Actions

Work Header

after everything (it's still you)

Work Text:

Yuri pushes the glass door open, the bell going off as the sounds of customers chattering and the smell of delicious food wafts to her. The waiter approaches her, giving her a friendly smile as he nods at her. “Table for?”

 

“My friends are already here,” She looks around, trying to spot them, before spotting Minju waving at her. She waves back, giving a small smile to the waiter before making her way over.

 

It’s not surprising to see Chaewon sitting beside Minju, it’s like the couple is joined at the hip, wherever one is, you will find the other not far away. But what surprises her is the stranger who is seated opposite Chaewon, conversing animatedly with her.

 

“Sorry, did you guys wait long?” Yuri asks as she slips into the chair beside the stranger, giving her a polite smile.

 

“Not really, we just arrived a little before you too.” Minju replies, pushing the menu towards her. Yuri takes it while meeting eyes with her friend, eyes quickly glancing to her side, asking who the stranger is. Minju being her dense self, simply gives her a puzzled look before Chaewon clears her throat.

 

“Well, Yuri, this is my best friend, Yena, and Yena-unnie, Yuri.” Introductions are in order, and Yuri wonders where she has heard that name before. It’s familiar, but she definitely hasn’t seen the stranger (who she now knows as Yena) before. Yena smiles at her.

 

“Hello, nice to meet you.”

 

Yuri greets back with a smile of her own. “Hello.”

 

“Shall we order then?” Minju asks, successfully diverting everyone’s attention to her. “We were thinking of getting the combo and sharing, what do you think?”

 

“Yeah, okay.” Yuri nods, flipping through the menu to see if there is anything else they can order. She gasps when she sees the page filled with chicken feet. “They have chicken feet!”

 

“You can get that as a side if you want to.” Chaewon tells her, but Yuri shakes her head.

 

“I can’t finish the whole portion by myself.” Knowing that she’s the only one who enjoys the dish among her friends, she declines.

 

“Oh don’t worry, Yena eats it too.” Chaewon says nonchalantly, and Yuri’s eyes widen as she looks at Yena. It’s rare to find someone who actually eats it, many people put off by the visuals.

 

Yena does eat the dish with her, but it seems like she’s not very good with spicy food because she barely took two bites before breaking out in a sweat and gulping down her cup of water. Yuri feels bad, pouring more water into her empty cup, “You should have told me you can’t eat spicy food well; we could have gotten the non-spicy version.”

 

“But you like spicy food.” Yena tells her before chugging water again. Yuri blinks, not sure how someone she just met for the first time spoke so confidently about her taste like she knew her for ages.

 

“I mean, you look like you like spicy food.” Yena corrects herself, still taking deep breaths, trying to quell the fire in her mouth. Yuri merely lets out a small sound of understanding, before pouring more water into Yena’s cup. It’s common for people to make that type of mistake when they are delirious from the pain of spice, after all. Unbeknown to them, the couple opposite them smiles at each other, high fiving under the table.

 

--

 

The next time she meets her is in the studio. When she enters Chaewon’s studio, Yena is there again, the two listening carefully to the song playing on the speakers, one that Yuri recognizes as the song she will be recording the guide for today. Yena gives her a polite nod while Chaewon greets her.

 

“How are you feeling today?”

 

“Great.” Yuri gives a reassuring thumbs up back to Chaewon. Singing is her passion, and her dream used to be a singer. Even though that didn’t really work out, she’s not far from it, working as a vocal trainer to singer trainees and lending her voice for guide tracks like now.

 

“Oh, Yena-unnie is the composer of this song, so she’s here to help with the directing and engineering.” Chaewon explains, and although Yuri is surprised, she doesn’t say anything and just nods as she prepares to head into the recording booth.

 

There may be many artists in the industry, but it’s always the same few working in production behind the scenes, so it’s weird that she hasn’t seen or even know about Yena before this. Or Yena may just be new in this industry, Yuri reasons and shrugs it off, focusing on her recording instead. 

 

But that doesn’t seem to be the case as Yuri can tell how experienced Yena is as the recording progressed. She handles the engineering with ease, and adds her own suggestions to Chaewon’s directing to make things better. When they reach the bridge of the song, Yuri pulls off the high note easily and Chaewon gives her a thumbs up. She can see the two conversing through the glass window, but she can’t hear them as they didn’t engage the talkback button.

 

When they are done with their discussion, Yena peeks out over the monitor and her voice sounds through her headphones. “Yuri-yah, that was a good one, but can you also try singing it an octave lower? Then we will decide which version to use.”

 

Yuri is stunned at the lack of honorifics, she knows Yena is older than her, but it’s only their second time meeting and they barely talked to each other, much less know each other enough to drop the formal speech. But she doesn’t mention anything again, just agrees to Yena’s request and prepares to record again.

 

The recording wraps up without a hitch, and Yuri is greeted by the two’s compliments and applause when she enters the studio again. She waves them off while grinning sheepishly. “Dinner?”

 

“I can’t, Minju is finally back from her two-week filming today and I promised to pick her up at the airport.” Chaewon doesn’t look apologetic at all, a lovesick smile at the mention of her girlfriend. 

 

Yena barfs loudly, earning her a glare from Chaewon, and Yuri just giggles at their interaction. They remind her of Minju and herself, always teasing and bickering with each other any chance they get.

 

“Well, you can grab dinner with this asshole over here, I’m sure she’s free.” Chaewon suggests as she starts packing up.

 

Yena shrugs, looking at Yuri, waiting for her response.

 

“Sure, why not?” Yuri didn’t see a reason not to get dinner with Yena, she may have just met her, but she knew from their past two encounters that Yena is always the centre of the party, the mood maker so she knows there won’t be a dull moment with her, just the right persn to bring her shy self out of her shell.


