“-isn’t that right?”
Seulgi snaps into focus, blinking away the stray fragment of thoughts that has occupied her head for a better of five minutes, when the two people across the table have plunged into stories of their childhood, reminiscing, completely immersed in its nostalgia. There, Irene sits directly athwart her, radiant in her off-shouldered cream dress, yellow undertones bright and rich in the indoor lighting, waiting for her to respond.
“Y-yeah,” Seulgi mumbles, before twirling the pasta around her fork.
Sehun asked to join them for dinner, and Irene couldn’t deny (“Won’t I bother you guys?” “Nope.”). Seulgi had no qualms about it, she was warmly accommodating to the guy as well.
“See?” Sehun sips from his tall glass of four seasons. His hair is slicked with gel and is parted to the side, making him look dapper in his dress shirt. “Kids should have a choice of their own instead of being indoctrinated according to the parents’ convictions about life. I was grounded for a month but I said, screw it, I don’t like playing the violin and they can’t convince me to try again. I’m not a music prodigy, and I knew it since the first day.”
“I didn’t see you for a month because of that,” Irene giggles into her fist. “I was like, oh god, they must have abducted Sehun. I’d spent that summer tagging along with my dad to his golf meetings, and I was bored out of my mind.”
“How about you, Seulgi?” Sehun asks. “What were you doing when you were at that age, young and ten?”
“Oh,” Seulgi mutters, not expecting a question to be sent her way. She straightens up her back and answers, “I was mostly spending my time drawing, and playing games outdoors. I enjoyed it, yeah, I did.”
Then she catches Irene staring, with that wide, sweet smile lighting up her expression. And for a moment, she feels guilty for letting her doubts win her over. I should be listening, she muses. Listening to her, and all the things she wants me to know about her.
“I wonder what it would be like if I met you when we were young,” Irene tells her. Her eyes are dazzling like distant stars. She grew up with only a few circle of friends, mostly sons and daughters of his father’s business partners, and they were all sent to the same schools until college.
But the statement would stay up in the air because Sehun intercepts with, “How did you two meet, by the way? Well, if that isn’t too weird to ask?”
The two girls throw a glance at each other, and it’s Irene who speaks up. “I met her in a resort around here.” Then, dragging her gaze toward the folded napkin on her lap, adds, “I… we have so much in common, I guess, that’s why we clicked.”
Seulgi presses her lips together, nodding, slowly bobbing up and down her head to every other word. There was something she’s trying to figure out, but couldn’t. Like there’s something else Irene wanted to hide from the guy aside from their intimacy, and she goes along with it. She gives her the benefit of the doubt.
“There’s a resort somewhere in this town?” Sehun asks, staring with a mix of incredulity and keenness. “Great! I’ve been here for three days of vacation, and I have four days left of stay, so I want you both to take me to that haven sometime.”
“Alright,” Seulgi says. She drains her glass of four seasons, the sweet taste coating her tongue.
Sehun dabs his lips with the napkin then states, “Anyway, I was asking because Irene is a bit of uh, standoffish to be making friends with just anybody. She’s a homebody, very kept to herself, and not much of a traveler, so I didn’t expect she’d make friends around here.”
Irene slaps him lightly on the arm, murmuring hey why would you say that and says, “Seulgi don’t pay attention to this, he’s just trying to make me look bad.”
Then Sehun scoffs, chuckling at his drink. Seulgi looks at them, perhaps a bit jealous, though she knows she shouldn’t be because Sehun has known her for years. She wishes it was the same for her, but on the bright side, maybe she has a lifetime to know Irene. Maybe.
“Irene is actually a very warm person,” Seulgi argues. The chatter and clinks in the hall fades further into the background. “That’s what I like so much about her,” she says, locking her gaze with Irene who is seemingly bashful about it.
Sehun crosses his arms, swallowing a chunk of steak, then reclining back his seat he sighs, “Huh.” There is a suggestion of meekness and awe in his bearing, hearing the words. “Most people are wrong about her, but you are right.”
