Heejin stiffens at the voice and looks around for a possible exit. Unfortunately, she’s in the library, and the only exit in the area out of the library is also where the person she’s currently trying to avoid is standing.
“Hide me!” she hisses, looking around frantically for somewhere she can escape to.
“What?” Hyunjin mumbles, lifting her head from her arms and squinting at the figure marching towards them. “Isn’t that—”
“Hansol!” Heejin says, straightening up and hoping it didn’t seem like she was trying to climb under the table a second ago. She flashes him a winning smile. “What’s up?”
“You haven’t been answering my texts,” he says with a frown, waving around his phone.
Heejin clasps her hands together, her knuckles turning white. “Funny story! I dropped my phone down the stairs yesterday.” She pauses sheepishly. “It’s completely broken.”
Dropped it down the stairs, chucked it at a wall in a panic—it’s all practically the same thing. The basic point is that her phone no longer works.
Hansol glances at Hyunjin, who shrugs and goes back to working on their project.
“Can we talk? It’s about the text you sent me last night?” Hansol asks, his voice going quiet.
“Oh, that?” Heejin chuckles nervously. Her insides are screaming at her to run while she still has the chance. She glances at the exit. If she Naruto-runs, maybe Hansol won’t be able to catch her. “You should just forget about it.”
“Heejin, you sent me a confession song.”
Heejin scrolls through her camera roll, snorting to herself at all the memories and memes she’s saved over the years. She stumbles across one video that has her pausing and pressing it. The sound of a guitar begins to play.
“Oh my god,” she mutters, feeling laughter bubble up in her chest. “Jiwoo!” She stands from her spot on the couch, and the sudden movement makes the room spin. She sways unsteadily, gripping the arm of the couch for balance. “Jiwoo!”
Jiwoo magically appears after Heejin’s second shout. “Heejin, I thought I told you to stay put on the couch.”
“Do you remember when I wrote this song for Hansol,” Heejin asks, turning up the volume until her singing blasted out of her tiny iPhone speakers. “And then I almost sent this to him?” She laughs again, a little more bitter this time.
Jiwoo nods slowly, a little confused about why Heejin was telling her all this.
“I've kept it a secret this past year, but Hansol and I promised each other no secrets! We even renewed our pinkie promise the other day!”
“Heejin,” Jiwoo says, taking a cautious step towards Heejin. “What are you doing?”
“I’m...I’m gonna send this to Hansol,” she mumbles, nodding to herself. “Yeah.”
After all, the best way for no secrets to happen is to get all your secrets out in the open.
Jiwoo’s eyes widen in panic. “Heejin, no!” She tries to run over to Heejin, but Heejin dashes away, using the pool table in the middle of the room as a barrier. They round the table two more times before Jiwoo stops and glares at Heejin, knowing how Heejin gets when she’s drunk. “This is a really bad idea.”
“This is a really good idea,” Heejin says, her words slurring together slightly. “I don’t even like him anymore!” She pauses and frowns, thinking hard. Her head feels weird. She knew she shouldn’t have done those shots with Jungeun. “I think I don’t like him anymore?”
Jiwoo takes advantage of Heejin’s momentary confusion to practically launch herself over the pool table. She rips Heejin’s phone away. “You’re gonna thank me in the morning.”
The telltale ping of a text going through cuts through Jiwoo’s short-lived victory, and Jiwoo slowly looks down at the phone, horror unfolding on her face.
The message sent.
“No more secrets now. Hansol and I can go back to being the bestest of friends!” Heejin flops down on the couch, then she frowns. “Why are you screaming?”
“I filmed that video a long time ago,” Heejin says, hoping her face gives nothing away. “I was drunk last night and thought it’d be funny to send it to you. Obviously I still don’t have feelings for you.”
Heejin feels Hyunjin’s curious stare, and she isn’t sure whether she’s grateful for Hyunjin’s presence so she isn’t alone with Hansol, or mortified that Hyunjin, who Heejin has talked to twice outside of class this entire year (both times were for school projects) is witnessing this entire exchange.
Hansol quirks his eyebrows, his eyes gentle. He sighs. “Heejin, you’re my best friend—”
“And I’m dating someone!” she blurts out, cutting him off from whatever he was about to say. She just wanted him to stop staring at her like that. However, once Heejin’s brain catches up with her mouth, she wants to bang her head against the table.
She knew she should have taken a detour to get coffee this morning.
Hansol’s eyes go wide. “You are?”
“Mhm, yup,” Heejin says, popping the ‘p’ and hoping Hansol doesn’t see right through the lie. There’s no turning back now. “I am definitely dating someone currently.”
“Oh!” Hansol smiles and scratches his neck. “Who is it?”
And maybe it’s because Heejin’s still a little hungover from last night, or maybe it’s because she got to school thirty minutes late because she was too busy screaming into her pillow, or maybe it’s because she’s the dumbest person to ever walk this planet (Jungeun’s words, not hers), but Heejin’s mind goes blank. Her mouth opens and closes repeatedly, and she searches her brain for any name that would be plausible. “Hyunjin.”
Hyunjin coughs next to her, and Heejin resists the urge to stab her own eyes out with the pencil lying in front of her. Jungeun was right; Heejin is the dumbest person to walk the planet, and this is the dumbest idea she’s ever had.
Hansol slowly turns to Hyunjin. “You?”
Hyunjin glances at Heejin, who can’t even look at the tragedy that’s waiting to happen in front of her. After a moment, Hyunjin clears her throat. “Yup. Me.” She slowly places an arm around Heejin’s shoulders for emphasis, and Heejin has never wanted to be six feet underground more in her entire life.
Hanso cheeks turn pink. “Sorry. I just thought...ah, never mind.” He stands up and wipes his palms on his pants. “I’ll see you later, Heejin.”
He leaves quickly, and Heejin holds her breath until he’s out of sight. Relief floods through her, and she lets her head rest against Hyunjin’s shoulder. “Thank god.”
Then Heejin realizes exactly what she’s doing and jerks away. Hyunjin just laughs and removes her arm from Heejin’s shoulder. “You’re welcome.”
“Thanks,” Heejin mumbles, her cheeks burning. She doesn’t want to look Hyunjin in the eyes. It’s bad enough she had to witness her and Hansol talking about the video, but Heejin is beyond embarrassed that Hyunjin had to go along with Heejin’s dumb plan.
Heejin doesn’t know Hyunjin too well. The only reason they’re in the library together is to work on a project for history. They’re definitely not close enough for her to expect Hyunjin to be her fake girlfriend in order to convince her best friend that she isn’t into him.
Heejin has never been a big fan of rom-coms. They portray love as a little too perfect for her taste, but Jiwoo absolutely adores them, so they always end up watching them at sleepovers.
This feels like a plot to a giant rom-com.
“It’s no big deal, but I don’t want the entire school thinking that you and I are actually dating. Ryujin—” Hyunjin cuts off with a tiny frown. “It’ll make things harder, and I don’t need any more complications right now. Just try and keep this between us.”
Heejin nods enthusiastically. “Yeah, no problem.”
It’s the least she can do after Hyunjin saved her ass. Keeping their not-relationship quiet isn’t just easy, it’s what Heejin wants as well. Hyunjin Kim isn’t exactly someone who keeps a low profile around school. If word got out she was “dating” Hyunjin, Heejin would have a lot of attention directed towards her.
She’ll ask Hansol to keep it a secret, wait a few weeks before telling him that they broke up, and then this entire exchange will be history. Easy.
(For the next week, Heejin does her best to banish last week's events from her memory and avoid Hansol like the plague. She’s actually in the middle of walking her alternate route to her English class so she doesn’t see him when her phone buzzes.
can u meet me by the stadium after school?
Heejin frowns, wondering what was wrong. She hopes it has nothing to do with their not-relationship. She was kinda hoping just to sweep that particular topic under the rug and letting it die.
It’s probably nothing.)
“What’s up?” Heejin asks when she spots Hyunjin. The other girl is wearing a soccer jersey in colors that most people probably couldn’t pull off, but Hyunjin somehow makes it work. “Game today?”
“Yup,” Hyunjin replies, balancing a large duffle on her shoulder.
“Good luck,” Heejin says. She’s heard lots about their girl’s soccer team, namely that they’re really good. Of course, whenever the soccer team is mentioned, Hyunjin Kim’s name is thrown around as well. Being a co-captain and one of the leading scorers normally does that for a person.
“Thanks.” Hyunjin grins, and Heejin looks down at her shoes, feeling shy all of a sudden. Hyunjin has a really nice smile. It was no wonder why she has a small fanclub at school (according to Jiwoo, at least). “Listen, I was thinking about what happened in the library last week...”
Heejin blushes, reminded of the embarrassing encounter. “Do you want me to tell Hansol we’re done?”
“Actually, I was thinking of something else.”
There’s a pause, and Hyunjin takes a deep breath. “Like letting people think we’re together.”
Oh. Heejin wonders if she heard correctly. “Really?”
“Yeah.” Hyunjin shrugs and fiddles with the zipper of her bag.
Heejin frowns suspiciously. “What’s in it for you?” Hyunjin knows this is going to help Heejin out. It’s a perfect way to convince Hansol she doesn’t like him, but there must be a reason why Hyunjin changed her mind.
“Some things have changed since last week,” Hyunjin says, looking away from Heejin.
“Aren’t you dating—” Heejin cuts off, remembering what Jungeun mentioned about the school’s golden couple days ago. Well, former golden couple, considering Hyunjin and Ryujin broke up a few weeks ago—two weeks prior to the library incident, in fact, but Jungeun didn’t know about the library incident.
Hyunjin smiles tightly, already knowing what Heejin was about to say. “Right.”
“You want to use me to make Ryujin jealous,” Heejin says, wondering if she should feel offended or not.
Hyunjin holds up her hands and raises her eyebrows pointedly. “Technically you used me first to cover up the fact that you have a giant crush on Hansol.”
Heejin gapes at her. There’s a long pause, then, “Touché.”
“So what do you say?”
Heejin bites her lip, contemplating the offer. “What time does your game end?”
“Five. You staying?”
Heejin shrugs, hiking her backpack further up her shoulder. “I could.” She has a paper due tomorrow morning, but she figures she can churn something decent out if she starts by eight. Rought drafts were for losers anyways.
“Dinner’s on me. I know a good place.” Hyunjin says with a tiny smile. She points at Heejin and winks. “I expect to see you in the bleachers cheering me on, Miss Jeon.”
Heejin’s left in the middle of the hallway, gaping at where Hyunjin was standing a few seconds ago, her neck hot and her feet glued to the floor. “What the fuck?”
(She considers texting Hyunjin and saying she couldn’t stay for the game, but Hyunjin said something about dinner. Heejin’s stomach grumbles at that exact moment.
“Traitor,” she mumbles, glaring down at her stomach and making her way into the stadium.
The food better be good.)
“I can’t believe you finally decided to come to a game,” Jiwoo says for the eighth time that night. “Do you even like soccer?”
The game ended fifteen minutes ago (they won, predictably), and the stadium has almost completely cleared out. Jiwoo’s staying behind because Heejin’s staying behind, and Heejin’s staying behind for...yeah.
Heejin frowns. “You don’t even like soccer, Jiwoo.”
“That’s not true!”
“Please, I know you come to these just to drool over Sooyoung Ha’s arms.”
Jiwoo turns red and huffs. “This isn’t about me.”
“This isn’t about me,” Heejin mimics, sticking her tongue out at Jiwoo.
“Sooyoung Ha’s arms are to die for anyways,” Jiwoo mumbles, shoving a nacho in her mouth and glaring petulantly at Heejin.
Jiwoo isn’t wrong. Heejin knows Sooyoung Ha’s arms are definitely to die for, but she isn’t the one that’s been pining over Sooyoung (and her arms) for an entire year now.
“Why are we waiting here anyway?” Jiwoo asks, standing up to throw her trash away.
Heejin racks her brain for something to say. She doesn’t think ‘I’m waiting for Hyunjin Kim so we can explain the possibilities of faking a relationship’ will go over too well.
Someone clears their throat, and both of them slowly turn to see Hyunjin staring at them expectantly. Well, she’s staring at Heejin expectantly. “You coming?”
Hyunjin’s hair is loose from its ponytail, and she’s freshly changed from her soccer uniform. Heejin suddenly feels very self-conscious in her own oversized sweatshirt, which is ridiculous because Hyunjin is wearing a tracksuit, for god’s sake.
Perhaps Hyunjin is blessed with the ability to make anything look good on her.
“Hyunjin, your bag!” someone calls, jogging up to them. Jiwoo makes a strangled noise of surprise and runs into the trash can, making the clang of the metal echo throughout the stadium. Heejin resists the strong urge to facepalm as Jiwoo yelps in a mixture of surprise and pain.
Sooyoung Ha glances at her in concern. “Are you okay?”
“Yup, totally fine!” Jiwoo smiles, and Heejin wonders if she knows there’s some nacho cheese that spilled on her jeans. “Sorry. Hi, I’m Jiwoo.”
Sooyoung smiles at Jiwoo. “I know. You’re in my calc.”
“You know?” Jiwoo whispers, more to herself than anyone. Smooth. Heejin doesn’t know if she should laugh or cry for her friend.
“Yeah.” Sooyoung shrugs and slips on her jacket (it’s leather, and Heejin knows Jiwoo’s inwardly going feral right now). “I sit in the back, so you probably don’t notice me.”
“You’re pretty hard to miss,” Jiwoo mumbles, and Sooyoung grins brightly.
Heejin is pretty sure Jiwoo is about to combust on the spot. She shares a look with Hyunjin, who knocks her shoulder into Heejin’s playfully, and Heejin catches the faint scent of lavender. When did she get so close?
Hyunjin holds out her hand to Heejin with a glint in her eyes. “Shall we?”
Heejin hears Jiwoo choke on air again behind her, and she laces her fingers with Hyunjin’s, forcing down the blush threatening to creep on her cheeks. “You’re buying, remember?”
“Of course,” Hyunjin says with one of those smirks, and Heejin looks away quickly. “What kind of person would I be if I didn’t buy dinner for the girl who came to cheer me on?”
“What the fuck just happened?” she hears Jiwoo sputter behind her, and Heejin pointedly ignores her. She drags Hyunjin away before Jiwoo has the chance to realize they’re leaving her alone with Sooyoung Ha in the stadium.
“I hope you’re okay with driving,” she says to Hyunjin as they make their way to the parking lot.
Hyunjin tugs her towards a silver Jeep that’s quite fitting for some reason. “You don’t drive to school?” she asks, opening the passenger door for Heejin, who cocks an eyebrow at the gesture. “What? My father didn’t raise a heathen.”
Heejin laughs and climbs in. “I don’t have a car yet.”
“How do you get to school?”
Hyunjin turns her head to stare at Heejin. “You’re joking.”
“Why do you look so surprised?” Heejin asks, a little offended Hyunjin couldn’t imagine her on a skateboard. Hell, Heejin learned how to skateboard before she learned how to ride a bike.
“I can’t believe you’re a skater,” Hyunjin says, shaking her head incredulously. “You just don’t give off those vibes.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Hyunjin shrugs, starting up her car and shaking her head. “You’re just...you.” She glances towards Heejin briefly. “You’re pouting at me.”
Heejin purses her lips and tries to make her expression a little more intimidating. “Am not.”
Hyunjin just laughs when she glances at Heejin again. “You’re not intimidating at all. You remind me of a cute puppy.”
Heejin rolls her eyes and sinks back into the very comfortable leather seat. “Keep your eyes on the road, Kim.”
Hyunjin ends up taking her somewhere downtown. It’s too far to get down here on a skateboard, so Heejin has no idea where they are or where they’re going. After an endless amount of pestering, Hyunjin finally cracks and tells Heejin where she’s taking them. It’s some bakery Heejin’s never heard of.
“It’s not just some bakery,” Hyunjin says, looking very affronted at Heejin’s choice in words. “They serve the best bread in the entire town!”
Heejin looks at the small bakery that didn’t look impressive at all. “Yeah? Are you some kind of bread connoisseur?”
“As a matter of fact, I am.” Hyunjin grabs Heejin’s wrist and drags her through the front door. “Prepare for your mind to be blown.”
The inside of the bakery surprises Heejin. It’s warm and cozy. There’s a fireplace with some couches at the other end of the room, tables lined up against the wall and a counter with stools up against the wall closest to the door. The glass display by the counter had countless types of bread that looked absolutely delicious.
“The sandwiches are really good too,” Hyunjin murmurs while they stand in line and look at the menu. “You should get one.”
Heejin orders first, and she reaches into her bag for her credit card, but Hyunjin stops her before she can.
“Dinner’s on me, remember?” Hyunjin says, batting Heejin’s hand away.
“You don’t need to actually pay for me,” Heejin says. She wasn’t actually being serious when she reminded Hyunjin that dinner was on the other girl. They still barely knew each other, after all.
Hyunjin holds up a hand. “I don’t go back on my promises, Miss Jeon. Go find us a table while I order.”
Heejin is still reluctant to leave, and it takes Hyunjin threatening to confiscate her backpack (and subsequently, her credit card) for Heejin to finally leave the line and get them a table.
Hyunjin joins her at the table a few minutes later, balancing their sandwiches and a ridiculous amount of bread on her arms, and somehow making it look easy. Heejin’s mouth actually begins to water at the smell of the bakery bread and she reaches for a piece, but Hyunjin slaps her hand away before she can.
“The bread is for dessert,” Hyunjin says with a stern glare. “Trust me on this one. I’ve come here enough times to know the perfect order to eat things.”
Heejin heaves a long-suffering sigh. “Fine. I guess I’ll have to settle for the sandwich then.”
She quickly finds out that it wasn’t really settling though. The sandwich was ten times better than it looked, and it looked amazing. Hyunjin watches Heejin take her first bite and proceed to inhale the sandwich, a smug smile on her face. “Good, right?”
“More than good,” Heejin mumbles around a bite. “This is one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in my life.”
Hyunjin grins and picks up her own sandwich. “I know.”
“Thanks again for dinner,” Heejin says after a moment. “And for, you know, what you did in the library.”
Hyunjin’s eyes light up when she mentions it. “Did you think about what I said?”
“About the fake dating thing?” Heejin asks, her voice going quiet at the end.
“I dunno. It’d be hard to pull off.”
“But think of the payoff!” Hyunjin says excitedly. “You convince Hansol you’re not into him, and I get to show Ryujin what she’s missing out on.”
“Why did you two break up anyway?” Heejin asks. She figures if they’re discussing the possibility of faking an entire relationship with each other, she can ask about Hyunjin’s ex.
Hyunjin shrugs, looking down and drawing in the condensation of her glass. “People kept telling me she was hooking up with her best friend while we were together. She always said she wasn’t, but we kept fighting about it. She broke up with me because she said I didn’t trust her.”
“But…” Heejin supplies, knowing there’s something more to it.
“But she got with her best friend a few days after we broke up. ” A frown mars Hyunjin’s face. “I don’t know what to think anymore.”
Heejin purses her lips at the possibility of Ryujin actually cheating on Hyunjin.
“This could be the perfect way to prove to everyone that I’ve moved on too and show Ryujin that she made a mistake.”
“And it could be the perfect way to make her jealous,” Heejin mumbles, knowing exactly the kind of angle Hyunjin could—and probably would—want to play.
“Yeah, that too.” Hyunjin smirks and locks eyes with Heejin. “What about you? What’s happening between you and Hansol?”
Heejin buries her face in her hands. “Nothing is happening with me and Hansol. Absolutely nothing, and it’s going to stay that way.”
“Okay, what do you want to not happen with Hansol then?” Hyunjin rephrases.
“I don’t want him to think about that video of me singing my confession to him. I don’t want him knowing I have a huge crush on him. I don’t want him knowing I’ve liked him for a year now, and I just want things to return to normal.”
Hyunjin points her fork at Heejin. “And this is why we must fake date! It’s the perfect solution to both of our problems.”
Heejin sucks in a breath. She knows this could turn out very badly very quickly, but Hyunjin has this hopeful look on her face, and Heejin has always been a little too dumb for her own good sometimes. Plus, it makes sense—in theory, at least. “Okay.”
“Okay?” Hyunjin repeats in surprise.
“Yeah.” Heejin nods, a little more confident in her decision. “Let’s do this.”
A grin breaks out across Hyunjin’s face. “Holy shit, you’re serious.”
Heejin nods, her brain kicking into overdrive. “We’ll have to come up with a backstory,” she says, digging around her backpack for a spare paper and pen. If they’re gonna do this, they’re gonna do this well. “Let’s start with the basics. How long have we been together?”
“We got together really recently,” Hyunjin suggests. “It’s easier if we try to stick to the truth as much as possible.”
“This could be our first date.”
“Yeah, that’s good. Who asked who?”
Heejin taps her pen against the table. “I’m not really the type of person to make the first move.” Or any move, really, but she’s not about to brag to Hyunjin about her lack of experience in anything.
In her freshman year, a boy named Mark Lee asked her out to homecoming with a poster full of sports references Heejin didn’t really get, but she said yes anyway. They dated for three weeks after the dance, and they broke up when he moved back to Canada.
In her sophomore year, she got invited to this party. They played truth or dare, and she got locked in a closet with Chaeyoung Son. Heejin came out of the closet seven minutes later with messy hair and smeared lipstick. Her friends teased her endlessly for it for literal months.
Then, of course, there was Hansol. But that obviously isn’t going anywhere.
“Let’s just say I asked you to come watch my game and asked you for dinner afterward,” Hyunjin says. “It’s easy since it actually happened.”
“Did you like me before you asked me out?” Heejin asks, writing everything down on the sheet of paper. She doesn’t really need to—her interactions with Hyunjin have been quite memorable so far, but it helps her feel more organized if she writes it down.
Hyunjin thinks for a moment, rubbing her chin like she has a beard, which makes Heejin roll her eyes good-naturedly. “We’re in the same history class.” True. “We got partnered for a project.” Also true. “I thought you were really cute and asked you to go to my game the day the project was due.” Close enough to the truth.
“Did you like me?” Hyunjin asks, a playful glint in her eye. Heejin feels her breath catch in her throat.
“What?” Heejin asks dumbly, feeling self-conscious as Hyunjin stares at her.
“Before the date, did you like me?”
“Right,” Heejin breathes softly, shaking off her nerves. “Um, yeah. It makes sense. You’re pretty and popular, and I would see you around school a lot. It’d be easy to grow a little crush, right?”
Hyunjin hums and rests her chin on her fist. “You tell me.”
Heejin pouts at the continued teasing and chucks a napkin at Hyunjin’s face. “I already agreed to fake date you. You don’t have to woo me.”
Hyunjin manages to catch the napkin before it hits her face (the perks of being a basketball star) and laughs. “You’ll have to get used to it. If we’re dating, we’re gonna have to act like a couple.”
Heejin freezes at the thought of Hyunjin acting like this all the time. Hyunjin is really pretty, and Heejin has eyes; any sane person would get flustered. But Heejin’s especially not good with this type of stuff. She turns into a puddle of nerves anytime Hansol would throw a smile her way. How is she supposed to act normal when Hyunjin stares at her like that?
“We should make some rules,” Heejin blurts out, tearing her eyes away from Hyunjin’s.
Heejin avoids Hyunjin’s gaze and focuses on the condensation building up on her cup instead. “Like no kissing.”
Hyunjin lets out a tiny noise of disbelief. “None at all?”
“Well, yeah.” Heejin has kissed people before (Mark Lee and Chaeyoung Son, among others) but she kissed them because she wanted to, not because she had to convince the school of a fake relationship.
Hyunjin’s eyebrows knit together as she thinks. “Cheek-kissing at least? I understand if you don’t wanna actually kiss, but we have to sell this act for this to work.”
“Fine,” Heejin concedes, writing down the first rule. “Cheek-kissing only.”
“And holding hands is a must.”
“You’re probably just secretly clingy,” Heejin says (and Hyunjin doesn’t deny it), but she writes down the rule nonetheless. “Anything else?”
