It was 3am. But it was almost always 3am when she got this call. Sometimes a little earlier, sometimes a little later. But never before 2am, and never after 4am.
These nights were something she had gotten used to. The call was always made from Yerim’s phone and Sooyoung would be making a fuss in the background. Always the same bar, the one that was only three blocks away from her apartment. It was the one they had spent the most time together at, before everything happened.
Joohyun’s keys clink as she anxiously plays with them. She isn’t sure why she’s anxious though. This same thing happened all the time and nothing ever came from it. Nothing ever changed. It was the same old heartache, every single time it happened. So she also wasn’t sure why without fail, she’d showed up every single time she was called. Maybe she was a glutton for punishment.
But it was hard to not show up if she knew Sooyoung needed her. Hard to imagine any kind of scenario where she wouldn’t come running if Sooyoung was calling.
She nervously walks up to the bar where she sees Sooyoung and her own younger sister standing outside.
“Sorry, she’s-” Yerim starts to apologize when Joohyun shakes her head quickly and holds up her hand.
“It’s fine. I’m used to it. Is she able to walk?” Yerim nods and Joohyun holds out her arm for Sooyoung to grab onto. Sooyoung eagerly wraps her hands around Joohyun’s arm and they start walking towards Sooyoung’s apartment in silence.
There’s a lot Joohyun wants to say, but she doesn’t because she wouldn’t know where to start. She wants to scold Sooyoung for making her worry, for making her always come out late at night just to get her after she had been attempting to sleep. She wants to ask Sooyoung why it’s always her, never anyone else. Surely it could be any of their friends, or even one of the people she assumed Sooyoung was currently seeing romantically.
When they reach their destination, Joohyun pulls out her keys and inserts the key to Sooyoung’s apartment. The key she hadn’t ever given back and Sooyoung hadn’t ever asked for back.
Sooyoung seems to be able to manage to get herself inside just fine for the most part, but Joohyun doesn’t feel safe letting her do anything before she’s sure Sooyoung is safe inside her own bed and not still awake possibly doing something stupid in her intoxicated state.
She grabs a pair of pajamas from Sooyoung’s dresser and gives them to her, waiting for her to go to her room and get changed. Sooyoung grabs onto her wrist gently, but Joohyun doesn’t spare her a glance before tugging it away. The sound of feet making their way to the bedroom and the door closing gives Joohyun the signal that she can finally release the breath she’s been holding.
Joohyun doesn’t always know what to expect on these nights. Sooyoung is always touchy, grabbing her hands and holding her close but her moods are never the same. Sometimes Sooyoung is near silent, simply seeming content to have Joohyun close to her when they walk back to her place. Other times she’ll be babbling, saying sad or sweet things until Joohyun is finally able to force her to go to sleep. Tonight seems like one of the quiet ones.
She hears a bit of rustling in the bedroom and figures it’s best to check just to be sure everything is going smoothly. Sure enough, it’s fine. Sooyoung is adjusting her blankets and getting comfortable underneath them. When she’s finished, she gives Joohyun one last pitiful look. Joohyun isn’t sure what this one means, but all things considered, she probably doesn’t want to.
Before leaving, she makes sure everything is in order, just the way it was before a drunken Sooyoung had been walking around her apartment moving things to places where they didn’t need to be. She doesn’t say goodbye or goodnight to Sooyoung, because there’s really no point. They’d be back here again in a few weeks or a month and they’d be doing this whole song and dance once more like they always did.
Going to bed early had its perks. For example, if Joohyun had to wake up at 3am to go drag Sooyoung back to her apartment, she’d already be fairly rested when she had to go to work early the next morning.
Joohyun has never been late a day in her life, and she wasn’t going to start now. She walks into the office and clocks in at 7am, just like she’s expected to. There were a lot of messes in her life, but she would be damned before she ever let work become one of them.
It’s business as normal. She sits at her desk, checking and rechecking files, sending out emails, and making sure everything is perfect. Work was what she was good at. The one thing she had yet to fail with.
“Ah, you’re here! Wasn’t sure if you’d make it today.” Son Seungwan pops her head into her office and Joohyun looks up with amusement.
