Off Limits

Getting By, Just Barely

“Unnie, is your friend still coming? I’m hungry!”

“Hyejin-ah, it’s not even 8:00 pm yet. The two of you came early. Whose fault is that?” Moonbyul closed the fridge with one of her feet as she balanced bottles of soju and cans of beer in her arms.

“It’s no one’s fault,” Hyejin responded softly as she cuddled further into Wheein. The two were seated on the couch in Moonbyul and Heeyeon’s living room, making no move to provide assistance to their unnie as she struggled with the drinks. “We just love you so much, we got here early to spend more time with you.”

“You love me so much, yet the two of you couldn’t be bothered to help me carry the drinks that you both are going to demolish. Sounds fake.”

“You’re a world-class athlete! You run and lift and . . . do whatever it is that you do. Carrying a few bottles of drinks from the refrigerator to the table a few meters away should be a breeze.”

“Really, Wheein? ‘Whatever it is that I do’?” Moonbyul had settled the drinks on the small table between the couch and the television. She dramatically threw herself onto Hyejin and Wheein, her legs sprawled out on the former, while her head lay in the latter’s lap. Neither made a fuss; they were all accustomed to being physically close. Wheein began running her fingers through Moonbyul’s blonde locks.

“I don’t know the specifics, I only know that you’re the star and you win games. That’s enough, isn’t it?”

“Unnie, you need to touch up your roots. Your hair is looking rough.”

“I know,” she calmly responded to Hyejin. Her eyes were closed as she enjoyed Wheein’s fingers in her hair. “I made an appointment for tomorrow afternoon. As for you, Wheein, I’m not the star. We’re a team, we all do our part.”

 

A bedroom door could be heard closing. Moments later, Heeyeon stepped into the living room. “Our Byulyi is so humble! ‘We’re a team, we all do our part.’ I’ll remind you of that the next time you’re yelling at me to give you the ball during a game.” If Moonbyul’s eyes were open, she would have rolled them.

“Lie again. If anything, I’m usually telling you to come get the ball, but you never listen and end up completely messing up the play.”

“Well, maybe if you spoke up, I’d be able to hear what you were asking for. I heard you’re very direct and assertive in the bedroom. Try bringing some of that to the court.”

“You want me to have on the basketball court? Not sure Coach would appreciate that, but I’ll see what I can do.”

“Smartass.” She walked over to the table in front of the three younger girls and opened the food containers. “What’s the special occasion? Pizza and chicken. You’re going all out tonight, huh?”

“Heeyeon-unnie, you’re not joining us tonight? We’re meeting Byul-unnie’s secret girlfriend.”

“Secret who?!” The blonde abruptly sat up, a look of shock on her face. Wheein almost felt bad for saying what she had said. Then she remembered that Byulyi was squishing her and Hyejin in her new seated position. They both pushed their unnie off of them, and by extension, the couch.

“She said ‘secret girlfriend,’ Byulyi. Clean out your ears,” Heeyeon quipped as she stole a slice of pizza and a few pieces of chicken. Moonbyul had regained her balance; she was now standing near Wheein’s end of the couch.

“You’re going to dinner, yet here you are stealing from our dinner. Go away,” Byulyi shot at Heeyeon as she playfully pushed her away.

“What’s done is done. Now, Wheein-ah, what’s this about Byulyi having a secret girlfriend?”

“I don’t have a secret girlfriend.” This is exactly why she didn’t tell Heeyeon about Yongsun. Wheein could sense her unnie’s growing frustration.

“I was joking. She doesn’t have a secret girlfriend. However, Hyejin and I did find out today that she’s been having dinner with this girl for the past month. You know we always get-together on Friday evenings, so we bullied Byul-unnie into inviting the girl to join us. She’s supposed to be coming at 8:00 pm, which is why we’re sitting here not eating. Unnie won’t let us eat until her friend shows up.” Everyone could sense the slight irritation in Wheein’s voice towards the end of her talk.

“Fine,” Moonbyul exasperatedly replied, “the two of you can start eating. I’m going to check on Yongsun-unnie.”

“Uh uh, you’ve been meeting with a girl for the past month and didn’t even think to mention her to me at least once?” Annoyance. Heeyeon was annoyed.

“I thought to mention it, then decided to not mention it. Because then you’d react the way you’re reacting now,” Moonbyul dismissively responded, heading towards the shoe rack by the apartment’s door. Heeyeon followed her. Wheein and Hyejin couldn’t care less. They got the ok to start eating. All was well for them.

