edit: I am putting the story in this post for those who prefer it over PDFs. If you prefer to go straight to the PDF, you can find it here.
Some disclaimers – There are a few Korean words & sentences used here, written in 한글 so if you don’t know any Korean: they’re pretty basic so Google translate is your new best friend (for once), and I would totally recommend at least learning how to read 한글 because personally I think it’s a pretty darn cool system.
Also, this story contains mature content (sex).
Taeyeon spends a lot of her time just standing by the riverbank, completely still, and watching as the water makes its way past her. She can hear the birds singing their days away. She can feel the breeze plucking at her hair, brushing her cheeks. She can stand on the hard, dry ground beneath her feet and take a deep breath. She can watch as life passes her by.
The first time she had felt this empty was in the summer, a few years ago, in the middle of the day. She had been sitting in her house, her eyes tracking the movements of the figures on the TV screen. Her ears had been met with the music and someone else’s voice. Her mind had been filled with the song and hopelessness of regret.
Another life passed her by.
Taeyeon doesn’t like to talk much. Sometimes she thinks maybe she’s afraid of what she will say. She doesn’t want to say things that are misunderstood, or just not expressive enough. She wants words to count, and to really convey what she’s feeling. She uses words together with her emotions. She doesn’t like lies.
A lot of people don’t understand Taeyeon at all. She has maybe three close friends at any given time throughout her life, and feels that too many more friends will make it harder for her to convey the increased emotions. So she stands by the river, alone. She thinks about things.
She thinks about that time a few years ago when she had been two steps away from the doors to the building where a competition was being held. She thinks about how she stood there, shaking, with clammy hands and jelly for muscles, staring at the door handle as if it were on fire. There were sounds from the other side, the voices of young girls just like her, eagerly exposing their hearts for the world. She had been frozen there and listened as song after song was sung and hearts bled.
Taeyeon thinks about the exact moment when she had turned around and started running. She had gone away from the building, around the corner, down streets and roads and paths through parks, running and running, almost falling into the river. That day, she had collapsed onto her knees by the riverbank, and she had seen her own tears in the body of water before her.
Taeyeon sighs. She zips up her jacket. She stuffs her hands in her pockets. Futile, pointless actions, not intended to stave off the cold but rather to bring her back to the present. She thinks now about the books and papers waiting impatiently for her on her desk at home. She thinks about her never-ending schedule of tests, exams, tasks to be completed for her academic future. She gazes at the moving water, and relishes the feeling of standing still.
Eventually, with the memory of running still ghosting in her mind, she turns and slowly makes her way home.
It’s been years since Taeyeon sang. The moment she ran from her dream, she locked her voice away deep in the depths of her heart and only let it out for a few words every now and then. After all, she thinks to herself every time she drags herself home, what good could singing do for her now?
The pen feels heavy in her hand as she leans on her desk. Her eyes read the words on the paper; she knows it’s asking her something but does she care? No, she decides, but then again there’s not a lot she does care about anymore, so she shakes her head, reads the question again, and mechanically begins to write a response.
Taeyeon goes to sleep in the early hours of the morning, time already pushing against the hour when she will wake up and go to school. As soon as her head rests on the pillow, she closes her eyes tightly and disappears into the darkness.
Then there comes the moment every morning when Taeyeon lies on her back and stares at the ceiling. She tries to make herself get up and go on. She tries and tries and tries. After a while she lets a few tears escape, and in return her body agrees to move.
An envelope from an American university is lying on her desk, still unopened even days after its arrival. Taeyeon runs her fingers over it in the early morning light. It’s all she can do to strive for academic achievement. She knows most of her classmates are attempting to get into Korea’s top-level universities, but an American university would be considered almost better by her family. And that is the main driving factor for Taeyeon; she does what is best for her family, since she couldn’t do anything for herself.
The envelope is open and the letter lies in her hands. She reads it slowly and deliberately to make sure her English skills don’t fail her. She takes a moment to reread a few words – accepted, arrival, accommodation, fall term – and even checks some of them in her dictionary to be absolutely sure of their meaning.
The paper once again lying on her desk, Taeyeon sits down on the chair and gazes down at the dictionary still in her hands.
She flips through the pages absently, and stops in the section marked H. Her fingers trace the letters, and she repeats one word over and over in her head in the silence surrounding her.
Tiffany Hwang is the only girl in the knock-off 60’s diner, and it doesn’t bother her one bit. There are three guys at her table, laughing along with her and buying her sodas. A couple of other guys in the place have glanced in her direction and smiled in response to her smile. She already knows she’s not the least bit “interested” in any of them, and she knows they know that too deep down, but they’re nice guys and she’s having a good time so this time she doesn’t worry about sending the wrong signals.
“So, you looking forward to starting at USC in the fall, Tiffany?” one of them asks in a friendly manner.
She grins. “Totally! I can’t wait. It’s going to be so much fun!”
One of the other guys lets out a playful chuckle. “Sure, Tiffany. Law is so much fun.”
She slaps him lightly on the arm and they all laugh together – she ignores the jealous glances from some of the other guys. “Well, sorry for being such a nerd, then,” she jokes.
Tiffany’s phone beeps and she checks the message. Of course it’s from her father, asking if she will be home in time for dinner. She glances at the time and types a quick reply for him. Then she turns her irresistible eye-smile on her companions and begins to stand up.
“Sorry guys, I’ll be heading home now,” she says in her normal friendly tone and the boys complain half-heartedly but let her go – because after all they’re willing to do anything for her.
Tiffany sighs contentedly once she’s alone outside. She walks over to her little car, her heels clacking on the sidewalk. She daydreams about starting her Law degree at the University of Southern California in a few months, feeling an undeniable excitement at finally getting closer to one of her dreams.
Dreams, she thinks to herself as she drives home, dreams are silly sometimes. She used to want to be a singer – she scoffs – but that never happened. She fiddles with the stereo of her car, connects it to her portable music player, and plays a Korean pop song for the sake of nostalgia. Her attachment to her Korean heritage isn’t very strong, but she reminisces about that year when she got hooked on Korean pop music like the song she listens to now. Her father had recently suggested going to South Korea on a family vacation, and she wonders if it would be nice there.
“Do you know if there’s a Korean club at USC?” her father asks as they eat together at the dining table.
Tiffany shrugs. “I don’t know. Why, do you want to join?”
Her father gives her a playful glare. “Ha, ha. You sure are a funny kid. No, I was thinking it might be nice for you to join. You could make some friends.”
“I don’t think making friends will be a problem, Dad, you know me.”
“Yeah, yeah – my daughter, the queen of socialising.” He rolls his eyes and gives her a grin. “Still, it would be an easy way to form connections. If there isn’t one, maybe you should create one? There’s bound to be Koreans there. And hey, maybe it’ll look good on your record, huh?” He winks.
Tiffany smiles at her father’s antics. “Okay, Dad. I’ll see.”
She does see, in her first week at USC, that there’s a well-established club for international Korean students and is well aware that she doesn’t fit into such a club. Her eyes scan over the rest of the list of student organisations and she wonders how many Korean-Americans there are just like her.
“Ah, excuse me?”
Tiffany is surprised by the heavily-accented voice from her left. A petite Asian girl, presumably the same age as her since it’s unlikely that anyone younger would be around, blinks at her with an awkward smile.
“Do you know,” the girl says, “where I can find the leader of the Korean International Student Association, please?”
Tiffany really enjoys listening to the girl’s accent, and feels strangely fascinated by the turn of her words and the way the letters move in her mouth. The girl blinks at her again.
“Oh,” Tiffany says. “No, I don’t know, sorry… I walked past the Student Union building earlier, in that direction?” She points to her right. “Maybe there’s someone there who will know.”
The girl looks in that direction before giving Tiffany another smile and a polite bow. “Thank you very much. Have a nice day.”
And she’s gone, into the crowd of other students milling around. Tiffany watches her go, happily thinking about the way the girl talked. She wanders into the Student Union building later, looking for someone with some kind of informational authority whom she can talk to about starting a club, and she sees the girl again, talking in Korean with a tall young man who is probably the person she was looking for earlier.
Tiffany’s Korean skills are not good at all, but she finds herself hovering in their direction as she looks around the room, picking up a few words of the girl’s voice.
“I didn’t know this place would be like this,” the girl says quietly, sounding almost sad. “Three strangers have already asked me out on a date without even knowing my name.”
“It’s okay, Taeyeon,” the young man answers, looking almost amused and placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Americans are like that. Come; let’s have lunch.”
He turns Taeyeon in the direction of the front door but stops as he sees Tiffany nearby. A flash of recognition passes over his features and she realises he’s one of the guys from the diner.
“Tiffany!” he calls out in a friendly tone. “How nice to see you. What’s up with you?”
“Oh, hi,” she replies, whipping out an eye-smile in lieu of his name. “I was just looking for someone. How have you been?”
“Good, good,” he says. “This is Taeyeon, one of our international students from Korea. You two are the same age.”
Taeyeon gives her the same awkward little smile and another polite bow. “Hello.”
“Hi, Taeyeon,” she says kindly, and holds out her hand. “I’m Tiffany Hwang.”
Taeyeon looks at her hand and takes it, completing the hand-shake with a little curve of her lips. “Hwang?” she asks, looking up at Tiffany’s face. “Are you Korean too?”
Tiffany nods slightly. “Yeah. Well, Korean-American. I grew up here in the States.”
The young man chuckles and she’s reminded of his presence. “Poor Tiffany barely even speaks Korean anymore, her pronunciation is quite atrocious.”
Tiffany blushes but smiles good-humouredly. “Sad but true. So what are you studying here, Taeyeon?”
Tiffany grins, not at all because of the boring subject matter of Taeyeon’s degree, but rather because of the way Taeyeon pronounces the words. Taeyeon seems taken aback by her bright response and looks away awkwardly.
“Taeyeon’s parents own an optical store back in Korea,” the young man says conversationally, and Tiffany is once again reminded of his presence. “They’re quite proud of their daughter’s intention to take care of the business with her older brother so that they can retire early.”
Taeyeon seems annoyed with this random splurging of information about her life, but she lets it pass. Tiffany is strangely drawn towards the girl, and finds words tumbling out of her mouth without deciding first.
“Are you guys doing anything right now? Come have lunch with me!”
The young man is, of course, immediately pleased by the offer, and Taeyeon politely follows along as they set off to find a place to eat.
Tiffany is convinced she will show Taeyeon some true-blue American food, which makes Taeyeon look dubious but complacent, and they’re a few steps away from a great burger place when a ringtone plays.
With a shocked look, the young man is called away to the vet. His dog is in a critical condition and he waves goodbye to them as he jogs back to his car.
“You’ll have fun with Tiffany!” he shouts to Taeyeon and disappears.
Taeyeon blinks at Tiffany, who gives her a warm smile, and they carry on. Tiffany talks incessantly about America, filling Taeyeon with so much information about the people, places, food, movies, music, books and TV shows that she is met with a blank stare most of the time. It doesn’t seem to her that Taeyeon has bad English skills, so she attributes the reaction to the massive influx of new information, and decides to slow down.
“So, what made you choose to come to America, Taeyeon?” Tiffany asks after she orders some classic American burgers for them both.
“Hmm, America,” hums Taeyeon, fiddling with the condiment bottles laid out on the table. “Well, it seems nice here. And, the university is good. Right? It’s good, right?”
Tiffany nods happily. “Yeah, I think it’s pretty good. You’ll like it here, Taeyeon. What’s it like in Korea?”
Taeyeon looks thoughtful. “You’ve never been there?”
“Not yet. My father suggested we go there sometime soon. Which part of Korea are you from? Is it a nice place?”
And so Taeyeon talks about her hometown and various Korean tourist attractions while Tiffany absorbs the sound of her accent and gazes at her.
“America is different,” Taeyeon remarks quietly, her eyes on the table as she progresses to fiddling with her fingers. “Not the same as Korea.”
