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You Should Be Here

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The call comes just as Seulgi’s entering her apartment.

 

It’s the third in a series of calls that end as soon as Seulgi answers. She has her keys in one hand and coffee in another, but as soon as Seulgi hears the familiar ringtone, she all but drops everything in her haste to get to her phone.

 

It’s a private number, but Seulgi knows who it is and this time she’s determined to get more than just a ‘hello’ in.

 

“Unnie,” she says and the sharp intake of breath Seulgi hears tells her she’s caught her by surprise, “I know it’s you. Please don’t hang up.”  

 

There’s nothing but silence, but the line doesn’t immediately go dead so Seulgi takes that as a sign to continue.

 

“I saw your debut performance,” she tells her, leaning back against the front door. Her legs feel weak and she sinks to the floor against her will. “I was getting dinner with a friend and it was playing on TV. You did really well.”

 

Nothing.

 

Seulgi sighs, forehead to her knees as she tries again. “I like the song. The video is really cool too. You all came out really well, and Yerim is-” Seulgi stops. Her voice is starting to shake. She breathes deeply, then continues, “Yerim really suits this concept. You guys are going to be really popular.”

 

She still hasn’t gotten a response, and Seulgi feels bile rise in her throat. She shouldn’t have answered.

 

“Unnie, please. I-”

 

“You should be here.”  

 

Seulgi holds her breath, fingers clenched tightly against her phone. It’s been months, but even through the phone there’s no mistaking her voice.

 

“Joohyun-”

 

“I’m sorry. I have to go.”

 

She hangs up before Seulgi can respond. All the words Seulgi wanted to say stick to her tongue, leaving a bitter taste in her mouth. She can think of a thousand different ways to apologize, but Seulgi knows it wouldn’t change anything. She’d still be here, a struggling art major living in an apartment she can’t even pay for herself, and Joohyun would still be there, the leader of an idol group Seulgi should have been a part of.

 

You should be here, Seulgi hears her say, and even though she wants to deny it, she can’t. It’s the truth and they both know it.

 

I should be there.

 

--

 

When her phone rings in the middle of the night, Seulgi’s too tired to bother with pleasantries.

 

“Unnie, it’s three in the morning.”

 

She doesn’t get a response, but Seulgi’s long since stopped expecting one.

 

She sighs, blinking the sleep out of her eyes as she sits up. She has a class in the morning, but that hardly matters when she remembers who she’s talking to.

 

“It rained today,” Seulgi starts, “I usually like the rain, but there were all these puddles everywhere and I was running late so I wasn’t being careful and well, don’t run when the ground is wet, unnie. It won’t end well.” She’s rambling, saying anything to keep Joohyun on the line. It works better than she hoped.

 

“You fell?”

 

Seulgi smiles at the voice. She sounds concerned, and that shouldn’t make Seulgi so happy but it does.

 

“I did. Ripped my favorite pair of jeans too, but that’s okay. I think it looks kind of cool this way.”

 

“Did it hurt? Are you okay?”

 

“I’m fine,” Seulgi answers and she knows her smile is evident in her words. “There’s a bruise the size of Korea on my knee, but I’m fine.”

 

“Good.”

 

Silence follows, and it makes Seulgi squirm uncomfortably in her bed. She picks at the thread in her comforter, choosing her words carefully.

 

“You seem tired lately,” she says softly.

 

She hears Joohyun breathe deeply. “You’ve been keeping up with me?”

 

Seulgi laughs. “Yeah, I guess. You guys are everywhere lately, it’s hard not to.”

 

The truth is that Seulgi always searches her online. She doesn’t mean to, but she tried it once just out of curiosity and now she can’t stop. She likes seeing Joohyun—she misses seeing Joohyun—and even if it’s just through a screen, it’ll have to do.

 

“Ah, I see.”

 

Joohyun falls silent again, and Seulgi worries that she’d said the wrong thing. But then Joohyun clears her throat, and Seulgi realizes she’s working up the courage to say something else.

 

“I...I haven’t been sleeping well lately,” she admits.