Hyunjin thinks for a second and snaps her fingers. “You have to come to my games.”
Of course Hyunjin will want Heejin there. Hyunjin’s the star striker and co-captain of the girl’s varsity soccer team—Co-captains with Ryujin Shin. It’s the perfect place for Hyunjin to rub her new relationship in Ryujin’s face. “Okay, but only if you drive me home afterward. I’m tired of skateboarding in the dark.”
She’s gotten way too many scratches and bruises solely because she can’t see holes and bumps in the road. At some point, it just gets annoying.
“Of course,” Hyunjin says, finally grabbing the bread that she’s been talking about all night. She carefully distributes bread on each of their plates, and her focused expression makes Heejin grin. Hyunjin slides Heejin’s plate back over. “Cheers.”
“Cheers,” Heejin repeats, picking up the bread and bringing it to her mouth. Despite the smell, she’s not expecting too much. Hyunjin hyped up the bread a lot, but seriously, how good can bread really be? It’s just bread.
Her eyes widen the second she takes a bite. Hyunjin watches her intently, and Heejin almost moans into this goddamn piece of bread. It’s the perfect amount of fluffy and sweet and chewy.
Okay, maybe she was a little mistaken about bread in general.
“One more thing for our agreement,” Heejin mumbles, grabbing her pen and making another note. “Since I can't drive, you have to bring me here whenever I want.”
Hyunjin pretends to think it over. “Only if you teach me how to skateboard.”
Heejin laughs. “Sure, but why do you wanna learn? You have a car.”
“Girls who skate are hot,” Hyunjin says, and her little smirk—the one Heejin is quickly starting to associate with Hyunjin flirting—is back.
Heejin averts her eyes quickly, feeling her cheeks heat up again. This seems to be a frequent occurrence whenever Hyunjin is around.
“That’s what Ryujin always said, at least,” Hyunjin continues with a shrug. “I wonder if she ever saw you skate to school.”
“I doubt it.” Heejin recalls that one time Yeojin thought it’d be funny to step in Heejin’s path while she was coming to school. Heejin had swerved hard to avoid the younger girl (their dad would’ve never forgiven Heejin if she ran over his youngest child), and consequently, she slammed into the curb and got launched straight into the bushes.
She’s pretty sure there’s no one in the world that could make falling into the bushes look cool, let alone hot.
“It’s not easy to pick up,” she says.
“I’m a quick learner,” Hyunjin promises her. “You’re getting the better end of this anyway! You get to have me drive you to this amazing bakery, and I’m asking to embarrass myself and potentially eat cement.”
Heejin laughs at the mental image. Honestly, Hyunjin probably could learn much quicker than normal. She’s a tri-athlete for a good reason. “Okay. You drive me to this bakery, and I’ll teach you how to skate.”
“One more thing,” Heejin says, writing down the last rule in all caps. “We definitely can’t tell anyone about this. It’s easier if we just keep the truth to ourselves.”
Hyunjin nods in agreement, and Heejin circles the rule multiple times just to be safe.
“Should we sign it?” Hyunjin asks after Heejin finishes writing. “Make it official?”
Heejin shrugs and signs her name in her loopy cursive. Hyunjin does the same, and they both take a moment to stare at the paper. Heejin feels somewhat proud they managed to make a whole contract out of this terrible plan.
“Nice doing business with you,” Hyunjin says with a grin, holding a piece of bread up like a toast.
Heejin mirrors her and taps their bread together. “Likewise.”
(It isn’t until much later that night—when she’s staring mournfully at a blank doc—that she realizes she agreed to fake date Hyunjin Kim.
“Fuck me,” she says to her computer. The cursor just blinks at her accusingly, reminding her that she can’t sleep her problems away because of this damn paper.
This is truly the setup of some dumb rom-com.)
Heejin grunts as a body slams into her, nearly knocking her to the floor. Heejin looks down to see Jiwoo clinging tightly to Heejin’s waist. She waves at Jungeun, who’s walking towards them at a normal pace with an amused smile.
“You’ve been ignoring my texts,” Jiwoo says, looking up at Heejin and glaring at her. “You still have to tell me all about last night.”
Heejin wonders if it’s too late to run, but Jiwoo seems to read her mind. She latches onto Heejin’s arm, tight enough for Heejin to know she won’t be able to escape. Jiwoo might be small and the literal definition of sunshine, but her black belt in karate speaks for itself.
“Hyunjin Kim?” Jungeun asks with an impressed whistle. She laughs at Heejin’s disgruntled expression. “Jiwoo already told me about it.”
Heejin huffs and peels Jiwoo away off her arm. “Well did Jiwoo tell you she finally talked to Sooyoung Ha yesterday?”
Jungeun whips around to face Jiwoo quicker than Heejin could blink. “You didn’t tell me about this!”
Jiwoo seems at a loss for words. She looks like she’s searching for an excuse, but after a few seconds of nothing, she just smiles widely. “I’m sorry?”
“Your smile will not save you this time,” Jungeun says and crosses her arms. “Spill.”
As Jiwoo begins to delve into how she made a complete fool out of herself in front of Sooyoung (Heejin would know—she’s heard the story already over FaceTime from a distraught Jiwoo), Heejin looks around the cafeteria, wondering where Hyunjin normally sits.
She doesn’t find Hyunjin, but instead makes eye-contact with Hansol, who grins and waves. “Heejin!” He breaks away from his friends and jogs up to her.
She plasters on a smile and ignores the rising panic within her the closer he gets. “Hey.”
“Hi.” He sticks his hands in his pockets, a telltale sign of his nerves. Heejin wonders what he has to be nervous about. “What’s up?”
She eyes him closely, wondering why he’s acting so weird. “Nothing really. Is everything alright?”
He sighs and runs his hand through his hair. “I dunno. It’s just—you and Hyunjin.”
“Me and Hyunjin?” she repeats and hopes he doesn’t see how nervous she is. Has he already seen through her bluff? She and Hyunjin haven’t even officially started fake dating yet!
“Not that it’s a bad thing!” he says quickly. “I’m just wondering why you didn’t tell me.”
She frowns at the odd question. “What?”
“Remember that pact we made in sixth grade? It was after I accidentally ripped off the tail of your favorite stuffed animal and hid it in my closet so you didn’t find out.” Hansol chuckles at the memory. “You were so sad, and I finally cracked and told you I broke it after two days of your moping.”
Heejin smiles softly. “I was so mad you didn’t tell me about it right away. And after we made up, we made a pact never to keep secrets from each other, even if the secret might hurt the other person because it hurts more to be lied to.”
Heejin has been breaking that pact every day since she realized she had a huge crush on Hansol last year. But then again, that wasn’t the same as breaking someone’s favorite toy. Those were feelings that could ruin her entire friendship with Hansol, and Heejin couldn’t ever let Hansol know.
Hansol’s smile turns a little more sad and wistful. “Then why didn’t you tell me about Hyunjin? No secrets, remember?”
Heejin bites her lip. “We didn’t want it getting out.”
“We used to tell each other everything.” He looks down at the floor, his shoe scuffing the tile. “You just seem so far away now.”
Heejin feels the guilt creep up on her. She didn’t realize how her pulling away had been affecting Hansol. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize how distant I was being.”
“It’s not your fault,” Hansol says. He looks at her hopefully. “Can we just put it behind us?”
Heejin nods. “Yeah, of course.” Without thinking, she steps forward and pulls him into a hug. He smells like pine. She ignores the way her heart skips a beat.
As soon as they part, someone calls Hansol’s name and he glances back at his friends, who have started to walk towards the exit of the cafeteria. “It looks like I gotta go. We should get dinner sometime soon. You know, to catch up and stuff.”
“Yeah, just text me whenever you’re free. Bye, Sol.” She waves at him, turning around to see Jiwoo and Jungeun staring at her. Heejin scowls. “What.”
Jungeun looks down and Jiwoo shrugs. “Nothing. Let’s go sit down.”
They find their table, and the topic of Hansol is forgotten by everyone except Heejin herself. She knows it’s not nothing. They knew she’s had it bad for Hansol for a while now, and normally Heejin would be annoyed at the somewhat pitying looks both of them are giving her, but she realizes she won’t have to deal with it now because of Hyunjin.
Speaking of Hyunjin, where the hell is she…
“Hi,” someone says next to her ear, and Heejin nearly jumps out of her skin. She turns and glares at Hyunjin, who’s standing there and eating an apple casually, like she didn’t nearly give Heejin a heart attack a second ago.
“How long were you standing there?”
Hyunjin shrugs and takes a seat next to Heejin, their knees knocking together under the table. “Not long. I was gonna say something before, but you seemed really into the argument you were having with Yeojin. I didn’t want to interrupt.” Her mouth curls up at the corners in amusement.
Heejin blushes once she realizes she was in the middle of arguing with Yeojin about Naruto, of all things. “You’re like a cat,” she mumbles, reminded of the way her aunt’s cat silently moves around the house and gives everyone mini heart attacks.
Hyunjin grins, her sharp canines sticking out. “Aeong.”
Heejin blinks. “What?”
“Aeong,” Hyunjin repeats, the sound scarily realistic to an actual cat. She winks, and Heejin wonders how the hell someone can be so confident while meowing?
“Oo-kay,” Heejin says, deciding not to comment on it.
“Hi, Hyunjin,” Jiwoo pipes up, reminding Heejin that they aren’t alone. Heejin glances back at her friends, whose expressions range from a shit-eating grin (Jungeun), a little confused (Yeojin), or just bored (Hyejoo).
Hyunjin waves. “Hi.”
“Whatcha doing?” Jiwoo asks, but judging from the look in her eye, she knows exactly why Hyunjin is here.
“I came to see Heejin,” Hyunjin says, reaching out to poke Heejin’s cheek with her finger. Heejin slaps away her hand with a halfhearted glare.
Yeojin makes a noise in the back of her throat, and she glances between Hyunjin and Heejin suspiciously. “You came to see Heejin?”
Heejin scowls at Yeojin and tosses a grape at her. “Don’t sound so surprised.”
Yeojin somehow manages to catch the grape in her mouth, and she shrugs while chewing. “Sorry. It’s just...it’s Heejin.”
“I hate you,” Heejin mutters. She makes a mental note to murder Yeojin when they get home later.
Luckily Hyunjin takes it in stride. “Yeah, she’s a total loser, right?”
“You’re the one who came to see me.”
“Well, I like you, so I’m probably the bigger loser here anyway,” Hyunjin says, grinning as she drapes an arm around Heejin and pulls her closer.
Someone chokes on their food (probably Yeojin), but Heejin doesn’t really notice, too preoccupied with her senses being overloaded by Hyunjin’s...well...everything. Heejin can’t help it; Hyunjin’s unfairly warm and smells really good.
“Are you free tonight?” Hyunjin asks. Out of the corner of her eye, Heejin sees Yeojin turn to Hyejoo and mouth what the fuck?
“It depends on what you’re thinking.”
“It’s a surprise. I’ll pick you up at seven?”
Heejin smiles, a little shy. “It’s a date.”
“Great.” Hyunjin leans in to place a kiss on her cheek, dangerously close to the corner of Heejin’s mouth. It’s long enough for the people at the other tables to notice, but not too long to be strange. The blush on Heejin’s cheek is anything but fake.
Hyunjin stands and bids everyone at the table goodbye, and Jiwoo politely waits until Hyunjin’s out of hearing distance before shrieking and taking Heejin by the shoulders to shake her vigorously.
“What just happened?” Yeojin asks. “You have a date? With Hyunjin Kim?” She pauses, her eyes widening in a sudden revelation. “Does Haseul know?”
Heejin narrows her eyes at the gleeful look in Yeojin’s eyes. “No, and she isn’t going to until I tell her. Understand?” She needs more time to tell their sister that she’s (fake) dating Hyunjin. Namely because Heejin would probably crack within ten minutes and tell her the truth.
Yeojin pouts and crosses her arms. “Fine.”
“You have a date,” Jiwoo says, wiping a fake tear away from her eyes. “You’re growing up so quickly.”
Heejin groans. “You guys didn’t act like this when Hyejoo and Chaewon announced they were dating.”
“That’s because they’ve basically been married since they were seven,” Jungeun says, gesturing to where Hyejoo is feeding Chaewon a spoonful of rice. Hyejoo glares and flips her off, but she continues feeding Chaewon. Whipped.
“And you haven’t gone on a proper date since Mark Lee,” Jiwoo adds. “That was two years ago.”
Heejin sighs, knowing they’re right. It’s been a very long time since she's gone on a date. And tonight was fake. She saves herself from replying by shoving her lunch in her mouth.
(Heejin tries not to mourn over her lack of a love life. She’ll focus on the problem at hand: making sure Hansol doesn’t know she still has feelings for him.
One problem at a time.)
There’s a knock at her bedroom door, and Heejin groans. “Not now, Yeojin. I gotta study for this test.”
The door opens. “Is it the chem test?”
Heejin’s head shoots up at the unfamiliar voice. Well, not exactly unfamiliar, but it was very unexpected. She squints at the figure standing in the doorway, wondering if she’s seeing correctly. “Hyunjin?”
“Hyunjin,” Heejin repeats in confusion. Then her eyes widen when she realizes Hyunjin is actually in her home. “Oh my god.”
Heejin’s currently sitting in her bed, decked out in her pajamas, completely bare-faced, her room an absolute mess, while Hyunjin Kim stands at her doorway, eyeing Heejin with an amused smile and looking unfairly pretty.
“Yeojin let me in,” Hyunjin explains, leaning against the doorframe. “She told me where your room is.”
Yeojin is the spawn of Satan. She knew Heejin looked like this and she still let Hyunjin in.
“What are you doing here?” Heejin asks, trying to smooth out her ponytail and subtly hide her bright pink sweatpants under the covers.
“I did say I was coming at seven,” Hyunjin says, and Heejin is reminded of their conversation at lunch.
“You were being serious?”
“You didn’t think I was?”
“I just thought…” Heejin trails off when Hyunjin holds up a finger and points down the stairs. Heejin’s eyes widen in understanding. She almost forgot Yeojin is downstairs and probably listening in on their conversation. “Um, I must’ve lost track of time. Give me a few minutes to get ready.”
“Sure. I’ll be downstairs.” Hyunjin shoots her a thumbs up. Heejin lets out a sigh of relief when the door shuts, rushing to her dresser and looking for something acceptable to wear to a not-date. She gets ready in record time, spurred on by the thought of Yeojin terrorizing Hyunjin downstairs.
Heejin rushes down the stairs, unsure of what she’ll find her sister and her fake girlfriend doing. She didn’t expect to see them sitting side-by-side on the couch, looking at some book.
Hyunjin looks up at the sound of her footsteps and smiles. “You look nice. I really liked those sparkly sweatpants though.”
It looks like Heejin was unsuccessful at hiding her sweatpants.
Dread overtakes Heejin when she realizes exactly what Yeojin is showing Hyunjin. “You’re showing her our baby pictures?” Yeojin just laughs—the little demon. Heejin marches over and takes the book away, glaring holes into Yeojin’s head as she does so.
Hyunjin chuckles and stands from the couch. “Thanks, Yeojin.” She holds her fist out and Heejin watches in muted horror as they fist-bump, complete with an explosion at the end.
Heejin grabs Hyunjin and drags her through the front door before the situation can get any weirder. “Bye, Yeojin, don’t burn the house down!”
“Your sister’s cool,” Hyunjin says as they climb into her Jeep.
Heejin scoffs. “Don’t let her cute little buns fool you. She’s a mini-Satan.”
“Anyone who shows me photos of a baby Heejin is cool.”
Heejin covers her face and sinks lower into her seat. “Please forget you ever saw those.”
“Too late. They’re ingrained in my memory.” Hyunjin glances over at Heejin with a large grin. “You were a really cute kid. I wonder what happened.”
“Very funny,” Heejin says dryly, reaching over to hit Hyunjin’s arm.
“You can’t hit the driver!” Hyunjin gasps, acting like she had been shot. “You could make me crash!”
“We aren’t even moving yet.”
“That’s beside the point,” Hyunjin dismisses, starting up the car and pulling away from the street. “You could’ve injured me and ruined our date.”
“Wait, we’re actually doing something?”
“Did you think we weren’t?”
Heejin was in her pajamas when Hyunjin came over. Obviously she didn’t think they were going out. “I just thought you were putting on a show for everyone.”
Hyunjin hums. “I don’t go back on my promises, remember? I said we’re going on a date at seven, so...” She shrugs and turns into a strip mall not too far from Heejin’s house. “Plus, I figured we could discuss our relationship over some games.”
Heejin, despite the ridiculousness of the whole situation, laughs as she figures out where Hyunjin is taking her. “The arcade?” She hasn’t been here since she was in elementary school. It looks even older than she remembers, but there’s something that’s charming about it.
Hyunjin nods, her smile playful as she hops out of her car. “I’m gonna kick your ass at air hockey.”
True to her word, she does kick Heejin’s ass at air hockey. In fact, she kicks Heejin’s ass in almost every game that requires some sort of physical skill (air hockey, skeeball, basketball—but that was expected). Heejin finds out that she’s uncannily good at racing games though (the result of Hyejoo roping her into too many video games), which frustrates Hyunjin to no end.
“Goddamnit,” Hyunjin mutters as Heejin celebrates her win for the sixth time that night. “I hate this game. It’s nothing like Mario Kart.”
“You’re the one who keeps asking for a rematch,” Heejin sing-songs, throwing a sickeningly sweet smile in Hyunjin’s direction. Hyunjin rolls her eyes and shoves Heejin off her chair. “Hey!”
Hyunjin laughs and goes to see Heejin, who’s now laying on the floor with her eyes closed. “You okay?”
“No! You could’ve injured me!” she says without opening her eyes, throwing Hyunjin’s earlier words back into her face.
“You’re fine.” Hyunjin nudges Heejin’s side with her foot. Heejin doesn’t budge. “We can split a milkshake if you get up.”
Heejin cracks an eye open to squint at Hyunjin. “Mint chocolate-chip?”
“Whatever my girlfriend wants.”
Heejin groans, getting used to Hyunjin’s borderline flirting already. It doesn’t stop the familiar heat rising on her face at Hyunjin’s words. “No one’s even around right now.”
“I’m determined to be the best fake girlfriend ever.” Hyunjin grins and nudges Heejin again. “Now let’s go. I’ll even let you have the cherry.”
Which is how they wind up in an old-fashioned booth in the corner of the room, a mint chocolate chip milkshake with two striped straws between them. It’s like something straight out of those old movies her dad loves to make everyone watch.
“Our stunt in the cafeteria worked pretty well, don’t you think?” Hyunjin says, taking a sip of the milkshake and sliding it over to Heejin’s side of the booth.
Heejin shrugs. “Probably. You do have lots of people watching you, Hyunjin Kim.”
Jiwoo wasn’t lying about the little fanclub of Hyunjin’s. That’s what happens when you’re an athletic prodigy, smart, and one of the prettiest girls at school.
“I had another idea we could maybe try,” Hyunjin says.
“So there’s this little tradition the soccer team does. We have these varsity sweatshirts with our names and numbers, and on game days, if you’re dating someone—”
“They wear your sweatshirt for support,” Heejin finishes, already aware of the tradition. She thinks back to last year when the girls in her English class would practically swoon over how cute Hyunjin and Ryujin were by wearing each others’ sweatshirts.
Heejin wisely chooses not to mention this.
“It’s perfect to make us official without overdoing it! The cafeteria scene was a great intro, but this is the way to get the entire school to know.” Hyunjin looks at her pleadingly. “We have a game this Friday.”
Heejin chews on her straw. Hyunjin has a point; this would be the thing they need to get the whole school talking about them. She’s just not sure if she wants that much attention from everyone. Hyunjin has always been a popular person, but Heejin’s always preferred to keep to herself and her friends
Then again, their entire plan’s success is hinged on having everyone’s attention on them.
“It better be clean,” she says after thinking it over for a while.
Hyunjin holds her hand to her chest in mock offense. “Do you think I’m just another mindless jock? It’s freshly washed and folded, waiting for you in my backseat as we speak.”
“Oh, so you assumed I’d just agree to wear your clothes?”
“I was hopeful,” Hyunjin counters. She pauses, a smirk curling on the edge of her lips. “And who wouldn’t want to wear my sweatshirt?”
“That was really bad,” Heejin says, balling up her straw wrapper and tossing it at Hyunjin. “Solid three out of ten.”
Hyunjin dodges the wrapper and pouts. “A three? I’m gonna have to step up my game.”
“Wouldn’t you like to know.”
Heejin pauses thoughtfully. “Two out of ten.”
Hyunjun laughs, her eyes crinkling and head thrown back in a way that has Heejin smiling into their shared milkshake. Hyunjin glances backward and slides out of the booth. “C’mon, I wanna try and win that yellow stuffed cat before we go.” She offers her hand to Heejin.
Heejin takes her hand. “Such a gentleman. It almost makes up for your awful flirting.”
Hyunjin just smiles and tugs her towards the claw machines.
(Hyunjin drives her home and walks her to the doorstep.
“Is this the part where I give you a goodnight kiss?” Hyunjin asks with a half-grin, her face dimly illuminated by the one working light on the porch.
Heejin doesn’t bother with a response. She shoves Hyunjin off towards her car and doesn’t go inside until Hyunjin drives away.)
“Is that Hyunjin’s?” Jiwoo asks the moment she sees Heejin, her eyebrows rising comically high at the sight of Heejin almost swimming in the unfamiliar hoodie that had their school’s soccer team on the front.
Heejin sticks her hands in her pockets, feeling self-conscious. “Maybe.”
She knew what she was getting into when she agreed to wear Hyunjin’s sweatshirt, but it’s different actually experiencing it. All these people keep looking at her, and Heejin isn’t used to it at all. One person even congratulated her while she was walking to math. How is she even supposed to respond to that?
Jungeun peeks at Heejin’s back with a barely suppressed grin. “This has Hyunjin’s name all over it, in case you didn’t know.”
Heejin rolls her eyes at the joke. “Shut up.”
She still has half a mind to steal Hyunjin’s sweatshirt, name on the back or not. It’s big and comfy and soft, and don’t even get her started on the smell. Hyunjin must have some seriously nice laundry detergent or something. Heejin didn’t know it was possible to be in love with a piece of clothing.
“Are you sniffing the sweatshirt?” Jungeun asks, amusement clear in her voice.
“Does she smell nice?” Jiwoo asks, shrugging when they both turn to look at her. “What? It’s not like I would know.”
“Did you think she’d smell bad?” Jungeun asks.
“It was just a question!”
(“She smells really nice,” Heejin admits later, feeling her cheeks and ears grow warm.
“Gay,” Jungeun crows, and Jiwoo smacks her shoulder.
Well, she’s not wrong.)
“Can we sit here?”
Heejin looks up to see Hyunjin and Sooyoung standing there. Heejin smiles and moves over on the bench. “Sure.”
Someone kicks Heejin’s shin while they sit down, and she barely hides her wince. She looks up to glare at Jiwoo, who’s pointedly not looking at Sooyoung.
As soon as Hyunjin sits, she finds Heejin’s hand under the table, flips it so her palm is facing up, and intertwines their hand without looking. Heejin glances down. Can anyone even see their hands under the table? Maybe Hyunjin really is just clingy.
“Heejin,” Sooyoung says, leaning over so she can see past Hyunjin. “I’m guessing you’re coming to the game tonight?”
Heejin chuckles. “I’ve never really been a soccer person...”
Hyunjin gasps and shakes her head at Heejin. “What? I’m sorry, but this relationship might not be working—”
“But,” Heejin says, raising her eyebrow at Hyunjin, “I think I could be convinced.”
“I’ll be there. Isn’t that all the motivation you need?” Hyunjin suddenly grins, and Heejin can actually see the lightbulb over her head flash. “You’re the only motivation I need to score.”
“I think I just threw up in my mouth a little,” Yeojin says.
“Same,” Jungeun says, gagging into her food. “I could do so much better.”
“Four out of ten,” Heejin whispers in Hyunjin’s ear as the table explodes in random sports pick-up lines. “On the bright side, it's your best one yet.”