“Is this your first time away from home?”
The waitress arrives with their burgers and Taeyeon eyes the food with some mild trepidation.
“I have had some American food before, in Korea,” she says, “but I am still not used to it, at all.”
Tiffany giggles. “Eat up, Taeyeon!”
Tiffany talks more about growing up in America as they eat, telling Taeyeon all about the nearby beaches and what she does for fun with her friends. Taeyeon blinks at her again.
“How much free time do you have, Tiffany?”
It’s the first time Taeyeon has said her name, and she enjoys hearing it very much. By the time she’s stopped chewing enough to answer, she’s also had a chance to remember what the question was.
“I don’t know, I never really think much about it,” she answers contemplatively. “I guess I have enough. Why, does it sound like I have endless free time?”
Taeyeon shakes her head firmly. “No, not that. I am just used to continuous study. What are you studying at university?”
“Law,” she says, wiping her fingers on a napkin as she finishes her food. “My parents wanted me to do Business, like you, but I’d much rather do Law.”
Taeyeon nods but stays quiet. As they have both finished their food, Tiffany asks for the bill and they split the cost.
“How much did you already know about America before you came here?” Tiffany asks curiously as Taeyeon holds the door open for her.
Taeyeon thinks for a moment. “I knew they speak English here. And I read some American books in school for study. But they are quite old books. I saw the film ‘Legally Blonde’ recently.” At this, Taeyeon gives Tiffany an almost playful smile. “You remind me of the girl in that film.”
Tiffany blushes and laughs. “I’ve heard that a lot, ever since I started thinking of studying Law.”
Suddenly Taeyeon is staring at her and Tiffany doesn’t know why so she keeps her own eyes in the direction they’re walking. When she glances at Taeyeon again, the girl is looking around her with interest as if she had not been staring.
“If you ever need any help, Taeyeon,” Tiffany says, “or you just want to hang out again, I’ll be here for you. Okay?”
Taeyeon blinks at her and smiles. “Thank you, Tiffany.”
Tiffany finds out that Taeyeon is staying in the dorms and laments about how she is trying to convince her father to let her stay in the dorms too. She makes Taeyeon pinky promise to tell her all about dorm life so she can use the information to sway her father, and they say goodbye with happy smiles as they part ways.
They don’t have a lot of time for each other but when they can, they get together and talk about America and Korea as they try different foods. Tiffany loves talking, and she loves how Taeyeon listens to her talk and then she talks, which gives Tiffany the much-enjoyed opportunity to listen to how Taeyeon talks.
She encourages Taeyeon to come with her to the nearest beach after their classes have finished for the day. They’ve become closer over the course of the two months since they met, so Taeyeon’s awkward little smile is less awkward around Tiffany, and the tension in her shoulders that Tiffany notices sometimes is reduced when they laugh together.
Tiffany locks the car with her hand that isn’t clutching her towel, sunscreen and sunglasses. Taeyeon stretches her petite frame after the car ride, even though it wasn’t very long, and gazes out at the ocean right by them. Tiffany smiles at the sight of Taeyeon breathing in the fresh air with deliberation. She steps over to her as she pockets her car keys, and brushes her arm along Taeyeon’s forearm to take a loose hold of her hand.
Skinship is a common thing in Korea, Tiffany knows that, so she doesn’t think twice before doing something like this and Taeyeon doesn’t act weirdly in response. A couple of times Taeyeon has nonchalantly wrapped her arm around Tiffany’s lower back or rested her hand on her knee as they talked, and once Taeyeon rested her head on Tiffany’s shoulder – though she’s sure the feeling she got of Taeyeon inhaling her scent was probably just her imagination.
Taeyeon follows Tiffany’s eager tug and they make their way down to the sand and sea. They’ve slipped off their shoes already, supporting each other over the dunes and laughing already for no apparent reason.
“Sandcastle?” is the first suggestion from Taeyeon. She’s giving Tiffany a grin with a playful glint in her eyes, which makes Tiffany giggle and eye-smile without realising.
Taeyeon stares at her again. This has only happened a few times since that day when they met, and Tiffany has just gotten used to it. She thinks maybe one day she’ll ask Taeyeon why she stares at her sometimes, but she’s in no hurry to find the answer.
“Sure, let’s start with a sandcastle,” Tiffany says, diverting Taeyeon’s attention to the sand beneath their toes immediately.
“I hear it’s easier with buckets,” says Taeyeon conversationally, crouching down and running her fingers through the sand. “And those small shovels.”
Tiffany joins her, letting her towel and sunscreen land on the beach and putting her sunglasses on her head, not over her eyes.
“It should be okay if we try well. The important thing is water!”
Taeyeon glances over shoulder at the great body of salt water, and back at the sand in front of them. “Should we go close, or bring water here?”
In the end, their sandcastle looks more like a lump of damp sand, but they’re quite pleased with it nonetheless, after the effort of positioning it at a perfect distance so that they could carry water from the sea to their castle with minimal spillage and maximum productivity.
It’s getting close to sunset as they lie on their backs on Tiffany’s towel and gaze up at the sky.
“How about this… 첫사랑니? Do you know it?”
Tiffany frowns. “Sarang-ni? Isn’t that your wisdom tooth or something?”
Taeyeon nods in affirmation. “It is the first wisdom tooth, but is also used to mean first love.”
Tiffany turns her head to face Taeyeon. “Huh? How does that work?”
“It is said that the pain of the wisdom tooth is like the pain of first love,” Taeyeon replies, turning her head to face Tiffany too.
“Hmm,” Tiffany hums thoughtfully, looking back up at the sky.
Taeyeon’s eyes stay on her face, tracing her features in side profile. Tiffany’s hand reaches over and takes Taeyeon’s, lacing their fingers together, and she closes her eyes at the feeling of their contact. They’ve recently started discussing the Korean language every now and then, after the first few times that Taeyeon found it hard to express herself satisfactorily through English.
“Do you know 한? It is a concept, a kind of feeling.”
“Yes. It is like… a deep, deep sadness. Resentment. Pain. Despair. Overwhelming. Eternal.”
Taeyeon shifts her body, moving closer to press against Tiffany, laying an arm over Tiffany’s waist, resting a cheek on her shoulder.
“It’s not something that can be overcome easily,” Taeyeon murmurs. “Not through revenge. There is no definite outlet for the feeling.”
Tiffany opens her eyes. She moves a hand to gently hold on to Taeyeon’s arm across her waist. She softly strokes Taeyeon’s skin with her thumb.
But Taeyeon doesn’t say more. Tiffany wants to know what happened to the girl that would bring her this feeling, but she won’t ask. Taeyeon shifts her body again, cuddling closer to Tiffany. She closes her eyes and once again Tiffany gets that feeling that Taeyeon is inhaling her scent – and once again she’s sure it must be her imagination.
The sun is getting closer to the horizon.
“Do you have a Korean name?” Taeyeon asks quietly as they lie together.
Tiffany laughs briefly. “Yes but please don’t use it.”
Taeyeon smiles and opens her eyes to look at Tiffany. “What is it?”
Tiffany sighs. “Okay… it’s… Miyoung.”
Taeyeon hums contentedly. “Miyoung. Eternal. Beautiful.”
Tiffany knows Taeyeon is staring at her again, and she knows her heart is suddenly racing. She keeps her gaze on the sky above, trying not to look at Taeyeon.
“Beautiful,” Taeyeon whispers again. “아름다운미영아…티파니예쁘다…예쁘니…”
All that Tiffany can think right now is that this could be considered blatant flirting. She knows if any guy was doing this, cuddling with her on the beach and whispering sweet words in her ear in a foreign language, she would consider it a definite advancement. But she’s not sure what to think of Taeyeon. She knows Korea isn’t as open about sexuality as America, but despite what some people are convinced of, gay people do exist there. Is Taeyeon gay? She has no idea. She’s lost. If Taeyeon is gay maybe Taeyeon doesn’t even know Taeyeon is gay. She enjoys the feeling that Taeyeon is giving her right now. A thought strikes her – is she gay?
Suddenly Taeyeon sits up and moves away. She runs a hand through her hair and keeps her eyes on anything other than the girl next to her. She’s almost catching her breath and the way her chest is thudding with the force of her heartbeat is concerning her. Quickly, she decides to pretend nothing happened.
“Let’s go home,” she says, and stands up.
The event does nothing to discourage them from skinship, and Tiffany links arms with Taeyeon when they return to the dorms at the university. She still hasn’t managed to convince her father to let her live at the dorms, but she feels she’s close to getting him to be more open to letting her go there in the future. After all, her degree is long enough. Her second best option she is striving for is to move into the dorms for her second year.
Taeyeon lets Tiffany into her room, neatly hanging her room key on the hook by the door. It’s not Tiffany’s first time there, and as is her nature, she’s comfortable enough to toss her belongings onto Taeyeon’s desk and flop onto Taeyeon’s bed. Taeyeon shuffles around, places her phone on the desk, rearranges the things on her desk to better accommodate the position of Tiffany’s stuff. Then she sits on the edge of her bed, and leans back on her hands. If Tiffany moves her legs slightly, she’ll brush against Taeyeon’s fingers.
“How’s your course going?” Tiffany asks.
After a moment of silence, Tiffany sits up and hugs Taeyeon from behind, loosely wrapping her arms around Taeyeon’s waist and resting her chin on Taeyeon’s shoulder.
“Can I see you again tomorrow?” Tiffany murmurs.
Taeyeon leans her head back against Tiffany’s shoulder, facing the ceiling, closing her eyes. “Sure. After 3. Don’t you have that family dinner tomorrow night? Cousins?”
“Yeah,” says Tiffany. “Hey, do you wanna come? Meet my family?”
Tiffany hears the tone in Taeyeon’s voice and turns her head slightly. Taeyeon is gazing up at the ceiling absently, thoughts returning to a certain house in South Korea. Tiffany just watches her as she thinks. When she notices her hand is softly stroking Taeyeon’s stomach, she pulls away and gets off the bed.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”
She grabs her things from Taeyeon’s desk and leaves the room. Taeyeon looks at her receding back and stays looking in that direction even when the door is closed.
Tiffany’s father absolutely adores Taeyeon. It makes her want to roll her eyes when she sees the way he looks at her like a proud father. Meeting Taeyeon is like an opportunity for him to get in touch with his Korean side after being Americanised for so long. He can still speak Korean, though he’s a bit slow these days, and they have a pleasant conversation before switching back to English at the sight of Tiffany’s expression.
Taeyeon is extremely polite. Not only to Tiffany’s father – already a bit more than the usual respectfulness towards elders – but also to Tiffany’s two cousins who are visiting. They’re both actually younger, one year and two years younger, but she treats them with a polite distance, even when they all play Monopoly together after dinner.
It is revealed that Tiffany’s real name is Stephanie – the name on her birth certificate. It is also revealed that after Tiffany’s mother died, Tiffany started to use the name her mother liked instead of the name on her birth certificate. Taeyeon catches herself staring at Tiffany after hearing this, and looks away quickly before Tiffany’s father notices.
“So, Taeyeon,” says Mr Hwang conversationally as he helps to set up the board game, “What’s your plan with your qualification? Aiming for any of the big global corporations?”
“No, sir,” Taeyeon answers, letting Tiffany rearrange the money in front of her. “I’m going to take over my parents’ business, with my older brother – an optical store in my hometown.”
Mr Hwang raises his eyebrows. “Interesting choice for a young woman who was even willing to go all the way across the world to study. You don’t want to see the world, make some big impact with your degree before you settle down in your hometown?”
Taeyeon’s eyes stay on the board between them. She takes the dice Tiffany hands her without looking up.
