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Jiwoo already knew that Sooyoung was particular about kissing.

 

Even before their own personal realizations, the way the older girl reacted to movie climaxes and drama scenes was enough evidence on its own. She didn’t consider herself to be a movie buff or drama addict and much less the type of person to get invested in the lives of fictional characters, even going so far as to tease her friends whenever someone’s phone notified them whenever a television show had finally released an episode. If you asked if she had a favourite, she’d even tell you that she didn’t watch enough things to determine one, regardless of the fact that she never seemed to find the need to change the channel if a romantic comedy happened to be playing on the television. But, no matter how corny, forced, or out of place and even at times, cleverly filmed to provide some ambiguity as to whether or not it was actually happening, Sooyoung never failed to add in her own input. She would laugh at the times where it was quite obvious that the actors were reluctant about the filming, sigh and be outwardly critical of the times where there was no build-up or reason for the scene to have taken place, and shameless enough to almost yelp in excitement when the moment was highly anticipated, and in her own words, “about fucking time.”

 

There were plenty of instances where the girl was shushed— or, in Yeojin’s case, told to “shut up unless you had anything nice to say because she’d waited two weeks for this episode to come out because it was delayed for some stupid soccer game and wasn’t about to let someone’s gagging noises dampen her experience,” — when watching television in social settings. Contrary to her, albeit self-proclaimed, “elegant, put together,” appearance, Sooyoung had a small penchant for getting on her friends’ nerves. It was almost as if she longed for the frustrated comments left on her Instagram posts complaining about how she “always chooses the pictures where everyone looks clapped except her,” if her replies consisting of ten laughing emojis were of any indication. She made fun of kissing scenes to the same extent that she made fun of the people she chose to surround herself with, all the while looking “as breath-taking as she is annoying,” according to Jinsol.

 

Many would find that gap between her appearance and personality to be confusing— Jiwoo, of course, would happen to know that feeling best. Their first meeting was nothing short of awkward, with Sooyoung, apparently unintentionally as she’d explained later on, throwing a glare in her direction when Haseul introduced the two of them to each other. Jiwoo had spent the rest of the day staring at the ceiling and wondering why the universe lets her interact with other people unsupervised, until Jungeun had explained that “the hoe is socially inept when meeting people for some reason, you’ll hate her eventually, don’t worry.” It took a couple of group hangouts where the two of them were obviously the most distant for some interference to take place and they were somehow the only two of twelve people to show up to an apparent, “group movie theatre outing,” that ended with them having broken down the wall of hesitance when Sooyoung said that Jiwoo had the same ears as the annoying, clearly only designed for comedic relief character in the movie they were watching. Jiwoo was so taken aback that she let out an offended gasp that was so dramatically loud that the people behind them had kicked her seat. Sooyoung had laughed so hard that her seat was kicked twice.

 

From that point on, the two of them had made obnoxious movie watching their “thing.” Jiwoo’s exaggerated reactions to everything and Sooyoung’s tendency to instigate made for a powerful duo, much to the dismay of their group of mutual friends. Nowadays, it was both of them that were told to shut up during collective media screenings, not just the latter. And it was through these complimentary qualities that Jiwoo learned about exactly how critical the girl was when it came to lip locking sequences.

 

 

“Look at the way her nose is hitting his chin,” Sooyoung laughed. Jiwoo, upon finding a mess of illegally burnt superhero movies in one of her younger brother’s rooms, had invited the girl over to have a binge session in the makeshift cinema that her family had put together from a bunch of blankets and a projector. The others had declined the invitation, either due to prior arrangements or admittedly just being too lazy. Sooyoung was annoying, for sure, but she never flaked on plans— even spontaneous ones. You could ask her to meet up for milkshakes at three in the morning and she’d show up. “And wouldn’t the water be going down his nose? Poor guy is gonna drown in the middle of a make-out sesh, what a way to go.”

 

Long past the awkward stage in their friendship, the two had laid comfortably underneath the drapes of the blankets, legs over top one another and a bowl of burnt popcorn between them. The Spiderman Movie from 2002 was being projected onto the cream coloured walls of her basement, Kirsten Dunst’s smiling face slightly discoloured by the arrangement of dust from the beaming light.

 

Jiwoo laughed at her remark, shoving the other girl’s ribs with her elbow. “How dare you say that about one of the most iconic scenes of all time,” she fake scoffed, earning a real scoff in return.

 

“Whatever,” Sooyoung had said, a seemingly bothered remark but a smile still present on her face. She kept her eyes trained onto the image, even when she leaned to rest her head on the younger girl. Jiwoo’s breath had stopped for a split second when the sensation of having a person’s undeservingly soft cheeks press against her shoulder, but it didn’t seem like Sooyoung took any notice.

 

Another thing about Sooyoung was her surprisingly affectionate nature. It was surprising in the sense that you wouldn’t think she’d take to holding her friends’ hands, especially if you consider her snide comments and relentless teasing, but one could say it was one of her most defining traits. Seeing her unanticipatedly on the streets meant that you were being pulled in for a hug whether you liked it or not, and their friend Chaewon had gone as far as to say, “you know, I’m pretty sure your hands end up in my pockets more often than my own hands do,” after Sooyoung had casually hooked a thumb in her back pant pocket, resulting in a flustered squeal from the normally composed girl. Jiwoo was not an exception to these acts, and while she’d get mildly bothered whenever Sooyoung would pull at the skin of her elbow like it was a normal thing that normal people do, she couldn’t say she hated the random back hugs and the surprisingly comforted feeling she’d get when the taller girl would perch her chin on her head. And it wasn’t as if Jiwoo was shy about physical affection either, anyway.

 

With her head still, Sooyoung had brought up the bowl of popcorn, bringing up the blankets up to their chest as she huddled closer. Her basement was the coolest area of the whole house, meaning that it edged on freezing during the winter months, providing another reason for Jiwoo to avoid the creepy stairway used to get down, giving her temporary surges of confidence whenever she actually managed to go down, as well as making it a hotspot for cuddles and excuses for everyone to come over and make Hyejoo snuggle close to them when she normally wouldn’t dare.

 

Suffice to say, it was one of their friend groups regular hangout destinations, but it’d just been her and Sooyoung for that night.

 

“Say, considering how much you like to whine about kissing scenes, I wanted to ask,” Jiwoo began, having rested her head on Sooyoung's so that the girl’s auburn hair was pressing into her own. Sooyoung looked at her then, still chewing on a handful of kernels, and Jiwoo almost lost the confidence to try and question her about anything upon seeing how the other girl’s eyes reflect the light of the movie so dazzlingly. Then she blinked, raising an eyebrow, and Jiwoo was abruptly brought back to her own senses.

 

“Like, are you going to speak?” Sooyoung laughed again.

 

“I wanted to ask if you’ve even actually kissed someone,” Jiwoo said in a single breath, her own cheeks pressed against Sooyoung's head, and an inexplicable festering of anticipation beginning to become apparent in her stomach.

 

The question lingered in the air.

 

“… I haven’t,” Sooyoung responded after some time, and the festering in her stomach calmed down.

 

Jiwoo hummed passively in response, unsure of how she would have reacted if the only other answer had been what the girl said. Admittedly, she wasn’t even sure how to react to the answer that was actually given. This revelation meant a couple of things for her; one, that she didn’t need to feel bad that she hadn’t had her first kiss if the prettiest girl she knew hadn’t even had hers, and two, that she just admitted to finding Sooyoung to be the prettiest girl she knows, even if it was just in her own thoughts. Even when doing something as mundane as checking for notifications, even if it was past midnight and her hair was disheveled and makeup long worn out, and even if she could only be seen under the shadows of the blanket through the reflection of the movie and now a dimly lit phone, Jiwoo thought she looked beautiful.

 

Nudging her out of her trance, Sooyoung held up her phone in front of them. She had the camera facing them, with a filter on— and as tempting as it was to be corny and tell her that she didn’t need a filter to look good, she didn’t— and Jiwoo readied herself by bringing a peace sign up. The photo was grainy, but dark enough that any skin blemishes or under eye circles seemed to be missing, so naturally, Jiwoo was about to ask her to send it to her when Sooyoung tapped on the pencil tool and started writing something.

 

‘Good night, streaks?’   Really?” Jiwoo couldn’t believe her eyes as she watched Sooyoung select the handful of Snapchat usernames that had a numbered fire emoji next to it. Since she was included in that list— they were going on day 103, if you were curious— she didn’t have to ask her to send the picture anymore, but was admittedly put off by the sloppy lettering that went strategically across their foreheads.

 

“I almost forgot to do them, okay? Just be glad I didn’t send an ’s’ on a black screen,” Sooyoung said, finishing off the last couple of contacts and sending them before shutting her phone off and putting it away. You’d think that she wouldn’t want to partake in some useless millennial activity that was obviously manipulating them by making it as if these numbers would define your relationships— such is the concept of Snapchat streaks— but Sooyoung was only human. And it’s not like Jiwoo would complain about waking up to a picture of her in bed every morning, anyway. “Also, you didn’t tell me.”

 

“Hmm?” Jiwoo blinked.

 

“If you’ve had your first kiss, yet.” Sooyoung looks at her as if it were obvious, and while Jiwoo very much remembers that Sooyoung did not explicitly ask her that question, she guesses that her own answer should’ve been included since the other girl had so bravely told hers.

 

“… Uh, does family count?” She smiles sheepishly, an indirect response but an answer nevertheless.

 

Sooyoung rolls her eyes, shoving another handful of popcorn into her mouth, mumbling an “of course not, dumbass,” as she looks back at the movie.

 

They watch the rest of the film in a comfortable silence, Sooyoung's head still on Jiwoo’s shoulder and Jiwoo’s head on hers. While the warmth on her shoulder is missed once the older girl lifts it up as she finishes the rest of the popcorn, the cramp in her neck curses Jiwoo for prioritizing someone else’s comfort over her own. She rubs under her ear, hoping for the pain to subside, and also hoping that Sooyoung doesn’t notice her troubles because Jiwoo would hate it if she never did it again.

 

Moving forward to shut the projector off as Sooyoung brushes the crumbs off the makeshift mattress slash bundle of comforters underneath them, Jiwoo speaks up. “How would you want your first to be like, then? You act like you’re some kind of expert, despite your inexperience.”

 

“Just because I’ve never done it doesn’t I mean I don’t know when it looks bad, ” Sooyoung yawns, getting comfortable underneath the blankets and stretching her legs long enough to drive her foot into Jiwoo’s back, making the girl almost lose balance while holding the very heavy projector, “I think, as long as it’s a good story to tell, I don’t mind how it goes. Even if they aren’t someone important to me.”

