"I've spent this entire duration pretending I didn't know you or who you were. Seohyun, in addition, has been fabricating the truth as well. She's always known who I am. There was a time in our lives when we used to be friends, but it was very brief. You don't know this, and it was supposed to be a secret, but you aren't aware of any of this because you were in that car accident with me. The one Yuri was talking about - she had no clue you were the other person in the incident."
"You're lying," Tiffany eventually uttered. "That's definitely not true."
"It is. I swear on my life."
"You're awful at lying. Do you know that?"
"What do I have to gain by lying?"
"I don't ever remember being friends with you, Jessica. I know both of us attended the same high school and ended up in the same major, but c'mon. At least make something more believable."
Jessica shook her head.
"This isn't funny."
"It's the truth, Tiffany."
"Stop lying to me, Jessica."
"Why do you think I wanted Seohyun in here? She knows it's the truth; she can confirm this."
"You're making this up," Tiffany accused. "You're lying to me because you think this would be some hilarious prank, huh? Trying to tease me again?"
"Tiffany - "
"I don't believe you, Jessica. You can be irritating and push my buttons, but this? This is cruel - even for your standards!"
"Hear me out, okay? If I was lying about this, how would I know your real name is Stephanie? How would I know Seohyun's real name is Juhyun? How would I have known to major in music production if I wasn't aware of your love for music? It doesn't make sense. I have one of the hundred notes I wrote to you in my wallet. It's addressed to a Steph - which was your nickname. I've carried it with me all these years."
She quickly grabbed the same wallet mentioned with her unoccupied hand and proceeded to open it, pulling out the folded paper stashed inside. Unfortunately, it was ruined after falling into the pool. The ink was smeared, and little of what writing remained was illegible.
"..." Jessica whispered. Seeing the note in such a state caused her heart to shatter into a million pieces.
Tiffany quickly went speechless. Although she now had confirmation, she was the 'Steph' individual in that note from the yearbook. She refused to believe it until somebody else could establish this. She swerved her head to face Seohyun. The exasperation in her voice notably changed and grew louder, "Juhyun, is this true?"
Seohyun timidly nodded, unable to face her roommate in shame as she looked away. Tears and wailing instantly filled the room while she muffled the noise with her palm. After all, she was the most sensitive of the three.
"What the actual ..."
"Forgive me, Miyoung," she wept.
With the sobbing and sniffling, hysterical laughter started to consume the atmosphere. Tiffany leaned further back into the chair and released Jessica's hand, holding her temple while unable to control herself.
"Oh, my god."
"This is almost like an episode of The Twilight Zone or some type of K-Drama."
"I don't even know what to say to you right now, Jessica - or should I call you Sooyeon? Which is it!?"
"For you, I'll always be Jessica."
"I'm so speechless right now - you don't have the slightest ing clue."
"I know you probably resent my existence right now. Please, at least give me a chance to explain the full story?"
Tiffany continued to clutch her temple, seizing two fists full of hair before subsequently releasing it. She kept her gaze fixated on the wall and deliberately disregarded Jessica from her peripheral.
"I'd tell you to pack your things and leave the dorm by morning, Juhyun, but I know your parents are paying for it. Just ing amazing," she laughed. "I've spent half my life living a lie, and I never knew you were enforcing it."
"Listen, okay? Seohyun is innocent, Tiff. None of this was her idea or sentiment. Direct your frustration and anger at me," Jessica pleaded.
Tiffany tore her sight away from the wall and instead fixated on the blonde, who returned the gesture. When they locked eyes with one another, that's the moment Tiffany could feel the tears prickling in the corner of her eyes.
"Let me explain this to you, okay?"
"I think I deserve that much."
"We met at SM Entertainment, that company you were auditioning for. I was there to pick up Krystal when you came in. You struck up a conversation with me. We didn't talk very long because I ended up leaving with Krystal shortly after. The next time I saw you again was at our orientation for school. It happened to be the same day I met Juhyun. I don't know how, but you managed to find me. You introduced yourself and didn't hesitate to invite me to sit with you at lunch on our first day when I did recognize you.
From that moment forward, our lives became intertwined.
We spent a short amount of time together but somehow managed to become close. You came over one afternoon. I started learning how to drive at the time. My father had been teaching me with my car when it was operational. He had planned to give it to me by my sixteenth birthday. You knew this. That same day, I asked him if I could practice going around the block because I wanted to show you what I had learned. He reluctantly agreed after I kept nagging.
We were almost around the block when I had the stupid idea of asking if you wanted to go one more time, but you would drive. You already knew some of the basics, so I felt confident asking. You agreed. We switched positions and continued our drive. We started turning the corner when this other car darted down the street. It happened so fast, and before either of us knew it - we collided when they t-boned the driver's side. We flipped over. I don't know how long it lasted, but I vaguely remember waking up before the paramedics came."
Jessica heard the sounds of muffled yelling; it sounded far and faint. Her ears were ringing, and she couldn't distinguish the voices. Even the sound of the radio was damped.
All she could focus on was the fanatic repeated screaming. It came clear with each second that passed.
