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slowly (i'll hold your hands)

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Kim Dahyun hesitates before the auditorium doors in front of her. She momentarily contemplates just turning back and heading home, left hand fiddling with her phone as she takes a slight backward step. Her phone dings with a kakaotalk message and she eagerly unlocks it only to see that it isn't from the girl who had suggested for her to attend this club session. She sighs, eyes lingering on the message notification before simply ignoring it and locking her phone.

Mustering a breath, glad that nobody's really around at this time of day so early in the school year, Dahyun steps into the auditorium slowly. Opening the second set of doors, she's confused to find the place dark and near-empty. The only other occupants in the room are staring at her as she steps inside, a guy with a bouquet of roses in his hands and a girl who's perched on a table at the front of the audience seats. They all kind of stare at each other for a beat, the flowers hanging loosely and the two strangers looking decidedly alarmed.

"I'm sorry," Dahyun speaks up, knowing she's interrupted something and feeling bad for it but mostly confused, "I thought there was a drama club session-"

"It was pushed to 5 pm," the girl pipes up, and suddenly she's at the bottom of the steps and looking up at Dahyun (and she's very pretty, even in the dim lighting). Dahyun smiles in relief at the information and opens her mouth to reply when the guy suddenly says, "Sunbae-"

"I'm sorry," the girl says quickly to him, "But I'm just not interested in dating anyone at the moment. Please don't take it personally."

And oh, Dahyun realises that not only did she interrupt something, but she also interrupted a love confession and its rejection and she doesn't think there could possibly be a more awkward situation for her to land herself in. She kind of shuffles in place and fiddles with her phone as the guy walks past her with his head down, feeling bad for witnessing him being turned down, and awkwardly smiles at the girl who trots up the stairs the second he's out the door.

"Sorry," she says, "I'm Im Nayeon, third year. I'm the president of the drama club."

Dahyun bows slightly, "I'm Kim Dahyun, first year. My friend, Jihyo, had told me that sessions started at 4, sunbaenim. That's why I came early."

"Ah! Jihyo did mention trying to get her freshie friend to join," Nayeon exclaims brightly and Dahyun finds herself smiling slightly at the girl's enthusiasm. The older girl heads out the door for a second and holds it open with one hand as the other opens a panel and the auditorium is suddenly flooded with light. Dahyun holds the door open for her as she continues talking, "Today's session's actually been halved and is low-key not compulsory since we haven't recruited any first years yet. It's mainly a planning session and such, so."

Dahyun nods along, following the senior as she walks back down to the table and plops herself onto it, all the while filling her in. With the previous cohort's graduation and the lack of members in the cohort above Dahyun's (the current second years), the drama club is seriously lacking manpower. Today's session, on the literal second day of the school year, is meant to be mainly just a welcome-back-to-school and brainstorming session. Apparently, the club puts on a play once a year and sometimes are allowed short skits at school events. An instructor comes in about every other session, on Fridays, whilst Tuesdays like today are student-led.

Dahyun leans onto the stage as they converse, soaking up all the information the senior tells her. The wood is cool to her skin. Nayeon's extremely welcoming and very chatty and the first year finds herself glad that she'd met the older girl, especially when she begins sharing advice about high school in general.

About fifteen minutes in, Nayeon pulls out a laptop yet continues chatting with the junior even as she types away. They're in the middle of discussing the Marvel movies when the door opens and two girls walk in, smiling and waving when Dahyun and Nayeon look up at them. They introduce themselves as Jeongyeon and Sana, the treasurer and the vice-president of the club respectively. 

The seniors start catching up as Dahyun sits there, a part of the conversation but not really contributing much. She's content leaning back and listening to them, nodding along and smiling. As Jeongyeon is in the midst of an episode that occurred at her part-time job, Nayeon catches Dahyun's eye and tilts her head slightly with a raised eyebrow. 'You alright?' she seems to be asking and Dahyun smiles brightly in reassurance before turning her attention back onto the girl speaking.

(She doesn't notice how Nayeon continues staring for a beat longer than usual, dazzled.)

