“Are we on the last box of biographies, Soonhee?”
Minha’s voice was strained as she raised her voice loud enough to carry to the front, a large pile of books in her hand. She put her chin on top of the stack to hold them steady as she slowly stood up, almond eyes wide with concentration.
“What?” Soonhee yelped more than asked, as if Minha had startled her. “I...I think I might’ve lost the paper!”
“Oh for the love of…” Minha was muttering under her breath, finally standing straight up.
MiYoung snorted, a small smirk on her beautiful face as she stopped halfway through putting the next book on the shelf.
“Oh, never mind! False alarm!”
There was a high-pitched giggle coming from the front of the store, followed by a nervous squeak of relief.
“I found it!” Soonhee sounded thrilled, and the distinct sound of her running footsteps could be heard until she was screeching to a halt in their aisle. “Biographies, right?”
Minha was very carefully pulling the first four books out from underneath her chin, setting them on an empty section of the bookshelf. MiYoung watched, looking a little nervous as her eyes stayed trained on the remaining stack in the other girl’s hands.
“Yes,” Minha sighed in relief when her books didn’t clatter to the floor, turning to the younger, bespectacled girl. “Biographies. This was the last box, right?”
Soonhee pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose, the frames way too big for her delicate face, squinting a little as she scanned the paper in front of her.
“Yes!” she answered excitedly when she finally spotted it. “Yes, looks like this is it!”
Minha and MiYoung both laughed at her enthusiasm, and the girl smiled back at both of them, eyes slightly enlarged from her magnifying lenses.
“Well, you can head on home then Soonhee,” Minha told her, grinning as she set the rest of her books half-heartedly on the shelf. “We’ve just gotta alphabetize these and then MiYoung and I are outta here. This was the last genre.”
“What?” Soonhee looked worried, eyes impossibly wide again as she chewed on her bottom lip. “But- what if you need me? What if you need another count on the boxes? What if we-”
“Soonhee,” Minha laughed, placing a gentle hand on the tiny girl’s shoulder. “I think MiYoung and I can handle it.”
MiYoung smiled encouragingly when Soonhee looked her way, and after a moment, the girl seemed to deflate under Minha’s touch.
“Al-Alright,” she answered, nodding fervently as she took a step back. “So I should be back, Monday? Monday at seven in the morning?”
“Seven is unnecessary,” Minha waved her off, inspecting some of the spines of the books in front of her before glancing back at the girl. “We open at eight, so as long as you’re here fifteen minutes early-”
“Well, okay, but-” Soonhee looked like she was unsure whether she should say what was on her mind, swallowing hard. “-it’s just- my professor, she always said to be at any business an hour before it opens-”
“-Sounds great ,” MiYoung eyed Minha for a moment before smiling at Soonhee. “That’s a good philosophy to live by, Soonhee. She’ll see you at seven then.”
Minha closed her mouth, quickly hiding her scowl at MiYoung when Soonhee looked back at her.
“Yeah, seven sounds great,” Minha told her, nodding a couple times. “Now go enjoy your last weekend of freedom, Soonhee.”
She was teasing, and the younger girl laughed, nodding again and holding out the list.
Minha took the paper, glancing at it for a moment as the girl took a few steps backwards, waving and smiling.
“See you Monday, boss!”
Minha’s mouth fell open at the word “boss” as MiYoung giggled, hand covering her mouth. They watched Soonhee turn on her heel, almost running into one of the empty book carts and yelping before hurriedly running towards the front door.
It wasn’t until they heard the bell ring above the door twice- once for her opening it, the other for it closing behind her- that Minha and MiYoung started laughing.
“She is the cutest thing!” MiYoung gushed, watching as Minha folded the paper carefully, placing it in her back pocket.
“I know…” Minha agreed, sighing a little. “She’s incredibly smart- she was in my senior business class when she was just a freshman…”
She hesitated, turning to MiYoung.
“I’m just a little worried...I hope she can handle the workload…”
MiYoung looked completely unperturbed by the idea, shaking her head and smiling.
“She seems like a hard worker,” the girl assured her best friend. “And seems to adore you, boss .”
“Aish…” Minha looked embarrassed, eyes on the shelf in front of her as she grinned. “I’m gonna have to talk to her about calling me that…”
A few more laughs from both girls and then they were back to organizing the books, Minha pulling her hair into a ponytail while MiYoung just swung her long strands over her shoulder, getting it out of her face.
