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Miss. Inkblot

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If some poor soul had told Jinsoul she would be trapped on a broken elevator during what was supposed to be the most significant game of her high school lacrosse career with a penguin suit-clad (and longtime crush) Kim Jiwoo, she would have steered them to wherever the creative writing class meets. But reality is unpredictable and unforgiving. And whatever mystery hat the universe just pulled names and scenarios out of, Jinsoul’s not sure. But the current unlucky situation the two girls have found themselves in is certainly real—really real.

It’s a tragedy, too. Worn-in blue cleats should currently be planted on damp grass not unwillingly rooted on the cold vinyl flooring of the cramped second-floor elevator. Man, Jinsoul’s coach is seriously gonna murder her with an axe.

She’s not even sure how it happened. Twenty minutes ago, she was heading to the field with her teammates when she realized she forgot her lucky game socks in her backpack, which she conveniently left on the other side of the school in her locker…on the second floor. She didn’t get on the elevator then—no, she agilely double-hopped up the stairs, swiftly grabbed her backpack, and traded her dull white slightly-too-snug socks for her lucky red and purple mismatched ones. Honestly, they’re more than socks to her. Woven inside the fabric and elastic contains Jinsoul’s confidence, her spirit, her three-time girls’ lacrosse championship title she believes is owed almost exclusively to them. Superstition is a hell of a drug when you’re literally unbeatable.

But for some reason, either because her subconscious was guiding her to conserve her energy or because she figured it would be faster (she truly has no clue), she decided to take the elevator back down.

The hallways were pretty dead considering school was over and anyone who was left was already waiting for the championship game to start. So, not only was it weird to see someone else also heading into the elevator, but the person was encased in a penguin suit which, like, double weird. Not weird because of the penguin suit, but weird because the school mascot should have already been entertaining and hyping up the crowd outside.

Jinsoul, her mind looping through her usual internal pre-game pep talk, didn’t care to question it and since the small individual in the suit just stood silently in the corner of the elevator, she figured their run-in would be a non-thing. A fleeting encounter that would go forgotten amongst the general hubbub of her day.

Boy, was she wrong.

It was like a scene out of the worst (and dumbest because of the whole quiet penguin stranger) horror flick when the elevator, after dropping probably two feet silently powered off without even a hint of warning. Before Jinsoul could begin to question the unfortunate turn of events and pitch dark, the single emergency light on the wall turned on and it was dead quiet. No mechanical whirring, no machine-driven dings, not even the sound of human breathing entered her ears. She was stuck in a broken-down elevator on the most important afternoon of her life with what, due to the circumstances, rapidly became a creepy penguin mascot, and had no idea what to do. Accepting her fate wasn’t an option. So, with a dry disbelieving laugh, she cool-headedly pressed any button she could see. And after nothing occurred, Jinsoul realized the gravity of the situation.

Everything after that happened too fast yet too slowly. Her movements unknowingly became frantic, her heart began banging in her chest, and a high-pitched voice behind her suddenly chirped out and sent a chill through her jumpy body.

“Crap balls.”

Any other time and Jinsoul would have thought the voice was cute. And for anybody else in the world, the comically absurd comment would probably have provided some comfort and comedic relief, but all Jinsoul felt was sick. She was going to be murdered by some adorable penguin mascot girl and she didn’t even have her lacrosse stick to put up a fight.

She remembers turning around and seeing a pair of flippers reach up and pull off the nightmarishly large penguin head. And she’ll never forget the stomach-sinking, heart-fluttering, flop-sweat-inducing feeling of realizing who had been hiding under it.

Kim Jiwoo. As if fate couldn’t have been any meaner.

