Ever since she was a little girl, Jung Eunbi knew that she wasn’t an ordinary person. She was never interested in science, or literature, or even fashion, and when asked what she wanted to be when she was older, she would answer something like ‘a dumpling’ or ‘jangjangmyeon’. It wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy other activities besides eating, but they were more suited for hobbies than plausible career choices. Luckily for her, her older siblings had chosen uncommon jobs (her sister was a webtoon author while her brother was the community manager for a soup brand), so her parents weren’t surprised or disappointed when she decided not to go to college in favor of pursuing a youtuber career.
Shockingly, her mukbang channel didn’t draw in as many viewers as she expected, even when she tried combining it with ASMR, interviewing her family and friends or impersonating anime characters. However, as she was already resigned to failure, she decided to do one split-screen video of herself eating while playing Overwatch, half mukbang half streaming. It went viral for some reason.
(According to her friends and some comments, it was because viewers could see how sincerely she enjoyed both things)
Over the course of time, Eunbi started to gain more attention for her gaming skills than her food consumption, although she still ate while playing, and eventually she was able to make it as a professional gamer. She went by the nickname ‘Eunha’ -a suggestion from her childhood friend whose name was also Eunbi- and named her channel ‘Galaxy Wish’, gaining progressive success and loyal supporters.
However, even though Eunha was very happy, she couldn’t get rid of the feeling that something was missing in her life, though she couldn’t pinpoint what that was… Until one day when Hwang Eunbi went to visit her carrying burgers and milkshakes, claiming she got them for free at her workplace.
Free burgers? That wouldn’t exactly fill the void in Eunha’s heart, but it would certainly help.
Despite being childhood friends, the two Eunbis were very different. Hwang Eunbi was always consistent and outspoken about her interests, and she was a Dance major who had already participated in several competitions across the country. However, as Eunha had learned, being a dancer was also expensive, so Eunbi had taken a part-time, flexible-hours job at a fast food restaurant called “Wednesday’s”.
While Eunbi didn’t have much to say about her job besides a casual shrug, Eunha found it absolutely fascinating that employees could literally bring burgers home every day. Long story short, she asked Eunbi to please get her an interview at her workplace, not even bothering to ask about salary or benefits. And since the place always seemed to be short-staffed, because everyone was a student with wild schedules and deadlines, she was hired right away.
Eunha loved her life. She worked her part-time at Wednesday’s and her gaming job during the evenings and nights, eating what she brought from the restaurant. She was also a decent worker who treated customers well and was always available for either shift, so Wednesday’s staff loved her back… well, except for one person.
Her name was Kim Sojung, and she put all beauty queens to shame. The first time Eunha saw her, it took her approximately 2 hours to finish looking at her from head to toe; she was the only person in their establishment (and perhaps on Earth) who looked beautiful while wearing the horrible brown apron and cap that were part of their uniform; she had worked at Wednesday’s for a relatively long time, and she was always punctual, responsible and disciplined, calling out and sometimes outright scolding the other employees who spent more time messing around than working.
In short, if Kim Sojung were a manga character, she would be the stoic ice queen from shoujo ai stories (not that Eunha had read too many of those). Eunbi laughed and assured Eunha that Sojung was just as much of a goofball as everyone else, she was just going after the management position because she needed more income, so she needed to prove that she could be responsible and keep everyone in line, even though most of the employees didn’t even listen to her.
But Eunha did listen to her. She admired Sojung’s firm leadership, her grace, her legs... and yet Sojung never smiled at her or joked with her as she did with some of the other employees. That was a cause of great concern for Eunha, who had never been disliked by anyone, but Eunbi assured her that Sojung was not normal, so she shouldn’t expect normal responses from her.
Eunha didn’t know what to do with that information or with her apparent inability to please Sojung. She had never wanted someone to like her so badly, and as time passed it was getting harder to ignore that the mild discomfort of being disliked had somehow evolved into longing.
