Do you ever have one of those moments where your entire world is shattering but you have to pretend that everything is fantastic? If so, then you can probably imagine how I felt staring into the face of my best friend of twenty plus years as she thrust a basket with the words “Will you be my bridesmaid?” on it into my unsuspecting hands. I had thought we were just meeting up for brunch to drink mimosas and give me a space to bitch about life while we caught up, but little did I know that she was gonna drop that bomb on me before the drinks even arrived. I get it, you’re probably thinking that it’s odd for someone to label a person as their best friend and proceed to express horror at the news of their impending marriage. The thing is, Minji isn’t just my best friend. Our relationship is a little more complicated than that-well, it is for me. Minji herself would smile and insist that I have had her back since we were little and that’s all there is to it. In my case, however, things go beyond being platonic. Maybe I should give some background so that you can have some idea of how I managed to fall into the hellhole that is my inescapable crush on Kim Minji.
Minji and I met in kindergarten. We went to the same school and as luck would have it, had been placed in the same class our first year. As even more luck would have it, we’d also been sat at the same table in the classroom. Minji has changed very little since the day we met. She still exudes the same childish innocence combined with the elegance of a princess. Her smile still holds the same sunny quality it had back then, and her laugh still sounds the same despite her voice getting deeper with age. Heck, if she could still fit into it, she would probably wear the same sweater she had worn that day-her love of the color pink is yet another thing that has not changed. Now, you might be thinking that I’m about to spew some cheesy nonsense about how five-year-old me somehow knew the concept of love because I fell for Minji the minute we took our seats at the table. You might be disappointed, or perhaps relieved, to know that is not the case. When I first met Minji, the only thought my kindergarten self had was that it was unfair how tall she was. I had always been one of the scrawniest kids in my grade, and had developed a bit of a Napoleon complex as a result. It bothered me when other girls were bigger than me, especially when they were as nice and pleasant as Minji was. If they were going to be giants, I wanted them to at least be horrible ogres to match their size. Now that I think about it, Minji and I were a pretty hilarious combination. She was bigger, but she was a pushover, while I was the small one with an attitude big enough for both of us.
“Um, earth to Bora? You’re spacing out on me. I know this is all moving kind of fast and I’ll be ready for one of your grandma lectures another time. For now, please just say yes! Come on, I worked really hard on that gift basket! Won’t you please open it? You’ve always told me I’m an excellent gift giver,” Minji cut into my reminiscing by grabbing my shoulders and shaking me back into the present.
I blinked, “Oh, right. Uh, yeah, you can count on me,” I sputtered out.
Minji grinned, “Hooray! I’m so excited for you to meet Yoohyeonie. I know you probably don’t approve of me coming back from Europe with a fiance, but you gotta understand, it was so romantic! Meeting her in the city of love, traveling to so many magical places with her, I just knew she was the one for me. Not to mention she is just as excited about this marriage as I am. She finally finished her degree, and was able to pay off her tuition. Her family is so generous to not only pay for her schooling, but to also pay for our wedding and offer their estate to have it on. I just couldn’t be happier! I wish I could have shared more of this with you, but it all just happened so quickly. I’m still kind of in the clouds trying to make sense of it all,” she gushed.
I forced a smile as I pretended to listen to her love-sick rambling. I was pretty pissed that she vanished for months and suddenly returned with a massive ring and a woman even taller than her by her side. I hadn’t even gotten to see any of this in person, it just popped up on my Facebook wall one day. Then, a few days later I got the text from Minji asking me to brunch, and you know the rest from there. That’s right, Minji’s own best friend knew nothing of her relationship with this apparent soulmate of hers. I had received occasional postcards from her when she first left for Europe, but apparently all of her time went into frolicking around with Yoohyeon because she eventually stopped writing. I was curious to meet the woman who had managed to snatch all of Minji’s attention for months. In the past, Minji had gotten bored with relationships pretty quickly, so it surprised me to see her so eager to commit to one woman for the rest of her life. To be honest, a part of me wonders if she wasn’t blinded by wanderlust. Being in an exotic, romantic setting would make anybody more attractive. Still, even the picture of Yoohyeon had been intimidating. She loomed tall and thin, an elegant figure that could easily be a supermodel if she wanted. Unfortunately, her looks came with brains too. Based on my research on various social media sites, the university she studied at was extremely prestigious and she was one of the top students in linguistics. On top of that, she was known for being extremely philanthropic and supporting all kinds of charitable causes. Basically, this Yoohyeon looked and sounded like some kind of perfect goddess robot.