The girl, despite her pressed-down, messy hair and a thin sheen of sweat coating her face, looked as pretty as Jinsoul remembered her. They didn’t really know each other and had never spoken more than a couple sentences here and there, but the tiny girl held a very special, very long-lived place in Jinsoul’s heart. She was a year below her and Jinsoul remembers even back as a sophomore feeling embarrassed at her feelings; crushing on a freshman was considered a big social no-no—a total dork move. But as the years went on, her secret feelings only grew stronger and while their current respective roles as high school senior and junior should have given Jinsoul the implicit permission to go for it, their vastly different school personas always made her hesitate. And those personas were clearly displayed in their disparate attires.

Jinsoul’s a jock, a popular jock at that—in fact, she’s kind of a big deal at school. They don’t have a football team, so lacrosse takes precedence as the sport of most vital importance. And so, the plebeians fawn at her feet, her teachers even more so due to how seamlessly she balances both athletics and academics. And Jiwoo, well everyone seems to like the girl, but despite injecting herself in just about every extracurricular activity that exists, nobody particularly notices her, and the two girls don’t really run in the same circles. It was for these reasons Jinsoul stood in her own way and never pursued whatever it is she and Jiwoo could or would ever be.

But she pined, oh did she ever.

And besides Jinsoul’s best friend and fellow teammate Sooyoung, nobody knew about her pining. The teasing she endured from said best friend (the true most popular girl in school—if not for her fear of being left out and therefore attending any and every rowdy party than for her stunningly good looks) was relentless. Little jabs into the ribs whenever Jiwoo walked past in the hallway, knowing glances spared Jinsoul’s way at every opportunity—hell, Sooyoung even managed to get a selfie with the tiny wonder at one of the school plays, Jiwoo’s big smile making Jinsoul swoon despite knowing that the image sitting in her inbox was only supposed to get under her skin.

So all of this, well, when Sooyoung gets a load of it Jinsoul thinks she’ll be roasted more than the time she was caught by her BFF doing math problems for fun one lazy summer afternoon. Of course, Sooyoung will maintain that she’s nonplussed by the story, her nonchalance is truly a gift, but when Jinsoul least expects it the jabs, the jokes, the reminders—they’ll be frequent. And they’ll sting as much as they’ll make her heart rate pick up. It’s another reason Jinsoul hopes this whole ordeal is over soon. Better to get out before she makes an ass of herself and gives Sooyoung more fodder.

And so here Jinsoul stands, stiffly upright by the door and haphazardly pressing the many buttons as she stares at Jiwoo, wondering if this is some sort of sign from the universe to stop letting high school cliquish politics get in the way of true love.

As if.

She awkwardly looks away every time Jiwoo’s eyes timidly meet her own, and with sweaty palms, pulls her phone out of her shorts pocket.

4:37.

The game starts at 5:30. If her lucky mismatched socks truly bestow luck upon her, Jinsoul figures they’ll be free soon. Better to feign positivity in the wake of her athletic career—her life, basically—crashing down around her. But her stomach is churning, her foot has started tapping, and her teeth are tugging on her bottom lip for a reason much different than that.

The true reason, of course, is that Kim Jiwoo—rosy cheeks, bright eyes, honey-soaked voice and all—is her unwilling partner in this cursed vertical journey. And her looming presence is both exciting and scaring Jinsoul.

It wouldn’t be as bad to be stuck here if she was by herself. Sure, her mind would suffocate her with images of her inevitable funeral after she dies and rots in this metal box, but at least she would be able to focus.

The fact that this all could have been avoided, Jinsoul’s very aware of. But what was she supposed to do? Imagine if they had lost the game because she had on regular old white socks!

God, all in the name of some “lucky” socks. Superstition has never seemed more stupid to her in this moment.

“Should we call 911?”

The voice, that sweet voice, catches her off guard, the hairs on her arms shooting up. So off guard in fact, she doesn’t even process the question for a beat. And after a resounding gulp and quick shake of her head to pull her focus back into reality, Jinsoul checks her phone.

No service. Figures.

“I-I don’t have reception in here. Do you?”