Still, because Eunha had actually read way more shoujo ai than she would publicly admit, she knew that the ice queen would melt and that there would be a perfectly valid –and most likely tragic- reason for her attitude towards her, so she didn’t give up.
Once upon a day off, Eunha was just making her way back home after buying some groceries, when it started to rain. It was the kind of summer rain that came out of nowhere, surprising everyone who hadn’t brought an umbrella with them, which included her. She went to the bus stop just to take cover under its roof, when she spotted her across the street: looking even more beautiful in regular clothes, the cause of her heartache, Kim Sojung.
Unlike her, Sojung did have an umbrella, but soon Eunha watched her give it away to a schoolboy who was getting soaked under the rain. Even though Eunha couldn’t hear what was being said, she recognized that Sojung was scolding the kid based on her body language. The boy bowed in either gratitude or apology or both, before skipping away with Sojung’s umbrella, which left her soaking alone then.
Eunha’s heart was breaking right before her eyes, but she couldn’t do anything except stare. Sojung looked around, not finding a suitable shelter until she spotted the bus stop across the street, which Eunha was standing under. Eunha wasn’t sure if Sojung had seen her or not, but she crossed the street in seemingly two steps with her unreasonably long legs and in a matter of seconds she was standing right in front of her.
“Woo! It started raining out of nowhere!” Sojung commented with a smile, pushing her wet hair over her shoulder to comb her fingers through it. When Eunha didn’t answer, she tilted her head with a frown. “What? Like you were prepared.”
Eunha suddenly snapped back to the present. Sojung was really just making casual chat and smiling at her as if it was a normal occurrence for them to meet outside of work, and Eunha had been too busy processing what had happened in front of her to respond.
“N-No, of course I wasn’t. Hi, unnie!” She said a bit too excitedly. “I was just going back home; do you live around here too?”
“No, I was… at a job interview.” Sojung answered, still combing her hair with her fingers.
“Oh.” Eunha couldn’t help the disappointment in her voice. “Are you leaving Wednesday’s then?”
Sojung laughed a little. “Not for the foreseeable future. It was a modeling gig, but I didn’t get it anyway, so.”
Sojung shrugged with a tight-lipped smile, giving away her own disappointment. Eunha knew that Sojung was attending a modeling academy and that most of her salary went into it, which was most likely the reason why she wanted to become a shift manager.
“I’m sorry.” Eunha said sincerely. If their relationship wasn’t so awkward, she would have even hugged her. “Next time you’ll get it. Unnie, fighting!”
“Thanks.” Sojung said, smiling again. “Ah well, on the bright side I can eat ice cream and fries again, so it’s not a total loss.”
“…again? You had stopped eating those?” Eunha asked, alarmed.
“Well, duh, I was trying to get a modeling job, so of course I had to go on a diet.” Sojung answered like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Eunha was absolutely baffled.
“I’ve never in my life gone on a diet. I could never.” She answered, shaking her head slowly. “Unnie is really cool, you’re so disciplined.”
Sojung laughed again, a bit shyly. “Mm. Sometimes you have to sacrifice certain things in order to gain others, or well, try to gain others.”
Nice Fullmetal Alchemist reference, was what Eunha planned to answer, but she noticed the sad tone with which Sojung ended her sentence, so she kept the comment to herself. A few seconds of silence passed, during which Eunha felt the awkwardness between them start to grow again. Not fair, not fair, she was finally talking to Sojung as a friend and it would be over so soon? She had to say something. Something a cool friend would say.
“Hey, do you want onion rings? I bought cheese flavored ones.” She asked, raising her plastic shopping bag to show Sojung the contents.
“Oh?” The taller girl seemed completely taken aback by the question, which made Eunha mentally kick herself for a moment, but then she added, “I didn’t know they came in cheese flavor. Hell yeah, give me.”