They head to a nearby Korean restaurant, and surprisingly, Yena is quieter than she expected. They only talk to decide what to order, and it’s silent again, the older girl focusing on setting the table, pouring water into cups, setting the utensils out for the both of them. The little gesture makes something warm grow in Yuri’s chest, but she ignores it to strike a conversation.

 

“So… have you been working as a composer for very long?”

 

“Yeah, I have been doing this ever since… I graduated from university?”

 

Yuri frowns, “That’s weird, I haven’t seen you around before, and you know how small this industry is.”

 

Was Yuri hallucinating, or was that panic flashing across Yena’s eyes?

 

“Yeah, I live in Jeju, and it’s tiring to travel back and forth, so I just send my songs to Chaewon and let her handle the rest.”

 

“Jeju? Were you born there?”

 

Yena gulps down her water, shaking her head. “Nope, moved there for the peace and serenity.”

 

“Ah yeah, there’s just something different about being away from the city.” There’s a fond smile on Yuri’s face as she’s reminded of her own hometown. Childhood memories of going to the beach every weekend, having picnics while enjoying the night view all came to mind. Maybe it’s time to pay a visit back home, it’s been long since her last trip back.

 

“You should make a trip back to Busan if you miss it.”

 

Yuri raises an eyebrow, “How do you know I’m from Busan?”

 

Again, there’s slight surprise in Yena’s eyes before it’s gone as soon as it appeared. “You still haven’t lost all of that accent, Busan girl.”

 

“And what about it, huh?” Yuri hates it when people give her shit for her accent, she’s prepared to go down protecting her accent.

 

“It’s cute.” Yena gives her a sincere smile, and Yuri coughs. Grabbing the cup of water Yena poured for her earlier, she gulps it down, hiding her burning face at the same time.

 

Thankfully, their food arrives and diverts the attention away from her red cheeks, and Yena thanks the waiter before picking up her chopsticks.

 

“Well, let’s eat.” She says out loud in an extremely bad impression of the Busan accent and Yuri narrows her eyes at her.

 

“Please never do that again.”

 

--

 

It’s weird, how well she can click with Yena despite knowing her for such a short amount of time. The way Yena knows all her likes and dislikes so well, how well they know each other’s thoughts without saying it out; it feels like they actually knew each other way back instead of just a few months. But the best part of their relationship? Being able to bicker with each other freely, knowing the other won’t take it to heart.

 

“I’m telling you this should be a C note!” Yuri rebukes.

 

“No, it’s better on G!”

 

“What do you think, Chaewon-unnie?” Yuri turns to said girl, hoping to get some support from her.

 

But Chaewon only smiles at them like a proud parent with her arms crossed.

 

“Why… are you smiling at us so weirdly? Yena-unnie, I’m scared…” Yuri forgets about the argument she was having with Yena five seconds ago, leaning into the older girl for comfort.

 

“You guys just look so good together.”

 

Yena splutters, giving her a side eye. “What are you talking about.”

 

Chaewon just smiles. “Anyway, I think a F would be better.”

 

Yena changes the song to a F note, and the two of them sit in silence, unable to refute Chaewon’s words.

 

“Well since you finally got this sorted out, I’m going. It’s almost time for my lesson anyway.” Yuri picks up her things and waves goodbye to the two of them.

 

Yena makes sure the door closes shut before turning to Chaewon, glaring at her. “What was that for?”

 

Chaewon just plops nonchalantly into the chair vacated by Yuri. “Come on, how are you going to make any progress if you just stay by her side like this?”

 

“I told you, I’m not here to make any progress. I just want to stay by her side and make sure she’s happy and safe.”

 

“Are you sure you can say the same even when she has someone else? Can you just stay by her side as her friend, even when she falls for someone else?” Chaewon’s eyes bore into hers, as if daring her to lie.

 

It takes a few seconds before Yena is able to find her voice. “Yes.” I have to, even if I can’t.  

 

“Unnie-“

 

“I need to work on this.” Yena cuts Chaewon off, not wanting to continue this conversation anymore.

 

Chaewon sighs, knowing that nothing can change Yena’s mind when she has already decided on something. She leaves, stopping at the door to give one last advice. “Well, I hope for you and Yuri’s sake, that this choice you are making is the right one.”

 

Yena waits for the door to click shut before she falls back into her chair, rubbing her temples. It has to be, it better be, when it hurts so much.

 

--

 

Yuri hums as she climbs the stairs to the studio, thinking hard on how she should surprise Yena this time, grinning at the thought of seeing the shocked look on the older girl’s face. Yena always lamented that she’s going to lose a few years off her lifespan with the way Yuri surprises her every time, but how can she stop when it’s so fun teasing the duck?

 

“Unnie!” Yuri bursts into Yena’s studio, the duck jolting a little before turning around to glare at her.

 

Patting her chest to calm her heart, Yena continues to put on her coat, fixing it as if she’s getting ready to go out.

 

“Are you going somewhere?”

 

“Yeah, I’m meeting my friend, so I can’t hang out with you today.” Yena picks up her bag and opens the door, gesturing for Yuri to leave before her.

 

“Awww, I wanted to eat dinner with you today.” Yuri whines as Yena locks the door, the older holding out her arm when she’s done and Yuri naturally loops her arm around Yena’s as they walk down the stairs together.

 

“We eat dinner together like every other day, you won’t die if we don’t today.” Yena chuckles, pushing Yuri’s forehead gently.

 

Yuri drawls, “But I wanted to try the new restaurant down the road with you.”

 

“Ah that’s the restaurant I’m going to. My friend wanted to try it too.” Yena says nonchalantly, but Yuri lets go of Yena’s arms, stopping in her tracks as if she said something very wrong.