“Oh, uh…hold on,” Jiwoo responds, not-so-smoothly shaking off one of her penguin flippers for hands and then reaching into a hidden pouch on the side of her suit. Jinsoul, though amused, watches her with stoicism as she reaches in and pulls out her phone, her tongue poking out in focus at the task.

“Me either.”

Jinsoul sighs. “Great.”

“Hey, don’t worry. I’m sure we’ll get out of here before the game starts.”

Jinsoul looks at her and almost loses it at how adorably reassuring and pleasant the smile on Jiwoo’s face is. It’s almost unfair. But then she’s distracted by the fact that the still-sweating girl looks beyond uncomfortable in the clearly unbreathable penguin get-up.

“Hey, you can take that off if you want. I mean…it doesn’t look comfortable.”

 “It’s not but…I’m pretty bare bones underneath here,” the redhead quietly admits.

Jinsoul doesn’t miss the implication. The idea. The mental image that is now projecting itself onto the movie theater screens in her mind and flustering her beyond belief.

Stuck. In an elevator. With Kim Jiwoo.

Kim Jiwoo in her underwear.

God, can her hormones chill for like two seconds?

She musters up all the strength the logical side of her will allow and shakes her head. She glances down at the girl’s quasi-webbed feet. “Oh, uh—”

“I’m still getting used to the suit,” Jiwoo calmly explains, not seeming to pick up on the tension. “What better way to train my body than to be forcibly stuck in it for what could be hours, days even—”

Days?

“Please don’t say days,” Jinsoul hears herself begging a little more pathetically than necessary. She would never admit it, but the idea sends a sharp pang of fear through her body.

“Just kidding.”

It’s quiet for a beat—Jiwoo continuing Jinsoul’s futile work of pressing the many buttons on the wall, the latter frozen in place, too overwhelmed to do much of anything.

A couple of tense minutes pass until Jinsoul finally slinks down the wall in defeat. It doesn’t seem like this whole mechanical power failure is a fluke. Pulling her knees to her chest, she looks up at the ceiling, a drawn-out sigh creeping from her lips.

She catches sight of the penguin head resting against the wall where the redhead set it down. She’s never seen it this close before. During games, the mascot acts as background noise for her in the same way the vibrant chatter from the attendees does. Both help set the scene, but they don’t stand out when she’s focused on the game and more importantly: winning.

The humorously hulking eyes are pretty horrifying from this short distance and a feeling of relief floods over Jinsoul at the realization that she’s never met them out on the field. She’s positive they would follow her around like a painting.

The yellow beak is slightly agape, clearly so the wearer can see out of it. And the longer she hypnotically stares at it, Jinsoul begins to feel like the head is taunting her. The thing’s expression lacks any sort of emotion which, she notes, is ironic considering how overflowing with energy and emotion the girl who was just inside of it seems to be.

Speaking of said girl, when the hell did she become the school mascot?! Jinsoul curses herself for being so oblivious and gazes up at her companion.

Jiwoo’s animated human head is frenetically whipping to and fro as she meticulously inspects every inch of their environment. Seemingly deciding no obvious escape exists in the formidable metal box, her tune changes.

BANG, BANG, BANG

Hands instinctively slam themselves onto Jinsoul’s ears when out of nowhere, the younger girl kicks and pounds on the walls as if they owed her money. If there were a boxing team at the school, the blonde reckons Jiwoo would easily take place as the star. Who knew so much strength existed in that little body?

But instead of complimenting Jiwoo’s power, her form, her frenzied focus, Jinsoul decides on behalf of her precious hearing to talk the girl down.

“Hey!”

Jiwoo whips her head down to the blonde, her innocent doe-eyed expression in stark contrast to the aggressive power previously on display.

“Let’s just chillax!”

The redhead’s eyebrow flicks up at the Jinsoul’s outdated word choice.

“Banging on the walls won’t do any good I don’t think.”

Jinsoul pauses for Jiwoo’s reaction. The girl finally shrugs in mock offense, sporting an expression that seems to say well it’s better than doing nothing like SOME people.

