“Woah, what’s she doing here?”
“Hey watch out, she’s coming this way.”
A sly smile curved the corners of Tiffany’s lips. Her heels clicked against the smooth hard floor beneath her as she walked through the bar, passing the people who whispered and stared. Locks of her hair flowed over one shoulder as she flicked it out of her face, exposing the bare skin of her shoulders revealed by her sleeveless top. A sharp intake of breath from someone nearby made her smirk.
She sat down at the little table in the corner, shifted her chair closer to it, and kept her eyes away from the person sitting opposite her.
“Good afternoon, Ms Tiffany,” came the reply.
The waiter was by her side in less than a minute, whipping out his notebook and grinning. She spoke before he could even breathe and ordered a glass of pineapple juice. It was just past four o’clock. Tiffany removed her sunglasses, flicked them shut and lay them on the table, and dumped her purse onto the empty chair next to her. She sighed and ran a hand through her dark red hair.
“Let’s be quick,” she said.
“Of course, Ms Tiffany.”
An envelope was placed on the table and pushed towards her.
“An invitation. Your father would like you to attend his wedding on December the 1st.”
Tiffany eyed the envelope and clicked her tongue. She crossed her arms over her chest. “Right, right. Well I’ll be there. And?”
The waiter arrived with her pineapple juice. She knew acknowledging him would make it more likely that he would hang around, so she immediately lifted the glass to her lips and finally raised her gaze to see the person seated across from her.
Seohyun was flipping through a folder in her hands, skimming through the pages, her face perfectly composed in utmost serenity. She wasn’t a cold person, in fact she was cheerful and friendly, but she had some amazing internal balance that meant she could be like this, so straightforward and simple about professionalism.
The waiter awkwardly shuffled away.
“Three people have responded to your advertisement in the newspaper,” Seohyun continued. “One who calls herself Taeyeon seems most suited for your needs.”
“And why is that?”
“She wrote in her email – and I quote – ‘I know a lot about lips and I would like to see yours’.”
Tiffany almost choked on her juice. “What?! Is she some kind of pervert?”
“Apparently she gets that a lot.”
Tiffany set down her glass and ran a hand through her hair again. “Oh, I see, she’s eccentric, huh. One of the more socially awkward artists.”
“Perhaps. The way she worded her response suggests that she understands your intended concept very well. She would like to base the artwork on your lips, which would work well to keep your designs close to your identity as a designer while developing your original ideas.”
“Hmm. Okay, set up a meeting.”
Tiffany jumped at the new voice from right next to her and almost fell off her chair when she came face to face with a stranger. Literally this person was a few inches from her face and staring at her so intently she thought she might explode.
“What the f-”
“I’m Taeyeon,” she said, giving a friendly smile even while her eyes were still too wide for comfort. “You must be Ms Tiffany. I can tell by your lips.”
“Oh wow. Wow. Yeah, you gotta be Taeyeon.”
Taeyeon’s smile became a grin and she finally backed off. She waved cheerily at Seohyun, and then gestured at the waiter who was lurking not far away.
“Hey can I get a bottle of beer? Do you have Cass Fresh? Thanks.”
Taeyeon sat down in the other free chair, and looked at Tiffany again.
“I have to go,” said Seohyun, snapping the folder shut and standing. “That’s all we needed to talk about, Ms Tiffany.”
Tiffany reached out in the manner of a confused tourist who had become trapped in quicksand in the jungle, but to no avail as Seohyun left swiftly and without glancing back at either of them. Tiffany lowered her arms and turned to look at Taeyeon, who was accepting her bottle of beer from the waiter.
“So you’re sure you can do this?”
Taeyeon took a sip of her beer. “Absolutely.”
Tiffany eyed her for a moment. Then she sighed and got settled again. “All right, let’s start talking and doing some sketches. Did you bring your stuff?”
She hadn’t brought all of her stuff, but she pulled a ballpoint pen from one pocket and collected a swab of napkins. Over the course of a lengthy one hour and twenty minutes as well as three bottles of Cass Fresh and two glasses of pineapple juice, they produced almost thirty ink-smudged napkins showing various artistic sketches and fashion designs.
“Do you ever get overly conscious of your lips?” Taeyeon asked curiously, nursing her nearly empty bottle and gazing at Tiffany. “I do sometimes. You just suddenly realise there are these things, part of your face, that are moving when you talk and just kind of there, you know? That happens to me sometimes.”
Tiffany looked dubious. “Are you a druggie?”
“What? No! I get high on life, thank you very much.”
“Oh, you’re one of those,” Tiffany said dismissively.
“Yeah, I’m one of those. How about you?” Taeyeon leaned closer and lowered her voice. “What do you get high on, Ms Tiffany?”
Tiffany glanced at the smirk on Taeyeon’s face and echoed it briefly. Then she leaned forward, locked eyes with Taeyeon, and whispered, “I don’t get high. I make high.”
Taeyeon’s smirk faded, but not into a look of shock or nervousness like Tiffany had expected. Instead, something else appeared, something she didn’t recognise.
“You know, the thing about lips is,” Taeyeon murmured, “they’re so sensitive. Your bottom lip can tell the difference between all kinds of textures. Food, liquid, glass, plastic, cosmetics…” Her stare dropped on to Tiffany’s lips. “…bare, naked skin.”
Tiffany swallowed, keeping her eyes trained on Taeyeon’s face.
“And that’s what makes kissing so wonderful,” Taeyeon continued. A grin tugged at the corner of her mouth, briefly revealing a flash of a white canine tooth. “Sensitive meets sensitive. Senses connect. And that’s how fireworks are made.”
Tiffany let out a long breath. She sat back in her chair, fiddling with the straw of her empty glass, and smiled.
“You’re quite a smooth talker.”
Taeyeon grinned. “Thanks.” She straightened up, and finished off the last little bit of her beer with a swig. “Well, I’m off. Your assistant has my number, so just call me when you need me again.”
She grabbed her jacket, which was hung over the back of the chair, and got up to leave. Tiffany watched her exaggerated wink before she disappeared, and her lips slowly formed another smile. She traced her finger over one of the sketched designs in front of her.
“I’ll definitely call you, Taeyeon.”