She doesn’t say anything more on the subject, and Tiffany claps her hands together to start the game. It goes on for a long time, as Monopoly tends to, and Tiffany’s cousins pointedly eye the way she interacts with Taeyeon throughout the game. She gives them a look, making a note to explain to them about skinship in Korea compared to the general habits of Americans so that they can stop acting like she and Taeyeon are all over each other. It’s not even much by American standards, she thinks – tucking Taeyeon’s hair behind her ear, running her hand down Taeyeon’s arm, Taeyeon’s hand resting on her knee every now and then, playing with Taeyeon’s fingers.
Mr Hwang seems to understand, despite his initial frown, his memories of childhood in Korea putting his thoughts to rest. Instead, he warmly considers Taeyeon his newest daughter, smiling at her and even inviting her to stay the night when the game finally finishes late. But Taeyeon has an early class so Tiffany gives her a ride back to the university.
They share a hug in the hallway in front of Taeyeon’s door, holding each other for a long time.
“Thanks for coming, Tae,” says Tiffany, already smiling. “I hope you had fun.”
“I did have fun,” Taeyeon responds sincerely. Her hand runs up and down Tiffany’s back before they break their embrace. “Your father seems like a good man. And your cousins are… amusing.”
Tiffany chuckles. “They can be a bit intense at first. And you thought I was loud, right?”
They keep looking at each other for a little while, smiling and staying close.
“Do you really have an early class tomorrow or were you just being polite?”
Taeyeon grins. “Yes, I do have an early class. And I know your class starts when mine finishes. Let’s do something the day after tomorrow. I’ll show you how to make a kimchi omelette.”
Tiffany eye-smiles and anticipates the stare Taeyeon gives her. “That sounds great!”
She hugs Taeyeon again, clutching her tightly, and swings her side to side gently with her body. Taeyeon’s hands move over her back, softly stroking her spine.
Tiffany closes her eyes, tilting her head into Taeyeon’s shoulder, and squeezes the girl.
It’s not much later into the night, as Tiffany settles down in her bed, that a message comes through on her phone. It’s from Taeyeon, which does not surprise her at all.
I consider America to be an adventure. I don’t need to plan more adventures in my future. One planned adventure is enough, don’t you think?
Tiffany purses her lips thoughtfully. She types a reply. I’ve always believed that the best adventures are the ones that catch you by surprise.
Taeyeon’s answer comes fast. What kind of adventure do you dream of?
Tiffany closes her eyes, leaning back into her pillow, and thinks about her dreams. After a while, she turns back to her phone. I used to dream of being a singer. Some dreams turn out to be quite silly. That’s another reason not to plan an adventure, because sometimes plans just don’t work.
She lies there in the darkness of her room and waits to hear what Taeyeon thinks. It takes a long time, and she wonders if Taeyeon is asleep now and if she should do the same. Her phone screen lights up as she ponders.
I had the same dream. But dreams are not pre-made to come true. Planned adventures require a first step to be taken. Applying to the university or opening the door to an opportunity to prove one’s worth as a singer. It takes courage to take that step. Hesitation kills dreams no matter if the adventure is planned or not. Goodnight, Tiffany.
Taeyeon asks Tiffany about the etiquette required when strangers ask her out on a date. She’s not interested in any of them, and she doesn’t react well to their chosen methods of approach, but she doesn’t want to be rude as she has no reason to dislike them. She knows Tiffany gets more than her fair share of offers on a frequent basis.
“Just say no thanks,” Tiffany responds, eyes still on the pad of paper she’s writing on. She’s lying on her stomach on Taeyeon’s bed, kicking her legs in the air behind her, chewing on the tip of her pen every now and then as she works on her essay.
Taeyeon swivels around in her desk chair. “No thanks? Just like that? No, thanks. No thanks! No thank you. Inflection?”
Tiffany sighs, letting herself be distracted from her work, and turns to Taeyeon. “Ask me out.”
Taeyeon blinks. “Tiffany, are you free for coffee sometime?”
“No, thanks!” Tiffany eye-smiles, a certain eye-smile that Taeyeon has noticed she uses primarily on males.
“But is that really enough?” Taeyeon asks curiously, edging closer to the bed.
“Well, you basically offered to buy me coffee,” Tiffany says, looking back at her paper and twirling her pen. “So, I say thanks for the offer of free coffee but no thanks. Or on another level, you’ve offered me your company for a time, so I say thanks for the opportunity to get to know you but no thanks. Get it?”
Taeyeon looks thoughtful. “But saying that won’t work for everything. Sometimes they ask differently. Like… Tiffany, you are gorgeous.”
Tiffany blinks in surprise. The way Taeyeon pronounces the word ‘gorgeous’ completely throws her mind off course. She looks back at Taeyeon who is regarding her with a serious expression. “Huh?”
“Isn’t that statement also regarded as an expression of romantic interest or attraction? Would the words ‘no thanks’ still be appropriate with such a situation? Imagine I’m a total stranger, and I come up to you after class and tell you how beautiful you are.”
Tiffany stares at Taeyeon. Then she puts her pen down, sits up on the edge of the bed, and takes Taeyeon’s hands in her own.
“Thank you so much for your kindness,” she says. “And you leave as soon as you can. Not too rude, but not giving the impression of interest. Okay?”
Taeyeon sighs but nods. They sit there, still holding hands. Tiffany absently fiddles with Taeyeon’s fingers and moves their hands around.
“I like your hands,” Taeyeon murmurs.
Tiffany smiles shyly. “Thanks. Yours aren’t all that bad either.”
They both laugh lightly, looking at each other briefly before looking away again. Tiffany detaches their hands and moves forward to envelop Taeyeon in a tight hug.
And even though they both close their eyes, Tiffany is absolutely sure of it this time when Taeyeon tilts her head slightly in Tiffany’s direction and takes a deep breath. She opens her eyes again, turning her face towards Taeyeon.
She is amazed to find that in her thoughts at that it would feel totally natural for her to move even closer to Taeyeon and kiss her.
She hesitates, then moves closer and kisses Taeyeon on the cheek. Taeyeon freezes, frowning and keeping her eyes closed. Tiffany decides to take a risk and do it again, lingering for longer on the smoothness of Taeyeon’s cheek. Taeyeon relaxes slowly. Tiffany returns to her previous position, tightening the hug.
Taeyeon starts to think about kissing Tiffany. She’s only seen kissing in movies, and doesn’t know how to actually do that kind of thing personally. She did have that one chaste lips-closed peck with a boy in middle school, but she does try not to think of it as a real kiss since it was so unlike anything resembling the action. Taeyeon notices Tiffany’s lips seem quite good for kissing, as if they are soft to the touch and warm and – dare she think it – maybe a little flexible if they were to be tugged between her own.
Tiffany starts to notice Taeyeon staring at her more and more, and wonders if there’s something on her face all the time. The girl’s eyes latch on to her mouth quite often and she remembers the new lip gloss she’s started using. Maybe it’s the difference between the watermelon gloss she used to have and the peach gloss which now shines her lips. She conveniently does not see the time when Taeyeon stares and stares at her lips before biting her own bottom lip intently.
Taeyeon has absolutely no idea what is going on in her mind. Never would she have imagined herself sitting in a university dorm room in America, sharing a small bed with a gorgeous Korean-American girl, watching a pirated film on a laptop screen and spilling a few un-popped popcorn kernels on the blanket. Nor would she have imagined that the film portrayed the love story between two women with absolutely no depression about repression or forbidden secrets.
“Their lives are so normal,” she remarks half-way through the film.
Tiffany glances at her and smiles almost slyly. “Yes, they are.”
And Taeyeon never would have imagined that during the kiss scene she would suddenly realise she’s staring at Tiffany.
Tiffany meets her attentive gaze, and they find themselves staring at each other without a single word exchanged between them.
Then the film is over and Tiffany is surfing through her laptop. Taeyeon fiddles with the now empty bowl of popcorn and then suddenly puts it on her desk right next to the bed. She lies on her stomach next to Tiffany, in the same position, and leans her chin in her hands as she watches what Tiffany is doing on the laptop.
“So, Taeng,” Tiffany says conversationally, shifting closer and snuggling – almost rubbing – against Taeyeon’s side. “Do you have a boyfriend in Korea?”
Taeyeon shakes her head. “No. Do you have a boyfriend here?”
“No. Otherwise I would have mentioned him already, you know how I am,” Tiffany laughs, and rests her head on Taeyeon’s shoulder blade, her laptop forgotten. “How many boyfriends have you had?”
Taeyeon thinks back to that boy in middle school, and answers, “None.”
Tiffany shifts her head, turning to face Taeyeon’s side profile and moving her lower body ever so slightly closer to Taeyeon’s. “Really? None at all? No geeky teenage boy holding your hand at the movies and awkwardly kissing you on the cheek once?”
“Not really,” says Taeyeon, fiddling with the fabric of the blanket. “There was a boy who kissed me, but I didn’t date him. How many boyfriends have you had, Fany?”
Tiffany closes her eyes, turning her head again to press her face into Taeyeon’s shirt. She really likes it when Taeyeon calls her Fany. No one else has access to that nickname.
“Four,” she mumbles. “None of them were serious.”
Taeyeon raises an eyebrow. “Not serious? So, you had four geeky teenage boys holding your hand at the movies and awkwardly kissing you on the cheek once? That kind of not serious?”
Tiffany grins into the fabric of Taeyeon’s shirt, and moves her body definitely closer, pressing comfortably against Taeyeon. “Yes, just like that.”
Taeyeon is surprised to feel the words that are said in Tiffany’s currently husky voice have some strange effect on her body, sending a ripple down her spine that surely did not go unnoticed by her American friend.
“Well, some of them did kiss me on the lips a few times,” Tiffany remarks quietly.
Taeyeon looks up at the ceiling as they lie together in companionable silence. Then she rests her body on the mattress, causing a small shift from Tiffany who stays attached to her shoulder blade.
“They were so wrong,” Tiffany whispers, her eyes still closed. “Those kisses. They just felt… off.”
“Off,” Taeyeon echoes, distracted by the incredible warmth of Tiffany’s lower body pressing against her hip.
“How did your kiss feel?”
Taeyeon turns her head to the side, facing the direction where Tiffany lay. Her lips are close to Tiffany’s forehead, and she moves her head back slightly.
“It wasn’t even a proper kiss.”
“A proper kiss.” Tiffany opens her eyes and tilts her head to look at Taeyeon. “How do you know what a proper kiss feels like, then?”
Taeyeon shrugs, watching the way Tiffany’s head moves with her shoulder. “I don’t know. I just know that couldn’t have been one.”
“Then,” Tiffany shuffles even closer, rubbing quite definitely against Taeyeon’s side, “how do you think a proper kiss feels?”
Taeyeon’s heart is beating very hard, and she knows Tiffany can feel it with hand that’s resting on her back just between her shoulder blades. Their eye contact goes on for a long, long time.
“Warm,” Taeyeon murmurs. “Soft. Supple. Sensual.”
“Taeyeon,” Tiffany breathes. “Tae.”
Tiffany sits up, leaving coldness on Taeyeon’s side from the sudden lack of heat. She runs her hands through her hair, mussing it slightly, her eyes flicking around the room as if searching for something else to do. Taeyeon sits up much slower, her gaze still on Tiffany.
“America is really different,” she mutters, looking away at last. “I feel different here.”
She’s wrapped in the comfy embrace of Tiffany, sweet, soft Tiffany, and reciprocates immediately. They both close their eyes and lean their heads on each other’s shoulder.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Tiffany whispers.
Taeyeon just nods in reply, feeling their shared body heat flowing into her veins. After a moment of silence, Tiffany begins to move. She’s inching closer and closer to Taeyeon, and slowly shifts onto Taeyeon’s lap, a knee on each side of her hips. The moment she lowers her body to rest on Taeyeon’s thighs, Taeyeon’s breath catches in her throat.
The warmth is incredible, unlike any warmth Taeyeon has experienced. No blanket or heater or anything had provided her with this intense heat melting onto the skin of her thighs. Her breathing speeds up and she tightens her fingers against Tiffany’s back.
