"Until the day was gone, and I sat in regret of all the things I've done."
The cassette tape continued to emanate music, filling the still atmosphere that appeared joyous and lighthearted mere seconds ago with a light tune. Everything in the nearby proximity came to a halt, absorbing what occurred. Nothing was spoken or attributed to, leaving all hanging in the air. Soon, from a distance away, muffled screaming could be heard, carried to the heavens - if possible.
Saturday, the morning before all hell would break loose.
The dorm presented a still and tranquil atmosphere while two of the three women slept in the darkness that engulfed the room. Seohyun slept on her bunk while Jessica and Tiffany remained side by side on the daybed. Jessica, not surprisingly, remained asleep after last night. Leading up to that same period, the laptop Jessica possessed continued to linger on her body. Neither Tiffany nor Seohyun removed it. Seohyun thought it would be inappropriate as it wasn't her belonging, whereas Tiffany didn't want to disturb Jessica - if that was remotely possible. Not to mention, she enjoyed the music quietly radiating throughout the room.
Tiffany lied in bed a majority of the night, puzzled as she stared at the piece of paper, trying to decipher who 'Steph' could have been. Whoever it was - apparently seemed to mean a great deal to Jessica. The first thought she had was her name; Stephanie. She doubted Jessica even knew Stephanie was her real name. They didn't know each other in high school, never talking once. She would have remembered if they did, but it didn't happen. Besides, that would've meant Seohyun would know - and she never lied.
Still, the coincidence seemed strange.
She thought about an upperclassman who had the same name. Maybe Jessica was friends with her, but something happened between their friendship? She even pondered that perhaps it was a man named Stephen, but that wouldn't have made sense as she didn't recall there being a Stephen in their school.
Whatever the reason, Tiffany now believed this appeared to be the reason why Jessica didn't want her searching through the yearbook. But two questions remained; Why was Jessica overly protective of this note, and why did it affect the feelings she harbored for the blonde?
She grew frustrated, wondering why this piece of paper sent her into a dither. Tiffany felt stupid for letting this note, dated a decade ago, allow her to become jealous. Perhaps it had something to do with Jessica hiding it and admitting she's never had a kiss until yesterday. Of course, Tiffany's interpreted the note much more intimate than being friendly, so that didn't help. She hoped Jessica wasn't lying about the latter, at least.
Additionally, with their lack of conversation and explanation last night, Tiffany questioned why Jessica was flunking their class if she supposedly enjoyed it more than baseball. She feared this appeared as another lie. There were too many questions and not enough answers. She mentally scolded herself for not asking these things before the former fell asleep.
Growing anxious by the second, she couldn't handle the uncertainty anymore. Tiffany shifted onto her side and decided to wake the older woman. She wouldn't question the note since she wasn't supposed to look in the first place. With Jessica's attention, she'd hopefully feel better and receive the comfort she craved.
"Jess," she whispered.
Again, no response.
The former remained unresponsive, which led to Tiffany gently slapping the side of Jessica's cheek multiple times.
"Hm?" the blonde stirred, swatting Tiffany's hand away.
"I can't sleep."
"What time is it?"
Underneath the absence of light, Jessica's eyes remained shut as she refused to open them. Bizarrely, she seemed more coherent than Tiffany expected.
"Five in the morning."
"Five? You have to be ting me."
"I've been up most of the night. I can't sleep."
"How come? Also, why did you decide to wake me now?"
"I don't know."
"Are you anxious about later?"
"Yeah," she lied.
Jessica didn't comment straight away, which Tiffany took as a sign the older woman was contemplating an answer. She took the opportunity and removed the laptop before tucking it away. Then, grabbing the comforter, which Jessica lacked, Tiffany scooted as close as possible while enveloping the blonde with the blanket. With said action, she covered them both and proceeded to rest her head on Jessica's shoulder.
In opposition, and after much internal dubiety, Jessica clasped her arms around Tiffany's frame, surprised how much smaller the other woman seemed after being held. Having gained some confidence after yesterday's fiasco, she placed her left palm on Tiffany's lower back and began rubbing her hand in a circular motion.
The couple continued to lie there silently in the dark. Tiffany started fiddling with the first button on Jessica's pajama top before talking, "Can I ask you something?"
"I was thinking when you mentioned music is the true passion you hold over baseball, why are you flunking our class?"
What appeared almost defensive, Jessica retorted, "I love sleeping, and yes, that includes napping away in class. Sleeping over music."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure. Who knows, Tiff, maybe I'm a narcoleptic - have you stopped to question that?"
"Actually, yeah, I did. The day we met."
