“Ah,” Jiwon exclaims. “Yina just got dropped off from a date!” She drops the laundry she was taking off the line to lean out the window. “I can’t get a clear look at the guy…”
Ignoring the sudden churning in her stomach, Yeeun joins Jiwon by the window, jostling her for space. Yina’s downstairs, in a tight red dress Yeeun hasn’t seen on her in a while. Her hip is cocked, her short hair falling in front of her face like a curtain as she leans into the driver’s side window. It’s a nice car—a white sports car that looks spotless. For a second, it feels like months ago.
Jiwon sighs dramatically. “I would love if that happened to me. Imagine. A guy driving you home.”
“You have low standards,” Yeeun says.
“It’s hard not to when I still haven’t gotten a second date.”
Yeeun opens her mouth to respond but that’s when Yina pulls back from the car, and Yeeun sees, in the driver’s seat, a long haired woman. Yeeun must have made a noise or said something because Jiwon leans further out the window to get a better look.
“No way,” she says, at first and then, she deflates. “You’re totally right. I guess Yina’s just as single as us. I wonder who it was—her sister maybe?”
“Hey,” Yina complains, her voice accompanied by the sound of her heels hitting the floor. “Don’t gossip about me like I’m not here.” Yeeun gets a brief glimpse of Yina in her heels before she slips them off. She has a vision of the old days, when Yina would come home from dates, long hair and long legs drawing Yeeun’s gaze without fail.
Yina melts into the couch, taking her right foot into her left hand, massging it as she does now everyday when she gets home. It frustrates Yeeun. Why wear heels if you can’t handle it? Something in the way Yina looks, relaxed or quiet or simply peaceful, stops Yeeun from being able to say a word.
“Who were you with?” Jiwon asks. “Was it your sister?”
“Why would she wear heels to see her sister?” Yeeun says snidely, elbowing Jiwon sharply in the ribs.
“Ah, you saw that?” Yina asks. She stretches, her shirt riding up with the action. Yeeun’s eyes are drawn to the patch of skin it reveals.
“Song thought you were coming home from a date,” Yeeun says.
“I was,” Yina says simply, getting up from the couch. “Is there any orange juice left?” She pulls the empty bottle out of the refrigerator. “Hey,” she points to the two of them with it, “When you finish it, throw it out.” She pitches it into the recycling bin, and saunters off to hers and Eunjae’s room.
“Did she just…” Jiwon trails off.
“Yeah,” Yeeun says flatly.
Something in her voice makes Jiwon look at her funny. “Did you know?”
“Yeah.” Yeeun’s mouth twists. “I think there’s ice cream in the fridge.”
By the time Eunjae comes home, Yeeun and Jiwon have spread out along the couch. Jiwon’s head rests in Yeeun’s lap. The tub of ice cream sits empty on the coffee table, two spoons sticking out.
“Eunjae!” Jiwon says, sitting up. “Late date with the boyfriend, eh, eh?”
Eunjae pauses. Yeeun rolls her eyes. “No, I was studying late at the library.”
“Boring,” Jiwon proclaims, falling back into Yeeun’s lap.
“Watch it!” Yeeun pushes at Jiwon’s shoulder as she says it.
“Madame Jung, my sincerest apologies,” Jiwon intones.
“Get off, off,” Yeeun says, pushing Jiwon off her lap. “You’ve overstayed your welcome.”
Jiwon falls loudly onto the floor at Yeeun’s last push.
Yina emerges from her room, addressing Jiwon in a heap on the floor with one look, before moving onto Eunjae. “You left your phone on your desk. Your boyfriend called a couple times.”
“Oh!” Eunjae looks surprised at something so casual. Something in Yeeun reacts strongly to that. “I should call him back,” she says.
“No, wait, stay.” Jiwon pops up off the floor. “I got beer.”
Several drinks later, Jiwon says, “We should throw a welcome home party for Jinmyung.”
Yeeun’s skeptical. “Would she want one?”
“She wasn’t at our last party!”
Yina snorts. “The last party that went so well.”
“It’d be nice,” Jiwon insists. “It’d be fun.”
“I think it’s a good idea,” Eunjae says.
Jiwon swings her arm at Eunjae. “See! Thank you, Eunjae.”
Yina leans back and laughs. “I didn’t say we shouldn’t do it. Sounds fun.”
Jiwon sets her beer down loudly. “When does Jinmyung come home anyway?”
Eunjae offers, “Saturday, I think.” It’s fall now, unseasonably warm, early and warm enough now that the leaves haven’t started changing colors.
Yeeun’s eyes stray to where Yina taps her chopsticks idly, just in time to catch her saying, “Her flight gets in around ten. I was planning on meeting her at the airport.”
Yeeun looks at Yina and blinks. “How do you know when her flight is?”
