully walking next to the pool, Yuqi crouches down and runs the tips of her fingers along the surface of the almost steaming water. The glass shows the large backyard of the house; the plain lawn is surrounded by tall trees, and above the dark forest is an open sky, filled with numerous stars.

"Wow," Yuqi breathes out. She didn’t know that any part of their sad town could look this mesmerizing. Or maybe it was only because Soyeon was there, too.

She jumps a little in surprise at the quiet 'thud' coming from her side. The hoodie Soyeon had been wearing for the night lies in a messy pile next to her. When she whips her head around to the other side, Soyeon is sitting on the edge of the pool in her white tank top and black shorts, her bare feet swaying in the water.

"Sit with me," Soyeon says quietly, patting the tiles next to her. 

Her eyes were gleaming in the shimmering light, and her smooth skin looked like it’s almost glowing. Yuqi thought she looked ethereal.

Taking off her corgi print socks and rolling her pants up to her knees, Yuqi sits down next to Soyeon, and lowers her legs into the pool. She sighs when she feels the warmth from the water spreading through her body.

"The sky looks beautiful tonight," Yuqi says in a low voice, looking at the twinkling stars. She feels like if she spoke any louder, the tranquility surrounding them would break.

From the corner of her eye, she can see Soyeon glancing at her before turning to look at the night sky, too. "Yeah. I think this might be my favorite part of the house, if I'm being honest."

Yuqi hums in thought. She could see why; it was quite relaxing to just sit there. 

It might have just been the calm atmosphere, or the fact that Soyeon's arm occasionally brushed against her own, but Yuqi felt more comfortable than ever before with the other girl.

Yuqi stares at the starry sky in deep thought. "What do you think it would be like?” Yuqi whispers. “To be a star?"

Loud laughter causes her to look back at Soyeon, who is shaking her head. The girl turns to face Yuqi, nudging her arm with her elbow.

"When did you become so lame?" she says, giving Yuqi a teasing look.

The younger girl huffs. "Shut up. I was trying to be poetic." 

She turns forward, facing the window once again. She ignores Soyeon – who’s poking her side stubbornly, trying to hide the embarrassed flush on her cheeks.

"Okay, I'm sorry, Yuqi. Where were you going with that?" the short-haired girl says, moving her hands behind her to lean against them.

Still kind of wary, Yuqi squints her eyes when she looks at Soyeon, trying to see if she was seriously going to listen. Thankfully, the look on the girl's face was only expectant, the amusement from before completely gone.

Turning back towards the water, she watches the faint ripples forming in the surface from the movement of her swaying legs.

"My point was…" Yuqi swallows down the lump in her throat, "what do you think it would be like to be seen? Like, properly seen? Maybe you'd be just one of many, but you'd still be a part of something important, which wouldn't be the same if you weren't there," Yuqi says, her voice wavering slightly. It was something she'd been thinking about lately. 

That nobody seemed to recognize her efforts, even though she was trying her best.

She feels Soyeon's hand slide down her wrist. Gentle fingers find their way between her own as Soyeon intertwines their fingers, the comfort coming from the physical contact soothing her.

"I think it would be amazing, to be honest. If everything in this world was fair. But I do see you, and how hard you work. I know it's not easy," Soyeon says quietly, staring at the water. 

Yuqi’s heart starts doing backflips when Soyeon turns to look at her. She can see the sincerity in her eyes as they just let the seconds pass by in complete silence. 

"I'm glad you moved here, unnie," Yuqi whispers, a soft smile rising on her lips.

Soyeon's smile mirrors Yuqi's. "Me too," she breathes out.

The slight shift in the air causes Yuqi to snap her eyes away from Soyeon's, and clearing her throat, she pulls her hand away. She feels like otherwise she’d do something she’d regret.

Glancing at the girl, she can't really read the look on her face. But it doesn’t really matter, as it soon turns into the mischievous one Yuqi immediately recognizes.

Her face pales, though, when she realizes just what Soyeon was going to do.

She tries to dodge the hands surging to her sides, but without succeeding. She squirms as Soyeon tickles her, and tries to frantically move further from the grinning girl.

"AH! Stop it!" Yuqi shrieks, although she can’t help the laughter that bubbles up and fills the air. Ignoring her, Soyeon continues her attack without mercy.

But she gasps loudly when Yuqi jumps a little too abruptly, and lands in the pool.

Gasping for breath, Yuqi comes back to the surface; now drenched from head to toe. She looks at Soyeon, who’s staring at her with wide eyes and a dropped jaw. The shock on Soyeon's face doesn't last long, though, as her eyes crinkle and amused giggles escape her throat.

Yuqi narrows her eyes at the laughing girl. She didn't think it was fair that she was the only one forced to be in wet clothes. 

Wrapping her fingers around Soyeon's arm, she yanks the girl into the warm water with her. Soyeon lets out a yelp as she loses her balance and falls, her arms flailing helplessly in front of her. Yuqi grins innocently when Soyeon stands up and turns her scowling face towards her.

