Be Natural (end)

Be Natural

After waving goodbye to a group of fellow student councillors, Seungwan took a glance at her watch. She had a good ten minutes left to find Seulgi and drag her to their next class together. For some reason, every other Tuesday, Seulgi would manage to forget to go to their Home Economics lesson, and Seungwan would have to stop herself from answering that her best friend was a hopeless airhead when the teacher asked her to explain Seulgi’s absence.

She found Seulgi and the usual suspects – Joy and Yeri – hanging around at the gang’s favourite spot, under the biggest tree in the schoolyard. As she came closer, it became clear that the trio were involved in some kind of argument.

“Joy, for the last time…” Seulgi had grabbed Joy’s shoulders, as if trying to shake some sense into her. “I’m not going to fake kidnapping her parents and leave clues for her to find them.”

“See, this is why you’re called No-Jam.”

“She’s gonna call the police!”

“What on earth are you guys talking about?” Seungwan interrupted, though she wasn’t so sure she wanted to know.

“Seungwan!” Seugi’s face lit up in relief. “I’m planning to ask Joohyun unnie out, like, for something other than study sessions. Just getting some ideas.”

“From Joy and Yerim?” Seungwan's eyes widened in horror. “The last time Sejeong and I went on a double date with them, we were forced to play real-life Fruit Ninja in Yerim’s backyard. Fruit Ninja, Seulgi. They gave my girlfriend a katana and threw watermelons at her.”

“Oh, that was plan B,” Yeri reminisced, “Plan A was off 'cuz we couldn’t get the fake IDs in time.”

“What-You know what, I’m not gonna ask,” Seungwan raised her hands, as if surrendering, “My point is, I might be in a better position to give Seulgi advice on this, unless Joohyun unnie is secretly a law-breaking psychopath.”

“You never know.” Joy shrugged. “It’s always the quiet good girls that turn out to be crazy killers.”

Seulgi sighed, turning her back to Joyri and focusing on the only sane person around. “What do you suggest, Seungwan?”

“Hmm. First dates matter, Seulgi. You’ll wanna impress her. I cooked a MasterChef-worthy three-course meal for Sejeong on our first real date. Maybe you should stick to something you’re good at.”

Seulgi scratched her ear in deep thought. “That’s tough. It’s not like I can challenge her to a 60-metre dash or something. And that would only remind her of Hurdler Seulgi, so running’s a no-no.”

“You’re great at art, right? How about take her to an art museum and blow her away with intellectual commentary?”

“I’d love to go to an art museum. But it doesn’t seem fun for her, you know?” Seulgi tapped out a pensive rhythm on the surface of the bench she was sitting on. “I was thinking of something a little different…”

“You know.” Joy shook her head, amused. “I’m starting to think you always ask us for advice but you already know what you want to do.”

“Maybe that’s kinda true.” Seulgi laughed sheepishly. “But I never would have had the guts to even talk to Joohyun unnie if it weren’t for you guys supporting me from the start.”

“Aw, Seulgi, you're so-"

“Okaaaay.” Yeri clapped a hand over Seungwan’s mouth. “Let’s move on before you two make us throw up with an impromptu praise-off. So, what were you thinking of, Seulgi unnie?”

“Right. I was thinking of, instead of doing something I’m good at, or, well, something completely illegal, maybe we could do something she enjoys doing. Maybe I should ask Joohyun unnie what she’d like to do, and, I don’t know…” Seulgi waved her hands around aimlessly. “… take it from there?”

Seungwan couldn’t help a smile at Seulgi's considerate, good-natured way of thinking. She felt like a proud mom. The moment was broken, however, when something suddenly clicked in Seungwan’s brain, prompting her to look at her watch.

“Damn it. Seulgi, We’re late for Home Econs!”

“We have Home Econs today?” Seulgi wondered out loud as her best friend physically dragged her towards the nearest staircase.

Seungwan sighed. It was difficult being a parent sometimes.

