Love is so bad. (Part 4)

Spend

I think you owe me something.

There was nothing holding Taeyeon back anymore, because there was nothing holding her at all. At nights she lay alone beneath a blanket, head cupped by a pillow, and nothing could touch her. It was just her, alone, by herself. Untouchable, untouched.

And she placed blame.

It really was Tiffany’s fault. Everything was Tiffany’s fault. Meeting her, falling in love with her, breaking her again and again – everything was Tiffany’s fault.

She wanted it back. Her heart, her time, her strength; she wanted it all back, and Tiffany was the one who had taken it all, everything Taeyeon had and everything Taeyeon was. She took it. She smashed it. She left it at her feet. And Taeyeon wanted it back.

A part of me refuses to believe you.

If only she had this sense earlier. Something in her could have stepped between them. Something could have told her to watch out and retreat.

Something could have wrapped around her so that she wasn’t able to break when Tiffany dropped her.

You bring me back
Taeyeon felt breathless, on the verge of tipping over, lying down in the centre of the bed with Tiffany right beside her. They laughed, their faces seemed close to splitting from their smiles, and that was what Taeyeon thought happiness was – because of what they had, she thought happiness was a love that bound so tightly it strangled.

It was something in the way Tiffany held her while they slept; the comfort, the safety, the softness and smoothness of skin against skin. Loose, but not so loose, because Taeyeon felt undeniably that it was a grip that did more than hold her. It took her.

She loved that feeling. It was as if Tiffany wanted her so much that she didn’t just want to have her close, she wanted to have her completely. And that was the sort of feeling that folded fingers over her beating heart and squeezed. Maybe it squeezed a little too hard, but it only made her think it was out of love.

So she watched Tiffany sleep because she could. And there wasn’t any better reason, wasn’t any better vision, nothing better than having Tiffany, who wanted her so badly that the poison of love flowed slicker than blood.

It was a poison that grew from the moment they met, it became worse in the intensity of its effect and it was sticking to her veins. Somehow she could feel that she would never be able to shake it off, to rid herself from it, and that seemed just fine. It seemed perfect. Who would ever want to lose love, to break it? That was idiocy. From birth into this species a child is taught to treasure love, whether directly or by observation, it is learned that there is a value to love and that it must be found and kept and given and taken and in too many ways it must be the controller of all life. Love was the determiner, if you had it you were safe and if you didn’t you were empty and hopeless and afraid. Something to be mourned, pitied, feared, lost.

So of course Taeyeon would be happy to have the love. It was a poison more precious than blood, and if its sticky countenance colonized her veins and seeped into her heart, and took over her mind and everything she knew, then why would she possibly not want that?

It was love.

Love was so good.

What difference did it make if Tiffany cheated on her or not? Why did it matter if it was always a lie or if something changed? The real fault was love. If Taeyeon were not in love with Tiffany, it wouldn’t hurt like it did. Nothing would hurt. Tiffany would tell Taeyeon she did not love her anymore and Taeyeon would be just fine. She would shrug it off and go on, and find something better than love. It didn’t hurt if she didn’t let it hurt.

Taeyeon scoffed to herself at her own thought. Better than love. Everything was better than love. A rotting squid on a trashed beach was better than love. Love was what was killing her, and since the moment it got a hold on her heart and central nervous system, it was breaking her body down. Everything was better than love, and everything could be beaten more easily than love. Love could be beaten too, she knew it, she had to do it.

She sipped her coffee and looked around the café. It was a plain day. The weather was nothing special and neither were the people or their decisions to come here. It was all so very boring, so empty. She saw the couples laughing together and the families smiling as they talked and she knew why it all seemed so different from her. They were all still loving and being loved. She knew exactly why they seemed boring and plain and empty, because they hadn’t felt the hurt of love yet. It made her smile, to think that she was already on the other side and could watch the fools fall.

“It makes me stronger,” she murmured. “I’m stronger than it now.”

“Excuse me?”

Taeyeon looked up to see Sunny, slowing to a stop with a hand almost raised, about to greet her. She smiled, and reached over to pull out the chair across from her.

“Nothing, nothing. Hello, welcome, take a seat. Would you like a coffee?”

Sunny peered at her before sitting down. “Not yet. Tell me first, how have you been?”

Taeyeon’s smile grew to a grin. “Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. I’m feeling great, Sunny. Much, much better. Strong.”

Stronger than love, didn’t need love, wouldn’t let love kill her again and again. But love was a poison, it was slow to work, it was excruciating to bear long after its cause was gone, and that was what was really happening. She was not without love, not yet, because once it was there it didn’t go away, and no matter how much she felt like she had escaped its murderous intent, it was still there. It was breaking her down, piece by piece, but it wasn’t controlling her any more. It didn’t tell her what to do, she was free. But its rancid acid continued to make her disintegrate from the inside.

“-you even listening to me? Hello in there?”

Taeyeon looked up – at some point she had hung her head – and blinked at Sunny. “Oh, right, sorry. What were you saying?”

Sunny stared. “No, never mind. It wasn’t important. Are you sure you’re okay?”