“You're very hard to please, Miss Jeon,” Hyunjin murmurs. “Luckily I enjoy a challenge. I’ll find a ten out of ten soon, even if you’re the only ten I need in my life.”
Heejin snorts. “I’ll give it a five.”
Hyunjin does a fist-pump to herself.
The (awful) sports puns begin to die down after a minute, and Jungeun looks at Jiwoo, her eyes brimming with mischief. “Jiwoo would love to go tonight.”
“Yeah?” Sooyoung asks, turning her attention to Jiwoo, who kicks Heejin’s shin again.
“Oh, probably.” Jiwoo smiles almost painfully wide (her panicked smile, Heejin notes). “I’m all about school spirit...and stuff.”
Jungeun vibrates with laughter, and Heejin discreetly elbows her in the side.
Sooyoung glances at Jungeun, a small, almost unnoticeable smirk playing with her lips. “I’m sure you are too. You’re always coming to our practices and games.”
For some reason, Jungeun turns pink at Sooyoung’s comment, and Heejin narrows her eyes at the strange reaction. Why would Jungeun go to soccer games without telling them? And soccer practices? Who even does that? Jungeun definitely doesn’t like soccer that much; she’s more of a basketball person. Then an idea dawns on Heejin, and she raises an accusatory finger at Jungeun. “Do you like someone on the soccer team?”
Jungeun’s guilty silence is enough of an answer.
Jiwoo gasps and also points at Jungeun. “But you’ve been teasing me for—” Her mouth snaps shut when she remembers who’s also at the lunch table with them. Jiwoo settles with a glare. “Jungeun Kim!”
Jungeun looks slightly panicked, and she makes a show of checking her phone. “Oh would you look at the time! Looks like I gotta go!” She sprints out of the cafeteria before Heejin and Jiwoo can react.
“This isn’t over!” Heejin shouts after the retreating girl. She locks eyes with Sooyoung. “What do you know?”
“I thought you guys already knew!”
“Knew what?” Heejin is one second away from reaching over Hyunjin and shaking Sooyoung by the shoulders until she gives her an answer. “What do we not know?”
Sooyoung—probably seeing the look in Heejin’s eyes—leans back and puts her hands up in surrender. “I’m staying out of this. I think I’ve said too much already.”
Heejin groans. Useless. She turns back to Jiwoo, a fiery determination in her eyes. “You’re coming to the game, and we’re going to figure out who Jungeun likes.”
Jiwoo nods. “And then we’re going to give her hell for being such a hypocrite.”
(She and Jiwoo have dealt with Jungeun’s teasing for years. It’s only fair they pay her back, right?
If only there was an easy way to figure out who the lucky girl that had Jungeun blushing is.)
Heejin’s leg bounces up and down as she bites her lip, her eyes glued to the scoreboard. The score is tied at 1-1, and although Heejin has never really been into soccer, she’s really invested in this game. What kind of fake girlfriend would she be if she wasn’t?
“Calm down,” Jiwoo says, looking at Heejin’s leg pointedly. “It’s only halftime. We still have plenty of time to score a goal.”
“Or plenty of time to give up a goal.”
“Have more faith in our soccer team. They made it to state last year, remember?”
“Yeah.” Heejin forces her leg to be still and takes a deep breath. “You’re right. We’ve got this.”
“Good. Now let's discuss more important matters: who does Jungeun like?” Jiwoo takes out a notepad with an entire list of the girl’s soccer team and uncaps a pen. “I already crossed out Hyunjin because that’s like, going against the bro-code or whatever.” Jiwoo’s eyes widen as an idea pops into her mind. “What if it’s Sooyoung?”
Heejin rolls her eyes. “It’s definitely not Sooyoung.”
“Why? Sooyoung is everyone’s type.”
“She’s not Jungeun’s type so cross her off the list.”
“I’ll put the idea on the backburner,” Jiwoo says. She taps her chin and scans the players carefully. “What about that one student who transferred in last year? Tzuyu?”
“Nah, Tzuyu’s dating Chaeyoung.”
“The one who triggered your bi awakening?”
“She didn’t trigger it,” Heejin mumbles, although it was a very memorable kiss. “She just happened to be the first girl I actually kissed.”
“Well she triggered my awakening. Remember that haircut she got in middle school?” Jiwoo shakes her head and refocuses on the list. “Anyways, what about Jeongyeon Yoo?”
“They’re definitely just friends,” Heejin says. “And didn’t Jungeun say she prefers long hair?”
“Sooyoung had long hair.”
“Had, Jiwoo. She cut it last summer.” Heejin huffs and tries to grab the pen, but Jiwoo extends her arm so Heejin can’t reach it. “Will you just let me take Sooyoung’s name off the list?”
“It must be Jennie,” Jiwoo says, ignoring Heejin’s pleas.
“Jungeun’s way too intimidated by her.”
“Maybe she’s into that.”
Heejin frowns as the two teams jog back onto the field. The whistle blows, and the second half begins. “We’re not getting anywhere with this. Maybe we can just annoy Jungeun until she finally cracks and tells us.”
Jiwoo groans and tosses the notepad to the side. “This is annoying.”
“Jaemin Na’s is throwing a party tonight,” Heejin mentions, changing the subject before Jiwoo starts ripping out her hair. She looks at Jiwoo hopefully. “Hyunjin wants me to go. Please come so I don’t stand in the corner like a loser.”
“You won’t be standing in the corner,” Jiwoo says. “Hyunjin will be there, and I don’t wanna third-wheel you two. Stop looking at me like that—you know I’ve become immune to your pout.”
Heejin sighs, deciding to try another angle. “Sooyoung might be there.”
“Even more of a reason not to go,” Jiwoo says, leaning into Heejin. “Sooyoung might be there!”
Heejin frowns in confusion. “That’s never stopped you before.” She actually thought Jiwoo would want to go more if Sooyoung was there (the number of sports events Jiwoo has attended in her three years of high school speaks for itself).
“But Sooyoung’s never noticed me at any of those things! Now since you and Hyunjin are together, she might talk to me!”
“Oh no, not talking!” Heejin rolls her eyes at Jiwoo. “That’s a problem how?”
“Because she’s Sooyoung Ha, and I’m me. I’m gonna start rambling like usual and embarrass myself again, and then I’ll have to drop out of school and move to another country so I don’t have to face her.”
“You’re so dramatic,” Heejin says, wrapping an arm around Jiwoo and hugging her tightly. “So what if you start rambling? That’s you, and if Sooyoung doesn’t like that, then it’s her loss. You deserve someone who likes you for you.”
“Did Haseul teach you that little speech?” Jiwoo asks, her voice muffled against Heejin’s shoulder.
Heejin pats Jiwoo’s head. “Don’t worry about it.”
They stay like that for a while, and then Jiwoo ruins the moment by saying, “You’re right, Hyunjin does smell nice.”
Heejin chuckles. “I know! Should I ask what type of laundry detergent she uses?”
“Definitely not—that’s really weird.” Jiwoo wrinkles her nose. “Just steal more of her clothes instead.”
Ah yes; one of the major perks of having a girlfriend now meant stealing her clothes. Heejin wonders if the protocol is different for fake relationships. Is there a rulebook for this type of stuff?
Heejin glances at the scoreboard again. There are eleven minutes left on the board, and the score is still 1-1. “What if it’s still tied by the end of the game?”
“Overtime,” Jiwoo says. She nudges Heejin with a teasing grin. “But don’t worry. Your girlfriend has a reputation of pulling through at the end.”
Jiwoo nods. “Last year during the state game, there were forty-five seconds left in overtime and the other team was up by one, but Hyunjin managed to make a miracle header in before the time ran out. Granted, we lost in the penalty shoot-out, but still.”
Heejin’s eyebrows rise in surprise at the new information. Maybe she should do some research on their soccer team. It’s probably one of her fake girlfriend duties, right?
The ball goes back and forth for a while, neither team really gaining enough traction to generate anything. Around six minutes though, that changes. Jeongyeon makes an amazing pass that puts Hyunjin ahead of nearly everyone on the opposing team. The only thing between her and the goal was a single defender and the goalie.
Heejin must be cutting off the circulation to Jiwoo’s fingers with how hard she’s gripping the other girl’s hand.
Once the defender gets close enough, Hyunjin does some fancy footwork that ends in her nutmegging the defender. The crowd, understandably, goes wild, Heejin included. She isn’t well-versed in anything with soccer, but even she knows how disrespectful a nutmeg is.
“Jesus, Heejin,” Jiwoo mutters, ripping her hand away from Heejin’s grip. Heejin doesn’t even spare her a glance, focused entirely on Hyunjin sprinting towards the other team’s net. She holds her breath as Hyunjin winds up to shoot.
The goalie doesn’t stand a chance.
Her shot slams into the bottom left corner, and the team swarms Hyunjin before the ref can even blow the whistle. Hyunjin looks towards their student section, her eyes scanning the faces in bleachers. When she spots Heejin, she smiles, shoots her two finger-guns, and winks.
Jiwoo squeals and shoves her elbow into Heejin, nearly knocking Heejin off the bleachers in the process. Heejin’s ears burn in embarrassment, but she can’t hide the grin on her face as she watches Hyunjin jog back to the middle of the field.
(Jiwoo ultimately decides not to go to the party, despite Heejin saying she’ll buy her boba for the next month if she goes.
“You can’t bribe me,” Jiwoo says. “Your little speech was cute, but I’m not going out of my way to embarrass myself in front of Sooyoung.”
“Coward!” Heejin calls as Jiwoo climbs into her car.
Jiwoo just smiles and waves at her before driving away.)
Heejin burrows a little deeper into Hyunjin’s sweatshirt as the wind picks up around her, bitingly cold. She checks the time again and sighs.
She’s been waiting by Hyunjin’s car alone, waiting for Hyunjin to show. Nearly twenty minutes have passed since the game ended, and Hyunjin still wasn’t here. By this point, everyone else (including those on the soccer team) have left, and Heejin’s beginning to worry Hyunjin was kidnapped or something.
“You’re still here?” a familiar voice asks, making Heejin look up from her phone to see Hyunjin walking towards her, her duffle in one hand and a ball in the other.
Heejin shrugs and tucks away her phone, happy that the other girl is finally here. She’s freezing. “I figured I’d wait.”
Hyunjin frowns as she places her things in her car. “You should’ve told me! I would’ve left earlier if I had known.”
“I don’t mind. I’ve been using the extra time to mentally prepare myself for this party anyways.” Heejin climbs into Hyunjin’s car and turns on the heat immediately, trying to warm her fingers. “Why’d you stay so long?”
“I have this tradition where I stay after games and shoot a little.” Hyunjin runs her hand through it a few times, and Heejin marvels at the way Hyunjin’s hair is still perfect despite it being up in a ponytail for over two hours and enduring all that running. “It helps clear my mind.”
“After playing a soccer game, you just want to play more soccer?” Heejin smiles wryly. That seemed like a very Hyunjin thing to do. No wonder why the girl was so good at soccer.
Hyunjin hums and nods, tapping her fingers against the steering wheel to the beat of the music. “It started when I was little. My dad used to storm the field and play with me after the games ended because they were too short for me to get all my energy out.”
Heejin laughs at the image of a tiny Hyunjin running circles around her father, not even close to being tired after playing an entire soccer game. “I want pictures.”
“That’s never happening.”
“You’ve seen my baby pictures!”
“You have to earn them. Yeojin thought I was worthy to see yours, so it’s only fair if you can see mine when you’re deemed worthy.”
“Yeojin is a little shit—”
“Don’t talk about my best friend like that!”
“I hate you both,” Heejin grumbles. She is never letting Hyunjin near Yeojin ever again. The headache those two could cause her would be too much to handle.
“That’s not a very nice thing to say to your girlfriend.”
Heejin rolls her eyes. “We’re alone,” she says, though she knows that doesn’t deter Hyunjin at all.
“Practice makes perfect,” Hyunjin says cheerfully, pulling up to a gigantic house with loads of cars in front of it. “And we have to be perfect. Everyone’s gonna be here tonight.”
Everyone meaning Ryujin, Heejin thinks, hearing the unspoken words. She looks at Jaemin’s house (more of a mansion, really) and takes a deep, calming breath. She can see the people littered throughout the porch and front yard, and more actually inside the house. “Okay, I’m ready.”
Hyunjin’s lips quirk up into a tiny smile. “We don’t have to go if you don’t want to.”
“No, we should!”
“Are you sure?”
Heejin opens the door and sticks a leg out. “Let’s go before I talk myself out of this.”
It’s not like Heejin hasn’t been to parties before—they’re just not her thing. She’s fairly shy with people she doesn’t know too well, so parties were never really fun unless she had a few friends there.
And she’s never gone to a party with the purpose of being a fake girlfriend to make someone jealous. So there was that too.
Hyunjin still looks a little dubious. “Okay, but tell me when you wanna leave.”
The smell of alcohol and sweat hits Heejin the second the door opens, and she wrinkles her nose in distaste. Hyunjin reaches for her hand and tries her best to guide them through the mass of bodies. Someone stomps on Heejin’s foot with their heel and Hyunjin just barely avoids getting drenched by someone’s drink, but they’re able to make it to the kitchen relatively unhurt (though Heejin’s foot would definitely be bruised by the morning).
Heejin sighs and leans against the counter, taking in the chaos of the house. “This happens every game?”
“Yup.” Hyunjin begins rummaging through one of the coolers. “I don’t go to many of them though.”
“It gets boring,” Hyunjin says, holding out a beer for Heejin to take. Heejin thanks her, and Hyunjin looks in the cooler for another moment before emerging with a can of soda.
“No beer for you?” Heejin asks as Hyunjin pops open the tab and takes a sip.
Hyunjin shakes her head. “I’m driving. And I don’t really drink anyway.”
“Really? What do you do at parties then?”
Hyunjin shrugs, thinking for a second. “I’m quite good at beer pong, if I do say so myself. I was even crowned the beer pong champion last year.”
Heejin gasps in faux amazement. “The beer pong champion?” Hyunjin nods and even goes as far as to obnoxiously flex her arms, making Heejin roll her eyes and shove her away. “Aren’t you supposed to drink in beer pong?”
“Not if my partner’s nice enough to drink for me.”
“And how do you convince someone to do that for you?”
Hyunjin smiles and winks at her. “The charms, Miss Jeon. It’s all about the charms.”
Heejin takes another drink and hopes it’s dark enough that Hyunjin doesn’t see her cheeks turn pink. “That doesn’t work.”
“I’m not! It really works!”
“You’re a terrible person,” Heejin says. Hyunjin opens her mouth to respond, but something behind Heejin catches her attention. Her face falls slightly, making Heejin frown and glance behind her. “What?”
“Nothing,” Hyunjin replies, ripping her eyes away and giving Heejin a tight-lipped smile, looking more like a grimace than anything.
Heejin just raises her eyebrows, unimpressed with the answer.
Hyunjin sighs and runs a hand through her hair. “It’s dumb. I just saw Ryujin with Lia.”
She looks like a kicked puppy, and Heejin bites her lip. Making a decision, she sets aside her drink and grabs Hyunjin’s hand, beginning to tug her away from the kitchen. “Let’s go.”
Heejin glances back at her, a mischievous glint in her eye. “I hear you’re good at beer pong.”
(Normally, Heejin would never subject herself to a game of beer pong, especially at a party with a bunch of jocks who probably could manage to destroy her in their sleep. But she needed to do anything to get Hyunjin’s mind off of Ryujin and Lia. It’s strange to see the sad expression on Hyunjin’s face, and it didn’t sit right with Heejin.
If beer pong was the way to make Hyunjin smile, Heejin is prepared to embarrass herself thoroughly. Plus, how bad could beer pong be?)
It doesn’t take long for Heejin to remember why she doesn’t play beer pong often.
“Heejin, I hate to tell you this, but you really suck at beer pong,” Hyunjin says as Heejin’s shot bounces off the table. The cups on the other side of the table seem to mock her and her severe lack of hand-eye coordination.
“I told you so,” Heejin grumbles, crossing her arms with a frown. “You shouldn’t have asked me to be your partner.”
Hyunjin wraps her arms around Heejin’s shoulders. “Even if you’re completely hopeless at beer pong, I’d still want you to be my partner.”
“Let’s see if you’re still saying that after we lose.”
Hyunjin laughs. “Don’t be dramatic. We’ll be fine.”
Heejin hums and decides not to say anything. Hyunjin better get used to the idea of losing very soon, or she’s going to be sorely disappointed. The other team only needs to make three more cups to win, whereas she and Hyunjin need to make six. She’s not too hopeful at the moment.
One boy—Heejin thinks his name is Soobin—shoots and misses. Unfortunately, his partner, Taehyun, manages to make another shot in. Heejin curses inwardly and picks up the red solo cup, glaring at Hyunjin over the rim. “I can’t believe I’m drinking for you.”
“It’s because of my charm,” Hyunjin says with a smile, lining herself up. “Island!”
Soobin groans as the shot goes in with a soft plop. “I hate that rule.”
“You only hate it because you can never make it in,” Hyunjin shoots back. Soobin flips her off while he and Taehyun each grab a cup to drink. Heejin doesn’t even know what an island is. All she really knows is that they’re two cups down, and it’s her turn to shoot, and she’s a little tipsy by this point.
I hate this game, she thinks before tossing the ball and hoping it goes somewhat near the cup.
It doesn’t go near any of the five cups. In fact, it doesn’t even go near the table. It sails through the air, way past the edge of the table. Taehyun lunges sideways to catch it.
Heejin yelps as Hyunjin roughly pulls her beneath the table. “What the f—” Something hits the wall behind them, and she turns her head to see the ping pong ball bounce to the ground.
Hyunjin giggles, their faces close together. “There’s this rule where if you airball it and the other team catches it before it hits the ground, they can throw it at you and it counts as a cup.”
Heejin hates beer pong and its endless list of rules. What even is a ring of fire in beer pong anyway? Hyunjin helps Heejin stand back up before eyeing the five cups. Her shot bounces off the rim of the furthest cup, which is much more than what can be said for most of Heejin’s shots.
“Just focus on one cup and shoot it like this.”
“It’s hopeless,” Heejin declares, accepting the fact that the universe made her terrible at beer pong.
“It’s not,” Hyunjin says, determined to try and help Heejin. “I’ll tell you what—if you make it into a cup, I’ll help you prepare for that bake sale you’ve been complaining about all week.”
Heejin perks up in interest. Her church is throwing a bake sale soon, and they asked Heejin’s family to help prepare some items. Unfortunately, her dad would be out of town for a business trip, and there was no way in hell she’s letting Yeojin anywhere near the kitchen (one kitchen fire is enough to last a lifetime).
However, Heejin is also considered a menace in the kitchen. She’s been debating whether to brave the kitchen and risk giving her entire church food poisoning, or bear the shame of buying something from their local grocery store.
Hyunjin nods. “Cross my heart.”
Heejin prays to any and every god to let her make one cup, just a single cup. She figures if there is a god up there, they’ll let her have this because it’s for the greater good of her church. She lines up carefully, replaying what Hyunjin told her to do in her mind.
Watching a ball fly into a cup has never been so satisfying before.
Heejin and Hyunjin both stare at the ball still spinning in the cup in disbelief. Then Hyunjin breaks out into a cheer and pulls Heejin into a hug. “You finally made one!”
“I finally made one,” Heejin repeats, dumbfounded.
Over Hyunjin’s shoulder, she spots a familiar girl looking at them with sharp, curious eyes. Heejin does a double-take at the sight. Their little beer pong game had garnered a small crowd, but she didn’t expect to see Hyunjin’s ex-girlfriend watching them.
An image of Hyunjin’s crestfallen expression pops into her mind, and maybe it’s because Heejin is a little tipsy (she’s always been a lightweight), but in a split-second decision, she wraps her arms around Hyunjin’s waist tightly and pulls her closer. She tucks her head into the crook of Hyunjin’s neck, noticing how the other girl stiffens a bit at the unexpected action. “Ryujin’s watching us,” Heejin mumbles into Hyunjin’s shoulder as an explanation.
“Oh.” Hyunjin exhales slowly, letting the tension melt from her body. She presses a soft kiss to Heejin’s temple, and although Heejin knows it’s all a show for Ryujin, her heart skips a beat. She blames it on her recent lack of romantic affection, and the fact that Hyunjin’s lips are really, really soft.
“Is she still there?” Hyunjin asks after a long moment, her voice low.
When Heejin looks again, Ryujin is gone. Heejin shakes her head and pulls away, a grin on her face. “You owe me a baking session now.”
Hyunjin nods slowly, still in amazement at Heejin’s lucky shot. “I guess I do.”
They end up losing the game (Soobin and Taehyun manage to make back-to-back shots, and even Hyunjin couldn’t carry Heejin to victory), but Hyunjin is still grinning despite the loss and the teasing from the two boys. Heejin is reminded once again of Hyunjin’s expression when she saw Ryujin. Heejin smiles softly as Hyunjin laughs and chucks the ping pong ball at Soobin’s head.
Happiness definitely looks much better on her.
(It’s almost disconcerting how seamlessly Hyunjin begins to fit into her life in just two weeks.
They meet in front of Heejin’s locker before the morning bell rings so they can walk to history together. Hyunjin sends Heejin random memes throughout the day during classes and sits with her every day at lunch now. By the fourth day, she has all of Heejin’s friends wrapped around her finger, and even Hyejoo likes her—they bonded over their shared love for Mario Kart on the switch.
“It’s the charms,” Hyunjin says when Heejin complains about how quickly Hyejoo warmed up to her when it took Hyejoo two months to even acknowledge that Heejin sat at their lunch table.
Heejin shoves her off her seat.)
Jiwoo sighs as she looks around the stadium again. “Do you see her?”
“No,” Heejin says for the fifth time in a row, not bothering to look up from her notebook. “I think we scared her off.”
Heejin raises her eyebrows. “Because you’re shit at keeping secrets and Jungeun was able to figure out that we were planning on coming to the soccer practice today.”
“Was I really that obvious?”
Heejin nods gravely.
Jiwoo groans and buries her face in her hands. “We’re never gonna figure it out.”
“I still think we should try and get Sooyoung to tell us what she knows.”
“That’ll never work,” Jiwoo says. “It’s Sooyoung Ha—she probably won’t crack for anyone.”
Heejin watches Sooyoung sprint across the field, dribbling circles around the defenders without breaking a sweat. “Hyunjin told me Sooyoung cried the other day while watching puppy videos on TikTok.”
“I cry at puppy videos on TikTok.”
“Great! You two can cry together then.”
“No!” Jiwoo protests immediately. “I’m an ugly crier.”
“Everyone’s an ugly crier. You’re not special.”
“I bet Sooyoung isn’t an ugly crier,” Jiwoo says, gesturing towards the field. “Just look at her.”
Heejin gets distracted by Hyunjin yelling for the ball. She watches as Hyunjin settles the cross from Sooyoung and shoots with ease. It slips past the goalie’s fingers into the net. Heejin smiles proudly while Hyunjin throws her hands up in a celebration.
Jiwoo notices her smile. “You know, I never would’ve guessed you and Hyunjin Kim would get together.”
Heejin looks away from the field to tilt her head at Jiwoo curiously. “Really? Why?”
“She’s just never been someone on your radar, as far as I knew. And until recently, I thought you were still hung up on Hansol. You did send him that video.”
“Don’t remind me,” Heejin says. It’s been nearly three weeks now, but the memory is still fresh in her mind.
“It’s nice seeing you with Hyunjin though. I know you guys have only been together for a couple weeks, but she’s good for you. I can tell already.”
Heejin tries to hide her surprise at the honesty in Jiwoo’s voice. “You think?”
Jiwoo nods. “It’s obvious she cares for you, and you deserve someone like that.”
Heejin nearly melts on the spot. She sighs and rests her head against Jiwoo’s shoulder. “You deserve someone like that too. And if Sooyoung can’t see how amazing you are, then she’s really missing out.”