 

“What? That’s dumb,” Jiwoo replies, kicking the other girl’s feet as she makes her way to her own spot underneath the blankets. The only thing illuminating the room was the small, penguin shaped night light that she had ever since she was a kid, but she could still see Sooyoung raise her eyebrows at her reply. “It should be with someone special to you, always,” she says, “and anyways, what does ‘a good story’ even mean? I sincerely doubt yours will happen with perfectly timed fireworks going off in the background.”

 

“See, you’re even pickier than I am,” she laughs, turning her body to face Jiwoo’s, their faces on their respective pillows but close enough for them to feel it when the other girl exhales. Being in close proximity wasn’t uncommon for them, being as comfortable as it was with all their other friends, so Jiwoo didn’t become immediately embarrassed as one would expect. What did, however, throw her off, was Sooyoung taking an obvious glance at her lips, and then smirking.

 

“What the hell is that look for? Ugh,” Jiwoo rolled her eyes, not acknowledging the pounds in her chest. It took all her willpower and then some to stop herself from breaking eye contact, because she knew all too well where her eyes would end up otherwise.

 

“Don’t you want to get it over with, though?” Sooyoung asked, as innocently as one with seemingly obvious malicious intentions could.

 

“It’s bold of you to assume that you’re someone special to me,” Jiwoo lies through her toothy smile, the pounding beginning to threaten to break out of her chest completely.

 

She anticipated Sooyoung's offended gasp— the girl could be as dramatic as herself sometimes, after all— but, what she wasn’t anticipating, was the tension that would follow afterwards.

 

After a dry laugh, Sooyoung had turned her body around, away from Jiwoo. Normally, Sooyoung hated staying quiet after having her pride hurt, and often times, one off-handed, well meaning insult would result in a battle of who could think of the more clever way to offend the other person, that usually ended with someone admitting to their loss. Jiwoo didn’t win often against her, her sentences often petering out to something like, “yeah, well you… your hair is black, what’s up with that?” So, as much as she knew this was a rare opportunity to gloat, something seemed wrong with Sooyoung going down without a fight.

 

Cautiously, she moved closer to the quiet girl and got up onto her knees, and then peered over Sooyoung's shoulder to see if she’d fallen asleep. The older girl was clearly awake, a blatant pout pressing against the pillow.

 

“Oh, my god, Sooyoung, you’re so annoying,” Jiwoo laughed exasperatedly as she made the girl roll over onto her back. Sooyoung frowned animatedly at her, and Jiwoo wanted to believe that the hurt in her eyes was over genuinely being upset at the prospect of her not being important to her, but the idea made her chest ache too much for her to handle.

 

Then again, seeing Sooyoung look so sad hurt too.

 

And, apparently, the desire to make her feel better overpowered the strength of her super-ego (which was telling her that she’s about to do something stupid, again ) enough that her id (which was now realizing just how cute Sooyoung’s nose was) took the reins of action instead, as she leaned in to plant a kiss on Sooyoung's lips.

 

It was a quick peck— leaving little room for error. Yet, it was enough for Jiwoo to feel what it was like to have your nose brush against another’s cheek— enough for her to feel Sooyoung’s low gasp feel warm against her mouth. The fact that they held similarly shaped smiles grew apparent when it seemed as if they met each other perfectly, and perhaps it was just the greasy butter from the popcorn but Jiwoo could have sworn that her lips melted into her own.

 

It wasn’t long before Jiwoo’s ego (which was about as surprised as she was) started tapping her on the shoulder, making her eyes widen as she mentally took a step back and looked at the situation at hand. “Uh.”

 

“Wow. Uh. This won’t make for an interesting story at all,” Sooyoung said with a smile, right before Jiwoo could start freaking out over what just happened.

 

So, instead of freaking out, Jiwoo defensively stuck out her tongue. “Are you kidding? Blanket fort, movie night, one person challenging the other— I think that makes it pretty good.”

 

“Fine, it’s a 7 out of 10, but only because it was a first kiss. That’s a trope, too,” Sooyoung continued the playful analysis, her laugh a little groggy from sleepiness.

 

 

Neither of them mentioned it in the morning. Jiwoo even entertained the possibility of Sooyoung having forgotten it happened in the first place.

 

But, when they met up later with their friends and Hyunjin made a joke about how Yeojin would get her first kiss before the rest of them would, she felt a familiar hand fall over hers and knew that probably wasn’t the case.

 

 

It only took Jiwoo about three weeks into studying for exams to realize that taking the time to colour code all the titles, headlines, and side doodles was not efficient when you consider the material you could be learning instead with that wasted effort. The realization sobered her considerably, to the point where instead of choosing option (A), where she would henceforth stop colour coding and start using her time effectively, or even option (B), where she would stubbornly persist on colour coding because she truly believed that she’d only be motivated to look at her notes if they were aesthetically pleasing, she went with option (C), which was moping on her bed and playing iPhone games for hours on end.

 

She supposed that blaming Yerim for her predicament was the rational thing to do, since it was her that had gotten her obsessed with stationery to begin with. With her notebooks having been untouched for a good half an hour, she tapped out of the cookie collecting game she’d been playing and hit the Messenger application, selecting her most recent conversation.

 

12:32pm—

CHOERRWY: i still have that pic of her looking in jungeun’s bra drawer ngl

4:12pm—

uwu’o’clock: girl i hate you. the mildliners have ruined me T_T

CHOERRWY: stop blaming me for ur own disciplinary issues

CHOERRWY: i have a 12k follower studygram to run

CHOERRWY: also give me back my teal I NEED HER BACK

 

Finding that her pleads were a good place to leave the girl on read, Jiwoo threw her phone down next to her and sighed towards the ceiling. Exams began the next day, and she just couldn’t find any incentive to sit up at her desk. Like, grades were important and unfortunately the deciding factor in terms of whether or not she’ll actually have a livable future or not, but even that didn’t seem to motivate her. She was too used to lazing about in her room, and how could she resist the invitation of her grotesquely thick, KAKAO Friends comforter that was always beckoning for her to come and lie down when she wasn’t.

 

There was always the option of going out and studying elsewhere, but she’d been temporarily banned from attending the group study outings for having distracted Jinsol enough for the girl to get one point below the passing grade. Jinsol had defended Jiwoo’s case by saying it was her own fault for getting distracted and that it should be her getting the boot, and Haseul had replied, “Oh, you think you aren’t? As if the rest of us haven’t already set up an extensive, personal study session with one of the scary graduates from last year?”

 

In any case, another half hour had passed before Jiwoo had finally mustered up the energy to stand up from her bed, and another before she stopped drawing fat penguins on the corners of her pages. Engines need time to warm up to do their best, she would tell herself, despite knowing full well that even once she started studying she’d be putting a hefty 40% of her energy trying to learn and the other 60% just trying to not not study. Motivation fleeted quite easily for her, and no matter how many inspiring Pinterest study notes she would look at, Yerim was right— it was her discipline that was the issue.

 

She was about to open her textbook when a text notification took her by surprise.

 

5:15pm—

ha sooyves: lets hang after your exam tmr?

ha sooyves: i found a new chicken place hehe

 

And just like that, an incentive had appeared.

 

kim jichuu: YES

kim jichuu: OMG YES PLSSSZZ

ha sooyves: ok! study hard then <3

 

Just to prove to herself that she was about to start “studying hard” as Sooyoung had told her to, Jiwoo barged into her brother’s room, and threw her phone at him. She then said to hide it from her until she was done studying, he groaned in compliance, and she skipped back to her desk.

 

Whether it be from the promise of chicken, the prospect of hanging out with Sooyoung, or the heart emoji that was tacked onto her message, this spurt of motivation seemed to be enough to keep her focused long enough to cover over three-fourths of the material in just a couple of hours. She decided to take a short break, and while disappointed that her hand found nothing when it reached over to grab her device from its usual spot, she figured it was for the best anyway. She looked at the digital clock on her dresser, and began timing a five minute stop.

 

Leaning back in her chair, Jiwoo began to balance a pen on her upper lip— a useless skill that she’d mastered in lectures and tests during windows of time where she’d just straight up blank out after reading the first question— and decided to address the elephant in the room. Or the one in her brain. The relentlessly present elephant that was taking up maybe 87% of her thoughts and yet she refused to acknowledge it even though it was very much there and very, very loud. The elephant whose cries got louder when a certain someone was around, whose cries were loud even when that certain someone wasn’t there and whose cries were so, so painfully loud that Jiwoo thought a migraine had formed whenever that certain someone would stand a little too close, their hands travel a little too far, or, god forbid, pucker their lips towards her when she’d walk by in the halls as if Sooyoung made it her job to make her flustered and trip over nothing.

 

It was Sooyoung. The elephant was Jiwoo’s terribly suppressed feelings for Sooyoung.

 

She couldn’t pinpoint exactly when that elephant had been born, maybe it was before they kissed, maybe it was during, maybe even after, it didn’t really matter to her. What did matter to her was the fact that Sooyoung and her, had, in fact, actually kissed , and even weeks after the incident, Jiwoo still felt her face grow hot at the memory. The thing was, Sooyoung still hadn’t outwardly addressed it either. Neither of them had. Sure, she always had thrown a smirk in Jiwoo’s direction when the topic of kissing was brought up in discussions, and sometimes she’d blow directly into Jiwoo’s ears at the movie theatre whenever a kiss scene was playing, and, sure, maybe the only reason she was this embarrassed was because she’d been the one to initiate despite having the courage of a cowardly duckling who’d refuse to jump into the water even as her siblings and mother swam away. But, at that moment, she did jump— and she wondered if the painful teasing and swelling feelings inside her chest that had arrived as a result of it were actually worth the trouble.

 

(Of course it was worth it, who was she kidding?)

 

The pen dropped to the floor as she leaned forward, realizing that she’d spent a whole seven minutes thinking about that stupid elephant, and forced herself to go back to work.

 

Now, it wasn’t exactly part of her plan to stay up the whole night going over her notes, but one thing led to another and suddenly birds were chirping and the sun began to peek through her blinds. She hadn’t even noticed her brother come in and drop her phone on her desk, having had headphones on and been so absorbed in summarizing the last couple of topics in time to leave room for revision, and when she thought that just maybe she had a few minutes to spare to actually get some sleep, Jiwoo realized that there was now the potential of being late to school.

 

She practically jumped out of her pyjamas, thankful to her mother for letting her eat breakfast in her room to save her some time as she put her school uniform on. Upon taking a glance at her vanity, she saw that her dark circles had decided to greet her a good morning. Jiwoo was tempted to just call it a day with how she looked, but ended up patting some concealer down. She figured she’d have enough time to fix herself up properly after the exam, anyway.

