It’s a mutual decision to keep it a secret from everyone, just so that they can focus on themselves and their new relationship. Yes, Seulgi’s dated before, but it’s never been like this. She’s never had to work this hard, and maybe that’s why it means so much more to her. But also, it most probably means so much more because it’s Joohyun. Joohyun who is beautiful, on the inside and out, who loves her family, her friends, who is as brilliant and dazzling as sunshine. Joohyun who is gentle and caring, while also being one of the most playful and fun loving people Seulgi’s met, the woman who laughs so loudly one would need to do a double take the first time they hear it, but with the laugh that warms Seulgi’s every being.
That was the plan. To keep it a secret.
But Mrs. Park ends up finding out a mere 3 hours later.
As they talk under the stars, shy blushes and small kisses shared between them, the new couple ends up falling asleep in each other’s arms. They don’t mean to, but the exhaustion of the day and the excitement of what’s to come for them drains them of all energy, and it’s so comfortable, with Joohyun’s head on Seulgi’s chest and Seulgi pulling her close. Joohyun wakes up to her mom’s voice, gently shaking her awake. Joohyun blinks, once, twice, before she yelps, “Mom!” and slaps Seulgi on the arm with the words, “Get up, get up, get up!!”
Seulgi wishes the ground would swallow her whole right at that very instant.
“S-sorry, Mrs. Park!” Seulgi stutters out, as her sleepiness dissolves completely and she’s faced with her new girlfriend’s mother.Mrs. Park isn’t mad, not at all, in fact, she’s grinning and it sends shivers down Seulgi’s spine as it reminds Seulgi of Joy and Yeri just when they’re about to cause chaos. “Don’t worry about it, Seulgi dear!”
“Sorry, mom, we lost track of time and-”
“It’s fine, Joohyun, I just figured you might be more comfortable sleeping inside where it’s warmer. Then again Seulgi’s arms-”
Yeah, Seulgi would like to disappear right about now.
Mrs. Park raises her hands up in defense, “What? I’m just saying you two looked pretty comfy. Anyway, Seulgi, why don’t you sleep on the couch? It’s barely 3am, it’s too late for you to go home-”
“N-no, it’s okay. I should go. My mom will worry-”
“Nonsense, I’ve already told her you’re staying over.”
“WHAT?!” Both teenagers exclaim.
Mrs. Park shrugs, “She was worried because you weren’t home yet and weren’t answering your phone, so she called your friend Momo? I think that was her name. Then she called Seungwan who called Joohyun, who wasn’t answering either, so Seungwan called the house. So I told Seungwan that I found you two and she told-”
“Ok, mom, thanks. We get it.”
“Now, go on, go back to sleep.”
The two teenagers simply nod, allowing themselves to be ushered inside, where the matriarch has already set up a pillow and blanket on the couch. “Thank you, Mrs. Park. Sorry, again.”
“It’s no problem at all, Seulgi. I’ll be leaving for my shift in a couple of hours, I can wake you up then, if you’d like.”
“Oh, uh, yes please.”
“By the way, Joohyun, I was thinking of taking the weekend off and taking Joy and Yeri to the zoo this coming Saturday.”
Joohyun nods, “That’s great, mom! We’ll all have fun-”
“You’re not invited.”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
Mrs. Park looks at the young couple, and her teasing grin turns soft, “Joohyun, you know I’m so grateful for how you take care of your sisters. And I’m sorry that your father and I are always so busy-”
“Mom, you know it’s fine with me. You’ve got lives to save and all that.”
“I know, but just take some time for yourself okay? Do it for the both of you.”
“Okay, mom. Thanks.”
“Now, I’m off to bed, and you two should do the same. Good night!” Mrs. Park says as she walks away. Then, she calls out from the hallway, “Joohyun, you better sleep in your own room tonight!”
Seulgi groans, her face as red as a tomato, “Oh my god, I want to die. I can’t believe your mom caught us. I mean, at least we weren’t kissing, that would have been so much worse but oh my god.”
Joohyun laughs, wrapping her arms around Seulgi’s waist, and burying her face into the crook of Seulgi’s neck. “Well, so much for keeping it a secret.”
They ignore their friends for the rest of the weekend even if their joint group chat has been blowing up ever since Seungwan found out that they had fallen asleep together. It’s not like they even mean to. It’s just that as soon as Seulgi gets home, she’s lectured for a good fifteen minutes, and her mom is about to ground her for two weeks before Seulgi panics and says, “Mom, no, I’ve got a date with Joohyun on Saturday!” Her mom completely switches gears after that.
“Ah! You’re so lucky, she seems like a great girl. Pretty and smart, very respectful too. You better treat her right, Seulgi!”
“Ma, I’m your daughter.”
“Yes, but I want her as my daughter-in-law so don’t mess this up and bring her over soon, okay?”
Though, as punishment, Seulgi spends the rest of the day cleaning out the garage. By the time she’s done and clean, the sun has already set, and the only thing she has energy for is to talk to Joohyun on the phone.