“I’m reacting the way I’m reacting because it’s weird that someone who only hangs out with her team members and a select few others, suddenly started hanging out with some random girl, and continued to hang out with said random girl for a month. That’s odd. It’s strange.”

“It’s not. She’s now part of the ‘select few others.’ We’re friends. Is that allowed?” There was an edge to Moonbyul’s tone. Heeyeon let out a frustrated sigh.

“If you say that the two of you are strictly friends, I’ll believe you, Byulyi.”

“We are. We’re just friends.”

 

Before Moonbyul finished putting on her shoes, and before Heeyeon could respond, a knock on the door tore through the apartment. Heeyeon impishly eyed Moonbyul.

 

She stepped forward and opened the door, temporarily trapping Moonbyul behind it.

“Hi, I’m looking for Moon By—”

 

Before their visitor could finish her sentence, Heeyeon began laughing uncontrollably for a few seconds. Once she collected herself a bit, she leaned to behind the door and stared at Moonbyul disbelievingly, gently shaking her head at her teammate.

“I actually believed you for a second there,” she whispered low enough for only Moonbyul to hear. “‘Just friends,’ huh? Good luck with that,” she chuckled. Returning to their guest, she apologized for her behavior. “I am so sorry. I suddenly remembered a joke that a good friend recently told me. You’re looking for Moon Byulyi?”

“I am. Yes,” Yongsun timidly responded.

“She’s right here.” Heeyeon grabbed Moonbyul from behind the door before introducing herself. “I’m Ahn Heeyeon, Byulyi’s roommate. We’re on the basketball team together.”

“Nice to meet you. I’m Kim Yongsun.” The two bowed towards each other before Moonbyul put an end to this mess.

“Unnie, come inside. Ignore Heeyeon, she was just leaving,” she said, pushing Heeyeon out of the door with more gusto than she did earlier. Heeyeon chuckled as she let Moonbyul do with her as she pleased.

“I am leaving, yes. Unfortunately, Byulyi didn’t tell me that you were coming over tonight, so I had already made other plans. Otherwise, I would definitely be joining you all. We’ll have to get to know each other better another time.”

“Sure, that would be nice.”

“Okay, cool. That’s Heeyeon. Bye, Heeyeon. Have fun at your dinner that’s happening someplace other than here.” Moonbyul went to shut the door, but was stopped by Heeyeon, who shoved her head back in one last time.

“Bye, Wheein and Hyejin! Have a lot of fun tonight. Yongsun-ssi, it was a pleasure meeting you. Byul-ah, we’ll talk later.”

“Okay. Thank you. Bye!”

 

Moonbyul finally got the door closed. It took approximately five seconds before her cell phone vibrated in the pocket of her sweatpants.

 

From: Hee-yawn

LMFAO!!!! You are so full of . ‘Just friends’, my . 8:05 pm

 

The athlete roughly shoved her phone back into her pocket before gently rubbing her temples. This was going to be one of the longest nights of her life.


As she stood outside of Moonbyul’s door, it hit Yongsun that she hadn’t fully thought this through. Hanging out with the third-year college student was fun. A lot of fun. Yongsun’s network had expanded a bit in her month at SNU, and she now had a few other people that she considered friends—Eric took every opportunity after learning this to proclaim “I told you so!”—but Moonbyul was, without question, the person she was closest to at this school.

 

That being said, she had so hastily accepted the invitation to hang out with Moonbyul for the first time on a Friday that she hadn’t fully processed the fact that there would be other people there. Byulyi had said it was “nothing big,” but she also said it would be a group of them. A group could be any number of people. Throughout all of their conversations, she had heard a few names constantly mentioned by Moonbyul—Wheein, Hyejin, Heeyeon—so she assumed those people would be there, but with Moonbyul being a star athlete, Yongsun also assumed she’d be fairly popular and know many more people, who may also be at this get-together. The point: she had no idea who or what to expect, and that uncertainty, as she now stood outside of the basketball player’s apartment, was transforming into fear.

 

Through the door, she could hear voices, but couldn’t make anything out. It sounded rowdy, sounded fun. She secured the bottles of alcohol cradled in the crook of her left arm before checking the time on her phone using her right hand. 8:00 pm.

 

Truthfully, the thought of walking back down the hall to her apartment and texting Moonbyul that something had come up had entered her mind more than once, but her friend had bitten the bullet and opted to bring Yongsun into her circle of friends. She couldn’t let Byulyi down. After taking a few deep breaths, Yongsun’s heartrate had calmed a bit. She knocked on the door a couple times and waited. Before she could start internally chastising herself over whether she knocked too soft or too hard, the door swung open and she was met with a tall, petite girl with long ash-brown hair and bangs. She had big eyes, a slim nose, and her outfit was quite chic—a black turtleneck tucked into black jeans, black Chelsea boots, and a black beret. A long dangly earring hung from her right side, visible due to the hair on that side being tucked behind her ear. Yongsun’s heartrate increased again, this time due to embarrassment. She felt completely underdressed.