"What the hell, Yuqi! My clothes are soaked ," she yells, pushing her now wet hair away from her face.

Yuqi laughs at her wide eyes. "So are mine, if you haven't noticed," she quips.

Soyeon continues to glare at her. After a few seconds of an intense staring competition, they both burst into laughter.

Gasping for breath, Yuqi steadies her stance. She looks at the other girl, who’s almost toppling over from how hard she’s laughing. Yuqi smiles at how cute she looks.

Seeming to feel the eyes on her, Soyeon turns to look back at her, the laughter fading away as their gazes meet.

The air around them grows heavy within seconds, completely thick with tension. Yuqi feels like she wouldn’t be able to look away from Soyeon's entrancing eyes even if she wanted to. 

Yuqi’s body stiffens when Soyeon takes a step towards her. The light reflecting off her skin makes her look mesmerizing as she stops right in front of her. 

Yuqi feels her throat dry up when Soyeon’s eyes trace over every feature on her face.

Her breath hitches audibly, when Soyeon slowly lifts her hand to her face. The tips of her fingers trail up her jawline, leaving her skin tingling after their touch, before returning back to hold her jaw gently. Following her heavy gaze, Soyeon lightly brushes over Yuqi's lower lip with the pad of her thumb.

Flickering her eyes back up to look into Yuqi's, Soyeon's voice sounds raspier than usual when her quiet whisper falls into the buzzing air between them.

"You're beautiful."

Yuqi's hands move on their own accord as she pulls Soyeon closer by the back of her neck. Her eyes fall shut as she kisses Soyeon with all the pent up feelings she has tried to push away, but they rush right through her with full force when the other girl kisses her back. Soyeon’s soft lips feel even better than she has dreamed of.

The older girl wraps her arms around Yuqi's waist, pulling her closer. Yuqi curls her own fingers into Soyeon’s short soft locks to keep herself from literally collapsing, as her heart is beating like crazy against Soyeon’s.

She can taste Soyeon's sweet lip gloss, and even the hint of chlorine from the water doesn't bother her. 

Soyeon was the only thing in her mind, clouding her senses entirely.

Their kisses slow down after what could have been anything from seconds to several minutes. Yuqi trails her hand towards the side of Soyeon’s face, her thumb smoothing over the damp skin below her jaw.

A clear sound of a phone ringing cuts through the tension between them, breaking it immediately.

Soyeon jerks back, pulling away from Yuqi. Blinking her fuzzy vision back into focus, Yuqi watches blankly as Soyeon scrambles out of the pool, her wet clothes dripping water onto the tiles. The older girl crouches down to reach for her ringing phone located in the pocket of her hoodie. 

But when she realizes that Soyeon answers the call without even sparing a glance at her, Yuqi feels the dread starting to creep over her.

"Hello?"

Yuqi's heart is pounding, but this time it’s out of anxiousness. She rises carefully out of the water, pulling her shivering body on the floor. The cool air causes goosebumps to appear on her bare arms.

She can't hear the conversation happening a few meters away from her, as her mind is still foggy from the kiss, and the nervous beating of her heart is the only thing echoing in her ears.

She can't help but feel that she has somehow made a big mistake.

"My parents called," Soyeon's voice pulls Yuqi out of her thoughts. She snaps her eyes towards the girl, but just like the tone of her voice, her features are unreadable. "They're coming here early in the morning."

Yuqi opens her mouth, but then closes it for the lack of coherent thoughts. The girl in front of her looked nothing like the one from a few minutes ago: her body was stiff, with her hands curled into tight fists. But the worst thing was that her eyes were cold, the warmth from earlier completely vanished. Yuqi feels her heart start to sink.

"Soyeon–"

"I think you should go."

Yuqi pauses. She stares at the girl, who’s walking around the room, gathering the rest of her clothes. She can feel her eyes burning. Why was Soyeon acting like nothing had happened?

"I- I have to clean up, and it's getting late anyway," Soyeon says. Yuqi chuckles drily, even though her chest contracts painfully at the words. 

Everything had been spotless when she had walked through the house earlier.

"Okay," Yuqi breathes out. Blinking away the tears, she pulls on her socks even though her skin is still wet from the water, grabs her bag and starts to walk quickly towards the front door. She doesn't want Soyeon to see how affected she was, as the other girl doesn't seem to care at all.

"Wait!"

Yuqi halts in her steps and whips her head back towards Soyeon. The hope starts bubbling through her veins automatically.

Perhaps she hadn’t been reading the signs completely wrong.

"Take this. It's starting to get cold outside," Soyeon says, lowering her tone. 

Oh.

Yuqi stares at the girl, whose eyes are fixated on the hoodie in her hands. Hesitating, Yuqi reaches forward and grazes the soft fabric.

