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a run for my money

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/




jihyo loves coffee. it’s probably eighty percent of her blood at this point, and also the answer to managing a company as huge as this one. one she’d never asked for - but life is like a box of chocolates, and sometimes they’re sweet enough to make you forget the bitterness in everything else. she learns this the hard way, of course, because how else is a twenty-three year old supposed to be a ceo right after she’d graduated from college?

 

it’s better now. dear old father had left her a gold mine, and a shit ton of responsibilities, but it’d been fun trying to learn the ropes. it’s always stressful, but it’s also become something she actually likes. because other than keeping things afloat and overseeing everything, she gets to do whatever she wants. like camp out at her favourite starbucks all day long because the office is way too… suffocating. and what better way to be productive than to be smothered in the aroma of the elixir of life? 

 

she checks her emails mindlessly. her inbox is a bottomless pit, and her overachieving ass wouldn’t settle for clearing at least two hundred of them. but then her eyes start tearing from long hours of staring at the screen, and just when she’s decided on a break of sorts, jihyo’s phone rings - the name flashing on the screen has her rolling her eyes. fondly, of course.

 

“what,” she grunts. waits for the usual onslaught of high-pitched giggles, but it doesn’t come. instead, she gets an over-the-top greeting that has her narrowing her eyes instantly.

 

“my sweet goddess,” nayeon sings. “mother of park enterprises, keeper of secrets. guardian of my sanity. protector of the unholy trinity, after all these years - “

 

“spit it out,” jihyo rolls her eyes. again. picks up her coffee cup only to find it empty, and sighs. she’s not sure if she has enough caffeine in her system to put up with nayeon’s bullshit today, but it’s probably a good distraction. either way.

 

there’s rustling on the line. it’s like nayeon’s trying to find a quieter spot, and -

 

“so,” nayeon sighs, serious and all. “remember that one vacation jeongyeon won at that lucky draw thing? to hawaii, or something. it expires this week, and it’s for four people, right?” 

 

jihyo nods. then remembers that nayeon can’t actually see her, and hums in agreement. at this point, there’s nothing to be worried about. being nayeon’s friend for a decade and more has taught her multiple ways of dealing with curved balls, and she’s more than capable of adapting. but then nayeon’s word vomit continues -

 

“ - and she was going to ask me to bring my coworker! the one who kept trying to kiss me at the company dinner the other time? ew.” there’s another punctuated silence, and jihyo feels it coming, the point of this entire conversation -

 

“so i, um, may or may not have panicked... and said you have a girlfriend! ha. and that you were going to bring her along.” 

 

there’s more rustling now, and jihyo’s not sure if she’s heard nayeon correctly, or if it’s the lack of caffeine causing her to hallucinate. but before she has time to process anything, nayeon continues, talking a little faster this time. it blurs - there’s something about how jihyo has to get a fucking girlfriend in five minutes, because we’re on our way to see you and your girlfriend now because jeongyeon doesn’t believe me and i may have said you’re always at that one starbucks because she loves it there and it’s something like an ambush and pleaseeeee park jihyo, just, i don’t know, grab a random girl and ask her to play pretend with you, you can woo her with your money!

 

to which jihyo snorts, of course. this isn’t a curveball - this is a fucking dynamite that she has no idea how to extinguish before it blows up in her face. 

 

“fine,” she says. her one brain cell doesn’t seem to be working. “you’re paying for all my stuff, then.”

 

“but you’re the ceo!” nayeon whines. it’s true, though - but jihyo knows enough to stay silent just a little longer, and -

 

fine, ” nayeon huffs. “okay, then. now go get a girlfriend and… i’ll see you in five.” there’s the obnoxiously high-pitched giggle she was waiting for, and the other girl hangs up mercilessly - jihyo sighs. now where was she going to find a girlfriend in five minutes?

 

then the door to the starbucks opens, and her jaw drops - okay. maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all. 




/



 

okay. maybe she’d underestimated the situation. maybe she’d forgotten about the part whereby the other person, a total stranger, would think she’s crazy. also, maybe the girl who just walked in just happened to be the prettiest girl jihyo has seen in a really, really long time, and maybe she doesn’t remember how to speak. 

 

her phone buzzes. it’s a text from nayeon that reads three minutes!!!!!!! and it’s enough to actually get her to start panicking, and oh my god. she’s doing this. she’s totally doing this. she’s park jihyo, for fuck’s sake - asking a girl out is no big deal. even though she looks like a million bucks. 

 

the girl in question is now seated at the corner, staring out of the window. her hair’s in a high ponytail that screams power, and wow. it shows off her neck, pale and slender, and jihyo tries to ignore the lump in her throat, because her eyes find their way to ponytail girl’s jaw - it’s so sharp her fingers would probably start bleeding if she were to even touch it -

 

her phone buzzes, again, twice this time:

 

nayeon [3.15pm]: rounding the corner now

 

nayeon [3.15pm]: two minutes!!! u better be holding some girl’s hand N O W 

 

jihyo exhales. sends a quick prayer to whatever deity that’s watching from above, for ponytail girl to do anything but slap her in the face. hopes her threshold for crazy is high enough just this once, and thinks about the free food. free food for an entire week, courtesy of im nayeon, and takes a step forward -

 

“hi,” she smiles. slides into the seat opposite ponytail girl. “sorry to bother, but um. i… need your help. of sorts..?” she wills her hands to stop shaking. reminds herself to breathe. then ponytail girl looks up, and jihyo doesn’t have the luxury of savouring the emotions that ripple across her face - she’s most definitely curious, and looking at jihyo like she’s a little hysterical (she is).

 

but her phone vibrates a couple more times, and she knows there’s no time -

 

“can you be my fake girlfriend?” jihyo grins. tries her best to look collected. “just for like, ten minutes or so. i have friends coming over and we’re supposed to go on a trip soon and one of them lied to her girlfriend that i already had a girlfriend because her girlfriend wanted her to bring a coworker that she hates.” the words don’t stop, and she’s rambling because she’s nervous, and it doesn’t help that ponytail girl is still staring at her, unblinking.

 

“please?” she presses harder. finally gets it together to put her ceo face on, and turns up the charm. “you’re like, my last hope. or more like my one and only hope.” pulls out the pout she reserves for getting whatever she wanted. like making nayeon be her slave that one time. “i’ll pay for your drink. and also your entire trip, if you end up coming with us. it’ll be super fun, it’s hawaii!”

 

at this, ponytail girl’s eyes light up. jihyo thinks her own breath catches, because there is no way there could be actual stars in a person’s eyes. they twinkle, and the corner of her lips start curving upwards in something jihyo vaguely recognises as amusement. of sorts.

 

“okay,” ponytail girl’s voice is velvet. it makes jihyo want to drop to her knees for no good reason, and then the other girl’s laughing. full out, silver tooth and all. it's contagious enough for jihyo to start giggling into her palm. because this is stupid enough as it is, and she’d actually agreed. a literal angel sent from the heavens. “i mean, it’s not every day your boss offers to pay for your vacation.” 

 

boss? jihyo tilts her head questioningly. oh god. never had she thought of dating (fake-dating, in this case) an employee. she’s about to ask for her name and designation, because it was simply impossible to have forgotten about meeting someone this pretty in all her four years at the company, when her phone buzzes, again -

 

“they’re here,” she says, loudly. doesn’t have to look at her phone to know - nayeon’s bright blue hospital scrubs could be seen from a mile away, and they’d always joked that jeongyeon dyed her hair that exact same shade just to add on to the list of couple items they have. jihyo clears her throat. “um - do you want to, um. hold hands?”

