She remembers the first time the change had happened. Her father had been shaking, shoving his glasses up his nose as his eyes widened in fear. Her whole body had ached as her teeth felt too large for and her whole body burned as her skin seemed too thin, stretching around breaking bones.
“It sometimes skips generations, Yongsun-ah,” he had whispered when he sat her down a few hours earlier. The signs had apparently all been there but he had hoped against everything that this malicious genetic defect would skip his daughter as well. But in the end, Yongsun was forcefully locked in a small storage closet in the basement of the apartment complex that her family lived in. A steel collar around her neck connected her to a rod firmly installed on the cement ground. She whimpered around the gag in as her father carefully bound her arms and legs with silver. And when he was done he stepped back, almost tripping over himself as he stumbled to close the door behind him.
“I still love you,” he had whispered to her as she writhed in agony on the floor, eventually succumbing to the pain as the world exploding in a flash of painful white.
(Yongsun blinks as she recovers from the question, trying to slip the slick idol smile back on her face. She knows that when she watches this clip a few weeks later she will see the moment where her mask shatters, pulling downward and eyes dimming in an attempt to hide the emotion that threatens to bubble to the surface.
“I’m sorry,” she clarifies, subtly clenching her fists around the fabric of her skirt under the table. “Can you say that again?”
She sees Moonbyul glance at her curiously out of the corner of her eye. She’s the only one who probably really noticed her break.
“I asked if you have a close relationship with your parents. Since Parents’ Day is coming up after all, we wanted you to give a greeting to your parents for our viewers.” The radio DJ smiles again adjusting his headphones over his ears. She nods, trying to make her eyes glassy again. Shifting forward she hovers close to the microphone in front of her, pulling her lips up into a big grin.
“Daddy,” she says, giggling childishly as the word. “Thank you for helping me get to where I am. I know you didn’t want me to be a singer and we didn’t talk for a long time, but I hope you can give Mamamoo a lot of love. I love you.” Yongsun smiles again for good measure making a heart with her hands toward the camera recording the live radio broadcast. No one asks why she didn’t mention her mother. No one asks her why she remains relatively silent for the rest of the interview.)
To say she is a little indignant would be an understatement. After the dreadful and practically hellish process of getting into RBW as a trainee, she had to deal with this new girl who had the nerve to be rude to her! Yongsun was used to being ostracized. She was slightly off the cuff in her interpersonal interactions and awkward. That’s why Wheein and Hyejin would stare at her like she was an alien sometimes when she would silently practice by herself. She didn’t mind that though. Being by herself was easier. Less blood to clean up.
But this new girl. Moon Byulyi. She came in with long black hair and a neutral expression that made the wolf in her gnash its teeth in agitation. It only got worse when she let the girl borrow her heels for a practice and the girl had talked to her like she wasn’t a stranger and thoughtlessly forgot to return the shoes to boot. Yongsun had to leave for the restroom after that, splashing her face with icy cold water and making her glowing golden eyes return back to their regular brown.
They had been walking on eggshells around each other for the past week and a half since then. Yongsun struggled between trying to be friendly and cordial and hiding the snarling wolf within her that wanted to assert itself over this new girl.
Yongsun dances in front of the mirror tonight, almost frantically with frenzied movements. Tonight is a full moon and all the tell-tale signs are there. Short-temper, strange cravings, enhanced senses. Usually she would be in her apartment by now, chained up and knocked out by a few horse tranquilizers that she managed to get through a family contact. But she had struggled in dance practice and needed everything perfect before she could leave, full moon be damned.
When she’s finally done with the song, she mops the sweat up with a ragged towel on the floor, examining the recording from its tripod.
She hears the lithe footsteps of Moonbyul walking down the hall and she tries to square her shoulders a little in preparation. Yongsun foolishly hopes against anything that the other girl is going to the recording studio instead of the practice dance room but of course there is a pause and from the mirror Yongsun sees Moonbyul peek in. She doesn’t turn to look at her but instead gazes at her through the mirror. The intensity of that girl’s stare makes something burn low in her belly and her teeth suddenly feel too sharp in .
“Can I practice here, too?” Moonbyul asks, quirking her head a little to the side. She almost seems to expect her to say no.
“Sure,” Yongsun says easily. She tries not to breathe in too deeply when Moonbyul shuts the door behind her. In seconds all Yongsun can smell is the other girl and it makes her want to claw at her chest. It unsettles her in such a way that makes her want to run away and ignore her for the rest of her time at the company. Of course, the source of her problem walks closer to her, eying the hand phone she has clutched tightly in her hand with curiosity.