 

“You are trying the new restaurant without me?”

 

“But we didn’t even say that we are going to try it together?” Yena blinks in confusion, she has the memory of a goldfish, but she’s very sure she will remember anything and everything Yuri tells her.

 

“No, we didn’t, but I just want to try it with you.” Yuri pouts and she can see Yena melt at her antics.

 

“You can come with me, I’m sure my friend won’t mind.”

 

“Really?!” Yuri’s eyes sparkles.

 

Yena chuckles and walks ahead. “Hurry up, I’m not going to wait for you.”

 

Yuri grins and runs, hooking her arms around Yena’s when she catches up next to her. She leans into Yena and starts rambling about her day, how she went to the cafeteria late and missed lunch, how her recording only took a single take today. She usually doesn’t talk much, but with Yena, it’s like her floodgates of speech have opened, and she just can’t stop telling Yena about anything and everything.

 

And Yena who typically talks a lot, doesn’t say much and just listens attentively, fixing her hair and smiling at her so fondly, as if Yuri is the only one she can see. It always makes Yuri warm inside, but she pushes it aside as they enter the restaurant, leaving it to be unpacked for another day.

 

The restaurant is already bustling with people despite having just opened last week. But Yena spots her friend easily through the busy restaurant, waving as she pulls Yuri along. She slides into the chair opposite another girl and Yuri almost freezes when she makes eye contact with Yena’s friend as she settles down beside Yena.

 

As a person working in the media industry, she has seen many beautiful celebrities (and her best friend is Kim Minju, mind you), but the girl opposite rivals, or can even easily beat them with her visuals. Her big round eyes coupled with her small face gives her an innocent girl-next-door look, and Yuri just can’t bring herself to look away.

 

“What’s up, Kwangbae.” Yena does a small salute with two fingers.

 

“Took you long enough.” The girl greets her back before her eyes land on Yuri curiously.

 

“Ah, this is Yuri, and this is Hyewon.” Yena introduced the two to each other, the two exchanging simple greetings. “Yuri wanted to try this restaurant too, so I just asked her to tag along.”

 

Hyewon shrugs nonchalantly, “Sure why not, we can try more stuff this way. I was thinking we can get the soft tofu stew, marinated pork, yukhoe and japchae. What do you think?”

 

“Yeah, I think that’s fine.” Yena turns to look at Yuri, “Is there something else you wanna order?”

 

“No, I’m okay.” Yuri mumbles, looking down at her knees as her cheeks flushed red.

 

It was hard engaging in conversation while trying to discreetly stare at Hyewon, so she mostly listened to the two friends talk, only joining in when they addressed her directly. She barely touched her food, too busy trying to sneak glances at Hyewon and before she knew it, the dinner was over. She didn’t want this to be the last time they meet, she wanted to see Hyewon more, wanted to know her better. But she’s too shy and embarrassed to voice those thoughts out, could only drag her feet as she follows the two of them out of the restaurant.

 

“How are you getting home?” Yena asks Hyewon, who points at the white car at the far corner.

 

“I drove today.”

 

“Oh, can you send Yuri home then? She stays in the same direction as you.”

 

Yuri snaps her head to look at Yena, but Yena doesn’t even look at her, gaze fixed on Hyewon. The two seem to share a silent conversation with their gazes, before Hyewon finally shrugs.

 

“Let’s go then, Yuri-ssi.”

 

Yuri stands rooted to the spot; mind split on what to do. She didn’t want to bother Hyewon, but this is her only chance to talk to her more. Yena seems to sense her dilemma, prodding and nodding at her, as if reassuring her that everything is going to be okay. She takes a deep breathe and nods back, before waving and following Hyewon to her car.

 

--

 

Now that it’s only the two of them, the car ride is so silent, stifling even as Yuri fiddles with her fingers. She wants to strike a conversation, but nothing comes to mind, her brain blank like a piece of white paper. Thankfully, Hyewon opens up first.

 

“So, how do you know Yena?”

 

“I first met her through our mutual friends, and got closer while working together.”

 

Hyewon nods, “Oh, are you also a music producer?”

 

“Oh no, I do more of vocal training.”

 

“You must be a really good singer then.” They stop at a red light, and Hyewon turns to look at her with a small smile.

 

“I’m… decent, I guess.” Yuri flushes at the compliment.

 

“Ay, don’t have to be humble.” Hyewon chuckles, looking ahead as the light turns green again. “I would like to hear you sing someday.”

 

Does that mean… Hyewon wants to see her again? Yuri grins, “Sure, next time.”

 

--

 

Yuri’s very sure Hyewon is driving a normal car and was driving at normal speed, so why did the journey home today feel so fast? It’s as if they took a spaceship instead. Hyewon has already pulled up under her apartment block, but Yuri finds it hard to get off the car, slowly unbuckling her seatbelt.

 

“Thank you for the ride.”

 

“No problem.”

 

It’s time for her to open the car door and leave, but Yuri is just frozen in her seat, not wanting to leave so soon. If Hyewon noticed, she doesn’t say anything, just looks at Yuri as if waiting for her next move. It’s now or never, Yuri digs into her bag for her phone.

 

Holding it out with shaky hands, Yuri asks, “Can I get your number?”

 

Hyewon chuckles, taking her phone over easily. “Were you nervous because of that?”

 

“I’m not nervous!” Yuri splutters, giving herself away.

 

Hyewon hands Yuri’s phone back to her, “Feel free to text me anytime.”

 

Yuri can’t stop a giddy smile from growing on her face as she nods.

