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out of sight (but in my mind)

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“Come on,” says Sana on their last evening at the ski lodge. “Let’s go out for a walk.”

Nayeon blinks, one foot already in the bathroom to take a well-deserved shower. She spares a glance out their window before turning back to Sana. “We were outside all day, and now it’s even colder. Do you really want to?”

“Yes,” says Sana, eyes widening and mouth pursing just enough to warn Nayeon of the pouting to come. “Please?”

Nayeon takes a long moment – partially to actually consider whether she can convince Sana otherwise, but mostly because she’s already given in and is just drawing out the anticipation since Sana looks so expectant. She heaves a heavy breath, and then steps away from the bathroom. “Fine.”

Sana bounces up from the bed with an enthusiastic giggle, grabbing Nayeon’s discarded coat and practically skipping to where Nayeon stands. Somehow, she’s already slipped one of Nayeon’s arms into the coat sleeve by the time Nayeon really registers everything that’s happened, but Sana’s lips pressing briefly to her cheek is all that’s needed for her to reflexively lift her other arm and stuff it down the other sleeve.

After an additional moment spent adjusting how the coat sits on Nayeon’s shoulders, Sana leaves Nayeon to zip it up while she turns to grab her own, humming all the while. Nayeon isn’t quite sure what’s put Sana in such a good mood; they’d just spent an entire day tumbling down the beginner ski slope because neither Mina nor Jihyo could be bothered to stop their marathon of downhill races long enough to teach either of them how to brake.

Not for the first time in the past two days, Nayeon wonders how exactly she’d let herself be convinced to go along on this weekend ski trip when she’d rather be curled up on the couch with her dog, or stealing from Sana’s secret candy stash in the cupboard and leaving the wrappers scattered around until Sana finally admits defeat by dumping the entire bag unceremoniously in Nayeon’s lap. But then Sana links their elbows together and drags Nayeon towards the door where they’d left their boots just an hour earlier, still humming, and Nayeon supposes it’s never really mattered since Sana is here.

Sana refuses to free their intertwined arms. There’s still some difficulty in putting their boots on despite the alarming number of times they’ve found themselves in a similar situation, but they share a good chuckle about it as they properly sort out their tangled limbs. Finally, Nayeon pats her coat pocket to make sure she has the room key, and it’s not until she’s pulled the door shut behind them that Sana stops in her tracks. “You don’t have gloves.”

“Oh.” Nayeon pauses, remembering that the gloves she’d worn earlier that day are still drying by the room’s heater. She can feel a bulge in her inside coat pocket, however, and she unzips the front just enough to reach inside and pull out a pair of mittens. “I’ll just use these.”

“Unnie,” Sana immediately groans.

“What?” Nayeon looks down absentmindedly. The close-knit yarn is soft against her fingers, and she can’t help the instant grin that pushes at her cheeks. “Oh, Mina made these for me. What kind of friend would I be if I didn’t wear them?”

Sana rolls her eyes even as she presses closer into Nayeon’s side. “You asked her to make them green on purpose.”

“Green is a good color,” says Nayeon, delighted as she slips the mittens on. “Even Mina agrees.” She endures another second of Sana’s pout before the urge for mischief wanes, after which she stuffs both hands in her pockets. “Here, now you won’t have to look at them. Better?”

Despite the two years they’ve been dating, the brilliant smile Sana hits her with still strikes Nayeon dumb. “Much,” Sana says, and shifts her arm down. Their coat sleeves rustle warmly against each other as she reaches into Nayeon’s pocket, her own mittened hand wrapping snugly around the now hidden forest green yarn.

Sana hums all the way down the elevator ride to the lobby. Nayeon doesn’t interrupt her, immersed in the musical flippancy of Sana’s mind, and only sharpens her focus enough to nod at the receptionist just before they reach the lodge’s front door.

The freezing air hits them as soon as they step out. Sana lets out a gasp, but it quickly melts into another giggle. “You’re right, it’s cold.”

Nayeon schools her wince into something more like a hopeful smile. “Great. Can we go back in now?”

“Of course not,” Sana says with another laugh. She tugs Nayeon further forward, the evening-chilled snow crunching crisply against the treads of their boot soles. “This is our last night up here. Is it so bad to want to take in the view?”

The sigh Nayeon lets out bursts into mist in front of them. But when Sana turns to her, Nayeon has nothing to offer but affection in her smile. “Alright, lead the way.”

Although Nayeon herself has no meaningful recollection of the surrounding terrain, Sana immediately makes a beeline for the back of the ski lodge. Nayeon isn’t sure what she was expecting when they finally come to a stop, but it certainly wasn’t the edge of a ridge overlooking the city outskirts in the distance. From here, hundreds of meters above, the spread of twinkling lights from Seoul shines just as brightly as the pinholes pricked into the darkened sky. The night is still and the moon is full, its pale shadow cloaking everything in sight.

In the midst of the snow and silence, Sana clears her throat. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Nayeon turns, and the corners of Sana’s eyes crinkle as she adds, “the moon, I mean.”

