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Engagement Toasts

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The toe of her heel catches on the lip of the door frame and she has to tighten her grip on the door handle to keep her balance. “Honestly,” she mutters under her breath, twisting her foot to get a better look at the damage. Nothing broken, nothing smudged, but Rachel scowls just the same. 

She shoots a look over her shoulder through the glass door to see if anyone had observed her misstep (or even her escape), but the party-goers remain preoccupied with their drinks and chatter. It’s clear from the flushed faces and arch looks that her Mother’s party guests are enjoying themselves as per usual. Rachel spies Tan’s Father for a moment, dour beside his equally stiff looking first son who politely entertains the attentions of a particularly expensive looking ahjumma. Rachel traces the long-suffering expression on Won’s face and wonders if she was foolish enough to allow the same sentiments to cross hers.

An engagement party celebrating the union of her Mother and Young Do’s father. Rachel purses her lips, fist balled tightly against the chiffon of her skirt: what a joke

It’s cold, air biting at her already flushed cheeks, but it’s a welcome distraction as she drifts away from the door and further into the shadows of the terrace. The cigarette smoke; however, is not. 

"Young Do," she fails to hide the surprise from her voice, eyes alighting on his dark, slouching figure in the darkness.

"Sister," he throws back indifferently, cigarette dangling from his long fingers. Rachel bristles at the word and narrows her eyes.

"You look like a criminal," she observes hotly, striding closer to the stone wall he leans against. She stands there, arms crossed over her chest, but he doesn’t even glance her way.

"Yeah?" he gives a sharp, humourless smile and stares harder at the cigarette in his hand. "Then maybe you should stay away."

"From you?" she smiles unkindly and brushes hair from her shoulder. "You have the school fooled don’t you? You don’t scare me Young Do.”

He says nothing, only takes a long, tightly gripped drag of his cigarette and let’s the smoke curl around his angular face. When it drifts over to her, she waves it away with a distracted grimace, curious by his lack of verbal response. It wasn’t that Young Do was particularly verbose, but he rarely let an opportunity for his particular brand of sarcasm and wit go to waste. She watches him though, eyebrows low over dark eyes, entire posture unnaturally contained. He looked as though he was trying to appear as unconcerned as he always did, but Rachel knew better. She took in the tense lines of his shoulders and clenched jaw, recognizing the anger and violence simmering just beneath the surface. 

He was doing a better job of containing the futile rage than she was and for the first time, Rachel wonders if Young Do’s recent proclivity for smoking was more than just a disgusting impulse. 

Perhaps she feels her own resentment justified by his, but a little of Rachel’s anger slips away from her the longer she watches him try to calm himself down. It was a slightly hypnotizing sight, not least of all because Rachel could admit that he had gift for the James Dean aesthetic.  With slow movements she turns away from him and lowers herself onto the marble edge of the stone planter beside him, feeling strangely unfulfilled by their stilted banter.

If he was going to ignore her, well so could she. In all honesty, the night was too exhausting and her mood too poor to muster up the strength to antagonize him further. The terrace was the best short term solution for her problem and they could share it. They would be sharing a lot more soon enough, she thinks detachedly and pulls her blazer tighter around her shoulders.

They sit in silence, the cold a pleasant burn on her skin and the heady smell of his tobacco comforting enough that she let’s her eyes slide close. No one would expect him to play the dutiful son, but Rachel’s absence would be noted and dissected should she let it continue. She would have to return soon, tight smile in tact and a drink in hand. Her Mother would be monitoring her attitude as well as those she did and did not talk to throughout the night. 

As if on cue, Rachel hears the tiny chime of her ringtone come from the pocket of her clutch, soft but insistent in what was otherwise a companionable silence (words never put alongside Young Do’s name). Her eyes slide open slowly but she makes no move to answer it, stare fixed determinedly ahead. 

Rachel sees Young Do shift from the corner of her eye as the ringing continues for one last burst before it stops altogether. He is suddenly much closer to her, the smell of tobacco practically offensive with this proximity. She wrinkles her nose, prepared to tell him off when she sees that his hand is extended, cigarette loose between his fingers in some sort of gesture of twisted kindness. She stares at him, at a loss for words.

"It’s a cigarette, not a lexus," comes out husky and low. When she continues to look at him suspiciously, he rolls his eyes. "What’s a hit between siblings?" he says, sardonic but bitter.

"No," she refuses awkwardly, fingers fumbling with her skirt. "But," she hesitates, unaccustomed to this show of camaraderie and unsure how to respond. "Thank you…"

He shrugs indifferently but the shrug itself is far less tense. 

"We have a family breakfast tomorrow," she hears herself say softly, like his gesture had re-opened the channels of discourse. She shifts, crossing one leg primly over the other. "Will you be there?"

"Are you requesting a rescue? Or have you suddenly become much fonder of me, sister."

She shoots him a flat look. “It’s cute that you think either are in the realm of possibility. Brother.”

He chuckles into an exhale, smoke momentarily clouding his grin and it’s like the lingering tension dissipates with it. She turns away, tucking her own strange smile against the the lapel of her blazer and tries not to appear too gracious; she couldn’t let the traitorous thought of them as functioning siblings gain traction.

Her phone chirps to life again beside her. They both sigh.