 

--

 

This might be the first time she entered Yena’s studio without any jump scares up her sleeves, but she’s just not in the mood for that now. After exchanging numbers with Hyewon that day, they have been talking for a while, and Yuri finds herself swooning. She may have fallen for Hyewon’s looks at first, but her easy-going personality was the thing that made her fall harder. She plops down on Yena’s sofa with a sigh, the duck just raising an eyebrow at her before turning back to her game.

 

The only sound in the studio comes from the video game on Yena’s phone and she hears it so much to know from the sound effect that the duck has just finished a round on Kart Rider. Yena finally puts down her phone, turning her chair to face Yuri fully.

 

“Okay, what’s going on?”

 

“What ‘what’s going on’?” Yuri bites her lips, a habit of hers whenever she’s nervous, and Yena lightly pulls at her cheeks to stop her from doing it.

 

“Stop fretting and tell me already.”

 

Yuri twiddles with the strings of her jacket hood for a few more seconds, as if to gather her courage before confessing whatever she wanted to say. She takes a deep breath, “I think… I like Hyewon-unnie.”

 

There’s a glimpse of something flashing in Yena’s eyes, gone as quickly as it came before Yena’s face is schooled back to her neutral expression. “Really? Then you should talk to her, not me.”

 

“Yeah, but since you know her well, I just wanted to ask for your opinion before I approach her. Do you think I will have a chance with her? She just seems so cold all the time, I’m not sure if she’s even interested in me, and I don’t want to confess and ruin our friendship.” Of course Yuri knew what she should do, but she just wanted Yena to give her a second opinion, a courage boost before she acted on her crush.

 

Yena smiles, reaching to ruffle Yuri’s hair affectionately. “Anyone will be a fool not to give you a chance, Joyul. I say go for it, Kwangbae is just a tsundere; she may be all tough on the outside, but she’s a softie on the inside.”

 

She must still look hesitant because Yena clears her throat, starting to tell a story. “You know, long long time ago, there was once a duck and a hamster who were in love.”

 

Yuri tilts her head, but doesn’t interrupt her, and Yena takes that as a cue to go on.

 

“The duck thought that they were going to be forever, so she took her time to propose, thinking she had all the time in the world. But time doesn’t wait, nor does it slow down for anyone. When she was finally ready to propose, it was too late. The hamster was gone, and the duck can only live with regrets for the rest of her life.” Yena recounts, forcing the ends of the lips to go up.

 

Clearing her throat, she tries to sound brighter, “So, what I’m trying to say is, stop waiting or hesitating, because you might just miss your only chance.” 

 

Yuri reaches over to place a hand over Yena’s. She isn’t an idiot, she knows the story is Yena’s personal story. Maybe it’s the way she recounted it, or maybe she just has telepathy with Yena, because she feels the older girl’s hurt like her own, her heart wrenching in pain too. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

 

Yena laughs, her voice coming out shaky. “She’s not dead.” (But she might as well be.)

 

“Oh. Sorry.” Yuri rubs her thumb over the back of Yena’s hand, sorry for the mistake. Well Yena’s phrasing was a little ambiguous, she really can’t be blamed. “Well, why don’t you just get her back?”

 

There’s a bitter smile on Yena’s face. “It’s not that simple.”

 

“Then just make it simple.”

 

Yena flicks her forehead lightly, “Worry about your own relationship instead.”

 

--

 

All her worries were for naught, because Hyewon agreed so easily she felt a little silly for thinking so much. Yuri is over the moon, and of course she has to share this news with the person who started it all, who introduced them, who gave her the courage to confess. Barging into the studio, she squeals, unable to control her emotions, “Yena-unnie!”

 

The girl in question jumps in shock, headphones falling off her head as she clutches her chest. “Jeez! Can’t you enter quietly like a normal person?”

 

Yuri ignores the diss, “Hyewon-unnie said yes! Well, it’s only a date but I’m sure this is the start of many other dates and eventually…” She doesn’t finish her sentence, just breaking up in giggles at the thought of being together with Hyewon.

 

“Good job, I’m so proud of you.” Yena tells her, but why is there a tone of bitterness and sadness in her voice?

 

“So… the thing is… Can you come with us on our date?”

 

“No.” Yena deadpans, “I’m done being a third wheel around the 2 Kims, I don’t need to be one around you and Kwangbae too.”

 

Yuri knows it’s a little ridiculous to ask Yena to join her date with Hyewon, but the thought of being alone with her crush is just too overwhelming that she needs a comforting presence there to calm her nerves. “Please? I just get too nervous and shy around her…”

 

“Funny, you weren’t shy last time though.” Yena commented.

 

Yuri’s brows furrow in confusion, what does she mean by ‘last time’? But before she can question it further, Yena replies, “Okay, I will tag along, BUT! Only for this time.”

 

And just like that, all her questions are swept under the rug, happy that Yena agreed and everything is going according to her plans. She pulls Yena’s chair out away from the table, settling on her lap and hugging her tightly as a gesture of gratitude to the older girl. Yena just huffs a little at the extra weight, but she doesn’t complain, wrapping her arms around Yuri’s waist. Pulling away, she pecks Yena on the cheek, grinning widely, “So what does Hyewon-unnie like to eat? What would be a good place for the date?”

 

--

 

Yena doesn’t even know why she needs to be here, because she doesn’t see a single ounce of shyness from Yuri, the girl running to Hyewon to greet her so excitedly. Yena has the sense to lag back a bit to give them some space, and she sees the way Yuri smiles at Hyewon and her heart clenches. She reins her emotions in, watches as the two turn around to head into the mall, completely ignoring her presence.

 

As they walk, Yuri reaches out to grasp Hyewon’s hand lightly, and Yena almost runs up to them to stop them, but she jerks to a stop when she remembers where she is, who she is now. She no longer has the right to receive that smile from Yuri, no longer has the right to hold Yuri’s hands like that anymore. Hyewon turns around to give her a sympathetic gaze, and that’s all she sees before the two disappear into the mall. Yena turns around, dragging her feet back to her studio. It’s apparent that she’s not needed, hanging around is just going to break her heart further.