"Thanks," Yuqi whispers, grabbing the hoodie from Soyeon. She doesn’t have the courage to see the look on her face, scared that it might be one of disgust, or regret, or something else that might rip her heart out of her chest.

After rushing to the front door, Yuqi pulls on her sneakers with trembling hands, wiping hastily the bitter tears that started to fall as soon as she turned around. The saltiness from the escaped drops burn on her still tingling lips.

The crisp air bites her skin as soon as she slams the door shut. Stopping to take in a deep breath, Yuqi turns to look at the house for the last time; standing in front of the towering house makes her feel powerless.

Pulling the hoodie over her freezing body and throwing her coat over it, she can smell the faint scent of Soyeon’s perfume. She can’t decipher whether it comforts her, or makes the tears fall ever faster.

And maybe she’s naively a hopeless romantic, or for some twisted reason just enjoys the feeling of being let down and left heartbroken, but the tiny sliver of hope makes her stay still for a minute.

But the silence that surrounds her is deafening.

Yuqi grabs her bike leaning against the wall and leaves without looking back.





~~~





Soyeon was avoiding her.

During the next day at school Yuqi barely sees the girl. When she doesn’t show up for lunch at the normal time, Yuqi contemplates whether or not to text the girl. Just to check if she was okay.

But when Soojin mentions that Soyeon had gone to the library in order to catch up on some of her classes, Yuqi decides not to.

It seemed plausible, right?

She tries to brush it off at first, acting like nothing was wrong. Maybe Soyeon was just as busy as Soojin said she was. Or maybe she just didn’t know how to turn Yuqi down without making things awkward.

It would be an understatement to say that Yuqi wasn’t feeling great when Friday came around without any sign of Soyeon.

The thought of Soyeon regretting what had happened made Yuqi sick to her stomach. She was also confused. If Soyeon trusted her enough to let down her guard in front of her, why did she push her away after they kissed? 

Yuqi thought they had been better friends than that.

“Are you okay, Yuqi? You haven’t actually eaten anything. It would be easier if you put the food in your mouth instead of pushing it around,” Miyeon says, smiling softly at the quiet girl.

“Huh?” Yuqi lifts her head to see her friends looking at her. She hasn’t mentioned anything that happened, even though it was the only thing running through her mind. She didn’t want to worry them for nothing and feel like a burden. 

Clearing her throat, she musters the best smile she can. “I’m fine, just didn’t sleep all that well.”

It wasn’t exactly a lie, as she had tossed and turned in her bed last night, going over the events and trying to figure out what she had done wrong in order to make Soyeon steer clear of her with this much effort.

Seeming to accept the answer, the usual chattering returns to the table. But even though Yuqi starts to actually eat her lunch for change, she can still feel Shuhua’s eyes boring to the side of her head.





~~~





“Song Yuqi!”

Yuqi clings to the strap of her backpack and continues her speed walking, ignoring Shuhua. After their final class she had rushed to leave the building as fast as she could, causing the other girl to almost drop her books in her haste to follow after Yuqi.

“Song Yuqi!! I’m being serious right now!” Shuhua yells again, nearly tripping over her feet as she runs down the stairs, her heavy footsteps booming on the concrete. Yuqi would have maybe laughed if she wasn’t trying to escape what she knew was going to be an interrogation over why she has been so sulky today.

Stubbornly walking forward, Yuqi stays quiet even though she can hear the annoyed huffing getting closer. She feels a hand grabbing her shoulder, forcing her to turn around.

“What’s going on with you today?” Shuhua asks breathlessly. Finally glancing at the girl’s face, Yuqi’s defences fall as soon as she sees the frown on Shuhua’s face. The girl was clearly worried, and it made the guilt weigh in her stomach like lead.

“I ” Yuqi stops herself before the words can tumble out of her mouth. She isn’t exactly sure if she should tell the truth; she doesn’t even know if she should mention Soyeon since they hadn’t talked in days.

“And I’m pretty sure it’s about Soyeon unnie since she hasn’t had lunch with us even once after Monday, and she hasn’t talked in the group chat like usual,” Shuhua says, raising her eyebrows at Yuqi’s hesitant demeanor.

Sighing, Yuqi finally relents. “I kissed Soyeon.”

Shuhua stares at her blankly. “Oh.”

Yuqi crosses her arms and stares at the ground, shifting uncomfortably on her feet. Shuhua seems to realize that she’s been silent for a while, because she takes a quick step towards Yuqi. 

“Did she kiss you back?” Shuhua asks quietly. 

Yuqi lifts her eyes to meet Shuhua’s curious gaze. She blushes when the memory resurfaces her mind. “Yeah…”

Shuhua’ face lights up. “But that’s great! Why- ah, uhm...” she trails off, clearly remembering Soyeon’s absence. “Sorry.”

Yuqi sighs dejectedly. She then fills Shuhua in on what had happened between them, from her arriving at Soyeon's house all the way to how Soyeon had told her to leave after they had kissed.

