[2:53:14pm] The Kwonster: And then the big bad wolf blew and blew till her brand new Gucci lipstick flew right off her duck lips and splattered the boss in the eyes so he woke up and realised she was just a fake who was kissing ass to get a raise. And the two little piggies, Taeyeon and Sunny, and their good-looking friend Yuri lived happily ever after on the fifth floor now freed from the tyrant.
[2:58:48pm] Bunnyrabbitz: I don’t want to encourage your stupidity by acknowledging this thing, but how long did it take you to write that whole story?
[2:59:32pm] The Kwonster: Why, I’m glad you asked, smallest piggy. Two wonderful fun-filled hours. It was amazing.
[3:01:26pm] Taengrrr: Ew. You sound like that time you had that sexy dream at work and kept telling us about it for days.
[3:02:26pm] Bunnyrabbitz: You just had to remind her of that again didn’t you. (-_-)
[3:02:57pm] Bunnyrabbitz: And what do you mean I’m the smallest piggy?!
[3:03:25pm] The Kwonster: Trolololol~
[3:03:51pm] Taengrrr: Okay break it up kids, let’s not make a mess here.
[3:04:09pm] Bunnyrabbitz: (=_=) I’ll get you after work, Kwon.
[3:04:20pm] The Kwonster: (^_^)v See ya~ Mwah!
Taeyeon looked up from her laptop screen to smile at her friends. Yuri gave her a cheerful wave before poking her tongue out at Sunny, who met her with a glare before rolling her eyes playfully at Taeyeon. It was just another day at work as far as they were concerned. The tyrant of the fifth floor, the big bad wolf, remained oblivious to their interactions as she stood by the water-cooler against one wall and waited for their boss to walk past so she could pounce on the chance to pour him some water. Taeyeon idly wondered if Yuri had perhaps tampered with the water cooler again, as she was akin to do when she had seen the big bad wolf standing there for two days in a row.
The clock ticked loudly from its place on the wall right beside her. She glanced at it, watched the hands travel for a while, and started to do some stretches to revive her neck and shoulder muscles from the strain of office work.
[3:10:33pm] The Kwonster: I am seriously bored.
[3:11:01pm] Bunnyrabbitz: You could try working for once. What do you even do here?!
[3:11:30pm] The Kwonster: I am in charge of looking good. It’s the most important factor for this business.
[3:11:58pm] Bunnyrabbitz: (-_____-)
[3:12:16pm] The Kwonster: That’s a wide mouth you’ve got there. How unfortunate for your face.
[3:12:40pm] Bunnyrabbitz: YOU ARE SO DEAD YURI. SO DEAD. YOU WILL DIE IN YOUR SLEEP TONIGHT.
[3:13:04pm] Taengrrr: Guuuuyyyssss come oooonnnnn. You are being so boring right now. I need entertainment!
[3:13:16pm] Bunnyrabbitz: (-_-)
[3:13:28pm] The Kwonster: (o_o)
[3:13:42pm] Taengrrr: K Whateverrr. I’m going to that café down the street. Laterzz haterzzz.
Taeyeon was almost out the door when the big bad wolf pounced on her.
“Where are you going, Taeyeon?”
Taeyeon smiled at the woman. She wasn’t as bad as Yuri painted her in her little story. She just spent more time seemingly trying to suck up to the boss instead of typing away at her desk. They hadn’t gotten to know each other much in the two months since Taeyeon started working at the office, but personally she thought the woman was quite nice. Sunny had quietly implied that Yuri and the big bad wolf had something of a past between them. Taeyeon hadn’t asked for further details, but at the sight of the woman in front of her wearing a smile that seemed to appreciate her acknowledgement, Taeyeon wondered if she should find out.
“I’m going to the café down the street. Want to join me?”
Before she could get a reply, a door on the other side of the room opened and a tall man stepped out, his attention buried in the stack of paper in his hands. The big bad wolf was gone in a flash, reaching his side with an offer to help him. Taeyeon watched her, curious, wondering again about her motives. She saw Yuri out of the corner of her eye and observed the expression on her face.
She turned and made her way out of the office, filing a mental note to find out about the history between Yuri and her big bad wolf, Jessica.
In the café, Taeyeon gazed at the menu. There were five variations of herbal tea. Presumably each had some unique power. She rolled her tongue in her mouth as she contemplated the state of the modern world where there were five variations of herbal tea available at a coffee shop and a bunch of things that were supposed to be coffee, but no actual plain coffee. She crossed her arms over her chest. She tilted her head to one side.
