Firsts made Mina nervous. Since Mina was old enough to talk (before, even), Sana knew her daughter felt comfort in familiarity. She was always nervous when meeting new people, always hesitant in trying new foods; and she has definitely been dreading the first day of school. And really, Sana can’t blame her. Which is why she’s patient as she knocks on Mina’s door, hears the sounds of video games coming from inside when she gets no answer. Mina isn’t a bad kid, not at all. In fact, Sana thanks the universe daily for blessing her with such a kind and gentle daughter. But when she’s scared, she tends to clam up, hiding away from Sana rather than talking about what’s bothering her.
“Minari,” Sana calls. No answer. “We have to leave soon.” Nothing. She lets out a sigh before turning the doorknob. Mina doesn’t even spare her a glance as she clicks away on her controller, and Sana takes that as a cue to take a seat next to her. “Nervous?” Mina nods. “Can you pause your game, honey?” Mina does so, begins twiddling her thumbs instead because she fidgets when she’s nervous and Sana turns to face her, so she’s encouraged to do the same.
“I don’t want to start school,” Mina mumbles, finally meeting Sana’s eyes. The pout she has on her face is absolutely lethal, and Sana has half a mind to wrap her up in her arms and tell her she can be homeschooled.
“Why not?” She asks instead, giving her daughter time to gather her thoughts.
“It’s scary. I don’t know how to make friends.”
“Mitang, you made friends at daycare, remember?” Sana gently reminds. She gives Mina a bright grin (that’s not returned) and nudges her shoulder.
“They only talked to me because I took my Switch one time,” Mina pouts, and Sana didn’t even realize a 6-year-old was capable of having such insecurities. She felt a little ache in her heart, but put on her best smile to reassure her daughter.
“That’s not true at all, honey,” she promises. “Chaeyoung really likes being your friend! You know her mom told me she asked to set up a playdate, we just haven’t found the time.” She mentally scolds herself for that. If she had known about Mina’s worries, she would’ve tried harder to make it work sooner.
“Really?” Mina perks up at that, shy smile on her face and Sana nods wildly.
“For sure, she thinks you’re super cool, Minari!” Mina giggles when Sana tickles at her sides and the sound is like music to Sana’s ears. “I know it’s scary that none of your daycare friends will be going to the same school as you, but you’ll make more friends now, and they’ll think you’re super cool too.” Sana’s heart melts as her daughter crawls over to put her arms around her neck in a tight hug.
“Thanks, mama,” Mina says with a bright smile once she pulls back. “I’m ready to go now.”
It turns out that Sana has a harder time letting go than Mina. She takes a million pictures of Mina in front of the “My First Day of Kindergarten” sign that’s in place outside of her classroom, and is reluctant to let her daughter leave her side until the teacher, a young woman named Chou Tzuyu, tells her class is about to start.
“And you remember my phone number, right?” Sana asks after she kneels down to be eyelevel with Mina.
“And you know Momo’s number, right?”
“And you know the number for 911 in case of emergencies?”
Mina’s exasperated stare makes Sana giggle and she ruffles her daughter’s hair before standing up.
“I’m only joking, Minari. I love you, have fun!”
And with that, Sana is forced to leave as her daughter runs into the classroom that’s bustling with children.
She really, really, regrets taking the day off work. Sana worries about Mina more than the average parent, which is justified, really. They’ve been through a lot together, and Mina is a timid child by nature. Which is why Sana took the day off in case her daughter was too overwhelmed at school and needed to be picked up early. The call never comes, which Sana should be happy about, and she is! Really! But she also feels restless. She’s not used to having free time for herself. Whenever Sana takes days off of work it’s either because she’s horribly sick, or because she’s spending it with Mina.
She cleans the house, cleans the bathroom twice, and realizes there’s still two hours until Mina will be let out of school. She huffs, grabs her coat, and then she’s back outside and facing the autumn wind. It’s a beautiful day, really. The sun is covered by a thin layer of clouds and it makes the sky seem brighter than ever, makes Sana feel warm even against the chill in the air around her. It reminds her of when they first arrived in Seoul; her, Momo, and Mina. They didn’t know anybody, could barely speak the language, but Momo was offered a position to teach at one of the top dance studios in Korea and she told Sana she wasn’t leaving her behind. They’d been inseparable since they were children, Momo being there through all of Sana’s hard times and they leaned on each other for support more often than not. For the first few months after the move, Momo supported the three of them. That was five years ago, when they were just eighteen years old, and it’s something Sana will likely never forget, something she’ll never be able to fully repay. Momo would smack her for thinking that time is something she would need to “repay.” We’re family, Momo would say, you’ve helped me just as much. Now, Momo is one of the most in-demand dance teachers in the country, and Sana has a steady office job that’s enough for her and Mina to live happily while she works her way through a psychology degree online. The three of them have come a long way, not without the help of each other and support from Momo’s family. Momo’s family, who’ve come to be Sana’s as well. They took her in when her own parents threw her out after her pregnancy, treated her like a daughter and took care of Mina so Sana could finish high school and go to work to save for college.
