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.