Minjoo was six years old when they moved next door to Chaewon’s family house at a peaceful neighborhood in the suburbs – her parents wanted her and her sister to grow up far away of the erratic and over polluted city, to have enough space to run around with their friends in the safety of a small community. The new house was the typical one for that kind of neighborhood, two-story with a large backyard, maybe a little too big for the family of four, but Minjoo liked it instantly.
She remembered running around the house until she was too tired to do anything other than lay on her bed and look out of the window, her curious brown eyes trying to catch a glimpse of her new neighbors. However, when her chocolate brown eyes met the strong chestnut of Chaewon’s through the window glass, she had panicked and ducked under her covers, suddenly shy for no reason. She could only recall Chae’s overly serious expression, her lips tightly pressed and her intense stare – it would take her a little more time to realize that it was just Chaewon’s usual face. But well, Minjoo had always being a soft hearted baby, what means she gets easily scared.
The second time she saw Chaewon was under the most embarrassing circumstances, albeit she would always be glad for having the slightly older girl around at the time. It was early December and Christmas decorations were everywhere in the neighborhood for little Minjoo's delight. She couldn’t recall what exactly her parents were doing, but her sister had ditched her to eat and she was left alone with a big Christmas tree that looked just like the one in American movies – this one though, wasn’t a real tree, therefore it was much lighter and more vulnerable than she could’ve predicted, hence why it didn’t respond well to her attempt of climbing it to get one of the decorations. Chaewon had found her fighting to keep the tree in place, a desperate look in her chubby face as she struggled to not let it fall to the ground and ruin everything. Chae was never the type to show much emotion, but that time the shock was clear in her face, although the little brunette managed to think on her feet and help her to place the tree back on its place without much damage done.
They had to spend the rest of the night trying to fix the torn branches and putting back the decorations – Chaewon wasn’t one to speak much, but she gave Minjoo reassuring smiles and told her it would be alright, and like this they just worked together. No one seemed to notice her little act, nor Chaewon told anyone about it. That day Minjoo decided that her neighbor wasn’t scary at all, she was more like an angel if anything.
Her assumption was proven right in the years that followed. She and Chaewon had a typical relationship for neighbors, they were friendly but not exactly friends. They would sit together at family gatherings and talk about silly things like their favorite cartoons and school – Chae was a quiet person, the contemplative and observant type, while Minjoo herself was shy at first but also bubbly and a little impulsive. They were a weird match, but one that worked fine.
Usually Chaewon would be the one to help her. Someone bothering her at school? Chae would be there to watch over her; She forgot to bring her sports uniform? Chaewon would lend hers; She was feeling uncomfortable around the other kids? Chae would sit beside her in the bus even if she could’ve just got a ride with her parents. Minjoo was always grateful and slowly this gratitude turned into admiration, a childish idolization that never failed to make Chaewon blush and smile awkwardly at her compliments.
It was a little over five years after their first meeting that Minjoo realized that her admiration might be more than just that. Spark, the dog she had gotten for her eight birthday, was her most beloved friend, but he was far from being a good, obedient boy. His new achievement was to jump the fence and run away, leaving a crying Minjoo behind as she searched for him in the neighborhood – her friend Yuri tagged along, but the hamster like girl was balling even harder than her by now. Spark usually comes running when she calls, but he hadn’t show up even after they screamed their lungs out and it was getting dark. She was the one supposed to look after him as her sister, Hyewon, was at a sleepover at her friend’s house. Minjoo she was scared of telling her parents that she had failed to keep him safe again, the weight of guilt only made her cry even more. She was about to give up and ask for her parents help, when a familiar figure approached her.
Chaewon was struggling to carry the dog in her arms, he wasn’t that small and she was still only a skinny twelve-year-old girl. However, Spark was unusually quiet as she made her way to the other kids, giving Minjoo the reassuring smile that was her trademark. Turns out Spark had tried to pick a fight with a bigger, more menacing dog, luckily Chaewon and the owner of the other dog were able to intervene and Spark was apparently fine, just scared. Minjoo had sobbed even harder, relieved, as she hugged the girl – and Spark – tightly.
That night Chaewon had led their way back home – insisting she could carry Spark just fine, even if her flushed red face told otherwise –, talking to the younger girls in her sweet voice, distracting them to the point where when they arrived at Minjoo’s place, the kids had small smiles on their faces and there were no traces of tears – just their puffy eyes, but it couldn’t be helped.
Chae had stayed over even after Yuri had to return to her house, helping to clean Spark and making sure he would be presentable. Minjoo gifted her a tray of cookies and milk as a thank you. Chaewon had eaten in silence after giving her a gentle smile and asking her to eat with her. Minjoo wasn’t sure why, but that night when Chae bid her goodbye by her doorstep, she had hugged her tight, placing her lips on the girl’s soft cheek as she muttered another ‘thank you’. Her face had been as red as Chaewon’s when the girl left, yet her heart was skipping happily into her chest.
From then on, she realized admiration wasn’t quite the right word to define her feelings. Still, she wasn’t sure how to do so.
Chaewon always found her next door neighbor a funny person – not in a mean way, it was endearing really. Minjoo was too clumsy, too eager and transparent. She carried her heart on her sleeve. It was impossible to not find the younger girl adorable.
They were so different and perhaps that was the reason for her admiration. Chaewon was calm and quiet most of the time, she liked to keep it to herself and it takes her a while to warm up to people. She wasn’t the type that verbalizes her feelings, instead she would rather to show it through small gestures.
She was never good at socializing and at first sight Minjoo looked like a scared cat, running away from her before she could even manage to smile at the younger – her smiles were as awkward as she felt back then, but it was better than her unintentional glares. Luckily for her, Minjoo’s clumsiness made it easier to approach her, even if at the time Chaewon was as flustered as the kid. The meeting seemed to create a pattern, where Chae would often go to the younger girl’s rescue whenever it was needed. She was the youngest out of three children and was used to being the one that was taken care of and not the other way around, so having someone to watch over was a new experience.
Her mother used to tell her to be patient and help the kid out since Minjoo was younger and probably saw her as an older sister she could rely on – in times like this Chaewon would only nod in agreement, although she wasn’t sure if it was the kind of relation they had, after all she was barely six months older than the other girl and Minjoo already had her own sister to look up to.
Still, being around Minjoo was interesting – Chae couldn’t find any other word to describe it. Even after years of knowing each other, the fellow Kim still catches her eye all the time. She enjoys observing the brunette and learning about her.
Minjoo was always up to something, and she had her own way of doing things. The younger was a hard worker, she would try and do a bunch of things all at once. Most of time she would engage in the weirdest tasks – like when she was 8 and tried to build an ant farm in her backyard and got bitten by them right after. More than laugh at Minjoo’s antics, Chaewon found her actions more endearing than anything, Minjoo’s tasks always seem to have a clear objective that would affect positively someone (or something) else, her kindness was so innate that Chae couldn’t resist but help her whenever she had the chance, even if the work seemed pointless.
When she went to middle school, they started to spend their time a little differently. Chaewon was busier now, and instead of helping her to look for bugs in the garden – they both would run away when they managed to find any – or something equally weird, they would just sit down to study together or have dinner when their parents decided to visit each other. Sometimes she could feel Minjoo’s brown orbs on her, a look of awe whenever she did the smallest things, making Chae’s ears warm due to the embarrassment. The younger girl’s admiration was flattering but she wasn’t sure how to react to it. She knew Minjoo was grateful for her help – it wasn’t much, she thought. Chaewon tended to try and help whenever needed, it was just the type of person she was, however no one else seem to notice or appreciate her actions as much as the other girl and she felt like it was okay to go an extra mile for her always.
Maybe her mother was right and Minjoo had grown fond of her like a sister, it would make sense considering her real sister, Hyewon, was a couple of years older so they couldn’t bond in the same way, she knew it from experience – she loved Eunbi, but the three years of difference between them put them in very different stages of life. Chaewon tried to feel happy about it, but she couldn’t help but think that the feelings she harbors for Minjoo were very different from the fraternal affection she felt for Yena – who was older than her, but always acted like a little sister instead of the other way around.
She had just turned fifteen when she was able to put a name on the warm, sweet feeling Minjoo’s clumsy cheek kisses and tight hugs brought her.
Chae’s first part time job was at an aquarium a little over ten minutes from her house, a friend of her parents runs the place and it was fun enough for her to always shows up to work with a smile – or perhaps the smile just never left her face ever since she left her house in the company of her next door neighbor.
Minjoo was the type that loved all kind of animals, from her not-so-obedient dog to the penguins at the aquarium, the girl practically beamed at the idea of feeding the little ones even if the smell of fish made Chaewon a little disgusted sometimes. Their jobs didn’t include playing with the penguins or any other animal there, but Chaewon would allow Minjoo to spend a little extra time taking care of them, as the older Kim would deal with the boring tasks like handling the tickets and fixing the decoration. Minjoo always looked extra bright after she came back – she also smelled a little like fish, but Chae could overlook it – and would march to give the new visitors a tour through the place.
They were a good team, even if a little clumsy, Minjoo was good at the job and they helped each other. Chaewon also had to admit that spending the summer with her neighbor was nice, it made a lot easier to feel eager to go to work and walk back home after a long day. Perhaps a little too nice.
She was used to have Minjoo around, but not so close.
Usually they would exchange greetings every morning before school and once or twice a week they would visit each other – it was a lot less often than when they were younger, as the girls had much more to do now and different groups of friends. It’s been years, but Chaewon’s social abilities have not evolved much, so she found it hard to approach Minjoo when she was around her younger group of friends – it was weird, she would feel like the older sister around them and it would be awkward, however Yena didn’t seem to have any trouble meddling with the kids and bonding right away with Minjoo’s friend, Yuri.
At the aquarium it was different. There were no other people around, beside one or other older employee that would be too busy with their own work to chat away. When it was just the two of them, it was easier for Chaewon to relax and allow herself to enjoy the younger girl’s company – Minjoo seem to think the same, as she would wait for Chaewon to go home even when the older told her she would stay a little longer. Usually, they would just enjoy each other’s presence, talk about their plans after work, what they expected from the school year and complain about how fast summer was going by. It was just small talk, but Chae liked it, moreover she liked to listen to Minjoo.
Today was one of these days where Chaewon decided to stay behind and enjoy looking at the blue tanks and the peaceful fish swimming from side to side, the one advantage of working there was that they didn’t have to pay to see it. She sat on the floor recently clean, resting her back against one of the plain walls that faced the transparent glass where a single penguin was swimming a little too enthusiastically and she could tell right away which one it was. She smiled at the view, not only because the penguin was adorable, but because Minjoo was excitedly interacting with him through the glass.
“Having fun with MinMin?” She asked from her place, and the younger girl turned around to smile as her. The penguin wasn’t named MinMin, it was actually Minjoo’s old nickname, but Chae called him like that thanks to the fact that he seemed so fond of the other girl, following her around whenever she would go in to feed them.
Minjoo had her chocolate brown eyes partially covered by her hair, a smile so big that made her Indian dimples pop out as her eyes curved into a smile, she seemed excited like a kid even though they were supposed to be moody teenagers that don’t get easily happy with things like this anymore – but Minjoo was very special, very Minjoo to hid her childish delight. Chaewon thought it was adorable, Minjoo always was.
It was a common sight, yet made Chaewon’s heart grow a little bigger, a gentle skip on its beats that wasn’t uncomfortable, but very much welcome. She rested her face into her hands, elbows on her crossed legs, as she watched fondly the cute interaction.
“We can still visit them when school starts, you know.” She reminded gently, knowing that it must be one of the younger girl’s worries as the summer was coming to an end.
“I know, but…” Minjoo looked over her shoulder, nodding slightly as she bite on the inside of her cheek, making her look a little more like a frog. It was a little weird – even weirder Chaewon also thought it was adorable.
Chae only raised her brow slightly, in a silent request for her to continue.
“But it won’t be the same. Won’t you miss it here?”
“I’ll miss…” The older furrowed her eyebrows as her voice trailed off.
She averted her gaze to the little penguin behind Minjoo, trying to think about other things she loved about the place other than the girl’s company. She liked it here, it was a nice place to work, the extra money was nice and the cafeteria food decent, besides she liked the animals too, so why…Why the words on the tip of her tongue were those?
As her eyes met Minjoo’s expectant face again, noticing the brown orbs watching over her with that so familiar expression, she felt the little skip on her heart beat again – gentle, almost impossible to notice, but there. Of course, it was there.