Yeeun caught her in the middle of a bite of jajangmyeon. Yina chews, swallows, and says, “We’ve been emailing.” Yeeun feels her lips purse. Yina’s gaze seems to rest too long on her. Yeeun breaks eye contact, and when she looks back, Yina is drinking again, drawing Yeeun’s eyes along the line of her neck.
“I didn’t think you were that close.” Yeeun tears her eyes away again, remembering Jinmyung’s black heels when Yeeun couldn’t even buy a bag. Her gaze lands on Yina’s bowl. “Was that mine? Did you eat my leftovers?”
Yina’s gaze is heavy. “Do you have a problem? You said I could have some.”
“I said you could have some, I didn’t say you could have all of it.” Yeeun’s voice rises. “Don’t just take my things!” Yeeun grabs the bowl roughly from in front of Yina.
Yina slams her chopsticks onto the table and explodes out of her seat. She looms over Yeeun. “You bitch—What’s your problem?”
“Hey—stop it!” Jiwon stands up too, putting herself physically between Yina and Yeeun with her arms. “Stop it.”
Eunjae, sitting next to Yina, has a hand on her arm.
Yina looks at Eunjae. “Fine. Whatever.” She turns and heads back to their room.
Yeeun slumps back in her seat and huffs, “She should have put her dishes away.”
“And then she just stormed out,” Yeeun says. “I don’t know why she was so defensive.” Kyungah and Yookyung exchange a look. “Do you think Yina likes Jinmyung? I guess she is appealing to some. She’s not as pretty as me or Eunjae, but I guess I can see the appeal, wouldn’t you two agree?” Yeeun looks expectantly towards her friends.
“Lesbians have a different type,” Kyungah offers. “Kind of masculine girls can be really appealing.”
Yookyung hits her on the arm. “Hey, where does that leave us?”
“Darling, you know I don’t mean you.”
Yeeun sighs. She hates being the third wheel. “I think Yina could do a lot better. She doesn’t have all the name brands she used to, but she’s still pretty—she’s tall and has a nice body.”
“Speaking of. Yeeun,” Yookyung says, “We have this friend—if you wanted to start dating again. He and his girlfriend broke up not that long ago.”
Yeeun starts. “What does he look like?”
“He’s pretty handsome. His name’s Kibum. Let me see if I can find a picture.”
“Ah,” says Kyungah, “I have his Instagram… Here, this is a selca.” Kyungah hands Yeeun the phone; it feels strangely heavy in her hands.
The guy in the picture is… okay. He has short brown hair stuck up in a style Yeeun doesn’t like, and he smiles without his teeth. “He’s not that attractive,” Yeeun says.
Kyungah sighs and collapses onto the table, her head buried in her crossed arms. “You’re too picky, Yeeun.”
Yeeun hits the back of her head. “I have standards.”
Yookyung looks at the back of Kyungah’s head, then back at Yeeun and says, “If it’s about—”
“It’s not,” Yeeun says sharply, rising from her chair without meaning to. She smiles. “I’m going to get another coffee. Do either of you want anything?”
Kyungah raises her head, her gaze speculative. “Nothing for me, thanks.”
The line is long, wrapping around the cafe. Yeeun purses her lips but gets in line. At least it seems to be going fast. She’s near the front of the line when she hears Yookyung’s voice. She turns towards it, but only sees her friends fuzzily through the barrier of the divider between their table and the line.
“We shouldn’t push her,” Yookyung is saying, “it’s not so easy for everyone.”
Kyungah says, “She won’t realize she’s gay or bisexual or whatever if we don’t push her.” Yeeun wonders, momentarily, who they’re talking about.
“I don’t want to push her after what happened with Dooyoung.”
At his name, a chill rushes down her spine, and all the blood rushes to her head. Yeeun brings a hand up to her heart, trying to slow its frantic beating. How can it possibly beat so fast when she’s having so much trouble breathing?
Someone bumps into her from behind, and all at once the world rushes back in. Her stomach churns unpleasantly.
“—wants to fuck her roommate, it’s obvious.” Kyungah’s voice rushes in with everything else.
“I know,” Yookyung says. Yeeun’s hands start shaking. She makes fists, hoping to stop the shaking, and takes a couple deep breaths.
“We can help her,” Kyungah says. “If we don’t—she can’t ignore it forever.”
“I know,” Yookyung says again, more resigned this time.
Yeeun’s frozen in place. Besides her shaking hands, she can’t move.
The person—the man—who bumped into her earlier, puts a hand on her shoulder. She flinches under his touch. “It’s your turn,” he says.
Yeeun wipes her eyes furiously, and plasters on a bright smile to order her usual.
Yeeun comes back to the table with her soy latte and a bright smile. “Sorry I was gone so long, the line wrapped around the store. But I was thinking—maybe it would be a good thing to date again, if you have Kibum’s number. Yookyung and Kyungah exchange a look, Yeeun notes sharply. “What’s that for?” she asks.
“Yeeun,” Kyungah says bluntly, “Have you considered that you may like your roommate—Yina?”
