they said the end is coming, everyone's up to something
i find myself running home to your
iii. three doting sisters
Seulgi had a unique bond with each of her long-time girlfriend’s sisters: Yerim, Sooyoung, and Seungwan.
With Yerim, they'd often get comments of looking like a family. Seulgi had been introduced to Joohyun's family very early on into their friendship, and had known the youngest since she was an elementary student. She admired how Joohyun had taken on the role of a mother for her sisters since they were small children.
Joohyun made sure that Yerim went to school everyday with ironed, pleated uniforms, healthy meals, and a complete list of school supplies. She never wanted Yerim to feel like she was behind the other kids despite their difficult circumstances in life and apparent absence of a real mother and father. Because of Joohyun’s own schedules with both university and a part-time job, however, she nor her other sisters could take Yerim to school themselves.
For years, Yerim walked to and from school by herself, until Seulgi came into the picture and accompanied her as much as possible, not minding if she missed the first hour of a class she was ahead of anyway. Seulgi loved the fifteen-minute walks with the girl and they'd grown incredibly close, that Yerim had been the first person she’d told about having a crush on her eldest sister. With innocent bribes of ice cream and candies on the way home, their secret had stayed just between the two of them for as long as two years. It went without saying that Yerim absolutely adored Seulgi, and was happy to have another big sister in her.
Everybody went through teenage angst at some point. Some, of course, much worse than others. Sooyoung had been one of those cases. With Joohyun basically standing as their mother, Sooyoung had become the so-called ‘middle child’. And infamously so. She’d become the textbook definition of rebellious - sneaking out in the dead of the night, coming home mornings thereafter, interrupting Joohyun’s day with calls from the high school guidance counselor, skipping classes altogether - most times nobody could tell what Sooyoung was going to do next.
Some days, Seulgi could do nothing but listen to Joohyun vent her frustrations towards her sister, lending a shoulder to cry on when frustration turned into self-loathing. Joohyun frequently blamed herself, held herself responsible for Sooyoung’s erratic behavior as she had been ‘too busy and neglectful’. Seulgi had to be careful with her words each time, wanting to validate her friend’s feelings but not at the expense of carelessly throwing Sooyoung under the bus, who was also her friend. She had played mediator between Joohyun and Sooyoung many times, and had no complaints in doing so, but knew that the tension had been affecting everyone and had to be resolved sooner or later.
Everything had boiled down to when Joohyun had lashed out without thinking twice, going on about how if she had the choice, would never want a sister, let alone a daughter like Sooyoung. Sooyoung seemingly shared the same sentiment, and as expected, traded indignities and bitter insults until exhaustion. Joohyun's swollen eyes the next morning had been the last straw for Seulgi, and had decided to have an overdue conversation with both sisters.
Joohyun had been rational and easy to make sense with, but persuading Sooyoung had proved to be one of the most difficult things Seulgi had ever experienced. The stubbornness and pride of a teenager could not have been anymore underestimated. Eventually, they saw eye to eye, Sooyoung finally realizing her mistakes. But being as clever as she had been, Sooyoung stuck the talk longer than needed, and went as far as making a deal with Seulgi. That she’d have to confess her very obvious feelings for her sister if she made up with her. Desperately enough, Seulgi had agreed. Days later, not only had Joohyun and Sooyoung’s relationship become much better, but Seulgi had also found herself dating the girl she’d liked for years.
Seungwan had tried her best not to be a burden to their family. She’d been a firsthand witness to Joohyun’s struggles and couldn’t imagine what would become of them if it weren’t for her. Being the second oldest, although incomparable to Joohyun, came with the self-imposed pressure of having it all together whilst still bringing her own share to the table.
Joohyun had known that Seungwan worked part-time just like her; but unbeknownst to her, Seungwan had been working two jobs instead of one, all while keeping up with her studies. She couldn’t afford to lose her scholarship, not in the situation her family was in. Seungwan constantly juggled between the two, hardly slept and routinely skipped meals to save money.
In her selfless concern to ensure that her younger sisters had the life they deserved, and to reduce the weight of Joohyun’s troubles, Seungwan had sacrificed many of her own desires. As a result, she didn’t have many close friends either. The interactions with the few she did have, including Seulgi, remained confined within the university. At home, her optimistic attitude and bright smiles had been enough to disguise her dour disposition and keep Joohyun from suspecting a thing.
Seulgi had been in the same year, and shared a class with her. Like the others, Seulgi hardly noticed what Seungwan was going through.
Things had become much more difficult though, when the two were paired for a final requirement for their class. It hadn’t been an easy task. Deadlines were tight and Seungwan could only make up so many excuses for their disarrayed meet-ups. Down the pipeline of finishing the assignment, in her haste to avoid Seulgi from waiting for any longer, Seungwan had forgotten that she was still in waitress' uniform.
Everybody had known that she only worked as a cashier at a local convenience store.
Seungwan had explained that she’d lied about the extra-curricular activities she did to make time for her second job, and that the scholarship allowance hadn't been enough. She had just wanted to help out.
Seulgi, feeling stupid to not have noticed, reluctantly promised not to tell Joohyun until Seungwan was ready to herself, in spite of the slight guilt of keeping a secret from her girlfriend. It hadn’t happened until after their graduation, both earning themselves the scolding of their lives from Joohyun. Not even Seulgi’s unexpected show of affection had saved them.
Over the years, Joohyun and Seulgi's relationship only grew stronger inasmuch Seulgi became an irreplaceable part of her girlfriend’s family. As they got older, things changed, yet remained the same.
Yerim became a producer at a music label, and although she lived on her own now and made her own money, Joohyun would still come over every now and then to keep her company and spoil her with gifts.
Sooyoung still loved the thrill of parties, so she went on to make a living out of them as a wedding planner. She’d become the clingiest with Joohyun, taking her out on dates whenever she could. Of course, she'd also promised to plan Joohyun and Seulgi’s wedding free of charge, wherever and whenever it would happen.
Seungwan was taking up her internal medicine residency, fully-funded by a foundation that recognized her talents and hardwork. Whether it was through text messages or trips to her home and the hospital, Joohyun made sure Seungwan never skipped a meal ever again.
"They're late. Christmas dinner, and they're late," Joohyun sighed.
"It's alright. Snowstorm's probably holding them up." Seulgi came around the couch to sit next to Joohyun. She passed her a warm mug. "Here."
"Thanks," Joohyun said, touching her head to Seulgi’s. She wrapped her hands around the mug and blew on it before taking a small sip. "Mm, with bourbon?"
Seulgi nodded. "Just how you like it."
Joohyun smiled tenderly and tilted her head back so she could kiss Seulgi.
A soft ding came from the kitchen.
"Cookies are ready," Joohyun sighed softly as she pulled away. She moved to put down her mug and stand up, but Seulgi pushed her back.
"You've been preparing the food all day. I got this," Seulgi stood up, kissing Joohyun a second time. "Relax and enjoy your hot chocolate for me."
"I will." Joohyun watched her girlfriend, a loving look on her face.
Her entire life, Joohyun took care of everyone. But it was Seulgi, like a soft ocean breeze, a candle in the dark, a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter day… It was Seulgi who took care of Joohyun.