You can do better.
That’s what she always hears throughout the years as she grows up.
It’s not a full score, you can do better.
You’re in 2nd place, you can do better.
There’s still a mistake here, you can do better.
Like the good girl she is, she will always smile and nod her head, saying that she will do better next time. But she knows she won’t, because she already did her best, yet it’s not enough. She doesn’t know how to be better in her best, she doesn’t know how to pass her limit and how to climb the unclimbable mountain.
But she doesn’t tell anyone, she never tells anyone that she can’t do it or that’s already her best or that she can’t be better than this, because she knows she’s living in the shadows.
How does it feel like living in the shadows?
It’s nice and quiet, she doesn’t get under the spotlight and she can do whatever she wants since she’s not that noticeable. The ones that need to keep their attitude and maintain their images are the ones who are living under the spotlight, outside the shadowed area.
Yes, it’s nice. But the one who’s living in shadow will never get the spotlight, will never be noticed, and soon will be forgotten.
Irene doesn’t want to be forgotten, not by her light.
“You call these grades bad? Have you seen my grades?”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself, you’re good.”
“Hey, not everyone can even reach the second place!”
Those are the kind words that she has heard from other people, but they have no idea what she’s going through and how hard she’s trying to get into the spotlight, to get under the light of her life, her parents.
She tries so hard, but she always fails.
Eventually, her parents stop pushing her, stop saying that she can do better, they stop making her feel pressured for being not good enough. But Irene knows it’s not a good thing since she realizes that she’s slowly being forgotten.
“Am I going to inherit the company too like oppa?”
Irene still remembers how her 13 years old self asked her parents after seeing her parents talking to her oldest brother about a position in the company. She remembers how her parents stared at her hesitantly as if they’re thinking about what to say. Then she remembers her mother patted her in the head and smiled at her as she spoke out those words.
“Irene, you’ve always been the most playful and cheerful one, so you can do whatever you want, you’re free.”
Irene may not be as smart as her siblings, but she’s not dumb. She knows the meaning behind those words and it pierced through her chest, breaking her heart into million pieces.
No Irene, because you are not good enough.
She can almost hear those words being spoken in her mother’s gentle voice. In that moment, she realizes that her parents have stop asking her to do better, because they simply stop expecting her to be better.
But Irene still smiles. She smiles because she remembers those days when her parents complimented about how pretty their daughter was and how bright her smile was.
There’s a hazy memory of her childhood where her father lifted her high up in the air and spun her around, smiling widely as he talked about how pretty his little princess was.
There’s also a hazy memory where her mother sat her in front of a mirror and tied her hair up with cute hairbands, and then her mother’s smiling face as she stared at the mirror and talked about how beautiful her little angel was.
Irene wished that she could remember those moments clearly inside her head, so she could recall it again and again whenever she feels like breaking. She spends every morning and night looking at herself in the mirror and smiles, empowering herself with her own smile in the mirror.
She always believes that smile has some sort of magical power because she finds herself getting stronger just by smiling. It also makes people smile back at her and approach her for a conversation and before she knows it, she already has a lot of friends circling around her.
For the first time, she feels like being under the spotlight, even though her parents are not the one who notices her, but at least she’s noticed. So she continues to smile and acts like herself, letting the others come closer to surround her like a small spotlight.
Irene is satisfied with it, she is happy.
Of course she knows that in her life, she can’t please everyone. So she’s not that surprised to see some people who dislike her, it’s normal after all, there are some people who she finds it hard to get along with. The only thing she can do is act friendly like how she usually is and just let that person do whatever they want.
The same goes for Kang Seulgi too.
Just by first glance, it’s not hard for Irene to notice that Seulgi didn’t like her. She didn’t mind about it, really, she just thought how tough it would be to sit beside someone who disliked her, for the whole months until they graduate. Seulgi sure was beautiful, but her cold aura was not something to be joked about.
Irene thought she’d be fine, she’d try to be friendly with Seulgi so that they could pass the rest of the high school without any hard feelings against each other.
But then, Seulgi surprised her in so many ways.
It started by her lending Irene the textbook just few minutes after the class started. Irene could still see the slightly furrowed brows from Seulgi, yet she’s offering to share the textbook with her. Never once Irene was faced with someone who still helps the person that she didn’t like.