Nayeon raises her eyebrows and puts on a scandalized tone. “Miss Minatozaki. Are you flirting with me?”

“You wish, unnie.” Sana looks forward again, tilting her head to rest on Nayeon’s shoulder. Inside Nayeon’s pocket, Sana squeezes her hand. “It’s not just flirting when I’m already so stupidly in love with you.”

It’s not some great admission – Sana’s been quite forthright about having at least an inkling of it after their first date, and had been thunderstruck by its probability as soon as they’d locked eyes from opposite sides of the altar at Mina and Jihyo’s wedding weeks before that. But tonight, Nayeon feels different. Maybe it’s because she’s sleepy, her knees jelly-like from both a weekend’s worth of skiing and Sana warm against her even through the layers of their coats. Maybe it’s because the mountain air is freezing, icing Nayeon’s brain into slush until there’s nothing left to think except that Sana is here, with her, and the moon is beautiful and glows white for the both of them.

Maybe it’s because Nayeon has always felt the same as Sana has, even if the universe has robbed Nayeon’s eyes of the certainty that Sana sees so plainly every single day – and it’s about time Nayeon finally allowed Sana to stop waiting.

“Marry me.”

Sana stills.

“Sorry,” says Nayeon immediately after, alarmed at how spectacularly her own tongue had just slipped. “That didn’t come out right. What I meant was – marry me, Sana. Please?”

Sana carefully straightens, keeping their arms entangled even as she turns to stare at Nayeon. “Are you proposing to me? Right now?”

Nayeon buries her face into the mittened palm of her free hand. “I’m so sorry. It just came out. I didn’t mean to say – not that I never want to say it, I just didn’t plan on saying it now, at this moment, and – wow,” she pauses to huff out a short laugh, “I can’t believe this.”

Sana stifles a giggle. “I can.” Nayeon tries to pull away, but Sana tightens her grip on Nayeon’s arm and hand. “Go on, unnie.”

Nayeon looks up. The moon is full and the stars are shimmering, and Sana’s anticipation hangs as a cloud of breath in between them. So after another moment, Nayeon gathers herself enough to return her gaze to Sana’s. “I am so, so in love with you, and the only thing stupid about either of us is how long I’ve made us wait. And I don’t have a ring right now, but we’ll go shopping for one as soon as we get down from this god-forsaken mountain, so please, Sana. Will you marry me?”

“Yes,” says Sana sweetly. Her smile is tender, and her eyes glisten with a softness Nayeon had not yet seen. The flush on Sana’s cheeks from the cold has darkened, and Nayeon thinks that nothing else can ever look so pretty. Sana tugs and Nayeon follows, shifting so that they’re fully facing each other. Sana reaches for Nayeon’s other hand, and pulls out their intertwined ones from Nayeon’s pocket. “Yes, I would love to marry you, unnie. Even though you proposed to me in your stupid green mittens.”

Nayeon lets out a chuckle. Then one more follows, and another, until the two of them are laughing even as they lean in closer – part of some well-rehearsed routine choreographed by the universe.

Their kiss is cold, but their fingers are warm and their hearts are fit to burst. And with her eyes closed, Nayeon wonders if this is what it’s like to see in color.

 

<<<

 

Sana has always disliked green.

Green is the hue of poisoned apples and nuclear sludge, the haze upon terrible pre-storm thunderheads and the tint of sickened skin. For every artfully sculpted jade figurine and serene ocean surface, there is something equally verdant and revolting, enough to send a chilling tingle creeping up anyone’s spine.

Sana hates green because she’d been born unable to see it – all of the apple-flavored candies she’s eaten and each and every stoplight she’s encountered glinting back at her in haughty gray hues. It was mostly an annoyance at first, because she was much too young to worry about relationships outside of making friends with her classmates and staying on the good side of each of her homeroom teachers. But then the irritation began to grow: swelling into dreary patches blurring outside the moving bus window on her way to work and, tauntingly, dressing the main characters in her favorite television romances in the dullest shades every other episode.

Sana’s vision is miraculously fixed as soon as Nayeon walks into her life.

It happens at the altar of her best friends’ wedding – because the universe is nothing if not supremely tongue-in-cheek. Mina and Jihyo hadn’t wanted a large ceremony, so it was easy enough to plan between themselves and with the occasional coffee shop brainstorming sessions with just Sana in attendance. And even though the three of them have been equally close since university, Sana is technically Mina’s maid of honor; she hadn’t heard much about Jihyo’s side besides a name dropped here and there that slipped out of her memory as quickly as it had fallen from Jihyo’s tongue.

So as Mina and Jihyo say their vows and promptly forget that there is a whole roomful of people watching them stare adoringly into each other’s eyes, Sana looks away for a moment and meets the gaze of the other maid of honor standing behind Jihyo’s shoulder. Nayeon isn’t even wearing anything green; but Sana will always remember her immediately shading in the missing piece of Sana’s vision using nothing but two seconds of eye contact before darting back to smiling at the happy couple.

