A/N : A belated but special happy birthday to my dear friend Moonlitprincess :)
I never thought I could befriend someone who is equally passionate about writing and who is such a wonderful person too. And I would have abandoned my passion for writing a long time ago if not for your encouragement and genuine care so I can’t thank you enough. You make the writing process less frustrating and help me feel like it’s worth writing and my writing is worth something :)
I learned how hard it can be being someone who writes online, being judged and even being hurt when all you want to do is to do what you love. So I thought this would be the perfect story to tell you that you’re a great writer and a great friend :D Hopefully you enjoy this because well, you had written me such a wonderful fic on my birthday about three weeks before haha. Thank you for accepting my awkward self at first and being such a great friend till this day!
how deep is our love?
Of course, Joohyun has seen the actress Kang Seulgi’s films and always thought she was, well, charming but from a million miles from the world where she lives in. Which is here, Daegu, not a bad place to be but definitely one of the quiet places in Korea.
The market is always busy, selling every fruit and vegetable known to man at a very good price.
The spot where the yogurt lady parks the yogurt cart, right across the bus stop and always chattering with middle-aged women and sometimes even flirting with the bus driver.
The street is lined with cherry blossom trees, the pink and white petals decorating the road like a white carpet in spring when every tree blossoms.
Then suddenly it’s the weekend, and from the break of day, hundreds of stalls appear out of nowhere, filling the small town with goodies and people.
And what’s great about this city is that it is always peaceful, no exceptions whatsoever.
So this is where Joohyun spent her days for years, in this small area in the south side of the city, in a house with a purple door that was bought to move in together with her ex. Before he left her for a man who looked exactly like that famous idol Joohyun can’t remember, only maybe even handsomer.
And where she now leads a strange half-life with a drama queen called…
Joohyun grunts as she pushes open the door. It wasn’t supposed to be a hard thing to do but the huge mirror blocking her path sure made it hard.
“I told you to stop throwing out mirrors! Or at least discard them when I’m not here!”
Joy is an…. interesting kind of person. When you first look at Joy, you will think there is nothing unusual about the beautiful woman except that she has an odd habit of flipping her hair and waving at an invisible crowd as she walks downstairs.
“And I told you mirrors are cursed.” Joy answers, not even a bit fazed by her friend’s glare.
“Just because you don’t like your reflection on the mirror doesn’t mean that it’s cursed.”
“But I never looked that horrid in my entire life when I woke up!” Joy protests, pointing at the large round mirror in disgust. “That is definitely cursed!”
Joohyun can only sigh because there’s no use of convincing, it never worked anyway.
“Hey, Baechu. Could you help me with an incredibly important decision?”
Joohyun raises an eyebrow. “No, Joy. I’m not going to help you decide which hairstyle is better for you today.”
Joy giggles and rolls her eyes, as if Joohyun just said something very funny even though she has asked that twice this morning. “No, silly! This is much more important than that.”
“Much more important in comparison to, let’s say, what new mirror should we buy?”
“That’s right!” Joy flips her hair. “I’m at last going out on a date with Yerim and I just want to be sure I’m ready.”
Joohyun raises an eyebrow at the oblivious flatmate. “You do realize that you’re asking your girlfriend’s sister for advice, right?”
Joy and Yerim had met at their housewarming party. And their chaotic savage mind was like a match made in heaven(or hell, Joohyun would put it). Joohyun never wants to admit it, but she did feel happy to see her younger sister this bright.
“Well, what can I say.” Joy flashes her a smile. “You too are an expert when it comes to Yerim. So I can use some advice.”
“Alright then.” Joohyun shrugs. “What is it that I can help you with?”
“Does the right side of my face look prettier than my left?”
“Good luck on your date Joy.”
Joohyun, ignoring Joy’s complaints of her being a terrible friend, walks upstairs to get ready for work.
And so it was just another hopeless Friday, as she set off through the market to work, little suspecting that this was the day which would change her life forever.