“Can I just get a coffee?”
The young girl behind the counter gave her a Look, raising one eyebrow. “Hmm, that might be difficult; this is a coffee shop after all.”
“That’s exactly what I was thinking,” Taeyeon muttered, eyes still on the board above the kid.
“Nothing,” she said blankly. She looked at the girl. “I think you and me have different definitions of coffee.”
The teenager blinked. “Okay,” she replied disinterestedly. “Are you gonna order or what?”
Taeyeon glanced behind her. The café was nearly empty, with only a single person seated by the large glass windows and sipping an herbal concoction while reading a thin book. Taeyeon turned back to the girl.
“Maybe,” she stated cryptically, and flicked her eyes back to the menu. She heard the girl sigh. She smiled a little.
She wondered if she had ever stood there, a teenager with a part-time job, trying to be patient with these customers when all she wanted was some cash to buy a phone or a car or spend with her friends. She wondered if she’d ever needed the money badly, working hard to keep her ailing family afloat. She wondered if she’d even needed a job or if she was filthy rich with old money and snobbish parents.
She wondered if she had even liked coffee, in the Time Before.
Her psychiatrist had worked with her to think of the right name for it. The Time Before. The time before her accident, the time before the physical damage to her body, the time before the mental destruction to her brain, the time before the moment she woke up with a clean, blank, empty, pale white slate for a life and nowhere to go, nowhere to have come from.
“Coffee,” she said firmly, eyes locked forward, “black.”
She listened to the hissing of the coffee machine as her order was prepared, and fiddled with some cash in her hands, idly counting it out. Her fingers traced the coins, feeling the ridges and cold metal. She crinkled the notes. This money was familiar. She knew what it was, knew its purpose and history and everything. She didn’t know if she’d held it before that moment, what she had done with it, nothing.
The coffee was bitter and she savoured it. It gave her a particular sensation in her mouth, down her throat, warm and harsh, a kick she needed to be reminded of the present.
She sat at a small round table, and placed the cup of coffee on its surface. She stuck her hands in the pockets of her pants, and slouched a bit in her seat. She crossed her legs beneath the table. Stared into the small circle of blackness before her.
When they had found Taeyeon, frail and weak, half-falling out of her car from the smashed door, she had only her driver’s license in her pocket. No wallet, only a single car key without a key-ring, absolutely nothing else. The car was clean, not sterile-like but just tidy, and had nothing in it. The further in-depth police investigation had found only traces of Taeyeon in the car, as if no one else had ever been in it. So she had only a pair of jeans, a set of underwear, a plain t-shirt, a thin hoodie, a pair of purple socks and white sneakers, and the thin plastic card with her face and name on it, when she woke up in a white hospital room all alone.
Taeyeon looked up. The woman who stood before her was the same one who had been reading her book by the window a few minutes ago. As their eyes met, the stranger grinned at her.
“You’re Taeyeon, right?”
Taeyeon froze. Her eyes widened. Her lips parted. Her heart felt as if it had been shocked and now stood still as she stared at this woman who knew her name, this stranger who did not see her as a stranger.
“You know me?”
The stranger nodded happily. “Of course! You were in my class last year, that Business Administration course.”
Taeyeon’s heart fell. This was not a person from the Time Before. Taeyeon had taken the Business Administration course so that she could get a job, after waking up in the hospital, after being informed that she had nowhere to go and no life to pick up. She sighed.
“Oh, right,” she said disinterestedly. “Nice to see you again…?”
“Tiffany. Tiffany Hwang.”
They shook hands lightly and Taeyeon gestured to the chair across from her. “Care to join me?”
Taeyeon watched as Tiffany pulled the chair out and sat on it, the way her black hair fell into her face as she moved, the smile that stayed on her face, the shiny surface of her nails. Taeyeon tilted her head. Tiffany was wearing a knee-length floral summer dress, with a cardigan that she carried in one hand along with the book she had been reading and the strap of her handbag and also her phone. As she settled into her seat, Tiffany flashed another smile that made her eyes curve. A lot.
“So how have you been, Taeyeon?”
“I’ve been well. I work at the business consultancy just down the road. How about you? What have you been up to?”