Yeeun’s hand tightens around her coffee cup. “I don’t like her. She’s pushy, and mean, and rude. I don’t like her.” Her fingernails dig deeply into the cardboard of the to-go cup, and she forces herself to let go.
“Okay,” Yookyung says, “You don’t like her.”
“I don’t,” she says again. Her leg bounces under the table. She stands up abruptly. “I should go.”
“Wait,” Yookyung says, reaching for Yeeun’s hand. “We’re sorry we pushed you.”
“It’s fine,” Yeeun says brightly, though it’s not. “I have to go. My next class starts soon.”
“We’ll see you at the party,” Kyungah calls after her.
Yeeun’s class is a mess. She’s out of it the entire time, thinking about what Kyungah said, and trying not to think about Dooyoung. She can’t focus on anything, let alone what she’s supposed to be doing.
After class, her professor asks her to stay back. Yeeun feels trepidation in the pit of her stomach, but waves off her classmates with a smile. “You seemed off in class today… Was it related to the recent—?”
“No!” Yeeun bursts out. “I mean… no, it’s not that.” Still off balance, she pastes on a bright smile. “I just had an off day. I’m sorry.”
Her professor doesn’t look like she believes her, but she says, “If you’re sure. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need to.” It’s a dismissal if Yeeun’s ever seen one.
“Of course.” Yeeun leaves the classroom with her face burning. If there’s anything worse than visibly messing up in class, it’s your professor confronting you afterwards. She’s sure everyone is looking at her.
Her conversation with her professor must have lasted just long enough, because she sees her bus leave the stop just as she turns the corner. It’s just her luck today. The mood she’s in propels her forward, she’d rather be moving than wait for the next bus to come.
Her shoes dig into the back of her heel, rubbing it raw with every step she takes. It had been such a long day, she feels the weight of it on her back.
Kyungah and Yookyung, both! Talking behind her back! Acting like she has problems she doesn’t have! She’s fine. They’re the ones taking their relationship problems out on her.
Yeeun passes by a small trendy cafe, and has to look in a second time to realize she does recognize the woman at the table near the window. She’s with a young man Yeeun recognizes, the one with the red car. Yina is sitting back in her chair, a coffee cup perched in her right hand. Her long legs are stretched in front of her, crossed at the ankle. She’s wearing Yeeun’s shirt, Yeeun notices irritably, looking better in it than Yeeun would anyway. It’s tight on her, and Yina fills it out well. Yeeun’s mouth goes dry.
Yina laughs at something the man says, throwing her head back and exposing the long line of her neck. She is so, so beautiful. Yeeun’s gut twists and flips. It must be jealousy, she thinks, as the man reaches out to touch Yina’s arm.
With a start, Yeeun realizes she’s been staring too long, and looks away quickly. She takes one last look back, but Yina’s gone.
Yeeun feels the tension escape as she walks through the door. It’s been a long day and she’s glad to finally be inside, away from prying eyes. She can finally take off her shoes. Coupled with everything else, their aching feels like screaming. She collapses on the couch, idly flipping through the channels.
Yeeun lands on the first episode of a drama Jiwon’s been telling her to watch for ages. It’s exactly what she needs right now—something to distract her from her life.
Yeeun hears the door open five minutes in. She instinctively curls down and holds the pillow closer to her chest, resting her face on it so she can just barely see the screen. It feels like protection, against what she doesn’t know.
Behind the TV, she sees Yina’s bowed head, and hears the sound of her kicking off her shoes.
“Quiet down! I’m watching this,” Yeeun grumbles.
Yina breezes by on her way to the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. Yeeun huffs.
Yina comes out when the leads are finally meeting, and leans against the back of the couch, chin propped on her hands. “Is this Kim Goeun’s drama? I’ve been meaning to watch it.”
“It’s the first episode, shut up.”
Yina climbs over the back of the couch, landing on the opposite side, with her feet in Yeeun’s lap.
“I can’t watch it with you? Watch in your room then.”
“You can, but your feet are gross.”
“Oh, are they?” Yina brings them up to Yeeun’s face, and Yeeun leans back into the cushions, arms raised to protect her face, laughing.
“Ew, stop, gross,” Yeeun laughs. Yina drops her feet, and when Yeeun looks back at her, her face is soft.
The expression drops off Yina’s face as she turns back to the drama, feet still tucked under Yeeun’s thighs. Yeeun feels like she missed something. She goes back to watching the drama too, but something digs at her.
Yina frowns when the episode ends. “What a cliffhanger! Do you want to watch the next episode?”
“Yeah,” Yeeun says, a little burst of warmth spreading out through her chest. She hadn’t planned to, but then, she hadn’t expected Yina would want to either.
“We can watch it on my laptop,” Yina shrugs.