And that sentiment gets to Jinsoul, which is why she not-so-eloquently hops up and pretends to examine the doors.

“This door…it’s the one exit…”

Her voice trails off as she slides her finger down the crisp metal lines. It’s not a lie that she wants to get out of here, but it’s true that she’s feeling pessimistic. And before she has a chance to pull an escape idea out of her ass, the little idea bulb gleams over Jiwoo’s head instead. Which explains why the girl dramatically gasps.

“There’s gotta be an emergency exit, right?!”

And like clockwork, they both look to the ceiling.

Smooth, grey, and bare, if you minus the spider residing in the upper right corner. No emergency exit in sight.

“Shame. We could have busted out and then slid down a rope or something!” Jiwoo exclaims. “I saw it in a movie.”

The redhead’s elbow, or what Jinsoul guesses is the girl’s elbow since the suit prohibits her from bending her arms very much, nudges teasingly into the blonde’s side.

But Jinsoul can’t find it in herself to joke right now.

“At this point we’d be better off writing our wills on our phones. If not because we starve to death in here than because if I ever do get out my coach is gonna exterminate me.”

“It’s just one game! This is an emergency situation.”

“It’s the championship game,” Jinsoul flares. She buries her head in her hands, a lump forming in her throat. “I’m gonna miss the championship game and everyone’s gonna think I bailed from nerves or something.”

“Jinsoul—ah—can I call you Jinsoul? My name is Jiwoo!”

The blonde whips her head up at the other girl’s cheery greeting. Her round face is now mostly smile. It suddenly dawns on Jinsoul that they’ve likely never formally introduced themselves.

But Jiwoo knows her name.

“The elevator could start up again any second!” Jiwoo insists. “Plus, even if we’re stuck here for an hour there’s no way they’d start the game without you. Double plus, this is the only elevator in the school. Someone will figure out what’s going on!”

It is the only elevator in the school, that’s true. But school’s over for the day. Jinsoul doesn’t dare pop the girl’s optimistic bubble this time, though. Not when her lips are still curved into the most reassuring smile Jinsoul’s ever seen, her eyes squinting into half-moons and her eyebrows curved upwards.

She can’t find it in herself to reply. And she also can’t stop the my name is Jiwoo from ringing through her mind. As if she wouldn’t know the girl’s name, as if she’s never scribbled it a hundred times over in a notebook.

“Imagine this school playing the championship game without Jung Jinsoul!” The redhead snorts. “It’s just not realistic.”

Well, she’s not exactly wrong. But she’s also not completely right. After all, it costs money and takes time to organize a championship game. There are a lot of people presumably already in those stands and they paid to get in. The whole thing wouldn’t just shut down because one player has vanished into thin air.

“Thanks,” the blonde nods bashfully.

Jiwoo once again quirks her eyebrow up at the girl.

“You’re welcome.”

Feeling a weird urge to sob, Jinsoul squeezes her eyes shut. Too many feelings are threatening to burst out of her, but she’s used to keeping cool under pressure. She’s got this. One deep breath and she’ll be good to go. Plus, she’s gay. And with her crush standing bright eyed and penguin tailed right in front of her, she figures she should at least try and be less of a baby about her athletic career falling to shambles.

“So…” Jinsoul says totally casually. “You know about my playing?”

“I’m the school mascot.”

Jinsoul’s eyes flicker down to the penguin suit’s plump black and white belly.

“…Right. Forgot.”

A crippling silence lingers as Jinsoul thinks of a different opener, but a seemingly unaware Jiwoo eventually makes her way over to the corner. The blonde watches as the girl plops down on the floor and fiddles with her phone.

This is gonna be a long afternoon, Jinsoul thinks.