“I’m always here.” It was true. Joohyun had been known company wide for not wanting to call in sick, or use any of her vacation days. There had been jokes behind her back around the office about her being a probable robot because of this. Joohyun wanted to laugh in their faces, because her life would definitely be a lot easier if that were true.
Seungwan grins at her. “Dinner after work tonight? It’s on me.” She always knew how to make Joohyun feel better. Sometimes it felt like she was the only person she could turn to with her own sister caught in between her loyalties to both her and Sooyoung.
Joohyun nods in response before continuing to type away at her email replies. Seungwan nods and heads back in the direction of her own office. It had been a while since she had been out with Seungwan, or anyone really. She had fallen into one of those trances she had gotten into where all she did was work, go home, eat, sleep, come back to work. And picking up Sooyoung’s mess, of course.
But this would be good for her. She certainly wasn’t about to vent her problems to Seungwan, but Seungwan would somehow know what was going on and offer her some sagely wisdom anyway. That was kind of her thing.
By the end of the day, Joohyun feels a little better anyway. She’s been able to keep her mind away from Sooyoung related things for the most part and has been making mental checklists of everything she needs to do. When she meets up with Seungwan at the restaurant, she’s forced to pull herself from her thoughts.
Seungwan waves her do and Joohyun lets her natural smile overtake her face. Seungwan always finds them a nice table near the back, knowing that Joohyun doesn’t like too many people or commotion.
“Joohyun! Sit, sit. We have a lot to catch up on.”
Seungwan rambles on excitedly about how well work is going and how good this past week has been for her. She talks about getting her parents and sister back in Canada to facetime her and how she had also rambled to them about how well work was going. But when their food arrives and Seungwan is done with her portion, Joohyun finds she doesn’t have a lot to say.
“Uh…,” Seungwan is looking at her expectantly, probably hoping Joohyun will have something nice to share with her. But she doesn’t. Not really. “Things are good right now. Everything is going really well.”
Her lack of response gets an eyebrow raise from Seungwan. Joohyun was a hard person to read, but Seungwan at least had a little bit of insight into her life. She knew about Sooyoung and the disaster that was. Fortunately, she never brought it up unless she was concerned. It seemed like now might be one of those moments.
“So, things with Sooyoung have settled down?”
Joohyun wants to wince, but she doesn’t. Her mask remains perfectly intact. “Things are fine.”
Seungwan stares at her warily, but Joohyun can’t blame her. She had been concerned seeing how the situation had initially torn Joohyun up. If she were in Seungwan’s position she’d want the same thing, for her to move on.
“It’s been a year, Joohyun. A year since you two broke up. You can’t let her keep doing this to you. Nothing ever changes with her.” Her words weren’t an attack, but they felt like one. It was hard not to fall into the cliche of her telling her friends that they didn’t know Sooyoung like she did, so it was easier not to say much of anything at all.
Joohyun sighs, flipping through the dessert menu. “I’d rather not talk about this right now. I just want to relax.”
Seungwan tries to make eye contact with her, and have a serious moment, but Joohyun doesn’t look up at her again. She exhales deeply in surrender before going through her own dessert menu.
It’s one of those very long nights where Sooyoung has gone overboard, and Joohyun knows she isn’t getting home anytime soon. Not that it mattered much on a weekend.
Sooyoung is groaning in pain, trying not to throw up again while near passed out on her bathroom floor. She had already thrown up twice, not getting anywhere it shouldn’t be thankfully.
It’s very irritating, truth be told, to have to look after her on these nights. When Sooyoung is this drunk all she does is complain. Sometimes she even starts crying and for the life of her Joohyun can’t get her to stop. But she reasons that being irritated with her is a lot better than her winding up in the gutter somewhere by herself, or worse.
She brings in a water bottle for Sooyoung to sip from, if she even can. Not wanting to be in vomit range, she sits right outside the door. She watches her carefully, not letting a single action escape her sight.
“Sooyoung, you should drink that water. It’ll help you. Your body is dehydrated now.”
Sooyoung looks up at her wearily, and then at the bottle. She slowly extends her arm out to grab it and even more slowly unscrews the top before taking a few sips. It would have to be enough for now.
