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i'll love you (til my breathing stops)

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“it’s raining again,” chaeyoung says, chin resting on her fist as she gazes out the window. the branches belonging to the tree outside of lisa’s bedroom are swaying in the wind, one scratching against the surface of the window annoyingly. 

“mhm.”

“it always rains on wednesdays, don’t you think?

“mhm.”

‘i’ll be walking home from school, and suddenly it’s raining. and then i check the calendar, and boom, it’s a wednesday.”

“mhm.”

“i love you,” chaeyoung confesses, words dripping with honey.

“mhm–“ chaeyoung rips lisa’s phone away from her weak grasp, glaring at her best friend furiously. “hey! i was busy!” lisa pouts, trying to snatch the phone dangling from chaeyoung’s hand and failing. 

“doing what?” chaeyoung frowns, typing in lisa’s password, (unfortunately) not surprised by what she sees. “you’re texting jennie?”

“she needs help with studying for chemistry,” lisa defends herself, grabbing her phone back and firing off a quick text to the high school senior. “she told me if she fails another test, coach is gonna kick her off the team.”

“poor jennie,” chaeyoung says. she doesn’t mean it.

“anyway, what were you saying?” lisa puts her phone down, and for once, all of her attention is on chaeyoung. 

“it’s, uh, raining again,” chaeyoung murmurs, suddenly feeling very stupid. 

lisa shrugs and picks up her phone again, fingers moving rapidly against the glass screen. “it always rains on wednesdays, chaeng. that’s nothing new.” 

//

chaeyoung has two exams tomorrow and a huge project due in three days– she’s been stuck at her desk ever since she got home, barely even looking at her phone. her parents have really been putting the pressure on her this year– junior year is all about trying to impress various universities around the country. 

lisa doesn’t have to worry about this stuff. lisa has soccer, has countless scholarships lined up for her if she wants them. lisa is an asset to any college soccer team– any school is dying to have her on their roster. chaeyoung doesn’t do sports. she’s not like jennie.

she’s busy copying down notes about math functions when the phone calls start. she ignores it well enough the first time– the phone’s screen is facedown on her desk, the best way for her to keep herself occupied with her work. no distractions.

the phone rings again and chaeyoung’s eyes drift over to her rose gold phone, suddenly very tempted to see who’s calling. it wouldn’t be too bad to answer just one phone call, right? her hand is hovering over the phone, just about to pick up when the ringing stops. good. now there’s really no distractions–

the phone rings for a third time in a row and chaeyoung gives up, flipping her phone over and glancing at the screen. the bestest friend in the entire world lisa. when did lisa change her contact name?

“hello?”

“finally,” lisa groans from the other end of the phone call, the wind rustling in the background. “coach cancelled practice cause of the rain.”

“it’s raining?” chaeyoung’s been too focused on studying to notice. sure enough, lisa’s right. the rain is coming down hard, flurries of droplets pattering against her bedroom window. 

“it always rains on wednesdays,” lisa says and chaeyoung smiles. “anyway, i’m outside.”

“w-what?” chaeyoung immediately peeks out of her window, only to be greeted by lisa’s bright smile beaming up at her and an (unfortunately) familiar girl standing by her side. “you brought jennie?”

“yeah. why not, right? we can wait out the rain together,” lisa says, impossibly cheery. chaeyoung thinks that jennie can take the bus home, but there’s no way she can actually turn the girl away. all she can do is open the front door and pray for the gods to strike her down, because jennie kim is all lisa can talk about lately, and chaeyoung absolutely despises it.

//

letting jennie kim into her house might actually take the award for the dumbest thing chaeyoung’s done in a while.

the older girl is nice, of course, complimenting chaeyoung’s room with the light purple walls that she hates and starting conversations when the awkward silence (the awkward silence that’s completely natural between two people whose only common interest is the energetic girl between them) begins to take over. jennie’s politeness doesn’t change the fact that lisa looks at her like she’s looking at the stars, doesn’t change the way their hands are intertwined as they lay on the floor of chaeyoung’s bedroom, giggling about something as chaeyoung tries her best to block them out.

“we could watch this one,” chaeyoung suggests, dragging her computer cursor over a movie in her recently played section. “it’s pretty good. short, too.” 