Yeeun follows Yina into her room, sure that there will be a barrier she can’t cross. But it’s a normal bedroom, Yina’s side cluttered and Eunjae’s as unobtrusive as she is. Soon, Yeeun finds herself pressed close to Yina, their sides touching, and their thighs pressed together to rest the laptop on. Yeeun is hyperaware of every time Yina twitches, every movement she makes. It’s why Yeeun notices, halfway through the third episode, Yina’s eyes on her. Every time she looks at Yina out of the corner of her eye, Yina’s staring at her.
Finally, Yeeun throws a piece of popcorn at Yina.
“Hey!” Yina says without heat. “What was that for?” She reaches up to pick it out of her hair, eyes on Yeeun.
“You weren’t paying attention to the show.” Yeeun nods to the screen where Gong Yoo and Kim Goeun are fighting in the rain.
“Ah,” Yina says. “Right.” Yina stares at her for a moment longer before she turns back to the laptop.
“Yina,” Yeeun says, finding her voice.
Yina raises her eyebrows. “Hm?”
“I’m sorry for last night. I overreacted.”
Yina looks surprised. “It’s okay.” She shrugs, and looks back towards the drama. “It wasn’t a big deal. I’m surprised you’re apologizing. You’re right, even. Jinmyung and I aren’t close.”
“You’re not?” Yeeun asks, immediately regretting it but feeling compelled to go on. “But what about…”
Yina looks back at her. “About?”
“No, tell me. What?”
“The shoes you gave her. When you were selling your clothes you,” Yeeun says, “gave her a pair of shoes. I don’t know. It seemed significant.”
“I,” Yina hesitates, like she’s not entirely sure what to say next. “She had that interview, and I wanted to make sure it went well.”
“Right,” Yeeun says. “I thought,” she pauses, “you might like her.”
Yina pauses, and then says, “I like someone else.” Suddenly, Yina’s eyes on her feel extremely heavy.
Yeeun’s heart is beating uncontrollably in her chest. “The date you went on?” The silence stretches between them, each second passing like a year.
Yina lowers her gaze at the sound of the bedroom door opening, breaking whatever was building between them. She looks down at her hands. “Sure.”
“You can come in,” Yina says to Eunjae, who’s standing in the doorway, one hand still on the doorknob.
“Welcome home,” Yeeun says. Eunjae makes her way to her desk, setting down her bag.
Yeeun feels Eunjae’s eyes boring a hole through the back of her head, and leans forward so she can peer down at Eunjae from atop Yina’s lofted bed. “Sorry, do you want us to put on headphones?”
“Ah,” Eunjae says, holding her laptop like a barrier. “I was going into the living room. It’s just—you two make up so quickly.”
Yeeun looks at Yina from the corner of her eye. “It wasn’t a big fight,” she says.
Eunjae leaves, and things quickly go back to normal between Yeeun and Yina, as they always do. They fight like dogs, and make up quickly because fighting is so second nature. It makes sense, in a way, that they should ignore this weirdness between them just as easily, but it tugs at Yeeun for the rest of the night. She’s aware of Yina’s glances, and aware of the tension between them simmering just below the surface. And yet, despite the churning in her gut, she finds herself falling asleep, the warmth of Yina’s shoulder beneath her cheek and the sound of the drama lulling her to sleep.
Yeeun wakes up slowly, the light bleeding in from behind her curtains. She frowns without opening her eyes—she usually, or Jiwon at least, closes them before they go to sleep.
Beneath her head, her pillow depresses and expands upwards in time with her breaths. The cold morning air pushes her further into the warmth of the person below her—that dual realization causes her to wake up quickly. Yeeun sees—Yina. She feels the anxiety slip out of her body, before she tenses again. She can’t figure out why she fell asleep next to her. How she could let herself.
As she is, she’s curled Yina's sleeping body, one arm circling Yina’s waist, and one of Yina’s arms reaching towards her. Yeeun’s hips are angled towards Yina’s. As Yeeun pushes herself up, her hair falls on the outward side of her face, cocooning her and Yina into something that feels overly intimate. Yina’s face is soft in sleep.
Yeeun wants her.
Yeeun pushes herself up, still groggy, but needing to get out of Yina’s bed, out of her room.
She descends the ladder slowly, a careful eye on both Yina and Eunjae. She finds her phone charging beside Yina’s, and plugs Yina’s in before she leaves. It lights up with a dead battery sign.
Yeeun takes one last look behind her before she closes the door to Yina’s room.
Yeeun examines her face in the bathroom. She can see a zit forming beneath her cheekbone, and frowns at it. She fell asleep before she could wash her face or even take off her makeup, and her skin is making her regret it, even if following Yina to bed was the easier option. She doesn’t skip her nightly beauty routine. Even with—well. She doesn’t miss it, if she can help it.
Yeeun takes care removing yesterday’s makeup, attempting not to irritate her skin further. It doesn’t take much for her to break out, a fact she hates. She knows for a fact Eunjae and Jinmyung barely have to do anything and their complexions remain smooth as ever.
Someone knocks on the bathroom door; Yeeun has a moment of panic thinking it may be Yina. She’s nowhere near ready to confront her so early in the morning.