If she really tried, she could probably get Sooyoung into bed now with the worst of the night being over with. All she’d have to do is coax her into changing into more comfortable clothes and helping to get her into her bed. But it’s always so hard to walk out the door, when she knows that any night it could stop and she’d never see Sooyoung again if she so chose.
She feared that one day Sooyoung would find somebody else to pull into this little game with her. It’s hard not to assume that she’d get bored with Joohyun, with that feeling being far too familiar to her.
“Joohyun,” a weak voice groans out and waves her outstretched hand at her. “C’mere.”
Joohyun squints at her, wondering what she could possibly want, before going over to her anyway and crouching down next to her.
“Are you okay?”
Sooyoung nods in reply very slowly before making a poorly executed attempt to grab onto Joohyun.
“Please don’t leave,” she’s speaking slowly and making sure to enunciate everything, clearly trying her best not to slur her words. “Can you stay? Please.”
Joohyun hesitates in answering. It’s not a question of if she can or not, it never has been. Or even if she will. It’s if she should. History has shown that none of this is a benefit to her, and she’ll only end up regretting it in the morning. But when has she ever used her head when it comes to Sooyoung?
She nods and Sooyoung manages a sad smile. Joohyun is somehow able to miraculously get her into her own pajamas and lug her over to the bed. Sooyoung is giving her that pathetic look again, but Joohyun refuses to let herself get pulled into doing something really dumb like sleeping in bed with her.
There’s still a blanket and pillow in Sooyoung’s closet from what she can remember, so she grabs those and brings them to the couch. Getting to sleep isn’t easy, with little to do about where she’s sleeping and more to do with the person one room away.
When she wakes up the next morning, she notices Sooyoung is still asleep. She considers briefly leaving before she wakes up and making a quick escape, but she doesn’t want to cause tension. Stupid of her, really.
She uses the extra toothbrush Sooyoung kept under her bathroom sink, reminding Joohyun she’s been over here far more than she ever should’ve let herself.
There’s a bit of rustling and movement in the bedroom and Sooyoung is definitely awake. Joohyun waits patiently on the couch, going through her phone and pretending not to notice when Sooyoung walks out of her bedroom looking like it had been a very long night.
“Hey,” she rubs her eyes and glances at the clock on the wall. “Thanks for getting me home, sorry I was a mess last night.”
Joohyun hums and puts her phone down. She feels tense with anticipation of something she realistically knows won’t come. For Sooyoung to finally say what she’s been waiting so long to hear.
“So...I have to go to work soon. Thanks again, though. Really.” It’s said a bit awkwardly, Sooyoung scratching her head and looking anywhere but Joohyun.
The disappointment surely radiates off her in waves. A thank you was not good enough for this situation, it never would be. Not even just flat out stopping. She needed a sign, any kind, that Sooyoung still loved her. Maybe she was reaching out for a lifeline that she would never be thrown.
They didn’t talk much when they spotted each other out in public. Usually it was because Joohyun needed to pick Yerim up from band practice and Sooyoung was always there if she wasn’t picking up a shift at the restaurant or jetting off to some class. She wasn’t part of the band but being Yerim’s best friend she always just kind of hung around. It used to be fun to see her and grab a kiss from her while Yerim groaned in fake disgust, but those days were long gone.
Yerim’s bandmates would awkwardly sit there, doing their best to be friendly towards Joohyun who they all genuinely liked. But being friends with Sooyoung and knowing Joohyun was like being caught between a rock and a hard place. There were no easy answers on how to act, how to do things. How were they supposed to know how to act around Joohyun when Sooyoung didn’t even know how?
Things seemed normal at first the next time Joohyun had to go pick Yerim up. The girls would say hi, Yerim would greet her sister normally, and Sooyoung would try to pretend it wasn’t happening. But something had changed. Yerim was the same, getting ready to babble on about her day while Lisa and Jisoo started to conversate among themselves. But Sooyoung wasn’t in the corner by herself like she usually was. Instead, she was very comfortably talking and giggling with Chaeyoung.