 


Sunday was grocery day for many people, which explained the crowd. Families rushed around the supermarket with their long shopping lists and cartfuls of supplies that would last them the week. A girl stood near the side entrance, like a pebble in the stream, disturbing the impatient currents of people. She didn’t seem to notice her surroundings but focused solely on the white flower in her hand. If you stood close enough and had a particularly keen ear, you would hear the girl wondering to herself whether a flower was too cheesy a gift.

“Are you having a staring contest with a flower?”

The sweet voice cut through the noise and jolted Seulgi out of her trance. Spinning around, she was met with a radiant smile, and a similar one slipped onto her own lips.

“Yeah. And I lost,” Seulgi quipped and extended the flower towards the other girl. “It’s for you.”

“Magnolia,” Joohyun commented, “Thank you. It’s lovely.”

It wasn’t too cheesy after all. The flower rested like it belonged in Joohyun’s gentle hands, its pristine white colour matching Joohyun’s simple t-shirt, and the curves of its petals mimicking Joohyun’s oval face perfectly. The girl looked as if she had just walked out of a painting.

Joohyun tucked the stem of the flower inside her fabric shopping bag and pulled out of it a Tupperware box. “I have something for you, too. Well, my dad did most of the baking, but I helped. He calls it ‘The Seulgi Kit’.”

“Sweet! Literally.” Seulgi spotted a stack of chocolate-chip cookies, a few honey sticks, and strawberries inside, but Joohyun took the box away before she could take it.

“We’re gonna save it for later,” Joohyun said, grinning when she saw Seulgi’s pout, “Let’s get the rest of the picnic supplies first.”

Seulgi had a vague idea of what to buy when she walked through the entrance (soda, pre-made kimbap, chips – that kind of things), and Joohyun probably had a shopping list tucked somewhere in her shorts pocket. Whatever the case, the planned picnic soon slipped from the girls’ minds as they got lost in the wonderous maze that was the supermarket. It all started in the dairy aisle, where a booth was set up to promote a new type of yoghurt. After gulping down her first cup of free food from that booth, Seulgi was inspired to go on a comprehensive sample raid, and Joohyun was happy to join her.

Things were still under control before they reached the instant noodles aisle. Their downfall came in the form of brand new, hellishly hot and devilishly delicious ramyeon, and a kind promotional lady who gave out unlimited samples. The girls ended up walking past the booth five times to keep receiving the small plastic cups of sample ramyeon.

The next stop on their detour was the laundry section, where Joohyun agonised over the minute differences between the various fabric softeners, much like an experienced wine taster. While waiting for her, Seulgi built a tower out of the plastic sample cups she had collected. When she noticed it, naturally Joohyun thought she could build a higher tower than Seulgi with the same number of cups (and she did). They decided that, for winning the challenge, Joohyun got to return to the ramyeon aisle for the sixth cup of the spicy sample.

Soon, the sun was setting, streaking reds and oranges across the Seoul sky, and, beneath it, people who weren’t already home were rushing to return. But that was outside. Inside the supermarket, Joohyun and Seulgi were busy watching two crabs pattering around in their tank.

“What do you suppose they’re thinking?” Seulgi asked.

Joohyun shrugged. Then, an idea occurred to her. She spread her legs a little to mimick the wide stance of one of the crabs and drawled in a low, nasally voice, “Hey buddy, you know, I’ve just had the most crabby day.”

“Oh gosh, are we really pretending to be crabs? Okay.” Seulgi cleared before starting to voice the other crab. “Oh no. What happened, buddy?”

“Erm, I was eating something and got sick from it. I guess, you could say, it was a little eel.”

“That sounds horrible. Maybe you’ll feel better if you have some vitamin sea.” Seulgi winked to emphasise the last word.

As Joohyun was giggling, she noticed the crab she’d been dubbing had started to approach Seulgi’s crab while clicking its claws. She decided to add a little drama to the scene. “Vitamins won’t help me! I’m tide of your stupid advice!”

“Oh gosh, you’re overreacting again!” Seulgi didn’t miss a beat. “You’re so shellfish! Take this!”

The crabs began to dance around each other with pinching claws. The two voice-over actresses didn’t get to see how the battle play out, though, as they had both fallen to the floor clutching their stomachs, defeated by their own lame sense of humour.

