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.