Joohyun does all she can to ignore the twist in her gut. A year was a very long time. More than enough for an ex girlfriend to start seeing somebody. Somebody she had already known and was friends with. She just wished she didn’t have to see it.
When they finally get to the car, Joohyun tries not to say anything about it. Does her best to keep it locked down. But her usual lock and key wasn’t what it always was. Old wounds were a lot fresher than she wanted anyone to think.
“Sooyoung and Chaeyoung seem pretty close now.”
Yerim looks up from her phone, wide eyed. She seems genuinely shocked that Joohyun has even brought Sooyoung up, when she’s spent most of her time post relationship doing everything she can not to talk about her outside of her drunken rescues.
“I mean...they’re friends. They’ve been friends for a while. You know that.”
Joohyun hums in acknowledgement, still feeling displeased. Sure, Sooyoung was an affectionate person and them being close didn’t have to mean anything. But Joohyun was also a perceptive person, she could tell when things changed without having to be told.
Her younger sister had done everything she could to stay neutral in the breakup, or at least help both sides as much as she could. Yerim hated seeing Joohyun hurt, knowing she would internalize most of it. But she also couldn’t control what Sooyoung felt or wanted to do. Couldn’t stop her from breaking down and needing Joohyun every time she had gotten drunk in public.
It was unfair, really. Sooyoung begging for Joohyun until she would come to get her. But she wouldn’t stop, because she knew Joohyun would always be there to pick her up. Even at a detriment to herself.
“I’ve been talking to Jisoo and Lisa, and they have this friend. I think you’d like her. They really talked you up. She’s gorgeous too. I think you should at least meet her.”
Joohyun snorts at the obvious distraction attempt. Yerim had eased up on her setup attempts in recent times, but she’d still throw one out there every once in a while. It was all in good nature, hoping that Joohyun would meet one of these women and fall and stop running to Sooyoung when she called.
Her reflex is to say no like she usually does and go about her business, because she had no place being in any kind of romantic relationship right now. But her mind goes back to seeing Sooyoung and Chaeyoung nearly cuddled up with each other right in front of her and her stomach does that painful twist again.
So, for the first time ever, she agrees to go. She pretends she isn’t thinking about Sooyoung when she says yes.
Yerim didn’t lie, because this girl was stunning. Jennie was funny, and very sharp. She talked about going to school overseas and her studies. Joohyun couldn’t pretend it wasn’t a little exciting to have someone like this in front of her. Someone who didn’t know or care about her past relationship.
She surprises Jennie when she says she wants to see her again, and probably surprises herself even more. But it couldn’t hurt anything, really. Sooyoung has someone else, and so can she. Maybe Seungwan was right about moving on, letting things go.
The call comes in two nights later. Joohyun doesn’t hesitate to go pick her up, Yerim says she’s being worse than usual in her drunken state.
When she manages to get Sooyoung home and into bed, she doesn’t go to sleep. Instead, she grabs Joohyun by the sleeve before she can leave the room and looks up at her with glassy eyes.
“Why did we break up?”
Joohyun gives her a wry smile. “You’re the one who broke up with me, Sooyoung. Remember?”
Sooyoung shakes her head and Joohyun tries not to laugh. It shouldn’t be funny to her, this position they’re in. But it is, in a dark sort of way. Sooyoung was the one who dumped her and broke her heart, but always the one who needed Joohyun to come back and rescue her.
It had felt like a slap in the face when it happened initially. Joohyun had been doing well at her job and she had felt like she was on top of the world, it was what she had worked so hard for. But Sooyoung had started to get distant, slipping out of her reach.
She’d stop coming back to their shared apartment, instead spending more and more time with Yerim. She’d ignore Joohyun’s texts and calls. Joohyun had wanted to pretend she couldn’t see that it was leading somewhere, building to something more. The signs were there and all she could do was try and hold together the last bits of their relationship until it was taken away from her.
The end had started with a fight, something small that escalated. Sooyoung angry, hurt, not making a lot of sense to Joohyun. Something about their lives not going in the same direction.
“I can’t keep doing this Sooyoung.” The younger girl just stares at her, as if she doesn’t understand what is being said to her. “We aren’t together anymore. It isn’t fair to me, or you.”