“I’ll make Soojin unnie kick her ass – scratch that, I’ll do it myself,” Shuhua says angrily, rolling up her sleeves as if getting ready to do it right this second.

Yuqi’s eyes widen comically as she rushes to stop Shuhua. “No! It’s fine, don’t do that please.” The scary thing was that Yuqi wouldn’t be surprised if Shuhua actually followed through with her threat.

“But to me it sounds like she deserves it,” Shuhua says, calming down slightly. “I mean, even if she doesn’t feel the same way, why would she throw you out?”

“I don’t know,” Yuqi mutters. Maybe there was another side to the story.

Shuhua looks at her sympathetically. “You know what? The next time you see her, lock her into a bathroom or something and make her explain herself. And perhaps all hope isn’t lost, Yuqi,” Shuhua nudges her. “Didn’t she kiss you, too?”

“Or I just imagined everything and now she never wants to see me again,” Yuqi says.

Shuhua groans in frustration and throws her arms around Yuqi. “Why can’t you be your usual optimistic self? She’d be stupid if she lets you go.”

Yuqi rests her head against the other girl’s shoulder. “It hurts less if she does, then. Since my hopes wouldn’t have been high in the first place.”

“Stop being so angsty, Yuqi. It’s weird,” Shuhua pulls away from the hug. Yuqi starts laughing at the disgusted look on her face.