 

Her family wished her luck as she jogged out of the house, barely making it on time for her usual bus ride. The driver laughed as she tried catching her breath, weakly holding up her bus pass.

 

“Wow, okay, you’re fried,” Heejin said, as Jiwoo nearly collapsed into the seat next to her. They were a year apart in grades, but lived close enough for their commute to have been the same for a good while now. She breathed against the coldness of the seat bars in front of them, Heejin wordlessly fixing Jiwoo’s sloppily tied ribbon and closing her unzipped school bag.

 

“I… I studied all night,” Jiwoo confessed, almost sighing in relief as she moved her face so that the cold bar was pressing against her tired eyes.

 

Heejin looked at her. “You? Kim Jiwoo? Studying for more than ten minutes?”

 

“I know, I’m surprised, too.”

 

She felt Heejin lift her head off of the bar, shifting her so that her head was leaning on the younger girl’s shoulder. Heejin was like Sooyoung in the sense that teasing and affection came hand in hand, but since Jiwoo was older, the girl wasn’t nearly as relentless.

 

“Just sleep for a little, I’ll force Hyunjin to buy you an iced coffee. She lives right by the school, so,” Heejin promised, and Jiwoo let herself fall asleep.

 

While it definitely had cursed her bladder, making Jiwoo take three bathroom breaks and one which was just a false alarm but still a good waste of two minutes, the iced coffee provided her enough energy to get through the exam with open eyes. The wonders of caffeine even managed to clear up her foggy brain and she was able to recall a lot of the notes and information that she’d force-fed herself the night before, and for the first time in a while, she didn’t write, “sorry :(“ at the end of her answers to excuse whatever result was waiting for her.

 

She even managed to finish a little earlier than her other classmates, and while that did mean she had to stay back at her desk and wait for them to finish before she could leave, she was proud of herself.

 

Proud enough to let herself making the mistake of closing her eyes.

 

Perhaps it was because neither her classmates nor teacher didn’t bother to try and wake her up, maybe they were too polite to be a bother, or maybe they tried and her fatigue had really knocked her out cold, but when Jiwoo came to, the room had been cleared out completely.

 

Well, not completely.

 

Sooyoung was sitting in front of her desk, golden hour making her already heavenly features look ethereal.

 

Apparently, Sooyoung was so absorbed in her phone that she hadn’t noticed her stir, so Jiwoo quietly raised her head. Only then did she realize that the golden hour lighting was a result of it actually being golden hour, meaning that the sun was beginning to set, meaning that Jiwoo had likely been asleep for hours and that she’d made plans with Sooyoung and yet made her wait and that she never even got to fix her makeup and that—

 

“Jiwoo,” Sooyoung’s voice brought her back from her spiralling thoughts, and then Jiwoo started thinking about how nice it sounded when the other girl said her name. Then , she started thinking about how maybe it only sounded nice because the other girl had a nice voice to begin with, and then, she started thinking about how her voice wasn’t the only nice thing about her and then—

 

— and then Sooyoung cupped her cheek and leaned forward, and then all Jiwoo could think about was how nice her lips felt against her own.

 

It lasted a split second longer than the last one they shared, which was enough time for Jiwoo to actually register the situation and pull back in shock.

 

“Ugh— S-Sooyoung…What—...” was all that Jiwoo could stammer out between her fingers as she covered her flustered face, and even the elephant seemed to be too surprised to screech. In fact, her brain went completely blank. It was probably due to the exponentially increasing pace of her heartbeat that was demanding most of Jiwoo’s inner workings, but even that came to a halt when she heard a warm laugh come from the girl in front of her.

 

“Oh my god, Jiwoo, your reactions are always so priceless,” Sooyoung continued laughing, prying Jiwoo’s hands away from her face to get a good look at the blushing mess before her. “I’m sorry, everything was just too perfect. The dramatic lighting, your glinting eyes, like, I had to! It made too much sense!”

 

“None of that made sense,” Jiwoo thought to herself, the ghost of Sooyoung’s lips still present on her own. She frowned at the other girl, who returned the expression with a cheeky smile of her own. It was almost as if she knew that Jiwoo would do anything for that smile. “You’re really such a pain,” she says, finally letting her own grin come out.

 

“You love me.”

 

“More than you could ever know,” Jiwoo thought again, sighing inwardly as she started to collect her belongings. She pauses for a moment, then looks cheekily up towards the seated girl.

 

Sooyoung noticed. “Hm?”

 

“6 out of 10,” Jiwoo states, Sooyoung taking a moment to understand what the numbers meant and then immediately gaping her mouth in defense, “the timing was off, you rushed into it and my nose got squished. Who cares how pretty it looks when the technique sucks?”

 

Rolling her eyes as loud as she could, Sooyoung laughed mockingly as she picked up Jiwoo’s bags and headed for the door.

 

 

It being Vivi’s birthday called for a rather large occasion for a number of reasons; one, because they’d only met her recently and earnestly believed that, “they had to make up for the birthday parties that they didn’t get to throw her before,” two, that the story about how she’d faked being bad at rollerskating to finesse a man for a meal when she was hungry despite working at a skate rental was true and manager confirmed, and three, that the girl would just have to deal with having another s weet 16 because all the other candle numbers were sold out and their poor planning skills had left them with no other option.

 

On par with her typically clumsy disposition, Jiwoo, unfortunately, did not happen to be magically gifted on rollerblades like she was hoping for. She wasn’t exactly surprised, but it was surely embarrassing to have Yeojin darting around the arena and mocking the inexperienced. Jinsol was also especially irritating, for when she happens to be good at something, or even just be a tiny bit better than everyone else, she goes out of her way to let the rest of the world know. Fortunately, however, she was not the only one incapable on wheels, as Hyejoo, Jungeun and herself had been hanging on to each other for their poor lives’ as they edged around the sides of the rink. Chaewon had been accompanying them earlier, but had gotten pissed off enough that she channelled her frustration and turned it into drive, improving fast enough to only fall down every couple of minutes. Haseul was also pretty bad, but she’d excused herself a while ago to go pick up the cake.

 

Heejin and Hyunjin had been racing each other, betting that whoever could do ten laps the fastest would have the other treat them to dessert. Yerim was enthusiastically on time duty, somehow simultaneously cheering and booing both of the contenders. It wasn’t clear who was winning, even if Hyunjin looked like she was betting on her life and Heejin looking like she was having fun just being there, the two were neck at neck, and one could probably bet that Yerim didn’t really know what lap they were on either.

 

Needing to replenish what little stamina she had, Jiwoo unlinked her arm from Hyejoo and slid her way over to the exit, waddling over to one of the benches. She began unlacing her skates, as she’d intended to go over to the water fountain and hydrate her parched lips, when suddenly a cold, wet bottle was pressed onto the back of her neck.

 

“Agh!” She recoiled, looking back to see who the perpetrator was and simultaneously hitching her breath.

 

“You’re done, already? What a waste,” Sooyoung smiled at her, uncapping the water bottle and taking a sip. Jiwoo was too tired to research pond right away, but managed to muster the energy and roll her eyes.

 

“I was doing my best,” Jiwoo pouted at her, and she doesn’t know if the water went down the wrong pipe or whatever, but Sooyoung started coughing. Jiwoo was about to propose her concern but the girl turned to face the other way and dismissively waved her hand.

 

“I’m sure that you did,” she said, after a short hacking fit. “Wow, I almost just died.”

 

“Please, try not to. I don’t want to be held responsible,” Jiwoo laughed at her, “but, like, seriously, you okay?”

 

Sooyoung looked at her then, putting down her drink.

 

Being able to decipher expressions wasn’t exactly Jiwoo’s forte, but even if it was, she’d know that Sooyoung would never be an easy solve. Not everyone could be as animated as, say, Jinsol, whose eyebrows probably had personalities of their own, or as shameless as, say, Hyunjin, who seemed to have no filter and had no problem confronting those twice her size if they crossed her, even if she would regret it later. Sooyoung’s smiling face could either mean she was seething with anger, trying to hide embarrassment, or actually reflective of that expression and be expressing her content. Her frowning face could also mean that she was seething with anger, trying to hide embarrassment, or be reflective and mean that she’s upset. Anyone’s guess was as to what the tight jaw and slow blinking meant for Sooyoung was good as hers.

 

In any case, Jiwoo wasn’t sure what she was waiting for when the quiet moment dragged on for a couple of quick seconds— but it certainly wasn’t Jungeun coming from behind them and pressing two cold, wet bottles against Sooyoung’s exposed midriff.

 

“Holy shit, Jung—“ Sooyoung groaned, shoving the thoroughly entertained blonde away into the table behind her.

 

“I saw what you did to Jiwoo,” Jungeun said, threatening to press the bottles on her body again and Sooyoung swatting her attempts away, “and I am offended that you came to bully her without inviting me.”

 

“My bad, I forgot to mass send the e-mail again,” Sooyoung managed to grab one water bottle and drive it towards Jungeun’s body, “Jiwoo and I were about to have an 8 out of 10 moment, but your mutt face showed up and ruined everything.”

 

“Yeah, no idea what you just said, but I don’t care,” Jungeun strolls away, leaving the two girls alone again, much to the dismay of Jiwoo’s ever increasing heart beat, “and Sooyoung, Haseul asked for you to go outside and help bring stuff in.”

 

“Ah, okay,” Sooyoung blinks, then turns to face Jiwoo, “I’ll be there in a sec’.”

 

“8 out of 10?” Jiwoo repeats back to her, her arms coming crossed in front of her chest, her heart talking more than her brain right now. “Really, now? That’s tough, we don’t have the ‘first kiss’ trope to ride on for points, you know.”

 

“You shouldn’t underestimate the potential cliche power of roller skating, Jiwooming,” Sooyoung says, while handing over the water bottle that she’d drank from over to Jiwoo. “Picture this; a romantic track could start playing over the speakers, and, despite my dashing looks and your kicked puppy-like pout, we’d somehow end up being the only ones who haven’t paired up with someone.”

 

“Yeah, I really can’t tell if that was a compliment or not,” Jiwoo interrupts.

 

“Naturally, we gravitate towards each other and perform a routine with pirouettes and flips without having ever practiced, and, while we’re staring into each other’s eyes, get a standing ovation at the end. We don’t do it at that moment, of course— that’s too predictable. Instead, we have milkshakes at a nearby diner, and we end the night in my sports car where you tell me you’ve wanted to do something all day, and since I am so charitable, I let you kiss me from the passenger seat.”

