Actions

Work Header

animal

Work Text:

The alarm goes off, and an arm appears from below the blanket, fumbling on the surface of the bedside table, trying to find the phone to turn the goddamn alarm off. Chaeyoung doesn’t know what time it is now, but what she does know is that she slept late yesterday and she can barely open her eyes now, so she’s going to turn off the alarm and sleep a little more.

 

A few minutes later, the alarm rings again and Chaeyoung is annoyed beyond belief, sighing loudly. The person lying on the other side of the bed groans unhappily at being awaken, turning and pulling the blanket away from Chaeyoung. The only piece of clothing she has on her body is her pants, which does close to nothing to offer any protection from the cold air of the room. She sighs, sitting up to look at her phone, only to see that it’s not an alarm, but a phone call.

 

“Hello? Yeah…”

 

It’s her manager checking up on her and informing her about her schedules for the day.

 

“No, it’s okay, you don’t have to come pick me up.” Chaeyoung almost whispers into the phone, afraid of waking up the person behind her. She turns up the aircon before stopping in front of the window, not caring if she’s almost buck naked. Well, the penthouse they are in is about 80 storeys high, who’s going to see her? Birds?

 

In actuality, the person on the bed is already awake, it’s a young girl, with a head of mid-length black hair, her gentle face half hidden under the blanket, observing Chaeyoung carefully. Chaeyoung just passed thirty this year, but her body is still in great shape; slim waistline, angular shoulders and strong muscular arms. As for how strong she is, the girl has experienced it with her body many times last night. With how the light from the window hits Chaeyoung, it emanates the tattoo of an arrow through the heart behind her ear. She’s brought back to last night, when she touched the tattoo and asked Chaeyoung what it means, but she didn’t reply, just held her hand to bring it downwards.

 

Before her thoughts can wander further, Chaeyoung turns around, and gives her a polite smile upon seeing that she’s awake. But her eyes wander, from her abs, to further up when she hears Chaeyoung speak on the phone.

 

“I think you can just send someone over, to pick my friend up.”

 

Chaeyoung ends the call, and the girl finally looks away, pouting, “I don’t need someone to pick me up.”

 

Chaeyoung doesn’t reply. Instead, she puts down her phone and unplugs the charger from the socket, which is attached to a very old-style Nokia flip phone. The girl raises her eyebrows at it, is this what they meant when they say that all artists have weird hobbies? Is Chaeyoung’s weird hobby to collect old handphones like these?

 

Chaeyoung carefully places the phone back into her bag, and walks past the bed, heading to the bathroom to wash up. When she passes the girl, she stretches her hand out to caress the girl’s head, and in a calm voice, “Stop fooling around.”

 

It’s as if they didn’t just know each other for a night, but are a couple who have been dating for very long. The girl blushes at such an intimate action, and hides her face back under the blanket.

 

--

 

Chaeyoung always chooses a hotel that is near to her workplace the next day because she doesn’t let herself slack off when it comes to work. Wearing a mask and cap, she enters the recording studio and greets her bandmates, all ready to start work. It’s only during break time that her bandmates come over to bother her about the newest gossip they heard.

 

“So, how was it last night?”

 

“Still okay, I guess.” Chaeyoung drinks a sip of water, scratching her nose.

 

“I heard from our manager that she was really pretty? Big eyes, small mouth, looks Japanese. Moles under her eyes and on her nose bridge.”

 

Chaeyoung doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry, “How do you even know so much?”

 

“And I heard the girl really likes our Chaeyoungie.” The guitarist also chimes in, “She insisted Chaengie write something down on her hand before she got on the car. What did she ask for, your number?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Everyone is shocked, “You gave your number to her?!”

 

Chaeyoung is a known player, it’s not a secret even to the general public. Ever since debut, she basically spends the night with different girls every night, but she never leaves her contact details to anyone after.

 

“Why would I?” Chaeyoung leans back in her chair, “I just wrote down the number on the billboard advertisement across the street.”

 

Everyone laughed, except the drummer sitting beside her. The drummer and Chaeyoung go way back, ever since Chaeyoung was fifteen. They only had passion then, performed at live house together, using only their second-hand instruments and hand-written songs to get to where they are today. They fought, fell out, got drunk, and cried while reconciling; that was all in the past, the past which created the ‘Chaeyoung’ today.

 

The rest are all messing around, but she’s the only one who has her eyes closed, waving at Chaeyoung to get her attention, “What’s the girl’s name?”

 

Chaeyoung looks at the ceiling, thinking hard, “I forgot.”

 

The drummer snorts, “Big eyes, small mouth, moles on her nose bridge, sounds like her, huh?”

 

Chaeyoung’s expression hardens, giving the drummer an unreadable look. The others’ voices gradually quieten down, and the atmosphere drops a few degrees. Chaeyoung looks away, lifting the bottle of water back to her mouth. “No, she doesn’t.”

 

“Sounds like who?” The bassist musters up her courage to ask. She’s the youngest in the team, so everyone pampers her and gives her whatever she asks for. This is no exception.

 

The drummer smiles, pointing at Chaeyoung, “Sounds like your bro’s first love.”

 

“Screw you.” But Chaeyoung’s voice doesn’t carry any bite, “No one can compare to my first love.”

 

--

 

Son Chaeyoung’s first love occurred when she was sixteen. In Chaeyoung’s perspective, it’s not just a normal relationship between lovers – it’s not an experience, it’s not a story that consists simply of the introduction, body and the conclusion, it’s a sudden ‘happening’. This happening is made up of everything beautiful in this world, and then it stopped at where it started, like amber that has solidified, seeping into her blood stream, into her soul to become a part of her.

 

It was a look, when two eyes locked, which had the power to block out the noise of the live house. In that moment, Chaeyoung took even lesser than a millisecond to be sure that the other girl is her forever.

 

This live house is the heaven of all aspiring musicians in Gangdong-gu. That year, Chaeyoung was sixteen and had yet to finish high school, but was willing to give her life up for music, to become a famous rapper. She formed a small club with a few friends, and often gathered at the popular live house. Sometimes they went on stage to perform the songs they wrote, sometimes they just mingled in the crowd, trying to get the bartender to give them some alcohol (but they always only leave with a cup of orange juice each).

 

Forever happened on a night that was just like any other. Chaeyoung just finished performing a new song she wrote, receiving lots of cheers from the young females in the crowd. Jumping down the stage with her band members, they head towards the bar to say hi to the bartender. In the crowd, Chaeyoung sees a girl sitting by the bar, pretty side view, slightly curly hair that reaches down to her collarbones. The girl has a slim figure, the white cashmere sweater she’s wearing looking like it will fall off her shoulders anytime. Her hair covered her face, so Chaeyoung can’t see her very well, only able to see her nose bridge peeking out from the curtain of hair. Her fingers are circling the rim of the cup of mojito in front of her, and hearing the commotion from Chaeyoung’s side, gently turned around – and it’s this moment, that she meets eyes with Chaeyoung, both of them ignoring the crowd in between them, locking eyes right with each other. All sound faded to the background, time stopped, and nothing is left in Chaeyoung’s world except the two of them.

