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“hey, you two. your usuals?”

the one with the shorter hair— chaewon , eunbi remembers—nods, smiling. “yes, please.”

“coming right up.”

eunbi likes them. their orders are always simple—just two pearl milk teas, one at full sugar and one at 70%. they’re always nice, they always tip, and they come around every other day. 

“for chaewon and minju!” she calls when she’s done crafting their orders, putting their drinks on the bar. 

they come over to pick them up, and minju reaches for her purse with her free hand. chaewon puts a hand to her wrist, though, tells her, “my treat.”

“really?” minju lets out a small, soft laugh. “thanks.”

then minju leans in to press a small kiss—to the corner of chaewon’s mouth, though, not the cheek. too close, not friendly at all, something more, and eunbi is so surprised to see it that she doesn’t have enough time to put up her brain-to-mouth filter. 

“you guys are together?” she blurts out. 

they both turn to look at her in surprise, and minju’s ears go red. it’s her who nods, though, and mumbles a quiet, “yes.”

“oh.” eunbi blinks. they always came to the store together and always looked to be close, but. “sorry, i just—i never thought.” 

she remembers herself afterwards, though, her place, her professionalism, so she puts up a smile and waves. she clears her throat. “sorry. enjoy your drinks, and have a nice day!”

chaewon takes minju’s hand. “you too,” she says, and they leave the shop. 

 

***

 

“ah, no, you should eat some, too!”

with nothing better to do, sakura turns to look. even in the lunchtime bustle, the voice had carried, had piqued sakura’s curiosity. at one of the smaller tables sits chaewon, a girl sakura has her calculus class with, and the girl who always picks chaewon up after the class is dismissed. 

“no, no, i’m full.” chaewon digs another spoonful of her lunch and hovers it in front of the girl’s mouth. “really, i’m alright, honey.”

sakura frowns. honey? she knows girls can be affectionate, but—

she looks closer. she looks at how chaewon looks at the other girl, at the closeness of their hands. 

huh. sakura doesn’t know if she should feel blindsided or if she should have seen this coming from a hundred miles away. 

 

***

 

hyewon’s finally figured out what’s been itching at her about minju’s clothes. 

they didn’t seem to fit her right, lately; both in terms of size and style. they also seem like pieces hyewon’s seen before. so the only conclusion hyewon arrives at is:

she pokes at minju’s side with a pen. “that’s not your hoodie,” hyewon tells her, whispers. 

“oh?” minju looks down and surveys it. when she looks back up, she replies, “oh, yeah. it’s chaewon’s.”

chaewon’s?” kim chaewon? protective-of-her-belongings kim chaewon? has-trouble-even-lending-a-highlighter kim chaewon? 

hyewon looks at the hoodie a little longer and realises minju’s right. she remembers chaewon wearing this, once or twice. still. “she gave you a hoodie?”

“she gave me a bunch of her hoodies.” minju shrugs. 

hyewon wrinkles her brows. chaewon and minju are close, she knows that much, but were they close enough for chaewon to just—give minju a bunch of hoodies? and why hoodies, anyway? who was chaewon, minju’s girlfr—

oh. 

“you okay?” minju asks, waving a hand in front of hyewon’s face. “you kind of have this look on your face,” she continues, and puts on what hyewon thinks is an unnecessarily exaggerated demonstration of her own expression. 

“i’m good.” hyewon nods. “i’m good.”

 

***

 

yena’s panicking a little bit. chaewon’s stop gets nearer and nearer, but her head on yena’s shoulder only seems to get heavier and heavier. she doesn’t know if it’s rude to wake her up, but she knows it would be worse to have chaewon miss her stop.

she nudges. “hey, chae—”

something catches her eye. chaewon’s phone is still lit up—she must have forgotten to lock it before heading to sleep. auto-lock off, what a waste of battery, yena thinks, but she inexplicably gets a better look on what’s on chaewon’s screen.

it’s the photos app. an album, specifically, labeled mj ♡ ☼. the pictures: all of minju, some asleep, some eating, some in school and some outside.

yena tears her gaze away. there’s a guilt there that burns at her, that she saw something that she wasn’t supposed to, but also a mix of surprise, of elation. all this time? yena asks herself.

the bus slows down, and yena remembers what she was supposed to do in the first place. she shakes chaewon’s shoulders and taps on her arm. “chaewon,” yena says, “your stop.”

“mm?” chaewon grumbles awake. the bus stops, the doors hiss open. “oh. thanks,” she says to yena, and disembarks into the evening.

