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how do you talk to an angel?

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“The one will not be kissing in the pouring rain, it’s them pulling the car up to the front so you don’t get wet. They are not the fireworks, they are that 60 seconds of silence right before the grand finale.”

Casey Ebeling, This Is How You’ll Know They’re ‘The One’

 

🌈

 

Mina thinks remembering is weird. 

When she looks back on her life, the range of the memories she digs up vary drastically. She can remember the most peculiar of things down to the smallest detail and completely forget the simplest ones. 

She forgets most about Texas but remembers the climate very vividly, as if the summer heat still grates her skin every now and then. She forgets about most of her memories in Obayashi but remembers the chip on the surface of the wooden shelf by the Fiction aisle in the library, the same shelf Mina used to hide behind just to sneak secret glances at Haruka Miyauchi frowning at a book as if it’d done her wrong. Mina remembers 1998 very clearly. Apgujeong, the talent show, the girls, Dahyun. She forgets about that girl, however. Even her name. She can’t remember her name and her face is mostly just a blurry haze but Mina remembers 1998 like it just happened yesterday. Like a chaotic, unforgettable dream. 

Mina forgets the bigger picture but remembers tiny tidbits of it, the smaller fragments that make up the whole. She can hardly recall the forceful hit of New York's bustling rush hour, the elegant kiss of Paris' cobblestone streets, but she remembers standing in the rain, squeezed in a crowd she didn't belong to, and dancing in Hawaii, sun-kissed and in love. 

It's funny. Most of the moments in her life that she can hardly remember all share one common element altogether: they don't have Dahyun. 

These days, when Mina looks at Dahyun, she wonders how life had been like before her. 

Was it ever this easy? 

These days, she can only part her last forty years of existence into two categories: before Dahyun and after her.

She spent eighteen years before Dahyun, and twenty-two more with her. Although the numbers don’t bear much of a difference from each other, Mina’s memories in them do, and in forty years of existence, she’s most certain of one thing only: Dahyun is her life’s greatest adventure, the best chapter of her story. 

Kim Dahyun comes into her life gently, like the unnoticeable breath of a springtime breeze ghosting against her skin. It’s ticklish and soft, like the pads of Dahyun’s fingers when they sail through the course of Mina’s arms, grazing ever so teasingly, ever so lightly. 

One moment it’s the same and then in a snap, it’s a whole lot different and new, and Dahyun comes waltzing into the movie of Mina’s life with a thousand scenes and only one role to play: to be her person.

When Mina tells their story, it isn’t as exciting as Jeongyeon and Nayeon’s intensely passionate one, about life getting in the way time and time again, getting separated and meeting decades later. Theirs isn’t as perfectly destined as the Sana and Momo’s, being each other’s person since the dawn of day. 

Their story is quiet and gentle, and sometimes a little frustrating, but it’s theirs to make and theirs to write together. 

 

🌈

 

Present time, 2020

It probably isn’t supposed to be this easy, doing all this , but like everything with Dahyun, it is. It’s easy. Even in the hard times it is. 

“How many copies did you have laminated?” 

The plan was to keep things low key. This wasn’t low key. 

Dahyun smiles through pearl white teeth, holding up an A4-sized laminated print-out of their 3D sonogram. “Enough to put one in every wallet we both have.” 

(Mina has seven wallets–for security purposes–and Dahyun, three.)

“And enough extras to have framed around the house and sent to our parents.” 

It’s too early for Mina to wrap her head around the situation but the cheeriness in Dahyun’s tone has her chest clenching in a way that steals her breath away that she has no power but to just nod and relent to her wife’s questionable definition of low key. 

Dahyun must notice this too, realize the sleep painted all over Mina’s droopy voice and lazy movements. Unlike most of their 7AM mornings, she’s splayed on their bed like a starfish right now, looking up at the ceiling in contemplation between getting up or just sleeping in.  

“Dahyun-ah?” Mina calls out in a hoarse, sleep-mused voice, making up her mind.

“Hm?”

“Can you move to my side, please?” 

Dahyun does what she is told, pattering over to the side of the bed where she can finally see Mina’s face, eyes tight shut and forehead creased in what looks like frustration. “What’s wrong?” 

Mornings aren’t normally like this for Mina. They’re mostly made up of early morning jogs around their block, cooking breakfast according to their appetite (mostly waffles and sweet potatoes), or simply just goofing around the house before they both have to go to work (Mina to the studio, and Dahyun to the company HQ).

Today, driven by the side-effects of being in her third trimester, the things that make up most of Mina’s mornings are all crossed out of the list. Even with her natural composure in chaos and innate grace through adversity, she isn’t saved from the severity of her hormones and temper.

Being unable to walk this morning because she’s woken up late (after getting barely-enough sleep from her insatiable appetite and unsatisfied bladder), only getting to eat nutrimum bars for breakfast (because that’s what the doctor told them), and scheduled for a magazine photoshoot appointment when she feels like a ticking bomb, Mina feels like she’s treading closely over the edge of her patience and sanity. 

The worst thing about her entire morning? An empty bed and no sign of Dahyun to greet her waking eyes. 

Even after Dahyun had arrived and she goes on and on about the twenty-something laminated copies of the sonogram she had done, Mina was only able to listen to her wife’s voice and not actually see her because of the literal bump in the way, covering Dahyun’s face from her view. 

Oh my god. I can’t even—

“Mina? Are you…” Dahyun doesn’t even get to finish because Mina’s held-back whimpers slowly fill the room, juxtaposing the beautiful sound of birds chirping and making up what is otherwise

Mina hates it, she absolutely does. The slightest bit of misfortune thrown at her already has her hormones acting all crazy and the entire morning had been up against her.

The bed dips and before Dahyun can even say anything else, Mina’s already directing all of her energy to roll on her side and get as close as she can to whatever warmth her body had been craving this entire time. Rightfully so, Dahyun willingly gives it to her. 

Mina feels Dahyun’s arms wrap themselves around her shoulders, pulling her as close as she can. Dahyun must have been in quite a hurry to step out of the house because she’s still in her pajamas; Mina figures this out not by seeing it but by the familiar light vanilla scent and the soft, pilling texture of her overused plaid pajama top. 

Still, Mina nuzzles herself closer, allowing herself to drown in the one part of her life she can never get enough of: Dahyun. She allows herself the pleasure of drowning in everything about Dahyun, in her overwhelmingly wholesome hug, in her faint vanilla smell, in her permeating warm company. 

This is it. This is life. This is all Mina could ever ask for. 

As if she was the magic switch that could end all chaos, the divine intervention that could change the course of Mina’s impossible start, every mishap of her morning slowly blows away into the lovely morning Mina is only beginning to recognize now. 

Every struggling piece of her fits in this embrace and Mina finds solitude in the beat of Dahyun’s heart against hers. She’s found peace in Dahyun and suddenly, Mina finds the courage to face the world again. Suddenly, everything feels easy again. 

And everything does become easy.

One moment Mina a second away from boring a hole right through the ceiling with her torpid staring, a phone-call down from telling her assistant to cancel all her appointments today, and in another moment she’s getting pulled around the house and looking far out into the expanse of greenery surrounding their house, rocking herself in the patio swing. 

“Here you go”, Dahyun arrives from the kitchen with a tray of breakfast. She sits down right beside Mina. “Belgian waffles and your Starbucks order, as per my gut feeling earlier.” 

Mina grabs the tray without sparing Dahyun a look. She scoffs, “I should’ve married your gut feeling then.”

The thing is, sometimes, Mina thinks aging has affected her wife’s ability to catch up on things. On most occasions, her suspicions are proven wrong. Dahyun still laughs first whenever Jeongyeon cracks some joke that takes most of them a minute later to comprehend. It’s just that, when it comes to things  of the heart, sometimes, Dahyun gets oblivious. 

Thankfully, her wife gets it instantly today. 

“Are you really upset that I left without you this morning?”

Well, not entirely. 

The huff that Mina blows out–while perfectly keeping her eyes on her waffles and slicing through it with her breadknife–is enough of an answer.

“Okay. Fine.” Dahyun sighs in defeat. “I’m really sorry I had to leave in such a rush, unnie. I woke up at six-thirty and the print shop didn’t open on Saturdays but I made a request and they could only wait until seven! I couldn’t even change! I’m really sorry!”

She feels doomed. The silence hangs in the air in an unfamiliar tension, thick and heavy. Mina sits right beside her, propped up and elegantly calm, looking up at her from the rim of her glasses.

Dahyun feels like she’s getting a thorough X-ray scan. In her head she imagines just how Mina will drop the bomb on her because of this slip-up. She’s read more than once how pregnant women get heavily carried away by their emotions. 

We’re getting a divorce” doesn’t sound like the right words to put on a colorful invitation card-—

“Alright.” 

“What?” Dahyun feels like a bucket of ice-cold water has just dropped over her head. 

Mina finishes her waffles and then takes a sip from her iced tea. She shrugs. “I said alright. I can’t stay mad at you for long. You know that.” 

The feeling is akin to a weight being lifted from her shoulders, air filling her lungs again. Dahyun wiggles closer to Mina, wrapping her arms around the older woman. 

“Oh my god”, she breathes out in relief. “I thought you were going to break up with me because of it. I’m really, truly sorry, Mitang.” 

Mina’s giggle sends a flurry of hair strands tickling at Dahyun’s cheek. “I can’t exactly divorce you on the grounds of not giving me a goodbye kiss. That’s just gonna be a massive headache for our lawyers.” 

“You pay them more than enough to sort that kind of stuff out so I wouldn’t be surprised if they do pull it off—” 

“Well, you have nothing to worry about”, Mina interjects, gently pulling an arm out of Dahyun’s embrace and wrapping it around her shoulders to pull her closer. “You’re stuck with me forever, Kim. You just have to promise me good morning and goodbye kisses.” 

“In exchange for a lifetime with you?” Dahyun mocks a dramatic gasp. “Aren’t you selling yourself short, Myoui?” 

“That, and you have to start on the storage room today.” 

Dahyun pulls away with a confused frown. “I thought we had to meet the girls today?” 

Mina runs a hand through the mess of her loose hair, tucking them behind her ears. “Well yes. But it’s just eight, darling. I have a photoshoot after lunch and Nayeon and Jihyo don’t get out of work until five o’ clock.”

The exasperated sigh Dahyun lets out is comical. Although their schedule was packed to the brim, it being three weeks away from Mina’s due date, Dahyun expected to just chill today with and join Mina around for her work. She had finished all compositions not due for another week, had gone through all her pending documents and rescheduled all appointments for today just for this. Dahyun was pushing storage room clean-out duty for at least another week or so, before they leave for Japan. 

The baby’s not going to sleep in their own room for another year. No need to hurry… 

“Do I have to do that today? All by myself?” Dahyun whines, already foreseeing the terror of having to go through all the memorabilia in their storage room. 

“I already called back-up. Chaeng, Tzuyu, and Yerimmie are coming today to help out.” Mina presses a kiss on the crown of Dahyun’s head before pushing herself off the patio swing. She stretches her back a little before smiling back at her wife, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, my package just arrived and I wanna open it already.” 

“Is that the box in the middle of the room? I nearly tripped over that—” Dahyun isn’t even finished talking when a squeal breaks out and she sees Mina already skeddadling to the living room, slowly kneeling before the coffee table, a large box open right before her. 

Dahyun hasn’t seen the woman this happy since they went to Legoland in Nagoya for their wedding anniversary. 

“What’s that?” 

Nothing can make her this happy other than—

“Lego.”

—lego, yes.

Dahyun grabs the finished breakfast stray and hops off the swing, joining Mina walks in the living room. “For the nursery or…?”

Mina takes out various boxed Lego City sets, squealing at every moment like a child who’s just gotten the toy she asked for on Christmas morning. “It’s for the display.”

“In which playroom? Ours or the baby’s?” 

The thing with teasing Mina is that it's completely a privilege. Dahyun doesn't get to tease Mina at work, that's irking her own boss. She doesn't get to tease Mina outside, that's setting herself up a shunning for rising against the Nation's Angel. The only time she ever truly gets to make jokes at Mina is at home, and it's always going to be about her adorable child-like fascination with legos.

It riles up Mina the best. “As if you don’t have an army of stuffed toys on display in the room…” 

“At least I’m not building an entire mini-city and playing god with lego toys…” Dahyun still pokes, having half the mind to back away from the grave she’s digging for herself and half the mind to continue teasing her beloved wife.

“Why are you judging me for this when I’m not judging you for trying to build your own highly-organized military force of teddy bears the other day?” Mina rebukes. “And please, for the love of god, stop calling the storage room a playroom. ” 

She turns to face her wife with a playful scowl this time. “Do you know how many times Nayeon has winked and wiggled her eyebrows at us because of it? She thinks we have some kind of sexy playroom in our house when it’s really just a room with your figurines and stuffed toys, and that trampoline obstacle course you got last year.” 

“Let them think what they want to think, unnie.” It’s Dahyun’s turn to wiggle her eyebrows at Mina this time. “They don’t have to know how many times I’ve beaten you in trampoline basketball. Kim: 5, Other-Kim: 0.” 

The title has Mina snorting. Back in their haydays, she was The Mina Myoui. She has no idea how she’s gotten this low in her life. “I’ve been reduced to being the 'Other Kim' now. I can’t believe it.” 

Dahyun is prepared to go on and on with the playful bantering (it’s been a hectic morning; this is the closest to lovey-dovey time with her wife today), but then Mina’s phone rings and the the familiar sound of Pachelbel’s Canon in rock version echoes in the entire open living space, cutting their time short. 

Mina excuses herself, muttering something about just wanting some peace time with her legos before making her way upstairs. 

(One thing very useful–and not, at the same time–with having an open-layout house is the easy auditory perception of calls, messages, and other necessary alarms. 

Dahyun could stand in the farthest corner of the house–the one-walled hallway leading to Mina's dance room in the south wing–and Mina would still hear the sound of her KT notifications.) 

Dahyun tends to her phone while waiting, sitting down by the coffee table and the box of legos, and catching her breath from all of the explaining and hurrying she’s done in the last thirty minutes. 

Dahyun opens Kakaotalk, checking the chat room with the girls that she and Mina had totally not muted because it’s too noisy. Just. Because. Well. It’s too hard to keep up. 

Nayeon is the loudest among them, both in physical and virtual lives. She created the group chat ever since Chaeyoung had introduced to her the wonders of Kakaotalk and has since then abused her administrative powers by flooding them with messages talking about everything and anything. 

It’s fine, Dahyun and Mina had grown to accept it as a part of their daily life already. They aren’t in the position to complain when Jeongyeon lives with Nayeon herself and still replies to the chat whenever Nayeon asks about her day—as if they don’t live in the same house…

For today, it’s Nayeon and Momo in mama bear mode. 

99+ Unread Messages. Just as expected. 

Dahyun thinks it would take her another hour to register everything down so she just skims through the latest ones sent this morning, which are mostly just Momo’s reminders of today’s change of plans for Dahyun and Nayeon’s “DAHYUN’S BABYSITTING SERVICES NOW OPEN!!”

She types a reply back, asking what time the two are dropping off their respective daughters. She isn’t even surprised anymore when Nayeon only takes a second or two before firing back a response: 

I’m off driver duty 2day  😀

Momo, with that wrecked phone of hers that belongs to a museum and a junkyard at the same time, sends a message an entire minute after Nayeon’s. 

Scary Kang picked up Tzuyu 15 mins ago. Probably on the way now   👩❤️💋👩👩❤️💋👩👩❤️💋👩💕💕💕💕🐻

A flood of random messages follow right after, including a picture of Jeongyeon sleeping with Kookeu on her face that Nayeon sends without any hesitation and a surge of random pictures from Momo’s gallery. 

Dahyun tries to react to each one, enjoying the virtual company and considering the thought of unmuting the chat, but when Momo accidentally sends a video of Sana dancing in what looks like a hotel room, filmed with a steamy rosy filter and eyes making out with the camera, all thoughts of consideration are thrown out the window.

The last messages she reads are Nayeon’s 👀👀👀 and Jeongyeon's coincidentally-perfect-timed:

MINATOZAKI??! U SHOW THAT TO YOUR CHILD?? 🥵🔞

Nayeon probably comes up with a snarky question to Jeongyeon’s perfect-timed appearance but Dahyun doesn’t stay long enough to see it. She shuts her phone off, tries not to think too much about whatever induced that steamy dance session, and mentally goes through her plans for the day instead. 

After much contemplation, Mina and Dahyun decided to renovate the storage and guest rooms instead of building an entire separate house for the baby. It saves more money and time for them. The only things they had to do were a little renovating of the guest room and cleaning out the storage room beside it. 

Enter Mina’s victims for this afternoon: Son Chaeyoung, Chou Tzuyu, and Kang Yerim. 

Jeongyeon, Sana, and Irene call it twelve hours of freedom. Nayeon, Momo, and Seulgi call it free babysitting services. 

Sometimes Dahyun wonders, when have they all grown up?

It feels like it was only last chapter when she was still the baby of the group. Now she's babysitting her unnies' kids and expecting her own.

 

🌈

 

Dahyun plops down on the edge of their bed, towel-drying the ends of her hair as she watches Mina pace back and forth in front of her, locking her earring in.

"By the way, I thought you didn’t have to leave until later?”

Mina lets out a sigh after finally getting her pearls in. She grabs her necklace from the vanity, handing them over to Dahyun to lock it for her.

"Sora called. The interviewer for the Vogue shoot came in early. Said the schedule for the interview would either be right now or in another week." Mina slides her hair to the side, squirming a little under the ghost of Dahyun's touch on her nape. “You know we have to leave for Japan next week, baby.” 

Dahyun only nods back, going through the calendar of important dates in her head. They were only three weeks away from Mina’s due date and settling down in Japan first was of utmost importance. They had to file documents and get papers ready for the baby’s arrival. 

“In that case, are you sure you want an interview session so early and by yourself? I could catch up and leave the storage room duty with the girls, if you want”, Dahyun offers after locking the necklace in place, turning Mina around by the shoulder. 

“And risk leaving all three kids here unsupervised?” Mina huffs. “No thank you, my love.” She chuckles fondly before leaning in and pressing a soft kiss on the corner of Dahyun’s lips. “Besides, I can do it. Nothing I can’t handle.” 

"I keep on forgetting I’m married to Forbes 2020’s sixth most powerful woman on earth."

That gets Mina laughing bashfully, cheeks blushing at the thought of that stupid annual list she made history for. The girls handed out free copies of the magazine everywhere they went. It didn’t take long before Mina catapulted again on the ladders of fame and popularity among the current generation. She is now running for fourth place in 2021’s The World's Most Powerful People issue, the youngest Asian woman on the list. 

Mina finishes getting ready and before Dahyun even knows it, she’s already jogging after the older girl hurrying out of the house. 

“Please tell Seulgi and Irene unnie I’m sorry I couldn’t stay long enough to see them again. I’ll make up for it next time!”