“I can’t believe I have a bookstore ,” Minha said after a moment, sounding amazed as she turned to the brunette again, holding a book in her hands. “Like, is this real?”
“I know bestie!” MiYoung was beaming, turning her back on her books. “You are amazing! I can’t believe you pulled this off almost all by yourself!”
It was literally Minha’s dream come true.
As long as the two girls had been thinking about what they wanted to do with their lives, Minha had always said she wanted to own a bookshop. She hadn’t wanted it to be big or expensive or fancy. She had wanted it exactly the way it was set up; cozy, small, a little cramped, and decorated in warm colors.
It had been a lot of work. After graduating college, she had immediately taken on two jobs, saving up as much money as she could on top of the money she had managed to pull together during her school years. She was fortunate enough to have parents that were well-off, but they were too conservative to just give her the money.
Minha had said she preferred it that way- the satisfaction of her parents finding out how much she had earned all by herself and then matching that amount as a surprise, telling her they were proud of her… that had been worth all the sweat and tears.
Next thing they knew, the two girls had found the perfect spot close to a college campus- MiYoung’s college campus, in fact- snuggled between a coffee shop and a pharmacy, and Minha was putting an offer down.
“You think people will come on Monday?” Minha asked, looking a little worried as she stared around the store- her store.
“They better,” MiYoung joked, grinning at her friend. “If they want that extra credit. And judging by some of the papers I had to grade...those students want that extra credit.”
While Minha had been slaving away working, MiYoung had been in grad school, trying to get her master’s to become a college professor of linguistics. They had graduated together, both of them going from college roommates to besties, and MiYoung immediately moved to a Teacher’s Assistant position at another college as she continued to take classes.
When she found out Minha’s bookstore was opening so close by the campus, she had put out an offer to her students- visit the bookstore and check out at least one book, getting a signature from Minha herself, and they would get 20 points of extra credit.
“Thanks for that,” Minha smiled genuinely at the other. “You rock…”
“It’s no problem,” MiYoung returned the gesture, glancing at the front door of the shop. “Did Chan say when he’s coming?”
Minha’s smile turned devilish as she followed her friend’s line of vision.
“He should be here any minute. Why?” her eyebrows were raised as she faced her best friend once more. “You guys going on a date after this?”
“Psh,” Miyoung rolled her eyes with a smile, going back to organizing her books. “You need to give up on that dream, Minha.”
“Um, this is not a dream ,” Minha sounded offended, but the grin she was trying to suppress was giving her away as she stared at the back of MiYoung’s head. “You guys are perfect for one another.”
The other just snorted, not even turning around as she continued to check out the titles of the books.
“I’m serious,” Minha insisted, but she too went back to what she was doing. “I’m already the third wheel; you guys might as well make me an official one.”
She said this jokingly, as MiYoung let out a reluctant laugh before sighing.
MiYoung, Minha, and Chan had been best friends since their early days in college. Minha and Chan had met in a Music Appreciation class during their freshman year, instantly clicking as only future best friends could. The first time she took him to their dorm and he met MiYoung, the two had connected as well- better , actually- because there was an immense amount of romantic chemistry between the two of them.
To everyone’s great surprise, the two never became official.
They flirted, they were touchy, they- unfortunately for Minha- made out every time they were drunk, but had never become anything more than that. No matter how many times Minha asked the two, Chan would say it wasn’t a good idea and the other would insist-
“I like things the way they are between us…” MiYoung was switching two books so they were in the correct order. “Being in a relationship would make things unnecessarily weird, you know what I mean?”
Minha finally turned around at that, raising an eyebrow at the girl.
“Yeah o kay,” her voice was dripping with sarcasm before she was putting her hands up in a dramatic shrug. “But hey, whatever. You do you-”
But MiYoung was too used to the teasing, the questions, and the raised-eyebrow looks from Minha.
“Yeah o kay,” MiYoung repeated with a smirk, finally looking at the other. “Miss ‘I don’t do relationships’, when’s the last time you went on a date?”
“That is completely different,” Minha was suddenly very interested in some hairs stuck to her oversized t-shirt. “You two are soulmates...and plus, guys just aren’t my thing right now.”
Minha had been in a few relationships- she wasn’t inexperienced or anything- but when it came to keeping them, she failed miserably. She always told MiYoung she wasn’t sure why; she felt like she might have a connection with them, but then it would fade within a few weeks, and she’d yet to meet a guy that really set off that spark in her that she read about in almost every romance novel she stuck her nose in.
