as time goes by, seulgi's days were filled with visits from joohyun, seungwan, yerim, and occasional talks with sunmi whenever they see each other in the hallway.
it still amazes seulgi how this is happening to her now. after her painful talk with joohyun two years ago, it never occurred to her she'll get the chance to see the woman again, especially not regularly.
and it's not simply seeing each other. joohyun is making an effort to visit, bring food, and help seulgi clean up and change. and whenever joohyun's shift is in the morning, her afternoon visits will always include the ever bubbly yerim. they would usually end the day with the three of them sharing dinner together before the mother-and-child goes home.
seulgi's not sure if junmyeon's absence during these times is good or not. because the longer this is happening, the closer yerim gets to her. and joohyun, well, she is slowly letting her guard down.
it started during their first movie together one friday evening. junmyeon was called for a surgical procedure in another town. joohyun and yerim decided to stay for the night for some movies--as requested by the latter.
of course, yerim sits in between the adults. seulgi feels this is the safest position for the three of them. and she thinks joohyun feels the same as the latter always calls yerim to sit back in the middle whenever the kid stands up or gets off the couch.
the movie's already halfway done when yerim's arm, who's lying on seulgi's lap while watching, slides down. that's when she and joohyun realise the kid has fallen asleep and is already drooling on seulgi's pyjamas.
not wanting to wake up the sleeping kid, joohyun places a pillow in between yerim's head and seulgi's leg. joohyun scoots closer, so yerim's legs were on her lap.
it was awkward at first, but as soon as the tension settles down--with the help of the comedy movie--seulgi feels comfortable, contented, and satisfied.
seulgi yerim's side, and she's loving the feeling this simple setting brings her.
this could have been her family if she hadn't given up before--if she hadn't chosen sau over joohyun.
this would have been hers if she fought a little for joohyun, if she had stayed that night in that hotel room.
it took her time to admit it to herself. but the reality is, as much as she loves joohyun, her burning desire to be part of sau was much greater. and finding out that joohyun is enjoying the company of another person is an opportunity seulgi took to choose the path she'd always planned to take.
that decision led her broken until now.
"you're having that faraway look again. you're thinking of something, aren't you?" joohyun places a hand over seulgi's. "if it's in any way related to the past, or your regrets, please drop it now. it won't help. it may cause you another attack."
seulgi's eyes stay on the sleeping kid.
"focus on the present, seulgi. live in the moment. that's the only way for you to have a better future."
seulgi looks ahead without saying a word. she wonders what the universe has in store for her future because the only thing she wants is the woman beside her and the kid on her lap.
live in the moment. that's what joohyun said.
live in the moment.
she hopes this moment won't end.
the movie continues to play, and joohyun's hand stays on top of hers.
the strong wind blows, and seulgi jerks when she hears her front door latch shut.
it was one of those afternoons when seulgi's out alone in the hallway, looking and staring down at the parking lot.
she feels the need to step out of her room from time to time, to see other people aside from joohyun's family, seungwan, doctor gyuri, and her occasional hallway chats with sunmi. this has been her daily hobby before she goes back inside the apartment to do other stuff like drawing, listening to audiobooks, or watching television.
problem is she can't go back inside now.
joohyun's constant reminder of making sure her front door is always locked seemed to have made its way into seulgi's subconscious mind. without thinking about it, she locked the door before stepping out.
and now, she's locked out and doesn't have a key with her. she's expecting joohyun to arrive in about two hours. what is she supposed to do in the hallway for two hours?
she groans again until her eyes land on sunmi's door. she recalls sunmi's invitation to knock if she needs help with something. and since it's been days now since she'd last seen the woman, seulgi thinks it may be a good idea for a visit.
seulgi stands in front of the door and knocks.
she hears movements inside the room. it was followed by the presence of someone behind the door pressing an eye against the peephole. a few seconds later, she hears the sound of a chain being removed, deadbolt lock getting unlocked, and the door opens, revealing a sleepy-looking sunmi who's in her red nightdress.
and she freaking looks hot in that red nightdress.
"seulgi." the woman smiles weakly.
"hey..." seulgi tries her best not to gawk and stare. "is this a bad time?"
"no. no." sunmi shakes her head and rubs her eyes. "everything okay with you?"