 

the door to the cafe swings open with a little more force than necessary, thanks to jeongyeon’s newly attained biceps, and in the time that it takes for the two of them to spot jihyo, she finds a very, very warm hand in her own, and maroon lips at her ear whispering the softest of introductions -

 

“i’m mina. myoui mina.”




/




“so where did you guys first meet?” jeongyeon asks, disbelievingly. her arms are still folded, and it’s pretty obvious she’s not buying into their bullshit. they’re five minutes into the meetup, and jihyo does not appreciate how nayeon keeps kicking her in the fucking shin and angrily mouthing do something!!! every time jeongyeon looks away.

 

mina, bless her, takes everything in her stride. answers jeongyeon’s onslaught of questions with ease. elegance. jihyo thinks this girl might be something of a psychopath given the way she lies through her teeth effortlessly. she’s so, so thankful. 

 

“the company, of course.” she reaches for jihyo’s hand. draws lazy circles around her palm that makes her fingers tingle. “we met at that one tech event and hit it off immediately.” smiles bashfully, and it’s taking everything in jihyo not to burst out laughing - everything is happening as planned. for once.

 

nayeon squeals. “i wouldn’t have thought you’d actually decide to settle down,” she laughs. throws her head back. then gives jihyo the wriggly eyebrow thing that’s probably more of a spasm, and jihyo rolls her eyes. 

 

“fuck off,” she shoots back. “mina is worth it, okay?” puts on her best uwu face. it’s really easy, despite mina being someone she’d only met for less than ten minutes. there’s no pressure or awkwardness, and she’s enjoying the moment. thinks about what her life would really be like if mina was her real girlfriend. the looks and the brains, the ultimate package - 

 

“when was your first kiss?” jeongyeon doesn’t relent. “the event was six months ago… so is this like a recent development or - “

 

there’s a really, really painful kick to her shin, and with the way jihyo bites down on her jaw she’s surprised all her teeth are still intact. nayeon is making kissy faces now, and um. kissing a stranger? in front of her friends?

 

“we haven’t had it yet,” her brain whirs, like an old computer restarting itself. says whatever she can think of. hopes to god jeongyeon buys it because who doesn’t want a free vacation in hawaii? it’s all she wishes for, at this moment in time -

 

there’s a soft hand on her cheek. it smells of shea butter. definitely expensive, and lowkey delicious, but jihyo doesn’t have the time to complete that train of thought because mina is looking at her. searching, teasing, and her eyes drop to her own lips and oh my god -

 

it’s over before it even began. the fleetest of fleeting kisses to ever exist; like a butterfly landing on her lips for barely a fraction of a second. it’s also enough to send her heart into a zig zagged frenzy, because maybe it was the first time she’s been kissed in a really, really long time - ever since the good old college days, and maybe because her heart is still too fragile to be played like this.

 

but mina’s smiling at her like everything is good in the world, and wow. this girl really is a psychopath. a really pretty one, who already has jihyo’s heart in the palm of her hand. then she gets it together. reminds herself that this is absolutely no time to be falling for a complete stranger, when a fully paid vacation is on the line. 

 

there’s a pause. she looks at jeongyeon, who finally unfolds her arms. beams at mina for the first time that day, and jihyo thinks she breathes a little easier. the tension disappears - it’s obvious that jeongyeon has finally let her walls down, and it’s definitely a victory. she exhales slowly. meets nayeon’s eyes across the table. the other girl’s mouthing a thank you , and jihyo does the first thing she knows:

 

she flips nayeon the bird.




/




the drive back is chill. it’s mostly jihyo trying to understand what just happened, because in the past half an hour she’d: asked a random stranger to pretend to be her girlfriend, had enough make-believe chemistry with said stranger to actually fool one of her oldest friends, and made plans to travel with said stranger in approximately...three days. because nothing ever moves slowly with nayeon and jeongyeon, if history had taught her anything.

 

“your friends are really nice.” mina comments. her voice is soft, but just above the lo-fi playing on the radio so jihyo hears it just fine. “i’m glad they believed it.” 

 

she snaps out of her thoughts. laughs out loud. then is suddenly mindful of her un-ceo-like laughter, and clears her throat. “they are, but they can be too much at times.” 

 

they fall into silence, again. the shock hasn’t quite settled in her stomach, and the adrenaline is still making her thoughts go at a hundred miles an hour. she thinks about how they would have to spend one entire week together, glued at the hip, and knows that the only way to keep this facade up would be to get to know each other. personally. jihyo side-eyes mina, whose side profile is a breath-taking brooding sculpture that almost makes her slam the brakes a little too hard -

 

“i’m from marketing,” mina turns to look at her. “the marketing director. i don’t think we’ve met formally, because you’re probably too far removed from the ground to know most of your employees.” 

 

there’s none of the cynicism that would usually come with a statement like that. jihyo appreciates it, because it’s something she’s still working on, after the most recent town hall feedback session they’ve had on fostering better communication. there was something about wanting higher ups to know the situation on the ground, but for someone who’s supposed to be overseeing everything on a macro level - it’s feasible, but definitely only to a small extent. 

 

“thank you for understanding,” jihyo says. does her best to make it sound sincere, because she really is. it’s not often someone from the ground has perspective from a higher position, and it’s refreshing. it’s another brownie point for the girl sitting in her car, and maybe it makes it easier to pretend that she’s in love with mina.

 

the car slows, stopping right outside the revolving doors of the lobby, and jihyo pulls the brake. it’s back to work, back to the grind - but just when she’s about to thank mina properly for agreeing to go along with her shenanigans, mina unbuckles her seatbelt in the blink of an eye, and um. 

 

there are lips on her cheek. less fleeting, this time. it’s a more solid presence that imprints itself in the part of her brain that she thinks is mostly associated with insanity, because um. does pretending to be girlfriends apply to like, situations even when no one is around? 

 

“don’t thank me - i should be thanking you, boss.” mina grins. “you’re paying for my vacation, after all.” then waves goodbye, and slinks out of the car like a graceful cat, and jihyo is once again left with many, many questions, and a heart that, once again, beats for reasons she doesn’t want to think about. yet.




/




momo loves gossip. it keeps her alive, amidst the boring routine that comes with this job, and contrary to popular belief, it’s not at all harmful - it’s a source of information. beneficial. helps her stay well informed of everything happening on the ground, because it definitely contributes to how she manages her team. 

 

so when she sees mina step out of their ceo’s mercedes just as she was passing by, it takes everything in her not to gasp. out loud. because park jihyo is very, very private, and has probably never personally driven an employee around before. because they have company cars, for fuck’s sake. and their ceo always makes it a point to keep work, well, work.   

 

the car drives off shortly, and mina enters. there’s a smirk on her face that has momo on high alert. it’s scandalous. there’s already so many questions on her tip of her tongue, waiting to be asked - because holy shit. myoui mina? the girl who never shuts up about how hot their ceo is, coming out of said ceo’s car? pigs could literally start flying any moment from now.     

  

“oh my god,” she says. looks around inconspicuously, before walking up to mina and grabs her wrist. “are you sleeping with the ceo?”  

 

the other girl stops, mid-step. has a deer-in-the-headlights look that momo’s pretty sure she has never seen on mina, and can already feel the rush of adrenaline at something juicy. especially from myoui mina, the girl who hasn’t dated since college. 

 

“are you crazy?!” mina whisper-yells. snatches her arm back. “do you want to get me fired?” then yanks her to the corner without another word, and momo is doing everything she can to not laugh at how fucking terrified the other girl looks. she purses her lips. waits patiently for an explanation. watches mina’s eyes positively vibrate in their sockets as she panics -

 

“um,” she mumbles. blinks. then laughs to herself, like she’s made a decision. or given up being in denial - it sounds an awful lot like acceptance. “don’t tell anyone, but i’m, uh, fake-dating our ceo.”

momo knows her jaw drops, because mina’s hand is suddenly right below her chin, and she’s rolling her eyes -

 

what? ” holy shit. momo pinches herself to verify that this isn’t a dream, or some shitty drama she’d walked right into. it’s crazy, and definitely not what she’d expected. but mina starts talking at three hundred miles an hour and explains everything that happened before, and momo finds herself bursting into laughter at the end of it all. because myoui mina, going to such great lengths just for an all expenses paid vacation? yes. pigs are most definitely flying. right into outer space, where her wig probably is, too.

