Just like Heaven

Tiffany has a car. It’s small, fuel-efficient, mobile for her urban lifestyle, and it’s pink. It’s her baby. She hunted all over the state for it, saved up for it, and she takes damn good care of it.
 
 
Tiffany has a girlfriend. Her name is Taeyeon. She’s small, fuel-efficient, mobile – no, she’s small, funny, smart, and not particularly mobile but she works hard. Lately she’s been putting in a lot of effort to pass a night-school course to improve her academic English while she tries to stay awake at work, so that she can finish her studies in America where she moved to live with Tiffany. It’s winter. She’s been sick. It’s difficult, stressful, but it’s one of those things that has to be done so that makes it bearable. Not great. Just bearable.
 
 
In one month, winter will be over. Taeyeon works hard and she relaxes when she can, and Tiffany does her best to make it easier for her, but it’s taken a toll and that much is obvious. Tiffany can’t stand it. She adores Taeyeon for doing this and she hates that Taeyeon has to go through this.
 
 
The thing is: Tiffany went through a lot of effort to find her car and buy it and take care of it – and she went through a lot of effort to find Taeyeon and make Taeyeon part of her life and to take care of Taeyeon. She did all these things because her car is her baby but Taeyeon is her once in a lifetime and that’s all Tiffany has dreamed of.
 
 
This situation that they’re stuck in now, with barely hanging on and pushing through to get there, it’s not right.
 
 
She looks at her car and she feels affection, but she looks at Taeyeon and she feels absolutely everything.
 
 
 
She sells the car.
 
 
It’s meant to be a surprise for Taeyeon. A month before winter ends, Tiffany begins to make the arrangements. She gets her car valued (it’s increased since the car has been in her hands) and she commences various notices and processes to put her car up for sale.
 
 
There’s a strong response. It’s the kind of car that’s perfect for this city, people her age, it’s in fantastic condition and it’s a reasonable price. She’s known it all along. She doesn’t jump on the first offer she gets, and she tries to keep it a secret from Taeyeon.
 
 
Taeyeon, who coughs really hard in the kitchen while Tiffany is scrolling through emails about her car. She looks up and frowns.
 
 
“Are you still a bit sick?”
 
 
“I’m fine,” Taeyeon answers, voice not as loud as Tiffany’s, and there’s a rattle as a cupboard is opened. “Just thirsty.”
 
 
Tiffany joins Taeyeon in the kitchen and hugs her from behind as she drinks water.
 
 
“Should I make you some tea?” asks Tiffany, kissing her lightly on the corner of her jaw. “I can add lemon and honey again.”
 
 
Taeyeon half shrugs, finishing her glass, and leans back against Tiffany. “I’ll be okay.”
 
 
There’s a pause as Tiffany stares at the side of Taeyeon’s face, then they separate as Tiffany goes to get a mug. “I’m making tea.”
 
 
“Thanks.”
 
 
Taeyeon tugs at Tiffany’s arm briefly to give her a quick kiss on the lips, and smiles at her. It’s obvious that she’s tired. The fact that she’s expressing her gratefulness is more than admirable. Tiffany adds on a hug after the kiss, squeezing tight.
 
 
“I love you,” she whispers as Taeyeon returns the embrace.
 
 
That’s why she’s doing it. With the money she can get from selling her car, they can finally get away from here for a while, take a real break and relax properly. It’s something Taeyeon needs and Tiffany needs Taeyeon to have this in her life.
 
 
Tiffany wakes up in the middle of the night because Taeyeon bumps against the bedside table as she gets into bed. This is the norm, for Taeyeon to stay up almost the whole night, but it makes Tiffany frown because it’s still happening even while Taeyeon is sick. She wonders about her plan to go on a holiday.
 
 
“Sorry, did I wake you?” Taeyeon whispers in the darkness, hovering nearby.
 
 
Tiffany blinks at her. “Yeah. Are you okay?”
 
 
“I’m fine,” Taeyeon replies, and tugs the covers over herself.
 
 
Tiffany sighs, sliding closer. “You always say that.”
 
 
Taeyeon turns her head and eyes Tiffany’s deep frown. “Okay. I’m not fine. But I’m still alive and I’m still going on, so it’s not so bad.”
 
 
At least she’s being honest about it. That’s a first. Taeyeon never admits stuff like this – Tiffany wonders if this means that she’ll be able to slow down enough to take a break.
 
 
“I’m selling my car,” says Tiffany, honesty for honesty.
 