 

Dumbfounded at the detail that Sooyoung has put into this imaginary scenario, Jiwoo can’t help but laugh at the bizarreness of it. “Okay, first of all, you can’t even drive and if you could I know you’d be borrowing your mom’s minivan, and second, you’d be the one who wanted to kiss me and my pouting kicked puppy face all day.”

 

Sooyoung smiles, before taking her leave. “Hey, maybe you’re right,” she says. “Just maybe.”

 

 

Jiwoo managed to avoid thinking about it.

 

It was hard, especially when the elephant made a friend somehow and there were now two elephants stomping around her brain.

 

While the first elephant continued to toot its horn whenever Sooyoung showed up, this new elephant had a constant trumpet buzzing in her mind. It never really quieted down, only growing exponentially louder when Jiwoo found Sooyoung looking at her before she did, or when Sooyoung would wordlessly put her arm around Jiwoo’s shoulders even when they weren’t talking, and especially when Sooyoung said that she liked brunettes when asked whether she liked people with black hair or blonde hair better— yeah, that kept Jiwoo up for six hours straight. The new elephant littered her thoughts with, “what if’s,” and, “maybe, just maybe’s, ” as if the other elephant wasn’t already annoying enough.

 

But, still. Jiwoo didn’t like getting her hopes up too much.

 

 

Suddenly, it’s New Year’s Eve.

 

Haseul had organized a get-together at her parents’ house, who’d trusted her enough to leave her alone during the holiday as they went on a joint business trip to some country that was probably a lot warmer than here. Their schedules had been hectic lately, the year-end being a prime time for consecutive work shifts and weather inclement enough to warrant everyone staying in the comfort of their own homes. This was even despite the fact that their classes had been on break. Jiwoo had spent Christmas with her family as per tradition, so they’d allowed her to go off and do her own thing with the others for New Year’s. She’d received a good handful of gifts, and, as gratitude, would definitely make her think twice before shrieking loudly by herself and ultimately scaring anyone else home. Perhaps they even treated her to movie coupons solely due to that fact in order to keep her out of the house, but if that was the case, it was never explicitly stated.

 

Whatever it was, being able to spend some time with all her friends already determined that Jiwoo was in for a good night. But, since Haseul’s house was too far to get a good view of any night sky events, the dozen of them made their way over to the closest temple. The air was cold, though the place was crowded and the excited, anticipative energy emitting from everyone almost provided a distraction from the weather. It wasn’t distracting enough for Jiwoo to stop her teeth from chattering and her hands from shoving themselves into Hyejoo’s huge scarf, much to her dismay. Chaewon also followed suit, and it was only when Yerim decided to join the party that Hyejoo just gave up and extended her scarf to wrap around all four of them. The shorter girls surrounded the taller one and, at that moment, it seemed like the cold didn’t really matter— until Jinsol ran over and blew her nose into it, effectively making her the only one warm since no one else wanted to wear the snot covered fabric.

 

Both too short to get a good look over the tall crowd, Yeojin and Haseul combined to reach a whopping height of 6’8”— with Yeojin being the eyes and Haseul still unable to see and complaining from underneath. They bickered about when Haseul would get her turn on top, and Yeojin was almost thrown to the ground when she told her that she’d just describe everything to her like those closed captioning videos. At this point, Vivi was offering to take Yeojin off her shoulders to ease the tension, but Haseul stubbornly insisted that she’d be the youngest girl’s legs for the rest of the night— her intention to turn away from the fireworks as soon as they started so that Yeojin would have to crane her neck to see them as clear as day.

 

As midnight approaches, Jiwoo pauses for a minute to take in her surroundings and reflect on her past year. She understood the concept that time was fleeting and never stopped and that there were so many moments throughout these months that she thought would last forever and yet, there she was, living through another couple of minutes that would soon be gone. The notion scared her, initially, but she eventually realized that there wasn’t a lot she could do but accept it. It was because of the notion that she ended up starting a diary, and while, admittedly, it was hard to get into the habit of doing daily entries, having an emotional outlet as well as a way to immortalize those passing moments. Her first few entries lacked a little depth, as if she was writing under the impression that someone would read them and she wasn’t sure if she was ready to present herself in such a vulnerable way to anyone yet, but the more she wrote, the easier it became. She’d document things that ranged from the meals she had that day, to weird things she saw out of the window during her commute to school, to, put simply, how she was feeling.

 

(And, yes, she’d write about the kisses.)

 

The people around her were glancing at their phones, which indicated that there were only a couple minutes to go. Her own nervous excitement was starting to show its prominence, as well as the many glasses of water she had back during Haseul’s dinner, so Jiwoo decided she’d take a quick bathroom break and began to skip over to where she believed the stalls were.

 

She’d only travelled three hops away before she felt a sudden grasp on her wrist.

 

“Where are you going?” Sooyoung said, her breath visible in the air.

 

The two of them weren’t purposefully ignoring each other up to this point— as far as she knew, anyway— but with so many other best friends, that were just as important to Jiwoo even if the exact feelings were different, it couldn’t be helped if their time together wasn’t evenly distributed.  She’d been spending most of the night at Haseul’s with the younger girls, who’d been trying to make cupcakes for the rest of them but failed in the end when Chaewon mistook flour for baking powder, while Sooyoung had been playing Scrabble or some similar board game in the basement with the others. Of course, they greeted each other upon crossing paths but it was only now did it seem like they had time to themselves.

 

“Washroom. I’ll be quick, though. I’m fast,” Jiwoo couldn’t help but press her mittens against the taller girl’s ears as she noticed the red tint to her cheeks.

 

Sooyoung let her face become enveloped by Jiwoo’s hands, bringing her own up to pinch the other girl’s nose. “Hm? Are you fast because you skip out on washing your hands?”

 

“Haha, very funny,” Jiwoo pressed Sooyoung’s cheeks together, squishing her lips forward and then pushing her face away from her. Sooyoung laughed, and then Jiwoo suddenly felt extremely regretful that she’d put some distance between the two of them. “Come with me! I don’t want to get lost.”

 

Sooyoung seemed to looked past her shoulders, and even Jiwoo knew that the bathroom stalls were within the forest but the path to get there was clear enough that even Haseul would let Yeojin go on her own. But, it was cold and all the excitement around her made Jiwoo’s already high adrenaline levels a force to be reckoned with, so you could say that she was thinking as clearly as she always does; not too much at all.

 

“I’m not about to wipe your ass for you, if that’s what you’re hoping for,” Sooyoung finally says, allowing Jiwoo to lock their arms together and drag her up the hill.

 

“I could never do that to our poor elders,” Jiwoo nuzzled her forehead against Sooyoung’s jacket in attempt to steal some of her warmth, the noise around them subduing as they strayed farther away from the crowd. There were a couple of people using the path, but they were scurrying past them and paying no mind to the two girls taking their sweet time to go up. Sooyoung shoved her in response, hard enough to make the younger girl lose her footing, but not enough that Sooyoung couldn’t pull Jiwoo back to her side and restore her balance. They laughed amongst themselves as they began some sort of harsh nudging competition, but no matter how hard one would push the other away, they’d always pull them close right after— so when Jiwoo actually toppled forward after tripping over some roots, Sooyoung had pulled her into her chest so tightly that Jiwoo’s nose was snug against the under area of Sooyoung’s jawline.

 

With a couple minutes to spare, Jiwoo finished her business in the cold, unconventionally located bathroom stall. She called out from inside to ensure that the older girl would, in fact, hear her turn the tap water on and diligently wash her hands, and further drove the evidence home by walking out and using Sooyoung’s coat to dry them off.

 

“Hey! You know this was expensive,” Sooyoung whined, trying to salvage the fabric of her brand name jacket that she’d bought on a shopping trip with the younger girl who clearly did not care about its price, “I’m making you pay for it if it gets ruined, and, yes, I know you’re broke.”

 

Jiwoo didn’t consider herself to be broke or anything. It was more of the fact that she was one of the people in her friend group who didn’t have a part-time job during holidays— despite being of age and supposedly having the time as well. The fact only really began to bother her when Heejin and Hyunjin got jobs the summer after they were old enough, when she was still asking her parents for money whenever she wanted to go hangout with her friends. Upon the announcement, Jiwoo stated that it would only be Yeojin getting a job that would actually make her feel ashamed, and the latter had actually been waiting to tell everyone about how she’d starting helping out her uncle’s restaurant.

 

Either way, it was only water and Jiwoo knew that Sooyoung was never serious with her threats.

 

At that moment, Jiwoo checked her phone, only to be greeted with a sequence of numbers that told her she’d better start sprinting back if she didn’t want a barrage of texts reprimanding her for missing the countdown. It took her a hot second to realize that, as well as another for the chants to start being belted down the hill.

 

“THIRTY! TWENTY-NINE!”

 

Sooyoung, much quicker with her reflexes, took Jiwoo’s phone from her hand and replaced it with her own, sloppily interlocking their fingers as she attempted to lead her back down to the crowd. Taken by surprise, Jiwoo, of course, loses her balance and falls forward.

 

“TWENTY-SEVEN! TWENTY-SIX!”

 

Jiwoo nods quickly as Sooyoung’s eyes narrow in concern, and she dusts the snow off of herself as she stands up as fast as she can. With constant turns of the head, Sooyoung starts making her way towards the dip in the path, and Jiwoo wants to tell her to stop worrying but finds it hard to between breaths.

 

“TWENTY! NINE-TEEN!”   

 

They’ve barely made it a third-down the way when it’s Sooyoung that trips, having overestimated how well her heeled boots could fare against the beaten down, potentially icy pathway. Sooyoung curses loud enough for Jiwoo to hear, who is doing her best to prop her back up onto her feet. Both of their phones had fallen out of Sooyoung’s jacket but the both of them find themselves to be much too occupied to check for any damage, so Jiwoo just picks them up from the snow and shoves them back inside.

 

“FIFTEEN! FOURTEEN!”

 

They’ve made it half-way down but the crowd still seems so far away.

 

“THIRTEEN! TWELVE!”

 

And Sooyoung looks like she’s about to kill Jiwoo for pulling back and stopping her from running farther.

 

“TEN! NINE!”

 

Dragged off the path and into the light of decorated pine trees, Jiwoo’s breath is racing much more than a mile a minute, and it’s hard to see Sooyoung’s face but Jiwoo already knows it by heart, anyway. Sooyoung mouths something, and even despite her larger than average ears, Jiwoo couldn’t hear it through the yelling from below, the ringing in her ears and especially not through the pounding coming from her chest. Hell, she could barely even raise her eyes to look at the taller girl, instead training her eyes on the buttons of her jacket as the magnitude of the situation ran towards her.