Her work, by the way, is a small book shop selling novels, regardless of if they’re known by many or not. A small unpretentious store.. named ‘pozo bookshop’. To be frank, it is small for a reason.
It is slightly chaotic, bookshelves everywhere, with little secret bits round corners with even more books. But inhaling the smell of old paper and relishing the quietness, which is the opposite of the chattery afternoon street, Joohyun feels uplifted immediately.
Wendy, Joohyun’s best friend and sole employee, was waiting for her with her usually enthusiastic mood. She is an uncrushable optimist and most importantly, bakes the most delicious brownies anyone has ever tasted.
However, Joohyun’s mood quickly goes downhill.
“Great. Just great.” She mutters and Wendy peeks from behind to see the cursed number they received. “Profit from major sales push-minus 300,000 won.”
“Shall I go get something to drink?” Wendy suggests hopefully. “To ease the pain.”
“Yeah. Better get me the smallest size. That’s all I can afford.”
“Smallest size of strawberry soy milk coming up!” Wendy salutes and bolts out the door. And after a few minutes of Joohyun sighing and re-arranging the postcards, a woman enters.
Joohyun looks up casually, ready to greet the new customer after hearing the bells on top of the door chime lively. But her business smile quickly fades. She even stands up, squinting her eyes, pushing her glasses way up to her nose bridge to make sure she isn’t just seeing things.
It is Kang Seulgi, the biggest drama star in the world, here, in her shop. The most divine, charming, subtle woman on earth. And maybe the most beautiful woman Joohyun has ever seen.
“Can I help you?” Joohyun’s voice is a bit high-pitched, still stunned by the fact that the actress in her casual clothes, hiding her face with a black bucket hat that looked just perfect on her, is actually here.
“Oh, no thank you.” The actress smiles politely and when she speaks, she is very self-contained unlike Joohyun who can’t keep shut. Literally. “I'll just look around.”
Joohyun nods slowly and manages to tear her gaze away from the attractive actress. But as she makes her way back to the counter, she watches Kang Seulgi wander over to another shelf. The actress’s eyes drift away book by book as she reads the titles, pulling out a few books and then putting them back in.
But what made Joohyun speak up again is when Kang Seulgi pulls out a very familiar purple book with the title written in white letters.
“That book’s really not good.” Joohyun blurts out which startles the actress a little, almost dropping the book. “Just in case so that you won’t be too disappointed after you buy it.. You’d be wasting your money.”
Seulgi gives her a small smile but this time, she seems quite amused. “Really?”
“Yes. This one though,” Joohyun hastily picks up a copy of ‘Harry Potter’ on the counter. “Is very good.”
The actress nods a little, as if she agrees with the fact that the book Joohyun is holding is better than the one in Kang Seulgi’s hand. And Joohyun doesn’t want to admit it, but she feels a little.. disappointed.
Joohyun was ready to hand over the book but instead, Seulgi flips a few pages of the purple book and doesn’t put it back on the shelf.
“Thank you. But I think it would be nice to find a nice book that nobody is aware of yet.” The actress’s eyes gently form the shape of crescents. “And not all people can tell if a rock is a diamond.”
It was Joohyun’s turn to slowly nod. “..I see.”
“And I always liked this writer’s books.” Seulgi explains, chancing a glance at the purple book. “So it’s quite surprising to find a book from them that I haven’t read.”
Joohyun’s fingers tremble a little, the beat of her heart ringing her ears as she takes the purple book from the actress.
“Um.. That will be 12000 won.”
Seulgi fishes out her purse from her handbag and for a moment, it seems like such a shame for the actress to hand her a flashy credit card and leave.
“Postcards.” Joohyun blurts out suddenly.
Seulgi frowns, holding her credit card. “Pardon?”
“You can have free postcards when you buy a book.” Joohyun explains, trying her best not to sound like an idiot who just wants the actress to stay a tad longer. “Anything you want.”
The actress’s lips curls into an amused smile. “Anything?”
“Oh yes. They’re very.. vintage. And I organized them just now so..”