“Hurry up!” Jiwon says through the door, “Or else I'll pee my pants.”
“Gross!” Yeeun yells back. “I’ll be out in a second.” She quickly dabs spot treatment on the zit, and returns it to the cabinet behind the mirror.
Jiwon looks surprised when Yeeun opens the bathroom door. “I didn’t realize you were here. I came back pretty late, did you just get in?”
“Ah,” Yeeun says, stumbling. “I stayed with Yina.”
If anything, Jiwon’s eyebrows rise higher. “With Yina? Why—”
“Didn’t you say you were about pee yourself? I wasn’t actually done in there if—”
Jiwon darts out to keep Yeeun from closing the door. “Cold, Madame Jung. Ice cold. But I won’t leave it there forever, that’s your warning.”
Yeeun waves her hand as she walks away. “There’s nothing to find.” But something settled in her chest earlier, something like a realization that maybe, there was something to find after all.
Yeeun heads to class still thinking about what Jiwon said.
Yeeun thinks… If she really thinks about it, she’s probably liked Yina for a while now. She projects and she’s prone to jealousy, and she can see how liking Yina ended up as it did. It’s easier to admit to herself than she thought it would be. She likes Kang Yina. She has for a while now, and she wants her.
It’s scary, it really is, but it’s the lightest she’s felt in years.
Yeeun leans far back into the couch cushions, her feet pulled up beside her. She flicks through the channels aimlessly, trying to find something to settle on.
“There’s never anything good on,” she huffs. The next moment, she rearranges her legs so she’s sitting cross legged. She glances towards the door, then takes one side of the remote in each hand, and uses it to smooth her skirt. It doesn’t do anything, but the repetition of running it back and forth is comforting. When that too fails to hold her attention, she rests an arm upright on the meat of her leg between thigh and knee and rests her face in her hand. With the other hand, she resumes flipping through channels. She checks the door again, mutes the TV to see if she could hear anyone coming, but Yina doesn’t appear.
She twists around on the couch so that her legs hang over the top, and she switches through channels upside down, as if a change in perspective will be what finally allows her to settle on something.
She’s saved by the sound of the door opening. In her surprise she drops the remote and attempts to flail into an upwards position. With one hand she adjusts her bra, with the other she pulls down her skirt, only to look up and see Jiwon.
Yeeun falls back onto the couch. “Oh, it’s you.”
“Expecting someone else?” Jiwon asks. She appears above Yeeun waggling her eyebrows. Yeeun tries to hide her smile by pushing Jiwon away, but Jiwon swats away her hand.
“Just Yina,” Yeeun admits.
Jiwon says, “Oh, she’s outside. I passed her on my way up.”
Yeeun starts. “What?” She gets up quickly, almost running to the window. Yeeun braces herself against the window ledge, her momentum still propelling her into the worst possible view of the situation below.
She sees Yina leaning against the gate to Belle Epoque with the older man she brought to their party.
Yeeun’s stomach drops, every bit of nervous energy dropping like a lead weight. Yeeun feels her mouth twist. She pinches the skin between her thumb and forefinger willing the disappointment she feels weighing her down not to turn into tears. She doesn't even notice she sagged against the window until Jiwon touches her shoulder.
“Yeeun?” Jiwon asks. “Are you okay? You look, like, really scary right now.”
Yeeun feels scared.
She hadn’t realized she thought Yina liked her back.
Yeeun’s shaking when Yina comes inside, kicking off her shoes in the entryway like she always does, unwilling to take the extra couple of seconds to take them of properly. The clacking of her indoor sandals signal her approach.
“Yeeun!” she says, “I was thinking we could—”
Yeeun looks up; something in her gaze stops Yina in her tracks. “I don’t want to do anything with you.”
“Yeeun,” Yina says, reaching out to touch Yeeun’s shoulder. Yeeun brushes her off.
“I don’t want to talk to you! You can’t just show up with your stupid shoes, and you were just on a date with that guy when I—” like you, she almost finishes but she can’t get it out. I like you so much I want to cry.
“You idiot, what are you even talking about? I wasn’t on a date with him,” Yina replies hotly.
“Then you were sugar babying or—sugaring or—whatever! It doesn’t even matter! What happened to being a fashion designer or did you give up on that too? It was too hard?”
Yina looms over Yeeun, the half foot of height between them suddenly significant. “I haven’t given up, which you’d know if you ever—" Yina cuts herself off abruptly, before turning away from Yeeun. Even now, fury and fear burning under her skin, Yeeun wants to reach out for her. “You’re projecting,” Yina says. “If anyone’s given up, it’s you.”
“What's that supposed to mean?” Yeeun yells after her. The only response is a closing door. Yeeun’s hands are shaking with anger, and hot burning tears follow.
“Yina, you’ll watch Damien, you said?” their landlady asks, the next morning.
Yeeun’s eyes flick to the side as Yina responds, “Of course.”