There was just one thought on her mind. And she told her that, because she just can’t seem to stop herself. “I’ll miss you.”
A pinkish color tinted the younger girl’s cheeks, little spots that reached her dimples when her lips curved into an involuntary smile as she looked down, shyly. “I’ll miss you too.”
Chaewon felt the tips of her ears warm up just like her chest, the subtly feeling filling her up slowly, making her feel her head light. A smile found its way to her face, not the awkward one she gives usually, but a genuine that reached the rich chestnut of her eyes sending a very clear message to the younger Kim that finally looked up.
Chaewon liked Minjoo. And she realized that liking her was an emotion of its own, something that she didn’t need to name yet, but she would like to feel for a long time.
The year ended faster than Minjoo wished it to. Summer went by so quickly and before she knew it she was back at school and then it was Christmas and the start of a new year.
It would be Chaewon’s first year of high school and Minjoo’s last year of middle school. They would go to the same school next year, but for now, it meant – in theory, at least – that they would see each other even less often.
Of course, they still can hang out together at their houses, after all it only took a minute to knock at the neighbor’s door and Chaewon would be there, Minjoo knew it, still it didn’t make things easier. Back when she was a kid, it was easy to just go looking for her ‘unnie’ and ask her to help with something or just for them to play, no one would care even if she barged into the place and dragged Chaewon out because that was what children do – she never did it so literally, even then she was still a shy kid.
Now it wasn’t as simple, she felt awkward just walking there like that. What if she was interrupting Chae’s study? What if the other was tired from the long day? What if she just didn’t want to hang out with her and felt pressured? For every question there was a rather simple answer, one that deep down she knew, yet lacked confidence to trust her instinct.
At the aquarium it was like they had their own little world, where the subtle glances and smiles they exchanged weren’t notice by anyone else, and words weren’t really needed. It was a very simple, innocent thing, just the fluttering feeling that none of them labeled.
Even next year when they would be at the same school, things wouldn’t be as easy. There would be people everywhere – their nosy classmates, their older sisters, their friends, even the teachers…Too many people to notice their actions, to be quick to come to conclusions and turn it into a big deal that would make them both awkward.
Minjoo wondered what she should do. The summer was a good opportunity to stay close to the older Kim and if anything, it made her more sure about her feelings – what feelings? She knew she liked Chaewon, it was so obvious that even Hyewon would laugh and tease her whenever she mentioned the girl. But how she could tell whether or not those were genuine? Chaewon had been in her life for a long time and she liked her for a similar period of time, a small little crush that grew a bit every time Chaewon was…Well, just Chaewon with her chestnut eyes that always seem so peaceful, with her small smile and soft giggles that were so rare that only made them more especial, with the soft melodic voice that was so pleasant...
Definitely Hyewon had a reason to laugh at her.
She could say her crush was indeed love, however she was only a fourteen-year-old girl with no experience, and she didn’t want to get her heart broken for getting overly attached to this feeling – the feeling, because she was already into too deep to deny how attached she was to Chaewon.
Minjoo sighed, resting her head on her crossed arms. She was sat at the steps that led to the backyard, watching the last night before school starts slowly going away as the stars traveled through the sky. Her eyes could recognize some of the constellations, the familiar forms shining a little brighter in the cloudless night. It brought her a peaceful feeling, she always loved the sky – she loved the most romantic aspect of it, how every constellation had an interesting story and to imagine what was beyond it, but Chaewon had a much more realistic take on it and she would just talk about the astronomical aspects and…
“You know, you can see Mars quite well tonight. I’d get my telescope, but I’m afraid my mother would make me clean up the attic to get it.” Chae’s voice quietly said, and when Minjoo looked back surprised, she noticed the girl’s apologetic smile – Chaewon didn’t mean to scare her.
The younger Kim broke into a smile of her own, shaking her head. “We can watch it just like it’s.” She slid to the side, giving Chaewon a place to sit beside her.
With a smile, Chae thanked her and sat down.
She pointed out her favorite constellations in evidence and Minjoo did the same, even though they both already knew it, learning together throughout the years. Eventually they fell into a comfortable silence and Minjoo stole a glance at the girl’s profile, noticing the slightly tension on her jaw and how her light chestnut eyes looked darker today. Usually the older exuded a calming aura that she always found so alluring, today it was different.
Minjoo wanted to ask her if there was something wrong, but she didn’t want to sound like Chaewon presence wasn’t welcome – if it was for her, she would still be by herself wondering whether or not she should go visit the older. Albeit the expression on Chae’s face was worrying her and making it hard to not say anything.
She was leaning on her hands, her palms touching the cold wood below it, when the warmth of something else made itself known – Chaewon’s hand, almost touching hers. Her eyes looked at their hands, before her gaze travelled up to Kim’s face. “Chaewon…” She trailed off, unsure of what to say.
“To be honest, I’m a little nervous.” The older admitted with a small, shy smile. She looked embarrassed for saying it out loud, however she didn’t avoid her gaze. “About school, I mean. I know Yena will be there, but still.”
Minjoo’s pouted her lips slightly, her heart becoming a little softer at her words. Sometimes she forgot Chaewon wasn’t that much older than her and had her own insecurities – she wanted to give her a hug and shower her with positive words, but she restrained herself. “You think you won’t like it?”
“I don’t know.” Chae shook her head slowly. “I think I’ll have even more responsibilities and I hope it doesn’t take all my time. I guess sometimes I pay too much attention to school and forget to, you know, other stuff.”
Minjoo nodded in understanding. She had always been just an average student, so she couldn’t say she related to it completely – school could take a lot of her time sometimes, especially when it was exams season, yet she knew it was different for the other. Chaewon was an overachiever, so these words didn’t surprise Minjoo. Most teenagers had trouble being responsible, she was a little too much. Kids like Chaewon were always praised, her sister Hyewon often was due to her amazing skills with numbers, but it also came with a big burden of having people’s expectations on them.
She moved her hand slightly, covering Chaewon’s hand with hers to give it a gentle squeeze. “You can do it! You’ll fit just right there.” Gifting her with a fond smile, she once more nodded positively. “Don’t push yourself too much. I’ll be here, for anything, if you ever need me.”
Chae didn’t give her an immediate reply, instead she stared at their joined hands for a moment before speaking in a soft tone. “Actually, I…” The older Kim hesitated, her lips curving into a faint smile. “I like watching the night sky…With you, it’s one of the things I don’t want to stop doing. Do you mind if we still do it? I mean, we can do other things if you like or you’re busy or…”
“I’d love to.” Minjoo didn’t let her finish her rambling. Her smile turning into a grin that was too big to be hidden. It was exactly what she wished for earlier and now Chaewon was there asking her to spend more time together, just the two of them – she concluded Chaewon could only be perfect, she never disappointed her even about things she couldn’t possibly know about. “I’d love to spend more time together.”
Chaewon left out a light chuckle, that was more relieved than gracious, but Minjoo loved it all the same. That night they spend the rest of the time eating the homemade sweets Minjoo’s mom offered and talking about their plans for the year, planning their own little schedule to make sure the promise wouldn’t be broken.
Hyewon eventually joined them under the excuse of teasing her baby sister not so subtly about her crush – Minjoo had big red spots on her cheeks and Chaewon’s ears were red when the older woman left them alone. And Hyewon? Hyewon had two pockets full of sweets.
Chaewon wasn’t perfect, far from it – at least it was what she thought as she massaged her forehead, trying to concentrate on her literature paper instead of getting distracted by the sound of laugh coming all the way from the other side of the fence, in the neighbor’s yard. She was an overachiever always trying to get the best grades and the most impressive results. Perhaps it had to do with being the youngest out of three children. It wasn’t easy when her one year older sister, Yena, was always getting herself into trouble – perhaps Chae’s call in life was rescuing clumsy people – while simultaneously being the most charismatic and likeable person one could meet; And her older sister, a sprite and milk enthusiastic called Eunbi, was naturally skilled in pretty much everything and liked to act like a mom bossing them around and being clingy.
She tried so hard to give people the best impression always, but she also had her not so good moments – like now, being irritated by no apparent reason other than the fact that she was too much of a coward to step outside.
The weather was finally getting colder and they had the first snow of the year last week. It was a free weekend for her for once – ‘free’ was a little exaggerate, she still had to make sure her homework was perfect and she knew studying ahead for her exams next month would be the best strategy. Still, here she was, rereading her essay while everyone else seem to be outside engaging in snow fights and what not.
Yena had told her about plans of going to the ice rink two blocks away from there, apparently Minjoo and some of her friends were going as well and everyone seemed excited about it – albeit they had visited the place so many times before. Her mom even encouraged her to go, saying it would be good to ‘enjoy her youth with her friends’, but she had to contain her grimace at the words.
Yes, she knew everyone, but she wasn’t exactly close with most of them. There was Minjoo of course, but meeting her while surrounded by her friends would just make it more awkward and she didn’t want to ruin the nice pace their relationship had in the moment – what relationship? They would just star gaze together, sometimes watch a movie or just order something to eat while talking about silly stuff. It was comfortable and nice, and perfectly into her comfort zone. Going out with a bunch of other people wasn’t.
In other words: She was a coward, afraid she would embarrass herself by being socially awkward in front of Minjoo and her sister.
Fortune is never great for cowards and her reminder came in the form of a duck-lipped brunette better known as her older sister.
“You, No Fun! Let’s go, everyone is ready!” Yena called, opening the door with no warning and barging in – typical, for a while they even shared a room so her sudden appearances were nothing new.
Chaewon raised her brow slightly, facing the older in an inquisitive way. “Don’t you have a test on Monday?”
“On Monday. Today is Saturday, what means studying day is only tomorrow or Monday morning, but I kind want to sleep in, so will have to be tomorrow night.” Yena shrugged her shoulders with her usual grin, obviously she and Chaewon had very different priorities.
“You’ll fail.” The younger replied straight away, receiving a pout in return. Yena was actually very cute like this, but Chaewon was immune to her puppy – or duckling – face by now.
“She’ll fail anyway, so better enjoy while you can!” A voice interrupted them, no one other than her oldest sister, Eunbi, who also invited herself in with no ceremony. “Just go and have fun, when you go to college you won’t have time for anything.” Although Eunbi was in her first year of law school, she wasn’t one to talk about it in the moment. The girl had a thick coat on and her car keys in hand, and by the glint on her eyes Chaewon cold guess where she was going.
“How come you have time to go on coffee dates with your friends everyday then?” The youngest Kim asked, crossing her arms.
Eunbi didn’t miss a beat, answering with ease. “It’s called a study date, Chaewonie. Caffeine helps your brain to work!” She smirked very much like Chaewon often does, knowing she had the upper hand. “Now go, before I change my mind and tell mom you just two are just going there to flirt with girls instead of ice skating!”
The oldest Kim urged them, using her hands to gesture the door. Chaewon wasn’t left much choice as Yena grabbed the back of her pink sweater and proceeded to drag her towards the exit. She only had enough time to grab her wallet on the table and her coat from the rack and shout a quick ‘bye’ to their parents before they left the house with Eunbi following suit.
While her oldest sister marched to her car, the youngest duo went to the opposite side, heading to the front of Minjoo’s house where a small group of teenagers gathered.
Yujin, Minjoo’s tall and athletic friend was the first to notice them, coming to hug Yena and starting to speak excitedly – knowing their personalities, it was no surprise the two got along so well. Yuri was there as well, what was even less surprising because it explained why Yena was so willingly to come out. Besides the two girls, there were some other kids that Chaewon couldn’t recall the names, as well as Hyewon and Chaeyeon, her seniors. She bowed, greeting them with a more relaxed smile, feeling a little less out of place now that she wouldn’t be the only high schooler there – Yena didn’t count.
The group was talkative and she buried her hands in her pockets, just keeping a small smile on her face to not scary anyone away and exchanging a couple of words with the others once in a while. Her gaze, however, insisted on going back and forth between the group and Minjoo’s house, wondering where the said girl was.
Hyewon nudged her arm lightly, giving her a knowing look before saying. “She went to grab a coat, but she probably saw you and is trying on another fourteen now.” Her tone was quiet, as if she only meant it to Chaewon to hear her words. The younger blinked, nodding slowly. She wasn’t dense – at least she thought so –, but she tried her best to not read too much into what her senior said, otherwise her ears would be burning hot the moment she saw Minjoo.