 

When her eyes locked onto those cold eyes akin to a lake in the middle of winter, Chaeyoung knows, this is her first love.

 

She doesn’t know what to do, just smiles like an idiot to the girl, revealing her deep dimples. The girl seems to be analysing her, but it also seems like she’s just staring blankly at her. Very quickly, she also gives a gentle smile back to Chaeyoung, but in that moment, the coldness in her eyes melted, as if spring has finally arrived to the frozen lake.

 

Chaeyoung is mesmerized by that smile, not even complaining when the bartender gave her a cup of milk instead of the usual orange juice. She holds the cup, and it feels like she’s floating when she walks over to the girl.

 

In the loud music of the live house, Chaeyoung spent a long time before she got the girl’s name. Myoui Mina, her Korean is a little Japanese accented, her voice is gentle like her personality, barely audible in the noise of the live house. They tried many times to communicate, but to no avail. In the end, Mina smiles as she fishes out her phone from her pocket to get Chaeyoung’s number.

 

People continue to jam and jump along to the music, but the two just sit together at the bar, so close that their shoulders are leaning against each other. The cups in front of them are barely touched, their heads almost touching, using their phones to communicate with each other.

 

At that time there were no smart phones, Mina was using a white flip phone, the screen only had two colours, using the telephone keypad to key out the words one by one. They patiently use text messages to communicate, and Chaeyoung got to know that Mina is Japanese, older than herself by two years, just entered university, majoring in something obscure that she has never ever heard of.

 

Chaeyoung uses the time where Mina is looking at the stage to study her face, she has a few moles on her face, the one on her nose bridge being the most obvious. Mina senses Chaeyoung’s gaze, turning back to look at her with a sheepish smile. She’s about to type on her phone, but the crowd gets rowdier, the singer on the stage holds up a hand sign for the staff at the back, and with a sound of a switch going off, the live house plunges into darkness, where you can’t even see your fingers in front of you.

 

“Kissing game!” Someone shouted from the crowd.

 

At a loss on what to do, Mina just holds onto her phone, but the light from the screen isn’t bright enough for her to see anything. She doesn’t even have time to react when something that smells like sunshine and grass gets closer to her, leaving a light kiss on her lips.

 

Even when the lights come back on, their lips are still locked. It smells like freshly cut grass, fresh yet hot, young, reckless, passionate, permeating her nose, muddling her mind. Mina opens her mouth slightly, letting the tongue that slides past her lips in, causing Chaeyoung to pause, before deepening the kiss happily.

 

It seems like there are people cheering and clapping around them, but Mina doesn’t even care. She opens her eyes carefully, sees that Chaeyoung is looking at her. The singer is staring at her shyly yet deeply, the round cat-like eyes seem to sparkle, reflecting her silhouette.

 

The dark surroundings suddenly turn bright, white light piercing through her eyelids. The live house quickly disappears into air. The sound of guitar, drums, cheering, all turn hazy like a veil is placed over them. Only that kiss, that smell of grass, that gentle smile, is clear like day, and for a moment Mina thought she was eighteen again.

 

She frowns, stirring awake to see the bright dangling lights on the roof of the lab. She turns her head towards the door, squinting her eyes to see the intern standing there. The intern is only twenty-three this year, wearing a pair of red glasses that make her look studious. When she meets eyes with Mina, she stumbles backwards a little in shock before retracting her hand away from the light switch.

 

“Myoui-sunbae, sorry, I didn’t know you stayed overnight here…”

 

Mina waves her hand, sitting up lethargically, “It’s not your fault, I didn’t tell you guys anyway.”

 

She’s leading a team to work on a big research project recently, everyone worked day and night for two whole months, and they finally finished this project yesterday. She made her whole team go home, but stayed over at the lab like usual.

 

The intern bowed nervously before bolting off, Mina doesn’t mind, just fixes her clothes before going over to the computer to look at the data. Her hair is messy from having just woken up, covering half her face, but still beautiful. She sweeps her hair behind her ears, revealing a delicate and pretty side view. She’s already thirty-two, but age has been kind to her, she doesn’t have any wrinkles, and her skin is clear of any blemishes. If she dressed a little more casually, people would even believe that she’s a university student.

 

After busying herself for a while, people start to stroll into the office. Some colleagues came over to ask her to go home early to rest, but she just nods while typing on her computer and writing down figures on the list in front of her. Even after working for the whole afternoon, she has no intentions of going home.

 

Two seniors exchange glances, one shakes his head, before jutting his jaw at his colleague’s table. The colleague understood the silent message, picking up a sealed envelope and heads towards Mina.

 

Patting Mina on the shoulder, “Mina, did you rest the past few weekends?”

 

Mina is hugging her arms as she stares at the data in front of her, turning around to smile gently at her senior colleague, “I don’t remember.”

 

She doesn’t remember, but her colleague does: in the past two months when this project started, she only took a day off on one Sunday, the rest of her time was all spent in the lab.

 

“It’s good that you are passionate about work, but you can’t go without rest.” The senior colleague pauses, before pulling Mina’s hand, placing the envelope into her hand. “I got a pair of tickets for the Seoul Music Festival from one of my students. I’m too old for such things already, why don’t you bring a friend along with you? There’s still one last event this weekend.”

 

Mina wants to reject, but her senior colleague is faster, stubbornly pressing the envelope into her palm, “Take it! I don’t care if you go or not, but you need to take a break this weekend, I don’t care where you go, just don’t come back into the lab. And don’t stay here already, pack up quickly and go home. Now.”

 

That’s how Mina got chased out of the lab by her senior, she doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry at that, but she’s thankful since her senior did it with good intentions, but it’s just that she doesn’t know if it’s a good thing. Standing in the train that is packed with people, she has on hand on her handle bars, another still holding the envelope. She scans the golden Korean words on the envelope for a few seconds before averting her eyes, looking out of the train windows.

 

The small screens on top of the train doors flash with different ads, and the screen is black for a second as the next ad loads. Son Chaeyoung’s face appears on it, big smile, it’s an ad of her band endorsing Yakult. Chaeyoung’s hair is slightly curled, wearing a sleeveless top, adorned with metal rings to make her look cool. She’s holding a bottle of the original flavour of Yakult, long and slim fingers wearing two golden rings. She looks rebellious, but has an innocent smile, the tips of the mouth still have the remnants of a milk moustache, a satisfied look on her face, like a little cat that has enough milk.

 

She has matured, even though she still has a childlike face, but she is very different from the youthful Chaeyoung in her memories. However, there are still some similarities between this Chaeyoung and her Chaeyoung, she still has that same silly smile, the one that always appears in her dreams. Mina wants to laugh, but it doesn’t come out, so she can only stare at the Chaeyoung in the ad. Not far behind her, a group of high schoolers burst out squealing, pointing at Chaeyoung’s ad and chattering amongst themselves excitedly. Her band has always been very popular among the teens.

 

Mina practically dragged her feet home.