 

then the doors slide open, and park jihyo enters, in all her armani pantsuit glory. the click of her heels against the marble floor echoes across the lobby - with every step she takes, momo feels her jaw dropping, again, but for an entirely different reason now, because damn. the ceo is hot . it’s a known fact, but seeing it in entirety is always an experience.   

 

they bow in greeting, and mina waves. momo doesn’t miss the way jihyo’s smile turns a little bashful, and how the apple of mina’s cheeks are suddenly dusted pink. she pinches herself, again, just to make sure that she’s still in the same universe that she’s always been in. then notices the lip print on jihyo’s cheek that’s strangely similar to the shade of red on mina’s lips -

 

oh.




/




marketing is interesting. it’s all about getting to know clients, and then presenting concepts to them  in a way that makes them think they need it. working with the analytics team to be sure of their standing, and then formulating their best pitch. getting the occasional rude email from a client or two? it’s nothing she can’t handle.

 

but an email from the ceo herself? absolutely heart-stopping. breath-holding. her powerpoint slides are forgotten, and mina immediately clicks on the notification that popped up two seconds ago. feels her palms start to sweat, because she’s never worked directly with the ceo herself. things are usually delegated through the other mds and she’s thankful for the almost zero micro managing, so this is highly unusual and -

 

she frowns. there’s no subject to it, and one pdf attached titled ‘x’. it’s incredibly sketchy, until she reads the chunk of words that’s addressed to ‘ms myoui’:



from: < parkjihyo@parkenterprises.com >

to: < myouimina@parkenterprises.com >

subject: (no subject)

 

ms myoui,

 

attached is a pdf with some information about me that i think might be useful for you to keep up your image as my fake girlfriend. i think it would be best if you were to send me one too, so that we can get our story straight. 

 

i would meet you for dinner, but i have a lot of work to clear (or at least, redelegate) before the one week break we have. i know this is not the best way to go about doing things, but i will definitely do everything i can to make it up to you when we are there. like i said, it will be an all expenses paid trip - i will send you the flight details in due (most probably tomorrow). 

 

see you at the airport in two days. i will be picking you up. here is my number, if you have any queries. once again, thank you for agreeing to this. i really appreciate it. 

 

best regards,

park jihyo



wow. mina doesn’t know if she should be laughing or crying. because who knew that park jihyo, ceo of park enterprises, was such a nerd? and had excellent email etiquette. it’s endearing. but the pdf opens to reveal fifteen pages of information mina knows she has to memorise by heart in the next two days, and she wants to pull her hair out. it’s another thing added to her to-do-list before she goes home for the night, and sighs. 

 

a free vacation, she reminds herself. in hawaii. with the ceo. the young and extremely hot ceo that she may or may not have been crushing on since she’d first stepped foot in this place. her fingers start typing to come up with an appropriate reply, as well as a list of her own:



from: < myouimina@parkenterprises.com >

to: < parkjihyo@parkenterprises.com >

subject: RE: (no subject)



jihyo,

 

thank you for your email. i will study your list well, and attached is one of my own. i thought i would take the liberty of going on a first name basis, since we have to pretend to be close, after all. if you’re uncomfortable with it, do let me know - here is my number.



she stares at the words. at the blinking cursor right at the end of the sentence, and contemplates being a little bolder. from her very brief interactions with jihyo, the ceo’s definitely not as rigid as she’s made out to be - the typing resumes, because her fingers are now moving of their own accord:



maybe we can start texting. it’s a good opportunity to know more about each other, and also a safety net just in case one of your friends opens your phone and finds out we don’t have an existing chat. 

 

regards,

myoui mina

  

 

she hits ‘send’ before she allows herself a pat on the shoulder - yes, it’s a flimsy excuse to get jihyo to start making a move, but it's going to check out because their ceo is nothing but careful and consistent; mina knows she’ll agree. then she clicks back on the open pdf of fifteen pages, and sighs. rubs her eyes tiredly.

 

it’s going to be worth it.




/




the morning air is cool. she winds down the windows of her car. breathes in some of it - or at least, whatever’s available at the front of mina’s fancy apartment complex. it’s d-day, and jihyo’s all ready for a week of sunshine and doing nothing, with her oldest and closest friends and... well, a new friend of sorts. 

 

mina’s a friend, of course. not miss myoui, but mina, after an entire night of texting. she’s a really pretty friend. a really pretty friend who’s from japan, and whose favourite colour is green. a really pretty friend who has an unhealthy obsession with anything superhero related. marvel, preferably - she’d put ‘dc always tries too hard’ in bold in her three page introduction and even in her sleep-deprived state, jihyo remembers how she’d very, very briefly, contemplated cancelling this arrangement altogether. because marvel is for kids . period.

 

“hi,” there’s a voice she’s come to recognise as mina’s. it’s refreshing. soft around the edges. nothing like nayeon’s jarring nagging she’d been subjected to for the better part of four hours last night - only because she’d accidentally let slip that she hadn’t packed when they were supposed to be flying off in six hours. it’s not her fault that she’d only been able to leave the office at eleven last night. and nayeon, in true im nayeon fashion, had let herself in only to start talking about her day in the hospital, and the stupid incompetent intern she’d got assigned to - jihyo had ended up packing all by herself. 

 

“good morning,” she chirps. the caffeine in her blood proves itself worthy once again, as she gets out of the car to help mina with her luggage. they fall into easy conversation soon enough, with the butterflies in her stomach disappearing miraculously - something jihyo finds that she really likes, because at this point in her life, anything that comes with a side of stress is something that she really doesn’t need. this is a good kind of exciting. the kind that has her looking forward to every single thing that happens with mina by her side. 

 

it’s a short drive to the airport. jihyo tries not to get distracted by mina’s giggle every time she says something not even remotely funny. there is nothing more horrifying than befriending someone with such a bad sense of humour, but the other girl’s smile makes up for it - it’s too bright for her to process, and all jihyo knows is that it’s her new favourite thing. 

 

the sun rises. they arrive. she tosses her key to the valet. pays for parking, before joining mina at the entrance of the terminal. luggage in hand, she takes a deep breath. seven days with her two best friends and one circumstantial friend on the island of paradise? it’s a test, of course. to see how well she can balance being herself, and playing the part of a fool in love - all for a free vacation. 

 

“are you ready?” she asks. takes a proper look at mina in all her pre-vacation glory: off-white sweatshirt, jeans, and sneakers, with almost no makeup - she looks like a child. nothing like that ponytailed boss lady she’d first met in starbucks a few days ago. it feels like another side of the japanese girl she’s getting to see and know firsthand, and it’s interesting. 

 

“i was born ready,” mina cocks her head in mock arrogance. “it’s a free vacation, jihyo. how could i ever not be ready?” 

 

jihyo laughs. holds her palm out for mina to take. this is it. once they enter, there’s no going back. there’s no more park jihyo, ceo of park enterprises, but only park jihyo, girlfriend of myoui mina - whom she is hopelessly in love with. and when mina slots her fingers just between her own, jihyo gulps. her heart starts an irregular beat in the weirdest of ways and okay. maybe it’s the nerves again. everything has to be perfect, or she’s going to end up paying nayeon back for her share -

  

mina squeezes her hand. just slightly enough for her to snap out of her thoughts, and feel some kind of magic reassurance that passes through her skin. it’s funny. it’s like they’re going to war. preparing for some kind of huge apocalyptic battle, when all they’re going to do is to eat and drink and chill by the beach. jihyo laughs, because she knows she’s being dramatic with her overthinking again - it’s the perfect reminder to stop.