People start coming in around five minutes before five p.m. and Jihyo heads straight to Dahyun when she sees her. Dahyun laughs off her apology for forgetting to update her and they all continue chatting. At exactly five, their small group trudges onto the stage and Nayeon calls out that they're starting. Dahyun eyes the small number of people, literally only two other people, but sits down in the circle.

"We were thinking of doing Shakespeare this year," Sana says once they're moving onto the annual play, leaning forward slightly as she twirls a pen in her hand, a blank piece of paper in front of her. It's been a while since the official beginning of the club session but there are now just ten people seated in the circle on the auditorium stage. The committee, which made up nearly half of them and all of whom were the ones that had been in Dahyun's little group (including Jihyo who's the stage manager and who is currently sitting cross-legged next to Dahyun), have already given the welcoming greeting and an overview of the session.

"Please not Romeo and Juliet," the girl on Dahyun's right groans, making Dahyun smile slightly. She herself hasn't actually watched or read the play so she doesn't have any judgments on it but the clear disdain in the girl's voice is amusing. She seems passionate enough in drama to have such a strong opinion, at least.

"What's wrong with Romeo and Juliet?" Jihyo asks with annoyance underlying her tone and Dahyun startles slightly, unused to her speaking that way to anyone aside from her own sisters. 

"You're so obsessed with doing a love story. Newsflash: we only have like one male member," the girl on Dahyun's right remarks, "What, still trying to get Sana to kiss you?"

"What's your problem?" Jihyo sounds furious and Dahyun squirms a little, "I don't even like her anymore! We just haven't done a romance."

Dahyun shifts backward a little confusedly as the girls on either side of her seem to get into a glaring match, glancing at them both then quickly averting her eyes. She makes eye contact with Nayeon, seated directly opposite her, who just looks amused at her predicament before she rolls her eyes and calls out, "Jihyo, Momo, relax."

The two girls break their stare-off and Dahyun slowly blinks up at their president and then scans the faces of the rest of her seniors. Jeongyeon and Sana are looking down at the paper with the latter writing something (asdfghjkl like she has nothing to do with this weird-ass argument), Mina (a second-year that had come in 20 minutes early) has her attention on her phone, Eunbi and Hyewon (third years had turned up 15 minutes late) were pretty much just staring off into space (either ignoring the situation or pretending to, Dahyun wonders if they're uncomfortable or just accustomed), Yena (a second-year that had turned up with those two) is just straight-up watching the two drama queens, and Nayeon merely continues the discussion completely unfazed.

"Maybe we could do a comedy?" Jeongyeon suggests, "Shakespeare's comedies have always been better, let's be real."

Dahyun sees Jihyo nod somewhat reluctantly, knowing the reluctance is more rooted in her stubbornness than actually liking romances over comedies. She shifts closer to her childhood friend, smiling at her in the way she knows makes her look squishy and adorable when Jihyo turns to her quizzically. Jihyo smiles automatically, patting the underside of her chin lightly in an adoring manner. The discussion continues and Dahyun is satisfied to see her unnie being less tense.

(She doesn't, however, notice the girl on her other side watching their interaction with sharp eyes. Even if she had, she wouldn't have thought anything about it, because Hirai Momo has an amazing poker face.)

"Let's try to come up with something over the next week and discuss it then?" Nayeon asks, the others nodding to her words, "Okay, so onto a more pressing matter: how we're going to recruit first years so that we have enough people to actually put on a play."

Dahyun finds herself after her first drama club session at a restaurant eating kalguksu with some of its members. Eunbi, Hyewon, and Yena had cheerfully bid them goodbye at the end and left together while the rest of them had kind of decided to eat as a group. Dahyun feels like a bit of a tagalong, especially as the group's dynamics reveal themselves to her. Sana and Mina are dating (which is the only reason why she joined drama, the second year tells her, which makes the vice-president sigh dramatically at her own girlfriend's lack of passion for the club). Jihyo and Momo do not get along. At all. 