Even though the warmth in her chest was the heat of unspilled sobs welling up, she pretended it was happiness. She told herself she was fine, and it was that assurance which schooled the muscles in her face to form a smile. The most genuine thing she could muster, she pulled it together, and she showed it to Sunny.

“Absolutely. I’m fine. I’m great.”

It would haunt her.

“I’m ready to go on with life.”

It would claw at her.

“I’ve accepted what happened. She’s not coming back to me.”

It would drag her down by her muscles.

“She doesn’t love me, and that’s fine.”

And it would smother her from inside her veins.

“It’s not love, anyway, right? I won’t love her if she doesn’t love me. No problem, no problem. That’s not love, clearly. Love must be something better. Anyway, anyway, enough of that. Want some cheesecake with your coffee? I’ll pay. My treat.”

Because love was really, really bad.

Love is so bad. (Part 3)

Reality, Hallucination, Love

Taeyeon was afraid to fall, and in retrospect she couldn’t help but think that she was right to be so. Why did she let go of that fear of loving, losing herself to another person? She reached a point where she wasn’t afraid to fall; she jumped.

She considered it as she stood on the roof of the hospital and stared at the air. Not the sky, not the ground, not the scattered few people below or the thinly shining stars above, but at the air that was thick around her eyes with tears she was keeping stored there.

She knew it, that she reached a point where she decided she would love Tiffany. There were buts and ifs at first, and then there were none, and she just loved Tiffany with all of herself and none of her fears. How did that happen? And how did she let it?

There were no answers, she felt, as a weak breeze failed to push at the air around her. She did it. Tiffany did it, or so she thought – and once again she wondered if Tiffany had ever even loved her, and if she did, then she wanted to know what made that love go away. Taeyeon wasn’t naïve, she knew well enough that love wasn’t forever, but as far as she knew, there was always a reason why it all ended and why love disappeared. There was a reason her breath was cut off when Tiffany ended it. She knew there was. There had to be.

And if there wasn’t, then the world was really just that much crueller than she had thought.

That Dance
The dance floor was crowded, the circle around the newlywed couple breaking and expanding into a pool of guests plodding in a politely party-ish manner. It was the development of a formal occasion in an intentionally casual environment. People gave it a try but not really. The music was neutral; nothing too scandalous, but nothing too outdated. The room was dimly lit, with neatly lined lights in different colours around the edges and Taeyeon was only thankful that there was no disco ball.

She was also thankful that Tiffany was currently attached to her. Their arms were linked as they stood on the edge of the dance floor and watched dubiously as middle-aged professionals made an attempt to go wild without relaxing.

“You know what these people need?” Tiffany whispered in her ear, causing a ripple along Taeyeon’s skin which culminated in an automatic grin. “I think they need a couple of young, attractive women to liven up the dance floor.”

Taeyeon turned to smile at her. “Oh? I didn’t realize there were young, attractive women at this wedding, you must point me in their direction immediately.”

Tiffany raised her eyebrows, and then she laughed. “Nice try. Now, I know this is my uncle’s wedding, but I never see ninety percent of the people in this room, so I would like us to blow their socks off with a killer dance and then we shall go home.”

Taeyeon gazed at her for a while, and then she held out her hand. “Shall we?”

They ventured unobtrusively onto the dance floor, and then they stopped and shifted awkwardly.

“Uh, do you want to lead or –”

“Oh, I don’t know – well, maybe you –”

“You know what, I’ll just lead and we can switch later.”

Taeyeon thought about it for weeks at a time, the differences and similarities in how she held Tiffany and how Tiffany held her. The softness, the tenderness, the solidness. They watched each other, and they laughed, and they kissed, and they switched leads as they danced. Then they went home, and it truly felt like it.

Taeyeon found reality was still there when she woke up. The room was the same, the world was the same, nothing had changed from when she went to sleep; and that was reality. Except she didn’t want to accept reality.

She was back in her apartment, her name left behind on about three different watch lists, Sunny set to drop by every day basically just to make sure she was still at least partly alive.

After much pushing on Sunny’s behalf, Taeyeon also agreed to regular drug tests. This decision surprised not only Sunny but also herself, because it was so sudden, partway through an argument, dull and soulless – but then Taeyeon realised it was because it didn’t make any difference. Drugged or not, reality was reality. Or at least it seemed so. Truly, the drugs provided the same sort of useful hallucination that sleep did, but just like sleep, reality was still reality when she woke up.

So she found herself fine with the choice to avoid drugs and be tested for them, simply because she did not care either way. Life still sucked. The drugs were only temporary, from the very beginning.

The beginning.

She sighed.

She put down the glass of water she was holding. She meant to sip from it ten minutes ago, but once again she got lost in her thoughts. Were they thoughts, or were they feelings? She was losing the ability to differentiate. She felt angry and she thought angry thoughts. She felt empty and her thoughts were empty. She felt sad and thinking made her sad.

Talking to the psychiatrist at the hospital had been long and pointless, and very quiet. The psychiatrist was a composed-looking middle-aged woman who asked her general questions and was probably only half-interested in any answers she may have given. She didn’t give any answers. She supplied sentences as general as the questions, and Sunny vouched for her when they informed the psychiatrist and the hospital of Taeyeon’s agreement to stop taking drugs and doing harmful things. So in the end they let her go, and Taeyeon would never be going near a psychiatrist again if she could help it.