 

***

 

“chaechae,” chaeyeon says into her receiver. “why’d you skip today?”

“i’m taking care of minju,” chaewon’s voice on the other line comes. “she came down with a fever.”

chaeyeon’s confused. “... you skipped because minju has a fever.”

“yeah,” chaewon replies, like it’s obvious. 

but skipping to take care of someone would only be obvious if that person was—

“i see,” chaeyeon says. “well, tell her i hope she feels better soon!” 

chaewon laughs. “minju,” chaeyeon hears chaewon call. (sickeningly saccharine, now that chaeyeon thinks about it.) “chaeyeon says she hopes you feel better soon.”

a pause, more muffled voices. then: “she says thank you,” from chaewon. 

“alright,” chaeyeon replies. “i’ll see you tomorrow?”

“yup!” chaewon says. “see you!”

chaeyeon hangs up and looks down at her phone. she’ll have to pay closer attention to them when they’re both back. 

 

***

 

“nako?”

nako turns. minju waves a little sheepishly at her. 

“what’s up?”

“say i wanted to take someone out and they like mint chocolate ice cream,” minju says. “where should i take them? except baskin, though, they don’t like baskin.”

nako raises an eyebrow. “someone special?”

minju flushes and looks taken aback before laughing. is she shy? “uh, yeah.”

“hmm.” nako taps at her chin. “have you heard of ricky’s?”

“oh, i have!” minju’s face lights up. “you think that’s a good place?”

nako forms an okay with her fingers. “they have my seal of approval.”

minju takes nako’s hands in her own. “thanks so much!” she says, and bids nako goodbye. 

nako feels her thoughts come to her like matrix green code lines. minju only has two people in her circle who like mint chocolate, this much nako knows—but wonyoung likes baskin and only seems to be like a little sister to minju; minju’s always seemed much, much closer to—

nako whips out her phone and opens her zero-follower twitter account meant for her vents. oh. my. GOD. she types out, and hits tweet

 

***

 

“earth to minju?” hitomi asks. “i asked you a question.”

minju holds up a hand. “just give me a minute, tomi,” she says, before picking at her lip again. she’s staring worriedly at—something

“what are you—” hitomi decides to follow minju’s line of sight. everyone else in the hallway is moving about, except—there. chaewon at the lockers, talking to a guy hitomi doesn’t recognise. 

he’s smirking in a way that makes even hitomi feel uncomfortable, so she isn’t surprised when chaewon seems to take a step back. the guy only takes it as a chance to lean sleazily against the lockers, though, and lean closer. 

fortunately at that moment someone seems to yell his name, and he turns and jogs toward that direction, chaewon all but forgotten. 

behind her, hitomi hears a sigh. of relief? she thinks so.

and then chaewon turns around and mouths a sorry. 

hitomi feels her eyebrows raise to her hairline. she turns around to see minju roll her eyes and mouth back, he better watch out. 

they mouth something else to each other—something hitomi doesn’t catch anymore, something she can’t keep up with anymore—and then she feels the slow, buzzy flicker of a lightbulb switching on in her head.

 

***

 

yuri squints. she swears she knows the two figures just a few spots ahead of her at the popcorn queue, but she just can’t put a finger on them. 

turn around turn around turn around, yuri chants. mostly in her head, to herself. 

they remain stubbornly, annoyingly, turned away, but yuri’s saviour comes in the form of their popcorn and drink orders arriving at the counter. 

any moment now, she thinks. 

they pay at the cashier, take their purchases, and head toward the direction of the theatres. they stop just by a poster display—that’s what they’re here to watch, surely—and yuri finally, finally gets a glimpse of their faces. 

chaewon poses for a picture that minju takes of her, for her. yuri sighs, relieved that she finally has a name to the silhouettes—she has half a mind to come over and say hi, even if only to minju, but she doesn’t want to lose her spot in the line. 

when chaewon walks back to minju and evaluates the pictures she took, yuri sees chaewon laugh, ruffle the hair on minju’s head, and then place a kiss on her forehead. 

yuri has to stifle a gasp. 

a tap on her shoulder. “excuse me?” a man says. “the line?”

the person in front of yuri is several steps ahead of her, now. “sorry, my bad,” she apologises, closes the gap, all the while watching chaewon and minju walk away, hand in hand. 

 

***

 

yujin thinks it’s a bit unusual. 

chaewon’s quiet. maybe a bit too quiet. they’d both been watching the performances with intent, but even then, throughout the course of the night, chaewon would still strike a conversation with yujin during the in-betweens, make a comment here and there. 