She wishes that saying it as gently as she could would ease whatever fit Sooyoung was going to have so she could leave in peace. But as soon as Sooyoung’s eyes start welling up with tears, Joohyun turns her head away.
“Did you meet someone?” Joohyun laughs dryly at that. As if she had the right to ask her anything of that sort, drunk or not.
“I did, but it isn’t about that.” Because it isn’t. Going on a nice date with someone hadn’t made Joohyun fall out of love with the girl she had spent a year with. It just made her realize she couldn’t keep hurting herself like this forever. They both deserved peace.
Sooyoung is full on crying now but she’s let go of Joohyun’s sleeve. Joohyun sighs, with her first instinct being to comfort Sooyoung. But her better sense tells her not to because it’ll just make things harder for her when she knows it’s finally time to pull away.
With Sooyoung crying into her pillow, she finally makes her exit from the bedroom and the apartment a few minutes after.
This is what Sooyoung did best, even when she wasn’t trying. Pulling Joohyun back into her orbit after being the one to push her out in the first place. But it wasn’t a game Joohyun could keep playing with her forever.
She’d never not love Sooyoung, but they were going in circles. More than anything she wanted Sooyoung to wake up the morning after Joohyun would go through their usual routine and call her up and tell her things had changed, that she wanted to try again. She had waited so long for Sooyoung to soberly admit she still loves her and wants to be with her. But she never did, and Joohyun was starting to realize she probably never would.
When she gets back to her own apartment, she realizes just how empty it is. The same kind of empty it’s been every single day since Sooyoung left and took everything she owned with her. But the emptiness didn’t change whether Sooyoung was in her life or not, and she kept getting the short end of the stick. So maybe it really was time to let go.
“What happened between you two?”
Joohyun holds the phone away from her ear, with Yerim sounding panicked on the other end at a bright and early 9am on a weekend. Unusually early for her younger sister.
“Nothing? The same as always. I took her home.” Mostly the truth.
Yerim scoffs. “Bullshit. She’s been dodging my calls and Seulgi said she called in sick to work. She never calls in sick, even when she’s so hungover she feels like she’s dying.”
Hearing that does make Joohyun worry. Even at the heights of her irresponsibility in her personal relationships, she was never irresponsible with work or school.
“Just, whatever happened, fix it,” she rolls her eyes at that even though Yerim can’t see. It really wasn’t on her to fix whatever it was they were doing. “I know she’s an idiot, but you know how she feels about you.”
How she feels? How was Joohyun supposed to know how she feels when it was clouded by how purposely vague she always was? Quite frankly, sometimes she didn’t understand anything at all about Sooyoung even after knowing her for roughly three years.
She doesn’t get a chance to protest before Yerim hangs up, leaving her even more frustrated than before.
It’s hours of indecision before she’s able to send a text. It’s nothing too crazy. A simple “hey” would do the trick if Sooyoung was willing at all to talk to her.
Hours went by with no response. It was nothing to start an investigation over, but Sooyoung typically answered any messages pretty quickly. At the very least, she just didn’t want to talk to anyone.
If it had been anyone else, she would’ve just left them alone. But Sooyoung was not anyone else. She was impossibly brave but also needlessly reckless. Joohyun figures the least she could do is check on her in person.
Walking to Sooyoung’s apartment in the middle of the day feels like a long lost memory. She can hardly remember the last time she did it. Every step there felt like she was walking towards her own execution, but she wasn’t entirely sure why.
When she reaches Sooyoung’s door, she gives two quick knocks before waiting. No response. She knocks twice more, with a little more force this time. A minute or two passes before Sooyoung finally answers the door, looking a little disheveled.
Sooyoung is more than a little shocked, and she stumbles back a bit. Joohyun glances up at her before gently pushing her way past to get inside.
“Why are you calling off work? You don’t seem all that sick to me.” Might as well get right to the point and not waste any time at all or they could end up arguing about nonsense for ages.
An eye roll is what she gets in response, which is pretty in character. “I don’t feel well, not that it’s any of your business.”