Tiffany notices Taeyeon’s reaction, and shifts even closer to almost press her pelvis against Taeyeon’s midriff. She presses her face into Taeyeon’s neck, feeling the same incredible warmth there that Taeyeon feels from her lower body.
Taeyeon’s hands begin to move, so slowly down her back that at first it seems like they’re slipping because her muscles have turned to jelly. But then they reach her lower back, by the hem of her t-shirt and the edge of her jean shorts, and Tiffany feels the distinct texture of nails against her.
By the time Taeyeon’s palms come to rest on Tiffany’s behind, they’ve both noticed that the lines have long been crossed.
Taeyeon is aware of the part of her mind that wants to pursue the warmth radiating from Tiffany’s centre, and it’s that part which moves one of her hands along the side of Tiffany’s waist and slides her fingers to Tiffany’s inner thigh.
The gasp that escapes Tiffany’s lips is enough to muffle Taeyeon’s thoughts. She has no idea what’s going on in her mind at all. She never would have imagined that she would slip her fingers past the waistband of a girl’s shorts in pursuit of the incredible warmth there. She never would have thought that she would push her forehead against a girl’s collarbones as she looked down, barely glimpsing the slow movement of her wrist.
Tiffany moans. She moans more than once, sometimes short and staccato and sometimes long and drawn out, moving with Taeyeon’s fingers. Her breath washes over the skin of Taeyeon’s neck and Taeyeon closes her eyes as heat totally envelops her.
She never would have imagined that she would touch a girl like this in the small bed of a dorm room in an American university.
And she never would have imagined the sensation of feeling her head tilted by Tiffany’s fingers and the softness, the warmth, the supple movement of Tiffany’s lips with her own as the euphoria takes over.
Afterwards, they lie on the bed, half-heartedly tangled together, staring into space.
“Was that really sudden,” Tiffany ponders, “or has it been building up for a long time?”
Taeyeon shrugs, glancing at the way Tiffany’s forearm moves along where it rests on her shoulder. “I’m not even sure what happened yet,” she murmurs.
Tiffany turns to look at Taeyeon. “Sex happened, Taeyeon,” she says bluntly. “We had sex.”
Taeyeon just stares at her blankly. Tiffany snuggles closer; she lays her head on Taeyeon’s shoulder and rests her arm on Taeyeon’s waist.
“Don’t think about it yet,” Tiffany whispers.
Taeyeon complies, hugging Tiffany and inhaling her scent. They fall asleep together even though it’s only mid-afternoon and the sun is still bright.
Taeyeon is the first one to wake up. It’s midnight, and Tiffany has shifted her body half on top of her. She feels Tiffany’s breath once again on the skin of her neck, calmer and slower than the first time. And that’s when she suddenly realises; she had sex with a girl.
Sex. Well, she didn’t know a lot about sex or so she thought, and she certainly didn’t know about sex between two girls. But she had touched Tiffany and kept touching her and they had kissed, so she was pretty sure it was enough to qualify as some kind of sex anyway, just as Tiffany had so blatantly stated.
Tiffany groans and tosses around in her sleep, her body moving against Taeyeon’s before settling again. It takes Taeyeon back to the moaning, the friction of their earlier actions and she absorbs the warmth of Tiffany’s body for a moment.
She thinks back to what had induced her to move her hands over Tiffany’s body. Oh yes, that part of her mind. She checks her thoughts and finds that part of her mind is focussing quite a lot on the feeling of Tiffany’s curves against her own. She thinks back to the way Tiffany had shifted to straddle her, a move which no doubt woke up that part of her mind.
Taeyeon’s hand is caressing Tiffany’s body, moving along to Tiffany’s behind. She lets her palm rest there again, and curiously cups the body part. Tiffany makes a tiny, near silent noise in her sleep, absently. Taeyeon squeezes Tiffany’s behind gently, and thinks about it. She’s holding a girl’s butt. It’s the first time she’s touched anyone like this.
Tiffany stirs, muttering, “Mmm, Tae,” and limply takes hold of Taeyeon’s wrist to move the hand away but doesn’t move it very far before drifting back into her sleep.
Taeyeon takes note of the new position of her hand, just below the curve of Tiffany’s behind, and decides she quite likes having her hand there, the edge of her index finger brushing against the mound of Tiffany’s flesh, slipping beneath her shorts.
Then Taeyeon notices how she’s getting so used to it, touching Tiffany like this, finding out what she enjoys. It’s as if she’s intending to touch her like this more, and it makes her wonder what exactly she is going to do from this point on.
Dating a girl would not go down well, but with whom? Random strangers, yes, but not just in South Korea, there were still some close-minded people in America too. Her family? She wonders. They would be shocked, disapproving, but they would never really stop loving her, she felt that.
Dating Tiffany… Taeyeon had never dated anyone at all. Would it be much different from being friends with Tiffany – apart from the kissing and presumably sex? They would have different expectations of each other perhaps, and a new way of looking at each other.
Taeyeon slips her other fingers up Tiffany’s shorts and gently, briefly massages her there. Tiffany’s spine curves in response, slightly, digging her hips into Taeyeon, before her body falls in place again.
Where would their relationship go? Where does any relationship go? Would she marry Tiffany, since it was legal somewhere in America? Does she even want to get married at all? She’s never considered things like marriage and children, finding it hard enough to focus on the present most of the time with the regrets of her past looming over her head.
Taeyeon snags a nearby blanket, folded because it’s too hot for more than one, and carefully lays it over their bodies with her free hand. Tiffany murmurs appreciatively, a content smile curling her lips, and presses her face into Taeyeon’s neck.
Taeyeon lets herself dissolve into Tiffany, and drifts into sleep again.
When Tiffany wakes up, it’s almost dawn and she’s still in her sleep-haze. She stretches, rubbing at her eyes, yawning lengthily, completely unperturbed by the body half-pinned beneath her even though it’s certainly a new experience. She rests her elbow on the mattress beside Taeyeon’s shoulder and cups her chin in her hand, watching Taeyeon’s face.
She’s well aware of the hand on her rear, fingers quite comfortably beneath her shorts. She shifts her body, rubbing against Taeyeon once, pressing her hips into her.
Taeyeon’s hand moves, covering more of Tiffany’s sensitive skin and tightening into a grip. She turns her head a few times and slowly opens her eyes, bleary but waking. Her other hand comes to rest on Tiffany’s waist, and as she wakes up her gaze lands on Tiffany’s lips and her hand shifts higher to come into contact with other sensitive skin.
Tiffany moves, closing her eyes and resting her forehead on Taeyeon’s shoulder as her body comes to fully cover Taeyeon’s. Her legs slip to the sides of Taeyeon’s thighs and they’re both reminded of a similar position.
Taeyeon is letting her body react without interference from her thoughts. Her hand cups Tiffany’s breast and she listens to the catch in Tiffany’s breathing. She runs her fingers down Tiffany’s torso and up her shirt to do it again, eliciting a soft whimper.
Tiffany reaches a hand between their bodies to undo her own shorts, sliding down the zipper and tugging at them. Taeyeon removes the hand from Tiffany’s behind and pulls her shorts down more. Tiffany is eager for contact, shifting her hips, and Taeyeon finds herself cupping Tiffany’s centre. Her thumbs move together, rubbing and pressing on Tiffany’s soft body.
The sound Tiffany lets out is new, a small cry with a hoarse finish. Her hips move again and she fits her body closer to Taeyeon’s. Taeyeon moves her hands, one going from Tiffany’s front to her lower back, and the other starting to rub and clench in a rhythm. Tiffany clutches at Taeyeon’s wrist but not in an attempt to pull her away. She moves her lower body at a complementary tempo. Her head tilts to rest her chin on Taeyeon’s shoulder so her breathing is even louder.
Taeyeon’s eyes are drawn to the now more accessible stretch of Tiffany’s neck. She halts her hand, listens to the ensuing whine from Tiffany, and then moves her lips to brush against the skin of Tiffany’s neck. Tiffany’s grip on her wrist tightens as she does it again and again.
Teeth graze against skin at the same time as fingers enter underwear. Tiffany can barely control herself anymore, feeling as if she’s becoming tenser and tenser. Taeyeon’s teeth tug at her neck again and she gasps.
Then Taeyeon’s fingers touch her, and she moans shakily.
It’s the first time Taeyeon will do what she’s about to do. She knows exactly what she wants to do right now, and it will be more than she did yesterday, and very far from anything she had ever imagined she would do.
Taeyeon’s fingers trace the outline of Tiffany’s centre and they both feel a shudder down their spines at the feeling of wetness there. Tiffany rocks her hips, moving against Taeyeon’s hand, and they rub together for a while.
Then Taeyeon cups her firmly and tilts their bodies, rolling slowly until Tiffany’s back is against the bed. She looks up at Taeyeon and their eyes meet.
Taeyeon looks down at Tiffany’s body, her shirt in disarray and the underside of a breast visible as her chest moves up and down. She looks even further down, at the sight of her hand in Tiffany’s panties.
She rests her body completely on Tiffany’s. With her free hand, she unzips her own pants and moves them down. Tiffany tugs with her, pulling them away. Taeyeon slowly, gently removes her fingers from Tiffany’s underwear, sliding her hand along Tiffany’s waist. Then she presses her pelvis against Tiffany’s and absorbs the heat again.
There’s still too much between them, keeping their warmth apart. Taeyeon rakes her nails along Tiffany’s skin and peels away her underwear. Tiffany slowly does the same to her. They move to come into contact again and Taeyeon lets out an exhalation of something like relief as the full force of Tiffany’s heat finally reaches her.
Tiffany’s eyes are closed, her mouth open slightly, and she moves her lower body against Taeyeon’s. Taeyeon catches up, grinding with her and hearing her own breathless little moans matching Tiffany’s.
Taeyeon wants to go faster, much faster, so she spreads her own legs a little more and Tiffany’s spread with her. She rushes her movements, feeling Tiffany’s hands scrape along her back and her nails clutch at her skin.
But it’s not enough yet, she wants to do something more. Her hand moves to Tiffany’s centre again and her fingers only hurriedly trace her outline. Tiffany bites her bottom lip and crosses her arms over Taeyeon’s back to bring her closer. Fingers move, and keep moving, and move deeply and her moan goes just as deep.
Taeyeon’s hand moves slowly at first, a little clumsily, until she gets used to feeling Tiffany from the inside and moves faster and faster.
The sound of Tiffany’s breath right now, gasping and catching with every move of her fingers, is the best sound Taeyeon has ever heard. She presses her face into the bed right next to Tiffany’s head and listens to her newly found addiction.
“Tiffany… Fany, Fany…”
Tiffany feels ready to explode just from the sound of Taeyeon’s voice right now, and she feels her spine curve to press her body upwards. She rubs against Taeyeon, moving with the decisive actions of the fingers inside of her. Her chin tilts back, her eyes roll upwards and a strangled breath escapes her throat.
And her breath is shot from her lungs, her body stiffens as a shock goes through her, and then she melts with a little mewling sound.
Taeyeon shifts a little more, pulling her fingers out of Tiffany and just cupping her centre again, quite comfortably. Her own body stops shuddering as she recovers from the incredible sound of Tiffany reaching her climax.
They catch their breath. Tiffany presses her thighs inwards, pushing Taeyeon’s legs together and wrapping her own legs around her. Taeyeon slips her hand up, along Tiffany’s midriff, and then off her body where it goes to mirror her other hand’s position on the mattress. Their pelvises are together again, their warmth so utterly connected even if they were apart.
“Was this really sudden…?” Taeyeon whispers, her lips brushing against Tiffany’s jaw.
Tiffany reaches up a hand and brushes Taeyeon’s hair over her shoulders, turning her head to place a kiss on the newly exposed neck.