 
Taeyeon shifts uncomfortably in confusion. “Why? Is something wrong with your car?”
 
 
“No, it’s fine. It’s great, actually, and I’ll be able to get good money for it. I’ve already contacted the buyer whose offer I’ve chosen so that we can finalize it.”
 
 
There’s a brief silence, heavy.
 
 
“Okay?” Taeyeon says uncertainly.
 
 
“We need to get out of here, Taeyeon.”
 
 
This gets Taeyeon to sit up and turn on a light, and now she’s the one frowning. Tiffany sits up, too, and crosses her arms across her chest.
 
 
“You’ve been working too hard,” she says.
 
 
Taeyeon’s frown becomes a raised brow. “If I don’t work this hard, I won’t be able to finish this.”
 
 
“I know, I don’t mean it like that. You’ll be able to get through this but I’m worried about the damage it’s doing to you.” Tiffany reaches out and cups Taeyeon’s face in one hand. “I want to help you. I’ve tried not to get in the way and not to complain when I miss you, and to support you as smoothly as I can, but I want to do more. I want to take you away from all of this in one piece so that you can relax, and settle, and remember who you are when you’re happy.”
 
 
Taeyeon’s eyes roam Tiffany’s face as she considers this.
 
 
“I’m sorry,” she murmurs eventually. “I got so far drawn into this whole thing – having to push myself to get through every day and make some progress.  You’ve been in the background, doing your best to make me feel better but I could always tell it was bothering you more than it was bothering me because I wasn’t letting it get to me. I can’t. I have to get through it.”
 
 
Taeyeon touches Tiffany’s shoulder lightly, brushes her fingertips along Tiffany’s collarbone.
 
 
“I love you so much.”
 
 
The exhaustion drags at Taeyeon’s features and tugs at her voice.
 
 
“You do everything for me,” she whispers, running a thumb over Tiffany’s jaw. “You take care of me, and make me feel better when I’m tearing at the seams. So much of your time and energy, you give to me. And all I do is work and stress and make you worry. I’m sorry.”
 
 
“That’s not all you do,” Tiffany says quickly. Her hands grab at Taeyeon, pull her close, and she kisses her lightly. “You’re doing all of this for me. You left a whole world behind to be with me. You’re striving to improve yourself and your life so that you can be the best you possible. With me. You’re giving me you.” She kisses her again, and again, and again; small, quick touches.
 
 
Taeyeon tangles her fingers in Tiffany’s hair, presses their foreheads together, slows her down.
 
 
“Thank you.” When Taeyeon kisses Tiffany, it’s slow and deliberate and gentle, and so warm. “Thank you for everything.”
 
 
Tiffany doesn’t have a car anymore, but she has a girlfriend. Her name is Taeyeon. And now they have something that is just like heaven.
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It’s not Christmas

Tiffany knows that going to a party on Christmas Eve will provide her with two things: bountiful alcohol and emotional people. Both are immediately presented to her as soon as she steps through the front door, so with one hand she grabs the proffered bottle of beer and with the other she grasps an arm to bring someone in for a hug and a shout of greeting.

The music isn’t anything she already knows and for that she is grateful. It’s something gritty and deep, just what she needs – and she’ll be able to get lost in it easily as the night wears on.

She wants to break some rules. She wants to find someone here who can distract her better than any other option in her life; someone who can keep her busy because they give her a whole other world. That’s someone she has never found and doesn’t expect to, but Tiffany cannot help but hope that something will happen just like every other lonely dark night that she thinks about this. She doesn’t want Christmas with the lights and the mint-flavoured cheer and her friends and family. She wants not-Christmas.

The problem is that she knows most of the people here, so she has to get moving. From one corner of the house to the other, she hovers and laughs with people and gently tugs at their conversations to see if they’ll drop what she’s hunting for, but she has no luck. She’s known most of these people long enough and well enough to know they don’t have it. Her heart is already beating in time with the thick rhythm of the music and now when she turns her head away from a group of people, she lets her hair cover her face while she takes a deep breath. She wants to take in more and more. She finishes her drink and plucks another from a tub of ice.

Someone sets off a wordless cheer and she spins on the spot as she joins in with the ripple in the crowd. Her free hand pushes at her hair, holding it back with her fingers, and she takes a long sip of a vodka cooler.

This time, she notices.

Across the room, leaning against the wall, staring at the ceiling, is a young woman with black and blonde hair who is tapping the mouth of a bottle against her own perfectly in time with the beat.

