016

DERANGER
"have you seen donghae recently?"
 
you shift your gaze from your drink to tiffany, who's helping one staff setting the glasses in the bar.
 
"donghae? no. i haven't seen him since we broke up--which was over a month ago," you say.
 
"hm. taetae and i saw him yesterday at the supermarket with his mum. they greet us, but you know, it's kinda awkward."
 
"how's he?"
 
"same same. still handsome as ever." tiffany puts down a glass and picks another to wipe it shine. "he asked if we happen to have seen you recently. we said we haven't. you haven't been going here either. the conversation ended with taetae telling him we'll mention him to you if we see you."
 
you nod, shifting your gaze to your drink, finding solace in seeing the ice float on the mixture. you mix it a little with the straw.
 
"how are you?" tiffany asks. "i want to assume you're taking things lightly since you're the one who broke up with him. but really, how are you?"
 
you shift on the stool, taking a deep breath in.
 
"better, i guess. for the first time in my life, i feel free."
 
"really?" tiffany sets aside the glasses and leans on the bar next to you. "i don't mean to pry, but that donghae is damn gorgeous and is ready to marry you. what happened?"
 
"i don't know, unni." you scrunch up your face. "i have been doing a lot of thinking lately. i realised that although i am fond of him, i don't love him enough to marry him."
 
tiffany nods.
 
"when he popped the question, i panicked," you continue. "every cell in my body wanted to say no, but i don't want to disappoint him nor my parents because he's nice and they like him a lot. but i'm not ready for that life with him yet. it's not what i want for myself."
 
"i see. have you figured out what you want then?"
 
your response is a shrug.
 
"that's fine," tiffany says assuringly. "as long as you're happy with what you're doing now, that's what matters."
 
you smile at her. "thank you, unni."
 
"hmm. anyone, in particular, making you happy these days?"
 
the front door opening disrupts your conversation. taeyeon came in along with your brother and his bandmates.
 
"welcome to the locksmith bar!" taeyeon says proudly, hands in the air. she gestures to the stage. "we're glad to have you here tonight, guys. feel free to set up your stuff over there."
 
eunwoo settles his keyboard down first before approaching you and tiffany, a huge grin etched on his face.
 
"hello, pretty unnis!" eunwoo hugs you first before going to tiffany. "thanks for inviting us to play here tonight."
 
"are you sure this is fine?" tiffany asks. "we don't want to be the cause of a rift between you and your parents."
 
eunwoo waves a hand. "it's fine. i've always wanted to play here since you opened."
 
"then the stage is all yours. we'll open the bar in an hour, so feel free to do whatever tests you need."
 
eunwoo excuses himself and pats your head one last time.
 
the door opens again, and enters yuri, yoona, and...
 
you couldn't stop a smile from coming out.
 
---
 
it feels weird to sit on the couch near seulgi and not be able to touch her.
 
you want to hold her, to lean against her, but you can't do that here.
 
yeri had requested a couple of songs for eunwoo and his band to play. it surprises you to hear how nice seulgi's voice is as she sings along.
 
makes the itch of holding her even more unbearable.
 
you grab another bottle of soju to divert your mind.
 
---
 
"i don't think you should be drinking that much tonight." seulgi scoots closer to you now that everyone at your table is on the dance floor.
 
you spare her a bored glance before chugging another bottle.
 
"irene..." she pulls your hand down. "you still need to review tomorrow, remember?"
 
"i'm getting tired of reviewing." you pout as seulgi takes the bottle away. "i feel like i'm wasting my weekend over that damn exam."
 
"but i thought you still want to try it one more time?"
 
"i do. but i..." you let out a sigh, leaning your head against her shoulder. "i'm getting tired of it."
 
you'd like to think seulgi's also fighting the urge to hold you as her hand clenches on her lap.
 
"do you want to go home now?" she asks.
 
"no. you can continue dancing with your girls there."
 
she chuckles. "don't be so jealous. it's only you whom i want to end up in bed tonight."
 
you raise your head. "what if i'm not in the mood?"
 
"then i'll go home and e on you instead." she laughs, and you slap her leg.
 