Seulgi laughs and Joohyun swears it sounded much angelic than on television. “That’s just what I was looking for.”
And Joohyun ends up watching the actress again, squatted down in front of the large board lined with postcards of all kinds.
Before Joohyun could consider if she should accompany her, the door opens revealing her jolly co-worker back with her drink.
“I’m here!” Wendy cheerfully holds up a small cup of Joohyun’s drink in victory. “Oh? Finally decided to touch your book again, huh?”
Joohyun feels her body freeze up immediately when Seulgi turns around, blinking with a puzzled look on her face.
“Or are you going to throw this out too like the many, many stories you wrote except for your best selling book?”
Wendy finally shuts when she hears the sound of the postcards dropping on the floor.
“Oh we had customer I-” Wendy stops, it was an awkward moment, one recognizing the author and the other recognizing the actress. Kind of like a sitcom, with the audience laughing at them while they can’t.
Joohyun closes her eyes and vaguely shakes her head as Wendy gasps, finally recognizing their customer’s identity.
“Are you- You’re- Oh my sweet lord of-”
“Wendy.” Joohyun cuts off before things can get worse. “Please help our customer pick up the postcards.”
Wendy opens then closes several times, but eventually, hastily, goes over to the actress picking up the postcards scattered on the floor.
Joohyun would have laughed at the sight of her best friend behind Seulgi with her eyes glued on the celebrity but not saying a single word. Only if Wendy hadn’t just revealed that the book the actress is buying right now is the story Joohyun wrote a year ago.
“Can I have your autograph?” Wendy squeaks as Joohyun takes the credit card. And Joohyun realizes after a few seconds of silence that Seulgi was staring at her.
The actress quickly looks away when the card reader beeps. “Of course. Do you have any um.. paper and pen?” Then she sheepishly smiles, figuring that was a silly question.
Wendy excitedly pulls out a small notebook and a pen from her bag and eagerly hands them to the actress. And Joohyun can’t help but smile as Seulgi gently asks for her name and Wendy whispers “Son Seungwan.” in such a small voice.
“Can I also have yours in return?” Seulgi asks as she hands Wendy her autograph and Joohyun’s smile quickly fades, feeling flustered all over again.
“I’m joking.” Seulgi assures as she takes the paper bag containing the book and the postcards. “It was a pleasure meeting you.”
“Come again!” Wendy says a little too hopefully and the actress flashes them both a smile before pushing the door open, the sound of chiming bells implying a goodbye.
And then she’s gone. Out of Joohyun’s small life forever.
“I’m so sorry!” Wendy turns to her friend immediately, almost whimpering as if she is ready to burst into tears. “I didn’t know- I didn’t realize- Oh my..”
“It’s fine.” Joohyun assures her, still in a bit of a daze. “I’m sure she won’t tell anyone.. Hopefully.”
“You can have her autograph.” Wendy carefully suggests, although she is holding the autograph rather firmly. “After I look at it for only like.. five more times.”
“It’s okay.” Joohyun politely declines. “I think you want it more than me.”
“Maybe we can frame it and put it here?” Wendy suggests, a little more hopefully this time. “That’ll surely bring more customers!”
“Maybe.” Joohyun replies flatly. “I need some fresh air first. Is there anything you want me to buy for you? I know you didn’t have your lunch yet”
“An orange juice and a ham sandwich will be nice!” Wendy chirps, giving her friend a grateful smile. “I surely want to find out why orange juice is yellow today. I feel lucky.”
So Joohyun sets off to the nearby coffee shop, collects her juice and sandwich, and swings out of the little shop. And just when Joohyun manages to come back to her senses as she turns the corner of the road, she bumps straight into someone. The orange juice smashing against the stranger, soaking the fabric of both of their clothes.
Joohyun immediately recognizes the owner of that voice and dread takes over when she sees Kang Seulgi standing in front of her, her black shirt half soaked with yellow orange juice.
“I’m so sorry!” Joohyun grabs some paper napkins and starts to clean it off, but gets far too near her chest in the panic of it and Seulgi jumps back in surprise.