Although, she didn’t really seem to be able to help herself at all. This became clearer when she realised she was sitting in her car, across from Tiffany’s apartment.

She gazed at it, identifying the window in the building that was covering Tiffany’s living room. She remembered being there for the first time, and the last time, and she started dreaming of how that last night could have been different.

For one, Tiffany could have answered her damn questions. Why? It was apparently impossible for her to answer that one. Why was it so sudden, why was it happening at all, why did it have to be the way it was.

Taeyeon blinked at Tiffany’s apartment.

Are you cheating on me? She could have asked. After all, Tiffany said she found someone else.

Did you ever really love me? But she didn’t really want the answer to that one. Or maybe she did.

Are you sure? Just in case Tiffany was undecided and could change her mind. It could have happened.

Could you love me again?

Please?

 

That Eternity
Taeyeon felt helpless. It was two years now since she started dating Tiffany, and during that time there had been ups and downs and they were all so different from anything she had ever experienced before. They were bigger, deeper, heavier, and they all left a mark on her heart whether they were scars or fingerprints. By all accounts it was a mostly happy relationship, and they had problems and arguments and they talked through it. Taeyeon knew communication was undoubtedly one of the most important factors of a healthy, long-lasting relationship.

So this kind of silence from Tiffany made her feel helpless.

In all the two years that they’d been together, there had never been a down like this, and she could only hope that there could be an up.

She sat down beside Tiffany on the couch, and hesitated for the first time in a long time before putting her arm around Tiffany’s shoulders and bringing their bodies to rest together.

“Do you wanna talk about it?” she murmured, nuzzling the side of Tiffany’s head gently.

Tiffany didn’t answer, but she angled her head slightly to be closer to Taeyeon. After a while of careful stillness, she turned and let Taeyeon kiss her mouth.

The kisses were different, weaker, only half as presnt as they usually were. Taeyeon could feel the way Tiffany’s lips lost tension partway through their kiss, and the way she moved her head back a little before trying again; she was absent, but she didn’t want to be.

Taeyeon pulled back, staring at Tiffany, and she wondered if there was any way that she could articulate what she was feeling now. But apparently she didn’t need to, because when Tiffany’s eyes met hers, there were suddenly tears, and then Tiffany was letting it all out. Her crying escalated, and they wrapped themselves together.

Losing a family member was hard, and that was an understatement, and Tiffany had already gone through that devastation as a child. Losing a friend was a similar kind of hurt. It was the kind of pain that was stinging, and pulled your heart in a direction you couldn’t follow. It brought emptiness, a gap where that friend would be, a silence where their messages would have arrived, and the kind of soft dissolving of another connection fading.

Tiffany cried for a long time, feeling the loss of her friend, and Taeyeon held her and felt the pain spilling over into her own heart. And that was exactly how she wanted it to be. She wanted to be there to catch Tiffany’s pain when she was overflowing.

Even death would never stop her.

Taeyeon knocked on the door of Tiffany’s apartment five times, quickly, shakily, not meaning to do it the way she did but her arm was uncontrollable. She gulped. She stared at the door, hearing her breath stop in her throat.

There was no movement, no sign of life.

She knocked again, harder, erratic.

She turned away, taking deep breaths to calm down her faltering heart. She checked her watch – it was 7.23pm. What day was it? She scuffled with her phone. A Thursday. Tiffany would normally be home, surfing the net with her TV on in the background.

Taeyeon closed her eyes, and then she squeezed them even tighter shut.

Tiffany could ignore her calls easily enough, but there was no way she could know it was Taeyeon knocking on the door. And there were no sounds of footsteps or anything. Tiffany really wasn’t there.

She turned and lashed out a foot, kicking the door with a sharp jab that reverberated down the hall. It wasn’t satisfying. She kicked it again, and again, feeling the anger rising at the back of her skull. It made her so, so mad that Tiffany wasn’t there. She was supposed to be there. It was a time when she was normally there, when she would be right there and Taeyeon would know where she was, and she could see Tiffany again and know that it was all right.

She smashed her fists against the door over and over, and kicked it, and tried her best to make it break and shatter so that it could suck the world away as it disappeared.

Tiffany was supposed to be there. Tiffany should have been there. Taeyeon came here because she knew Tiffany would be here. And then she could get questions, and answers, and she could get another glimpse of Tiffany’s face and smell her scent and bask in the warmth of her glow.

She missed Tiffany, and the ache reached out from her heart and pulled the blanket of anger from her mind.

She slumped against the door.

Tears cracked through her eyes. She let the sobs take her.

She turned, angling her face upwards to blind her eyes with the brightness of the light in the ceiling. She slid down the door, feeling the back of her jacket ride up and the harshness of the door scrape against her bare skin.

Tiffany wasn’t there anymore. How did she know this was reality? Reality was supposed to be different, it was supposed to be a world where she could go see Tiffany and know she was still there, still real.

What if it was all a hallucination?