Sana too quickly loses Nayeon to the crowd once Mina and Jihyo break away from a kiss that has all in attendance erupting into delighted applause. Momo is just as clueless as to who Jihyo’s maid of honor might be, and Sana spends almost half an hour fruitlessly mingling until she’s finally able to pull aside both of the newlyweds for a few moments.

“My maid of honor? Nayeon-unnie?” Jihyo blinks at Sana several times, and hesitates an extra second even after Sana nods vigorously. “Are you sure? Maybe it was the bridesmaid behind her? Or maybe you looked out into the crowd for a second and didn’t realize it until later?”

Mina gives Jihyo a nudge. “Don’t be like that. Sana just found her soulmate, so we should be congratulating her.”

“But of all people – come on. Sana deserves way better than her.” Jihyo wrinkles her nose. Still, Sana can tell it’s out of affection; there aren’t many people Jihyo will let close enough to tease, and the thought of being soulmates with someone Jihyo holds dear sets off an anticipatory little flutter against the inside of Sana’s ribcage.

And it’s all so different, now – the sheen of the leaves in the bridal bouquets, how the small emeralds strung along the golden chain of Mina’s necklace glitter and glint, even the shocking shade of the drink Momo is currently picking up from the open bar. “Her name is Nayeon?” Sana’s excited grin may as well become a permanent fixture in her expression at this point. “Please, Jihyo, you have to introduce me.”

“I can give you her number,” Jihyo says, relenting. She rubs the back of her neck. “She actually had to leave early, so it’s too late to catch her now.”

“Nayeon-unnie is great,” says Mina, her eyes sparkling. “You’ll love her.”

Sana laughs at that. “The universe apparently agrees with you, Minari.” She pauses, remembering how quickly Nayeon had looked away after they’d made eye contact. “I can’t help thinking that she wasn’t that happy to see me, though?”

“Look.” Jihyo clears her throat, and exchanges a worried glance with Mina that doesn’t go unnoticed. Then she reaches out to hold Sana’s hand. “That’s the thing with Nayeon-unnie. She wouldn’t have – she couldn’t have known. At least, not like we did. She’s completely colorblind.”

Sana stills – or maybe the room around them does. Suddenly, all she can see is green: the bouquet leaves, Mina’s emeralds, the drink in Momo’s hand. She can see it all because of Nayeon. And yet – “Colorblind? Completely?”

“It’s an incredibly rare condition. Just a handful of cases recorded, apparently. But unnie’s always been special, you know.” Jihyo shrugs, her smile fond even in its minor melancholy.

A familiar ache creeps back into Sana’s throat. It taints her vision with its perfection, its wholeness thrown right back in her face and leaving her empty. Because even if Nayeon allows Sana to hold just a portion of her heart, even if Sana is as meant for Nayeon as Nayeon is meant for her –

Nayeon will never be able to see it.

“I don’t mean to imply that you can’t be together,” Jihyo says quietly. Her hand tightens around Sana’s. “In fact, I think you’ll love each other.”

“But we wouldn’t hold it against you if you decided not to try,” says Mina now, each word formed so precisely that it’s easy to tell how nervous she is.

Sana swallows and considers her options. But in the end, she doesn’t think she has much of a choice – Nayeon had complicated Sana’s perception with nothing more than a look, and Sana is nothing if not destined to see it through.

So she clears her throat, straightens her shoulders, and smiles. “I’ve kept you long enough. Text me her number when you can?”

And later that night, when her carefully worded, Hello, I’m Sana! I was Mina’s maid of honor, is almost immediately answered with, Hi! Jihyo already told me to expect a text from you, Sana figures that the universe can’t tease her any more than it already has.

I hope this isn’t too forward, but I have something important to tell you.

 

>>

 

It takes only ten minutes of frenzied packing before Nayeon throws her hands up in the air. “I don’t even know what I’m doing anymore.”

Jeongyeon, settled comfortably into a corner of the living room couch, doesn’t even bother tearing her eyes away from her phone. “If you’re so against this camping trip, why did you even agree to go?”

“I don’t know.” Nayeon runs a hand through her hair before resting it on her hip. She glares at the haphazardly-filled carrier lying open at her feet. “It’s just impossible to say no to Mina, and Jihyo would get even more annoying if I refused.” She pauses, hand dropping to hang at her side as a newly terrifying thought strikes her. “They’ve been taking skiing lessons lately. I swear – if Jihyo makes me go on a ski trip with them next, I’m going to end this friendship.”

“Right,” Jeongyeon says with a sage nod. “Unless Sana wants to go to that, too.”

Nayeon heaves a sigh. “Yeah. Unless Sana wants to go to that, too.”

Jeongyeon snickers – rather obnoxiously, in Nayeon’s opinion. But she does finally look up, nose scrunched and grin much too gleeful to mean anything good. “You two should get married already.”

Nayeon instinctively bites her lip. Jeongyeon, eyebrows raised, watches her worry at it for a few moments. Nayeon realizes what she’s doing and stops, clearing her throat. “I’m thinking about it.”