“What are you doing?”
“Nothing!” Joohyun tries to dab the stain some more but quickly retreats, knowing that it’s hopeless. “Look, I live just over the street. Maybe you could get cleaned up?”
The actress still looks appalled, even a little annoyed. But looking down at the huge stain it might be a good solution to go change her clothes.
“Okay. So what does ‘just over the street’ exactly mean?”
Joohyun points at the purple door over the street and Seulgi, remembering the purple book in the paper bag, chuckles half-heartedly.
Joohyun had never invited a person she had just met to her house before. And she realizes why as she opens the door with her house still a complete mess. The large mirror was still there even though Joohyun had made sure Joy gets rid of it before she goes off to her date.
Joohyun kicks some old shoes scattered and tries to get rid of anything she can see in a hurry.
“It’s not that tidy, unfortunately.” Joohyun says, feeling a bit embarrassed.
“Tidier than mine, though.” Seulgi answers. “The only thing clean at my place is the fridge.”
And Joohyun guides her up the stairs, opens the door to her bedroom and carefully takes the bag of books from her.
“The bathroom is right at the corner. I’ll be downstairs at the kitchen while you get changed.”
“Thank you.” Seulgi says before going in and Joohyun hopes her bedroom is clean enough.
As soon as the door clicks shut, Joohyun rushes down the stairs, frantically tidying up the kitchen.
It took about ten minutes for Seulgi to come back down, just in time when Joohyun finished washing the dishes. And she is dazzled by the sight of Seulgi wearing a short, sparkling black top beneath her leather jacket. With her trainers still on and holding her bucket hat almost covering her exposed stomach.
Joohyun gulps, trying to act calm in front of the celebrity who somehow manages to look twice more beautiful than on television. “Would you like a cup of tea before you go?”
“No thank you.” Seulgi declines and Joohyun looks around, searching for something she can offer.
“Coffee?” Even though she doesn’t know a clue about coffee, Joohyun can’t help it because she remembers seeing Seulgi in one of the television ads about coffee.
“No. It’s fine.”
“Orange juice?” Joohyun tries again and purses her lips. “Preferably not.”
“Not today I guess.” Seulgi agrees lightly. “But really, it’s okay.”
“Something else cold?” Joohyun wishes she could shut herself up but for some reason she cannot stop talking. “Coke, water.. Some disgusting fruity drink which is just all sugar?”
“Tempting. But no.”
“Would you like something to eat then?” Joohyun internally groans in humiliation. But Seulgi just seems amused, observing her as she babbles on. “I know that will hinder your diet but there is a very nice place that serves delicious tteokbokki. Of course, all tteokbokki taste good but they’re all so spicy these days but this one it’s the right amount of sweet and spicy.”
Silence surrounds them when Joohyun stops talking. And Seulgi keeps staring at her like a person admiring a piece of artwork at a museum. It makes Joohyun uncomfortable, shifting and fidgeting as she waits for the actress to give her an answer.
“I suppose eating the most delicious tteokbokki in this city will sure be worth it.”
So that’s how Joohyun ended up eating lunch with the actress Kang Seulgi. She had to text Wendy in advance and Wendy was more than happy to let Joohyun enjoy her time with the actress, making her friend promise to tell her the details after.
Thankfully, Seulgi very much seemed to enjoy the spicy rice cake. Even asking Joohyun the location of the tteokbokki stand which Joohyun was more than happy to tell.
“Who would have thought there would come a time that I would eat the most delicious tteokbokki with my favorite writer?” Seulgi says with a grin, dabbing her lips with a napkin.
“I thought I should be the one saying that.” Joohyun replies with a small smile. “I thought I was seeing things when you first came in the store.”
“There’s a new drama I’m filming so I’ll be staying here for a while. Maybe about a week.”
“That must be.. draining.” Joohyun squeezes her eyes shut for a moment, feeling like an idiot. Of course it is draining but Seulgi has been doing this for years.
