Music Hyperlink: Through The Night, by IU
As the orange glow of a September sunset washed over yellowing leaves, leaves that swirled and danced in an autumn wind, a young woman stood at the edge of her balcony, her arm carelessly tossed over its railing as she smoked a cigarette. Or pretended to, because Choi Yena would never hear the end of it from her dad if she ever took up smoking, and why would she want to anyway? It’s not like she had never seen all those anti-smoking campaigns, but they would never match up to the way her seniors’ eyes would shake during filming, desperate for a cigarette break. She swore to herself then that she’ll never get addicted to anything, ever.
Biting the Pepero stick in her mouth in half, she chewed slowly as she watched the sun fall asleep past the horizon. The world was in its final quarter of the year, dragging its feet to the finish line. It wasn’t too bad a year, Yena thought. She was a permanent cast member on a variety show, and was in the running for the Rookie of the Year title. She had made people laugh, seen memes made out of her habit of pursing her lips. ‘Duck Yena’, the public called her, an affectionate title that gave her a cuter exterior, made her seem more approachable, more friendly.
Not half bad. Her dad’s proud of her. She’s proud of herself, too, she guessed. Maybe.
Sighing, resting her chin on her arm, she felt as if she was missing something. Not money, no, not success either, although she could always do with more of both. It was an odd sort of emptiness, the type that settled in the pit of her stomach and made her heart yearn for things she couldn’t encapsulate in words.
The sky faded into pink overhead. Yena finished eating her Pepero stick. She turned to head back in for the night.
Until a song tickled her ears, quiet and mourning and altogether heartbreaking. It was coming from downstairs, chords strummed on a guitar, a deep and husky voice full of soul singing words she could not make out. It was an English song; Yena had never been the best at the language, but she could tell from the sorrowful voice it was about a broken love, carelessly tossed aside, left to be forgotten. She stood still where she was, closing her eyes. Her body swayed with the music, and she started to hum a harmony.
She didn’t realise the song had finished until she found herself singing to the quiet night sky.
A light breeze roused Yena’s hair, strands of golden-brown hair floating in the wind. She shivered in her loose tee, rubbing cold hands up and down her arms to generate some form of heat. She wondered whether her neighbour downstairs would perhaps pick up another instrument, pick up another song. She wanted - no, needed to hear that voice again, needed to embrace all the emotions the singer felt themselves.
She needed to feel again.
By some miraculous deity, her wish was granted. This time, she recognised the song - a Korean ballad, a woman singing to someone she loved a lifetime before, a woman who gave her everything to their other half only for them to leave.
Yena scoffed; how apt, she thought, that this was the song they had chosen to open the night. She remembered that feeling, remembered it all too well as if it was just yesterday. It brought back memories of empty promises and abrupt goodbyes. It brought back memories of…
It was too painful to say her name. Chaewon had told her time and time again that she had to get used to it, to this distance. Yena must get used to saying that name without breaking down halfway.
Takahashi Juri. Yena repeated the name like a mantra.
Juri, Juri, Juri.
It had been a year since she left. A year since Juri took Yena’s heart and soul back to Japan, leaving her nothing but a shell. A year was a long time, and Yena had forgotten how to cry. Those emotions had been locked behind a million doors, the key buried six feet under.
And yet it took only one song from a stranger for the doors to burst open again, releasing sadness pent up in a heart left raw. Yena collapsed to her knees, clutching at her chest, and cried her heart out.
“Excuse me?” a soft voice asked when Yena’s sobs began to subside. “Are you alright?”
Yena froze. Someone had caught her at her most vulnerable state. She hurriedly wiped her tears away. Perhaps if she stayed silent, whoever it was will leave her alone, and they could both pretend that Choi Yena didn’t cry.
Except the question came again, louder this time. Louder, but still gentle, like the breeze that ruffled her hair. “Are you alright?”
“Where are you?” Yena asked, skilfully avoiding the question because honestly, Yena was not quite alright at the moment.
“On the balcony below yours.”
It’s the singer, Yena realised. The singer who opened the floodgates with a voice rich like dark chocolate and emotions of a thousand lifetimes. She smiled and peered over her balcony railing, as if that would allow her to meet the owner of the beautiful voice. Even their speaking voice was pretty, Yena thought, husky and warm. She was pretty sure her neighbour’s a girl, but Yena wasn’t one to make assumptions.
“What’s your name?”
“Before you ask others for their name, shouldn’t you introduce yourself first?” The voice sounded slightly put out.
“I’m Choi Yena!” she replied. “What’s your name?”
A pause, then: “Jo Yuri.”
“Yuri, are you a girl?”
“Me too!” Yena exclaimed, excited, shoving all previous sadness to the back of her mind where she could pretend it didn’t exist. She loved making friends, even if they were not actually meeting face-to-face.
Yuri chuckled; it was a throaty sound that made Yena’s heart skip a beat. “I can tell.”
"Your voice is really pretty, Yuri."
"Thank you, Yena." Yena swore she can hear the blush in Yuri’s voice.
"Will you sing another song?"
"If you would like me to, sure." The answer came without hesitation.
"I'd love it if you did."
There was no answer, and for a moment Yena feared she was being too pushy. Then Yuri began to sing. Another Korean song, a popular ballad by a singer Yena admired. It was a love letter penned by a girl in love, sung by a woman recalling a fond memory. She sang to the fireflies, messengers of her heart, lighting up the dark sky with sparks that flickered and glowed.
Yuri sung unaccompanied, her subdued voice carried on the breeze. The huskiness of her voice added to the depth of the song, capturing the emotions of the song perfectly. She sang as if she longed for her first love forgotten in her youth.
It made Yena want to love, to experience this sort of pure love that they sing about in these songs. To give their heart to someone, as quickly and as easily as taking a breath. She wondered whether Juri felt this way when they were together. She hoped so.
So Yena stood there, listening to the voice of an angel on a mid-autumn night, lost in the reverie of love.