"Problem solved. If I was lying about anything else, it can't be possible. I told you what I needed to tell you yesterday."
The answer didn't satisfy the insecurity she held - Tiffany still felt doubtful whether or not Jessica was lying. Beginning to fiddle with the second button on the blonde's pajamas, she unclasped the button after doing the same to the first.
"Then were you also being truthful when you said you've never kissed anyone before?"
Jessica huffed in annoyance before answering this question, "Yes, I was telling the truth. Couldn't you tell I had no idea what I was doing?"
"Not necessarily. I directed all my attention to focusing on your lips and how much I enjoyed kissing them."
Before Jessica had a chance to reply, Tiffany spoke up and changed the topic, "We should go for a drive."
"Yeah, before our day starts."
"Where would you want to go?"
Tiffany hummed in response, dwelling on the thought as she didn't expect Jessica to agree with such ease.
"Around the shopping plaza? I assume that's where you went yesterday morning?"
"Yeah, it is. Let me guess - there's something you want to buy?"
"Okay, fine, you're right."
With the truth outspoken, Jessica lifted an eyelid to peek at the other woman currently residing on her shoulder.
"What do you plan on buying?"
"I want it to be a surprise."
"It can't be that much of a surprise if I'm with you the entire time."
"I'm going to pretend you're actually being super supportive and agreeing to drive us, unlike what you're currently doing."
The remark caused Jessica to laugh.
"Funny. Truthfully, I'd rather be in bed and cuddling, but I guess I can't exactly deny your requests now that we have something between us."
"Something I'm grateful for," she said, leaning closer to press a kiss on the corner of Jessica's mouth.
"Are you positive you want to venture outside the dorm this early? Let's think rationally, Tiff. What's so important at the store you want to leave?" the former questioned, puckering her lips, indicating she wanted another kiss.
"It's going to sound stupid," she outwardly sighed. Tiffany then grasped the side of Jessica's face and placed a caste kiss on her lips.
"That makes it even better," the blonde teased. "Although I do genuinely care about what's bothering you."
"I feel unsettled. Insecure."
"About the party, right? That's what's causing this?"
Lying a second time, the raven nodded.
"Is it because we're suddenly a thing?"
Tiffany shook her head, attempting to draw up an excuse. She couldn't bring herself to lie entirely, but at the same time, she couldn't rely on the truth. So, she settled on something in between.
"I wanted to visit the store because I want to buy hair dye. Seeing you with blonde hair, made me feel inferior. You look amazing, and I worry that somebody else will snatch you from my side. How could I compete with another when I haven't changed my style?"
Jessica slightly perched up, stunned by the statement Tiffany confessed. Not once had the other American ever revealed or hinted that she would be jealous, especially that she felt inferior. She didn't think dyeing her hair would affect Tiffany so much.
"You're jealous? Worried someone else will catch my attention?"
The latter nodded.
Although Tiffany felt guilty lying about wanting to dye her own hair, she was pleased Jessica seemed to care about the feelings she expressed as they were true. Maybe she couldn't outright say she was jealous of this 'Steph' individual, but she successfully found a way to gain Jessica's assurance.
"You think, after I confessed my feelings yesterday, I would suddenly have a change of heart? I mean, Jesus Christ. I love teasing you and getting a reaction out of you, but I wouldn't be that cold-hearted to leave with another person."
"What if you have the impulsive urge, and like, I don't know, some random girl that is super attractive asks you to join her?" Tiffany imposed, sitting up.
Jessica sat up as well, bewildered at the hypothetical question. "I don't think there's another individual on this planet that's gorgeous as you are. I mentioned I've liked you longer than you probably realize, so to me, you're already the most irresistible woman I've seen in my lifetime."
"Do you mean that?"
"How long have you liked me?"
Jessica reached for Tiffany's hands and gave them a firm squeeze. "I told you there is something else I need to confess, but after the party."
"Was there ever another individual before me?"
Quietly, the latter nodded. Tiffany couldn't detect if Jessica lied, but the infection in her voice appeared genuine and confident. For now, she believed her.
"You're acting strange, Tiff. You've never been this weird. You're all over the place. Asking me questions left and right, suggesting we go out. It's unlike you."
"You were acting weird yesterday, too."
"Yeah, but that's because I've never admitted to liking another person," Jessica said. She ultimately brought the younger woman's hands to her lips, torridly pecking Tiffany's knuckles.
There appeared no reaction from the raven, so Jessica flipped over Tiffany's hands and started smooching her palms before trailing her kisses further up, stopping at Tiffany's wrists.
Only then did she break into a bashful grin.
"There's that beautiful smile."