 

“SEVEN! SIX!”

 

Jiwoo looks up, finally, and meets Sooyoung’s disoriented expression. The taller girl tries saying something again, and while Jiwoo has way too many things going through her head to try and listen, she manages to decipher one thing, her name.

 

“Jiwoo, I—“

 

Still, Jiwoo is too preoccupied to learn how to read lips and, to begin with, it was impossible to think about anything other than what she was about to do.

 

“THREE! TWO!”

 

The chants had grown loud enough to deafen Jiwoo’s ears at this point.

 

“—ONE!”

 

Letting go of their hands to grab hold of the girl’s jacket collar instead, the fireworks had given her a split second to catch a glimpse of Sooyoung’s illuminated face before Jiwoo stood on her toes and closed the distance between them.

 

She took refuge from the cold in the warmth of Sooyoung’s lips— which were unfairly soft when most would be chapped, Jiwoo noted.

 

Jiwoo had closed her eyes, too afraid to see Sooyoung’s expression, and she was about to pull away when she felt arms wrap around her back and pull her forward. It wasn’t unfamiliar, Sooyoung liked hugs and receiving them from her didn’t automatically mean you were someone important, but Jiwoo melted in her grasp as if she’d never been held like that before in her life. Neither of them pulled back for a long while, lasting the duration of the cheers from below that seemed to be going on forever, and even when they did, Sooyoung still held her close.

 

“Perfectly timed,” Jiwoo breathed out, trying to stay composed as the fireworks continued to explode overtop them.

 

“Yeah,” Sooyoung laughed, her nose against Jiwoo’s hair, “sure, I’ll give it a 9.”

 

Shocked to her senses by the imperfect score, Jiwoo shoved Sooyoung forward— but still gripped onto her coat, as if she was afraid to let go. “How?! The countdown made for a perfect buildup, shorter person makes taller person lean in, and, sure, the fireworks were corny but it’s not like we looked up and saw a mistletoe —“

 

“There were still things left to be desired, Jiwoo,” Sooyoung spoke quite loudly over the booms from both above and below, “for example, it would’ve been nice if my phone didn’t crack its screen.”

 

“What? … Oh—” Jiwoo reached into Sooyoung’s pocket and took hold of the device, taking in the shattered glass and now disoriented lockscreen of the two of them at Disney World, “—wait, Sooyoung, this is my phone. It was my phone screen that cracked.”

 

“... Huh. I guess it’s a 9.5 then.”

 

STILL!?

 

 

Sooyoung kisses her again, a couple of weeks later.

 

The two of them had gotten caught up in a sudden snowstorm, forced to wait inside a god sent bus shelter that they were able to notice from the other side of the road. Jiwoo’s legs were shivering from her choice of foregoing a pair of tights, and she’d been talking about how grateful she was that the bugs couldn’t survive in the cold because she was sure that the blinking streetlight above them would have attracted a swarm, otherwise. Sooyoung, visibly drained from the hours of window shopping they’d done earlier, had mumbled something about her talking too much before leaning in.

 

After muttering about how ‘ it was a 5/10 you’re always such a jerk about these things and I hate it,’ Jiwoo had buried her head in her knees, too flustered to speak.

 

 

Upon finding out that she’d passed her Social Studies exam, a month later, Jiwoo had been so excited that her and Sooyoung’s teeth actually collided against each other when she’d taken initiative and pulled the taller girl’s face in for a kiss.

 

Not yet having found out about Sooyoung’s surprisingly low pain tolerance, Jiwoo was seemingly unaffected. She continued to wave her test results as she skipped around the empty classroom, Sooyoung quietly writhing about the impact that the collision made, blinking back tears.

 

She brings up the incident later that day, stating that it was, as a matter of fact, a 2/10— only giving points for Jiwoo’s study efforts.

 

 

It was a predictable situation on any end, in all honesty, when Yerim pulls out a box of Pepero sticks during a slow lunch period. She even goes so far as to combine the obvious course of action with the snacks with another infamous party game, stating that whoever the bottle lands on will be your lucky partner at the end of your chip. No one really agrees to play, but without much else to do and with Yerim already having forced them into a jagged yet circular formation, there doesn’t seem to be much point for resistance.

 

The instigator adds one more rule, however, saying that anyone is free to volunteer themselves to take the position of any target— so long as the directly affected party agrees.

 

The rule isn’t taken into account right away, as, apparently, no one seems to feel like stopping a potential kiss between a reluctant Yeojin and an even more reluctant Hyunjin. It’s to Jiwoo’s surprise, really, that Heejin did not offer herself as sacrifice since the girl had been venting about her overwhelming feelings towards the latter— who Heejin also referred to as being, ‘ the greatest best friend you could ever ask for, if only she would realize that I keep touching her ass for a reason.’ Then again, Heejin admitted that she often forgets those harbored emotions, having only realized them recently and arguably more used to seeing Hyunjin in a platonic sense— which is a concept that Jiwoo doesn’t understand one bit because it’s almost as if Sooyoung was paying rent given how she’s made a home in Jiwoo’s thoughts.

 

She’s about to give Heejin a knowing elbow to the ribs when her path is smoothly intercepted.

 

“I’m good at this,” Sooyoung tells her, holding a pack of strawberry flavoured sticks; Jiwoo’s thoughts flicker back to the instance where she’d loudly exclaimed that those were her favourite in a crowded corner shop, much to Sooyoung’s embarrassment, but she doubts that there’s a relationship in that. “I could probably do three at once. Let’s bet.”

 

“I’d be surprised if you weren’t good at chewing with those teeth,” Jiwoo says, her eyes glancing towards her favourite teeth in the whole world which belonged to her favourite person in the whole world, and perhaps there’s a relationship there, “but, still, feel free to prove it.”

 

Sooyoung raises a sly brow, before going through with her earlier claim and putting three sticks between her lips, coated side out. Jiwoo leans over and bites a small chunk off— she couldn’t help it, it’s her favourite, after all— and then places her own lips accordingly.

 

“Why the hell did they put three?” Jinsol mumbles next to them, unacknowledged.

 

With her hands settling around Jiwoo’s waist, it’s Sooyoung that moves first. Jiwoo is surprised that the sticks haven’t crumbled, or at least gone off in different directions, since, well, there were three of them, but maybe Sooyoung wasn’t lying about being good at this. From the way she slowly munched forward— the whole ordeal probably lasting a couple of seconds but it felt like years to Jiwoo— it made it seem this clearly wasn’t the first time she’d done this. That fact should’ve been obvious, really, but the idea of Sooyoung sharing Peperos with someone else made Jiwoo kind of sad so she didn’t want to think about it.

 

To her surprise (maybe disappointment), Sooyoung pulled away after finishing about three quarters of the stick.

 

But, after a quick turn of the head to make sure no one was watching, Sooyoung then pulled the remainders from Jiwoo’s lips and lurched forward to give her possibly the shortest peck ever executed.

 

“Sooyoung, what the heck!” Jiwoo whispered as aggressively as her soft voice could get, her ears growing hot from Sooyoung’s reckless action. They hadn’t even mentioned the kisses to their friends, how were they going to react to them just doing it right in front of their eyes— and so casually, at that!

 

“Chill, no one saw,” Sooyoung shrugged, putting the piece that was in Jiwoo’s mouth into her own and moving over to see what the others were actually focused on; which happened to be pressuring Haseul into playing with Jinsol, who had put six sticks in her mouth, for some reason.

 

“Why are you so relaxed?! Ugh! UGH! ” Jiwoo followed closely, pounding her fists onto Sooyoung’s backside, who looked more amused by the beating more than anything. “You didn’t even let me eat it! I’m giving you a zero, Sooyoung! A zero!

 

 

Sooyoung was playful, Jiwoo knew that. Sooyoung was also extremely prideful and easy to rile up at times, Jiwoo also knew that. Suffice to say, Jiwoo probably should’ve known that ending a light hearted disagreement by shoving her foot into Sooyoung’s shoulder as they sat on the opposing ends of Sooyoung’s bed would’ve resulted in Sooyoung tackling her onto the floor, but Jiwoo still thought she had the right to be a little surprised.

 

“So, you didn’t like the rice cakes that I made for everyone on Monday?” Sooyoung said, trying to pin Jiwoo’s hands onto the floor. “After I put all that effort into it?”

 

“It’s not that I didn’t like your rice cakes, I just brought my own lunch that day!” Jiwoo grumbled, struggling to push against Sooyoung’s grip. She knew Sooyoung was just joking around, but it was hard to rationalize being pinned underneath the girl just to defend her homemade cooking. “Get off!”

 

Sooyoung ignored her plea. “If you don’t like my cooking just say so!”

 

“Ugh, you suck!” Jiwoo whined, giving up on resistance and letting her hands fall to Sooyoung’s grasp. She already knew she didn’t have a chance, Sooyoung was taller and bigger and stronger and sexier— well. Well, Jiwoo just wasn’t much of a fighter, anyway.

 

“What was that?” Sooyoung laughed, her attempts at sounding angry crumbling by the second. “You said I suck at cooking?”

 

“What? No,” Jiwoo frowned at her, hands still pinned above her head and Sooyoung’s resolve to embarrass her as clear as day. Fortunately, Jiwoo’s own pride was helping her from disintegrating right then and there; with Sooyoung looming above her, wearing loose sweatpants and a cropped t-shirt, reading glasses perched on her nose, bearing a smile that could’ve been the subject of an entire museum exhibition.

 

Still, Jiwoo was finding it a little hard to breathe. Perhaps it was due to exerting all of what little stamina she had in her body, or perhaps it was due to Sooyoung’s face being way closer than it needed to be. She would’ve loved to shove Sooyoung’s gorgeous mug away from her so that her body could learn how to exhale again, but a brief idea flickered through her mind and it seemed so stupid that it might even work.

 

Propping herself forward while Sooyoung continued laughing, Jiwoo quickly caught her lips with her own.

 

Then she pulled back, saw Sooyoung’s blank expression, and drove her knee into the girl’s stomach.

 

Now it’s Jiwoo’s turn to laugh, and she goes as far as to point at the keeled over love of her life, who was cursing into the carpet.

 

“Unfair,” Sooyoung says through gritted teeth. Jiwoo is still laughing, but she’s moved over to pat the older woman’s back as if it would solve anything. “Negative eight. Look, I’m subtracting points from your other ones.”

 

“Worth it,” Jiwoo smiles, moving back towards the bed.

 

...

 

“Okay, so, Gemini people are expressive, lively, adaptable, humorous, playful, sociable, clever, curious, independent, brainy, flexible, and, uh, charming,” Jiwoo reads off the Google Image result, swirling the spoon in her cup.