She just hopes that Shuhua’s right.





~~~





It was raining again.

Yuqi rests her head against the palms of her hands on the counter, letting out a tired sigh after the door drifts closed. The heavy raindrops roll down the windows on the wall opening up to the street, the water gradually fogging up the glass. Since the sun wasn’t visible behind the dark clouds, the only thing lightning up the store were the dim, yellowish lights.

She closes her eyes and rubs the sides of her head slowly, trying to keep the aching in her head away. Everything from the past week was wearing her down, and to top it all off, it had started pouring once she got to work. Thankfully she had an emergency umbrella stored in the breakroom.

Shuhua’s words also swarm through her mind. After a while of contemplating, she has finally come to the conclusion that she’d call Soyeon the first thing in the morning and have the conversation that should have happened earlier.

The chiming coming from the door causes Yuqi to lift her head, her overgrown bangs falling in front of her eyes.

Brushing the hair out of her face, she can see a familiar girl putting away her polkadot umbrella and shaking her entire body, even though it hasn’t gotten wet at all. Yuqi stares incredulously at the girl who seems to be touching up her still-perfect makeup, looking at herself through the front camera of her phone. 

After an exaggerated hair flip, the girl starts walking towards her. The clicking of her heels echoes in the store, filled only with the quiet murmurs coming from the radio.

“Good evening, Yuqi,” Miyeon drawls, a flirty smirk on her face.

“What the…” Yuqi whispers to herself.

Miyeon leans against the counter, squinting her eyes at Yuqi’s bemused look.

“I expected a slightly more welcoming greeting since I look so dazzling tonight,” Miyeon says, huffing in disappointment. Yuqi examines the girl’s appearance; her dress looks more expensive than what you’d wear for a trip to a convenience store, and her hair is styled carefully, framing her delicate face beautifully.

“Why are you even here looking like that? That doesn’t look like the most practical outfit considering the weather outside– oh.” 

Yuqi mentally slaps her forehead. Today was Miyeon and Minnie’s one year anniversary, and she had promised Minnie that she’d take care of closing the store by herself, so her friends could go celebrate at a reasonable hour. It had been all her co-worker talked about for weeks, but having her thoughts occupied by a certain Jeon Soyeon for the past couple of days caused her to forget all about her promise.

“It’s fine, Yuqi. I could see something was bothering you today,” Miyeon smiles, pinching Yuqi’s cheek gently. The other girl jumps away and glares daggers at her.

“Minnie’s at the back changing, I think,” Yuqi mutters. She hadn’t been exactly paying attention to her surroundings during her shift, basically running on autopilot (and Minnie had been rambling so happily that she hadn’t noticed Yuqi zoning out).

Sure enough, a blindingly radiant girl soon practically leaps out of the doorframe behind Yuqi, and is next to Miyeon in no time.

“Hi baby, you look gorgeous,” Minnie says, kissing her girlfriend on the cheek softly. Yuqi buries her face into her arms once more.

After a while the delighted giggling coming from Miyeon slows down, and Yuqi feels a tap on her shoulder.

“Are you sure you’ll be fine, Yuqi-ya? I can stay with you if you’d like.” Yuqi can see that Minnie’s eyes are sincere, but she shakes her head.

“No no no, go have fun. Don’t worry about me, unnie,” Yuqi says. “I’ll just hope that nobody comes to rob this place. That would suck.”

Giggling, Minnie nudges Yuqi’s shoulder before linking her arm with her girlfriend’s and walking towards the door. 

“Bye bye! Love you!” Miyeon squeals over her shoulder.

“Bye! Remember to use protection!” Yuqi yells before the two can exit the door entirely.

Sighing, she slumps back down after Minnie’s final disapproving look. Now her only company were the catchy songs playing on the radio and the gradually intensifying rainfall outside.

 Maybe she should arrange some of the items on the shelves? She turns to scan the immaculate shelves, everything in perfect order. Right, she had already done that earlier.

She drops her forehead onto the cool surface of the counter, groaning loudly. Sometimes she wished that their town wasn’t as lowly populated, just so that she wouldn’t be so bored while working alone.

The ‘ding’ coming from her phone makes her surge for her pocket, hoping that it was something enough to distract her from her suffering.

After swiping her lockscreen open, she sees that the notification came from Shuhua.

 

(7:47 pm) shuhua:
hey totally a hypothetical question but would u say burnt cookies are edible??????

 

Furrowing her eyebrows, Yuqi runs her hand through her long hair while trying to think why on earth Shuhua would even try to bake on her own. What–

She looks up at the sound of the bell ringing at the door. She almost drops her phone when she sees the girl walking breathlessly into the store, her yellow raincoat dripping countless raindrops on the tiles.