 

Seulgi frowns. “That’s not good. You need your rest, unnie.”

 

“I know, but I-” Joohyun stops, breathes, and starts again. “I know. I know.”

 

Seulgi falls back against the bed. She closes her eyes and with her phone pressed to her cheek, Joohyun breathing in her ear, it almost feels like they’re next to each other.

 

“What do you want, unnie?” Seulgi finally asks. It’s the question she should have started with, the one she’s been wondering ever since she got that first call two weeks ago. It’s the one Joohyun doesn’t answer at all when she, instead, requests, “Sing for me.”

 

Seulgi laughs dryly. “Aren’t you the singer? Shouldn’t I be asking you that?”

 

“Your voice is better,” Joohyun responds simply.

 

Seulgi shakes her head, but she still clears her throat, shifting so that she’s lying comfortably on the bed.

 

“Fine, but only until you fall asleep.”

 

Her voice shakes through the first verse, but once she hits the chorus, all her years of training kick in and she’s as stable as she usually is.

 

Joohyun mutters a soft, “thank you,” after the first song, and falls asleep midway through the second.

 

Seulgi keeps singing long after that.

 

--

 

Her phone buzzes in her pocket in the middle of her art history class.

 

Seulgi has half a mind to ignore it, but curiosity gets the better of her and she checks the ID before she can stop herself. The private number flashes across her screen, and it only takes another second for Seulgi to gather her things together into her bag.

 

“I have to take this,” she tells her friend next to her, “take notes for me?”

 

She doesn’t wait for her friend to respond before she excuses herself from the room, thankful that she chose the aisle seat so she wouldn’t have to maneuver through a row of people.

 

“You know I was in class,” she says as soon as she’s out in the hall.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry I shouldn’t have-”

 

“It’s fine, unnie. Arts of Japan isn’t exactly the most exciting class in the world anyway.”

 

“Still-”

 

“Seriously, it’s fine.”

 

It is. It always will be. Seulgi could be inside of a burning building and she’d probably still answer the phone. She’s not sure if that makes her pathetic or desperate or both. Probably both.

 

“We’re on the way to the airport,” Joohyun tells her and it registers that all the noise in the background is because she’s in a car full of people.

 

Seulgi wonders if they know who’s she talking to, and what they think if they do. She doesn’t dwell on it.

 

“Overseas schedule?” Seulgi asks, settling down on a bench near her lecture hall. Summer is giving way to Fall and Seulgi busies herself with watching the leaves spill from the tree across from her.

 

“Company concert in Japan,” Joohyun reveals and Seulgi nods.

 

Joohyun’s talkative now. She gives Seulgi running commentary of the car ride—Wendy is singing, Sooyoung is sleeping, Yerim is screaming, there’s traffic on the freeway that isn’t moving—and Seulgi appreciates the sound of her voice as she jumps from one topic to the next.

 

“I’ll be back in a few days,” she says eventually, “and then I won’t be as busy.”

 

It’s not an invitation to anything really, but Seulgi understands what it means.

 

“Call me when you get back then.”

 

Joohyun doesn’t miss a beat.

 

“Okay.”

 

Seulgi doesn’t let herself get her hopes up.

 

--

 

It’s Seulgi who calls Joohyun first. She teeters with the idea for close to two hours, thumb hovering over the call button before backing away. Eventually, she gets so tired with how pathetic she’s being, she gives up and just presses call. On the third ring, she starts to feel sick and by the fourth, she debates hanging up.

 

Joohyun answers before she can.

 

“How’d you know I was back already?”

 

Seulgi smiles at the voice, feeling a rush of relief and giddiness all at once.

 

“I saw an article discussing your airport fashion,” she explains, looking at the article that’s still pulled up on her laptop. “Nice shirt, by the way. I wonder who you stole it from.”

 

Joohyun laughs and it’s so nice and happy, Seulgi closes her eyes just to bask in the sound a bit longer.

 

“It’s a comfy shirt.”