“Oh I’ve been doing an internship at an advertising agency,” Tiffany said dismissively, but from the flustered edge in her voice Taeyeon figured she was too stressed by it to talk about it. “We never really talked much when we were doing that course together, huh? Are you free to catch up now?”
Taeyeon checked the time on her watch. 3:45pm already. She pondered briefly, then shrugged. “Sure, let’s chat.”
Tiffany beamed. She shifted her chair closer, dumping her belongings on the table. “So, where did you grow up?”
“Uh…” Taeyeon began. “Um. Pass. Next question.”
Tiffany’s eyebrows rose in surprise and it made Taeyeon aware of the incredible shape of those eyebrows. “What? You don’t want to tell me?”
Taeyeon bit her bottom lip awkwardly. “Well. It’s not that I don’t want to tell you. Ah, um. I had a car accident a few years ago. I don’t remember anything from before then.”
The silence was palpable. Taeyeon could almost hear the faint static from the teenager’s iPod earphones on the other side of the café. She waited patiently as Tiffany gawked and blinked, acquainted with the reactions to her statement from her experiences with Sunny and Yuri. She took a sip of her coffee.
Taeyeon nodded in acknowledgement. “Oh, indeed. So how about you, where did you grow up?”
“But wait, even if you don’t remember anything, couldn’t someone tell you? Like, your official birth records and that kind of stuff?”
Taeyeon shrugged. “They ran my name and information from my driver’s licence through the system. Not much came up. Just my address, phone number. Useless stuff, as it turned out. Guess my parents never got around to filing my birth certificate or something. If I even had parents.”
Tiffany looked thoughtful. “Huh.”
“Yep. Huh. Are you okay with this? You look kind of weirded out. I usually don’t tell people so suddenly like this.”
“No, I’m fine,” Tiffany said hurriedly, sitting up straight and moving around in her seat. “I was just, I was just surprised. I’ve never talked to someone in your situation before. What’s it like?”
Taeyeon’s thoughts stalled. She watched this woman in front of her, her bright expression looking curious and even somewhat excited. Poor Tiffany, she thought, she meant well, she was interested, amazed, it seemed like she had no idea how much pain there was.
She took another sip of her black coffee and shrugged again. “I don’t know. It’s okay I guess. Do you mind if we don’t talk about it? I don’t have much to say.”
“Oh, sure, of course, I’m sorry. I got a bit carried away.” Tiffany gave a nervous laugh and even blushed slightly, which amused Taeyeon for some reason.
“It’s fine,” she said softly. “Let’s just talk about something else. How about pets, do you have any? I have a little dog.”
Tiffany’s eyes lit up. “Yes! I have a little dog too. He’s so cute! Let me show you.”
They shared pictures of their dogs and laughed together about silly antics their pets got up to. It was almost the end of the working day when Taeyeon noticed the time and she bolted upright.
“I have to get back to work! Tiffany, give me your number, I’ll call you!”
Tiffany grinned widely as she scribbled her phone number in a little notebook and ripped out the page. Taeyeon matched the grin and waved goodbye as she took the paper, and rushed out of the café.
“What are you talking about?”
As Taeyeon reached the office, she paused by the door at the sound of Jessica’s voice. The woman sounded tense and anxious. Taeyeon frowned.
“I just want to know if he’s responded to any of your advances, that’s all.”
Taeyeon frowned even more. It was Yuri, sounding soft and nervous.
“Can you just stop? Stop talking to me, stop looking at me. You’re the one who said it was all a misunderstanding in the first place. In fact, those were your exact words. ‘Sorry, Sica, it was all just a misunderstanding.’ Well, that means we’re different now and I want you to leave me alone.”
“Please, Sica…” Yuri pleaded. She sounded truly desperate. “Please…”
“Shhh, don’t be like that,” Jessica said suddenly, the tension gone from her voice. Taeyeon heard a rustling noise, and imagined that Jessica had wrapped her arms around Yuri comfortingly.
“I know you’re struggling, Yuri. But don’t be like this anymore. Okay? You might cause another misunderstanding between us. Right?”
“…Okay. Just give me a minute.”
There was a long silence. When it had stretched on for so long that Taeyeon was being driven crazy by the now seemingly loud sound of her own breathing, she leaned forward to peek into the office. Standing by the water-cooler was Jessica, who tightly held on to Yuri in the otherwise empty room. They were barely moving. Yuri’s arms were circled around Jessica’s waist, hands resting on her hips, and she moved her fingers in a slow stroking motion.