Dahyun can only nod,  watching as Mina rounds the luxury car and gets in, carefully as to not ruin her maxi dress. 

(Her mother wouldn’t like to hear Mina still driving while a few weeks away from her due date, but truth be told, Dahyun actually believes the woman could compete in a race and win first even in her current state. Mina had the driving expertise of a seasoned truck driver.)

“I love you, okay?” Mina exclaims after rolling down the window. “You can visit the shoot when you’re done and the kids are home already. I’d love to see you there, babe.” 

“Yes, ma’am”, Dahyun chuckles. “I’ll drop by before you go!””

Mina smiles back, nodding. They exchange last few reminders about the storage room and the boxes they can use to keep the excess stuffs,  about the extra room down the south wing where Dahyun can store those things (“So...the things in the storage room will be put in...another storage room?”), and about labeling things that will go and will stay. 

“Please don’t be too sentimental in your trip to memory lane, okay, honey?” 

Dahyun can’t promise but since Mina is running late already, getting restless in front of the wheel, she nods. “Okay, unnie…” 

Mina spends a second or two hesitating about leaving Dahyun all alone with the housework, but the screen on the center console lights up with an incoming call from an unknown number and Mina is brought with no other choice but to take it, waving at Dahyun one last time and blowing a kiss for her before driving away. 

The moment Mina’s silver Porsche Taycan disappears into the main road, Dahyun takes in a deep breath, welcoming a lungful of the musky, sylvan smell of her surroundings that always brings a peaceful silence to an otherwise chaotic disposition. 

Dahyun takes in another lungful of air, calming her nerves down. She’ll be needing all of the peace and motivation she can get for today’s chores. 

 

🌈

 

The shoot location is a loft warehouse in the outskirts of Seoul, on the topmost floor of a high-rise corporate building. The loft is nondescript and minimally industrial, expansive enough to fit the photoshoot set, the production team, and the hair and makeup people all in one space. 

The sounds of the photographer testing the camera flashes and studio lighting play over the subdued bossa nova background music, people in face masks and comfortable-looking clothes walking around, unknown to her existence. 

Shin Kwangho sees her first, immediately bursting in a high-pitched squeal that slices through the chilly air of tranquility in the room, startling a few set people in the process. 

“MINA! DARLING!” He rushes over in his black faux fur coat, smile doubling and eyes crinkling in glee as he takes in all of Mina’s thirty-three-weeks-along glory. “You. Look. DAZZLING.”

Mina finds the compliment hard to believe when she feels like an oversized bowling ball is strapped around her waist but she gets through, understanding there are not enough words in the universe that can fully justify the emotional and physical turmoil of carrying a child. 

“I highly doubt that but thank you very much”, Mina smiles, pressing herself into a welcoming hug with Vogue Korea’s Editor-in-Chief. “I’m very grateful you chose to do this with me, Kwangho-ssi.” 

“What are you talking about? I’m the one who should be grateful you chose us to do this with”, Kwangho huffs, hugging Mina’s arm and dragging her around the set. “It is definitely Vogue Korea’s honor to have the one and only Myoui Mina on its 2021 cover.”

Mina can only chuckle bashfully, directing her smile to the passing crew members instead who, in turn, bow at her greeting. 

“And with this honor, we brought in for you only the best from Vogue Korea’s arsenal of writers”, Kwangho drones on as they stop in front of frosted glass doors leading to what looks like a conference room. He uses his free hand to push open the door, presenting a woman sitting by the chair next to the head of the table. 

The lady is busy writing something on her notebook but when she looks up and notices Mina’s presence, the nonexistent Loudest Person award is snatched away from Kwangho’s hands and given to this woman. 

The squeal she lets out is enough to send Mina flinching. Even her unborn child probably felt the uncomfortable scratch of the woman’s shrieking against their eardrums. 

Unlike her, Kwangho doesn’t seem to be anywhere near a damaged eardrum, grinning from ear to ear as he introduces the two to each other, “Mina, this is Kim Jiwoo, Vogue Korea’s esteemed Executive Editor.” 

Amidst the potentially-damaged eardrum, Mina thinks Kim Jiwoo is a remarkably familiar sight for sore eyes. Then Kwangho introduces her again as “Chuu” and the recognition hits her like an unforeseen, very unfortunate lightning strike. 

“Chuu from the Apgujeong Daily?!”

The signature pearl-white smile is flashed at her along with a cute, playful wink, “The one and only!” 

Kim Jiwoo, popularized as Chuu, was the only underclassman (aside from Dahyun of course) that Mina really knew and adored. She was a year younger and in the school journalism club, often the mind and pen behind the features on the paper that always spoke to Mina that she couldn’t believe someone had that kind of way with words. Mina loved reading and she absolutely loved reading Chuu’s articles even if it meant paying for copies of the school paper. 

They hardly ever spoke to each other in high school, as Mina was often busy with practices and her friends, but at one point they talked after the piece Apgujeong Daily did on the winners of the ‘98 talent show and Mina was just absolutely smitten over the younger girl.

Chuu had the energy of a thousand suns. At first it was overwhelming but the girl had the natural inclination of appeal and sincerity that just pulled in people to her. She was kind of like the louder, more energetic version of Dahyun, just when Mina was beginning to believe no one else could surpass her wife. 

Chuu, twenty-two years later, still has the same innate ability in her, albeit a thousand times more.

“Unnie! I missed you so much! It’s so good to see you!” Chuu squeals into the hug she gives, tight enough that Mina can feel the undeniable warmth she radiates for the world. 

When they pull away, Chuu launches into a lengthy speech on how she volunteered to do this interview and piece the moment she heard it was for and about Mina. “Writing isn’t really in my job description anymore, unnie, but I just had to see you again! I thought, ‘why don’t I write your piece instead?’ just like old times!”

And the old times, they definitely get. 

 

🌈

 

Truth be told, Dahyun is very much close friends with the Kangs even without the involvement of Chaeyoung and Yerim's friendship.

The first time Dahyun met the beautiful couple, she was looking through the assortment of bouncy houses in Costco (Dahyun remembers precisely because the bouncy house was a gift for Mina, for their wedding anniversary).

Irene and Seulgi Kang were looking through the shelves of laundry supplies behind Dahyun. The moment Dahyun laid eyes on the two, the first thing she noticed was the fabric softener in Irene's hold. She wondered how someone with such skinny hands could carry five liters of lavender fabric softener. That was enough to convince Dahyun Irene Kang was a superhuman back then. Also, super cool. And then her eyes drifted to the woman following behind Irene, Seulgi Kang, pushing a grocery cart with four cartons of boxed chardonnay and six boxes of pinot noir.

Kim Dahyun was convinced then and there: Irene and Seulgi were the coolest people in the entire Costco warehouse at that moment. 

She approached them for the wine, felt a little intimidated by Irene Kang's glaring when she asked for their opinions on which bouncy house looked the coolest, and just felt an instant click when Seulgi answered with the same bouncy house Dahyun had been considering, making up for Irene's intimidating stares with her eye smiles and welcoming tone.

A couple of months later she found out Yerim was Chaeyoung’s best friend. The rest had been history since then.

Kim Dahyun is most likely the only person on earth–aside from Seulgi, Yerim, and Yeeun Kang–who could tell scary Mrs. Kang right on the face: “You look awful today, unnie. Is something going on?”

(It takes a shit ton of guts telling a former beauty queen with a level three krav maga expertise that she looks awful in broad daylight. 

In Dahyun’s defense, looking “awful” in Irene Bae-Kang language means radiance in a white off-shoulder dress and a pink giant sun hat, and a few bags under her eyes only noticeable up close to make her look less spellbinding and more human.)

“That’s what comes with the baby package, Dahyunnie”, Irene chuckles as she steps inside the Chevy Tahoe with a huff. “Speaking of baby, thank you again, by the way, for taking Yerim off our hands today. That’s one baby down, two more to go.” 

Dahyun frowns in a mix of confusion and shock. “Two? Are you…? ” 

“What? No!” Irene cackles uncharacteristically, slapping Dahyun in the arm. 

She revolts at the idea of another child in her age, pursing her lips at something over Dahyun’s shoulders and clarifying instead, “I was talking about those two!” 

Dahyun turns around and sees Seulgi playing an intense game of tag with her two-year-old daughter.

“Oh.” 

In the process of running away from Yeeun, Seulgi collides with Yerim and falls on the floor with a huff; dumbfounded for a split second, she meets eyes with Yeeun and pauses for a beat—then proceeds to burst into hysterical laughter right after. She and Yeeun continue playing like nothing happened.

“Anyhow, Yerim doesn’t really have any dust allergies or anything. You can go make her do all the work, no problem for me”, Irene smiles and Dahyun almost thinks she’s joking until the smile disappears and Irene just downright begs, “Honestly. Please. Make her move around. The other day she bought Anlene for her back. My twenty-year-old daughter has a bad back and cracking bones. Kids these days…"

Dahyun nods warily in spite of being unable to register the thought of Yerim buying milk supplements for older people. 

Seulgi and Yeeun walk out to the driveway just in time as Irene starts the car. She's driving back now after Seulgi nearly ran them off the driveway after seeing a cute butterfly flutter in front of the window. 

"It's a very nice house, Dahyunnie", the kinder Mrs. Kang greets with Yeeun in her hold, who looks up at Dahyun with wide bright eyes and a lovely toothless smile. 

"Yeeun was excited in her seat the entire time. She was expecting a tiger would jump out any second."

"She thought we were in a zoo, Dahyun. Both Yeeun and Seul did."

Dahyun laughs at the indignant scoff Seulgi lets out. "Don't worry, unnie. It's alright. Mitang and I get that a lot."

"You know what else you'll get a lot today?"

"What?"

"Questions." Seulgi answers on behalf of her wife. "Yerim has the curiosity of an entertainment show host."

"In short, she asks a lot of questions, Dahyun", Irene adds. "I suppose having three curious teens at your house will spark a lot of those for you.” 

No matter how serious Irene gets, Dahyun always gives her the benefit of the doubt and does the same for now, believing the older woman just because she can but not entirely. It’s just normal for someone to be curious, Dahyun supposes. 

The girls wouldn’t be too much, right? 

 

🌈

 

Mina settles in the chair right beside where Chuu initially sat and waited from, diving into a quick catching up first. Kwangho leaves them to check on the styling team’s choices for Mina’s attire on the shoot. 

“How far along are you, unnie?” Chuu asks first after settling down on her seat. 

“Thirty-three weeks”, Mina answers with a smile. 

The nerves have yet to find their way to her, possibly because she and Dahyun have prepared for the d-day more times than they can count and the lamaze classes are really doing a spectacular job on calming her down.

“When I was that far along with Hyejoo, I was hysterical!” Chuu exclaims with much emotion. “The only thing stopping my wife from locking me in a straitjacket was our marriage certificate.”

The name rings a bell. “Wife?” 

Chuu must love her so much because it shows. Just when her smile couldn’t get any wider, her eyes any brighter, they just do. It’s like she’s talking about all the beautiful wonders of the world, as if this woman is an absolute dream personified. 

“Sooyoung, unnie.” Chuu answers matter-of-factly. “Ha Sooyoung.” 

And then it hits Mina for the second time in a row. “The Muse of the Dance Troupe?” 

The pride on Chuu’s face is second to none. “Yep. That’s her alright.” 

She talks about Sooyoung and their on-and-off romance, about how they pursued different paths in college and only met again on one fateful night that just sparked everything back, as if all their stars were meant to align one more time with each other. 

“We got married right after my internship for the Korea Herald. Eloped to Canada for a ceremony and some certification because I wanted to have it legalized just so I could get an official document to slap at her parents’ faces.” 

Mina chuckles at that, unable to imagine the Chuu she knows from high school, an innocent and pure little puppy, doing exactly what she had just said. Time really does change people. 

“Then we had Hyejoo about three years later, 2008. She’s in sixth grade now, entering her emo phase too early but we love her very much.” 

Mina can just imagine how adorable and pretty Hyejoo must be.

“How about you, unnie? We just heard from the news that you got married. And then a few months later, found out it was to Kim Dahyun. As in the Kim Dahyun!” Chuu blurts gleefully, hands clenched in excited little fists.

“Were you two like, strong ever since?” Chuu breaks through her contemplation, asking in genuine curiosity. “We kinda made a bet on it back in high school but we only got it confirmed seven years later, when you two got married.”

Mina shakes her head in turn. “Well, no. We also got separated during college and then only met again a few years after graduation. Similar to you and Sooyoung?” 

“Oooooh~ I wanna know more–wait!” Chuu cuts herself off. “Before we go on, unnie”, she grabs her pen and makes a show of opening her notebook. “I’m gonna make some notes. It might be relevant to the piece I’m making about you.” 

Chuu presents to her a bunch of questions she’s listed down for Mina to filter through, choose which are comfortable enough to write a piece on. “We can just remove whatever it is you want to exclude when we’re done.” 

Mina thinks that’s a good deal. Besides, it wouldn’t hurt to go through memory lane too. Dahyun’s probably doing the same right now. 

 

 

The Kangs leave after a few farewells and a forceful kiss on Yerim’s creased forehead. Dahyun doesn’t catch the warning Irene throws in for her daughter’s behavior but whatever it is, fifteen minutes into showing the girls the travesty that is the storage room, it doesn’t work. 

Yerim holds up a small tattered notebook, Volkswagen cover folded and ripped in the edges. “Unnie? What’s this?” 

Dahyun remembers it in one glance. 

A little trip down memory lane doesn’t hurt, right? 

“That’s from when Mina and I broke up…?”

Scratch that. It hurts. It hurts me.  

 

 

(Twenty years ago, 2000)

They try to make it work. 

Because Dahyun wants to at least tell the universe she tried to save whatever she could. Because she doesn’t want to go down knowing she didn’t try

But sometimes, trying doesn’t cut out. Sometimes, it’s not enough. 

So, even with her trying, they only make it up to a year and a few months. 

Dahyun is somewhere between finalizing her junior year papers and entering her senior year, drowning in a sea of extracurriculars to attend and early college applications to fix, and Mina is in the middle of gathering data for her research on the hierarchies of modern dance and its correlation to existing socioeconomic classes, and juggling theater ballet with her other academic obligations.

Somewhere in the chaotic storm brought on by their new lives, sporadic handwritten letters, expensive long-distance calls, and hastily-typed emails slot in and welcome them to a new normalcy. 

They don’t see each other anymore but Mina finds Dahyun smiling back at her through the picture in her wallet, through every passing day the sun peeks down at her from the blue skies, through every single time the radio plays old hits from the Goo Goo Dolls and H.O.T. 

Dahyun remembers Mina from the flowers that bloom along the sidewalk on her way to school; she finds her in the breeze of springtime afternoon, when she's standing underneath a blossoming tree waiting for the bus, and a cool gust blows the hem of her long skirt, a flower falling gently from the branch, just like Mina's entrance in her life, like a soft, almost-ghostly kiss from the universe.

They find themselves in the fragments of the everyday world, creating the illusion of each other's ghost, replaying a vivid memory of a not-so distant past.

This new normalcy reduced them into desiring beings, wanting more yet getting less. 

Dahyun likes to think she has grown wiser in the past two years. She had lowered her expectations and lessened her efforts of trying. She did it, but she didn't either.

When her father gets sick a month before senior year begins, Dahyun had to sacrifice what remained of her energy and time for her unnies to tend to her filial duties. She had to make a decision between staying or leaving for good and moving on to a new chapter in her life, one that painted a hazy picture of a life without six other girls.

She calls Mina from the hospital reception phone on a Saturday night, knowing the girl would be less busy then. She cuts to chase, excusing herself with her limited time and a lie at the front desk nurse's disappointed frown, talking about an impatient caller waiting next to her instead.

"Unnie, can we meet on Friday? I think we need to talk." 

As expected, the stretch of the silence that greets back is enough to answer her. When Mina finally responds, it's with a downturn of her tone and a hesitancy that laces itself around the edges of her words.

"This friday, Dahyunnie?"" 

Dahyun nods, and then realizes Mina wouldn't see her. She won't until Friday, at least. "Yes. Please. It's important."

It's only fair they compromise. One of the most imperative contributing factors to their downfall is the distance. So Dahyun introduces Mina to one of the very few cafes she frequents whenever she has the rare luxury of more-than-enough bus coins and a mind running solely on impulsivity, and Mina, perhaps sensing the thick coat of apprehension in Dahyun's voice, hesitantly agrees.

"Okay. I'll see you then." Her voice is meek, reluctant, as if the idea of taking back her agreement sits right on the tip of her tongue. It probably is.

Dahyun, regardless of everything, feels grateful for this chance. "Thank you, unnie."

She owes Mina this much. In spite of everything, they both tried to make it work.

"Okay." Mina lets out a soft yawn. 

Dahyun takes it as her cue to end the call. "See you, unnie."

"See you." Then, there it comes again. The pause. A beat of hesitancy. Mina makes the same choice time and time again. "I love you, Dahyunnie."

Mina pulls the taut rope and lets the wrecking ball swing at her heart on an endless loop of an illusion to a happy ending.

Dahyun thinks it's about time they stop. Like all the other nights where she finds her heart torn between giving herself a rest or continuously beating for a hope at a favorable ending, she chooses to do the same thing too, over and over again.

"Good night, unnie." She doesn't want to hurt her even more. She doesn't tell her I love you too.

Dahyun thinks, of all the things she could give back to Mina, it should be the luxury of the time and freedom she had taken away from the girl first, and, at the very least, a proper goodbye.

 

 

Mina Myoui is twenty years old when she finds herself trudging through an inch’s layer of snow draping the concrete sidewalks of downtown Mapo-gu like a thick white blanket. With each breath she blows, a small cloud forms in front of her face, and every passing second the cold bite of the winter season chips through the layers of her coat, prickling against her skin. 

The weather forecast on the news earlier reported the coldest night in recorded history, Seoul practically a giant freezer at this point. So when the sight of Hoho Myoll Cafe finally meets Mina’s vision, she doesn’t help the sigh of relief that escapes her trembling lips. Finally. 

Her insides feel like mush right now, the prickling of a thousand needles leaving a tingling sensation permeating all throughout her body. Mina realizes this isn’t from the biting winter season storming downtown Seoul when she walks inside the visually-pleasing cafe and stands before three heaters, clad in four layers of clothing, and the prickling sensation doesn’t leave her system. 

Mina scans the space, bathed in variegated colors of fairy lights strung around on the walls. The first thing that stands out is the split window safari Volkswagen bus parked inside the cafe, used as some kind of furniture that adds to the vintage, hippie feel of the interior. 

Mina doesn’t get to enjoy much of the aesthetic design of the cafe, not when her eyes immediately find themselves magnetically pulled to the sight of golden hair cascading a padded-coat-clad back turned against her, Kim Dahyun’s profile coming into the perfect view. 