“Really?” Jeongyeon sits up. She scoots forward to the edge of her seat, her phone tossed onto the cushion next to her. The teasing edge to her smile softens, giving way to a candidness even Nayeon isn’t often witness to. “I’m so happy for you.”

“You are?” The question comes out smaller than Nayeon had intended.

Jeongyeon raises her eyebrows. “Why wouldn’t I be? You two have been dating for a year already –”

“A year last month, actually,” Nayeon mutters.

“Exactly.” Jeongyeon rolls her eyes. “That’s already an eternity by soulmate standards.”

“Yes, I know, but.” Nayeon lets out a heavy exhale. She plops down onto the couch next to Jeongyeon, ignoring Jeongyeon’s phone as it slides into the crack between the cushions. “We can’t really go by soulmate standards.”

“I don’t see why not,” Jeongyeon says lightly. “Sana knows you’re hers, and you’ve dated her for more than a month without tearing any of your hair out. I’d say you’re as good as in love.”

“Of course we’re in love,” says Nayeon. She turns to look at Jeongyeon, her resolve waning as soon as they make eye contact. Because this is Jeongyeon, the person who has been her complement in every aspect of life since they’d met: neat where Nayeon is messy, kind where Nayeon snaps, strong where Nayeon is too tired of standing tall. In fact, Nayeon’s almost positive their friendship is the largest cosmic joke to ever coalesce into existence: they’re each other’s opposites in the most perfect ways, because Jeongyeon lacks not even a single hue in her vision where Nayeon will never know anything beyond stormy shades of gray.

“Of course you’re in love,” Jeongyeon agrees, her smile full and sincere for Nayeon and Sana in lieu of herself. “What else would you want?”

Nayeon aches for Jeongyeon, who hasn’t really tried dating for over a year now. She brushes it off as time to focus on her career, but Nayeon is familiar with the hopelessness of giving chances only to be passed over for someone else able to claim a soulmate-worthy shift in their literal worldview. So Nayeon feels guilty for this – being hesitant about Sana when Jeongyeon doesn’t even have that luxury. Still, the uncertainty is inescapable, and it weakens Nayeon’s voice until it cracks. “But is being in love enough?”

Jeongyeon spends a moment in thoughtful silence. “I don’t think I can answer that for you, unnie.”

“I know.” Nayeon manages a chuckle. “Maybe I’m just waiting for a sign.”

A wailing siren cuts through the air. Nayeon leaps to her feet while Jeongyeon mutters, “Shit, where’s my phone?” She roots around for it between the cushions, and then squints at the number on the screen before bringing it up to her ear. “Hello?”

What the hell? Nayeon mouths to her, because she thought Jeongyeon and Jihyo had ended their competition for who could set the most annoying ringtone months ago. Jeongyeon has the nerve to hold up a finger in her face to shush her, even going as far as to get up and walk into the kitchen to continue her conversation. Nayeon is left standing exasperated in the middle of her own living room, and has no choice but to scoff and return to packing her camping bag.

Jeongyeon shuffles out of the kitchen a few minutes later. Nayeon hears her and turns around, hands on her hips with an appropriately indignant expression. “I demand that you change your ringtone. Immediately.”

The ire leaves her as soon as she notices the dazed look in Jeongyeon’s eyes. The offending phone is held loosely in her grasp, in danger of falling to the carpet. Nayeon watches Jeongyeon’s throat bob as she swallows. “The lab just called.”

“The lab,” Nayeon repeats, uncomprehending. Then she realizes the real weight of Jeongyeon’s words. “The ones you went to see about your vision a few months ago.” It had been a recent effort in terms of Jeongyeon’s lifetime; seeing every color is in fact even rarer than not being able to see any color at all, and researchers at a nearby university had been suddenly keen on recruiting Jeongyeon to their study. She’d agreed more on a whim than anything else, and because they gave her free snacks after every visit – enough for her to share with the first out of Nayeon and Jihyo to drop by her apartment later that day.

Jeongyeon nods. “Yeah, they – they’ve run some tests. Analyses. Whatever it is scientists do.”

“Right,” says Nayeon. She steps closer. Jeongyeon doesn’t look overly pale or anything, but her voice is so faint that Nayeon isn’t entirely sure her knees won’t start buckling. “And they had something to tell you?”

“Yeah,” Jeongyeon says, nodding again. And then she begins to laugh.

“Jeongyeon?” Nayeon closes the remaining distance, hands raised in case she’ll need to catch Jeongyeon when she falls in her newly found delirium. “Are you okay?”

“It’s black.” Jeongyeon wipes a tear from her eye. Her phone thuds against the carpet. But she’s too busy grinning at Nayeon, even as water continues to gather at the corners of her vision. “The color I’m missing is black.”

Nayeon’s joints lock in place. Then Jeongyeon pulls her into a hug, still laughing – and Nayeon starts to laugh, too. Because despite this revolutionary discovery, Jeongyeon’s problem still remains. But to know it and have an explanation – to be able to say something beyond, I know that I am broken – truly tastes like freedom.