Sana feels misty-eyed as she walks between rows of trees, soft oranges and yellows greet her while she reminisces. She thinks it’s nice, having time to reflect on the past few years of her life. In the past, when Mina was first born, time spent alone was time spent regretting. She thought she regretted a lot of things in her life, thought she ruined any chance she had at happiness because of one stupid mistake. Now, though, it’s different. She’s different. She knows now that nothing in relation to Mina would ever be a mistake, that it was meant to happen because Mina was meant to be in her life, and she wouldn’t change a thing.
She’s pulled out of her thoughts by her phone alarm, and then she mumbles under her breath as she realizes Mina is about to be let out of school and she’ll be late if she doesn’t hurry. She gets to the school a few minutes after the students are dismissed, slightly out of breath from her brisk walk over. She tries looking over the heads of parents to find her daughter in the crowd, but it’s pointless because Mina finds her.
“Mama! I made a friend!” Sana is ambushed by a tiny flurry of limbs and hair as Mina latches onto her with a bright giggle that makes Sana’s heart skip a beat.
“You did?” She asks with a bright grin, kneeling down and looking at her daughter’s excited face.
“Yeah! C’mon, you can meet her!” And then Mina is grabbing onto her finger and pulling her through the crowd of parents and children until she stops in front of one in particular and politely taps her on the shoulder. The girl is tiny, somehow smaller than Mina, and Sana would coo out loud at how adorable she is, if she didn’t know that being tiny is exactly what 6-year-olds do not want to be. Instead, she waits for the girl to turn around and gives a little wave before she realizes there’s woman with her. The woman turns around and- woah. Does this kid have a supermodel mom?
“Mina!” The little girl says excitedly, as if they hadn’t seen each other five minutes ago. “This is my mom,” she tugs on her mother’s hand and Sana finds the whole interaction quite endearing.
“This is mine!” Mina almost shouts with how excited she is.
“Hi,” Mina’s friend speaks. “My name is Jihyo, what’s yours?”
Sana is taken aback, to say the least. Jihyo seems very… not-Mina. She holds a type of confidence that Sana didn’t know a child her age was capable of. Part of Sana feels relieved that Mina has befriended someone that seems to be so outgoing, hoping maybe it would rub off on her daughter. Mina deserved to feel confident.
“I’m Sana,” she says finally, holding her hand out. “It’s nice to meet you.” Jihyo shakes her hand with a toothy grin and Sana finds herself smiling as well.
“And this is Jihyo’s mother, Nayeon.” The voice belongs to the woman behind Jihyo, and Sana stands up straighter after hearing it. She grins brightly at the (very beautiful) woman and laughs, holding her hand out.
“It’s nice to meet you too,” Sana says as they shake hands. She finds it hard to look away from Nayeon’s eyes, the dark pools that exude confidence and authority and Sana begins to realize where Jihyo gets it from.
“Mom, can we go to the park with Mina today?” Jihyo breaks them out of their trance and then Nayeon is sighing.
“Hyo,” she leans down to face her daughter. “Today’s only the first day of school sweetie, and I’m sure Mina and Miss Sana have other plans-”
Suddenly, Sana feels Mina tugging on the sleeve of her coat and her daughter is looking at her with pleading eyes asking her to do something. So Sana does.
“Actually, I was planning on taking Mina to the park after this,” she lies. Her and Mina intended on going home and playing Fall Guys for the rest of the day, but Sana figures a change of plans might be good. Mina really is getting her too addicted to video games. “If you want to join us.” Sana looks at Nayeon, can see Jihyo bouncing up and down from the corner of her eye, begging her mom to say yes. And then Nayeon is smiling at her and nodding and Sana realizes she has a playdate with a hot mom. Wait till Momo hears about this, she thinks with a smug smile.
Mina and Jihyo are off like a rocket, and Sana can’t help but watch in awe, wondering what Jihyo did or said to make Mina feel as comfortable as she is. She’s thankful, however, that her daughter’s worries had been proven wrong from day one.
