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The rain caught Yona and Jae-ha in the midst of scouting a new town. Yona had known that it was coming, from the gray clarity of the light and the scent of dust gathering and dampening in the air, but when she heard the first spatters on the rooftops, she barely had time to turn to Jae-ha before they were caught in a blinding downpour. There was nothing to do but run for the shelter of the nearest overhanging eaves, where the cold, heavy breath of the rain covered every sound from outside and closed them off in a loudly-silent bubble.

Yona couldn’t suppress a brief shiver as she wrung rainwater out of her cloak.

“We seem to be stuck here for a bit,” Jae-ha observed. He smiled at her. “We could be snuggling together for warmth before this is over.”

“Oh, don’t worry, I’m fine,” she answered, warming herself inside with determination.

Jae-ha turned to look down the street. Yona checked her own direction; she saw the blurry shapes of a few people running for cover, but nothing suspicious; she didn’t see a shop they could dash to.

When she turned to Jae-ha again, he still had his back to her, and Yona noticed the wet tendrils of his ponytail slithering down in natural curves — slighter than her own, but… “Oh, you have curly hair, too. I never noticed.”

He glanced back at her, and it took him a moment to laugh. “Well, it has a mind of its own in certain weather,” he said, giving it a casual flick.

Yona wanted to look more closely to see what he meant, but by then he had the tail over his shoulder and out of sight.

Apparently he saw nowhere else to go, either, and he settled beside her. Soon, he took a comb out of his robe, disentangled his ponytail from its drenched, straggling ribbon and began raking it out straight.

“You don’t like it curly?” Yona asked.

“It’s just that I knew someone once,” he said. “Someone… who I would hate to be reminded of when I look in a mirror.”

“Mm.” Yona could understand not wanting to be reminded of someone — she still felt a pang if she saw a man with long, strawberry blond hair. For Jae-ha to question his own appearance because of it felt somehow different, but still, if he had a bad memory of curly hair… “So, do I make you think of that person?”

He opened his mouth, paused, then broke into a smile. “Not since I actually saw you.”

She blinked at him. If he had said ‘Not since I got to know you,’ it would have been one thing, but this answer made no sense.

“Don’t worry, Yona dear,” he told her, still smiling. “On you, it looks beautiful.”

“I thought it looked good on you, too.” After hating her own red curls for so long, she knew how much it could mean to hear one person say it — but the thought of that one person brought the raw, familiar pang, reminding her what it meant to poke at a bad memory. “Er, if you like it better straight that’s fine, too. I mean…”

She laughed as her honest thoughts broke through the awkwardness. “Since it’s you, it would be beautiful no matter what it looked like.”

He stared for a moment, then abruptly turned away. This time he gave a shiver, or something like one. Yona ducked to try to catch a glimpse of his face, but he covered it with his hand and wouldn’t show it to her.

“Are you okay?” She leaned close to hear him over the rain.

“Fine, fine,” he answered, laughing. “Just… You really are too kind, sometimes…”

 

Curls - END