photo used in header cr: Source
*bold letters = English
It was a chilly morning and Irene was bored to death. The other half of ASeul, Irene’s partner-on-stage, Seulgi, has been busy video calling her secret non-celeb girlfriend, Sooyoung.
It was their third and final day in Canada. The company was generous enough to allow them a free day after a two-day tour here in Toronto. It was originally a one-day tour but the demands are high and they were practically forced to add another day and it was sold out in seconds. Well, they’re ASeul, one of the biggest duo acts around, be it kpop or pop in general.
“Seulgi-yah,” she called out from her bedroom. The person of interest looked away from her phone for a moment.
“I’ll just head out for a bit. Gonna stroll somewhere.”
“Will you be alone?”
“Yeah, probably. Call me if something’s up.”
“Okay, sure. Keep safe!”
She was welcomed by the chilly Canadian wind. It’s not exactly winter season but she sure isn’t conditioned for the Canadian weather. Her thin sweater isn’t helping either. But she's too lazy to return and grab a thicker jacket.
Sporting a black facemask and a cap, she strolled down the street while reading off something from her phone.
"I wonder how to get to St. Lawrence Market."
Reading maps is not her strong point, and so is English. Unfortunately, she needed both to get to the place she's been looking for. Asking her manager is not an option at this point. She didn't even tell her that she's out and about. She would probably be scolded later on but that's another problem for another time.
Looking around, she spotted a police officer by a bus stop. She approached him hesitantly.
"Uh, excuse me, sir?" She asked in her best English attempt.
Now, she's panicking. She really should've paid attention to SM's English classes more.
Lifting her phone, she showed the kind officer a webpage containing St. Lawrence Marketplace. "You know how to get here?" The officer didn’t miss her broken English accent.
"Oh, are you a foreigner by any chance?" He asked instead, to which she nodded.
"Yes yes. Korean. Basic English only. But I can read."
"Oh my, I'm so sorry I don't speak Korean. But, you may get on a bus here," he then pointed at the bus stop they're currently at.
"Get off at the Esplanade on Market street. You have to walk a bit to reach St. Lawrence though."
Irene got a bit of what the officer said, but still, anxiety is getting into her. It's the first time she's walking around a foreign country alone.
"Okay. Bus, then Esplanade, then walk to St. Lawrence?" she tried to clarify. She figured she'll just probably ask the driver again later.
"Yep! You can ask locals there to help you. I'm sure they will be glad to," he gave off a reassuring smile.
"Okay, thank you, sir!"
She left the officer and settled herself in one of the benches at the bus stop. She looked around carefully, checking if she's been exposed. Thankfully, her mask and cap are doing a great job.
That was until a woman, probably her age, approached her. She remembered that she saw her sitting here for a while.
"Hi!" She greeted cheerfully.
"Uh, hello," Irene tried to greet back in English. She's now panicking inside if she's been recognized.
"I kinda overheard your conversation. I'm really sorry for snooping around," the woman stated fully in Korean while bowing in apology, "but if you may, I'm also headed to St. Lawrence. I can help you if you want," she gave her a bright smile.
Oh my gosh, am I blessed or something?
"Are you sure? I mean, I'm technically a stranger."
"It's totally fine! I'd be glad to help someone. I can also help you communicate if you're having difficulty with it."
Irene looked sideways, trying to weigh the option.
For one, it'll really be a great help if she tags along. By the looks of it, the woman both speaks English and Korean. She also looks really friendly.
Also, she's kinda cute.
Her only worry right now is that she might be recognized. It's the risk she's afraid to take.
But the pros outweigh the cons so here goes nothing.
"Is it really alright with you?"
Inside the bus, they grabbed a seat side by side. It's still a bit early so there are only a few passengers.
"I almost forgot. I'm Wendy," the cheerful woman said.
Now, this got Irene to panic. She can't exactly tell her name, and also her birth name. Fans know these things.
"Hyun. My name's Hyun."
"Hyun… that's a nice name." Irene had to pause for a bit at that. She breathes out a sigh of relief once she realizes how tense she must've been.
"You here on vacation or something?"
Wow, she's talkative, she thought.
"Kinda like that. I'm here with a friend but she's too lazy to accompany me."
Wendy only nodded before giving out a megawatt smile. "I'm glad to be sitting on that bus stop at that exact time then."
Not an hour had passed when they reached St. Lawrence market. As expected, the place is already packed with people, locals, and tourists alike, even in the early morning.
“The place sure seems packed, huh?” Wendy said casually, not immediately noticing the apprehensive look on Irene’s covered face. It was only after a few seconds of silence that Wendy finally noticed her frozen companion.
“You okay? I mean, we can go elsewhere if you’re not comfortable with the crowd,” she asked worriedly.
“N-no, it’s fine. I was just quite surprised at the number of people. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a place like this.”
With that, Irene suddenly felt a warm hand holding her arm, “I won’t let you go, alright? Just stick with me and you won’t be lost.”
And true to her words, she has never once let go of Irene.
“Hyun! You gotta try this.” In her hand is a huge bagel, bigger than her own hands, stuffed with various fillings.
“This one is a must-try here. Come on.”
Irene slowly approached the food, carefully pulling her mask down. She opened widely to accommodate the stuffed bagel. Once she took a bite, her eyes immediately went wide, radiating the burst of flavors she just had from the food.
“It is good! Wow, if Seulgi was here, she’ll probably leave me to taste all the food around here.”
Irene then realized the slip of the tongue. Stupid me! Think, think.
“Seulhee, the lazy friend I told you about. She’s a foodie and has a huge appetite. She would love it here.”
“Why don’t we take a picture of you so you can brag about it? I’m sure she’ll be the one to pull you here next time.”
“Sure!” She then gave her phone to Wendy, but not without opening the camera app first.
“Okay, smile for me. One, two, and click!”
She’s thankful once again that Wendy immediately gave her phone back to her.
“Let’s check out some more. There’s a lot of stuff here that it’ll take you a day to cover everything.”
“Sure, lead the way.”
It’s been half a day and they’re only able to cover half of the place. They decided to take a rest in one of the free benches on the sides. Irene definitely needed rest. The chilly weather isn’t really helping her out.
That didn’t escape Wendy’s eyes. She noticed the slight shivering of the woman. She also noted the fact that she’s only wearing a light sweater, not enough to shield her from the cold, that’s for sure.
She removed her thick jacket from herself and faced Irene again. “Here.”
“Huh?” she asked, clueless.
“I kinda noticed you shivering. Sorry if I’m only acting on it now. I’m pretty sure you’re not used to Canadian weather yet. Your sweater’s kinda thin, too. I’m afraid that you might catch a cold or something.” Wendy shyly explained.
“No, it’s al—”
“Please, I insist! Don’t worr