“Mina’s very polite,” Nayeon speaks from where she walks next to Sana. “Absolutely nothing like Jihyo.” The woman laughs after the words leave her lips and Sana finds herself chuckling along.
“Jihyo seems very polite to me, and Mina is very… Mina. She’s a good kid,” Sana shrugs, but she feels her pride swell at the compliment directed at her daughter. “I was surprised to see that she’d become such fast friends with Jihyo, because she’s really, really shy.” Nayeon let out a laugh at that.
“And Jihyo’s very not.” They both smile at the sight of their daughters holding hands and skipping toward the park. “She’s a loud kid, probably gets it from me.”
“You’re loud?” Sana asks with a raised brow. Nayeon seemed quite tame from what Sana’s seen.
“Oh, very.” And something about the other woman’s tone makes Sana blush. Nayeon smirks at her then, calling out for Jihyo to slow down and leaving Sana as red as a tomato.
When they get to the park, Sana kneels down and helps Mina zip her coat up, adjusts the hat on her head and gives her a kiss on the cheek. “Be careful,” she reminds. Mina nods and reciprocates the kiss before running off to join Jihyo on the swings.
“Was that Japanese?” Nayeon asks curiously. Sana brushes her knees off and looks at her quizzically. Her, Mina, and Momo are so accustomed to weaving in and out of Korean and Japanese in their conversations that she had hardly realized the words were in her native language.
“Oh! Yeah, I didn’t notice,” she laughs.
“Ah,” Nayeon nods gently. “So, you’re Japanese, then?”
“Mhm,” Sana hums. They move to take a seat on a nearby bench and she shivers at the frost beneath them. “I moved to Seoul when I was eighteen.” Nayeon’s eyes widen in surprise and Sana smiles gently at the reaction.
“By yourself?” The other woman asks. Her brows are furrowed, as if she’s concerned for a young Sana and Sana laughs because she figures it Nayeon’s maternal instinct coming out.
“No, no,” she sighs. “With Mina and my best friend, Momo.” If Nayeon is surprised by the fact that Sana had a daughter by the time she was eighteen, she doesn’t show it. Long gone are the days where Sana attempted to hide the fact that she was a ‘teen mom’, because it’s something she’s come to realize she’s not ashamed of. Not when the product of that title is Mina.
Speaking of, Nayeon’s next words are cut off by a huffing and puffing Mina who looks entirely too distraught for her own good and it sends cold fear down Sana’s spine.
“Mama! Mama!” Mina shouts as she runs over to the two women. “Jihyo got hurt!” And then she starts speaking in rapid-fire Japanese and Nayeon looks at Sana with wide eyes, silently asking what’s going on.
“Minari,” Sana says gently. “Slow down,” she speaks in Korean, urging Mina to do the same. “What happened?”
“I told her I was fine,” comes Jihyo’s little voice. Then a shocked gasp from Sana, and a loud groan from Nayeon.
“Are you alright?” Sana asks quickly, moving forward and checking over the small girl for any injuries when she seems the stream of blood trickling from Jihyo’s chin. Nayeon, on the other hand, simply pulls a little bag out of her purse and kneels down to begin wiping Jihyo’s chin with an antiseptic wipe.
“She’s fine,” Nayeon huffs, but there’s a small smile playing on her lips that Jihyo catches, causing the girl to grin before she winces at the way it stretches her cut. It seems like a regular occurrence, if the way Nayeon’s actions seem rehearsed is any indication. “She’s a crazy kid.” And Jihyo looks proud of the words as her mom places a Thor bandaid over her chin.
“I think Mina was more scared than I was,” Jihyo giggles and Sana feels Mina tighten her grip on her hand.
“I just didn’t want you to be hurt,” Mina mumbles, kicking gently at the grass beneath her feet. Sana’s eyes soften at the words, and she sees her expression mirrored on Nayeon’s face as Jihyo quickly moves to grab Mina hands, making sure they’re looking at each other.
“But I’m fine, see?” Jihyo promises, sticking her tongue out and making a silly face that has Mina giggling along. Sana’s heart swells, and she feels infinitely better about Mina starting school now that she knows that her daughter has someone as kind as Jihyo watching over her. “Now, c’mon! I wanna show you a cool trick on the monkey bars!”
“Not so fast!” Nayeon says sternly. Her daughter freezes in place and gives her mom a sheepish grin.