The sky was a dusky navy when Joohyun and Seulgi finally got out of the supermarket. Legs sore from all the walking, they sat side-by-side on the ground, looking over the nearly empty parking lot.

“I can’t believe we spent three hours in there.” Joohyun shook her head lazily.

“Yup. And we didn’t even buy anything for the picnic. Just a bottle of fabric softener, which had nothing to do with a picnic.”

“It’s too late in the day for a picnic anyway. We can go get dinner somewhere if you want.”

“I’m kinda full from all the free samples.” Seulgi patted her stomach in contentment.

“Too bad. I guess I’ll have to take this back and finish it myself,” Joohyun grinned, holding up the Tupperware of cookies and fruits her father had prepared.

“Wait, no.” Seulgi stretched over to snatch the box. “My stomach has a special compartment just for your dad’s cookies.”

Joohyun could only laugh as the younger girl eagerly dug into the box. She leaned her head on Seulgi’s shoulder, eyes squinting at the first stars in the sky. Seulgi hoped she didn’t notice her tense at the contact.

“I’m sorry you couldn’t go on a picnic today like you wanted to.”

“Stop that, Seulgi.” Joohyun clicked her tongue. “I had so much fun today. I wouldn’t have traded it for any ordinary picnic.”

“Wow. That’s kind of… surprising.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, you’re a really busy person. I was surprised you’d readily agree to do something that wasn’t studying with me in the first place. I was afraid you’d regret spending time looking at crabs when you had so many things to do.”

“Okay, first, the crabs were hilarious,” Joohyun said and they both laughed, “And, second, I’m slightly less busy now that I’ve quit ballet.”

“You quit ballet?” Seulgi startled so hard that Joohyun had to pull away from her shoulder. She had hoped she’d get to see Joohyun perform at least once.

“Yeah, I did. After ten years of it. You know, I started to learn ballet because of my mom. She wanted to do it as a kid but never got the chance to. And then, I couldn’t stop doing it for so long because I was busy competing with the other girls in my ballet school.”

Joohyun paused, her hand reaching to the petals of the magnolia flower. Seulgi watched the motion of the nimble fingers on the smooth white of the flower. It was mesmerising.

“It took me quite a while to realise why I was never great at it. It wasn’t because I didn’t work hard enough or didn’t have the grace or bone structure for it. My heart was just never in it. But, even knowing that, I couldn’t find the resolve to quit.”

“But you did.”

“Recently, yes. I got a little inspiration from a special someone to be more honest to myself. To be... natural.”

Joohyun stared straight into Seulgi’s eyes as she said those words, and Seulgi thought she knew who Joohyun was talking about. But she had to ask, just to be sure.

“And who’s this special someone?” The moment the words hit her own ears, Seulgi knew she had failed to keep the hope out of her voice.

Luckily, Joohyun didn’t let her down.

“It’s you, Seulgi-yah.”

The younger girl felt her cheeks burn. She ducked her head to severe the piercing eye contact.

“I’m afraid you’re mistaken, unnie. I… I haven’t been honest with you. From the start.”

“Hmm?”

Seulgi gulped. “The whole tutoring situation? That was set up. I was failing Chemistry, true, but Seungwan could have taught me. I asked you because, well, I wanted an excuse to get closer to you.”

Seulgi blurted out the whole thing in one breath, hoping it’d be easier that way, like ripping off a band-aid. She kept her eyes trained on the box in her lap. She felt guilty for sitting there, eating Joohyun’s father’s delicious cookies like that after tricking Joohyun into this whole thing.

But Joohyun laughed yet again, for what seemed like the hundredth time that day.

“You don’t have to be so serious. I've already guessed as much, Seulgi.”

Seulgi looked up, eyes wide. “What? How did you know?”

“It’s not a very original trick, you know? You weren’t the first one to try that with me.”

“But, then, why did you say yes?”

“Did it ever occur to you that I had my own motive as well?”