 

After working so hard for the past two months and finally getting to relax now, she feels the fatigue creeping in. Scanning her fingerprint to open the door, her mother runs to welcome her, so glad to see her that she didn’t even remove her apron in her haste. The mother and daughter hug, and Mina puts down her bag, says tiredly, “I’m going to take a bath.”

 

Her mother takes the jacket Mina takes off, hanging it onto the coat rack, “Your brother is in the main bathroom, use the bathroom in the master room instead.”

 

Mina froze, before smiling, “Onisan is back?”

 

She places the envelope on the table, going to her room to get a change of clothes. Her mother got curious, following behind and taking a peek at the envelope, pursing her lips after reading the words on it, before going back to the kitchen.

 

Mina’s brother moved to another district after getting married, and it’s rare for him to come home and for them to be able to have a meal together as a family. Needless to say, Mrs Myoui cooked up a feast that is gobbled up by the whole family. Mina has always been close to her brother since young, and the two seemed to have endless things to talk about, having not seen each other for so long. After she put down her chopsticks, she sent a sign to her brother, asking him to come to her room later. He nods, telling her that he will go up after finishing the dishes with their mom.

 

Ever since Mina hit puberty, he doesn’t really go into her room, maintaining a distance fitting of siblings of opposite sex. Seeing how Mina called him out alone, it’s probably something that she can’t talk about in front of their parents. The last time this happened was already ten years ago, and he still remembers it very clearly till today, even though it wasn’t a very pleasant memory for both of them. He knocks on the door, waiting for Mina to respond before pushing the door to enter.

 

Mina’s room isn’t really like a typical girl’s room, the decoration is very simple, there isn’t any extra colours or trinkets on display, just a wall lined with book shelves, all filled with professional textbooks. She’s sitting in front of the table, her computer screen having several windows pulled up, all filled with numbers and figures that will make anyone dizzy. Mina smiles, getting up from her chair, “You can sit here, I will sit on the bed.”

 

Mina doesn’t have any big problem, just asking if he and sister-in-law is free this weekend, and after confirming that they are free, giving the envelope that she received to her brother.

 

“My senior said that this weekend is the last show, so just go and watch.” Mina relays the information.

 

Her brother holds onto the envelope, says sheepishly, “Why don’t you go? Your senior already banned you from going to work, and since you are on paid leave, isn’t it good to go and relax?”

 

Mina is still smiling, but her expression falls a little, “Look at the front.”

 

Her brother opens the envelope, “Ah.”

 

There’s a list of the performers printed on the front of the envelope; the biggest star’s name being printed the biggest on the first line. It’s Chaeyoung’s band’s name.

 

He immediately understands, doesn’t say anything else, just keeps the envelope. Before he leaves, he stops at the door, turning, “Mina-chan, if you count this year, it has been ten years, right? You aren’t getting any younger, Dad and Mom were also talking about this with me before you came back, your classmates are all married and have kids, but you…”

 

Mina is already back at her seat before the computer. Hearing her brother’s words, she turns slightly, giving him a smile that doesn’t reach her eyes, “What ten years? Are you talking about how it’s already been ten years since I told you my first love was a girl, and you picked up your baseball bat saying you are going to beat her up? Or that it’s already been ten years since Papa and Mama nearly broke her legs by making her kneel for a day, forcing me to chase her away from our house?”

 

Her brother is stunned silent, pausing for half a beat before he finally gets his mouth to work, “Mina-chan, ten years ago, we didn’t expect…”

 

Mina stares at her brother, giving him a bitter smile. She said that purposely, wanted to see her brother speechless, as if doing so will make the feelings she kept in all these years better. But that’s only for a moment, her expression returns back to her usual gentleness, as if she didn’t say anything just now.

 

“I’m just joking, I know what you are referring to. You are right, it’s been ten years since I broke up with her, it’s high time I consider getting married and having kids.” Mina turns back to her computer, already typing away on the keyboard, “But I don’t want to go for blind dates, and I don’t want to get married, you should know that.”

 

The man standing at the door is silent. He’s tall and big, head almost touching the doorframe, but in this moment, he looks so small and helpless, unable to lift his head.

 

“Do you still hate us? Dad, Mom, and me?”

 

The typing on the keyboard ceases.

 

“I have never hated you guys.”

 

Mina’s voice is soft. She doesn’t move, and her brother stares at her back view. His sister has always been beautiful and delicate from young, and sitting there motionless makes her look a statue.

 

But her voice is also very cold, filled with indifference and exhaustion. It’s like a snow storm in the middle of winter, freezing everything solid like metal because of the cold temperatures, but also like a scar, stuck in its place, no matter how hard you try, you can’t melt it away, can’t remove it.

 

“I just don’t want to think about it anymore.”

 

--

 

The last time Mina went to a music festival was already ten years ago, and every time she went, it was with Chaeyoung.

 

At that time, Chaeyoung was still very young, owning a guitar and a large motorcycle. The back seat of her motorcycle was used to put her guitar, but after that it belonged solely to Mina. Chaeyoung brought Mina to many places with that motorcycle, and they will go on trips together when Mina has a weekend free.

 

Mina was eighteen, growing up like a flower in a greenhouse, sheltered and innocent beyond belief, with no other interests other than studying. Chaeyoung will bring her to enjoy the breeze, driving from Gangbuk to Gangnam and back. Mina will be sitting behind, skirt drifting with the wind, hugging Chaeyoung tightly, her head resting against her back. Chaeyoung always wears a short leather jacket when she drives, and Mina will snuggle underneath, looping her hands around Chaeyoung’s waist, feeling her taut abdominal muscles. No matter how hard the wind blows, it’s always warm inside Chaeyoung’s jacket.

 

Sometimes when the weather is good, they will hike up the mountain to see the sunset, and spend the night there. They don’t have much money, only their youth as their advantage, withstanding any hardship easily. Chaeyoung has a small physique, but she still insists on carrying all their camping stuff alone no matter how much Mina offers to help. After setting up the tent, Chaeyoung takes off her jacket, placing it on the grass and sits on it, playing on the ukulele and serenading Mina.

 

Mina loves listening to her sing. Chaeyoung has a small notebook that she doesn’t go anywhere without, and she often doodles or scribbles in it, recording down many bits and pieces of music. She hugs the ukulele, rests the notebook on her knee, and sings her song intermittently. Mina will sit by the side, poking at the bonfire occasionally, hugging her knees and looking at Chaeyoung. The glow from those nights was always a warm orange, landing on Chaeyoung’s shoulder and making her shine. Mina loses herself watching Chaeyoung, but the girl is clueless, just focused on singing. When she stops, she scratches her nose, turning to look at Mina with a shy yet proud expression.

 

Mina looks at her sincerely, smiling gently, “You sang really well.”

 

The sky is beginning to turn dark, Mina points far ahead, “Chaeng-chaeng, it’s almost sunset.”

 

Chaeyoung hurriedly gets up, going over to Mina to sit shoulder to shoulder with her, both of them staring at the sky. The setting sun paints the sky orange, like the flames of the bonfire in front of them. They let the sound of nature fill the silence between them, quietly watching the sun disappear beneath the horizon. Dusk approaches, the temperature drops and Mina hears rustling, before Chaeyoung drapes her jacket over her.