It’s the biggest joke of the cosmos after all, Nayeon thinks as she hugs Jeongyeon back twice as hard: to have the person who can see every single color separately also be unable to see the result of every single color combined. And as if the universe is running on a high in terms of omens and destinies, Sana walks through the door at that moment – returning from a quick trip to the grocery store.

“Oh, are we hugging?” Sana kicks off her shoes and drops the bag of freshly purchased camping fare beside them, and then rushes down the hallway to envelop Jeongyeon from behind. They’re pressed close enough together for her to give Nayeon a quick peck on the forehead. “What’s the occasion?”

Jeongyeon is still chuckling through her tears, and Nayeon isn’t much better off. But the pleasant heat left by Sana’s lips in spite of their chill from the brisk autumn evening tingles along Nayeon’s skin like the strongest of suggestions.

“Welcome home,” Nayeon murmurs, shifting her hand to squeeze at Sana’s elbow. Sana giggles despite the non-answer to her question. And Nayeon thinks that this might just be enough, after all.

 

-

 

“I’m so sorry I’m late.”

Sana grins as Nayeon slides into the chair across from her. “You’re not. I said you didn’t have to rush.”

“I did,” says Nayeon, very seriously as she reaches across the table and holds Sana’s hands in her own. “But I had a good reason, I promise.”

Sana squeezes her hands in return – more to give herself time to bask in how the candlelight glitters in Nayeon’s eyes than anything else. Nayeon is still slightly out of breath, just frazzled enough for Sana to feel the need to reassure her with a wider smile. “Let’s eat?”

Truthfully, Sana is a little perplexed at what the occasion might be. Their one-year anniversary had been the month before, and they’d celebrated it with a comfortable night in that Sana wouldn’t have exchanged for anything else in the world. But Nayeon had insisted on making a reservation for a nice restaurant on this extremely normal Tuesday night, and Sana would be caught dead before she’s able to say no to anything Nayeon wants.

Dinner is great, of course, and chatting about everything and nothing with Nayeon is always fiendishly easy. Nayeon waits until they’ve all but finished the last mouthfuls of wine in their glasses before she reaches down into her bag to pull out a box.

Sana immediately narrows her eyes. “What’s this?”

“Just a little something.” Nayeon shrugs as she sets the box down on the tablecloth between them. “I was late because I saw it and just had to get it for you.”

Sana’s heart does a happy little jump, and she covers the stutter by daintily clearing her throat. “You didn’t have to,” she says, and picks up the box. She cradles it in her palm while she lifts the cover with the other.

“Is it okay?” Nayeon asks after a few moments. “Do you like it?”

“Of course,” says Sana finally. She stares at the bracelet inside for another second, swallowing down the laugh that threatens to bubble up from her chest. Still, she’s unable to block a heady rush of fondness as she looks up to fix Nayeon with an amused stare. “You know that this is green, right?”

Nayeon’s eyes immediately widen – and for a moment, Sana is fooled. But then Nayeon says, “Really? You can’t be serious. The sales lady told me all the jade bits were lavender.” And her tone is just affected enough that Sana immediately knows that she’s teasing.

Sana rolls her eyes and sets the box down next to her empty plate. “You set all of this up for a joke? Very funny, unnie.”

“Okay, okay, sorry.” Nayeon’s face immediately breaks into a smile; it’s not contrite in the slightest, but Sana has already forgiven her in either case. “Look under it, then.” Sana shoots her another faux glare, and she lifts her chin to indicate the box in earnest. “Please?”

Warily, Sana takes the bracelet out and puts it aside so she can pull up the cardboard bottom it had previously been resting on. And when she sees another bracelet lying underneath, the polished stones gleaming with candlelight and the gentlest hues of lavender, Sana can no longer hold back her laugh.

“Do you like it?” Nayeon asks even as Sana finishes fastening the bracelet around her wrist. “This one’s actually purple. At least, Mina promised me it was, but she might’ve just said yes because we’d already been shopping for more than an hour.”

“Yes, it’s purple,” Sana says, still giggling. She looks up and reaches for the hand Nayeon has resting on the table. “Thank you. I love it.”

Nayeon’s smile turns relieved, and Sana has never been so grateful for candles and their ability to dim a room so that no one will be able to see the blush in her own cheeks. Then Nayeon turns her hand so that their palms are touching. “Can you give me the green one, actually? I need to return it to Jihyo.” She pauses. “And please don’t tell her that this is what I used it for.”

Sana squints again, playful as she hums and pretends to deliberate. “That’s a lot that you’re asking, unnie.”

“I’ll do anything you want,” Nayeon says immediately. She tugs at their joined hands and tilts her head so Sana will have to look into her beseeching eyes from a new angle. “You know I wouldn’t actually give you anything green on purpose like that. What kind of soulmate would I be if I did?”