 

5:11

 

When Jinsoul was a kid, she briefly owned a hamster. The thing was cute and lovable and everything a little girl could ask for in a pet…for the first couple of weeks. It became clear the more time went by that the rotund ball of fluff sought a life outside of the cage it was forced to call home. Its cage was located on the other side of the girl’s bedroom, near the door. And all night when the girl tossed and turned seeking out a peaceful slumber, the hamster gnawed on the bars of the cage, ready to make its quick dash out into the world. The hamster care books she sifted through told her that her pet was bored. So, she bought a running wheel and some toys, hoping the stimulation would distract the rodent from making a great escape.

It didn’t work.

Not only did the hamster still spend most of its waking hours trying to bite its way out, but it also started taking out its frustration on itself. A 9-year old Jinsoul was shocked when one morning, she looked inside the small cage to find that her hamster had managed to bite its foot off. A violent display of protest or a sign of mental instability? Who knows. She was so traumatized by the ordeal that she begged her parents to take the critter away.

It’s not hard to understand why her hamster was so eager for freedom. What is one to do stuck inside of a cage all day and night but try and escape? Especially all alone. Maybe she should have gotten a companion for the hamster. Better to suffer together than by yourself, Jinsoul thinks.

Her eyes flicker to over to the quiet girl sitting diagonally from her, tapping away on her phone.

Or not. Suffering together doesn’t seem to be working out either.

Jinsoul knows the only reason she’s reflecting on her long-gone pet is because she finally feels the empathy she lacked as a child. If this elevator had metal bars, she would have started chomping fifteen minutes ago.

After all, it’s so incredibly dull in this cramped box. And awkward. And hot. And stifling. And nerve-wracking. And also, how is she supposed to brighten the mood in here? The real reason Jinsoul’s managed to keep it together is because of her crisis partner but with this dead silence she’s not sure how long that will last.

Jiwoo doesn’t seem like she’s fallen victim to any of the inner turmoil and concerns the blonde has.

In fact, Jiwoo has seemed remarkably calm throughout this whole ordeal. The blonde’s begun to pick up on it. Keeping her gaze fixed on the redhead, Jinsoul examines her. Really examines her in a way she didn’t dare just an hour prior.

Her slightly damp red hair clings to her forehead as if a protective shield. Jiwoo normally could win an award for best bangs in the school but they have certainly seen better days. Perfectly groomed eyebrows are furrowed into the girl’s focused big, brown eyes. And the rose powdering her cheeks would lend her well if she ever decided to model for artists in some still-life face study. Actually, the more Jinsoul stares the more she can’t help but be convinced Jiwoo is just an android posing as a human. Her face is too perfect. Which, as a major sci-fi fan, Jinsoul could get behind. She secretly always wanted to meet an android.

But androids likely don’t sweat, so the tiny drop traipsing down the girl’s face and which she absentmindedly swipes away probably means the girl does indeed share Jinsoul’s mortal condition.

And boy, is it hot in this elevator. The lack of central air conditioning is becoming more apparent with each passing minute. Jiwoo can’t keep herself locked inside that suit for very much longer or she’ll probably pass out from heat exhaustion.

But she’s definitely mostly naked under there, Jinsoul remembers. Even in this heat, the idea still sends shivers down her spine. And Jiwoo seems like she can take care of herself, so the blonde decides to stay mum on that subject.

“Are you writing a novel over there?” Jinsoul breaks the silence.

Jiwoo looks up.

“Just a diary entry. It would usually go in my physical diary, but my phone will do for now.”

“Trying to memorialize this action-packed saga, huh?”

“Well, it’s not every day you get trapped in an elevator with…” Jiwoo cuts herself off and glances back down at her phone. “It’s a unique situation.”

“That’s true. I never thought I’d die with a penguin by my side.”

“What’s with you and dying? This could end up being a fun experience, you know.”

“Really?” Jinsoul doesn’t bother masking her skepticism.

“Yeah! Plus, when you’re having fun, time goes by super quickly. It’s like science.”

“I would be having a lot more fun winning the championship game.”