 

“Minari.”

 

Chaeyoung’s singing voice is very clear, but at this moment, her voice is deep, with a hint of embarrassment. Mina holds onto Chaeyoung’s jacket, warmed like she is being hugged from the back and hums as a response, turning to look at her. Chaeyoung leans in, kissing Mina passionately, yet gently. The scent of grass surrounds Mina, overriding all her senses, becoming the scent she is most familiar with in the next few years.

 

--

 

At that time, the music scene in Seoul was still not as developed, and the Seoul Music Festival was held for the first time. Before the music festival, Chaeyoung took on multiple part-time jobs for three months just to afford two tickets so that she can bring Mina to it.

 

Mina was in her second year of university, her workload is insane, but she still vacated time during the weekend for Chaeyoung. The festival was held outdoors in the park, Chaeyoung held Mina’s hand while clutching the festival brochure with the other, squeezing between people to get a good spot.

 

The turnout at the festival grows every year, but even then, the crowd at the first year of this festival is still not to be messed with, the two being surrounding by a sea of people, having to crank their necks to look at the stage. The stage is elevated, the sounds of the bass reverberating in their chests. Chaeyoung tiptoes, trying to get a better view of the performers on stage.

 

It’s so high, yet so near, the distance between her and the band that she likes. They are wearing sunglasses, holding shiny electric guitars, singing with voices that can pierce through the sky and rocks; it’s like their hands are filled with magic, playing a beautiful melody, echoing into her heart.

 

The need to shine like that, the want to be like them, has never been stronger than in this moment.

 

“Really want to become someone like that!” Chaeyoung tells Mina.

 

Mina can’t hear her clearly, leaning towards Chaeyoung, showing the beautiful side view of her face. Chaeyoung looks at her, feeling like the blood in her body is on fire. “I said, I really want to become someone like that! Also, I love you! Do you hear me? I love you!”

 

Mina freezes, before turning to smile at her. The song comes to an end just at that moment, and the crowd burst into cheers. Chaeyoung locks eyes with Mina, feeling her face slowly heat up. Mina suddenly grabs her hand, pulling her into the crowd, running towards the backstage.

 

Chaeyoung follows behind, heart thumping like thunder. Mina takes the album in her hands, slipping under the tape barricade when the staff isn’t paying attention to get signatures from the band. Chaeyoung stands outside, watches Mina chase after the band, but a staff walks by, blocking her view. She hastily shifts around, and after a few minutes, Mina runs back to her, stuffing the album back into her hands.

 

“I only got one signature cos there wasn’t enough time.” Mina is still a little breathless. “Do you like it?”

 

Chaeyoung opens the album, the guitarist’s signature right smack in the middle. She looks up to see Mina smiling at her. Opening her arms, she engulfs Mina. “Yes, thank you, Minari.”

 

Like how a balloon expands when blown, she feels her chest expanding with happiness. Mina places her jaw on Chaeyoung’s shoulder, patting the singer’s curly hair lightly. “One day, you will be standing backstage giving signatures to your fans too, Chaeyoungie.”

 

--

 

The yearly Seoul Music Festival is in its thirteenth run this year.

 

Chaeyoung is standing in front of the stands, holding onto her mic with both hands, staring out at the crowd that seemed to be drunk and high. The stage got higher, becoming further and further away from the crowd, the audience just a blur to her from the stage. She doesn’t know if there will be a couple in the crowd like them,, a seventeen-year-old who has set her mind to be on stage, and a nineteen-year-old beside her, smiling as she listens to her love declarations.

 

“Thank you!” Thirty-year-old Chaeyoung finishes her performance, screaming into her mic, waving at the fans before turning to leave with her bandmates.

 

A clear voice calls her from behind, and she turns to see a girl with a volunteer tag hanging from her neck. She is holding onto their album, face red as she runs towards her.

 

“Can I get a signature?”

 

The girl looks a little bashful as she hands over the album and a marker. Chaeyoung looks at her, before looking at the album, smiling, “Of course.”

 

She signs the album quickly, handling it over to her other bandmates. While her other bandmates are signing, she sees the girl turning around, gesturing a ‘OK’ sign to someone far away. Chaeyoung turns to that direction, sees a tall and skinny guy standing just outside the barricade of the backstage, using hand gestures to communicate with the girl excitedly.

 

The girl gets the album back, thanking them before she turns and runs to the guy, crashing into his embrace, causing him to stumble back a little from the impact. A smile unconsciously grows on her face.

 

“What are you looking at?” The drummer asks.

 

Chaeyoung gets her bearings back, looks at the drummer before looking back out again. The couple is already gone.

 

“Nothing.”

 

--

 

After the music festival, the company gave them a day off. After finishing their Asia tour last month, they had to record for the new album, go for magazine pictorials, interviews, performed at multiple public events, basically working nonstop the whole time. Getting one day off is ridiculous, but it’s not like they can do anything about it. Chaeyoung bids farewell to her bandmates, before heading to the bar like usual.

 

She’s known to be a player; this isn’t a secret in or outside the industry. Initially, the paparazzi still followed her fervently, taking photos of her entering hotels with different women, causing a big issue among the public. But all the girls are non-celebrities, plus Chaeyoung doesn’t respond to these reports, so the attention of these news begin to dwindle until it fell out of the interest radar of reporters and the public alike.

 

The girl tonight is slim, shoulder length wine red hair curled slightly, exquisite makeup, bright eyes that resembles a dog trying to get attention from its owner. The only con is that she talks a lot. Chaeyoung drank a lot at the bar, and she can feel her temples throbbing. Unable to withstand the girl’s nonstop talking, she stumbles to the bathroom, using the excuse of washing up to avoid her. The temperature in the bathroom is just right, she lies in the bathtub, the smell of lavender from the bath salts permeating her nose, making her drowsy.

 

Her consciousness is like fireflies in the dark sky, blinking and floating away. In her hazy consciousness, she dreams of Mina again.

 

It has already been ten years since she last saw Mina, but she always appears as clear as day in her dreams. Ten years ago when she kneeled on the living floor of the Myoui’s household for thirty plus hours, it was the thought of Mina that kept her going. That year she was only twenty, still full of passion, tenacity, was willing to use everything she had to chase her dreams, and was also willing to kneel forever in front of Mina’s family if it meant she gets the permission to date Mina.

 

Sometimes time feels like it passes very quickly, but sometimes it dragged on. Despite everything, she bit down hard on her teeth to push on, till she lost all feeling in her lower body. Mrs Myoui’s harsh criticism, Mr Myoui’s authority, Mina’s brother’s anger had no effect on her, but Mina’s cries from where she is locked up in her bedroom broke her heart.

 

Mina was locked in her bedroom, Chaeyoung had to face the three of them alone. She was too young then, not able to form coherent sentences without stuttering, tears falling nonstop. But her knees were stubborn, glued to the floor of the Myouis.