Seulgi tilted her head in confusion, a half-eaten cookie in her hand. Joohyun reached over and ruffled her hair before fishing a phone out of her pocket. The older girl pulled up a video that was all too familiar to Seulgi.

“Oh please, unnie, not this again…”

“Watch until the end. Carefully,” Joohyun said softly, but there was an air of insistence about it, so Seulgi nodded and forced herself to stare at screen of the flip phone. A younger Seulgi was running in the video, leading the pack of racers, cheers rising all around her. Any moment now, present-Seulgi knew that past-Seulgi was going to jump and trip over thin air. Subconsciously, she diverted her eyes away from the impending embarrassment. That was when she noticed something she’d forgotten after all this time.

The reason past-Seulgi’s brain had short-circuited that day.

Bae Joohyun looked so different in the video compared to her present self. It would have been less awkward had she been frowning, but past-Joohyun was smiling with below those sad, sad eyes. It made Seulgi’s heart ache now just watching her face from the video, and it made Seulgi’s heart ache then when she was sprinting towards it.

Why her body had translated that feeling of being struck by Joohyun’s despondent eyes into jumping over an imaginary hurdle, Seulgi wasn’t sure. But she remembered now how much it had affected her.

And then, something strange happened. A ripple of amusement appeared in those previously sorrowful pools, before the younger Joohyun broke out into genuine, hearty laughter as the younger Seulgi made the jump and fell in front of her.

In the present, Seulgi froze. She couldn’t believe she had missed that sight until now because she always stopped the video before Hurdler Seulgi’s fall.

“It was a bad time for me, Seulgi,” Joohyun explained, “I was so stressed all the time that didn’t feel like doing anything. I was just going through the motions, day after day. I didn’t even want to be there at the race. I was one of the student councillors that were sent to cheer for the school team. But I’m glad I was there. I know it was embarrassing for you, but that was the first time I’d laughed in a while.”

Seulgi drew a few deep breaths, her hands fiddling with Joohyun’s phone. It was dangerous how her own eyes were stinging. She had a feeling Joohyun would cry too if she suddenly started crying.

“I remember now, how sad you looked that day. I hate that… that you were made to feel that way. Do you still feel that way, unnie?”

“No, I don't.” Joohyun squeezed Seulgi’s hand assuringly, with a smile that reached her eyes this time. “That was probably my lowest. I’ve learned to enjoy life’s little pleasures since then. I’ve been happy, Seulgi. Especially recently.”

There she was, looking at Seulgi in that heart-stopping way of hers again. Seulgi couldn’t believe how lucky she was to be looked at like that, under the incredibly beautiful dusk sky, in the empty parking lot that made her feel like there were only the two of them in the world. Neither could she believe luck was on her side that day, a year ago, so that she could put a smile on Joohyun’s face when the older girl needed it the most.

“I’ve been happy, too.” Seulgi confessed, knowing her smile was big enough that her eyes must have looked like they had disappeared to Joohyun.

"Yeah?" The older girl leaned in slightly, her gaze leaving Seulgi’s eyes and travelling lower. “By the way, you’ve got some cookie crumbs on your face.”

“Oh, do I-“

Seulgi’s voice died when Joohyun pressed her lips to that patch of sensitive skin between her nose and upper lip. She would have thought time had stopped if it hadn't been for the pulse in her ears ticking the seconds away.

There was only one thing left that she could think of to do.

Seulgi placed her hands on either sides of Joohyun’s face and made sure the next kiss landed its target.

 

 

 

A/N: Thank you for sticking with this silly story to the end, through the long wait and the puns. As always, I hope you've got a smile/laugh out of it, and hope to see you at another fanfic soon! (We'll see haha, I have many story ideas and no discipline to write them.)

(Seems like I accidentally deleted this note at some point. The one here is reproduced from memory xD)

Like this story? Give it an Upvote!
Thank you!
FishnRead
A feature??? Out of nowhere??? I'm still convinced it's just some weird quirk in the system that made this happen, but nonetheless, thank you for visiting this story, readers old and new <3 (RV TINY MICRO-MINI ALBUM SOON)
No comments yet