Thanks gods for her long hair because her ears were indeed warm, and probably very pink as well, when Minjoo finally made her way to greet them with a flustered face. The girl had a cute grey beret on her head and was wearing a sky blue coat that fit her just right – Chaewon didn’t know how truthful Hyewon’s words were, but she indeed looked extra pretty tonight. Her lips naturally curved into a smile as she prepared to greet her, yet she didn’t get to say a word before Yujin jumped to her side, hugging her shoulders.
“Oh, Kim Minjoo! Looking beautiful today! Do you want to be my date?” Ahn jokes, winking at the girl who pushed her lightly, giggling.
“What do you mean by today?”
Chaewon averted her gaze, refraining from frowning. Was it flirting or just a joke? She didn’t quite like the feeling it brought.
Luckily for her, Yuri moved to try and steal Minjoo’s hat and soon the group became a mess with so many people talking and trying Minjoo’s poor hat. Yena didn’t waste time, suggesting them to start moving and like this the group made their way to the ice rink. Chae followed behind, walking beside Hyewon and her friend instead of get involved with the loud kids in the front.
She failed to notice the way Minjoo had also smiled at her for a quick moment before Yujin interrupted, nor she noticed that the brunette not so subtly would try to steal a glance at her even if it made her trip on Yuri more than once.
The rink wasn’t very big and it was still too early in the season for it to be filled with people, so they only had to share it with some kids and their parents. Chaewon considered not entering and staying with Hyewon and Chaeyeon, grabbing the chance to get some useful insight about what to expect in the next year of school and such – she was not only a coward, but also a nerd. Hyewon, being a math prodigy and Chaeyeon part of the student council, they both had plenty of tips to give and she did her best to not let her attention wander around looking for Minjoo and focus on it instead.
Unfortunately for her, after fifteen minutes Chaeyeon decided she also wanted to go ice skating and dragged Hyewon with her, meaning that Chaewon only had two choices: awkwardly staying in the bleachers and pretend to check something on her phone, or giving up and join the rest of the group. With a sigh, she decided on the latter, after all she used to really like this kind of stuff. She could focus on trying some old tricks on her own, no one would mind her and she would be free from awkward conversations.
She was a little rusty after so many years, but Eunbi had been her unofficial teacher, what means she was trained by the best, and it didn’t take long for her to feel comfortable again. Speeding up, she circled the rink, before turning around to have a look at her group of friends who were all over the place in the moment. Yena trying to teach Yuri some trick and failing, Chaeyeon doing some weird dance while Hyewon just laughed at her, and the youngest ones playing tag…Wait, her favorite youngest was nowhere to be see.
Her eyes grew wide as she searched for Minjoo, only to hear her the voice right behind her. Chaewon made a 180° turn, her feet landing dangerously near the other girl who had come to her meeting. She reached to grab Minjoo’s arms, making sure the girl wouldn’t lose her balance thanks to her reckless behavior – she could almost hear Eunbi screaming at her for skating backwards.
“Oh, sorry! Are you fine?” She asked, looking at the girl with worried eyes.
Minjoo seemed a little taken aback by her reactions and just nodded, gently pulling away from the older girl. “You didn’t bump into me.” She left out an airy chuckle, pointing the obvious that only Chaewon didn’t seem to realize.
“But I almost did.” Embarrassed, the older brunette gave her an apologetic smile.
The younger Kim just shook her head, reassuring it was okay. However, her smile faltered for a moment as she looked over Chaewon’s shoulder, her pretty chocolate eyes showing a glimpse of something Chae couldn’t define correctly – sadness? Annoyance? She was tempted to look and see for herself, but Minjoo’s words stopped her.
“I didn’t know you and Hyewonie get along so well. You guys hang out at school?” The seemly innocent question had a weird tone to it and Chaewon shrugged her shoulders, unsure of how to reply.
“Sometimes?” Hyewon was one of the seniors she was closer with, thanks to the fact that she knew the girl for so long and didn’t feel intimidated by her like many others, but saying they were close friends would be a little too much. They had lunch together once in a while when their schedules matched and Hyewon could be quite fun to be around, however Yena probably knew the girl much better than her. “We don’t have any classes together, but her and Chaeyeon gave me very nice studying tips. We were talking about it just now.” She decided to just tell the truth, not that there was too much to tell – she left out the part that she just followed the older girls to avoid mingling with Minjoo and her friends.
“Hm.” The slightly taller girl – when Minjoo had grown taller than her? Chaewon couldn’t tell. “But you see her a lot at home.” It was more like MinMin was talking to herself than to her, but it was loud enough for her ears to pick up.
Knitting her eyebrows, Chae tried to grasp the meaning behind these words. Did she really see Hyewon often? She would just come over to Minjoo’s house to see the girl, and although sometimes Hyewon would come to steal some of their food and tease them with her comments, most of the time the senior would be out with her friends or at her room, meaning that Chaewon wouldn’t even see her. “I guess? I go there to see you, so I don’t pay much attention.” She shrugged once more. “She told me to stop by to get her old math notebook, though…In exchange for some fried chicken, of course.” Chaewon smirked, shaking her head slightly.
Whether it was for the chicken comment or for the rest of her words, it seemed to work and soon the smile was back in its full beauty to Minjoo’s face. “It seems like a deal my sister would agree on.” Minjoo chuckled softly and Chaewon could appreciate the little dimples on her cheeks and the way her eyes closed turning into half-moon.
Her own eyes formed a smile as she stared at girl. There it was again, that fluttering feeling filling her chest and she forgot there was people around, completely focused on Minjoo.
“You look cute.” She let out the phrase easily, albeit Minjoo didn’t have her new coat or beret on in the moment, just a simple white sweater and dark pants instead, she wasn’t lying – she always thought she looked cute anyway, or perhaps beautiful was a more accurate wording, but in her eyes Minjoo was still the little girl she met years ago and she would never forget how adorable she was.
Minjoo’s smile faltered, her face gaining a slightly darker shade – very adorable – as she thanked Chaewon in a small voice.
Feeling a little more confident, Chae reached out, her hand hesitating before grabbing onto Minjoo’s wrist – she wanted to hold her hand, but there was so much her coward self could do for one night. “Want to play like the old times?” She gestured the large space in front of them, inviting the girl to join her in a friendly competition. They used to play together there, trying the new tricks Eunbi would teach them – with big fluff pillows on the backs to make sure they would land safely –, Minjoo had always been clumsy, but with the years she became better at it and their skill level was similar. Or at least it used to be.
The younger brunette nodded enthusiastically, pulling Chaewon with her to slide across the ice and get into a better position to try one of the jumps she knew by heart.
Soon the high schooler realized that her friend had practiced way more than her during the last years, her moves were sharper and there was no awkwardness in them – even the others stopped to look at the little show, what made Minjoo smile in embarrassment and come closer to Chaewon again. The older didn’t mind having lost so badly, she was actually proud of how graceful and elegant her shy neighbor could be, she promised herself she would bring them more often to the place so Minjoo could enjoy doing her thing without the nosy friends and she could enjoy watching her.
“KimKim, you two come here and join us! I need someone who can actually skate for their life or being ‘It’ is no fun!” The leader of their said noisy friends, Yujin, didn’t waste time recruiting them to the tag game – apparently Yujin was the extra competitive type and in a matter of minutes Chaewon was simultaneously having the best and worst time of her life as she tried to not get caught by the tall dog-like girl.
Chae wished they could catch a break and maybe get out of the ice to eat something and just talk for a bit, but she couldn’t deny that hanging out with the others was actually fun for once and she could hear the sound of Minjoo’s laugh all the way throughout the game – and this, she decided, was worth all her time.
The first year of high school was quite a busy one for Minjoo. Not only her classes were harder and required more of her attention, but also her social life became much more complicated. High school always comes with a lot of drama, too many new people to meet and all sort of changes, not only the physical ones – that, by the way, were hitting her hard as puberty made her grow several centimeters in the last couple of months and she finally seem to be getting rid of her baby fat.
Now she was in the same school as her neighbors, Yena and Chaewon that were also her seniors, and in the same class as her best friend Yuri. What meant she could see Chaewon with more frequency as they made their way to school every day by foot, or in the bus when it was too cold to walk there – Yena was supposed to get her license soon, but no one, not even Yuri seem to trust her crush's driving abilities…Oh, yeah, there was that: Yuri and Yena, always these two, so close together teasing each other and flirting so shamelessly that Chaewon and her had to prevent themselves from cringing. It was cute and Minjoo would tell Yuri it once in a while, but the shorter girl would always deny there was anything going on between the two of them – Meanwhile Yena would sit by their table at lunch and start talking about how she and Yuri were ‘only dating but wouldn’t get married’ and earn herself a smack in the head from the offended part. Unfortunately, Chaewon had a different lunch time so Minjoo had to endure watching the duo bickering alone.
Actually, Minjoo didn’t see Chae much around the school. They would come in together, but the older girl would leave them as soon as they arrived, going to tend to some student council activities instead of walking her to her class like Yena would do for Yuri – Jo would insist it was the ‘duck’ just being annoying, but Minjoo could notice her smile every time and she had to admit she wished Chaewon would do the same for her too, after all their classes were even in the same floor while Yena’s were in the third floor. She would walk home alone, as the others would be busy with club activities. Minjoo didn’t have interest in any of the school clubs, and since it wasn’t mandatory, she would rather to spend her spare hours in the afternoon back in the aquarium doing some volunteer work – the owner insisted on paying her for the work, but she was more than happy to come to play with the animals, and just accept the free tickets he would hand her sometimes.
There was also another reason why she decided against joining a club for now. She was a shy person around strangers, and none of the groups her friends were a part interested her – Yena was part of the basketball team, but Minjoo was far from being an athletic person; Yuri had joined the choir and seem to enjoy it a lot, however Minjoo hated the very own thought of singing in front of people, especially among so many talented members; Chaewon was busy with the student council, it seem like much work and only top tier students were part of it, so she didn’t even think about joining. Therefore, she would have had to pick a club where she didn’t know anyone, the idea itself was already uncomfortable, even more when she had to deal with a bunch of seniors trying to recruit her while not so subtly hitting on her – apparently joining a club was a nice way to meet new potential dates, what was a big ‘yikes’ for her.
Dating was a common topic for pretty much everything in high school, as if people were always looking for an excuse to date – although most of the time it didn’t go past one-sided crushes and awkward confessions that failed. Minjoo wasn’t really interested in the topic, but it seemed to be unavoidable. No one had confessed to her yet, but the brunette received a little too much attention for her liking, having to deal with stares, grease pick up lines written in sticky notes glued to her desk, surprise gifts that ranged from boxes of milk to chocolates and a lot of cringe worth poesy about how pretty she was. Don’t misunderstand, it was cute and she would always thank for the gifts and try her best to be nice while reinforcing she would rather not receive anything more, but she didn’t want any of it, after all she wouldn’t be able to answer positively to a confession and accepting those things seemed like she was leading them on.
Her classmates would often annoy her with questions, trying to guess her ideal type and who Minjoo had her eyes set on, but she would just brush them off, alleging she wasn’t interested in anyone – she was, but she didn’t want to give them a name and Kim knew they wouldn’t leave her alone until she did. Her lies would easily crumble every time Chaewon suddenly showed up, claiming the council didn’t have any activities for the day so they could walk home together and Minjoo would fail pathetically in hiding her smile, gathering her things quickly to come to Chae’s meeting. The older Kim would always return her smile with a grin – it would be replaced by a slightly frown whenever she noticed one of Minjoo’s admirer too close to the girl or a new gift on her desk, in these days she would personally come collect Minjoo as if she was afraid someone would take her away; this, of course, didn’t pass unnoticed by the rest of the class.
Minjoo didn’t mind the rumors, part of her actually enjoyed it. At least until the day Yena decided to come along and her ‘status’ went from potential girlfriend to little sister.
She was putting away her stuff, ready to go home, when a loud voice called. “Yuri my baby! Little sis!” Yena, of course, in her nearly endless energy and too pure for this world expression, waving at them enthusiastically. “Let’s go home together!”
Her eyes that often resemble the ones from a certain cartoon frog, grew wider in surprise. Yena was always busy with her club or cram school, what was she doing there? Yuri, on the other hand, looked annoyed – or at least she tried to pretend she was – and not surprised at all. As if she could read her mind, the shorter girl explained. “No after school activities today, the teachers have some sort of meeting and they don’t want us messing around without supervision.” With this, she grabbed her backpack to go to Yena’s meeting. “You, duck! What did I say about screaming? Why are you always so loud?”
