“Do you have any work experience prior to this?”
The interviewer’s tone is anything but gentle, eyes piercing through Byulyi behind her rectangular glasses. She must be one of those employees, Byulyi thinks, clean and tidy, straight to the point. The woman hadn’t wasted a second before starting the questions.
“I’m afraid not.” Byulyi admits, “But that’s because I’ve been working on my master’s degree.”
The tiniest bit of dissatisfaction appears in the woman’s well-composed face. “There are plenty of other suitors who has job experience. What do you think you have so special that we hire you instead, miss?”
Byulyi gulps as she tries not to fidget under the firm gaze of the interviewer. She has never been good at expressing herself due to her shy nature and the coldness of the woman gives her a sudden desire to flee out of the room.
“Because,” She starts a bit shakily, “After I graduated from Columbia, which dare I say, is one of the best universities in the States, I continued my studies here at SNU. I-I think I have a lot to contribute to your company and hopefully, you have a lot to teach me too.”
The woman clicks her tongue and takes a sip from the glass that’s beside her on the table. “Noted.” Silence falls until the woman breaks it again, voice having an impatient edge. “Anything else you want to add?”
“And I, uhm, I have lots of ideas on… uh,” Byulyi presses, but gives up soon, “Yes, ma’am, that’s all.”
Ten minutes later, she’s out of the building with her head between her hands and a word slipping out of her mouth without noticing. “Fuck.”
Out of the six job interviews she’s been to, this one holds the trophy of being the worst. Not only she hadn’t said more than five coherent sentences, she also had managed to get on the interviewer’s nerves somehow.
She sighs and fumbles her bag for her phone. Her fingers already tapping to the familiar name on her contacts list.
“Unnie?” The voice answers after a few seconds of dedicated ringing, sleepiness in her voice evident, “Did you had the interview?”
“Yeah,” Byulyi simply answers, “Were you sleeping?”
“Mmm..” The other girl replies, and Byulyi hears shuffling of the sheets, “It’s barely ten after all.”
This makes Byulyi giggle. “That’s what happens when you go to parties without your girlfriend.”
“I couldn’t bring an old woman with me!” The younger exclaims, “And you’re hours away.”
“I’m just two years older than you, you rascal.”
“Oh, right!” The girl sounds more awake now, “How did it go?”
“Not so good…” Byulyi admits the truth, “But let’s not think about that now. I’ll just leave you to sleep, okay? I’ll call later.”
“Cheer up, you.” says Seulgi before hanging up the phone.
Byulyi sighs after she ends the call. It’s harder to keep up her relationship with Seulgi these days. When a long-distance relationship reaches a point where they only see each other for a handful of times during those two years, things change unavoidably.
It hadn’t been like that from the start. When they met for the first time on that rainy day, Byul was really excited to finally see a fellow Korean in her university. Sure, there were Korean-American students but to have someone who was brought up with the same culture as her cured her home-sickness a little.
Their first encounter was when Byulyi heard another Korean name being mispronounced (Seoul…Key… King?) And saw a drenched girl in a yellow trench coat stumble into the classroom. With a slight accent she answered the assistant who was taking the attendance. “I’m here. I’m sorry.”
At that second Byulyi was so enthusiastic to have taken woman’s studies as her elective course on her senior year. As the professor greeted them and went over the syllabus, Byulyi’s eyes never left the younger girl. Her brows were knitted in a concentrated way and she was biting down her lip with confusion. She reminded Byulyi of herself during her first year, she too had an accent and struggled really hard to fully comprehend all those classes. When Byulyi sat next to her after the class was dismissed and said ‘hello’ in Korean, she watched as the other girl’s eyes widen in surprise.
“Are you Korean too? Like Korean-born Korean?” Seulgi said, a large smile growing on her face.
When Byulyi nodded, Seulgi squealed excitedly. “I’m so glad I have someone to talk Korean with! It’s been four days since classes started but I’m already feeling my brain malfunction.”