“Did you record yourself dancing?” Moonbyul asks, pointing to the iPhone nearly crushed in her hands. Yongsun swallows at the proximity and tries to ignore the way the wolf suddenly wants to frantically claw its way to the surface. She settles for a nod instead of a monosyllabic answer just because she doesn’t know if her teeth have sharpened yet.
Of course Moonbyul isn’t picking up on her body tensing or her lack of eye contact. Instead, the other girl only steps closer to her, face suddenly right at her shoulder.
“Could I see it? Maybe we could work on the moves together?” And then unexpectedly that straight-faced girl smiles. Yongsun blinks several times just to make sure she isn’t dreaming.
“S-sure,” she stammers as she unlocks her phone, trying desperately to ignore how close Moonbyul is to her. She her bottom lip nervously as she clicks on the video ignoring the distinct lack of personal space. For nearly three painstaking minutes she feels the heat from Moonbyul’s body against her shoulder and her skin itches at the almost contact. The wolf bristles beneath her skin and for the first time since she’s come to the company, it hurts to contain it.
When the video is done, Yongsun turns to look at Moonbyul who still hasn’t moved. She realizes that without heels, Moonbyul is a little taller than her as she looks up into eyes covered by choppy bangs. Yongsun parts her lips to say something when that familiar itching spreads across her skin. Trying not to gasp, she stumbles away, heading toward the door.
“I-I have to go home now,” she gasps out as she bolts out the door. Everything starts to become blurry as she sprints down stairs, past other trainess, and outside the building.
She is incredibly thankful that she found a single stall lockable restroom in the dingy strip mall a block away. She doesn’t worry as much about other people now as she locks the door behind her with trembling fingers, pulling out a pill bottle. Popping one tranquilizer in she swallows without water, sighing with relief. Yongsun staggers toward the sink, head bowing as her hands clench onto the porcelain of the sink. Even though the world is blurry she can see her hands curling unnaturally into claws as she slowly raises her head and looks at her changing face through hazy eyes.
“…not a… monster.” She doesn’t know why she tells herself that every time but it still sounds somewhat natural on her tongue. It’s the last thing she remembers before the world becomes edged with black and she collapses onto all fours.
Things with Moonbyul get worse before they get better. The other girl approaches her the next morning, hands awkwardly stuffed in her pockets and eyes not meeting Yongsun’s.
“Where did you go yesterday?” she asks, meeting her gaze through the mirror. Yongsun pauses, wiping at her dripping forehead with the back of her head. Even though it’s hot in the studio, she’s wearing sweats to cover the bruises from last night. Although she’s not conscious for most of the transformation, the strain from her body turning into a wolf always has the side effects of bruises and a soreness that lasts a few days. That part of her lingers and no matter how much she desperately wants to pursue her dream recklessly without abandon there are limitations that threaten to drown her.
Stiffening her upper lip, she turns and looks right into Moonbyul’s eyes.
“You stole my heels and never gave them back. Also I’m older than you by a whole year! And… and you may be a great dancer but what gives you the right to choose now to suddenly pay attention to me?”
Moonbyul blinks owlishly at the barrage of words from Yongsun. She self-consciously slaps her hand over mouth. She’s normally quiet and polite around strangers. And sure her and Moonbyul worked for the same company but they certainly weren’t friends.
“S-sorry,” mumbles Yongsun, her head dropping to stare at the beat up pair of sneakers that Moonbyul is wearing. But the other girl just laughs. She jerks her head up in surprise as Moonbyul wrinkles her nose at her, releasing a full on belly laugh. Yongsun stares at her in disbelief as the laugh dies down and finally is just a wry half smile.
“I’m sorry about all those misunderstandings. But to be fair you totally have a baby face. How was I supposed to know you were older than me?”
“You can’t just treat strangers based on their looks, Moonbyul-ssi. Looks can be deceiving.” Yongsun doesn’t mean to, but something primal stirs in her stomach when she looks up into Moonbyul’s eyes. Can you see the real me underneath this sweet looking girl, she wonders.
“True,” Moonbyul replies easily, that slightly obnoxious and slightly charming smirk curling her lips. “But maybe I’ll get to know you better so that I’m no longer deceived.”
Yongsun’s face screws up into a frown at the comment as Moonbyul starts to walk out the door waggling a hand playfully in her direction. She tilts her head to the side, considering the other girl until she abruptly pauses at the door, throwing Yongsun another cheeky grin.
“The reason why I started to talk to you now…”
Yongsun frowns more.
“Is because I realized… you’re pretty.”
Before she can properly come up with a reply Moonbyul disappears in a blur of dark hair and light airy laughter. And no matter how much she practices, Yongsun can’t quite wipe her smile off her face.