Tiffany threw her arms around the former, clinging to Jessica's neck as she closed the distance that divided them and situated herself on the blonde's lap.
"I adore when you act sweet, Jessi."
"Care to tell me more?"
"I don't particularly want to your ego. It's the last thing you need."
"That's absurd," Jessica ridiculed, veering forward as she pecked the latter. Simultaneously, she slipped an arm around the raven's waist. The other hand rested on Tiffany's bare thigh.
Tiffany removed her arms that remained tangled around Jessica's neck and cupped her cheeks. Something twinkled behind Jessica's eyes in the darkness, and it became evident that the former appeared to be waiting for some answer. Debating her next sentence, Tiffany faintly traced the outlines of the other woman's nose and lips with her index finger.
"Remember the first night you stayed over? You were being childish, and Seohyun asked us to leave the dorm to continue our argument. While we were outside, you offered me your pajama top because it's a long sleeve, and you were worried I'd be uncomfortable. Then, that next day, after I told you why Nichkhun and I broke up, you took me to the lake you like to visit since you hoped it would cheer me up. Of course, the following day, we went to Seoul Land. You paid for everything, which didn't go unnoticed, but you also proceeded to give me a piggyback ride for the remainder of our trip when I became nauseous. And yesterday? I don't need to explain why."
"Well," Jessica paused. "I want to make you happy."
"That's what makes you different, Jessi. You care. You're a good person underneath that cold exterior. You're much sweeter than I would have ever expected."
Jessica chuckled, leaning into Tiffany's touch before whispering, "I don't think I'm a good person, but I appreciate the thought."
With the roles now reversed, Tiffany was the one to show concern. "Tell me, why do you think that?"
"It doesn't matter at the moment, Tiff. Too much bull in my head that I find hard to express. Let's just cuddle and go back to bed, okay?"
"Are you sure?"
Tiffany knew better than to prod more information out of Jessica, so as their conversation came to an end, she gently pushed the older woman back down against the mattress.
After all was said and done, she felt better about this 'Steph' individual, but the thought still lingered in the back of her mind. She now wondered why Jessica thought she wasn't a good person, and it troubled her.
"Do you miss Stephanie?"
"All the time."
A slightly younger twenty-year-old Jessica sat across from the current psychologist dissecting their conversation, jotting notes on the clipboard she held while listening to the college student.
Jessica, in opposition, watched the older female. She tilted her head as she thought carefully. Her dark and sleek umber-colored hair, styled in a bob-cut, swayed with the action.
"Anything that comes to mind, specifically?"
Without hesitation, Jessica answered with ease, "Pfft. A lot of things, truthfully, but my first thought, my first instinct, told me her smile. I can't even describe how contagious her smile is. Sometimes, when she was overly excited, her eyes did this thing where they formed into a crescent shape. She told me it referred to something like an eye smile."
"How often did she smile?"
The therapist glanced up from the notes she wrote, peering over the rim of her glasses. She gave Jessica a cynical expression, almost as if she doubted the claim.
"Every single day. It's not an exaggeration. She's a happy-go-lucky person - even on the worse days."
"Do you remember the first time you met Stephanie?"
"What do you recall about that incident?"
"What do I recall? I could tell you in perfect detail..."
"Ms. Jung, I presume?"
A young fifteen-year-old girl slipped past the metal frame and entered the designated building, pushing the glass-stained door open before carefully closing it behind her figure. She didn't answer right away while her eyes adjusted to the indoor lighting. A female receptionist was sitting behind a desk located a few feet in front of her. This would be the first and last time she'd enter the building as this was the only time her parents instructed her to pick up Krystal.
Once her sight wasn't disoriented, she examined the room, in awe of how sleek and modern the lobby appeared. The expanse was generous with its sizing and appeared well furnished. Clinging to the walls, innumerable posters and banners featuring celebrities; boy and girl groups, with the occasional solo artist, were proudly presented. In the middle of everything, bold lettering stood out; SM Entertainment.
"Yes, I'm Jessica Jung. I'm here to pick up my sister Krystal Jung?"
The employee gawked over the teen for a split second before motioning towards the left with her hand. Upon doing so, Jessica followed the woman's movement, realizing she was gesturing to the waiting area.
"She's still gathering her belongings. You can wait there until she finishes."
"Thank you," she said, slightly bowing before strolling towards the same section.
The designated waiting area, which shared the same range, was empty, much to her surprise, with plenty of seating available. Jessica took the first chair that happened to be the closest. Settling in, back towards the entrance and receptionist, she removed the flip phone in her pocket and decided to kill some time. After all, she didn't know how long Krystal would take or how these things transpired.
