You can find me tomorrow

No matter what.

It was an agreement they made at the age of seventeen. Probably a common one, often said by a lot of people in their situation, but they meant it and they thought they were the only ones who would ever really hold that promise for the rest of their lives.

Tiffany hoped like hell that they were right about that.

Nearly ten years after they said those words the first and last time, Tiffany came to be standing in front of Taeyeon’s door. She knew it was Taeyeon’s door because the note she held crumpled up in her hand read “T Kim 21A Lockwood Tower Smith Street East” and that matched up with her current location.

The curve on the 2 was abnormally round.

She had found the address through the phone book in an act of pure desperation because it occurred to her – and she still pondered it now – that she had no way of contacting Taeyeon or Taeyeon’s family or anyone at all that she knew all those years ago. Those people used to be her life, fixtures in a little world she thought she would never get out of, and now she’d been through another lifetime altogether and none of them were more than a distant past.

Even Taeyeon.

But they said no matter what and so Tiffany relied on that promise now, and she knocked on the door.

“Be right there!”

Taeyeon’s voice didn’t sound that much different, just calmer maybe, but she had that same lilt she carried with comfort as a teenager.

She looked different though.

“Tiffany,” she said, and her eyebrows rose. “Tiffany?”

Tiffany scraped together a smile. “Hey, Taeyeon.”

“What,” she started, stopped, blinked, “What are you doing here?”

Nearly ten years had passed since they last saw each other and suddenly Tiffany was really feeling it for the first time. It hit her like a freight truck and winded her for a moment.

“Um,” she hesitated. For a while, she looked at Taeyeon.

She wanted to see her, see who she was these days, because maybe she seemed like the same person in a lot of ways but there was no guarantee that she was anything like she used to be. If there was one thing Tiffany had learned it was that life didn’t just change, it destroyed.

“Sorry it’s been so long,” she said, instead of everything that she was thinking.

Taeyeon moved her mouth, kind of like a fish, before answering. “That’s okay. I mean, you’re here now, I guess. Did you want to come in? We can catch up?”

Tiffany nodded, as awkward as can be.

Most likely, Taeyeon could tell there was something wrong, and that to help Tiffany relax they would need to be settled somewhere other than the hallway of her apartment building. Just like the very first day they had met, Tiffany was grateful to know someone like Taeyeon.

If she’d thought more about the world Taeyeon must be living in after all this time maybe she would have envisaged something like the apartment she entered now. It was warm, welcoming, awash with comforting textures and the lush of a home well-loved and lived-in. The colours were happy in the natural light and would be modest in the night. From where she stood, Tiffany could see the furniture in the living room, the couch and the bookshelf and the TV, and a coffee table littered with fashion magazines, and an end table with two remotes stacked neatly side by side.

It was Taeyeon’s home; and it was more of a home than Tiffany had seen in years. She could almost feel tears welling up from her chest, and she swallowed them right back down.

The look in Taeyeon’s eyes almost undid the effort. Tiffany glanced away immediately, pretending to inspect the art on the wall as she was led to the living room.

“Have a seat. Did you want a drink? I could make us some tea or coffee.”

Tiffany shook her head quickly out of habit. “No thank you, I’m fine.”

This time Taeyeon cocked her head to one side, openly curious. “Alright.” She joined Tiffany on the couch, keeping a respectable distance. “So, how have you been, Tiffany?”

It almost hurt her pride to have to be asking for help like this. It would hurt her pride if she had any left.

At what point in a grown woman’s life does she become willing to beg?

No, not beg. This was an appeal to human kindness and generosity. A basic sense of caring that should build the foundation of their species in an ideal world – but this was not an ideal world, so Tiffany was embarrassed and afraid. Thinking that she would seem unbearably weak to ask for help was what made her weak. People drew strength from each other.

Yet none of that helped her now to find the words she needed to explain to Taeyeon what it was that truly brought her here, how she ended up in this situation.

But she wouldn’t cry, either.

So, all she could do was take a deep breath, and meet Taeyeon’s attentive, caring gaze; the eyes that she’d contemplated every day for so many years, still the same.

Then it all just rushed out.

Her whole disreputable history, she even went as far back as the day after they last saw each other; because everything was sort of downhill from there.

And as she spoke, she let her tears flow over her face, hoping they could cover the shame that was burning her up from the inside.

It pained her. It hurt her, deeply, to have to expose herself like this – her true self, the person she was inside that few people ever saw. She knew that when people did indeed see this part of herself, they judged her, they laughed at her, maybe, and they dropped her like a hot coal. Like she was on fire, turning to ash.

She thought of herself just like all those others who ended up worse than this – if she could still consider them to be worse than herself, and maybe she didn’t.

In fact, who was to say that she was any different from them? She fell for the same weakness as them, the same pull, the same fault in her armour. She must have been just as pathetic as them, chasing after the high that they all wanted – and if they were all united in their desires then what did that make her?

