“It’s not that bad, really.”
“I’m not! It’s only a little scratch.”
“Fany, it’s more than that!”
“You’re just overreacting, it was an accident anyway. He didn’t mean it.”
Taeyeon rocked back on her haunches and kept her balance as she looked at Tiffany. She couldn’t help but smile endearingly, though her eyes and the lines on her face showed how tired she felt.
“I have never been able to understand how you do that,” she said, admiration in her voice.
Tiffany blinked at her. “Do what?”
Taeyeon didn’t answer right away, tossing the little cotton ball beside her on the bathroom floor and then reaching for the box by her feet. She removed an adhesive bandage, checked its size, and exchanged it for another. Her eyes sought out Tiffany’s face again before she continued.
“You never see a beast,” she said. “There’s not a single monster in your world, is there? An animal tears your skin and you say it’s okay.”
Tiffany clicked her tongue, rolling her eyes briefly. “He didn’t tear my skin. He got a bit carried away while we were playing. And of course he’s not a beast; he’s a dog who’s been through a lot and needs to be loved. Is that really so weird?”
Taeyeon shook her head. She resumed her work on Tiffany’s wound, covering it now that it was clean, with smooth and perfect movements.
“No, it’s not weird. It makes sense, and it’s a lovely attitude to have. I just don’t know how you do it.”
She was quiet again, still holding onto Tiffany’s arm. Her fingers shifted over the adhesive bandage and along soft warm skin. Tiffany watched her and she knew it, but she made no move to meet the attentive gaze. Questions lay beneath it, and she didn’t want to disturb them.
Tiffany sighed. She reached for Taeyeon, wrapping her arms around her neck, and pulled her closer. They both had to adjust their positions to rest their bodies together, sitting on the floor of the bathroom pressed against the bathtub. Taeyeon turned her face, pushing into Tiffany’s shoulder.
“You’re not a monster,” Tiffany whispered.
Taeyeon took a deep breath, realized she hadn’t been breathing, and clenched her eyes shut as tightly as she could. The pressure turned into tears, and she held her breath once again. Never could she cry, it wasn’t allowed, not in front of anyone and not in front of Tiffany. At least, that was always what she thought and what her brain told her.
Tiffany’s fingers crept up the back of her neck, made paths through her hair, and gripped her gently. The softer pressure at the base of her skull seemed to detract from the pressure in her eyes, and her throat unfroze again. She cried, just a little, just enough to make her breath shake and her nerves shudder.
Then she stopped. It was brief. A moment, one of millions and millions in her life, which she had given to Tiffany by letting herself cry. It could be added to the collection; all of Tiffany’s pieces of Taeyeon’s life. One day she’d have it all.