Their landlady nods, and turns away. “I’ll be off then. Have a nice weekend,” she says, “and tell Jinmyung hello for me. I’m sad I’ll miss her homecoming.”
Yeeun bows with the other girls as their landlady finally makes her exit.
“Have a safe flight,” she choruses.
Yeeun straightens up and smooths out her skirt as the door closes behind their landlady. The silence stretches out as their landlady pulls her suitcase down the stairs.
Jiwon steps forward to peer through the glass of the door, then waves. “She’s gone! Let’s go!”
Upstairs, they pull out the decorations from the last party from the third bedroom that’s been acting as a storage room until Jinmyung comes home.
Jiwon and Yeeun look through the boxes, untangling the garlands, and making stock of what they have.
“Someone’s still going to have to go get supplies,” Jiwon says. “I call not it.”
Yina sits up. “I’ll go, but you all owe me.”
“I’ll go with you,” Yeeun offers.
Something passes between them, but then, Yina looks away, tension leaving her body. She shrugs. “Your choice,” she says. “I could use the help.”
On the way to the supermarket, little is said between them. Yeeun thinks it’s the quietest she’s heard Yina be.
“Jiwon left me with a list,” Yeeun offers when they get to the store.
Yina snorts. “Let me see that.” She laughs. “‘Beer. Chips. Men.’ As crass as ever. Did she think you’d forget something?”
“Maybe,” Yeeun says, smiling at Yina’s infectious good humor. “She said the basketball team should be able to come this time.”
“Jinmyung will love that.”
Yeeun looks at her, Yina’s tone throwing her off. “Why are we doing this if she won’t like it?”
“I think,” Yina says, leaning on the shopping cart, pushing it forward idly. She’s looking forward, and her profile is lit by the harsh lights of the produce aisle in a way Yeeun can’t help being entranced by. “I think that she doesn’t let herself have what she wants. And that she deserves to have fun.”
Yeeun thinks this thing between them is bubbling over. It’ll come to a head soon, and she’s afraid of the collision.
“I meant to say earlier,” Yeeun says, “I’m sorry for last night.”
“You’re apologizing a lot lately,” Yina says, looking at Yeeun from the corner of her eyes, still faced forwards. “I was an asshole too.”
“I was taking other stuff out on you, though,” Yeeun admits. I was jealous, she very carefully does not say.
“Well. Thanks.” Yina smiles at her. “Come on, let’s get everything.”
“Song?” Yeeun asks quietly into the darkness. “Are you awake?”
Yeeun can hear rustling on the bed above her. “Yeah.”
“Can I tell you something?”
Jiwon’s head pops over the side of her bed. “Tell me what?” she says suspiciously.
“Just—” She takes a breath. “I like someone. A girl. I don’t know what to do.”
“Oh,” Jiwon says. All Yeeun can hear for a few moments is Jiwon readjusting on her bed. “Is this about Yina?”
Yeeun pauses. “Yes.” Something about saying it out loud makes it realer, something she can’t take back. Though, she figures she couldn’t anyway. Ever since she saw Yina, it was going to end up here.
“It’s not so different from dating anyone else.”
“That’s the problem. I know her! I like her.”
“Yina’s not too hard. She has a soft heart underneath it all. If she loves you, she’ll put her heart into it. She wants to be loved.”
Yeeun puts a hand to her quickly beating heart, and falls asleep thinking Yina wants to be loved.
Yeeun sleeps restlessly, and wakes up too early on Saturday to the sounds of someone moving around. She stares at the ceiling, considering staying in bed and trying to go back to bed but before she can think too long, she’s pulling herself out of bed.
In the bathroom, she pokes at the bags under her eyes. They look sentient, at this point. Yeeun digs around in her caddy to find the under eye masks she’s sure she has. Blackhead strips, hydration mask, and then finally, she finds the box, holding it aloft triumphantly. She peers in to find it empty. Yeeun looks around the bathroom surreptitiously. Jiwon probably has some. Or Yina.
Jiwon’s borrowed tons of her stuff, so Yeeun grabs one from her.
She’s blowing on her cup of tea when Yina comes out of her room looking put together and dressed for the day.
Yina seems to glance at her watch without thinking about it. “I didn’t think anyone would be awake. Did I wake you up?”
“No, no,” Yeeun says. Silence stretches, and she takes a sip from her tea, burning the roof of her mouth. She hastily fans her mouth trying to quell the burning.
Yina laughs at her.
Yeeun glares. “Keep it to yourself.”
“Wait for your tea to cool next time.”
Yeeun rolls her eyes, and asks, “Are you going to meet Jinmyung at the airport?”
“Yeah, I was about to leave.” She hesitates, like she’s waiting for something but Yeeun doesn’t know what. “Do you want to come with?”
“Oh.” Yeeun looks down at her pajamas and robe. She’s conscious of the mask under her eyes.
“Forget it—” Yina starts as Yeeun says, “Sure.” There’s a pause as they stare at each other. “Let me go wash my face,” Yeeun says.