But Seulgi chuckles good-naturedly. “I have to admit, it is still draining even though I’ve been doing this since I was like.. a kid.”
“Work is always draining.” Joohyun agrees, her smile widening just a bit.
“So are you working on your new story?” Seulgi asks, her eyes even twinkling with interest.
It has been a while since Joohyun had last received that kind of question. She begins to fidget, suddenly feeling the churn in her stomach.
“Not really.” Joohyun finally answers. “I’m taking my time on my next story.”
“It has been almost a year since you’ve published something, right?”
Joohyun meets her eyes, surprised and Seulgi points at the paper bag on the chair next to her.
“That is your last book, right?”
“..Yeah. That’s the last book I published and I left Seoul.”
“Not to sound like a news reporter or anything.” Seulgi places her elbows on the table, leaning a little bit forward. “But.. Is there a specific reason for your um.. sudden silence?”
“Sudden silence.” Joohyun repeats slowly. “That sounds like a good title for a book.”
“I know no news is good news. And I’m glad you’re taking a break but I did always wonder if you are-”
“Going to publish another book?” Joohyun interrupts, feeling a little annoyed because she had received several emails asking the same question for months when she had left the capital area. And she does have to admit, she feels a little disappointed too but then again, she shouldn’t be because to Seulgi, she’s a person who wrote her favorite book which she should feel happy about.
But when Joohyun tries to swallow down the bitter taste in , Seulgi shakes her head.
“No. I always wondered if you’re okay.”
It is quite astonishing to see the sincerity in the actress’s eyes. It makes Joohyun wonder who Seulgi thinks she is right now, a stranger who splashed orange juice on her shirt? An awkward bookstore owner? A person who loves spicy rice cake?
Because it feels as if Seulgi is seeing her more than just a person who writes her favorite stories right now.
“..I’m doing okay, thank you.” Joohyun answers after a few seconds of silence. “I just wasn’t satisfied with what I wrote after my last book.”
“Really?” Seulgi tilts her head in awe, as if she is shocked to hear that. “I really liked every single one of your books so I’m quite surprised to hear that.”
“That’s flattering.” Joohyun quietly laughs. “Let me guess, you liked ‘why isn’t love enough?’ right?”
That was the first book Joohyun had published. And to her surprise, it had been a huge success. She still remembered the day when she saw her books lined up in every bookstores.
But that was also her last book beneath the white sign with gold letters that said ‘best-selling book of the month’.
“Well, that was good too.” Seulgi agrees with a slight shrug. “But my favorite is ‘even if’.”
Joohyun, who is again surprised, puts down her tea in awe. “Now that’s new. I’ve hardly seen anyone talk about it.”
“I don’t know if it’s because I always act the role of a woman madly in love.” Seulgi says, rolling her eyes. “But I really thought that story was bittersweet. One of the best.”
“One of the best, huh?” Joohyun smiles but she drops her gaze wistfully. “Not a popular opinion, but I’ll take it.”
“Are you not going to ask me why and let me praise your story?” The actress playfully asks.
“Oh, please. Do tell.” Joohyun playfully answers back and Seulgi clears , preparing her ‘speech’.
“People know they can’t have everything in life. You don’t get something just by your efforts. And you get heartbroken for who knows how many times. You sometimes even have to give up on something and try to find a replacement.” Seulgi leans back on the chair, patting her full stomach. “But the odd thing is they expect so much when it comes to love. They want it to be the turn point of their life. They believe love will make everything better and always make them happier when it can’t forever.”
Joohyun listens, pondering the actress’s words as she places her chin on her palm with her elbow propped on the table.
“So I liked how you conveyed in your story how wrong that is. I still even remember the quote. ‘People know they can’t have everything in this world. So why do they expect everything when it comes to love?’.”
“You even remember the quote.” Joohyun giggles softly. “That’s sweet.”
“I really liked it that much.” Seulgi says truthfully. “So do tell me why you don’t think you can write something just as amazing.”
Joohyun lets out a small sigh, so many things can be an answer and she doesn’t know how to wrap them all into just one.