“I miss you.”
Taeyeon pulled back at the sound of the voice. She wasn’t sure which one had whispered so quietly.
“I miss you too.”
But it didn’t matter anymore which one had said it first. Taeyeon leaned back against the wall by the doorway. She turned her gaze up to the ceiling.
Not for the first time, she wondered if she had ever been in love.
[1:11:20am] Taengrrr: Hey… are you guys still up?
[1:12:09am] Bunnyrabbitz: Well I’m up now. Fell asleep on my laptop. What’s up buddy?
[1:13:12am] Taengrrr: Never mind. Go back to sleep. I’ll see you at work.
[1:13:36am] Bunnyrabbitz: Ok…..
Taeyeon tapped her pen on her desk absently, listening to the clacking sound it made and staring blankly at the wall. The clock on the edge of her vision ticked away to 1pm. The weather was unexpectedly warm, resulting in all the windows in the office being opened and an electric fan settled in one corner of the room. Every now and then, the big bad wolf Jessica would float over to it from her desk and just stand there with her eyes closed, letting the pores of her skin absorb to cool air it produced. Yuri’s head was pointedly stuck in a pile of paperwork, her back towards the fan. Sunny’s fingers tapped away at her keyboard rapidly. Taeyeon sighed.
She shifted in her chair, twirling the pen in her hand for a moment. Then she dropped the pen on the desk. From the top drawer, she pulled a small piece of paper, and shifted herself in front of the phone. After dialling, she listened to the ringing sound it made in her ear, and stared blankly at the wall again.
“Ah, hi, Tiffany? This is Taeyeon…”
“Oh hey Taeyeon! What’s up?”
“Um, nothing, really. I’m just at work. Uh, I was wondering if you’re free later? Maybe we could get some coffee again? Or something a bit less warm.”
“Sure! That would be great. What time would be good for you? I’m pretty flexible this afternoon.”
“Hmm, let’s say just after 5? We can meet at that café again, it’ll take me just a few minutes to get there from here.”
“Awesome! I’ll see you then. Don’t get too bored at work, okay?”
Tiffany laughed at her own words and Taeyeon grinned like a madwoman as the sound trickled into her ear.
“I’ll do my best. See you later.”
Taeyeon spun around in her office chair after she put the phone down. When the swivel was complete, she was met with the stares of her co-workers. She stared back. After a while, Jessica turned back to the fan, Yuri went back to scribbling on her paperwork, and Sunny rolled her chair over in the direction of Taeyeon.
“So, who was that?” she asked sweetly.
“Tiffany. We met again at the café yesterday, she was in the same class as me for my BA course last year.”
Sunny nodded. “Okay, I see. Well. Seems like you two get along well.”
“Yeah, guess so.”
Sunny just kept nodding. Eventually she rolled back to her desk. Within moments, her fingers flew across her keyboard again.
[1:22:08pm] Bunnyrabbitz: Guess what! Taeyeon has a girlfriend~
Yuri looked over at her laptop screen as it flashed a notification.
[1:22:30pm] The Kwonster: Oooh, spill the beans, Taengie! Who’s the girl?
[1:23:08pm] Taengrrr: (-_-) Back off, guys. I barely even know her.
[1:23:29pm] Bunnyrabbitz: But you guys did that course together, right?
[1:24:20pm] Taengrrr: Yeah, but we didn’t even talk to each other. She’s not my girlfriend. (=_=)
[1:25:01pm] The Kwonster: Does she know about your thing?
[1:25:23pm] Bunnyrabbitz: LOL way to make it sound shifty, Yul.
[1:25:44pm] Taengrrr: Haha. Yeah, she knows.
[1:26:12pm] Bunnyrabbitz: And she’ll get to know you even better during your next date!
[1:26:30pm] The Kwonster: So Taeng, is she cute? Or pretty? Or hot? (*_*)
[1:27:03pm] Taengrrr: …
[1:27:08pm] Taengrrr: Perv.
[1:27:15pm] Taengrrr: She’s gorgeous. (>_<)
[1:27:35pm] Bunnyrabbitz: Taeyeon has a crush! TAEYEON LOVES hey what’s her name?
[1:27:40pm] The Kwonster: omg~
[1:27:58pm] Bunnyrabbitz: Tiffany, right? I think that’s what I heard you say.