Dahyun wonders why. Sana and Jihyo appear to be on good terms and Jihyo seems even closer to Mina than Momo is. It can't be annoyance borne out of worry that her unnie would ruin their relationship. Dahyun herself can't find any faults in either of them that's enough to spark hatred as strong as theirs. (She quite likes Momo as well.)

"Ya," Momo suddenly says during a lull in the conversation in which they are all too busy slurping up their noodles to speak, "I heard Chan confessed to you."

Dahyun continues slurping her noodles calmly even as Nayeon suddenly chokes on her food, glancing at her. She calms down after a few seconds, Sana rubbing her back while giggling at her outburst, asking, "How the hell- It happened like an hour before drama. How did you know?"

Dahyun plops some kimchi into her mouth and slightly nods to herself in satisfaction at its taste.

Momo shrugs. Sana snorts, "I told her."

The kalguksu is pretty goddamn good, Dahyun thinks to herself, plopping a prawn into her mouth. Perhaps she'll try the chicken kalguksu next time.

"How did you know?" Nayeon asks even as Momo is scoffing at Sana's statement. Actually, Dahyun is pretty curious about this herself. Sana had entered the auditorium like fifteen minutes after the guy (Chan, apparently) had been rejected. She slurps some of her soup. It's refreshing and light and she mentally announces to herself that she'll be coming to this restaurant often.

"I have eyes and ears everywhere, Nayeon-ie," Sana says, flipping her hair (which hits Mina, seated on her right, in the face who blinks twice blankly before continuing to eat).

Momo snorts, "Chan told everyone. You're not special."

Dahyun eats some more kimchi

"Oh my god," Nayeon drawls in English dramatically (Dahyun can easily see why she's the president of the drama club), "Why is he doing this to himself?"

Dahyun mentally agrees but feels momentary relief that since he's announcing his rejection to allegedly everyone, her witnessing said rejection is not that big of an issue to him. She eyes Jihyo's jjamppong , wondering if it's as good as her kalguksu .

"To be fair, it isn't embarrassing to be rejected by you," Jihyo says, shifting her bowl slightly to the left towards Dahyun, "You can taste it if you want. Anyway, unnie, you've rejected like a hundred people, nobody's really ashamed of it anymore."

Dahyun cringes at the spice of the jjamppong soup. She drinks her iced water, crinkling her nose when Jeongyeon and Mina laugh at her reaction. Jihyo doesn't quite catch it but smiles amusedly when Dahyun shifts her bowl back without a second taste.

"It's amazing how many people have confessed to you," Jeongyeon says, her bowl already nearly-empty in front of Dahyun's own, "It's even more amazing that you haven't accepted a single one."

"I just never felt the same way," Nayeon says matter-of-factly. Dahyun nods to herself, seems like sound logic to her. She bites into another prawn.

"For a hundred people? Didn't you find some of them at least attractive? Like, 'I might actually grow to like you someday'," Jeongyeon asks, slightly incredulous.

Dahyun's nearly done with her bowl. She's pretty full, actually, maybe she'll forgo her planned bubble tea on the way.

"It's just that, nothing they've ever said has made my heart flutter, I guess," Nayeon says.

Dahyun stops eating.

"I like you," he'd said, under a tree tucked away at the back of their school. Dahyun can hear the excited shouts and chatter even from here. Her parents are somewhere in that crowd, probably still seated in the school hall, waiting for her so that they can go eat jajangmyeon .

She doesn't feel like flying. She'd been waiting for what seems like ages for love but as she watches him peer at her from under his eyelashes, this pretty boy whom she knows she enjoys the company of, she feels nothing. 

It's spring and flowers are blooming and there is a slight breeze. A picturesque confession, under a tree with blooming flowers at graduation. A boy with his tie slightly askew and his hair slightly tousled with hope shining in his eyes. Exactly like a typical love story.

It is jarring, this nothingness. She's supposed to feel like she's flying, like her heart is going to beat out of her chest. She's supposed to feel a wave of adoration, supposed to be at least flustered . She's read so many love stories and they've raised her expectations so high but now all she feels as this boy shyly holds his heart out for her is underwhelmed.

"Will you be my girlfriend?" he asks.

Her heart doesn't flutter.