“ Well ,” MiYoung was grinning, pressing her tongue on the inside of her cheek as she looked at Minha. “It’s more like being in a relationship with guys, isn’t your thing right now…”
Minha laughed, hitting her friend lightly on the forearm with the book she was holding.
“I still have needs, okay?” she insisted as MiYoung giggled. “It’s the perfect set-up; I meet hot guy, hot guy thinks I’m hot-”
She held out her hands for emphasis, motioning towards an imaginary man standing next to her.
“-we hook up because that’s what we’re both there for, right?” Minha shrugged. “Those guys know exactly what they’re getting into. Sometimes we get breakfast the next morning, sometimes we don’t, but either way, they don’t call, and they know I won’t call either. Boom. Perfect.”
“Right, right, sorry, I forgot,” MiYoung was shaking her head with a laugh. “How’s Hyunwoo doing?”
Despite the way she talked, Minha really only had a few “set-ups” that she spoke to regularly- three to be exact. She had known them since college, speaking to them on and off when they wanted to meet up . There were a few guys that she had one night flings with if she met them somewhere, but the “Three Musketeers”- as Chan so nicely called them- were the guys she talked to on a regular basis.
“Oh, uh,” Minha was fiddling with the pages of her book. “I haven’t talked to him in a while…”
“Oh,” MiYoung’s eyebrows furrowed. “What about Jinsun?”
“Jinsun?” Minha said the name like she didn’t know who that was, letting out a small giggle. “I haven’t seen him…”
MiYoung was turning her head to the side, staring at her friend as she was still avoiding her eyes entirely.
“I, uh,” she was picking at the corner of the hardcover nervously. “We haven’t seen each other either…”
“Wait,” MiYoung sounded confused as she crossed her arms in front of her chest. “Then who have you been seeing? Is it a new guy?”
Minha was quiet for a moment, swallowing hard and glancing at MiYoung before she was picking at the poor hardcover of her book once more.
“You…” MiYoung’s eyes widened as her eyes ran across her best friend’s face. “Haven’t been seeing anyone ?”
The other girl hesitated before shaking her head back and forth, finally keeping eye contact with Miyoung.
“What?! You ?”
“Jesus, Miyoung, don’t say it like that!” Minha suddenly laughed, putting the book on the shelf on it’s side before turning back to her best friend. “I am more than capable of going without sex, thank you very much, and it’s not like I was hooking up every night, like twice a week tops-”
“So you haven’t done anything ? With anyone ?” MiYoung asked, not losing the tone of surprise as her eyes widened. “For how long?”
“How long is a while?”
There was a moment of silence before Minha was pressing her lips together, trying to hide her embarrassed smile.
She cringed as she voiced her answer as a question, watching MiYoung’s jaw almost hit the floor.
It was amazing really, that the two girls lived together in a small, two-bedroom apartment, and yet MiYoung had never caught on to Minha’s lack of a sex partner. The past six months had been insane for both of them; Minha had been working too much to make time for other activities and MiYoung spent more time on the college campus than she spent at home since she got to teach linguistics that semester.
If there was ever a time for those details of each other’s lives to slip through the cracks, that was it.
“ Six months ?” MiYoung repeated, letting her shoulders fall as she exhaled. “Wow...that explains why I haven’t had any awkward encounters lately…”
“Yes,” Minha laughed at her friend- poor MiYoung had either walked in on or seen the guys in the morning more times than she could count. “Six... long ...months… I’ve just been busy, you know? With the two jobs, and then hanging out with you guys in what little spare time I have, and...”
She sighed, pulling her hair out of its ponytail as she fiddled with the strands.
“Are you dying?”
MiYoung was not one to hook up on a regular basis, but she had never gone quite that long.
“ Yes ,” Minha looked distressed, pulling on her hair just slightly. “You have no idea-”
“ ANYEONG LADIES!”
They both jumped as Chan yelled over the bell above the door, announcing his arrival. The girls looked down the aisle, the front door just in their view as they saw Chan bounding in, a large bouquet of flowers in his hand.
“Wow!” he exclaimed as he looked around, eyes wide with excitement. “This place looks great ! How long did this take you?”
“All day,” MiYoung replied, smiling lovingly at Chan as he continued to spin around, taking a look at everything.
“Yeah, once the movers came in and set up the shelves and stuff, we just had to unpack the boxes. Furniture’s coming tomorrow…” Minha trailed off, smiling at the flowers. “Chan, are those for me?”