Irene thought that maybe she can befriend with Seulgi if it’s this way.
So she approached Seulgi, only to be slammed with the thick wall of ice from the latter. Irene eventually gave up in trying to break the impossibly thick wall, thinking that maybe Seulgi didn’t even want to befriend with her at all.
Someway, somehow, Irene ended up observing her seatmate, watching the way Seulgi re-tied her hair when it’s loose, the way she listened quietly to the music in her earphones, the way she looked out of the window to stare at the blue sky, the way her fingers fumbled with her pen when she’s thinking, the way she darted her tongue to her drying lips – which Irene assumed as unconscious habit; and Irene started to think that what a pity for a beauty like Seulgi to act so cold.
But then there’s one day, like any other morning with Seulgi listening to her ipod and stared out of the window, with Irene sitting next to her while talking to some students. Irene glanced over to Seulgi who seemed to be staring at two little birds that are perching on the branch, and the sight that she saw took her breath away.
It’s not the sight of the cute little birds, it’s the sight of Seulgi. Because Seulgi’s lips are curled up slightly and her eyes were really warm, Seulgi was smiling.
And in that moment, Irene could feel her heart skipped slightly in what she thought as a surprised feeling.
Then Irene started to think that maybe Seulgi wasn’t that cold, that maybe she’s just a quiet person, that maybe she can actually befriend with Seulgi for real.
So like the Bae Irene she was, she started to approach Seulgi in her own way, by being overly friendly. It was a risky move, yet she couldn’t think of any better ideas, it’s all or nothing, literally. She could see how Seulgi seemed to be very surprised at her sudden action of being all friendly, yet at the same time, Seulgi didn’t push her away.
But then Seulgi surprised her again with all the things she was, by helping her to practice singing, blushing over a compliment, walking home with her, sharing her earphones with her. They’re all small things, but it’s still meaningful because apparently, Irene realized that Seulgi wasn’t cold at all, she’s just shy and socially awkward, but very kind at heart.
It’s the way Seulgi helped her on the first day of school, it’s the way Seulgi taught the whole class about math so patiently, it’s the way Irene caught Seulgi feeding a stray cat of the school when she’s having a lunch in the park, it’s the way Seulgi smiles – so dazzling and amazingly beautiful, spreading a warmth to anybody who saw it, including Irene.
Irene knew when it’s about to happen since it wasn’t her first time. She knew when she’s about to fall in love, which is clearly not a good idea and would be the last thing she wanted to do in this new school. She had enough problems in her old school already.
But when Seulgi placed her birthday cake in front of her and started to sing, the dam of Irene’s feelings broke.
It’s that blindingly fast, she fell in love.
“I guess I was just jealous of you.”
It’s what Seulgi said that made Irene blinked incredulously.
“Jealous? You? Why?”
“Because you’re everything that I’m not. You’re obviously pretty, and you can talk so easily with people, they stick to you immediately. I’m not like that, and I can’t be like that.”
Ah, Seulgi. Not only shy and socially awkward, but she also had so little self-esteem. If only Seulgi could see what Irene saw in her…
“You’re so much better than I am, Seulgi. You have so many good things, but unaware of them. You think too low about yourself.”
It’s not the first time Irene fell in love, that’s why she knew what to do when she’s in love; stop hoping that it would be requited and kept on being friends with the person that she loved, which was why she kept being friends with Seulgi, because sometimes the only way to stay close with someone you love is by being a friend.
It’s painful to think that one day, Seulgi would end up with an amazing guy like Minho or anyone, but when she saw Seulgi’s dazzling smile, she knew what kept her going. It’s Seulgi’s beautiful smile, it’s Seulgi’s soothing voice, it’s Seulgi’s scent of citrus and freshness, it’s Seulgi’s beautiful hand when it’s wrapped around hers, it’s Seulgi’s hair that falls from her shoulders everytime she bends down, it’s Seulgi’s everything. She can endure anything for Seulgi, including the pain of heartbreak.
When Nana and the others found out about her incident in the previous school, she thought it would be the end, she thought she’d have to move school and said goodbye to Seulgi. Just one last chance, she just wanted to have a last chance to say goodbye and apologized to Seulgi before leaving, but Seulgi surprised her again.