 

--

 

Yena pulls out the sofa bed, falling into it face first. She should feel relaxed, finally lying down after a long day, but all she feels is the weight in her chest that doesn’t go away, making it hard for her to even breathe. She turns around to lie on her back, and she feels a small box poking at her thigh uncomfortably. Oh right, it was still in her pocket, huh?

 

Pulling the small, weathered box out of her pocket, she opens it gingerly, revealing a sparkling diamond ring that is in total contrast to its worn-out case. She had thought through so many ideas on how to give the ring, had imagined the hamster’s reaction when she finally gave it to her, but never would she have imagined that this silver band will never meet its destinated owner. Yena chuckles bitterly as she closes the ring box, throwing it somewhere on the bed. It’s just a burden for her to bear now, like her feelings.

 

But she’s so afraid that she wouldn’t be able to bear it, hide it anymore, especially with how Yuri just keeps on appearing without any warning.

 

“Yena-unnie!”

 

This time, she’s just too tired this time to chide Yuri’s lack of manners when entering.

 

“Yuri-yah, sorry, Unnie isn’t feeling so well now. Come back later, okay?” Yena tells her patiently, willing herself not to cry, pulling the covers over her head and turning away from the door, hoping Yuri will get the hint and leave her alone.

 

But she wouldn’t be Jo Yuri if she just left her alone like that, and Yena feels her bed sinking before warm arms wrap around her, Yuri spooning her from the back. To her credit, Yuri doesn’t say anything, just hugs her and draws soothing circles on her waist.

 

Yena missed this, so much. She knows she shouldn’t let Yuri hug her like that, that she should keep an appropriate distance between them as friends, but she just can’t help it, letting her selfish desires take over this time. Just this time.

 

“Why are you here? Aren’t you supposed to be on a date with Hyewon?”

 

Yuri pinches Yena’s waist, causing her to yelp, turning halfway to look at her. “You are the one to speak! Why did you leave without saying anything?”

 

“You didn’t need my help, so I left. Didn’t want to be a third wheel.” Yena turns so that she’s facing Yuri properly now, smiling at the pout on her face.

 

“But still, you could have told us first! I even left early because I was worried about you.”

 

Yena wanted to think that Yuri’s worries were a result of something deeper, but she knows that’s not the case. Pushing that vain hope out of her head, she pushes herself to sit up on the bed. “Yah, I’m an adult, I can take care of myself.”

 

“Yeah, apparently not, because here you are sulking all by yourself again.” Yuri mocks, giggling when Yena huffs and crosses her arms in annoyance. Her gaze falls to the small box lying in the middle of the bed. “What’s that?”

 

The warning bells goes off in Yena’s head when Yuri reaches for the box she threw on her bed just now, she should stop her, stop her from getting the box, from looking at the contents of it. But all she can do is freeze like an idiot as Yuri opens the box.

 

Yuri looks apologetic, like she has intruded on something that she shouldn’t have, and it makes Yena feel worse. Yena reaches for the box, closing it and stuffing it back into her pocket, where it should have stayed in the first place, never to see the light again.

 

“I’m sorry Unnie, I shouldn’t have…”

 

“It’s fine.”

 

“It’s a beautiful ring.”

 

“Do you think she would have liked it?” Yena stares at Yuri, holding her breath as she waits for the answer.

 

“Yeah, definitely.”

 

Yena nods, a bittersweet smile on her face. That is enough for her. 

 

--

 

“The food’s not to your liking?” Hyewon asks, looking at Yuri who is just picking at her food.

 

“No, just thinking about stuff.” Usually she would have gobbled down the food in front of her, but Yuri just can’t seem to find her appetite today, the encounter with Yena that day still playing in her head. Who is the heartless girl who just left Yena just like that? Marriage is a big and scary thing that should only be brought up after it’s thought through completely, it’s understandable if Yena took a while before popping the question. Why couldn’t she be more patient and waited a little longer?

 

“About?”

 

“Well, it’s just…” Hyewon might know who Yena’s ex is, since they have been friends since high school. Yuri tests the waters, “Do you know who Yena’s ex is?”

 

Hyewon’s face hardens. “Why are you asking?”

 

Yuri startles. Yeah, why is she asking? Well, half of her wants to know who she is to beat her up, but the other half wants to know so she can try to persuade her to go back to Yena. The smile that doesn’t reach Yena’s eyes, the way her jaws clenched while staring into space after pocketing the ring, Yena is still in love with that girl, whoever it is, waiting for her, even if she didn’t deserve it.

 

“Yena-unnie, she… bought a ring already. I just want to let her know that. And whether it will work out between them again, that will be up to them. I just don’t want them to miss each other because of any misunderstanding.”

 

“I see. I don’t know who it is, sorry.”

 

Hyewon says she doesn’t know, but her shifting eyes tell a different story. Yuri convinces herself she’s just thinking too much, that she’s seeing things. There’s no reason why Hyewon would lie to her about this, right?

 

“No, it’s fine.”

 

--

 

There are good days and bad days, and there are good days which turned into bad days. Unfortunately, it’s the last situation for Yena today. She’s at the coffee shop near the company getting a quick caffeine fix when she sees Hyewon sitting at one of the tables. Folding her receipt, she slides into the chair opposite her friend.

 

“Yo Kwangbae, what a coincidence!”

 

“Not really, I’m just waiting for Yuri.”

 

Yena lets out an awkward ‘oh’, fiddling with her receipt. “So I guess things are going well?”