Heejin tries her best to ignore the rising guilt of lying to Jiwoo about her relationship.
The two of them stay like that as the team finishes the scrimmage and circles up for stretching. Hyunjin and Ryujin are in the middle, leading the players, both of them purposefully not looking at the other.
“Do you think we’ll ever see Jungeun’s secret crush-slash-girlfriend?” Jiwoo asks, interrupting her musings.
Heejin hums and shrugs. “Hopefully. She can’t keep it a secret much longer, can she?”
“She’s pretty stubborn when she wants to be.”
“Maybe we can lie low and lure her into a false sense of security. Then we’ll strike when she doesn’t expect it.”
Jiwoo snorts. “You make it sound like we’re about to fight a war or something.”
“This is war,” Heejin says. “And we’re going to win.”
Heejin and Jiwoo look over to see Hyunjin and Sooyoung standing on the other side of the fence that separates the bleachers from the track and field. Hyunjin waves and motions for them to come down
“We’re going to find out who Jungeun likes,” Heejin says as she begins to scale the chain fence. Jiwoo opts for walking towards the gate.
“You’re still going on about this?” Hyunjin asks in amusement.
“Yup!” Heejin jumps from where she’s precariously balancing on the top of the fence and stumbles forward. A pair of hands quickly steady her, and she smiles gratefully up at Hyunjin. “Thank you.”
“I don’t get why you insist on climbing the fence,” Hyunjin says, motioning to where Jiwoo’s entering through the gate like normal people do. “You’re gonna break your leg or something.”
“It’s like, four feet tall,” Heejin says, rolling her eyes.
“Heejin, I watched you trip over air the other day and nearly give yourself a concussion on a lamp post.”
“I didn’t trip over air!”
“Then what happened?”
Heejin looks at her feet and scuffs the track with her shoe. “There was a dog and I got really excited and accidentally tripped on my foot while I was going to pet it.”
“And you wonder why I’m concerned about you climbing up that fence.”
“I’ll be fine. I’m used to falling off things anyways.” Her skateboard, for example. Or her bed. Or even a regular chair (Yeojin loves to pull them out from under Heejin right before she sits down).
Hyunjin looks at her with a small smirk. “You did fall for me.”
Heejin gapes at her, wondering if she heard correctly. She couldn’t decide whether to laugh or scoff at the terrible line.
“You guys get disgustingly cuter the more I see you,” Sooyoung mutters.
Hyunjin huffs and turns to Sooyoung. “Do I need to tell Heejin and Jiwoo about that one time when—”
Sooyoung makes a panicked noise in the back of her throat and slaps a hand across Hyunjin’s mouth, effectively silencing her. “Hyunjin Kim, I swear to god…”
Sooyoung has this reputation around school for always being calm and cool; some would even say emotionless and scary. However, watching Sooyoung screech and withdraw her hand at lightning speed because Hyunjin licked her palm, she’s definitely not emotionless or scary.
Besides, how scary can someone be if they cry at puppy videos?
“You’re disgusting,” Sooyoung says, glaring and wiping her hand on Hyunjin’s shirt. “I don’t know how I put up with you.”
Hyunjun waves away the comment with a cheerful grin. “You’ve been best friends with Jinsol since kindergarten. I’m a piece of cake compared to her.”
Sooyoung doesn’t deny it.
“Speaking of Jinsol, I’m going to murder her for bailing again,” Hyunjin says with a tiny scowl. “She knows dinners after practice on Tuesdays are sacred!”
Sooyoung sighs, shaking her head. “And I was really craving a burger.”
“We’re still going,” Hyunjin declares. “We already skipped last week, so there’s no way in hell I’m not eating fries today.” She glances sideways at Heejin. “You and Jiwoo wanna come?”
Sooyoung straightens up a bit. “You should! This little diner has the best food, and it’s half-off on Tuesdays.”
Jiwoo opens her mouth, and Heejin knows she’s about to decline the offer solely because she’d be forced to talk to Sooyoung in close proximity, so she jumps in before Jiwoo can say anything and ruin it. “We’d love to! Right, Jiwoo?”
Jiwoo turns wide eyes on Heejin, who raises her narrows her eyes in a warning. After a small stare-down, Jiwoo suddenly smiles. “Yeah, for sure.”
Sooyoung and Hyunjin look at them in slight confusion, but they didn’t ask questions, thankfully. When they turn away, Jiwoo’s smile morphs into a scowl, and she glares at Heejin. I will murder you, she mouths.
Heejin just blows a kiss at Jiwoo. This is for your own good.
Hyunjin slips her hand into Heejin’s as they make their way to the parking lot. Heejin is thankful that Jiwoo’s too focused on not tripping over her own feet while Sooyoung is in the vicinity, or else she’d look at Heejin with that one smile (the one that meant Heejin would be getting teased endlessly the next time they have a sleepover).
“Do you need a ride?” Sooyoung asks once they get to Hyunjin’s car, looking directly at Jiwoo.
“Me?” Jiwoo asks, pointing at herself as if to make sure.
“Yeah. I figured Heejin’s already catching a ride with Hyunjin.”
“Oh! Um, I’m good! I have a car and a license and...yeah...” Jiwoo trails off lamely and shakes her keys for emphasis. “Definitely good!”
Sooyoung bites back a laugh. “Okay. Just follow me then since you probably don’t know where we’re going.”
“You got it!” Jiwoo salutes, and this time, Sooyoung can’t hold back her laughter. Jiwoo, once she realizes what she did, turns red and mumbles incoherently before nearly running to her own car. Sooyoung watches her go with a tiny smile.
“Get going, Romeo,” Hyunjin says when Sooyoung doesn’t move for a few seconds. “We don’t have all night.”
Sooyoung turns and shoots Hyunjin a dirty look. “I really hate you sometimes.”
“You’re all bark and no bite.”
“Don’t bring your furry tendencies into this.”
Hyunjin flips Sooyoung off as the older girl walks away. “I’m not a furry!”
“You’re definitely a furry!” Sooyoung calls, not bothering to look behind her.
Hyunjin turns to Heejin with a huff. “I’m not.”
“You meowed at me, like, the fourth time we talked,” Heejin says, patting Hyunjin’s shoulder consolingly. “You still meow at me.”
“You’re supposed to be on my side,” Hyunjin whines. “You’re my girlfriend!”
Heejin rolls her eyes. “We aren’t—”
“Hyunjin!” someone calls, cutting Heejin off. They both turn to see Ryujin jogging up to them, and she sticks out a folder filled with papers towards Hyunjin. “It’s some new plays for tomorrow’s practice. Can you look them over?”
Hyunjin nods and takes the folder with her free hand. To an outsider, Hyunjin would seem perfectly fine. Heejin knows better though, judging from the way her hand tightens around Heejin’s in a death grip. Heejin bites her lip and tries not to grimace.
Ryujin’s eyes flicker over to Heejin, and she smiles as a greeting. “Heejin, right? I’m pretty sure you’re in my chemistry class.”
“Yup, hi,” Heejin says, suddenly hyper-aware of how closely she’s standing next to Hyunjin. She begins to inch away, then scolds herself. It’s Ryujin. If anything, Heejin needs to amp up her closeness with Hyunjin, not tone it down.
Ryujin checks her phone and curses quietly. “Sorry, I have to go.” She looks at Hyunjin. “Just text me what you think of the plays, okay?”
Hyunjin nods again while Ryujin runs off. Once the girl is out of sight, Heejin exhales. “Loosen up a bit.”
Hyunjin winces and lets go of Heejin. “Sorry. She caught me by surprise.”
“I could tell,” Heejin says wryly as they climb into Hyunjin’s car. “You didn’t say a word that entire time.”
“Not exactly my brightest moment,” Hyunjin says, fiddling with the knob of the radio and avoiding eye-contact. “She acts so normal around me, but I can’t stop thinking about her and Lia whenever I see her.”
Heejin smiles in what she hopes is a comforting way. It’s strange to see the normally confident girl so sheepish, but she supposes that’s the effect of a breakup that was only a month ago. Especially if Hyunjin thinks Ryujin may have cheated.
Hyunjin clears her throat. “Anyways, should we go?”
“Probably,” Heejin says, glancing at the time on the dashboard. Jiwoo will probably have a heart attack if she’s alone with Sooyoung at the diner for too long.
“Scared Jiwoo’s gonna yell at you later tonight?”
“Because she has a crush on Sooyoung?” Hyunjin chuckles as she starts up her car. “She’s not the most subtle person.”
Heejin can’t exactly argue with that.
“And I may have been paying close attention to Jiwoo because at the beginning of the school year, Sooyoung mentioned this really cute girl in her math class who’s—and I quote—smile is brighter than the sun.”
“Are you serious?”
“I had to put up with her being all starry-eyed after every math class.” Hyunjin turns to look at her with raised brows. “That’s a lot of math classes, Heejin.”
Heejin scoffs. “That’s nothing. Jiwoo’s been raving about Sooyoung since last year.”
There’s a long pause. “Maybe we should leave them alone instead?”
Right at that moment, her phone buzzes.
where are u???
im at the diner with sooyoung ALONE
Heejin glances at Hyunjin, a grin slowly spreading across her face, and shows her the message. “What are you thinking?”
Hyunjin takes the phone from Heejin’s grip and types. Once she’s done, she hands it back to Heejin.
hyunjin remembered she had something important and can’t go
she just dropped me off at my house
“She’s gonna murder me.” Heejin sends the message anyway.
“It’s for love,” Hyunjin says, tapping along to the beat of the music on her steering wheel with a pleased smile on her face. “They’ll be thanking us when they finally get together.”
are u serious
if i dont die tonight
im gonna murder u
how do i leave without making it seem rude
don’t leave dumbass
this. is. ur. chance.
i’m not responding to u anymore
get off ur fucking phone before sooyoung thinks ur uninterested
Heejin turns her phone off.
“So...” Hyunjin says and looks at Heejin. “Wanna go to the bakery instead?”
“Is that even a question?”
(Jiwoo calls Heejin later that night and nearly deafens her in one ear as soon as she picks up. Heejin sighs, shutting her laptop and getting comfy on her bed.
“You done?” she asks after letting Jiwoo scream for a bit.
“How was your date?” Heejin asks over Jiwoo’s complaints.
“It wasn’t a date!”
“Fine. How was your friendly outing? ”
“It was fine.”
“Just fine?” Heejin is sure Jiwoo can hear her shit-eating grin over the phone. “I heard she bought you dinner.”
Jiwoo splutters. “Wha—how?”
“Hyunjin is best friends with Sooyoung.”
Jiwoo groans and there’s a soft thump on her end, meaning she probably just face-planted onto her bed. “I can’t believe I left my wallet at home today,” she says, her voice muffled. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more embarrassed.”)
Much to Jiwoo’s distress, Sooyoung begins to join sitting with them at lunch more often. Heejin can’t keep track of the number of times she’s had to kick Jiwoo under the table to make her stop staring at Sooyoung.
Though, it’s not like Jiwoo has to worry about being completely obvious with Sooyoung.
“Sooyoung is the most oblivious person I know,” Hyunjin says, watching Heejin take the ingredients they went shopping for before this from the plastic bags. “She’d still ask for clarification if someone straight-up told her they liked her. Trust me, I witnessed it once.”
“Well then how are she and Jiwoo supposed to get together?”
“Love always finds a way?” Hyunjin suggests.
“At this rate? Not a chance.” Heejin sighs and dumps everything else on the counter unceremoniously. She looks at Hyunjin. “Do you know how to bake brownies?”
Hyunjin laughs. “C’mon, they're like the easiest things to bake in the world.”
Hyunjin’s mouth falls open when she realizes Heejin isn’t joking. “You’ve never made brownies before?”
“Well, not successfully,” Heejin mumbles, busying herself with sorting the measuring tools. There was that time in second grade when she tried to make them for her birthday party, but she didn’t particularly want to tell Hyunjin that she mixed up sugar and salt.
“Lemme see the recipe,” Hyunjin says, plucking the paper from Heejin’s hands. She scans it quickly. “We’re doubling it.”
“For us to eat, obviously.”
“I have Brownie Bites in the pantry—”
“No!” Hyunjin says, seeming scandalized that Heejin would even suggest that. “You have to experience the joy of creating something and then eating it at least once in your lifetime!”
As Hyunjin begins to measure the sugar, Heejin doesn’t have the heart to tell her that she doesn’t bake because her mom used to bake all the time. Every Saturday morning, the house would be flooded with the delicious smell of whatever new recipe she wanted to try, and Heejin and her sisters would race each other to the kitchen to see who would get to try it first. Yeojin always won because she cheated, but their mom always made sure to distribute the goods fairly.
“Can you melt the butter?”
Heejin blinks and snaps back to the present. “Yeah, sure.”
Once she puts the butter in the microwave, she sits back and watches Hyunjin stir the rest of the ingredients. The tip of her tongue pokes out between her lips, making Heejin chuckle. “Do you bake a lot?”
“I do sometimes, but I prefer cooking more.”
Hyunjin nods, a tiny smile appearing on her face. “Ever since I was little, I loved being in the kitchen. My mom says it’s only cuz my dad was in there though.”
“You and your dad seem really close,” Heejin observes, recalling all the times Hyunjin mentions him with the utmost respect in her voice.
“I was always attached to his hip. My mom was always so jealous.”
A loud pop from behind interrupts them, and they both exchange a look before turning to see the microwave. Another pop has Hyunjin yelping and rushing forward to stop the microwave. “God, Heejin, how long did you put this in for?”
“Two minutes,” she answers. There were two sticks that needed to be melted, so she figured a minute each would be sufficient. That seems reasonable, right?
“Well,” Hyunjin says, staring at the butter in amusement. “It’s definitely melted.”
“I told you I can’t bake.”
Hyunjin chuckles, holding out an egg for Heejin to take. “Put this in.” She looks at Heejin, who’s handling it like a live bomb. “Don’t forget to crack it first.”
Heejin shoots her a deadpan look. “Yeah, no shit.”
Hyunjin grins and pours in the butter. “Just making sure.”
Heejin carefully cracks it open over the bowl and sticks her tongue out at Hyunjin after. “What’s next?”
“Do you have any pans?” Hyunjin asks, stirring and skimming the recipe again.
Heejin taps her chin, trying to remember where it could be. Her dad stuck the majority of the baking items somewhere he wouldn’t have to see them every day. This included the special baking pans they were supposed to use.
She glances around the kitchen until she lands on the cabinet almost hidden in the top right corner. She rocks up onto her tippy-toes and stretches until she can get a finger around the knob. Once she manages to successfully crack open the door, something on the top shelf catches her attention.
“Found it!” she announces with a large grin. It quickly turns into a pout once she realizes she’s too short to even try to reach the pans. Heejin stares at it longingly. Maybe she could try standing on a stool?
“I got it,” a soft voice murmurs, and she turns to see Hyunjin reaching for the pans.
Lavender invades Heejin’s nose, and she takes a deep breath with a pleased hum (she’s always been a sucker for scented things). Then her eyes snap open when she realizes she’s actually smelling Hyunjin right now. She nearly trips over her own foot in her haste to take a step backward.
Luckily Hyunjin doesn’t seem to notice as she clutches the pans in her hand, a victorious expression on her face. She looks down at Heejin—or looks down as much as she could with a two-inch height advantage. “Shorty.”
“You’re not even that much taller than me.”
“Still taller,” Hyunjin sings, sending an infuriating wink in Heejin’s direction.
Heejin’s too busy glowering at her for the normal blush at Hyunjin’s playful flirting. She smacks Hyunjin’s arm and sends a cloud of flour in the air (but she doesn’t even remember touching the flour). She freezes once she realizes she left a white handprint that boldly stands out against Hyunjin’s black tee.
Their eyes meet for a long, tense second before Heejin bolts.
“Heejin Jeon!” Hyunjin shouts behind her, and Heejin curses when she hears the tell-tale stomps against the ground following her. It’s no secret that Hyunjin’s miles ahead of her in terms of athleticism, and her only hope is to make it to the bathroom.
She never stood a chance.
Hyunjin wraps her arms around her right as she touches the handle to the bathroom, and she lifts Heejin off the ground. Heejin yelps as Hyunjin drags her back to the kitchen. “Put me down!”
“Revenge,” Hyunjin declares, placing her finger in the chocolate batter and dragging it down Heejin’s cheek.
Heejin scrambles out of Hyunjin’s grip and looks at her with a murderous glare, wiping her face with the back of her hand. “You are so dead, Kim!”
Hyunjin has the audacity to laugh. “You’re about as threatening as a puppy right now.”
She stops laughing when Heejin rubs batter on her chin.
After that, it’s total chaos. Hyunjin traps Heejin in a brief backhug and wipes batter on her nose, and Heejin manages to throw flour into Hyunjin’s hair. By the end of their little battle, flour litters the counter and floor around them, and batter is smeared all over their hands, faces, and even their clothes.
“Wait!” Heejin yells, holding up a hand before Hyunjin attacks her again. They both freeze and catch their breaths. “Truce? We still need to put the batter in the oven. Or what’s left of it, anyway.”
She knows Hyunjin will not hesitate to throw the egg she’s holding, and she doesn’t doubt Hyunjin’s aim for a second. Heejin really prefers not to be pelted with an egg today.
Hyunjin stares at her before lowering the egg, much to Heejin’s relief. “Okay, truce.”
They manage to get the batter in the oven without any more incidents, thankfully (other than Heejin tripping and almost dropping it all over the ground, but luckily Hyunjin was there to steady her).
(Though, Heejin almost dropped the pan anyway at the feeling of Hyunjin’s hands on her waist.)
“I think you owe me a new shirt,” Hyunjin says. She looks ridiculous with flour covering half her head and chocolate batter all over the front of her shirt.
Heejin looks down at her own shirt, which isn’t in much better shape, and scoffs. “I owe you a shower, at most. I can give you a change of clothes.”
She leads Hyunjin upstairs, glad she had enough foresight to actually clean this time. Heejin digs through her drawers and tosses Hyunjin one of her many oversized sweatshirts, along with a pair of shorts. “These will probably fit.”
Hyunjin unfolds the sweatshirt and tilts her head. “You dance?”
Heejin looks up to see Hyunjin holding her old dance studio sweatshirt. “Yeah. Not as often these days, but I still go to the studio occasionally.”
“Tell me next time you go,” Hyunjin says, following Heejin to the bathroom. “Maybe I’ll come too.”
“Do you dance?” Heejin asks in surprise. Well, she wouldn’t be that surprised if Hyunjin did dance. It seemed like the girl knew how to do basically everything.
“No, but I wanna see you dance.” Hyunjin smiles sharply and closes the door before Heejin can fully register what she said.
Heejin flushes, her mouth opening and closing a few times. Finally, she manages to shout through the door, “Be careful! Yeojin likes to rig the shower sometimes!”
She’ll never forget the time Heejin turned on the shower and had blue Gatorade spray all over her instead. How did Yeojin even get the Gatorade in there? Heejin will never know.
“Noted!” comes the reply. “She’s a girl after my own heart!”
Terrifying, Heejin thinks to herself, making her way towards the bathroom in her dad’s room.
She stays in the shower for a while, minding her own business, acting out scenarios that would never happen in real life, and holding a concert like normal. Then her heart stops when she realizes she forgot something.
“FUCK! MY BROWNIES!”
Heejin practically flies out of the shower and throws on clothes faster than she thought was humanly possible. She rushes downstairs, expecting to see the worst. Oh god, she probably burnt the brownies to a crisp. Or worse, the kitchen is on fire again.
She doesn’t expect to see Hyunjin sitting at the counter, tapping away at her phone (probably playing Piano Tiles again) with the pan of brownies cooling next to her.
Hyunjin looks up from her phone and smiles. “Hey.”
“Hi,” Heejin says slowly, peeking at the perfectly okay, not-at-all burnt brownies.
“I just took them out of the oven,” Hyunjin explains. She does a slow once-over of Heejin, who’s dripping wet, wearing Naruto pajama pants, and shirt on inside-out. “You must’ve just come out of the oven too.”
“Because you’re really hot.”
Heejin groans and begins to walk back upstairs so she can dry her hair and change into socially acceptable clothes. “Three out of ten.”
“I thought that was a good one!”
(“Oh, I’m gonna steal this for a bit,” Hyunjin says while they walk out to her car, pointing at Heejin’s sweatshirt.
“Yeah!” Heejin winces at how cheerful her voice sounds in the quiet. “I mean, yeah, that’s fine.”
“You did steal my sweatshirt, so it’s only fair.”
Heejin had been hoping Hyunjin didn’t notice she still hasn’t returned her sweatshirt. She hopes Hyunjin doesn’t notice the slight redness in her cheeks either.
“I get why you didn’t return it though,” Hyunjin says. “Girlfriend material is hard to come by these days.”
It takes a second for the line to click, and once it does, Heejin nearly chokes on her laughter. “Seven out of ten!”
Even she’ll admit that was a good one.)
Heejin lies in bed and debates not going to school today. She really, really doesn’t want to go, but she can hear Yeojin downstairs getting breakfast, and if her little sister could do it, she could too.
Groaning, she drags herself out of bed and forces herself to get ready for school as usual.
“Morning,” Yeojin says when Heejin walks down the stairs, much quieter than normal.
Heejin grunts and grabs a piece of toast. “I’m gonna ride the bus today,” she says, not in the mood to skateboard to school.
Yeojin, who normally takes the bus to school, nods. The rest of breakfast is spent in contemplative silence until Yeojin asks, “Do you know where dad is?”
Heejin shrugs, fiddling with her toast and not feeling very hungry. “Business trip. He’s probably drowning himself in work right now.”
Another long silence. “Should we call her?”
“I don’t know!” Heejin snaps. Yeojin recoils slightly, and she sighs, regret filling her. “Sorry.”
She wishes Haseul were still here instead of at college. She always was able to keep their minds off things today. She always knew what to do and say.
The ride to school is quiet and lonely. Heejin spends it in the back of the bus, her headphones blasting music while Yeojin sits next to Hyejoo and discusses some new TV show. At least Yeojin had someone else to keep her mind off things when Heejin couldn’t.
She forgoes walking to where she and her friends usually meet, instead going to the library and settling in a little nook in the corner until the bell rings.
From: the best gf in the world :)
hey where r u
i didn’t see u before school like usual
Heejin sighs and begins typing out a message, but deletes it. Luckily she doesn’t have any classes with Hyunjin today.
Hyunjin sends her usual texts throughout the day, but Heejin still doesn’t respond. She turns her phone on silent instead. She successfully manages to avoid her friends for the entire day. She just doesn’t want to bring the mood down or take her anger out on anyone.
Heejin doesn’t check her phone until the final bell rings. There are a few missed texts, understandably.
i know what today is
im always here if u need to talk
How are you and Yeojin doing?
U good? U weren’t at lunch today
Hyunjin keeps asking about u
From: devil child
btw yerim invited me over after school
talk to ur gf
From: best gf in the world :)
yeojin told me u came to school today
From: best gf in the world :)
i asked jiwoo about u but she said i should ask u
From: best gf in the world :)
idk whats up but im always here if u need to talk
From: best gf in the world :)
missed u today. hope ur doing ok
Heejin feels some guilt rise up at her friends’ concerns and takes some time to reply to each, leaving Hyunjin for last. She wonders if she should talk about it, but she doesn’t really feel like typing it out on text.
To: best gf in the world :)
sorry, i’ve been in a shitty mood and i didn’t wanna take it out on u
Hyunjin replies almost instantly.
From: best gf in the world :)
is everything ok?
To: best gf in the world :)
yeah, dw about me
From: best gf in the world :)
u can talk to me
To: best gf in the entire world :)
Hyunjin doesn’t text back right away, and Heejin throws herself in her music. She grabs her guitar and sings, glad she could be as loud as she wants since no one else was in the house. She plays until her fingers ache from pressing into the strings so hard and her voice is screaming for her to take a break and the sun goes down.
The house is almost entirely dark, save for the one light on in the kitchen, and the clock blinking at her on the stove. 6:32. She grabs her phone.