“There was so much stuff, it’s insane. I even found my brother’s bike from when he was Joy’s age! I’m just glad a live animal didn’t come out and attack me.” Seulgi sighs dramatically. “So, what do you want to do on Saturday? It’s gonna be just us.”
Joohyun hums on the other end, “Can I be the one to plan it?”
“But I’ve been wanting to go out on a date with you for so long!”
“But this is my first date ever so-”
“Exactly! Let me make it perfect!”
“Please?” Joohyun asks, her pout definitely honed by experience because Seulgi can see it perfectly in her head, even if she can’t see the other woman. “You’ve done so much for me already, let me be the one this time. Then you can do the next one.”
“Fine, but now you have to ask me properly.” Seulgi teases.
“Okay, okay.” Joohyun clears her throat, and her voice is so gentle and warm, Seulgi finds herself swooning, her heart beating rapidly even though she’s the one that asked for this. “Will you, Kang Seulgi, go out on a date with me, Park Joohyun? No kids, just us. And maybe some kisses in between. Or a lot. Who knows?”
Seulgi’s brain short circuits, and it’s clear Joohyun can tell because she starts laughing. “I’m 99% sure you’re already blushing like crazy.”
“N-no, I’m not!” Seulgi chokes out.
“Mhmm. Sure. So, what’ll it be? Go out with me?”
“Of course.” Seulgi replies, her cheeks painful from smiling.
The call ends shortly after that, Joy and Yerim suddenly bursting into Joohyun’s room, clearly on a sugar high. Joohyun even forgets to end the call properly, she whispers a rushed goodbye followed by the sound of her grunting as one (or both) of them jump onto her. Seulgi hears Joy’s voice on the other end, “Was that Seungwan unnie?? I wanna say hi!” followed by her girlfriend’s reply of, “No, Joy, it was Seulgi unnie.” Joy doesn’t say anything to that, which kind of stings, but Yerim chirps, “Seu unnie!! I wanna say hi!” and Seulgi’s glad that she’s at least one step closer.
“Wow, so this is it how it begins.” Seungwan says with mock hurt, pretending to wipe away a tear as Joohyun and Seulgi meet her at the entrance of their school. “First, you don’t reply to my messages the whole day yesterday, and now, I’ve been set aside and must walk to school alone?!”
The guilt washes over Seulgi instantly. She didn’t mean to make Seungwan feel left out, especially because Seungwan’s helped her so much it’s just that she wanted to walk with Joohyun and Joohyun didn’t mention anything and-
“Oh shut up. You’re the one that said you had to go to school early today.” Joohyun says, with a roll of her eyes.
Seungwan grins, “Aww, why’d you spoil the fun? Seulgi looked like she was about to cry out of guilt!”
“I was really worried, okay!” Seulgi says, slapping Seungwan on the arm.
“You’re so easy. Maybe that’s why Joy doesn’t stop pulling pranks on you.” Seungwan hums, before linking arms with Joohyun. “But for now, let me steal my best friend. She’s gotta tell me everything .”
Seulgi doesn’t complain, still feeling a bit guilty even if Seungwan said she was joking but there’s no need to dwell on it too much when Momo and Byulyi practically tackle her when they see her, demanding to know what happened. She tells them everything (not about Joohyun’s mom though because they’d tease her relentlessly for that) and Seulgi’s not even surprised when Byulyi hands Momo all the contents of her wallet. (“I was giving it at least another month!” Byulyi complains.)
When lunch time rolls around, Seulgi picks Joohyun up from her classroom, and the shorter girl has to hold Seulgi’s hand to stop it from shaking, nerves already getting the best of her as they prepare to tell the rest of Joohyun’s friends. Similar to Seungwan, they all sort of knew each other, so she wasn’t sure how they’d react. But, they take it really well, as if they were already expecting it and they even end up giving Seulgi advice and bonding over stories about the little girls.
“Listen, anyone who deals with Joy and Yerim and still loves them is okay in our book.” Jihyo says. “Sure, they’re crazy but they’re really lovable.”
Sana nods excitedly, “I remember this one time, when we all came over, they made us play pirates. We spent the whole day making cardboard swords and flags and everything and I forgot what happened but Dahyun’s character died-”
“-Joy fed me to a shark, she threw her shark pillow at me.”
“Right, and Joy and Yerim absolutely love it when you play along. So Dahyun was lying on the grass, wailing and pretending to be in pain, you even said you loved Seungwan as your dying words right?” Sana turns to Dahyun, and suddenly both Dahyun and Seungwan are very interested in their own food, while the tips of their ears turn pink. “Anyway, she eventually stops moving, with her tongue sticking out for full dramatic ‘I’m totally dead’ effect. Then, out of nowhere, Yerim starts crying, she runs up to Dahyun and starts slamming the shark pillow on the ground, calling it a bad shark.”
“Oh, oh! That was also the same day Mina accidentally hit Tzuyu’s forehead with her sword!” Seungwan says, “Joy kept insisting to kiss Tzuyu’s forehead to make the pain go away.”
“Yeah, but that was after she cackled like a madwoman.” Tzuyu adds. “Which, now that I think about it, is very similar to Joohyun’s.”