Sana breaks, laughing from the lightness Nayeon speaks with despite the depths her words carry. And Sana is helpless against it, in either case: the warming of her entire being whenever Nayeon speaks of soulmates as if she, too, can see them. So Sana carefully untangles their fingers and picks up the bracelet to drop it into Nayeon’s waiting palm. “Anything I want, right?”

Nayeon nods, sweeping Jihyo’s jewelry back into her bag.

Sana raises her hand for the check and says, “Let’s go for a walk.”

Autumn is ending, but Sana enjoys the nip of waking winter on clear nights like this. The city, already quieted in preparation for work the next morning, is not so overwhelming in the darkened evening. And with the moon above her and Nayeon’s arm linked with hers, Sana can’t think of anywhere else she’d rather be at this moment.

A park sits a few blocks from the restaurant. Nayeon lets Sana lead them there, and then guides them to the nearest bench in sight. The wooden seat keeps the chill from seeping through their clothes; Sana takes the opportunity to scoot as close as possible, hugging Nayeon’s arm more tightly as she leans her head onto her shoulder.

“The moon is so beautiful,” Nayeon breathes. Her awe condenses just past her lips as she continues staring at the sky, and Sana suddenly has the urge to turn and press her nose against Nayeon’s ear to see how cold it feels. Nayeon yelps at the icy touch of Sana’s skin to hers. She turns as much as Sana’s head on her shoulder allows. “What was that for?”

“Were you flirting with me, Im Nayeon?” Sana asks, cheeky despite not knowing whether Nayeon even understands the joke she’s just made.

“What would be the point of that?” Nayeon says. She shifts enough to plant a kiss against the crown of Sana’s hair. “You already know that I’m stupidly in love with you.”

And Sana does know this; but the feeling still drowns her, sometimes. Nayeon can’t ever know a color the way Sana knows green, and so makes up for it in every way she knows how to: silly pranks and dinner reservations and nights spent on park benches even when her ears are beginning to freeze.

Sana hums, happy, and snuggles even closer.

Nayeon lets the quiet fall for a second before she says, “Does the moon being beautiful mean something?” She pulls away a little, just enough so that Sana can no longer rest on her shoulder. “Sana? Tell me what it means.”

“You already said it,” Sana mumbles as she straightens. Her eyelids are starting to droop, both from Nayeon’s steady warmth and the late hour. “In Japan, if you say ‘the moon is beautiful’ to someone, it means that you love them.”

“Really?” Nayeon’s stare narrows. “I’m going to ask Mina. Actually, I’ll ask Momo. Momo would never betray me.” Sana laughs, but gets cut off by a large yawn. Nayeon immediately softens, wrapping her arm around Sana’s shoulders. “Let’s go?”

“Okay.” Sana gets up when Nayeon does, and Nayeon’s arm falls easily to wrap around her waist instead.

As they walk the rest of the way back to their apartment, a sprinkling of tiny snowflakes begins to spiral down from the previously cloudless sky. Sana looks up and spots the moon: rounded behind the layer of puffy gray now delivering the winter’s first snowfall, its light reflected in the specks of frosted crystal already decorating the crown of Nayeon’s head.

On this enchanting night cast in black and white, all Sana needs is Nayeon. She closes her eyes, and Nayeon walks them home.

 

<<

 

“Sorry I’m late!”

Minatozaki Sana cheerfully slips into the booth across from Nayeon, and Nayeon has to take a moment. They’ve exchanged texts regularly during the few weeks after the wedding, of course. And even at that point – when Jihyo had called Nayeon after the reception and threatened ending a decade of friendship if Nayeon even entertained the thought of being mean to Sana – Nayeon had barely remembered what Mina’s maid of honor had looked like. Still, a quick search on various social media accounts confirmed the impression she’d already gathered by then: Sana is pretty in pictures and even more stunning in person, and now she’s apologizing for being three minutes early to a first date that they’re having on Nayeon’s insistence.

“You’re not late, I was early,” Nayeon manages to say. Sana sets her bag aside before facing Nayeon again, beaming. Nayeon clears her throat. “Do you – do you want anything to drink? Snacks?” She gestures to the checkout counter of the cafe.

“Oh, I can get –” Sana starts to stand up, but Nayeon waves her back down.

“Please,” says Nayeon, smiling already in spite of herself; Sana is already looking at her like she’s the only person in this crowded shop, and Nayeon can do nothing but melt at the sincerity of her expression. “You’re already doing me a favor here. The least I can do is buy your coffee.”

Sana puffs her cheeks out a little, and then dips her head, grin turning shy. “I’ll just have an Americano latte, then.”

“Coming right up.” Nayeon winks. Then she spins around and makes a beeline for the counter so she can contemplate why in the world she had just done that in horrified silence while she waits in line. It’s not as if she’s never flirted before; but Nayeon has never encountered a situation in which her body moves before her brain does. Within a minute of meeting, Sana has nudged her off kilter.

It disarms her so much that she blanks as soon as she gets to the counter, despite having come to this cafe several times already. But the only thing she can remember is Sana’s Americano latte, so she orders two – and then a couple of chocolate-drizzled croissants because it’s the first thing she sees sitting in the display case to her left.