“I don’t know, Taeyeon,” she answers softly.
“I think this all escalated pretty quickly,” Taeyeon murmurs. “We haven’t even talked about this.”
“Do you want to talk now?”
“No,” she says. “I don’t know what I want.”
Tiffany’s breathing slows down.
“I want you, Taeyeon. I want you.”
They rest together for long moments, then Taeyeon starts kissing Tiffany’s jaw. Short, simple pecks, moving along her skin. Their lips meet slowly at first, but when the kiss has deepened their mouths pick up the pace.
“Wait,” Tiffany breaks the kiss, pushing Taeyeon off of her.
Taeyeon rolls onto her back beside Tiffany, as if she had been expecting it, and pulls up her underwear and pants. Tiffany sits up, reaches for her own underwear and puts it on. She stays upright, not looking at Taeyeon, even when Taeyeon reaches over and softly strokes her spine.
“Taeyeon, are you gay?”
Taeyeon blinks, the movement of her hand stopping. “I don’t know. Maybe. I’m just Taeyeon.”
“Have you ever done this with a girl before?”
Now Taeyeon frowns. She sits up and turns Tiffany’s head to face her. “No. What are you asking?”
“It’s just… You seemed like you knew what you were doing.”
“So I seem experienced? I’m not. I just do what I want to. I want to touch you, Tiffany.”
Tiffany looks away, moving Taeyeon’s hand away from her face. “So now you know what you want?”
Taeyeon is silent. Eventually she sighs and speaks again. “I don’t know. Maybe I know. I want to touch you more, and kiss you more. But I don’t know what’s going on in my head. I’m just following my body. So maybe I know what my body wants.”
“Stop letting your body do what it wants. Don’t you get it, Taeyeon? I don’t want us to be friends with benefits. And don’t blink at me like you don’t know what it means, we talked about it last week when you saw that movie in the store. I-I don’t know if I’m capable of dating a girl, but… we just… we need to stop having sex.”
Taeyeon watches her intently before responding. “I’m sorry, Miyoung. I shouldn’t have gotten so carried away. Can we be friends?”
Tiffany immediately turns and envelops Taeyeon in a warm, tender hug. “I got carried away too. You know the saying ‘It takes two to tango’? It’s not like I didn’t want to do it. We just need to cool down. Friends.”
And just like their friendship before this all happened, Taeyeon has no qualms about resting her hands on Tiffany’s lower back as they hold their embrace for a long time. The fact that her hands are just on the very edge of inappropriate is just a remnant of the situation.
They’re both quite good at pretending nothing happened. Taeyeon does notice herself being a little more touchy-feely with Tiffany, and makes an effort to curb that. It’s three weeks later when Tiffany’s father insists that she invite Taeyeon over for dinner again. He plans to make kimchi and bulgogi for old times’ sake and would love to hear Taeyeon’s review of his cooking. Taeyeon, naturally, says yes right away.
She’s already soaked by the storm raging outside when she arrives, and Tiffany fusses over her with a towel and a mug of hot tea. Mr Hwang is slaving away in the kitchen, apparently making a bit of a mess as he strives to achieve his goals, as Tiffany chattily informs Taeyeon while finishing off the task of drying her.
Taeyeon couldn’t care less what Mr Hwang is up to in the kitchen, because Tiffany is going quite slowly with the fabric of the towel over the skin of her neck. She sets the mug of tea on the coffee table next to Tiffany, who’s perched on the edge of it so she can face Taeyeon while she dries her off. Taeyeon’s hands gravitate smoothly to Tiffany’s lower back.
Tiffany only bites her bottom lip briefly at the contact before ignoring it. But Taeyeon is persistent. She moves Tiffany closer by her hips, causing their legs to fit together like puzzle pieces, her knee brushing against the inside of Tiffany’s thighs and Tiffany’s knee doing the same to her.
“Taeyeon,” Tiffany hisses, moving the towel away and glaring at her. “What the hell are you doing?!”
Taeyeon blinks. It’s the first time she sees Tiffany so mad. But her hands aren’t put off, and she runs her fingers over Tiffany’s thighs and back again to settle lower than their original position.
“Taeyeon, what are you -” Tiffany pulls Taeyeon’s hands away and pushes at her shoulders to create distance. “Other than the fact that we’re not supposed to do that anymore,” she hisses at the girl, “my father is right in the next room! Did you become some stupid hormonal pubescent boy, huh? Can’t you keep your hands to yourself?!”
Taeyeon stares at her blankly. Tiffany swears at her in Korean and storms out of the room.
Mr Hwang notices nothing different between his daughter and her friend as they all eat together later, and this is because nothing is different. Tiffany has gone back to normal, though Taeyeon is sure there’s something maybe a bit lighter in the way she touches her, and the dinner goes on like anything else.
The rain is still almost dangerously heavy outside when it’s time for Taeyeon to leave, so this time when Mr Hwang insists she must stay the night, she agrees. He leaves Tiffany to help her out, reminding her of where the spare bedding and futon is since they don’t have a guest room, and wishes them a goodnight.
The lights in Tiffany’s room are dark for less than an hour before Taeyeon lifts Tiffany’s blanket and slips into bed with her.
Tiffany sighs resignedly. “You really are like a teenage boy, huh?”
Taeyeon’s hands run along the curves of Tiffany’s body slowly before she rests her arms around Tiffany’s waist and presses against her back. “It’s okay, sleep. I’m not after sex.”
Tiffany sighs again. “I can’t believe you even just said that. What are we doing, Taeyeon? We used to be strangers, then friends, now we’re like this.”
Taeyeon nuzzles her face into the crook of Tiffany’s neck from behind and places a soft kiss there. “Shh. Don’t think about it yet. Sleep. I’m here.”
Tiffany closes her eyes and they drift into sleep together while the storm rages on outside the window.
When Tiffany wakes up, she finds Taeyeon staring at her. She huffs, annoyed, and wiggles her body as she pushes Taeyeon away with one hand.
“What do you want, weirdo?” she mutters, still sleepy, and yawns.
Taeyeon watches her rubbing her eyes. “What do I want…” she murmurs.
Tiffany blinks at Taeyeon who has moved to press against her body again, from the front this time. She lets Taeyeon kiss her, unwilling to think about things. The kiss is sweet in the first moment and develops into firmer, more determined movements of Taeyeon’s lips on hers. Before Taeyeon pulls away, she takes Tiffany’s bottom lip between her own and tugs it, satisfying herself with its elasticity.
They stare at each other again.
Then Tiffany huffs again and runs a hand over her face as she wiggles her body away from Taeyeon and stretches. Taeyeon rests her chin on her crossed arms, lying on her stomach, and runs her gaze over Tiffany’s body.
When Tiffany stops moving she lies on her back with her head turned away from Taeyeon and her arms left stretched above her head. She starts wondering how long it would take Taeyeon to start touching her, then admonishes herself for thinking so lowly of her friend’s self-control, and then wonders why she was wondering in the first place when she was so sure it shouldn’t be allowed to happen.
“Taeyeon?” she whispers, still not moving, keeping her head facing away.
“Do you love me?”
Taeyeon is silent for a long time. Eventually Tiffany hears the sound of shifting from her side of the bed. Taeyeon rests her body on top of Tiffany comfortably, nuzzling her face into Tiffany’s neck again and taking a deep breath.
“I think so,” she answers. “I don’t know how this kind of love feels, but I don’t recognise what I’m feeling for you. I think it’s love.”
Tiffany exhales, wrapping her arms around Taeyeon. “Aren’t you scared?”
“I am. But I’m not sure what I’m scared of.”
Tiffany closes her eyes, and together they are absorbed by the warm morning silence.
It’s four days before they touch each other again. Tiffany comes into Taeyeon’s dorm room at a time when she knows the girl will be there. She dumps her stuff on Taeyeon’s desk even though Taeyeon’s working there, flops herself on Taeyeon’s bed, and muffles a scream of frustration in Taeyeon’s pillow.
Taeyeon just stares at her for a moment, her pen still in hand even though the book she was writing in is buried beneath Tiffany’s purse. Then she puts the pen down and sits on the edge of her bed.
Tiffany groans. “Life sucks, Taeyeon.”
Taeyeon is trying not to go closer to Tiffany. It’s been days since she’s seen her. Her eyes are tracing every part of her body.
“My father thinks he knows everything!” Tiffany punches Taeyeon’s pillow. “He’s such a self-righteous, close-minded –” Whatever Tiffany was about to call her father is morphed into another muffled scream of anger.
Taeyeon doesn’t hold back anymore. She reaches forward, lightly places her hand on Tiffany’s lower back. Like a feather, she brushes her fingers up Tiffany’s spine. Tiffany tenses at first, but loosens up completely by the time Taeyeon’s hand reaches between her shoulder blades.
“Talk to me about it,” Taeyeon says softly.
Tiffany takes a deep breath. “He just… He’s going on some business trip to New York. He knows I’ve wanted to move into the dorms for ages, but when I suggested I do it before his trip so I won’t have to be home alone, he said it’s unnecessary. He wants to get my sister to come live with me while he’s away, which would just inconvenience her since she’s going for her PhD at Berkeley, you know?”
Taeyeon hums in acknowledgement. She moves. She straddles Tiffany’s behind and puts both hands on Tiffany’s shoulders. With tender, deliberate movements, she massages Tiffany’s muscles.
“It just kills me how he doesn’t even listen to me,” Tiffany continues, calmer and quieter. “He doesn’t consider my suggestions at all.”
“When does he leave?” Taeyeon murmurs, her fingers moving over Tiffany’s back.
Tiffany moans a little, tries to muffle it into a small squeak. She’s almost totally forgotten about the problem, her anger has dissipated, and she really, really enjoys the feeling of Taeyeon touching her.
“In a month,” she breathes.
“Maybe you can still convince him,” Taeyeon says.
Her hands stop suddenly. Tiffany tenses in anticipation of Taeyeon’s next move.
Taeyeon reaches up and gently moves some of Tiffany’s hair to expose the back of her neck. Tiffany closes her eyes, and arches her spine to raise her neck ever so slightly. Taeyeon looks down at her. She’s given Taeyeon permission, wordlessly, to kiss her neck, and Taeyeon takes a moment to absorb the fact that Tiffany wants her to touch her.
At the feel of Taeyeon’s lips brushing against the skin of her neck so lightly she can barely feel it, Tiffany lets out a little noise. Taeyeon’s lips come back, brushing again before pressing firmly.
Suddenly the door opens. “Hey Taeyeon do you have -”
Taeyeon jumps away from Tiffany, rolling onto her butt on the mattress, and they both snap their heads to face the new arrival. Taeyeon’s next door neighbour in the dorms is blinking at them with wide eyes and her jaw dropped.
“Wow Taeyeon, I didn’t know you have a girlfriend,” she says, sounding surprised. “You never tell us anything about yourself.”
Taeyeon and Tiffany stay silent, still frozen in shock. Taeyeon thinks back to the position they were in; her on top of Tiffany, hands resting on Tiffany’s lower back, her mouth pressed tightly to the skin of Tiffany’s neck as Tiffany arched her back.
It was no surprise that her neighbour had assumed Tiffany was her girlfriend.
“Um,” the neighbour says awkwardly. “Well, sorry for interrupting. I was just wondering if you have a spare pen I could borrow, but I’ll just figure something out. See ya!”
She leaves hurriedly, snapping the door shut behind her. Taeyeon knows that by morning everyone she associates with on campus will have heard the girl’s story about walking in on Taeyeon and her girlfriend being intimate.
The thought doesn’t bother her much. Her neighbour studies biology, so she wouldn’t have recognised Tiffany, and no one would know it was her.
Tiffany, on the other hand, is thinking about the word ‘girlfriend’.
Taeyeon shifts closer. She takes hold of Tiffany, pulls her up into a sitting position and turns her head to face her. She gently caresses Tiffany’s cheek and kisses her sweetly before saying a single word.