Minjoo followed suit, in time to hear Yena’s reply.
“Because I’m always happy to see you!” The senior said with a tooth grin that was equally dorky and sweet – Yuri blushed, shoving the girl slightly as Minjoo chuckled as them. “You too, little sis!” Yena added, as if only now she noticed Minjoo’s presence. The younger Kim frowned at hearing the nickname again, they had the same surname, but Yena had never called her like that before. “No Fun will…Oh, here she is!” Yena stopped talking, waving at the same heighted Kim that approached them.
Turning around, she spotted Chaewon and noticed her usual blank expression that was replaced by a small smile as soon as their eyes met. Minjoo returned the smile with a grin of her own as she admired Chaewon’s recently dyed hair – it was of a reddish shade, a mix of brown and red, one of the only colors that was well accepted by the school’s norms, and luckily it fit Chaewon just right. She told her this when they were making their way home with slow steps, following Yena and Yuri who were too engrossed discussing about places they could stop by to eat.
“It’s too bad I can’t try it, probably wouldn’t look good and my hair is already a mess .” She continued, voicing one of her concerns. Her hair was also going through puberty apparently, as it was giving her so much trouble to tame in the mornings.
Chaewon frowned, her cute chestnut eyes sharp as she reached to touch Minjoo’s hair, bringing them to a stop. “No, you’d look really good.” She reassured, her expression still serious as her hand gently fixed Minjoo’s bangs. “But you don’t have to, you look pretty like this.” It wasn’t like Chaewon to be this vocal, but she always seemed ready to reassure the younger girl and Minjoo’s heart became a little warmer with her compliments, her weak confidence growing.
She beamed at her words. It was fun how she didn’t pay attention to the compliments she would receive from her admires often, but it was different when Chaewon was the one saying it. “Thank you, Chae.”
“Girls, come on! I want to get ice cream.” Yuri called, making them realize how far behind them were of the other duo. Quickly, Chaewon stepped back, pulling Minjoo by the arm as they walked towards the others. The brunette couldn’t see her face properly, but she could swear the tips of her ears were getting red.
At the ice cream parlor, Chaewon went with Yuri to buy their ice cream – mainly because she was a mint-choco addicted and everyone refused to enable her ‘bad’ food habits, so she decided to go on her own to make sure she would get the right flavor --, while her and Yena secured them a seat by the window.
“Why did you call me little sis earlier?” She took the chance to ask.
The duck like girl wiggled her eyebrows in a funny way, her dark eyes glinting with mischief. “For the same reason why I call Yuri 'my baby', it’s the truth!”
It didn’t take a genius to understand what she meant, and Minjoo covered her cheeks with her hands to prevent it from showing the blush that was creeping on it now. “But you and Yuri are…”
“And so are you and No Fun there.” Yena pointed out Chaewon who was still at the counter with Yuri, paying for the ice cream. “I was going to say ‘little sister in law’, but she can get violent when I expose her.” This part was whispered as she noticed her sister and Yuri coming back.
Minjoo saw Chaewon’s questioning look and averted her eyes, feeling her cheeks warm under her hands. She was used to her own sister teasing her about Chae, but now she had to deal with Yena too? It was annoying and oddly exciting at the same time, the first for obvious reasons, and the latter because it could mean that Yena also saw something in their relationship – this was a reach, Yena may just be making fun of them thanks to the fact that they had a nice relationship, but still, she couldn’t help but wonder if the older knew about something she didn’t.
Yena didn’t say anything else as they ate peaceful, preferring to pester Yuri with her cheesy compliments and wiggle her eyebrows at Chaewon once in a while, as if telling her to do the same. Chaewon would just glare at her, and start to talk about school, asking Minjoo about her classes and stuff.
That day, when they separate and Yena and Yuri went home, Chaewon accompanied her to the aquarium under the excuse of missing MinMin and the others – Minjoo didn’t protest, thankful for the company. She didn’t try to ask the redhead about Yena’s jokes, instead she only enjoyed their little moment together and by the smile on Chae’s face, the feeling was mutual.
The morning after, she noticed the effects of Yena’s antics. As expected of Yena, her teasing was definitely not subtle and everyone heard it, however it went in the complete opposite way she intended.
In short: for a really long time, Minjoo had to deal with all kind of weird rumors about being related to the older Kim duo, instead of being mistaken as Chaewon’s girlfriend.
Minjoo spent the whole first period trying to explain to her classmates that she was not related to Chaewon – by the end of it, half of them presumed they were dating and the other half that she was an illegitimate daughter.
Eunbi told her to join the student council would be good for her. Eunbi was wrong. She should’ve known better than trusting her sprite addicted sister’s advice – never trust a college student, especially if you know they spend more time complaining about having to study than actually studying.
Now, thanks to her work as the treasurer of the council, she had to deal with the most obnoxious guy she had ever met and probably the first one in which her snarky eyes didn’t seem to have any effect – he actually had just compared them with the ones from a snake he had raised once, apparently as a compliment, but she wasn’t entirely sure it was one. The guy was the treasurer of the council of another school, they were planning on having a friendly tournament between both institutions and they were in charge of deciding the prizes and how to share the expenses adequately. Chaewon would rather just sending him the table she had created on her laptop last night and tell him to just go with it, as she was pretty sure that grease dude wouldn’t be able to come up with anything better.
Luck wasn’t on her side again, and the dude insisted on a meeting to ‘discuss it properly’, but it was clearly and excuse to try to go on a date with her.
In the moment Chaewon was wondering if murdering him with her laptop would break it, and if it would go to her school record. She was willing to pay for a new laptop, but the records were another issue, so she had to content herself with killing him only on her mind.
She felt something on her shoulder, and promptly dodged it, turning to glare at the boy. “What do you think you’re doing?” There was nothing friendly in her voice and usually it would be enough to get anyone away of her, but this dense creature just smirked at her.
“I’m just getting my…” He looked at her to improve the dramatic effect as he showed the small pack of sugar he was holding – he had used the excuse of reaching over her shoulder to get it, when he could’ve simply asked for it. “Sugar.” He winked at her and it took Chaewon all her mighty to not throw her laptop at his head.
She would never complain about Yena’s terrible pick-up lines again, close to this guy suddenly her sister was a genius.
“Look, this isn’t going anywhere. I already sent you the table, have a look at it and send it back by Friday or I’ll be contacting the president of your council instead.” Kim was fed up with him and she needed to get out of there before she tainted her flawless school record.
The guy was about to reply when a familiar voice sounded, slender and warm arms wrapping themselves around Chaewon’s neck in a gentle back hug. She didn’t try to break it, nor flinched at it, the vanilla scent making it pretty easy to tell who it was and she couldn’t be any gladder. “Chae! You were taking too long, so I came to pick you up!” Minjoo said in her sweet voice, as she leaned in to give Chaewon a smile over her shoulder.
“Of course! I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was this late.” Hiding a grin, the older Kim stood up slowly to not scare away her savior and quickly put her laptop back on her bag, turning to face the slightly taller girl.
The male student looked at them in confusion, probably wondering if he should protest or try to hit on Minjoo too. “Who is she?”
“I’m her…” The younger Kim hesitate, glancing at her neighbor. “Her best fr-“
‘Best friend’ didn’t sound good for Chaewon, and she made sure to cut Minjoo off before she could finish the sentence. “She is with me and now we are leaving. So, bye and remember to send the file by Friday!” Taking Minjoo by the hand, she took them out of the place before the boy could argue.
Giving her hand a final squeeze, she made her grip looser when they reached another street and no flirty treasurer was in sight. “He was a creepy.”
Minjoo looked at her and nodded. “Sorry for barging in like that, I just thought you looked uncomfortable and I had to do something.”
“Why are you apologizing?” Chaewon let out a soft chuckle, shaking her head. Minjoo was the type that worries too much, what was both adorable and exasperating. “You saved me from ruining my laptop on his head.”
“Then I did good, your mom wouldn’t be pleased to have to fix your computer.” Minjoo nodded to herself, a playful smile on her lips. “Didn’t Eunbi broke hers like this once?”
“Yes, I guess it runs in the family.” She chuckled, getting a better grasp on the brunette's hand that still remained on hers even if she had given her the chance of letting go – somehow this small gesture gave her a new confidence. “I couldn’t really eat anything with that guy around, do you want to grab something? It’s on me, will be my way to thank you for coming to my rescue.”
“Can we get crepes?” The brunette asked, a skip on her steps when Chaewon reassured she could’ve anything she wanted and her wallet allowed them.
A couple of minutes later, the older was using the crepe to hide the silly smile on her lips as she watched the other girl eat quickly, strawberry cream all over her cheeks. The features on Minjoo’s face were more defined now, her cuteness becoming beauty as she grows up, but in moments like this she looked just the kid she was once and Chaewon’s heart would grow even more fond of this girl that had so many sides to her.
During the last couple of months, she was working hard on the council, but she would never forget about their hangouts, keeping her promise. It, however, still didn’t seem enough. She had a pretty good hunch of what was the reason for it, yet she wasn’t sure how to deal with this. Her and Minjoo were so good together, they could talk for hours, tease each other and enjoy even the silent moments – They had a good friendship and she knew it was something she should appreciate. Nonetheless, she also loved how warm their hugs were, how soft and perfect her hand feels on hers, and how her mind could go on hours and hours just filled by the sound of her silly laugh…She wanted more from it, she wanted to be closer and the feeling wasn’t new.
Still, taking the first step was never easy, and being the rational person she was, she tended to overthink stuff.
“Will you go to the school’s trip ?” She asked as they finished eating, handing Minjoo a paper napkin so she could fix the mess she had made.
The brunette made a face, throwing the paper napkin into the trash before answering. “I want to. But my parents are still thinking. They don’t want me to go alone, even though I told them it’s perfectly safe and Yuri will be there too.” Minjoo shrugged, as if she didn’t have much of a say on the matter. “And you? You didn’t go last year.”
Chae pursed her lips together into a line, as she gave it some thought. “Well, I guess I’ll now. Yena always goes.” She decided, thinking it might as well be the perfect chance to try bringing their relationship to a new stage – so much thought for such a cliché, she couldn’t say it was her brightest idea, but it wasn’t so bad. “Your parents will be okay with it if we accompany you, right?”
The younger Kim blinked in surprise, before a wide smile illuminated her face. “Yes, they really like you!” She nodded to emphasize her words. “I’m sure they would say yes.”
“Then let’s talk with them.” With this simple phrase, she was ready to march to the Kim’s house – the other Kims – and get their permission. She wasn’t nervous as, like Minjoo just confirmed, the couple had always been very fond of her and she doubted they would protest – they had let Hyewon go once because Eunbi asked, so it wasn’t like it was a new thing.
“Wait, Chaewon.” She stopped feeling a weak tug on the sleeve of her school’s uniform, the brunette bringing her to a stop. There was a little bit of hesitation on the dark brown eyes when the younger faced her, fidgeting with her fingers. “You are not going only because of me, right? I mean, not because of me, but to help me…”
Chaewon shook her head in a negative. “I’m not trying to help you. I think it will be fun to have everyone together.” It was technically true, albeit she was indeed going because of Minjoo. “Unless you don’t want to go together…”
“No! I want to go with you!” Minjoo cut off, her pitch a little higher than usual as she blushed. “I really do.”
Fighting a smile, Chae nodded. “I want it too, MinMin.” Her voice was soft when she spoke, making sure the girl heard it. She wanted it to be a nice opportunity for them.
Her words must have helped Minjoo to gain some confidence, even though her cheeks still had pink spots on it, the younger brunette smiled at her and gingerly slipped her hand into Chaewon’s. Clasping her hand, Chae started to walk again, this time with no crepe to hide her smile.
An hour later, as expected, Minjoo’s parents were more than willing to allow her to go the trip, so willing that they even visited Chaewon’s mom to plan on buying the girls new outfits for the event – Chaewon was under the impression that it was their plan all along, but she would never complain about it.
School trips weren’t exactly something Chaewon was fond of, it involved sharing rooms with people that probably didn’t like her – perks of her naturally blank face – for no apparent reason and less time to study and watch all the TV shows she couldn’t during the week. But Minjoo was there, and it made all the difference.