“sure thing, chaeng,” lisa smiles, but her eyes are on jennie’s and chaeyoung knows that lisa hasn’t heard a thing.  

they’re not even halfway through the movie when chaeyoung becomes painfully aware of the fact that she’s third-wheeling, because lisa and jennie are still holding hands, not even bothering to pretend like they’re watching the movie anymore. chaeyoung stops watching too, choosing to watch instead the way that lisa’s eyes light up every time jennie whispers a witty comment, the way that jennie’s hands affectionately brush against lisa’s skin when she tucks some of lisa’s stray hair behind her ears. 

chaeyoung’s eyes linger on the pair for a moment too long, because then lisa is quirking an eyebrow at her and the older girl blushes, ducking her head and returning her gaze to the movie she doesn’t even know the plot to.

“everything good, chaeng?” lisa asks, reaching out to cup chaeyoung’s cheek with the hand that isn’t intertwined with jennie’s. chaeyoung leans into the gentle touch, momentarily forgetting all about the looming presence of the other girl.

“of course,” chaeyoung says, eyes drifting to her bedroom window. “oh. it stopped raining.”

“great!” jennie says, loud and abrasive and chaeyoung flinches away from lisa’s touch automatically. “lisa, wanna get going? my mom really wants to meet you.”

chaeyoung wants to ask why lisa is meeting jennie’s parents– wants to know exactly how close they are. but instead she just closes her eyes for less than a second and takes a deep breath, reminding herself that lisa is her best friend and nothing more. (and that’s how lisa and jennie are too right? just friends? nothing more?)

(who is she kidding? just friends don’t look at each other like jennie and lisa do. but it’s nice to pretend.)

“but we haven't finished the movie…” lisa’s looking at chaeyoung with guilty eyes and chaeyoung doesn’t understand why. it’s not like lisa’s even been watching the movie. she’s been too wrapped up in the charismatic mystery that is jennie kim.

“it’s fine,” chaeyoung lies, averting her eyes from lisa’s sad ones– that proves to be a mistake, because the next thing she sees is jennie, staring at lisa like they’re the only two people in the world and, suddenly, chaeyoung feels very very unwelcome. “you guys can go, i don’t mind.” 

“but–“  lisa’s about to protest further when jennie takes her hand and tugs gently, head motioning towards the door.

“come on, lisa, let’s go. chaeyoung’s cool with it, right?” jennie’s talking to lisa, but her words are directed towards chaeyoung. so chaeyoung nods frantically (not too frantically, she hopes, that would give her away) and ushers the pair to the front door, despite lisa’s obvious reluctance. 

“seriously, lisa, it’s fine,” chaeyoung hopes that it sounds more convincing than it does in her head. 

lisa doesn’t look like she quite believes her, but jennie whisks her out the door and then they’re gone, almost as fast as they came.

//

the bestest friend in the entire world lisa: hey sorry for leaving like that :( i feel bad

bby chipmunk: seriously don’t worry abt it!

bby chipmunk: it’s not a big deal :)

the bestest friend in the entire world lisa: are you sure?

bby chipmunk: of course

the bestest friend in the entire world lisa: are you coming to my game tomorrow?

bby chipmunk: wouldn’t miss it for the world.

//

chaeyoung’s been to every single one of lisa’s soccer games. for as long as she can remember, she’s sat on the sidelines of every field for every game and cheered on her best friend, even when lisa was young and would sit down at the goal and pick at the grass until the ball smacked her in the face.

(lisa’s teammates would giggle and point, but chaeyoung would run as fast as her little legs could carry her to make sure her best friend was okay.)

years have passed since then, but nothing’s changed too much. lisa still plays soccer, but she stays on her feet, running around the field like she owns it. chaeyoung still comes to every game, still cheers lisa on from the sidelines and doesn’t hesitate to interrupt if she sees lisa get hurt. (lisa thinks it’s embarrassing, but what choice does chaeyoung have?)

the only thing that’s changed in recent years is the addition of a new member to the team– jennie kim, number 16, center forward. 

jennie’s a strong player, chaeyoung can admit that much. while lisa stays back and defends, jennie charges forward, strikingly aggressive, and for the first time, chaeyoung can almost see why lisa likes– not likes, (lisa would tell her if she liked jennie, right?) looks up to her so much.

