019

DERANGER
"what's this?" you ask, skimming through the papers seulgi handed you a moment ago after you two stepped into your office.
 
"it's a contract."
 
"f-for my pasta recipe?" you look at her, then back to the papers.
 
"yup! schindlee's cafe would like to buy your recipe with the condition of paying you seven per cent of the pasta's monthly sales as royalty for the rest of your life or until the business ceases to exist--whichever comes first."
 
"seulgi... i... are you sure about this?"
 
"i'm planning to sell your pasta for 3,500 won per plate," seulgi explains. "if we get ten orders a day, that gives us 35,000 won daily, which accumulates to 1,050,000 in a month. which means you'll get 73,500 won monthly from us for the rest of your life or until schindlee's cafe runs out of business--but only if you'll agree." she points at the contract.
 
"that may seem not much enough, considering we're only estimating ten plates a day." seulgi sits on your table this time. "but that's only one branch i'm talking about. currently, we have three branches around the city. if we sell ten plates a day in each or more, then--"
 
"seulgi, i get it." you place a hand on her thigh. "but have you consulted this with your business partner?"
 
"aunty minhee? of course. and she approved."
 
"that quick? she hasn't even seen nor tasted the food yet."
 
"she trusts my tastebuds." seulgi jumps off from the table, walking around to stand beside you. "and it's a test. we'll only serve the menu until we get back the initial cost for the supplies. if people keep buying, we'll continue selling. if no one's looking for it, we'll remove it from the menu. we won't need to worry about paying you continuously because our contract is specific that you'll only get paid whenever someone purchases the item."
 
you look up at her. "you have thought about this thoroughly, huh?"
 
she grins. "but you can't use the same recipe for your cafe, in case you decide to open one. so, if ever, you will need to create another recipe again."
 
"that's not a problem. i've got many ideas for this."
 
"you do? then what do you say about selling your other recipes to us if this one works?" she asks. "at least you don't need to bother yourself with the actual physical shop or managing people, but you're getting royalty fees monthly."
 
"tempting. i would have to think about that when this one starts gaining traction." you flick the paper.
 
"fair. fair." she puts her hands in her pockets. "you can take your time with that."
 
her phone vibrates in her pocket. it's chaeyeon who's calling.
 
"i need to go." she puts the phone back.
 
"you're not staying?" you try to hide the disappointment in your tone.
 
"i'd rather not today." she sighs. "i'm trying not to make people notice how much i spend time here alone with you. but i'm hoping you could visit my place later. i've got a little surprise waiting for you."
 
that, surprisingly, made you happy. "a surprise? for me?"
 
"yeah. ordered some toys online in case you want to try ."
 
"yah! kang seulgi!"
 
she laughs. "i'm kidding." her phone buzzes again. she looks at it and sighs. "i'll see you later, irene."
 
she steps out of the door, and you hear a faint, "hey, chae. yah. don't miss me too much. i'm coming over there now..."
 
you try to shrug away your feeling of disappointment by busying yourself with work.
 
---
 
"ta-da!"
 
seulgi removes the cloth covering your eyes to present a set of purple ceramic plate, a mug, and a spoon and fork.
 
it takes you seconds of staring until it made sense to you.
 
"are these my things?" you ask her. she nods. "here in your flat?"
 
"yeah. and i bought you a pair of indoor slippers too." she points below the table.
 
for a person like seulgi, who values minimalism, you know this is a stretch. you can't stop the fluttering feelings in your chest from creeping up to your cheeks.
 
why is she doing this to you?
 
"i've read online that changing surroundings help in studying," she says, unaware of what's running on your mind. "so, i thought--but i don't want to impose, okay--you could spend some time here on weekends to study. i've got you a mug now and a box of your favourite tea. no more going down to buy one whenever you're here."
 
smiling, you turn to her and cup her cheeks. "seulgi, are you trying to get me to marry you?"
 
she laughs. "it's the least i can do to help! but you'd have to waive your attorney fees on me once you pass the bar exam."
 
"sure. as long as i get to have my own bath towel too."
 
"oh." seulgi blinks. "guess i forgot that one." she picks her phone. "i can order now if you--"
 
you tilt her to face you and kiss her. deep and hard.
 
that's the kind of kiss you give when you're okay with doing it.
 
and you're glad seulgi gets it.
 
she discards her phone on the table and slowly guides you towards the sofa bed without breaking the kiss.
 
you're amazed at how you two seem to be in synch when it comes to this--how you're already familiar with each other's moves.
 
how you move like magnets, pushing and pulling at the right time.
 
you want to appreciate the chemistry you've formed, but your brain could only take so much emotion.
 
because the moment seulgi lays you on the bed, all you could think of is the succeeding pleasures that have overtaken your entire being.
 
---
 
you sure did enjoy spending some weekends over her place to study. you spent more time with seulgi when the semester ended, and she volunteered to help you review over the break.
 
you told her the next class you'll be assigned to so she can enroll there to complete the prerequisite subjects.
 
oh. and she also bought you that bath towel.
 
---
 
you are back to thinking about how the dynamics between you and seulgi had evolved.
 
when you started this weird relationship, all your ual encounters are accompanied by intoxication. and you always fall asleep after reaching nirvana.
 
but lately, when you do this, there's a lot of talking now--cuddling and talking.
 
sometimes you don't even realise you fall asleep after a long talk without having at all.
 
seulgi doesn't seem to mind as she looks satisfied as much as you are.
 
"do you remember when you brought me to your dad?" you ask one night while you two stare at the ceiling after yet another session.
 
she hums.
 
"you said your dad told you about how all of us are dysfunctional human beings."
 
"yeah. he said that. but he got it from that crazy philosopher schindlee."
 
"does that mean no one's normal? that everyone's broken?"
 
"i guess. i mean, we all have been broken at some point in our lives, right? and someday, some things will occur that will break us again."
 
you nod. "isn't that a bad thing?"
 
"it's not. that's just how life is." she places her arms behind her head. "the problem is the standard of normality--the stigma--that the society laid upon us, causing people to feel bad about themselves. in reality, there's nothing wrong with being broken." she tilts her head to look at you. "you're broken. i'm broken. we're both lonely people just like everyone else in the world."
 
you turn to your side to face her. "but i don't feel lonely right now."
 
"me too." she turns to face you. "i think that's the reason i crave your company. because you make me feel less broken."
 
the fluttering in your heart is starting to scare you a bit. it's the first time in your life you feel like this--accepting your incompleteness yet feeling complete at the same time.
 
you wonder if seulgi feels the same way.
 
"we're all lonely human beings looking for someone to share our loneliness with." seulgi reaches out to push a stray hair away from your face. "someone who will accept our broken parts."
 
"then what does that make of us? two less lonely people?" you giggle, referencing a classic song.
 
she chuckles before she pulls you closer, caging you in her arms. "yeah, i guess? same broken people but less lonely together."
 
you close your eyes when she kisses your forehead, feeling the ingenuity of the moment.
 
seulgi's right. you two are the same broken people, only less lonely together.
 
and to you, that's enough.
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