 

“I’ve been looking for that for almost two years,” Seulgi pouts, remembering how distraught she was when she lost it. It’s one of many plain black shirts she owns, but still. It was her favorite.

 

“Not my fault you forgot you left it with me.”

 

“You said you were going to wash it!”

 

“I did wash it. You just never asked for it back.”

 

Seulgi shakes her head, leaning back in her seat. It’s a nice day outside, but she has no desire to leave her apartment.

 

“Fine. Keep the shirt. It looks better on you anyway.”

 

Joohyun lets out a triumphant noise.

 

“Are you busy?” Seulgi asks and a second later, realizes how stupid of a question it is. Of course, Joohyun’s busy. When is she not?

 

“Not particularly,” Joohyun answers, but then after a moment, adds, “We have a meeting with the company in an hour. I’m killing time until then.”

 

Seulgi nods like Joohyun can see her. “So you’re busy.”

 

“Not particularly,” she repeats.

 

Seulgi hums, low and thoughtful. If she tries hard enough she can picture Joohyun sitting down,  phone pressed clumsily to her ear. The Joohyun Seulgi sees and the Joohyun she’s actually talking to are vastly different, Seulgi knows. She can only see the Joohyun that she left—the one who had never dyed her hair before, who barely wore any makeup, who kept her head down if she could help it—and that Joohyun hasn’t existed for a long time.

 

“Did you need something?” Joohyun asks when Seulgi’s been quiet for too long.

 

Need. Want. Seulgi can’t remember the difference these days.

 

“I was just bored.”

 

“So you called me?”

 

“No one else answered.”

 

It’s a lie and Joohyun knows it. She sounds like she’s smiling when she says, “Good to know I’m the last resort.”

 

Seulgi hums, shutting her laptop with Joohyun’s picture still on display. If she doesn’t look at it, she can pretend that nothing’s changed.

 

“I didn’t think you’d mind.” She moves to the couch as Joohyun laughs in her ear. Her couch is white and she wonders idly what color Joohyun’s is or if they even have one. She wonders a lot of things. “How was Japan?”

 

“There are pikachus everywhere,” Joohyun replies, and Seulgi giggles.

 

“Did you think of me?” It’s a tease, but Joohyun’s answer is serious.

 

“Constantly.”

 

Seulgi swallows. Her head feels warm and her palms are starting to sweat. She grips the phone tighter.

 

“I miss you.”

 

There’s a pause and then a sigh.

 

“I miss you too.”

 

Seulgi never calls first again.

 

--

 

Seulgi’s imagined what it would be like to see Joohyun again. There’s usually a lot of crying (on her end), some anger (on Joohyun’s end), and more often than not it ends with nothing solved and Seulgi still feeling frustrated. But out of all the situations Seulgi’s conjured up, she never thought Joohyun would be the one to come to her first.

 

“I don’t know why I’m here,” Joohyun says, standing in front of Seulgi’s door. She looks smaller than Seulgi remembers and all Seulgi wants to do is pull her into her arms. She stays where she is.

 

“Unnie-”

 

Joohyun brushes past her and into the apartment. Her strides are determined, but when Seulgi looks at her, she can tell Joohyun’s uncertain.

 

“Your place is nice,” she comments as Seulgi shuts the door. She’s fidgeting, hands combing through her hair every few seconds, weight shifting from foot to foot. She’s nervous.

 

There was a time when Seulgi’s presence alone used to be enough to calm her, but now it’s doing the exact opposite. The irony isn’t lost on her.

 

“Thanks, my parents pay for it.” Seulgi crosses her arms, watching as Joohyun plays with the ends of her sweater.

 

Her hair is dark again and all her makeup has been washed off. She’s the same, but the air around her is different, like debuting surrounded her permanently with a celebrity bubble. Seulgi can look, but she can’t touch.

 

She wants to touch.

 

“Unnie, why are you here?”

 

Joohyun stares at her helplessly. “I don’t know.”

 

“Unnie-”

 

“We won tonight.”