"i'll go say bye to my brother first." you try to stand up.
 
"can you even walk?" seulgi's hovering her hands on you.
 
"i can. now you stay seated there." you point at her. "i better not see you dancing with any woman once i come back."
 
she sits up straight and salutes. "yes, ma'am."
 
---
 
seulgi exhales as she gently runs her fingers along your back.
 
your head is on her chest, feeling the rise and fall with every breath.
 
her heartbeat is like music to your ears now.
 
"if you could have anything, what would you want?" she asks.
 
you turn to your other cheek to look at her. "what do you mean?"
 
"like, if you have all the resources in the world: money, time, education; no nagging friends, parents, or neighbours, what would you do?"
 
"i'd probably start a small cafe or a restaurant."
 
"really?"
 
"mm-mm. i haven't mentioned this to you, but i'm kinda into cooking."
 
"you are?" she looks down at you. "well, we're a perfect match then. i love eating!"
 
you roll your eyes. "i can tell."
 
her body shakes when she laughs. "on a serious note, why not do it? i'm sure it'll be great."
 
"you haven't even tasted my cooking yet. duh."
 
"well, knowing what you want to do is already great, you know? and partner it with your knowledge on marketing, i'm sure you'll be able to dominate the competition in no time."
 
"you think so?" you prop your chin on her chest. "but i'm scared. i haven't done this before."
 
"being scared is a good thing." she's gently caressing your hair now. "it's our brain's way of telling us what we want to do--the things we're too afraid to start doing cus we're afraid to fail in it."
 
"but..." you blink at her. "wait. where in the world did you learn that?"
 
she chuckles. "some crazy philosopher that goes by the name of schindlee. read a lot of her works."
 
"eh?"
 
"and my dad too," she adds quickly. "point is, if you are into cooking, then why not take courses related to that instead of wasting time and racking your brain for the bar examination?"
 
you sigh. "i wanted to take a culinary before. but my parents prefer anything that's pre-law-related. i didn't qualify for political science and was profiled for commerce instead.
 
"four years later, i graduated with a degree in marketing," you continue. "but they still want me to push for law school since the only requirement is a bachelor's degree. took it. it was hell. but yeah. i finished it.
 
"but after failing the bar, i stopped. i'm just too tired of trying," you say. "to be able to compensate for the disappointment i caused my parents, i took up mba instead. it came more natural to me compared to law. two years later, i got my mba and started teaching full-time in the university."
 
seulgi's eyes grow wide. "are you serious? you finished law school and still got your mba? that's marvelous, irene!"
 
"maybe. but my dad's still not happy."
 
"one day, i'll go smack your dad in the face."
 
"yah. don't talk to him like that." you playfully pinch her side. and she only looks at you with adoration in her eyes. "what?"
 
"you're just amazing, you know. that donghae's fool for letting you go."
 
"excuse me. i'm the one who broke up with him."
 
"yeah. but if i were him, i wouldn't care. i would still beg on my knees and ask how can i better satisfy you in bed."
 
"yah! it's not just because of that!"
 
she laughs.
 
"it's. not. always. about. ." you say, pinching her sides.
 
"ow! ow! stop!" she holds your wrist and pushes you to the side, shifting your position so she's on top of you. "if you ask for my opinion, i think you should still push for that restaurant of yours. otherwise, it'll keep bugging you for the rest of your life."
 
"but i should find a partner first, like a financer. i don't have enough savings to start something like that."
 
"or you could tie up with some restaurants in town and introduce your recipe to them."
 
"but i don't know any restaurant owners yet." you bite your finger. "maybe i should attend conference meetings and grow my network? but i'm too bad at that."
 
she takes your hand away from your mouth, leaning down to kiss you.
 
"you're overthinking, love." she pulls back. "start with first things first. cook me your speciality tomorrow. i'll judge. then i'll help you review after for the exam."
 
"you sure of that? you'll only get bored."
 
"i've got nothing to do this weekend, anyway. as long as i get to eat you and your food, i'm good."
 
you giggle when she starts peppering your face with kisses.
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