 

Mina’s cries gradually got softer, until it totally disappeared, and the fight between the four in the living room finally calmed down. Mr Myoui is a respected medical professor, and it’s easy to see that Mina inherited his eyes and nose. Chaeyoung’s eyes are blurry, but she forces herself to focus as she looks at Mr Myoui, who is looking down at her. He sighs, saying a bunch of stuff, from sexuality to their future, laying out every point on why they can’t be in front of Chaeyoung.

 

Chaeyoung only heard bits and pieces in her pain induced haze, but she heard the last bit very clearly: “No matter how long you kneel here, you won’t be able to give Mina happiness. I will not allow my daughter to live the rest of her life being pointed at and ridiculed. Just leave.”

 

Chaeyoung is jolted awake from her pain, but before she can say anything, a loud thump resounds, the sound coming from Mina’s room, the sound of a body hitting against the door. Everyone in the living room is shocked, and Mrs Myoui immediately heads to open the door. Mina is sitting on the floor, clutching onto her shoulder. From the shine of the light, Chaeyoung can see that her beautiful face is wet.

 

“Papa…” Mina isn’t looking at Chaeyoung, gaze only focused on her father. They are separated by a few people, so Chaeyoung can’t see Mina’s face. She slowly shifts her body to look at her, and her heart sinks.

 

It was love at first sight, first love, till death do us part for them. No matter what Mina does or wants to do, she always has a scary intuition on it.

 

“I agree. I will break up with her. Let her go.”

 

Those were the last words she heard from Mina.

 

As for what happened after that? Chaeyoung doesn’t remember, she only remembers limping away from the Myoui’s, the door closing with a depressing thud. It took almost half a month for her knees to get better, and after that, she sold all her belongings, including her motorbike, leaving only her guitar, using all the money she gathered to join auditions everywhere, finally getting chosen by her company to become a trainee.

 

They had to hand over their personal belongings before entering the company, but Chaeyoung hid a Nokia phone that she was no longer using.

 

It was a birthday present for her 18th birthday from Mina, who had worked part time while in university to get it for her. At that time there were no smart phones, people were still using pagers, and Chaeyoung had been using a hand-me-down handphone from her father, so a brand-new Nokia phone was something absolutely unattainable for her.

 

“Where did you work at?” Chaeyoung may be younger, but she’s very protective, afraid that Mina may be cheated. Mina is sitting opposite her, unable to resist her laughter when she sees the way Chaeyoung is so stiff, pulling out a napkin to wipe away the butter on the corner of Chaeyoung’s lips.

 

“What else can I do? I took up an office job,” Mina said lightly, “Although they made me do the work of three people while only paying me the salary of one, I will just take it as training. Now I know how horrible bosses are!” She grimaces.

 

“But it’s worth it to be able to buy you a birthday present and to see you so happy. Do you like it?”

 

Chaeyoung nods her head vigorously, “Yes!”

 

Mina smiles, satisfied. She pulls out another box like magic, and in the box is another Nokia phone that looks exactly like the one in Chaeyoung’s hand.

 

Mina locks eyes with her, “I earned quite a bit from this job, so I brought a couple’s model.”

 

Chaeyoung’s heart soars, wanting to cross the table between them to kiss her, but Mina is the one who leans over instead. She totally melts in Chaeyoung’s embrace, using her hands to lightly press down on her lips, slowly sliding to her collarbones, and even lower…

 

“Mina? Mina…!”

 

Chaeyoung shouts, suddenly opening her eyes. The red-haired beauty is on her, already buck naked, staring at her in confusion.

 

“What Mina? How did you know my surname… Hey, hey, Son Chaeyoung, where are you going?”

 

“The phone… I have to charge the phone!”

 

“Wait! Son Chaeyoung! What phone? You can charge it later; it won’t shut down! Tell me first, how did you know my surname is Minatozaki!”

 

Chaeyoung turned a deaf ear to her, standing up from the water hurriedly, stepping out of the bathtub, not even caring if she’s naked or that she’s dripping water all over. Sana is shocked, grabbing onto her wrist, but Chaeyoung just flings it off. Sana had always been a beauty from young, the only daughter of a rich family, so she’s spoilt rotten by her family. She shouts at Chaeyoung, not used to this type of cold behaviour from anyone, but Chaeyoung doesn’t give two hoots about her, only focused on going outside. The water in the bathtub is very hot, and she spent too long in it, causing her to black out and stumble a little when her feet stepped on the cold tiles.

 

“Hey!”

 

Sana may be angry, but once she sees that Chaeyoung is weak on her feet, she instantly jumps out of the bathtub to hold her. Chaeyoung takes two seconds before she gets her bearings back, slowly pulling her arm away from Sana, running like a mad woman to her bag, pulling out an old Nokia phone, plugging the cable in and then the other side into the socket on the wall. It’s only when she sees the phone lighting up that she finally heaves a sigh of relief.

 

Seeing that she’s okay now, Sana’s spoilt brat behaviour is back, leaning against the wall naked, her arms crossed, “Are you happy now?”

 

The alcohol has mostly worn off by now, Chaeyoung turns to look at her, giving her a relaxed smile, like a baby animal who has gotten extra snacks, innocent and satisfied, nodding her head furiously, showing off her deep dimples. Sana’s anger is all gone upon seeing that smile, sighing helplessly, “Then let’s head back to the bathroom. God, it must be true that artistes all have a loose screw in their head…”

 

Chaeyoung checks that the phone is indeed charging, confirming that it is functioning, that the phone card inside is still working. The weight in her chest finally lifts, and not even Sana’s sarcastic comment can affect her, obediently following her into the bathroom to wash up.

 

The two start to mess around in the bathroom, quickly ending up on the bed. In the midst of their kisses, Chaeyoung finds out that Sana is a Japanese like Mina. Sana’s Korean is really good, good enough to pass off as a local, and Chaeyoung is sure that this shiba-looking woman will be one of her more memorable one-night stands. However, she doesn’t stop harping about how she knew her surname, and Chaeyoung gives her a hasty and nonsensical answer, pressing her down, her two fingers slowly entering the girl below her.

 

Sana is finally speechless, biting her lips and trying to catch her breath. Chaeyoung stops inside, curling her fingers, causing Sana to arch her back, those round bright eyes becoming half-lidded, making her look like a seductress.

 

“Do you like it?” Chaeyoung’s free hand is resting besode Sana, looking at her expression, she knows she likes it, but she just wants to ask her. Not waiting for a reply, Chaeyoung bends down to bite her collarbone, tilting her head to plant a kiss on her neck. Sana is panting, letting out a sultry “hmm” as her hand rests on Chaeyoung’s arm. There are tattoos scattered everywhere.

 

“This was done during the first tour… This is for your mom… For the fans…” Sana recites it off like she has it memorized on the back of her hand. Chaeyoung stills for a moment, expression hardening, pulling out her fingers, “You are a fan?”