“Don’t worry, Hyun. It’s cute.” Seulgi says, quickly kissing Joohyun on the cheek.
Seungwan lobs a fry at Seulgi’s head, “Joy isn’t here to copy me!” she says in defense as soon as Joohyun glares at her. “And what did I tell you guys? They’re going to be even cheesier than Yong and Byul.”
“Cheesier than me? I take that as a challenge.” Byulyi pipes up, as she appears by their table with Momo behind her.
Byulyi kisses Yongsun on the cheek and then lifts her hand up to her lips as well, “Fine, only because you’re my queen and I respect your every whim.”
The whole table gags at that and Joohyun looks Seulgi dead in the eye, “If you’re ever like that I may break up with you.”
Seulgi nods, “And I’d understand completely.”
As Byulyi and Momo join them, the aura of the table suddenly shifts, and the air turns icy as Momo gives a small wave to Mina. Dahyun, Tzuyu, and Sana eye her from head to toe, a glare that looks very much like Joy’s on their faces, while Jihyo just laughs at Momo’s panicked face and Mina swats them, telling them to behave and be nice.
“It’s like she has three Joy’s.” Seulgi whispers as Momo squirms under the gaze of their friends.
Joohyun giggles, “Trust me though, those three are a lot easier to bribe than Joy.”
Even though they’ve told everyone else, they still decide to keep it a secret from Joy and Yerim. Yerim because Joohyun is sure the kid won’t be able to keep a secret. And from Joy because Joohyun wants Joy to get used to having Seulgi around even after exams and Seulgi doesn’t want to pressure the little girl too much.
They continue to hold hands when they pick up Yerim from daycare, only pulling apart when the toddler launches herself into her sister’s arms. She lets Seulgi pinch her cheeks when she says hi, and she grabs both their hands as they walk, trying her best to tell them about her day. But as soon as they step in front of Joy’s extra class, Seulgi drops Yerim’s hand and stands a few steps back, careful not to have a repeat of last time. Joy runs out and stops as soon as she sees Seulgi there, but instead of a scowl, she refuses to even look Seulgi in the eye, it’s not in a I-hate-your-presence kind of way, but in a way Seulgi can’t describe. The walk to their home is awkward, the six-year-old uncharacteristically quiet as she holds Joohyun’s hand, leaving Yerim to fill the silence.
As soon as they arrive in the Park residence, Joy and Yerim run ahead inside and Joohyun takes the chance to squeeze Seulgi’s hand. “Are you okay?”
“Does she hate me even more?”
Joohyun shakes her head and leads Seulgi to the couch, “No, trust me, she doesn’t. And I promise, it’ll be okay.”
“But it’s weird right? She didn’t even look at me. I’d honestly prefer her glare over whatever that was.”
“It is weird but right now… I guess she’s just like me. She’s a little too hard on herself.”
“What do you mean?”
As if on cue, Joy reappears, and wordlessly hands Seulgi two green bandaids, and points at Seulgi’s elbow, before sitting on her sister’s lap. Seulgi steals a glance at the little girl who’s watching her intently, and she can see that there’s still worry and guilt for what happened the other day. It slightly amuses Seulgi how Joy already apologized after it happened, but like her older sister, continues to do so to get the point across that is truly sorry for what happened.
Seulgi slowly unwraps the bandaids, and places one on her palm, and one on her elbow. Then, she smiles as she shows them both to the little girl. “Thanks, Joy. And hey, don’t worry about it anymore, okay? It doesn’t hurt, I promise.”
Joohyun pulls the little girl into a hug, and kisses the top of her head. “You’re welcome,” Joy mumbles, before shuffling off her sister’s lap and thankfully, starts smiling and talking again.
When Joohyun said she wanted to take care of their date, she really meant it. She doesn’t give Seulgi any hints, she doesn’t even bring it up unless Seulgi does, and the only thing she’s willing to say is, “Just dress comfortably. You look good in anything, anyway.” So, Seulgi complies and dresses up simply, a white button down shirt, jeans, and a leather jacket to deal with the spring weather. She does not, however, expect Joohyun’s outfit. Her mouth hangs open as she meets Joohyun outside her home, and Seulgi swears by all the stars in the sky that Joohyun is walking in slow motion towards her, allowing Seulgi’s brain process her blue off-shoulder top and denim mini skirt, her hair loose and flowing in the wind with a cardigan hanging from her arm.
“Is it okay? Is it too much?” Joohyun asks, tugging at her sleeves.
“You look… you look…”
“It’s too much, isn’t it?”
“No!” Seulgi yelps, “You have nice shoulders! And collarbone and hair!”
Joohyun laughs, “What’s next, my ear?”
“Well, your ear is cute too!” Seulgi says, wishing her brain would just relax and be normal for once.
“Thank you. You look great too, by the way.” Joohyun says. “And you’re sure this isn’t too much? I rarely get to wear stuff like this cause it’s hard to run after Joy and Yeri… so… it’s nice to be able to.”