“Just five more minutes?” Jihyo asks coyly, and Sana can see the amusement dancing in Nayeon’s eyes.
“I don’t think so, daredevil.” Nayeon ruffles Jihyo’s hair when the girl perks up at the nickname. “We have to get home. I think Kookeu misses us.” At the mention of Kookeu, Jihyo’s eyes light up and she grabs Mina’s hands excitedly.
“You have to meet Kookeu! He’s my puppy and he’s so fluffy and small and sooo cute!” Jihyo squeals and Mina starts jumping up and down with her, and if Sana wasn’t sure that Jihyo was Mina’s new favourite person, that seals the deal.
“Maybe we can bring him to school one day,” Nayeon suggests and she laughs as the two girls squeal even louder.
“Can we bring Bbuyo too?” Jihyo asks, then whispers, “Bbuyo is my cat,” to Mina who nods along like she just learned the most important information of her life.
Jihyo pouts and then sighs, as if she already knew what the answer would be, and she nods dejectedly. “Bye, Mina,” she says, wrapping her arms around Mina in a tight hug.
“Bye, Jihyo. See you tomorrow!” Mina says as they pull away.
The four say their goodbyes to each other, with promises of future playdates. Jihyo makes Sana pinky swear to let Mina come over to meet Bbuyo one day and, with that, they’re off. Mina is humming happily and swinging the hand that’s holding Sana’s and it’s nice. Mina seems really happy and Sana’s glad her first day went so well.
If only Sana could stop thinking about that damn MILF.
“You know,” Momo says from her spot in front of the stove. She’s in the middle of cooking something that smells heavenly, and Sana is sitting on the counter, occasionally glancing to where Mina was playing on Momo’s PlayStation. Sana had just finished recounting Mina’s first day and telling Momo all about Nayeon. “You’re technically a MILF too.”
Sana rolls her eyes.
“That’s your takeaway?”
“It was just a thought!” Momo giggles as she dodges the dishtowel that was half-heartedly thrown at her. “Anyway, I say go for it. You haven’t dated anyone in six years.” Sana winces at the true words.
“She’s probably married, or worse, straight.” Momo and Sana shiver at the thought.
“Well, did she have a ring on?”
“You know it’s a possibility that she happened to not be wearing her ring, right?” Sana asks, laughing at her friend’s assumption.
“Satang,” Momo starts seriously. “Straight women never miss an opportunity to let you know they’re married.”
“Wah!” They hear a loud cheer from the living room, and then Mina comes bounding into the kitchen with the controller still in her hands as she jumps up and down. “I beat the level, Momo!”
Momo’s jaw is on the floor as she stares at Mina incredulously. “What the hell… I’ve been trying for weeks!” When Sana kicks Momo’s thigh, the older girl coughs and then bends down to ruffle Mina’s hair. “I mean, good job, Minari! I knew you could do it.”
“And now,” Sana says as she gets off the counter and picks Mina up. “You get your reward… Dinner!” Mina groans at the smug smile on Sana’s face.
“That’s not a reward, mama.”
An affronted gasp leaves Momo’s lips as she delicately sets down a plate in front of Mina. “Are you saying you don’t like my cooking, Mina-chan?”
“No way!” Mina giggles at Momo’s bad acting as she pretends to shed a few tears, and then she digs into the food.
“Eat well,” Momo says fondly before filling plates for herself and Sana as well. Sana watches with a gentle smile as Momo playfully elbows at Mina as they eat, both of them in competition to make the other drop their food. She thinks to herself, how could I have regrets in life if this is what everything led up to?
Sana never thought she’d have a crush past the age of thirteen, but here she is, twenty-three-years-old and trying to hide the rising blush on her cheeks as Nayeon tells her that her hair looks cute today. It’s been a week since the first day of school, and Sana tries not to get her hopes up over the fact that it had been only Nayeon who dropped and picked Jihyo up from school. There’s a very real possibility that Nayeon’s potential spouse just works a job that doesn’t align with Jihyo’s school hours. She never sees Nayeon’s ring finger after that first day, either. The woman wears gloves every day in order to fight off the increasingly bitter chill that accompanies the autumn season.
“Are you volunteering for the bake sale?” Nayeon’s voice breaks her out of her thoughts. Sana looks up in confusion and feels her face go red once more when Nayeon smirks at her. “Don’t tell me you didn’t read the newsletter they sent home last week, Minatozaki.” Sana rolls her eyes at the usage of her last name and scratches the back of her neck in embarrassment.