With an absent hand, Taeyeon wiped away the wetness on her face, her lungs calming down and smoothing out her breaths. She looked at her shoes, not really seeing them, and wondered if anything was real.

But if this could be a hallucination, this world where Tiffany was no longer here, then what if everything was always a hallucination? What if Tiffany had never been real at all, just a dream that Taeyeon thought up while she slept and that kept her warm during the night and then left her when she woke up.

She closed her eyes.

She was tired.

All she ever wanted, in reality or in hallucination, was Tiffany. Tiffany was her hallucination and her reality.

But Tiffany wasn’t here anymore.

And Taeyeon was losing her grip on reality and her hallucinations.

Love is so bad. (Part 2)

Taeyeon, Tiffany

 

“We found traces of narcotics in your blood, Ms Kim.”

Taeyeon’s eyelids fluttered, and she felt woozy. She turned her head to the side, considered vomiting, and turned back to look at the doctor standing next to her bed.

“It’s quite amazing that you survived your little escapade,” commented the doctor dryly. “And I would advise against doing it again. Now, you must stay here for three days and three nights, Ms Kim. And we are legally obligated to arrange for a psychiatric consultation.”

Life had not really taken off again after that night at Tiffany’s. She waited to die in the morning, still without sleep, and the clock ticked from 6am to 12pm with no end in sight. She showed up to work, didn’t speak a single word, and got fired partly because of her attitude and partly because she turned up in a sweatshirt with messy hair and bare feet and it showed on her face how much she wanted to be dead. Something stirred in her heart when it was finalized; she was almost pleased to be rid of it. No more job. She didn’t have to go to work. Well, that was just fine, she thought. Now she really had no reason to get out of bed, no obligation to attempt a normal life.

“Is there anyone you can contact to keep you company for a while?” the doctor asked.

Sunny was insulted at first, when she heard Taeyeon’s conviction about life, and didn’t talk to her for a few days because she considered her friendship enough of a reason to stay alive. Then she showed up at Taeyeon’s apartment with a box full of cleaning products because she knew the place would be a mess, and she made it spotless and dragged Taeyeon out of bed so forcefully Taeyeon’s shoulder must have been close to dislocation. Good old Sunny, Taeyeon thought, precious little Sunny who actually thought there was a way out of it.

“Yeah, sure,” Taeyeon croaked, not meeting the doctor’s eyes. She was done with the conversation. She wanted to close her eyes and spend some time in her darkness.

The doctor waited. When she made no move other than to gaze at the ceiling, he leaned forward on the balls of his feet and said, “Now, Ms Kim?”

“What?” Taeyeon muttered.

“Is there someone you can contact now, Ms Kim?”

Taeyeon frowned. She swallowed the saliva that was building up in her mouth. “Why now? Can’t I just sleep?”

“I would recommend contacting someone before you sleep, Ms Kim. So that your loved ones don’t worry.”

A scoff grew in Taeyeon’s chest and scraped through her lungs and she wheezed with laughter. “Sure. Yeah. Sure.”

The doctor watched her for a moment. “Well,” he said eventually, “your cellphone is just over there.” He pointed at the small bedside table.

Taeyeon hummed in acknowledgement. They both looked at the cellphone for a while, before the doctor glanced at her again. She wasn’t moving. If it wasn’t for the slow, gentle rise and fall of her chest he would be concerned.

“Would you like me to hand it to y–”

“No,” Taeyeon interrupted. She grimaced at him. “Just leave.”

The doctor blinked. He rocked back on his heels and blinked again. “Uh. Okay then. You make sure to rest, Ms Kim. And don’t try to escape. It won’t go well. If you need anything – medical – press the buzzer next to you. The psychiatrist will come visit you when she has time.”

She grimaced again. He looked affronted and left, closing the door behind him.

“Now, Ms Kim,” she mocked, raising the pitch of her voice to one much higher than the doctor’s. “It’s quite amazing that you survived. I would advise against doing it again.”

She beamed at the ceiling.

“Ha.”

Her fingers fumbled with cold plastic as she turned on her cellphone. Twelve missed calls, twenty text messages with forty-two curses.

“Close my eyes and dream about a Sunny holiday,” she giggled, and swiped the screen.

The beeping of the machine that measured her heart was not in time with the ringing in her ear as she waited for Sunny to answer her phone, and at first it was fascinating and then it was incredibly irritating, and when the phone clicked and Sunny’s voice said, “Taeyeon?” she was filled with anger.

“Sunny I can’t stay here,” she said, brow crumpled in a tight frown. “But they won’t let me go.”

“Where are you?”

Sunny sounded tired. Everyone always did when they were dealing with Taeyeon. She noticed it. She thought about it sometimes, when she was examining the spaces between her knuckles at three in the morning with the light of an orange streetlamp to show her the bruises, and she realised that it hurt and yet she didn’t care.

“Hospital,” she said shortly. And she hung up. She switched off her phone again and reached over the side of the bed, let the device dangle from her fingertips, and dropped it.

The day would come when Sunny wouldn’t heave a weary sigh and start calling hospitals, trying to find her. She was sure of it. As she closed her eyes, she thought for a moment that she was looking forward to the day Sunny would stop caring about her, and then she found it strange to be looking forward to anything at all. She slept.