Seulgi takes a deep breath. “Sorry, I lost my cool for a second. But trust me, you look amazing, Hyun.” Then she pulls Joohyun in for a kiss, and smiles as a blush creeps up her girlfriend’s cheeks. “There. Better. So, where are we off to today?”
“Promise not to laugh, okay?” Joohyun says, “I… I honestly wasn’t sure what to do today. This was my first date ever, after all. So I did my research-”
“I said no laughing!”
“I’m not! It’s cute, Hyun.”
Joohyun rolls her eyes and continues, “I was looking for first date ideas but nothing really fit. Bowling? Pass. Movies? Not really. Theme park? We did that already. Then, I got to thinking, you’ve only seen me with Joy and Yeri, or with Seungwan, Yongsun and my other friends. But there’s so much more to me than who I am with them… and I want you to see that side of me too. I want to show you my favorite place to go to when I want to be alone. Is that okay?”
“Of course it’s okay. I’d love to learn more about my girlfriend.”
“And don’t worry, I have something I’m sure you’d enjoy too.”
Seulgi holds both of Joohyun’s hands up to her lips, “Hyun, I’m not worried. Trust me. We can do anything today and it’ll be fine because it’s with you. Now, lead the way.”
Joohyun holds Seulgi’s hand the entire time, as they walk to the train station, as they weave through the weekend crowd, and Seulgi is honestly too focused on the smile on Joohyun’s face to even care if they actually do bump into people. They pass by the main road where a spring festival market is in full swing, couples and families enjoying the nicer weather.
They end up in an alleyway, and if Seulgi didn’t trust Joohyun, she would honestly fear for her life a bit. It’s cramped and even though it’s early afternoon, it’s definitely a lot darker than the main road. Joohyun leads her up a set of stairs so narrow that Seulgi didn’t even realize it existed at first, and once they reach the fourth floor, Joohyun gently opens a large wooden door. They’re greeted by one of the most homey cafes Seulgi has ever seen in her life. The sunlights falls beautifully into the cafe, lighting it up nicely against the worn couches and loveseats mixed with wooden chairs and tables, and of course giving the plants its much needed sunshine. The walls are adorned with different knick knacks from around the world, postcards, mugs, and little trinkets.
“Joohyun! I was wondering what time you’d arrive. The usual, I presume?” the barista behind the counter greets.
“Yes, thanks Yubin unnie. By the way, this is Seulgi.” Joohyun says, as Seulgi gives a small wave.
“Hi, Seulgi. It’s nice to meet you. What can I get for you?”
“What do you recommend, Hyun?”
“You like sweet stuff right? Their iced cinnamon vanilla latte is really good.”
Seulgi nods in agreement and Joohyun gently pushes her aside so she can order more things for them and pay. Then, Joohyun leads her up the next flight of stairs, to reveal what looks like a bookstore, and then one more flight up where there are low tables, comfy floor pillows and a vinyl player playing some soft jazz music. Joohyun leads her to the table closest to the window, where they get a lovely view of the main street, where all the flowers are beginning to bloom.
“Ta-da! This is my getaway.” Joohyun says, spreading her arms wide.
“It’s beautiful, Joohyun. How’d you even find this place?”
“You saw the market in the main road, right? A couple of years ago, Yubin unnie had a stall there, selling all sorts of things! She had coffee beans, books, and then she was even selling these beautiful wooden toys she got from a trip in Europe. Joy really wanted one, but I didn’t have enough money at the time, so Yubin unnie gave me her calling card and said she had more in her actual shop. Then when I finally came, I couldn’t get enough of this place. Their coffee is great, and I love the view from up here, alone but not disconnected from everything else, you know? I love talking to Yubin unnie too.”
“Thank you for sharing this place with me.”
“Of course, Seul. I don’t come here as often as I’d like to, but being in one of my favorite places with one of my favorite people? I couldn’t miss the chance.”
Yubin comes by to drop off their drinks and a sample of cakes that Joohyun ordered. Seulgi smiles as Yubin teases Joohyun, the latter hiding her face with her mug, and the owner pats Joohyun on the back with, “Good job, kid.”
“She seems really nice,” Seulgi comments, as she watches the older woman make her way towards the stairs.
Joohyun nods, “Yubin unnie made me realize a lot of things. I love my family with my whole heart, but I didn’t realize that a lot of who I am was based on what I did for them or with them. It was Yubin unnie who told me to always make time for myself, and to make time to discover my own interests. She also genuinely asked me if I enjoyed being with the kids. Do I do it because I have to, or because I want to? Because if you do things deliberately, it means much more. Things like that.”
The rest of the afternoon, Joohyun shares bits and pieces of herself with Seulgi. She tells Seulgi of how she first realized she may not be straight, when she was seated in the exact spot they were in now, and saw a girl so pretty walking on the main street that she ended up staring until she couldn’t see her anymore. She introduces each and every cake with excitement and feeds Seulgi as she tells the small stories behind each one. She shows Seulgi her favorite vinyls that Yubin lets her play, and the books that she’s planning to buy after she finishes her current stack at home.
