It was hard to find a seat at the bar; even though it was barely past lunchtime and most of these people would usually be at work. But it was St. Patrick’s Day and clearly that was enough validation for a lot of office workers to take the afternoon off and pretend to have some connection to Ireland. Even now, a group of men with rolled-up shirtsleeves were loudly debating which of them had the most Irish ancestry. Taeyeon couldn’t help but think that their claims of quarters and sixteenths Irish blood were convoluted. Either way, it seemed universal to bond over the large collections of Guinness and bathe oneself in green.
Taeyeon glanced down at her own clothes, which were not green and were decidedly average even by her standards of comfort-focused styling. She wasn’t here for St. Patrick, and she wasn’t here for the Irish beer.
She was here for Tiffany.
When at last she found a seat at the bar, she parked herself securely. She could tell by the harried movements of all the staff that she would either have to cause a scene to steal their attention or she would just have to wait patiently. A peek at her watch confirmed she was ten minutes early anyway, so she settled in to wait.
Whatever Tiffany had to talk about had sounded important over the phone. The hesitancy of speech gave the impression of self-control giving way to weakness. It was something that had troubled her for a long time and that she needed to let out.
But why of all places did she want to meet at a bar full of drunken green-painted people?
She didn’t have to wait long to find out, as it happened – Tiffany burst through the crowd of rambunctious drinkers and almost fell on to Taeyeon, giggling and sporting green devil horns.
“You’re here!” Tiffany shouted. She immediately transformed her stumbling near-collapse into a tight embrace, squeezing the stuffing out of Taeyeon. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she said, more quietly, and Taeyeon felt the smooth kiss on her cheek as Tiffany pulled away.
Tiffany half-turned to the bar, keeping an arm around Taeyeon’s shoulders and leaning against her body. With a single wave of her hand, a young barman shot over and she ordered two pints of Guinness.
“Hope you don’t mind,” she said, looking at Taeyeon. “I’ve already started drinking without you.”
Taeyeon caught the trace of it on Tiffany’s warm breath, and she smiled. “It’s okay. You look like you’ve been enjoying yourself.”
Tiffany shrugged one shoulder. “It’s better now that you’re here.” Her lips curved with her sly nature, and she leaner closer. “Did you miss me?”
Taeyeon leaned back slightly, raising an eyebrow. “Are you coming on to me?”
“Maybe,” Tiffany replied, tightening her hold on Taeyeon, “just a little. Why, don’t you like it?”
Taeyeon made a non-committal noise. Tiffany winked and kissed her lightly on the corner of her mouth.
Their Guinness arrived but they barely noticed it. The barman was quick to disappear again.
Taeyeon turned her head and kissed Tiffany on the lips, slowly and attentively. She felt and heard Tiffany make a humming sound in the back of her throat as they kissed, and she smiled as much as she could without breaking their connection.
Tiffany was the first to pull away. “I knew you would like it.”
Taeyeon just kept smiling, and then she looked away to reach for her drink. “So, what did you want to talk about? It sounded important.”
Even though Tiffany was trying hard to appear nonchalant, her face had gone pale by the time Taeyeon looked back at her.
“It doesn’t really matter anymore,” Tiffany said. “I guess I just wanted to get drunk. How about we finish these and go somewhere quieter?”
The way Tiffany pressed herself against Taeyeon, and moved her hand to stroke the small of Taeyeon’s back, and the suggestive curl of her voice – it was all exactly the pattern that Taeyeon was becoming all too familiar with. These were the things Tiffany did when she wanted to change the subject, and bury the subject under a heap of distractions. Whatever she wanted to avoid, it was significant.
Taeyeon stared into Tiffany’s eyes, intently examining as much of her as she could, as if her eyes truly were the windows to her soul. After a moment, Tiffany blinked and turned away. She removed her arm from around Taeyeon and leaned her elbows on the bar. She took a sip of her drink. She knew Taeyeon knew something was wrong, and she was on the verge of surrender. All Taeyeon had to do was ask.
Finding words had always been a struggle for Taeyeon. She couldn’t figure out where they were hiding, why they always seemed to scatter when she tried to pick some and fit them together.
I love you were three words that individually had varying levels of usefulness for her. In the end, it was the word you that fell from her lips most often. It was synonymous with Tiffany.
Tiffany was the person she talked to the most. Every day, she would send Tiffany some words; they weren’t always spoken aloud, and so Tiffany didn’t hear most of them. Sometimes Taeyeon would sit in a corner somewhere, or in the roots of a tree, or on the roof of a parking building, and guide the silky lead of a pencil over a sheet of paper. The grey words seemed softer, somehow lighter than ink. She thought maybe if she wrote it so, the words could find themselves floating near Tiffany one day.