After exchanging numbers, they talked for a whole month before coming out to each other. It happened when Byulyi accidentally sent a… questionable fanart of Krystal and Amber to Seulgi when she meant to e-mail it to herself. She immediately sent thousands of other messages from other platforms as well, telling her to not open it. But Seulgi had laughed it off and said they looked cute together anyways.
Their relationship was a one of convenience after all. When Byulyi looked back at it she liked Seulgi alright, but the biggest reason they started dating was the comfortable feeling of familiarity.
She had thought their relationship wasn’t the type that could survive through such a long, long-distance relationship but Seulgi managed to surprise her with her affection.
Even if the things aren’t bad between them, Byulyi feels like they are drifting apart slowly. The romantic love that was once there had turned into something more stable, leaving the two to act more like two platonic friends rather than girlfriends. It had been weeks since Seulgi and Byulyi had done something that a pair of friends wouldn’t do. And with Seulgi staying at another city, miles away, it is getting harder and harder to restore their feelings for each other. Byulyi loved the younger girl from the bottom of her heart, really. But she isn’t so sure that those feelings go further than an admiration and care she feels for a cute dongsaeng. Maybe it is time for them to set each other free. Their relationship had become something permanent in their lives for years now and it’s formed almost like a warm, familiar friendship.
The only time their relationship really held her back was about six months ago when her parents saw a picture of them kissing in a party back in the States, which a friend had mailed to her along with other pictures. They lectured her on how grateful she should’ve been for them to be so accepting of her condition and how disrespectful she was to engage in such activities behind their backs. Byulyi always knew that even though they didn’t disown her when she came out as a lesbian just before she moved to America, they never accepted her fully. They just ignored her and hoped it was just a phase.
That is why she is in such a hurry to get a job. Her family generously offered to pay one month of her rent before they leave her all by herself to survive. They still didn’t disown her, of course, it would be a scandal, they’ve only cut the ties between them to the very last one.
Growing pessimistic after six failed job applications, Byulyi is faced with the harsh reality of income management. She still has a bit of money saved up but if she continues to live as luxurious as she usually does, she would be officially broke and homeless by the end of this month. Ever since her childhood she is used to having the finer things in life; designer clothes, expensive and organic food, latest technologies…
When Byulyi used all the education she had on business management, she had calculated that in order to pay next month’s rent -if she fails to find a job- the only thing she can do is to cut back on every other thing. Which means that she has to live off of cheap ramen bought from convenience store that’s under her apartment building.
Byulyi stops in her tracks when she realizes that she’s about to step into her favorite café which she isn’t able to afford now. She lets out a long sigh, to enjoy expensive things without even caring about the cost had been like a second nature to her.
She drags her feet to a park nearby to pass time until her next interview which is a few hours away. The only entertainment she can have for free is reading her old books for the nth time.
The nights go quietly in her apartment as she tries to use the least amount of electric to save up. Seeing this, the growling of her stomach can be clearly heard, making her embarrassed even if there’s no one else to hear.
She gets up on her feet and changes into the clothes she had worn earlier that day, not caring to find anything else for a short trip to the store downstairs.
She presses the elevator button, thinking her life choices over. If her parents hadn’t find out about Seulgi, would she be having steak now?
Her feet carry her reluctant body into the store, returning the unenthusiastic greeting of the cashier with a nod. Even if she’s starving and having one of the worst days of her life, she notices the cashier’s strawberry-pink hair.
She quickly goes to the aisle of instant-ramen, picking out the least disgusting looking one and returning to the cash register.
“Hi.” Says Byulyi with a smile trying to catch the attention the studying cashier, she puts her ramen down.
The girl looks up, with a forced smile on her tired face. “Will that be all?”
“That’ll be 1500 ₩”
Byulyi thanks the girl as she hands the money. Her name tag reads: Kim Yongsun.
Byulyi unintentionally thinks that this ‘Kim Yongsun’ is pretty. At the same time her phone rings, showing a cute picture of Seulgi with the name ‘Seulbear <3'
Byulyi shudders as she picks up the phone thinking that the younger girl somehow sensed her appreciation of another’s beauty.