Yeeun rushes through washing her face, but she shouldn’t have bothered. When she emerges, Jiwon and Eunjae are both awake. Yeeun looks towards Yina but Yina just shrugs.
“You should have woken us up if you were going to meet Jinmyung,” Jiwon chastises. “You’re lucky I woke up in time!”
“If you wanted to come, set an alarm!” Yeeun snipes back.
“Yeeun, don’t you know you’re my alarm?” Jiwon pats Yeeun on the head on her way into the bathroom.
Yeeun brings her free hand up to fix her hair, grimacing after Jiwon. “Seriously?” she mutters to herself.
On her way to her room, she glances at Yina, who’s trying to hide her smile.
Yeeun yawns all the way to the bus stop. Yina looks at her sidelong. “You really didn’t sleep well, did you?”
Suddenly nervous with Yina, Yeeun says loudly, “Jiwon snores.” It has the desired effect: Jiwon spins around to insist she doesn’t.
“She doesn’t,” Eunjae says loyally as they catch the bus.
Jiwon says, “You see!”
It’s too early on a Saturday for the bus to be too full, and without realizing, she ends up in the seat next to Yina. Though she tries to keep up with the group conversation, she ends up falling asleep on Yina’s shoulder.
She bolts awake at the transfer station and makes it through the next bus without falling asleep.
The bus terminal is close to Jinmyung’s terminal, and when they arrive Yeeun asks, “What time is her plane supposed to arrive?”
Yina pulls out her phone, and says, “We’re a little late, it just landed.”
They loiter around baggage claim for a while, waiting for Jinmyung to appear in the crowds of passengers.
Jiwon sees her first, waves her arms, and yells, “Jinmyung!”
They all turn to try and spot her in the crowd, but Yeeun only spots her as it thins. Jinmyung’s smiling as she comes over, a lightness in her frame Yeeun has never seen.
They come together in a group hug, in the middle of the room. They all cling on too long, but Yeeun hadn’t even realized how much she’d missed Jinmyung until just now.
Jinmyung’s smiling, “You all didn’t have to come.”
“We missed you,” Eunjae says.
“I missed you too.”
“Tell us about your trip,” says Jiwon.
Jinmyung tells them about the sights she saw, and her last couple days in Beijing. Yeeun falls behind, watching Yina and Jinmyung talking, unable to help the bitterness and yearning bubbling in her. Yina turns, and catches Yeeun’s eye, smiling just for her. Yeeun smiles back. She focuses on how happy Yina makes her, and pushes aside her jealousy.
She smiles at Jinmyung when she looks her way, and speeds up to catch up to the two of them.
The party is going strong. The lights are down, the music is loud, and no one is paying attention to her. Yeeun can almost lose herself in it.
Eunjae’s boyfriend shows up, and every time Yeeun sees Eunjae, he’s by her side. The guy Yeeun spotted Yina with at the cafe is here too, but he seems to have taken up mixing drinks.
Yeeun dances for a while with Jiwon, and then when she loses her, with whoever’s nearby.
Most of the basketball team showed up, and them, plus everyone else they invited, fill the living room of Belle Epoque until it’s bursting. Yeeun finds herself drifting towards the edges of the party, the crowded room getting to be too much for her. She never thought of herself as a wallflower.
Yeeun sees Jinmyung across the room, laughing with a tall guy she’s never seen before. She doesn’t think she’s really seen Jinmyung laugh like that either. Her trip to China seems like it was really good for her.
“Song.” Yeeun grabs Jiwon’s arm as she passes. “Who is Jinmyung with?”
Jiwon’s eyes sparkle. “It’s her guy from the restaurant she used to work at. You should have seen him come running in the hospital! Young love.”
“You seem too happy about it,” Yeeun comments.
“Those who are lucky in love have nothing but good will for others,” she says sagely.
Yeeun’s eyes go wide when she understands. “You’re—”
“Going to get laid, Madame Jung. At last, after twenty-two years of celibacy, my most erotic desires—”
Yeeun grimaces. “I don’t want details.”
“Don’t stop by the room unless you want up close and personal details.”
She pushes Jiwon’s by the back towards the center of the party. “I don’t want to know!” she yells after Jiwon.
Finding herself alone again, Yeeun retreats to the mostly empty kitchen. There’s some beer and soju in the fridge, but most of it is set out, so she has some room to breathe.
“Yeeun,” comes from behind her. She turns around. Yina is standing there, the fairy lights of the main room making her face glow. Yeeun can’t take her eyes off of her. “Can I get you another drink?” Yina asks, moving for the refrigerator. Yeeun moves out of the way, conscious of being within Yina’s path. The space between them is almost too much for Yeeun to consider broaching.
“No thanks,” Yeeun says, “I’ve had enough.” She doesn’t mention her only drink of the night was long ago towards the beginning of the night. “It’s just loud.”