"well, i've got a bit of a situation here." seulgi hesitates, but sunmi gives her an encouraging look. "i kind of locked myself out. joohyun has a spare key but she won't be arriving soon."
sunmi laughs. "tough luck, huh?"
"yeah. i was wondering if you want some company?"
sunmi bends her head to the side and smiles sweetly at seulgi. "i think i need company just about now." she opens the door and invites seulgi in. "pardon the mess here. i was indoors the whole day. as you can see, i'm still in my sleepwear."
seulgi doesn't mind the mess--it's not even messy. especially, she doesn't mind the sleepwear.
sunmi's apartment looked exactly like seulgi's, except for the red-coloured couch and the floral curtains on the windows.
"can i get you something? water? juice?" sunmi stops, thinking. "hold that thought. i think i only have water and beer available here."
seulgi smiles. "i'm fine with water for now."
"you don't drink?"
"occasionally. i take beer if i'm in for long talks," says seulgi. "i need to take meds once joohyun arrives."
sunmi smiles and opens the fridge. "okay. let's do the beer talk some other time."
"whoa!" seulgi jumps at the sound and shifts into a defence position--with the best that she can despite her condition. relief washes over when she sees the little four-legged creature at her feet. "geez. i didn't know you have a kitten here."
"i'm sorry. did my mango startle you?"
"your p-? mango?"
"that's her name." sunmi walks over to the couch, puts down a glass of cold water and a can of beer on the table. "i found the last week on the street on my way back here. she seemed lost and hungry, so i took her in."
seulgi stares at the cat, getting awkward at how sunmi addresses it. "she's lucky you found her."
"i'm lucky to find her too." sunmi picks the cat and gestures for them to sit on the couch. "i'm all alone here and mango's a great company of mine since then."
seulgi sits down. "can i hold her?"
"sure." sunmi hands over the kitten and places it on seulgi's lap.
"she's so small and so cute," says seulgi, thinking of yerim would love to have cats too.
"pets can sometimes help in therapy," says sunmi, opening the can of beer for herself. "there are lots of abandoned animals on the street. most of them are out there left to die. but since evens are instinct now, i hope the government would do something about them, like create a foundation of some sort and have them adopted."
that idea sinks into seulgi's head. "create a foundation?"
"yeah. i can't take seeing these animals on the street anymore, barely living and scavenging for food and water."
seulgi's face lights up. "you know what, that's a great idea--ow!"
too engrossed with what she came up with, seulgi didn't notice the kitten already climbed up to nuzzle on her neck, leaving a scratch on her collar area.
"ooh! i'm sorry!" sunmi puts the beer down and pulls the kitten away. "mango loves nuzzling. i think she already likes you." she stands up. "let me put her back to her bed, okay?"
"sure." there's stinging pain on seulgi's chest below her collarbones and she's touching it to see if there's blood.
"does it hurt?" sunmi comes back. "i'm really sorry. let me clean that up for you." she disappears again and comes back with a first-aid kit.
"hey. i'm fine." seulgi feels shy while sunmi cleans up her chest.
"no. let me clean that up for you. your nurse friend will be mad at me if we leave this unsanitised."
seulgi chuckles, remembering how joohyun scolds her before whenever she has wounds and she's too careless to clean it up.
"there you go. all good now." sunmi pulls back. "don't worry, mango's got her complete shots a few days ago. the 's safe. you'll be fine. it will sting for a little while tho."
"i can handle the sting. i've experienced worse." seulgi gestures to her shoulder.
"yeah. i can see that." sunmi chuckles. "if i may ask, what exactly happened to you?"
"accident." seulgi drinks from the glass of water. "yerim, joohyun's daughter, and i were getting chased by an adult baboon. we fell and rolled down the steep and rammed into a tree."
sunmi's eyes widen. she puts a hand on her chest. "i hope the kid didn't get any injury."
seulgi shakes her head. "i was protecting her in my arms."
"that's a relief. but why is a baboon chasing you?"
seulgi chuckles at how that sounds absurd.
"well, long story short, we attended a friend's wedding in handong island. we stayed for another night after the ceremony to try some activities the island offers. then there was this jungle adventure. yerim ran ahead of her parents. she lost her way. i found her, and we got chased."
sunmi slants back on the couch. "you seem to be very close with their family. are you relatives?"