Seulgi accepted her past and her uality. Seulgi held her hands, Seulgi hugged her, Seulgi cried with her, Seulgi shared her pain. Irene knew she wouldn’t be able to crawl out if she fell deeper for Seulgi, but she let herself free falling, because it’s impossible to stop.
And when she thought it couldn’t get any better, it happened.
Maybe it’s just a spur of a moment, maybe Irene was being a for taking a chance, maybe Seulgi was just confused, maybe it didn’t mean anything for Seulgi, maybe—
Joy calls out, waving her hand rapidly in front of Irene and it manages to pull her out of the deep thought.
“Sorry, what?” Irene asks, smiling sheepishly.
Two weeks have passed since the broadcast incident and their kiss, the gossip about Irene’s incident has started to settle and there aren’t many students who mention about it again. Nana and the girls don’t seem to be starting a fight anymore, they just avoid her and Irene is really glad about it.
It’s all because of Seulgi, she really can’t thank her enough.
“We’re talking about what do you think about Seulgi liking Minho?” Joy sneers.
“Hey!” Seulgi calls out in protest, earning a shush from Wendy who’s anticipating for Irene’s answer.
Irene’s face however, immediately falters at the question. Seulgi likes Minho? Her mind races back to the past as she recalls the time when Seulgi mentioned about how she liked quiet type of guys, and Song Minho is in that category. Not to mention how cool he is, how handsome his face is, how tall he is and how athletic he is. Even if Irene’s not interested in him, she can’t deny the fact that Minho is an attractive guy.
Of course Seulgi would like him, who wouldn’t? Except a gay girl like herself.
“I—I think so too…” Irene smiles dryly, looking up to the girls except Seulgi.
“See? Is it true then, Seulgi?” Joy beams, turning her head to Seulgi.
“No, it’s not true.” Seulgi deadpans, glancing over at Irene.
Irene can see Seulgi twitches her eyes so slightly as if she’s disagreeing or upset about something, but Irene quickly drops her gaze to the tile under her feet. She closes her eyes and purses her lips, feeling her chest clenches slightly at her own answer earlier.
The air is awkward for the rest of the class. Seulgi and Irene don’t really talk to each other like usual, they just steal some quick glances at each other and one of them is not looking. Meanwhile, Wendy, Yeri and Joy stare at them from their seats while wondering what might have happened between the pair of best friend.
All the while throughout the class, Irene can’t stop thinking about Seulgi and Minho. Of course, compared to walking with her side by side, Seulgi would look better walking with Minho who is taller and bigger than her and on top of it, a male. Of course Seulgi’s hand would look better when it’s intertwined with a larger hand, not the same small and soft hand like Irene’s. Of course Seulgi would feel better being indulged in a hug from Minho’s strong arms compared to her own thin and weak arms.
Of course Seulgi would look better and feel better when she’s with a guy, she’s not gay like Irene after all.
Just because they caught up in a kiss, it doesn’t mean she can lift her hope up just like that, stupid Irene.
Irene lets out a long deep sigh as she stares blankly at the board in front, not noticing the way Seulgi keeps her eyes on her.
The said girl jumps slightly before she turns her head over her shoulder, looking at Seulgi who’s striding to her, a rather unhappy look on her face.
“Seulgi…” Irene hums quietly, dropping her head as she waits for Seulgi to catch up.
“…Did I do something wrong?” Seulgi asks with a frown and Irene lifts her head.
“No, you didn’t.”
“Then—why are you avoiding me?” Seulgi asks, her voice coming out like a whisper.
“Well, I just thought that—you might feel uncomfortable with me since I’m—you know, I like girls and everything.” Irene smiles softly, trying her best to lie.
“…What makes you think that?” Seulgi squints and tilts her head.
“Seulgi, I didn’t just turn gay yesterday. I know how others see and feel about people like me.” Irene chuckles and shakes her head at the silly question.
Seulgi purses her lips and nods her head quietly. “…I think I was gay two weeks ago, so I have so many things to learn…”
“Oh, I see—WHAT?”
