A/N : If you don't like angst, or only like angst with closed happy endings, I suggest you to skip this story. And for those who are okay reading angst, I hope you enjoy reading :)
Seulgi first learned about Indian summer during class, when almost everyone was dozing off and she was holding Joohyun’s hand under the desk while the professor droned on.
Indian summer, he explained, is a period of unseasonably warm weather that sometimes occurs in autumn in temperate regions of the northern hemisphere during September to November. And in Europe, they call this 'Old Wives' Summer', 'St. Martin's Summer', and 'Halcyon's Days' and so on. A brief summer before a long winter. A brief warmth before the lifelong cold. For this reason, Indian summer is considered as God's gift.
"So people often use indian summer as a metaphor when they talk about love, meaning the resplendent, warmest moment of their time." The professor had explained, smiling at the students who were suddenly interested.
And Seulgi had laughed quietly. Because at that time, it felt like the professor was describing their exact moment. The happiest moment, when it felt like they were meant to meet and be together just by the gentle squeeze of Joohyun’s hand.
So does this mean they’re between the end of Indian summer and the start of winter right now?
At that question, her mind goes blank and Seulgi stares down at her left hand. To be exact, her ring finger, with the silver ring wrapped around her finger like a promise.
A silver lining, Seulgi had said jokingly as they helped each other put the rings on their fingers(with the huge tree behind them as a made-up altar). But it was true. Seulgi sometimes even depended her luck on it. Or couldn’t go anywhere without it which was often the reason why she was late at their date.
When she slowly takes off the ring, she can see the pale traces on her finger. She has been wearing it for almost six years after all.
And as soon as the ring is pulled out, she feels a sudden chill of her left hand. So she quickly puts it back, thinking maybe it’s too soon.
“So this was where you were talking about?”
Joohyun, who just entered the old tent, giggles in amusement. Her giggle fills the humble tent which was one of Joohyun’s favorite places in high school. Only because here, a friendly old woman sold tteokbokki which Joohyun can’t live without.
“You got lost several times, didn’t you?” Seulgi says knowingly and Joohyun smiles sheepishly.
“I didn’t even know the location you sent was here.”
Joohyun is very bad at finding paths. She often ended up wandering around the streets, even though technology advanced enough, Joohyun still had a hard time figuring out if she should go left or right.
“Did you have breakfast?”
Seulgi asks, then naturally her hand runs through Joohyun’s slightly disheveled hair. And just as naturally, Joohyun takes her hand her hair and holds it with fingers interlocked.
Not giving Seulgi a moment to frown, she turns her attention to the menu. Let’s eat tteokbokki. We haven’t had that for a long time, right? Joohyun chatters on as if they are back to their high school days. And Seulgi gives her hand a wordless squeeze then turns to the nice old lady who made the most delicious spicy rice cake in their standards. Can we have two servings of tteokbokki? And the lady nods with a kind smile.
Seulgi turns her attention back to Joohyun who is smiling at her.
“Did you wait long?”
“Is it okay for you to eat tteokbokki for breakfast? You know I am but you,”
Seulgi answers and Joohyun nods shortly twice then grins. They stay like that for a while, not really saying anything but not breaking eye contact. Seulgi leans closer and Joohyun automatically turns her head sideways so that Seulgi can whisper something in her ear.
“Why are you so pretty today?”
Seulgi said as if she was asking her if she slept well today. Even though they’ve been like this for five years Joohyun laughs, lightly slapping Seulgi’s shoulder. And Seulgi’s eyes folds into crescents as the sunlight over the glass window bounces off the table and her head.
“Aren’t you tired? Wendy told me you got home almost at 2 am.”
“Yeah, they wouldn’t let me leave.” Joohyun says, her voice a little calmer than before. “Since it’s going to take a long time to see me again.”
Even though everyone was busy with their own life trying to get a job, with some working part-time, some preparing for the civil service examination, and a lot trying to survive graduate school, they still managed to have a gathering yesterday. And Seulgi, who wanted Joohyun to enjoy her time with her friends and her friends only, declined when she was invited, leaving Wendy in charge.
“Did they cry?”
“Some did.” Joohyun says quietly. “I think I cried too.”
“..Do you think you’re going to miss them a lot?”
Because Seulgi has been waiting for her for almost half an hour, the only thing between them was a cup of water. But instead of getting her own cup of water, Joohyun lifts the cup and takes a sip. And Seulgi notices that the ring finger of her hand holding the cup is bare.
“You didn’t wear it today.”
Seulgi weakly smiles, reaching out for her hand and rubbing her finger thoughtfully, wondering if she made a mistake of wearing hers.
Joohyun quickly notices what Seulgi is referring to and grins, digs her right hand in her coat pocket, then pulls out a silver ring with the same gleam as hers.