"no. joohyun and i knew each other back way back college. we're roommates."
"really? you must be best friends, huh?"
seulgi chuckles. "you know what, joohyun's actually my ex."
"your what!" sunmi's eyes almost popped out. she shifts on the couch to fully face seulgi. "how--when--t-tell me about it!"
seulgi laughs. "it's a long story."
"would love to hear it!"
"fine." seulgi gestures to the can of beer. "can i please have one of that?"
"i ran away because my stepdad sees me as a tool for his business," explains sunmi. "imagine, he wants me to marry off to the son of one of his business partners to strengthen their relationship. bull!"
"and you said no?"
"of course! it's my life, and he's got nothing to do with it!" sunmi flails her arms in the air. "then he shouts, telling me how ungrateful i am for going against him even after he took me in, fed me, and paid for my school." she scoffs. "yes, i owe him those, and i'm thankful for those. but despite that, he was never a father to me. he always favoured my two younger brothers who are his biological children. i always need to be at my best for him to even notice me. if he doesn't have plans of accepting me in the family, then he shouldn't have married my mother in the first place!"
seulgi laughs harder and picks her beer, realising it's now empty. she puts it back down.
"so, that was the reason you ran away and told him you'll pay for everything he spent on you?" asks seulgi. sunmi nods. "is that the reason you're taking private massage sessions on top of your current work as a physical therapist?"
"what about your mom and brothers?"
"we still talk. i love my brothers." sunmi sips from her newly opened can. "i am still in contact with them regularly, but i make sure not to see that douchebag's face."
seulgi was about to speak, but there was a hurried knock on the door.
"i'll get that." sunmi stands up and opens the door.
"hi!" seulgi immediately recognises it as joohyun's voice. "umm. i... i'm wondering if you've seen seulgi?"
"she's here." sunmi gestures at seulgi.
seulgi slowly skips to the door. "hey. i got locked out."
joohyun darts her eyes from sunmi, who's still wearing a red nightdress, to seulgi, who's got a red scratch on her collarbone.
"sorry about that," says sunmi, noticing where joohyun is looking at. "seulgi held my , and she got a scratch."
"i--what!" seulgi glances at joohyun whose eyes widen in horror. "no! it's a pussycat! a kitten!"
"yeah. a kitten!" sunmi laughs, massaging her head. "i'm sorry. i'm a bit drunk now. but don't worry. my 's... i meant, my kitten's safe and has complete shots. we also cleaned up the wound earlier."
joohyun's face remains rigid.
seulgi takes it as a sign to leave. she turns to sunmi and bows. "thank you for letting me into your apartment."
"anytime." sunmi smiles. "let's talk some other time, okay?"
"i look forward to it."
joohyun mumbles a low "thanks" to sunmi before she leaves without waiting for seulgi.
sunmi raises an eyebrow. "was that jealousy i just saw?"
seulgi chuckles and shakes her head. "doesn't matter. she's married." she steps out. "thank you. i'll see you soon."
"doctor park, seulgi's here now."
seulgi enters the apartment and finds the pretty doctor already sitting on the couch.
"oh. hey, doc. have you been waiting long? i'm sorry. i got locked out earlier and stayed in my neighbour's place while waiting." seulgi sits on the couch across joohyun. "is it my checkup schedule again?"
the doctor shakes her head. "please call me gyuri. i happen to be nearby, so i decided to visit my favourite patient."
"is she allowed to drink beer, doc, while recovering?" asks joohyun.
seulgi tilts her head aside to smell herself.
yeah. she smells like beer.
"no. beer or any alcohol intake can impair the healing process," says gyuri.
"i'm sorry." seulgi clears . "i had a few cans over the neighbour earlier. i didn't know."
"how many cans?"
seulgi sees joohyun shaking her head from her peripheral view.
"it won't harm if it's just once. but please don't do it again, okay?" says gyuri. "it'll take you about three to four weeks to recover. we wouldn't want that to happen, do we? unless you want me to keep visiting you?"
seulgi lets out an awkward chuckle, and joohyun releases a small noise of dissent through her nose.
"don't worry, once you recover, you can drink again. we can even go out together for a drink," adds gyuri.
seulgi smiles. "would love that."
joohyun releases a loud exhale before she stands and excuses herself to leave gyuri and seulgi talk.