(lisa likes jennie, her heart says, aching inside of her chest. lisa likes jennie and you just don’t want to think about it. lisa likes jennie and not you–)

jennie kicks the ball towards the goal hard, and for once, she misses, ball nearly hitting chaeyoung in the face and startling the younger girl out of her depressing thought spiral. for a moment, chaeyoung almost thinks that jennie aimed for her, because jennie kim is jennie kim, and jennie kim never misses.

“sorry!” jennie pouts, jogging over to chaeyoung. “are you okay?”

“don’t worry about it,” chaeyoung brushes it off, handing the ball to the soccer player. “you’re doing great out there.”

jennie and chaeyoung aren’t quite friends, but they’re good at this part– the small talk, the fake smiles. 

“thanks, chaeng,” jennie beams, and for a moment, it almost seems genuine. “you know–“

“hustle, kim!” the coach yells from across the field and jennie stops abruptly, flashing chaeyoung an apologetic half-smile before jogging back to the action. 

nothing happens for the rest of the game– lisa makes a few nice saves, jennie sprints up and down the field like a woman possessed. they’re excellent players, chaeyoung thinks (even if she’s a little biased), but they lose anyway. 

lisa falls into jennie’s waiting arms when the game is finally over, sweaty and panting and exhausted, and chaeyoung wonders exactly when lisa stopped searching for her embrace. 

//

“you should go home,” lisa says, leaning against a goalpost. “it’s gonna rain.”

the sudden appearance of her best friend startles chaeyoung visibly, the older girl flinching and dropping the ball in her hands in shock. “it’s fine. what are you doing here?”

“since when do you play soccer?” lisa deflects, walking closer to scoop up the dirty soccer ball laying on the grass. “you know you can’t kick a ball for the life of you–“

“that’s not true,” chaeyoung pouts. lisa’s telling the truth– chaeyoung’s missed the goal every time, even though she’s the only one on the field. sports really have never been her thing.

lisa laughs and grabs chaeyoung’s hand, pulling them down to lay on the ground together before letting go to rest her hands behind her head as she looks up into the gray sky. “sports have never been your thing, chaeyoung.”

“it’s going to rain,” chaeyoung points out, turning on her side to face her best friend, trying to ignore how beautiful lisa looks with her hair splayed out underneath her, eyes sparkling as she glances up at the clouds. “and i can get better at soccer.”

“it’s only a little water,” lisa says, one hand idly picking at the grass. “and since when are you interested in soccer?”

chaeyoung wants to open her mouth and tell her the truth, tell her that she wants lisa to look at her the same way she looks at jennie when they’re on the soccer field together, tell her that she can be jennie for her, if she wants. “you need someone to play with you,” chaeyoung settles on a  half-truth. “when jennie goes to college.”

lisa looks a little surprised, but she seemingly accepts chaeyoung’s answer, blinking a few times in surprise as rain scatters down from above. “jennie won’t be away for too long,” lisa says, wiping a raindrop from her forehead. “she already knows i’m following her wherever she goes.”

that sounds false to chaeyoung, because lisa has always promised her the future, not jennie. lisa’s the one who planned their kindergarten graduation and their eighth grade graduation, the one who always scoffed at the mere notion of ever being away from her best friend. 

(chaeyoung wonders if this is what growing up is like– if it means losing the one person who’s always meant the world to you.

chaeyoung never wants to grow up.)

//

chaeyoung celebrates her 17th birthday five weeks before jennie leaves to go to college. 

“happy birthday!” lisa grins, proudly presenting chaeyoung with the gift she’s been poorly concealing behind her back. “i saw this in the store and i just knew it would be the perfect gift for you.”

chaeyoung opens the bag with a smile and takes out a box, opening that too, and then she’s holding a glass perfume bottle that seems strangely familiar– probably because it’s the same gift lisa got her last year. (but hey, she’s beginning to run low, so she convinces herself that she’s not all too hurt about it. after all, lisa’s doing her a favor, right?)

“thank you,” chaeyoung says with a tight-lipped smile, giving lisa a hug and trying her best to ignore how her best friend is beginning to smell more and more like jennie kim everyday. (is that a weird thing to notice?)

“i knew you’d like it,” lisa beams and it hurts, hurts far more than chaeyoung could ever imagine.