From: devil child
i’m gonna sleep over at yerim’s tonight
TALK TO UR GF U DUMB LESBIAN
From: best gf in the world :)
did u eat yet?
i know ur alone since yeojin’s over here and ur dads at work
Heejin sighs and begins typing out a new message.
The reply is instantaneous.
How have you been?
Do you want to call?
A lump forms in Heejin’s throat at the enthusiastic tone.
You should come visit soon! I miss you!
Heejin feels tears burn at her eyes and doesn’t reply, burying her face in her pillow instead.
(She wonders how her mom can be so nonchalant about everything when Heejin feels completely numb all over.)
Her phone buzzes loudly, making Heejin blearily blink awake. She doesn’t remember falling asleep. Her phone buzzes again, and she blindly pats around her bed until she finds it. She squints at the bright screen.
From: best gf in the world :)
To: best gf in the world :)
sorry, i fell asleep
From: best gf in the world :)
but ur up now tho
Heejin chuckles, hearing Hyunjin’s deadpan voice in her head.
To: best gf in the world :)
yes i’m awake
From: best gf in the world :)
look outside ur window
To: best gf in the world :)
From: best gf in the world :)
just do it
Heejin just wants to clarify it is 9:44 at night, and her head is pounding like someone had hit her with a hammer repeatedly. That doesn’t stop her from forcing herself to roll out of bed and look out the window.
Hyunjin waves back from her spot on Heejin’s lawn.
“What are you doing here?” Heejin asks once she makes it outside, shoving her hands inside her pockets as the wind picks up a bit.
“I wanted to make sure you ate something.” Hyunjin frowns at her. “You didn’t answer my texts, and Yeojin finally told me to stop moping and come see you.”
She thrusts out a paper bag in Heejin’s direction, making her stomach grumble. She didn’t eat dinner. Well, she didn’t eat anything today really. “This smells amazing. What is it?”
“Just some fried rice and chicken. It was the best I could do with what I had at home.”
“You made this?”
Hyunjin shrugs and rubs her neck. “It wasn’t a big deal.”
Heejin immediately pulls Hyunjin in for a hug. “Thank you.” Hyunjin’s arms slowly come up to wrap around her waist, and they stay like that for a long time.
“You should come inside,” she mumbles. It’s the least she could do after Hyunjin cooked her dinner and drove it over without Heejin asking.
“Actually,” Hyunjin says, her breath tickling Heejin’s ear. Heejin suppresses a shiver. “I was thinking I could take you somewhere else and you could eat there? Only if you want, of course.”
Heejin pulls back to look at Hyunjin. “What did you have in mind?”
“It’s a secret.”
“You’re not going to murder me, right?”
Hyunjin scoffs and shoves at Heejin’s shoulder in response. “You in for a little adventure, Jeon?”
Hyunjin’s little half-smile has Heejin answering before she thinks twice. “Lead the way.”
Despite Heejin’s pestering, Hyunjin keeps her mouth sealed about the mysterious place she’s taking them to. After ten minutes of Hyunjin repeatedly zipping her mouth, Heejin gives up and steals the AUX to play some music. She cranks up the radio and sings to her heart’s content.
When they stop at a red light, she turns to ask Hyunjin where they’re going once again, but she’s surprised to see Hyunjin staring at her already. Heejin raises an eyebrow. “What?”
Hyunjin redirects her attention to the road quickly. “Nothing. I just like this song.”
Heejin looks out the window and tries to see if she can recognize where they are. All she sees is a secluded road, no cars or buildings in sight. “Are you gonna murder me?” she asks for the second time that night. In her defense, it seemed pretty sketchy so far.
Hyunjin rolls her eyes. “No, I’m not gonna murder you.”
“Where are we going then?”
“Hyunjinnie,” she whines.
“We’re almost there,” Hyunjin promises. “Just five more minutes.”
True to her word, Hyunjin pulls into some parking lot mostly hidden by trees and large trash cans five minutes later. Heejin glances out the window. She can confidently say she has no idea where they are right now.
Hyunjin stops the car and looks at Heejin. “We’re here. And no, I’m not going to murder you.”
Heejin closes her mouth.
They exit the car, and Heejin looks around. “This is just a parking lot with a lot of trash.”
“We have to walk from here,” Hyunjin says, slinging a backpack over her shoulder. She reaches out and takes Heejin’s hand. They’ve held hands plenty of times before, but that doesn’t stop warmth that spreads throughout Heejin.
She realizes Hyunjin’s taking them to the forest of trees, and she slows down, skeptical. Hyunjin seems to sense her hesitation and turns to look at Heejin. “I promise I know what I’m doing.”
It’s probably a bad idea walking into some woods where they could possibly die, but Heejin trusts Hyunjin. So she starts walking again. Hyunjin leads the way, holding onto Heejin’s hand tightly. She weaves them through the many trees with practiced movements. It seems like she comes here often then.
Once they get through the trees, Heejin’s breath catches in her throat. It’s a secluded little area, hidden from sight by the trees.
“Woah,” she breathes. She’s been to the beach before, like most other teenagers living in California, but never anything like this.
“I stumbled across this place when I was playing hide-and-go-seek with Yerim once.”
“You were playing hide-and-go-seek in a forest?” Heejin asks, apprehensive.
“We know the area pretty well. I used to live around here.”
A sign near the edge of the treeline catches Heejin’s eye. “Is this private property?”
Hyunjin waves her hand dismissively. “No one will notice. It’s not like we’re doing anything illegal anyway.” She tugs Heejin along until they’re closer to the ocean and digs through her backpack. She pulls out a blanket with a grin.
Heejin laughs because of course Hyunjin would. She helps the other girl spread the blanket out across the soft sand, and then they plop down on it to face the ocean and the night sky.
“I also packed your dinner, which you almost forgot in the car,” Hyunjin says with a pointed look, taking out the paper bag with the tupperware full of food.
“You are literally perfect,” Heejin says, snatching the container away and opening it. She inhales, her mouth watering at the smell.
Hyunjin smiles and holds out a fork. “I know.”
If Heejin thought the smell was good, the taste is indescribable. “Oh my god, marry me.”
“That’d be moving awfully fast, Miss Jeon. We only got together two months ago.”
“You know what I mean,” Heejin says through a mouthful of food. It’s only been two months, but it feels like so much longer.
She holds out a forkful of rice for Hyunjin to try.
“Thanks,” Hyunjin says, eating off the fork carefully. Heejin holds deathly still so she doesn’t stab her face or anything like that.
“No, thank you.” Heejin stares out at the ocean. “This is beautiful, Hyun.”
“Yeah.” Hyunjin’s staring at her, so Heejin offers her more rice, but Hyunjin shakes her head. “I’m good. Eat up.”
She doesn’t need to tell Heejin twice.
Once the rice is gone (and Heejin’s stomach pleasantly full), Heejin sighs and takes in her surroundings. It's like they’re the only two people in this world, and honestly, Heejin wouldn't mind that. They haven’t known each other for very long, but Heejin feels like she’s known Hyunjin her entire life.
“Thank you again,” she murmurs. “Even after I was being shitty today, you still did all this for me.”
“We all have those days,” Hyunjin says softly. “Do you want to talk about it now?”
For the first time since it happened, Heejin does want to talk about it.
“It’s my mom’s birthday today,” she starts off, wondering how she should word her jumbled thoughts. “She also wanted a divorce on this day, six years ago.”
Hyunjin holds out her hand, and Heejin grips it like a lifeline.
“My sisters and I were baking her a cake. Well, Haseul was baking a cake while me and Yeojin kept trying to eat the batter.” Heejin chuckles at the memory, remembering Haseul slapping away their hands while simultaneously mixing. “It was chocolate—her favorite, and we put in as many candles as we could find in the house.”
She purses her lips, willing her voice not to shake. “We waited for her to come home forever, but when they finally did, she didn’t want to eat cake. She just wanted my dad to sign the divorce papers. She said she found someone else. Someone better.”
She stops, and Hyunjin squeezes her hand soothingly.
“A couple days later, she brought him over to our house unexpectedly. My dad hadn’t come home from work yet, and I caught them kissing on our back porch. That’s when I knew it was real. And then a couple weeks later, she moved all the way across the country to North Carolina.”
Heejin shakes her head and stares out into the ocean. “I don’t know why I’m so angry. It’s been years since this happened. You’d think I’d be over it by now. It’s dumb.”
“It’s not dumb,” Hyunjin says. “It’s not. It sucks and you have every right to be angry. That’s not something you can just get over.”
“Haseul and Yeojin seem to be fine.” Heejin only sounds slightly bitter. “Haseul’s spending the day with Vivi, and Yeojin’s off playing with her friends.”
“Before I left, I saw Yeojin cuddling with Yerim, Chaewon, and Hyejoo on the couch. And I’m sure Vivi’s helping Haseul through the day too.”
Heejin winces, knowing exactly what Hyunjin’s implying. “I’m sorry. I’m used to being alone today.”
“I’m glad you decided to tell me.” Hyunjin takes a deep breath. “You know I’m always here for you.”
“I know, Hyun. And I’m here for you too.”
They fall into a comfortable silence. Heejin tries to commit everything about the night to her memory, from the way the moon and the clear, starry sky reflects off the ocean, or the rhythmic crashing of the waves against the sand. The entire scene has Heejin itching for something to draw on.
“You want paper?” Hyunjin asks, somehow reading Heejin’s mind.
“How’d you know?”
“You’re fidgeting with your hands. It usually means you want to draw something.” She rummages through the back and pulls out a tiny black sketchbook, along with a mechanical pencil. “It’s not much, but it’s the only thing I had at my house. I’m not much of an artist.”
Heejin takes the book and pencil as Hyunjin goes back to staring at the ocean. Hyunjin is humming a melody to herself, and the moonlight casts a soft glow on her face, making her even more beautiful than usual, if that’s possible.
“Can I draw you?” Heejin blurts out.
Heejin nods, hoping she doesn’t come off as weird or something.
“I mean, only if you want to.” For the first time since Heejin has known Hyunjin, she sounds a little shy. It’s a strange but welcome change. “Do I need to hold still?”
Heejin shakes her head. “Tell me a story.”
After her many portraits of her friends throughout the years (which mostly happen to be Jungeun, oddly), Heejin knows asking someone to stay still is both unrealistic and slightly awkward. Instead, she usually has them tell her a story while she draws. It keeps the awkwardness at bay and gives the subject something to focus on.
Hyunjin’s brows furrow at the strange request, but she obliges nonetheless. She begins some story about Sooyoung making a fool of herself because Jiwoo laughed (and really, Heejin wishes she could have listened closer, but she’s terrible at multitasking) while Heejin sketches across the paper furiously. She tries to draw the way Hyunjin’s eyes light up, or the way her canines are charmingly a tiny bit sharper than normal, or the way her nose scrunches a little when she smiles.
Heejin doesn’t come close to capturing the real thing, but then again, she doubts any artist could.
She’s just finishing up her drawing when she realizes Hyunjin went silent. Heejin glances up to find Hyunjin staring at her, eerily similar to that moment in the car. She tilts her head. “Do I have something on my face?”
To be fair, Heejin didn’t have much time to get herself presentable before meeting Hyunjin. She could have a little drool on her face and she wouldn’t know.
Hyunjin bites back a laugh. “No. You just look pretty.”
Heejin looks down, feeling the blush almost instantly. “Well, you look pretty too,” she mumbles. “My drawing doesn’t even come close.”
“Can I see?” Hyunjin asks, starting to lean in.
Heejin’s brain short circuits because all she can focus on is the smell of lavender and how Hyunjin’s face is getting closer and closer and how Heejin just really wants to lean in and kiss her.
“Wait!” Heejin yelps, closing the sketchbook quickly and creating some distance between them. Hyunjin’s brows furrow together, and Heejin swallows thickly. “Um, you can’t see it yet because I still need to color it.”
“You promise to show it to me when it’s done then?”
Heejin nods, making Hyunjin smile and reach for her hand. Heejin’s stomach does a backflip.
(It hits her then—sitting there on the beach, drawing in a sketchbook that Hyunjin brought specifically for Heejin, her stomach doing all kinds of weird things at Hyunjin’s laugh—that Heejin has feelings.
She has feelings for her fake girlfriend that was only dating Heejin to make her ex-girlfriend jealous.
This is not good at all. Even if she is the biggest dumbass in the world, she knows she’s so utterly screwed from this moment on.)
From: best gf in the world :)
u free after school today?
ive been craving those croissants at the bakery
Heejin bites her lip as she stares down at the message that was sent two hours ago.
To: best gf in the world :)
i’m not free today
“Hi,” a voice behind her says.
Heejin jumps in surprise and turns to glare at Hyunjin, who’s leaning against the lockers and watching her with an amused smirk. “Goddamnit, Hyunjin.”
“You’re so jumpy lately. Is everything alright?”
“Me? I’m totally fine.” She prays Hyunjin doesn’t notice how her voice got strangely high.
Hyunjin raises an eyebrow. “If you say so.”
It has been exactly three days since she realized she liked Hyunjin. Normally finding out she has feelings for her other best friend would be bad in itself, but there was the whole fake dating thing as well. These past three days, she’s been trying not to make a fool of herself every time Hyunjin does anything remotely couple-y.
Needless to say, Heejin has been a little on edge.
“So what do you have today that’s more important than spending time with me?” Hyunjin asks, looking down at the message Heejin just sent.
“We’ve hung out every day this week.”
“And? I need my daily Heejin time.”
Heejin’s heart races at the words, and she grips the strap of her backpack tighter. “I got invited to that new sushi place that opened recently.”
“Someone invited you? You two-timing me, Jeon?”
Heejin’s phone rings before she responds. She sends an apologetic look to Hyunjin before answering. “Hey, Sol.”
“Are we still on for today?”
“If you can still drive me…?”
“Yeah! My car is the—”
“Baby blue pickup, I know.” She rolls her eyes. Of course she remembers his baby blue pickup. Hansol was so excited to show it off after buying it with his own money last year. “I’ll be out in a minute.”
“See you soon. ”
“Hansol?” Hyunjin asks as soon as she hangs up, tilting her head curiously.
“Yeah. He’s been wanting to catch up for a while now.”
Hyunjin glances towards the multitude of people filtering towards the entrance. “You should probably go before the parking lot gets crazy then.”
Heejin groans and checks the time. Hundreds of impulsive teenagers wanting to get home as soon as possible all bunched together in one parking lot is a recipe for disaster, and she’s not in the mood to narrowly avoid getting hit by a car today. “We can grab croissants another time? I’ll even buy.”
“I’m holding you to that.” Hyunjin smiles at her and nudges her towards the door. “Go find Hansol. I’ll talk to you later.”
Heejin can’t tell if she’s disappointed or relieved that she doesn’t have to spend time with Hyunjin today. She decides to push it out of her mind for now.
She’s able to find Hansol’s car pretty quick—it sticks out like a sore thumb in the parking lot because it’s so ugly, but considering how cheap it was when he got it, that isn’t too surprising. She waves at him through the window and taps the door.
Hansol reaches over to unlock the passenger's door (the lock to it broke ages ago). “Hey.”
The momentary silence is stifling, and Heejin searches for something to talk about. “Still haven’t fixed the radio?”
“I’m still working on it.”
“I still think you should sell it for parts. Then maybe you can buy a car that actually has AC.”
“Don’t talk to her like that!” Hansol glares at Heejin and pats the dashboard. “She didn’t mean it, sweetie.”
Heejin laughs, and the strange tension begins to melt away. They joke around and update each other about their lives on the entire ride over. It starts to feel like normal again, like Heejin didn’t develop feelings and mess everything up in the first place.
Hansol orders for the both of them—he still remembers Heejin’s favorite roll—and stops her from paying, saying that he should pay because he invited her there.
Normally the date-like setting would make Heejin nervous, but she’s just really excited about the sushi.
“Wanna hear a secret?” Hansol asks after they sit down.
“I thought we had a strict no-secrets pact,” Heejin says. How ironic.
Hansol shrugs. “It was probably for the best that I kept this secret quiet for a while.”
“Remember that day in the library? The day you told me you were dating Hyunjin?”
She remembers that day. It’s simultaneously one of the most traumatic things that happened to her this year (because of the whole Hansol thing), and one of the luckiest things (because she met Hyunjin). “Yeah, mostly.”
He takes a deep breath. “I was gonna confess.”
As soon as the words leave his mouth, Heejin’s blood turns cold. He can’t be saying that now. Not after she hid her feelings for the last year to preserve this friendship. Not when she let her guilt chip away at her for not confessing because she couldn’t risk losing him. Not after she got into a fake relationship to stop him from saying something that would jeopardize everything
Not after she worked so hard to keep this friendship what it was supposed to be: simply a friendship.
Love is messy—something that can leave devastation in its wake if not handled correctly. And too many people don’t handle it correctly.
Heejin isn’t willing to risk her best friend since she was in diapers for something that’s inevitably going to burn out in the end.
She laughs and hopes he doesn’t detect her panic. “Are you serious?”
He nods, a self-deprecating chuckle escaping his lips. “Everyone kept telling me that it was only a matter of time. When you sent me that video, I thought I might as well shoot my shot.”
Heejin doesn’t know what to say. She has a girlfriend, and even though it’s fake, Hansol doesn't know that.
“When you told me you and Hyunjin were dating, I was worried she was using you as a rebound from Ryujin,” he admits. “It was only a couple weeks after she and Ryujin broke up, and they were dating for such a long time.”
Well, it wasn’t exactly a rebound. More like a way to make Ryujin jealous. Again, Hansol isn’t supposed to know that. “Oh.”
“Obviously I don’t think that’s true anymore. I don’t know Hyunjin well, but I can tell she cares a lot about you.”
This is the second time someone important in Heejin’s life is telling her that. She isn’t sure what to think about it.
The conversation is cut short by the arrival of their food, and Heejin is secretly relieved. They move onto other (safer) topics, but Hansol’s words stay in the back of her mind.
“This was really nice,” Hansol says as they finish up. “I know we haven’t talked much lately, but I’m here if you need anything.”
“Thanks, Sol,” she mumbles. “I am too.”
She pulls him into a hug. It’s familiar and warm. He smells like pine.
Her heartbeat stays steady.
(But really, is that such shocking information?
If someone told Heejin two months ago that she’d be over Hansol by now, she would’ve laughed in their face. She’s been trying to get over Hansol for over a year now, what are two measly months gonna do?
Turns out they can do a lot.)
Heejin slowly looks to her side, seeing Jiwoo do the same out of the corner of her eye. They both snap their heads back to the field and sit very still, afraid of what will happen if they make any sudden movements.
It doesn’t seem to work. Jungeun sighs from her spot between the two girls, fed up with the furtive glancing when they think she isn’t looking. “What now?”
“Nothing!” they both chime quickly. Too quickly.
“I’m giving you three seconds to tell me before I tell Hyejoo what really happened to her favorite Playstation game.”
Heejin gasps. “You wouldn’t!”
“Are you ever gonna tell us who your secret girlfriend is?” Jiwoo interjects before Heejin can throttle Jungeun to save her own skin (Hyejoo gets insanely protective over her Playstation games). “It’s been a month since you’ve started sneaking off, and we’re getting impatient.”
Jungeun looks at them in disbelief. “You knew?”
“There’s only so many times you can run into a door, Jungeun,” Heejin mutters, rolling her eyes. The worst part was that Yerim actually believed it. But Yerim’s a literal angel, so Heejin will let her off the hook.
Jungeun buries her face in her hands. “Oh my god.”
“So who is it?” Jiwoo asks, elbowing Jungeun. “Is it the same girl on the soccer team that you had a crush on because if so, I am amazed you convinced her to date you.”
They begin to bicker about it while walking to the parking lot. Heejin stays out of it—it’d be unwise to engage with Jungeun after she so blatantly threatened Heejin.
“Heejin!” someone yells and nearly barrels straight into her. Heejin sidesteps the figure and tries her best to steady them.
“Hyunjin?” she says, her eyebrows furrowing in confusion. Hyunjin looks like she sprinted a mile, which isn’t entirely inaccurate considering she just played eighty minutes of soccer, but she’s never looked this tired before. “What’s wrong?”
“You need…” Hyunjin bends over to catch her breath for a second. Heejin tries not to look affected at the sight of a sweaty, breathless Hyunjin. “You need to come to dinner with me right now.”
“The bakery doesn’t close for another three hours, Hyun.”
“No! You need to come right now. I’ll explain in the car.”
Heejin shakes her head and allows Hyunjin to tug her away from Jiwoo and Jungeun. They both wave at her in amusement, used to Hyunjin stealing her away by now.
Once she and Hyunjin are safely strapped in her car, Heejin asks, “Why are you so frantic?”
“Dinner,” Hyunjin says, speeding out of the parking lot. “We have to go to dinner.”
“We go to dinner all the time. You’ve never—”
“Dinner with my parents,” Hyunjin interrupts with wide-eyes. “They want to meet you, and they guilted me into agreeing to dinner after the game.”
That explains the panicking. The weight of the situation finally hits Heejin. “Oh shit.”
“Oh shit,” Hyunjin agrees, running a hand through her hair. “Fuck, I didn’t even have time to prepare you.”
“Hey, calm down. How bad can it be?” Heejin has always been good with parents. She’s always been polite, and her ability to make small talk always serves her well.
Hyunjin shakes her head. “It has to be perfect. This needs to go perfectly.” She glances at the time. “We have twenty minutes before we’re supposed to be at some Italian place downtown. I’m gonna tell prep you as much as I can before we go okay?”
It’s obvious this is important to Hyunjin, so she silently nods and focuses on every word.
Twenty minutes later, they walk through the doors of the restaurant, Heejin’s brain brimming with new information about the Kim family. Hyunjin spots her family right away, and she reaches down to grip Heejin’s hand before leading them through the tables to them.
Even after sitting down, their hands stay linked.
“Hi,” Hyunjin murmurs, hugging her mom and dad. Once they finish, Hyunjin’s parents both turn to stare at Heejin, who tries not to shrink under their gazes.
“You must be Heejin,” Mrs. Kim says, breaking into a smile.
Heejin smiles back and nods, holding out her hand to shake. “It’s really nice to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Kim.”
“Yerim’s sorry she couldn’t make it,” Mr. Kim says gruffly. His handshake is firm and powerful, but Heejin expected nothing less from an army man. “She already had plans.”
The conversation starts off with them talking about Hyunjin’s game—Heejin would normally be embarrassed about how she gushes over Hyunjin’s goal, but these are Hyunjin’s parents so she figures it’s okay. They stick with topics like school, family stories (Heejin is delighted to hear stories about a younger Hyunjin), and how delicious the food is.
So far, Heejin would say she’s doing pretty well navigating the conversation with the Kims.
“So what do you like to do in your free time, Heejin?” Mrs. Kim asks as their meals are being served.
“I like anything with music,” she says, figuring that’s a safe answer to begin with.
“She’s really good,” Hyunjin jumps in. “I saw a choir performance once and she had this solo. It blew the audience away.”
“You’ve come to a concert before?”
“Jinsol is in choir. Me and Sooyoung went to watch her once last year.”
Heejin tries to hide her surprise. As far as she knew, Hyunjin didn’t take note of her existence until they were put in a partner project together. “I didn’t know that.”
“Well we never really talked until this year.”
“Hyunjin,” Mrs. Kim scolds lightly. “A nice, pretty girl like this and you don’t talk to her until now?”
“Mom,” Hyunjin whines.
“At least something got through that big head of hers and she finally decided to talk to you,” Mrs. Kim continues, ignoring Hyunjin.
Yes, at least a mutually beneficial fake relationship somehow ended up as the universe’s plan for the both of them. Heejin smiles at Hyunjin. “Yeah, I’m really glad she did too.”
“How did you end up going out together? Hyunjin never tells us anything. I’m half-convinced she was going to keep you a secret forever, but Yerim accidentally said something about ‘Hyunjin’s new girlfriend’ in front of us.”
“I’m just curious!”