The prickling sensation only intensifies itself with each and every step Mina takes. She feels unfamiliar with it, only used to the beats her heart skips whenever she’s within Dahyun’s space. This feels raw and unnerving, like the door opening to something uncertain, something Mina isn’t so sure she’s ready for. 

“Dahyun?” The name leaves her lips unfamiliarly. Mina’s only ever gotten used to thinking about it, about this moment. Witnessing it in the flesh makes her insides knot and twist into coils.

When she finally takes the seat right across the table and sees Dahyun in all the glory of a year’s worth of repressed wanting, Mina feels like the air had been knocked right out of her lungs. The next four words that leave Dahyun’s lips do the work for her. 

“Unnie, we should stop.” 

Mina doesn’t even get to sit entirely. She freezes halfway through, afraid sitting down would mean coming into terms with how real the predicament before her is. 

“I...w-what?” 

There’s a cup of coffee right in front of Dahyun. She takes a short sip before putting down the cup slowly, hesitantly. “I’m moving away and you’re getting busy, unnie. I think it would be for the better if we stop right now before everything becomes more serious and we get hurt.” 

“U-Uh…” Not a single thought crosses Mina’s head. She looks at Dahyun and feels a jackhammer against her chest. “Wow.” 

Mina looks back on the one hour travel she’s gone through to get here. She thinks of all the words she thought of on the way, of how many I love you’s she wanted to say. Nothing in her head prepared her for this.

“I...I’m sorry if…” Mina racks her brain for something to say. “I'm sorry if...I got too busy and didn't have the time to respond to you or visit.” Mina feels her chest constrict. “School was being an ass and before I could finish one project there was already another waiting and—"

"Unnie, you don't have to apologize. I understand."

"But I don't!" Mina feels all of her emotions push at her, at her voice and at the erratic beat of her heart chasing for the end of this rope, so she can hold on it tighter and not let it slip anymore. She doesn't want to let go so bad.

Dahyun pulls away at the rise of her tone, blinks at her in a conflicted, startled manner, as if whoever is sitting in front of her isn’t Mina anymore. Mina can't blame her. She's never raised her voice before, has always held a firm grip over her emotions and thoughts. 

Lately, however, Mina is seeing it for herself. She’s becoming every bit the person she never thought she’d be.

"Dahyun", Mina calls out in a lower, pleading voice, trying to regain what remains of her composure. "I understand this is hard and it's my fault.” But it’s proving to be really hard when it’s beginning to feel like she’s losing her everything right now. “But we haven't even given it a shot! And I'm going to try harder! I promise! I'll visit you in breaks and write to you and—"

"Unnie. I'm not going to leave you." Dahyun tries to convince herself that too, but Mina’s far too knowing to see the younger doesn’t mean it the way she wants her to. 

"I just think it would be best for us both not to have anything holding us back, you know? Anyone holding us back. I don't want you to compromise your future just to be with me, unnie. I'd never want that. You love doing what you do. And I love you too much to take that away from you."

Mina can see it. How this will ruin her. The words that come out of Dahyun's lips are beautiful, coated in the honesty and gentleness that flows innate from the younger girl. But come her honesty is the inevitable truth that Mina had long tried to shove down. That this isn’t going to happen, no matter how hard they try. Maybe this just isn’t their time yet. 

"I just think it'd be better if we let ourselves live without feeling guilty for missing out on one another, you know? For not returning a letter or making time for a call. You'll be busier now, unnie. I know you have a lot of things to do. I don't want to hold you back."

Mina feels exasperated. "But you don't hold me back!"

"I do, unnie. I know you feel it too, you just don't want to face it. I do hold you back. And I don't want that."

"Then what do you want us to do now?" There seems to be no point begging her way to this when Dahyun looks at a fixed decision. "Do you want us to just...stop?"

"I'm fine with anything you want to do, unnie. I just—I can't promise you I'd respond or write as much. And I don't want you to feel obligated to as well. Do whatever you want to do."

"What if I don't want this?" Mina looks at Dahyun through the tears pooling in her eyes. "I don't want to lose you, Dahyun.”

"You won't, unnie. We'll meet again in the future." Dahyun sounds so sure of it, she’s almost convinced. "We'll meet again and we'll know what to do then. For now, I don't want us to regret ruining what can be beautiful just because we don’t want to lose it. So please, unnie?"

This might just be the one time in Mina's entire life where she wants to turn Dahyun down, where she finally wants to say no. Every part of her body is pulling at her to say no. Because if leaving Dahyun and moving away didn’t ruin her enough, this definitely would. 

"Fine." But it’s Dahyun. It’s always going to be Dahyun. And all it took was one word to break Mina apart from the inside out. "Promise me we'll meet again, please?"

It feels a lot like a break-up even though they were never together in the first place.

"I promise, unnie. We'll meet again."

They share their last kiss there, a shy press against each other’s lips, because Mina’s afraid if she lets herself linger more then she won’t be able to help Dahyun with what she wants. She won’t ever let Dahyun go. 

So Mina kisses her again and leaves before Dahyun could even say goodbye. Because while she prepared a thousand I love you’s and a thousand sorry’s for tonight, not a single goodbye crossed her mind. 

 

 

(Present, 2020)

“I feel like this is gonna hurt and I shouldn’t want to hear it this bad”, the smile and giggle that comes from Chuu makes Mina forget the stories she’s telling are remnants of memories from the days she considers her darker, lonelier ones. 

Reminiscing these memories should pull up gloomy clouds above Mina’s skies but she can’t find it in her to frown at them. Her world revolves around a sun so bright, even when she’s not here, Mina can still feel her.  

After all, every decision she’s made in the past has made her who she is now and has contributed to bringing her where she is at the moment. Being with Dahyun in the end is what matters, I guess? 

“Did you see other people, unnie?” The question is abrupt and coming from nowhere. Mina’s eyes widen for a second, thinking Chuu’s just joking until the girl remains leaning closer over the table, eyes piqued with obvious interest. 

“Uh…” Being with Dahyun in the end is what matters, right? Then whatever’s in between doesn’t matter anymore… “Yes?”

Chuu’s eyes light up like an awestruck child. “OOOOOOH. TELL. ME.” 

Mina shifts in her seat. It kind of feels awkward talking about her past romantic involvement with the architect of their house. But. Whatever. In hindsight, I should be grateful for him too. He was the reason I got to meet Dahyun again.

“So. Um. We met in Paris…” 

 

 

 

(Seventeen years ago, 2003)

Mina met Yukio Takahara while in line for coffee and a pain au chocolat at Le Boulanger de la Tour. 

She had just turned twenty-three then; he was the same and a few days older, taking up his postgraduate studies in architecture at a prestigious school Mina, even after a year’s worth of French classes, couldn’t quite find the ability to pronounce just yet. 

Yukio was tall and a little on the thinner end of the spectrum. He had a nest of curly hair he liked dying to different colors, depending on the season and his artistic mood (for the spring of 2003, he wore it ash grey). He had a smile that came with small dimples on both corners of his lips, brought on easily by nearly everything Mina did, completed with a gentle laugh that could put Mina’s own to shame. 

In hindsight, Mina guesses it wasn’t hard liking Yukio. Not liking him would’ve posed the bigger challenge. 

Everything about him pointed to a happy ending for her. He belonged to the wealthy Takahara clan and was the scion of a personal-care-goods dynasty (earning him more brownie points from the elders of Mina's family). His upbringing had molded him into the refined man he is, much like the male counterpart of Mina herself.

Beneath his picture-perfect background, what mattered most to Mina was how funny and gentle Yukio was. He had a charm to him that felt familiar to Mina, like a favorite dance step performed for the first time again, every graceful movement danced to perfection from muscle memory. 

Yukio was the closest thing to feeling like home in Paris. Mina found herself gravitating towards him naturally albeit not entirely. 

He was a temporary solace that Mina had so shamelessly exploited. 

Yukio was kind, funny, and gentle, and he reminded her so much of Dahyun.

They date in the end, Because if there was one thing being away from home taught Mina, it was to grab anything that reminded her of home. It was a blinding illusion, frankly, but it was a convoluted version of home nonetheless. 

 

 

It’s a typical night in Mina’s apartment, a Thursday cool-down from the onslaught of dance practices and French classes that filled her days and nights in the past weeks. 

There’s a salad takeout from Label Ferme idly half-emptied on her glass coffee table, a mug of chamomile tea sitting right beside it. On the television, an Ingrid Bergman movie plays like white noise; through the thick slab of wall behind her, faint radio music resounds in the room.

Mina had watched Casablanca about a dozen times already so she directs her attention on the light tender fingers pressing and kneading strained muscles around her feet and calves instead, unable to help herself from breathing out a sigh every now and then as she sits on the couch, back resting against the arm of the chair and feet propped up on her boyfriend’s lap. 

“You should be watching Rules of the Game instead, or any other film that’s French for that matter. Tsk tsk.” 

Her eyes flicker to the owner of the futile chiding, Yukio sneering at her playfully from the other end of the sofa. “Another Bergman won’t teach you proper verb conjugation, mon amour. This is the thirteenth time we’ve watched Casablanca.” 

“I'm just preparing for New York this Saturday, Mr. Takahara", Mina feigns annoyance with a roll of her eyes. “I need to revamp my English or else I’ll be stuck with a dictionary again for the rest of my stay.” 

At the reminder, they end up laughing more about the predicament they find themselves in, mostly Mina. They are foreigners in Paris, speaking Japanese to each other with Mina simultaneously studying French while preparing to travel to New York in a few days. At the speed she’s going, Mina won’t be surprised if she ends up mixing Korean, Japanese, French, and English altogether, fragments of each language blending with one another in a desperate attempt to communicate.

“How long will you be staying there again?” Yukio asks, the masseuse taking a break. He reaches over Mina’s legs for the half-emptied salad. “I only suggested New York to you and now you’re going so soon.” 

“Don’t miss me too much”, Mina teases without a thought. It backfires almost instantly. 

She only realizes her words when she meets Yukio’s eyes, suddenly glossed with an emotion akin to heartbreaking surprise that shouldn’t even be there. 

It’s selfish of her but Mina guarded herself and declared lots of things about her past off-limits. Every answer and every move were only carried out after careful deliberation. This slip of the tongue was only naturally surprising even if it shouldn’t have. 

“You don’t have to miss me. I’ll still get you those souvenirs you want.” Mina does her best attempt at damage control, laughing away uneasily. “I’ll get you the mug and the abominable I- heart- NY shirt.” 

That does just about it, the tension in the air fading away quickly with Yukio’s chuckling. 

 “Please don’t.” He shoves Mina's legs from his lap, laughing with dreadful frown at the thought of another I- heart- NY merch. “I already have enough as it is.” 

“Then I’ll get you a pillow!” 

“No.” 

“I was joking”, Mina chuckles softly at the sight of Yukio’s obvious distaste. “I only want to experience sending those repatriate boxes. It would be so fun filling them up and shipping them here.”

“Oh! Speaking of that…” Yukio jolts up from the sofa, standing in front of the TV with a wide grin on his face. “I picked up a package of yours while you were at practice earlier. I left it in my apartment. I’ll just go get it.” 

He doesn’t even let Mina say anything else before skipping away, crossing the minimal space between the living room and the entryway, out the door before Mina can even say okay

Yukio lives just down the same hall so it doesn’t take more than five minutes before he’s walking back in again, this time carrying with him a medium-sized box, decorated in packaging tape and stamps from customs. 

From overseas, Mina notes quickly just as Yukio puts down the box carefully on the space beside her. She racks her not-so-distant memory for any messages from her parents about a package but nothing rings a bell. This must be from someone else. 

The answer comes quicker than expected, in the form of a shipping label plastered on top of the box. 


SHIP TO: MINA SHARON MYOUI
RUE SAINT LOUIS EN L’ÎLE
75004 PARIS
FRANCE

SHIP FROM: JEONGYEON YOO
91954428
57 DU TOIT STREET
STANFORD CA 94305


Uncharacteristically, Mina’s initial reaction creates a loud thud in the living room, apparently the carpeted floor is not as injury-proof as she thought it would be, judging from her fall. 

Yukio is just as surprised as her, even more concerned at her response, but Mina’s too busy trying to shake her head out of clouds to notice that.

The tangible box before her feels like an illusion of her past, one touch and it’ll whisk away like a cloud of smoke. It’s been nearly four years since her last contact with Jeongyeon. Moving to Stanford suddenly brought her out of their radar, left unreachable for months until Dahyun wrote about her again in one of her many letters kept away in a secret box under Mina’s bed. 

“Jeongyeon Yoo?” The name rolls off his tongue unfamiliarly, thick with a funny concoction of accents living abroad whips up.  “Korean?” 

Mina nods, eyes unwavering on the mailing sticker, still dumbfounded. “A friend from high school.” 

“Oh yeah. You went to that international school in Obayashi, right?”

And that pulls Mina down from the clouds. “Oh. Um. No…” 

She hasn’t told him anything about the girls, about 1998.

“I studied in Korea for high school too.” The man she’s supposed to be dating doesn’t have the slightest clue about the greatest years of her life. “At least, for the last two years. Then I moved to the city for college and the rest is history.” 

The understanding smile on Yukio’s face is faint, muted by the disappointment that flashes across his face for a split second—a split second that is all the time Mina needs to see.

He doesn’t know anything about her past the last four years of her life that she’s thrown into the conversation spotlight. Mina only knows just as much about him, but that’s because it’s all there is. He doesn’t know because she doesn’t let him in—and Yukio seems to only understand that now.

“Well...I’ll...I’ll give you some time to reconnect then…” But of course, his kind heart doesn’t let it through. “I’ll be at my place. Call me up if you need anything, alright?”

Mina just nods wordlessly, unable to meet Yukio’s eyes again even after a light kiss on the cheek and a walk out the door. 

When she returns to the couch and looks down on the box again, she doesn’t believe her own eyes. When she slides the cutter across the packaging, ripping open the flaps, she doesn’t believe it’s all true. 

The next thing Mina knows, she’s appearing late to practice the next day, for the first time since stepping foot in Paris, disgruntled and hiding a pair of puffy eyes behind Bvlgari sunglasses.  

She tells Yukio on the night before she leaves for New York, before it could get too much already. He didn’t deserve only half of the love and affection he gave her.

Thirteen months of their relationship took a plunge down the drain because of a four-year-old mixtape. 

 

 

(Present, 2020)

“You broke up because of a...mixtape?” 

Mina can’t blame Chuu for reacting the way she did. The predicament did sound trivial to an outsider. How could Mina, someone who’s prided herself for her rationality and composure, react so recklessly? Throw away a successful relationship with a guy who seems to love her patiently enough and for what, a mixtape? 

“Yeah. It does sound stupid, no?” 

“Well…” 

“It was a playlist Dahyun made.” Mina chuckles as she clarifies. “She made it for me but it got lost and it ended up with Jeongyeon. The thing traveled all across the world just to reach me.” 

Years had gone by and a small part of Mina believed the playlist didn’t exist all along but that night in Paris proved her otherwise. She would have gone down the wrong path had it not been for a parcel long overdue, a mixtape four years late. 

“The mixtape connected you to Dahyun again? How?” Chuu asks, pen hovering over a half-filled page of her notebook. 

Mina didn’t even expect Chuu to have written so many things down already. “Not the mixtape. The note that came with it.”

“Note? On the mixtape?” 

Mina remembers Jeongyeon’s neat handwriting on a sticky note taped over the cassette tape. 

“What did it say?” 

It was one line, written in smaller letters to fit the space remaining. Mina smiles at the thought of it. 

“She’s in New York, making her dreams come true.” 

 “What is that supposed to mean?” Chuu pouts, confused. 

“Dahyun studied in the Manhattan School of Music. I was about to dance for the New York City Ballet. We were in the same place, at the same time.” 

 

 

The shock and pity on Yerim, Chaeyoung, and Tzuyu’s faces are comical. 

It’s as if they’re reliving the memory themselves, as if they’re standing in that moment, watching the scene unfold like some invisible, omniscient time traveler. Dahyun thanks the heavens they’re not one.  

It takes a while for the three girls to pick up their pace, still reeling from the emotional story of Dahyun and Mina’s not-really-breakup breakup and the little tales Dahyun could tell about their life after that. 

Within that time frame of shock, Dahyun takes a good look at the entire storage room, scans the dusty shelves and the boxes filling up the corners. It’ll definitely take them the entire day to finish all of this if they go at their current pace. 

“If we want to get this done before dinner, you guys better stop asking for the story behind every single—” 

“OH! How about this, unnie?” 

Dahyun is abruptly cut off by Tzuyu's cheerful curiosity. The younger girl waves a picture frame by the corner, kneeling in front of a moving box filled with keepsakes. 

Dahyun walks over with the same curiosity, half-wondering why she has a frame of what looks like a convenience store receipt—

"Oh", then it hits her upon closer inspection. "It's a concert ticket. Goo Goo Dolls 2004."

Dahyun would have noticed the way Yerim's eyes light up like a thousand-megawatt generator had just powered through it, had it not been for the vivid replay of a memory that flashes before her eyes, like a videotape had been slid into a VHS player and the exact moment unfolds like some movie scene. 

“You’re a fan of Goo Goo Dolls?” Chaeyoung asks from her corner, somewhere beside Tzuyu. 

Dahyun is unable to spare her even a single glance. “I like Iris. It’s my favorite song of all time.” 

“So you went to…” Yerim squints closer at the framed concert ticket. “Buffalo, New York just for that?” 

“I worked here to graduate university and then got a scholarship in New York for graduate school. I worked in New York for a few years.” Dahyun answers. 

(Her first job was at GroundZero Music, a small starting music company in Jeolla-do. In hindsight, maybe interning at a company of that name was already a bad idea itself, but twenty-three-year-old Dahyun didn’t know that yet and all that mattered then was securing enough money to help pay for her father’s hospital debt. 

Working as a loyal assistant to Mr. Jo paid off when one of his wealthier clients, a kind middle-aged woman from a bigger entertainment company, saw her potential in the composing industry and offered to sponsor music graduate school. Dahyun took it immediately and the next thing she knew, she was already being shipped off to the Manhattan School of Music.) 

“So why do you have the concert ticket then, unnie?” Tzuyu asks with bright curious eyes. “Did you perform with Goo Goo Dolls or something?” 

Dahyun laughs at the suggestion, elated by the idea that the younger girl even thought of such a thing. “No, I didn’t perform there, silly. It was a magical night.” 

“How magical?” Yerim raises an eyebrow. 

Dahyun searches her head for words to use but nothing can’t seem to encapsulate the miracles that happened that night. 

“Uh...the it’s-been-years-and-I-never-thought-we’d-meet-again-but-here-we-are kind of magical.” 

The passing beat of silence is enough to prod Dahyun to explain more. 

She chuckles lightly, remembering the night. “I never thought I’d see Mina again but I did. In New York. At a Goo Goo Dolls concert. It was raining and then my favorite song played.” 

 

 

(Sixteen years ago, 2004)

New York hits Dahyun like a freight train. 