To say that Eunha was ecstatic wouldn’t be an exaggeration at all. She retrieved the packet of onion rings and opened it, immediately offering it to Sojung, who politely took one (1!) ring with a soft thanks and a smile. Eunha had never let anyone take the first ring; if her siblings could see her, they would judge her so hard.
“It’s good!” Sojung announced with a thumbs up after a couple of bites. “Did you get lots of these?”
“Um yeah, well, I also bought regular flavor and potato chips.” Eunha answered, twirling the bag around to show her. She was actually a bit embarrassed about showing her bag of mostly snacks to a model. “But I got actual food, too, you know? I know it doesn’t look like it, because I love the food from work, but I also like to eat healthy. I actually love fruits and vegetables.”
Sojung nodded with a teasing smile, the kind that she used at Wednesday’s when she was making fun of Yerin or Taehyung. “I bet you eat lots of carrots and lettuce.”
“Ung, yeah, I do.” Eunha answered shortly. Was Sojung mocking her? Was it so hard to believe that Eunha did, actually, take care of what she ate?
“Of course you do, you’re a bunny after all!” Sojung answered, laughing. “Get it? I said carrots and lettuce ‘cause that’s what bunnies eat, right? I imagine that’s also what you like to eat. It’s funny, you should laugh. Nah, you don’t have to laugh, I know I am funny.”
Eunha wasn’t laughing, not only because it actually wasn’t the slightest bit funny but most importantly because Sojung had never been playful with her like this, so she was perplexed. Eunbi was right about Sojung not being normal, but she had always been normal –no, more like strict and stoic- around Eunha. She had always treated her with a certain distance, but that day, at a bus stop during a summer rain, Sojung was treating Eunha with the same ease she treated everyone else.
Was it because they were outside of work? Because it was Eunha’s day off? Because Sojung didn’t do well in her audition? Was it the onion rings?
“Unnie, why don’t you like me?” She asked in an involuntarily whiny voice. That… was not what she intended to ask, but. There it was.
“What?” Sojung asked, all traces of laughter gone in a flash.
“This is the first time you ever tease me and laugh with me and, like, hang out with me. You never do that. You seem to hate me. Why? What did I do to you?”
“Wh-what are you talking about? I don’t hate you. What? Are you kidding me?” She laughed again, but this time it was short and shallow, like a disbelieving kind of laugh. “If I hated any of my coworkers I would have already left that place. You guys are the only thing that keeps me sane. I mean I want to strangle Yuna and the other Eunbi half of the time, but even so…”
“But what about me?” Eunha asked in a moment of selfishness, not caring about Sojung’s thoughts on other employees. “If you don’t hate me, why am I the only one that doesn’t get to laugh with you?”
Eunha realized how overdramatic she was being as soon as the words left her mouth, but by then it was too late to take them back. Sojung furrowed her eyebrows as she looked at Eunha with utter confusion written on her face.
“Wait. I think we have a misunderstanding here. What do you mean ‘not getting to laugh with me’? Are you sure you don’t mean ‘at’ me? Because that’s what the other Eunbi does all the time, and I know you’re childhood friends, so--”
“No, unnie, that’s not what I meant.” Eunha felt more embarrassed as she realized that she would have to clarify. “I mean this thing we’re doing now, having a normal conversation as coworkers, sharing onion rings and… jokes, I guess. We never do that at work, but you do it with everyone else, so I can’t help but wonder if I did something to upset you, or something.”
“Oh. That. Oh, I see.” Sojung nodded slowly, understanding finally dawning on her face. Now Eunha had to brace herself for the answer, the moment of truth. “Actually, it’s because Wednesday’s Eunha is so serious and hardworking, I’d feel bad about joking with you and distracting you from work. Meanwhile, right now you’re just… casual, outdoors Eunha, so I thought we could, you know, just chat.”
Sojung shrugged, but she looked a bit stiff and almost self-conscious. It broke Eunha’s heart. Was it her fault? Had she given the impression of an all-work no-nonsense kind of woman? She, who literally played video games for a living?