//

in hindsight, chaeyoung should have known that this day would come.

she’s not blind– she’s been seeing the signs for months now. she should have known that one day, she’d be forced to step out of her little bubble, forced to face the truth– forced to realize that she isn’t the one that lalisa manoban loves. at least, not the way that chaeyoung wants her to.

she can’t run away from it though, because she’s at her usual spot outside of school, waiting for lisa to come outside when she sees it– when she sees them.

lisa and jennie leave their high school walking hand in hand, pausing under the awning of the building as the rain comes down around them. jennie leans in to say something and lisa giggles, brushing some of jennie’s hair out of her face as they laugh together. jennie cups lisa’s cheek and looks into her eyes and chaeyoung feels like she’s witnessing something that she shouldn’t be seeing, a trespasser in this moment.

lisa’s lips brush against jennie’s and they stay like that for a moment, the older girl out of the two deepening the kiss as they stand outside of the school, and chaeyoung almost drops her umbrella in the realization that she’s been left alone, standing in the rain by herself.

//

jennie leaves for college two weeks later and lisa locks herself away from society for a good four days– chaeyoung has to pretend that she doesn't know what’s going on, like she can’t hear the pain in lisa’s voice on those rare occasions when they’re on the phone until the early hours of the morning. lisa hasn’t said a single thing about the kiss, and maybe that’s a good thing. maybe it means that it was a fluke– maybe it wasn’t supposed to happen, maybe lisa regrets it.

maybe lisa wishes she kissed chaeyoung instead.

but these are all the products of wishful thinking and wistful fantasies, the kind that cross chaeyoung’s mind every time she stays up later than she should, hoping that her phone will ring with lisa’s name on it. (lisa doesn’t call. not as often as she used to, at least.) so chaeyoung closes her eyes and tries her best to not to dream of the love of her life kissing someone who is not her.

it doesn’t work.

//

three months after jennie leaves for college, lisa and chaeyoung find themselves sitting on the train tracks that run by lisa’s house. lisa says that they’re celebrating their freedom before senior year starts. chaeyoung doesn’t care what they’re doing, as long as it means seeing lisa.

“don’t you think it’s crazy?” lisa asks, kicking at a stray pebble. “we’re growing up so fast.” 

“i still remember when you were little and wouldn’t stop chasing me around the playground,” chaeyoung giggles, reminiscing on the past, when things weren’t so confusing, when she wasn’t in love with her best friend. “i thought you were so weird.”

“you still think i’m weird, chaeng,” lisa jokes and pokes chaeyoung’s cheek, resting her head on the older girl’s shoulder. the girls fall silent for a moment, chaeyoung watching lisa as she closes her eyes, leaning on chaeyoung as the world falls quiet. 

chaeyoung loves it when they’re like this– when it feels like just her and lisa, in their own little world. this is how it should be, she thinks, her and lisa and no jennie kim. 

“we’re going to senior prom together, right?” chaeyoung asks, a little too cautiously. she already knows the answer (lisa’s been planning their senior prom since the fifth grade, from the color of the dresses to the necklace that she wants chaeyoung to wear to the high heels she bought a month ago), but it’s nice to hear it coming from lisa’s lips anyway. (the same lips that have  kissed jennie kim’s– she tries not to think too hard about it.)

“of course!” lisa grins, the cold air around the girls forcing her to lean in a little closer. “you already know there’s no one else i would rather bring as my date.”

“you’re so greasy,” chaeyoung groans, turning slightly to conceal her blush and, simultaneously, her confusion. what about jennie, she wants to ask, because she isn’t blind– she knows what she saw outside of the school two weeks before jennie left for college. she knows what the look in lisa’s eyes before she kissed jennie means, because she’s been by lisa’s side long enough (longer than jennie has) to know that she’s never seen her look at someone like that ever before. 

why do you say things that you don’t mean, chaeyoung wants to ask, because lisa loves jennie and not her, and she knows it. 

and, more than anything, she wants to ask the one question that’s been weighing heavily on her mind ever since that dreadful day three months and two weeks ago. why did you fall in love with her, and not me?

a drop of water lands on chaeyoung’s nose and she flinches, shrinking away from lisa’s touch when the girl reaches out to wipe it off. “we should probably head inside–“

“dance with me, chaeyoung,” lisa cuts her off, standing up and reaching a hand out to pull chaeyoung up to her height. chaeyoung stares at the hand before looking up at lisa in disbelief, blinking a few times before shaking her head vehemently at the prospect of getting rained on. the rain’s already starting to come down fast, and chaeyoung’s not even wearing sleeves– the last thing she wants is to stay outside and get her clothes all wet and messed up, not even for lalisa manoban.