 

she looks into mina’s eyes. sees a waxy reflection of herself; in another universe, they’d both be wearing gladiator armour and about to duel for something stupid, probably. like their lives. but here they are, with renewed determination to squeeze nayeon (and herself) dry and enjoy themselves as much as possible. her heart does a little skip when mina’s gaze is steady and unwavering, and jihyo nods -

 

they enter, with their game faces on.




/




jeongyeon cracks her neck. her shoulders are stiff and sore because the seats are horribly cramped, and who knew free flight tickets would mean shitty economy seats? she’d fought nayeon tooth and nail for the window seat as a saving grace, but ended up giving in honourably when nayeon had pulled her puppy-dog-eyes bullshit that they both know jeongyeon can never say no to. what a fucking dirty cheater.  

 

they’re two hours away, and all she wants to do is to fall face first into their hotel bed and do nothing for the rest of the day. their flight was delayed, and they’d spent about two hours doing nothing but sit in a stationary plane. of course, with nayeon and jihyo sitting within a foot of each other, they’d bickered and gossiped with an intensity that could rival the kardashians, but six hours in and they’d gotten tired and significantly grumpier - jeongyeon is thankful for the temporary silence.

 

she turns to her left. nayeon’s passed out with her mouth hanging open slightly and she looks so ridiculous jeongyeon can’t help but to snap a photo. then adds it to her meme folder and snickers to herself. clownery aside, it’s… cute. because nayeon’s two front teeth are showing slightly, and she really, really looks like a child - without a speck of stress on her unblemished skin. it’s why jeongyeon’d decided to cash in this vacation, because with how busy nayeon’s been getting at the hospital, they’d never really had time for themselves. and jihyo, too; their last proper vacation together was probably during college, and this was something she knows they all needed. 

 

then there’s mina. a new addition. an enigma. someone who’d managed to make jihyo value having a relationship despite prioritising her career, because of the immense pressure to fill her father’s shoes. mina, who’d also managed to calm jihyo with just a hand on the small of her back, when someone had accidentally stepped on her foot.

 

she’s happy for jihyo, because it’s not easy to find something like that. something like what nayeon and herself has, even if it's not exactly the same. they'd gotten to where they were only after a decade of friendship and years of dating - jihyo’s incredibly lucky to already have it in half a year. it’s unbelievable, to say the least; with solid mutual understanding and trust in each other built up in so little time. 

 

she spares them a glance - there’s jihyo all curled up in her seat, and mina with her hand on jihyo’s. they’re not talking. it’s like they’re enjoying their very own bubble of silence, with mina’s physical presence lifting up jihyo’s mood. there’s a calming aura from the two of them - peaceful, comfortable, and content -  

 

she blinks. mina’s hand is no longer on jihyo’s. jihyo moves to lean against the other side of her seat, and is no longer facing mina. body language is everything. the bubble bursts, and it’s like they’re suddenly strangers - 

 

mina gets up. makes eye contact with her briefly before pointing to the washroom, and jeongyeon nods. sighs in relief, because she needs to stop jumping to conclusions - jihyo and mina are more than fine, of course, according to nayeon. jihyo’s happy . it’s visible.

 

she shrugs. closes her eyes, and tries, for the nth time that day, to sleep.




/




“remind me to never listen to nayeon,” jihyo grumbles. “like, ever again.” stomps for effect. “never. ever.” unlocks their room door. she’s tired, cranky, and all she just wants to do is sleep. the resort they’re staying at is beautiful - but it’s already dark out and her eyes are too tired to appreciate the night sky, so she makes a beeline for the bed.

 

bed. singular. oh. 

 

mina doesn’t seem to notice it yet. she chuckles softly, and jihyo thinks she can feel the heaviness in her bones seeping out. “don’t be mean. she’s the reason i’m here, right?” dumps her luggage at the door, and kicks it shut. stretches her arms out. “we’re in hawaii!”

 

jihyo doesn’t need to squint, because there’s happiness etched into every line of mina’s face despite the shitty travelling earlier. it’s contagious. it’s what it takes to get her exhaustion mushed brain to process that yes, she’s finally in hawaii after what seemed like forever, for a week of nothing but the sun. and also good food. 

 

and the company of her best friends. and mina. 

 

“we are!” she squeals. feels like a kid again. eyes the bed. there’s an irrational want to jump on the bed with no abandon. scream. have a pillow fight. thrash the room, or something. it’s probably the exhaustion speaking. but then mina’s grin turns a little sharp at the edges, and it’s the twinkle in her eyes that gives it away, jihyo supposes. the other girl backs slowly onto the bed, hand disappearing behind her back, before -

 

“don’t,” jihyo narrows her eyes. raises her hands in mock surrender. of course mina beats her to it - it makes her wonder if they do actually share a brain cell. she’s competitive. brings ‘will kill for a win’ to a new level, because how self-aware does someone need to be to write that in their profile? jihyo holds her breath. watches as the grin on mina’s face stretch into a smirk -

 

she brings her hands up defensively. blocks the pillow mina throws at her, and screams murder. picks it up immediately, and lets herself go completely. brings out the naive college kid in her who wants nothing more than unadulterated fun. joy, in its simplest form. it’s something that’s so rare now, with the expectation of being an ‘adult’, and she misses it. then reminds herself that it’s the whole point of this vacation - to do things as park jihyo. not park jihyo the ceo, but just park jihyo. an ordinary girl like all the others, seeking happiness in an otherwise ordinary life.

 

she charges forward. swings with all her might, and revels in the ear-splitting scream mina lets out. there’s a rush of something that makes her light-headed, but at the same time all powerful - like the giggles erupting from her chest that might have been a little overdue. it morphs into borderline hysterics, sharp and loud and jihyo feels alive. like every molecule in her body weighs nothing.

 

mina seems to understand. is also, somehow, always on the same page as her. she gives back as good as she gets, with each smack harder than the last. it’s like therapy, jihyo thinks. like the last few years of stress buried in the foundations of her ceo persona seeping out. finally. it’s also how she learns that mina, despite her demure outlook, can be really violent. and curses like a sailor.

 

it’s something of a time warp. a dream too good to be true. something jihyo doesn’t want to end. but like all things do, she blinks a little too hard and sees feathers littering almost every inch of the bed. and the floor. mina’s already lying down in breathy giggles that tickle the fringes of her consciousness, and jihyo lets herself lie down, too. 

 

there’s no awkwardness, again. none of the there’s only one bed and we aren’t actually dating so i’ll sleep on the floor nonsense she’d expected. because what if she’d overstepped, and ruined a perfectly good friendship? it would be unforgivable, only because mina deserves so much better. mina, with her silver-toothed smile and overflowing emotional capacity to put up with her childish ways. 

 

she laughs. snorts, because they’re literally lying in feathers. feels the fatigue colouring her vision slowly. doesn’t know that she would have felt mina’s fingers brushing against her own if she’d concentrated a little more. the feathers paint an angelic illusion she’s obviously more interested in, because if she turns a head just a little to the right, just at that angle - mina looks like one, with the light haloed right above her head.