 

Sooyoung, who’d been nodding across the table for every positive trait, portions a piece off of her crème brûlée. “Yup, sounds about right.”

 

Jiwoo raises an eyebrow at her, smiling, and continues, “ but, they can also be scattered, moody, shallow, selfish, fragile, and inconsistent. How’s that for you?”

 

Seated at a corner booth of their favourite, locally owned coffee shop, the two of them had just finished an after-class hangout with a couple of their other friends. The others had been sitting with them, but had left one-by-one as other responsibilities came up, effectively leaving the two wondering if they’d be paying for their bills as well as dragging on the topic of conversation from when they weren’t alone. To be specific, Chaewon had been going through some sort of hyperfixation on zodiac signs despite having three papers to write, much to the dismay of a few (namely the resident skeptics, Jungeun and Hyunjin), the amusement of some (fellow horoscope enthusiasts, Jinsol, Heejin and Haseul), and the indifference of one (Yeojin just came to pick off Haseul’s food.) She’d gone off on some tangent about how she can’t be friends with Jungeun and Haseul because their signs clash, Haseul had retorted by saying that Chaewon shouldn’t be jumping to such quick conclusions without first going over her entire birth chart, and Jungeun’s only contribution to the conversation was announcing that she’d promised to go walk Yeojin’s snail or something.

 

“Hm,” Sooyoung hums, swallowing, “well, do you agree?”

 

Jiwoo pauses her swirling to consider the question.

 

Despite being pretty much in love with all there is and what could come from Sooyoung (she’d stopped trying to hide from that fact at this point,) it wasn’t as if Jiwoo had put the girl on some flawless, unattainable pedestal. Was Sooyoung scattered? No, but sometimes she’d act like she was for comedic effect. Moody? Well, yeah, sometimes Sooyoung would be unaware of how loud her voice would get when she’s ranting about her sister on the bus. Shallow? Not really. Selfish? To an extent. Fragile? Jiwoo wondered. Inconsistent? Absolutely. Did Jiwoo still find these flaws somewhat endearing? Maybe she did.

 

“Ah, nevermind,” Sooyoung interrupts her train of thought,  “you’re a Libra, right?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Cool, I heard that we’re compatible,” Sooyoung smiled coyly at her, and Jiwoo might’ve stabbed her spoon through the table if she didn’t have the strength of a hamster.

 

Jiwoo plays off her fluster with a laugh-cough-choke-like noise. “You really believe in that stuff, Sooyoung?”

 

“I think that it has some basis, but I’m pretty sure people just fall for it because of confirmation bias or whatever,” Sooyoung looks up from her dessert, “and you don’t need to get so embarrassed— I’m just as compatible with Haseul and Heejin, apparently.”

 

“I’m not embarrassed,” Jiwoo groans. The direction the conversation is starting to make her feel uneasy, so she opts to change it. “Who cares about who we should date? Find something more fun.”

 

Sooyoung raises a brow at her. “Wow, and I thought you were the hopeless romantic between us. I’m surprised you’re not interested.”

 

“I am interested and I already know that when I get home I’m going to be searching up the dynamics of our signs and how well they work and how they might get together and whether we’d raise a cat or a dog better”, is what Jiwoo’s conscious is rambling on about, but for the sake of her own sanity, she takes the defensive stance. “Guess you don’t really know me, huh?”

 

“Okay, well , maybe I don’t.” Sooyoung seemed to almost snap that sentence at her, and Jiwoo was taken aback.

 

There’s a moment of tension, with Jiwoo at a loss for words and Sooyoung quietly scrolling through her phone.

 

She’s about to give in and say sorry for whatever she might’ve done but Sooyoung cuts her off.

 

“Libras are sentimental ; yes, you keep receipts from every restaurant we go to because you ‘want to remember the little things, even lunch outings.’ They’re charming ; sure, you had, like, a dozen anonymous confessions from underclassmen on internet message boards. They’re refined ; no, you still forget to check if there’s toilet paper stuck to your shoe. They’re loyal ; I guess. They’re fair ; you’re pale as shit. They’re light-hearted; that’s you in two words. They’re romantic --” Sooyoung pauses for emphasis, “--yes, you’d probably bail on a dinner date with someone if they forgot the candles.”

 

“I would not!” Jiwoo interjects. “I’d appreciate any kind of effort, and that’s what romantic actually means; seeing the good in everything!”

 

“So, you admit that I’m right and that you are a romantic?” Sooyoung, finished with her plate, sets it aside and moves to sit next to Jiwoo in the booth; an action that Jiwoo is too riled up to pay attention to. She figures that it’s just so Jiwoo wouldn’t be yelling at her across the table and making a scene, anyway.

 

“And what’s wrong with that?!” Jiwoo frowns at her.

 

“Nothing is!” Sooyoung smiles, her arm settling around Jiwoo’s shoulders. “But, if my words are as good as the stars, then I’m basically psychic.”

 

“Really, now?” Jiwoo leans into the padded chair, in addition to Sooyoung’s arm, “then what’s your next big prediction?”

 

Sooyoung puts a thoughtful finger to her chin. “I predict that you’ll finally give me a perfect score.”

 

“Huh? What--” is all that Jiwoo manages to let out before Sooyoung licks her lips, and she thinks she knows exactly what’s going to happen as Sooyoung moves in closer and braces herself.

 

But where she expects to feel a sensation of warmth is left cold as Sooyoung had decided to kiss her cheek, instead. Jiwoo knows she looks confused, Sooyoung’s stifled laughter as telling as ever, so she tries to cover up any potential disappointed look on her face by rolling her eyes. It wasn’t really that hard. Sooyoung had never kissed her on the cheek before, so it was kind of nice, actually.

 

“I’ll give you a real one if you promise me a ten,” Sooyoung whispers in her ear, and Jiwoo shudders, but the fact that this had been her plan to make her prediction right amused her enough to let the opportunity go to waste.

 

“As if I’d give you the satisfaction,” Jiwoo says, deciding that this was too much Sooyoung-time for her heart and pushing past the girl to go pay for her drink, “and that one? A solid three, only because I tasted the custard.”



  

 

Parties and Jiwoo mixed pretty well together.

 

While there were several instances that left her in a state of self-questioning (when she met Sooyoung), embarrassed (when Sooyoung forgot her name very early on in their relationship), and ashamed (when she’d forgotten Sooyoung’s name very early on in their relationship and no one corrected her until she’d called the girl ‘Soonyeon’ right in front of her face), she considered herself to be a rather social person. She liked being around people more often than not, didn’t mind small talk, and was confident that she presented herself as an approachable target who was always open to making conversation. Of course, these traits of hers did not factor in any situations where there was a tall, ethereally sculpted woman with dark auburn hair and a smooth, silky voice that even made sentences like, ‘I can probably eat this burger in two bites, watch,’ sound hot. In those situations, anything was possible. Regardless, parties provided an opportunity for socializing with her friends and the friends of her friends as well as any potential new friends, so, of course, Jiwoo had accepted the invitation to celebrate Jungeun’s birthday with a house party (not her own, of course, one that was rented for a price that all guests would have to contribute to) without much hesitation.

 

Parties, Jiwoo, and alcohol , however? Well, Jiwoo supposed she would find out that night.

 

Fortunately, Jungeun knew about Jiwoo’s lack of experience, so the girl had taken it upon herself to stay by her side throughout the event. Jiwoo had been against the idea, insisting that the birthday girl should be off celebrating to her heart’s content, but Jungeun had admitted that one of her wishes was to see an intoxicated Jiwoo.

 

“Besides,” Jungeun had said, “Yerim and I have a bet; she thinks you’ll become ten times more obnoxious when you’re drunk, while I think you’ll mellow down and get caught up in your feelings. Like, the type to start crying when they realize they took a dump without checking if there was toilet paper.”

 

“That’s a very specific scenario.”

 

“… It, uh… It happened to a friend.”

 

Albeit a little offended that her friends would be wagering a crisp twenty on how her body will react to alcohol, she was, admittedly, a little curious as well. She’d heard the stories about Vivi, who, in contrary to her normally relaxed, ‘my pace’ demeanour, turned out to be the type to force circles within the dance floor so all the attention was drawn to her suitably stiff robot dancing, as well as Haseul, whose personality could be described as an aunt who was very caring but not committed to the idea of having children, became overly passionate and aggressive, especially when it came to DJs skipping her, quote, bops , unquote, and when her karaoke score was less than a 98. Jiwoo wondered if there was a side to herself that would only be awoken when under the influence, perhaps one that was confident and secure enough to maybe confess to someone that she’d caught feelings and she’d caught them bad, but, well, who knows.

 

In any case, a couple of hours as well as a couple of coolers and other fruity drinks into the party, Jiwoo found herself laughing away on the couch with an arm around Jungeun’s shoulder. She hadn’t drank so much that her senses had dulled or that she wasn’t conscious of her actions and possibly their consequences, but she was a little buzzed.

 

Highlights of the night (so far) included; Vivi and Haseul performing a duet to ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart,’ together after stealing the microphone from the DJ, Jinsol mistaking the decorative fruit for the real thing and spending half an hour trying to peel an orange that just wouldn’t open, Hyunjin missing one cup in Beer Pong after three perfect games on her end and then proceeding to flip the table, Hyunjin dejectedly cleaning up the flipped table and its spilled content, Heejin starting a stand-up show and saying non-sense to the audience that reacted positively no matter what she said anyway, Hyejoo taking over the DJ’s turntable and pretending she knew what the buttons did, Chaewon rapping ‘Bodak Yellow’ verse for verse without fail, and, of course, Yeojin and Yerim snapchatting the whole thing while speaking like sports’ announcers.

 

“Oh, and look who it is,” Jiwoo hears Yerim exclaim dramatically behind her, “the third hottest in our friend group! How is she doing tonight? You still below 0.03 percent, I hope?”

 

“Hold on there, Ms. Choi,” Yeojin interjects, with a notable attempt to speak in a lower tone, “before we move on with the interview, I must ask, who are the two above this fine, sexy specimen, piece of work, the two that are much finer, and much sexier pieces of work?”

 

“Why, Ms. Im,” Yerim lets out a couple ‘hohoho’s,’ before continuing, “of course, what’s more fine and sexy than our resident bat and frog? Surely not an owl, much less a fish! AH! Ms. Swan, where are you going?! We aren’t done our interview!”

 

Before she can turn around, she feels a familiar weight settle next to her.

 

“Ah, Sooyoung,” Jiwoo attempts at a greeting, detaching herself from Jungeun, “Sooyoungie. Sooyoung. Sooyoungie.”