The intimidatingly congested streets that never fail to push her around like some potato sack, the insane amount of pollution that's taken a large portion of her daily oxygen intake, the pitiful and condescending stares she receives just for being herself (an alien amongst the crowd of giant humans); everything about New York is foreign and far from home and Dahyun spends more than two weeks crying about it to her mother, through the free telephone on the help desk of the International Students Union office at her new school.

Her mother tells her she can do it, she can adapt to however barbaric New York seems to be. She tells her she did it once, in Apgujeong, and she can do it again now, especially now . But all Dahyun can think of is how drastic the differences of the circumstances are. In Apgujeong she had people. She found home in them. In New York everyone else is a blurry face in motion, always in a hustle with their alarmingly oversized coffee cups and thinning tolerance for anything slow and moderately-paced.

Apgujeong is your cool aunt that cheers you on and always makes you feel at home. New York is a hungry lion ready to devour you whole with no hesitation whatsoever.

Dahyun spends two months wallowing in her crampy free bedspace, wrapped up in blankets and eating off cheap and stale convenience store ramen, the closest thing she'll ever get to Korea again, apart from the small tupperware of Kimchi her mother packed for her now resting in a styrofoam cooler she bought with her meager allowance, wary of entrusting such a sacred item in the hands of the public fridge at the community pantry.

It takes one entire semester in New York for Dahyun to finally adjust to the rush of city life. She celebrates this feat by going out of her comfort zone and, after careful deliberation and dividing her expenses, attending her first concert. 

Dahyun first finds out about it from the promotional posters peppered around the city, hanging from lamp posts and plastered on store windows and movie theaters, right next to other posters about movies and some ballet performance. 

After making sure her expenses had been considered thoroughly, Dahyun goes out of her way one weekend morning and buys her ticket, clearing her schedule on the fourth of July, as if there really is something to be cleared. 

Concert day starts out fairly smoothly. Dahyun goes through her classes as seamlessly as possible. She comes nearly convinced the rest of the day will eventually venture out just the same, unproblematic and normal, until her last lecture extends for another hour and Dahyun finds herself sprinting out of the building the moment it ends, nearly toppling over some students haphazardly sitting by the hallway, almost tripping in her steps more times than she can count. 

A part of Dahyun is convinced this is what the universe planned for her, in spite of the unforeseen predicaments thrown her way. She still has the ticket in her wallet after all of that. Dahyun can at least say attending this concert was part of the heavens’ plans for her. 

It’s all good in the end, she supposes. Yeah, she’s just finished what should have been her week’s goal of fifteen thousand steps in less than an hour; sure, she’s out of breath and her heart is running a marathon of its own at the moment; and alright, she’s only ten minutes late to the gates’ opening yet the line takes up an entire block already. Yeah. Still. It’s all good. Dahyun thinks. She hopes.

Even if she’s seventh to the last person in line at the moment and the open concert grounds look like it’s already full in capacity, Dahyun thinks it’s all good. She’s already gone through so much here. She still puts her whole heart in the universe’s hands and hopes it doesn’t break her. 

Even just for tonight, at least. 

 

 

Mina finds the people in New York just as rambunctious and lively as the city itself. 

They end their last show for the night with exhaustion dancing in their bones and every inch of their bodies. Mina feels like liquid moving around, like a puppet unable to hold itself up without its strings. 

Unlike her, however, her co-dancers find a good night’s rest a very lucrative thought. Even after doing thirteen consecutive shows and spending every waking breath practicing until the dance steps are engraved to the very core of their bones, even if tomorrow’s another day of moving and getting stuck in a packed bus travelling for hours.

Mina lets them be. She has no plans on stopping them from however they want to spend their last night in this city. She doesn’t give them much of a thought anymore, doesn’t bother questioning the insane lack of self-preservation in her colleagues’ systems as one of them brings up some concert happening a five-minute drive away. 

Mina lets them get as wild as they can, as hyped for the night as they want to be. She allows them the freedom they call for, even goes as far as to personally talk to their directors and choreographers for them because apparently she’s their favorite, and she quietly relents through the myriad of other Please, Mina! appeals she gets, mindlessly, without much of a thought. Because that’s what’s happening right now, her body is on auto-pilot, self-preservation skills kicking in. 

Mina relents and relents mindlessly , until some sort of psychological inveigling is pulled off and the turn of events she least expected to happen unfolds within the blink of her eye. 

It feels like an out-of-body experience when it happens. Mina gets dragged away and squeezed in the backseat of their choreographer’s SUV, surrounded by her co-dancers jamming to Usher’s Yeah! in max volume, in varying degrees of wildness. 

Mina feels like her head is getting split into half and grounded to smaller pieces. She has no idea whether it’s because of the god awful singing–is it even fair to call it that–or the fact that she’s going to spend her only resting night in some rock concert she has no idea how she got into. 

The universe really hates me, huh?

 

 

It’s always been like this. 

When Dahyun tries to hope for the better, the world swoops in to test her faith. When she decides to see the good in things, it chooses to show her the worst.

Unable to secure herself what is worth the $19 ticket she paid for just because her professor in Advanced Solfeggio decided today, out of all days, was a perfect time for a thirty-minute overtime;  unable to feel good and confident about looking like a drowned harassed rat in the streets of New York after nearly running for her life; unable to reach the average height of a person her age to see, at the very least, a glimpse of the tip of John Rzeznik’s hair while he stands on what is apparently an elevated stage. 

Unable to, couldn’t do, wasn’t enough to. 

Dahyun tried to be hopeful, she really did. She tried to remain positive in spite of all the setbacks but this universe is really, certainly, without a doubt testing her. It never gets tired of me, does it?

Dahyun struggles through the crowd engulfing her whole. The concert’s already halfway through the setlist and she couldn’t even enjoy the earlier performances because of all the shoving and manhandling. 

Maybe this was a bad idea after all…

After another round of struggling, the tips of her toes burning and straining from all the clambering she’s done, Dahyun takes a deep inhale and gathers what remains of her will for the night, steering it to a disappointing sigh. 

No amount of motivating herself to push through a crowd of oversized people will be enough to make her reconsider the hierarchy of her principles. Keeping herself alive overpowers losing a limb in a stampede every single day.

When some brute guy wearing godforsaken military boots (in a damned concert???) steps on her foot, Dahyun takes it as the last straw. 

She feels numbness course through her feet, the aftermath of what feels like standing on a thousand nails and getting trampled on by cement blocks. Her arms are pressed to her sides when she gives up and turns around, searching for a way out through the stocky bodies squished together. 

Eventually, Dahyun figures ramming her way through is the only means to escape the jostling crowd. She’s well aware her lithe frame is guaranteed a lovely painting of bruises and blisters the next morning, particularly her arms and her feet, but she’ll think of that when it’s due. For now she focuses on trekking the path she’s made for herself, squeezing through the crowd. 

Everyone’s too busy shouting to one of the many songs Dahyun doesn’t know from the band to notice her almost-ghostly passing and meek excuse me ’s. 

It feels like an eternity when Dahyun finds a space less crowded, less sweaty bodies manhandling each other. There’s more room to breathe now. She can see better from here and from what she can perceive, she’s nearer to the gates than she is to the stage–as if she was ever close to begin with–a stadium light post as a landmark. 

Goo Goo Dolls is going through a quick interlude after finishing what Dahyun thinks is more than half of the concert setlist already, and she takes this rare opportunity of a resting crowd to check for another way to the gates. 

Dahyun has no patience, no energy, no will to endure another round of jostling and manhandling. She feels her feet grow sore, throbbing and blistering inside of her poor, poor white sneakers, her palms burning in friction against the leather strap of her equally-tarnished messenger bag. 

Her short-lived breathing moment ends abruptly when a guitar begins tuning, and someone from the stage announces it’s the last song of the night. I didn’t even get to hear my favorite yet. 

Dahyun feels beaten, like dirt on the ground, stomped on and thrown around. 

This is it, she thinks. 

This is how it feels like to be defeated by the universe. 

Dahyun had been tossed around, jostled, shoved, stepped on, shouted at. Half of her entire semester’s savings had been spent in this no-good concert and she didn’t even get to hear her favorite song. 

At the very least, this should be the end, right? Once you’ve hit rock bottom, the only way is up... right?

The answer comes in the form of a cold droplet against her bare arm that is soon followed by another, and another, and another, and Dahyun is frozen in place because this might just be the worst night of her entire life and the universe decides in that moment to cry for her. Cry in violent tears, soaking through the fabric of her shirt and her jeans, hair sticking together against her flushed skin. 

This might just be the worst night of her entire life. 

And then the guitar plays.

 

 

 

Mina failed to check the weather forecast when she decided to wear high-waist shorts and a cropped varsity jacket over a tank top. Then again, she did make the decision thinking she’d be in her hotel room by now, not lost in the crowd of some concert she didn’t plan on attending, huddled up in a tent, partially soaked by the unforeseen rain.

The downpour is torrential, like some dam had broken and all the water it kept bursted out in the open. It was like the skies had kept this much and couldn’t hold it anymore, and so it shed tears like this. 

A part of Mina hates herself for being unable to find enjoyment in these types of things. In singing crowds and their hearts thrown up in the air. Back in Japan, she used to try, at least. In Apgujeong, she did a lot of things she never thought she could do. But now. Now she can’t even find it in her to try and she hates herself for it. 

Mina has half the mind to call the night off, no matter how she can foresee a scolding from their instructor for ditching her co-dancers. Nothing is going her way and she definitely prefers spending what remains of her night sitting in the backseat of a stuffy taxi, at least shielded from the torrential rain, instead of standing in a crowd of wet bodies pressed together, futilely attempting to save themselves from the downpour.

Mina pushes herself through the crowd. She’s already drenched from head to toe. It’s better to at least shiver in an open space than spend it in a dingy and humid area with no proper ventilation because everybody else is at least two heads taller than her. 

Six months in New York city has taught Mina to toughen up. She removes her meekness when it’s due, as if it’s as easy as flipping a switch or removing a coat when it’s not as cold anymore. When she pushes past the crowd of people, she makes sure they hear her. She excuses herself in a voice her younger self would never imagine she’d possess and shoves her way through rowdy boys who can’t seem to hear her from their howling. 

Mina ends up somewhere near the gates, a space less crowded and more breathable. She’s halfway through typing a message to their instructor when the band on stage begins playing their last song. 

And I’d give up forever to touch you…

Cause I know that you feel me somehow. 

And Mina feels her whole world stop. 

 

 

 

The last time Dahyun heard the song play, she remembers standing in the middle of a room filled with strangers, feeling every note sail through her body like a ship unaware of its pending doom.

She remembers a slight push to hold out her hand, thinking she was with the person she wanted to experience that moment with that night and she wanted to make her feel the same intensity, same encompassing emotions, only to be met with the ghost of her presence, the cascade of long black hair against a clean white dress, walking away.

It took a long time but at one point, a part of Dahyun believed maybe that was already the first sign. She and Mina were never meant to work out in the way Sana and Momo do. Like they were made for each other's souls, like the sun is to the moon. 

It was in the song itself. A younger Dahyun was convinced the song was a premonition of their inevitable unlikelihood. That Mina was a world of her own and Dahyun was just somebody else, a lively person with a lonely heart. 

It was on her first night in New York, swallowed by her blankets, drowning in the caverns of homesickness and a sudden introspection, when an older Dahyun realized it was nothing about the song. It was nothing about being soulmates.

Some things just don't work out. There is no need for an extravagant reason, a climactic argument that would fuel a thousand flames to the heart, just a simple understanding of life. That some things just don't work out like the way we wanted them to, and there is no need for significant meaning behind that, no underlying message or implication.

Dahyun and Mina just weren't going to work out and the universe was kind enough to show them that before they could even dive deeper into each other. They were pulled out of the waters while they were still treading the shallows.

Dahyun realizes that but she can't say she's grateful to the universe for it.

Nevertheless, it doesn't stop her from associating the song with Mina. She dances around the notes and every space in between. At every strum of the guitar, every pound of the drums, every pause between the lines.

It's raw, overwhelming, all-encompassing. The rush of memories surge like the beads of cold raindrop running down her arms, seeping through the fabric of her clothes. 

Dahyun feels everything all at once again, and it's so overwhelming, she has no idea how to distinguish the rain from the tears running down her face.

It's only in the intense instrumental when she gets herself together, when the moment becomes too much, too heavy. It takes all of what strength remains in her to carry her foot and take a step, one after the other. 

Everything feels like a fever dream and out of her control and Dahyun just wants to get away.

The rain doesn't stop and only grows stronger, and Dahyun wants to run out of there.

She feels all out of air, pressed in an impermeable space, and her heart is pounding against her chest like it's chasing for the same thing. It's chasing for oxygen, for a chance to breathe.

Dahyun struggles and pushes through the crowd, breath shortening and chest tightening.

She shoves herself through the chaos and the whirlwind of people, and then collides into a blur of shoulder-length hair.

 

 

Mina remembers the song. She could never forget one of the best nights of her entire life. 

She remembers sitting through a movie, her first time in a theater after a long while. She can recall Meg Ryan in an English movie about an ironic story between a surgeon who saved lives and an angel who took them.

The movie is mostly just a series of blur but Mina can remember the song playing at the back of her head when the lights turned on and she saw Dahyun’s face. 

Dahyun.

Mina remembers the song because it was Dahyun. Because she was there. And she can remember everything when it has Dahyun. The golden ray of her hair, her awkward and eerie laugh, the softness of her hands when it held hers. 

Mina remembers Dahyun so, so well. She also remembers how she couldn’t hold out enough to make her stay. And Dahyun’s presence haunts Mina like a ghost; her absence mocking her without fail. 

Like now. 

The song is playing in an instrumental intensity. Mina feels rooted in her place, entranced to listen because she had never been good with words and the only way to express the storm of her emotions is through the intensity of the song. 

Then someone hits her. It feels like a bucket of ice-cold water had been dropped over head, reality slapped back at her. 

“O-Oh. I’m so sorry—” 

That voice. Mina turns around in a whiplash. Lo and behold, the universe mocking her again. This isn’t her. This is just another play of your mind. Don’t hope, Mina. This isn’t—

“Mina unnie?” 

How can you talk to an angel? Mina is at a loss for words. The love of her life is standing right before her. 

(The intensity dies down. 

“I want you guys to take this one home, alright?” 

And then the last chorus plays.

Mina is home again.

Dahyun only realizes then. 

Mina is what the universe had been preparing her for.) 

 

 

(Present, 2020)

“That sounds like a scene right out of a movie, unnie…” Chuu gapes at her while her hand moves on her notebook, writing in bullet points. “That’s definitely going in the piece.” 

Mina can’t believe what was four years in the making could be summarized into just four bullet points. 

  • Iris 2004 
  • Home rainy
  • Reunited lovers 
  • OH MYGOD???????

“What did you guys do after that?” Chuu asks without much of a heed. She focuses on writing down in her notebook. 

Mina shrugs. “After almost four years of not seeing her, I think I did what any other person would do if they met the love of their life again.” 

“Which is…?” 

“I hugged her.” 

Mina is mindful it sounded uneventful to an outsider. When she first told the story to Nayeon, the latter spent the rest of night slandering her storytelling skills, arguing that she was falsely hyped for Mina’s very anticlimactic revelation. All Mina could do was roll her eyes.

No one would ever truly understand the importance of a hug unless you don’t get one for almost four years. They wouldn’t understand how intimate it felt to be held in the arms of the person you love again. 

“Did you guys see each other right after that?” 

Mina shakes her head in response. “In a way, it was another case of bad timing? I had to travel back to New York city the next morning and then she stayed in a campus dorm somewhere there. We were seven hours away from each other.” 

“You didn’t see each other afterwards?” 

 

 

“Well that fucking sucks?” Yerim huffs, unknowingly hurling a stuffed drawstring bag at Chaeyoung’s face. The latter dodges on time but it doesn’t erase the frown on Chaeyoung’s face regardless. 

“What are these anyway?” She pulls at the strings, opening the bag and pulling out a small stuffed penguin toy. Yerim peeks from over Chaeyoung’s shoulder, twisting her entire body awkwardly at the expense of gossip. 

Chaeyoung pulls the items out slowly, climactically, but Yerim’s impatient ass just yanks the bag away from her hold and turns it upside down, dropping the items on the ground. 

“Woah…” Yerim gapes, looking down at the expanse of stuffed toys scattered on the floor. “How many plushies do you even have, unnie?” 

“Mina always won those parlor games where you play for a stuffed toy”, Dahyun answers nonchalantly, focusing on ruffling through a box of other memorabilia. “She filled almost all of the shelves in our old apartment because of it.” 

“You guys lived together in New York?” 

“I didn’t want to agree at first because I still had the dorm but she insisted it was a very convenient set-up”, Dahyun purses her lips cheekily, pulling out an old toy from the box of very old other things. “She lived in an apartment a few blocks away from my campus and, well, it kinda sucked living in a dormitory so I agreed eventually. She did say it wasn’t much of a bother.” 

 

 

“I bought an entire new apartment six hours away just to live with her.” 

“You what?”

“But don’t tell her that.” Mina chuckles sheepishly. She points at the notebook in front of the younger girl. “Don’t put it in the story too.” 

Chuu is all sorts of giggles and smiles listening, like a high school girl again in on the latest gossip. She’s busy writing down something in her pad when she looks up suddenly, eyes wide open. “Oh! Who proposed to who, unnie?”

“Um. Well…” How do I say this..? Mina takes in a breath, bites her lip in thought. “No one…?”

“WHAT.”

In twenty-eight-year-old Mina’s defense, the thought just hit her one day and the certainty that came along with it was overwhelming. Dahyun was everywhere in her life at that moment. She was in every nook and cranny of Mina’s mind and Mina’s world. Dahyun is the sun she revolves around in. The thought of ever letting that go was too much, too hard. Mina didn’t want another three years of waiting.

“I just. I looked at her and then I realized”, Mina shrugs. Reminiscing about those moments feel so intimate now, she feels her face warm up at the mere thought. 

“What did you realize?”

“It was easier being with her than without her. Everything about Dahyun was just easy, like it came naturally.”

“What happened then?” 

“It was in Hawaii. 2008. In our favorite small beach side restaurant.” Mina can still remember the day she first said those words to Dahyun. Subsequently, she pulled off the biggest impulsive act of her entire life. She still doesn’t regret anything, twelve years later.

 

 

(Twelve years ago, 2008)

Down to the foundation of her very existence, Mina was organized, systematic, and planned.  

Kai may have been the product of a stressful week's aftermath (his words, not hers) but Mina wasn't and like the last twenty-eight years of her life (counting out '98 to '99 because most of her moments with the girls were lived without a deciding second hence why she had gotten many of her firsts that time–her first detention, first known enemy–and also experienced the best days of her life), all the days leading up to this moment were planned, organized and systematic, detailed down to the T.

All the days up until now.

So yeah. Mina didn't plan this. It just feels like the most perfect thing to do. The easiest.