 

“You can say that.” Hyewon is always pretty stoic, but why does her coldness today feel different, hostile even? “Speaking of which, when are you going back to Jeju?”

 

“Ah…” Yena knows that Hyewon wasn’t simply curious on when she’s going back home, but it’s more of when she’s going to leave Seoul, leave Yuri.

 

“I just want to make sure Yuri is happy before I go.” Lies, she just wants to stay by Yuri forever, by any means.

 

“If she was happy with you, she wouldn’t have forgotten only you and you don’t have to be here pretending to be just her friend.” Hyewon scoffs, not mincing her words.

 

--

 

She first met Yuri in university, and she remembered that day vividly, as if it was just yesterday. She missed her alarm and had to skip breakfast to make it in time for her morning lecture that day, and halfway through she was regretting that decision immensely, feeling as though she might faint from hunger anytime. She guessed her discomfort must be pretty obvious, since the timid hamster looking girl beside her offered her a pack of jelly she was munching on. The jelly filled her belly, but it was the cute girl in an oversized jacket who warmed her heart.

 

--

 

“You are still doing your make-up? We are going to be late if we don’t leave soon.” Yena tells her girlfriend as she picks out a jacket from the wardrobe.

 

“Does it matter? It’s not even my wedding…” She can hear the bitterness in Yuri’s voice, but she doesn’t mention anything about it.

 

They have been dating for about 7 years now, and it’s about time they tie the knot. Even without all the nagging from their friends and family, Yena knows that, and she plans to do so too. She already has a game plan in her head, and the ring is ready to be picked up next week, so all she can do now is wait for this week to pass and hope that Yuri doesn’t find someone else she wants to marry in the span of one week. But for now, she has to act like she has no plans for marriage, in order to give Yuri the best surprise marriage proposal ever.

 

“Come on, it’s not nice to make other people wait for us.”

 

“Well, you don’t see me complaining even though I have been waiting for you all this time, haven’t you?”

 

“Baby, please.” Yena sighs, losing count of how many times they have argued over this for the past few weeks. (If only Yuri knew. But she had to be patient, just one more week.) “Let’s talk about this later, hmm?”

 

“Whatever, I’m not going anymore.” Yuri slams down her lipstick she was in the midst of putting on and leaves the room, the main door closing with a bang a few seconds later.

 

Yena sighs, knowing that her girlfriend is just throwing a tantrum, and she will see her at the wedding later. She’s angry only at her, and not their friends who are getting married today, so she will still turn up to congratulate the couple, while giving her the stink eye the whole time and Yena will accept all of it quietly. She deserved it for making Yuri wait anyway. 

 

But that day, both of them didn’t turn up at the wedding.

 

--

 

Yena is pacing the hospital corridors, eyes never leaving the ‘In Surgery’ sign on the top of the wall, hoping it goes off soon, hoping that Yuri will be fine. She was driving to the wedding venue when she received a call from the hospital informing her that Yuri had gotten into a car accident, and she had ditched the wedding, speeding all the way down. It’s a miracle she didn’t get into a car accident herself with how she was driving on the way here.

 

She plops down onto one of the chairs, holding her hands together as she brings it to her head. Please, you can take whatever you want from me, even me, but not her, please. She prays to whatever god up there, hoping they will hear her desperate but earnest prayer.

 

She doesn’t even notice the lights going off until she hears the surgery door opening, and she immediately jumps up. “Doctor, is Yuri okay?”

 

“The surgery went well; the patient is fine. But we still have to observe her condition for the next few days.”

 

“Thank you.” Yena almost collapses in relief, but she holds herself together to grip the doctor’s hand tightly. “Thank you, thank you so much.”

 

--

 

She feels like she’s waking up from a very long nap, having to force her eyes that feel like they are weighted down by a tonne of bricks open. She sees the white ceilings first, before the strong smell of antiseptic hits her. She wants to move, wants to know where is this strange place she woke up in, but her body feels like lead, heavy and not listening to her command.

 

“Yuri! Oh my god, how are you feeling?” Her mother asks, rushing to her side and holding her hand. Her dad is right behind her, both looking down at her with furrowed brows.

 

Her throat is dry, and she barely croaks out, “Umma?”

 

“Yes, it’s Umma.” Her mother says with tears glistening in her eyes. Her dad lets out a sigh of relief, reaching for his phone. “I’m calling Yena.”

 

She has so many questions, but she’s only able to ask one before she succumbs and drifts back into oblivion again.

 

“Who’s Yena?”

 

--

 

It’s selective amnesia, the doctor said. Although her memory is still kind of messy after the accident, Yuri still retains most of the memories about her life, with the exception of Yena. Her memories of the duck are totally wiped out, she doesn’t remember who she is, what their relationship is, and needless to say, all the memories they shared. It is one of the human’s brain instinct to deal with negative emotions; to forget, so that they can live a better life without these negative memories. And how upset must Yuri have been when the accident happened, for her to forget entirely about her?

 

It was her fault, no matter how everyone else persuaded her otherwise. If only she didn’t drag her feet and just propose, Yuri wouldn’t have been so mad and left alone that day, and she wouldn’t have gotten into the accident. But there are no ‘if only’, only reality. She didn’t cherish and protect Yuri when she had her, so what right does she have to waltz back into her life as her ‘girlfriend’?

 

Entering Yuri’s life again as the girlfriend she doesn’t remember will just be expecting her to remember everything they had, or forcing her to continue their relationship when it doesn’t even exist in her memories. That’s why she begged all their family and friends to keep her real identity a secret, opting to appear in front of Yuri as a stranger again. She’s contented to just stay by Yuri’s side, watching over her and caring for her, as a friend.

 

But she has forgotten that naturally, someone will eventually take the spot of being Yuri’s girlfriend that she left open, and reality has just served a big, tight slap to her reminding her of this fact, and her position now.