She slips the ring on her ring finger then smiles at Seulgi as if she is waiting for Seulgi to shower her with compliments.
Briefly thinking to herself how it’s a perfect fit, Seulgi looks down at her own ring.
“Here it is, two servings of tteokbokki.”
“Thank you!” Joohyun cheerfully says, taking the plate and the old lady smiles.
“It has been a while since you two last visited.”
The two women look at each other, then give each other a knowing smile.
“You should come here more often. I’ll even give you free sundae next time.”
That makes them look at each other again.
The kind old lady leaves. And both stay still, feeling disoriented. Then Seulgi reaches out for the container on their table, pulling out chopsticks for each of them and Joohyun hastily follows her, placing each napkin on their side.
They stare at the spicy, almost threateningly red rice cake then start using their chopsticks, popping rice cakes, fish cakes and even pieces of cabbage. Seulgi sniffs, feeling the spiciness take over her tongue already and Joohyun naturally pushes the boiled egg to her side, knowing it always helped Seulgi cool down the spiciness. And Seulgi mumbles ‘thanks’ as she receives it just as naturally.
But for some reason, Joohyun, who is a pro at eating spicy foods, also sniffed from time to time.
Since the tteokbokki tent was near their high school, they decided to go visit their teacher when they were in third grade. But when they made it to the teacher’s room after tiptoeing as quietly as they can to not bother the students, their art teacher told them that their homeroom teacher had been transferred to another school. Joohyun especially seemed regretful about it, letting out a sigh as they walked out the teacher’s room.
“I wanted to see him before I left.”
“I didn’t know he was transferred.” Seulgi says, just as regretfully. “It would have been nice if we could have at least seen him.”
Their voice quietly spreads on the long hallway. And when they reach the end of the hall, with the stairs below them that lead them to the second floor and another that leads them to the fourth floor, Joohyun turns to Seulgi.
“Wanna go to the school art room?” Joohyun slyly asks. “For old time’s sake?”
Seulgi stares up at the stairs that will lead them to the fourth floor, then glances behind to see the long hallway they’ve walked.
Of course, a lot of things changed with time. But the sunlight coming through the window, reflecting the clouds of dust dancing around the empty hall, it almost felt like this school hadn’t changed at all.
She then looks at Joohyun, smiles a little, then walks up the stairs. Joohyun quickly tries to catch up from behind, reaching out for her hand which Seulgi holds on tightly.
When they arrived at the art room which is right beside the music room, Seulgi slid open the wooden door. And Seulgi inhales the ever so familiar smell of paints and papers. It has been so long since they’ve last visited, almost three years and it makes them laugh for no reason, recognizing everything in the art room where they first met.
“I like your drawing.”
Seulgi had been enjoying her alone-drawing-time during lunch break, listening to boys shouts while playing soccer or baseball and girls chattering and cheering them on.
Meanwhile, Joohyun, who was one of the quietest girls in class, had been trying to find a good place to read a book. Since she attracted.. unnecessary attention. Being tired of the feeling of being watched, Joohyun had opened the door of the art room, pretty sure that nobody would be there.
But when she saw Seulgi, who she knew as the girl who can draw almost everything, she had blurted that out almost automatically after taking one glance at what Seulgi was drawing.
They never really talked even though they were in the same class. Seulgi had her own group and so did Joohyun. But Seulgi, who was friendly to everyone, had smiled at her gratefully.
“I just have to finish painting it.” Seulgi had said, thoughtfully tapping the pencil on the easel. “What color do you think I should use other than blue?”
“Red.” Joohyun had answered without hesitation and when Seulgi had asked why, she had grinned and said.
“Because those two can make purple.”
After that, they became inseparable. Life was funny that way.
Seulgi stands in the middle of the room, smiling down at the familiar marble floor and Joohyun knows what she is thinking at this moment.
Their first kiss had also happened here.
It was the day when Seulgi had failed to go to one of the colleges of fine arts in Seoul. And that was her last application, her last hope to have a chance to go to school.
Instead, she was stuck in Daegu, trying to be satisfied with the fact that she was going to attend a national university. But of course, after spending almost two and a half years drawing and painting and studying days and nights, hoping someday to be one of the college students smiling on the pamphlet of Seoul national university, Seulgi was very upset.
Upset enough to slam the art room door shut and rip all her drawings and smash her canvases against the marble floor but Seulgi didn’t know which was louder, her sobs or the canvases that got destroyed by her.
And Joohyun had rushed toward her just in time when Seulgi was about to smash her- no, their canvas, red and blue and mostly, purple.
That was the first time Seulgi ever sobbed in front of someone in high school. And the kiss happened when Joohyun was trying to comfort her, saying that it’s all going to be okay and that it’ll eventually work out in the end. Being the intimate one when it comes to physical affections, Joohyun had given her a light peck on the crown of her forehead. And then her nose, and eventually ended up more than a peck when she reached her lips.