“Well, uh, I was going to get around to it,” she mumbles quietly and huffs when she hears Nayeon chuckle.
“The bake sale is next week,” she informs Sana, then she grabs her wrist and pulls her closer to the door of the kindergarten classroom. Sana inwardly rolls her eyes at herself for how childish she is for getting nervous at the small act. “There’s a sign-up sheet here, if you plan on baking, so people don’t overlap.” Then Nayeon smiles a proud smile, one that shows off her bunny teeth that Sana finds so, so adorable, and she points to the third name on the list. “I, of course, will be making my famous brownies.”
“Famous, huh?” Sana asks with a raised brow. “Then how come I, a certified baked-goods critic, have never heard of them?” Nayeon gives her a look that Sana knows must mean some variation of it’s on and something about it is very attractive. (She’s starting to realize that she finds many things Nayeon does very attractive.)
Before Nayeon can answer, the classroom door swings open, and Jihyo comes bounding out of the room with Mina in tow.
“Mommy, Miss Sana,” Jihyo addresses them both very seriously, clasping her hands together in front of her as she rocks on her feet. Nayeon and Sana exchange an amused glance before looking at Jihyo expectantly. “Me and Mina were talking,” she says and Mina steps closer with a nod, “and we think that, since it’s been a week, it’s fair that we have another playdate.”
“I want to meet Kookeu and Bbuyo,” Mina says quietly, looking at Sana as she plays with her hands and Sana thinks she might have the cutest child in the world. It’s a yes from her, because she can hardly ever say no when Mina asks for things (Mina rarely asks for anything at all) and Jihyo looked like she had prepared her little speech for quite some time.
“What do you say?” She asks, turning to Nayeon then. The playdate would need to be at her house, after all, so she has the final say.
“I guess you’ll be trying my brownies before next week,” Nayeon answers with a smug smile.
The next day, the two duos walk from the school straight to Nayeon’s house. Sana smiles a little when she realizes Nayeon doesn’t live too far from herself. Immediately after Nayeon unlocks the door, Jihyo is pulling Mina off toward her bedroom to meet her pets and the two mothers are alone again. Sana is still standing just outside the threshold, about to make an excuse about grocery shopping or something because the playdate was for the girls, not for Sana.
“Are you not coming in?” Nayeon asks, looking at Sana curiously. “I mean, unless you have somewhere else to be.”
“Oh,” Sana says dumbly, then winces because, yeah, she’s an idiot. “I wasn’t sure if you wanted me to,” and that somehow sounds even worse, so she adds. “I mean, I didn’t want to intrude, or anything.” But then Nayeon is laughing her devious laugh and Sana feels even more flustered than before.
“Would you like to come in? I was going to let you watch me make some brownies. I hear you’re some bigshot food critic.”
Nayeon laughs, then Sana laughs, and then the tension leaves her body and she steps inside.
“Orange or apple?” Nayeon asks as she holds two cartons up for Sana to inspect. The pair had moved from the front entrance into the kitchen, where Nayeon pulled out all of her baking ingredients before realizing she had yet to offer her guest a drink. “Sorry, I would offer you wine, but it seems like I have none.” And for the first time since they met, Nayeon looks sheepish. It’s cute.
“Apple,” Sana answers easily.
“I knew I could trust you.”
Sana just shakes her head as Nayeon pours the juice into a glass for her, then watches as Nayeon pulls her hair back into a ponytail and gets to work. It’s quiet for a bit after that. There’s the soft hum of music playing from Nayeon’s speaker, and they occasionally hear giggles coming from Jihyo’s room, but Sana is content to watch Nayeon work. She glances around and notes that Nayeon’s place is nice, a townhouse that’s definitely bigger than Sana’s own apartment, it makes her curious about Nayeon’s occupation, or maybe she comes from a family that’s well off. Before she can speak, however, before she can ask anything that might let her get to know Nayeon better, there’s a soft fluffball jumping up onto her lap and purring contentedly as it makes itself at home.
“Oh,” Sana squeaks out, “hello, there,” she giggles as the cat rubs against the finger she sticks out.
“Well I’ll be damned,” Nayeon says in awe, midway through pouring her batter into a pan. “You know, you’re the first person that devil spawn has ever willingly gone to that isn’t Jihyo.” There’s something in Nayeon’s tone, it sounds warm, and it trickles through Sana’s head like honey and she blushes. She doesn’t say anything, is content to run her fingers through soft fur as the cat falls asleep on her. Nayeon joins her at the table when she puts the brownies into the oven and Sana smiles.