 

“sleep,” jihyo thinks it’s mina’s voice. or maybe a guardian angel, lulling her to sleep. she’s close enough to hear whispers of a melody. like the intricate chime of the bells of utopia at the gates of heaven. it’s distorted because she can’t seem to focus on anything any longer, with her eyelids sealing shut of their own accord - but she fights it long enough to take one last look at mina, in all her unguarded self, and lets the rest of the day’s weariness envelop her in a dreamless sleep. 







it rains, of course. it turns into something of a thunderstorm, and management decides it’s too dangerous to let anyone out - they end up being on lockdown, and nayeon is this close to losing her damn mind, because who the fuck takes a shitty eight hour flight to another country just to spend the entire day in their hotel? 

 

“will you stop freaking out?” jeongyeon calls from the bed. she’s stretched out on the bed still, surfing through the channels, and nayeon wants to throw a shoe at her. or something. to get a rise out of the other girl. she’s literally about to crawl out of her skin because of her need to actually do something, and jeongyeon’s so… calm. “there’s nothing wrong with chilling indoors for a day.”

 

“nothing?” nayeon shrieks. then remembers who she’s talking to, and takes a deep breath - there is absolutely no use talking to a brick wall. she fumes for a little while more. curses the skies and their terrible luck, because we were supposed to be at the beach!!! like, right now!! and maybe she’d hyped it too much - the disappointment comes in gallons, like the downpour outside their window. 

 

moping is an art. because we don’t always get what we want, and life goes on either way. but it’s all about how to mope without actually moping - being a surgeon gives no room for emotional breakdowns that lasts for more than a day. the secret? complete acceptance that whatever’s happened already happened, and that there’s nothing she can do about it. nayeon sighs. moves to crawl over jeongyeon’s legs, but decides that she’s too lazy to, and ends up lying across them.

 

her gaze falls on jeongyeon. the other girl’s double chin is really ugly. from this angle, at least. her hair is still mussed from sleep, and she’s still wearing that one old college tee she brings everywhere they go. but somehow, it’s grounding - the one constant in her otherwise crazy life. someone she can always come back to, to bring her back to ground zero.

 

maybe jeongyeon feels her stare, because she looks away from the tv, for once, and meets nayeon’s. there’s incredulity masked in concern, and it eventually fades into something gentle, and nayeon rolls her eyes. smiles. pats jeongyeon’s thighs. takes comfort in the silence that speaks volumes, because it’s the beauty of having a soulmate. having someone who understands her even better than she does herself. a bond that rivals that of an actual telepathic connection.

 

so when jeongyeon raises an eyebrow, she tilts her head. the other girl looks to the door. holds her eyes for a good second before looking back at her, and it hits nayeon - holy shit. why hadn’t she thought of it?

 

there’s a shit eating grin on her own face now. it matches the one on jeongyeon’s, just that nayeon’s pretty sure her own is crazier. jeongyeon’s always been the best enabler, and she’s so thankful - she pushes herself up and hops off the bed. doesn't even bother putting on her jacket. shoves the key card into her pajama pocket, and leaves. pads out to jihyo and mina’s room, just two rooms down - 

 

she halts. holds her breath. the door isn’t even closed all the way, let alone locked, and what the hell? she pushes it open. fights the panic that grips her throat. prays to god to not find her friends’ dead bodies -

 

she takes a step in. there’s something right at her feet. something small and white and dusty, like a...feather? another step into the room reveals even more feathers that litter the walkway right into the bedroom, and at this point nayeon is so, so confused. was there like, a bird that entered their room window? was mina a bird hybrid? was jihyo a bird hybrid and had kept her true identity a secret for all these years?

 

her line of questioning comes to a complete stop only when she blinks a few more times to confirm that yes, that is indeed a mountain of feathers on the otherwise empty bed, together with several pillows that have ripped at the seams, with jihyo and mina nowhere to be found. 




/




“are you sure this is a good idea?” jihyo whispers. “it’s a lockdown for a reason, mina.” the thunder outside only serves to prove her point. they’re at the lobby in yesterday’s clothes, hiding behind the wall nearest to the side entrance, looking like absolute idiots - only herself, jihyo thinks. mina somehow manages to look so put together even though she’s pretty sure they’d both just got out of bed like, ten minutes ago. 

 

“of course,” mina shushes her. “do you really want to stay indoors all day? the rain isn’t that heavy anyway.” sticks her head outside, and ducks back in immediately. 

 

jihyo’s jaw drops. looks at mina incredulously - she’s absolutely insane and clearly doesn’t have any semblance of logic. what kind of person wakes up, looks at the rain outside and decides that they want to brave a torrential hazard just for fun? sure, it seemed like a good idea when she was still partially asleep, but maybe it was also because of her innate need to say yes to whatever that would make mina smile - she’d written down ‘rain’ as her favourite weather in that endless questionnaire, and jihyo had really, really started to question her own sanity. 

 

then mina’s hands find hers, and her eyes shine with promises of fun. rebellious adventures to live through. to experience the world for what it has to offer, in all its gloomy glory this morning. jihyo nods, and waits for the countdown -

 

“three,” mina breathes. “two, one - go!”

 

they sprint. her flip flops are making more noise than they should, but she doesn’t care - the doorman has his back turned to them, and her heart is trying its best to beat its way out of her ribcage and rattling all her other organs. but it’s only a short distance, and they don’t attract as much attention as they should (thankfully). she pushes the revolving door, with mina all pressed up against her as they squeeze into the same divider clearly meant for one. the adrenaline makes her blood sing a melody that finds its way into the recesses of her consciousness, and maybe feels like she’s on top of the world. like she can do anything. 

 

the rain is cold. there’s no time to get used to it - it’s a literal downpour. her shirt is soaked within the second and she feels the chill settling in her bones almost immediately. the sound that leaves her throat is very, very unladylike, but mina’s laughter rings above the howl of the wind and the pitter patter of the rain, and jihyo grins. 

 

it’s true after all, mina’s honesty in filling up the questionnaire; jihyo thinks mina has never looked happier. at ease. in the middle of the rain, the other girl’s silver tooth peeks out in a shy greeting whenever she laughs that one laugh that makes her eyes disappear just for awhile. her hair is a moppy, wet mess, and still she looks beautiful - jihyo’s breath catches somewhere in her throat. 

 

“isn’t this amazing?” mina yells, over the booming thunder. she’s fearless. in her natural element. closes her eyes. lifts her face up towards the sky and embraces the rain for all it’s worth. her happiness is contagious - jihyo’s smile hasn’t left her own face ever since, and maybe she understands. standing under the rain, letting the rain wash away past regrets and stress; rebirth. catharsis. it’s invigorating in a way that alcohol can never compare to, only because it takes from the soul - alcohol is but a superficial healing. 

 

“yeah!” she says. isn’t sure if mina hears her, but it doesn’t matter. because she very, very belatedly realises that mina hasn’t let go of her hand. not once. they’re still standing a good fifteen metres away from the hotel entrance, letting the rain do its job, and jihyo thinks she could do this all day. 

 

her eyes never leave mina. not even when the other girl decides that it’s time to head back - it’s a trance she doesn’t think she wants to break out of any time soon. 




/




the second day looks to be so much better. ‘much’ being subjective, of course - anything with the sun on her skin is already considered a non-mina related improvement. jihyo taps her flip flop clad feet impatiently, because every second that she’s not under the scorching summer sun is a blasphemy. all that good vitamin d going to waste. truly the eighth deadly sin the bible never thought to mention. 

 

“where is she?” nayeon looks at jihyo. to which jihyo shrugs. calls mina once again, and watches as it goes straight to voicemail. they’re at the lobby, about to go to the beach, and mina is nowhere to be found. okay, maybe she’s being a little too dramatic - the other girl had overslept and jihyo had hesitated in waking her up. because mina had looked so peaceful while asleep. a different serenity from rain goddess mina, and okay. maybe she’d gotten a little carried away with the staring and had conveniently forgotten about the time until nayeon’d started knocking on their door - 

 

“still getting ready, i guess,” jihyo’s thumb is still hovering over mina’s contact. then closes the app and decides against calling her one more time, because fifteen minutes is definitely way too little for washing up in the morning. “you guys can head over first if you want,” she says, even though her eyes are itching to be burnt by the sun. mina’s obviously more important than any ray of sun out there, and there’s no way she’s leaving without mina. 

