When Baekhyun woke up on the morning of his 18th birthday, the envelope was already on his desk, as his mother has said it would be. It didn’t look anything special, but to Baekhyun it held the answer to the question he’d been asking himself for as long as he could remember. The day he would find out the first words his soulmate would say to him.
He tossed the covers off of him and ran to the desk, picking up the small white envelope as if it was a fragile piece of china.
“This is it,” Baekhyun whispered to himself. He carefully tore the envelope at the edge and pulled out the small piece of paper that was inside.
On one side it had his name printed on in in gold, and when he flipped it over, the words on it surprised him. They were English. It read, Welcome to Starbucks. Can I take your order? It was simple enough for Baekhyun to understand it, but he didn’t understand how the first words his soulmate would speak to him would be in English. Was his soulmate a foreigner in Korea? Or would they meet in another country? The more Baekhyun looked at it, the more questions he had.
His thoughts were disturbed by a light knock on the door before his mother opened it and stuck her head inside. “So? What does it say?” she asked.
Baekhyun just handed the card wordlessly.
“It’s in English,” she noted.
Baekhyun nodded, he was still staring at the envelope in his hands, thinking about how would he ever meet his soulmate.
“Aw, Baekhyunie, don’t be sad,” came his mother’s soothing voice followed by a hug from behind.
“I-I just thought it would be something simple… something easy …” Baekhyun murmured.
“The best things in life are never easy, Baekie,” his mother said.
“Mom,” Baekhyun started, “I want to go to America.”
“No sir, you just got into Seoul University, you are not going anywhere other than there.” His mother put her hands on his shoulders and spun him around. “Listen to me, Baekhyun, no one ever found their soulmate by going out and looking for them. Life has to run its natural course, and it’s only when you least expect it that you will find her.”
Or him, Baekhyun thought, but he would never say that to his mom. Even though he had come out to his parents years ago, they continued to act as if he liked girls, introducing him to daughters of their friends, asking if he’d met any new girls, talking about his possible future wife. It had initially aggravated him, to the point where he would start yelling at his parents, but then he realized that they were doing it for that very purpose, so he eventually just began to ignore it.
He thought back to when his mother told him how she met her soulmate—his father. According to his mother, she was running to work in the rain without an umbrella when all of a sudden she tripped and fell, and all of her things were scattered on the ground. While she picked up her things a kind young man approached her and asked, “Need a hand?” and in the haste of picking things up she had just replied, “If you wouldn’t mind,” not even registering that what the man had just said was what had been written on her card. Every time she told the story she vividly described how when she was about to pick up her favorite blue pen that had fallen on the floor, her hand froze and she looked back up at the man, and at the same time, they said, “It’s you.”
After hearing so many similar stories from various people, he began to wish something similar for himself.
He expected the words to be something like, “Let me get that for you,” or “Can I buy you a drink?” or “The weather seems nice today,” anything really, as long as it was in Korean.
And that was not what he had gotten.
He’d heard of people who had gotten cards written in completely foreign languages and had to study the language to even understand what it said. His situation wasn’t that bad, but he still saw it as close to impossible to meet his soulmate knowing that the first words they would speak to him were going to be in English.
During the first year following the morning of his 18th birthday, Baekhyun made it his mission to find his soulmate despite his mother’s advice against it. He began visiting Starbucks regularly—as many locations he could find—but eventually he realized his efforts were futile, so for his 19th birthday, he begged his mom to let him take a semester abroad in America, which she begrudgingly agreed to.
The Starbucks visits continued in America, but the more often he went the more disappointed he got. It always started with some sort of welcome, but it was never worded the way he wanted it to, never “Welcome to Starbucks. Can I take your order?”
Baekhyun returned to Korea feeling defeated and he soon gave up on finding his soulmate. He swore off Starbucks forever—partly because he was so sick of it after having drunk it so much for two years—but also because he was enraged that after trying for so long, he had failed.
Baekhyun finished university and got a solid job shortly after at a multinational corporation in Korea. He was sent abroad multiple times but he always refused to walk into a Starbucks at any country.
He’d come to accept that he would be alone for the rest of his life. He went on so many dates and started many relationships, but none of them ended well. Of course there were people that never met their soulmates and got along perfectly well in other relationships—and in many places people didn’t even care much about finding their soulmates, but for Baekhyun, it had been his dream, and having to face the fact that it would never come true completely broke him.
He became an antisocial workaholic, he was labeled as cold and crude, yet at the same time he was promoted to the position of director at the company he worked at and consequently earned triple his initial salary, not to mention the amazing new office he was given. At 27, he was the youngest his company had ever hired for that position. His coworkers seemed jealous but that only made him feel better about himself.
The promotion at work seemed to lighten his usual cold exterior, but it was nothing compared to the boy he’d been before he was 18.
One year later after the promotion, as lounged in his chair, looking out the window at the gorgeous Seoul skyline, his assistant Jongdae sauntered inside and dropped a file on his desk.