 

Seulgi knows they did. She watched it happen live. Watched the four of them gather on stage when their name was called, watched Joohyun blink away tears as she held the small trophy. A New Artist Award, the first award of many, Seulgi’s sure. The thought doesn’t make her feel bitter like it used to, but Joohyun’s still standing there and there’s a reason for it.

 

“Congratulations,” Seulgi tells her honestly. “I’m proud of you.”

 

Joohyun nods, and then she’s biting her lip, walking towards Seulgi slowly. “I’m not mad at you.” she says this time, and Seulgi feels her fingers tremble. “Not anymore. I used to be, but now I...now I…” She sighs. Her eyes fall to the floor and Seulgi’s suddenly very aware of how close Joohyun has come to her.

 

“Now you…?” Seulgi prompts, resisting the urge to reach out and grab her just because she can.

 

“I wish you would have stayed.” Her voice is soft, barely above a whisper, but Seulgi hears it loud and clear.

 

It hurts. More than Seulgi thought it would. It’s the first time Joohyun’s ever told her this, the first time she’s ever been anything less than supportive. She was the first person Seulgi told when she thought of leaving, and Joohyun had looked her in the eye then and said she’d support Seulgi no matter what. Maybe she changed her mind.

 

“I’m sorry.” There are a lot of things she wants to say, a lot of things she should say, but that’s all she can think of and she knows it’s not enough. “I wasn’t- I couldn’t do it anymore,” she tries, and it feels like she’s eighteen all over again, sitting next to Joohyun in the practice room, trying to explain why she couldn’t keep chasing a dream that wasn’t certain.

 

“I know,” Joohyun whispers. She steps closer, meeting Seulgi’s eyes. She rests a hand on Seulgi’s shoulder in the same way she always used to, and Seulgi melts into it unconsciously. “I just wish you would have stayed.”

 

Seulgi nods and then Joohyun presses her back against the door, mouth against hers. It isn’t clumsy like the first time they kissed—when Joohyun had shyly grabbed her hand after practice and kissed her in the empty hallway. They’re older now and they still have every part of each other memorized. Seulgi still knows the spot just below Joohyun’s ear that makes her shiver, and Joohyun still remembers just how much Seulgi likes it when her hands pull against her hair.

 

They’re older now and even though they’re no longer in the same world, in the dark of Seulgi’s apartment, with Joohyun’s arms around her, it’s easy to pretend like they are.

 

--

 

Joohyun gets up some time around six in the morning. Seulgi only knows because she never actually fell asleep.

 

“Not going to say goodbye?”

 

Joohyun’s already fully dressed, hand resting on the doorknob to Seulgi’s room. She keeps her back to Seulgi when she speaks.

 

“If I look at you, I won’t be able to leave.”

 

Seulgi smiles wryly. “So don’t.”

 

Joohyun shakes her head, and Seulgi knows her eyes are closed. Her shoulders rise and fall as she breathes in, and Seulgi imagines running her hand down her back to relieve the tension that’s settled there. Joohyun’s head drops. “You know I can’t.”

 

Seulgi knows so she doesn’t say anything as Joohyun opens the door. Joohyun lingers, though, and for a moment, Seulgi thinks she might look back. She doesn’t. With a sigh, Joohyun leaves, footsteps so light it’s almost like she wasn’t there at all.

 

Seulgi throws an arm over eyes so she doesn’t have to look at all the places Joohyun had been. Joohyun isn’t there, but Seulgi can still feel her everywhere. On her skin, the sheets, even the air has her presence locked in, suffocating Seulgi in painful reminder of who just left. She can’t escape her.

 

I wish you would have stayed.

 

--

 

Seulgi would be lying if she said she didn’t, on some level, regret her decision. She loves singing, she loves dancing, she loves performing, she loves Joohyun, and she still gave all of it up. Her father tells her she’s brave—not very many people would have been able to make that decision like she did—but Seulgi knows the truth. She was weak, and she quit because she didn’t want to keep trying.