The younger Kim, on the other hand, was loving every moment of her first school trip. She loved being outdoors and the place they were staying at was a campsite in the middle of a small forest close to the city they would be visiting during the week. She was roommates with Yuri, what made it all better since they could just stay talking until late night. Minjoo also got to take plenty of pictures of the places and since the group was fairly small, they could stay together with the seniors at all times – what meant extra time to cling onto Chaewon, okay, cling was a little too much, but they would always walk together and once in a while hold hands when they needed to move quickly.
The trip would consist of only three days and two nights, where in the first day they had to follow their teachers through important historic landmarks and pretend to pay attention to what they said, while the night consisted of eating out at a big family restaurant and going to sleep early to prepare for the next day where they visited the more fun touristic attractions – Minjoo loved this part the best, since they had a lot more freedom to wander around in small groups and she could just stay with Chaewon and the not-official-but-official couple formed by Yena and Yuri.
Minjoo was having the time of her life, at least until their last night there. Then suddenly she didn’t like it so much.
She knew that ‘bravery’ tests were common in that kind of trip, but she didn’t think she would be pretty much obligated to join in, as the teachers apparently decided it was a ‘nice, friendly way to create a bond between seniors and juniors’ and volunteered to act as monitors and ghosts for the activity. It was pretty simple, a pair formed by two people from different grades would be formed by lottery, the pair should proceed entering the forest and following the path that was marked by colorful lights that didn’t really help to light up the place, they should come back after retrieving one of the ‘cursed gifts’ that was probably just a white bag full of cotton or at least wait for thirty minutes in the woods before being allowed back. The duo would be connected by a paper bracelet, requiring them to stay close to each other, or else it would break and they would get a penalty that was still unknown.
Supposedly the teachers would be watching all the time to make sure no one would get lost or hurt, but it didn’t make Minjoo feel any safer.
She hated scary places, she would avoid haunted houses at all costs and even change her route when someone told her a scary story about some place she knew. Therefore, getting into the woods in the dark, with someone she was probably not even comfortable with, seemed like a nightmare and she was restless even before the lottery.
Yuri, her fellow coward friend, was in a similar state and they hugged each other lamenting their bad luck. Yena was with them, teasing and trying to play it cool, but it was obviously an act as she would wince every time a loud noise came from the inside of the forest.
The pairs were selected by a simple luck of draw, a person would pick up a paper with a name from the bag and shout it, and like this the pairs would be formed until there was no one left.
Yuri was lucky enough to get Yena’s name – the duck immediately hugged her, saying about something regarding protecting ‘her baby hamster’ or something, and Yuri pushed her away puffing her cheeks. Minjoo wasn’t as lucky, picking the name of a female third year who she never had seen before and didn’t look very excited of being paired with her neither. Sighing, she prayed that the senior would be kind enough to not just bolt out of the place without her.
The pairs went in, one by one, separate by five minutes. Yena and Yuri were called first and less than 30 seconds into it, Minjoo could already hear their loud screams and quick steps – something told her that they would be getting the penalty for sure. Her turn came ten minutes later as she stood before the entrance, putting on the bracelet and waiting for her partner to come up to do the same – she didn’t, instead Chaewon approached and without a single word she managed to fix the bracelet on her wrist as well.
Minjoo looked at her, both relieved and surprised, but the girl just shrugged her shoulders. “We trade partners.” The older explained, before offering the brunette her open palm so she could hold it and make it easier for them to walk together without breaking the bracelet. With a grateful smile, the younger Kim intertwined their fingers and nodded informing she was ready to go in, forgetting for a moment that they were going into the darkness to just focus on how soft and warm Chaewon’s hand was on hers.
She remembered it quickly, as they marched inside the woods with only the weak light of the flashlight they had received from a teacher at the entrance. Consciously she knew it was foolish, that the ghosts weren’t more than people dressed up and that there wasn’t anything supernatural there, besides maybe Yena and Yuri’s loud scream that still echoed through the place. Yet, she couldn’t help but flinch every time a new terrifying sound was heard, or they could spot a suspicious silhouette hiding behind a tree.
The more they walked, the more she would cling onto Chae’s arm and it was a miracle the girl hadn’t complained yet. Far from it, the redhead would walk with slow steps, every once in a while telling her that everything would be okay and that it was better for them to go slowly so they could locate one of the ‘cursed’ bags and get out soon – Minjoo was glad for having her company and if she wasn’t already such a fool for her, she would surely have fallen in love again.
But after ten minutes of a lot of screams, jump scares and absolutely no bags found, she was starting to feel a little anxious and even Chaewon was uneasy. It was too dark, the guiding lights seem to lead nowhere and the fact that they were one of the last couples to enter meant lower chances of finding a bag.
More screams were heard coming from ahead and Minjoo really didn’t want to go any further, so she clung onto Chae’s arm. “Can we just wait here? Please.”
The older hesitated, she would rather go ahead and finish it faster, after all she wasn’t a big fan of this kind of thing either. But seeing Minjoo looking like a scared baby, she couldn’t say no to her.
“Let’s go outside the trail for a bit, the teachers will be too busy with Yena and the other cowards to look for us.” She suggested, taking them to the left, looking for a big enough tree that could work as their cover. Taking a seat on the floor, she smiled at the girl. “Don’t worry, only fifteen minutes to go.”
“I hate it.” Sitting beside the older, Minjoo hugged her knees against her chest trying to tune out the grim noises coming from somewhere within the woods. “I know it’s foolish of me, but I-”
“You hate the dark. I know, I don’t like it much either.” Chaewon interrupted in a gentle tone, letting the flashlight rest on her lap – it was too weak to indeed illuminate the place and keep moving it around would only attract ‘ghosts’. She offered Minjoo her shoulder, so the girl could rest there and snuggle closer to her while they waited for time to pass. “You can rely on me, I’m good at scaring people away.” The older Kim tried to sound more confident than she actually felt, trying to put her rational side into action, so she wouldn’t be easily scared by the teachers pranks.
Minjoo complied, resting her head on Chaewon’s shoulder that seem to be only broad enough for it, almost as if it was made for her. She still could hear the noises in the distance – was it Yena screaming again? Probably –, but when she was close to Chaewon it was easier to ignore it and focus on the girl instead. “You aren’t scary though. It’s the opposite.” Chaewon made her feel safe.
Chaewon chuckled softly, resting her own head against the brunette’s. “What? You forgot the first time you saw me and hide right away?”
Her eyes couldn’t see more than a couple feet in front of her, the dark green of the trees turning into grey under the moonlight and only the sound of the wind could be heard – besides her sister and her girlfriend’s screeching. Instead of Minjoo’s vanilla scent, all she could feel was the strong pine smell coming from the trees. It wasn’t anything like what she had planned for today, not a walk near the lake and a calm talk, still it didn’t feel so bad when she could feel Minjoo’s warm body close to hers and the girl’s hand strongly intertwined with hers.
Minjoo pouted, fighting a grimace at her own embarrassing memories. “You aren’t scary, I’m the one who gets surprised easily. You showed up suddenly and I didn’t know what to do.”
The redhead hummed, the playful smile still on her face. “You were six, of course you didn’t know.” Lifting her head a bit, she stole a glance at the younger. “People are always wary of me because of my eyes, I guess I’d be too if I were you.”
Minjoo lifted her head as well, looking into the eyes that seem so much darker in the dim light, but equally alluring. Maybe at first they may seem intimidating, hard to read, but she knows better now. “No. I really love your eyes.” Chaewon’s eyes were her favorite ones, from the brightness they carried, to the unique shape, sharp and delicate, different from her more round and cartoonish ones that had earned her the ‘Pepe’ nickname. “I can recognize them anywhere.”
“I could say the same about yours. And this too, whenever you smile.” Chae’s lips curved into a faint smile, lifting her free hand to gently cup Minjoo’s face and touch the skin of the brunette’s cheek, the gentle depression where her dimple was formed. The small spot sunk under her thumb as Minjoo broke into an involuntary smile. She loved how the brunette showed her emotions so easily, her dark brown eyes glinting, working like mirrors to her soul and her soft features like a canvas to expose it. Minjoo was pure and sweet, she wanted to keep her like this forever. “I hope I can always see it.” She hoped she’d always be with her.
Suddenly none of them could be bothered by the fake ghosts going around, the screams and laughs as some student got scared, or even the wind hitting the pine trees and shaking them slightly. Their eyes now used to the dim illumination, focused on each other’s faces, the little clouds of warm air from their breaths the only thing that separated them.
Chaewon and Minjoo had very different ways of doing things, very different charms and personalities. However, in the moment, their thoughts were in perfect sync.
They thought about all the memories from these years, from their first real meeting, to the several times they had been side by side just sharing their routines, the nights they would spend together star gaze or just talking inside their rooms, their little unofficial dates that were so precious for both no matter how mundane it was because being in each other’s company was enough to make the moment special.
Chaewon leaned in first, soft lips kissing the younger girl’s forehead loving and Minjoo closed her eyes for a moment, feeling the giddy feeling caused by the contact spreading through her body, prompting her to open her eyes to face the redhead. Her eyes took in every detail of Chae’s small face, from the sharp format of her jawline, to the rosy lips that were even softer than they looked, the cute nose and finally the eyes that she would never get tired of staring at. It was too dark to be able to tell what Chaewon’s eyes expressed, but she didn’t need to see it, she could feel the warmth of her gaze.
Perhaps that was why she didn’t hesitate, why her nerves didn’t kick in or the tension of what she was about to do tormented her, because it was Chaewon and she always knew this moment would eventually happen. So, when she moved slowly, her face coming closer to the redhead’s, she only felt a fluttering feeling in her chest, her heart beating a little faster as she took a leap of faith and let her lips meet Chae’s.
For Chaewon, this moment couldn’t have been any more perfect, even if she didn’t make a proper confession or they weren’t in the most romantic place. Her hand was still on Minjoo’s face, feeling the soft and warm skin, as the brunette moved. Instinctively she leaned in again, this time to allow their lips to meet in a gentle, feather like touch. Minjoo’s lips were soft and sweet, almost shy as they pressed against hers, the contact was so simple, yet full of so much care and fondness that Chaewon could feel time stopping to give them a special place where only they belonged.
Caressing her cheek, she squeezed their joint hands a little tighter, demonstrating her affection in all the ways she could – and she felt it back, from the way Minjoo’s hand responded to her grip, her other hand resting on her hair and caressing it and even the soft, happy sigh against her lips.
Chaewon could only be grateful for this moment, for having her first kiss with her childhood crush and neighbor, the girl she had watched grow up into the most beautiful person she had ever met.
Breaking apart, Chae rested her forehead against hers and Minjoo could only smile at her. For moment they just stood there in silence, in their own little bubble of affection and happiness. Minjoo had always been so vocal about her feelings and she always thought she would be the foolish type that would simply open her heart to whoever she dated and would get herself in trouble for this, but right now she didn’t feel the need of putting into words her feelings, nor she felt like doing it would make her a fool.
One single sentence was enough, the proper reply Chaewon deserved. “I’ll always want to be with you.”
The redhead only smiled fondly, leaving a quick, light kiss on the tip of her nose.
Maybe Chae would have said something else, or maybe they could even have shared another kiss. However, reality – in form of a duck and a hamster – called.
“Kim Chaewon! No Fun! Where are you?”
“Minjoo! Froggie! Let’s go, it’s over!”
Yena and Yuri’s voices sounded, reminding them they were still in the middle of a bravery test.
Minjoo stood up first, a silly happy smile on her face along with a blush, while Chaewon struggled to find the flashlight she had dropped on the floor without noticing earlier. The other couple found them right when Chaewon had grabbed the flashlight, and the redhead smiled at them, hoping any traces of embarrassment were no longer visible on her face. Luckily for them, the others were too busy bickering about who had broken their bracelet and how hungry they were, to pay them much attention, as Yena just made sure her ‘old sister duty’ was done by dragging Chaewon and Minjoo back to the main camp.
Back in the camp, they found out they were one of the only pairs with an intact bracelet, and when asked how they did that, Minjoo had blushed with a giggle and Chaewon just shrugged.
The day after the bravery test was the messiest one, with Chaewon being woken up by Yena, taking her away of nice dreams with Minjoo and mint-choco ice cream. She had planned on spending the morning with Minjoo so they could talk and maybe make it their official first date, but her plans where very far from reality.