Yina pulls out a soda and offers it to Yeeun. Yeeun takes it, not quite managing to avoid brushing Yina’s fingers. At the touch, a small shudder passes down her spine. Everything is intense tonight, and Yina’s pull on Yeeun even more so. Yeeun takes the soda, and Yina takes another out of the fridge for herself. “Why are you out here?” she asks, not looking at Yeeun. Yeeun, for her part, can’t look away from Yina’s profile. “I mean, if you wanted a break.”
The party hat Jiwon must have wrangled her into sits askew on Yina’s head. Yeeun reaches out to take it off, not realizing until she’s already doing it. Her fingers brush Yina’s face as she pulls the rubber taught so it doesn’t hurt her coming off. Yeeun didn’t think it through, she’s left holding the paper hat awkwardly, wishing she’d kept her hands to herself. Yina turns to look at Yeeun, and she remembers Yina had asked a question. “Jiwon has a boy in there. The guy from her club.”
Yina whistles. Her gaze is unwavering. “No way. Good for her. She’s wanted him for a while.”
“If you ask her, he’s the one who wanted her.”
Yeeun’s gaze drops to Yina's lips; Yina licks her lips. Yeeun can feel her face go hot, and quickly looks away.
“Yeeun,” Yina says, voice low. Yeeun looks back and sees her own fear reflected in Yina’s expression. For some reason, it makes her feel better that Yina, who’s made her nervous since the day they met, isn’t on solid ground here either.
Yeeun realizes with a start that the date Yina went on at the beginning of the week may have been the first date she’s ever been on with a woman.
Yeeun wonders if she could just kiss her, if Yina would want her to. Yina tracks her gaze, and finally, finally, leans down to kiss her. It’s like a million butterflies erupted in Yeeun’s stomach, and her hands shake a bit when she tangles them in Yina’s hair.
The party filters in, and she’s suddenly conscious of where they are. She pulls back, and says, “We shouldn’t do this out here.”
Yina looks conflicted. “I’d offer my room, but I think Eunjae’s in there. Come on,” she says, and leads the way to the bathroom.
“This is a cliche,” Yeeun says, but follows her.
“Well, I want to kiss you.” Yina pushes her against the bathroom sink, kissing her with a fervor Yeeun matches.
Yeeun jumps up onto the edge of the sink, her upper back pushed into the mirror, and the spout of the faucet digging awkwardly into the small of her back. The awkwardness disappears as Yina closes the distance that formed between them, spreading Yeeun’s legs further apart so she can press their chests together. Her kiss burns.
Yeeun locks her legs around Yina’s waist, pulling her in closer.
Yina kisses down her jaw and onto her neck. She sucks at the juncture between Yeeun’s neck and shoulder, and Yeeun’s sure it will leave a mark but can’t bring herself to care. The fire spreading across her body and the way her heart has been beating so fast ever since she followed Yina are the only things she has to explain why, as Yina is sucking a hickey into her neck, she nuzzles the side of Yina’s head, dropping a kiss to her temple.
Yina stills, pulling away from Yeeun’s neck. Yeeun pulls her into a kiss before she can say anything.
“Wait, wait,” Yina says, pulling back. “I have to—” She sinks to the floor, her back against the wall, leaving Yeeun with a view of the top of her head. Yeeun’s confused, and without Yina to distract her, sitting on the sink begins to hurt. “I like you. Ah,” Yina sighs, fingers peeking through her hair, “I’ve liked you for a while.”
Yeeun had hoped maybe, but still, to hear it from Yina herself, she can hardly believe it. She beams at the ceiling.
She jumps off the sink, and kneels beside Yina. She reaches out with a tentative hand to touch Yina’s closest shoulder. “Yina,” Yeeun says, “I like you, too.”
The smile that spreads across Yina’s face is one of the greatest things Yeeun’s ever seen. Yeeun can’t help kissing her, once, twice. Yina follows her, pulling Yeeun into a deeper kiss. Yeeun smiles into it, even though the angle is a bit awkward. Yeeun cups Yina’s face; Yina sucks at Yeeun’s bottom lip, and Yeeun brushes her thumbs against Yina’s jaw, a subtle keep going.
Instead, Yina pulls back, eyes dark. Yeeun’s heart thumps loudly in her chest but she feels—so happy. She can’t believe how happy she feels.
“Is that my chapstick?” Yina asks.
“I—” Yeeun blinks. “It was on the counter.”
Yina flops backwards against the wall. “You all, seriously. You’re always using my stuff!”
Yeeun pokes her in the side sharply. “If you really cared, you’d take better care of your things! Don’t just leave it out, seriously. If you leave it out or don’t label it, it becomes communal—why are you smiling?”
Yina’s eyes are soft. She’s smiling the softest smile Yeeun’s ever seen from her. “I can’t help it. I’m so happy, Yeeun.”
Yeeun flushes. She falls forward into Yina’s chest, hiding her face in Yina’s neck. “Me too. I’m so happy, too.”