It happens in Haleiwa, a small town off the northern coast of Oahu. It’s a half an hour’s drive from Honolulu Airport and just the right amount of distance away from the bustling tourist-congested cities. 

Haleiwa was an accident and a playful trick of the universe. Mina had gotten off the wrong bus stop and ended up in the small town that looked like it was ripped out of the perfect Hawaiian postcard. No glimmering skyscraper was found, only commercial spaces and houses peppered around the lush greenery that meets the sprawling blue seas. 

Mina had fallen in love with Haleiwa the very first moment she had seen it, and she was determined to bring the love of her life there too. 

Fast forward two years later and Dahyun flies in on her first vacation with Mina. Naturally, it’s in the place Mina has the heart to call another home for her. They spend three more summers in Haleiwa, in a bungalow lining the shores of Ke Iki beach. 

It's their fourth summer there when it happens. 

Makalapua is an old outdoor restaurant along the shores of Haleiwa beach. It’s an ordinary cafe by day and a lively restaurant at night, with live performances from the local singers and bands. There’s an outdoor deck where the performers set up and right in front of it, open to the sprawling beach, are different tables and bean bag chairs scattered around. String lights hang from tree branches, tiki torches lit up around the area, enveloping the outdoor scene in a soft golden glow. 

It's romantic and overwhelming, because Mina sits by a table in her white maxi dress, a yellow hibiscus tucked behind her ear, two glasses of Okolehao down, and Dahyun stands a few feet away from her, under the fiery glow and in perfect view, dancing with the band. Her dress sways in a delayed sweep as her hips move to the rhythm of the hele, and she smiles with her eyes in crescents as she laughs along with the other customers.

It's not the Okolehao that's gotten Mina hyper-aware of everything. It's responsible for a fraction of it, yeah maybe. But Mina thinks it's just everything all at once hitting her like a freight train. Dahyun in that dress, her hips swaying to the rhythm, her laughter in the summer air, her hair flowing like the gentle waves that resound from afar. 

Mina is far from drunk on alcohol but she is drunk in love with Kim Dahyun. 

This is what pushes her up on her feet, soles light against the grains of sand beneath. Dahyun stops halfway in laughter, turning to Mina with her eyes crinkling and her cheeks flushed under the yellow glow of the night.

"Hey there, you." 

Mina's eyes glaze over Dahyun's cheeks, the tiny freckles that never really appear until the girl's down a few drinks and her blood is pumping double, then to her lips, flushed and plump, champagne-kissed, and Mina kind of stares at it and drowns in it, in the familiarity of its touch and how she's dying to feel it again against her own.

Mina wants and wants. And she wants all of Dahyun for the rest of her life.

Dahyun. Kim Dahyun. Only her. She's completely, utterly, and absolutely sure. 

And it's what pushes her to do this:

"Dahyun?" 

"Yes?" 

"Do you wanna get married?"

The rest of the night flashes before her eyes in a chaotic painting of warm colors, splashing from different directions, of different strokes and sizes.

Mina doesn't remember the emotions that take up Dahyun's face after that but she does remember very vividly the hand that envelops her own, fingers slipping through spaces and interlacing like second nature. It's warm and it calms down the whirlwind of emotions turning Mina into a wreck. 

The hand that holds her never lets go. 

When they walk down by the shore, soles of their feet touching the fine sand; when the kahuna pele blows the conch and chants the Oli Aloha; it's them in front of a couple of the night's customers and the live performers and Dahyun never lets go of her hand. 

Mina has never done anything like this in her entire life, has never even bothered thinking of tiptoeing over the edge of reason and mind, but nothing, absolutely nothing , has made more sense than this moment. 

She never planned this but she's never been more completely, utterly, and absolutely certain as well.

It's Dahyun's hand she wants to hold for the rest of her life. It's her lips she only ever wants to feel, the beat of her heart she only ever wants to hear. It's Dahyun's arms she only ever wants to sink into and melt away, the galaxies in her eyes she only ever wants to disappear in. 

Mina is twenty-eight when she gets married. It's by the shores of Ke Iki beach, under the giant full moon and the spread of clouds and stars, in front of faces they probably will never meet again. They tie small strings of abaca twine around their ring fingers and engrave the moment in time.

Nothing was ever part of her plan but Dahyun is. So it makes sense either way. 

It was Dahyun from the very beginning and it's still her right now. In every other lifetime this universe grants, it's always going to be her. It's always going to be them.

(They get married again after that, upon the tearful demands of their parents and friends who were unable to witness the ceremony. This time it's in the Caribbean, millions of dollars in total but all the same, really.

Dahyun still holds her hand tight and never lets go, and Mina still sees her from the beginning to the end, in every other lifetime, in every  universe.

The only other difference now is the piece of paper Dahyun waves around at other people's faces when they don't believe her. 

"She really is my wife! We really a re married!"

Mina wonders how many copies of their marriage certificate Dahyun keeps in her bag. Dahyun has a thing for excessive printing and storing.)



 

(Present, 2020)

They talk about a lot more of the wedding in Haleiwa, how it was officiated by the restaurant owner–a close friend of Mina and Dahyun–and how their first dance as a wedded couple was to He Mele No Lilo. 

Chuu’s company is warm and bright, as familiar as it can be. It sucks that they have to cut their interview short but Mina’s main agenda of the day is the photoshoot itself, her last for the modeling industry before taking a break. 

“Maybe we can finish it over a call, unnie? Next time?” Chuu suggests as she stands up from the seat, pushing it back to the table. 

Mina does the same albeit slowly, carrying a bowling ball naturally shifts her center of gravity. “Tell me when you’re available, okay? I can’t stay much after the shoot. Dahyun’s driving by.” 

Chuu’s eyes brighten more, as if that were even possible. “Sooyoungie too!” She does a little jump in glee that’s reminiscent of old Chuu, always effervescent and full of energy.

Mina agrees before she gets pulled away by the stylists to the dressing room. She hopes Dahyun isn’t taking so long with the storage room job. They still have a long day ahead of them. 

 

🌈

 

Dahyun throws a card on the floor, missing her target. 

“This was The Thing in my high school days”, she flashes a wide grin that immediately turns sour upon seeing the result of her play. She tries it out again. “Everyone who knew how to play these were cool.” ( They were not.)

Chaeyoung explains the pog cards to Yerim and Tzuyu, who both listen to her with an expression of keen interest and a subtle raise of their eyebrow signifying their being weirded out by how Chaeyoung, born the same year as them, knows something as ancient as this. 

“She’s probably a time traveler”, Dahyun shrugs nonchalantly, giving up on her cards. She used to be the best at pogs. Not playing for two decades definitely rusted her out. 

(Out of her view, Chaeyoung stiffens. Yerim and Tzuyu just shrug this off as one of the many moments she shares with Dahyun, something not a lot of them will get.) 

Yerim jokes about how weird Dahyun probably was in high school, how she’d probably belong to the theater kids clique nowadays. “Did you ever wonder how aunt Mina liked you, unnie?” 

“I always wonder about that. Until now. She just seemed like she preferred people like your mom, Chaeyoungie. Jeongyeon unnie was cool and chic. She looked perfect with Mina unnie.” There’s a gloominess lacing the smile on Dahyun’s face, the one that doesn’t meet her eyes entirely, the one that doesn’t come with a creepy laugh. 

“But it’s been more than twenty years since we met. We’ve been married for the last twelve years of those. She still lets me win and I assure you girls, that is a very big deal coming from someone who nearly sued an entire carnival park for rigging a shooting game.” 

“You guys are goals”, Yerim comments with a dreamy smile, to which Tzuyu and Chaeyoung nod at. Dahyun has no idea what being goals means but she thinks it’s a good thing judging from the cheeky smiles on the three girls’ faces. 

They return to their work shortly after. By hour three, they have sorted out more than half of the storage already. Yerim and Chaeyoung sort out the boxes by the hallway, going through them and double-checking with Dahyun, while Tzuyu helps the oldest of the group in the room, sorting the left-over things.

The two girls return just in time as Dahyun literally flips over one of the smaller boxes in the storage room, a crumpled folded piece of paper falling out like a leaf from a tree, riding the air slowly until it lands a little away from Tzuyu’s feet.  

Tzuyu crouches down to pick it up. She unfolds the paper, a small frown gracing her face. 

It’s old, torn in some portions. Lines gloss the surface from the folds, dried stain marks smudging the ink of beautiful cursive handwriting. It's a black-and-white, decorated with stickers of Michael Jackson and some other famous person Tzuyu doesn’t know. It looks like one of those old slam books.

Tzuyu scans through what she can decipher from the smudged and distorted print. It’s aunt Mina’s slam book, evident from the neat 𝑀𝒾𝓃𝒶 𝒮𝒽𝒶𝓇𝑜𝓃 𝑀𝓎𝑜𝓊𝒾 script. 

Tzuyu sees some basic details written through the stained paper left blank, like her aunt’s address and some contact details. Probably for privacy, she thinks. 

She discovers new things about the older woman through her Choose Your Favorite! answers (jasmines over roses; staying at home over travelling; tea over coffee…) and other interesting things like her favorite show (Voltes V and Pokemon; she couldn’t decide on which was her most favorite) and favorite band (The Cure) and her favorite song (A Thousand Hours). 

By the very last portion of the page, some of the more personal questions are asked. Tzuyu pays them little to no heed, eyes glossing over the page in average interest until it stops at nearly the bottom space, ink smudged and Michael Jackson’s leg covering a portion of the words spelling out, in unadulterated teenage intrigue, What Is Your Ideal Type?

Her mothers have never shied away from telling Tzuyu their youthful exploits and the drama that binds their group together. “It was chaotic from the very beginning”, Sana would say time and time again. 

The lines between what to share and what’s better left in the closet have always been blurred when it comes to her. Her mothers are very transparent with her and along with their honesty came their forthright admission: none of them knew. At least, as far as her mothers were informed.

They all had been so carried away by the love triangle that was Jeongyeon, Nayeon, and Mina that they never truly wrapped their heads around the thought of Mina liking anybody else. It didn’t help that Mina’s past involved another girl who had nearly the same attributes as Jeongyeon. They all just assumed Mina liked Jeongyeon and girls like her. 

What Mina wrote in this paper has debunked more than twenty years of conviction.

 

What Is Your Ideal Type? 𝒮𝑜𝓂𝑒𝑜𝓃𝑒 𝑔𝑒𝓃𝓉𝓁𝑒 𝓁𝒾𝓀𝑒 𝓉𝒽𝑒 𝓈𝓅𝓇𝒾𝓃𝑔

 

“Unnie”, Tzuyu calls out.

Dahyun stops playing with the paddle ball toy she somehow found. “Hm?” 

“Who loved who first?” 

The answer comes easily for Dahyun. “I did”, she smiles widely, surely. “I was playing in the arcade and I wanted to show her my skills. I never shared that with anyone but I was willing to for her, and I kind of realized it then.” 

“Unnie.” 

“Yes?”

Tzuyu holds up the piece of paper. “Aunt Mina liked you before she even met you.” 

 

🌈

 

The photoshoot is done before Mina can even realize it. Three hours go by smoothly and Mina thinks she has her unborn child to thank for not acting up. 

Dahyun sends her a message about finishing the storage room in time and Seulgi dropping by to pick up Yerim. Tzuyu and Chaeyoung leave together for some date after Nayeon messages them about some conference and having to raincheck for their supposed meeting today. This leaves Dahyun and Mina together for the rest of the night. 

The message Mina is waiting for slides down with a ting! from the top of her race car simulation game. She’s racing for first place when she pauses the game to check the reply. 

 

Wife 🥰 

at the station already 😁  see you

I LOVE YOU ?????

 

Mina can’t help but feel the smile tugging against her lips. 

 

dahyun’s roommate 💃

Are you unsure? 😂

 

The smile turns into a chuckle when she realizes something. 

 

dahyun’s roommate 💃

Did you change my contact name again??

Why am i your roommate??

 

Wife 🥰 

Aren’t you??

dahyun’s roommate 💃

Yeah but you’re my wife here

Why am I just your roommate 😒

 

Mina doesn’t even realize her eyebrows furrowing until she feels the strain and unknowingly relaxes them. She had been frowning at the three dots on her screen motioning in waves, awaiting for her wife's reply–a reply that never comes.

Huh. Maybe she got on the train already? 

But there's a signal even on the train...?

Maybe her battery got drained?

But she has a smart battery case…?

Mina runs through a myriad of reasons and excuses in her head, her comfortable waiting by the receiving lounge growing antsy. She deduces it’s nothing and tries to focus on her game instead but it’s useless and she just ends up thinking of Dahyun even more. She closes her phone and slides it in the convenient secret pocket of her strapped tent dress. 

Mina shifts in her seat, crossing and uncrossing her legs. She stares at the patterns of her Kinder slippers, drawing the letters on her lap subtly. From her peripheral, someone sneaks a picture of her. It makes the discomfort in the pit of her stomach churn tenfold. 

Mina knows can’t really ask people not  to take pictures of her in public spaces. The consequences of fame are beyond her control, as much as she makes an effort to mitigate them. It convinces her even more that the decision to go on a hiatus is the best way to go. More than ten years of being followed around by cameras is already enough. 

More gazes seem to find their way to her and Mina finds herself deciding between going somewhere else (anywhere away from the unsubtle leering and whispers) or just downright leaving, but before she can even make a choice, two figures walking over catch her attention. 

It isn’t hard to distinguish Dahyun from the crowd. In an ocean of monochrome business suits and formal wear, she’s clad in a yellow plaid dress and a mustard knitted cardigan. 

Mina’s eyes have somehow developed the ability to notice the girl in every kind of crowd, as if a spotlight shines down on Dahyun and everything else is nothing but a dark blur. 

Somehow, that ability isn’t working today. 

It can’t be blamed. The woman beside Dahyun, laughing at something she’s said, has the attraction pull of a super magnet. She’s dressed in an oversized tie-dye shirt that falls past whatever she has underneath, quarter socks and white thick sole shoes with the flashy Nike logo on them, and a black designer bag swaying at her side like a pendulum. 

If Mina could describe the woman simply, she’d say she can easily pass off as some college cool kid with an aura that exudes an intimidating amount of sheer power. 

Said magnetic attraction must pull at Dahyun so hard because she doesn’t even notice Mina’s presence. She’s too busy laughing and chatting with the woman. The ridiculously attractive and utterly intimidating woman

This lady resembles a pristine marble statue. Mina feels like a stack of fluffy pillows. They don’t exist in the same hemisphere. 

Mina doesn’t even realize she’s holding her own breath until Dahyun walks in front of her and she can barely call out her name. When she musters up whatever energy she has, Dahyun is already ambling past her, attention pouring on the woman she walks beside. 

Mina watches in dumbfounded silence as they disappear into one of the empty elevators waiting with open doors. 

She stands in the lobby, stupefied, and only acknowledges what the hell just happened after her phone buzzes inside her pocket. 

 

Wife 🥰 

I’m here already!! Where are you? 

 

Mina doesn’t reply. She clicks her phone off and takes a deep breath to steel herself together. Once she feels collected again, she pats at her belly lightly, gently. 

“Come on, buddy”, She mumbles. “Let’s get your mom.” 

 

🌈

 

Dahyun didn’t kick the three girls out. 

They were already done with their work to begin with, and Dahyun really just wanted to see her wife again because she misses her so much (definitely not because she wants to discuss this I-was-your-type-all-along?! revelation with her). She promised them free food in return. 

The moment Seulgi arrives to pick Yerim up, Chaeyoung and Tzuyu long gone and busy on their own date, Dahyun changes clothes and catches the train to the address Mina sent. She was standing right across the tall skyscraper of the shoot location, full attention on her phone and ready to cross the street, when a shiny black car pulled up right in front, nearly hitting her in the process. 

Her self-preservation instincts tell her to just run off and ignore what just happened. Better that than getting kidnapped. But then again, no kidnapper would be driving a Mercedes Benz G-Class to abduct someone as relatively harmless as Dahyun. So she stays and deals with the situation as maturely as she can. She wonders how long this faux confidence will last. 

“You still don’t look when you’re crossing?” 

It lasts less than a minute. 

The tinted windows roll down, revealing a very familiar face Dahyun never expected to see again. 

“I expected better from you, Tofu kid.” 

Yves Ha hasn’t aged one bit. She still looks like the cool upperclassman Dahyun first met in the dance room on her first day in Apgujeong Private High. 

She had long black hair back then, sleek and as straight as Dahyun thought she was—until another girl came in, clad in preppy cheerleading uniform, and they kissed and it was Dahyun’s first time seeing two girls be so close.

Yves–Sooyoung, her real name–had a blend of Jeongyeon’s dashing charisma, Nayeon’s intimidating aura, Jihyo’s collected presence, Sana’s sweet cheerfulness, and Momo’s talented dancing. She was very popular among the juniors and underclassmen. 

It’s no wonder Dahyun had a little, tiny puppy crush on her when they first got to know each other. 

“I still can’t believe it”, Yves chuckles, eyes not veering away from the steep ramp as she drives into the basement parking of the building. Turns out they’re going to the same place. “You got the girl!” 

But of course, all of the high school admiration is in the past now. 

Dahyun grins widely, proudly, from the passenger’s seat. “I did, unnie! Who knew?” 

“I knew!” Yves exclaimed, rounding the car for a perfect reverse parking. She looks so cool driving. “I always knew you had it in you!”

Dahyun feels a blush creep in. Yves was always like another older sister figure in her life. “I can’t believe we haven’t seen each other in so long, unnie. Why weren’t you at the reunion?” 

“Well, for one, it wasn’t my batch’s reunion”, Yves chuckles as she turns off the car’s engine and unlocks the doors. 

Dahyun laughs back at that, the realization only hitting her then, nearly a year overdue. She always forgets how she technically isn’t part of the 1998 batch. They just somehow took her in like a lost puppy because of her unnies. 

Yves steps out of the car, Dahyun following subsequently, inhaling the scent of rubber and idling engines. 

It’s only seeing Yves in whole again when it registers to Dahyun just how much time has passed for them—and how relatively unfair it is for making sure Yves still looks the same and Dahyun, not so.

“What are you wearing, unnie?” She throws a playful hit at the outfit of the older girl, unable to hold back the involuntary raise of her eyebrows. The attire reminded Dahyun of her twenty-two-year-old nephew who often dressed the way those young rappers do nowadays. Oversized baggy shirts and what not. 

“It’s style , Dahyun-ah”, Yves poses with a hand on her hip. “I get paid to pull off these types of clothes.”

Yves ended up pursuing dancing as a career. Making a living out of what made her happy the most was the reason why she still looked the way she did, according to her. Dahyun doubts that’s all there is because she’s doing what she loves to and she doesn’t look like a Victoria’s Secret supermodel. 

They end up trying to fit more than a decade’s worth of catching up within the walk from the basement parking up to the waiting lounge Dahyun finds out they’re both similarly headed to. 