That Summer Day
They met, half-nervous but trying to be friendly, palms a little sweaty in the heat of the afternoon, and Tiffany smiled. It wasn’t just a smile. It was Tiffany.

“Hi, I’m Tiffany!” said Tiffany, and their hands squeezed together and slipped apart.

“Oh, are you?” Taeyeon replied, because she wanted to hear Tiffany say more. Then she coughed. “I mean, hi, I’m Taeyeon.”

Tiffany giggled, just a little, and then tilted her head to one side curiously. “Have I met you before? You look kind of familiar.”

Taeyeon echoed the tilt, frowning slightly. “I don’t think so.”

Tiffany pondered for a moment, looking deep in thought, and then she snapped her fingers and her face brightened again. “Oh, that’s right,” she said with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes, “it must be because you’re the girl of my dreams.”

Taeyeon nearly choked on air. She made a noise of confusion and blinked at Tiffany’s expression. “Huh?”

Tiffany laughed, so warm and happy that Taeyeon couldn’t help but smile through her surprise. She had never met someone so forward, and bright, and just generally beaming with personality – she didn’t even really notice when the summer party around them faded to a distant blur in the background as she watched Tiffany.

And that was it. That was the moment. It was the first time she felt like Tiffany was… it.

Three days and three nights in the hospital.

It had taken Taeyeon three days of excruciating self-pity before she decided to call Tiffany. Three days of lying around, rolling around, throwing herself around as if she was on a cliff, and then she took hold of her cellphone, ignored the notifications that were waiting for her, and dialled Tiffany’s number. By hand, not by going to her name in the contacts list and initiating the call with a single tap. She slowly, carefully, diligently tapped out each digit. She double-checked it even though she knew it was right. This was the phone number she had made an effort to learn after their second month of dating, when she knew Tiffany was by far The One and she would need to know her number off by heart in case she got kidnapped or something. Modern technology made it so easy to swipe, touch, and listen. She wanted to feel the numbers.

Tiffany didn’t answer. Taeyeon comforted herself, assured herself that Tiffany was busy, or her phone was dead, or she left it somewhere. When she called again later, that voice of reassurance was combated by another voice that pointed out that Tiffany was attached to her phone like another limb and she never let it die and she always answered it. By the third time she called, a little less later, the other voice was bit louder and her comfort diminished rapidly.

And that was how it began. She didn’t want to listen to the voice telling her that Tiffany didn’t want to talk to her, so she listened to the dial tone, the ringing, the beeping. Incessantly. She wanted Tiffany to answer and until she did, she would rather listen to the sounds of an ignored call than her own thoughts.

When Taeyeon woke up in her hospital room, she reached for her phone again, leaning down from the bed until she was barely even on it, and she returned her head to her pillow with the phone in her hand and a lot of dizziness in her brain.

She typed out those numbers. Then she stared at them, erased them, and tapped them each individually with particular care.

The familiar sound of ringing relaxed her. Tiffany would answer, and everything would be okay.

When she didn’t, Taeyeon curled up into a little ball and closed her eyes again.

That Date
Taeyeon was starting to anticipate Tiffany. It was different from the nervousness of their first meeting or the anxiousness of their first date, or the tentative excitement of the second, third, fourth. It was the kind of feeling where she was pretty much over-the-moon happy to be seeing Tiffany and her heart was racing because she was getting that feeling like this could really be a big thing. This could be that thing that people sometimes dreamed about and sometimes managed to find, that thing that gave so much unbelievable happiness that she actually didn’t believe in it, not really. Until now. Until Tiffany. Now she was getting that feeling like things were picking up, and she was taking off on a really great journey.

“Don’t get too hopeful,” she muttered, reminding herself, as she parked her car and turned off its engine. “Just take it easy. No need to get too ahead of yourself. It might not work out.” She gave herself a stern look in the rear-view mirror. “You’d better not fall head over heels for this girl, because you know it’s not going to be perfect. It might even get horrible after a while. Maybe she’ll try to kill you tonight or something, she could be a psychopath.” She frowned. “Okay, no need to go too far in that direction either.”

She got out, locked the car, straightened her clothes as if her hands were irons and despite the fact that they were not in need of ironing, and then she took a deep breath as she turned to face the building in front of her.

Tiffany’s house. It would be their first house-date, her first glimpse of Tiffany’s home, and her first taste of Tiffany’s cooking. She wasn’t sure how much Tiffany was joking when she said she was a bad cook, which was why she had just hesitantly laughed along, but soon she would find out.

When Tiffany opened the door, she was flustered and hot – in more ways than one – and her face changed from a stressed frown to a beaming, welcome smile at the sight of Taeyeon.

Taeyeon felt her heart falter. That single look at Tiffany was a lot. It told her much about Tiffany, solidified what she had inferred, and sent her soaring. She would eat the food later no matter how it tasted, she would like the atmosphere of the house no matter how adorably unkempt it was, and she would kiss Tiffany with more love than she had allowed herself before.

“Taeyeon?”

Taeyeon stirred, waking properly, opening her eyes. She inhaled, and looked beside her.