They were supposed to go home after lunch. However, thanks to her older sister, she was dragged to help cleaning up the things from last night, what was supposed to be a punishment only for the people who broke the bracelet but her and Minjoo were forced into it. She made sure to look for Minjoo with her gaze and give her best smile, but she didn’t get the chance of talking to her, since Yuri was still mad at Yena for yesterday – apparently they had bumped into a creepy looking tree and thanks to the lighting, they thought it was haunted, long story short, Yena ran away a little too fast not only making the bracelet break but also making her non-official girlfriend fall onto the floor. Needless to say, Yuri didn’t want her company now, and Minjoo as a good friend, stayed with the shorter girl cleaning a different area.
By the time they were done cleaning, it was already lunchtime and after it they were sent to the bus to go back home. Again, thanks to the so called ‘Yulyen’ lover’s quarrel, she couldn’t seat with Minjoo and all she could do was texting her – she wasn’t the best at texting people, but it seemed better than not say anything. Chaewon sighed, looking at her duck like sister who had already fall asleep on her shoulder after spending the whole morning sulking like a baby. With a finger, she pushed Yena’s head off her shoulder before the girl started to snore.
Minjoo seem to be in a similar situation with Yuri, leaving them no choice but wait until they could get home to talk.
The plans were once more ruined thanks to the rain that made their trip a lot longer than it was supposed to be, and as soon as they reached their school, their parents were already there to pick them up and take them home. It usually wouldn’t be a problem, since she could simply go visit the younger girl, but her parents beat her to it and she found herself in a dinner with their whole families, including college students and resident nosy sisters Eunbi and Hyewon – seating in front of Minjoo for an hour and trying to make sure her ears were well covered by her hair so Hyewon’s sharp wouldn’t be able to notice whenever they got red due to her comments about her and Minjoo. Eunbi would focus on asking them about the trip and school, while Hyewon would be more than happy to focus on the food and just drop here and there a witty comment such as “So you guys didn’t break the bracelet? Hm, seems like you really enjoy being stuck with my sister, Chaewonie” or “Minjoo aren’t you eating all your food because your crush is here? You guys are already too close, don’t worry I can eat it for you.”, or even “School trips are very important, people always go there to date. Not you two, babies, right?”
Honestly, Chaewon was glad Yena was still busy being moody over her own girlfriend to join the teasing.
She only got the chance to talk to Minjoo after dinner, and still it was very quickly since Eunbi and Hyewon were still around the corner, ready to poke fun at them if given the chance – sisterly love at its best, of course. It was slightly awkward to just stand close to each other after what happened and it brought a pathetic smile to her face.
“Hey.” She said and mentally cursed herself for sounding so awkward, but how could she not? They were together for the biggest part of the day, but always with a bunch of people in the way. “I…”
She was interrupted by a sudden hug – a very welcomed one. Minjoo’s arms were around her neck, pulling her closer into a tight embrace that almost affected her balance, but she managed to hug her back, wrapping her arms around her waist. “I wanted to do it since last night.” The brunette confessed, her words sounding close to Chae’s ears, as she nuzzled into her neck.
The stubborn smile on Chaewon’s face became smaller, almost shy as she rested her chin on Minjoo’s shoulder, her eyes closing to inhaled the pure smell of vanilla that was so characteristic to the girl. She also wanted to do it, but she didn’t think they would get the chance to do so today, and albeit there was a risk of their sisters, or even their parents, finding them now, she didn’t think about it and only focused on the simple happiness of being close to the girl she liked.
“So, does it mean you will say yes if I ask you on a date next weekend?” Her tone reflected her current mental state: light and content. She didn’t break the hug to look at Minjoo, although she would love to see the expression on her face, she wouldn’t let go until the girl decided to do so.
As expected, the answer was very positive and came in the form of strong nods and an even tighter hug that was almost too strong, but Chaewon just let out an airy chuckle, relieved. “I’m looking forward it.” She confirmed with a grin, leaving a kiss on Minjoo’s soft dark hair.
They could’ve stayed like this for a long time, but soon steps were heard and they were forced to separate, exchanging accomplice looks. She really couldn’t wait for it.
Minjoo spent the whole week waiting for this day.
Although she would see Chaewon every day on the way to the school and the girl even walked her home a couple of times, besides their usual star gazing dates – which involved a lot more of hand holding and cheek kisses that made her heart flutter –, she was looking forward their official date. The older asked her to pick a place and although she had a lot of ideas, she decided a movie date would be the best for their first one, there was no mistake with the classics…Hopefully.
The older had told her to not worry about dressing up, she even added in the message that Minjoo always looked cute in any outfit – Chaewon’s new texting skills would be the death of her, but never failed to put a smile on her face –, still she hesitated before slipping into a pair of jeans and pick a black sweater, instead of a more girly outfit. She almost gave in to the temptation of calling her best friend and ask for her opinion, but she still hadn’t told Yuri about her and Chaewon and she decided to not do so until they were official.
However, she still had very observant parents that made her go back upstairs and pick something else when she told them she would hang out with Chaewon tonight – her sister was also home, so she had three people trying to help her pick outfits now. In the end, instead of her comfortable jeans and sweater, she had a brand new skirt and a delicate blouse that was complemented by a light dark cardigan. Her dad even handed her extra pocket money. All that support was a little confusing, but she was grateful for having such loving parents – she made sure to hug and thank them, even though she did her best to avoid their questions about her relationship with the neighbor’s youngest daughter.
Chaewon came to pick her up exactly three minutes before the time – typical Chae, always on time. The older Kim seem to have also been a ‘victim’ of excessive familiar attention, and instead of a hoodie, she wore skinny jeans and a white blouse under her jacket, needless to say Minjoo marveled at the view and for a moment they both just stared at each other with equally lovely smiles, exchanging shy compliments.
They left the house ten minutes later, after Hyewon had given them plenty of ‘knowing’ smirks and her parents showered them with embarrassing tips as if going to the movies was such a big deal. The movie theater was relatively close and they didn’t have much time to chat, just focusing on deciding what genre of movie they would like to see.
The movie of choice was a romcom, although Minjoo wasn’t especially interested in this one and she could guess her date wasn’t either, after all they had just picked the first one they could find by the time they arrived at the theater.
Thankfully, the place was nearly empty for the session and they could pick the seats they liked better. The front rows were empty and she would usually pick it since it would be easier to get out of the place if she needed to go outside in the middle of the movie, but then she recalled that couples normally prefer the least exposed seats…Good thing it was fairly dark and no one could see her blushing when she pointed out the empty row in the far back of the theater and asked Chaewon if they could sit there. It wasn’t like she had plans – Okay, maybe she had some, it was a date with her favorite girl in the world after all –, but she didn’t want to waste the chance.
They both liked sweets, so Chae had bought them a bunch of chocolate bars and such instead of the usual popcorn – Minjoo thought it was too bad when she realized they wouldn’t have any excuse to ‘accidentally’ brush hands. However, she knew they didn’t need this kind of silly trick.
Fifteen minutes into the movie, Minjoo couldn’t really pay it much attention as her eyes kept stealing glances at the other girl’s profile. She wondered if she should be bold and make the first move. Eyeing Chae’s left hand, she noticed the way the older would clench her fists once in a while and move in her seat, unusually restless. Was Chaewon bored already? Did she hate the movie that much?
Biting on her bottom lip, she hesitated. Being alone with Chaewon was usually a very easy thing, all the awkwardness would disappear and they would just enjoy each other’s company, so why she was nervous all of sudden?
Chestnut brown eyes glanced back at her, a glint of surprise on them as she noticed the way Minjoo was looking at her and the younger girl almost averted her gaze in embarrassment – she was glad she didn’t or else she wouldn’t have noticed Chae’s small smile and the way the girl pulled up the armrest that separated them just to open her arms right after, inviting her to come close.
Suddenly she understood what was going on.
Minjoo’s lips curved into a smile before she could control it, and this time there was no hesitation as she accepted the invite, resting her head on Chaewon’s shoulder as the girl wrapped her arm around her shoulders.
“I thought about doing that yawn thing, but it always made me cringe when I saw it on movies.” Chaewon confessed as Minjoo snuggled further into her, hugging her waist.
The younger woman let out a soft chuckle, before leaving a light kiss on Chaewon’s cheek. She wouldn’t mind if the girl had used the old trick, no matter how cringe worth it was, she would never complain about having Chae closer, albeit, she appreciated her sincerity a lot more. “I like this better.” She voiced her thoughts with a nod.
Things went smooth after it.
She still couldn’t properly concentrate in the movie most of the time, too busy observing the cute way Chae’s lips would form a small pout as she paid attention to the scenes, or the way her mint-strawberry scent was so addicting – more than once she nuzzled into her neck and she could hear Chaewon soft, slightly embarrassed giggles due to her actions, so she would do it again. Sometimes she would even steal kisses on her soft cheeks and the sharp line of her jaw – Chae would retribute by combing her fingers through her hair and kissing her forehead, sometimes even daring to leave a light peck on the tip of her nose.
Chaewon’s eyes were always so full of fondness and care that Minjoo could’ve melted at it.
Sometimes she would hear the other girls at school talking about their crushes and how hard it was to know whether they liked them back or not, or if they were serious about them. For her it was never a problem. Even if her confidence wasn’t the best always, she knew she could rely on Chaewon and believe her words, after all, they knew each other so well and Chae’s honesty was one of her favorite things about the older girl. That’s why she didn’t feel afraid to just enjoy their date now, or the need to hide how much she liked the girl – she could see in Chaewon’s eyes and the gentle way her lips would kiss her head once in a while, that the feeling was mutual.
One hour into the movie and they had reached a silent agreement to ignore it, focusing on their flirting instead. Minjoo would go for a cheek kiss and receive another in return, making her have to try to muffle her happy giggles and not show how giddy it made her feel – no need to say she was terrible at it, but it was okay, Chaewon was even worse.
They exchanged a smile, the younger leaning in for another kiss, a little longer than before – she wasn’t bold enough to peck her lips just yet, but she was surely affectionate. Chaewon’s smile grew even more, her right hand reaching to fix Minjoo’s hair, tucking it behind her ear, before resting her hand on her cheek. She left another soft kiss on her forehead, the smile giving place to a more thoughtful expression.
“Minjoo?” She called quietly – there wasn’t anyone around them and the movie soundtrack was way too loud for them to be heard, but still, Minjoo was paying her too much attention to miss it. The brunette nodded, her eyes fixed on Chae’s soft features that she knew so well. “May I kiss you?” The question seemed pointless, they were already kissing quite a bit, and she was about to just nod in agreement – then her dense self realized what Chaewon meant. Chae’s eyes were on her lips, lingering there for a moment, before going back to face hers. “I don’t want it to be awkward or pressure you, so I thought I might as well just ask you.”
Minjoo stared at her for a second, her mouth forming an ‘o’ shape due to the realization. The nervousness from before tried to make a comeback, but it was overshadowed by a wave of excitement that was almost too much for her to handle. The answer was obvious. They had kissed once before and she was more than ready for a second time.
With someone else she would probably feel awkward, tense or maybe even unsure, but it was Chaewon and there was no one else she would like to be with.
Nodding fully aware now, she took her own hand to Chaewon’s nape pulling her gently. She heard more than saw the small chuckle the older girl let out, closing her eyes to feel the warm breath against her face a moment before soft, familiar lips covered hers. It wasn’t an intense kiss, just a long peck, but it was so warm and gentle that it didn’t fail to make her heart skip happily on her chest.
Chaewon pulled away first, greeting Minjoo with the sweetest smile when she opened her eyes. The younger felt her cheeks warm, not because she was embarrassed, but because it was hard to not let her heart go wild when the other girl looked at her like this. She pulled Chae back, hugging her by the neck and the girl didn’t resist, kissing her again, a little bit more passionate this time.
It was her third kiss and should be more awkward, however it wasn’t. She wasn’t sure whether it was because Chae was leading them, or just their chemistry, but it was just so good and natural that she didn’t even hesitate when the older nibble lightly on her bottom lip, asking to deepen the contact. Chae tasted like the candy they had been eating, one of her favorite ones that might as well just become her all-time favorite now.
Mint and strawberry filled her oxygen hungry lungs, making her head light as she melted into the older girl. Chae’s hands on her back and hair were gentle, her touches light and warm, making her feel welcome and safe. Her own hands were on her nape, caressing the soft skin with curious fingers.