“Tiffany,” she breathes, her mouth still on Tiffany’s, brushing their lips together.
“Taeyeon,” is all Tiffany squeezes out before kissing Taeyeon deeply. Her hands come up to cup Taeyeon’s face, her fingers in her hair and her thumbs pressing into her cheeks.
They kiss intently, lips moving together confidently. Tiffany introduces her tongue into the equation, causing Taeyeon to rake her nails along Tiffany’s waist and grip her tightly. She slows the kiss down so that she can feel every part of Tiffany’s tongue and mouth with her own.
Tiffany listens to the little exhalations of breath bursting from Taeyeon’s mouth whenever there’s a little gap in the joint of their lips. She leans forward into the kiss, feeling Taeyeon push back slightly to keep them mostly upright. When they get closer to needing to breathe, Tiffany slows the kiss and they tug at each other’s lips before pulling away.
Tiffany wraps her arms around Taeyeon’s neck and keeps their faces close together as they catch their breath.
“Fany,” Taeyeon whispers, nudging her nose against Tiffany’s cheek. “Will you be my girlfriend?”
Tiffany pulls away, looking surprised. “You’re asking me to be your girlfriend?”
Tiffany completely moves away, creating space between them and crossing her hands in her lap, looking down thoughtfully. “I never thought you would ask. I mean… you just seem to be coping with all of this much easier than I am, and I… Taeyeon, what would happen if we were girlfriends?”
Taeyeon moves closer, kissing her. “We would do what people in relationships do. Figure out how to survive life together.”
“Why are you so confident about this?!”
Taeyeon just kisses her again and again, cupping Tiffany’s face in her hands.
“I learned a long time ago,” she murmurs between kisses, “that hesitation brings regrets. I’ve waited, and I’ve thought about it slowly. Miyoung, I want you.”
At that moment, Tiffany realises that she can’t possibly say no. She wants Taeyeon too. She wants to be with Taeyeon, wants to date Taeyeon, wants to be in a relationship with Taeyeon. She wants to kiss her and hug her and touch her. Tiffany wants to let herself fall in love with Taeyeon. And so she does.
Taeyeon always takes a long time to dial the numbers when she’s calling home. Her finger moves slowly over the buttons, as if she’s expecting the phone will blow up in her hands when she presses the next one. She feels kind of empty inside when she thinks about talking to her family, but she thinks it might just be because Tiffany has shown her how it feels to be warm and everything else is a bit colder.
“Hi,” she says when her mother answers the phone.
“Ah, my Taeyeonie!” her mother squeals delightedly. “How are you, my daughter? How’s school? Is life in America going well? Tell me, have you found some places with good food? Not that American stuff, real food! And I hear it’s cold over there, are you wearing enough warm layers?!”
Taeyeon rolls her eyes. “Yes, omma, I’m taking care of myself very well. School is fine. I’ll email you my most recent grades later. How’s appa?”
“Oh, he’s fine, nothing interesting has happened here since you left, Taeyeonie,” her mother says dismissively. “Your brother and sister are fine too. We want to hear about you! Are there any nice Korean boys there? It would be wonderful if you could find a boy there, Taeyeonie, those boys are such hard-working, driven young men with promising futures.”
Taeyeon sighs, and decides to get on with it. “Omma, are you sitting down? I want to tell you something important.”
“Oh? Alright, let me just turn down the heat on the stove here.” There was the scraping sound of a chair being moved as her mother sat down. “What is it, Taeyeonie? Is something wrong?”
“No, nothing is wrong. I want to tell you about a wonderful girl I met here; her name is Tiffany Hwang. Miyoung. She’s Korean-American, she’s my age, and she’s doing a law degree. She’s been a great help to me, showing me what America is like and helping me with my English. She’s been my best friend.”
“That’s lovely, dear,” her mother says warmly. “It’s always nice to have a friend to help out in a strange land.”
Taeyeon takes a deep breath. “Yes, omma. Well. Miyoung is really great. She’s smart, beautiful, funny, hard-working, kind… omma; I’ve fallen in love with her. She’s my girlfriend.”
There is an excruciatingly long silence on the line. Taeyeon starts to wonder if the phone cut off, then she hears her mother take a shaky breath.
Taeyeon steels herself. “She’s my girlfriend, omma. We’re dating. We’re in love with each other.”
Taeyeon closes her eyes. “Omma, please, do I have to repeat myself or are you just in shock? I love her, I love Tiffany Hwang Miyoung and she loves me. She makes me so happy, omma. She’s the light in my darkness and she means a lot to me.”
Her mother lets out a long breath. “Are you sure? Are you sure this isn’t just a phase and you’ll go back to liking boys later? Please, Taeyeon, I just want you to be sure. I don’t want you to make a mistake with this girl.”
“I’m sure, omma. I’ve never had feelings like this for a boy. I’ve never had feelings like this at all. And these feelings I feel with Tiffany… These are the best feelings I’ve ever felt. I don’t want to have regrets because I let her go, omma. I asked her to be my girlfriend and she said yes.”
Her mother is silent again for a long time before speaking. “What’s her family like? Traditional or Americanised? How have they reacted to this?”
“She lives with her father. Her mother passed away when she was younger. Her father is still in touch with his Korean side, but I don’t think I would say he’s traditional. We haven’t told him yet, but we’re telling him tonight when I go to their house for dinner. He’s been asking me to teach him your kimchi fried rice recipe, omma. I think he’ll really like it, it’s my favourite, and it always reminds me of you. Listen, omma, you might find this hard to accept, and I’ll understand that completely. But I want you to remember, I love you all and I miss you very much. You’re my family.”
Her mother sighs. “Okay, Taeyeon. Let me think about this for a while. You’re right, I do find this hard to accept, and I don’t know how your father will react. I’ll call you.”
And there comes a click, followed by the dial tone. Taeyeon listens to the sound of it for a while, her eyes still closed.
A jingle of keys from outside her door snaps her back to reality and she opens her eyes, puts the phone down, and runs a hand through her hair.
Tiffany latches on to her back and gives her a warm hug once she’s dumped her things on Taeyeon’s desk again.
“Hi,” she murmurs.
Taeyeon turns and cups Tiffany’s face, covering her face with light kisses. She kisses her firmly on the lips, inhaling deeply, and then nuzzles her nose into her cheek as she pulls her closer.
“Hello,” she whispers.
Tiffany tightens her grip around Taeyeon’s waist. “What’s up? Is something wrong?”
Taeyeon kisses her cheek again before trailing down to her neck and nibbling there. Tiffany cranes her neck to make herself more accessible.
“Tae?” she murmurs.
“I told my mother about us,” she answers, pausing momentarily in her actions. “I need you.”
They’re a little late to Tiffany’s house.
It’s raining again when they’ve finished dinner. Tiffany and Taeyeon have been shooting each other furtive glances all night, wondering when was the right time to tell her father. Now Mr Hwang was peeking around the edge of a curtain and eyeing the rain critically. They both knew he was about to invite her to stay the night, but if they told him and he didn’t react well it could get even worse.
So they stay silent, staring holes into each other as they made their way up to Tiffany’s room.
“When will we tell him?” Taeyeon asks in a low voice as soon as Tiffany closes her door.
Tiffany leans her forehead against the door, her hand still on the doorknob, and closes her eyes. “I have no idea.”
Taeyeon steps up behind her, pulling their bodies together with hands on Tiffany’s hips, and then she wraps her arms around Tiffany and rests her head on her shoulder. They don’t say anything more, enjoying the warmth in silence.
They’re leisurely kissing each other with Tiffany’s back against the door later when Taeyeon’s hearing sharpens at the little sounds Tiffany is making. Her mind ponders on the existence of Mr Hwang. She pulls away from the kisses for a moment.
“What about your father?” she whispers. “He might hear.”
Tiffany circles her arms around Taeyeon’s neck and gives her a quick peck. “You’re right, let’s just go to sleep.”
Taeyeon gives her one last peck and they find themselves kissing intently again, lips glued together and moving. Her hands slip down the back of Tiffany’s shorts and Tiffany’s nails rake down her neck and shoulders. Taeyeon lets out a definite little moan at the shared contact. They stop kissing, hands slowing down and lips parting.
For a while, they just stare at each other.
“God, we’re such hormonal teenagers,” Tiffany breathes.
Taeyeon grins. “That’s very true.”
They make it into bed at last, ready to sleep, and switch off the lamp on the bedside table. They curl together naturally, and play a brief tickling game with muffled giggles before settling down in each other’s arms.
The curtains aren’t quite thick enough to eliminate every bit of light from the streetlamp outside, though they do a good job, and Taeyeon’s eyes are drawn to Tiffany’s collarbones, visible in the dimness.
She gazes at the shape of the bones, the way the skin looks so soft and flexible.
Her teeth graze along Tiffany’s neck, biting at her collarbone, tugging lightly at the skin there. Tiffany’s gasps are sharp, her fingers snatching at Taeyeon’s shirt. Taeyeon is nipping at Tiffany’s neck and collarbones continuously, her mouth moving over her girlfriend’s skin.
It’s not long before Tiffany’s managed to tug Taeyeon’s shirt over her head and her own follows suit. Her body writhes as Taeyeon kisses and bites and sucks on her neck. Taeyeon places her body between Tiffany’s legs and starts grinding immediately, barely taking a breath before continuing her ministrations on Tiffany’s neck.
Tiffany moans lowly. She doesn’t know what to do with herself, getting distracted by Taeyeon, and as she feels more moans leak from her throat, she clutches her hands over her mouth.
Taeyeon slows down slightly, her hips stopping their movements, her lips turning tender. She traces a line of kisses along Tiffany’s neck before pulling away Tiffany’s hands and kissing her on the lips.
“I love you,” she whispers, lips brushing over Tiffany’s as she kisses her again and again. “I love you.”
Before Tiffany has a chance to catch her breath and respond, Taeyeon is taking her kisses down Tiffany’s body, all along her neck and chest and stomach. She quickly and smoothly moves Tiffany’s pyjama shorts out of the way. Tiffany’s eyes widen in shock and her breath catches in her throat as Taeyeon reaches her destination. Tiffany throws her hands onto her face, wrapping her mouth shut as she begins to make sounds.
It’s hard to stay quiet when her climax comes, but Tiffany tries her best, craning her neck and lifting her upper body off the mattress for a moment. She bites down on one finger and clenches her eyes shut tightly. The only noise she makes is a strange little whine; before she collapses onto the bed again and lets her body turn to mush.
Taeyeon lifts her head, rests her cheek on Tiffany’s stomach, and takes a deep breath. After a moment she moves up, planting little kisses along Tiffany’s skin, and settles herself on top of her, her face nuzzling into Tiffany’s neck. Tiffany wraps her arms around Taeyeon and grips her tightly.
“I love you,” she whispers into Taeyeon’s hair.
They fall asleep together. Tiffany is the first to wake, feeling incredibly well-rested, and finds herself curled around Taeyeon from behind. She blearily glances at the alarm clock on her bedside table and upon seeing the early time, she snuggles tighter against Taeyeon and closes her eyes again.
Taeyeon makes a humming sound. Everything is quiet for a while until she shifts and makes the same humming noise again. Tiffany opens her eyes and pulls back her head to look at Taeyeon.
“Fany-yah…” Taeyeon murmurs.
Tiffany smiles at the Korean mumblings that come from Taeyeon in her sleep.
Tiffany stares at Taeyeon as she becomes quiet again and drifts deeper into her sleep. The bed creaks slightly as Tiffany shifts them both, squeezing Taeyeon closely tighter. Taeyeon grunts, and wakes up, taking a deep breath as she departs from her slumber.
“Miyoung-ah?” she mumbles.
“Taeyeon, I love you.”
“I love you too…”
“Taeyeon… I hope I will love you forever.”