Irene literally screeches and jumps on her feet, staring at Seulgi with wide eyes as if the latter just grows another head. She gapes and slowly shakes her head in disbelief, Seulgi just stares at her before nodding her head slowly in return as if they’re communicating with gestures.
“Seulgi-ah…” Irene sighs softly. “You can’t say something like that so easily…”
“Because you’re still confused, you’re not even sure about this.” Irene explains slowly. “Sometimes, you get so close to someone that you starts to wonder if you really like them or just feels thrilled because of the new relationship—“
“But I like you.”
Irene almost chokes on air at how blunt Seulgi’s words are. Seulgi keeps on surprising her and she doesn’t know if her heart can handle all the surprise she’s receiving.
“W-What did you say?” Irene stutters, blinking rapidly as her brain tries to process everything that just happened.
“I-I thought you knew…?” Seulgi asks unsurely.
“H-How am I supposed to know?” Irene gapes and darts her eyes around.
“We—kissed.” Seulgi arches her brows in disbelief as if she surprised at how in the world Irene can’t get the clue.
“Oh, that’s right.” Irene nods dumbly before whipping her head at Seulgi again. “But, wait! You can’t just decide it by a single kiss like that. We’re both too caught up in the moment that time. It can happen unconsciously and not to mention we’re being a bit hysterical before it happened, we released some adrenaline and other hormones that—“
“Irene.” Seulgi cuts off and Irene stops talking immediately, looking up to Seulgi in anticipation. “Do you think that I’m the type of person who can kiss anyone because I was too caught up in the moment?”
“Uh, yes? I mean, no… But, maybe? I’m not sure…” Irene frowns thoughtfully, bringing a finger to her forehead as she thinks.
Seulgi blinks rapidly before bringing a hand to her forehead and sighs softly.
“Okay… Can we talk about this somewhere else?”
Eventually, they end up sitting on Seulgi’s bed with her little brother playing some games in the next room. There’s a long silence after they settle their bags on the floor and flops down the bed, sitting next to each other without saying anything.
They end up speaking and pausing at the same time.
“You first.” Seulgi says.
“No, you first.” Irene says in return.
There’s another beat of silence before Seulgi finally speaks up.
“Why—are you so against about me and my feelings?” Seulgi asks, eyeing the other girl carefully.
“I’m not against it.” Irene shakes her head and sighs. “I just think that you’re rushing things.”
“It takes 2 whole weeks for me to think this through and you think it’s rushing?” Seulgi raises a brow.
“I took years, Seulgi. Years for me to figure out about myself and the way I feel.” Irene sighs again.
There’s a long silence follows and Irene can feel how it slowly suffocates her. She wants to say something, she always know what to say, but right now her lips are shut and is closing, now of all times.
Of course she’s delighted to hear that Seulgi likes her too, but she can’t be selfish about this. She knows that Seulgi is probably going through a phase and she’s experiencing the things she has never felt before and thus mistaken it as another feeling. Deep inside, Irene wishes that Seulgi’s feelings are real and not a phase, but she doesn’t dare to hope for more.
Because the more she hopes, the hurter she’ll get if it didn’t like what she hoped to be. She can’t take the risk, she’s too afraid. This is the first time her feelings get returned and it makes her afraid to take the next step, afraid of ruining everything she had build with Seulgi.
“Did I perhaps—think too highly of myself…?”
Irene turns her head when she catches the soft voice, staring at Seulgi to make sure that she’s the one who spoke. Seulgi is staring at the floor with empty gaze as if her mind is somewhere else.
“Are you—towards me… Did I receive mixed signals or am I too foolish…?” Seulgi mutters quietly and the point question hits Irene’s head.
“No! I like you!” Irene blurts out, reaching a hand to hold onto Seulgi’s. “I like you, Seulgi. I’m sorry, but all the times you thought of me as a friend, I thought of you as more than that.” She purses her lips and swallows nervously, wondering how Seulgi will react with this fact.
“You…do?” Seulgi blinks, staring at Irene in disbelief.
“I do.” Irene says, nodding her head surely.
Irene squeezes Seulgi’s hand a little bit tighter before taking a deep breath, darting her eyes somewhere else around the room.