 

But when Seulgi feels the paint brush between her fingers, when she watches her hands create something she thought she could only see in her head, Seulgi can’t think of anything else she’d rather do. It’s strange—Seulgi can imagine herself in either life so easily, almost like she’s a character in a videogame, and she’s just playing one version of her life story. Maybe in another, she kept trying.

 

The call breaks her out of her reverie, jolting her so much she leaves a trail of black all the way across her canvas. Seulgi sighs, reaching for her phone and answering blindly.

 

“Hello?”

 

No one responds and Seulgi only worries for a second that it’s the wrong number before she remembers.

 

“Unnie,” she says and when she doesn’t get an answer, continues, “I thought we were past having one sided conversations.”

 

Silence.

 

Two weeks. It’s been two weeks since Seulgi’s last seen her—even longer since the last call—and Seulgi’s so tired of this, of feeling like she’s always waiting, of always wondering ‘what if.’ She’s tired of everything, and even still, Seulgi just wants to hear Joohyun’s voice more than anything.

 

“I was painting,” Seulgi says. She looks at the black streak and clucks her tongue. “You ruined it though.”

 

“How did I-” Joohyun stops, realizing she’d spoken.

 

Seulgi smirks. “It was a really good painting too, but now it will never see the light of day.” She sighs dramatically. “If only someone here hadn’t ruined it.”

 

Seulgi hears Joohyun huff in annoyance before she replies with, “I didn’t do anything.”

 

Seulgi snorts. “How would you know? You can’t see it.”

 

“I-” There’s a pause and then Joohyun sighs. She’s probably frowning, brows scrunched together in the way they do when she’s worried or annoyed. Right now, she’s definitely annoyed. “You’re right. I’m sorry.” Seulgi only has a moment to be surprised with the apology before Joohyun adds, “Even though I didn’t do anything.”

 

Seulgi laughs, and Joohyun follows, the sound soft and warm and everything Seulgi loves about her wrapped into one unique noise.

 

“How have you been?” she asks. She hears shuffling on the other side followed by the muffled sounds of voices, and when Joohyun speaks again, her voice is low.

 

“Sorry, it’s a little hectic here.”

 

Seulgi furrows her brows. “Where are you?”

 

“Practice room,” Joohyun answers, “we’re learning new choreography. It’s hard.”

 

“Maybe you’re just old,” Seulgi quips and Joohyun shushes her. “Do the others…” She gestures with her hands, attempting to pull the words out of thin air. “Do they know who you’re talking to?”

 

Seulgi isn’t exactly a secret. A trainee for five years, she had at least some sort of reputation there, but Sooyoung and Wendy were barely starting when Seulgi left. They don’t know about the history she has with Joohyun.

 

“They asked if I was dating,” Joohyun answers honestly. She laughs dryly. “I think Yerim knows, but she’s too afraid to say anything.”

 

“Would you tell them if they asked?”

 

“If they asked.”

 

“But they won’t ask,” Seulgi concludes, and Joohyun’s silence confirms it.

 

Seulgi counts to ten before Joohyun speaks again.

 

“They say I smile more now,” Joohyun states, and Seulgi holds her breath. “They said they’re thankful because I seem happier.”

 

Seulgi swallows. “Are you?”

 

Joohyun’s answer is immediate.

 

“I am when I talk to you.”

 

--

 

Joohyun’s there when Seulgi gets back from class. Her clothes are dark and she’s wearing a hat that covers most of her face, but even still, she’s hard to ignore amongst the dingy walls of her apartment complex.

 

“Should I be worried about your fans coming to find me?” Seulgi asks, unlocking the door to let them both inside.

 

“No one knows I’m here.”

 

Seulgi snorts. “Someone always knows.”

 

Joohyun makes an indignant noise, but doesn’t say anything. It occurs to Seulgi then that Joohyun is in her apartment. During the day. Alone. Just the two of them.

 

She should say something, she thinks. Or offer her something. That’s what a good host would do, but Seulgi’s not really a host and Joohyun’s not really a stranger. She could kiss her too. She likes kissing Joohyun, and they’ve always been better with things that didn’t require words. Weird, when Seulgi thinks about it, since that’s all they’ve really been exchanging lately.