“I’m sorry.” Jiwoo’s face softens with sympathy. “But there’s still time. We could get out any second.”

“Somehow I don’t think that’s likely.” Jinsoul sighs and absentmindedly picks at her lucky socks. “So, what do you consider fun?”

“Lots of stuff. But for example, on long car rides my little brothers and I always play Ispy…makes the trips fly by!”

“You do see the flaw in us playing that particular game, right?”

“It was just an example…” The redhead sighs. “We could do twenty questions, or charades, or two truths and a lie. Something like that.”

The idea of playing a dumb game while she should be playing the game she’s trained months for makes Jinsoul feel itchy. But she supposes it’s better than being a baby in the corner this whole time. Plus, Jiwoo seems excited and Jinsoul would be lying if she claimed she didn’t get a kick out of it.

Jinsoul shrugs. “Alright—two truths and a lie. I’m down.”

“Ooh, I was hoping you’d pick that one! I’ll go first!”

“Well Jiwoo, with that kind of enthusiasm how am I supposed to argue?”

“You’re not cuz you’ll lose!” Jiwoo perks up at the idea of a competition. “I was on the debate team, you know.”

“…Okay, so now give me one more truth and then a lie.” Jinsoul smiles amused.

The redhead’s eyes grow. “Wait, no that didn’t count! Okay, here it goes.” Jiwoo licks her lips and with a resounding clearing of her throat begins her attempt at throwing Jinsoul off. “Number one;” she puts her index finger up, “my favorite color is pink; Number two; I have a wonderfully extensive sticker collection; and number three; I secretly wear glasses.”

Jiwoo, eyes narrowed and three fingers in the air as a marker of her progress, smirks in preemptive victory. There’s no way Jinsoul will be able to figure her out. All three statements were equally as plausible as the other.

But before she has a chance to effectively master her stare-down, Jinsoul cracks her knuckles and begins guessing, an air of faultless confidence backing her words. Jiwoo’s not the only one that thrives off competition.

“Hmm, well you definitely wear glasses! In fact, if I look close enough…” she says, leaning into Jiwoo’s assured face, “…I can see the outlines of your lenses.” Her eyes flicker between Jiwoo’s cartoonishly large orbs. The smaller girl swallows, barely noticeable.

Suddenly, Jinsoul draws back, leans her head against the wall, and closes her eyes in reflection.

“I’ve never seen you wear pink. That’s the lie! Besides, everyone knows about your little sticker collection. Your notebooks, your backpack, your locker—all vandalized by Kim Jiwoo stickers.”

It’s silent and when Jinsoul opens her eyes she’s surprised to see the girl speechless and staring straight at her.

“What?”

“How…You’ve noticed the clothes I wear?”

The question is innocent, and it honestly shouldn’t rattle her so much, but saying yes just confirms what Jinsoul’s still too nervous to outright say.

That not only has she surveyed the entire clothing spectrum of one Kim Jiwoo, but that she’s also memorized nearly all her most-worn outfits. And of course, she wouldn’t have done any of that if she wasn’t absolutely smitten with the girl. Admitting that first part would reveal that pesky second part—and it’s already too hot in this elevator for all that.

“I’ve…” Jinsoul’s throat feels dry as she speaks. “We go to the same school, Jiwoo…and there are a ton of girls who flaunt around the color pink as a statement of identity or something. You’re not one of them.”

Jiwoo nods her head but the way she’s looking at Jinsoul makes the blonde feel uneasy. And when the redhead opens her mouth, Jinsoul decides to take her turn.

“I’ve played the piano for nine years, uhhh I’m bad at math, and um…I have this scar between my eyebrows after I fell off of a table when I was a kid.”

It’s quiet. Jiwoo’s clearly moved on fast from the tension from the way she’s analyzing Jinsoul like a science experiment. And after eons of silence, Jinsoul’s heart a quick murmur in the background, Jiwoo pipes up.