“Of course!” he grinned, handing them over quickly. “Congratulations, MiMi, your dream come true. I’m so proud of you!”
“Oh my god,” she took them shyly with a smile, pressing her face into the petals and inhaling. “They smell good...thanks Channie…”
MiYoung smiled at the exchange before crossing her arms in front of her chest, looking dramatically offended as she scowled at the man.
“How come I didn’t get flowers when I became a TA?”
She was clearly kidding, and Chan laughed softly, eyes taking in the features of her face for a moment before reaching for the bouquet, yanking a single red rose from the bunch.
“Of course,” he was smiling flirtily at her as he held the rose out, giving her a wink. “For you .”
Minha rolled her eyes with a grin, watching as MiYoung stuck her nose in the air, even with a smile pulling on her lips and reddening cheeks.
“Nope, too late.”
Chan was laughing again, shaking his head as he got down on one knee as if proposing.
“Forgive me!” he cried out playfully before sticking the rose between his teeth, looking up at her with puppy dog eyes.
MiYoung couldn’t keep her facade any longer, giggling as she looked down at him.
“Give me that!” she yanked the rose from his teeth, and he immediately stood up, both of them smiling at one another.
She smelled the rose just as Minha had done, still grinning up at Chan. He was staring at her for a moment before tearing his eyes from her face, looking between the two girls.
“You guys ready for the party tonight?”
Chan had been wanting to plan a party since he found out Minha had finally locked in a place for her bookstore. He blamed it on a celebration for his bestie, but honestly, he just loved to drink and have fun; the reason behind it was just a bonus.
“Yes,” MiYoung was definitely ready for some alcohol and relaxation; her week at the university had been tough. “You got the drinks right?”
Minha laughed as Chan raised his eyebrows.
“When have I ever thrown a party and not gotten the drinks?” he was smiling playfully at her and she scoffed, rolling her eyes.
“ Whatever , I was just asking!”
MiYoung went to shove him, yelping when Chan was quicker, grabbing her wrists.
He laughed- she was always so reactive- letting go just long enough to put his back to her before he was grabbing her wrists again. Minha was watching the whole exchange with an amused smile while MiYoung giggled, barely fighting Chan as he used her wrists to wrap her arms around him in a back hug.
MiYoung was trying to sound annoyed but it wasn’t working; her smile was too bright.
“Hug don’t shove.”
Chan thought his words of wisdom were clever, but MiYoung laughed loudly, chin resting on his shoulder for lack of a better place to put it.
Minha sighed as she ran her hands through her hair, but there was a reluctant smile on her face, the adoration in her eyes for her two best friends too obvious.
“You guys are disgus-”
“Alright, so!” Chan let go of MiYoung just long enough to clap his hands, quickly grabbing her back before she could escape. “Don’t forget, I’m bringing the intern, Hyunjin. He’s a little younger, but I promise he’s cool, so make sure you kids are on your best behavior.”
“Kids?” MiYoung giggled, making Chan smile as he turned to look at her, their close proximity making them blush just slightly.
“Why does this guy randomly want to hang out with us?” Minha asked with a laugh, watching the two; she was used to their painfully obvious flirting by now.
“Yeah, I said the same thing,” Chan laughed, slowly turning to look at Minha again. “But apparently his roommate- what was his name again?”
Chan looked thoughtful for a moment before shaking his head.
“I don’t know, last name’s Han though,” he waved it off, jerking MiYoung’s arm with him and causing her to stumble into his back, both of them laughing. “Anyway, guess he’s worse than you with hooking up, MiMi-”
MiYoung buried her face in the man’s back, snorting while Chan grinned mischievously, wiggling his eyebrows.
“I am not that bad-”
“-and he keeps bringing girls over on Friday night, like into their dorm,” Chan chose to pretend he couldn’t hear Minha’s continued sputtering. “And this kid- JISUNG, that’s his name- he makes Hyunjin like, leave . Guess he spends a lot of nights in the student lounge…”
“Geez, poor guy,” Minha muttered.
“Reminds me of someone I know,” MiYoung teased, resting her chin back on Chan’s shoulder again; it was comfy.
“I do not do that,” Minha giggled. “You are more than welcome to stay-”
“I’m good. There’s only so many times I can listen to Daesung moan your name-”
“ MIYOUNG !”
“ ANYway -”
Chan called out through his laughter, freeing one of MiYoung’s wrists and holding his hand out, turning to look sideways at her. She giggled, her eyebrows twitching up as she high-fived him, both of them sharing a triumphant smirk.