Irene is rendered slightly flushing, but her blush on conceals it, and she’s absently fiddling her ring, avoiding to meet them in the eyes. There’s very rare instances when people talk about her personality instead of her physical features, and it touches her, warms her heart. She has always felt like her other characteristics are being overshadowed by her beauty.
“You see,” Sehun begins, unable to keep his thoughts away. “She gets misunderstood by a lot of people. They think she’s cold just because of her unsmiling face. But you know, I am privileged to be one of her close-knit friends and I can swear, Irene is more than meets the eye.”
Irene giggles, covering her mouth with a hand, utterly embarrassed.
The air about them has eased from tensed to pleasant, but Seulgi’s chest tightens once the guy grabs Irene’s hand, caressing it, and inspects the ring on her finger.
“Bvlgari?” Sehun casually asks.
“N-no.” Irene is a bit startled by the contact. “Damiani. Dad bought it when he went to Italy.” Then she slips her hand from his grasp, glimpsing up at Seulgi, then at her plate.
“Damn,” He cusses, with that smooth glide of his tongue it doesn’t even sound like a curse but a sharp breath of air. “Can I have your dad?”
“Not a chance.” Irene grins, and bends her wrist back and forth, like she’s stretching.
Seulgi listens to a bit more of their discussions about their lives, and casually joins in, wary of the guy beside Irene.
Before the night ends, Seulgi walks with Irene to the bus stop.
Sehun was going the other way, so he had to part from them. Seulgi is filled with relief, because she wanted to be with Irene, just the two of them like they had intended to.
“I’m sorry,” says Irene.
“No, that was alright.” Seulgi’s rubbing her other arm, hand unable to stay put. “He’s… very insightful.”
“The last time I saw him was in high school. He is one of my good friends so I was delighted to see him again.”
There weren’t a lot of males in her circle of friends, and Sehun was one of those who didn’t annoy her. He wasn’t uncomfortable to be with, and the bar may be six feet below the ground but that said a lot about him.
Seulgi purses her lips, pensive, then with a smack of tongue, asks, “What was that about? Friend?”
The streets are almost empty. There are still a few shops that are open, lights pouring into the road, and they are passing by rows of them. The stop is about five meters away, dim, looming like an abandoned rundown building.
“I didn’t mean to—“
“Okay,” Seulgi cuts in. “Maybe I don’t want to hear it.”
Irene tugs the corner of her mouth into a frown. “Seulgi, I like you. That’s the only thing you need to know.”
“I know,” Seulgi sighs, then assures, “I believe you.”
Irene looks like there’s something she wants to say, but goes against it. She just slips her hand into the younger girl’s hands, and they amble toward the bus stop complimenting each other about how beautiful they looked tonight.
At the doorstep of the rest house, they press their bodies into a hug.
Irene is small in Seulgi’s arms, but she fits snugly. Seulgi rests her chin on her shoulder for a good few seconds, feeling her against hers, warm and tender and delicate. Then she pushes Irene’s hair back, and grazes her neck then jaw with her lips. Irene tries to stifle a moan, because she’s melting, caving in, with the hot breath brushing against her skin.
Seulgi whispers into her ear, “Sleep well.”
“I will,” Irene purrs weakly.
Seulgi proceeds, her lips traveling to her cheek, her hands sliding to her waist and backside. Irene could feel her back arch with the touch, and she closes her eyes, letting Seulgi’s lips wander slowly to her forehead, to her eyelids, then to her nose. Irene waits, for the lips to go down a notch lower, but Seulgi stops at the tip of her nose before backing away. She opens her eyes.
“I’m going.” Seulgi gives her a smirk before turning on her heel.
Irene leans and steadies herself against the door, blushing, unable to contain the heat after Seulgi left her. “She’s so cruel.”
Then she disappears into the house, and takes a steamy shower.
On the same night, Wendy’s slumped on a couch in a noraebang, already inebriated after three hours of chugging almost two bottles of beer. Her voice is already rasp, and she is starting to slur her words while singing Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love, the twentieth song in her list.