[1:28:28pm] Bunnyrabbitz: Taeyeon and Tiffany, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G
[1:28:32pm] Bunnyrabbitz: 😉
Taeyeon turned away from her laptop. She shot her friends a look, to which they replied with wide grins. With a playfully exaggerated sigh, she got up and went to the water-cooler. Five o’clock seemed very far away and she somehow had to manage to do some work before then so that she hadn’t just spaced out the whole day.
As she sipped from the polystyrene cup, she observed Jessica. Jessica had never been included in their little chats; in fact, Jessica almost didn’t interact with them at all. She greeted Taeyeon sometimes, with a friendly smile, but Yuri and Sunny seemed to ignore her. Except, Taeyeon thought, remembering what she had seen the day before, the moments they shared in secret. She wondered how many other such moments there had been. Jessica seemed lonely, not obviously but it still showed on the fringes of her appearance, as she stood by the electric fan and idly inspected her nails.
Jessica looked up as Taeyeon wandered over to her, and the surprise was clear on her face for a moment before she switched into a pleased smile.
“Hi, Taeyeon! How are you?”
“I’m good, thanks,” Taeyeon replied, sharing the smile with her. “So, I was thinking of having a bit of a lunch thing at my house this weekend, a little gathering of people from the office, you know. Are you free on Saturday?”
A brief glance from Jessica flickered in the direction of someone behind Taeyeon, and she knew Yuri had overheard them and sent the same glance in their direction. Jessica shifted awkwardly and cleared her throat as she looked at the floor. She gracefully tucked some of her hair behind one ear before replying.
“Ah, I’m not sure, I might be busy on Saturday, sorry Taeyeon. Well, I need to get back to work. See you around!”
Taeyeon sighed, watching as Jessica practically flew away. Despite using her work as an excuse, she didn’t even go to her desk, making a beeline for the bathrooms instead. Yuri seemed oblivious, but the way her pen hovered shakily over a blank piece of paper suggested otherwise, and Taeyeon took a moment to ponder a few different tactics to deal with her friend before deciding to leave it for another day.
After all, it wasn’t really her business anyway. But something in Taeyeon lamented the way Yuri and Jessica were treating each other and she wanted to see them reconcile. She knew exactly what this something in her was, and thought again about the question she had asked herself all night.
When the accident had occurred, no one came looking for her. No one wondered where she was – or so she thought. Surely if anyone had been missing her, they would search for her, and there had been no sign of anyone like that. As far as the world was concerned, Taeyeon was as much a stranger to them as they were to her, and that fact made her feel some phantom loneliness from the Time Before. No one had loved her at all, it seemed. So she wondered again if she had ever felt love for any of the blank-faced strangers in the world she was now re-discovering.
“Hey, you okay?”
Taeyeon looked up and met the concerned eyes of Sunny, who stood before her. Her good friend Sunny, who had been welcoming and friendly and even without constantly mentioning Taeyeon’s situation she was able to give her some sense of comfort. Taeyeon turned away for a moment to throw her empty cup into the rubbish bin before giving Sunny a small smile.
“I’m just tired.”
“Well, that’s bound to happen when you stay up until one in the morning and send random messages to your friends. What’s up with that, by the way?”
Taeyeon shrugged. “Nothing. Just couldn’t sleep. Hey, are you free on Saturday? We should all have lunch at my house.”
Sunny chose to say nothing about the deliberate change of subject, and nodded. “Sure, that would be great. I saw you trying to invite Jessica…”
“Yeah, yeah, let’s not talk about that right now,” Taeyeon said, waving a hand dismissively. “There’s no hurry. I’ll finish sorting out the whole thing some other time. Right now, I need to do some work before they realise all I ever do here is play online games and mess around with you two.”
The working day slowly ticked to a close, and Taeyeon spotted the time on the clock as she did one last stretch. Snapping into action, she closed all the applications on her laptop, shut it down, shoved it into its bag and tidied up her desk. Sunny and Yuri noticed this and shared a glance. They mirrored each other’s impish grins. Then they made their move.
“Going somewhere, Taeyeon?”
“In a hurry there, I see. Something you’re eager to do – or someone?”
“Ooh, nice one Sunny, good wordplay.”
“Thanks, I’ve been working on that one all day.”