“It’s ok.” Heejin is suddenly very glad they rehearsed their relationship history in the car. “We got partnered for a project, and that was the first time I really talked to Hyunjin. We bonded, and she asked me out one day.”
Short and simple.
“That’s very sweet!” Mrs. Kim says. “Ever since Yerim spilled the tea, I’ve been pestering Hyunjin nonstop to tell me more about you two.”
Hyunjin’s head drops to the table as Heejin grins.
Twenty long minutes later of answering more questions and listening to stories, Hyunjin finally says, “We should probably get going soon.”
Mrs. Kim looks at her watch. “Oh! I didn’t realize the time.”
Hyunjin’s parents pay for everyone, despite Heejin’s protests that they didn’t need to.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Mrs. Kim says while Mr. Kim hands over his credit card to the waiter. “It’s our little treat.”
Heejin begins to relax, thinking they’ve finished dinner with Hyunjin’s parents successfully. She didn’t make a fool of herself or of Hyunjin, and they didn’t expose their (fake) relationship, so it went well.
She’s a fool for believing it was all over.
“That’s the plushie I want to get Yerim for her birthday!” Mrs. Kim exclaims, pointing at the store next to the restaurant they just exited.
To Heejin’s horror, Mrs. Kim grabs Hyunjin by the arm and drags her away, ranting about how she’s been looking for this damn plushie forever and ignoring Hyunjin’s protests. In her excitement, Mrs. Kim must’ve forgotten that she’s leaving behind two people in the parking lot: Heejin and Hyunjin’s dad.
Heejin gulps, wondering what she should do. Does she try to talk to him? Mr. Kim wasn’t very talkative at dinner, preferring to lean back and listen while his wife asked all the questions. Not to mention Hyunjin adores him, so Heejin most definitely cannot make any mistake with him.
“I’m sure you can see where Hyunjin gets all her energy from,” Mr. Kim says, interrupting Heejin’s internal agonizing, motioning to Mrs. Kim through the store.
Hyunjin. She can talk about Hyunjin.
“She’s kinda crazy,” Heejin says, grinning. “She asked me to stay and play soccer with her once. By the end of our little pick-up game, I thought I was gonna pass out, and she just kept running circles around me. And this was after she just played a real game.”
“She and I used to do that when she was little,” Mr. Kim says with a half-smile. “You know, you’re the only other person she’s asked to play with her after a game.”
“Really?” Hyunjin didn’t even ask Ryujin to stay after? Heejin finds that hard to believe.
“You must be really special to her.”
Heejin chuckles, hoping her unease isn’t apparent. This is the exact reason why they were supposed to keep the (fake) relationship from the parents. Mr. Kim isn't even her father and she feels absolutely horrible for lying to him right now.
“And I hope she’s just as special to you?” he asks, leveling her with his calm gaze. Are you truly serious about her, he doesn’t ask, but Heejin understands anyway.
There’s a long pause. “Hyunjin is really important to me,” she says finally. It’s the truth.
Hyunjin is the type of person who ruthlessly destroys Heejin at nearly every type of arcade game and then buys a milkshake in Heejin’s favorite flavor at the end. She makes fun of the way Heejin kicks a soccer ball, yet tries her best to coach Heejin through all her teasing. She brings Heejin food when she’s stressed to cheer her up, and can always say something to make Heejin laugh.
Hyunjin is so very important to her.
“I would never do anything to hurt her,” she says instead of any of these things, hoping Mr. Kim can gauge the sincerity in her voice.
He nods silently, and Heejin is saved by the bell—literally. The bell attached to the door of the shop rings as Hyunjin and Mrs. Kim walk out. Mrs. Kim grins in victory as she hefts a large plushie (it’s the size of Yeojin) over her shoulder.
“Thank you again for letting us crash your evening,” Mrs. Kim says from behind the plushie. “It was really nice to finally meet you, Heejin!”
“The pleasure was all mine,” Heejin replies with a kind smile. It truly was. Although the dinner was nerve-wracking, she had a nice time. From what she knows, the Kims are pretty important to Hyunjin, and Heejin is glad she finally met them properly.
As soon as she and Hyunjin are safely in the Jeep, Hyunjin immediately starts apologizing. “I am so sorry. My mom just kinda dragged me into the store and I couldn’t do anything about it. I know my dad is—”
“Hyunjin, breathe. Your dad was nice.”
“Well, he was really intimidating,” Heejin admits. “But that’s expected.”
“But he was nice? To you?”
“Why do you seem so surprised?”
“I…” Hyunjin trails off, avoiding Heejin’s eyes. “I’m just surprised he didn’t interrogate you or anything.”
Heejin shrugs as an answer. One question and one unspoken question isn’t enough to be considered an interrogation, right?
“So we did it,” Hyunjin mumbles, more to herself than to Heejin.
“We did it,” Heejin says with a proud smile. She looks at Hyunjin hopefully. “Wanna go to the bakery to celebrate?”
That seems to do the trick. Hyunjin laughs, and Heejin could practically see the tension melt away. She starts up the car. “You still owe me croissants.”
(Heejin notices Hyunjin holds back on talking about her father. It’s strange, considering how much she normally talks about Mr. Kim, but Heejin doesn’t push.
There’s a reason why Hyunjin isn’t elaborating on her concerns about Mr. Kim, and Heejin will give her the space she needs. That’s what Hyunjin did for her mother, after all.
She just hopes Hyunjin knows that Heejin wasn’t lying when she said she’ll be there for the other girl.)
Heejin leans against the wall and eyes the countless drunk teenagers around her. Usually she and Hyunjin show up at these parties to make a brief appearance (mostly for Ryujin), and then leave, but Hyunjin got swept up in some dumb thing by her teammates and still hasn’t come back.
Maybe she’ll have another drink to pass the time.
She walks through the entrance of the kitchen and immediately collides with something. Heejin lets a very embarrassing squeak as she loses her balance, closing her eyes and praying she doesn’t get a concussion or something.
“Woah,” someone says, and there’s a hand on her waist steadying her before she falls.
Heejin cracks open an eye to look at the boy who she just ran into. He doesn’t look familiar, so he probably doesn’t go to her school. “Sorry.”
“It’s all good.” He chuckles lowly. “What school do you go to?”
“Blockberry High,” she mumbles, beginning to feel uncomfortable because he still hasn’t removed his hand from her waist. She tries to move, but the counter digs into her back.
“Ah, that explains it.” He gives Heejin a slow once-over, making her skin crawl. “I would’ve remembered a pretty girl like you at my school.”
“Sorry. I have a girlfriend.” Heejin takes a step to move past him, but he blocks her with his body.
“Girls always say that shit and it’s not true. You don’t need to lie to me.”
Heejin grits her teeth, her heartbeat quickening. “I’m not interested.”
The boy just hums and tilts his head, leering at her. He’s nearly a foot taller than her and probably weighs twice as much. Heejin’s blood turns cold, feeling helpless as his grip on her waist tightens to the point of being painful.
And then it all disappears. The hand from her waist and the cloying scent of alcohol and sweat vanishes as the boy forcefully stumbles to the side, his head slamming into the wall in a way that has Heejin wincing. He doubles over in pain, holding his head and groaning.
Hyunjin is in front of Heejin in an instant, not even sparing a glance at the boy she just body-slammed into the wall a second ago. Her eyes search Heejin frantically. “Are you okay?”
Heejin takes in the familiar scent of lavender, her hands gripping Hyunjin’s sweatshirt loosely. “Yeah, I’m okay.”
“I’m gonna fucking kill him,” Hyunjin says, turning murderous eyes on the boy still cradling his head.
Heejin grabs Hyunjin’s wrist before she tries to take on a boy twice her size. “Can we just go?”
Hyunjin clenches her jaw and glances at the boy one last time before nodding. “Yeah, of course.”
It isn’t until they’re outside in the cool air that Heejin finally can breathe again.
Hyunjin stops and stares at Heejin. “Are you really okay?”
“Just a little shaken,” Heejin says, trying to smile reassuringly.
“He didn’t do anything to you?”
“Not before you arrived.”
“If I ever see him again…” The unsaid threat hangs in the air, and Hyunjin wraps her arms around Heejin and pulls her close. “I’m sorry.”
“Not your fault,” Heejin mumbles. This time, her heart speeds up for an entirely different reason.
Hyunjin looks at Heejin with a concerned frown. Heejin wants to reach up and smooth the little wrinkle between Hyunjin’s eyebrows. And then maybe kiss the frown away.
Before either of them can move, the door to the house opens up. Two girls exit the house, laughing softly to themselves. Heejin squints through the darkness, trying to get a better look, and realizes it’s Ryujin and Lia.
Thankfully, they don’t notice Heejin and Hyunjin hidden in the shadows. Hyunjin waits until they disappear in their car before exhaling harshly through her nose. The air around them had become tense at the appearance of Ryujin, and Heejin felt the need to break the silence.
“Let’s go somewhere else,” Heejin says.
The faraway look in Hyunjin’s eyes disappears, and she nods slowly. “Actually, I have an idea.”
They end up on the street outside of Heejin’s house. Heejin’s skateboard is tucked under her arm, and Hyunjin’s rubbing her hands together in a mixture of excitement and nervousness.
“You’re sure you wanna do this?” she asks, carefully watching Hyunjin’s expression under the dim lighting of the lot.
Heejin sets her board down and motions for Hyunjin to come closer. “You put your feet here and here,” she says, tapping each spot on the board with her toe. “I usually lead with my left foot, but it’s different for every person.”
Hyunjin—like everything else she does—hops onto the board without a second thought, fearless and bold. Heejin grabs her hand to steady her while Hyunjin finds her balance.
Hyunjin switches between leading with her right foot and her left foot a few times before saying, “I think the right foot is more comfortable.”
“Goofy stance,” Heejin murmurs to herself with a tiny smile. It’s fitting for Hyunjin. “Okay, then you’re going to push off with your back foot while keeping your front foot like this.”
Hyunjin swallows and nods.
“Start off slow, keep your knees bent,” Heejin instructs. “I’m right here, okay?”
Hyunjin pushes off and wobbles precariously, and Heejin has to steady her. This happens quite a few more times, but it doesn’t take long for Hyunjin to find a rhythm, unsurprisingly. The girl’s always been quite good at picking up anything remotely athletic.
Hyunjin begins to grin as she picks up speed, and Heejin feels a warmth spread throughout her body at the sight.
“Wait!” Hyunjin says as she approaches the curb. “Heejin! What do I do?”
Heejin snaps out of her (lovesick) stupor when she realizes Hyunjin’s about to hit the curb. She begins to sprint towards the other girl. “Lean to the left! Open your shoulders and lean to the left—”
The words die in her throat as Hyunjin hits the curb and tumbles into her neighbor’s front yard.
“Hyunjin!” Heejin yelps, kneeling in the grass next to Hyunjin. She cautiously taps Hyunjin and grows panicked when the other girl doesn’t move a muscle. “Oh my god, I killed you.”
“You didn’t kill me.” Hyunjin cracks one eye open to look at Heejin. “But you made me fall for you.”
Heejin huffs and flicks Hyunjin’s forehead. “So you’re okay.”
“No thanks to your demon board,” Hyunjin grumbles, rubbing her head. She pulls Heejin down to lay next to her, and Heejin becomes hyper-aware of how their shoulders are touching.
“You know, my dad told me he really likes you today,” Hyunjin says after a few minutes of staring at the night sky. “He says I should bring you over to my house sometime.”
“I told you I’m good with parents,” Heejin says with a victorious grin.
“It took my dad a while to warm up to Ryujin.” Hyunjin pauses, her voice going quiet. “It took my dad a while to warm up to the idea of me having a girlfriend in general.”
Heejin reaches out and grabs Hyunjin’s hand.
“He’s gotten a lot better, but a part of me is still worried. That’s why when I introduced you to them, I wanted it to go perfectly.”
Heejin squeezes Hyunjin’s hand lightly. “I think it went well.”
“Yeah. Me too.”
They lay there for a little longer (luckily Heejin’s neighbors are out of town so they don’t come out and yell at them for trespassing on their yard), and Heejin sits up when she starts to get itchy. She looks down at Hyunjin. “You tired of skateboarding now?”
“I’m no quitter, Miss Jeon,” Hyunjin says, sitting up and wincing. “I wanna try again.”
Heejin shakes her head in disbelief. “You’re crazy.”
“Crazy for you.”
(If Heejin claims her stomach doesn’t do little backflips every time Hyunjin says one of her pick-up lines, she’s lying.
They were some of the lamest things Heejin’s ever heard in her life, but coming from Hyunjin, they were alright. Heejin might go as far as to say they’re somewhat charming.
Jiwoo and Jungeun would call her whipped. They aren’t entirely wrong.)
“Can we leave yet?” Hyunjin shouts over the soundtrack of Glee blasting through the speakers.
Heejin is very tempted to take Hyunjin up on her offer, but Jiwoo—already knowing what Heejin is thinking—meets her eyes from across the room and shakes her head.
“I promised Jiwoo I’d stay,” she says, cursing her past-self for succumbing to Jiwoo’s puppy eyes. “You’re free to leave though. I can call you when we finish up.”
“And leave my girlfriend?” Hyunjin asks. “Never.”
Parties are normally pretty crazy. Parties with the drama club are something else. She doesn’t even know why Jiwoo wanted her to come. Heejin is definitely not a part of the drama club. The closest she’s ever gotten to being in the drama club is when she brought Jiwoo doughnuts after a show and the entire cast and crew thought it was for them.
She watches as some students played a very explicit version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey (it involved a naked Zac Efron), while others tried a very intense game that consists of both Just Dance and karaoke, and a small group of students did some type of drunk improv.
“Heejin!” Jiwoo bounds up to her and grabs her hands. “Remember that time I covered for you when you had that huge crush on Jungeun?”
“Yes,” Heejin says, cutting Hyunjin off before questions could be asked and glaring at Jiwoo. “Why are you bringing this up now?”
“I’m here to cash in on that favor.” Jiwoo gives her a smile, much too large to be normal, and tugs Heejin and Hyunjin to the living room. “Please don’t run.”
There are seven chairs set up in the living room—one right in the middle, and two rows of three facing each other. To Heejin’s surprise and confusion, two unexpected people are already sitting in the chairs.
Hyejoo takes one look at Heejin and Hyunjin and scoffs. “So we’re gonna win. Again.”
“Win what?” Hyunjin asks. Hyejoo doesn’t answer her.
Jiwoo shoves Hyunjin in the third chair of the row and makes Heejin sit in the chair opposite of Hyunjin. She looks at Heejin. “Remember, I covered for you by saying it was me who wrote that dumb letter. You owe me.” She tilts her head. “And you really need to stop making accidental confessions.”
Heejin pouts at the low blow. Rude.
Hyunjin taps Jiwoo. “What are we doing again?”
Jiwoo just smiles that creepy smile. “Do you know that one episode from Parks and Rec?”
Heejin is about to say there are many episodes of Parks and Rec, but someone sits in the final two chairs before she can.
There’s no way this is real. The universe has it out for her or something.
Ryujin gives her an awkward smile from the chair beside her. “Hi.”
Hyunjin pointedly avoids looking at both Ryujin and Lia. “Will someone please tell me what the fu—”
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome!” someone says into a microphone, and Heejin whips around to see someone walking to the stage. “I’m your host, Dahyun Kim!”
People cheer, and to Heejin’s horror, there’s a decently-sized crowd that’s begun to gather in the living room. She searches the crowd for Jiwoo, who throws her two thumbs-up from the back.
“And I’m here with everyone’s favorite game…” Dahyun pauses dramatically and spreads out her arms. “Know Ya Boo!”
Like the Parks and Rec game? Heejin blanches, and the crowd cheers louder.
“A true test of love, Know Ya Boo aims to see just how much someone knows about their significant other.” Dahyun, in the middle by now, turns to the people sitting in the chairs. “We have three couples here tonight in what we hope will be a very exciting game!”
The crowd keeps growing. Heejin is going to murder Jiwoo if she doesn’t die in the next few minutes.
“Now, for our first couple and reigning champs, Hyejoo and Chaewon!”
Reigning champs? Are either of them even in the drama club? And how the hell did Hyejoo ever agree to this?
“Our second couple, led by our lead actress in our latest play, Lia and Ryujin!”
Heejin is pretty sure Hyunjin is about to have an aneurysm.
“As for our last couple, tonight’s latest newcomers, Hyunjin and Heejin!”
Heejin is pretty sure she’s about to have an aneurysm as well.
There are some whispers popping up in the crowd, and Heejin has a good idea of what it’s about. After all, the Hyunjin and Ryujin competing against each other in a couple’s game is quite the dramatic scene. Problem is, Heejin and Hyunjin aren’t even a real couple. And they definitely did not prepare for anything like this.
“For anyone who needs a refresher about Know Ya Boo, there are four rounds of questions to quiz each couple's knowledge about each other.” Dahyun claps her hands, and Yuna Shin appears with six whiteboards and markers, which she distributes to each person.
“And, of course, there’s a bonus round at the end.” Dahyun gives a sly smirk to the crowd, who begins to murmur excitedly.
What does that even mean?
“Let the game begin!”
“This goes to the left side,” Dahyun says, pointing to Hyunjin’s side. “Question one: What is a nickname you have for your partner? This cannot include boring variations of your real name, of course.”
It takes a second for Heejin to realize that Hyejoo and Ryujin are writing what they think their partner is going to say on the whiteboard. Heejin looks down at her blank one, wondering what the hell she should put. She glances at Hyunjin, who glares down at her own board before uncapping the marker and writing something down.
What the hell did she write down?
“Five more seconds!”
Miraculously, something pops into Heejin’s mind (Hyunjin always calls her this when she pouts), and she writes it down quickly, finishing right as Dahyun yells, “Time’s up! Cap your markers!”
Heejin looks up to make eye-contact with Hyunjin, who sighs.
“Couple one,” Dahyun says, turning to Chaewon and Hyejoo. “What is a nickname you have for Hyejoo?”
Hyejoo and Chaewon, already smiling, flip their boards simultaneously.
“And they both put Baby Wolf Hye!” Dahyun says, reading from the board with a smile. “Furry tendencies aside, good work! And what about couple two?”
“Chocolate-holic,” Lia says confidently, flipping over her board. Ryujin does the same, and indeed, her nickname is Chocolate-holic.
“It looks like couple two got a point as well! We’ve gotten off to a very good start—let’s see if our third couple can keep up the streak.”
Heejin closes her eyes and turns her board around, already accepting defeat.
“And couple three succeeds as well!”
Wait, what? Heejin opens her eyes and peeks at Hyunjin’s board.
Holy shit, they got a point.
“Puppy is an interesting nickname for sure,” Dahyun continues, oblivious to their surprise. “I see we have two furries playing tonight.”
“Fuck off,” Hyunjin and Hyejoo say at the same time.
Dahyun just laughs. “Okay, question two is for the left side: What is your partner’s astrological sign?”
Heejin nearly jumps out of her seat in joy. She actually knows this one! She scribbles her answer and waits patiently for Dahyun to call time.
“Scorpio,” Hyejoo says easily. Chaewon nods and flips over her board to reveal the answer: Scorpio.
“Another point for couple one!” Dahyun says, doing a little golf clap. “Couple two?”
Ryujin looks at Lia with a tiny grin. “She’s a Cancer. She always makes me read that dumb astrological stuff with her.”
Lia rolls her eyes and flips her board. It reads Cancer, predictably.
“Couple two is right again!” Dahyun looks at Heejin. “What about couple three?”
“Hyunjin’s a Scorpio,” Heejin says, flipping her board. Hyunjin nods and does the same. Heejin begins to relax. If this is what the questions are like, then maybe she and Hyunjin can make it out alive.
“And it looks like all three couples get another point!” Dahyun says into the mic as the crowd claps. “This is the end of round one. As you know, the questions are supposed to get harder as the rounds go on, so I’m excited to see how our couples do in round two!”
“What do you mean your worst fear is Sooyoung?” Hyejoo demands. “You told me the other day you were scared of losing all your hair!”
“That’s not my worst fear!” Chaewon argues back. “It’s just a regular fear of mine!”
Heejin stares as the two argue over Chaewon’s worst fear, wondering what couple would do this game voluntarily. Hyunjin pulls at her shirt collar as she looks at Heejin worriedly.
“What about couple two?” Dahyun asks, ignoring Hyejoo and Chaewon.
Lia bites her lip. “Ryujin’s worst fear is not living up to her potential.”
The crowd grows quiet at the serious answer. Ryujin turns pink and turns over her board. “Not being the best I can be.”
“Those are pretty similar,” Dahyun says, stroking her imaginary beard. “Should we count it?”
The crowd hums their agreement.
“Looks like we are counting it, folks.” Dahyun focuses her attention on Hyunjin. “Couple three, what is Heejin’s worst fear?”
“Um, pigeons,” Hyunjin says, sounding quite lame in comparison to Ryujin’s fear.
“Pigeons?” Dahyun asks. “That’s a new one. Heejin?”
“Pigeons,” Heejin agrees and flips her board, surprised they managed to get another one. Hyunjin probably remembers that one time they went to the park and Heejin started sobbing at the sight of a lone pigeon by the trash can.
Dahyun nods once. “And in a surprising turn of events, Hyejoo and Chaewon drop to last place, and the other two couples are tied for first.”
Hyejoo glares daggers at Dahyun as Chaewon crosses her arms and sticks her nose in the air.
“Question four: If your partner could have any animal, what would it be?”
Oh, this one is easy.
“Wolf,” Hyejoo says when Dahyun asks. Chaewon, who seems to have gotten over the little fight, smiles and nods.
“Wait,” Heejin says, narrowing her eyes suspiciously. “Isn’t that what Hyejoo wants, not Chaewon?”
“What Hyejoo wants is what I want,” Chaewon says airily. “I aim to please.”
Heejin didn’t need to know that.
“I guess that technically counts,” Dahyun says with a shrug. “Couple two?”
“A ferret?” Ryujin says after a moment, sounding more like a question than an answer.
Lia shakes her head and turns her board. “No, those got ruined for me after I watched Harry Potter. Now I want a turtle.”
“A turtle?” Ryujin repeats.
“They’re cute and slow!”
“Kinda like Chaeyoung,” Dahyun mutters to herself. “Anyways, onto couple three!”
“Cat, obviously,” Heejin says. Hyunjin begins to turn over her board, but Dahyun stops her.
“That’s not specific enough. Cats are too easy.”
“You didn’t make anyone else elaborate,” Heejin complains.
“Well I’m making you two elaborate. On the count of three, you’ll both say the type of cat. One…”
Heejin panics and racks her brain for any breed of cat. She looks at Hyunjin, and then it clicks.
“Blue Russian!” they both yell, then cheer.
The crowd cheers along with them, and Heejin sends a silent thank you to whatever god is up there.
Dahyun looks sufficiently surprised. “Very good! So Hyunjin and Heejin take the lead..”
Heejin can’t believe that they’re actually doing well. Not just well, but they’re first too? For being a fake couple, they’re crushing this game.
“Our next round of questions will be digging more into their relationship, so stay tuned as we take a drink break. Unfortunately, our couples are not allowed to move in order to prevent cheating...”
“This round aims to test their memory of their relationship,” Dahyun says, looking down at her notecards briefly. “Our fifth question: who made the first move and how?”
Heejin really hopes she remembers their made-up history correctly.
“Couple one, who made the first move and how?”
“Chaewon,” Hyejoo mumbles, her cheeks turning red as she shows off her board. Chaewon’s board is identical to hers.
“I asked her to be my girlfriend while we were playing Minecraft,” Chaewon says with no shame.
“And?” Dahyun presses. Heejin notices how the crowd seems to lean forward, eager for any information about their relationship. No wonder why they were so invested in this dumb game.
Chaewon giggles. “And she assumed I meant Minecraft girlfriends, so she put her bed next to mine.”
“How cute,” Dahyun coos.
Nerds, Heejin thinks.
“Couple two, what about you?”
“Um…” Ryujin frowns at her board. “I made the first move. I asked her out after she drove me home from physical therapy?”