Breaking the kiss with a couple of long pecks, and kisses on her cheeks, Chaewon caressed the side of her face. “I really like you, Minjoo.” The corners
of the older Kim’s eyes crinkled into a smile, her sweet voice making the words sound even better to Minjoo’s ears. She already knew it, she could tell by Chaewon’s actions, but hearing her say it made it seem more real.
Brushing her nose against hers, she smiled. “I like you too. Always did.” As for confirm her words, she went in for another kiss, one that was interrupted by their huge smiles, but it was okay, they still had the rest of the night for it.
Until yesterday Minjoo had only kissed one person, one single time. That night, after coming back home from their date, she still only had kissed one person, however she had done it numberless times – she even received a kiss at her doorstep and she had to admit she was becoming a little addicted to those, her arms automatically finding the way to Chaewon’s shoulders as the girl hugged her. When she went to sleep, she could only wish for it to be always like this.
The morning after, when Hyewon asked her about what she thought about the movie’s ending and she realized she couldn’t recall anything from it, having to fake a smile and say she liked it, her sister scoffed and her parents only laughed along – she wasn’t fooling anyone, but she couldn’t say she regret paying attention to Chaewon instead of the movie.
Chaewon’s had a skip on her steps lately, a month into her relationship with Minjoo she couldn’t be any happier.
They we are a pretty lowkey couple, although it wasn’t her original intent to keep quiet about it, things had turned out like this. Their parents knew about their dates – and her theory that the older couples were actually encouraging them just became more concrete as their parents would grin like fools every time they saw the girls together, what was both funny and a little embarrassing –, but with the exception of their families, they hadn’t really told anyone about it. Again, it wasn’t a conscious decision, it wasn’t like they were hiding it. They would hold hands walking to the school and Minjoo would even give her a kiss as a greeting once in a while, however, their schedules were too different and people didn’t get the chance of seeing them together at school often, besides Chaewon would rather not exaggerating with public demonstrations of affection.
Still, it was a mystery how people seem to so easily overlook them as a couple. Maybe it was because everyone was so used to seeing them together that it didn’t seem like anything had changed, or because for some miraculous reason Yena hadn’t decide to scream about it to everyone in the school – mostly because she finally realized it was her last year and she had college entrance exams in the way so she decided to focus on it instead. Nonetheless, Chae was glad they didn’t have to deal with too much attention and she could enjoy their relationship in peace – almost, since they still had to deal with Hyewon and her sisters teasing them whenever there was a chance.
She was trying her best to make things work out between them, but with Minjoo it wasn’t that hard. They still had their routine together, with the little dates during the week, and now she was making sure to at least once a week get out early from her student council duties to accompany Minjoo for ice cream and visit the aquarium after, or whatever other thing the younger wanted to do at the time. On the weekends they would have their dates – Minjoo was a simple person, what meant she was easy to please and even if Chaewon was terrible at finding romantic locations and all that, the brunette always seem happy whenever they were. Perhaps for the both of them, being in each other’s presence was enough.
Unfortunately, things weren’t so easy during exams season. There was still over a month to go, however she had to prepare beforehand if she was to keep her rank – and Chaewon being Chaewon, anything less would be a failure. She even thought about setting some study dates for her and Minjoo, but there was a chance that being with her girlfriend would be very pleasant for her heart, yet terrible for her grades as she wouldn’t be able to concentrate.
The choice was taken out of her hands when she was called at the principal’s office along with a couple of other students. The school was receiving some foreign students as part of an exchange program and they needed tutors to help the new kids to overcome the language barrier and get familiar with the different subjects. Chaewon’s first thought was to decline, after all, she already too much on her hands with her own studies and the student council, however after noticing how hesitating her fellow students were and the principal reassuring that she would be free of her council duties until after the exams, she decided to accept it. That was how she was introduced to her pupil, the cute Japanese girl with fluff cheeks and shy smile, Honda Hitomi.
Her japanese language skills weren’t the best, far from it, but somehow they managed to talk. Hitomi, or Hiichan like she would call her sometimes, was smart and although she looked very naïve at first, she was quite witty as well. They clicked right away and teaching the girl wasn’t hard, actually Chaewon found the task much more enjoyable than her work at the student council. They would study together at the library and also sit together at lunch, as Hitomi’s class shared the same schedule as hers, even if they were from different grades – it was too bad Minjoo’s class didn’t share the same lunch period. Becoming friends was only natural, she also became closer to the girl’s best friend, the other Japanese transfer student, Nako.
She told Minjoo about her new duty as a tutor and the younger girl was quick to ask her a lot of questions, looking more excited than her. Minjoo even offered to help in their studying sessions, since she was in the same grade as Hitomi, but it didn’t work that well because the girl had her own occupations and her and Yuri had to study for different things in the moment. That’s why everyday she would just come over quickly to greet them with a smile and cheer them on, before informing she would be go over to the aquarium or sit along with Yuri to study at another table. Chaewon would always smile at how thoughtful and understanding her girl was, to the point even Hiichan noticed how obvious her adoration was.
“Minjoo-chan is very sweet, you two match well.” Hitomi had told her once after Minjoo went away to sit with Yuri and Chaewon had followed her with her eyes. She clearly outsmarted the local gossipy.
Chaewon tried to not look too silly with her wide smile as she replied. “You think so?”
Hiichan nodded, resting her fluffy cheeks into her hands. “You are together, right? That’s why she always comes over and you keep staring at her.”
“Is that obvious?” The redhead let out an embarrassed chuckle when the other girl nodded again. “Yes, we are. She is my special person, you know?”
Hitomi seem to find it amusing by the way she shook her head slightly, a knowing smile on her face. “I do. Let’s finish it fast so you can meet her sooner then!” She gestured the paper they were current working on and the Kim nodded, remembering she was supposed to be helping the girl out and not daydreaming about her girlfriend.
“Don’t worry, I’ll have plenty of time to meeting her as soon as we’re done with the exams.”
What Chaewon didn’t notice was that the same dense people who couldn’t figure out about her relationship with Minjoo, were watching now and creating a whole different story of their own – something along the lines that the cold student council treasurer was all smiles and giggles with the exchange student what could only mean one thing.
Again, Chaewon really hated school gossip for a reason.
Minjoo wasn’t a party person, still she was a high school student with a bunch of friends that wouldn’t hesitate in trying to drag her along, hence why she was at this place now. She had to admit it wasn’t that bad, besides some drunkards – that were definitely too young for this – that were too loud and a little rude at times, most people were just having fun playing silly games and dancing to songs they didn’t knew the choreography. There was food and drinks – alcoholic and not –, so she could avoid the main area to just get some snacks and laugh at the other kids’ antics.
Yena and Yuri had kept her company earlier, but Yena wanted to go and play on a dancing game the host had set up and they were both currently trying to frantically win against Chaeyeon and a not so excited Hyewon – yes, her sister was there, but Hyewon was never the type to pay her little sister too much attention and all she would do was tell her to not get drunk or else she would tell their parents.
She looked for somewhere quieter, sipping on her punch that tasted slightly bitter – she would rather to not think about what was inside of it – and rested against one of the walls, fishing for her phone on her pocket and opening her last conversation with Chaewon. Their exams had ended and the results were out, what meant that they were free for a while, so she was looking forward to seeing her girlfriend. Only that Chaewon was even less of a party fan and she had to wrap up some stuff with the rest of the student council, meaning that she had a good excuse to be late.
Not wanting to pressure her, she just sent a short message asking if she was coming or if she would rather for her to come over her house. For her surprise, Chae texted back just asking her where she was at the house since she was already there.
Less than three minutes later, Chaewon had found her way to Minjoo and the younger greeted her with a tight hug. Luckily, people had moved to downstairs to watch Hyewon and Yena’s match, something that was taking way longer than expected, leaving her all by herself in the small room that lead to the balcony, what meant they have the space for them – for now at least. “You really came!” It was a bit silly of her to feel so happy when she had seen the girl just a couple of hours ago, but she didn’t get the chance of giving her a hug since yesterday what was a long time for her – maybe she was just a little clingy when it comes to Chaewon, but the redhead didn’t seem to mind it, as she hugged her back and kissed her cheek affectionately.
“Of course. I wanted to spend time with you.” Chaewon pulled away slightly, so she could look at her. “This and Eunbi invited a bunch of her college friends over to work on some paper or whatever.” She made a face and Minjoo chuckled softly, imagining that her girlfriend was probably kicked out by her older sister.
“I’m glad you came. It’s not so bad, but everything seems better with you.” As usual, she didn’t mind sounding cheesy or thinking too much her words, Chaewon could even tease her once in a while, but she knew it would be well received.
As expected, the slightly shorter woman grinned at her words, stepping back to cup her face on her hands and peck her lips lightly. “Such a smooth talker, huh?” But instead of kissing her again, Chaewon let go of her, reaching for the half empty cup she still held into her left hand. The redhead brought the cup closer to her face and took a tentative sip, making a face at the taste. “Now it makes sense why you taste sour than usual.” She said with a hint of mischief in her voice, putting away the paper cup before Minjoo could protest. “Since when do you drink?”
Minjoo didn’t mind her actions – she didn’t really like the punch anyway –, just hugging her girlfriend by the waist to bring her closer again. “Today? I don’t like it that much, but it wasn’t so bad.”
“The party is ‘not so bad’, the punch is ‘not so bad’, is there anything else that is 'not so bad' you’d like to address? The awful smell of sweaty people coming from the other room is ‘not so bad’?” Chaewon’s lips curved into a mocking smile and she didn’t budge, refusing to hug her back – her way to scold her younger girlfriend for drinking, just lightly after all the brunette was far from drunk.
“No, this is actually pretty bad.” Minjoo only laughed, shaking her head negatively. “But I got my report card today and it wasn’t so bad, does it count?”
“Who talks about report cards in a party?” The older Kim narrowed her eyes, taking a step closer. “Why do I feel like you’re making fun of me by trying to bring out my nerdiness?” Chaewon clicked her tongue, but her hands went back to Minjoo’s face, gentle fingers caressing her cheeks and there was that special glint on her eyes.
She knew Chaewon well enough to know what it meant and a smile made her way to her lips. “This is a part of you that I love too.” Leaning in, she kissed Chaewon lightly, her hands resting comfortably on the girl’s back, gripping on her jacket. The words rolled out of her tongue so easily that she only realized what she said when she noticed the grin on Chae’s face turning into a more genuine smile.
“So, we moved from the liking to the loving territory already?” The glint turned into a sparkle, illuminating the chestnut eyes and making them brighter even in intermittent light of the party. Chae’s tone was light, but she could tell she really meant her question as the girl waited patiently for an answer.
Minjoo blinked, astonished with her own words. She didn’t mean to say her first ‘I love you’ to Chaewon in such clumsy way, did it even count? Did she even mean it? Looking at her girlfriend’s face now, she could only feel her heart swell with fondness, and there was no doubt of the answer. She loved Chae for the longest time, in a lot of different ways, this one was just one more. There was no such thing as ‘too soon’ to love someone, it just happens and for her it happened when she was just a cry baby who had lost her dog, so many years ago.
“I love you.” Was her simple confession, her voice small against the music coming from downstairs, yet loud enough for Chaewon to hear.
The redhead smiled, the corner of her eyes crinkling gently to mirror it. “I know.”
“Chae?” Minjoo waited for her to something else, but nothing come, Chae just stared at her fondly. Feeling embarrassed under her gaze, she averted her eyes to her own shoes. “Y-You were supposed to say it back.” She stuttered, hating that her girlfriend decided to show her mischievous side in such an important moment. She could feel Chae’s love and the girl had shown it to her in so many ways before, but there was something special about hearing the words.
“I know.” Chaewon repeated, letting out a soft chuckle. She still had her hands on the younger’s face and used it to gently lift it, making Minjoo look at her. Her eyes still had that sparkle, the smile was still on her face, pure and sincere. “I love you. I know it since that summer at the aquarium. I just knew I needed to keep you in my life.”
No matter how silly it was, listening to these words made it all more meaningful, filling her body with warm as if the golden sparkles on Chaewon’s eyes could reach her, like little pieces of the universe that contained just the two of them.
Slowly, she leaned in for a kiss that would express her feelings better than any verbal reply.
Kissing Chaewon would always be one of her favorite things, not only because it made her feel closer to the redhead in all senses, or because it always put her head on the clouds and made her forget about everything else, but also because she was positive her girlfriend was the best kisser ever – she didn’t have a way to know for sure, nor she would bother even if she could, she was happy with the idea and enjoying it in the moment.