 

The girl cutting her off as she asked for Moonbyul didn’t help make her feel more comfortable, although she did eventually introduce herself as Heeyeon and apologized before dragging Byulyi out. The entire thing was a show. Moonbyul seemed agitated, Heeyeon seemed to enjoy Moonbyul’s agitation, and two other girls sitting in the living room kept staring at Yongsun. If there was one comforting fact, it was that the living room girls and Moonbyul were nowhere as dressed up as Moonbyul’s roommate.

 

She didn’t really know what to do or where to go, so while she waited for someone, anyone, to guide her, she took in the apartment. It was exactly the same as hers. There was an open-concept kitchen at the entrance, it connected with a living room furnished with a long, pleather brown couch and one matching armchair. As with her apartment, there was a hallway on both sides of the kitchen-living room each leading, she assumed, to a bedroom. One cool thing about University Village was that everyone had their own bathroom. It was a blessing. Before getting the chance to further scan the room, Moonbyul came to her senses.

“Sorry about that, unnie. Here, let me get those for you.” Moonbyul grabbed the drinks from her arm and set them on the living room table. “I told you that you didn’t need to bring anything,” she added, turning to look disapprovingly at Yongsun.

“That would be rude to show up empty-handed.”

“You heard that, you two? It’s rude to show up empty-handed.”

“Us being rude is nothing new, unnie. We thought you knew this by now,” the long-haired of the two cheekily responded as she stood up from the shorter’s embrace. “Hello, I’m Ahn Hyejin.” She bowed towards Yongsun. The other girl followed suit, putting her drink down before also standing up and walking towards their new visitor.

“I’m Jung Wheein. Sorry we just stared at you earlier,” she added shyly, “we were waiting for unnie to introduce us, but she never did.” Turning to Moonbyul, she added, “Maybe Hyejin and I aren’t the only rude ones.”

“Okay, simmer down. Unnie, this is Wheein and Hyejin, the ones I’m always talking about. They’re annoying, but I love them or whatever.”

“Don’t roll your eyes while saying that,” Hyejin prodded her in the side. “Wheein, you see her trying to downplay it? You love us, Byul-unnie. Byul-unnie loooooves us,” she sang. Wheein walked up to Moonbyul, placing her face in her neck as she joined Hyejin in singing.

“You loooooove us.” Hyejin threw her arms around the other two, smothering Moonbyul in physical affection.

“See what I have to deal with, Yongsun-unnie?”

 

Moonbyul had mentioned that these were the first non-basketball friends she made at SNU. Witnessing how comfortable they all were with each other, and how much Wheein and Hyejin adored Moonbyul, Yongsun couldn’t help but smile at the hijinks. She admired their friendship. The moment in itself was heart‑warming, even more so was the fact that Byulyi thought to include her in it, even if in the slightest of ways. Acknowledging her in that moment meant a lot to Yongsun. Extending an invitation to this get-together meant a lot to Yongsun. Her heart was suddenly full of gratitude.

 

Chorong had warned her to be careful with Moonbyul. Yongsun had heard stories about the athlete’s ways through the grapevine from a few other people, too. She refused to believe everything that she heard though. There was no way that the caring, funny, sometimes awkward woman she’d grown to know was capable of playing with the hearts of women. Moon Byulyi was a fundamentally good person. She believed that, and as she stood there watching Wheein and Hyejin dote on Moonbyul, and watched the athlete pretend that she wasn’t enjoying every second of the affection, Kim Yongsun decided that she’d defend her friend against any slander. Her friend. They hung out often and talked all the time, but this evening seemed to cement their friendship. They were friends friends. And Yongsun couldn’t be happier.

 

“Okay,” Wheein suddenly blurted, “Hyejin, let me out. I don’t want to be on unnie’s neck all night.”

“Wheein from a year ago would die for this opportunity,” Hyejin deadpanned.

“You have jokes. I hope you also have a way to get home tonight because I’m not carrying your drunk .”

“No one is carrying anyone’s drunk anywhere. Both of you are sleeping over tonight.”

“Yay! Let’s drink!”

“And eat,” Hyejin added.

“Come on, unnie. We’ll take care of you tonight.” Moonbyul grabbed Yongsun’s hand and pulled her further into the apartment.

 

*

 

“Let me choose the next song! Let me choose!”