Sunny didn’t look happy to see her. She just looked tired, and generally emotionless. It scared Taeyeon a little as she realised that perhaps she really had pushed Sunny too far at last, but quickly she reminded herself that it was what she wanted. Wasn’t it?

“Drugs, Taeyeon?” Sunny said in a small voice. “Really?”

Taeyeon watched her for a moment before she shrugged and looked away indifferently.

“Where did you even get it?” Sunny pressed, her voice getting stronger at Taeyeon’s reaction. “They said it’s serious stuff. Who -”

“It just happened,” Taeyeon interrupted. She offered no further explanation.

There was a long silence before Sunny sighed. Taeyeon kept her gaze averted. There was a rustle of Sunny’s jacket as she ran a hand through her hair and tried to keep her temper and sadness in check. Then she stuck her hands in her pockets and gave Taeyeon a burning look.

“Well, you’re staying,” she said.

Taeyeon looked at her.

“I’m not going to bust you out of here,” Sunny said, tired and angry. “You’re staying, and you’re going to get the treatment you need. The depression was expected, but I thought you’d move on. The obsession over Tiffany… well I thought I could help you get out of that. But this? Drugs? I don’t see you for days, hear anything from you, can’t find you, and then you show up at a hospital because you got wasted and – what? Tried to beat someone up? Smashed a store window? I don’t even know what you’ve been up to.”

Taeyeon’s jaw tensed. She had no answer. She didn’t know either.

Sunny stepped closer, and rested a hand on Taeyeon’s shoulder. Slowly, her expression softened. There was an edge of pity, laces of regret, sadness, worry.

“I’m sorry,” she said quietly. “I wanted to help you. I can’t. You need something else. Please, stay here. Get better.”

“You say that like this is all my fault,” Taeyeon replied, her speech biting. “It’s not. I’m not doing this. I didn’t do this to myself.”

Sunny closed her eyes briefly, holding her mouth shut. It wasn’t the first time they’d been through this. Her hold on Taeyeon tightened, and then she let go and stepped back, opening her eyes again.

“I know, Taeyeon. It’s Tiffany’s fault, isn’t it? She did this to you. Well… get better. I’ll come visit you tomorrow. Please be here.”

She turned and left before Taeyeon could find a way to keep her there.

The loneliness set in hard in the silence that followed. She stared at the ceiling. She listened to her own breathing, unimpeded by another person’s life.  She felt her heartbeat in her own body, no one else’s.

“Tiffany did this to me,” she whispered to herself, assuring herself, convincing herself. “Because love did this to me.”

________________________________________________________________________________________

Love is so bad. (Part 1)

Zero

Taeyeon tried to open the door three times before she smacked it with her palms and cursed it blue. The wood didn’t even shake, and she was sorely tempted to hit it again just because it was too strong. She spun on her heels and shot her glare around the hallway.

It was 1:54am on a Wednesday, and she did not have her keys. In fact, she had very little at all beyond the clothes on her back, and it was an issue at the forefront of her mind as she searched for some magical solution to all her problems. Problems which began three years ago, really, and culminated in her presence trapped in front of her apartment door in the middle of the night.

She whipped her phone out of her pocket, swiped it and tapped a few times on the sizeable screen. When it informed her that the call was being placed, she held it to her ear and closed her eyes tightly.

“Hello?” The feminine voice was groggy with sleep. “Who what wha?”

“I need the key to my apartment I gave you,” Taeyeon hissed.

“What?”

“The key,” Taeyeon repeated, “to my apartment. I gave you a copy.”

“Wha-Who is this?”

“Taeyeon,” Taeyeon barked. “This is Taeyeon, and I need the key to my apartment that I gave to you, Sunny, last year, on planet Earth.”

“Oh, I should have known it was you.” Sunny yawned. “Well, I don’t know if I still have it, I mean I never even used it once.”

Taeyeon opened her eyes, frowning. “I gave you that key for emergencies.”

“Yeah, and there was never an emergency, so… Anyway why do you want that at two in the morning? Some of us have to get up for work in like four hours. You included.”

Taeyeon sighed. She ran a hand over her face and settled into the familiar motion of rubbing her temples. With only four hours before she had to get ready for work, there didn’t seem much chance of getting the promotion that she was being reviewed for. It was meant to be decided on the same day that was starting with Taeyeon trapped in a dingy little hallway with no sleep and no interest in living any more.

“I’m locked out,” Taeyeon breathed. “I don’t have my keys. Do you still have that copy or not?”

Sunny was silent for a moment, and the gears in her head were almost audible as she contemplated. It was the middle of the night, in the middle of a working week; here was a phone call full of angst and undisguised anger; her best friend, who was usually in bed by now after a grandmotherly quantity of calming hot chocolate, was locked out without her keys.

There was a rustling through the phone as Sunny got out of bed, and then she was rummaging through a drawer that was clearly designated for random junk. Sunny mumbled something, muffled, before there was a clanking of keys and she said, “Got it. Be there soon.”

And the call was over. Taeyeon lowered her phone to her side, and rested her body against the door that she still slightly wanted to abuse. She tilted her face upwards, took a deep breath, and closed her eyes. The light from the ceiling covered her, blanketed her eyelids, and its muted brightness still managed to remind her of Tiffany.