“I’m sorry, we haven’t seen each other in months and here I am doing all of the talking. What’s been new with you?” Minji directed the conversation towards me, which snapped me back into attention.
Just then, the lifesaving waitress arrived with our drinks. I gratefully plucked my mimosa off of the tray. I made sure to take several, generous sips before answering the question.
“Oh, you know, the usual. Nothing too exciting ever happens in my life. Competition season is heating up, so I have had a ton of late nights at the studio coming up with new choreography. I think my dancers have a good shot this year. The team is talented, but some of those kids act like they are Beyonce or something. I hope I was never that conceited when I was their age,” I choose to focus on work since that is the least lame aspect of my life at the moment.
It’s pretty tragic that the coolest thing I can talk about is my dedication to teaching a bunch of teenagers moves that aren’t twerking, flossing, or whipping. Unfortunately, all other aspects of my life are even more pathetic. My love life is as barren as the Sahara, and has been in a dry spell for months. I can’t even think of the last time I went on a date. As for my social life, my closest friend has always been Minji. I tend to repel anybody else with my brazen mouth, according to my mother. Apparently, I have a tendency to call people out on their shit in a way that is perceived as being mean. Contrary to my bitchy reputation, Minji has always had people flock to her and could never turn anyone away. This left me with the duties of being Minji’s social bouncer. I came after anybody who wasn’t worthy of being around her. Then again, no one is really worthy of her, especially me. I had doubts of whether this Yoohyeon was worthy of her too. I caught myself getting lost in my thoughts again and stared at Minji,hoping to seem like I was paying attention.
Minji giggled, “You sound like such a grandma! I’m glad you still have the same sense of humor, even after our months apart. Also, don’t be so hard on yourself. I’ve always found your job plenty interesting. Heck, with your personality you could work at the most boring place ever and still keep people on their toes!” she insisted.
“Well, thank you. I’m glad you don’t find me dull after your adventures in Europe. It’s good to know you didn’t forget about lil ole me while you were French kissing your new fiance in literal France. By the way, you have barely explained yourself, missy. What possessed you to rendezvous with some fancy scholar one night and then suddenly come back engaged to her after romping all over the continent together?” I changed the subject to a topic I had very little interest in actually hearing about, but that would give me an excuse to watch her face light up as she talked.
Looking at Minji can often be blinding, I can’t think of a better word to describe her other than radiant. Gazing into her warm, amber eyes feels like staring directly into a toned down version of the sun. Between her cheery temperament, her glowing skin, and her blinding smile she might as well be the sun itself. I sat there silently admiring her silky brown curls and the figure-flattering dress she had worn to breakfast. She always looks good no matter what she wears, something I was constantly jealous of when we were growing up. I propped my elbow up on the table and rested my head on it as we continued our conversation. This gave me a good angle to stare at her while still seeming attentive to the conversation. She was going on and on about her experience in Europe and her feelings for Yoohyeon which hurt, but seeing her so happy lessened the blow. I chose to focus on her smile and the way her nose crinkled when she laughed, like a rabbit. I had always thought she was cutest when she was excited. I followed her cues and pretended to laugh when she mentioned something funny Yoohyeon said or did, and faked sympathy when she talked about Yoohyeon’s food poisoning in Madrid. Mercifully, the food came right as Minji was about to divulge the details of their first time which had been in a hostel in Prague. I had no interest in hearing about what an exhibitionist my best friend had apparently become while she was out of the country. Thankfully, Minji immediately stops talking when food is involved.