 

mina mina mina - it’s all her brain can think about, ever since they’d landed in hawaii. she ignores the whipping actions nayeon mimes, and jeongyeon’s snort, because it’s lowkey true, and she’s not going to deny that mina’s a really, really good friend and maybe she just likes her company. hence the over-attachment. it’s not like this is going to be a permanent arrangement anyway; who in the right mind would willingly date their ceo in the open? 

 

jihyo shakes herself out of it. doesn’t really understand the sudden tightening in her chest, because it’s all just her version of make believe. there’s no way it’s going to happen, because mina’s here only because she asked her to come along, because she offered to pay for mina, because they were supposed to fool jeongyeon -

 

“she’s here!” jeongyeon’s pointing to somewhere behind. jihyo blinks, burying reality under her trustworthy carpet once again, before turning to look at mina. it’s a sight she thinks she’ll never forget, not in this lifetime.

 

they’re all dressed for the beach, of course. but mina is in this really translucent white shift that leaves almost nothing to the imagination. her midnight blue bikini is very, very visible - jihyo thinks she loses all function of speech. forgets how to breathe, for a good two seconds, because she’s pretty sure mina’s the first human goddess that can put aphrodite to shame. her shades are pushed up lopsidedly on her head, and it’s the pinch of personality in all of the drop-dead gorgeousness shoved right in her face. jihyo is an opened mouth flounder trying to make sense of what she’s seeing.

 

“shouldn’t you be used to seeing this by now?” jeongyeon slaps her shoulder. hi-fives nayeon, who does her maniac cackling, and jihyo is reminded of the cover she has to put on. slips back into it easily, as she blinks. her brain resets, and she remembers that nayeon and jeongyeon are still staring at her, with mina who’d just joined them -

 

“yeah,” she shrugs, slipping back into her cover. “but i fall a little more every day.” then grins. and to her surprise - mina actually blushes.

 

she takes mina’s hand, and brings it to her lips in a greeting. ignores nayeon’s oh my god jeongyeon they’re so adorable, please kill me in favour of paying attention to mina. it’s easier, today - her heart is cotton candy. it’s soft, but also sticky; it’s probably the oxytocin, and she’s not complaining. embraces it with every single ounce of humanity, and starts walking off towards the beach. 

 

“i’m sorry i overslept,” mina apologises. then giggles when nayeon waves it off. it’s there again - the symphony of dreams. gentle brushes against her ears, opening them to a whole new world of gummy silver-toothed smiles and happiness. she finds a skip in her step that wasn’t there yesterday, and quickens her pace - because the day awaits them, sunshine and all, with horribly overpriced drinks by the beach with tiny little umbrellas in them that doesn’t add any value to the overall  aesthetic. 

 

they walk. she turns to jeongyeon, to check if they’re following behind - but instead finds the other girl’s eyes lighting up just a little, and readies herself for whatever that’s about to come -

 

“last one to the beach has to buy the first round of drinks!” jeongyeon yells. drops nayeon’s hand unceremoniously, and starts running. jihyo catches on immediately. pulls mina along with her, fingers still intertwined, smiling to no end, and revels in nayeon’s piercing scream of injustice. 

 

it’s fun, until nayeon announces her presence on the beach with enough movement to cause a mini sandstorm - jihyo thinks they all end up eating a little sand. but mina’s laughing after her coughing fit, and honestly, at this point, she’d give anything to see mina smile.  




/



the hotel room is the closest thing to heaven on earth, mina decides, after an entire day at the beach. her whole body hurts, but her cheekbones are this close to exploding - she’s sure she hasn’t stopped smiling, because nayeon is her own brand of crazy, and with jihyo and jeongyeon? they’re impossibly fun to hang out with. she’s lowkey surprised, because she’s usually reserved and quiet with strangers, but they make her come out of her shell so easily that it’s actually fun.

 

like, where’s the whole ‘pretend’ part? pretending to be someone else’s girlfriend on a very impromptu vacation definitely doesn’t entail liking all her friends, and actually wanting to befriend them. or, wanting to date said girl for real, because it defeats the purpose of the entire thing, right?

 

she sighs. blocks out that one train of thought. shelves it away. unlocks the hotel door quickly, because jihyo’s whining is starting to jar her ears despite how cute the other girl looks - in all her sunburnt glory. mina only shakes her head slowly, when jihyo overtakes her once the door opens and makes for the bed.

 

‘fuck,’ the other girl hisses. flops down onto the bed. then sighs as soon as the cool sheets come into contact with her skin. spending almost eight hours on the beach, in the day, without sunblock; mina tuts. it’s obviously a recipe for disaster, but jihyo’d so adamantly refused sunblock because she had clearly underestimated the sun - and here they are. 

 

“i have some aloe, if you want,” she offers. jihyo’s pitiful state is doing weird things to her chest cavity. like making it fold inwards, and pressuring her heart. it’s times like this mina realises she’ll probably never see again, after the trip, because this is park jihyo, the girl herself. not professional and regal ceo park, whose back is always ramrod straight in every single meeting, but park jihyo who whines and complains and pouts like a whole baby. park jihyo who nods, and makes grabby hands at her - mina can only comply.

 

she tuts. starts digging around her luggage for that one bottle of aloe. yanks it out underneath a pile of clothes, and moves to settle comfortably beside jihyo, who’s now lying on her own stomach. the silence does nothing for the nerves that are starting to crawl up her throat, because, um. jihyo’s tank top has somehow ridden up two inches above her boy shorts, and there’s a sliver of skin exposed that’s staring back at mina. it’s pink. inviting, but mina reminds herself that it’s probably hurting like a bitch, given jihyo’s restlessness, and -

 

“do you want me to help?” the words leave her lips a little too easily. there’s curiosity, hidden somewhere in the genuinity of concern, because she’s moving on a short timeline. there’s only a few more days until she’s the sand at the bottom half of the hourglass, and maybe it’s the weird concoction of overpriced cocktails earlier, but mina is feeling bolder than usual. 

 

jihyo doesn’t answer, but there is a small nod of agreement. she’s facing the windows, and mina can’t see her face, but it’s an acknowledgement either way - she commits. squeezes a generous dollop onto her palms, and presses them onto jihyo’s legs.

 

they’re toned. muscular, given the long hours jihyo spends at the gym, but also soft at the right places. she massages, gentle and hard. puts more pressure on muscles that seem unnecessarily tight - jihyo sighs with something that sounds a lot like relief, and mina takes it as a compliment. applies more aloe to every inch of sunburnt skin she sees, stopping right at the line of jihyo’s shorts. it’s a speedbump, because jihyo’s bikini bottom definitely ends higher up on her thighs than her current shorts, and how was she supposed to go about doing this without: a. getting fired and; b. not appear like a weirdo who can’t keep it in her pants? 

 

but her fingers have a mind of their own, apparently, because they dip past the hem of jihyo’s shorts. once. twice. thrice. three times, and her head is still sitting on her shoulders - mina takes it as a win. jihyo isn’t complaining either way; she does a little more, just to get as much coverage as possible, and then she feels it - the small twitch in jihyo’s left thigh. oh. then looks to jihyo, who still hasn’t said anything, and a part of her wonders if the other girl has fallen asleep. 