She stops near the entrance, and looks around the space for a few seconds before spotting Yuqi. Brushing some of the dripping wet hair away from her face, the girl starts taking careful steps towards her. Yuqi can see her shaking eyes that dart nervously around, looking at everything but her.

Yuqi sits stiffly on her seat when Soyeon comes to stand in front of her. She’s biting the inside of her cheek so hard that she can almost taste the iron on her tongue, but at least it was slightly calming her pounding heart.

“What do you want?” Yuqi says. She refuses to let the vulnerability she felt seep into her tone, so instead her voice comes out rather coldly.

Soyeon looks small in front of her, nervously fiddling with her hands. Even though Yuqi was starting to get mad at her for acting so immaturely during the past few days, all she wanted to do at the moment was to wrap the girl in her arms.

“I came to say I’m sorry. For avoiding you. And… for throwing you out that day after–” Soyeon stops, looking down at her shoes while biting her lower lip, before she lifts her head and looks straight into Yuqi’s eyes. 

“I’m so sorry, Yuqi.”

Yuqi inhales deeply, frowning slightly. She wasn’t exactly sure what to think. Why did it take Soyeon the whole week to even say a word to her? But on the other hand, she herself hadn’t done all she could to get a hold of the older girl, hadn’t she? And Soyeon was here now, standing in front of her and telling her she was sorry.

But perhaps it was the stubborness in her, or the uncertainty regarding what was going to happen next, that made her snap a little more forcefully than she intended to.

“Are you even going to address the fact that we kissed ? Or are you just going to avoid it, too?”

Soyeon looks taken aback from the sterness of the words, staring into Yuqi’s fierce eyes with her mouth agape. After a beat she seems to have gotten a hold of her thoughts once more, and takes a step closer to the counter while shaking her head furiously.

“No! Of course not! I just–” Soyeon takes a deep breath and continues more calmly. “I want to explain my side properly, even though it doesn’t excuse me being a complete idiot.”

“You don’t say,” Yuqi murmurs under her breath. Before Soyeon can speak up again, she stands up abruptly and walks to the door.

“Where are you going?” Soyeon croaks, frozen on her feet.

Turning the sign to read ‘closed’ and locking the door, Yuqi glances over her shoulder to look at the girl’s wide eyes. “Just making sure nobody comes to interrupt, don’t worry.”

“Oh,” Soyeon breathes out, the blush rising on her cheeks. Yuqi smiles a little at the sight.

“Come on,” Yuqi says. She leads them behind the counter and to the breakroom, sitting on the worn leather couch. Soyeon stops an excessive distance away from her. Rolling her eyes, Yuqi pats the seat next to her, which the older girl hesitantly takes.

“Is Minnie here?” Soyeon asks carefully, glancing around the quiet room.

“No, she left a while ago with Miyeon unnie,” Yuqi says. She notes the way Soyeon sits on the very edge of the couch, her boot tapping on the floor rapidly. She doesn’t think that she’s ever seen the older girl so restless before.

“Ah, right.”

The room falls silent after that. Yuqi wonders if she should just straight up ask the girl what the kiss meant to her. But the fear of being rejected made her keep her mouth shut, and instead she wondered how they could return back to being friends. It would be awkward at first, of course, but it was better than losing Soyeon completely. And she could get rid of her feelings if she really tried to. Hopefully.

The several notifications coming from Yuqi's phone make Soyeon snap her eyes to her.

The older girl looks at the phone – now in Yuqi’s hand – questioningly. "Should you answer that? Seems important."

Turning her phone off, Yuqi turns back to Soyeon. "It can wait." Shuhua wouldn’t burn down her kitchen, right?

“So…” Soyeon says, clearing her throat.

“So?” Yuqi repeats quietly. And even though the other girl is sitting further away from her than usually, their closeness still makes butterflies appear in her stomach.

“I like you, Yuqi.”

Oh.

That wasn’t what she had been expecting. At all. 

She stares at Soyeon in shock. Had she heard her correctly? Maybe she should go check out her hearing, as well as her heart that's pounding erratically in her chest.

But the girl just smiles at her reassuringly. “I like you. I just wanted to let you know that, so you don’t have to worry.”

Yuqi opens her mouth to reply, but Soyeon beats her to it. “Let me explain first, okay? I don’t want things left unresolved. You deserve better than that.”

She just nods silently, swallowing down her nerves. Maybe it would be a good idea to hear Soyeon out completely before jumping into conclusions. And the buzzing in her head was making it kind of hard to actually speak up.

Soyeon looks down at her lap, her boot tapping rhythmically on the tiles again. “When I first moved here, I thought you were cute. So it wasn’t really a surprise when I realized I was crushing on you once I got to know you better.