Heejin’s eyes flicker towards Hyunjin, who’s gripping her marker so tightly, her knuckles are turning white.
“Why does that sound like a question?” Dahyun points at Lia. “Please reveal your board.”
Lia slowly turns her board, and it reads her own name.
“Ooh,” Dahyun says, shaking her head. “It looks like couple two is in disagreement over who made the first move.”
Ryujin and Lia stay silent.
“What about couple three?”
Heejin and Hyunjin both turn their boards: Hyunjin invited me to a soccer game.
“Hyunjin made the first move?” Dahyun glances at Heejin. “Can’t say I’m surprised.”
What is that supposed to mean?
“We were partnered up for a project and I thought she was really cute, so I asked her to come watch my game. Then I invited her for dinner.” Hyunjin shrugs.
“That’s very anticlimactic,” Dahyun says. “Nonetheless, you still get a point.”
She and Hyunjin are still leading by a point, surprisingly.
“Question six: Where did you have your first kiss?”
Heejin begins to internally scream. They definitely did not discuss this beforehand. She glances at Hyunjin, trying to get an answer from her eyes, but Dahyun catches them.
“No cheating! Couple one, do you have an answer?”
Hyejoo and Chaewon turn their boards: Hyejoo’s basement.
“Care to elaborate?” Dahyun asks with a look that means they have no choice but to elaborate.
As Chaewon delves deeper into the story of their first kiss, Heejin stares at her empty board. What would Hyunjin say? The bakery? The soccer field? The doorstep? The possibilities are endless, and Heejin has no idea which one she should choose.
“Ryujin’s car,” she hears Lia say, beginning to tell a more detailed version. Heejin knows she’s running out of time. She scrawls down the first place that comes to mind and prays Hyunjin somehow developed the ability to read her mind.
“Now that is quite the first kiss,” Dahyun says, happy at Lia’s retelling of the story. “Can our couple three top that?”
Hyunjin slowly turns her board: The bakery.
Heejin’s face falls as she reads it. She put the soccer field.
“Couple three seems to be having trouble remembering their first kiss. How strange, considering a first kiss is almost sacred to many—”
“Dahyun,” Heejin says sharply, not eager to draw attention to the fact that they couldn’t name their nonexistent first kiss to a room full of people, which may raise suspicions.
Dahyun clears her throat. “We have a tie for first again between couple one and couple three! Couple two lags behind by a single point. Luckily they have round four to try and take the lead!”
Heejin contemplates the many ways she could kill Jiwoo as Hyejoo explains why her basement is their romantic spot. She wonders if Hyunjin’s thinking the same thing. Judging from the way Hyunjin keeps glaring at Jiwoo in the crowd, she probably is.
“That is a cute reason for your basement being your romantic spot,” Dahyun admits. “Couple two, what do you consider your romantic spot?”
Ryujin and Lia share a look before turning their boards: Lia’s bedroom.
“Now this just got interesting,” Dahyun says, fully aware of the implications their answer holds.
“It’s not like that,” Ryujin says quickly. “We’ve been best friends forever, and we always had sleepovers at Lia’s house. It makes sense.”
“Whatever you say,” Dahyun says cheerfully. “Let’s move on to couple three.”
Hyunjin turns her board, and Heejin lets out a breath she didn’t know she was holding when she realizes they got the same answer again. The beach. They’ve only been there once, but it’s definitely an important spot to them.
“Ooh, the beach,” Dahyun says. “Can you expand on this?”
“It’s the beach,” Hyunjin says flatly. “Everyone knows what it is.”
Heejin can tell Hyunjin’s getting tired. That’s understandable—these questions are taking forever and considering they didn’t even want to be here in the first place, it’s a miracle one of them hasn’t snapped.
“Okay, our final question of these four rounds: where does your partner like to be kissed? Your answer can’t be on the lips or the cheek or the forehead because that’s way too boring.” Dahyun yawns to emphasize her statement. “The left side will answer this one.”
Heejin’s mind draws a blank. Where does she like to be kissed? Where would Hyunjin think she likes to be kissed?
Then she promptly stops breathing at the thought of Hyunjin kissing her in general. Focus, Jeon.
Her neck. That seems like a good place, right? She writes it down right before Dahyun calls time.
“Chaewon, where does Hyejoo like to be kissed?”
“Her thighs,” Chaewon answers. Hyejoo turns bright red and covers her face.
Heejin really did not need to know that.
“Hyejoo, is this correct?” Dahyun asks. Hyejoo nods in muted horror, showing Dahyun her board. “Nicely done, couple one. Let’s move on. Lia, where does Ryujin like to be kissed?”
Lia raises an eyebrow. “Her stomach.”
Ryujin nods. “Yeah, my stomach.”
“Her abs, more specifically.”
Hyunjin coughs. Heejin adverts her eyes.
“And what about you, couple three? Where does Heejin like to be kissed?”
Heejin can see Hyunjin visibly gulp before turning her board. “Her jaw.”
Heejin shuts her eyes before turning her own board.
“Mm, neck and jaw are close, but not close enough, unfortunately,” Dahyun says, looking towards the crowd. “Couple one takes the lead while couple two and three…”
Heejin stops listening. Mostly because she thinks of Hyunjin kissing her up her neck and jaw softly, biting and sucking occasionally to leave marks on her skin—
She cuts off her train of thoughts there and tries to refocus on what Dahyun is saying.
“...And now for our long-awaited bonus round!” Dahyun booms into the microphone, making the crowd cheer. It seems like the entire party (at least the ones who aren’t passed out on the couch) is here now. “We’re going to see if they can recognize their partner just by smelling them!”
The crowd claps, and Heejin exchanges a confused look with Hyunjin.
“You three,” Dahyun says, pointing at Chaewon, Lia, and Hyunjin. “Go get your blindfolds from Yuna.”
Heejin does not like this at all.
That’s her only thought as she watches a blindfolded Hyejoo lean in closely towards Ryujin, who bites her lip to keep from making any noise.
Heejin wrinkles her nose at the strong scent of Febreze that lingers in the air. Dahyun sprayed her, Ryujin, and Chaewon down so that the blindfolded contestants had no choice but to get up close and personal to smell them past the Febreze.
Hyejoo shakes her head and backs away. She sticks her hand out and smacks Heejin in the head in her effort to find the next person. Hyejoo apologizes before feeling for Heejin’s neck and slowly leaning in.
Heejin squeezes her eyes shut as Hyejoo begins smelling her neck. Could this be considered harassment or something? She should sue Jiwoo for forcing her to do this.
Luckily it doesn’t take Hyejoo long to figure out that she isn’t Chaewon. Heejin lets out a silent breath of relief as Hyejoo backs away and searches for her last victim-slash-girlfriend.
Hyejoo leans in close, and her face lights up after about fifteen seconds. Hyejoo takes off her blindfold, smiling at the sight of Chaewon. They share a quick kiss before she’s ushered to the other room.
Lia’s the next person to step out. Dahyun leads her in front of Ryujin, then takes a step back. Apparently finding the person while blindfolded is part of the fun too.
Lia stumbles, and Ryujin reaches out to steady her. A sharp glare from Dahyun has Ryujin retracting her hands quickly.
Lia fumbles around a moment—Heejin thinks she sees her accidentally touch Ryujin’s boob—before finding Ryujin’s face. She leans in and knocks her forehead against Ryujin’s jaw. Ryujin manages not to say anything, though she’s grinning pretty hard. Lia stays there for a long time before backing away with a confused frown.
“This is hard,” she whines, sticking her hands out and searching for her next victim.
Heejin crosses her arms over her chest just in case. Ryujin might not have minded Lia accidentally groping her, but Heejin is not the one dating Lia.
To Heejin’s chagrin, Lia stays and smells her for quite a long time. Well, it seems like quite a long time because Heejin didn’t exactly enjoy having someone sniff her neck, but still, she took much longer than Hyejoo did.
Lia moves onto Chaewon, and leaves Chaewon in about half the time it took for her to smell Heejin or Ryujin. Heejin is jealous at how quickly Chaewon gets off the hook. She’s worried that Lia’s going to go for a second round, but Lia clumsily makes her way back to Ryujin.
She smells Ryujin one last time to be sure before nodding and pointing to her. She laughs as soon as she takes her blindfold off and taps Ryujin’s nose.
Hyunjin is the last person to go. She’s led by Dahyun, and Heejin’s mouth dries at the sight of the other girl.
She wishes their positions were reversed. Judging from the amount of time Heejin has spent simply smelling Hyunjin, she’d be a pro at this. Does Hyunjin even know what she smells like? She doesn’t usually wear strong scents, preferring subtle perfumes instead.
Hyunjin nears Ryujin and reaches out to gently hold Ryujin’s jaw. Ryujin sucks in a breath at the other girl’s proximity, her eyes fluttering shut.
Heejin remembers the reason why Hyunjin agreed to fake date her in the first place: to make Ryujin jealous.
Hyunjin suddenly flexes the hand lying limp at her side. It’s a small gesture, probably something an ordinary person wouldn’t notice, but Heejin does. She watches Hyunjin straighten up and back away quickly.
So Hyunjin still must remember how Ryujin smells. There’s no other explanation for why she reacted like that.
Heejin frowns, feeling a tug in her chest.
Hyunjin cautiously shuffles to the side, reaching out with one arm. She makes contact with Heejin’s shoulder and mumbles a quiet, “Sorry.” She slides her hand up Heejin’s neck and it comes to rest on Heejin’s jaw, lightly cradling it.
Heejin’s eyes trace the soft slope of Hyunjin’s nose and the little wrinkle she has between her eyebrows when she’s thinking and the way she chews on her lower lip. She resists the urge to move away (or move forward) as Hyunjin leans in. Hyunjin’s nose bumps against her neck, making Heejin bite back a laugh.
She doesn’t know what Hyunjin is looking (smelling) for, but all Heejin can focus on is lavender.
“This is her,” Hyunjin mumbles after another second, lifting her head but keeping her hand on Heejin’s jaw.
Dahyun looks surprised at how quickly Hyunjin answers. “There’s one more—”
“No, this is Heejin,” Hyunjin says, sounding completely sure of herself. She reaches up with her free hand to slip off the blindfold.
Heejin’s breath hitches in her throat at the slow smile that spreads across Hyunjin’s face. She’s such a goner.
“Coming in first place, as expected—our reigning champs, Hyejoo and Chaewon!”
The crowd roars as Hyejoo and Chaewon do a little bow. Dahyun slips them a gift card to the PlayStation Store, making Heejin narrow her eyes. So that’s how they got those two to participate. Bribery always works, she supposes.
“And for second place, we actually have a tie,” Dahyun says, staring at the remaining two teams.
“Tiebreaker!” someone in the crowd shouts.
“No,” Ryujin says immediately.
“Why not?” Dahyun asks, holding up another gift card. “Second place gets this fantastic gift card to the best ice cream joint in town.”
“That’s a five-dollar gift card,” Ryujin says.
“So? That means you’re going to be five dollars richer!”
Ryujin shakes her head. “No.”
“Are you sure? Because this gift card—”
“Give it to the real couple,” Ryujin snaps, making everyone go quiet. Heejin’s blood turns to ice. Does Ryujin know? Ryujin sighs, realizing what she just said, and gestures to Heejin and Hyunjin. “Give it to them. They deserve it more.”
With those words, she disappears towards the kitchen. The crowd grumbles and begins to disperse since the game clearly ended.
“I’m gonna go get a drink,” Hyunjin says in her ear, making a shiver shoot through Heejin’s body. “Want anything?”
Heejin shakes her head. “I’m good for now. I’m gonna see if I can find Jiwoo.”
Hyunjin nods and walks off, and Heejin scans the room until she catches a glimpse of familiar bangs. “Jiwoo!”
“Heejin,” Jiwoo says, backing up and trying to use Hyejoo as a barrier. Hyejoo, to her credit, doesn’t pause her conversation with Chaewon at the sight of a murderous Heejin marching up to her. She just simply peels Jiwoo off her arm and shoves her towards Heejin.
“You tricked me into playing a dumb couples game—with Hyunjin’s ex—in front of the entire drama club!”
“I’m sorry,” Jiwoo says. “I promised Dahyun I’d find a third couple.”
“And you couldn’t have chosen literally any other couple here who already knew about this game?”
“No couple wanted to volunteer after what happened between Nayeon and Jeongyeon last time.”
“This is the game responsible for Nayeon and Jeongyeon turning the cafeteria into a battleground that one day?”
No wonder why no one sane volunteered to play this game—it’s practically relationship suicide.
“I’m really sorry.” Jiwoo turns her wide eyes on Heejin, and goddamnit, she knows Heejin’s a sucker for puppy eyes. “I’ll watch Naruto with you, no complaints.”
Heejin purses her lips and looks at the ceiling.
Jiwoo sighs. “I’ll even wear that dumb headband you have.”
“Deal!” Heejin says after a long pause. She’s been looking for someone else to watch Naruto with now that Yeojin refuses to watch it with her anymore—she claims she doesn’t want Heejin’s weeb rubbing off on her. Jiwoo agreeing to wear the headband is just a cherry on top.
Jiwoo opens her mouth—probably to make fun of Heejin’s obsession with Naruto—but stops when someone in the other room shouts, “Jiwoo! We’re singing Fancy next!”
“Coming!” Jiwoo screams and shoots towards the family room without bothering to say another word to Heejin.
Heejin sighs and looks around, wondering what she should do now. Hyejoo and Chaewon disappeared (she doesn’t want to think about their possible whereabouts), Jiwoo’s busy belting Fancy at the top of her lungs, and Hyunjin still hasn’t returned with their drinks. Maybe Heejin should go check on her?
“Heejin!” Lia calls before Heejin moves, walking over and sticking out the five dollar gift card. “Dahyun shoved this in my hand before saying something about stopping Chaeyoung from trying to fight some football player. I figured you should have it.”
Heejin shakes her head and refuses to take it. “You two deserve it as much as we do.”
“We really don’t. We’re not even a couple.”
“Yup,” Lia says, popping the ‘p’. “Someone started that rumor around the school. No one would believe us if we told the truth so we didn’t bother.”
“But—but you willingly played a couples game just now.” Heejin doesn’t have time to laugh at the irony.
“Dahyun asked me to play and I convinced Ryujin to do it with me.”
“There’s no way you could’ve made up that story about your first kiss. And you knew Ryujin’s thing for her stomach?”
Lia chuckles, a hint of bitterness easily detectable. “Ryujin and I have known each other for a long time. We’ve fooled around before.”
“While they were together?” Heejin asks, anger already rising up on Hyunjin’s behalf.
Lia snorts. “Ryujin never cheated. Trust me, she was all in on that relationship.” She arches her eyebrows at Heejin. “Maybe Hyunjin should’ve taken a look at herself first before she doubted Ryujin.”
And even though their relationship is fake, Heejin still flinches, the jab feeling like a punch in the gut.
Lia clears her throat, a look of regret flashing across her face. “Sorry, that was uncalled for. It’s just…Ryujin was hurt, and I was the one who was there for her.”
Lia had a point. It would hurt to see your ex get into a relationship so soon after a breakup. But that’s exactly why Hyunjin agreed to this whole fake dating thing—she thought Ryujin moved on with Lia only days after their breakup and wanted to get back at her.
Lia holds out the gift card again. “Please just take it.” She sounds weary, like this thing with Ryujin has been weighing her down for a long time now.
Heejin accepts the gift card, coming to a silent understanding with Lia.
“Thank you,” Lia murmurs, relaxing as the small reminder of what she didn’t have is tucked away in Heejin’s pocket. She straightens up. “I should probably see if I can find Ryujin. She seemed pretty upset.”
Heejin nods. “Good luck with her,” she says, meaning it in more ways than one.
Lia smiles and wanders off, leaving Heejin alone again.
She needs some air.
She makes her way to the back door, knowing that this house probably has a back porch—Jiwoo lives only a street away, and all the houses in this area basically have the same layout. When she gets there, she notices two people already standing out there, talking.
Heejin turns away, not wanting to bother them, but the door is slightly ajar, and she overhears conversation without trying.
“So you and Lia…” one voice says. Hyunjin.
“We were never a thing,” the other voice says.
Heejin isn’t surprised to hear Ryujin’s voice. Honestly, she should’ve known from the pink hair, but she’s always been a bit slow.
“Never?” Hyunjin asks with a lilt to her voice. Heejin can picture Hyunjin’s expression: the pursed lips and the raised brow and the crinkle between her eyebrows when she frowns too hard.
“We could’ve been,” Ryujin admits, fiddling with the hem of her jean jacket.
Hyunjin scoffs and shakes her head.
Ryujin whips around to face Hyunjin. “How can you still think I cheated? Hyunjin, I was so in love with you.”
Heejin knows she’s intruding, knows she should walk away now before she hears anymore, but her feet are glued to the floor.
“Then why’d you give up on us so easily?”
“You didn’t trust me.”
There’s a long pause.
“I did trust you,” Hyunjin says quietly. “Because I loved you too.”
The pure honesty dripping from Hyunjin’s voice breaks Heejin out of her stupor. She takes one last look at the two figures on the porch, then leaves as quickly and quietly as possible, her heartbeat pounding in her ears, deafening everything around her.
She needs to find Jiwoo.
“Jiwoo!” she says when she spots the other girl. “Jiwoo!”
“Heejin?” Jiwoo looks at her in concern, her eyebrows drawn together. “Is everything okay?”
“Can we go home?” Heejin asks, nearly begs. “Can you drive me home?”
She feels terrible asking Jiwoo to leave, but she needs to get away from here so she can finally breathe again.
“Of course,” Jiwoo murmurs. She doesn’t ask questions, just leads Heejin until they’re outside her car. She helps Heejin in the passenger’s seat.
“Do you wanna come over to my place?” Jiwoo asks.
Heejin shakes her head quickly. She knows Jiwoo’s just trying to help, but she needs to be alone right now.
“Okay. I’ll drop you off at your house then.”
They drive in complete silence, and it seems to take forever before they’re pulling into Heejin’s driveway. The house is completely dark. Her dad isn’t home (typical), and Yeojin’s sleeping over at Yerim’s tonight again.
Jiwoo must notice no one’s home too. “Are you sure you don’t want to sleep over at my house?”
“No,” Heejin murmurs, her heart swelling at Jiwoo’s concern. “Thank you though.”
“Is this about Hyunjin?” Jiwoo asks carefully.
“Yeah.” She smiles at Jiwoo, hoping to reassure her. “Thank you for driving me. I’m sorry for making you leave.”
“It’s no big deal. You’re way more important than any dumb party.”
Heejin reaches over to hug Jiwoo. “Love you.”
“I love you too,” Jiwoo says. “You’re absolutely sure you don’t need anything?”
“I’ll call you if I do,” Heejin says.
It seems to placate Jiwoo a tiny bit. “Even if it’s the middle of the night, call me if you need to. Even if it’s just to talk, I’m there.”
Heejin wonders how she got lucky enough to have a friend like her. Jiwoo waits until Heejin’s inside before backing out, and Heejin watches out her window until she can’t see Jiwoo’s car anymore.
The house feels even more lonely than normal. The silence is stifling, and she doesn’t bother turning on any lights on her way to her room, opting just to use her phone flashlight.
She feels so alone.
Heejin sits on her bed and stares at her phone for a long time, chewing on her lip. How does she say this?
To: best gf in the world :)
jiwoo drove me home
also we should break up
Hyunjin doesn’t reply for a long time, and Heejin’s stomach twists when she thinks of what else Hyunjin might be doing right now.
From: best gf in the world :)
r u drunk
To: best gf in the world :)
From: best gf in the world :)
r u sure
cuz this is something drunk heejin would say
To: best gf in the world :)
i’m not drunk
i’m being serious
There isn’t a response after that. Heejin wasn’t expecting one, but it still stings. She swallows down the lump in her throat and stares at her ceiling.
She should probably go to sleep. She’s had a long night.
(Her phone lies discarded on the floor, completely forgotten.
From: best gf in the world :)
pick up ur phone pls
From: best gf in the world :)
why r u not answering
From: best gf in the world :)
if u fell asleep istg
From: best gf in the world :)
OPEN THE DOOR
how the fuck do u not hear the doorbell ringing
From: best gf in the world :)
From: best gf in the world :)
im this close to climbing to ur window to make sure ur ok
From: best gf in the world :)
oh ur sleeping
at least ur not dead
From: best gf in the world :)
well i just wanted to check on u
im leaving now
From: best gf in the world :)
im coming to ur house tomorrow morning btw
From: best gf in the world :)
love u sleep well
The sound of a car engine fades away.)
Heejin wakes up with a groan, her hand automatically searching for her phone.
“Where the fuck…” she mumbles, squinting her eyes open and looking for it. It must’ve fell on the floor while she was asleep.
She whimpers when she turns it on, the brightness up all the way and searing her eyeballs. God, she must hate her eyes if she had it up that bright last night in the darkness of her room.
There’s a bunch of missed calls and texts, a handful coming from Jiwoo and the majority coming from Hyunjin.
She glances at Hyunjin’s last text and promptly opens Jiwoo’s messages instead. Heejin is in the middle of typing out yes i’m fine and no i did not die last night when her doorbell rings. Heejin considers ignoring it (Yeojin should know where they hide the spare key by now), but it rings again ten seconds later. And then another time.
She groans, throwing off her blankets and stomping down the stairs. Ripping open the door, she prepares to scold Yeojin for forgetting where the goddamn key is once again—
—and her words die in her throat when she sees that Hyunjin is at the door instead.
As always, Hyunjin looks breathtakingly pretty, even when she’s just wearing a simple tee and some sweatpants. It gives her a sense of déjà vu, back to when she and Hyunjin just made this stupid deal and Hyunjin took her on their first ‘date’. Hell, Heejin’s even wearing those same dumb pink sweatpants.
“What the fuck, Heejin?” Hyunjin says as soon as the door swings open. “Do you know how worried I was last night?”
Everything from last night comes rushing back to Heejin, and she suddenly wishes she was anywhere but here.
Hyunjin shakes her head in amusement and doesn’t notice Heejin’s expression. “You must’ve fallen asleep after texting me. Did you see what you sent me last night? How drunk were you?”
Silence. The words are stuck in her throat.
“You probably haven’t seen it yet,” Hyunjin says, glancing at Heejin’s attire. “You look like you just woke up. Nice sweatpants, by the way.”
“I wasn’t drunk,” Heejin finally says, avoiding Hyunjin’s eyes.
She takes a deep breath and asks, “Don’t you think this has gone on for long enough?”
Hyunjin doesn’t say anything. She just frowns, her face contorted in a way that makes that dumb wrinkle Heejin has always had the urge to reach out and smooth.
“We both got what we wanted,” Heejin continues. Her hands curl into fists, nails digging tiny crescents into her palms. The bite of pain helps her focus. “Hansol and I are back to normal, and it’s obvious we got under Ryujin’s skin last night. Isn’t that the entire reason why we even did this?”
“I mean, yeah—”
“Then we should stop.”
There’s a stifling pause. Hyunjin blinks once, twice, and then says, “Okay.”
“Okay?” It was easier than Heejin expected. She thought Hyunjin might protest, might fight her on it, or ask for some explanation on why Heejin wanted to stop so suddenly.
Then again, why would Hyunjin fight to save a relationship that isn’t even real?
Hyunjin lets out a long breath. “Yeah. We can stop.”
Heejin nods slowly, hoping her face gives nothing away. This is what she wants. It’s for her own good, and it’s for Hyunjin’s too. She repeats that in her mind like a mantra, grounding herself.
“So what happens now?”
“We act like we broke up.” Heejin shrugs, trying to seem nonchalant, like this entire conversation isn’t making her chest cave in on itself. “Keep our distance from each other for a while and stuff.”
Hyunjin stares at her for a long time, then sighs. “Alright.”
“Anyways, I should go get ready,” Heejin says once the silence stretches on for a beat too long. “I told Jiwoo I’d meet her for breakfast.”
That’s a blatant lie, but Hyunjin didn’t need to know that.