 

“You are the only one she doesn’t want to remember; don’t you get it? Leaving would be the best for everyone.”

 

Yena hears the barista calling her name, her order ready to be picked up. She gives a tight-lipped smile to Hyewon as a last greeting before heading to the counter.

 

Hyewon is right, she shouldn’t be here anymore.

 

--

 

It’s like Yena has dropped off the face of the earth. Her studio remains shut the previous few times Yuri visited and she still hasn’t received any reply from her even thought she texted her a few times already. Yena usually replies pretty much immediately to her texts or calls, so for her to be radio silent for so long is a little unnerving. Yuri is starting to get worried, her mind coming up with all sort of scenarios, what if she got into some kind of trouble or accident? Got hurt? Or worse, killed?

 

It doesn’t help that her head is hurting a lot recently. It hasn’t been hurting like this ever since the car accident a year ago, and she doesn’t know why it’s suddenly back. What’s more frustrating is how the headaches come with snippets of memories she doesn’t recognize, like it’s someone else’s memories transported into her brain.

 

This time, she’s sitting in the passenger seat of a car, gripping on so tightly onto the roof handles, her knuckles turning white. The driver chuckles, and Yuri turns to look at her, but her face is blurred. The only thing she can make out is her husky voice, one that is so familiar, one that seems to exist even in her recent memories, but she just can’t seem to match it to a face.

 

“Yuri-yah, are you nervous?”

 

Yuri removes her hand from the handles and shakes them sheepishly, trying to refute the other’s words.

 

The driver isn’t even offended at Yuri’s actions, just laughs like she’s the cutest person in the world. “Don’t worry, I may have just gotten my license but I’m a really good driver.”

 

And she is. Yuri even falls asleep halfway through, the ride so comfortable and smooth. They arrive at their destination, a zipline place and screw feeling nervous about the car ride, she’s experiencing real fear and nervousness now. She doesn’t even know why she’s doing this when she’s not good with heights. Maybe it’s the other girl’s idea. But it seems like the other girl is nervous too, hesitating when she stands on the platform.

 

“Unnie is going! Yuri-yah, Unnie is going!” She says a few times, but her feet are stuck to the platform. She inches forward slowly, until eventually, her feet are off the platform and she is gliding across the sky on the zipline. She screams and Yuri screams along with her, feeling proud of her. But that feeling only lasts for five seconds until she realizes that will be her in a few minutes.

 

It’s her turn, and she is still scared, but seeing the other girl go before her gave her a boost of confidence, helping her to step off the platform in one try when the staff gave her the go ahead. Yuri screams, and after that she can’t help but call out one person’s name, as if doing so will give her emotional support and calm her nerves.

 

“-Unnie!”

 

But whose name did she call out?

 

Y… Y…

 

It’s almost there, the memory within reach if she just focused harder.

 

“Yuri. Yuri!”  

 

Her eyes fly open, and she’s back to the present. She’s no longer on a zipline in Mungyeong, but in Chaewon’s studio, the girl frowning at her.

 

“Are you okay? I have been calling you for the past few minutes.” Chaewon looks at her worriedly.  

 

“Yeah, I’m fine, just having a little headache.” Yuri rubs her temples, hoping it will alleviate her throbbing head.

 

“Take a break. We can record when you are feeling better.”

 

Yuri wants to say that she’s fine and they can continue recording, but Chaewon’s piercing eyes tell her this is not up for discussion.

 

“Okay, thank you Unnie.” Yuri slumps back into the couch, closing her eyes, willing the headache to go away.

 

--

 

She doesn’t even know when she dozed off, only coming to her senses when she hears an unfamiliar song play from the speakers. Her eyes snap open, this soft voice filled with so much emotions, one that can easily rival any of the singers out there right now, she would recognize it anywhere. It’s Yena.

 

Another day passed today, nothing different

Being alone doesn’t feel awkward at all

I thought I couldn’t live without you but this is my life now

But I do feel a little empty, I guess I’m still at that place

 

The rap comes in the next verse, and everything connects all at once. It’s like having water in your ears, at first you try all methods to get it out, but it just stays there stubbornly, blocking your hearing. But when it’s gone, it just leaves abruptly, suddenly, and you can hear everything again, maybe even better than before. The familiar husky voice raps, and everything rushes back to her, hitting her like a huge wave.

 

My heart still wants you

Even after years pass, I still miss you

I still remember when we first saw each other

I still remember what you wore and how your hair looked

I pray for you every night and day

I hope that someday soon

I can see you once again                 

You’re still in my heart

 

“Yena-unnie!” She screams out a few times before she calms down and starts to enjoy the view from the zipline. It ended just when she was starting to enjoy it, but she’s not complaining when she sees a familiar face waiting for her at the end. Once the staff removes her harness from the zipline, she dives straight into the duck’s waiting arms. Frankly, she wasn’t that scared, but she’s not going to pass up a chance to cuddle up to her girlfriend.

 

Yena laughs, patting her on the head gently. “You did well.”

 

Yena was her… girlfriend? She found it hard to reconcile the identity of Yena in their past and present, as if they are two different people with identical faces. But she knows they are one and the same, because the gentle smiles and loving eyes directed at her have never changed. So, why did she hide her real identity and pretend to be just her friend?

 

Another memory flashes by; they were fighting, and she stomped out of their apartment, not watching when she crossed the road, only to hear a loud honk and headlights approaching her quickly. It’s too late when she does, metal making contact with flesh, her body being flung a few meters away.