Maybe there were moments when she felt like she was not so bad, she was still a good person, she was intelligent and hard-working and sensible and maybe she just liked to have fun every now and then. Sure, in a decent job she was better than them, when she got home and knew how to take care of herself she was better than them, when she paid her bills and helped a friend even when she ended up losing that friend, and when she kept her plans and promises she was better than them but when the drugs were on the table they were all the same starved animals.

She was a beast. She was a terrifying, gnarled beast that carried no respect, only hunger and desperation.

There was no denying the desperation. She acted cool and she felt in control but there was a spark that was lit inside her every time and it was without a doubt that want and need. She couldn’t deny it because it was exactly what she craved. That was the feeling she hunted – to want that bliss so hard and to reach it because the pain went away so much further when it was all she had to wrap around herself at the deepest darkness of her night.

Tiffany knew that was what Taeyeon saw. When she lifted her head, quiet now, trembling with the echoes of her sadness and insecurity, her eyes rimmed red and wet and showing that gritty despondency.

Taeyeon saw everything.

“Oh Tiffany,” she said, sounding breathless as if she’d just lived through all those years in a flash. “Oh, Tiffany, Tiffany.”

Tiffany moved to cover her face, afraid again now, but Taeyeon gripped her wrists lightly and tugged at her, closer on the couch, and she wrapped her up tight in a hug as if it was her gift.

And it felt like the greatest gift of all. Taeyeon, her one true friend from a different time in her life, almost a different world, didn’t run away and didn’t chase her away.

She really was willing to accept Tiffany, even now.

Tiffany felt all the air leave her body in one great rush, as if lead was being removed from her very veins.

“I’m here for you,” said Taeyeon, her voice muffled in Tiffany’s hair, her tone shaky with emotion, “No matter what. Just like what we said, Tiffany, just like what we said.”

Tiffany closed her eyes, squeezed them shut and squeezed Taeyeon just as hard, wanting to hold on to this, the moment, the feeling, the promise, to Taeyeon.

And she hoped it would be enough.

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Love That

Taeyeon doesn’t use the word ‘love’ lightly, and she doesn’t use it plenty. To hear Taeyeon say she loves something is to witness the acknowledgment of a treasured part of her life.

That’s how everyone knows that Taeyeon really loves her car.

She says it often, but even if she didn’t it would be obvious in the way she washes it herself and polishes it with care once a week. In fact, she does this every Sunday at 3PM like clockwork. It’s her special car time, just her and her Mercedes, gathered in appreciation. Of course, it’s not all just about how her car looks; it’s that smooth sensation of an engine with quiet power, effortless movement, the way it curves around corners like it’s part of the airflow, a member of the natural order. It’s beautiful.

So, when Taeyeon doesn’t have her special car time, she’s grumpy. There’s no other way to put it. She pouts. She doesn’t talk. She broods, and sighs. But sometimes she can’t avoid it.

And one thing that successfully separates her from her special car time is a broken arm.

It stops her from doing a lot of other things too, like computer games that require two hands and being able to cook for herself with confidence, so it isn’t until Sunday just before noon that it really hits her.

She sulks right away, all too familiar already with the glare that she shoots at the cast on her arm which has taken over her life so completely. Taeyeon’s car is maybe the one true love of her life, and she hasn’t been able to drive it all week unless she takes off the sling and fumbles awkwardly, and now she won’t even be able to wash it.

It should be easy just to shrug it off and take it to the carwash at the gas station down the street but this is her baby. She won’t let a senseless machine wipe itself all over her car and call it a wash. If she can’t touch her car, then she needs at least one other human who cares to do it for her.

It takes thirty minutes of dedicated internet searching to determine exactly which of the carwashes in her city have raving reviews from car enthusiasts. The result is not ideal; it’s barely even in the city at all, hovering at the very edge, but its reviews are all positive and they focus on things like attention paid to each little part of the car and “the look in that girl’s eyes shows how much she cares” so that’s good enough for Taeyeon to at least go check it out.

Whether “that girl” at the carwash really has a caring look in her eyes while she watches or if some lonely middle-aged man wrote the review, there’s no way to tell until she gets there.

And when she gets there, she’s not exactly capable of telling anything.

There’s a young woman washing a car and she’s gorgeous. Beautiful. Dazzling. Brilliant.

It’s summer, so the tiny denim shorts aren’t really a surprise, and maybe the button accidentally became undone while she was working, and there’s no way to avoid that kind of cleavage when your chest is a certain size so –

So maybe Taeyeon shouldn’t be looking.

She blushes despite being in her car, parked on the side of the road, peeking through her tinted windows to investigate the place. The carwash girl has no idea she’s there, doesn’t know what Taeyeon’s eyes have been up to.