 

“Your place is nice,” Joohyun says, hovering between the couch and the door—an easy escape if she needs one.

 

Seulgi quirks her lips. “You said that last time.”

 

Joohyun nods. “Right.”

 

She leans her hip against her dining table and watches as Joohyun treads further inside. There isn’t really much to look at, but Joohyun inspects everything like it’s actually interesting. It’s both fascinating and amusing to see Joohyun in her apartment; so out of place but also like she was meant to be there all along. Maybe she was.

 

“Is this…” Joohyun picks up the sketchbook that Seulgi left on the couch earlier that day, fingers curling around the edges carefully. She looks at Seulgi with wide eyes. “Is this...us? The group..you...you-”

 

Seulgi keeps her eyes on the wall behind Joohyun as she answers (she was never good at looking her in the eye). “It’s just a rough sketch,” she answers. “I saw a pictorial you guys did so I just…” she motions towards to the drawing.

 

“You’re really good,” Joohyun tells her, voice so soft Seulgi has to strain to hear her.

 

Her eyes won’t leave the drawing, and maybe it’s the way she’s looking at it with such admiration or the fact that Joohyun’s never really seen any of her art before, but on a whim Seulgi says, “You can have it.” Joohyun looks up at her and Seulgi coughs. “If you want, I mean. It’s nothing special, but you know. If you want.”

 

Joohyun smiles. “Thank you.”

 

She pulls the page out delicately and tucks it into her pocket. Seulgi watches as she flips through the other pages idly, stopping occasionally to stare more intensely at ones that catch her eye.

 

“You made all of these?” she asks, sitting down on the couch with the sketchbook in her lap.

 

Seulgi nods, feeling increasingly more uncomfortable the more Joohyun continues to look through. It reminds her of when her art teachers criticize her work, except even more anxiety inducing—something Seulgi never thought possible—because it’s Joohyun and her opinion has always mattered more than anyone else’s.

 

“There’s so many,” Joohyun whispers in awe.

 

Seulgi shrugs, coming over to sit next to her. “It’s a good way to pass the time.”

 

Joohyun knits her brows together. “Were you always this good?”

 

Seulgi laughs. “No. I was even worse before.” She shrugs again. “But that’s what practice is for.”

 

Joohyun traces the page she’s on lightly—a quick sketch she’d done of the Statue of Liberty a few months earlier—and Seulgi wonders what she’s thinking. Even when she was with Joohyun every day, she was hard to read, but now that she sees Joohyun on TV more than she does in person, it feels like she’s trying to read something in another language entirely.

 

“Your hair is lighter,” Seulgi says suddenly. It’s probably because she spends the majority of her day studying and mixing colors, but when she sees the way Joohyun’s hair shines under the light, she can’t help but notice. She blushes when Joohyun looks at her curiously. “I mean, you dyed it right? It looks lighter.”

 

Joohyun nods slowly, hand reaching up to smooth her hair down unconsciously. “Yeah, we’re coming back soon.” She makes a face. “They want us all to go blonde.”

 

Seulgi raises a brow. It’s a hard color to imagine on Joohyun, but she’s pretty enough to suit anything. “That’s...interesting.”

 

Joohyun laughs. “That’s one way to put it.”

 

She closes the sketchbook then, handing it to Seulgi, and she looks so startlingly serious it has a lump forming in Seulgi’s throat. The last time Seulgi had seen her look this way was right before Seulgi walked out of the practice room and never came back. She’d always hoped she’d never see this look again.

 

“You’re a great artist,” she tells Seulgi. Her stare is heavy and Seulgi wants to look away, but Joohyun won’t let her, hand resting over hers to keep her in place. “I’m happy for you.”

 

She’s never said that since Seulgi left. Until then, it was always, “I’ll support you,” or “I want you to be happy,” and now, with Joohyun’s approval, it feels like a weight’s been lifted. She feels free, and the realization has her cheeks warming and her vision blurring.