“So, where did this ‘famous brownie’ recipe come from?” She asks with a teasing smile. Nayeon shrugs.
“My mom taught me when I was a kid. I used to make them all the time for me and my best friend, we had quite the sweet tooth back then.”
Sana hums thoughtfully. “And now? Still have a sweet tooth?”
Nayeon looks at Sana with something she can’t quite decipher, and then she smiles. “Yeah, definitely.” It’s quiet for a beat, and then another, and then Sana speaks.
“When I was younger, my best friend’s mom taught us how to make ‘special mac & cheese’” she says with air quotes and a laugh. “It was during our senior year, and I was practically working full-time then, after school. I’d come home late at night and Momo would have bowl of it ready for me in the microwave.” She feels something light in her chest at the fond memory. “We still make it, sometimes. It’s my favourite comfort food.”
“That’s really sweet,” Nayeon says with a genuine smile. “You two lived together in high school?” Sana nods and then shrugs her shoulders because, her past doesn’t bother her anymore, but there’s still the very real possibility of Nayeon judging her for it and a big part of her is worried about potentially ruining their budding… friendship. She says it anyway.
“I got kicked out when my parents found out I was pregnant,” she laughs like it’s funny and ignores the frown on Nayeon’s face. “Momo’s family took care of me, and later Mina, until we decided to move here.” It’s quiet for a few moments, and Sana is grateful for the peaceful cat in her lap because she thinks she might have a heart attack and the repetitive motions of stroking his fur are keeping her calm.
“I’m really glad you had such a good support system,” Nayeon finally says, reaching the small distance between them to grasp Sana’s hand. “And your parents are fucking idiots, by the way.” Sana laughs then, loud, because Nayeon is right and she knows it and Nayeon isn’t judging her and Sana feels light. “Being a single mom isn’t easy,” it sounds like she’s speaking from experience and Sana’s heart jumps, “but being that young makes it all the more difficult.”
“And you?” Sana finds herself asking despite the thundering in her chest.
“You’re a single mom?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Nayeon’s lopsided smile as she lifts her bare ring finger makes Sana’s stomach do summersaults and then she’s laughing to herself. She should really give Momo more credit.
“I didn’t want to assume,” Sana mumbles into her glass of apple juice and ignores the way Nayeon coos at her. Sana avoids eye contact. She’s a curious person by nature, google was arguably her most-used app, so it was only natural that she wanted to ask what happened, why Nayeon was single. But the larger, more mature side of her brain knew that was incredibly insensitive.
“You’re curious, huh?” Nayeon looks amused when Sana’s wide-eyed gaze snaps to her. It’s as if Nayeon can read right through her, and Sana can do nothing but blush and nod.
“You don’t have to tell me anything!” She assures quickly, but is waved off by Nayeon, who’s still smiling.
“It was a long time ago,” she shrugs. “Got married to my high school sweetheart at twenty, got pregnant right after, and then I found out he was cheating on me. Right before Jihyo’s second birthday, actually.” Sana winces at the words, then feels anger bubbling in her chest. It’s incomprehensible to her how someone could have a wife like Nayeon, a daughter like Jihyo, and still crave more.
“Men are pigs,” Sana practically hisses, and it makes Nayeon chuckle before she lifts her glass of apple juice to clink it with Sana’s.
“What about you? If you don’t mind me asking,” Nayeon asks. Sana looks up, can’t believe Nayeon is actually interested in her and her life, and then she laughs.
“I was a scared, sixteen-year-old that was struggling with her sexuality. I thought I could, I don’t know, get rid of the gay by sleeping with a college boy. We didn’t use protection and… yeah,” she shrugs. “When I told him, he said he didn’t want anything to do with us if I was keeping her and I haven’t seen him since.”
Nayeon frowns, lifts her glass again, and mutters, “men are pigs.” Then Nayeon frowns even deeper and says, “that means you’re three years younger than me, I feel old.”
The laugh they let out echoes throughout the house and something about it feels like a beginning, like the blooming of something wonderful between two women and a couple glasses of apple juice.
(The brownies are delicious. Sana gives Nayeon a ten-star review around a mouthful of the baked good and the way Nayeon laughs in response sets Sana’s heart on fire.)