“Oh, these crepes look amazing! I’m so glad you were willing to try a French-inspired place with me. One thing I miss about my travels is the food. You know I’ll never turn down a good meal, but the stuff Yoohyeon and I ate in Europe was out of this world. It’s nice to bring a little taste of it back with me,” Minji explained as she eyed the dish in front of her.
I smiled, “Of course, I know never to come between you and something good to eat. Our friendship was almost lost forever that time I stole a cookie from your lunch in second grade,” I remembered with a chuckle.
Minji joined in my laughter, “I totally remember that! I didn’t talk to you for a record fifteen minutes! I think what broke my vow of silence was that I needed your help opening my juice box. I had to forgive you, but you were on thin ice,” she joked.
The two of us spent the remainder of brunch throwing out stories from our childhood as they came to us. Each story linked to another in a chain of memories that walked us through our more than twenty years of friendship. While it made me happy to go back to the good old days with Minji, it also made me somewhat sad. I suppose melancholy would be the proper word for what I was feeling. Minji’s past may have belonged with me, but her future was going to belong to someone else. Yoohyeon was going to become her world and soon the two of them would be the ones sitting like this, time flying by as they reflected on the best stories from their marriage. Heck, Yoohyeon already took the past several months of Minji’s life away from me. Minji may have returned from Europe, but it seemed that she and I would only drift farther and farther apart.
Once our meal had finished, it was time to pay the check. Minji had insisted upfront that this would be her treat. Normally I would have wrestled her to the ground to wrench the check from her, but I knew better than to cause a scene at such a nice restaurant. Besides, this seemed to be the status quo for the wedding process. The bride-to-be would treat her bridesmaids to something nice when she asked them to be in her wedding, then after that it was their job to spoil her for the rest of the extravaganza. I figured it was best for me to swallow my pride and let things happen the way they were supposed to. That included letting this stranger steal the heart of my best friend. I dreaded the day I’d have to meet this Yoohyeon.
“Alright, looks like the bill is all settled. Thanks for meeting me, Bora. It was so nice to catch up with you. I’m sorry I didn’t reach out sooner, but Yoohyeon and I wanted to get our heads on straight and discuss things with our families before getting anyone else involved. Not to mention we were so jet lagged on top of everything else. Anyways, I’m so glad you’ll be part of the wedding. Oh, I’m such an airhead! I should have told you that we are actually getting married at the end of the month. We wanted to consolidate the bridal shower, the bachelorette party, and the wedding all into one week on Yoohyeon’s family’s estate. Since we have the place and we have connections, most of the arrangements are taken care of. I know it’s a little last minute, but I’ll see you then, right? The bridal party is all gonna stay on the estate together. I’ll send more details! Anyways, I really gotta jet. Yoohyeon is waiting for me to do some wedding planning stuff. See you later!” Minji declared once the waitress brought back her credit card.
My jaw dropped as I processed everything she said. Before I could even get a word out, Minji was waving goodbye and racing out the door to hail a cab. I could only sit in stunned silence, probably looking like an idiot, as I took it all in. My best friend was getting married in less than a month to someone she had met while gallivanting around Europe. They hardly knew each other! Not to mention, I was going to be stuck sharing a house with the bitch who had stolen my best friend, and whatever creepy friends she had in her bridal party, for a whole week. Did that mean I was stuck helping to plan their shower, and their bachelorette parties? If I was, Yoohyeon would be getting an ugly stripper. I knew one from my less savory dancing days who was a short phone call away.
“I’ll mark it in my calendar. Wouldn’t miss it for the world!” I called out pathetically, even though Minji was long-gone.