028

DERANGER
"so, how's you and your student girlfriend?" tiffany asks as she puts down the mixer and uncaps it.
 
you pout. "unni..."
 
she giggles. "i'm only making fun of you. you know how i am very much supportive of your relationship."
 
"but mentioning it sometimes makes me feel old." you touch your face. "i feel like people will look down on me if they find out someone my age and my stature is dating a university student."
 
"so, what of it? she's of legal age and can make decisions for herself. and she's graduating soon, right?"
 
"still..." you pout again.
 
tiffany sighs. "you know, it's just you and your insecurities. you're probably thinking of what your family would say if they find out about this relationship of yours."
 
you take in a deep breath and exhales as you lean down to sip from your drink.
 
tiffany looks at you as she pours the mixture into a glass. "but seriously, how's you and seulgi?"
 
"we're great. it's been great." you play with the straw. "i thought i knew what was love before. i never imagined it would feel like this, that i can be this happy."
 
"hm. i heard from taetae you've been taking cooking classes. has she got something to do with that?"
 
you nod. "seulgi has this thing with continuously studying and improving oneself. and after observing me for quite some time, she declared that cooking is second nature to me and suggests i take classes--which i think is a good idea, so i did."
 
"and are you enjoying these classes so far?"
 
"i am. it's like i discovered this side of me i never knew existed. the topics are new to me, yet it surprises me how i can easily catch up like it's natural. and it feels great to do something and express me through a craft."
 
"well, that's great." tiffany lifts the glass. "i'm glad seulgi's helping you discover your strengths."
 
"i'm glad too. i feel like i'm irene 2.0 now as i understand myself more and more each day."
 
"mm. it seems your girlfriend's a great observer."
 
your shoulder shakes when you chuckle. "she's has this knack for observing and seeing patterns, which makes her more intuitive. we're a product of the same course, yet i can already tell her strenghts are more inclined on the strategic side. while me, i'm more on the implementation side."
 
"so, that explains why she's good in bed, huh?"
 
"unni..."
 
tiffany laughs. "i'm having fun teasing you!" she sips from her glass again before putting it down. "but i'm glad you're feeling more accomplished now. taetae also mentioned you signed a contract with seulgi's cafe to sell your pasta recipe. is that true?"
 
"yes, unni. i start receiving money for it too. it's not that much, but an extra income stream is great. i get to do something i love and not worry or burden myself with building an actual business or managing people."
 
"smart. i should have thought of that one too before. we've been getting feedback from some customers about the menu. we're looking to have it improved."
 
they way tiffany looks at you tells you something. "d-do you... do you want me to recommend recipes for you?"
 
"that's the real reason i called you tonight. it's business talk, darling." tiffany taps your head. "but only if you'll agree."
 
"of course, i would. anything to help you and taeyeon unni. i'd do it for you for no fee at all."
 
"why, thank you. but no. i don't want to ruin our relationship with business misunderstandings. let's make it black and white with a contract."
 
your hand flies to your mouth. "are you serious, unni?"
 
"yes, i am." tiffany nods. "taeyeon and i will hire you to provide us recipes, help us with increasing our online presence, and give us some legal knowledge about rules, permits, and taxes. but of course, it'll be for a low price, you know. we still haven't reached our roi. we're trying to balance everything financially."
 
"it'll be my honour, unni!" you clap in excitement. "i'll sign the contract right away!"
 
tiffany chuckles, seeing you excited. "i hope it won't cause an issue with your parents? i'm sure they don't want you supporting a sinful bar like this." she looks around the bar.
 
you suddenly feel embarrassed. "i'm sorry. but this is between you and me, not them. i'm old enough to make decisions for myself."
 
tiffany smirks, bringing the glass again to . "i'm so glad you are dating seulgi."
 
---
 
"have you been seeing anyone lately?" your sister jihye asks as she throws a pack of bread into the grocery cart you are pushing.
 
you briefly glance at your sister before looking away to scan the shelves. "mm. no."
 
"no one trying to make a move? that's impossible. with that big of a university, i'm sure at least one staff, a professor, or even a student, would take an interest in you."
 
"well, there are some." you nod.
 
jihye picks a cheese this time and throws it into the trolly. "it's been what, nine months now since you called it off with donghae? you've been looking extra bright lately. i wonder if anyone's got to do with that."
 
you try to hide a smile from coming out. "it's just me venturing into new things and learning more about myself."
 
"ahh. like the cooking classes, huh? i've heard mum and dad talked about it this morning."
 
"did they say anything?"
 
"nothing that should bother you. as long as you're happy with what you're doing don't mind them. and if ever dad brings up that topic over dinner, just let him talk. don't let it get into you."
 
you stare far ahead and exhales. you don't like this feeling. you don't like how your parents always have a say in everything you do in your life. but what you hate most is how it's affecting you.
 
sometimes you wish you were not this good of a daughter to them, so you can easily ignore their comments.
 
because even if you try to ignore it, their words always hit you in the heart to the point it'll bother you for days.
 
you wonder if a time will come you'll get numb to it.
 
jihye holds the trolly to stop you and looks at you. "whatever it is that you are doing now, or whoever influenced you to do it, i'm glad you're doing it, sis. you deserve to be happy doing what you want. i'm sure mum and dad feel the same even if they say otherwise. they just have a weird way of showing it."
 
you force a smile.
 
jihye reaches out to hold your hand. "whatever happens, unni's got your back, okay?"
 
you smile, a real one this time. "thank you, unni."
 
---
 
"i no longer want to take the bar, dad. it's... it's not for me."
 
your dad grips his chopsticks after those words leave your mouth. you're glad he stays calm.
 
"how would you know if it's not for you if you haven't given your best shot yet?" he comments, picking up beef and putting it straight into his mouth. "you're a step away from being a lawyer. if you keep trying, you'll be able to get it one day."
 
"i don't know." you look down at your plate. "i realise i don't see myself doing that as a profession."
 
"you don't? what do you see yourself doing then? being a petty cook?"
 
you bite your lower lip.
 
"i don't see anything wrong with it, dad," jihye comments casually, lightening up the mood. "have you tasted irene's cooking? she's got a knack for it."
 
"and her pasta too! delectable!" eunwoo gestures a chef's kiss.
 
you smile.
 
"i'm just saying being a lawyer is a more stable career than... than cooking," your dad says. "it's something worth leaving your university job for. at least you wouldn't depend on your future husband in case you get married."
 
you clear your throat and wipe your mouth with a tissue. "to be honest, i enjoy teaching in the university. the cooking will be there but will only serve as an on-the-side hobby of mine. i'm happy getting paid for selling my recipes and doing some freelance work."
 
"like what you do with taeyeon business?" your mum says. "i told you to stay away from that bar. why do you keep going there?"
 
"mum, i don't think it's wrong for me to do business with them if they are paying me for it," you say gently, making sure you won't sound offensive. "at least i get to have extra income outside the university."
 
your mum mixes the food in her bowl and sighs. "it's just that you always find reasons to be with them. i wouldn't be surprised if you come out one day as a lesbian."
 
you almost choke on your food. you cover it up by drinking from your glass.
 
"mum, please don't talk like that," jihye says. "taeyeon's been like a sister to me and irene. you all know that. and have you forgotten that irene dated donghae for fifteen years? they wouldn't last that long if she's a lesbian."
 
"i'm just saying." your mum shrugs. "if irene turns out to be like taeyeon and her wife, i'll be damned."
 
you're having a hard time swallowing your food. you try to keep calm, knowing that acting otherwise would only put you in trouble.
 
now you couldn't wait for the dinner to end so you can go back into seulgi's arms and forget about the world.
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