Hyunjin frowns. “Weird. Sooyoung told me earlier she was taking Jiwoo to some pancake place for breakfast today. Jiwoo mentioned that she liked them.”
“Did I say breakfast? I meant lunch.” Heejin hopes Hyunjin can’t detect the note of panic in her voice. “I should get ready for lunch.”
“It’s nine in the morning.”
“I have a lot to do.”
Hyunjin’s face is unreadable, a strange look from her usual expressiveness that Heejin is used to. “I’ll leave then.” Hyunjin looks at her one last time, searching Heejin’s face for something, though Heejin isn’t sure what exactly. “Text me, I guess.”
Once Hyunjin’s car is out of sight, Heejin leans against the doorframe in relief, finally able to breathe again. She ignores the ache in her chest.
(Heejin has thought about this, and the pros far outweigh the cons.
- She and Hyunjin can stop lying to everyone in their lives.
- Hyunjin is free to pursue Ryujin without worrying about being in a supposed relationship.
- Heejin can stop deluding herself about said relationship.
The cons? There aren’t any. At least, that’s what Heejin keeps telling herself.)
Heejin does her best to keep her distance.
She stops meeting Hyunjin before classes begin. She pointedly does not look in Hyunjin’s direction during their shared classes and leaves the room as soon as the bell rings before Hyunjin can catch up with her. She responds to Hyunjin’s texts after hours have passed, making sure to keep her replies brief. She even rejected Hyunjin’s offer to go to the bakery over the weekend, citing that she had to stay home and watch Yeojin.
It’s a little over a week of avoiding Hyunjin, and Heejin’s never been more tired. She never skips school, but she’s seriously contemplating it right now. She stabs at her lunch while half-listening to some story Yeojin is telling, trying not to notice the empty seat next to her.
Almost like her eyes are trained to automatically find her, she glances at where Hyunjin sits with the soccer team. Hyunjin is laughing and Heejin’s stomach twists when she sees Ryujin sitting right next to Hyunjin and laughing with her.
Ever since the party, the two of them have started hanging out more. The awkwardness that used to be there is nonexistent, and Heejin has a pretty good idea of why that is. She tries to pretend it doesn't make her chest tighten painfully every time she sees them together.
The cafeteria suddenly feels suffocating. Everything seems amplified, and she can’t focus on anything or anyone. Heejin stands up, hoisting her backpack over her shoulder and mumbling some excuse for leaving. She just needs to get out of here as soon as she can.
Heejin’s eyes start to burn as a lump forms in the back of her throat. She knows she shouldn’t be this upset. It was a fake relationship, and from the beginning, she knew Hyunjin’s main goal was to make Ryujin jealous. Hyunjin was never hers to begin with.
She’s right outside of one of the entrances to school—the side one that kids who want to sneak out usually use—when someone calls her name. Heejin stiffens at the familiar voice and wonders if she should just book it out the door.
“Heejin,” Hyunjin says again. “I know you can hear me.”
Heejin clears her throat, her hand on the doorknob, gripping it until her knuckles turn white. “Hey.”
“I saw you leave. Jiwoo looked pretty worried so I wanted to make sure everything was okay.” Hyunjin sounds much closer now.
“Everything’s fine.” Heejin studies the chipping paint on the door, trying to distract herself somehow. “Thanks for checking up on me.”
There’s a long silence, and she hears Hyunjin scoff. “You know, when you said we should keep our distance, I didn’t think you meant like this.”
Heejin takes a deep breath and turns around, ignoring how her heart speeds up at the sight of Hyunjin. “You shouldn’t have followed me. We’re trying to convince people we aren’t together anymore.”
Hyunjin’s expression twists into a mixture of hurt and anger. “You can’t say that. You can’t tell me you’ve been avoiding me just because of that.”
“I’m not avoiding you.”
Heejin sighs. What could she even say? I’m avoiding you because I accidentally fell for you while we were fake dating? “We’re supposed to be exes—”
“Bullshit,” Hyunjin says sharply. “You shut me out this past week and I know it’s not all for the act.” She shakes her head and chuckles, the sound brittle and dry. “It’s almost like this is a real breakup.”
Real. It’s a harsh reminder, a slap in the face, a way to show Heejin that she’s overreacting over nothing. It’s a long drop in the pit of her stomach and a painful tug at her chest. She swallows it all back, fighting to keep her face neutral. “I’m treating this like a real breakup because that’s what it is to everyone else. You should too.”
“Did I do something wrong?”
“Then why are you being like this?”
Heejin doesn’t know why it happens. Maybe it’s because she’s so goddamn tired of everything at this point. Maybe it’s because she suddenly pictures Hyunjin and Ryujin laughing together, pretending nothing happened between them. Or maybe it’s the way Hyunjin’s voice got quiet and low, her eyes brimming with concern as she takes a step towards Heejin. Whatever it was, Heejin feels something inside her snap. “I saw you and Ryujin at the party. If you weren’t so fucking dense, you’d realize you don’t have a chance with her if I’m still hanging around you. You need to let this go so we can both move on with our lives. We already got what we wanted from each other so why are you so hung up on this?”
Hyunjin stares at her for a long time. “I don’t know why I even tried,” she mutters, more to herself than to Heejin. “God, you’re so fucking frustrating sometimes.”
Heejin clenches her jaw and stays silent.
“I guess I’ll go since ‘we already got what we wanted from each other’, right?” Hyunjin’s tone is mocking and sharp, aiming to hurt. “Because that’s all we were, just some type of business transaction.”
Heejin watches as Hyunjin turns and walks away, feeling the hole in her chest grow larger with each step Hyunjin takes. She wants to call out to tell Hyunjin that of course they weren’t a business transaction, but something roots her in her spot, unable to get the words out of her mouth.
Hyunjin doesn’t look back, and that hurts more than Heejin ever thought it could.
(Heejin has always known love is messy. She’s known that from the moment her mother walked in and asked for a divorce instead of some birthday cake that her children so lovingly made for her.
She doesn’t understand. She did everything in her power to avoid this feeling—this destruction that love can create. She pushed Hansol away to save their friendship, and she pushed Hyunjin away to save herself. She thought she did everything right.
And yet here she is, standing in some abandoned hallway of their school, her entire body cold and numb, feeling more alone than ever. She prepared and she planned, and she still fell.)
Another week passes.
Heejin doesn’t have to actively try to avoid Hyunjin anymore because Hyunjin no longer tries to interact with Heejin. She doesn’t ignore Heejin, she simply treats her like any other acquaintance. It’s like before the Library Incident, back when they were simply classmates, nothing more and nothing less.
Heejin hates it. But this is what she wanted, right? She can’t be complaining, not when she deliberately said those things to push Hyunjin away.
She’s ready to spend the rest of her high school career pretending she and Hyunjin never happened (even though nothing really did happen between them), but someone isn’t content with letting that happen.
“Ryujin?” Heejin says, partially as a greeting and partially as a question on why Ryujin was cornering her by her locker right after school ended.
“You need to talk to Hyunjin,” Ryujin says, not wasting any time with pleasantries.
Heejin frowns, unsure if she heard correctly. “What?”
“You need to talk to Hyunjin,” Ryujin repeats slowly. “She’s been mopey and temperamental ever since you two talked, and frankly, I’m getting tired of her making us run sprints until someone throws up.”
Heejin slams her locker shut (probably a bit harder than necessary) and raises her eyebrows at Ryujin, wondering why exactly she’s asking Heejin for help. “I don’t think I can help you with that.” The ‘we broke up’ goes unsaid.
“Trust me, I’m definitely the last person she wants to see,” Heejin says. She hikes her backpack up higher on her shoulder and goes to move past Ryujin. “But good luck with that.”
“She misses you,” Ryujin says quietly before Heejin can leave. Heejin freezes, her grip tightening on her backpack and the familiar weight settling on her chest. Ryujin sighs and runs a hand through her hair. “She doesn’t say it but it’s pretty obvious.”
It looks like Hyunjin’s acting was a little too good. If they were still talking, Heejin would smack Hyunjin upside the head for not making it clearer to Ryujin that she wasn’t serious about Heejin. She forces out a laugh, and it sounds foreign to her own ears. “We were pretty casual. You don’t need to worry.”
She realizes her little slip-up as soon as it leaves her mouth.
“Why would I worry?” Ryujin asks. She squints at Heejin in suspicion. “Do you think I’m into Hyunjin?”
Heejin blinks owlishly and scratches the back of her head, forcing down the blush creeping up her neck.
“Because Hyunjin’s already head over heels for you. She told me that herself.”
“And I’m sure you two sit down and talk about me a lot.”
“Only once,” Ryujin says with a teasing smile. “But once was enough. Hyunjin told me everything.”
There’s something about the knowing way Ryujin says it, and Heejin forces down the slight panic. Surely Hyunjin wouldn’t be so stupid—
“It’s like something straight out of a rom-com,” Ryujin continues casually, like she didn’t just reveal their biggest secret of the past nearly four months.
So Hyunjin told her. “Then you already know that everything Hyunjin told you was fake,” Heejin says, ignoring the ache in her chest accompanying her words. “All that shit about being head over heels for me? Just another way to make you jealous.”
There’s a long pause. “Hyunjin was right.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You should talk to her,” Ryujin says, completely ignoring Heejin’s question. “Normally I wouldn’t meddle since it’s not my place, but I think Sooyoung will legitimately strangle her if she makes us run any more sprints, and we need Hyunjin for Friday’s game.”
“You’re asking the wrong person.”
Ryujin hums, eying Heejin carefully. “Just think about it. It’d mean a lot to her if you talked to her.”
(Heejin watches Ryujin leave, a multitude of emotions flooding her. She glances down at her phone in her hand.
She's never been a brave person, but something about Hyunjin makes her want to be.
Maybe she should make that call she's been wanting to for a while now.)
“Heejin! I’m glad you called!”
Heejin waves at the familiar face on the phone screen. “Hi, Haseulie. How’s uni?”
Haseul groans and launches into a rant about her classes and dumb professors, and Heejin smiles softly. This is Haseul’s third year in university, and Heejin doesn’t miss her any less than when she first boarded the plane when Heejin was a freshman. When their mom moved and their dad threw himself into his work to cope, Haseul was the one who stepped up and cared for Heejin and Yeojin, despite only being four years older. She was their rock through it all.
Heejin snaps back to attention, realizing Haseul’s staring at her expectantly. “What?”
“I asked you how everything at home is.”
“It’s alright. Dad’s on another business trip, like always. Yeojin’s enjoying freshman year—she has quite the reputation for pranking teachers but never getting caught. Not much is really happening though.”
Haseul raises her eyebrows. “And what about you?”
“Same as always.”
“Really? That’s not what Yeojin said when she called me a couple weeks ago. She mentioned a new girlfriend?” Haseul wears a shit-eating grin as she looks at Heejin with glee.
“I’m gonna kill her,” Heejin mutters.
“You can kill her after you tell me all about this new girlfriend.”
“For starters, she’s not my girlfriend anymore.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Heejin hears the concern in Haseul’s voice, and that’s all it takes for her to crack. “Actually we were never together.”
Heejin did say she’d crack and tell Haseul within ten minutes of talking. Well, it was more like five, but who’s counting?
“Oh, so Yeojin was playing another prank then.”
Heejin starts from the beginning—the very beginning—and spirals from there. Her feelings for Hansol; her (unwise) decision to record that video and then keeping it; sending the video while drunk; roping Hyunjin into being her fake girlfriend to throw Hansol off; Hyunjin asking to keep fake dating; their growing friendship; Heejin realizing she has feelings for Hyunjin; the breakup and the breakup 2.0; and finally, Ryujin’s insight.
When Heejin finishes, Haseul is speechless for a few long moments. “Wow.”
“You’re in the middle of a rom-com.”
“Don’t say that,” Heejin says with a small frown. “You know I hate rom-coms.”
“You used to love them,” Haseul says quietly. She laughs. “You used to always make me watch 10 Things I Hate About You all the time. You adored that movie.”
Heejin plays with a loose thread on her shirt. “I guess I changed.”
“You threw out the DVD we owned six years ago.”
Heejin doesn’t say anything.
“I asked Vivi out last weekend,” Haseul says, changing the subject.
Heejin is grateful that Haseul doesn’t push. “It only took you an entire year. How’d you do it?”
“I asked her to go to dinner after a performance.” Haseul smiles, a real dopey one that has Heejin shaking her head. “I dropped her off at her apartment and we kissed outside the door.”
“That’s really nice.”
“It’s not a bad thing to give someone a chance, you know.” Haseul looks at her through the screen knowingly. “Love isn’t a bad thing.”
“Well it’s not easy, but most things aren’t.”
“How can you put yourself out there, knowing you’ll probably get hurt in the end?”
“Because it’s worth it,” Haseul says simply. She makes it sound so easy. “You should talk to Hyunjin.”
“She wouldn’t want to talk to me.”
Haseul scoffs. “And so does the love interest of almost every rom-com, but the protagonist still goes after them.”
“This isn’t a rom-com.”
“Humor me. What would someone in a rom-com do in your shoes?”
Heejin sighs. “The grand gesture. The public announcement of their love, or running down the streets to stop them from leaving, or singing some ridiculous song.”
“My life is not a rom-com,” Heejin repeats.
“I don’t see why you can’t steal a page out of their book.” Haseul’s eyes twinkle. “The grand gesture is just another way for someone to say ‘sorry, I screwed up, let me prove that I’m not a total ass’. I think this applies to your situation. Take a chance, Heejin."
(There’s another reason why Heejin wasn’t fond of rom-coms anymore.
The grand gestures—the declarations of love after something inevitably pulls the main couple apart—always got on her nerves. They were always too bold, too cheesy, too unrealistic for Heejin to take them seriously.
Now she understands the pressing desire to do something, anything, to win someone back. Or, in her case, win someone over in general.)
Heejin rubs her hands together as she watches the players sprint down the field. Her eyes track one player in particular.
It’s the semi-finals game, the one that would decide which team goes to state and which team’s season ends today. Heejin’s hidden in the back, and if she squints hard enough, she can see the back of Jiwoo and Jungeun’s heads near the front row of the bleachers. She didn’t tell them she was coming tonight.
Of course, the two teams are tied and there are six minutes left to go.
And of course, Hyunjin manages to pull through in the end, just like always.
This time, Hyunjin scores with a straight laser towards the top right corner, just barely slipping past the goalie’s fingers. The bleachers shake with how loud the students are screaming, and Heejin is sure she sees tears on more than a few player’s cheeks (on both teams).
It’s over from that point on. The other team doesn’t rally quick enough to launch a decent counterattack, and before Heejin knows it, the whistle blows three times. The game is over. They won. They’re going to state.
Maybe it’s Haseul getting in her head, but Heejin can’t help but think that this is the perfect moment for the grand gesture. Heejin would jump the fence and rush the field. She’d lock eyes with Hyunjin and run to the other girl in slow motion. They’d reconcile and hug, then share a romantic kiss in the middle of the field in front of everybody, surrounded by cheers and confetti.
But they aren’t in a rom-com, and Heejin doesn’t rush onto the field, and none of the subsequent events occur. Instead, she filters off the bleachers with the rest of the crowd, staying quiet and blending in. The team is in their usual post-game huddle, and people have started leaving in their cars, probably going to Jaemin’s house for the big after-party.
Once the huddle ends, Jiwoo gets distracted by Sooyoung talking to her and doesn’t notice Jungeun slip away. Heejin does though, and she watches Jungeun make her way to the parking lot and get into her car. She doesn’t pull out of the parking spot though, just sits there. Heejin isn’t too surprised to see Jinsol Jung slip into the passenger’s seat a minute later. She should’ve known—Jungeun’s always had a weak spot for blondes. If all else goes wrong tonight, at least Heejin finally figured out Jungeun’s mystery girlfriend.
The stadium clears out quickly, much too quick for Heejin’s comfort. Her heart begins to pound when she realizes she’s running out of time.
As she tries to quell her panic, a lone figure lines a ball up by the penalty spot in front of the net. The figure takes a few steps back, raises their arm, and shoots. It slams into the back of the net.
Heejin wonders if it's helping Hyunjin clear her mind.
Heejin is unable to make her feet move forward to step out of the shadows so she could make herself known to the only other person in the stadium. Her mind races with her thoughts, and she can barely think straight. What does she even say?
Before she knows it, Hyunjin’s lining up to the last ball of the bag.
Unlike her other shots, this one sails high above the crossbar. The sound of it bouncing against the track echoes throughout the stadium, empty and unfulfilling.
Heejin expects Hyunjin to round up the balls for another round of shots.
She doesn’t expect Hyunjin to sit on the turf, pull her knees to her chest, and bury her face in her arms.
It’s deadly silent now, and she wonders if Hyunjin is able to hear her heart hammering inside her chest. Heejin certainly could, that’s all she could hear.
It’s now or never.
She forces herself to lift one foot and place it in front of the other. She does it again and again and again, and when she looks up, she’s on the turf, a mere five feet away from Hyunjin. Heejin contemplates on what to say.
“I’m fine, Sooyoung,” Hyunjin says without looking up, startling Heejin. “You don’t need to keep checking up on me.”
Hyunjin’s head snaps up to stare at Heejin. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to talk to you.”
“We don’t need to talk anymore. You got what you wanted already, right.”
A pang goes through Heejin’s chest. She deserved that. “I’m sorry.”
Hyunjin sighs, standing up and wiping the turf off her jersey. “You just made it clear where we stand with each other after I kept pushing. You don’t need to apologize.”
“I was an asshole, and I didn’t mean any of those things.” Heejin wipes her palms on her shorts. “Hyunjin, you’re so important to me.”
“Then why’d you say it?”
“Because I was scared.” The next words—the words she came here to say—get stuck in her throat.
Hyunjin raises her eyebrow. “Why would you be scared?”
“Do you remember when you took me to the beach?” Heejin says instead of answering her. “You came to my house with food after I avoided you for the entire day, and then you insisted on taking me on a little adventure.”
“Yeah, but what does that have to do with this?”
“You didn’t push me into telling you why I was acting so shitty that day. You just told me dumb jokes and stories on the car ride over.” Heejin chuckles at the memory. “And the beach was beautiful. It felt like we were in our own world, and I remember feeling so at peace then. God, Hyunjin, you even brought me a sketchbook.”
Heejin holds up a hand, cutting Hyunjin off. “Then I saw you and Ryujin on the porch, and I realized I couldn’t keep doing this anymore. I knew if I avoided you, then you could get back together with Ryujin and I could get rid of these feelings.”
Hyunjin blinks. “Feelings?”
Heejin’s pretty sure her heart’s going to give out if it beats any faster. But this is what she came here to say, and she’s not leaving without saying it. “I like you, Hyunjin. And not in a friend way or a fake girlfriend way.”
“You—you like me?”
“Yeah, and I’m terrified of that.” Heejin’s voice breaks, and she clears her throat. “I never wanted to hurt you, I swear.”
There’s a long silence, and Heejin has to fight to stay here, to not run. A thousand emotions flicker on Hyunjin’s face before she settles on one; a scowl. “You’re so fucking frustrating sometimes.”
Heejin flinches, vividly reminded of their argument a week ago. “Sorry—wait, what are you—”
Heejin nearly trips over her feet when Hyunjin stalks forward until she’s close enough for Heejin to reach out and touch. They hold eye-contact, and Heejin has to fight to stand her ground. She’s not going to run this time.
“I...I thought you didn’t feel the same way,” Hyunjin says, shaking her head. “But you’re just really fucking dense.”
Heejin stops breathing when she realizes what Hyunjin is implying. “But Ryujin—”
“That night on the porch, I just wanted closure from Ryujin. I had to know the truth, and we both agreed that our relationship is the past.” A smile ghosts Hyunjin’s lips. “I think we both found someone better anyways.”
“But you wanted to make Ryujin jealous. That was the whole point of this thing.”
Hyunjin rolls her eyes. “I’m telling you I like you and you’re still looking for excuses?”
Heejin’s never the one to make the first move, but in a split-second decision, she reaches up to cradle Hyunjins face, rocks forward on her tippy-toes, and presses their lips together. Hyunjin makes a small noise of surprise against Heejin’s lips, and then she’s kissing back.
It’s not like all the rom-coms. There’s no cheering crowd, or romantic music in the background, or rain pouring down on them. It’s just the two of them on a silent, empty soccer field.
Heejin wouldn’t have it any other way.
Hyunjin winds her arms around Heejin’s waist to pull her closer. Her lips are warm and soft, and Heejin nearly whimpers when Hyunjin’s tongue runs along her bottom lip. She deepens the kiss, and her thoughts are plagued with one thing: Hyunjin, Hyunjin, Hyunjin.
Heejin has to break the kiss too soon for her liking to breathe, but Hyunjin doesn’t let her go far. She keeps her arms around Heejin’s waist, and they stand there, foreheads resting against each other and trying to catch their breaths.
“I’m still mad at you,” Hyunjin murmurs. She still leans in to press another kiss to Heejin’s mouth.
“Sorry,” Heejin says against Hyunjin’s mouth, giggling into the kiss when their noses bump against each other.
Hyunjin pulls away, leaving Heejin chasing her lips. She fixes Heejin with a stern look. “You better be.”
“Be my girlfriend,” Heejin says, kissing her again. She’s never going to get tired of doing that. “My real girlfriend this time.”
Hyunjin pretends to think for a long moment, then shakes her head. “You haven’t even taken me on a date yet.”
Heejin grabs a hold of Hyunjin’s wrist. “Let’s go then. Let’s go right now, anywhere you want.”
“You’re awfully eager, Miss Jeon,” Hyunjin says with a laugh, allowing herself to be pulled along anyways.
“I think I’ve wasted enough time already.”
Hyunjin’s eyes light up, and a grin spreads across her face. “That’s alright because time stops whenever I look at you.”
“Your pick-up lines are getting worse.”
“You love it.”
(“We have a lot to explain to our friends,” Hyunjin says, stealing a piece of bread from Heejin’s plate.
Heejin whines and glares half-heartedly at Hyunjin, but she lets the other girl keep the bread anyway. “We’re telling them everything?”
“Don’t you think we should?”
“Jiwoo might murder me.”
“Not if Sooyoung is there to distract her.”
“Sooyoung might murder you.”
Hyunjin shrugs. “That’s probably true.”
She reaches for Heejin’s hand on top of the table and laces their fingers together. Somehow, Heejin is fine with the thought of Jiwoo potentially murdering her.)
The scoreboard blares. The whistle blows three times. The crowd roars.
Jiwoo’s screams deafen Heejin’s right ear, and Jungeun slaps Heejin’s back hard enough to knock the wind out of her. They run out onto the field with the rest of the people. Jungeun quickly gets swept away by Jinsol, and Jiwoo tackles Sooyoung into a congratulatory hug.
Heejin spots Hyunjin, and it’s really fucking cliche to say this, but everything else blurs into nothing.
She pushes her way through the crowd until she’s standing in front of Hyunjin. “Good goal,” she says, leaning in closer to be heard over the shouts.
“I scored it for you,” Hyunjin says with a wink. She ducks her head, her eyes shining. “Can I kiss you?”
Heejin doesn’t respond, just closes the space between them.
This kiss is more rom-com worthy (even though Heejin still isn’t fond of rom-coms).
Well, it was rom-com worthy until someone drenches them with a water jug.
Heejin gasps as the cold water soaks into her (Hyunjin’s) sweatshirt and whips around. Sooyoung and Ryujin laugh at Heejin and Hyunjin’s dumbfounded expressions and drop the now-empty water jug, running away before Hyunjin can retaliate.
Heejin wipes her face with her sleeve, looking up at Hyunjin with a grin. “It’s probably good they poured water on us.”
Hyunjin shakes her shirt and a couple of ice cubes fall to the turf. She raises an eyebrow. “Was it?”
“Yeah." Heejin pauses for dramatic effect. "Because you were too hot to handle before.”
Hyunjin gapes for a moment, unable to process that Heejin said a pick-up line to her. Dazedly, she mumbles, “I think I’m in love.”
Heejin laughs and kisses her again. “Me too.”