Unlike that day, the art room is empty, surrounded with silence. Being two of the few who used the art room often, it became a world of their own.
They even had their first time here.
“It’s almost terrifyingly clean compared to before.”
Seulgi says as she regretfully looks at the white walls which had all kinds of doodles and paints all over at their time.
Joohyun nods, placing her palm on the desk then playfully grins as she carefully sits on the firm desk.
“Want to do it here like we did that day?”
And Seulgi lightly smacks her arm, blushing as she recalls their first time, with Joohyun on the desk and having to stop when the bell rang, coming out with creased shirts and flushed faces.
Then Joohyun reaches out for her hand and pulls Seulgi close in her embrace, wrapping her arms around her. And Seulgi obliges, propping her chin on the crown of her head with her arms laced around her petite waist.
After a while, Seulgi steps back a little, then bumps her nose against hers like children. She pecks Joohyun’s lips a few times and Joohyun smiles, her eyes looking straight into hers.
That was Seulgi’s nickname for Joohyun in high school. Because Joohyun always tried to convince her to skip class with her just to have spicy rice cake, or even sometimes skip class only because she wants to hold her hand or kiss her so much.
Joohyun’s smile is watery as she playfully bumps her forehead against Seulgi’s. Joohyun then leans in and presses her lips against hers. And Seulgi can feel Joohyun pulling her closer as she tilts her head to deepen the kiss.
Seulgi doesn’t have to see to know what kind of expression is painted on Joohyun’s face.
She can imagine Joohyun’s ever so honest eyebrows hanging low as if she’s ready to cry.
And Joohyun inhales the certain perfume Seulgi always uses, her eyes b with tears when Joohyun smells no acrid cigarette smoke as she buries her face on Seulgi’s shoulder.
We should go on a trip, Seulgi had suggested but Joohyun had objected to the suggestion for this reason, right in front of her.
Joohyun smiles without a word as she pushes the cart toward Seulgi, who is busy trying to get the piece of beef first before the boy next to her, holding her toothpick challengingly.
“You’re not going to eat your lunch here, are you?”
“Of course I’m not.”
Seulgi, who somehow managed to even get a tomato spaghetti in the small cup, denies when Joohyun asks that question.
Is it good? Joohyun then asks and Seulgi nods, handing another cup on her other hand to Joohyun which makes her laugh. But Joohyun takes it anyway and indeed, the spaghetti tasted delicious.
Joohyun tries to reach out for the pack of spaghetti but Seulgi stops her, grinning down at her.
“I want to eat what you want to make for me.”
Then she places her palm over Joohyun’s wrist, walking by her side as Joohyun drags the cart.
“What do you want to eat for lunch?”
“Anything you make.”
Her answer wasn’t a way to flatter Joohyun, Seulgi actually means it.
They don’t really say it to each other out loud, but they quite enjoyed spending time together at the kitchen. Even though they weren’t the best cooks, even making fun of each other’s food sometimes. Their relationship was just like their food. Not perfect judging from others, but the best in their eyes.
And the only reason why it can’t be perfect in their eyes also, is because it has an end.
“I haven’t taken out my winter clothes.” Seulgi mumbles to herself, flipping the fashion magazine while lying on her stomach on the living room floor.
Joohyun, who is lying on Seulgi’s back while watching the television, turns her head sideways, only hearing the sound of people laughing and clapping at what the man just said.
“You didn’t organize your closet yet?”
“It’s still humid and hot sometimes.”
“You know how the weather's all weird like that. And the next thing you know, it’s winter.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Let’s do it now.”
Joohyun stops herself from adding ‘when I’m here.’. And Seulgi just nods as an answer then puts down the magazine, placing her cheek on the cool surface of the floor.
“Let’s buy you some new clothes in the meantime. I think you can use some more coats and maybe a scarf? Yours seem quite old now.” Joohyun adds and Seulgi lifelessly nods again.
“Does that really mean a yes or a new way of saying no?”
“I don’t want to move an inch from this floor.” Seulgi grumbles and Joohyun sits up with a sly smile.
“If you do, maybe we can also go see that exhibition you wanted to go so much tomorrow?”
Seulgi groans, knowing she can’t say no to that and Joohyun stands up, lightly patting Seulgi’s backside encouragingly.
But just when Seulgi is about to sit up, Joohyun’s scent wafts over as she overlaps her body on Seulgi’s back. Seulgi lets out a surprised grunt and falls down on the floor.
“What was that for?”
Seulgi asks, quite annoyed but puzzled by the look on Joohyun’s face as she turns her head slightly. Then, still hugging her from behind, Joohyun meets her eyes and grins without a word. Flustered, Seulgi asks if there was something on her face but Joohyun just shakes her head. And so, they just stare at each other, their noses only inches apart.