“It must have been love, but it’s over now!” She yells into the microphone, though she doesn’t go off-key. “It must have been good—“
Then she looks up to see Joy beside her, gripping the mic she just snatched. Wendy jumps back on her toes, and yelps. Joy doesn’t budge but just stares her down.
“H-how did you know I’m here?” Wendy gasps.
“It’s because you’re predictable,” Joy yells over the music. It is the same noraebang place Wendy frequents—bright neon signs, and magenta tones of light dancing all around.
Wendy thrusts herself to the videoke machine and pauses the song.
“Come again?” she asks, tilting her ear forward once she turns around.
“I said I know you,” Joy answers, patient. “Is that enough for you?”
Joy is familiar with anything Wendy does. She’d bake muffins for their birthdays even without prodding, she’d try to cheer up and hype up the mood when it’s down, and she’d sing to release stress. Selfless, kind, and a source of verve. But of course, she hasn’t got her all figured out.
“Joy, I’m not fine at all,” Wendy utters, a bit glum.
“Stop this, Wendy. You can’t be drinking out all alone,” Joy sounds near upbraiding. She can smell the reek of alcohol from the shorter girl.
Wendy reaches for the mic but Joy swings her hand behind her back. She holds onto Joy’s shoulder to keep her balance and from throwing herself to the floor. “Why do you care? Leave me alone!” Her face is so red, and she’s so close to bursting into tears.
Joy maintains a stoic expression, although she’s wavering underneath the facade. “Let’s go home.” She went all the way to the place, after being preoccupied at home with the thought that Wendy is out there, drinking all by herself.
Wendy steps back, and with hooded eyes, says, “I’m not going.”
“I still have work tomorrow early. Don’t be stubborn.” Joy clamps a hand on Wendy’s arm. She has no other choice but to make sure her friend is home safe. “Stop doing stupid and reckless things.”
“What is wrong with y—“
Joy bends to hoist her, holding up her legs and back, scooping her into her arms. Wendy stares up, unmoving, shocked by the action. She is being lifted like an infant.
“What are you doing?” Wendy asks, slightly panicked. “Put me down!”
Joy trudges for the door, gritting her teeth, muscle in her arms tightening. “I’m… taking… you home… midget,” she breathes, turns the knob, and kicks the door open.
Wendy hides her searing face in her hands. She doesn’t even try to squirm, afraid she might piss off Joy. There’s just a mix of confusion and embarrassment she feels being cradled in her crush’s arms. They go silently through the hall, drawing bystanders’ attention, but Joy isn’t the least bit fazed. Once outside of the establishment, Joy carefully puts Wendy down like a fragile porcelain figurine.
“Wasn’t I heavy?” Wendy asks, a bit worried. “Sorry I made you do that.”
“I’m alright,” Joy says, flexing her arms. Wendy sees the bulge of toned muscles and blushes again.
“Come on, let’s go home.” Joy doesn’t look but reaches for the other girl’s hand comfortably. “Don’t drown your sorrows like this again.”
Wendy knits her brows and stutters, “W-where did you…?”
But Joy doesn’t answer and just begins pacing the street and drags her along, leaving her clueless.
Friday is slow, and languorous like the flow of a river on a windless day.
Just a little after ten in the morning, Irene asks Yeri to visit her at home. However, the blonde declines the invitation, telling her that her relatives are celebrating her cousin’s birthday today, and they will head out for the rest of the day.
Seulgi had left her messages this morning while she was eating breakfast, and eagerly advices against her to drop by the kiosk. When Irene asked why, she mentioned about not burdening herself like in the days before, and that this time she will be the one who will go to her. So Irene stays home, and reads some romance pocketbook she’s hardly interested in, for the lack of better things to do.
When she comes across two of the characters kissing on their date, she clamps her upper teeth on her lower lip and thinks about Seulgi. She thinks about how it would feel like, how soft her lips would be on hers, how her mouth would taste…
Then she remembers their dinner date last night, which didn’t turn out that well, for apparent reasons.