 

“Jiwoo, you’re slurring,” Sooyoung laughs, her words still coherent even among the booming music and conversations around them. The taller girl is nursing a drink, Jiwoo notes, and she peers over to see what’s inside the solo cup before it’s quickly moved out of sight. “You’re not having any more.”

 

“I’m not drunk, Sooyoung, I’m fine. I’m fine.” Jiwoo says, much, much above a whisper, and Sooyoung raises her brows at this, visibly unconvinced, “I haven’t seen you all night.”

 

“Well, I’ve been around,” Sooyoung takes a long sip, recoiling slightly, “I’m here now, though, so, hi, Jiwooming.”

 

Jiwoo blinks slowly, the corners of her lips having already been pulled into a smile from the moment the girl had shown herself but still getting wider, somehow.

 

“Hi, Sooyoungie,” she says, a little quietly.

 

Most of them, including Jiwoo herself, were a couple of turns into a Truth or Dare game. With the players at varying levels of intoxicated, ranging from, Jeon “I’m perfectly okay, watch me do this handstand,” Heejin to Kim “Everything is awful, you’re all awful, when will death take me already,” Hyunjin, the probing questions and ridiculous commands have provided plenty of entertainment. The game had barely started and they’d already heard Chaewon admit to having resorted to third party applications to screenshot Hyejoo’s Instagram stories so that the girl wouldn’t receive a notification, as well as seen Vivi take three shots at the same time without being able to wince. Of course, nothing had beaten Yeojin being dared to shove a straw up the nose of a presumably sleeping Haseul, who had proceeded to grab a nearby cup and drench the younger girl in what was thankfully just water. The event had apparently sobered Haseul up completely and she was now apologizing profusely while drying her up with some shirt she pried off a stranger.

 

She’d been so distracted by Sooyoung’s arrival that she didn’t notice the others trying to get their attention.

 

“Hasu, you’re here!” Jungeun called out, and Jiwoo wondered how the girl hadn’t noticed beforehand since she was sitting right by them, “alright, since you’ve decided to barge in, you’re going up. Truth or dare?”

 

A little taken off guard, there’s a slow second before Sooyoung replies. “Oh, uh, truth?”

 

“Cool,” Jungeun says, before turning to the others and mouthing, ‘lame,’ as if Sooyoung wasn’t right there and didn’t just kick her shins for the mockery, “I have a very good question for you. It’s very creative and very telling, and I cannot wait to ask it.”

 

“Just spit it out already,” Chaewon yells from the floor, apparently making, ‘snow butterflies.’

 

“Okay, well, Ha Sooyoung,” Jungeun begins, “do you like anyone? Like, like-like?”

 

Jiwoo feels her heart clench at the question, failing to register the whines and the comments claiming that it was Jungeun’s question that was lame and that they’d rather know Sooyoung’s skin care routine. The buzzing in her head comes to steady stop as she consciously heightens her senses as if she was trying to take in every detail of the situation at hand. She feels Sooyoung stiffen next to her, and as much as Jiwoo wants to grab her hand or pat her thigh at an attempt to put her at ease, she wonders if she’s in any position to do so.

 

“I…” Sooyoung’s eyes are trained on Jungeun’s, whose smirk leaves Jiwoo with even more questions, “well, first of all, Kim Jungeun, I want you dead.”

 

“Understandable. Answer the question.”

 

“Yeah, well, I do,” Sooyoung sighs, the answer earning some whoops and hollers from the audience of players, some asking for more details, others still laughing at the previous death threat. She leans back into the couch, closing her eyes as she finishes off whatever’s left in her cup. “I do. I do like someone.”

 

Jungeun, seemingly satisfied with Sooyoung’s telling yet not-telling-at-all confession, moves on from the situation much faster than Jiwoo does, suggesting that Sooyoung should dare Jinsol to go streaking down the street.

 

In her dazed state, Jiwoo struggled to focus on the floor, on the table, on Chaewon’s carpet butterflies, anything but the fact that Sooyoung likes someone, anything but the fact that maybe Sooyoung has her own elephants, constant ringing in her head, something threatening to burst out of her chest, and that all these happenings were the result of one person in particular. She struggled to avoid thinking about how her trains of thought always led to the same station, to that same particular person, and how, maybe, just maybe, Sooyoung has felt that too. She struggled to stop herself from knowing how that particular person is Sooyoung to Jiwoo, how it’s been that way for so long and how she really didn’t want to acknowledge it but the fact was louder than any party track list or dubstep remix or any one of Yerim’s screams, and she especially struggled to run away from the spiralling of emotions she knew she’d go through if she found out that Jiwoo might not be that particular person to Sooyoung.

 

She wondered if it was Vivi. Jiwoo knew Sooyoung was the type to let her thoughts overwhelm her and would occasionally let the possibility of a bad outcome prevent her from moving forward with a decision, so maybe she’d like someone who offered a calming presence, one that reminded you that it was okay to take things at your own pace.

 

She wondered if it was Jinsol. Sooyoung once told her that she likes people who knew how to have fun, but could be serious if the situation warranted it. There was never a dull moment around Jinsol— everyone knew she was talented and hard working, but she wasn’t the type to feel the need to prove it, so maybe Sooyoung would like someone who she could admire, as well as fool around with.

 

She wondered if it was Jungeun. Jungeun was Jiwoo’s best friend, but she’d met Sooyoung earlier. There was a time where Sooyoung and Jiwoo had talked about what defines a good relationship, and they both agreed that just because you’ve invested a lot of time in a person doesn’t mean that they should matter more than those you haven’t, especially if there’s a stronger connection, but maybe Sooyoung would like someone who’s known her for a while.

 

“—maybe, uh, Jiwoo? Do it with Jiwoo.”

 

Jiwoo wondered if it was her. Maybe Sooyoung could like someone like her.

 

“Jiwoo!”

 

“W—What?!” Jiwoo snapped out of her thoughts, feeling the buzz slowly trace back into her brain as she remembered where she was, “I—I, sorry, what?”

 

She realized that all the participating eyes were staring at her, and while attempting to figure out why she was under the spotlight all of a sudden, she felt a familiar hand on her shoulder.

 

Jungeun.

 

“Jinsol is daring me to kiss you,” Jungeun tells her, gesturing towards the smug looking blonde.

 

Jinsol is— Me— Jungeun kiss— Me kiss Jungeun?!

 

Apparently her shocked expression was enough of a response, because Jungeun shifted her body so that the two of them were facing each other on the couch. Everything seemed to be happening both too fast as well as in slow motion, as Jiwoo had a hard time responding to what was happening both in front of and towards her. She was, of course, instead focused on what was going on behind her, where Sooyoung was sitting, but she was afraid to look at her in fear of what expression she might have on her face.

 

“Jinsol…?” She sputtered out, now wondering about what Jungeun must’ve done to piss Jinsol off enough to warrant seeing her kiss another girl since Jiwoo was pretty sure they had a ‘thing’ or whatever they wanted to call it going on, “uh—“

 

“Jinsol, are you a masochist or something?” Hyejoo says from somewhere but Jiwoo isn’t very aware of what’s going on, so whatever.

 

“Jungeun and I aren’t dating,” Jinsol states, rather flatly. “Why should I care?”

 

Now she really wants to know what Jungeun must’ve done because the girl is rolling her eyes in front of her, but she figures she’d have to ask later, when they’re sober and also not being dared to kiss each other.

 

“Sorry, Jiwoo,” Jungeun shoots Jinsol a glare, who scoffs in response, “I know this is your first, but you may as well get it over with, right? I hope you don’t mind it being with me, haha...”

 

Her first kiss.

 

Jungeun thinks this is her first kiss.

 

The words are lodged in her throat— that this isn’t her first kiss and how she’s already it gotten over with and how it was Sooyoung that it belonged to— but instead, she just swallows them down.

 

Jinsol and Jungeun aren’t dating, so why should she care?

 

Sooyoung and her aren’t dating, so why should she care?

 

“Okay,” Jiwoo says, bracing herself, “yeah, okay, whatever.”

 

Jungeun leans forward and Jiwoo likes her, she really does, but not like this. She doesn’t like her this way.

 

Her and Jungeun’s lips have barely met each other when she feels her arm being pulled backwards, and Jungeun looks as surprised as she does. She hears Jinsol shout out some words of protest but Jiwoo never hears the end of it.

 

“What the hell are you—? Hey, Sooyoung!”

 

‘Sooyoung ,’ is all Jiwoo hears, and, sure enough, she turns to look at the person dragging her away from the living room and is met with tufts of hair wacking her face, obscuring her vision— but she knows what Sooyoung’s expensive shampoo smells like since, well, Jiwoo bought it for her birthday, so there’s really no room for doubt.

 

Sooyoung, even as they’re being glared at and yelled at by the crowds of people they’re shoving through, is all that Jiwoo sees, and if that loud clatter she’d just heard was some valuable tea set or aged photo frame they’d have to deal with it later because any momental consequences were really not going through her head right now. They could probably blame it on some other intoxicated party goer, anyway.

 

“Sooyoung...” is the first thing Jiwoo says as soon as she’s pulled into one of the upstairs’ bathroom, which originally wasn’t vacant but Sooyoung had cussed the poor soul out into leaving. Her hand is let go for a brief moment as Sooyoung goes and locks the door, but she’s back into the taller girl’s grasp as she’s lifted by the waist onto the countertop.

 

“Jiwoo,” is what Sooyoung mumbles against the crook of Jiwoo’s neck, wedging herself in between Jiwoo’s thighs which earns a pitched groan from the latter. Jiwoo’s barely registered the situation until Sooyoung pulls back, and Jiwoo finally gets a good look at the other girl’s face— even in the shoddy bathroom lighting.

 

Contrary to her earlier appearance, or, perhaps, Jiwoo just hadn’t gotten a clear sight of what she looked like, Sooyoung looked flustered beyond words. Her face was flushed, it being unclear as to whether it was alcohol or embarrassment induced. She was close enough for Jiwoo to feel her paced breath against her, enough for Jiwoo to almost see her reflection in Sooyoung’s glassy, pleading eyes. It was a sight much different from the usual, Sooyoung typically bearing a smirk and an expression that could mean a million things at once, a sight much different from the Sooyoung that Jiwoo had let inside her heart, and yet, as different as this Sooyoung was, Jiwoo’s chest swelled as it always did when she looked at her. Perhaps, even moreso.

 

Jiwoo wasn’t sure who initiated. But, what she was sure of, was that this kiss was nothing like the ones they’d shared before.