“Seulgi, you’ve always liked guys, unlike me who has liked girls since the beginning. I just want you to think about this and maybe you’ll realize that you actually like guys, that the thing you’re having for me is simply short-lived, I don’t want you to realize it when it’s too late and then ended up regretting it.” Irene sighs quietly. “And as much as I don’t want to admit it, I do think that girls actually look better with guys, just like you and Minho…”
“Wait, why bring Minho into this? What are you talking about?” Seulgi furrows her brows in confusion.
“It’s just—you like Minho and—“
“Since when did I say that I like Minho?”
Irene perks up to see an unimpressed look on Seulgi’s face. That’s right, Seulgi never said that she liked Minho, Irene just made it up in her mind.
“I just have a feeling…” Irene mutters quietly, darting her eyes away.
Seulgi stares at her for a long while before closing her eyes and sighs.
“Irene, listen.” Seulgi says, squeezing Irene’s hand back. “It’s true that I was pretty confused with everything and my feelings, especially after that kiss… But I’ve spent 2 weeks thinking about everything, about the time we spent together and all of it…”
Seulgi sighs again before turning her head to stare at Irene. “Do you think that I’d do all those things that I did for you to someone that I don’t have a special feeling for?”
Irene raises her brows and blinks. “You’re a really kind person, Seulgi. I can see that.”
Seulgi closes her eyes as if she’s sending her prayers of patience to heaven.
“Irene, you are a kind person too, but would you do all those things you did to me for anyone?”
Irene stares at her for a moment before parting her lips as if she’s about to say something, but no words come out, just silence. Seulgi smiles softly at her, rubbing onto Irene’s hand with her thumb.
“You changed me into a better person, Irene. If there’s no you, I’d still be a loner till today, sitting quietly without talking to anyone, glaring at anyone who’s trying to talk to me while I’m wearing earphones.”
Irene chuckles at the words and lifts her gaze up to meet Seulgi’s.
“You teach me what friendship is, how important it is to express my feelings and you teach me how to speak up and be who I am.” Seulgi smiles, her eyes glistening slightly. “I didn’t realize that I’m slowly falling in love with you. I talked with Soojung about you the other day and I guess she could sense it since she asked me if I loved you.”
“Soojung did that?” Irene raises a brow, chuckling when Seulgi nods her head in response.
“You teach me about so many things too, Seulgi. You save me from so many things. You teach me what bravery is and what being strong means, you teach me how to face my fears and that it’s okay to be like me, to be imperfect…” Irene says softly, her voice cracks slightly by the end of her words.
“I’m not perfect too.” Seulgi mutters softly.
“No one is, but you teach me that it’s okay not to be perfect.” Irene smiles.
Seulgi stares at her before suddenly chuckles lightly. At the sight of smiling Seulgi, Irene curls her lips up into a big smile before chuckling along.
After a while, Irene suddenly drops her head and closes her eyes as if she’s thinking hard about something before lifting it again to stare at Seulgi.
“Are you really, really sure about this?”
“I’m really sure.” Seulgi nods.
“Let’s try and see if you’re still sure.”
With that, Irene slowly leans closer until their chests touched, leaning her face closer until their noses brush and lips centimeter away from touching each other.
“…Still okay?” Irene whispers so softly, feeling Seulgi’s soft breath hitting her lips.
“…Okay.” Seulgi whispers back, her eyes fixed on Irene’s pair of brown eyes.
Pursing her lips in thought, Irene closes her eyes and leans even closer, pressing their lips together for couple of seconds before pulling back slightly to look into Seulgi’s eyes.
“Still okay?” Irene asks carefully.
“We did it already before.” Seulgi replies.
“That’s right.” Irene nods, glancing down at their bodies before she slowly trails a hand to Seulgi’s thighs, stopping right under the hem of her skirt.
“S-Still okay…?” She asks carefully, wondering if she’s going too far.
Seulgi trails her own hand up to Irene’s thigh before stopping on her waist.
Taking a deep breath, Irene slowly slips her hand under the skirt to trail her hand further up, feeling the softness of the other’s skin with her fingers. Seulgi responds by slipping her hand under Irene’s blazer and trails her hand up to Irene’s side, stopping when she feels the line of Irene’s bra outside the uniform shirt.