Taeyeon waits a moment before turning around to look at Tiffany. “Was I talking in my sleep?”
“Yes. I just want you to know… Your nightmares will never happen.”
Taeyeon smiles weakly and gently caresses Tiffany’s cheek. “Thank you,” she whispers. “Thank you.”
“여보, can you get my calculator for me? It’s in my bag right next to the bed.”
“Did you just call me your ‘honey’?” Tiffany asks as she hands over the calculator with a grin.
Taeyeon blushes slightly, but answers calmly. “Yes. Yes I did.”
Tiffany plants a big fat kiss on Taeyeon’s cheeks, fully equipped with a hum and a smack of her lips as she pulls away. “I love you,” she whispers.
Taeyeon swiftly turns her head and captures Tiffany’s lips, delivering her own deep kiss.
When she pulls away, Tiffany licks her lips happily before she pushes Taeyeon’s chair so she’s facing away from the desk and straddles her lap smoothly. Taeyeon grins, dropping the calculator on the desk and holding on to Tiffany’s rear to keep her in place.
“Using that term…You wanna marry me, 자기야?” Tiffany whispers.
She keeps her face incredibly close to Taeyeon’s, almost kissing her but not quite, with her arms around Taeyeon’s neck and shoulders. Then, with their mouths almost touching, she slowly reaches out with her tongue and traces Taeyeon’s bottom lip.
Taeyeon lets out a wordless noise, her hands clenching at Tiffany’s flesh, before she melts with a whimper.
Tiffany pulls away just a little, eyes glinting. “What did you say?”
Taeyeon kisses her first, moving forward quickly and wrapping Tiffany’s lips in a passionate kiss. Her hands slip up Tiffany’s shirt, holding on to her lower back, and slide down again until her fingers are hooked onto the waistband of her pants. When she breaks the kiss, she doesn’t even pull away.
“I’m so in love with you, Fany,” she mutters. She kisses her again, and again. “I…” she looks like she wants to say something, staring into Tiffany’s eyes for a long while, before she lays a sweet, tender kiss on Tiffany’s lips. “I love you.”
Tiffany’s playful glint is gone, replaced with something more serious, swept up in a different feeling.
“I love you,” she echoes.
Taeyeon kisses her repeatedly, quickly.
“Taeyeon,” she breathes, the words washing over their joined mouths. “What were you going to say?”
Taeyeon slows to a stop, nuzzling Tiffany’s face. “I don’t think I should say it.”
“I might scare you away.”
Her words confirm what Tiffany had been thinking. Tiffany leans back a little, taking Taeyeon’s face in her hands.
“I want you to say it.”
“Are you sure?”
Taeyeon moves her hands over Tiffany’s back, feeling the smoothness of her skin. She leans her head forward to press her lips to Tiffany’s collarbone, and slowly plants a trail of kisses down her chest to the centre, where her heart is.
“Miyoung, I want to marry you.”
The pressure on her chest increases and Taeyeon starts to seriously kiss Tiffany’s skin, moving upwards again. As she reaches the point just by the curve of Tiffany’s jaw and starts biting and sucking, Tiffany reacts strongly. She gasps, rolls her hips forward, clutches at Taeyeon and presses them together.
Taeyeon slides one hand to Tiffany’s chest to cup one breast. She squeezes it gently before quickly unlatching Tiffany’s bra and slipping her hand beneath the fabric to cup Tiffany’s bare breast wholly. Her fingers start a slow massage as her mouth on Tiffany’s neck shifts to give her a soft kiss on the lips.
Taeyeon can hear her favourite sounds again. Tiffany’s breathing is heavy, accentuated with uneven, irregular little moans. Her lower body is rocking back and forth slightly, unconsciously. The chair creaks with her movements.
Suddenly Taeyeon stops. Their eyes meet, Tiffany’s confused. Then Taeyeon slowly, painfully slowly, caresses Tiffany’s neck and cups her face with one hand. Her other hand runs over Tiffany’s chest, stomach, and unbuttons her pants, all while she maintains their locked stares.
Tiffany lifts her hips when Taeyeon starts to put her hand down her pants, making access easier, and stays slightly raised as Taeyeon’s fingers settle there.
Taeyeon holds Tiffany firmly in place, keeping their eyes together. Even when she so slowly rubs Tiffany, she maintains their contact and trains Tiffany’s head to face hers.
Tiffany’s hips begin to move with the rhythm again, and Taeyeon lovingly watches the movements of Tiffany’s face as she makes those sounds again.
After a while, she takes them a step further.
She hears that familiar whine that always leaks from Tiffany at this moment. It’s her favourite of all the sounds bar the sound of Tiffany climaxing and crying her name.
She curls her toes in the carpet and shifts her legs slightly to provide better balance as Tiffany rocks with the movement of her hand.
Their lips meet again in a casual kiss, before Taeyeon goes back and takes Tiffany’s bottom lip between her own for a lengthy suck followed by a pop and a moan.
“Do you wanna marry me, 여보?” Taeyeon whispers.
Tiffany’s eyes are half-lidded but locked on Taeyeon’s face as she moves. “Yes. Yes, yes, yes, oh god Taey-”
Taeyeon’s fingers move faster, bringing the series of high-pitched yelps and moans that she was expecting. She smoothly brings Tiffany to her climax, relishing every atom of the moment. Tiffany finishes it all with a long, drawn-out moan and a sigh.
“Taeyeon,” she breathes, resting her cheek against the side of Taeyeon’s head. “Taeyeon.”
Taeyeon turns Tiffany’s head to her again and delivers a detailed, tender kiss to her mouth. After a while, Tiffany relaxes fully and climbs off Taeyeon’s lap. She straightens her clothes as she stands, and Taeyeon watches her silently.
Tiffany leans down for one last quick peck before she wanders away and flops herself down onto the bed. Taeyeon’s eyes track her every move, and she leans forward in her chair to rest her elbows on her knees.
“What?” Tiffany asks after a while.
“Nothing,” Taeyeon responds. “Except basically, we both just said that we want to marry each other when we’ve only been dating for a few weeks.”
Tiffany looks away. “Yes, we did.”
Taeyeon stands and goes to sit on the edge of the bed. She reaches out and rests her hand on Tiffany’s thigh.
“It’s okay, Fany,” she says quietly. “I’m not trying to pressure you or anything. I just think we need to talk.”
“About what happens when it’s time for me to go back to Korea.”
Tiffany doesn’t say anything for a long time. She stares at the window, even though the curtains are drawn and it would be too dark to see anything outside anyway.
“I’ll just say my piece first then,” Taeyeon says quietly. “I can’t stay in America. My family is very important to me, and they need me. And I’m not sure I would want to live anywhere other than Korea, at least not yet. I want to spend more time in Korea.”
Tiffany turns over, lying on her side with her back facing Taeyeon, and curls into a little ball of silence.
Taeyeon lies down next to her, curving against her back, and wraps an arm around her waist to pull her tight against her.
“I know you can’t come with me to Korea, either. You wouldn’t be able to work as a lawyer there, not when you’re not fluent in the language and studied the law of another country. I could never ask you to give up that dream, and I would never let you give up.”
Tiffany starts crying in earnest, letting out the emotions she had been holding back. Taeyeon holds her closer, covering her body warmly, and closes her eyes.
“We still have time,” she whispers. “We still have a long time.”
While the topic of Taeyeon’s departure is no longer discussed, they decide to try telling Tiffany’s father again. It’s two days before he leaves on his business trip, and Tiffany opens the door for Taeyeon when she arrives. They smile slightly at each other as Taeyeon removes her shoes and Tiffany takes her hand to lead her to the living room.
Mr Hwang looks up in surprise before greeting her warmly. “Hello, Taeyeon! Came back for more of my wonderful cooking?”
Taeyeon grins. “Your food is perfect, Mr Hwang, especially when I’m feeling homesick. It’s like being back in Korea again.”
Her words make him chuckle. “You’re good at flattering your elders, Taeyeon. Oh, I assume Tiffany has told you about my business trip?”
Taeyeon blinks, and nods. “Yes, sir.”
He eyes their joined hands before continuing. “I know she’s upset that I’ve asked her sister to come look after her, and I’ve been thinking about her opinions for a while now. She’s right; it’s unfair of me to ask her sister to come all the way here to look after her. And she is technically an adult now, but I don’t feel comfortable leaving her alone in the house. She wants to move into the dorms and that’s something we can talk about later, but I’ve decided on something else while I’m away on this trip.”
Taeyeon glances at Tiffany and sees from her confused frown that she was not informed of this.
She meets Mr Hwang’s eyes again. “Yes?”
“How about you come and stay here?”
They blink at him in shock.
“She can’t go stay with you in your small dorm room, and this way you can have a bit of a break and maybe feel more at home in a real house. What do you think?”
Taeyeon and Tiffany glance at each other briefly, their eyes telling each other all sorts of things, before Taeyeon looks at Mr Hwang and nods.
“That sounds great, Mr Hwang.”
They disappear to Tiffany’s room soon after and huddle together by the closed door to whisper.
“What do we do now?” Tiffany frets. “If we tell him now and he gets angry, he won’t let you stay with me. I really want you to stay with me, Taeyeon…”
Taeyeon holds her hands. “I know. This is a really good opportunity. It’s okay; we’ll just tell him when he comes back. Okay?”
Tiffany smiles at her and kisses her softly. Then she tugs on her hands to lead her to the bed and they sit down.
“Tell me about your regret, Taeyeon,” she says quietly, her eyes sharp and focussed. “That big regret that showed you how dangerous hesitation can be.”
Taeyeon takes a deep breath and exhales. She turns her body away from Tiffany, and leans back on her hands. Her face looks up to the ceiling and she ponders for a moment.
“I liked singing. I liked it a lot. It was pretty much all I did during my free time as a kid. I knew early on that it was all I wanted to do in my life. I didn’t want to sit in some boring office punching keys on a computer or falling asleep in meetings – I wanted to soar on the wings of my voice. Well, the time came when one of the biggest entertainment companies in Korea sent a scout to a singing competition in my area. Everyone went nuts. This was a chance to turn singing into a career, a life. So I practiced and practiced and fretted about my chances; I knew I had a good voice but it takes more than that to be a professional. And, you know, the fear didn’t really set in until I was almost there. With every step I took towards the venue, the thoughts washed over me, wave after wave of doubt and terror. Sure, I wanted to sing as a job, and I wanted it to be my life, but I kept thinking that this wasn’t right. Someone would take it from me. If it became my job then I would have a boss and my boss could ruin everything at any moment. I would be taking my greatest love and leaving it in someone else’s hands.”
Taeyeon straightens up and looks down at the floor.
“And I was afraid of leaving my voice in someone else’s control, because what if they thought I wasn’t as good as I thought I was? It would crush me. People who knew things about the business would listen to me and it would turn out that I wasn’t actually good at all. My dream would be destroyed, one way or another, in that instant that I stood before them and sang. So I ran away, and I never looked back, and I don’t sing anymore.”
“But why?” Tiffany asks. She scoots closer and wraps her arms around Taeyeon’s waist. “Why did you stop singing? You could have kept it as a hobby.”
Taeyeon smiles slightly and shakes her head. “No. It was all over. Every time I opened my mouth, the pain would appear and I would feel lost and confused. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t make myself sing.”
Taeyeon purses her lips together tightly and breathes deep. Tiffany traces the outline of Taeyeon’s mouth lightly, with the tip of her index finger, and places a soft kiss on the corner of her lips.
When Tiffany pulls back, she bites her bottom lip as if she wants to say something, her warm brown eyes flickering to Taeyeon’s gaze. Then she just leans forward again and kisses Taeyeon slowly.
“I’m scared,” she whispers hurriedly into the kiss. “I’m scared of telling my father about us. And I’m scared about being scared to tell him. I don’t want to lose you because I’m hesitant to – to say to him, dad I’m in love with Taeyeon, to talk to him about our relationship, I don’t want you to leave me because you already told your family and I’m scared.”