Tiffany, Tiffany, Tiffany. She used to think it wasn’t a very good name, perhaps because she had only encountered it on fictional hookers and annoying sugar-smeared children. She also used to think there wasn’t just one woman who could claim the title of most beautiful. Both these ideologies were completely thrown out the window at four o’clock on the afternoon of a tranquil summer day when she held out her hand for a stranger to shake and was greeted with the words, “Hi, I’m Tiffany!”

That day, three years ago, was the day Taeyeon woke up. It was as if everything she was up to that point was some strange being that she didn’t even recognise, couldn’t understand why she had been like that. She used to shake her head at herself, wondering how she was that person when she could have been this wonderful, beloved and loving thing that she became.

“Tiffany, Tiffany, Tiffany,” Taeyeon cursed. She moved her head and banged it against the door, and she clenched her jaw so tightly she imagined her gritted teeth might shatter to pieces.

The fingers of her one hand curled, nails scraping against the door, and she tried to stop herself from shaking, but her eyes were heating up and the tears were waiting, just waiting for her to let go, to burst.

She inhaled deeply, feeling her muscles tense, and she didn’t cry. She hung her head and took quiet breaths. For a long time, she stood still, her body as stiff as a statue, and her mind was full of static. She didn’t want to think of Tiffany any more, she couldn’t. One more thought and she would melt. Tantalisingly, she heard a whisper of a memory, the sound of Tiffany’s voice, and she forced it away so that the laughter cut off and disappeared and she felt her head buzzing furiously.

Then there came a noise from the end of the hallway, and the elevator opened to reveal Sunny who was looking ruffled and shaggy in her crumpled pyjamas and an old jacket.

“Finally,” Taeyeon muttered.

Sunny stopped in front of her and gave her a cold look. “Excuse me? Don’t get all ungrateful now. Move so I can unlock your door for you because I am the best friend in the universe.”

Taeyeon slunk away, hunching her shoulders as she watched Sunny turn a key in the lock and push the door open.

“I expect a full explanation,” declared Sunny, “and some hot chocolate.”

Taeyeon blinked at her wearily. She wasn’t in the mood. Now that her door was unlocked, her dark apartment was beckoning, and all she so desperately wanted to do was drag her heavy body inside, curl up on the freezing cold kitchen floor, and disintegrate. But clearly her face betrayed her anti-social, anti-living inclinations, because Sunny gave her a stern, hard look, and grabbed her arm to pull her into the apartment.

The lights flicked on as they made their way further inside, Sunny’s fingers finding the switches easily. She kicked off her untied shoes at the door and Taeyeon released herself from her friend’s grip to slouch away into the kitchen. She absently filled the kettle with water and turned it on, and crumpled ever so slightly around the edges when she let herself breathe again.

Sunny’s hand came to rest on her arm, and she looked up in the now lit kitchen and met the concerned gaze.

“What happened?”

Taeyeon sighed. And she sighed again. Her shoulders shook with the force of her exhalations, as if she could break her lungs and stop breathing before she had to speak one word of her pain. Sunny gripped her in a tight, warm hug, and gently rocked her side to side.

“Tell me,” she said.

“Tiffany,” the name spilled from Taeyeon’s weakening lips, “Tiffany.”

“What about Tiffany?”

“She broke up with me.”

Sunny froze while Taeyeon melted. Releasing the words let Taeyeon’s last defence fall. There was no more support for denial; she could no longer muffle the truth, keep it from hitting her again. Sunny moved back a little, tightening her hold on Taeyeon’s upper arms, and her expression was one of shock.

Three years. Three years Taeyeon and Tiffany were in a relationship. Their connection was quick to spark, intense in development, and after three years of settling into something powerfully solid, it was impossible to imagine the bond breaking. Or it had been impossible to imagine, but here was a broken Taeyeon to show for it.

“What?”

“Tiffany broke up with me,” Taeyeon blistered, anger suddenly boiling in her gut. “She fucking broke up with me. Tiffany.”

The name was becoming more and more like a swearword with the vehemence that propelled it. Sunny couldn’t help but flinch. She had heard Taeyeon say Tiffany’s name in many ways in the past; curiousity, admiration, adoration, passion, tenderness, annoyance, concern, longing, and a comfortableness that came from voicing a word so often that it became a part of her mouth. This, whatever it was, sent a shiver of fear down Sunny’s spine.

“W-Why?”

“Nothing, I don’t know, I don’t want to talk about it.” Taeyeon turned, ripping herself away from Sunny, and yanked a cupboard open to stare blankly at the mugs lined up inside. Her back was ramrod straight, her body stiff, her muscles tensing up tighter bit by bit.

Tiffany’s excuses stormed into her thoughts. All the words, all the shapes her lips formed as she spoke her poison, as she shattered and crushed and killed Taeyeon.

Three years ago Taeyeon scoffed at her old self when she changed into another person because she fell in love, and on this night she changed into another creature altogether and the harsh bitterness was just as strange as the sweetness had been.

She clawed at a mug, a hideously pink mug with a stupid, ugly little yellow puppy on it that had a moronic, fucked up little grin, and she clutched it and her body flowed as she swung it at the wall.