 

🌈

 

When Mina arrives at the waiting lounge after over five minutes of struggling, she sees Dahyun isn’t finished with her joyful conversation with the mystery lady yet. 

Mina isn’t annoyed because her wife is paying too much attention to this drop-dead-gorgeous woman, she’s frustrated because her feet are aching and the only thing she wants to do right now is lie down in bed, preferably cuddle up with her wife too while she’s at it.

They both had a lot of plans today, all lined up in a perfectly coordinated schedule. Although most of the latter appointments were cancelled and the timetable had been shuffled, Mina believed it was for the better.

That “better” isn’t this. 

That “better” isn’t Dahyun coming along with her gorgeous friend and claiming that the stars had aligned to make this one moment possible. Said moment being their long awaited reconnection. 

But even if it’s Mina’s frustrations at the expense of Dahyun’s unadulterated glee, then she’s willing to chug it all down and present this beautiful lady with the warmest smile she can muster, shake her hand without squeezing it too tight. 

Yves Ha must be wonderful, Mina recognizes this. She’s just unable to see it right now because of the circumstances clouding her judgement. Said circumstances being her aching feet, her lack of sleep, and the fact that Dahyun hasn’t given her at least a hug ever since seeing her again. 

Mina is at her wit’s end. Yves seems perfect. 

Then Dahyun says it. 

“I had a crush on unnie in high school. Funny, right, unnie?” 

Funny was the last thing in Mina’s head.

 

🌈

 

There's a silence in the air that makes Dahyun shift uncomfortably in her seat. Her eyes are glued onto the road in spite of the 180-second red light countdown still at 136, an unfamiliar tension rendering her afraid of glancing at the very cold presence beside her. 

Normally, their car rides were loud with the energy of a moving nightclub. 

Dahyun mostly sat shotgun because Mina had always been a better driver. Her normal job description entailed complete control of the stereo system and she’d blast off some songs from her collaborative Spotify playlist, now filled with Nayeon’s weird ass “these are the hits these days” songs, one of which had Mina nearly breaking the car to a full stop in the middle of the highway when the English lyrics came to her. 

(FinK.L.’s To My Boyfriend has just ended, followed by momentary silence filled with labored breaths as Mina and Dahyun come down from the high that was their sing-off in the car. 

It’s a lovely night, both of them driving home after finishing their errands. The sunroof of the car was open, windows slid down to let in the chilly night breeze. 

Dahyun’s reaching for the phone filming their karaoke session–to be sent to the group chat–about to end its recording, when the Rover starts shaking from the bass of the next song playing in ear-deafening volume. 

It’s an interesting beat. The bass is very intense, maybe a little too much for Dahyun’s liking, but she still finds herself bobbing her head to the beat, smiling as the gears in her head turn, the composer in her automatically trying to comprehend the song’s instrumental composition. 

In her focus, Dahyun doesn’t notice Mina’s face morph into a myriad of emotions in record time, forehead creasing and throat drying up as they pass by what looks like a group of monks walking out of a temple. She tries to reach for the phone and lower the volume but the car behind them honks and she’s thrown into panic even more. 

Dahyun mindlessly continues to bob her head to the music playing in max volume, exclaiming in surprise when the song doesn’t drop to a chorus like she expected it to but  goes through a rap session with some woman blurting out words Dahyun doesn’t understand. 

She takes this time to try and understand them now. She isn’t as fluent in English as Mina is but she can understand some words. 

The song is reaching its climax and Dahyun makes out something about parking a big Mack truck when the car jerks to an abrupt stop, her head following it and snapping right back against the headrest.

Dahyun feels her whole world spinning madly, the back of her head thrumming like it had been whacked by a bat. 

Before she can even react or say anything, Mina’s already unbuckling her seatbelt and reaching over the console for her, hands finding themselves cupping Dahyun’s jaw. “Oh my god, baby, I’m so sorry! Are you alright?!”

Mina coos at Dahyun for an entire minute, song muting in the background as she focuses on inspecting her wife’s head for any injury first. 

Aside from the feeling of her brain being rattled inside, Dahyun thinks she’s good. She kisses away the frown on Mina’s face when she pushes the older woman away gently, reassuring her her okay-ness. 

“What happened though?” She asks when they’re both moving again, the song finally ending and some S.E.S. replacing it. “Did a cat run into the street?” 

Mina focuses her eyes on the road. “No”, she chuckles uneasily. “Didn’t you get the song?” 

“Something about a truck parking in a little garage…?” 

Mina glances at her briefly, face looking incredulous. She gets a straight face in response. “You really didn’t get it?” 

“Uh...the singers were very… aggressive about whatever they were singing about…” 

That’s enough to send Mina in a laughing fit. Dahyun gets a thorough breakdown from her wife on their way back. Dumbfounded would be an understatement. 

Later on, when they remember the karaoke session video that filmed the entire thing up to Dahyun’s almost-concussion, they watch it together and find the slideshow of emotions on Mina’s face the most hilarious thing in the world. They send it to the group chat and find out it’s Nayeon who put the song in the playlist, for “workout” purposes. 

The next day, Mina trends worldwide. Under Nayeon’s initiative, the girls upload Mina and Dahyun’s “reaction” video on the internet and spur more than a million of responses and feedback. 

The day ends with Cardi B following Mina in all of her social media accounts, her record label reaching out for a possible interaction. 

Mina politely declines despite Nayeon and Momo’s pressing. 

“YOU DANCE POP TOO, MITANG! Why won’t you do it?!” Momo asks with much emotion. “It’s just that weird butt moving dance!” 

“Twerking”, Nayeon corrects and turns to the woman in question, voice rising. “IT’S JUST TWERKING, MINA! IT’S CARDI B!” 

Dahyun just laughs at them when Mina declines for the hundredth time. “I’d love to meet her, I do”, she chuckles. “It’s just that, well, we’re all forgetting the main issue here.” 

“Which is...?” Nayeon and Momo ask simultaneously. 

Mina honestly can’t believe these women. “I’m literally five months along...”

She wishes it were enough to convince them. It sure was enough work for her. But Nayeon...well, stubbornness is a skill she’s mastered for her law career. 

“So? Cardi did it last Coachella.”) 

Those were good days, memories from fun rides in the car, just her and Mina—and without this thick , cold impenetrable slab of tension right in between them. 

Dahyun tries to break through it. She turns her back on whatever tension she feels lingering in the air and covers it up with stories about her day instead; how she spent what should have been time allotted on seriously organizing the storage room, on indulging Chaeyoung, Yerim, and Tzuyu’s curiosities instead, telling every story behind every eccentric possession they pull out from the boxes. 

It feels like a futile effort, every laugh and joke only returned by a faint smile. The attempts feel like grains of sand slipping through her fingers. 

When Dahyun tries to ask Mina what’s wrong, the older girl just gives her a meek, “Just tired, is all.” and she really isn’t the type of person to prod someone for an answer when she isn’t satisfied by what was given, so she results to the one thing she’s absolutely sure will help her wife out. 

When the stop light turns green, Dahyun makes a careful U-turn, immediately earning a question from Mina. 

“Where are we going?” 

Dahyun turns off the a/c and rolls the windows down slightly. It suddenly feels like a slab of that tension had been chiseled away. They can breathe again. 

Dahyun hears Mina let out a sigh beside her. She takes this chance to grab Mina’s hand from the console, lace their fingers together and lock them in place. A part of Dahyun’s heart eases when Mina doesn’t fight back. Okay. So she isn’t mad at me. Good. 

A minute passes by and when Dahyun makes another turn, navigating down an all-too-familiar road, she glances at Mina and catches the tug at the older girl’s lips. 

“Are we…” Mina turns to Dahyun with weary yet hopeful eyes. “...going to the garden…?”

Dahyun’s smile gives her away.

 

🌈

 

A part of Dahyun wished everything would’ve just stayed the same. She wished the garden would’ve never been discovered by other kids fueled in curiosity, not have been renovated by adults fixated on trying to "upgrade" everything. There are things better left off the way they were, no matter how decaying they look. 

The last time Dahyun had been in the garden, it was in high school. It was their secret hideout then. It was her place.  

Twenty-two years later, it is now a mini-public park. The old tree at the center of the space remained, and miraculously restored to life, but the rest of its magical seclusion had been taken away and opened to both the school and the street outside. 

The only thing Dahyun liked in this”upgrade” was the giant warm yellow light post lighting the entire space like a disco ball, the tree branches casting shadows contrasting the glittering pavements. It made a sort of mysterious, enchanting glow, especially at night.

A little bit of privacy remains because of the tall manicured shrubs and plants landscaped around; this is enough to convince Dahyun to drag her celebrity wife outside. She helps Mina slide into a padded coat carefully before stepping out of  the car, Dahyun carrying a plastic bag of drinks and snacks for them to share. 

They find refuge on a bench tucked nearer to the now-gated exit and entrance of Apgujeong High. Back then, walking there would entail crossing the narrow alleyway lined with messy shrubs and protruding branches; now it’s a concrete sidewalk lit up by warm yellow path lights. 

It all brings about a calming atmosphere, combined with the cool night weather, and Dahyun remains unfazed in her belief that the garden is supernatural. Whatever tension present earlier has now admitted defeat to the magic of the garden.

As if she hadn’t been pouting the entire drive, Mina's now laughing and smiling again. Dahyun feels like she just uncovered the answers to the universe. 

They’re both munching on ice cream cones (that may or may not get Mina in trouble with their doctor; “We’ll be good if she doesn’t find out.”) and exchanging stories about everything and anything, mostly random anecdotes spurred by the nostalgia the garden brings. 

"Remember the time when I thought you were Mama Mary?” Dahyun chuckles, getting a little bit of vanilla ice cream on her lips. 

Mina wipes at it nonchalantly with her handkerchief. “Yes, you’ve mentioned the comparison…”

“Well yeah”, Dahyun continues, “I discovered this place because I thought there was some Bloody Mary crying behind the bushes, luring me into the garden to devour my soul.” 

“Now that you did not mention…” 

“Yeah”, Dahyun chuckles fondly, remembering the torturous agitation that consumed her younger self as she traversed through the narrow path she believed would lead to her demise. 

“I recited all the prayers I knew in my head. The Lord’s prayer, the Nicene creed…” She shakes her head at the thought. 

“And you still went through even though all the alarm bells in your head were already screaming bloody murder?” Mina is now fully convinced her wife’s fight-or-flight is questionable at best. 

“I was praying, okay?!” Dahyun exclaims indignantly. Mina just laughs at her even more. 

“Anyways, you know what I said? In my prayer? While the wailing grew louder and I felt like I was walking myself to my own grave?” 

“What?”

“I said, ‘Lord, if you’re listening to me right now, please let it be an angel.’”

Mina thinks she already knows where this is going. “And...?” 

“Well would you look at that”, Dahyun breathes out dramatically and slumps back into the bench. “It was an angel—” 

Mina fights the urge to roll her eyes. “Was it Yves Ha—” 

“I saw you—” Dahyun stops. “Wait, what?” 

Way to ruin the moment, Myoui. 

Mina wishes for the ground to swallow her. Now. “I...uh…” 

Confusion and amusement fills the younger woman’s eyes and Mina desperately wants to run away right now but that isn’t possible because Dahyun’s holding her hand and a bigger part of her doesn’t want to let go of that. 

Dahyuns back up. “What made you think it was Sooyoung unnie???” 

“‘ Sooyoung’ ?” Mina frowns this time. “Who’s Sooyoung?” 

“Yves unnie. Sooyoung. Ha Sooyoung. That’s her real name”, Dahyun clarifies. “What made you think it was Sooyoung unnie I was referring too?” 

“Wait a minute.” With an IQ score above 130, it doesn’t take much for Mina to connect the dots. “Chuu kept mentioning a ‘Sooyoung’ earlier. Her wife. Muse of the dance troupe from high school. You mean to say Yves Ha and Ha Sooyoung are the same person? One person married to Kim Jiwoo?” 

“Yes…?” Dahyun trails off, befuddled herself. “Wait, you didn’t know? Haven’t you seen Sooyoung unnie in school before?” 

“We were too busy with the talent show, I never had the time to make friends outside of the very small circle of people I knew”, Mina reasons out. 

“You didn’t connect the dots earlier?” Dahyun grins smugly.

Mina’s face falls flat. “I was too busy trying not to roll my eyes at every Sooyoung unnie this, Sooyoung unnie that. ” 

Dahyun wishes she could have Mina’s making-face framed. It’s adorably hilarious to see on a normally calm and collected woman. “Is that why you were so silent the entire car ride?” 

Mina hates this, she absolutely does. Dahyun already won most of their game nights. Their scoreboard is already too embarrassing for Mina, who was undefeated until the day she said I do; to be caught jealous of all things–is the total nail to her coffin. 

“I…” Think, Mina. THINK. 

But it only takes a second of hesitation for Dahyun to recognize triumph. “YOU WERE!”

It doesn’t help that her wife has a very obnoxious way of celebrating victory. 

“I didn’t—” Mina doesn’t even continue anymore. Defending herself is futile when Dahyun’s already dancing to MC Hammer. 

Mina sighs in defeat. Somehow, mint chocolate chip ice cream aside, seeing her wife this elated makes losing taste less bitter. 

When Dahyun finally grows tired, she falls back into the bench breathless but still smiling, accepting Mina’s bottle of water wholeheartedly. 

“You know, unnie…” She takes a big breath before chugging down the remnants of the half-emptied bottle. She stabilizes her breathing first before finishing, “I wouldn't have ever met you the way I did if it weren’t for Sooyoung unnie.” 

Mina grabs the emptied bottle handed over to her. “Why is that so?” 

Dahyun tells her about the school tour before, about Sooyoung being the actual head of the welcoming committee. “She gave me the task to tour you around. And also, a copy of your old slam book page I forgot to mention Tzuyu recently unearthed from our storage room quest earlier.” 

Mina thinks that’s too much information in one entire saying. She breaks it down into bits. 

“Sooyoung gave you the task to tour me around. You brought Jeongyeon along because you were afraid of me because of that stupid rumor about me being a mafia’s daughter—” 

“A Yakuza…” 

“Same thing”, Mina huffs. “And then you didn’t talk to me the entire tour but thankfully, Jackson Wang swooped in and took Jeongyeon away, pushed you to take the lead of showing me around.” 

“Uh...yes?” 

“You know, if someone ever wrote a story of how we met, we should probably special mention them. Our readers should know who made all of this possible. They probably knew we could happen before we ever did.” 

Dahyun chuckles at that, nodding. She makes a mental note to the universe, thanking it. 

“And this slam book page you mention…” Mina trails off. “Is that the one from the guidance office…?”

“Yes!” Dahyun exclaims, throwing a punch to the air. “ YOU LIKED ME FIRST! I WAS YOUR TYPE! MINA MYOUI LIKED KIM DAHYUN FIRST! Who knew!” 

“I did.” It was rhetorical but Mina still answers. “I knew I’d like you. When I first saw you, the thought was there. I saw you and I knew the possibilities of liking you were great. And I was damned.” 

Mina smiles to herself, unable to hold down the familiar flutter of feelings from a high school crush who, in the long run, became her wife too. 

“I think I always hoped it was gonna be you. It was just my pure damn luck the universe planned the same thing.” I probably would’ve fought it otherwise. 

Mina thinks their story isn’t as grand as Jeongyeon and Nayeon’s, isn’t as pre-destined as Sana and Momo’s, but theirs is a blend of both, an epic love story in its own right. 

She leans closer to the younger girl, sizzles up next to her to take her rightful place: right in Dahyun’s arms. 

“I hope it’s us in every lifetime”, Dahyun whispers before pressing a kiss on the crown of Mina’s head.  “Even if I turn into an eagle and you’re a penguin, I wouldn’t think of you as food.”  

Mina thinks this is why she loves Dahyun the most. 

“Why do you have to ruin the moment?!” 

She tries to act all annoyed but the smile always lingers. Dahyun always makes her smiles linger.

“I was professing my love for you!” 

“Whatever”, Mina rolls her eyes playfully. She checks her watch and thinks they should call it a night already. “We still have that lunch with the girls tomorrow.”

Dahyun doesn’t budge. She drives again on the way home, thanks her great mind she came up with going to the garden. It’s still as magical. It’s still their place. 

 

🌈

 

(Mina remembers Chuu’s last question before they went their separate ways. 

“I hope you don’t mind me asking, unnie. I guess this is for the content of MiHyun heart as it is for the write-up too…”

“Sure, fire away.” Mina smiles. 

Chuu fidgets for her pen, unaware if she should write it down or not. She asks a little later on: “Why do you love Dahyunnie?” 

Mina always wondered the answer to that question too, although she never truly did bother herself with wondering it so much. She loves Dahyun without any particular reason for, but if it goes down to being asked about then it becomes a different deal. 

She could list all the reasons in the world but the first one to come up in her head is simple and honest, and maybe the main reason why. 

“Because she loves me so much…” There’s just so much love filled in Dahyun’s soul, Mina could drown in it every single day but Dahyun doesn’t let her. She holds her instead and fills all the emptiness in her with it, with all of that love. So much overwhelming love. “It makes me want to love myself too.” 

Mina thinks it’s enough of an answer. It’s all that she can ever really give right now. 

“I love myself when I’m with her. My cheeks hurt from smiling, my lungs dry up from laughing, and I feel so light, like I’m floating, like I can just breathe without any reserve. I absolutely love it. I love her. I love us when we’re together.” 

I thought of it twenty-two years ago and I still think the same. 

Kim Dahyun, you are my soulmate.

In every lifetime, in every universe.

I come home to you.

 

🌈

 

Lunch is an affair at the Kangs’–Kang Daniel and Park Jihyo, not scary Mrs. Kang’s–in their beautiful and homey apartment at the heart of Daechi-dong.

Dahyun and Mina arrive fashionably late just because they can, because Dahyun always pulls out the we're-pregnant card and claim automatic leniency (even though Mina is always not the reason why they're late, because she takes lamaze classes and pilates and has the energy of a young adult on two cans of Monster, and Dahyun is the one who has problems getting out of bed). 

The Kang residence is every bit the bachelor pad it is (because Daniel and Jihyo claim they still are bachelors without kids of their own–and, after much prodding, confirmed there might never be one–and they get to play around however they want). 

It’s an industrial loft with lots of concrete, bricks, and metal details, the kind of place you’d see owned by a wealthy New York bachelor. It’s not big enough to fit the criteria of MTV Cribs, but it’s definitely perfect on its own, especially for people like Kang Daniel and Park Jihyo.

Dahyun thinks it’s absolutely insane how Jihyo never offered to host game nights when her apartment literally has a mini laser tag arena (“It’s an amenity here.” “The door panels literally have the letters J and D on them.”) 

Once they’re complete, they gather around in the living room, crowding on the sofa and occupying the rest of the space where the coffee table used to be. 