“Of course it’s my business. I’m your…,” Joohyun pauses, not knowing how to finish that sentence. Were they friends? Were they just ex girlfriends who happened to share a lot of people in common?
Sooyoung scoffs. “Right. Don’t you have a girlfriend to get back to?”
Joohyun stares at her incredulously. So she did remember something from their conversation at least, even if it wasn’t entirely true. “What?”
“Don’t act like you don’t remember telling me that. It isn’t a good look on you,” she suddenly crosses her arms, as if to defend herself from whatever truth she was about to face up to. “You have a girlfriend and now things are going to change and I won’t call you anymore when I need someone.”
“Need someone? Sooyoung, the only thing you needed was someone to drag you home after a night of partying too hard. God knows why it was me, because you have plenty of other options including whoever you’re dating.”
It was Sooyoung’s turn to look incredulous, but Joohyun felt herself get irritated at that. What reason could she possibly have to be angry or irritated with her?
“I’m not dating anyone, for your information. And you really don’t get it, do you?” Sooyoung pauses, waiting for Joohyun to get a word in if she wants. When she doesn’t say anything, she continues. “I tried so...hard for so long to have the courage to say I made a mistake. I talk more when I drink. I get bolder, braver. What started as a one time thing turned into a habit. I’d drink in hopes of being brave enough to fix things. But I never was. And then suddenly it turned into the only way I could keep you close to me.”
Joohyun feels a little sick all of a sudden. None of this had been apparent to her, but maybe it should’ve been. But she knows with certainty now she can’t walk away without more answers. “Why did you break up with me?”
Sooyoung wipes angrily at the tears that had formed in the middle of her speech. “Isn’t it obvious? You were going places and I was holding you back. You’re a big shot at your company and I’m a waitress trying to make part time classes work. Do you know how hard it was just to be next to you and not even be a fraction of the person you are?”
Well, now Joohyun is very angry. Sick, and very angry. “How could you think so little of yourself? Nobody thought you were lesser than me, especially not me.” She can feel herself getting upset and can’t stop how her voice raises in pitch. “Do you know how hard this has been for me? You can’t possibly, because you only thought of yourself. You thought you were doing me a favor, when for the past year I have been completely and utterly heartbroken.”
The younger girl stares at her in shock. Sooyoung was a very smart girl, but she didn’t always get it. Joohyun wasn’t doing it out of obligation, not once.
“You say I don’t get it, and maybe I didn’t. But you don’t get it either. I loved you, and I helped you because of that. But what was I supposed to do when you never acknowledged our situation and barely talked to me the mornings after? How could I not feel terribly used and unwanted?”
Joohyun goes to wipe at her own tears of frustration now, and Sooyoung takes a step towards her. But when she does, Joohyun takes a quick step back. Seeing the look of hurt on Sooyoung’s face just makes it worse.
“I can’t do this with you anymore. Not because I don’t love you, but because no sane person could keep doing this for as long as I have and not have it take a toll on them.”
She doesn’t wait for Sooyoung’s reply or next action before leaving. Getting out of there before full on breaking down is her only concern. Not like this, not in front of her.
Back in her own apartment and own room with the door tightly shut is when she finally lets it out. The cry she should’ve had long ago, but never let herself have.
Meeting Jennie in person to tell her it won’t work out is the least she could do. Jennie understands and doesn’t seem too hurt. She even suggests that maybe they’d be better off as friends, because Joohyun’s mind was clearly somewhere else whenever they met up.
Months go by, and she doesn’t get a single call or text from Sooyoung. Not even her typical late night calls from Yerim when Sooyoung begged for Joohyun to come pick her up. Sooyoung also isn’t around when Joohyun picks Yerim up anymore. She can’t lie and say she doesn’t think about Sooyoung or wonder what she’s up to, but it doesn’t feel like she’s drowning anymore. It’s healthier, at the very least.
It should’ve felt like things were better off this way, as if a chapter of her life was coming to a close. It did, in a way. But something didn’t quite add up. She felt like something was missing.
One night after work, she’s lounging around in her apartment and getting into some old novel Seungwan had recommended for her forever ago. Her head jerks up when she hears three slow knocks at her door.