“are you kidding? come on, let’s head inside before it starts to rain harder.”

“come on, please? only for a little bit?” lisa’s wearing the most adorable pout and that’s so unfair, because she should know by now that chaeyoung absolutely cannot resist her when she’s doing that. so, somehow, chaeyoung finds herself getting pulled up by her best friend, lisa’s arms finding their way around her waist as chaeyoung mumbles something about not having any music to dance to. “the rain is our music, chaeyoung,” lisa says serenely, words floating out of her mouth with concrete sincerity, as if they actually made any sense. “we don’t need music when it’s raining.” 

chaeyoung’s arms reach up to slip around lisa’s neck, the slightly shorter girl staring up at lisa with awe as the rain falls around them. for a moment, this almost feels like the moment chaeyoung witnessed three months and two weeks ago, except for this time, jennie’s not here. 

chaeyoung likes it better like this. 

lisa starts swaying to an imaginary beat, chaeyoung following her lead as they laugh, young and carefree and way too aware of the fact that they’re growing up– soon, there will be no time for dancing on train tracks with your childhood best friend in the rain. 

and maybe it’s chaeyoung’s imagination– it’s almost definitely her imagination– but she can feel lisa’s eyes on her lips, the younger girl leaning imperceptibly forward as the cold rain trails down their bare arms.

“chaeyoung,” she breathes, just loud enough to be heard over the soft raindrops falling down from the sky above. her name sounds like heaven tumbling from lisa’s lips, and suddenly, all chaeyoung can see, all she can feel, it’s all lisa.

it’s always been all lisa.

“chaeyoung,” lisa repeats, and this has got to be all in chaeyoung’s head, because lisa is looking at her like she wants to devour her.

kiss me, kiss me, kiss me, chaeyoung chants internally, instinctively swiping her tongue across her upper lip nervously. kiss me, kiss me

lisa leans forward and connects their foreheads together, gently, not bothering to pretend to dance anymore. chaeyoung can feel her breath on her lips, so close, so tempting.

“chaeyoung,” lisa whispers against chaeyoung’s skin, and it’s different now, less reverent, more shaky, more broken. “i miss jennie.”

chaeyoung swallows the bitterness, feels it sinking down fast into her heart.

“me too.”

//

jennie comes back four months after the beginning of senior year.

lisa scurries up to chaeyoung as she’s waiting for the soccer player after practice, waving her phone excitedly as she speaks. “jennie dropped out!” she says with a grin, and chaeyoung frowns, because 1) she doesn’t think anyone should be this happy hearing about their friend dropping out of college, and 2) jennie kim is coming back to town.

“jennie dropped out?” chaeyoung repeats, letting the words hang heavily in the air. “why?”

“dunno,” lisa shrugs, silly grin still ever-present. “but! she’s coming back!”

“oh,” chaeyoung pauses to find the right words, because lisa is looking at her expectantly, as if she wants chaeyoung to scream in excitement with her. “that’s nice.”

chaeyoung almost thinks she got away with her lie, but then lisa’s pouting and hitting her arm softly. lisa may be a powerful athlete out on the soccer field, but chaeyoung feels like she’s being pummeled by a three year old toddler. “chaeyoung!” lisa pouts, dropping her arms to her side. “be excited with me!”

“i am excited,” chaeyoung lets out a little chuckle despite herself, amused by how childish her best friend is acting. “good for jennie. i’m glad she dropped out of school.”

“chaeng!” lisa complains shrilly, whacking chaeyoung’s shoulder as the older girl laughs. “don’t be so mean to my girl!”

“y-your girl?” chaeyoung raises an eyebrow, hating how her throat goes dry at lisa’s words. “since when is jennie your girl?” her jealousy is obvious, too obvious, but if lisa notices, she doesn’t show it.

don’t be so mean to my girl, the words ring in chaeyoung’s head, all taunting and boasting and chaeyoung feels like she might throw up, even though this is what she’s known ever since lisa kissed jennie underneath the school awning so many nights ago.