Speaking of eyes, there is a decent amount of care in hers. She does seem like she’s wholly focused on the task at hand, so wrapped up in concentration that she even leans closer to the car, angles her body to inspect it intently, and that’s why she’s turning around and curving like th-

The care in those eyes has shifted and Taeyeon knows this because they’re on her now. At first, she panics, then figures it is purely chance, and that she still can’t be seen behind her tinted windows, then realizes her tinted window is no longer tinting in front of her, so she panics some more because somehow, at some point, while she was ogling this attractive girl, she lowered the window and now they’re looking at each other. Looking at each other.

She flicks the button and the window buzzes up again, a little too slow for her liking, and she dies inside.

Now she must decide; option one, turn around and go home and sulk – option two, hand over her car to this woman who is intimidatingly attractive and just saw Taeyeon checking her out but really seems to do a good job of washing cars.

Taeyeon weighs the situation, and takes her time to think about it.

Her uninjured hand strokes the steering wheel lovingly.

She sighs, and gets out of the car.

Sometimes she must put the needs of her car above the embarrassment of herself, and this is one of those times. This is important.

“Hey there,” the girl calls out, and there’s a twinkle in her gaze that Taeyeon can’t escape. “Can I help you?”

Taeyeon coughs unexpectedly, then straightens up. “Well, I need a favour. Well not a favour, I mean obviously I’ll pay, I just mean it’s special to me. I was hoping you could wash my car?”

“Well,” the girl echoes, voice lilting with a teasing emphasis, “this is a carwash, and I work here, so there’s a pretty solid chance that I could indeed wash your car in exchange for money, since that’s what I do all day.”

Taeyeon laughs faintly. She sticks out her arm. “As you can see, I’m currently unable to take proper care of my car, and this place has good reviews. What do you think? Do you have time to do mine today?”

“Your car?” The girl squints past Taeyeon at the vehicle in question. “Are you sure it needs a wash? It looks pretty clean to me.”

Taeyeon reaches behind her instinctively, tracing her fingers along the surface of the car. “Clean? Of course, it’s clean. I take very good care of my car.” She tries to remove some of the defensive tone in her voice. “It just needs a wash and polish to keep it that way. That’s all.”

The curl of the girl’s mouth tells her that she’s busted; this girl knows her type, the over-protective car owner who is reluctant to let unholy hands touch their beloved.

“My name is Tiffany,” says the attractive car-wash girl, “and I’m sure I can fit your car in to my busy schedule.” She gestures behind her to the car she’s working on now, sparkling clean, and the line of cars parked behind it. “But only if you promise me something.”

Taeyeon’s automatically wary, unsure of what game is being played. “And what’s that?”

“Don’t hover while I work,” Tiffany begins, shifting her weight and resting a hand on her hip, “and take me out for a drink. You have a beautiful car and I’d like to get to know it better after I’ve totally, utterly, absolutely polished it from top to bottom.” She winks discerningly.

The confidence and suddenness of the appeal catches Taeyeon off-guard. She feels stricken, the same way she felt when Tiffany saw Taeyeon checking her out. The situation is not that different.

It’s while she’s staring at Tiffany in shock that she notices the ever-slight pinkness dusting Tiffany’s cheek, and the way her smile is gentler than before, not as cocky as her words were. Maybe she was being genuine.

The thought makes Taeyeon more comfortable but also more confused.

She forces herself to relax by loosening some of the muscles in her body one at a time.

“Well,” Taeyeon says, “I should let you know that by coming into close contact with my car, you’re at a level that few people reach in my life. So maybe a drink is necessary. I’ll need to check out the person who’s touching my car so intimately.”

Tiffany raises an eyebrow. “Oh, I think you’ve done that already.”

Taeyeon allows herself to smile, small. “You know what I mean.”

The look in Tiffany’s eyes is a little different now, assessing her, thoughtful. Then she tugs on the towel that’s been hanging off her shoulder, and half-turns to get back to the car she was working on.

“You can park it just there,” she points to a space directly beside them, not at the back of the line, “I’ll do it next and then my shift is over.”

She glances at Taeyeon over her shoulder, and Taeyeon tries her very hardest to keep her eyes on Tiffany’s face.

“And then we’ll go get a drink and talk about –” she pauses, grins, “– cars.”

Taeyeon nods mindlessly, barely functioning at this point, completely not thinking about her broken arm or the fact that a stranger will be washing her car. Suddenly everything feels fantastic. The sun is brighter, the day is clearer, the air is fresher.

She doesn’t even feel grumpy that she won’t get her alone time with her car today.

Because she’s got a date with the gorgeous, beautiful, dazzling, brilliant girl from the carwash.

And she loves that. Not as much as she loves her car. But the only other time she’s thought the words ‘love at first sight’ was when she bought her car, so maybe this is not that far off.

She nods to herself, skips a heartbeat when Tiffany winks at her, and pats the hood of her car as if to congratulate it for a job well done.

She really loves that car.