They high-fived and Taeyeon rolled her eyes. She continued packing up, collecting all her things, pointedly ignoring the two people who stood by her desk with wide smiles and a mischievous glint in their eyes. Taeyeon slipped the laptop bag’s strap over her shoulder and made her way to the door, followed by her friends.
“Oh, let me get the door for you Taeyeon, wouldn’t want you to sprain yourself before your big date!”
“Here, I’ll take care of your laptop for you, Taeng. Otherwise it might be in your way while you’re flirting with that girl, and that would totally kill the mood!”
“Now remember the ABC’s of dating – Always Be Cute – I think you should be able to handle that, just change your face completely and you’ll be halfway there –”
Taeyeon rolled her eyes again when they reached the elevator, but a smile tugged at her mouth and she watched her friends as they laughed.
“Thanks, guys,” she said with only a little sarcasm, stepping into the elevator. “It’s not even a date. I’ll talk to you later, okay? And I mean a stern lecture.”
She gave them a stern look to accompany the promise, and the doors closed. The elevator began to move. Taeyeon tilted her head up to watch the numbers above, letting the smile that had been pushing at her lips finally take over. Truthfully, she thought, even if no one had loved her in the Time Before, she was grateful to have Sunny and Yuri in the present.
Despite having never really discussed relationships or even sexual preferences, her friends had gone directly into joking around with her as if she didn’t have the cloud of a hidden past hovering over her head at every moment of every day. Was she gay? She had no idea. But judging by the lack of lovers who were with her now, she decided that the past made little impact. As for her present, and her future, she would just go with the flow.
Her thoughts turned to Tiffany, whom she was about to meet again, and she wondered what they would talk about. It wasn’t a real date, no matter how easily her friends teased her, because Taeyeon didn’t know if the interest she had in Tiffany was romantic or just something else she was not familiar with. And she had no idea what Tiffany thought of her beyond the natural curiousity about her condition.
“Oh well,” she muttered to herself. “Live and learn.”
Tiffany was already there, idly toying with a little packet of sugar, when Taeyeon arrived. They smiled awkwardly at each other and Taeyeon took her time to get settled at the table. There was a brief silence as they both waited for the other one to think of something to say.
“Um, hello,” Taeyeon said suddenly. She laughed. “I just realised I haven’t even said hello. Well, hi, how are you?”
Tiffany grinned. “We’re so silly… I’m good, Taeyeon, and you?”
“Yeah, I’m good,” Taeyeon nodded.
They smiled at each other, a little less awkward, but the silence soon rested over them again. Taeyeon cleared her throat and shifted in her seat.
“So, what would you like to drink?” Taeyeon ventured. “Coffee, or tea, or… it’s a bit hot today, something iced maybe?”
Tiffany just watched her for a moment, smiling happily. Then she leaned forward conspiratorially.
“Well, there’s something I was going to suggest, I hope you’re up for it…”
As it turned out, Tiffany had a friend of a friend who was somehow involved in a popular singer’s latest album recording, and Tiffany had been very excited at the offer of a visit to the recording studio where it was all happening. Taeyeon followed her warily into the studio, completely out of her element in the new environment, and watched as Tiffany greeted every person they encountered like a long lost friend. The way these people reacted to her sparkling smile was akin to awe, and Taeyeon was impressed.
“My friends couldn’t be here today, but we have a free pass to look around. Wanna go check out the main recording booth?”
And just like that, Taeyeon was swept up in Tiffany’s excitement, walking through the studio as if she was in Narnia and twiddling with just about everything until she almost broke it.
Tiffany stepped up to the microphone in the booth, beaming like a small child on Christmas morning in front of the Christmas tree.
“Don’t you think it’s wonderful, Taeyeon?”
The way Tiffany gazed at the microphone made it seem as if it was alight, glowing with an inner fire, perhaps of dreams that lay in her heart and once tried to push higher. She reached out and traced the object, treating it like a delicate flower, completely absorbed in all its connotations.
Taeyeon blinked. “Yeah…”
It was amazing how a single moment in someone’s life could say so much about them. From this sight of Tiffany and the microphone, Taeyeon felt as if she was seeing the deep, inner workings of Tiffany’s heart and soul. Tiffany had wanted to be a singer. It was clear in her gaze, the light in her eyes, the way she stood, the excited blush on her cheeks – it made sense that she had seemed almost dismissive and avoidant of talking about her current job that was so far from the dream she had harboured. It made Taeyeon almost painfully curious; was Tiffany not the kind of person who would fight to fulfil her greatest desires? She wondered what could have happened to keep Tiffany chained to the spot where she was now instead of reaching higher to where her heart was waiting for her.