“Honestly… I don’t know who I am yet, not fully. But that’s okay, I think. I’m just enjoying what makes me happy.” Joohyun says, as she leans on Seulgi’s shoulder, their hands intertwined and the sun slowly setting outside the window.
“I like this other side of you. The excited and curious side. It’s as beautiful as all the other parts of you.” Seulgi says, and she tilts Joohyun’s chin up to capture her lips. As they pull away, Joohyun’s smile is soft and gentle, and she leans her head on Seulgi’s shoulder once more, fully content.
The next place Joohyun takes her to is a performance center nearby. Seulgi feels a little bit underdressed, but Joohyun reassures her that they’re not attending a main show anyway. They enter a small theater just as the light dims, and right as they’re seated, the music begins.
Seulgi is entranced as she watches the dancers move to the musical score, and as they move around the revolving sets that depict three, empty, wallpapered rooms. She is drawn in by their sharp movement, the way they dance with one another, telling a story about relationships without uttering another word. She can feel it clearly, the isolation, the rage, the transition of one couple’s utter commitment to indifference, she can feel the longing and the remorse. Beside her, Joohyun is just as mesmerized, her hand squeezing Seulgi’s during the intense moments of each couple paired up.
Two ballet acts followed after that, each as captivating as the others. The music, the movement and the sets, creating a world and undoing it right before their very eyes. As it ends, the two step out of the performance hall and into the chilly spring night, their heads are in a daze, floating at what they’d just witnessed.
But of course, it’s Joohyun who clears her head first, “I know this isn’t the type of dance that you particularly do… but I hope you enjoyed it.”
“Enjoyed it? Joohyun, that’s amazing!” Seulgi says, hugging Joohyun tight. “I loved it. Thank you.”
“I actually used to take ballet… my birth dad would take me to lessons. Then, of course, when he stopped, I stopped. And aside from the fact that no one could take me, I just couldn’t bear the thought of going again.” Joohyun looks up at the performance hall, “But dad, Joy’s birth dad, took me to a show one day. Just the two of us so we could bond. I had so much fun watching them move across the stage, I was so in awe… but I never wanted to go back to ballet class. But sometimes, I watch performances on my own. Mostly ballet and contemporary, or whatever’s on. Sometimes, dad watches with me too, for old time’s sake.”
“You took ballet?! I wanna see pics of baby Joohyun in a tutu!” Seulgi coos, pinching Joohyun’s cheeks. “And videos too! I’m sure you had a recital! And kid’s recitals are the best cause they don’t know what to do with their limbs yet!”
“Please? Pretty please? I’ll show you my pictures from my first hip-hop class ever?” Seulgi pleads.
Seulgi smirks, and pulling Joohyun close once more, she follows in Yerim’s footsteps. “Please?” she asks, kissing Joohyun’s forehead. “Please?” A kiss to the nose. “Please, Hyun?” Another kiss to each of her cheeks. “Please?” as she kisses her lips.
“Okay, fine. You win.”
“YES!” Seulgi cheers, kissing Joohyun again for good measure.
“That’s cheating. You shouldn’t be allowed to do that.”
Seulgi shrugs, “If Yerim can do it, I should be able to do it too.”
Joohyun rolls her eyes, playfully shoving Seulgi away, “I can’t believe I have another child to deal with.”
Seulgi watches the three Park girls on the playground, Joohyun hiding in plain sight behind the seesaw as Joy runs extra slowly to make sure their little sister can catch her, laughter and shrieks filling the cool spring afternoon. They’ve been together for a couple of weeks now and Seulgi’s long gotten used to having to share Joohyun most the time and Joohyun is getting used to asking help from both her parents and her friends in taking turns in watching the kids to allow them for time alone.
“Joy, do you wanna help Seungwan unnie so she can date Dahyun unnie?” Joohyun asks one Friday afternoon. Seungwan practically chokes on her ice cream and frantically looks around to make sure that her crush is still situated by the counter, “I know we agreed to this but really? Here?”
The sisters ignore her and Joy nods enthusiastically. “Yes! I want to help!” Of course followed by Yerim’s, “Me too!”
“Okay, so first, you need to ask Dahyun unnie out. But you have to say it’s with you two, okay?” Joohyun says and Joy nods firmly. “Then, you can spend the day with both of them and you have to do everything you can to make sure they have fun. Can you do that?”
“Yes, unnie! I already have an idea!” Joy says, then she stands on the booth’s cushions and starts to wave, “Dahyun unnie! Come here please, I have a secret to tell you!”
“Yeah, Joy?” Dahyun asks, as she approaches their table.
“I think Seungwan unnie is pretty! Right? Isn’t Seungwan unnie pretty?”
“I- uh- uhm- y-yeah!”
Seungwan huffs and crosses her arms, “Wow, you don’t have to say yes if you don’t agree, Dahyun.”
“N-no! It’s not! I was just caught off guard!” Dahyun says, “I do think you’re pretty, Seungwan-ah. Really pretty.”
“Oh. Uhm. Thanks.” Seungwan blushes and Joy’s grin gets wider. On the side, Joohyun and Seulgi are practically dying trying to hold in their laughter.