She isn’t sure what to feel when she opens the door to see Sooyoung standing on the other side. She looks good. She’s dressed nicely with a healthy glow to her. There’s something different about the Sooyoung standing in front of her versus the Sooyoung from a few months ago.
After letting her come in, they go to sit down on Joohyun’s bed. It feels very natural to both of them, it was where they always used to go to talk. It was where they went to get away from the rest of the world and live in their own little bubble together. She can tell there’s a lot Sooyoung wants to say, the way she’s nervously kicking her feet gives it away so she nudges her encouragingly.
“I stopped drinking,” she blurts it out, clearly not going by any kind of plan she originally had. “I was using it as a crutch, so I made the decision to stop. I didn’t want to be that person anymore.”
Joohyun nods. “I’m proud of you,” she doesn’t want to say much, so Sooyoung can have the space she needs to say what she needs to.
Sooyoung nods back, clasping her hands together and setting them on her lap. “And I’m sorry. For everything I pulled in that period of time. I know why I did it, because I was so desperate to hold onto you without having the courage to truly make things better. But even then, it doesn’t fix it.”
Right now, Joohyun knows they could walk away from this conversation after Sooyoung is done apologizing and that could be the end. They’d part ways and not look back. But she prays that it won’t end there, because she realizes she isn’t ready for the chapter to close.
“And I…,” she pauses, inhaling deeply. It’s only a few seconds at most, but it feels like a lifetime waiting for Sooyoung to finish. Joohyun can’t help but hold her breath in anticipation. “I still love you. I made a mistake when I left. Even if you don’t take me back, I needed to say that.”
It’s more than just a happy moment, for both of them. Joohyun considers the small possibility that every single stupid thing it had taken them to get there was worth it. Maybe.
She reaches over, pulling Sooyoung’s left hand from her other one and lacing their fingers together. “Do you know how long I’ve waited for that?”
Sooyoung finally makes eye contact with her, cheeks tinted with embarrassment. “A while?”
“Since the moment you walked out the door.” She doesn’t mean to make it sad, but it’s hard to completely erase the pain of the past year and some months. It’s a start though.
“Do you…,” Sooyoung gestures with her free hand. “You know. Still love me?”
It’s funny how obvious the answer would be to any third party if they had been listening in on their conversation, but she knows why it matters and why Sooyoung needs to hear her say it.
“I never stopped loving you. Even when I had to hold your hair back when you were puking and whining.” She says it teasingly, just enough to try to make Sooyoung comfortable again.
Sooyoung blushes a brighter shade of red and rubs her face. “That’s so embarrassing. I mean, all of it is for me. But especially that.”
Joohyun laughs at that, and suddenly they’re a lot closer. Sitting shoulder to shoulder, closer than they’ve been in a very long time.
“I want to try again, Sooyoung. More than anything. But I need assurances. You can’t leave again because you’re trying to be noble. You have to talk to me, so we can work on it.”
Sooyoung sits up ruler straight, her face turning very serious. She nods and maintains eye contact this time. “Of course. I won’t, I swear. Not ever again.”
There’s so much more Joohyun wants to say, rules she needs to lay out so they’re on the same exact page with no confusion. But Sooyoung is staring at her, so seriously and yet so adoringly and she knows that things are really truly different now. She wants to believe this version of Sooyoung knows better, and won’t break both of their hearts again. So she does.
She reaches up and presses her palm against Sooyoung’s cheek, with Sooyoung’s eyes sliding shut and leaning heavily into her touch. It’s now or never at this point, and Joohyun chooses now. She leans up carefully, and kisses Sooyoung.
Sooyoung’s eyes open for a split second, entirely out of shock even though she knew it was coming. She wastes no time at all in kissing back, but being cautious as to not push too far. She sighs happily into the kiss before being the one to break it.
“Do you know how long I’ve waited for that?” Sooyoung says, parroting Joohyun’s own words back to her.
Joohyun can’t wipe the goofy grin off her face. “If I had to guess I’d probably say...a while?”
They laugh, in their own little world again just like it used to be. Just like it always should be.