“I’ve never liked anyone as much as I like you.” Soyeon turns to look at Yuqi, and the younger girl can feel the uncertainty in her voice. “No one has ever made me feel like you do, Yuqi. And that scared the shit out of me. When we kissed…” Soyeon pauses, chewing on her bottom lip, trying to turn her feelings into words. 

“When we kissed, I realized just how much I felt for you. I realized just how much power you had over me, even though you weren’t aware of it,” Soyeon says. Yuqi feels the clarity dawning onto her. So Soyeon had just been scared. And probably overwhelmed, just like her.

“I’ve always been used to being alone, you know?” Soyeon continues. “Being an only child, and not having that many friends growing up… I had to get used to it. And then you came and you fit right in without even trying. But I started to think about all these possible scenarios that could happen if I let myself feel for once. Like what if something happened and you’d be out of my life? So I took the easy road and pushed you away when it wasn’t as simple anymore. It’s impossible to get hurt when there’s nothing to lose, right?” Soyeon chuckles humorlessly before turning to face Yuqi. She gulps at the regret she sees in the piercing eyes.

Scooting closer to her, Soyeon takes her hand. The older girl’s hand is cold from the weather outside, but Yuqi holds it tightly regardless.

“I was being unfair towards you, Yuqi. During these past couple of days, I realized that the only way I was going to get hurt was if I shut you out of my life, when you’re the one that makes me so happy. And I realized that I hurt you too, when I backed out and left you in the dark, even though I should have talked to you like a mature person would. So I’m really, really sorry, Yuqi.”

Yuqi stares at Soyeon in silence. To be honest, her mind had gone haywire pretty much since the girl had said that she liked her. But she understood every word she had said, and could feel how sincere she was.

If she had been in Soyeon’s place would she have reacted the same way? Put up her guard when things felt uncertain?

She wasn’t sure.

But she and Jeon Soyeon were two different people, and it’d be unfair of her if she expected the other girl to know what she was thinking, especially since she hadn’t come clear of her feelings yet. 

She knew one thing for sure. She couldn't hold all this against Soyeon. 

And honestly, she was kind of tired of waiting.

"It's okay, unnie." 

Yuqi smiles when Soyeon's tense shoulders slump in relief, a beaming smile spreading on her face.

She scoots even closer to Yuqi, their knees bumping together. She lifts her hand that isn't intertwined with Yuqi's, and gently cradles her face. "I'm not going to shut you out again, okay? I promise."

“Good.” Yuqi puts her hand on top of Soyeon's, slowly brushing over the soft skin with the pad of her thumb. The soft look in the older girl's eyes makes her feel like she can trust her, that this time she can let herself fall and be sure Soyeon would be there to catch her.

"You said you liked me." Yuqi's voice is low, her eyes flickering to glance at Soyeon's soft lips.

"I did. I really, really like you, Song Yuqi." Soyeon's raspy voice makes Yuqi’s gut twist, her breathing growing shallow. The temperature in the room rises gradually, and Yuqi’s body unconsciously gravitates towards Soyeon’s.

"I really like you too," Yuqi says. Soyeon's teasing smirk appears on her lips.

"I know." 

Yuqi huffs, and playfully shoves Soyeon's shoulder, making the girl almost fall on the floor. But Yuqi can't help the wide grin that’s plastered on her face.

"I'm sorry! But it wasn't like you were hiding it all that well," Soyeon laughs.

Shaking her head, Yuqi pulls the girl closer by the lapels of her coat.

"Just kiss me, you idiot," Yuqi whispers into the short distance between them.

And that's exactly what Soyeon does. She takes Yuqi's face in her palms like she’s the most precious thing in the world, and presses their lips together gently. 

It isn't rough; they move their lips together in unison, finding their own rhythm. It makes Yuqi smile against Soyeon's lips, her heart beating vigorously from her bliss.

Soyeon is the first to pull away, her eyes fluttering open. Yuqi's breath hitches at how cute she looks, with her eyes turned into crescents and her lips in a giddy smile.

Suddenly Soyeon throws her arms around Yuqi, burying her smile into the younger girl's neck. Yuqi starts to giggle, until she realizes that Soyeon is still wearing her raincoat. Which is now drenching her own clothes.

Yuqi squeals, pushing Soyeon away from her. “You’re getting me wet!”

Looping her arms around Yuqi's neck, Soyeon raises her eyebrow, the smile still on her face. “Oh really?”

Yuqi blushes when the other girl drags her eyes down her body, making her cheeks burn bright red. Soyeon's smile only grows at the sight, quite satisfied with her effect on Yuqi.

"You're cute when you're flustered," Soyeon says while playing with the baby hairs at Yuqi's nape.

"Shut up," Yuqi groans, dropping her head on the girl's shoulder.

The giggles coming from Soyeon makes Yuqi's heart soar.