Mina gets the privilege of sitting comfortably by her own, on a table chair pulled to the living room, watching fondly as Dahyun stands in front of everyone like a teacher to a bunch of kindergarten students, the PowerPoint presentation she stayed up so late for flashed on the screen of Jihyo and Daniel's giant flatscreen TV behind her.

Truth be told, Mina doesn't think all of this is necessary. 

When they sent out the invites through the group chat, she reminded Dahyun not to expect too much and make a big deal out of it. Everyone still had things to do and they could just easily message the results. Apparently, Mina’s the only one who thought that way. Because in spite of it being a weekday, in the middle of the Christmas rush, everyone still went out of their way to gather for this. 

"Thank you guys for coming", Dahyun starts. 

Nayeon rescheduled an important meeting for an upcoming trial less than a month away, Jeongyeon cancelled her team's U-League training for today; Momo moved the dance class she's teaching to make time, Sana declined an interview with Vogue that overlapped this meet. Jihyo and Daniel are supposed to be camping today but they moved it to host the gathering, and Jackson and Youngji left their twins with a sitter, drove all the way from Daegu just to attend. 

When Mina looks around the room, she sees a room full of people who love them so much, and it makes her realize how their child would be growing in such a loving environment.

Mina wishes for that love to stay strong—even after Dahyun flashes the next slide.

"So today we'll be announcing who we chose as godparents."

A series of gasps and other violent reactions ensue.

"Just a head's up, we came down with the decision after thorough considerations. We abided by very strict, very meticulous criteria."

Mina fought the urge to scoff at the overplay. 

Like many of the more important decisions they had to make, they decided on it via rock-paper-scissors. That was how Mina ended up carrying their child. Rock beats scissors… 

Dahyun clicks the next slide, flashing a messy scatter of the candidates’ pictures, their names written underneath, in colorful comic sans font. 

“Just so you all know, we didn’t make the decision with religion in context”, Mina feels like she should just put that out. “Dahyun and I just wanted to make sure our child would have great role models to take after and we believed, after thorough considerations, that these two would do just that.” Thorough considerations being Dahyun beating Mina in rock-paper-scissors again… “Although, of course, we also know that all of you are... good influences too...” 

“Please”, Nayeon rolls her eyes. “Jackson Wang? A good influence?” She scoffs over at the direction of the guy currently having what looks like a tickle fight with Kang Daniel. 

“You’re gonna regret that, Im”, Jackson sneers. Youngji shuts her husband up with a hard nudge. 

“ANYWAYS”, Dahyun bellows over the ruckus. “So, here we go…” 

Mina watches as every adult in the room sits up and waits with bated breaths. She snaps a mental picture of the calm before the storm. This entire room would be a chaotic battleground in a few seconds. 

Dahyun presses the controller and a vortex transition takes place painfully slowly. 

(Nayeon reacts first. Of course. “Damn Jihyo, you live here and you can’t afford premium wifi???”

“It’s just the signal! Calm your ass down, Im!”)

An empty black slide displays itself. Dahyun clicks again and an image begins spinning to existence, lagging in process. 

 (“I swear to god, Jihyo, I’m gonna fucking pay for your wifi if you—” 

“SHUT UP!”)

Finally, a non-swiveling picture displays a face. 

Dahyun clears her throat. “We have the godmother—”

Mina thinks she just heard Momo shriek. Nayeon walks out of the room. Jihyo crushes an entire can of Budweiser with her bare hand. 

“Yoo Jeongyeon!” 

Mina has never seen anyone jump up in the air as high as Jeongyeon just did. She grabs Dahyun and makes her celebrate with her, both hopping around in pure glee.

Apart from Youngji who just watches and Sana who shrugs with a smile (“Don’t tell me you all didn’t see that coming?”), everyone else is in varying states of loss and despair. Another shriek echoes from the powder room down the hall, Daniel’s trying to stop Jihyo from crushing his hand with her hold, and Sana’s just laughing at her wife’s meltdown. 

It takes a little more than five minutes for the havoc to dwindle, Mina, Youngji, Sana, and Daniel working as damage control. 

“Okay, and the godfather is Jackson Wang.” Dahyun announces later on, to an audience of dejected faces, with less hype than earlier. 

Jackson, naturally , makes a fuss. “Hey! That’s unfair! Why aren’t y’all reacting like earlier?!”

“You’re the only one in this room who’s got balls to be the god father , Wang.” Nayeon rolls her eyes before chugging a can of beer down. “No offense, Daniel.” 

“None taken”, Daniel smiles, returning with a new can of Budweiser for Jihyo. He turns to the taller guy in the room, receiving some kind of framed certificate Dahyun made for the godparents. “Congrats, dude!”

“Thank you, Daniel.” Jackson dramatically acknowledges, waving his award proudly.  “At least you care.” 

Dahyun clears her throat for everyone’s attention again, not yet done with the meeting’s agenda. “Aside from the godparents , Mina and I also listed down three guardians.”

“THREE! Oh my god!” Nayeon blurts out, eyes suddenly ignited with hope. “That’s more chances of being appointed and if I—” 

The slide shows three familiar faces, although the last one they’re not entirely on a personal basis with. 

“Is that Ronda Rousey…?” Jackson squints at the picture of the wrestler with a WWE belt. Beside her, Dahyun is doing a peace sign. 

Nayeon is dumbfounded. “WHAT. IN. THE. WORLD.” 

“Age was a factor, Nayeon”, Mina attempts to mitigate but it only does worse than good.

“Are you saying I’m old!?”

“We’re all literally the same age here. Dahyun, by heart, of course.”

Nayeon slumps down beside Jeongyeon, frowning like a defeated child.  

Mina mouths an apology before resuming, “Chaeyoung and Tzuyu, we believe, are the best fit. They live nearby, they’re responsible adults, and they both said they were willing to.” 

Jackson, however, hasn’t moved on. “Am I the only one confused that Ronda Rousey’s there or…?” 

“We’re good friends”, Dahyun answers, as if that’s all there is to know. “She’s last in the hierarchy though. It goes: Chaeyoung-Tzuyu-Ronda. We considered her physical abilities and she loves kids!” 

Everyone turns to Mina for more explanation. She tells them about staying in LA before and meeting the professional wrestler there. Dahyun and Ronda bonded over Dragon Ball Z and Pokémon and eventually became very close friends. 

“Damn”, is all Jackson can say in the end. 

“Is that all there is to this meeting? Because I don’t think I can stay for more disappointment”, Nayeon voices out a little later on, dismissing Jeongyeon’s attempts to console her. She still clings to the other woman though. 

“Actually, there’s more.” Mina takes the controller now. “And you might want to stay for it.” 

Dahyun gives up the stage to her wife, who stays in her seat of course. She presses the controller from there, displaying a slide with various pictures of various residential spaces and one entire lot. 

“We met with our lawyers and our parents who both agreed with these decisions we made”, Mina says. “Because we have no idea what’s to happen in the future, Dahyun and I both agreed that preparing for whatever would be the best course of action therefore we drafted our last will and testaments and had them notarized.” 

The entire room falls silent. 

“In addition to that, we divided our properties to you guys too.” 

And then it erupts into chaos again. 

Everyone begins betting on the pictures, each choosing which property they want like a bunch of bidders in an auction. 

“The brownstone in Park Slope”, Mina starts after the chaos dies down. She gestures a circle with the laser pointer at a picture of the sandstone townhouse in New York she previously lived in with Dahyun. “Will go to the Yoo family.” 

Nayeon and Jeongyeon celebrate like they just won the lottery. The former makes some comment about living like ‘those kids from Gossip Girl’. 

“The Paris loft”, Mina continues, pointing to her old studio apartment along Rue Saint Louis. “Will go to Chaeyoung. Because Paris. Art.” Everyone seems to understand that. 

“The chalet in Verbier goes to Tzuyu.” Sana and Momo finally get to celebrate. Dahyun explains the reason why: “That kid always loved drinking Swiss Miss."

“Jihyo gets the vineyard in Porto…” Jihyo feels the backhandedness of it but shrugs it off. She acknowledges being the wine lover of the group. 

“And the charity foundations we support, we want their finances to be handled by Jackson and Youngji.”

By the end of the delegation, the entire room is in havoc fueled by utmost pleasure and celebration. Mina and Dahyun just sit there, enjoying the sight of their happy friends. 

(“They do know they’ll only get those in the case that we die before them, right?”

Dahyun shushes her wife. “It's better they don't. That’s always how murder mysteries begin.”)

 

🌈

 

Prior to wrapping up their gathering, it being extended a little over the 2PM mark Dahyun included in the invites, Jihyo takes the lead and goes through the protocol for Mina and Dahyun’s D-Day once again. 

There had been a systematic plan assembled by the leaders of the group, Park Jihyo and, by extension and self-proclamation, Im Nayeon, for the week of Mina’s due date and even after. There were units formed and tasks delegated, every person in the room at the moment having a role to play.

Nayeon and Jackson make up the Mom Line, just because they’re the maternal instincts of their respective marriages. Jackson had no comments about the name. They will stay and help with Dahyun at the hospital before and after the delivery, just because Nayeon has the experience and Jackson has the knowledge about newborn screenings. 

Jihyo is designated emergency driver because she has the next best set of driving skills after Mina herself. Jeongyeon is her back-up. They will be staying with the couple in Japan on the week of the due date. 

Youngji and Daniel (forced by his wife) are baby nannies for the first week after the delivery. Jackson wanted to join in too but Jihyo made sure everyone had strictly one role to play to avoid conflicts and Youngji dragged her husband out of it, sharing to everyone how Jackson had “lost our twins more than once”. 

This rules out Sana and Momo’s chances of babysitting too but they become moral and emotional support for Dahyun and Mina instead. They get the privilege of choosing what song can be played at the delivery room and no, Mina has already claimed they cannot play Push It by Salt-n-Pepa. 

“We’re all ready then, yes?” Jihyo gets nods in response. Everyone had already filed their LOAs beforehand and asked other relatives to babysit for the meantime (in the case of Youngji and Jackson). Chaeyoung and Tzuyu will be flying in with Nayeon and Jackson.

Before the meeting ends, Nayeon offers to make a toast with her sixth can of Budweiser, in the middle of everyone tidying up in the living room. “Come on, gather up.” 

She holds up the can, spilling a little over the sofa she stands on haphazardly (much to Jihyo’s annoyance). 

“Here’s to Mina and Dahyun! The couple we never expected to happen! Our little Dahyunnie who is now not so little anymore!” She exclaims before taking a chug and then raising the can again, “And here’s to the little one we will all be meeting in a few weeks! You’re the youngest member of the group now!”

Everyone laughs at that. Nayeon’s suddenly tearing up, talking about how Chaeyoung used to be Dahyun’s bro and now she’s finally going to get her own bro

Jeongyeon calms her (drunken) lover down and guides her off the sofa. 

They all toast with whatever they’re holding, to Mina and Dahyun and their own epic love story, and to the new baby of their growing family .

 

🌈

 

In the crazy storm of prenatal preparations, between the havoc of picking out strollers and installing car seats, Dahyun and Mina find their last night at home quiet and eerily tranquil—to the point that it feels ominous. 

The day goes by relatively mishap-free and it ends on a normal note, with Mina going through her work emails in the room and Dahyun somewhere around the house.

Mina only notices her wife’s absence when she hears it. 

There’s a particular kind of sound that speaks to the soul whenever Dahyun plays. Whenever her fingers glide across the ivory keys, Mina feels like she’s watching art create art itself. She’s mesmerizing. When Dahyun plays, it’s her soul speaking about emotions words can never encapsulate. 

Mina is enamored whenever Dahyun plays. She can remember all the nights she would dance to it. They would practice until dawn; Dahyun would play Debussy or Tchaikovsky. She would have a song to play for every emotion, for every performance Mina would hold only for her

Futari No Kimochi is a piece for when she’s sad. 

When Mina walks into the dance room (where they moved the piano after the living room rearrangements), her worries are confirmed. Dahyun is hunched over the grand piano, eyes closed as she slides her fingers across the keys, unaware of the presence before her. 

It’s enchanting, seeing an artist in the wake of creation. It makes Mina forget for a second the greatest art were created by the saddest people. 

It’s like a moment of thought thrown in shatters when the music stops and Mina gets pulled down to consciousness. 

“Hello, my love.” 

Dahyun just blinks at her, as if unconvinced of her wife’s presence before her. It takes her a few more seconds to register it, voice squeaking in realization. “O-Oh, hey.” 

Mina walks over, feeling the cold wood panel floors against the soles of her bare feet. It makes her miss spending hours in the room, dancing until the music had been engraved to the very depths of bones. 

“What are you doing here?” She asks, sliding into the ottoman when Dahyun makes space for her. 

Save from the moonlight streaming through the floor-to-glass windows that surround one side of the walls, the entire room is enveloped in nothing but raw emotions and serene darkness. 

Mina can barely make out Dahyun’s features from the facade of her face. “Inuyasha?” 

“Yeah…” Dahyun trails off, eyes not meeting Mina’s. She keeps them on the white keys glistening underneath the moonlight, glosses her fingers over them but doesn’t play a single note. “How 'bout you? What are you doing down here?" 

Mina lies. "I just wanted to grab a snack and then I saw the door here open. Heard you playing."

Dealing with sadness is hard. 

"Have you found anything to eat?" Dahyun asks, now turning to face Mina, who only shakes her head in return.

"Do you want anything? Delivery?" 

But if there's one guaranteed happy place for Dahyun, it's in Mina's arms–and at the diner.

"Actually, I was wondering if you wanted to get some milkshakes? Twisty fries too while we're at it."

So they find themselves sitting by a table booth tucked in the corner of an empty Deux almost ten minutes later.

 

🌈

 

There’s a certain magical feel to Deux when it’s lit up at night, at the heart of a street lined with modern commercial buildings and other entertainment stores. Its neon lights and retro furniture make it look like a time machine in the middle of the bustling city. 

Nothing much has changed about Deux. So many of their memories have been made here and it feels like most of them have been engraved around the diner, laughter echoing in the distance, the ghost of their youth lingering. 

Maybe that’s why Dahyun loved this place so much. It was the only thing time couldn’t take away from her. In this place, it felt like time itself didn’t even exist.

“Deux always had this magical feel”, Dahyun echoes Mina’s thoughts as they sit by a table booth tucked in the corner of the diner. “It feels uplifting and mellow at the same time. And everywhere I look, I just…” She glances around the empty diner. “I see us.” 

Mina sees her wife’s smile. It’s enough. 

“Do you want anything?” She asks a little later on, after mentioning her order without sparing the menu board before them a single glance. 

Dahyun orders the same thing and the old lady disappears into the kitchen after jotting it down. 

They bask in the solitude of the diner. It feels weird seeing it this way when it used to never run out of life and energy back in the days. Some groups of boys would be shackling the arcades, rowdy howling in the air mingling with the aroma of grease and sweat. The girls would be in their booths, separated into groups, talking and laughing around, singing to whatever music the radio would be playing. 

Now it’s just this. Just them in the room, a few staff–one old lady–in accompany. There’s no music playing, no arcade-banging or anything. The arcade itself is a mere layer of dust over some white sheet drape-over. 

It’s amazing how twenty years have changed them. It’s kind of sad too. This place just means so much to them. 

“Unnie, did you know…” This place means so much to Dahyun. “This is where I met Jeongyeon and Jihyo unnie?”

Mina looks up from the Heinz packet she’s squeezing into a small dipping bowl. “What do you mean?”

“On my first day in Apgujeong.” Dahyun remembers it rather vaguely, how the first day of school went, but she remembers distinctly sitting by a booth–the very same one they are in right now–and two girls approaching her, one had the intimidating aura of a student-leader, the other a charming one with a warm smile on her face. 

“It was a full-house during that time. You know, the first day of school. Lots of kids meet with friends again after classes to talk about their breaks and what not. I was here by myself”, Dahyun taps on her seat. “Sitting by this booth. All the tables were occupied. Jeongyeon and Jihyo unnie were looking for somewhere to sit.”

They were both blonde that time, with shoulder-length hair. Jihyo sported a high half-ponytail with a black ribbon and beside her, Jeongyeon dashing in her dark ash blonde hair. 

The first thing they told Dahyun the moment the younger girl agreed to share the booth was about a dare and Jihyo losing it, hence the hair. It was something about Jeongyeon being captain for the season and Dahyun remembers asking if it was even allowed to have their hair dyed. She had flat jet black hair. 

“Of course!” Jeongyeon exclaimed, throwing an arm around Jihyo’s shoulders, much to her annoyance. “This girl here is the LAW! She’s the Student Council President!”

Jihyo clarifies it is allowed, it’s just that no one in their sane mind would bleach their hair blonde knowing the price and the process. 

“Of course. That’s why you have me”, Jeongyeon winks.

Jihyo gags. “I regret that now.” 

Dahyun thought they were a couple back then, until Jihyo threw a punch at Jeongyeon’s arms and the latter made a remark about how nobody would ever have the guts to date her. “You’re scary!” 

And then they asked about Dahyun, surprised when they found out she was a freshman in the same school. They asked all about her day and, well, the hesitation and dejection in her voice is enough of an answer. 

“Have you...made any friends yet?”

Dahyun looks down in disappointment, hands finding themselves fidgeting underneath the table. “Uh…” 

“That’s alright”, Jihyo says quickly, a smile on her face. Beside her, Jeongyeon adds, “We’ll be your friends.” 

“If Younger Me knew that decision would be pushing myself into loads of teenage drama and my first hair bleaching, I probably would have backed out”, Dahyun jokes at her wife, who can only react with a horrified expression because, “They made you dye your hair blonde? Was that some kind of initiation?” 

“No!” Dahyun takes it back quickly, knowing all too well how Mina’s mind works and the many methods she can inflict pain on those two women now if she ever misunderstands. “I wanted to dye my hair too like them. It looked nice. My hair was too dull anyways.” 

“And you dyed your hair…”

“Yeah. I came back blonde and they were back to their old hair colors.” 

Mina laughs at that, reaching over the table to pinch her wife’s cheeks. “Awww~ you poor baby~”

Dahyun just swats her hand away, now only realizing this might just be the backstory of her iconic sunshine hair. Anything that described the same would ultimately point to her. 

They talk through their food, sharing the twisty fries together. Mina remembers their old fight at the parking lot, Deux’s back alley where all the cool kids go. Dahyun tells her about the arcade, about Donkey Kong and how no one probably ever surpassed her high score. 

“This place really means a lot, huh…” Mina says to herself, looking around just as they finish their food. Dahyun can only nod, cheeks stuffed with the fries. 

“We should host a welcome back party here or something. Maybe the Baek-il? When we come back.”

“We should”, Dahyun responds only after chugging everything down with water. “I want to show everything to the little one when we meet.” 

Mina smiles at that, excited for the day to come too. “We’ll be welcoming her home.”

 

🌈

 

The following day is a blur of finalizing documents and getting ready for their flight. The check-in process goes by smoothly, Jihyo and Jeongyeon never leaving their sides until their farewells by the gate. 