“I bet that scar is just from standing up too fast—you’re so tall, your head is probably more than acquainted with the ceiling.”

The blonde is astounded.

“Excuse me? I’m normal-sized! You’re just tiny.”

“Tiny people live longer.”

“Now who’s talking about dying?”

“It was about living, actually.” Jiwoo grins. “But I guess…the piano thing. That’s the lie.”

“Is that your final answer?”

Jinsoul can taste her victory.

Jiwoo nods.

“EEEEEHHHH!!!” The blonde slaps her own knee for emphasis. “You don’t think I’m good at math?”

“I assume everyone’s bad at math until proven otherwise. And because you can’t exactly prove it in here…”

“I’m not lying!”

“Maybe one day you can prove that.”

“Okay.” Jinsoul swallows. She wasn’t aware someone snuck in here to pump Kim Jiwoo full of sass. Is this how this girl always is?

“So…I’ve never missed a day of high school, I write in my diary every day, and the word ‘diet’ isn’t in my vocabulary.”

Jiwoo looks smug.

Jinsoul doesn’t like it.

“Let’s see… you were writing a diary entry about our now-fun adventure earlier, but you didn’t say how often you write in it. And you don’t seem like the type of girl to be concerned with dieting. I mean, you certainly don’t need to, anyway.”

“So…?” Jiwoo feigns impatience and rhythmically taps her nails on the floor.

So! Even though I wouldn’t be surprised if you won best attendance in the school, I believe even someone as studious as you would need a day off occasionally.”

The tapping nails stop abruptly and the smaller girl huffs. “Why are you so good at this?”

Jinsoul snorts. “I like to win. Also, that was easy. Everyone gets sick sometimes.”

“I’ve only missed one day, and it was for an audition, not cuz I was sick.”

“Oh? Did it go well?”

Jiwoo ignores the question and points her finger at the blonde. “Your turn.”

“I can’t think of anything!” Jinsoul exclaims, more than happy to listen to the cute girl scramble for more facts. “Go again!”

As the redhead bites her lip in concentration, Jinsoul realizes her own face has melted into a gooey grin. Huh. She’s having fun. It probably helps that she’s been yearning for a moment like this for an absurd amount of time.

“Animal Crossing is my favorite video game. My favorite fruit is grapes. I have a black belt in taekwondo.”

Jinsoul barely lets the girl finish before she’s rolling her eyes.

“There’s no way you have a black belt in taekwondo!”

“Um, yes way,” Jiwoo responds, clearly offended.

“Nope.”

There’s only three feet max between them, but it suddenly feels like they’re in a western standoff, both having taken up positions from across the street. Only Jinsoul secretly feels giddy at the possibility of Jiwoo pulling her gun first.

“C’mon.” The redhead jumps up and puts her hands on her fuzzy hips. “Get up!”

“No way—I’m not gonna fight a penguin!”

“But you’ll get your butt kicked by one!”

Before the blonde has a chance to formulate a retort, Jiwoo pulls Jinsoul up like a rag doll. She steadies the bewildered girl by locking her hands on her shoulders.

Jiwoo’s once enchanting, doe-like eyes sort of resemble the penguin head’s right about now.

Yes, Jinsoul thinks it’s hot. She’ll reflect on her questionable taste later.

“Put your hand right here,” Jiwoo commands, grabbing Jinsoul’s sweaty palm and keeping it flat in the air.

“Why?!”

“And keep it stiff.” Jiwoo gives Jinsoul’s hand the quickest and tiniest high-five in history before slinking back a few feet. “This won’t hurt…I don’t think.”

Jinsoul looks terrified and thrilled all at once. There isn’t a single part of her that has any awareness of just how goofy her slightly hunched body and outstretched hand look. That doesn’t matter to her because Jiwoo is currently getting into what the blonde guesses is the proper taekwondo stance and…oh wow, yeah that does look legit even if the stupid penguin suit is impeding her movement…and oh my god Jiwoo has really mastered her staredown…

Before the blonde can process the turn of events, Jiwoo is moving. The smaller girl’s body turns ever so slightly and as if second nature, her fuzzy leg extends powerfully, the girl’s flipper shoe landing a swift but intentionally soft blow smackdab into Jinsoul’s hand.