Taeyeon brings her arms up and circles them around Tiffany’s shoulders, gently stroking the back of her neck with her thumbs. “Shh, it’s okay, it’s okay. I’m here. And I’ll still be here for as long as I can. Just calm down, and take your steps with me. Okay? I told you, now we’re in a relationship, we’ll figure out how to survive life together.”
Tiffany stares at her for a long time, feeling the way her heart was beating faster and the way it felt as if she was being lifted up further and further with every moment she spent with Taeyeon. She had never felt such a strong feeling with anyone, and she’s scared but excited because one thing she knows for sure is that every day is happier than the one before and it’s all because of Taeyeon.
“Let’s go tell him,” she says firmly, standing up. “Come on.”
She grabs Taeyeon’s hand, pulls her along behind her, and a grin grows on her lips as they make their way back to the living room. Her father lowers his newspaper, and eyes her curiously when she stops in front of him with a big smile on her face and her fingers interlocked with Taeyeon’s.
“Dad,” she says, “I’m in love with Taeyeon, and she’s my girlfriend.”
His lack of reaction is downright terrifying for Taeyeon, who meets his quiet gaze with wide eyes.
“She makes me happier than anyone or anything in my life,” Tiffany continues, still smiling brightly. “And she’s absolutely amazing. She’s one of the best people I’ve ever met, and it’s incredible to me how she has learned a lot from life’s difficulties. I was scared to tell you, dad, because I didn’t want to lose either of you. But Taeyeon taught me a little something about hesitation, so I’m not hesitating anymore.”
And it was true, in the way she was speaking, that Tiffany was confident and strong and clear. Taeyeon squeezes her hand and echoes her smile for a moment, looking at her.
Mr Hwang doesn’t do anything for a moment. Then his newspaper rustles as he folds it and puts it neatly to one side. He leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees and weaving his fingers together. He looks from Taeyeon to Tiffany to Taeyeon, and finally settles on Tiffany.
“Well,” he says, and clears his throat awkwardly. “I wonder, Miyoung, if you remember that time a few years ago when you wanted to be a singer. You begged me to help you pursue your dream. And I thought to myself, no way am I letting my little girl throw herself into that world. Because I knew you would be good enough to rise to the top faster than a shooting star, and I was afraid for you because the top is a dangerous place to be in that world.”
He takes a deep breath, glancing at Taeyeon again for a moment before locking eyes with his daughter.
“Similarly, I’m afraid for you now,” he says in a frail voice. “I know what it’s like to be in love, and I know gender is hardly an ingredient to falling in love. So don’t get me wrong; I know Taeyeon is a great person, but I can’t say I’m exactly ecstatic here. This is another thing that makes me fear for you. The world is changing but not fast enough for my taste. Sure there are people who aren’t affected by the prejudices and so on, enough progress has been made for there to be a few people like that, but there are still many getting caught in the crossfire. I’m worried. I don’t want you to be prey to those situations.”
Tiffany comes closer to her father and settles on her knees in front of him, letting go of Taeyeon’s hand to take his hands in her own. “Dad, I know what you mean. And I was scared you would let your fear for me get in the way again. But Taeyeon… Taeyeon means something deeper to me. When I’m afraid, I go to her, and she makes me feel better and she helps me to stand straight and carry on. Honestly, we haven’t been dating long, but we’ve had this connection since the day we met and it just keeps getting stronger every day and taking me with it. So I understand that you’re afraid, and I’m scared too, but I can do this with Taeyeon. We can figure out how to survive life together.”
Mr Hwang sniffs for a moment, before letting go of his daughter’s hands to wipe his eyes and make his expression firm again.
“You’re growing up, my little girl. Your mother would be proud to hear you say things like this. And if she were here right now she would tell me that it’s that time. That time that she warned me about when you were just a baby. It’s time for me to let you go so you can live your life.”
He stands up and stops in front of Taeyeon.
“You,” he says sternly. “Are you the one who told my daughter all that sappy stuff about figuring out how to survive life together? That kind of sweetness is hard to come by these days. Don’t give her diabetes.”
He turns and wraps Tiffany in a tight hug, ignoring Taeyeon’s baffled expression behind him.
“I’m not done with you two yet,” Mr Hwang says to his daughter in their embrace. “But I want you to know that I won’t stop you this time. You’re right. The world is a dangerous place, but there are times when hesitation is even more dangerous.”
He lets her go, takes his wallet from his pocket, and stuffs some bills in her hands. “Go get us some ice cream or something.”
Tiffany eyes her father for a moment, smiling at him, and takes the money and Taeyeon’s hand and leaves her father alone.
They’re walking down the street, intertwined hands being swung happily by Tiffany, when Taeyeon speaks up.
“So… he’s okay with it?”
Tiffany laughs briefly. “He’s sort of okay with it. He’s a pretty sensitive guy, you know, so he’s probably crying a bit right now and that’s why he asked us to leave. He’s just letting it sink in that I’m not a kid anymore.”
Tiffany stops and turns to Taeyeon. She pulls Taeyeon into a hug and sighs. “He’s letting me be with you.”
Taeyeon returns the hug, tightening her arms around Tiffany’s waist, and closes her eyes before pressing her face into Tiffany’s neck.
They don’t let go of each other’s hands when they reach the store to buy ice cream. It feels different for Taeyeon, just like everything in America has felt different, to be holding hands with her girlfriend as they hover by the freezer to choose ice cream. She pecks Tiffany on the cheek, earning a wide smile in return that she effortlessly echoes.
And it’s good.
They’re playing games on Taeyeon’s new gaming console and rapidly descending into a wrestling match over laughs and accusations of cheating, when Taeyeon’s phone rings. She reluctantly pulls away from Tiffany, quickly jabbing the pause button on her controller in defence of the mischievous glint in her eyes, and answers the phone.
“Taeyeon, it’s your mother.”
Taeyeon freezes. “O-Omma?”
“Yes. Hello. I know it’s been a long, long time since we’ve talked.”
Taeyeon lets out a slow exhalation. “It has been almost eleven months, omma. I… I was starting to think you wouldn’t talk to me again.”
She hears a shaky breath on the other side of the phone. She reaches out for Tiffany, grips her arm tightly, but doesn’t look at her yet.
“Omma, do you want to talk?”
“Yes. I’m just not sure what to say. I tried to think of something, a little speech, but I find myself still speechless after eleven months.”
Taeyeon gulps, and closes her eyes. “Yes, omma.”
“Are you still with Miyoung?”
“Yes, omma. And we’ve told her father. He’s learning to accept us.”
“I told your father, a couple of weeks after you told me. He asked why you hadn’t called in so long and I told him what you had said.”
“And what did appa say?”
Taeyeon feels the warmth of Tiffany wrapping around her, the comforting slow breaths on the back of her neck. She leans into the touch, and waits for her mother to answer.
“We don’t… understand. We just don’t understand why you would do something like this.”
Taeyeon clenches her eyes even tighter shut and grips the phone. “And what exactly do you think I’m doing, omma? I’ve fallen in love and I’m in a relationship with the person I’ve fallen in love with. You don’t understand that? And if you can’t understand why I would be in a relationship with the person I’m in love with, then I’ll explain it to you. She makes me happy, omma. She keeps me warm when everything around me is cold, and she’s my shining light when it gets too dark. I love her, and I want to keep her by my side.”
“How long have you two been dating now?”
“Almost eleven months, omma.”
Her mother takes a few deep, even breaths before speaking again. “Listen, Taeyeon, we want you to understand something. We, all of us, your family, we love you very, very much. We know how hard it was for you, after you decided not to be a singer, and we know you’ve been learning from that incident for years. If you’re even half as happy with her as you were when you used to sing, then we do understand. We understand your happiness very well. We just don’t want you to lose yourself.”
Taeyeon laughs briefly. “Omma. Your words are close to expressing my deepest fear. In a sense, I didn’t want to be a singer because I didn’t want to lose my voice, and then I lost my voice. But it’s different. Tiffany – Miyoung – she’s different. With her, I didn’t lose myself. I gained myself, and her.”
There’s a long silence on the line. Taeyeon opens her eyes and shifts to kiss Tiffany on the cheek. Their eyes meet, both filled with concern, as they wait for Taeyeon’s mother to speak.
Her mother sighs. “Okay. Okay, I understand.”
“Yes, I understand. Taeyeon… you’re my precious daughter. I don’t want to lose you. I may not approve of your relationship in some ways, but I approve of your decision to follow your heart. I’m still struggling. We all are. We still have a lot to talk about, and a lot to think about. But I’ve told you since you were a baby; if you’re happy, I’m happy, deep down in my heart. I love you, my child.”
Taeyeon finds herself grinning. Tiffany wipes the tears from Taeyeon’s cheeks, mirroring her smile even though she didn’t hear those words.
“Thank you,” she breathes, looking at Tiffany. “Thank you, omma. I love you all too.”
She hears a sniff before her mother mumbles a goodbye and hangs up. Taeyeon lets the phone fall from her hand and pulls Tiffany closer to squeeze the life out of her. Tiffany returns the embrace with as much enthusiasm, and presses her face into Taeyeon’s hair.
“She’s trying,” Taeyeon whispers. “She still loves me, and she understands that you make me happy. She’s going to try.”
Taeyeon takes her time, slowly walking out of the plane and down the terminal tunnel all the way to the luggage collection area. She waits, watching suitcases float past her, until she sees her own and carefully removes it from the conveyer belt. She whips out its handle and listens to its wheels on the hard floor as she leaves.
Two steps away from the door, she stops. It’s a big glass door, but it has markings and signs on it so she can’t see much beyond it. She steps to one side so that others can go past, and she lowers her suitcase so it lies flat on the ground. Then she kneels down beside it. She runs her fingers over the zip of the small front pocket in the fluorescent lighting of the building.
She pulls out an envelope, its edges a bit crumpled because it’s a little too big for the front pocket of her suitcase and it has had to travel all the way across the world with her without being opened.
She picks at one corner of it with her fingernail, and finally opens it.
The only sound she can hear is the rustling of papers as the words are revealed in front of her.
She reads the first line before suddenly stopping. She quickly pats all the pockets of her jacket and jeans before finding her little pocket dictionary that she prepared for this occasion. Just like her acceptance letter to the American university, she wants to make sure that she definitely understands every word of this letter even though her English skills are beyond the need of a dictionary.
Dear Miss Kim, well that much she could understand easily but she reads it again anyway. It is our pleasure to accept your application for this position with our organisation. And so on, and so forth, and she reads everything a few times over and checks a few words in her little pocket dictionary, right there on the sticky floor of the American airport.
And then she smiles. She stuffs everything back into her suitcase, zips it up, and stands. She tugs it along with her as she steps through the door, and when she sees Tiffany she doesn’t stop for even a second before running to her and flying into her arms.
They hold each other tightly for a long, long time.
“Hello,” Tiffany whispers, her breath tickling the back of Taeyeon’s neck.
“Hi,” Taeyeon responds, and lightly kisses Tiffany’s ear. “I missed you.”
“I missed you too.”
“And guess what?”
“I love you.”
Tiffany giggles, squeezing her even tighter. “I love you too.”
“And now rapid-fire information: The optical store is going well, my parents are retiring and my brother is taking over. My mother wants to bring my little sister to come visit me next summer and see the sights. I’ve spent every day and night of the past year thinking about you. And I got the job.”
Tiffany shifts so that they look at each other. “You got the job?”
Taeyeon grins. “I got the job. I have a job here now. I have a job here, and I have my girlfriend here, and I’m finally here.”
Tiffany kisses her, firmly pressing their lips together for a long time. “You have a life here. We have a life here, together. Right?”
“Yes,” Taeyeon whispers, holding her even closer and answering without hesitation, “Together.”