“And Seungwan unnie thinks it will be fun if you go out with us tomorrow! Right, Seungwan unnie?”
“Uh, yeah! What she said.”
“Will you go out with us please? Just me and you and Seungwan unnie and Yerim!” Joy says, clinging onto Dahyun’s arm, her best puppy dog face on full display.
“I’d love to, Joy. See you tomorrow then, Wan. It’s a date.” Dahyun says with a wink before returning to work.
If Joy has noticed, she hasn’t said or done anything yet, which Seulgi is a little bit worried about, if she’s being honest. Because she’s sure Joy knows , because the six-year-old noticed Dahyun’s crush on Seungwan (which thankfully is progressing, mostly thanks to the six-year-old) and because Joohyun told her that Joy honestly sees everything. (“Her teachers said she was astute and trust me, they're 100% right about that,” Joohyun laughs.) So, it’s worrying Seulgi that Joy isn’t pulling any pranks, but she isn’t really accepting of Seulgi either. She says hello, she’s polite, but she never plays with Seulgi, still choosing Joohyun or Seungwan. She knows she should give Joy time, but who would’ve thought it would be so hard to get a six-year-old to like you?
Seulgi snaps out of her little mental spiral, as she hears identical huffs beside her only to find both Joy and Yerim suddenly seated on the same bench, their arms folded across their little bodies, and matching glares on their faces. Except this time, it’s not directed at Seulgi at all.
“What are you doing here? Where’s Joo- oh.” Seulgi begins to ask, but there’s no need to do so when she spots her girlfriend talking to Minho in the middle of the playground.
“He always does that.”
“ Always .” Yerim parrots.
Joy nods firmly, and does another of her signature huff. It’s obvious that Joohyun feels awkward, she’s trying to create space between them but their classmate keeps stepping forward.
Then, Joy taps Seulgi on the arm, a look of determination on her face. “We have a common enemy now.”
Seriously. What shows does this kid watch?
“I know you like unnie. Right?”
“So. Do you want a stinky boy to win?!” Joy asks, her tiny arms flailing around out of stress.
“Of course not!”
Joy continues to flail around, “Then we have to do something!”
“Okay, fine, fine. What do you want me to do?”
But Joy doesn’t respond and instead, looks at her little sister, “Yerim, go. It’s time.”
Yerim’s face lights up and she hops off the bench offering her arm to Seulgi, “Pinch, please.”
“Just do it!” Joy orders.
“Okay, okay! Geez. So bossy.” Seulgi pinches Yerim as lightly as she possibly can and she watches in amazement as Yerim’s little face goes from happy, to sad, to totally wailing as she runs towards Joohyun. Panic rises up in her chest but before Seulgi can do anything, Joy is running after her younger sister with a shout of, “I DIDN’T MEAN IT, I PROMISE!!”.
Oh. OH. They’re geniuses.
Seulgi sees Joy point at her and she takes it as her cue to run over to the sisters (and well, Minho too).
“Is it true, Seul? Joy pushed Yerim?” Joohyun asks, the worry clear in her voice as Yerim continues to cry in her arms, and Joohyun inspects the toddler for any wounds.
“Y-yeah, I’m so sorry, Joohyun… it happened so fast, they were fine at first and I didn’t notice their fight was getting bigger.”
Joy starts tugging at Joohyun’s shirt, apologizing over and over again with matching tears and Seulgi swears that if she weren’t a part of it, she’d think those tears were real. “I didn’t mean to! Don’t get mad! I said I’m sorry!” Joy whines.
“Sorry, Minho. I need to deal with this.”
“Oh, yeah, sure. No problem.”
As soon as Minho is out of sight, Joohyun sets Yerim down and crouches down to their level, “Okay, you can stop now.”
And like a switch, the crying stops, they wipe off their tears and act like nothing’s happened.
“Wow.” is all Seulgi can manage to say as the little girls sport huge smiles once again.
“I can’t believe you took part in it.” Joohyun laughs. “The little detail of not noticing they were fighting at first was a good touch, by the way.”
“Look who’s talking. ‘Is it true, Seul?’” Seulgi tries to copy Joohyun’s voice, “I swear, all of you can be actresses.”
“Oh trust me, if they one day says they want to be Korea’s next big actress, I’m all in. I’ll personally pay for their acting classes and shuttle them to auditions myself.” They watch as the two kids run to the slide, Joy trying to pull Yerim up with her. “So… How’d she convince you?”
Seulgi reaches for Joohyun’s hand and gently kisses her knuckles, “You could say, we just had a common enemy.”
Now that Seulgi thinks about it, maybe she should be thanking Minho. Because ever since that incident in the park, there’s been a shift. Joy has no longer been mean, or cold or distant. She’s just… well, annoying.
She no longer clings to Joohyun, or squeezes herself in between them, or even scowls, but she still pranks Seulgi relentlessly. The plastic bugs are back, and somehow, it seems to have multiplied, Joy leaving bugs everywhere, even in Seulgi’s backpack. Momo ends up screaming so loud in class when a plastic cockroach falls out as Seulgi pulls out a notebook and Seulgi ends up staying behind at school for punishment.