Sooner or later, the glass-stained door opened again, indicating another individual was present, most likely arriving for whatever engagement they had. Jessica ignored the other people that periodically walked through the room. However, this time, that changed. Whoever spoke to the receptionist lacked the proper enunciation of the Korean language. It was painfully obvious.
Although Korean was Jessica's second language, she couldn't help but pity the foreigner speaking. While she understood the difficulty of learning the language, this person's speech was painful and downright embarrassing.
Momentarily, this foreigner walked into the waiting section and sat across from her. The sudden appearance of this new individual caused Jessica to glance away from her phone. What she didn't expect next; a girl around her age. Undeniably, the most dominant characteristic of the foreigner was her tan skin. Her fashion choice appeared very western alongside the short hairstyle she supported, the tips of her hair stopping a tad past her shoulders.
Holding one another's gaze, the girl offered Jessica a small wave while she grinned. Timidly, Jessica hesitated before returning the gesture. The indication would then set off a chain reaction.
"Hi!" she greeted enthusiastically in Korean. Somehow, her voice seemed to carry through the atmosphere.
"I'm Stephanie. I'm here for an audition. What about you?"
"I'm Jessica. I'm waiting to pick up my sister."
"You have a sister? Where is she?"
Seemingly hesitant, Jessica couldn't tell if this Stephanie was trustworthy to reveal this information to, but something about the girl radiated that she could be.
"She's a trainee."
Stephanie seemed less interested in Krystal but was rather fascinated by something else.
"Wait! Your name is Jessica!? Oh, my gosh!" Stephanie vocalized in English, exaggerating the 'o.'
"Are you also a foreigner?"
Jessica fiddled with the device in her hand, struggling to keep eye contact. All she could do was nod.
"I'm from America, you?"
Interchanging between the two languages, Jessica began speaking in English alongside the other girl, "I'm American, too."
"American girlfriend's right here! I arrived in Seoul weeks ago!"
The comment caused Jessica to blush, who shyly ducked her head in embarrassment and from the newfound attention. She was grateful nobody else had been in the waiting room with them. She fiddled with the white hairband resting upon her head, lacking the nerve to meet Stephanie's eyes. Something about this girl was different, and Jessica knew it from that moment.
After exchanging sweet words and tender moments, the American couple eventually fell asleep once Tiffany felt reassured about this 'Steph' individual. Jessica, in opposition, took longer because she felt anxious from Tiffany asking about several different topics. Regrettably, the former felt awful for lying about flunking their class. Perhaps an opportunity would present itself at another point in time, and she could hopefully clear that up, assuming Tiffany wouldn't be upset. She only worried since music meant everything to the latter.
Before joining the raven in dreamland, Jessica couldn't help but ponder about the social gathering. She went almost the entire week, ignoring everything that led up to this point. Besides Taecyeon, of course. Nichkhun? That woman he was dating? Her first party? All of the above slipped her mind since she became too distracted with Tiffany. In retrospect, this entire thing seemed like an inconvenience. All she cared about was spending time with the latter and making the most of her time. She didn't bother to think about how she'd feel seeing Nichkhun and Tiffany interact.
Eventually, Jessica pushed all the thoughts aside and allowed herself to doze off, knowing it would be a long morning and evening if she didn't catch up on the lack of sleep from dwelling and fretting over trivial things.
The entirety of the morning and a large portion of the early afternoon slipped through their fingertips because Seohyun didn't awake either, assuming they would be awake and coherent before the time came closer to when they needed to start preparing. It didn't come as too much of a surprise since Jessica loved sleeping. With Tiffany, though, Seohyun found it out of character since she wasn't one to slack off or fall behind schedule.
When neither girl woke up, Seohyun became concerned and proceeded to wake both individuals up once the clock struck somewhere in the middle of the afternoon. The youngster had already taken the liberty of grabbing the two older women's lunch from the downstairs cafeteria when she went earlier after getting ready.
Once both were awake and aware of the time, ever grateful, both Americans thanked their companion for the compassion. After eating their somewhat late lunch, it didn't take long that, in due course, the trio found themselves entertaining some idea that Tiffany hatched in the spur of a moment.
"Fany, to be quite honest, I'm not exactly sure how this is supposed to be helping you two prepare for the party," Seohyun vocalized, watching the two Americans standing in front of her while she sat on her mattress.
Tiffany, standing across from the younger woman, tilted her head. "Seo, this isn't about us. It's a group effort - that includes you. I already told you how this will help."
"This entire scheme was your idea, though."
"Yeah, but you're also the one who helped encourage me to confess to Jessica, so you're in on this. You also sparked the scheme when you said I should bring someone to the