seulgi takes her phone out to reread the message from amber two hours ago, making sure she got the correct room number before buzzing the door.
she presses an ear against the wood and listens. she hears muffled female voices inside and could make out sooyoung's laugh.
yup. this is the correct room.
she presses the buzzer button and holds it for three seconds.
the people inside the room scream in excitement. she wonders why.
finally, the door opens ajar. seulgi notices the dim light inside. a woman with long blonde hair juts her head out.
"captain? what are you doing here?"
"byulyi? wow. you're here too!" says seulgi, surprised.
byulyi cranes her neck around as if looking for someone else. she turns back to seulgi. "are you the one they sent?"
byulyi eyes the suit and tie attire seulgi is wearing. "the stripper?"
seulgi gets horrified. "what!"
byulyi pulls seulgi inside the room and closes the door right away. with her eyes still adjusting to the dimly lit room, seulgi could get a glimpse of several females in the area, all looking at her.
"sorry, girls. false alarm." byulyi drapes an arm over her shoulders. "but guess who's here?"
"captain!" they say in unison.
seulgi then realises it's the former sau troop c inside. they all hug and greet her.
"oh, my god, seulgi!" sooyoung, who's wearing a white casual dress and a crown on her head, comes over to hug her too. "i thought you wouldn't make it? and what's with the suit?"
"i'm supposed to meet with my lawyer today about a contract for one of my investments." seulgi tucks her hands in her pockets. "but he cancelled the last minute, so i swung by here instead. i'm not really into bachelorette parties, but since amber said most of the troop will be present, i thought why not go here?"
"i'm so glad you came..." sooyoung smiles drunkenly, putting an arm around seulgi's shoulders. "come. some of my guests will be thrilled to see you."
"are you drunk?" seulgi asks as sooyoung leads her to the other people in the room. "and why won't you turn on the lights?"
"not yet drunk... and they said a surprise is coming over, so they wanted it dark..." sooyoung approaches a figure. "hey, chungha."
"hey!" chungha hugs seulgi excitedly. "wow. i was sad when sooyoung said you weren't coming. glad you made it!"
seulgi pulls away from the hug. "yeah. haha. didn't know you were coming either."
"well, she forced me and threatened me." chungha glances at the bride-to-be. "she said you weren't coming, and she can't afford another friend bailing out."
"i will be really mad," says sooyoung. "my wedding is next week. i'm too stressed. i need to relax. i need a moment to get away from wedding planning shenanigans, and this party is the key. but what's the use of having a bachelorette party if my friends won't come, huh?"
seulgi and chungha chuckle.
"she is drunk," says chungha.
"i know." seulgi lifts her head upon noticing another figure approaching. her eyes widen. "seungwan? you're here too?"
"whaddup, seulgi." seungwan hugs her. "of course i'll be here. i'd want to document how wasted sooyoung will get tonight. it'll be a perfect show on her wedding day, right?"
sooyoung scoffs. "yeah. that's what a loyal friend does, seungwan."
seulgi's smile grows bigger the more she realises how this bachelorette party serves as a mini-reunion with the people she considers important in her life. it's not every day someone can fill a room with people who could touch their life. seulgi's happy her schedule got cancelled today.
a beam of bright yellow light from the corner of the hotel room catches seulgi's attention. a figure steps out from what she assumes to be a bathroom due to the sound of the toilet flush inside.
seulgi thinks she's having another déjà vu as this person is sporting the same image of the woman who keeps running on her mind lately.
but seulgi knows it isn't déjà vu because the woman looks back at her with the same surprised expression, wearing that very familiar face seulgi still memorised.
sooyoung pats her shoulder and speaks in her very drunken tone, "oh. forgot to mention. joohyun's here too."
it's been almost two years now since she'd last seen the woman, two years since that painful talk they had.
she never thought they would see each other again. she thought it was the last time she will lay her eyes upon this beautiful human being.
a lot has happened since then. a lot has changed.
and seulgi couldn't understand how this woman can still make her heart skip a beat.
she still can't fathom how this woman can still look perfect in that skirt, sneakers, and semi-formal blouse combo. seulgi feels like a kid who's developing her first crush all over again.
pathetic, yes. but despite the continuous changes happening around the globe, this woman seems to be the only constant thing in her life--the untouchable part in her heart.
seulgi asks herself if it could be the same for the other woman. she wants the answer to be a 'yes', but reality hits her again when she sees the wedding band on joohyun's finger.