“you know what i mean,” lisa grins and grabs chaeyoung’s hand, and chaeyoung tilts her head slightly in confusion, because no, she doesn’t. “don’t be jealous. you can have jennie, if you want her.” 

“w-wait, no, that’s not what i–“ chaeyoung’s stuttering and waving her hands wildly in front of her, but lisa still looks absolutely clueless, and maybe it’s better for lisa to think that the reason why chaeyoung goes mute when jennie’s around– the reason why chaeyoung avoided lisa and jennie for two whole weeks after witnessing The Kiss– is because she wants jennie kim. “actually, yes. i do want jennie.”

(i want you, i want you, i’ve always wanted you, chaeyoung repeats in her head. just another thought that lisa will never know.)

the words must sound strange coming from her mouth, because then lisa’s doubling over in laughter, wiping away imaginary tears as she giggles. lisa’s laughter must be infectious, because chaeyoung finds herself laughing too, the two teenagers laughing like madwomen on the sidelines of the soccer field. 

“seriously, that’s the worst lie i’ve ever heard,” lisa stifles another laugh with the back of her hand. “oh my god, you should have seen your face.”

“shut up!” chaeyoung doesn’t need a mirror to know that she’s blushing, pink probably spread all through her face. “i mean, don’t get me wrong, jennie’s pretty and all–“

“but she’s not your type.”

“how do you know that?” 

“because i’m your type,” lisa states, matter-of-factly, and chaeyoung can feel her ears going red. the worst part is that it’s true, too true– lisa’s the only person chaeyoung’s ever liked in her entire seventeen years of living. if anyone’s her type, it’s lalisa manoban. “it’s okay. you’re my type too.”

“really?” chaeyoung tries not to seem too excited, but she evidently fails, lisa shooting her another weird look. 

"yeah, weirdo,” lisa says, suddenly smiling at nothing in particular. “you’re my type. you and jennie, of course.”

jennie, of course. of course it’s jennie. why is chaeyoung even surprised?

she should know better by now. but lisa smiles that saccharine smile, and chaeyoung knows that lisa is the one thing that she’ll never fully understand.

//

jennie appears on chaeyoung’s doorstep a week later, the older girl standing out in the rain while chaeyoung debates internally– should she let her in or not? 

her conscience wins out, chaeyoung begrudgingly unlocking the front door to let jennie in. chaeyoung’s not cruel. not on the outside, at least. but she can’t have jennie thinking that she’s soft, so she crosses her arms, blocking the doorway, and looks at her rival in a way that’s supposed to be intimidating. (she doesn’t think it’s working.)

“i’m back,” jennie says, arms hanging limply by her sides, as if she doesn’t quite know what to do with them. 

“so i’ve heard,” chaeyoung responds, turning away from the girl and walking back into her house. she already knows jennie’s going to follow her inside anyway. “why’d you drop out of college?” 

“doesn’t matter,” jennie mumbles, voice coming from close behind chaeyoung– she was right, jennie did follow her in. “listen, i have something important to talk to you about…” jennie trails off, and chaeyoung’s heart nearly stops, because the only person jennie would ever talk to her about is the one and only lalisa manoban.

“what is it?” 

“it’s about lisa,” jennie seems hesitant and it’s so different from the jennie that chaeyoung knows. jennie is confident, bold, aggressive. not like this, shy and nervous, almost seeming younger than she actually is. “i was just wondering if…”

“just spit it out,” chaeyoung bites and it must come off harsher than she intended, because jennie flinches, and suddenly chaeyoung feels guilty.

“if you would give me permission,” jennie blurts out, turning a little red in the face. “to ask her out.”

“to ask her out?” chaeyoung repeats, turning her head away from jennie in the pretext of making her guest a warm drink. “i’m not her father, you know.”

"i know that,” jennie grumbles, sighing slightly when chaeyoung makes no move to answer her. “it’s just, the way that you look at her sometimes…”

chaeyoung gulps and shuts her eyes, not willing to turn around and risk jennie seeing the raw emotion written across her face. “what do you mean?”

“nothing, nevermind–“

chaeyoung turns around and hands jennie a cup of hot chocolate, ignoring the way her hand shakes as she places the drink in jennie’s awaiting hands. “no, jennie, what do you mean?”

jennie pauses for a moment, as if she’s debating what exactly to say, and chaeyoung can almost hear the battle being raged in her head. finally, she takes a deep breath and exhales, looking anywhere that’s not chaeyoung. 