“Ow, what the hell!” Jinsoul stumbles back into the wall and stares at her hand. “My hand isn’t made of wood!”

Jiwoo smiles with pride.

“Hey, I went easy on you. I could do something like this—”

Before she knows what’s up or down, Jinsoul is helplessly forced into a tight headlock.

The little bits of fluff on Jiwoo’s penguin arm tickle her chin and for that reason, plus the fact that she’s insanely amused and a tad bit aroused, Jinsoul beams at the floor.

Oh man, if Sooyoung could see her right now. It would likely be apparent to anyone that the blonde is getting many thrills out of this, but unlike most people, Sooyoung’s tongue isn’t accustomed to being bitten. Thank god this elevator doesn’t have any cameras.

Once satisfied that she’s made her point, Jiwoo frees the taller girl and glides back to her former position.

“Okay, penguin,” Jinsoul blurts out, trying to catch her breath and brush herself off. “So I guess we’re safe from elevator orcs…but just so you know, I’m not the enemy.”

Jiwoo chuckles, genuinely entertained.

“I know you’re not. But getting under your skin is kind of fun.”

Jinsoul places her hands on her hips and playfully pouts.

“So is two truths and a lie, remember?!”

The redhead repentantly bows.

“Yes. Apologies.”

They stand there for a couple of seconds smiling at each other, at what, who knows. But then Jinsoul is charging towards her, and Jiwoo doesn’t have any time to defend herself against what will likely be retaliation.

She feels her heart rate pick up in anticipation.

“Eyelash,” Jinsoul grunts simply while she reaches toward Jiwoo’s flushed cheek.

“Wait, I’m!” The blonde ignores her squeaky protests and carefully picks the eyelash off. “Sweat alert…” Jiwoo pathetically mumbles under her breath.

“Jiwoo, I play lacrosse,” Jinsoul reassures her when she notices that the girl seems genuinely embarrassed. “You think I’m grossed out by a little sweat?”

Trying her best to mirror the blonde’s effortlessly charming smirk, Jiwoo nods.

“Now,” Jinsoul pronounces, raising her eyebrows authoritatively as if she didn’t just get physically taken down one minute ago, “if you don’t make a wish for us to get out, then we are enemies.”

Deciding to pass up the chance to poke fun, Jiwoo tightly grabs Jinsoul’s index finger with her right hand. Then she dramatically closes her eyes and blows.

The eyelash disappears instantly. Jiwoo keeps her hand and eyes locked onto the blonde’s finger.

Once Jiwoo lets go, the moment too disappears instantly, but the girls’ giddy moods remain.

Satisfied and feeling a little too good, Jinsoul giggles and sits back down.

“I can honestly say—this is not what I had envisioned for my day.”

Jiwoo elects to sit next to her this time.

“Ms. Black belt…that’s pretty impressive.” Jinsoul’s eyes skirt over the girl’s face in amazement. “And I’m guessing animal crossing is Kim Jiwoo’s game of the year, huh?” Jiwoo shrugs as if to say obviously. “So, you don’t like grapes then?”

“They’re just okay. I prefer strawberries.”

Strawberries. She prefers strawberries. Now, there’s a new fact she’ll keep locked in the Kim Jiwoo file folder in her brain. For some reason she feels like it’ll come in handy in the future. Maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

It’s a bit funny, she thinks. It’s a bit funny how quickly she’s managed to forget she’s stuck in a crisis situation, not on a coffee date. At least the fun she’s having is now trumping the crappy circumstances. Her gaze shifts to the unmoving metal door and suddenly she feels sure of something.

She should have bought that stupid hamster a penguin.