 

Her throat feels dry, but Seulgi forces the words out anyway. “I’m happy for you too.”

 

Joohyun smiles, thumbs ghosting across Seulgi’s cheeks before she leans in slowly, and for once, it doesn’t feel like a goodbye.

 

Her kiss lingers long after she leaves.

 

--

 

The call comes around the end of winter, when the cold is beginning to fade and the flowers outside of Seulgi’s apartment complex are starting to bloom again. Joohyun hasn’t called since that day in her apartment, and Seulgi’s stopped hoping she would.

 

“Hello?” she breathes into the phone, tired just from climbing up the stairs.

 

“Are you exercising?”

 

Seulgi only startles for a second before she collects herself.

 

“The elevator is broken,” Seulgi answers, and when she reaches the top and realizes she still has to climb two more sets to her floor, groans. “I hate stairs.”

 

Joohyun laughs. “You’re just out of shape.”

 

“We can’t all be dancers,” Seulgi huffs, debating how long she can stay there before it’s considered loitering.

 

“Says the girl who used to be a dancer,” Joohyun counters. It’s a joke Joohyun wouldn’t have made before, and the fact that she did, makes Seulgi laugh more than is necessary.

 

“Fair enough.”

 

She pushes her way up the rest of the stairs, complaining the entire time while Joohyun listens amusedly.

 

“Are you at your apartment yet?” Joohyun asks eventually, after Seulgi mentions—with disgust—that she has officially broken a sweat.

 

Seulgi hums, climbing the last step. “I’m about to be.”

 

“Tell me when you get there.”

 

The package comes into view just as Joohyun finishes her sentence. There isn’t a postage stamp on it, and Seulgi realizes this must be the reason for the sudden call.

 

“I don’t suppose you’d have any idea what this package in front of my door is, would you?” she as she picks it up, examining it closely while she opens the door.

 

It’s light enough for Seulgi to hold easily with one hand, but the loud clank it makes when she drops it on her table tells her she probably shouldn’t have done that.

 

“Have you opened it?” Joohyun asks instead.

 

Seulgi grunts, battling the heavy tape with scissors. “Trying to.”

 

Joohyun sighs impatiently. “Hurry up.”

 

Seulgi rolls her eyes, peeling the last of the tape off. “Okay, okay. I got it open. What is this anyway? It feels like-”

 

The CD is smooth against her palms. Seulgi almost feels bad for holding it with hands that haven’t been cleaned first. She runs her fingers along the cover slowly.

 

“You used my drawing,” she whispers and she hears Joohyun inhale.

 

“It’s just a mockup,” Joohyun clarifies, voice small. “Do you like it?”

 

Seulgi laughs incredulously, hand reaching up to cover her mouth. It’s her drawing, on a CD—on Joohyun’s CD. It doesn’t even feel real.

 

“Is that a serious question?”

 

“So you like it then?” Joohyun asks hopefully. “We won’t use it without your permission, so if you don’t-”

 

“I like it,” Seulgi cuts in. “More than like, really. I love it. How did you…”

 

“They mentioned hiring an artist to do the cover art. I told them I already knew one.”

 

Seulgi closes her eyes, tilting her head back. A feeling settles in the pit of her stomach, incessant and annoying, and Seulgi knows if she doesn’t get this out now, she never will otherwise.

 

“I love you,” she says softly. “I know saying that for the first time over the phone isn’t the most romantic thing I’ve ever done, but you’re using my art for your album and I just really, really love you.” Joohyun doesn’t say anything, and Seulgi lets out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. “I just wanted you to know. I love you. I’ve always loved you.”

 

The line stays silent and the tears of joy that had been building up begin to burn into something else.

 

Finally, Joohyun breathes, shaky even through the phone.

 

“I love you too,” she says slowly, and Seulgi can easily picture the red that’s probably coloring her cheeks.

 

“So you’ll call again?” Seulgi asks and Joohyun laughs.

 

“Maybe.”

 

It isn’t the dream they imagined, Seulgi thinks, tracing the outline of her drawing along the CD, but it might be just as good.