Sana’s only been close with a handful of people throughout her life that are not Momo. There’s Kim Dahyun, that she met during her first semester of university, when she was still attempting in-person classes. Then there’s Park Sooyoung, who she shared a desk with for her first year at her job. Yeri, who was in charge of Mina’s daycare group, became a quick friend because of their similar age and equally outgoing personalities. Sana likes to think she’s a very friendly person, but she definitely keeps her inner circle small. And up until very recently, her true inner circle only consisted of Momo (and Mina, she counts.) But now, there’s a new addition in the form of a loud, confident, very attractive woman named Im Nayeon (and Jihyo, she counts too.)
Over the past couple of months, Jihyo and Mina’s playdates became a weekly thing, consequently resulting in weekly playdates for Nayeon and Sana. Sana even invited Nayeon out for drinks with her and Momo a few times (which always ended in a night of regret, because Nayeon and Momo were kind of the same person sometimes and they loved to tease Sana a million times more when they got together.) Nayeon and Jihyo quickly became fixtures in Sana and Mina’s lives, and it happened so seamlessly that none of them quite realized it. (Sana felt it, kind of, when Jihyo slipped up and called her mama one day and then blushed a deep shade of red before running off to join Mina in the living room. It was cute, and made Sana feel light, and she never mentioned it to anyone.)
She got closer to Nayeon in other ways, too. It’s past the point of consideration, whether or not Sana has feelings for Nayeon. And Sana feels quite confident that Nayeon reciprocates those feelings, at least to some extent. She knows that Momo would smack her on the head if she heard her thoughts, some variation of if you still don’t think she wants you, you’re an idiot to be sighed out after. But she hasn’t dated in six years, and that fact is embarrassingly evident. The most embarrassing instance being the time Nayeon had quite literally asked her out (though Sana is adamant about insisting it was purely platonic,) and Sana responded with, sure, should I pack jammies for Mina? before Nayeon clarified that she meant she wanted to hang out alone. Momo still hasn’t let her live that one down.
So, yeah, Sana thinks her and Nayeon have come a long way since they first met, and she thinks she’s been happier because of it, maybe. Surely that’s the reason that she’s sat at her desk, smiling fondly at the picture of herself with Nayeon, Jihyo, and Mina posing in front of the big Christmas tree they just put up in the park a few days ago, the one that she set as her screensaver on her desktop. She rolls her eyes when she catches her smile and then gets on with her work. It’s cut short, however, when her phone starts to ring, and Sana feels her heart pounding when she sees that it’s Mina’s school.
“Hi, is this Ms. Minatozaki?”
“Yeah, it is,” she says into the receiver.
“Your daughter, Mina, has gotten into a fight with another student and will need to be picked up.”
Of all the possibilities Sana had conjured up in the past twenty seconds, that was not one of them. Sana quickly confirms that she’ll be there as soon as possible and gets cleared by her boss to leave early. It’s luckily less than an hour before her shift is over, anyway, and Sana feels her nerves thrumming as she drives to Mina’s school. Mina has never been a violent or even remotely aggressive child. Sana can’t remember the last time Mina even raised her voice out of anything other than excitement.
She sighs as she enters the office and sees her daughter sitting on one of the chairs, swinging her legs back and forth and looking tinier than ever.
“Mitang?” Mina looks up, and Sana can tell she’s still upset. “Let’s go home.”
Mina doesn’t speak to Sana once. Not when they get in the car, not when they get home, not even when Sana offers to put on the Minion movie for her. She feels a certain hopelessness tug at her heart because her and Mina have never had problems communicating and this might be the worst possible time for it to start. She looks at the time, sees that school is out, and calls the first person she can think of.
“She won’t talk to me,” Sana sighs from where she leans against Nayeon’s kitchen counter. She just finished recounting the events to Nayeon, not surprised to find out that Jihyo had mentioned the altercation to her mother.
“Hyo cried when I picked her up,” Nayeon says with a frown on her face. “She said she thinks it’s her fault but wouldn’t say what happened. Then she asked to go straight to her room when we got home.” Sana looks over then, sees Mina sitting on Nayeon’s couch and petting Kookeu, but her expression is solemn.
“Can you talk to her?” Sana asks. “She might be more willing with you. I think she thinks I’ll be upset with her.” Nayeon looks at her for a moment, contemplating their options before she gives Sana a half smile and nods. Then she reaches forward and pulls Sana into an unexpected hug that the younger girl immediately melts into.
“Mina’s a good kid,” Nayeon mumbles against her hair. “I’m sure she had a reason.”
“That’s what I’m scared of,” Sana sighs. “It’s not acceptable for me to bully a 6-year-old for picking on my daughter.” Nayeon laughs at that as they pull away and rolls her eyes.
“I’ll be back.”