 

she moves her hands to the other girl’s shoulders. gently sweeps her hair away, and winces at how red the skin behind her neck looks. it’s even redder than the skin on her legs, and she can only imagine the agony. the pain. let the pads of her fingers graze jihyo’s nape. the motion is strangely hypnotizing, even for herself - because jihyo is beautiful. it’s a fact that has long been established. but just when mina thinks jihyo can’t get any more beautiful than she already is, she’s proven wrong; right now, in all her sunburnt glory, under the dim yellow lighting of their room, jihyo looks ethereal. it doesn’t help that her skin is velvet, and mina finds goosebumps trailing the path of her wayward fingers. 

 

the room gets a little warmer. tense. she holds her breath. lifts up the flimsy tank top, and stops just when jihyo’s bra comes into view. she makes sure to be delicate, thumbing across the back of the other girl’s ribs. but then mina finds her eyes are drawn to the ridges of jihyo’s spine - each dip a gentle descend into the emotions she’d just pocketed away. she stares. tries not to linger. tries not to get sucked into the steady rhythm of jihyo’s breathing. because it’s incredibly alluring. having already known what jihyo’s skin feels like - it chips away at her sanity. stirs up her greed. it’s like having a taste of the forbidden fruit and opening up a whole new world of possibilities, and things she’d never knew she’d wanted that badly. 

 

mina’s greed tenfolds, together with the liquid courage still thrumming in her blood. she drags her fingers down jihyo’s spine, sliding underneath the other girl’s shorts just to circle her hip bones briefly, and that’s when she hears it - something that sounds dangerously close to a moan. 

 

it’s riveting. the hairs on her arms stand. she does it again. two more circles around jihyo’s left hip bone, and there it is again. louder, and more certain. it’s addictive. she thinks she hears her own pulse echoing in her ears, and throws all caution to the wind. decides that she doesn’t give a shit about the possible repercussions, because her belly is already tightening of its own accord, and the sounds coming from jihyo are pressing all the right buttons. mina moves to the other side of jihyo, where she’s facing the window -

 

only to find jihyo’s eyes closed, and mouth slightly open. mina raises an eyebrow. gives it a few seconds. stops all ministrations, and when nothing else happens, confirms her suspicions, that jihyo had drifted off to sleep sometime in between, and was, well, moaning in her sleep. how adorable. the heat under her skin is extinguished as quickly as they’d spread over to her abdomen, and mina allows herself a laugh. thinks about the could-have-beens, and how she’d actually believed in the impossible for once, before pushing all of them back into the pandora’s box she swears to never open again. 

 

once bitten, twice shy, and three times? delusional.



/




the next few days are a blur. it’s mostly just the sun, sand, sea and overpriced food. jihyo doesn’t have a single ounce of worry in her body - it’s just the additional fats from the eating and doing nothing and it’s the best, honestly. she feels like her college self again, but with more money to fuel her luxurious vacation, and give the (fake) girl of her dreams a good run.

 

mina is so, so much more than she’d ever expected. she’s blending in perfectly. integrates into their unholy trinity seamlessly, and wow. no one has ever done that. not jeongyeon’s ex, or nayeon’s ex. there was always this outsider-insider divide, because of their long history with each other, but with mina it’s never obvious. she doesn’t show any discontent at being left out when they talk about inside jokes, goes along with it, and finds out about the joke eventually, and even joins in perfectly - jihyo’s floored. how could someone this perfect exist, and how could she only find out about her existence now

  

“she’s really perfect, isn’t she,” nayeon muses. crosses her legs at the ankles. they’re at the other bar this time, because of their cheaper drinks (jihyo’d let it slide only because they’d tasted so much better) and she can’t help the sigh that escapes her own lips as they wait for their drinks. 

 

“has jeongyeon said anything?” she asks casually. turns to look at them - jeongyeon and mina - lounging on their mats, laughing about something out of earshot. then tries not to get too distracted at how the evening sun glints off that one silver tooth whenever she smiles -

 

nayeon snorts. “no,” she shakes her head. “it’s pretty convincing. i wouldn’t have known either, if i wasn’t the one who orchestrated this.” folds her arms and stares right at jihyo. “i can’t believe you aren’t dating her for real.”

 

there’s a silence. it’s like her tongue is suddenly caught in the web she’d so intricately spun just to keep her emotions in check, and nayeon is always, always the all-knowing aunt agony she’d never asked for. whom she’d never bothered to keep secrets from, simply because the other girl could get it out of her like a stroll in a park. because almost a decade of being best friends meant that they knew each other better than the back of their own hands - and jihyo drops all her walls.

 

nayeon blinks. 

 

“oh my god,” the other girl says, after a good minute of staring incredulously. “you fell for her.” her voice softens, but there is still weight in those words, said out loud, and it makes jihyo’s stomach drop a little. 

 

it’s a statement. not a question. something she knows isn’t worth refuting, because the heaviness is already in the air, and there’s nothing to hide. she’s still the hopeless idiot who can never seem to verbalise her thoughts well enough to convince herself worthy of someone else’s love. and in this case, it’s myoui mina - who also happens to be literal perfection. 

 

“do you think she likes you back?” nayeon is always straight to the point. no fluff, no bullshit, only the cold hard truth whenever things get serious. her eyes curve at the edges, and jihyo doesn’t really understand. because it looks like she knows something else. something she’s definitely not telling. 

 

“i can’t tell anymore,” jihyo shrugs. “sometimes she’s pretending, and sometimes it just feels like she’s not?” she grabs the drink that the bartender places down immediately, and takes a long sip. ”i think i’m losing my mind.”

 

nayeon rolls her eyes. orders the both of them two shots each immediately, and then laughs loudly. it’s the high-pitched crazy laughter that gets jihyo so annoyed sometimes because it brings about so much second-hand embarrassment, but right now - it’s contagious. nayeon’s looking at her, and jihyo already knows. there isn’t much to be said, because they’re so transparent to each other. and right now, in nayeon’s gaze, jihyo sees an assertiveness that’s rare. then there’s also a little bit of courage, and the obligatory best friend don’t-be-stupid judgemental eyebrow raise. it disintegrates the stone that’s lodged in her chest, and jihyo cackles in return. because nayeon will always be there, at the end of the day - and that is a comfort she can always seek, regardless. 

 

“when are we not?” 




/




nayeon snorts. clutches her stomach and laughs, full-bellied and all. mina’s tinkering giggle only serves to supplement the urge to video this down, but she doesn’t - only because her phone is out of reach (read: on the other side of the mat). they’re watching jeongyeon and jihyo surf, because nayeon can’t do anything sports related, and mina’s tired. she doesn’t say anything, but the other girl’s been a little distant lately, and nayeon wonders if she’s reading a little too much into something non-existent. 

 

but then jeongyeon falls off her surfboard again, and nayeon really doesn’t understand how it’s still funny every single time. mina’s laugh is a little louder now. overcompensating, maybe. it’s enough to make one of the many alarms in nayeon’s head go off, and she detaches herself. goes into third-party viewing mode, and starts psychoanalyzing. 

 

possible reasons for mina’s very possible change in mood? one, the sun. six days in the scorching heat - it’s highly likely that she’d probably got bored of it. or, sad that she’d gotten quite the tan, like all of them did. but mina’s always talking about how she hates her fair complexion, so no.

 

then there’s the only other logical cause: park jihyo. this one is tricky. both are as tight-lipped about it as each other, and it was only yesterday that she’d found out about jihyo actually falling for mina. what kind of shitty soap opera was this? 

 

they’re supposed to be fake girlfriends. nothing more, other than to fool jeongyeon. just some fun, and free drinks. and then it happens: the ice-cold realisation that there was a possibility that she herself would be the cause of jihyo’s heartbreak. 

