Scratching behind the coal black fur of tiny ears, Shuhua purses her lips to the other puppy, wagging its chocolate colored tail, who taps at her thighs for attention. Haku purrs in between her scratches, tiny mouth widening into a yawn.
“Tomorrow, Haku is going to go home to Yoon, Mata.” Shuhua pouts, lifting the tiny fluff onto her lap. Mata jumps onto Shuhua’s bent knees, accidentally knocking heads with the other poodle.
Shuhua laughs, “you should be nicer to him, Mata. It’s his last day!”
She leans back until she’s lying on the white marble of the floor, raising Haku up into the air above her. “You’ll be okay, Haku. I’ll come visit you all the time and bring Mata too. Yoon’s gonna show you just how much you can be loved in this cruel world.”
Her bottom lip starts to quiver, eyes glistening with growing tears. “I’m so happy that we are able to give you guys a home.” A hand reaches for Mata who was crawling onto her stomach, hugging both of them to her chest, and embracing them with so much adoration.
The metal of the door jiggles open, and Shuhua cranes her neck back to meet eyes with an annoyed Soojin.
“Shuhua—,” Soojin groans, pausing to scoop the two puppies into her arms once they abandoned Shuhua and pounced their way excitedly where Soojin stood by the door.
“The door, Shuhua. You can’t keep forgetting. There are dangerous people in this world.”
Shuhua rolls onto her stomach, a pout still on her lips, eyes still glassy. The older woman raises a brow upon Shuhua’s upset state, “what’s up with you, stray girl?”
Soojin walks further into Shuhua’s apartment after closing the door and locking it. She sits on the floor where Shuhua was still laying, letting the puppies out of her hold to roam and play.
“I was just talking to the pups.” A heavy sigh releases from Shuhua’s pout.
“About?” Soojin asks, letting Shuhua crawl closer towards her, turning onto her back, so that her head could comfortably lay where Soojin’s ankles crossed.
Her eyes look up into brown orbs that once looked at her piercingly, but now only stares with tenderness. “Their parting.”
Soojin chuckles, “and you started to cry?” Her fingers brush against Shuhua’s forehead, pushing the hairs out of her eyes.
“Because it’s sad!” Shuhua whines out the words in a drag, the heels of her feet kicking at the floor. “I’m not too sensitive. Your heart’s just made out of stone.” The words came out of her in a grumble, crossing her arms over her chest, and glaring up at the white of her ceiling.
Soojin’s lips curl into a subtle smile, leaning over to try and meet Shuhua’s eyes again. “They’re going to see each other often. It’s not like one’s moving away to another country.”
Shuhua does return her gaze, her own only growing more and more misty with emotion. “Still… who knows what they’ve gone through together before they ended up in that shelter. Now they’re separating… I think they’ll be devastated.”
Soojin reaches to wipe at the corner of the younger woman’s eyes, heart swelling with adoration. She always did love how empathetic Shuhua was, no matter how much Soojin would for it. She wonders just how someone who grew up with no sort of affection, garners so much love to give to other people, and even to things that did not have a soul or a beating heart.
“You rescued them.” Soojin points out with a glow to her voice. “I’m sure they’ll soon understand and adapt to their new homes. They’ll see that they’re not saying goodbye forever once they meet again after their first parting. And again after that, and again after that.”
The frown and furrow on Shuhua’s face begins to relax, Soojin’s comforting words settling her into a state of ease.
“So don’t be sad, stray girl.” Soojin taps the button of her nose, “I’m trying my hardest to not call you a cry baby right now.”
Shuhua scrunches her nose, “hey!” She drags the word in offense, “stop calling me mean names.”
Soojin chuckles, leaning back to put her weight onto her hands. “Okay, stray girl.”
“No, not that name either.”
“What am I supposed to call you? That’s your name.” Soojin rolls her eyes.
Shuhua rolls onto her stomach, arms resting on Soojin’s criss-crossed legs, chin propped onto her folded hands. A hum comes from her as she thinks for an answer.
“You could always call me by my actual name, you know,” Shuhua rolls her eyes, “or something cute! Like sweetie or—,” Soojin’s face scrunches in disgust, “sweetie? That sounds gross.”
Shuhua scoffs, pushing herself to sit up, mimicking Soojin’s crossed legs. Their knees touch, and Shuhua lightly slaps Soojin’s thigh. “It’s not gross!”