“everything good?” yujin asks. 

chaewon flinches and turns to yujin like she’s been startled out of sleep. “ah—yup, yup.” she clears her throat. “just getting a bit nervous, that’s all.”

“nervous?” yujin asks. “you going on stage?” she tacks on, a joke. 

no,” chaewon counters with a scowl. she rubs her palms together. “minju’s turn is soon, that’s all.”

“minju?” yujin blinks. 

“yeah.” chaewon turns back to the stage. her voice goes softer, gentler. “she was really worried about this. practiced so much, too.”

minju must be really special, then, yujin thinks to herself. an exception of some sort. it’s rare for anyone to affect chaewon like this, for someone to crawl deep enough into her heart—

to crawl deep enough into her heart. 

yujin watches the worry on chaewon’s face, recalls the affection in the rhythm of her speech, eyes the restlessness of her hands, and feels something like a final puzzle piece clicking into place.

 

***

 

if there’s anything wonyoung won’t let happen, it’s that this tradition gets broken. 

okay, she’s being a little dramatic—it’s just a commemorative, silly picture. her, yujin, yena, and minju live in adjacent houses, and one spring evening seven years ago they’d all gone to the small park at the end of their street to hang out and play. yena’s mom snapped a funny picture of them—wonyoung smiling with sand in her hair, yujin halfway into a jump, minju perfect for the camera, and yena crossing her eyes and stretching out her cheeks. 

they’d recreated the picture every april 10th since. 

it hangs in jeopardy today. 

wonyoung isn’t free the whole evening—she has piano lessons in an hour—but minju is nowhere to be found. they’d all agreed to go to the park together after school. 

“has anyone seen her?” wonyoung asks, not even bothering hiding the frazzledness of her voice. 

“hang on, chaeyeon just texted me,” yena says, raising a finger. “she told me someone told her that they saw minju and chaewon headed toward the track field.”

“the track field?” wonyoung asks, at the same time yujin says, “with chaewon?”

wonyoung sets a foot down. “i’m going to get her.”

the protests are immediate. “i don’t think that’s a good idea—”

“i’m sure she’s on her way here now—”

“let’s just wait for her—”

“the track field’s pretty far, anyway—”

wonyoung crosses her arms. she observes the two of them, wide-eyed and panicky. “why can’t i go get her?” wonyoung asks, raising an eyebrow. 

out with it, she wants to say, but the only response she gets from the two of them is a shared look and yujin biting her cheek. 

wonyoung rolls her eyes and heads toward the track field. 

she arrives a few minutes later, the beginnings of a sunset streaking the sky, warming the light. 

wonyoung looks around and doesn’t see anyone except the track team. but she isn’t a quitter, so she strolls around to see if she can find minju somewhere. 

it pays off. by the bleachers she hears a loud, familiar laugh that startles her. the gravel crunches under her feet as she approaches, using the laugh as a guide, as direction, and wonyoung arrives beneath the bleachers to see minju and chaewon. 

it’s chaewon who notices her first. “minju,” she says, nudging her, and minju turns to face wonyoung, eyes widened in surprise. 

to be fair, wonyoung lets out a small gasp, too. she doesn’t miss the wrinkles in their shirts and the unkemptness of their hair and the smudging of their lipsticks. 

she sets it aside. “we’ve been waiting for you,” wonyoung tells minju. “we’re taking the picture at the park today.”

“oh.” minju’s jaw hangs. “oh, god, wonyoung, i’m sorry i forgot, i guess it just slipped my mind—”

wonyoung can’t help herself. “i can see why.”

at the remark, chaewon laughs. “she caught you, minju.”

“she caught us,” minju hisses back. 

us. it rings in wonyoung’s ears. it does make sense—chaewon and minju have always been more like chaewon and minju. they’re good, she thinks. they’re good for each other. 

“while i’m kind of upset neither of you told me,” wonyoung says, “i am happy for you both.” she means it. 

minju smiles and ducks her head. “thanks, wonyoung. means a lot.”

“how about you, though?” wonyoung asks. “are you happy?”

chaewon bursts into laughter. she hooks an arm around minju and noogies her, then swiftly puts a kiss to the part of her head she’d just knuckled. minju lets out a “hey!” before chaewon lets her go. 

“what do you say, minju?” chaewon asks, and with how minju is looking back at her wonyoung doesn’t really need an answer to her question anymore. 

still, minju faces wonyoung with the surest smile wonyoung’s ever seen on her. 

“i am, wonyoung,” minju says. “thanks for asking.”