“You’re being sent to New York tomorrow to meet with the U.S. directors,” Jongdae announced.
Baekhyun groaned. He’d just come back from China and now he was being sent to America. He could not wait for his vacation trip to Japan in the next coming week.
“Cheer up, they’re giving you Broadway tickets to three different shows, and the presidential suite at the Four Seasons,” Jongdae said, “Remind yourself that there are hundreds of people that would kill to be in your position.”
Baekhyun sighed and laid his head back. “I know, Jongdae.”
“I already called Yeonsu and told her to pack your bags. Your flight it tomorrow at 3 in the afternoon, you land in Los Angeles at 10 a.m. U.S. time then take a connection flight to New York at 2 and you’ll get there 10 ‘o’ clock at night because of the time zones,” Jongdae explained.
“I know how America works, Jongdae,” Baekhyun muttered.
“Okay, Mr. Smarty Pants,” Jongdae sighed, “holler if you need anything…”
Two days later, Baekhyun found himself in the lobby of the Four Seasons at 1 in the morning, dripping wet thanks to the pouring rain outside, arguing with the receptionist because she could not find his reservation. Jongdae would not answer the phone to save his life, and Baekhyun didn’t know who else to call. In his broken English, Baekhyun tried to explain to the lady that he was supposed to be staying in the presidential suite until Wednesday.
They’d been arguing for what felt like hours when Jongdae finally called, apologizing for not picking up sooner, and explained to the woman the situation in his much better English. Baekhyun didn’t know what Jongdae said to the woman that she finally gave him the keys to his room and had a young man take him upstairs, but he was so tired he didn’t even speak to Jongdae after he was done with the woman to ask.
After taking the quickest shower of his life, Baekhyun passed out on the bed in nothing but his boxers.
The next morning, he woke up to his phone vibrating underneath him. He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and hit the answer button.
“What?” Baekhyun groaned.
“Thank god!” was the first thing he heard Jongdae said. “You have a meeting in half an hour! Hurry up!”
Baekhyun’s eyes shot open. “I’m going!” Baekhyun cried, “Thank you,” and hung up, jumping out of bed. There was no time to freshly press his suit, so he just ripped it off the hanger and put it on, throwing his tie around his neck, reminding himself to tie it properly on his way to the meeting.
He washed his face and tidied up his hair as fast as he could and ran out the door with his necessities in hand.
Yawning on the elevator ride down he knew he was going to need coffee if he was going to survive the jet lag. Thankfully for him, there was a Starbuck across the street from the hotel, and he ran towards it, not even caring that he was breaking the promise he had made to himself years ago.
There wasn’t much of a line, which he secretly considered a miracle when he looked at his watch, telling him that he had exactly seven minutes until the meeting.
He was going through the information he needed to know for the meeting that Jongdae had sent him that morning when it came his turn.
“Welcome to Starbucks. Can I take your order?”
“Grande iced Americano double shot. Make it quick,” Baekhyun replied, still looking at his phone. When he didn’t get a reply from the barista he looked up from his phone. He had a sharp remark waiting on his tongue but it went out of his head as soon as his eyes landed on the gorgeous young man at the counter, who looked about as shocked as he did.
For a second Baekhyun’s brain was frozen, then, “What did you say to me?” he asked in English.
“I-I said, um… ‘Welcome to Starbucks. Can I take your order?’,” the boy repeated in a lightly accented English.
“No way,” Baekhyun whispered to himself in Korean.
“A-and you said… ‘Grande iced Americano double shot. Make it quick’,” the boy said.
“It can’t be,” Baekhyun said. After years of searching, of giving up, of destress, of a sense of hopelessness, here he was. Standing in front of Baekhyun. His soulmate.
“It’s you,” Baekhyun whispered, trying to convince himself.
“It’s you,” the boy echoed in perfect Korean. He scrambled in his pocket and pulled out a small piece of paper, folded up, and extended it to Baekhyun.
Baekhyun already knew what it was but he took it and unfolded it hastily nonetheless. The paper looked old, it was taped down the middle where there was a visible rip, and the lines where it had been folded were deeply wrinkled, but in neat black in the words Grande iced Americano double shot. Make it quick. were printed on it.
He glanced at his watch, only to find out his meeting was in four minutes—and he would undoubtedly be late.
“Pen,” he said. And the boy—Park Chanyeol was his name, Baekhyun found after glancing at the other side of the paper—looked confused for a second but then understood Baekhyun and handed him a pen.
Baekhyun scribbled down his name and phone number on it and handed it back to the boy. “Forget the coffee,” he said, “text me when you get off.” And he was out, leaving the dumbfounded boy to attend to the next customer.
It was like a giant wall in his heart had come tumbling down. He could feel butterflies in his stomach. He couldn’t wait to get to know Chanyeol. His soulmate.