For how long they’ve known each other, Sehun had never hinted any sign of attraction towards her. Irene never found it weird, but reckoned maybe she just wasn’t his type. He actually didn’t show any affection toward anybody else, or he’s good at hiding it that Irene couldn’t tell. But of course, they’ve grown apart in the recent years, and they’ve changed, so she’ll never really know.
Irene wonders how rough Seulgi’s kiss would be if she was frustrated, aching for it.
So when Sehun calls her (they exchanged numbers before they parted; Seulgi wasn’t amused) and asks her to eat lunch with him, she accepts the invitation. She had nothing else better to do anyway. He suggests that they go shopping after, look around some places, and also visit the resort that they talked about. “That’s a great idea,” Irene had answered, and giggled in her mischievousness.
Seulgi would love a bit of surprise, she thought.
There’s a bunch of boys lined up on the stools in front of the kiosk.
Joy is not amused, because she could sense one of them stealing glances at her in between bites of burger and sips of lemonade drink. The others are rowdily yakking something about beach games and parties. Seulgi, on the other hand, is busy on her phone, not giving a damn.
“One more medium glass of lemonade,” the suspicious boy requests, lifting his plastic cup toward Joy’s direction with a smirk.
Seulgi doesn’t even look up at the mention of an order. Joy just rolls her eyes and sighs. She walks over to the mixer and dispenses sunny lemonade in a disposable cup. He grazes his hand against hers once he pries the drink from her hold, to her dismay.
Joy exhales through her nose and snaps, “Yah!”
The boy gazes at her confused, and the other boys pause their talk to pay attention. Seulgi then darts her eyes to her friend, gaping her mouth. It was the first time they had such commotion at work.
“How old are you, huh?” Joy asks again, and puts her arms on her waist.
“S-sixteen,” the boy gulps.
Joy scoffs, then leans close to him and tousles his hair. He goes pale. “You’re a good boy, right? There’s still so much that you’re going to learn as you grow, and today you have to learn to stop being sneaky because that habit might develop into something worse. Get me?”
The boy nods his head, then turns to his friends with a shrug. Joy then steps back from them, and Seulgi comes up to meet her. There’s a bit of murmuring the customers do before they decide to leave the kiosk. The said boy is undeniably flushed he doesn’t look back.
Seulgi watches the five boys sit on the dry sand and look out into the sea. It’s already four in the afternoon, the day going by in a breeze.
“What was that?” Seulgi whispers beside her.
“Too late,” Joy answers with sass. “Just go back to messaging your girlfriend.”
“Hey,” Seulgi pouts, then corrects—“Not yet my girlfriend, and I was playing a game. C’mon, is something the matter with you?”
Joy wasn’t stressed out. It was more of being confused about the things that have happened between her and Wendy. Some part of her thinks that it’s been all said and done, while another thinks it’s not over yet.
“How could you let Wendy drink all alone?” Joy asks grumpily, crossing her arms against her chest.
Seulgi scratches her head and rolls up her eyes toward the ceiling. So that’s it. “I mean… she’s already a grown up…”
Joy flops onto the chair, arms limp on her sides. She looks away from Seulgi. “Whatever.”
Seulgi shakes her head and sighs, deep and heavy. She turns her attention toward the sink and washes a rag instead. The truth of the matter is that she has been trying to distract herself from overthinking about some of Irene’s actions last night when Sehun was around. It didn’t feel right to doubt the girl she is dating who has assured her that there is nothing to worry, but she can’t help being troubled.
It must be him, Seulgi thought, wringing the wet cloth. I feel threatened of him.
“Speaking of…” Joy utters, craning her neck up for no reason.
Seulgi turns around in her spot and beyond the counter surprisingly finds Irene, shopping bags in hand, and Sehun, also lifting some shopping bags, approaching their store. It doesn’t take her that long to figure out that they’ve been together for a while.
Something in the pit of her gut twists.
Something intangible that she can’t put into words.