When Nayeon returns to the table, Sana’s eyes light up again. “You like Americano lattes too?”

Nayeon pauses for a moment, wondering if color vision has granted Sana enough power to discern the coffee type in both of the clear plastic cups in her hands with just a glance. Then she realizes that the barista had called the drink orders just before she’d gone to pick them up, and attempts to get a better grip on her thoughts as she sits down. “I’ve never tried it,” she admits with a shrug. “But it looks good.”

Sana hums happily as she takes hers from Nayeon – their fingers brush, of course, and Nayeon focuses all of her nerves on processing the chilly condensation from the plastic instead of the heat left by Sana’s hand. “You won’t regret it,” Sana tells her of the coffee; but Nayeon’s chest feels bubbly enough that she can’t help but wonder whether this date has been the only good soulmate-related decision she’s ever needed to make.

“I got some croissants, too.” Nayeon untucks the paper bag from under her arm and sets it on the table in between them. “I hope you like chocolate?”

Sana nods vigorously, letting out a delighted sound after she opens the bag and peeks inside. She reaches for some napkins from the dispenser at the far end of the table. Quickly, she sets each croissant on a napkin before pushing one closer towards Nayeon. “Here you go.”

“Thanks,” Nayeon says. She plays with the napkin corner while Sana takes a bite of her croissant. A few crumbs stick to the corner of her mouth as she chews, and all Nayeon can think of is that she’s adorable. Nayeon gives herself a mental shake before clearing her throat. “And thank you for going on this date with me. I know it’s not something people normally do.”

“Soulmates still date each other before marrying,” Sana says lightly. She holds her croissant in one hand and picks up the napkin to dab at her lips with the other. “Even Mina and Jihyo did, for years.”

Nayeon rolls her eyes. “That’s because they were responsible adults and waited to be established in their careers first. Otherwise I’m pretty sure they would’ve married within a week of meeting each other.”

“Maybe.” Sana giggles, and suddenly no other sound in the cafe is able to find its way into Nayeon’s ears. “But it’s not the worst thing to wait. They fall in love even more with every passing day, if that’s even possible.”

“It’s absolutely disgusting how wholesome they are,” Nayeon agrees. She takes a sip of her latte, and isn’t even surprised when its pleasant taste hits her tongue. “I just – I just want to make sure you know that all of that might not happen if you date me.”

“I know,” says Sana, her tone so understanding that Nayeon is deafened. “It wouldn’t be fair of me to force any feelings onto you, even if you were able to see colors. But I know what I saw, and I’m ready to give this a try if you are.”

Nayeon has to sit back at that. She drums her fingers against the tabletop, and Sana only stares back at her with the same earnest look she probably faces the entire universe with. In truth, Nayeon had already felt it even when they had only been texting – teasing at times but never malicious, serious at other moments without laying it on too thick. Sana is a person anyone would be lucky to have as a soulmate, Nayeon knows then.

The giddiness in Nayeon’s chest effervesces to new levels. It’s something she hasn’t really felt before; others have sat across from her, insistent that her eye contact was the one to give them the piece of the cosmos they’d always been missing. But in the end, Nayeon has no choice but to guard her heart against a world of gray, and everyone who has faced down that eternal uncertainty has lost.

When Nayeon smiles and says, “I hope I’m worth it, then,” she doesn’t mean for these exact words to come out. She should have phrased it more simply, or at least without the touch of melancholy. But Nayeon has been tired for a long time, and she decides that she can’t hurt much more if Sana being different from the others will only end in Nayeon’s first heartbreak.

Sana beams. “Definitely worth at least a second date. And probably a third, too,” she says, eyes playful as they sparkle. “But I’m going to have to ask you to do something for me, unnie.”

Nayeon blinks. “What is it?”

For the first time, Sana’s smile falls slightly as she wrinkles her nose. “Next time we meet, could you please not wear green?”

Nayeon immediately looks down at her blouse. Her closet is fastidiously sectioned off by color thanks to Jeongyeon, but she’d sent a photo of today’s outfit to Mina to make sure her top and pants matched just so. And Mina, who apparently does have a devilish bone in her body after all, had confirmed that it would be a combination that Sana wouldn’t be able to take her eyes off of. “Sorry. I thought that, well, since it’s the color you can see now…”

Sana giggles. “I appreciate the thought, unnie. But green and I have a difficult relationship.” She tilts her head. “Maybe you could improve it, though?”

It’s extended tentatively – this offer to really get to know Sana and all of her quirks and intricacies beyond seeing Nayeon as her soulmate. And predictably, Nayeon takes it before she’s really thought it through: with a wide grin and a promise of, “I’ll see what I can do.”

 

>>>

 

They’ve been dating for two years, and Sana still spots it everywhere: in every blade of new spring grass, and filling the veins of every leaf rustling proudly amongst the summer shade. Sana sees green no matter what she does, and Nayeon isn’t above purposely using this fact to dig under Sana’s skin occasionally.