 

There was no blanket fort, no golden hour, and the booming music that was muted by the door could hardly be passed as fireworks— instead, the two of them were in a cramped washroom with a dirty mirror, that Jiwoo was thankful was behind her because she was sure that she looked like a mess right now. It didn’t end after a brief moment, a brief touch that would always leave Jiwoo wanting more— when Jiwoo pulled back to breathe, Sooyoung chased after her lips, kissing the corners of her mouth, and Jiwoo would dive back in as if Sooyoung was the bearer of the only air in the room.

 

At the same time, it wasn’t just a kiss— it was Sooyoung parting Jiwoo’s mouth and letting Jiwoo taste the drink Sooyoung had stopped her from consuming earlier.

 

It was Jiwoo clumsily tangling her hands in Sooyoung’s disheveled hair, gripping harder when Sooyoung would bite down on her lower lip.

 

It was Sooyoung pulling Jiwoo’s waist closer, untucking the smaller girl’s shirt from her high waisted shorts and Jiwoo gasping into Sooyoung’s mouth when she felt hands wandering on her skin.

 

The newfound aggression from the older girl confused Jiwoo, admittedly. It took her by surprise, as well, especially when Sooyoung tipped her chin upwards and began pressing her lips onto Jiwoo’s neck. Of course, this feeling was foreign to her as well— Sooyoung having never kissed her anywhere but her face— but the sensation of Sooyoung sucking and peppering kisses onto the soft skin left her dizzy. But even in her drunken stupor, Jiwoo had the conscience to wonder why this was happening, exactly.

 

“Soo— ah,” Jiwoo’s breath hitches as Sooyoung hits a particularly sensitive area, but she continues, “Sooyoung, is— is something wrong?”

 

Sooyoung seemed to go against the choice of a verbal reply and instead opts to respond by sinking her teeth into Jiwoo’s neck. It hurt a little and was surely going to leave a mark and Jiwoo was a little freaked out about she wanted Sooyoung to do it again and again — since she considered herself a pretty sensitive person and definitely not someone who might find pleasure in pain— but the concept of Sooyoung leaving evidence of this night, evidence of herself onto Jiwoo— Jiwoo was not opposed to it. (Like, at all.)

 

If she was bold earlier, it was nothing compared to now. Jiwoo felt Sooyoung drag her even closer, their chests colliding and the friction of Sooyoung’s jeans against her own brought Jiwoo up to a high she wasn’t even aware was attainable. Jiwoo wasn’t sure if she was doing anything right, barely being able to keep up with Sooyoung’s mouth and much less the hands that were gripping the bare skin of her lower back— but she supposed what mattered more was that maybe this means Sooyoung likes her too. She sure seemed to like kissing her, anyway.

 

And, well, Jiwoo liked kissing Sooyoung.

 

So much that she hadn’t even noticed her own lip start spurting blood, apparently, because Sooyoung had stopped kissing her so abruptly that Jiwoo actually got kind of pissed off.

 

“Holy shit, holy shit,” Sooyoung stammered in front of her, wiping Jiwoo’s blood off of her own lips before seeming to assess the damage, “I— oh my god, Jiwoo—“

 

“Ugh—“ The pain hits her finally, but Jiwoo doesn’t find it to be of any significance. She turns to look at the mirror and, while a little taken aback by her kiss swollen lips and of course the split where she figured Sooyoung had bitten too hard, quickly washes the cut off with water. She doubted that it would stop the bleeding but she wasn’t about to spend any more time nursing around with red faced, eager Sooyoung right in front of her. “Whatever, it’s not a big deal.”

 

“No, Jiwoo, I—“ Sooyoung choked on her words, her eyes even glassier than before and it’s the brimming tears that stop Jiwoo from telling her to shut up so they can pick up where they left off. “I—I’m so sorry. I’m so...”

 

Jiwoo isn’t sure what Sooyoung has to apologize for, so she decides to just kiss her again.

 

After a moment, her eyes flutter open to see the beads of sweat trailing down Sooyoung’s forehead, as well as the girl’s furrowed brows that Jiwoo can’t help but break the kiss so she can press one right on the bridge of Sooyoung’s nose.

 

“Hey, Sooyoungie,” Jiwoo tried again, pulling her hands out of Sooyoung’s hair so she could cup the girl’s warm cheeks. Sooyoung’s eyes were still closed, tightly even, almost as if she was afraid to open them— so, naturally, Jiwoo kisses her eyelids. And then her nose again. Then, her forehead. Then, she kisses Sooyoung’s cheeks, as softly as they were to touch. “Hey, baby, it’s okay.”

 

Sooyoung pauses at the nickname, daring to look up.

 

“... Baby, really?” Sooyoung mumbles, a croak in her voice, the tears having spilled but a smile creeping on her lips. “I’m the older one, you know.”

 

“And yet, here I am,” Jiwoo feels Sooyoung’s hands drop from gripping her back to instead cradling her ass, which she guessed wasn’t a downgrade, “wiping your crying face.”

 

Sooyoung laughs, putting her crying face onto Jiwoo’s shoulder.

 

“What are you even saying sorry for?” Jiwoo says, kneading the girl’s back.

 

There’s a brief moment— like there always was when she asks Sooyoung something, like Jiwoo’s used to— before Sooyoung answers.

 

“It’s just…” She lifts her head up, and lets Jiwoo settle her lips on her forehead. “I think something came over me there. I’m sorry if that… if that was too much.”

 

“Well, whatever came over you,” Jiwoo pulls back, not used to the submissive, apologetic side that Sooyoung apparently had but welcoming it all the same, “I liked it, so don’t worry.”

 

“Jiwoo, no, you’re drunk— you probably don’t even know what you’re saying,” Sooyoung pushes herself away from Jiwoo despite the girl’s clinging, and moves to sit on the edge of the bathtub. “I think— I think seeing you kiss Jungeun… I don’t know.”

 

“It was barely even a kiss!” Jiwoo kicks her legs against the cabinet beneath her, trying to sound coherent. “You keep calling me drunk, but I’m fine! And it was weird for me too, okay? She’s, like, my best friend. Why’d Jinsol even dare her to do that? Weren’t they into each other?”

 

Sooyoung looks at her, and Jiwoo is conscious enough to figure out that she probably said something stupid. She took a couple steps back and then, as late as ever, the weight of Sooyoung’s words hit her like a truck that only runs over idiots.

 

“Oh…” Jiwoo begins carefully, feeling her face grow hot at what she’s about to assume, “oh my god, were you jealous of me because I got to kiss Jung—”

 

“—It’s official!” Sooyoung announced, exasperated enough to get off of the bathtub and start pacing around, “I’m literally in love with the dumbest person on Earth! This kid! Kim Jiwoo! You hear that, Jungeun? Vivi? Chaewon, Hyejoo? I win! It’s me! I’m in love with the biggest idiot! Not you guys!”

 

Sooyoung loved… her?

 

Not Vivi, not Jinsol, not Jungeun?

 

Not someone else?

 

“Oh, geez, that’s such a relief,” Jiwoo breathed putting her hand out as she sighed and unknowingly patting Sooyoung’s left boob. “See, I was freaking out earlier when you said you liked someone because I’m, like, obsessed with you, and the thought of you liking someone else made me SO sad, and—“

 

“Shit, just shut up, Jiwoo! You’re always fucking talking!” Sooyoung slapped Jiwoo’s groping hand away, then pauses. “Wait, you’re obsessed with me? I thought you were just kissing me all the time because you were bored!”

 

“I thought you were kissing me because you were bored!” Jiwoo retorts back, “and for the record? I kissed you first! How did you not figure it out?”

 

“That’s not true! I kissed you before that, when you fell asleep on my bed after you had dinner with my parents!” Sooyoung hit her hand against the wall.

 

“What?! You kissed me that day?” Jiwoo said, recalling no such memory. Then she starts blushing again. “Oh my gosh, you… you kissed me first? But you said that you hadn’t even had your first before I...”

 

Now it’s Sooyoung’s turn to think about the consequences of her words after she’s said them. “Uh, no, wait— forget I said that—”

 

“Geez, Sooyoung, you know how exhausting it is to like you?” Jiwoo feels herself start to ramble but any kind of rational thinking— or any thinking at all, really, is void— “It’s one thing being hot, but you’re also so nice. And so funny. That’s not even fair. Like, you could at least be short! Or, like, have a weird nose. But no, you’re tall and you have a cute nose. If I didn’t love you so much I’d probably hate you. Did I mention your nose yet? It’s so cute...”

 

Jiwoo trails off when she noticed that Sooyoung had starting crying again, albeit silently. She considers kissing her again but deems that inappropriate, so, instead, she cocks her head and pulls Sooyoung towards her.

 

“Jiwoo...” Sooyoung wipes her face with her sleeves, Jiwoo using her thumbs to dry some tears as well. “I… Do you even know how easy it was to fall in love with you?”

 

“Hmm… I dunno,” Sooyoung’s words make her heart ache with happiness, but all Jiwoo wanted to do was make her feel better. “I’m a little dense.”

 

“Yes, you’re dense,” Sooyoung pulls Jiwoo’s hands away from her face, interlocking their fingers, “that’s very true.”

 

The muffled party tracks served as background noise to their conversation, the EDM and bass drops not exactly suiting the mood, and even though it sounded like a couple people had started doing body shots and as interesting as that would’ve been to watch, there’s not an inch of Jiwoo’s body that feels like moving on from this situation. Sure, she’s not that tall so that wouldn’t be a lot of inches to begin with, but she figures it must amount to something when Sooyoung starts fiddling with her waistband and Jiwoo has never felt more in love.

 

Jiwoo chose to bask in the moment, drawing hearts into Sooyoung’s palms as the girl steadied her breathing. Her own heart is swelling with so much adoration for the girl that it’s almost painful, but it wasn’t. She probably could have gone on for days, talking about what she liked about her. And now maybe she’ll get the chance to do so— to Sooyoung herself.

 

“Hey, Sooyoung?” Jiwoo says, “can I ask you something?”

 

Sooyoung nodded, closing her eyes as she starting pecking Jiwoo’s knuckles.

 

Jiwoo continues, bringing up an event that she was admittedly still salty about. “Why wasn’t the New Year’s kiss a 10?”

 

The older girl thinks for a moment, then smiles. “There was no tongue.”

 

Her answer prompts Jiwoo to kick Sooyoung away from her, and she really couldn’t believe Sooyoung’s words and how Sooyoung really had the audacity to be laughing right now, and as embarassed as she was she missed holding Sooyoung so she pulls her back again. “You’re the worst, Sooyoungie.”

 

“Hey! I’m particular about kissing,” Sooyoung makes an attempt to dodge Jiwoo’s thrashing, smiling all the while, “I thought you knew that already?”