 

fuck. she swallows. starts thinking about every single thing that happened since they’d arrived. any indication or whatsoever that showed mina’s heart. but the other girl isn’t easy to read, and she definitely doesn’t have the advantage of knowing her for years like she did with jihyo, and nayeon sets out to unearth the truth the only way she knows how -

 

“stop zoning out,” mina’s hand is in her face. there are fingers snapping loudly, and nayeon’s reminded of the reality that exists outside of her mind. “you’re missing all the fun. jihyo just fell, too.”

 

she turns to look at the commotion. jihyo’s holding onto her board in the sea, hair a mop of gross seaweed as she emerges from the surface to breathe. laughs at herself, probably, and then waves at them, on the beach. specifically mina. nayeon observes. takes notes. watches as mina’s eyes light up as she waves back, and once jihyo turns away - it disappears. dulls. and then it’s back to her unusual muted gleam she’s had the entire day.

 

“so what’s going to happen after the trip?” nayeon asks. “bffs? colleagues?” trains her eyes on mina’s face and tries to gauge a reaction that’s telling -

 

holy. there’s a small frown that appears just for the fraction of a second, and nayeon catches it just in time. because it melts into the polite smile mina gave her the first time they’d met at the cafe, and wants to laugh. the other girl shrugs. goes with a half-hearted i guess and looks away quickly. it’s enough for nayeon to go on.

 

“i still can’t believe she’s single,” she says, sighing. “beautiful, rich, good personality - i mean. what else could you ask for?” throws the bait a little further out this time, and waits for the bite -

 

“neither can i,” mina crosses her legs. sounds a little hopeless, but it’s not obvious - her smile is only  a little emptier, and nayeon knows she’s got mina right where she’d wanted. there are already hairline cracks, with their silver linings thinning quickly -

 

now she’d just have to wait.




/




the night is quiet. it does nothing to calm the wave of panic about to swallow her whole, and mina hates it. because it’s been hours, and nayeon’s words were still eating her alive. leaving nothing for the hounds of hell to feast on when she’d arrive there eventually. because having a more-than-crush on the ceo? ridiculous, and also questionably unethical. plus her rubbing aloe on a sunburnt jihyo? thank god she doesn’t remember that. 

 

but yes. the entire conversation had only served to remind mina how pathetically sad her current love life is, and how the best part of it all would be ending. in a day. then tries to convince herself that it’s actually not ending, because she’d gained a good friend. three of them, in fact. three really good friends who made this impromptu trip so much better than what she’d expected, and honestly? she’d probably do it all over again, just to remember what it had felt like being jihyo’s girlfriend. 

 

jihyo. oh. mina looks around the room, hair still wet from her shower earlier. wipes away the stray droplets on her face, and drops her towel. strange. because jihyo’s not here, and weren’t they supposed to get dinner? nayeon and jeongyeon had very blatantly stated their plans for a ‘romantic stroll along the beach’, and suggested for jihyo and mina to do the same because it’s the last night, use a condom! and jihyo had blushed so adorably mina couldn’t help but kiss her. 

 

then she sees the note on the table, in a cursive that makes her heart pick up speed:



mina,

 

i think i’ve stopped pretending for awhile. i’m at the gardens - meet me only if you want to talk. 



she blinks. re-reads the note ten more times, and feels the familiar fear crawl up her spine. her brain goes into hyperspeed. ‘stopped pretending’? as in stopped pretending to love her, and blowing their cover, or stopped pretending to love her because she’s actually in love with -

 

there’s no way. but her gut is telling her that there might just be the slightest possibility, for no good reason at all, and that she’s not going to be stupid enough to pass on this sliver of hope. 

 

so she goes. doesn’t even bother combing her hair. grabs her jacket and is out of the door before she changes her mind. grips the note like a lifeline, and at this point, just wants her heart to settle. even if it means breaking into pieces first. 




/




there aren’t many things in life that terrify jihyo. sharks? sure. they’re cute, as long as they don’t bite. her dad leaving the company to her right after she graduated? cool. it’s a golden ticket, amidst a shitload of pressure, and it turned out fine anyway. all she had to do was learn, and everything fell in place.

 

but this? following her heart and taking a leap of faith? crippling fear. she gnaws at her lips, leg bopping restlessly as she waits for her impending doom. waits for mina’s possible appearance, and practices her speech. goes over the words in her head, and mouths them just for effect. to make it as realistic as possible. 

 

then there’s a poke at her thigh, and she looks down. it’s a little boy, holding a rose. he hands it to her like it’s the easiest thing in the world, and tells her she’s pretty, before scurrying away back to his parents. jihyo laughs. feels the nervousness seep out a little. bows in gratitude. they wave goodbye shortly after, and jihyo stares at the rose in her hand. it’s like they’re psychic, quietly supporting in the smallest way possible.

 

it’s pretty, the rose. red and vibrant against the dull of the floor, each petal a silk reminder of mina’s skin, lips, and this is when jihyo knows she’s losing it. her sanity. drawing courage from a rose given by a stranger to confess to a girl that she’s only known for a week? her life has somehow turned into a badly written rom com, and she forces herself to take comfort in the fact that ninety-nine percent of them have happy endings. 

 

okay. this is happening. she steels herself. watches mina walk towards her. the other girl’s hair is messy, and jihyo knows mina’d probably came here right after her shower. but she’s still pretty, like always. it’s a mina thing, jihyo knows by now, to be able to look so put together no matter the situation, and it has her insides in a twist. because mina obviously doesn’t know the effect she herself has on her, and it’s just that. it’ll always be that. 

 

mina is a mystery. all the words she’d memorised earlier conveniently evaporates from her memory, and jihyo can only stare at mina’s eyes that shake with worry, and try to sort her thoughts out. it’s impromptu now. to rationalise falling for a complete stranger under the guise of dating without sounding like a total creep -

 

“hi,” she says. hands mina the flower. it’s a confidence boost, the way mina smiles like the sunset and jihyo pushes herself to go on. takes mina’s other hand, and kisses it, like she’s always done in front of nayeon and jeongyeon. but this time, it’s just them, and it’s so much more intimate. she kisses mina’s inner wrist for good measure, and feels the other girl’s pulse jump right at her lips - mina’s nervous, but why? 

 

jihyo clears her throat. “i think i’m in love with you,” she looks mina in the eye. “for real. no more pretending. I think i fell for you for real somewhere along the way, and i’m - i’m sorry if you don’t feel the same.”

 

there’s silence. and then more silence, and jihyo tells herself to give it another ten seconds or so. because mina’s eyes are no longer cloudy. there’s a whirlpool of something so intense she can only hold her breath, because it looks so lethal. it threatens to overflow and consume her, but jihyo thinks she doesn’t really care anymore - mina can do whatever she wants. as long as she’s happy. 

 

then her eyes clear, and there’s a soft, mellow yearning. mina smiles. it shines like the beacon of hope it stirs inside jihyo’s chest, and she laughs. loud and beautiful, still, before taking a step closer. mina is all up in her face now, and jihyo thinks all the stars must have aligned. because mina is looking at her like she’s waiting for her to realise something.

 

could it be -

 

there are lips pressed against hers. whispers of a kiss, easily rendering her speechless. jihyo watches the slow flutter of mina’s eyelids as she opens her eyes - they’re shining with affection she still doesn’t dare to believe. but it’s there, and as she finally allows herself to believe it, just a little, mina’s giggling in that same melody that makes everything right again. 

 

“me too,” the other girl says, right to her lips. then eyes them a little longer, before meeting jihyo in another kiss, and another, and another, until jihyo feels like her chest is about to explode and her lips don’t know anything else but mina’s. it’s the girl of her dreams, liking her back despite the weirdest timeline ever, and the euphoria she feels breaks all expectations of love that she knows. 

 

her hands find mina’s easily, like they always have - but this time, she revels in the meaning behind it, and how mina holds on a little tighter, despite not having an audience anymore.




/