These days, Sana doesn’t meet such jibes with anything much more than half-hearted complaints. Because she has long ago fallen head over heels, tumbling so many times her thoughts still spin a little whenever Nayeon looks her way. It’s become more of an inside joke than anything, and one that she cherishes because only Nayeon and their closest friends will bother to do anything with it.

Still, the tiniest part of Sana will always wilt at the sight of green, rekindling that childish dislike of it that she’s carried for so long. It’s hard to unlearn something literally ingrained into her vision; and because she can read Nayeon as easily as her heart beats, Sana knows that no one wishes for Nayeon to see colors more than Nayeon herself.

But then Nayeon proposes to her, on a snow-dusted mountain overlooking the night lights of Seoul, and Sana has never been so happy to be promised the world cradled between two green-mittened hands.

They get back to the hotel just as late night thaws into early morning. Nayeon lets Sana shower first, and is taking her own when Sana settles onto the bed and unlocks her phone for what feels like the first time all day.

Sana is mindlessly scrolling through her feed, humming to the tune of the running shower audible even through the closed bathroom door, when she turns her head and catches sight of Nayeon’s mittens lying on the nightstand. The lighting from the bedside lamp is better than expected, and the nightstand wood varnish glows in a pleasing sort of yellow that fits the indulgent fuzziness Sana’s brain has sunken into. So Sana shuffles across the mattress on her knees and snaps a quick photo.

I said yes <3
But since she asked me while wearing these, should I make her do it again?

She chooses a font and adds the appropriate slew of emojis – ring, dancer, thinking face, and an entire line of green hearts – before posting it on her Instagram story. The shower stops, then, and Sana smiles to herself because she knows that Nayeon has taken her phone with her into the bathroom.

“Sana?” Nayeon walks out a few minutes later, hair damp and towel draped around her shoulders. Her phone is in one hand, thumb pressed to the screen so that Sana’s post is still on display. “What’s this?”

Sana puts on her most innocent expression, and blinks a few times for extra effect. “Am I not allowed to announce our engagement?”

Nayeon blushes, and it’s even more adorable than usual because her cheeks are already pink from the shower steam. “What? No, of course you are, it’s just – I mean, Momo’s already bursting a lung in the group chat. And you know Jihyo and Mina are just next door. They’re asleep now, but as soon as they wake up Jihyo’s going to come barging in like she owns the place, demanding details.”

“So tell them the details,” Sana says. She slips off the bed and pads towards Nayeon, who now has her free hand on her hip while the other points her phone in Sana’s direction. Sana slides the device from Nayeon’s grasp easily enough, tossing it onto the bed behind them before she carefully fits their fingers together. “We spent an entire weekend falling off of our skis, and then went for a walk. I flirted a little, and then you asked me to marry you.”

“You like this,” Nayeon says accusingly, a smirk teasing its way onto her lips. “Sending the mob after me because I sprung it on you without even planning anything.”

“I like it,” Sana is happy to agree. “Your proposal was perfect.”

Nayeon winces. “I really am sorry, you know. We’ll go ring shopping as soon as we get back, and then I’ll ask you properly. On one knee and everything.”

“No, I mean it,” says Sana. She squeezes Nayeon’s hands and leans in to kiss her cheek. “That’s what it feels like, you know. To suddenly see your soulmate color in the world around you. Everything is so different and even the bad parts are so good, you just can’t help but let your entire heart jump out of your chest.”

“Oh.” Nayeon softens. “Really?”

“Really.” Sana smiles. She walks backwards, sitting back down on the mattress and pulling Nayeon with her. “Did you like it? The feeling?”

Nayeon settles beside her, facing Sana while leaning on one hand. Her towel is half off her shoulders now, and falls the rest of the way when Nayeon lifts her free hand to tuck Sana’s hair behind her ear. “Yeah, I like it.”

“I wish you could see yourself the way I do,” Sana says suddenly. Because Nayeon is vibrant, from the love in her eyes to the reverence in her fingertips as they drop from Sana’s ear to skim along her collarbone – just above all of the feeling brimming in Sana’s heart.

“That’s alright,” says Nayeon quietly. “I have the colors I need right here.”

It’s all so stupid and cheesy – the words she’s said and the grin that frames them. But Sana giggles, anyway. And because telling Nayeon that she loves her no longer feels like enough, Sana catches Nayeon’s hand mid-motion and carefully presses her lips to each knuckle before leaning in to press their foreheads together.

“I think,” Sana says into the space between them, “I can learn to like green a little more.”

Nayeon laughs, hard. Then she kisses Sana, just as firm and fervent; it’s as if they’re out on the mountain again, shouting so that every twinkling light in Seoul and the beautiful moon rising into the cosmos can hear all of the things bursting out of their chests.

Sana closes her eyes, the afterimages of Nayeon in the snow still flashing across the backs of her eyelids in the most exhilarating of colors – and decides that the universe got the most important things right, after all.