"come here, joohyun!" sooyoung calls. "seulgi's here!"
joohyun, who is still in shock, blinks and forces a slight smile. she ventures forward in their direction. seulgi swear her heart could have jumped out of her rib cage.
"hey..." says joohyun.
"hey," says seulgi.
"'hey'? c'mon. hug each other!" sooyoung demands. "stop being awkward!"
seulgi awkwardly stares at sooyoung. she turns to joohyun. "don't mind her. she's dr--"
joohyun suddenly leans forward to envelop her in a quick hug.
"--unk..." seulgi couldn't think straight anymore as joohyun's scent already filled her senses.
"it's nice to see you, seulgi." joohyun pulls away. "you... you look amazing..."
seulgi presses her lips together, nodding. "same... you--"
the door suddenly buzzes. the other women in the room squeal in excitement. byulyi opens the door and turns back to them.
"they're here!" she signals for sooyoung. the girls drag the bride-to-be to sit on the chair.
byulyi opens the door wider and two masked figures in suit and tie come in, one short-haired and the other with long hair.
seulgi laughs, realising why byulyi thought she is the stripper.
byulyi closes the door and locks it. "let the party begin!"
the women scream when a piece of y music plays in the background. the two guests strip their suits, revealing a outfit underneath while ily dancing towards sooyoung, who's a screaming and a laughing mess now.
the short-haired dancer takes the mask off and throws it away. the girls scream again.
"what the ! it's amber!" seulgi covers in shock.
that catches the attention of the long-haired dancer who walks towards seulgi ily. seungwan and joohyun step back when the said dancer loops her arms around seulgi's neck.
"well, hello there, captain. you look dashing tonight."
seulgi's eyes grow wide. "krystal!?"
krystal laughs. "yes!" she pushes seulgi's chin up to close . "why you look so shocked? sungjae doesn't want us to hire male strippers, so amber and i thought we'll just play the roles. ain't bad, right?"
"yeah. sooyoung is having the time of her life." seulgi nods at the still-squealing sooyoung with amber dancing on her lap. she turns back to krystal. "and you, you look really hot."
"well, you look hot yourself, cap." krystal smirks. she loosens seulgi's tie. "why are you in this hot suit? you're here to perform too?"
"haha. no. i was--"
"captain!" it was amber who approach this time. "wow! you're here!" she hugs seulgi tight as krystal skips back to sooyoung to entertain her.
"yeah. i didn't know you and krystal are working as strippers now, huh?"
"only for sooyoung." amber winks. "why don't you join us? you seem to be in the attire too."
amber is already pulling, but seulgi shakes her head. "no. i can't..."
amber turns to the other women. "sau squad troop c, have you seen your captain dance before?"
they all shout, "not yet!"
seulgi's worst fears came true when the horde of women helps to drag her in.
seulgi is sitting on a stool, nursing a can of soda, when a hand grasps her left arm. it was joohyun who held onto her for support to sit on the tall stool beside her.
"hey..." says seulgi, watching the other woman settle down.
"hey. that was quite a show," says joohyun, holding a bottle of an alcopop. "i didn't think you'd ride along."
"there was nothing i can do. they were already stripping me off my coat. i hope i didn't make a fool of myself out there."
joohyun shakes her head. "you were great. never knew you've got the moves."
"same. i never knew about it until today." seulgi stares at seungwan, who's singing along with chungha, sooyoung, and the other ex-sau girls.
"you missed them, don't you?" joohyun asks. "your troop?"
seulgi nods. "yeah. it's just funny how we came to realise the bond we have only after our dismissal. we weren't hanging out like this before. it's fun to see their other side."
joohyun hums and takes one gulp from the bottle. seulgi noticed how the other woman's hand is glued to her lap to stop her skirt from riding up. seulgi reaches out for her coat and gives it to joohyun.
"hmm?" joohyun looks at her. seulgi nods towards the location she intends the coat to be placed on. joohyun gets it. "oh."
seulgi holds the bottle of alcopop for joohyun while the latter puts the coat on her lap.
"thanks," says joohyun, taking the bottle from seulgi.