“No, Hyejin-ah! My house, my music!”

“It’s the perfect song! Give me the phone, unnie!”

 

Hyejin threw herself onto Moonbyul, who was seated on the floor near the recently-opened windows. Maybe it was the alcohol, or maybe it was the amount of people in the living room, but she was hot and needed the cool breeze that was now softly rushing into the apartment.

“Hyejin-ah, get off of me!”

“No, give me the phone.”

“I’m stronger than you, you know.”

“Oh, yeah? Let’s wrestle then.”

 

They didn’t wrestle. They instead burst into laughter as they both laid on their backs staring into each other’s eyes. Hyejin lost her steam and pulled herself closer to Moonbyul, snuggling into her opened arms.

“Unnie. Can I please play the song? Please?” She was so soft.

“Anything for my Hyejin-ah. Here. You can be the DJ for the rest of the night. I’m tired,” Moonbyul conceded, closing her eyes as she held the youngest.

“Yay,” was Hyejin’s subdued response.

 

The four of them had been drinking and eating for the past five hours. It was a show. Truth or Dare had been played. Never Have I Ever had been played. It was, objectively, one of the most fun nights any of them had had this year.

 

Wheein’s infectious laughter suddenly demanded Moonbyul and Hyejin’s attention. Both sat up, curious as to what was going on.

“What happened, Wheein? What’s so funny?”

“Yongsun-unnie! Yongsun-unnie is what’s so funny.”

“Yah,” Yongsun interrupted, giggling, “it’s not funny!”

“What happened?” Moonbyul tried once again to get an answer to her question.

“She’s so drunk and she didn’t even drink that much.” Wheein was gasping for air as she tried to continue talking. “Every five seconds she looks at me and goes, ‘Is my face red? It’s red, right? I know it’s red.’” She slumped over on the couch, her head in Yongsun’s lap.

 

The impersonation came complete with hand gestures and facial expressions. Yongsun couldn’t be mad. She let out her own high-pitched laugh.

“Is that what I really sound like, Wheein-ah?” The words smothered between her giggles.

“Wheein-ah?! Unnie, what happened on that couch that you are calling her so affectionately now?”

“Aww, I can call you like that if you want, Hyejin-ah.”

“Yes! Call me like that! Wheein shouldn’t only get the love.” Moonbyul took offense to that.

“I’m holding you, Hyejin. How is she getting all of the love? My love doesn’t count?” Hyejin pushed Moonbyul until she was on her back again, and cuddled with her.

“Of course your love counts, unnie. It counts so much.”

“Byulyi, why are you acting so jealous?”

“You see what we have to deal with all the time, Yongsun-unnie? She’s like a baby. We have to shower with love and affection all the time or else she gets cranky.”

“You can sleep on the floor, Wheein. Hyejin gets my bed.”

“I’ll sleep with Yongsun-unnie instead.”

“What?! I want to sleep with Yongsun-unnie,” Hyejin protested.

“Really, Hyejin? I thought you were loyal,” Byulyi mumbled. She was already half asleep.

“Okay. I’ll stay with you this time and next time Wheein and I will switch,” she purred as she cuddled closer with Moonbyul.

“Mmm. Okay. It’s a deal. What do you think, Yongsun-unnie. You agree?”

 

There was no response.

 

“Is she dead?” Hyejin asked, eyes closed, no desire to move. Moonbyul lifted her head and saw Yongsun’s head laying in the back of the couch as she held on to Wheein, whose soft snores gradually filled the room.

“Uh uh. She’s not dead.”

“Okay, good. I like her. She’s fun.”

“Mmhmm.”

“That means that she's friends with all of us now.”

“Okay.”

“That means you can’t sleep with her or make a move on her.”

“Whatever you say, Hyejin.”

“You’re only agreeing to anything I say so that I’ll let you go to sleep.”

“Mmhmm.”

“Fine. Go to sleep. I’ll remind you in the morning. Yongsun-unnie is off limits.”

 

The four fell asleep in those same positions, but woke up all on the same page: there was a new member to their friend group.


Note: Finally! The four of them have met each other and are friends. Apologies if that was a bit rushed, but I refused to have this drag out for another three chapters.

 

I read all of the comments for the last update and wanted so badly to post this earlier as a token of my gratitude. Y’all are so kind! Used to see authors say that comments motivated them to write and didn’t fully understand it until now. Thank you all so much. I’ll be off a few days this week and am going to try to write up a few chapters at once so that I can update more frequently. Hope you all are doing and feeling well!

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Saluhmander
Have not forgotten this story. Slowly making progress on the next chapters.
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