"So Ikjun has gone to visit his parents," Seokhyeong said.
The two of them were sitting outside in the hospital courtyard in the group's usual meeting place. Side by side, Songhwa with a cup of coffee cradled in her hands and Seokhyeong with an iced drink he was sipping through a straw, an empty bread wrapper crumpled on the wall between them.
Songhwa nodded, swallowing a mouthful of coffee. "With Uju and his sister. It will be good for him, and for his family, to have him there resting and recovering."
"Mm." Seokhyeong made a thoughtful noise. "That's good. He was lucky, wasn't he? Ikjun has always been lucky, though. And this time we share in his good fortune, don't we?"
It was Seokhyeong's way of saying he was grateful his friend was all right.
All Songhwa could think was that he was more correct than he knew. They were all lucky, but she was the most fortunate of them all.
She could have lost not only her friend, but also her chance to be honest with him.
It would have been a regret that followed her for the rest of her life.
"Yeah," she agreed quietly. "Very lucky."
"And so our Ikjun's precious head is mending, and we can all rest easy now."
"That's right." She sipped her coffee, wondering what he was doing right now - if he was playing with his son, out walking with his father, helping his mother in the kitchen.
Seokhyeong chuckled suddenly. "He told me he was so glad you didn't have to shave his head, Songhwa."
She grinned, her sober mood lifting. "He told me that, too."
It was a little vain, but coming from Ikjun his confidence was nothing but charming. She didn't say that, however. She changed the subject instead.
"Oh, do you know what else Ikjun told me? He told me you went on a date with Minha on the weekend."
"Of course he told you that." Seokhyeong cast a long-suffering gaze up to the sky. "The jerk will probably tell the whole hospital."
Songhwa couldn't deny there was a good possibility of that. "He's just happy for you. And isn't it better this way? If everyone knows, no one will ask you about it."
Seokhyeong just sighed before returning the straw of his drink to his lips.
"So you're dating Minha now." She made an impressed sound. "Well done."
"Mm. I know."
She could only smile at such an offhand response.
Her friend was shy, awkward, and anxious, but that was not all that he was. It was the other parts of his nature that often surprised people when he let them see it. She knew him well enough not to be surprised by it; that having made his choice, he was now confident in it.
She was curious though, and after sitting quietly with him for another minute or two she couldn't help asking the question that was on her mind.
"So, what was it that made you change your mind about it?"
"About what? Minha?"
"About... changing things. Changing things with her, or rather changing yourself to be with her. It's scary, isn't it? Isn't it such a big risk? Not worth the trouble?" she prompted, teasing him gently with a small bump of her shoulder into his.
"There wasn't anything in particular that changed things. Dating someone is a terrifying thing, certainly." It was said in such a flat tone as to be almost absurd. "And it wasn't worth the risk, and I wasn't going to do anything about it. And then… it was worth it."
"Ah." She nodded solemnly. "Just like that, out of nowhere."
"No. Not out of nowhere."
"She chased me for a really long time."
Songhwa laughed, and Seokhyeong broke into a genuine smile.
"Well, I'm glad for her. She did a good job," Songhwa said.
Seokhyeong just nodded, draining the last of his drink with a loud slurp through the straw.
"She was open about her feelings. I like people like that." Songhwa's eyes widened suddenly as she spotted the very woman they were discussing across the courtyard. "Oh."
By her side Seokhyeong had already noticed, his eyes alight as they fixed on Minha walking along with Gyeoul. The smile on his face was charming, as was the giddy grin on Minha's face as she noticed him and gave him a little wave.
Songhwa bumped her shoulder into his once again. "Go."
Seokhyeong gave a start. "Ah. Yes. I'll go then."
She laughed as he hurriedly got to his feet, took several steps away and then awkwardly returned to grab his discarded rubbish before finally managing to make a rapid departure over to talk to Minha.
She sat and watched her suddenly-brave friend go, happy to see him happy after there had been so much unhappiness for him in the past few years.
Songhwa hadn't been unhappy much in her life. Truly, she had a good life, and went about her days contentedly, with little to complain about overall. And all the same she knew that it was time for her to change things, too.
She finished her coffee and got to her feet. Right now it was time to go back to work. And then, when Ikjun returned, it would finally be her turn to be brave.