Then Joohyun kisses her temple and sits up, leaving Seulgi more puzzled than ever.
Next week, Joohyun won’t be Joohyun anymore. At least, her name won’t be Bae Joohyun anymore. Everyone will call her ‘Irene’ somewhere in New York, where Joohyun will start a new life due to her new job. The job she always wanted for who knows how long.
Nobody thought it was possible and neither did she. Joohyun had always tried to find a decent job in Seoul and told Seulgi that her application overseas was just like a lottery she buys for fun sometimes. She didn’t hope too much for it.
Then one day, a day just as ordinary as yesterday, Joohyun received an email. And the blue letters ‘Congratulations’ flashed on the screen when she opened it.
It took her more than half an hour to realize what just happened. She was at home that day. And she had instantly called out her mother, who came to her room wondering what made her daughter so shaken up. Her mother had looked so happy that day. Her younger sister even hugged her and Joohyun swore she saw her father cry. As if she just made a vaccine that will save the whole family.
She had excitedly picked up her phone, automatically finding one particular number but her smile quickly faded. Because she had just realized she was the only one who was leaving, with everyone else left behind. Including Seulgi.
She had made Wendy promise to not tell anything to Seulgi. And Wendy had asked nervously what was going to happen. Joohyun couldn’t answer because she didn’t know.
Joohyun was sure Seulgi wouldn't ever force her to stay. That was probably the last thing she’ll ever do. But did that mean they were still going to be.. them? Joohyun wasn’t sure. Only because she was afraid Seulgi’s answer wouldn't be the same as hers.
Seulgi never gave an answer she wasn’t sure about. She preferred not to answer if that was the case. So Joohyun almost cried when Seulgi finally said that she loved her.
And she had first seen Seulgi cry when she told her about her new job in another country.
She had, of course, tried to be happy for her. Then she asked how long she was going to stay. And when Joohyun didn’t reply it became a disaster.
“What do you expect me to say?” Seulgi had asked, all confused. “Are you saying that we should see each other once a month from now on? Forever? Is that even possible?”
“Maybe we can try.”
“Maybe?” Seulgi had said with a scoff. “Do you know how unsure you look right now, Joohyun?”
“Then what do you expect me to do?” Joohyun had snapped. “Stay here forever with you?”
“You know that’s not what I want.”
“Then what is it that you want?”
“..I want to be enough as you so that I can come with you.” Seulgi had said grimly. “Or I want to at least have enough guts to say that we can make it together.”
Because as someone who was working at a small publishing company in Daegu, that seemed to be the last thing she could be. Someone enough.
“You’ll be asleep when I wake up. You’ll wake up when I’m asleep.” Seulgi had cut off, feeling all strength drain from her body. “And we’ll be living a completely different life from now. Everything will be different and we might not even be able to see each other because I just got my job and it’s not enough to even buy a ticket to the U.S. So how-” She had quickly lowered her gaze but Joohyun clearly saw the tears forming in her eyes. She stepped closer but Seulgi shook her head, brushing her hand away.
“How can we be together, hyun? How?”
And it dawned on them what was left when Joohyun couldn’t answer.
Seulgi just watches Joohyun open her closet and pulls out all the clothes one by one.
“You don’t even wear this anymore, do you?”
Joohyun says with a small grin, holding a simple white t-shirt with a logo print on it.
“Do you remember why you bought this?”
“Because you were jealous of Rachel Mcadams. And Channing Tatum too.”
Seulgi replies simply and Joohyun laughs. They had seen a movie ‘The Vow’ at that time, and after they saw the movie until the ending credits stopped, Seulgi couldn’t say a word because she thought Rachel Mcadams had the most gorgeous smile, and Channing Tatum had the warmest eyes. She was almost speechless.
But Joohyun, who thought Seulgi wasn’t saying anything because she was disappointed, carefully asked how she thought of the movie. And Seulgi had replied hastily that it was okay, not too bad. But Joohyun immediately recognized the subtle change of atmosphere(and Seulgi’s ears dusted pink). And of course, Joohyun was offended. Seulgi swore she had seen smoke come out of her flaring nostrils as she marched ahead.
“You were the one who wanted to see this movie with me!” Seulgi had protested but Joohyun’s glare didn’t falter, even letting out an annoyed huff.
“Which was a mistake. Go date Rachel Mcadams or Channing Tatum or whatever. Maybe even both! A !”
“What are you- hey, Joohyun! Hyun!”
Seulgi had been very stunned by her childish behavior. But she hurried her pace to catch the girl furiously stomping toward the escalator when she bumped into a girl holding a coke.
Her favorite white shirt had been ruined as the girl dropped her coke in surprise, staining the pale fabric light brown.
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