“I guess it’s because I realized writing what everyone can read isn’t always.. great.” Joohyun purses her lips, slumping on her seat a little. “And I saw too many numbers.”
“It wasn’t my intention to suddenly be obsessed with how many copies my book sold or the rank on each bookstores online.” Joohyun looks down to nothing. She knows it isn’t her fault she felt pressured by the numbers but she can’t help but wonder if she could have overcome it. “But I did notice. The expectations. The articles and blogs. People talking. And most of all, how it all changed. It felt like I was going downhill.”
Joohyun doesn’t know why she is telling all this to Seulgi, who is a complete stranger to her. But it comes out a lot easier because if she tells someone like Wendy or Yerim or even Joy, Joohyun knows for sure that they’re going to worry. It’s a selfish action in some way, but it’s the look on Seulgi’s eyes that keeps her talking, like the actress is saying that she genuinely understands.
“I know it's the same circle for everyone. You fall down. So you struggle to think of ways to get yourself back up. And then you fall down again.”
“That quite sums everything up.” Seulgi agrees, feeling the weight of the writer’s words.
“But this time I didn’t want to try. I wanted to lie down for once.”
“It seems to me you’re afraid of falling down.” Seulgi points out. “And not staying in the same spot.”
“That’s true. I expect too much for my efforts and when the result doesn’t reach my expectations, it all becomes..”
“Torturing?” Seulgi guesses and Joohyun nods.
“I guess that’s because I can never be proud of what I did.”
“You always seemed like a perfectionist.” Seulgi says which makes Joohyun laugh half-heartedly, admiring her mug which is also purple.
“I won’t argue about that.I’ve heard that so many times I can’t say that I’m not.”
“I understand though.” Seulgi stretches out her both arms sideways, as if she is presenting herself on stage. “You just met another perfectionist right here. How about that?”
Joohyun giggles, all her nervousness and shame faltering a little.
“As someone who has a job that has to be a people pleaser, I don’t blame you for being bothered by numbers.” Seulgi adds, trying to comfort the writer in some way and Joohyun is pleased by the gesture.
“People look for entertaining things. Provocative even.” Joohyun finds herself talking again. “I knew all that very well. So my only problem was-”
“To follow or to make your own path?”
“Yeah.” Joohyun takes a sip of her tea, inhaling the scent before drinking. “Making my own path seems about right.”
“But you don’t seem very happy about it.”
Joohyun gives the actress a strained smile as she puts the mug down. “Like I said, I expect too much.”
Seulgi thoughtfully taps the surface of the table. “Then what is the moderate amount of expectation?”
“I don’t exactly know. Maybe up to the level where you can grant what you want?”
Seulgi frowns and Joohyun notices that she has a habit of squinting her eyes when she frowns. She won’t admit it out loud, but Joohyun finds it endearing.
“What is exactly the level where you can grant what you want?” Seulgi asks, still trying to understand the meaning of it.
“I can’t do anything about the number of books that are sold. Of how many critics liked it or how many people are talking about it. So I always look for ways to give myself credit. Something to look forward to.”
“Let me guess. Another book enjoyable to read?”
Joohyun shakes her head. “No. Chickens. Fried, steamed, even on salads.”
“Better than alcohol, right?” Irene laughs although it’s a little bitter this time. “Although I don’t do that anymore.”
“Why? Felt bad for the chickens?”
“I forced myself to eat every kind of chicken whenever I found myself being conscious about the result. The numbers.”
Seulgi frowns again but this time, with sympathy in her eyes. “So you forced your own credit to yourself.”
“I ended up despising chicken after that.” Joohyun adds. “No offense to the living ones.”
“I’m sure they’ll be grateful.” Seulgi playfully replies. “The chickens I mean. Not the over hundreds of franchises that sell fried chicken or any kind of chicken.”
“Even the word chicken makes me sick.” Joohyun says with a scowl, recalling the day she almost threw up after eating. “It’s that one type of word that I will never use in the story.”