“…do I really look that serious?”
“Well, no, you’re pocket sized, for God’s sake.” Sojung rolled her eyes. “But since the first day you came in you started speaking formally to me, and you’re always so efficient, you make almost no mistakes, so it looks like you’re really committed to work.”
It was true. She did speak formally to Sojung, but only because she had assumed she was the boss with the way she directed everyone; and she did try to do her job right because she wanted to be praised rather than scolded; but she couldn’t tell Sojung something like that, right? Would it be an appropriate thing to tell her coworker on a day off?
“Um. It wasn’t my intention to… give that impression.” She said instead. “I was just trying to be respectful, and I do respect you, but also, I want you to like me. I mean! To be your friend, or like, your buddy, like everyone else.”
“My buddy.” Sojung repeated, nodding slowly, before breaking into a foolish grin. “Ha, okay, do you want me to treat you like I treat the rest, then?”
Why was Eunha’s heart beating so fast? It was just a stupid question based on a completely absurd situation. However, it had the potential to change the whole quality of their relationship.
“Yes.” She answered as firmly as she could, staring up at Sojung with what she hoped was a determined expression.
“Then, you start treating me like you do everyone else.” Sojung said, bopping Eunha’s nose with her index finger.
I can’t, was Eunha’s first thought. I can’t treat you like everyone else, unnie.
“We should probably go before the rain picks up again.” Sojung commented, extending a hand out to feel a few distant raindrops.
I can’t because you’re not like everyone else.
Eunha nodded in agreement, still lost in her thoughts, having a mental breakdown, or an epiphany, or something in between. Her desperation to get Sojung to like her, the walls that Eunha herself had put up to maintain a distance between them without even realizing it, and the distinct feeling of not wanting their relationship to be the way it was, but still being unable to see Sojung as a friend… it was all finally starting to click.
Wrong shoujo ai character trope, but right genre.
The bright-eyed protagonist had fallen in love with the princess.
“And that’s how I found love in a hopeless place.” Eunha said with a little half-body dance, before stuffing her mouth with ice cream.
“Wow. You could have just said ‘I gave her an onion ring and knew she was the one’ but you had to take me into your psyche like this.” Jungkook answered, shaking his head slowly. “A+ storytelling.”
“I’ll assume that’s a compliment, so thank you.” Eunha half bowed, unable to do much else as she was holding her phone with one hand, grabbing her spoon with the other, and sitting cross-legged on the little puff seat in her room. “Now’s your turn.”
Jeon Jungkook was Eunha’s twitch buddy, co-sufferer, long lost twin, and fellow closeted confident. He was the only person she trusted with her secret crush, and after a previous conversation about it over text, she decided to tell him via videocall the whole story of how she realized she was in love with their now-boss Kim Sojung.
“…do I have to? I don’t know if I can make my story all… detailed like that.”
“You sent me a 10 minute long voice note that one time Namjoon-oppa wore ‘the sweatpants’, so I think you can do it.” Eunha shrugged. “The question is: will I endure it?”
“Mm.” Jungkook rubbed his chin, considering. “Maybe some other time? It’s already getting late and I have the morning shift.”
“Oh, right. I’m sorry for keeping you up till now!”
“It’s okay, I’ve been curious about it for a long time.” Jungkook said with a sincere smile. “I promise my one-sided love story will bring tears to your eyes, I’ll prepare a storyboard and all.”
“Oh, God, please let me know in advance so I can make popcorn.”
Jungkook snorted. “Like you don’t make popcorn every night regardless.”
“Rude. Get out of my screen. Bye bye! Byeeee!”
Jungkook waved goodbye effusively and hung up, leaving Eunha alone to sigh over her ice cream, process the recent developments in her life, and ruminate on her feelings for Sojung.
At least she had plenty of time, as she would work the afternoon shift.