“Joy, good day!” Irene beams, setting down the bags on the counter. Sehun follows, and they occupy the stools next to each other. “This is Sehun, a friend of mine.”
Joy stands up from the chair, timidly bows her head and waves a hand to the guy. “Nice to meet you.” Sehun returns the gesture with a genial smile.
“Seulgi! I showed him around, and of course, how can I not take him to this kiosk?” Irene relays happily, grinning from ear to ear. She has this look of bliss that Seulgi doesn’t want to be taken off, hoping it stays like that forever. “I thought I’d surprise you a visit.”
“Well, you did,” Seulgi says with a tight smile, eyes peeled on the two.
“It’s cool, you’re actually doing some summer job,” Sehun remarks. He inspects and skims the tiny store.
“Anyway… d-do you guys want to have some blue lemonade?” Seulgi stammers, her thoughts in a disarray.
“Unni, she doesn’t drink lemonade juices, remember?” Joy reminds her.
Irene swallows, shifting her eyes uneasily among the three people.
“Yeah,” Sehun chimes in with a suppressed laugh. “She has this weird trauma that came about when we were nine. It was during summer. We were selling lemonade drinks every afternoon outside her home with our other friends. Just for fun. Then there was this boy—he has a naughty air to him—and for some reason he challenged us to drink half a liter of the juice in 10 seconds, and he’ll pay us quintuple of a glass.
Well, we didn’t really think it was a bad deal, but nobody was willing to do it. The boy was urging us, and doubled his offer—which meant he was gonna bet ten times the price of one tall glass that we were selling. And if you guys don’t know, Irene is a very competitive person,” he stage-whispers at the last comment, and Irene nudges his arm with an elbow, then continues, “So she steps up and accepts the challenge. Well, it was terrible, because five seconds in she chokes, the drink spurted out of her mouth, and she was coughing hard, blood rushed up to her face, and she had a hard time breathing. After that she swore not to have a sip of that drink again.”
“Oh,” Joy mutters in awe, the lower half of her face covered by a hand. She didn’t expect there was an actual tale behind it.
“I totally wanted to forget how dumb that was,” Irene tells them, a bit ashamed, puffing her face.
Seulgi stares at Irene thinking how cute she is being shy, but the latter ducks her head instead of locking gaze with hers. She doesn’t mind, and it was interesting to know the truth about her irrevocable dislike of the lemonade drink. “So, one for you then?” she asks Sehun.
“Alright, let me have a taste of that,” Sehun answers.
Later, after a little more talk, Joy starts telling them that they need to tidy up the stall for closing. Sehun pokes Irene, with a motion of his head that tells her they should go. She advises him to hold on for a moment, and tells him to wait while she talks to Seulgi.
“Okay, I’ll just dip my toes in the water real quick,” Sehun says as he drops the shopping bags on the sand and runs to the shoreline.
“Seulgi,” she calls over, gently. She has been studying Seulgi’s face and it doesn’t seem too pleased at all. The other girl walks over to her. “We’re going… a-and he invited me to a dinner at his house…”
“And you couldn’t say no?” Seulgi asks, with a slight, hardly noticeable bitterness to it.
“We haven’t seen each other in a long time, it’s just a reunion, nothing more. I’m… just—let’s meet tomorrow, okay?” Irene holds out for Seulgi’s arm, and rubs it reassuringly. “He’ll be gone in a few days, and I don’t know when I’ll see him again.”
“Okay,” Seulgi mutters, unsure if she means it.
“We’ll have more time between us, I promise,” Irene assures her, once again.
Seulgi watches her go, shouting the guy’s name, and he tails behind her, bare feet and carrying his shoes together with the paper bags. The sun has began to dip on the horizon, and all she could hope is that tomorrow will be kinder.
“That sucks,” Joy comments, overhearing the two girls while she was stowing things below the counter.
“What do you think of her friend?” Seulgi asks. Somehow, the insecurity seeps in again.
“Him?” Joy puckers her lips, contemplating. “He doesn’t stand a chance.”