That’s her. Tiffany knows it. She doesn’t get this sense often and usually it’s just the alcohol talking but it’s good and strong so she’s definitely going to follow it.

There’s nothing on the ceiling – Tiffany checks with a quick glance as moves through the crowd – so when she reaches the mystery girl she mirrors the wall-leaning posture but turns her head to smile.

“See something I don’t?” she asks.

The girl meets her eyes, and lowers the bottle from her lips. “Unless you can see inside my head.”

Tiffany shrugs. “Want to take me on a tour?”

This makes the girl’s mouth quirk into a lopsided little smile – her bottom lip is rounder than her upper and Tiffany definitely responds positively.

“Do you know the night sky?” the girl says. She crosses her arms across her chest, lightly holding on to her bottle, and looks up at the ceiling again. “I’m looking at the stars. There’s a lot of them and they don’t look realistic at all, but I think they’re pretty great.”

Tiffany rests her head against the wall and looks at the ceiling.

One by one, tiny lights pop up like sparkles that strengthen and settle, populating gratuitous clusters of makeshift stars. Someone has turned the music up, and the stars wobble with every blow of the bass.

She realizes the girl is watching her so she turns her head again.

“My name is Tiffany,” she says.

The girl smiles again. “I’m Taeyeon. Nice to meet you, Tiffany.”

She wonders if Taeyeon can see the reflection of the stars in her eyes, because it seems like somehow she knows that they’re on the same page. She doesn’t have to ask if Tiffany is seeing anything at all. Instead she drains her beer and sits down on the floor, stretching out her legs in front of her and looking completely comfortable.

Tiffany doesn’t hesitate to join her, taking a leisurely sip of her drink as they stare up at the ceiling sky again.

They’re sitting close enough together that the left side of her body is warm and alert with the physical nearness.

“From the stars, we can move on to -” Taeyeon angles her head, looking straight ahead, ” – sand dunes. We’re in a desert. Because it’s night time, there’s a chill in the air that carries the bite of a distant heat.”

Easily Tiffany can imagine the dark floor beneath them is not carpet but the lightly cooling sand of a desert meeting the night after a day of simmering under the sun. She rests a hand palm-down on the ground between them and looks at it, thinking about how jarring it can feel to be suddenly cold after being far too hot. Taeyeon moves her hand over Tiffany’s, a contact that sends dim thrills along Tiffany’s skin.

Taeyeon closes her eyes, and tilts her chin up to the sky just to feel it.

It’s a feeling that comforts and excites at the same time; Tiffany doesn’t say that, but she takes a large gulp of the nearly-forgotten vodka cooler in her other hand. Yes, sitting in the desert at night, watching the stars with Taeyeon would feel great – does feel great, because she’s willing to go further into Taeyeon’s head to create this world around them.

“Oh, a shooting star,” says Taeyeon.

Tiffany checks. Taeyeon’s eyes are still closed. She looks up at their stars and sees them thrumming a heartbeat but – there, one flicks itself along the ceiling sky, brushing past a line of others and scattering them from one cluster to another.

“Cheater,” she murmurs, and receives a squeeze from Taeyeon’s fingers in response. “You’re not even looking.”

“I can feel it,” answers Taeyeon.

She opens her eyes anyway and intently watches Tiffany.

“It’s a long night,” she says.

Tiffany blinks at her. “Want to dance?”

Taeyeon laughs. “Absolutely.”

It’s easy to dance with Taeyeon. They edge away from the wall and move into the music simply. Every now and then, Tiffany glances up at the stars that Taeyeon showed her, and she runs a hand through her hair. As soon as her drink is empty, Taeyeon takes the bottle from her and deposits it on a side table. Then she takes Tiffany’s hand and pulls her closer.

“Do you like it?” she asks, leaning in to be heard over the music.

Tiffany grins. “The stars? The desert?” She reaches up to touch Taeyeon’s cheek lightly, briefly, then wraps her arms around Taeyeon’s shoulders and hugs her. “This night with you? I like it.”

“Good,” whispers Taeyeon, and their cheeks brush together.

Tiffany slips into the rhythm of their bodies, feeding off each other and driving the movements of the stars in the ceiling sky. She imagines the gently biting air of an empty land sweeping over her shoulders, so she presses closer to Taeyeon.

Taeyeon gives her a look that makes the stars fall from the sky, and Tiffany kisses her.

Now Tiffany can really feel the stars dripping around them in the middle of a night-time desert, and it’s anything but Christmas because of Taeyeon.