There was a paper in every pocket of all the clothing she owned. It held those words that she put together to send to her, shoved into the fabric confines after the second thoughts arrived. There was no point in telling her, Taeyeon realised. She had nothing to give to Tiffany anymore.
That was the long sequence of thoughts that went through her head during moments with Tiffany. When she shifted her chair to make room for Tiffany to sit where she wanted; when she stood in line at the café, waiting to buy Tiffany’s favourite coffee; when she sat staring at the potent, poisonous alcohol in her hands; and in the early, grey hours of the morning just before dawn arrived, as she watched Tiffany sleeping.
Tiffany’s breathing was always a little loud. Not heavy, just easily able to grab Taeyeon’s attention in the quiet room. She sounded at peace, even though the frown that curved her brows implied her dreams were uncomfortable.
Taeyeon’s finger lightly traced the lines of Tiffany’s eyebrows, feeling the soft little hairs against the ridges of her skin. She dipped her fingertip along the line between eyebrows, and followed the form of Tiffany’s face. Her nose was so smooth – it seemed slightly longer than it looked.
A smile of pure enjoyment curled Taeyeon’s mouth.
Tiffany’s lips felt different against her finger than they had when pressed with her own lips. She hesitated, comparing the differences in her mind, before moving her hand and kissing Tiffany.
For a beautiful, peaceful moment, she could taste Tiffany again, and absorb her again. But to her, the moment wasn’t shattered when Tiffany stirred. In fact, the sight of Tiffany shifting around, turning her head, opening her eyes just a tiny crack and blearily letting out a grunt before dropping into sleep again – it was all just perfect.
Tiffany was perfect. Not to say that Taeyeon thought Tiffany had no flaws, rather that Taeyeon had come to the firm belief that Tiffany, as a person, as a mind, as a heart and soul, was the most beautiful being.
And it was on that note that Taeyeon looked away, and sighed, and got out of bed to leave.
The road was quiet as she walked. It was early in the morning, too early even for those who had to go to work. Taeyeon didn’t get much sleep and it showed in the heavy, unbalanced rhythm of her footsteps on the cracked and crumbling pavement. She looked up at the clear bright sky and it made her head spin, as if the world was tilting itself upside down to bring the sky closer to her. It made her grin widely.
She reached the university campus twenty minutes before her class was scheduled to begin. A cup of coffee from the machine sent a brief kick through her body and she stretched languidly outside of the classroom after the empty cup was discarded.
The ringing started soon after. She absently traced the outline of her cell phone’s screen in her pocket, as if she could feel the shape of the word ‘Tiffany’ on its surface, but she made no move to answer it. After the first abandoned call, three more came quickly without even finishing their initial cycle of ringing before being cut off and replaced with the next one.
Taeyeon closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the wall of the classroom building. She listened to the symphony of ringing that enveloped her. Tiffany was looking for her. Tiffany was calling her, desperately seeking an answer from her, wanting her.
She held down the power button beneath the press of her finger until everything stopped and it was deathly still.
She inhaled deeply, and let it all out slowly.
She opened her eyes, and went to class.
Not for the first time, she thought only of Tiffany while she was spacing out during class. Usually her mind was occupied with contemplations of the various little details of Tiffany’s habits or her beauty, but this time Taeyeon was thinking of what they had done the night before.
Her lips tingled with the memory of kissing Tiffany. She absently ran a finger over them, and the sensation made the feeling stronger. She remembered that feeling.
Taeyeon bit her bottom lip and clenched her hands into fists. No matter the mental and emotional complexities of her situation, she physically wanted more of Tiffany, endlessly.
After class, she wandered outside with her head still full of the essence of Tiffany. But her eye was quick to catch a glimpse of an unexpected yet perhaps not surprising sight; Tiffany stood against the wall opposite the classroom door, wrapped in her winter coat as she anxiously shuffled her feet in the cold and bit at the fingernail of her left thumb.
Even when their eyes met, Tiffany stayed there, fretting. Taeyeon smiled blissfully and slowly stopped right in front of her.
Before either of them said anything, she gently cupped Tiffany’s face in her hands; the actions causing Tiffany to stop biting her nails and she held onto Taeyeon’s wrists.
Taeyeon leaned forward and kissed her. The action was sincere, and loving, and sent Tiffany’s heart on a rollercoaster in an instant. She felt her simmering confusion intensify, while her panic was settled by the confident, comfortable warmth that Taeyeon gave her so smoothly.
“We need to talk,” she said, words muffled by Taeyeon’s lips. Neither of them moved. Taeyeon removed her lips only for a moment before pressing forward again.
Finally she pulled away and took Tiffany’s hands in her own. Her smile was soft and serene. “Let’s go talk.”