“What the fuck did you mean when you said those things?!”

She grabbed another mug, pale white with a weak, shitty red heart, and it shattered into dust against the fridge.

“Found someone else – what is that shit supposed to mean?”

Her fingers slipped on the third mug with its blue and pink swirl and those scratchy uneven letters that spelled a lie, wickedness, and the mug broke jaggedly in two against the edge of the door.

“I hate your stupid mugs, Tiffany,” Taeyeon hissed, but her hiss crackled and her voice wavered. “I hate the stupid mugs you made for me in your stupid pottery class and I hate how you were so adorable when you said you wanted to try pottery just for something new, so cute every time you presented me with a new gift made by your own hands. I hate you so much, Tiffany.”

And finally the anger burst into something she was avoiding. The tears that built up and pressed against the inside of her skull broke from her eyes and took her along in the flood. She fell to her knees as the heat from her gut that kept her muscles tight and her body stiff finally faded.

“Tiffany,” she sobbed, sinking into the floor, “Why did you say those things, Tiffany.”

Sunny stared at her friend for a moment longer, stunned, before she made her way through the debris and joined her on the floor. She wrapped Taeyeon into another hug, and made gentle hushing sounds.

“Just breathe, Taeyeon, just breathe,” she murmured. “Take a deep breath and let it all out.”

“I don’t wanna breathe anymore,” Taeyeon whimpered. She slumped further down, pressing her face into the floor. “I don’t want to breathe. She is my reason to breathe; now she’s blocking my throat and I can’t breathe without her, I don’t want to.”

Sunny hushed her again, mind racing in panic. She wasn’t sure what to do. Here they were, in the early hours of the morning, on a cold kitchen floor, and she couldn’t tell if Taeyeon was likely to do something horrible. She wanted to help her friend – she knew it was impossible to just get her to calm down, but she hadn’t even processed what had happened.

“Do you want to tell me what happened, Taeng?” Sunny whispered, stroking Taeyeon’s back. “Just tell me how you ended up here at two in the morning without your keys.”

“I left them in her apartment. I was going to stay over tonight, we were – she said she couldn’t sleep without me, so I went over – but she – she looked at me and she just….”

Taeyeon’s body shuddered with another sob and Sunny tightened the hug.

“We were in her bed, just talking about stuff, I mentioned my promotion t-today and she said good luck and then it was quiet for a while and she sat up, and she turned to me, and she said she needed to tell me something.”

Taeyeon clenched her eyes shut, wishing she could squeeze herself out of existence.

She was back in that dark bedroom, the street light from outside mostly blocked by the curtains, and Tiffany stroked her hair and she breathed a soft whisper that made Taeyeon’s lips curl into a smile. Her hand rested on Tiffany’s stomach, she was surrounded by Tiffany’s scent, her warmth. She mumbled her thanks, and slipped into silence as her breath matched Tiffany’s. The warmth shifted and faded as Tiffany sat up, making Taeyeon let go of her, and her profile was briefly visible in the darkness before she turned her face towards Taeyeon again and muttered in a strained voice.

“And she said –”

Tiffany said, “Taeyeon, I don’t love you anymore. I found someone else.”

Taeyeon broke for the hundredth time that night, the words burning her flesh anew as she echoed them.

“What does it mean?” Taeyeon whispered. “She found someone else. How the fuck does she find someone else? How does she stop loving me? Why? Why would she make me hers so entirely and then just stop, and find someone else?”

There was no answer. Sunny sure as hell didn’t know how to answer that question. Tiffany’s behaviour didn’t make sense. Her understanding of Tiffany that developed over three years just did not match with what happened. Now, on the one hand she didn’t want to give Taeyeon false hope by suggesting Tiffany didn’t mean it, but on the other hand she felt she couldn’t accept it either.

“What happened then?” she asked, looking at Taeyeon. She was relieved to find her friend no longer sobbing, and yet the emptiness didn’t seem good either.

Taeyeon gripped the bed sheets in her fingers, nails catching on the fabric, and she willed her body upright, and she hoped to whatever deity may exist that Tiffany was not being serious at all. And she asked Tiffany to repeat herself, and Tiffany repeated herself, and Taeyeon searched for a way to cover the fresh cut on her heart. She laughed it off and cried just as quickly. She begged, she doubted, she shouted. Tiffany stared at her, blank, quiet, and then she closed her eyes. Taeyeon stopped.

“She was quiet for a long time,” she whispered, meeting Sunny’s eyes. “And I was just hoping and hoping that she would say that she still loves me. Even though the pain had already crushed me, I just wanted her to say that she loves me.”

But she didn’t.

“I ran.”

Taeyeon moved out of Sunny’s embrace, and rolled onto her back on the floor. She stared at the ceiling. She closed her eyes. She took a deep breath, so deep she thought it might explode her lungs at last, and then she let it all out.

“I love you, Tiffany,” she whispered on the cusp of her breath. “And it hurts so much. And I hate you, because I love you.”

She brought her arms up over her face, smothering her eyes, and she took another trembling breath and let it out.

“Love is so bad.”

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