“you look at her like you’re in love with her,” jennie says, sighing when she gets no audible response from chaeyoung. “you know, this was a bad idea, i’m sorry. forget i said anything–“

“wait,” chaeyoung bites her lip, darting an arm out to grab jennie’s wrist as the older girl turns to leave. “jennie, hang on–“

“thanks for the hot chocolate, but seriously, i should go–“

“jennie, wait–“

“i’m really sorry, i shouldn’t have just come in here and started making assumptions–“

“jennie!” chaeyoung raises her voice, startling both girls as they stand in the foyer of chaeyoung’s family home. “ask her out.”

“but–“

“ask. her. out.” chaeyoung laughs and shakes her head, bitter and confused and angry, all at once. “you don’t need my permission, but i’m giving it to you anyways. just ask her out.”

“chaeyoung,” jennie’s voice softens and for a moment, it looks like she’s going to cry. “you don’t have to do this.” 

"don't be ridiculous. you make her happy.”

(happier than i ever could.)

//

lisa breaks her childhood promise to go to prom with chaeyoung after jennie dramatically asks her out after school one day in the spring. 

chaeyoung tells her that she doesn’t mind, not when she has other suitors lined up to ask her too. it’s a lie, and lisa doesn’t look like she believes her, but she doesn’t say anything, letting jennie whisk her away to go dress shopping instead.

chaeyoung walks home alone in the rain, stepping in puddles and kicking at stray rocks, wondering when exactly lisa became her everything, and when exactly she stopped being lisa’s.

//

it doesn’t sting as much as chaeyoung thought it would when she and lisa finally go separate ways.

it was bound to happen eventually. even the best of friends drift apart, no matter how tight or close their bond was. it’s the natural path of life. that doesn’t stop it from hurting though, hurting like a dull ache that never quite goes away– lisa never leaves chaeyoung’s thoughts, not even when they go to separate colleges, not even when lisa can’t make it to chaeyoung’s university graduation. not when chaeyoung takes lisa’s phone number off of her ‘favorites’ list on her phone, not when she’s looking for a roommate to help with rent for her apartment and the only girl who calls is a girl named jisoo, who is kind of weird and very funny and exactly the kind of person lisa would want to be friends with. it’s only natural to drift away from your friends, she tells herself. it’s only natural for people you once loved to leave you behind.

so she’s not surprised when she gets a wedding invitation in the mail, inviting her to the wedding of miss lalisa manoban to miss jennie kim.

some things never change.

//

chaeyoung shows up too early to the church– she’s not sure what she’s expecting, but she’s greeted with an empty building nonetheless, resolving to roam around and check out the architecture until jisoo arrives.

(maybe she wanted to be early on purpose. maybe she had entertained the possibility of running into someone before the wedding starts– wishful thinking, she knows.)

but maybe it wasn’t too ambitious of a wish, because she hears someone call her name as she looks at dusty statues of people who walked the earth long before she and lisa did– someone with a familiar voice, someone with familiar long legs that walk fast in a hurry to embrace her.

“chaeyoung,” lisa breathes, wrapping her arms around her former best friend. “you came.”

“of course,” chaeyoung says, a huge smile on her face despite the bittersweet circumstances. “i wouldn’t miss this for the world.”

“how are you? we haven’t seen each other in forever,” lisa laments and releases chaeyoung from their hug, still reaching down to clasp chaeyoung’s hands. “it’s been–“

“years,” chaeyoung bites her lip, trying her best to seem cool and collected, but it’s hard when lisa’s standing in front of her like this, like they’re still seventeen years old, like chaeyoung didn’t spend ages trying to get over her. 

(she thought that she succeeded, that she grew up and stopped entertaining old fantasies. but now lisa’s here, and everything feels like high school all over again.)

“i’m sorry about that,” lisa apologizes, squeezing chaeyoung’s hands in hers. “you know how life is… it never slows down, does it?”

“never has. never will.”

there’s a pause in their conversation and chaeyoung finds her eyes drifting towards the side of the church, transfixed by the soft beating of the raindrops on the stained glass windows.

“it’s raining,” she says. “you’ll need to move the reception indoors.”

“of course. it always rains on wednesdays, doesn’t it?”

“always.”