Tonight’s kiss tasted like alcohol and strawberry from the punch, sweet with a hint of bitterness that wasn’t enough to make it bad, just enough to enhance the sweetness. Her ears were numb to the sound around them, her eyes closed only allowing her to get lost in the moment – the sweet taste, the warm insistent touches, the irregular beats of her own heart so loud in her ears. How long had it gone for? She couldn’t tell, nor she cared. Minjoo just wished it never stopped.
Chaewon’s delicate hands sized her jaw, slender fingers traveling down to her neck and the sensitive spot below her ears, brushing softly. Her touch was slightly cold, contrasting to the warmth of the younger girl’s skin, sending shivers through her body as she registered every touch. Her lips were so very soft, gentle, but insistent. She tasted Minjoo’s lips over and over again, every time a little long, a little deeper. Right now, the kiss was intense, her hands on Minjoo’s face caressed it with light fingers, very different from the tongue that inspected her mouth hastily, demanding an equally intense response. She stepped closer, pressing their bodies and pinning Minjoo to the wall – her hand wrapped around the taller girl’s head, making sure it wouldn’t hit the wall, and for some reason this small gesture made things even better for the younger Kim as she could feel Chae’s care.
Sighing happily, she hugged Chaewon better, making sure they would remain close even when they were forced to break the kiss to breath. Chae’s smile was small, full of fondness as she leaned in to kiss the tip of her nose. Minjoo’s heart skipped another beat, sinking into her chest filled with happiness, drowning in the warmth of Chaewon’s affection. Nuzzling into the girl’s neck, she closed her eyes to focus on Chaewon’s mint scent.
She wished for time to stop at that exact moment.
But it never does.
“Ew, have mercy on my eyes.” Out of all people to interrupt them it was Hyewon who showed up. She who looked like she had just run a full marathon instead of playing Just Dance for one hour straight – she even had a plate full of snacks to regain her energy.
Minjoo wondered if they would be ever able to date without one of their sisters interrupting the moment.
“We weren’t doing anything.” Minjoo managed to say, although it was impossible to hide her blush as Chaewon moved from the embrace, standing by her side instead. “You wouldn’t say it if you had a girlfriend.”
“I’ve food, why would I need a girlfriend?” Hyewon looked genuinely confused, chewing on her chips as she gestured with her free hand. “I’m heading home now, so I’ll let you on miss not-such-an-angel's care, okay?”
Chaewon nodded, an awkward smile on her face as she clasped her girlfriend’s hand again. “We won’t stay for too long, don’t worry.”
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t. I mean, more than you already do on a daily basis” Hyewon said in her blank tone that hide her playfulness, and waved her hand in goodbye before leaving them alone.
Minjoo chuckled still feeling embarrassed, resting her forehead on the redhead’s shoulder. Chaewon hugged her by the shoulders. “Can we go to somewhere else before Yena finds us too?”
Minjoo only nodded, following Chaewon downstairs to say bye to Yuri before they could head out.
“I heard Kim Chaewon was making out with someone at the party.” A voice whispered to their seatmate.
“Seriously? I thought she was dating Honda Hitomi!” The seatmate replied, a little too loud.
Both girls looked like deer catch in the flashlights when the subject of their conversation turned around to look at them with her glaring eyes. Hyunjin and Heejin bowed their heads in an apologetic way, before going back to stare at their notebooks – pretending to study seemed like a better strategy than face Chaewon in the moment. They were her classmates, but they were never really close.
Kim sighed to herself, turning back to look at her own books. She was in the library, returning all the books she had borrowed to study for her exams, now that she had passed with flying colors, it was time to bring the books back. Being a methodical person, Chaewon liked to keep her things organized and make sure to not miss any deadlines. These two, however, were making it hard for her.
They weren’t exactly wrong – she had indeed kissed someone at the party, but dating Hitomi was something new to her. Wasn’t she supposed to know if she was dating someone? Rumors didn’t bother her most of the time, but this one was making her uncomfortable. What if Minjoo heard about it as well?
Grimacing, she collected her stuff, standing up to leave. Balancing her bag on her shoulder, she stopped by the table where the two girls were still at – whispering at each other instead of studying. “I’m not dating Hitomi, I never did. I’m her tutor and we became friends. Only friends.” Her tone was flat, showing a calmness and control that weren’t reflected in glint of annoyance her eyes carried – she wasn’t mad at them, but she hated to have to explain her life to others. “Don’t misunderstand.”
Heejin nodded energetically, probably due to embarrassment, while Hyunjin looked at her with a glint of curiosity in her eyes. “Oh really? Then who was the girl at the p-…?” Typical Hyunjin, braver and dumber.
Heejin made sure to shut her mouth by giving her a not so subtle kick below the table. “We understand. Sorry about early, Chaewon.”
Chaewon just shook her head, letting out an annoyed sigh. The funny thing was: She wouldn’t mind actually answering it, therefore she did. “It was my girlfriend, Kim Minjoo.” She didn’t wait for a reply, turning on her heels and leaving the place.
It wasn’t like her talking about her life, but it seems like it was about time to let the word out. From the start, it was never a secret, it still puzzled her how her dating situation had become such a mystery when they never intended it to be. Clearly her peaceful months of dating were over and she would have to make sure everyone at school knew about it.
Minjoo was surprised to see her girlfriend coming unannounced, but she still greeted her with the usual smile and a hug.
Chaewon hugged her a little tighter. “Can we talk now?” She asked after greeting her.
The younger nodded slowly, leading the way to her room where they could speak in private. That phrase always had a bad effect on people and the brunette was no exception, however, the expression on Chaewon’s face wasn’t a bad one, she looked actually very content with herself, what made Minjoo think she had good news, instead of bad ones.
“We can talk here, but my parents will call us for dinner soon.”
With a nod, Chae sat beside her on the bed. “First: Hitomi and I are only friends.”
Frowning, Minjoo tried to understand why this all of sudden. She knew Chae was good friend with the other girl, she had watched from afar some of their studying sessions when she studying at the library and they seem close. She would be jealous, if she didn’t know that the looks Chaewon gave the girl were the same ones she directed to every other friend and very different from the one she had for her. Besides, Honda was also very friendly whenever they talked and it wasn’t hard to understand why they were friends. “I know that. Why?”
“I just wanted to put it out of the way since apparently there’s a rumor going around the school that I’m dating her.” The older Kim explained and Minjoo’s eyes grew wide, horrified at the sound of it.
“A rumor about you two?!” She was definitely not a jealous girlfriend, but what was that annoying sensation on her chest that made her want to kick some people all of sudden?
“Don’t worry, I’m here because of this.” Chaewon rested her hands on Minjoo’s shoulders to calm her down. “You know I don’t really like attention, but I think we should be more er, more like Yena and Yuri.”
Minjoo was having a hard time understanding her girlfriend’s plan. “You mean bicker all the time?”
The redhead shook her head in a negative. “I meant to be louder about us, to make people know…But try to not be as annoying as them.”
To be more vocal about their relationship sounded good for her, even though she liked to have Chaewon all to herself and enjoy their little ‘secret’ dates, it was undeniable that she would be very proud to tell everyone they were dating – it would also get rid of all her annoying admires, hopefully. “I love the idea. But how are you planning on doing it?”
Chaewon gave her a mischievous smile. “Well, first…”
Chaewon had dinner over her in-laws house that night and officially asked for their permission to date Minjoo, what was a little tack and unnecessary, but made her feel good about it. Her parents came over as well, and in the ending it looked more like she had proposed than just informed they were dating with how much their parents seem ready to plan for the wedding and naming their grandchild – she loved the support, even though it was a little burdening.
As expected from her sisters, Eunbi had smiled proudly like she was also her mother and told her to take good care of her girlfriend, while Yena just nudged her and wiggled her eyebrows at them informing she would like to be the bridesmaid at the wedding but that they couldn’t marry before her and Yuri.
Meanwhile Hyewon just focused on the food until the very ending, lifting her head only to ask. “So, does it mean I can show her that video of Minjoo imitating a llama now?”
Although Chaewon thought she knew about all of her girlfriend’s sides, she found a new one through the video and it was impressive and slightly disturbing at the same time – Minjoo was mortified, but her girlfriend assured her that it a little weird, but cute nonetheless.
Chaewon was waiting in front of her house with a very sleepy Yena when Minjoo stepped outside the next morning. It wasn’t unusual for them, but the slightly shorter girl had a big smile on her face and knowing their plan for the day, she couldn’t help but return it as she walked to greet Chae with a kiss – on the lips instead of the cheek today.
Holding Minjoo’s hand, the older Kim intertwined their fingers as they walked towards Yuri’s house where the girl was waiting for them. Her plan was actually pretty simple, but she was counting on the school’s eyes and ears and she could bet that by the end of the day even the principal would know about it.
Usually they would separate as soon as they reached school and Chaewon would go to the student council room to check their schedule before heading to her classroom, while Yena would walk Yuri – and a third wheel Minjoo – to class. Today, however, not only Chaewon didn’t ditch the group, she also made sure everyone in the halls could see their joint hands as they made their way to the second floor. Minjoo noticed some looks and even two girls whispering, but most people didn’t mind them much, Chae was probably right when she told her last night that people were too used to the two of them being together to mind, while with Hitomi people just jumped to conclusions because she was someone new in the redhead’s life.
When they reached her classroom, Yena said her goodbyes to Yuri as usual – with a loud kiss on the cheek that would earn her a half-hearted scold and a smile from her girlfriend, and then the senior waved at the other two girls before leaving for class. Ignoring her routine, Chaewon stayed behind, in the corridor right in front of Minjoo’s class, playing with her girlfriend’s hands and giving her a reassuring smile as they waited for the classroom to slowly get filled up by her classmates – their behavior was starting to spark curiosity and the whispers and looks were becoming more frequent.
Chaewon could feel her ears starting to get hot from all the attention, but it was what she wanted from the start, so she tried to ignore it the best she could and only focus on the girl in front of her. Minjoo was always on the shy side, and she didn’t want her to feel embarrassed, so she winked playful at her and smiled. “If it serves of anything, this will probably a lot more embarrassing for me and ruin my cold hearted fame.” She lowered her voice so only the brunette could hear her, making it sound much more dramatic than it actually was.
As expected, Minjoo broke into a smile and shook her head. “I’m not embarrassed…Okay, maybe a little.” The younger Kim added when Chaewon raised a skeptical eyebrow at her words. “But I’m also happy. Let’s do it!” Without any warning, she hugged the redhead tightly, closing her eyes – both to ignore the stares and to be able to enjoy the contact a little more.
Yes, their genius plan was simply to do some public demonstrations of affection and enjoy watching their classmates reactions – embarrassing, but fun nonetheless.
“Babe, I’ve to go now. But I’ll back to pick you up later, okay?” Chaewon had never called her ‘babe’ before and Minjoo almost laughed at her cute expression now.
Nodding, she took a step back to face the girl and kissed her cheek loudly. “I’ll be waiting, Chaewonie! Don’t be late, I’ll miss you.” For her this was easy, it was just saying what was on her mind.
For Chaewon, on the other hand, it was amazing her ears were still intact considering how red and hot they were now. “I’ll come running.” Luckily for her, Minjoo’s smile was enough to make her forget about the audience and delivery her lines. “I’ll leave a gift with you just in case you miss me too much.” Leaning in, she sealed their lips together in a sweet kiss.
The kiss didn’t last long, only a couple of seconds that were enough for a collective gasp be heard coming from all their nosy classmates. A smile was plastered on the couple’s face as they broke apart, the mission was clearly a success.
Chae winked at her again, taking a step back. “See you later, MinMin!”
“Wait, what was the gift?” Minjoo asked as the redhead started to walk away, and Chaewon turned around to face her.
“My love!” She showed her a finger heart, leaving everyone, including Minjoo, speechless as the girl sprinted to her own classroom.
As Chaewon walked away and a blush dominated her face Minjoo could only think about how lucky she was for having found Chaewon, her own piece of the universe, by knocking down a Christmas tree when she was six – a weird, but so typical Minjoo thought.
After this day they never had to worry about misunderstands again, however a video of Chaewon’s cringe worthy scene would follow her for the rest of the year, until it reached Eunbi and Hyewon’s hands and then it would follow her forever.
But Chaewon thought that if it was for Minjoo, it was worth it.