She’s also taken advantage of Seulgi’s utter distaste of vegetables, once again piling them onto Seulgi’s plate when Joohyun isn’t looking. The six-year-old even has the audacity to call her out! She whines and tells her sister, “Unnie, if Seulgi unnie doesn’t finish her vegetables, then I don’t have to also, right?” Which, of course , means Seulgi has to finish every single vegetable on her plate.
Then, she learns a new trick. They’re all on the couch, watching a movie together when Joy hops off to go to the kitchen, and returns with a bag of Cheetos. “Do you want one, unnie?” Joy asks sweetly. When they all agree, Joy volunteers to feed them, “to keep their hands clean”, she had said. She feeds Yerim, then Joohyun, and maybe it’s because Seulgi’s guard was down or maybe it was because she was too engrossed in watching TV that she didn’t notice the different orange snack being fed to her. As soon as Seulgi bites down, she regrets it immediately, as her mouth recognizes the very gross taste and texture of a baby carrot. Joy cackles so hard at the face she makes, pointing and falling onto her butt as she does so. But after she’s done laughing (which feels like ages to Seulgi), she then hands the entire bag of actual Cheetos to Seulgi.
When Joohyun’s birthday comes around, they invite all her friends to the house for a small party. Mina finally brings Momo along as a date, though she’s on her best behavior as their other friends silently watch her. Joy and Yerim have the best time playing with so many people, but at the same time, they’re having the time of their lives calling Joohyun, “Princess Joohyun”, for the day.
“If she’s a princess, then I’m a princess too.” Joy says, as she and Yerim arrive in the backyard with little crowns on their heads.
“Yes, Your Highness.” Byulyi bows dramatically, and offers her arm, “Do you want to tell everyone it’s time to blow out the candles?”
Joy uses her authority as princess to gather everyone around, and she even pulls Seulgi to hold the cake for Joohyun. They all sing ‘Happy Birthday’ together and Yerim squeals, “Make a wish, make a wish!!”. The birthday girl closes her eyes, and as she opens them, she meets Seulgi’s. They share a second of understanding, before Joohyun winks and blows out the candles.
“Did you wish that we’d finally get along?” Seulgi asks, as she pulls Joohyun aside.
“Maybe. But I don’t think I’ll need to wish for that. I feel like it’ll happen very soon.”
“Why d’you think so?”
Joohyun shrugs, “Maybe it’s my princess’ intuition.”
As the party begins to wind down, Seungwan and Dahyun approach Seulgi. “Hey, Seul, can we talk to you? In private?”
“Like, right now?”
Dahyun nods, “It’s important.” Seulgi looks to Joohyun, who’s lounging around on one of the picnic blankets with Yongsun and Hyejin, as Wheein tries to teach them the dance to Yerim’s new favorite song. “Okay, let’s go.”
They walk into the home, up the stairs, to the direction of Joohyun’s room. Seulgi wonders what must be so important and so private that they couldn’t do downstairs? She wonders if they’re going to ask her something personal. Are they going to ask for dating advice? They can’t possibly be asking about how to confess? Not when they’re doing it together? Or are they going to finally tell her the good news that they’re a couple?
They stop at the end of the hallway, Dahyun’s back against Joohyun’s door, while Seungwan’s is against the kids’ room. They look nervous, and now, Seulgi is a bit worried. “Are you guys, okay? Is everything alright? What’s wrong?”
Dahyun nods, and her nervous look quickly turns mischievous as she says, “Sorry, Seulgi.” She pushes Seulgi backward at the same time that Seungwan opens the door and quickly slams the door shut before she can even react. Deja vu hits Seulgi instantly. The room is dark and cold, save for one little lamp on a small plastic table. Across it, sit two little girls with wide grins on their faces.
What the hell, how did they even disappear from the party.
“Kang Seulgi, welcome.” Joy smirks. “Please, have a seat.”
Seulgi groans but complies, taking a seat in the small plastic chair as Joy moves to tie her hand with a bandana. Not again.
“Please say your name.” Joy says, holding a clipboard close to her body.
“But you just said it!”
“Excuse me?” Joy asks, her little eyebrow raised in a very Joohyun-like manner.
“Excuse me?” Yerim parrots, except she’s still smiling just as wide.
“Fineeeeee. My name is Kang Seulgi. I’m seventeen and before you ask, my grades are a lot better because your unnie taught me.”
Joy scribbles on her paper, Yerim does the same, though Seulgi can clearly see that the younger of the duo is drawing a flower.
“So. Kang Seulgi.”
“Yes. Park Sooyoung.” Joy audibly growls at that, so Seulgi backtracks, "Yes. Park Joy. Park Yerim."
“What’s your favorite Loona song?”
Joy rolls her eyes and repeats herself, “What’s your favorite Loona song?”
Joy clicks her tongue and scribbles something down, “Mine is Butterfly.”
“What’s your favorite color?”
“Uh… yellow? And orange? Like somewhere in between those?”
Joy shakes her head, “Mine is green.”