“What do you think you wanted to be when you were a kid, Taeyeon?”
Taeyeon blinked again. “What?”
Tiffany turned to face her. Something was different about her expression; her smile was tinged with a heavy sadness, her previously glittering eyes now seemed more like they were glistening with trapped tears.
“When you were little, do you think you wanted to work in a business consultancy?” Her voice was frail. She was trying to reach the same bright heights she usually did her with voice, but some weakness kept her small.
Taeyeon shrugged. “I don’t know. I can’t even guess.”
Tiffany nodded absently, looking at the ground beneath their feet. “Lucky you.”
Taeyeon tilted her head to one side. She opened her mouth to respond, hesitated and let out a sigh instead. With deliberate steps, she moved closer to Tiffany and her hand came to rest on Tiffany’s shoulder where she gave a light squeeze.
Their eyes met. Taeyeon pointed at the microphone.
Tiffany shook her head immediately, gave a nervous laugh, and stepped back. “No, I couldn’t possibly –”
“Singing,” interrupted Taeyeon, “is defined as the act of producing music using the voice. You have a voice, therefore you can sing. I don’t care if you think you’re bad or whatever, singing is singing. And I can tell that you want to sing, even if you think that’s not what you want or that you can’t. So, sing.”
Tiffany watched Taeyeon for a long time. Then she looked away again as a blush flourished on her cheeks, and she took a shaky breath.
“Okay,” she whispered. Her eyes flicked to the microphone. “But don’t laugh or anything, okay?”
Taeyeon smiled warmly. “Okay.”
Tiffany locked her gaze onto the microphone and took long, slow breaths for a while. She gulped nervously. Then, after a quick shake of her head, she started to sing.
“You had my heart, and we’ll never be worlds apart
Maybe in magazines, but you’ll still be my star
Baby ’cause in the dark, you can’t see shiny cars
And that’s when you need me there
With you, I’ll always share
Because when the sun shines, we’ll shine together
Told you I’ll be here forever
Said I’ll always be your friend
Took an oath, I’ma stick it out to the end
Now that it’s raining more than ever
Know that we’ll still have each other
You can stand under my umbrella
You can stand under my umbrella…”
Taeyeon’s jaw dropped and she gaped. Tiffany had let her voice fade out into silence, and she bit her bottom lip as she stared at the microphone with half-lidded eyes. After a moment, she turned her head.
“Um, how was it?” she asked quietly.
Taeyeon waved her hands in the air frantically. “Keep going!”
Tiffany blinked in surprise, and at last a genuine, happy smile lit up her face once again. She giggled. “Really?”
Taeyeon nodded rapidly. “Really, really. Go on!”
Tiffany bit her bottom lip again, looking at Taeyeon with the brightest eyes she had shown yet. It seemed like she wanted so say something, but instead she turned back to the microphone and did as Taeyeon requested of her.
“These fancy things will never come in between
You’re part of my entity, here for infinity
When the war has took its part
When the world has dealt its cards
If the hand is hard, together we’ll mend your heart
Because when the sun shines, we’ll shine together
Told you I’ll be here forever
Said I’ll always be your friend
Took an oath, I’ma stick it out to the end
Now that it’s raining more than ever
Know that we’ll still have each other
You can stand under my –”
Tiffany broke off. She took a shaky breath, swallowed anxiously, and looked at Taeyeon worriedly.
“Are you sure I sound okay? You’re not just being nice, right?”
Taeyeon laughed briefly. “Tiffany, you’re amazing. I love your voice. And I may not have known you for long, but it seems to me that when you sing, you are at your most beautiful. You make it seem as if you are living in heaven with every sound you make.”
Tiffany stared at her. It didn’t take long for Taeyeon to feel the growing awkwardness, and she coughed. It was the first time (that she could remember) that she had spoken to anyone like that.
“You can run into my arms
It’s okay, don’t be alarmed, come in to me
There’s no distance in between our love
So go on and let the rain pour
I’ll be all you need and more…”
Tiffany turned to her with tears in her eyes. “Thank you, Taeyeon.”
She was promptly wrapped up into a tight, almost ferocious hug which she managed to kind of reciprocate after letting out a distressed squeak.