~~~





(0:46 am) minnie:
and that's basically how we got banned from the diner

(0:58 am) yuqi:
yo
i have an announcement to make

(0:59 am) miyeon:
you're gay

(0:59 am) shuhua:
youre pregnant

(1:00 am) yuqi:
.

(1:01 am) shuhua:
well?????

(1:01 am) yuqi:

soyeon and i are dating

(1:02 am) soyeon:
yes <3
so no need to beat me up shuhua

(1:02 am) minnie:
AGSFULUASFGHL

(1:02 am) miyeon:
AAAAAAAA
another win for the gays

(1:03 am) shuhua:
YES BITCHHH
wait u told her abt that

(1:03 am) yuqi:
uhm
perhaps

(1:03 am) minnie:
SJSKSAAKSAKOSJJ

(1:03 am) shuhua:
ah
okay. :)

(1:04 am) yuqi:
wait
why are u being so scary

(1:04 am) shuhua:
:)

(1:04 am) soojin:
Congrats Yuqi and Soyeon

(1:04 am) minnie:
AUAHSBSKSKKDJSHJE

(1:05 am) yuqi:
thanks unnie
is minnie okay

(1:05 am) miyeon:
i think she fainted





~~~





The skin under her gentle grip is soft as she pulls the girl behind her by the wrist, feeling the steady heartbeat against her palm. She opens the door leading to the quiet diner, and leads their way to the very back, taking a seat in the snug booth.

“Gosh, I’m starving,” Yuqi says, pulling Soyeon to sit right next to her. The floor sticks slightly to the bottoms of her pink sneakers as she scoots towards the window, so that her girlfriend could be in a more comfortable position.

“Aren’t you always hungry?” Soyeon says. Yuqi narrows her eyes at the way she’s smiling with her tongue between her teeth, but can’t stop the corner of her mouth from twitching upwards. 

“So what? It’s good to have an appetite. And I love the food here, so I would eat even if I wasn’t hungry, just so you know,” Yuqi says while throwing the other girl a peace sign, and turning forwards, purposefully ignoring Soyeon’s amused gaze.

“Okay,” the older girl hums, and then turns forwards, too. 

A sudden silence falls around them as they both stubbornly refuse to be the first one to relent. But after about twenty seconds Yuqi can’t help but steal a glance to her left. The rays of sunlight shining through the window make Soyeon look beautiful. Her dark hair has grown almost past her slender shoulders, her skin looks softer than ever, and the profined line of her jaw, as well as her sharp eyes, make Yuqi’s heart skip a beat. Just like every time she really looks at the girl.

“I can see you staring.”

Yuqi snaps her eyes back to the other side of the booth. She doesn’t want to give her girlfriend any more reasons to tease her, as that was what happened almost every time they spent time together. 

(She would never admit it to anyone, but she secretly loved it when Soyeon was teasing her.)

“Yuqi,” Soyeon says, turning to face the stubborn girl.

“Yuqi-ya,” she repeats, scooting a little closer. Yuqi just crosses her arms, even though their proximity is starting to tear down her walls.

Soyeon pouts at the silence coming from the other girl. But a wide smile lights up her face when an idea strikes her. Leaning even closer, her lips slightly graze the sensitive skin of Yuqi’s ear.

“Come on baby, it’s okay. I don’t mind you staring,” Soyeon whispers in a low tone. 

Yuqi jumps at the feeling of hot breath hitting her earlobe, and turns quickly around to stare at the girl next to her with wide eyes. And maybe her body was feeling a little hotter than usual.

“I mean, who wouldn’t want to stare at me?” Soyeon says while smiling cheekily. Yuqi huffs and shoves the girl roughly, making her laugh.

“You’re so annoying,” Yuqi grumbles. Soyeon only shrugs, and slides her arm around Yuqi’s waist. 

“It’s only because of you,” she says while fluttering her eyelashes at the younger girl.

“Is this you trying to flirt with me?” Yuqi asks, looking at the girl clinging to her side.

“Is it working?” Soyeon replies with a raised eyebrow. 

Yuqi feels the flush crawl up her neck and opens her mouth, but then ultimately decides to close it. Soyeon’s smile only grows wider at the sight of Yuqi growing frustrated as the seconds drag on in silence.

Their bantering is interrupted, however, when a waitress, a tired-looking woman in her mid-40s, stops at their table.

“What can I- oh, it’s you again.” The woman looks between the two girls sitting in the booth, clearly recognising who they were. Yuqi thought she looked almost scared, judging from her wide eyes and the way she was forcefully grabbing her notepad.

“Are… those two joining you today?” she says slowly, as she shifts nervously on her feet. Yuqi and Soyeon glance at each other; ‘those two’ was clearly referring to Miyeon and Minnie.

“No, it’s just us today,” Soyeon says with her most charming smile.

“Thank god,” the waitress sighs. “What can I get for you, girls?”

After placing their order, they fall easily back into their conversation, and even though it’s not about anything in particular, Yuqi can’t stop smiling.

The waitress soon returns with their drinks, sliding the glasses in front of them. After thanking the woman with a blinding smile, Yuqi turns to Soyeon.

“Why couldn’t we get that ‘milkshake-with-two-straws’ -thing?” she says with a pout. “We’re on a date…”

Soyeon stares at her incredulously. “That’s so cheesy.”

“It would have been romantic,” Yuqi says while stirring her lemonade with the straw, the ice cubes bumping into the glass. “And I like clichés.”

“You’re literally wearing my hoodie,” Soyeon says while poking Yuqi’s side. “Is that not romantic enough for you?”

Yuqi looks down at her body, and sure enough, she’s wearing one of Soyeon’s many giant hoodies. A stupid smile spreads on her lips as she plays with the soft material of her sleeves and lets out a distracted hum. 

She would neither confirm or deny that she had been wearing it almost every night, the faint scent of Soyeon making her feel all fuzzy inside. Maybe she should steal a new one...

“Are you going to give it back?” Soyeon asks, smiling slightly.

Tilting her head a little, Yuqi looks thoughtfully at her girlfriend. 

“I can trade,” Yuqi says after a while, a smirk appearing on her face.

“You can trade?” Soyeon asks confusedly.

“Mhm,” Yuqi hums. “So that I can get one that smells more like you.”

Soyeon blushes at the remark and averts her eyes, instead taking a sip of her iced chocolate. Yuqi giggles at the sight, silently cheering for being able to make the girl feel shy.

But her smile slowly fades into a frown when Soyeon keeps looking down at the table while fiddling with her glass, seemingly lost in thought.

“Is everything okay?” Yuqi asks and gently takes a hold of Soyeon’s forearm. “You don’t have to give me a new one, if you don’t want to–”

“No! I mean, I’m okay,” Soyeon rushes to reply while turning to look at the other girl. “It’s not that; you can have all of my hoodies if you want to.”

Yuqi hums in thought. “Then what’s going on?”

Soyeon turns back to her drink and chews on her lower lip for a while.

“I wrote a song,” she mumbles.

Yuqi frowns. “A song?” she repeats. But that wasn’t something new; she had listened to all of Soyeon’s songs (which were all incredible masterpieces, might she add) numerous times before. So why was the girl being so jittery all of a sudden?

“For you,” Soyeon adds. “I wrote a song for you.” She looks straight into Yuqi’s eyes.

“Oh,” Yuqi says. Then a wide grin spreads on her lips. “Can I hear it?”

Soyeon nods timidly and searches for her phone and a pair of airpods, which she hands to Yuqi.

After putting them on, the younger girl nods at Soyeon, telling her to play the song.

Yuqi’s jaw drops as she listens to the song; it’s brilliant, as always. The emotion comes clearly across the complex melody and beat, but what strikes her most are the lyrics. The honesty and raw feeling in the words make her heart beat wildly, swelling with all the pride and love she feels for the girl next to her.

And after the final notes fade away, she turns to look at Soyeon’s expectant face.

“It’s a love song,” Yuqi says disbelievingly.

Soyeon chuckles nervously. “Well it’s about you, so…”

Yuqi just stares at her. She's still sort of blown away by the whirlwind of emotions that is going through her head, but all she's certain about is how Soyeon makes her feel.

“Did you like it?” Soyeon asks quietly, darting her eyes around the diner.

“I loved it,” Yuqi breathes out. “I– I love you.”

Soyeon snaps her eyes to Yuqi. “You do?”

“Yeah,” Yuqi says, smiling widely. She pulls the older girl closer by her arm, giggling at her wide eyes. 

“I love you, Jeon Soyeon.”

Soyeon blinks a few times before a broad grin spreads on her lips, lighting up her face entirely.

“I love you, too.”

Yuqi lifts her hand and tilts Soyeon’s chin towards her, inching closer.

“I know,” she whispers teasingly against her lips, kissing them before Soyeon can protest.