“How about sweetie pie? Pumpkin?” Shuhua lists a few more.
“That’s even worse! Oh my god, what are your cringey romance novels teaching you?” Soojin grimaces, and her exaggerated reactions earn her another slap on her thigh.
“Babe? Baby? Sweetheart? Princess?”
Soojin shakes her head, “nope. No. Veto. Veto to all those things. Hard pass.”
Shuhua pouts, “you call me baby when we’re having ?”
“Yeah, when we’re having .” Soojin clarifies, the tone in her voice implying that she thinks there’s a major difference in comparison.
Shuhua rolls her eyes, “you’re unbelievable.”
Soojin grins, “thank you.”
The younger woman pushes her face away, a groan leaving her lips. “I outta deflate that ego of yours.”
A bark comes from Mata, tongue sticking out in a heave of breaths. Soojin makes a face at her, a pointer finger pressed against her lips to shush her.
“She’s scolding you for not being nice to her mom.” Shuhua says, outstretching her hands towards Mata, but the puppy only runs the opposite way, causing Shuhua to pout.
Soojin snorts, “I don’t think so.”
“I feel unloved.” Shuhua dramatically says, dejecting onto the ground with her arms and legs spread out like a starfish. Soojin rolls her eyes, but the gesture was filled with fondness, as she gazes at the sulking woman in front of her.
“Give me attention.” Shuhua puckers her lips, eyes closed and waiting for cherry red lips to find hers.
“I don’t feel like it.” Soojin smirks, turning around on her back and lying down next to Shuhua onto the floor.
“You’re supposed to be nicer to me,” Shuhua pouts, turning onto her side to stare at the older woman whose eyes lazily wandered over the unique white bumps and patterns of her ceiling.
“I am?” The corners of her lips curl subtly.
“Yeah, since we’re tog—, we’re dati—, uh…” Shuhua blinks, trying to find the right words, “w-we’re on the same page now.” She settles to say, clearing nervously.
Soojin turns onto her side too, a playful smile on her lips. “Yeah? What page are we on?”
“You tell me.” Shuhua challenged.
Soojin hums, her lips forming a thin like in thought. She glances at Shuhua’s anticipating expression, “ with feelings?” Her tone feigned a playful innocence, obviously teasing the younger girl, but Shuhua being the oblivious person she was, of course it took longer to catch on.
Shuhua huffs again, rolling her eyes. “Okay, and what would you label that?”
Shuhua groans, pushing Soojin away again, a deep frown on her lips. The older woman laughed, pulling her closer by the waist. She wasn’t by any means rushing anything, but Shuhua was curious. It felt like this whole relationship was still a blurred line that she was still trying to figure out, so she couldn’t help, but ask. And of course, it took a lot more for Shuhua to get Soojin into a serious conversation about their relationship.
“I’m just teasing,” Soojin’s smile was genuine and bright.
Shuhua, surprisingly, was still not used to seeing it, or maybe she thinks she’s not because every time she sees Soojin smile, her heart thumps like a beating drum.
“Do we really need a label?” Soojin sighs, and Shuhua’s frown only deepens.
“W-Well…” Shuhua sits up, “I really like you, and it’d be nice to know what I am to you. I’m not asking for there to be a label now, but I want to know that this relationship will progress and not just go in circles again. I just—,” the look of uncertainty on Shuhua’s face worried Soojin.
The younger woman sighs, “sometimes I feel like… like this is still just to you.”
“You have doubts.” Soojin doesn’t feel offended at how shallow she seemed to appear to Shuhua, because honestly, that’s what she was before Shuhua.
Soojin can’t deny it.
“I can’t read you as easily as you can read me. I just—,” Shuhua plays with the last button of her shirt, “I’ve been hurt a lot, Soojin. My whole life. By everyone around me.” When the younger woman looked back into her eyes, Soojin didn’t expect the glassy reflection of Shuhua’s childhood trauma flashing through her eyes. “I’ve been used, I’ve been beaten. I’ve been taken advantage of. Anything and everything, I haven't felt an ounce of love in this world till I came here, to New York, to be with Yuqi.”
Shuhua paused, swallowing the lump in .
“You’re right. I was naive. I mean, I am. I trust people too easily, and that’s why I get hurt a lot.” Shuhua also admits her flaws.
“Hey, don’t do that,” Soojin takes Shuhua’s hand that continues to fiddle with the buttons o