 

“Yeah.” Sana admits easily, giving her a bright smile. She lifts her arms to wrap around Chaeyoung’s neck, pulling her down to kiss the mole by the side of her lips, voice sweet like honey, “You frequent the same few bars, everyone knows that. Don’t be angry, you can take it that we really met coincidentally tonight, after all, I didn’t expect to really bump into you.”

 

Chaeyoung’s gaze drops, not saying anything. But Sana doesn’t give up, pressing a kiss to her lips, and seeing no reaction from her, flips her so that she’s pressing down on Chaeyoung now, kissing down from her lips, neck, collarbones, chest, waist. Sana’s voice is gentle, “Just take it that I won the lottery tonight.”

 

Chaeyoung slowly exhales, Sana buries her head down, causing her to grip on tighter to the bedsheets.

 

The bed creaks from all their activities, not stopping even until two or three in the morning. Sana is the type to warm up to people quickly, and after messing around with Chaeyoung for a few hours, she feels that they are close enough to joke around, pressing Chaeyoung down onto the bed, hugging her and giggling. They are at it again, Chaeyoung pressing in, Sana hugging her, fingers running across the tattoo behind her ear.

 

“Chaengie baby, I know the history of almost all your tattoos, except this. Care to share?”

 

Chaeyoung stares at her with an unreadable look, but she doesn’t back down, meeting her stare. It takes her a few seconds before Chaeyoung increases her speed, causing Sana to reach her peak, promptly forgetting what she was saying, eyes welling up with tears, looking like a pitiful fox that has been caught in a hunter’s trap. Chaeyoung presses hard on her sensitive point, rubbing back and forth, staring at her gently, yet indifferently, kissing the corner of her eyes when she’s shaking from her climax.

 

“Let me give you two clues.” Sana is still shaking, eyes unfocused, and there’s a very big possibility that she can’t hear her, but Chaeyoung still says it slowly.


“One, it’s my first tattoo. Two, like my phone, it belongs to another person.”

 

--

 

The first time that Mina saw Chaeyoung’s tattoo was in school. She’s in the physics building, the laboratory floor, filled with teachers and students in white lab coats. Chaeyoung is the only exception, wearing a colourful sleeveless top over a short-sleeved sports shirt, ripped jeans, sneakers, her helmet under her arms, green hair in disarray, running excitedly to find her.

 

Fortunately, everyone is busy with their work, not noticing her outside the lab. When Mina saw Chaeyoung standing outside, waving to her eagerly with those deep dimples, she almost burst out laughing. Clearing her throat, she fixes her expression before going to talk to her professor, finding an excuse to sneak out. Mina has always been an obedient student with good grades, the professor of course does not suspect her at all, letting her go easily. She makes a small gesture at Chaeyoung, and despite the distance, she understands immediately, circling around the corridor as if she’s supposed to be here, before disappearing quietly through the backdoor. Mina uses all her might to keep her laughter in, taking off her coat and picking up her bag, footsteps hurrying to the backdoor.

 

The stairway is totally empty, Mina heads two floors down when she feels someone pulling her to the side. Before she can scream, her mouth is covered tight, embraced firmly from the back, Chaeyoung’s grass scent engulfing her. She doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry, patting Chaeyoung’s arm, the girl finally letting her go, smiling at her sillily.

 

Chaeyoung’s first words were, “Are you hungry?”

 

Before Mina can answer, Chaeyoung touches her face, running her fingers past Mina’s eyebags, frowning in worry. Mina wants to laugh at how dramatic her girlfriend is, deciding to play along as she pouts at her.

 

Chaeyoung sighs, “You already stayed in school for three days, you have been in the lab since Monday. Are you Iron Man? Don’t you have to eat or sleep?”

 

Mina wants to tell her that she does go to the canteen to eat, and she can go to her friends’ dorm to sleep, but she chooses not to. “Yes, I am Iron Man.”

 

“As if, Iron Man has a moustache, let me see if you have one?” Chaeyoung opens her eyes wider to stare at Mina, as if staring hard enough will make a moustache grow out from her chin. Mina is also very cooperative, tilting her chin up so that it’s easier for her. The two mess around for a little more before Chaeyoung exclaims.

 

“Nearly forgot to give you this, I just bought it from the convenience store, it’s still hot.” She holds out her helmet, and in the helmet is a pack of steaming hot sweet potatoes.

 

Mina finally bursts out laughing, taking out the pack of sweet potatoes from the helmet, looking at Chaeyoung, “Sweet potato princess, did you just come here to deliver this?”

 

“What sweet potato princess…” Chaeyoung blushes, shaking her head fervently, “No, I came to show you this!”

 

She tilts her head, tugging her green hair behind her ear. There’s a tattoo behind her ear, an eye-catching red heart that is pierced by an arrow.

 

“Isn’t it pretty? I just got it, the second-skin plaster hasn’t even been on for an hour,” Chaeyoung looks very proud, “I drew it myself.”

 

Mina isn’t that dense to not know the meaning behind it, but she still asks on purpose, “What does it mean?”

 

Chaeyoung immediately takes the bait Mina put out, “Love at first sight! I drew it while thinking about you!”

 

Mina holds onto the packet of sweet potatoes with both of her hands, trying not to laugh, and just stares at Chaeyoung affectionately. Chaeyoung gets all embarrassed, running her fingers through her messy hair, suddenly moving over to kiss Mina.

 

“I love you.” She said in a small voice. Ever since she confessed at the music festival, Chaeyoung isn’t embarrassed to use these words anymore.

 

But Mina is still shy about it. Her eyes are clear, warm like spring, no longer cold like a lake in the middle of winter. There’s a tinge of red on her white skin, quickly shifting her gaze away after locking eyes with Chaeyoung, but she buries herself into the girl’s embrace, leaving a light kiss on her full lips.

 

“I love you too…” Mina is blushing to her ears.

 

Chaeyoung holds her hand, warm expression on her face, but her words are cold, “But do you know? I was almost crippled after kneeling that day. Minari, I know you can’t say it, so let me say it. Let’s break up, you know I love you the most…”

 

She hasn’t finished when Mina jolts awake, sitting up in bed.

 

It’s so dark in her room that she can’t see her hands even if she holds them out in front of her, Mina is panting, her vision slowly adjusting to the dark, when she realizes she’s at home. She picks up the clock by her bedside table; it’s three twenty in the morning.

 

She crinkles her nose, dragging herself out of bed to get a drink.

 

Her company is giving her time off, but she gets even lesser sleep during her breaks. She’s afraid of taking breaks, because the moment she gets one she can’t help but think of Son Chaeyoung. At first missing her was pain, sharp pain reverberating in her chest, like a knife through her chest. But gradually, this yearning turns into a dull ache, like a heart disease, it doesn’t relapse every moment, but it still makes it hard for her to even breathe. She bears this yearning, bears this pain, bears the torture of having to see Chaeyoung in every advertisement no matter where she goes, and focuses on her work, spending day and night in the research lab.

 

It’s only when she’s buried in work that she doesn’t have the time and head space to think about Son Chaeyoung. If not, all those beautiful memories they had will become monsters, plaguing her dreams and swallowing her alive.