"i don't recall you fancy drinking alcohol before."
"still don't. i just want to relax for a bit. and this has like only five per cent alcohol." joohyun gestures at the can of soda. "you? not drinking tonight?"
"can't. driving." seulgi takes another sip from the can.
joohyun hums again. there was silence for a moment. "so... how are you?"
'here, still thinking about you,' seulgi wants to answer, but she keeps shut. there is so much vagueness in that three-word question that everyone ignores and avoids by equivocating.
"just fine," says seulgi instead. "still trying to get used to my new life. you? how's your family?"
she regrets asking that, but she needs to push the conversation away from her, afraid that having this little talk would result in her building up new hope. as much as she doesn't want to hear about joohyun's happy married life, she had to ask.
"good," says joohyun. "i switched to a different hospital now. there were lots of politics happening in the hq hospital after aef got dissolved."
seulgi hums. "and your husband?"
joohyun looks at seulgi, maybe sensing if that was a serious question. "the changes didn't affect him. he's a surgeon. he's affiliated with several hospitals."
"ahh. and yerim?" finally, a perfect topic to dive into.
joohyun relaxes and smiles. "she's fine. she's causing quite a headache now as she's already seven. mom's always cranky because of that kid."
"are you still living in your house in jeoswa?"
"yes, we do. but we're planning to sell the house to junmyeon's sister since he's mostly away. yerim and i usually stay with my mom," says joohyun. seulgi feels a pinch in her chest at the woman's casual mention of her husband's name. "i don't want mom living alone as she's getting emo lately."
seulgi looks ahead, nodding. this conversation makes her heart shrink. the more casual the conversation goes, the more she's asking herself if the talk they had two years ago is still real.
joohyun asked her not to forget her.
joohyun told her how much she missed her.
joohyun said she still feels the same towards her.
are those still true until now?
"she wants to see you," joohyun's voice makes seulgi turn to her. "yerim. she always wants to see you."
seulgi smiles. "and here i was thinking she's already forgotten me long ago."
joohyun shakes her head. "she didn't. in fact, she keeps talking about you every day. it's like you've imprinted yourself in her mind. she had already associated you with the feeling of security and safety. even her dad is jealous over it."
seulgi taps the can on her knee. "does he know?"
"about you? yes. i told him all about us when he asked me to marry him. but yerim, she doesn't."
seulgi feels something with the 'us' in joohyun's words. but she shrugs the feeling off. "she's only a kid. she wouldn't understand it yet."
"but she's so fond of you. i don't know what you did to her. she's even excited to attend the wedding next week knowing you're attending too."
seulgi smirks. "i guess i understand now why your husband is jealous. don't you find it weird that your daughter has sort of developed an attachment towards your ex?"
joohyun laughs, that all-too-familiar laugh seulgi missed. "i don't. i understand why she likes you that much. i even have this weird notion that my kid has developed a crush on you."
a silly idea pops into seulgi's mind. "talking about weirdness, what if... what if yerim grows up and falls in love with me, and then we became a couple?"
joohyun had a horrified look on her face. she slaps seulgi's arm. "yah! don't get any ideas! you're like twenty-eight years apart!"
"do the age gap matters to you?"
"no. but she is my daughter. my daughter!" joohyun points at herself. "that's totally weird!"
seulgi laughs. "i'm sure yerim will grow up to be a beautiful woman like you tho."
another slap. "seulgi!"
"awe... i missed seeing you two like that..." sooyoung's slurred voice echoes through the speakers as she speaks into the microphone. "you two could have been married too, you know..."
seulgi and joohyun are left speechless as they watch amber and seungwan try taking the microphone away from the very-much-drunk sooyoung.
"and i'm sure... i'm sure you'll be able to make it work out..." sooyoung continues, evading the hands in front of her. "this could have been your party too if you two weren't dumb enough to let each other go!"
"okay! okay! okay! that's enough drinking for you, sooyoung," says seungwan, who finally snatches the microphone away. amber leads the drunken bride-to-be to sit on the couch.
"i'm not giving up on the two of you!" sooyoung yells as she lies on her back. "so don't you dare give up on each other!"
both seulgi and joohyun sit there in awkward silence.
despite the commotion, krystal approaches them and points at joohyun.
"so, all this time, you were seulgi's ex?"