Just as everything is going well, the couple settled in their first class seats, Dahyun makes a joke about Mina giving birth on the plane. 

“That's a lifetime of free airfare from Korean Air too!"

“No.”

“Okay but you know though…” Dahyun trails off as she snuggles into the comforts of her reclined seat, watching as Mina fiddles with the mini-TV screen, picking through the movies available at their disposal. 

“I’m gonna miss this.” 

Mina scoffs without sparing her a glance. The Notebook or World War Z? "We’re gonna have a baby, Dahyun. We can still travel after that.” World War Z. Duh. 

“No. I meant the privileges.” 

Mina clicks on the movie and settles down. “What privileges?” 

“Priority Privileges!”

And then it hits Mina like the iceberg that collided with the Titanic. “So that’s why!” 

Ever since Mina was in her second trimester, Dahyun had been dragging her out of the house more frequently, taking her to the most mundane places. The drugstore? The pet store? The post office? Her love for the woman masked all of her questions, convincing herself this was just some adult, level-up version of a date. 

“You were taking me to those because you wanted to use the express lanes?” 

“We were saving time!”

Mina can’t believe it. “You’re lucky I love you.” 

Dahyun just grins smugly. “I have the best luck in the world.” 

 

🌈

 

In hindsight, maybe it wasn't a good idea fitting the loudest bunch of forty-year-olds in a waiting room. 

As smooth as the check-in process went by, the delivery proper is complete and utter pandemonium.

Nayeon thinks Dahyun must be close to fainting inside the operating room, if not already. The younger woman always had an amazing perception of pain. Seeing someone suffer made Dahyun feel it too, and Mina is on the top of the list of people she deeply cares about. 

"Dahyun's probably lying in a corner already, some nurses fanning her awake…" 

Jeonggeon scoffs beside her. "Mina's probably more worried about her wife than pushing that baby out."

“Poor little baby…" Nayeon trails off, finding it amusing how it's an actual possibility. She chuckles as subtly as she can, Chaeyoung is sleeping on her other shoulder.

On the seats across them, Jackson puts down his phone beside Youngji. "Speaking of baby", he says. "Dahyun and Mina refused to tell us the sex. Youngji and I bought rainbow-themed gifts instead. You know. Projecting Pride early on."

Nayeon rolls her eyes at the remark. "They're trying to keep it gender-neutral. The kid's identity is up to them to make. Look what I did to Chaeyoung."

"That's a pretty Mina Myoui move", Sana comments proudly from the other side. On her lap, Tzuyu is napping. Thank goodness it's two in the morning. The waiting area is empty except for them.  

"Just imagine how the kid would look. Having Mina and Dahyun's features. Like damn", Jackson sighs. "That would give me and Irene noona a run for our money."

Nayeon can agree with the latter, albeit with hesitancy, but the first statement? 

"You seriously think you're the hottest guy in the room huh…" She looks at the taller guy with a disgusted frown then turns to Youngji. "Is he like this all the time?" 

When Youngji nods with a dramatic sigh, Nayeon shakes her head. "You must have been hit as a child, Wang. There's too much air in your head."

Jackson always waved a white flag whenever it was Nayeon or Jihyo retaliating at him. This time is the same. He deflates like a balloon, his wife just laughing beside him.

They spend another half an hour in anticipation, half of them already in varying states of slumber. They had been up and running without any proper sleep the whole day. 

While Dahyun and Mina definitely had the entire situation under control (Nayeon has never seen a woman about to give birth so fucking calm. When it was her, she treated Dongwoon like a punching bag, throwing a hit whenever something annoyed her or hurt—which was the entire time), everyone moved around like tornadoes clashing—of course, behind Mina’s back though. 

Jeongyeon and Jihyo fought over who would drive (Jihyo won, and she had no problem getting imprisoned under Japanese law for reckless driving), Jackson and Nayeon couldn’t get a word out to the hospital staff when they arrived earlier so they had to wait for Momo and Sana to translate. Checking Mina in went alright after fixing everything prior to her arrival, and when the contractions came in and intensified, wave after wave, Mina came through calmly. Terrifyingly calmly. 

When the time came for Mina to head to the operation room, everybody saw real terror then. Nayeon thinks it might be the only time she’s seen real , absolute fear in Dahyun’s eyes. 

“You got this, okay?” Jeongyeon was the first one to rush over to Dahyun’s side. She held the younger girl by the shoulders and looked her in the eyes. “You’re gonna make the absolute best mom ever. You and Mitang. You both got this, okay?” 

It took a couple of breaths for the courage to step in and Dahyun smiled at all of them before disappearing into the operating room with Mina. 

Now it’s been an hour and a half since and the agitation bites at each of them like a hungry animal. Every passing minute has Nayeon on the edge, worried and excited and afraid and happy. It’s a mix of everything in between and Nayeon wants absolutely everything to go away. It doesn’t help that the godmother beside her is just as agitated. 

Jeongyeon continues to fidget with the ring around her finger. It bothers Nayeon that she’s slipping it off and back, off and back, off and back. 

“Why are you shaking so much?” Nayeon hisses at her wife. “Are you the one giving birth? If you faint here I am not carrying you up.

“No”, Jeongyeon pinches the back of Nayeon’s hand, causing her to yank it away. “I’m just nervous for the two and for my godchild.” 

“Okay, grandma. Stop rubbing it in.” Nayeon rolls her eyes. No one has yet to move on from the biggest betrayal of the century and Jeongyeon is absolutely thriving in it. 

“This is my first time like this. You’re probably chill because you’ve been through the same thing before with Chaeyoung.” 

“I wouldn’t say chill. I feel like vomiting right now but the restrooms are at the other end of the hall.” 

Jeongyeon chuckles at that albeit faintly. She holds Nayeon’s hand with hers, interlacing their fingers. On Nayeon’s other shoulder, Chaeyoung is asleep.

“You…” Jeongyeon whispers, eyes unwavering on the gold band around Nayeon’s ring finger. “You did all of this alone. When you had Chaeyoung…” 

“Partially. Dongwoon and his mom—” 

“You raised Chaeyoung by yourself too…” 

“Jihyo can take half the credit—” 

Jeongyeon just rolls her eyes. “Nayeon”, she calls out, taking Nayeon’s hands in her own to get her attention. It works easily. 

“O-Oh?” 

Even with the bags under her eyes, the evident lack of sleep physically manifesting themselves, even under the dismal hospital lights, Nayeon’s eyes are filled with love and warmth looking at Jeongyeon. 

Jeongyeon feels like falling all over again. “You’re one heck of a superwoman, you know?” 

The thin line across Nayeon’s lips disappear, replaced by a smile that slowly tugs until the front of her teeth take a peek, and then pink dusts across her cheeks as she accidentally lets out a cackle and is then reduced to hushed apologies at her daughter who groans at the noise. 

Chaeyoung is awakened and seeks solace from the other girl in front of her, who poses a more inviting and less shaky shoulder. Tzuyu takes her in welcomingly, arms spread out in greeting. They sleep together there. 

“Thank you, pabo.” Nayeon smiles, leaning in for a chaste kiss on Jeongyeon’s lips. “We’re doing good with that one, huh?” She puckers her lips over to that one , Chaeyoung, who sleeps cozily on Tzuyu’s shoulder, hugging her arm. 

Jihyo and Daniel return from the cafeteria with coffee, handing it around. It’s divine, the very first sip of caffeine after a drowsy day. 

“I think we all are”, Jeongyeon says, looking around at all of them. “Twenty years ago we didn’t have the slightest clue about what the fuck we would do with our lives.” 

Sana and Momo are talking  in hushed whispers, chuckling at each other like lovers in their own bubble, with Momo's one hand on Tzuyu's lap. Meanwhile, Jihyo takes a seat on Chaeyoung's other side, fixing the blanket draped over her shoulders. She continues chatting with Daniel afterwards. Jackson and Youngji are playing rock-paper-scissors, Jackson in a deserved losing streak.

"Twenty years ago we were just a bunch of reckless kids pulling drama everywhere we went. We were wild and crazy and we couldn't care less about what life would bring us."

Jeongyeon looks down on the gold band around Nayeon's finger, the same ones laced with her own. 

"Now we're in our forties and we have kids of our own and our youngest is about to have hers", She says with a heavy breath. Then a smile. "Twenty years flew by like flipping a chapter in a book."

"I can't believe those reckless teenagers turned out fine", Nayeon admits dolefully. Honestly, she didn't expect she'd turn out the way she did. Growing up, a lot of people told her she'd end up the same way most stereotypical popular kids did: shattered on the ground after falling from their shrines of superficial high school popularity, drunk on the high of their attention-filled youth, unable to move on.

Chaeyoung made Nayeon want to be a better person. 

"We all grew up pretty well", Jeongyeon says, patting Nayeon's hand in reassurance. "Life had a pretty fucked up way of doing that, I guess."

It's 3:27 in the morning when the lights on the operating room turn off and the shadow of a woman paints itself across the frosted glass doors.

Everyone stands up almost immediately. Priding in their godparenthood, Jackson and Jeongyeon take the main stage, waiting right in the middle of the hall, ahead of everyone gathering outside the door.

Nayeon can see everyone holding their breaths as the glass doors slide open, revealing Dahyun clad in a disposable gown.

It’s nice to see some things have stayed the same.

“Hi everyone…” It only takes Nayeon now to notice the bassinet Dahyun is pushing towards them. When she looks down on it, she feels her own breath hitch. 

And some, a welcome change. 

“This is Haru. Haru Iris Myoui-Kim”, Dahyun mutters softly, looking down at the newborn baby wrapped in a white blanket, sleeping soundly in her cot. 

Haru for spring in Japanese. Iris for the song that got us together.

When Nayeon looks up at Dahyun, she sees the lights shine from her eyes, her smile pushing up at tear-stained cheeks.

“The superhero finally got her sidekick.” 

 

🌈

 

And then they had a girl.

Naturally, everyone is obsessed. Jackson jokes about forming a girl group with how most of their kids are of the female sex. Nayeon had Chaeyoung, Sana and Momo had Tzuyu, Jackson and Youngji had twin girls, and even Seulgi and Irene had Yerim and Yeeun. 

Mina stays at the hospital recuperating for three more days. The doctors said her delivery by far was the easiest and quickest they've done naturally but because of her age, she had to stay for follow-up exams and screenings just to make sure she was okay.

Everyone never leaves the couple's sides under the pretense of their love for the two but Dahyun thinks they just want to see Haru in the nursery. 

That's understandable. Bias aside, three nurses from the nursery unit already complimented Haru for how pretty she is. Dahyun can't honestly see how they can tell since most of the babies look the same (and for that she's afraid she might take the wrong baby home and Mina will never live it down so she took a picture just in case), but she's ultimately just grateful they think so. 

The Myoui-Kim genes are gifted in supernatural beauty.

The bets on who Haru looks like have already started rolling. Dahyun doesn't know how to feel knowing she's on the losing end with only Daniel to back her up, and Daniel probably hasn't even seen even a single baby picture of Dahyun.

"She looks like Mina. Definitely like Mina", Nayeon says on the last night of their stay at the hospital. 

"How can you say that, unnie? She looks like every other baby in the hospital." Dahyun frowns from where she's lying down, in the space beside Mina on her bed.

"I can see." Nayeon answers as if it was supposed to mean something. "The moment I saw Chaeyoung I didn't know if I should curse or not. She looked like her dad but I was the beautiful one."

Somewhere from the other side of the room, Chaeyoung groans. "Gee, thanks mom…" 

Nayeon doesn't hear. "All I'm saying is, she looks like she'll look like Mina. Which is a good thing. Any child with that face is marketable."

Her statements get her a hit on both arms, from Jeongyeon and Jihyo, who chides, "Stop sounding like a capitalist. You're a fucking human rights lawyer."   

They squabble more about who looks like who while Dahyun turns her focus on her wife, who seems to be back-to-shape enough to start going through work emails already.

"ELLE emailed", She mentions without removing her eyes from the screen. "They offered a billion won for the rights to Haru's first pictures."

"A BILLION—"

"Vogue offered two and a half for her first photoshoot."

Dahyun feels like her soul just left her body. It takes a while for the words to sink in and when they do, it's even more overwhelming. 

"That much for Haru's pictures?!"

Mina shrugs. "They'll probably pay half a billion just for her name."

Dahyun pulls out her phone with a shaky hand. "If I send them a picture of a random baby from the nursery, would they believe it?"

The unamused frown on Mina's face disappears, replaced by a giggle at the suggestion. "We'll get sued. We're not sending them anything."

"We have Nayeon unnie to defend us…"

"No", Mina shakes her head. "Let them be. I want Haru safe from the prying eyes of the world. I just want to be with you two." 

Dahyun feels her chest clench at the words. Twelve years of marriage and it still makes her heart flutter like a teenage girl all over again. 

She nuzzles closer to Mina's side, carefully wrapping an arm around her waist. "I want that too."

"When can we go home?" Mina pouts, looking up at Dahyun.

Dahyun just smiles. That pout does wonders to her heart.

"When we pay your bills. I never knew this would be so expensive. We're not having a second child, agree?"

Mina finally gets a loud laugh at that, startling even the others in the room.

"Okay", She tries to say in between wheezes. "Agree."

"Good." Dahyun presses a kiss on her wife's forehead. "Besides, I already planned our Halloween costumes and it's only good for three. I'll tell you when we get home."

Home.

"Okay." Mina sighs, a smile ghosting her lips. "When we get home."

 

🌈

 

(Eight months later, 2021)

Dahyun presents her best self. 

Her favorite Benetton sweater is creaseless, neatly smoothen down to the T. The pleats of her uniform skirt are tightly folded and locked in place. Her loafers have been polished more than once, squeaky clean and shining. Her dark brown hair is down it’s natural waves, cascading squared shoulders. 

Outside she looks like the old Kim Dahyun, the model student she always wanted to imagine herself as. She stands tall with her head held high, plastering on her brightest, most welcoming smile, ready to meet Haru Myoui-Kim. 

“I’m surprised that still fits”, Jeongyeon comments behind her, standing by the door. Everyone else is finalizing the preparations inside, under the leadership of Nayeon and Sana. They get to wait here for the celebrant of the night. 

“But you’re missing something though…” Jeongyeon whispers, head still fixed out on the straight, waiting for the Rover they’re expecting to arrive in less than five minutes. 

Dahyun looks down at herself. Everything seems to be in place. This is exactly what she wore twenty-plus years ago. 

“What am I—” 

But before she can even ask, Jeongyeon is suddenly stepping in front of her and grabbing her sweater. Dahyun looks down and sees the woman pinning something on the fabric. 

“Jihyo and I had this made as a gift for you”, Jeongyeon mumbles before stepping back. She smiles at her own work and Dahyun can see the faintest reflection of Deux’s lights on her unnie’s eyes. “This is twenty-three years overdue.” 

 

Kim Dahyun
Student Welcoming Committee

 

When Dahyun looks down on the pin, pulling at the fabric to read it clearly, she feels her chest tighten, vision blurring at the sight. 

“U-Unnie…” 

Jeongyeon drags a hand over her face, wiping at the tears with her thumb. “Stop crying.” She purses her lips in a direction over Dahyun’s shoulders. “They’re here.” 

The Rover rounds Deux’s parking lot, stopping right in front of Jeongyeon and Dahyun, who rushes to fix herself again in time. 

Mina steps out of the backseat first, clad in white jeans and a white collared top. Her jet black hair contrasts her get-up, paired with light makeup but champagne-kissed lips. 

“Hi baby”, Mina greets Dahyun first, pressing a lovely kiss on her wife’s lips. “You look just like the first time I ever saw you.” 

“Did you fall in love then?” Dahyun cocks an eyebrow playfully. 

Mina just rolls her eyes, unable to keep her smile down. “With Jeongyeon, yes.” 

“Ya…” 

“Kidding”, Mina chuckles, pulling Dahyun in a hug. “I thought you looked cool. The Benetton gave it away.” 

Behind Mina, Jihyo steps down from the driver’s seat and rounds the car. “When you’re done being lovey-dovey, I could use a hand with your child.” 

“Oh yeah”, Mina pulls away, laughing. She jogs over to unbuckle Haru from the car seat, pulling her into her arms and carrying her. 

Haru looks beautiful in her mother’s arms, regal in her white knitted cardigan and little baby legging. Eight months ago, Dahyun couldn’t tell whether Haru was their child or not. Now she can definitely see what Nayeon sees, this child is going to grow up impossibly beautiful. 

“Haru-ya”, Dahyun calls out fondly, in that baby voice all of them have fully mastered by now. Haru, recognizing the voice of her (self-proclaimed) funnier mom, immediately turns her head. 

Dahyun opens out her arms. “Come with mommy?” 

Mina is mama, Dahyun is mommy. 

Haru reaches out for Dahyun, who easily takes her in her arms. Mina just playfully glowers at the sight. “Funny how I carried you for ten months and you prefer your mommy over me.” 

“Don’t worry”, Jeongyeon pats her shoulder reassuringly. “Chaeyoung was also like that.” 

Haru laughs at something, tiny little fingers finding themselves fiddling with the pin on her mother’s sweater. Mina looks over at it. “What’s that?” 

Dahyun tries to take the pin away from Haru’s fingers, unsuccessful in doing so but Mina still sees. “Is that…” 

Dahyun just nods, the tears coming back. “Jeongyeon and Jihyo unnie got it for me.” 

“That’s…” Mina, the woman who is fluent in five different languages, is at a loss for words. “That’s beautiful, Dahyunnnie.” 

“Haru-ya”, Dahyun turns to the baby in her hold. “Do you want mommy to tour you around?” 

They begin walking over to the doors. 

As if the baby could understand, Haru giggles in her mother’s arms, to the delight of Jihyo, Jeongyeon, and Mina. 

“I’ll have you know, mommy’s rates are very expensive ”, Dahyun jokes. “Your mama met me because of this.” 

Haru just giggles in her mother's arms. In front of them, Jeongyeon gets a hold on the newspaper-covered doors.

Dahyun has mentioned not shouting too loud (Jackson and Nayeon) but of course it doesn't get followed. Everybody else is on the high of their excitement seeing Haru back. 

The moment the doors push open, there are party poppers and heartful howls resounding, colorful balloons waved around. Nayeon and Sana are rushing over, the kids filming the moment. Jackson, Seulgi, Momo, and Daniel are dancing to the music playing, Irene and Yerin all big smiles. 

Dahyun feels Mina's hand rest by her waist as they enter, and she feels all the security and warmth the entire world could offer her. 

It feels like going back in time again, seeing everyone in Deux. It's still them, the reckless kids of before, just older now and wiser. 

Haru is laughing and smiling at everything, eyes crinkling in the way that it makes half-crescents, the only thing she probably inherited from Dahyun. 

"Haru-ya", Dahyun leans in to whisper. She presses a kiss on plump soft cheeks. "Welcome home."

 

☀️