 

Mina places the cup back in its original position, dragging herself back to her room, lightly closing the door. She’s exhausted, more than when she had to work on that project for two months, she doesn’t want to think about anything, but her past just doesn’t want to let her go. She needs to think of a way to let herself sleep.

 

She takes off her pyjamas and lies back on bed, staring at the black ceiling above her, one hand going to her chest and the other reaching for the cupboard, pulling out a tube of lube. Mina slowly exhales as her hands draws circles around her chest. It quickly hardens, and she switches to the other side, slowly closing her eyes.

 

Her mind suddenly clears, yet it still feels blurry, all her thoughts jumbled. Mina likes this feeling, where she is focused on her desires, using all her might to please her body. She’s sensitive since it’s been long since she touched herself, she squeezes and places a bit of lube on her hand, reaching into her underwear, touching that little nub, carefully drawing circles around it.

 

It aches, but the sparks of a high doesn’t come. She keeps at it, unintentionally using more strength, causing the ache to turn into pain. She frowns, relaxing her fingers before continuing at her actions slowly this time. It grows, becomes red from her ministrations, but it doesn’t feel good at all.

 

Chaeyoung doesn’t do it with her fingers, usually using her tongue. Mina closes her eyes, imagining Chaeyoung’s face. Chaeyoung loved using her mouth… She said that the lips and tongue is the most primitive way humans use to express their affections. Her nose bridge is very high, always knocking against her nub when she’s buried between her legs. She always uses her full lips to wrap around Mina, sucking her until she goes over the edge.

 

Chaeyoung must have been shy at the start too, right? Mina recalls how when they did it for the first few times, Chaeyoung looked up at her like a little kitten, nose and lips all wet, cheeks red, eyes filled with lust but also cuteness. Mina pulled her up, not wanting to kiss her at first, but she relented in the end, tasting herself in Chaeyoung’s mouth… Even then, Chaeyoung’s grass scent was still lingering in the air. She always hugs Mina with one hand, using the other to enter her…

 

Mina lets out a muffled grunt, lower body arching like a bow. She used a lot of lube before she dared to put her fingers in there. It’s tight, wet and hot, sucking her fingers urgently, she only dared to use one finger, biting her lips while venturing deeper.

 

Chaeyoung’s fingers are long from years of playing on the guitar, filling Mina to the brim when she enters her, causing her to arch her back from the pleasure. Mina hooks her arms around Chaeyoung’s neck, shuddering in her embrace. This act of weakness makes Chaeyoung even more excited, using her thumb to press on Mina’s sensitive spot. Mina tries her best not to make a sound, but Chaeyoung just wants to hear it, lowering her head to lick her lips until she gives up, losing control and vocalizing everything out loud. Panting slowly becomes moans, and Mina unconsciously tangles her legs around Chaeyoung’s waist.

 

“Chaeng, Chaeng…”

 

The more she begs, the tighter Chaeyoung hugs her. She’s like a flower that has bloomed because of Chaeyoung, Chaeyoung also honed her skills in bed with her, they did it so many times that they are familiar with each other’s body. Chaeyoung knows how deep she has to go to make Mina lose her breath, knows where to press to hear her moan, knows that she’s close when she tightens her arms around her. Her whole body is numb, waist almost entirely off the bed, tightening her arms around Chaeyoung’s neck, crying out her name:

 

“Chaeng, Chaeng… Chaeng…!”

 

The waves of pleasure crashed onto her body, all she can see is white as she closes her legs, crying as she reaches her peak. It wrecks through her body for a few minutes before it ceases, finally pulling out her fingers.

 

Everything is in complete disarray. Mina just lies there, chest still heaving. She uses her clean hands to swipe at the corner of the eyes, only realizing then that she cried.

 

--

 

Mina doesn’t know what time she fell asleep.

 

She’s exhausted to her breaking point, she didn’t dream last night, but she might as well have, her thoughts muddled and unable to focus. How ironic that her seniors at work made her take time off to rest, but it’s just pure torture for her. She can only stay at home and suffer a few more days until she can go back to the lab.

 

Her parents kept exchanging glances during lunch, Mina sees it clearly, but she doesn’t want to expose them, just lets them be. The exchanges get more heated, as if they are arguing, finally ending with a tie when her mother glares at her dad, causing him to cough and finally speak up.

 

“Mina-chan, you have been home these few days, why don’t you go out with your friends?”

 

“I don’t have friends.” Mina says calmly, picking up some vegetables with her chopsticks, eating as if nothing had happened.

 

“We don’t mean that,” her mother becomes defensive, “what we mean is, your company gave you time off to recuperate, you should go out, don’t just stay cooped up at home.”

 

Mina’s chopsticks stop moving, looks to her mom and gives her a warm smile, but her tone tells them to drop it, that this is the end of this talk, “Mama, I don’t want to go out.”

 

“How can you not have any friends? Just ask a few out.” Mrs Myoui is nervous, blabbering, “Doesn’t matter if it’s a guy or girl, anyone will do, just go out, watch a movie or something.”

 

Mina pauses, putting down her chopsticks, smiling emptily at her parents, “Really?”

 

“Then I’m going to find Son Chaeyoung.”

 

This name is taboo in the Myoui’s household for the past ten years. This time, all three people’s chopsticks stopped.

 

Mina doesn’t speak, doesn’t move, just sits calmly at her seat. Her parents start their exchange of glances again, her dad ending it with a hard blink of his eyes, as if he decided on something, looking at Mina. He takes a deep breath, announcing,

 

“Okay. If you can find her, then go.”

 

Mina lifts her head up.

 

“…Really?”

 

Her mother is nodding at the side, tears flowing down her face, “Your dad and me have been discussing this for very long. At that time, we stopped you guys because you were from two different social circles, and you were still young, it’s not hard for you to find and marry a good man. But… it’s been ten years, and with your stubborn personality, we don’t want you to waste another ten years. Mina-chan, go find her then.”

 

Mina is frozen, her chest feels tight, so tight that it’s uncomfortable. She lowers her head, but looks up at her mom with wet, pleading eyes, “I don’t know how to find her.”

 

“Let’s think of some way, I’m sure we will find her.” her mother placates her, “Let’s try our best.”

 

--

 

Mina really can’t find Son Chaeyoung.

 

The phone she was using then had been confiscated, unable to be found now, her previous phone number was also forcibly cancelled and stopped. Luckily, she had Chaeyoung’s phone number from ten years ago memorized like the back of her hand, but it’s not Chaeyoung, but some old man who answered. The number must have been out of use, and reissued to another user. She went to the live house in Gangdong-gu, it has already been redeveloped into a residential property. She went to the studio Chaeyoung rented for a year and a half when she was still an underground singer, but everyone there was unfamiliar, even the landlord has changed, all unfamiliar with Son Chaeyoung.