 

I missed you and another day passed

I missed you and another year passed

This is how I live

As I long for you, long for you

 

Her tears fall unknowingly as she listens to the lyrics of the song. That noble idiot, she must have blamed herself for her accident, too guilty to claim her position back as her girlfriend. But Yena just can’t stay away from her, choosing to be by her side as her friend instead, even if it will hurt her, even if she has to watch her start a relationship with someone else.

 

She is the idiotic hamster who left the duck behind, and it’s time for her to make things right.

 

“Chaewon-unnie, where’s Yena-unnie?”

 

--

 

The waves crash against the shore, before receding back into the sea, which seems to stretch endlessly into the horizon, where you can’t tell where it ends and the sky starts. It’s therapeutic, just sitting at the beach, listening to the waves, the sea breeze softly blowing through her hair. It clears her mind, helps her to forget all her pain and problems, about people she shouldn’t be thinking about. She couldn’t stay in Seoul anymore, not when everything there reminded her of Yuri. She had to move out, move away if she wanted to retain her sanity, and Jeju with its slower pace of life and relaxing atmosphere is just what she needed to clear her mind, to stop her from actually going crazy.

 

Her dogs, Bibi and Ganjang, are by her side, and she pats them in turn, making sure to show each of them equal love. Maybe she can get used to this, not now, but with time, maybe she can get used to waking up alone, to preparing one set of breakfast instead of two, to being without Yuri. Ganjang suddenly jumps up, nose twitching as it barks into the distance. Yena isn’t surprised at this since Ganjang is always hyperactive and barking at everything and nothing, but it’s when Bibi stands up and joins in that she frowns.

 

“Yah! What’s wrong?” She asks, as if they will tell her. But of course, she doesn’t get a reply, and Ganjang even runs off.

 

She groans before getting up hastily, she has to get that little brown fluff ball before it causes any trouble. Picking up Bibi who thankfully is still by her side, “Come on, let’s go get that little rascal.”

 

Yena jogs in the direction Ganjang went, finally spotting the brown poodle who is currently pawing at a person’s leg. Jeez, she lets the little rascal run free for five seconds and it’s up to no good already. Getting closer, she shouts for the poodle, “Ganjang!” 

 

She pulls at Ganjang’s leash when it’s within reach, trying to get it off the stranger. “I’m sorry, I don’t know why-“

 

Her words die in her throat when her gaze finally moves up to register who the stranger is. She freezes, only waking up from her stupor when Bibi squirms in her arms, wanting to be let down. Yena puts Bibi on the ground gently, the Yorkshire terrier trudging to the stranger too.

 

“Hi Ganjang, hi Bibi.” The stranger greets the dogs with her warm voice while she squats down to pat them, and Yena wants to laugh at herself, because screw getting used to being alone, her heart accelerates just at the mere existence of the girl in front of her. She thought she was getting better, but this is a rude reminder that she didn’t, that she’s still at the same place, still hurting, still missing, still loving.

 

“Yuri-yah… what are you doing here?”

 

Yuri picks up Bibi, finally facing Yena properly. “Because you still owe me something.”

 

“Wha-“

 

But she doesn’t finish her sentence because Yuri falls into her embrace literally, all thanks to a little brown fluffball running and entwining the leash around the two of them. Yena catches her instinctively, and when Yuri looks up, they are so close she can see the deep brown pools that are Yuri’s eyes and she feels herself falling into them again. But she no longer has the right to, and she shakes herself awake, trying but failing to put some distance between them with their legs entwined by Ganjang’s leash. She loves Ganjang, but the poodle really deserves a scolding right now.

 

“Ganjang! Sorry, she does get overly excited sometimes.” She tells Yuri as she starts to untangle the leash coiled around them.

 

“Still the same old, huh?” Yuri’s sentence makes Yena stop, why does it sound like Yuri is referring to old times, the time when they were still together, the memories which Yuri had lost?

 

She stares at Yuri carefully, and she sees it, sees the way those eyes look at her like she’s the only one in the world, like she put the stars in the sky, those gazes that not long ago was still directed at Hyewon. But it’s directed at her once again now, and she can’t help but feel hope grow in her chest. Yuri seems to sense that she understood it too, reaching into her pocket that is bulging from the box that she carries with her everywhere.

 

“I’m sorry for making you wait, but to be fair, you made me wait too. So, let’s call it even?” Yuri holds out the ring box to her, while holding her other hand out.

 

Yena smiles but she can’t help the tears from falling. This isn’t what she had in mind, she wanted to do a grand proposal; renting out a small hotel function room and decorating it with their pictures, playing a video collage of them throughout the years on a projector, and then a touching speech before she finally popped the question in front of their family and friends. But maybe a proposal in the middle of a beach in Jeju, with nobody but her dogs as their witness is enough, after all, there isn’t a perfect proposal, just the perfect time. And she knew from experience that time isn’t something they always have, and now that time has given her a second chance, she’s going to make it count.

 

She takes the box from Yuri’s hands, before untangling the leash around them. She can skip on all the extra stuff, but this is something she still has to do. Freeing themselves from the leash, Yena locks eyes with Yuri, before sinking down on one knee. Yuri is also crying, but Yena knows it’s happy tears, just like herself.

 

She tries to think up of something to say, some big exclamation of love, but nothing comes to mind except, “I love you. Marry me?”

 

That was all it took to convince her, because Yuri nods and Yena slips the ring onto her finger slowly, trying to see clearly amidst her tears. Even through her blurry vision she can see the way the diamond sparkle so brightly on its owner’s hand, and Yena is so glad that even after all the pain and heartaches, the ring still ended up on the finger of its rightful owner. Yena jumps up and engulfs Yuri in a tight hug, twirling her around for a few rounds before placing her back down on the ground again gently.

 

“I love you too, even if you are an idiot who took your damn time.” Yuri mumbles into her ears, causing her to whine.

 

“Your idiot now.”