Sana takes a seat in the kitchen, where Mina can’t see her, and listens as Nayeon takes a seat on the couch next to her daughter.
“Hey, buddy,” Nayeon says with a soft smile. Mina looks up at her and then back down at her lap.
“Is mama mad at me?” Her voice is so small and worried that Nayeon feels a piece of her heart break. She sees tears well up in the girl’s eyes and is quick to scoop Mina up into her arms.
“No, honey, not at all,” she’s quick to assure. “She’s just worried about you.” Mina looks up at Nayeon quizzically, as if trying to see if she was telling the truth.
“But I was bad,” Mina mumbles, and Nayeon laughs.
“Well, did you have a reason?”
Nayeon hums. “Do you want to talk about it?” She feels Mina nod against her chest and waits for her to figure out where to begin.
“Chan was being mean to Jihyo,” Mina starts softly. She pulls back to look at Nayeon like she’s struggling to find words and Nayeon just rubs her back soothingly. “He was making fun of her because she doesn’t have a daddy.” Nayeon feels her chest constrict at that. “Jihyo’s brave,” Mina says like it’s a fact that Nayeon absolutely needs to understand. “But it made her sad, I could tell. So, I hit him,” she frowns at the end. Nayeon pulls her close and kisses her on the head. She knows firsthand that Jihyo hated talking about her lack of a father, knows that her daughter is too intuitive for her age and that Jihyo took Nayeon’s pain and anger toward her father to heart. They never speak about him, and something in Nayeon feels so warm and thankful that Jihyo found a friend like Mina, who is painfully quiet and shy, but got into a fight in a heartbeat to defend her. It wasn’t often that Jihyo needed defending, and Nayeon thinks Mina knows that.
“Oh, sweetie,” Nayeon laughs breathlessly as she holds Mina close. “Fighting isn’t okay,” she says, pulling back to look at Mina, “but you were being a good friend.”
“Can I tell you a secret?” Mina says after a thoughtful moment. Nayeon’s lips quirk up and she nods. “I think I would do it again if somebody else made Jihyo sad like that.”
Nayeon does not mean to laugh, not at all. But Mina’s voice is so determined and she’s just so small and cute and not intimidating in the slightest. She’s learning from Jihyo, Nayeon thinks distantly.
“I think Hyo is really thankful to have you as a friend,” Nayeon whispers like it’s a secret and her heart melts at the way Mina’s face lights up. “Why don’t you go say hi to her now? She’s in her room.”
Mina’s about to leave, but then she turns back around and wraps her arms around Nayeon’s neck and mumbles a soft thank you and then she’s off. She makes a stop in the kitchen and does the same to Sana before bounding over to Jihyo’s room.
“She really likes you,” Sana says as she finally joins Nayeon on the couch. The older woman has a soft smile on her face as she replays her conversation with Mina in her head.
“I really like her.” They laugh. “Seriously,” Nayeon sighs. “Jihyo is a tough kid, and she’s gotten into her fair share of fights. So, the fact that she couldn’t stand up for herself, and the fact that Mina caught onto that. She’s a really good friend.” Sana’s heart swells the same way it does any time someone says something so kind about her daughter.
“You’re really good with her, you know,” Sana says into the silence of the living room. “She doesn’t open up to a lot of people, and even before today, she’s been very comfortable with you,” she hesitates before her next words. “It’s cute.”
Nayeon looks up with a smirk on her face and Sana groans before the teasing can start.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Nayeon can barely speak through her shit-eating grin and Sana doesn’t know what compels her next actions. Maybe it’s the way Nayeon was so caring towards Mina right now, maybe it’s the teasing in Nayeon’s voice that sparks a fire in her, or maybe it’s just months of built-up tension that neither of them have acted on. Until now, of course, because Sana’s leaning forward until their lips are less than a centimetre apart and she mumbles a quick, “just kiss me, idiot,” and then they are. Kissing, that is, and it feels every bit as magical as Sana has been imagining. They’re smiling too much for it to even be classified as a real kiss, but it counts to them, and it feels like the final puzzle piece falling into place perfectly.
A few metres away, hidden around the corner, Jihyo and Mina look at each other with wide eyes and even wider smiles.
“Does this mean we’re sisters now?”
“Woah, does that mean Bbuyo and Kookeu are my pets too?”
“Only if we can share your Switch.”
And it feels like home.
(Later, Momo would shout something along the lines of, “I support MILF on MILF action!” and Sana would wonder why on Earth that woman is her best friend.)