 

Mina left house early in the morning to travel all the way to Gangdong-gu, only to be met with disappointment, she can’t help but feel a little deflated. Summer just passed, but autumn and winter in Seoul doesn’t feel that different, the coldness of the night seeping into her bones. She had been walking the whole day, her legs ache so much, she just takes off her heels, walking with her bare feet on the asphalt road. There are many people on the road, all giving her a second look when they pass by her, unable to understand why such a pretty young lady, wearing such expensive clothing with exquisite make up is looking so depressed as she holds onto her heels, walking barefooted on the cold ground.

 

Mina is too tired to care about what they think, heaving herself to the nearest bus stop. The ads on the billboards have just been changed, this time Chaeyoung isn’t modelling for Yakult, but for spectacles. A pair of circular spectacles is perched on her nose, a smirk on her face. Just like last time when Mina was studying and she was messing around beside her, insisting on wearing Mina’s spectacles.

 

She looks at Chaeyoung on the billboard, smiling as she says quietly, “Childish.”

 

Chaeyoung is still smiling gleefully in front of her, her tiger tooth peeking out, dimples on display.

 

“What are you laughing at.” Mina rebukes, poking at Chaeyoung’s little mole by the side of the mouth, “Not focused on studying and you still have the nerve to steal my spectacles, you must be really pleased with yourself, huh?”

 

The Chaeyoung in the poster just continues to smile vibrantly at her.

 

“Return me my glasses, Son, Chae, Young.” Mina slowly utters her name out. These three syllables are so familiar to her, yet saying it out now feels so foreign. It’s been too long since she could say that name peacefully and calmly like this, and she doesn’t know how much tears she shed just to get here.

 

“Isn’t it funny?”

 

In the cold darkness of the night, only Mina is at the bus stop. She stares at the face in the poster, walking towards it, lightly pressing her forehead against the glass of the billboard.

 

“I can finally look for you now, but I just can’t find you anywhere.”

 

Mina has on a thin red scarf, her breath coming out like a small cloud of fog. It’s a little blurry in front of her, maybe it’s because of the humidity of the autumn’s night, causing her to be unable to see Chaeyoung’s bright eyes.

 

“Have I already lost you? Chaeyoung-ah…”

 

--

 

After that short break, the band is buried in work once again. They start promoting a new album, going on endless schedules that makes their heads spin. Time just flies, bringing along with it the short autumn season, and leaving the harsh and long winter in place.

 

On the night of Christmas Eve, the plane entered Seoul’s airspace safely, the street lights twinkling down below them like stars. Chaeyoung has her eyes closed, trying to catch a wink when she suddenly shouts and jumps up from her seat. The bassist also jumps in shock because of her, clutching the hand of the manager who is on the other side of her.

 

“Oppa! She’s doing it again! She has been like this for the past two months, just jumping up from her sleep suddenly!”

 

Their manager nods, patting the bassist who’s like a kicked puppy on the back to calm her down, before turning to look at Chaeyoung, “What’s wrong?”

 

Chaeyoung shakes her head, turning to look for another manager, holding up her thumb and pinkie, gesturing for her phone. The manager takes out the Nokia flip phone, “Functioning as per normal.”

 

Chaeyoung gives the manager a grateful smile before taking the phone from her. She wanted to just flip through the old conversations – all from Mina ten years ago. They sent almost a few hundred messages to each other every day, and even if the phone memory wasn’t enough, Chaeyoung still tried her best to retain and store these messages. The messages are kept on the hard drive of the phone, unable to be retrieved, Chaeyoung doesn’t know how many times she changed the charger and the battery of the phone, using it carefully just so that the phone can last longer.

 

But, on the small display of the flip phone, there’s a ‘1’ on the corner of the inbox icon. There’s a new message.

 

When Mina bought the phone for Chaeyoung, she also bought a phone card for her, but at that time Chaeyoung already had a phone number she was using. But Mina continued to pay the bill for the new phone number, because she wants to send messages to Chaeyoung via that number.

 

“This number belongs only to us.”

 

Mina always had a gentle disposition, but it’s only in such situations where she shows her possessiveness, and to Chaeyoung, this side of Mina is nothing but cute. When they were forced to break up, Chaeyoung knew that this number will never receive any new messages ever again, but she still continued to pay the phone bill, keeping this number that only they knew about alive for the past ten years.

 

Chaeyoung blinks her eyes, thinking she’s seeing things. But even when her eyes hurt from all the blinking she has done, the ‘1’ is still on the top left corner of the icon. She wants to open it, but she doesn’t dare, her fingers hovering and shaking in the air for a very long time, before spinning around to ask the manager, “Has the phone been turned off just now?”

 

The manager just looks at her with confusion, “No.”

 

“When was the last time you checked on it?”

 

“Hmm… Before we boarded the plane, when you passed it to me with your bag.”

 

Chaeyoung is upset to no end. She received a new message just a few minutes before the plane took off, and she didn’t even notice. Her hands are still shaking, even her eyes that are glued to the screen is also shaking, and in a few moments, her whole body just starts shaking from the tension. After a very long time, she finally makes up her mind, opening the inbox.

 

The bassist was messing around with the guitarist, but they both jump in shock, all their actions halted.

 

“Dude, your laughter is really gross!”

 

--

 

Seoul’s winter is always merciless, Chaeyoung has only been back for a week, but snow has already painted the whole town white, the thick layer of snow crunching under people’s footsteps as they go about their day.

 

Chaeyoung has a scarf around her, cap and sunglasses covering almost the whole of her face, only revealing her nose that has gone red in the cold. She stands by the road, tapping her feet together like a kid, as if she’s expecting something. But she stops after a while, choosing to kick at the snow on the ground.

 

“How old are you already?”

 

The sentence sounds like it’s reproaching her, but you can’t hear any of that in the tone of the speaker. The speaker has a soft voice, gently enunciating her words. Ten years have passed, but that gentle voice still has a little bit of Japanese accenting her words, just not that obvious now.

 

Chaeyoung doesn’t immediately turn around, just lifts up her head. Before she removes her sunglasses, she must force her tears back, it’s too embarrassing to behave like that in this reunion. Asia’s biggest star Son Chaeyoung, uses the skills she has honed over the past ten years to sort out her feelings, before removing her sunglasses, turning around to face Mina.

 

Mina doesn’t look that different from ten years ago, she’s just more mature now, and her hair is dyed blonde, further accentuating her pale skin. Chaeyoung stares at Mina, Mina stares at Chaeyoung, the two of them just silently looking at each other. Mina slightly tilts her head, pulling a cheeky look.

 

“What, now that we aren’t playing the kissing game, you aren’t going to kiss me?”

 

Chaeyoung wants to reply “How can that be”, but before she can say it out, her body reacts first, moving forward to hug Mina, tilting her head to lock lips with her passionately.

 

She is crying, and she knows Mina is also crying. When she pulls back, she sees that Mina’s eyes are already red.

 

The cold of the winter is unforgiving, but there’s nothing warmer than the embrace they have with each other.

 

“Happy new year.” Chaeyoung bites Mina’s ear.

 

Mina tilts her head, burying her face deep into the crook of Chaeyoung’s neck. She can smell it again, the scent that belongs solely to Chaeyoung, the scent of freshly cut grass.

 

“Happy new year.”