They stare at each other for a while and as if there’s a magnet, they slowly lean closer while closing their eyes, pressing their lips again in a sweet kiss. Unlike the innocent peck they’re having that day, this time they start moving their lips slowly, molding their lips together while savoring the wonderful feelings of the soft lips.
Someway, somehow, as if it’s the most natural thing to do, they start to part their lips, tilting their heads to get even closer if that’s even possible. Slowly, Irene darts her tongue out and—
“Noona, I’m hungry!”
They quickly break the kiss with a gasp and turn their heads to the door, hearing the male knocking on it lightly.
“Noona, please make me some food…”
They turn their heads to look at each other before bursting out into a laugh, holding onto each other’s while laughing their lungs out.
“I’m coming in minutes!” Seulgi replies to the door.
“Oh God, what are we doing, seriously?” Irene wheezes, wiping a bead of tears away from her eye.
“So, we’re good now?” Seulgi asks, raising her brows.
“Yeah, we’re good now.” Irene replies with a nod.
“Wendy and the others… Should we—“
“No.” Irene answers to quickly. “I mean, I think we should just keep this for now… We’re going to graduate in months and I don’t think we should start any troubles.”
Seulgi chuckles lightly and nods her head. “You’re right, we should be focusing on graduating then.”
Irene chuckles along before looking up to Seulgi with a bright smile. “Seulgi, what are you going to do after graduate? What are you going to study?”
“Oh, me? I actually think about being a—“
“Noona, are you done yet!?”
Seulgi sighs exasperatedly and rolls her eyes while Irene laughs at the siblings’ cuteness. Pressing their lips once again, Seulgi gets up from the bed and heads to the kitchen, followed by the smiling Irene from behind.
“Why are you walking me home, again?”
Seulgi asks when they arrive in front of her house gate, squinting slightly at Irene. It has been a week since they sort of dating each other and Seulgi can honestly say that she enjoys this. They’re still best friend at school, hanging around with the other three girls and some other students, but when there are only two of them, they become lovers.
Seulgi never thought that she’ll enjoy skinship like hugging or cuddling, but she really likes getting them from Irene. She likes to wrap her arms around Irene’s small waist and she likes it when Irene gives a surprise peck on her cheek. Now she knows why all those romance comic books always have flowery images in romantic scene, because as cheesy as it sounds, she actually thinks that there are flowers around them everytime she’s with Irene, not to mention how Irene has this flowery scent on her.
“It’s normal to walk my girlfriend home after school.” Irene smiles innocently.
“You are a girl too.” Seulgi adds.
Irene laughs lightly and waves a hand. “I’m going home then, see you on Monday.”
She turns around and is about to take a step until she feels Seulgi wrapping her hand around her wrist, stopping her movement. She turns back to Seulgi and gives her a questioning look.
Smiling, Seulgi tugs on her wrist and Irene gets the hint. She smiles back before stepping closer to Seulgi until she’s standing right in front of her. She closes her eyes and leans forward, pecking Seulgi on the lips before pulling away with a light giggle.
Their hearts drop abruptly at the call from the house and they quickly turn their heads, staring at Mrs. Kang who is standing in front of the door with a bewildered expression on her face.
Seulgi can feel the color drains from her face as she gapes at her mother.
Mrs. Kang takes a deep breath and gestures a hand for them to come.
“Seulgi, Irene, please come inside the house.”
Seulgi gulps, glancing over at Irene who’s having a petrified expression on her face. She slowly slips a hand to hold onto Irene’s and squeezes it reassuringly.
It will be okay.
I HAVE A QUESTIONNNNNN ok I'm not going to write in this story but I was just wondering who do you think sould be the 'submissive' one? I always potray them as an equal couple somehow so things like this confuse me especially when it's gxg hhh
Anyway in this cliffhanger omg I'm so sorry I personally dislike cliffhanger yet I managed to make one pls forgive your author
Btw did you guys watch RV's new mv One of These Nights? Seulgi my bear is amazing as usual hhh <3
Please do know that english is not my first language so you might find a lot of grammatical errors, typos and broken english, I am so sorry!
Comments, subscribes and upvotes are much appreciated, thank you so much!
Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoy the story!