“Mine is pink! And purple like unnie!” Yerim adds.
“Who’s your favorite Girls’ Generation member?”
“How is this relevant?” Seulgi asks but immediately takes it back as Joy glares at her. “Uh, I like Yuri!”
“Wrong. What’s the right answer, Agent Yerim?”
“Sooyoung and Taeyeon!”
“Three strikes. A shame.”
Joy sighs, then she dramatically places the clipboard on the table, and folds her arms across her chest. She sits up straighter, and Seulgi can tell that whatever she's about to ask next, she's serious. “Kang Seulgi. Do you like unnie?”
“Yes, clearly. You’ve asked me this before.”
“Will you take care of unnie?”
“Even if she’s old and wrinkly?”
“Well, I hope so!”
“Do you promise not to make unnie cry?”
“Well, I’ll do my best-”
“Do you PROMISE?” Joy asks, standing up and wagging her finger at Seulgi.
“Yes! I promise, I promise!” Seulgi squeaks.
“Good.” Joy nods firmly, before turning to her little sister. “Do you have any questions, Agent Yerim?”
“Can you draw a unicorn?” Yerim asks, extending her paper and crayon to Seulgi.
“Not that kind of question, Yerim-ah!”
Joy moves to undo the bandana around Seulgi’s wrist, (though honestly Seulgi could easily slip out of them if she wanted to) and says, “Okay, you’re free to go.” Seulgi can’t help but smile at the little girl’s words. She knows it means much more than “they’re done playing”. She knows that finally , Joy likes her enough to want her for Joohyun. That finally , after months , she truly has Joy’s support and approval.
“Before I go, can I ask a question?” the two little girls nod, and Seulgi kneels, the plastic chair too uncomfortable, while still wanting to be around their same height. “Can I get a hug from the both of you?”
Yerim agrees quickly, standing up from her chair and squeezing Seulgi tight. Joy stands at the side for a moment, considering, then, she nods slowly, and approaches Seulgi. She puts her arms around Seulgi, and the teenager makes sure to envelope them both into her embrace. “I promise I’ll take care of your unnie and I promise to take care of the two of you too. Okay? Your unnie isn’t going anywhere. I’m not either. You just have a new unnie to play with and rely on now, okay? Me, Seungwan, Dahyun, Momo, all of us, so don’t worry.”
Suddenly, the lights switch on, and the birthday girl is standing there, a gentle smile across her face. “There’s my girls.”
Joy runs up to Joohyun, and Joohyun kneels to give her a kiss on the top of her head. “There’s my Joy.” Then, Yerim runs up and Joohyun lifts her up in her arms, “My Yerim.” and Seulgi follows after, kissing Joohyun on the cheek. “My Seulgi.”
It’s arts and crafts day in the Park household. The Park parents are out, getting dinner for everyone, and Seulgi can imagine the stares they’ll receive especially with all the glitter Yerim accidentally spilled on them.
Joohyun and Seulgi lay on the couch, exhausted from cleaning up the materials they used earlier in the day. Seungwan is working on a little house made of popsicle sticks with Yerim, and Joy is busy decorating her green sparkly notebook.
Eventually, Joy hops up and declares, “I have a new list!”
Joohyun coos as she goes through it, “Aww, you put Dahyun unnie higher!
“Why am I lower than dogs?!” Seulgi asks, causing Seungwan to snap her head up. She gently takes the notebook from Seulgi’s hands, her eyes bulging out as she reads through it.
- Joohyun unnie
- Seungwan unnie & Seulgi unnie
- Dahyun unnie & Dahyun unnie’s ice cream shop
- Fried chicken
- Ice cream cake
“What?! I’m now tied with Seulgi?! You’ve known me longer!” Seungwan shrieks, and Joy laughs at her outburst.
“That’s cause I took her to the dog shelter last weekend.” Seulgi smirks. “Right, Joy? We had fun playing with the little puppies?”
“Yeah! There were so many!”
Seungwan sighs and looks down at the toddler playing with glitter glue, googly eyes and popsicle sticks. “I’m still your favorite though, right, Yerim?”
Yerim looks up at Seungwan and gives her the biggest grin ever, “Nope.”
“Alright, that’s it. Time for you to go home, Seulgi. I gotta win back my little girls.” Seungwan says, pulling Seulgi from up the couch and beginning to push Seulgi out the door.
“HEY!! JOOHYUN- HELP!!” Seulgi shouts, as she gets closer and closer to the door. “HOW THE HELL ARE YOU SO STRONG, YOU’RE SO SMALL!”
“Been carrying the kids for years- BYE SEUL!”
“BYE UNNIE!” Joy and Yerim shout before collapsing into laughter.
“FINE! BYE! SEE YOU TOMORROW! LOVE YOU, HYUN!” is the last thing Seulgi manages to get out before Seungwan slams the door on her face.
The door swings open and Joohyun is standing there, her eyes still wide in surprise. “What did you say?”
Joohyun wraps her arms around Seulgi’s neck, and Seulgi’s arm automatically finds its place around her waist as Joohyun kisses her senseless. “I love you too, Seulgi.”