“Thank you,” Tiffany repeated in a breathless whisper. “It’s been so long since I’ve felt so strong singing in front of someone else. It’s been a long time since I’ve sung in front of anyone, actually. So I want to thank you for helping me open my wings again.”
Taeyeon smiled and closed her eyes. She felt warmth in the very core of her heart, hearing such things from Tiffany. For once, she did not wonder if she’d felt this way before or if she’d heard these words in her previous life; instead, she just held on to Tiffany and smiled.
[4:57:02pm] Taengrrr: Hey, do you guys mind if Tiffany joins us on Saturday?
[4:58:06pm] Bunnyrabbitz: (0_0) Introducing her to your friends already?! Your 2nd date was only 2 days ago!
[4:58:50pm] Taengrrr: It wasn’t a date, and she isn’t my girlfriend…
[4:59:30pm] Bunnyrabbitz: Sure, sure, whatever. But still, it’s quite early isn’t it…? You just properly met her a few days ago…
[5:00:30pm] Taengrrr: We’ve been talking quite a lot since we last met. I think we’re pretty close now. So, you wanna meet her on Saturday?
[5:01:01pm] Bunnyrabbitz: Definitely!
[5:01:20pm] Taengrrr: Yuri?
Yuri was sitting at her desk, staring out the window. She clearly wasn’t paying attention to anything much at all. Her usual pile of paperwork rested peacefully on one side of the desk, accompanied by neatly organised pens and pencils. Her laptop lay closed and sleeping on the other edge.
“It’s a pretty simple tale, really.”
Taeyeon looked up as Sunny perched herself on the edge of her desk, crossed her arms and eyed Yuri.
“She and Jessica got along well,” Sunny continued. “Very well, actually. They just clicked right away, natural spark and all that. And things went great. They were madly in love and everything was wonderful.”
Sunny hesitated. She turned to look at Taeyeon with an indecipherable expression.
“Until Yuri had a bit of a breakdown. She freaked out about what her parents would do if they found out, what would happen to her and Jessica in the future, what all of this meant about who she was – you know, was she wearing the ‘gay’ label now. It built up for a couple of weeks and then she just snapped. Everything changed. Suddenly, she and Jessica weren’t in a relationship, the whole thing was just a ‘misunderstanding’ and through Yuri’s denial-tinted eyes, everything was fine. Needless to say, Jessica was hurt. Badly.”
Taeyeon gulped. She glanced over at Yuri, who was still spaced out, and took a peek at Jessica in the far, far corner of the room.
“Jessica had already gone through the whole identity crisis thing, you see,” Sunny said softly. “So she had come to terms with herself before she even met Yuri. And, I guess, her experience made her a little more understanding of Yuri’s dilemma. Yuri’s reaction was extreme, and I don’t think Jessica will ever really recover from that, but she doesn’t hate Yuri for it. She could never hate Yuri.”
Taeyeon nodded slowly. “And now? I suppose you’ve noticed how Yuri’s been acting… think she’s regretting it?”
“I think she certainly wishes she had never lost Jessica.”
They sat together in silence for a moment. Out of the corner of her eye, Taeyeon could see Jessica moving every now and then as she worked away in her little area. Yuri had stopped staring outside, and half-heartedly patted her pile of paperwork. There were dark rings beneath her eyes, and she moved sluggishly, her mind clearly somewhere else no matter how hard she tried to focus on her work.
“For my part, I try to stay out of it,” Sunny concluded. “Yuri can get pretty jealous sometimes, and Jessica plays it up with the boss out of some desire to push the feelings out of Yuri. I think she’d like to get her Yuri to come back, but by getting Yuri to open her eyes.”
Taeyeon sighed. “Ah, my poor heart-broken friends. I must force them both to come on Saturday so that they can stop being so sad and foolish already.”
Sunny smirked. “Oh, I see. Now that you’re so happy with your girl, you want to spread the joy, right? This always happens when someone gets in a relationship.”
“You really need to find something new to tease me about, Sunny. I’m not sure how many more times I can say ‘Tiffany is not my girlfriend’ before my tongue falls out.”
“Well, I wasn’t going to mention your haircut, but if it’s what you really want -”
“What?! What’s wrong with my haircut?”
Sunny winked and abruptly returned to her desk, leaving Taeyeon to grumble under her breath about her annoying little friend. But she was soon grinning again.
She was starting to feel like the new life she was building for herself wasn’t too bad at all.