“-I also told him my best friends were two hot chicks,” the man added, both girls scoffing simultaneously at that. “He seemed excited, Minha. It’s been awhile, hasn’t it?”
Chan found it incredibly funny to tease Minha about her sexual excursions , and MiYoung tried to slap Chan the best she could, failing miserably, especially when she accidentally let a giggle slip through.
“ Ha Ha ,” Minha said sarcastically, grinning at him. “You know my rule; no younger guys.”
“Oh right, I forgot,” Chan rolled his eyes playfully. “You’re too cool for the younger crowd…”
“ No ,” MiYoung wanted to defend her friend the best she could, scowling at the side of Chan’s face before turning back to Minha. “She just thinks if she’s going to end up in a relationship with anyone- which according to her will never happen anyway - then she’d rather not fall for someone younger-”
“Maturity is key, okay?” Minha added, smiling thankfully at MiYoung. “I really don’t need a relationship, but like Miyoung said, I don’t want to fall for some kid I’ll have to take care of all the- OH MY GOSH! Hello , Mr. Whiskers!”
Chan looked down, taking an automatic step back and stumbling into MiYoung’s front, both of them chuckling a little.
“Whoa,” he muttered, watching a light grey tabby cat come running to Minha’s outstretched hand. “I forgot she’s got cats living here…”
When Minha had sat them down, telling MiYoung and Chan about her dream for the bookstore once she had gathered the money, both of them had been on board for her creativity. Not only had she decided to let customers both buy OR rent books- MiYoung had wanted to suggest that to her and was excited when Minha loved the idea- but she had also decided she wanted to make it a-
“Cat lounge, remember?” MiYoung giggled as Minha cooed at Mr. Whiskers, squatting down to get closer to him. “So people can play with them while they pick out books.”
It was another idea Minha had tacked onto the end of her long-winded presentation to the two; a place where rescue cats would have a home, love, and attention from all sorts of people. They would live in the book shop- Minha’s pets without keeping them at the apartment- and were free to roam around as they pleased. MiYoung and Chan hadn’t even been remotely surprised by this suggestion by the girl.
Minha loved cats.
They were speaking softly to one another, Minha’s baby talk to the cat too loud for her to hear them.
“I’m gonna feed you soon. MiYoungie and I are just putting books away, okay?” Mr. Whiskers had his eyes closed as she scratched under his chin. “Then I’ll check your water, have you been drinking? Where’s your brothers and sisters? Do you like your new home, baby boy? Do you love it? Will you read when I’m gone and-?”
Chan raised his eyebrows as Minha continued blabbering on, he and MiYoung making eye contact again.
“I think she likes taking care of things more than she thinks…”
Minha caught on that they were having a conversation, looking up and smiling curiously as her eyes darted between the two of them.
“What did you say?”
Chan finally let go of MiYoung’s wrists, the girl only moving far enough for him to turn around and face her. He chuckled when he saw how close they were still standing, and she just smiled at him, looking up through her lashes.
“Uh…” Chan rubbed the back of his neck, eyes sliding over MiYoung’s features before he was taking a step back. “I’ll see you guys tonight, alright? Eight o’clock!”
Minha stood up slowly, watching him with narrowed eyes, still waiting on his answer.
“Whoops, messed up your hair.”
The man reached forward, smoothing down the flyaway strands of MiYoung’s hair as the girl’s cheeks burned bright red, a small smile on her face.
They made eye contact for a lingering moment before he was backing up, waving enthusiastically at both of them.
“See you later!”
MiYoung was giggling, waving back with just as much gumption as Minha stomped her foot, laughing out loud.
“ Chan !”
He turned on his heel, chuckling and moving faster towards the front door.
“Wait!” Minha took a few steps forward, almost tripping over Mr. Whiskers. “WHAT DID YOU SAY?!”
Chan was already walking out, but his laughter was increasing in volume, echoing across the store. He gave one last wave over his shoulder before the door slammed closed behind him.
MiYoung was giggling profusely, hand covering her mouth as she stared fondly after the man.
Minha turned back to look at her, smirking when she saw the bright coloring still decorating the other girl’s cheeks.
“Your face is still red,” Minha teased.
MiYoung’s eyes widened, and she pressed her hands to her face, feeling the burn under her fingers. She stuck out her tongue, making the other girl laugh before they were both sighing.
“Come on,” MiYoung said, motioning towards the shelves. “Let’s finish this up so we can go party.”