She struggled to open her eyelids, unable to bare the strength. There appeared to be an invisible force keeping them shut. It felt peaceful, despite the disoriented voices calling out to her.
Unbeknownst to her, she couldn't move her body.
Minutes went by until she finally had the power to open her eyelids once she felt a liquid substance near her eyebrows. It felt warm, and she could sense it started to drip.
She wasn't fully aware of her surroundings. Her vision was blurry, and the sensation of a headache came in full force. Although everything was foggy, she hardly noticed everything was upside down.
She attempted to move forward, but the seatbelt limited the motions she could perform. That's when the realization came; she was in a vehicle that somehow managed to flip over. The windshield in front of her was fractured, the cracks running across the entire length. In the glass, she could barely read her reflection.
"Sooyeon! Can you hear me!?"
Jessica tried to speak, but it resulted in the sound of a muffled whine.
"Ms. Jung, I need you to stay with me. Please try to stay awake."
Jessica, again, released another whimper, "'Kay..."
While doing so, she heard the sound of another person's uneven breathing. The noise was shallow and mixed with the sound of gurgling.
She cranked her head towards the right, the intense pain radiating throughout her body, and took sight of the other individual in the driver's seat.
Her companion, Stephanie, was unconscious.
"Steph," Jessica managed to slur. The rest of her name came as gibberish.
Jessica continued to analyze the other woman, noticing how disheveled she appeared. Her friend also hung upside down but in a rag-doll-like state. She seemed nowhere remotely conscious. If she didn't know better from Stephanie's gurgling, she would have thought her friend was deceased.
There was an enormous gash across her temple, fresh blood dripping down the side of her face. Pieces of metal and glass gouged her skin from the door that appeared dented. A mixture of blood and saliva drooped from .
What the hell happened?
"Fortunately enough, I recovered in about a week. I had minimal injuries. On the downside, you remained unconscious for some time. You sustained most of the impact, so they had you on life-support. Mr. and Mrs. Seo were enraged. My parents were no exception. They were disappointed I lied, I allowed you to drive, and that the car was damaged.
Because of what I did, and your actual parents were so far away, Mr. and Mrs. Seo forbade that Krystal and I were allowed to hang out with you two and be friends. They told me when I went to visit you after school one evening.
That was the last time I saw you as Stephanie."
Jessica sat next to the bedframe where Stephanie rested, watching the monitor for the hundredth time as she did her homework. As usual, nothing changed. Still, she held hope her companion would awaken.
"I think my binder is about to collapse with all the notes I've written for you, Steph," she said out loud, doubtful her friend understood.
She flipped the binder open, cautious to catch any notes that slipped out. She tucked her classwork away before ensuring the stack of letters she wrote remained safe.
"Speaking of notes...that big mouth Jaebeom came up to me today, asking what I was doing. While he was snooping, I couldn't help but focus on him. His face is bigger than a roadside billboard. He'd probably earn top dollar if he auctioned his forehead off as advertising space."
She paused, surprised the words unintentionally slipped out. She didn't know where that kind of disrespect came from. She knew better than that; she was never taught to badmouth others. While she did feel bad, she also couldn't help the satisfaction she felt.
"Wow. That was incredibly mean, wasn't it? I don't know where that came from - "
A few steps behind her, she heard soft giggling. Jessica darted around and saw Juhyun standing outside the door, peeking in while she pressed her lips together to suppress her amusement.
"I hope you didn't hear all that."
The latter slightly smiled and stepped inside, closing the door behind them for privacy for the moment.
"What are you doing here, Juhyun? I thought you had piano lessons today."
"I do - "
Before Juhyun could finish her sentence, both of her parents stepped into the room and cut their conversation short.
Jessica set aside her items and stood, bowing in respect while she greeted the two adults.
"I apologize if you weren't expecting - "
"We knew you would be here. Hence why we're here," Mr. Seo clarified.
"Let's cut the pleasantries and discuss something we've thought about, Sooyeon. It involves Miyoung."
Jessica nodded, unsure of how to take their bluntness. The fact it revolved around Stephanie concerned her. She felt her palms start to sweat.
"We don't want you or Soojung around Miyoung and Juhyun. An understatement would be saying you are a horrible influence, Sooyeon. Your behavior is worse than horrible. You are careless, irrational, and selfish. Did you stop and think about the consequences when you allowed Miyoung to drive?"
"Mr. Seo - "
"I am not finished talking, Sooyeon. You will give me respect until I'm done. Do I make myself clear?"
"When Miyoung came to us, we swore she would be treated equally as Juhyun - she would be cared for as our daughter. With that being said, we have decided to act in the best interest of Miyoung. We forbade any contact between you two - even at school. We do not want you a part of her life. Since you two have become friends - it's been nothing but trouble. Do you understand?"
"But Mr. Seo - " Jessica began pleading. However, it fell on deaf ears.
The older gentleman held his hand, indicating this was a conversation in which they couldn't be persuaded. "Save it, Sooyeon. I have no interest in what you need to say. Please pack your stuff and leave the room."
Jessica felt hopeless, weak. She knew they were serious, and it'd be best if she left instantly the minute she saw the hospital's security guard abiding outside the door. However, she'd stand her ground. Stephanie was her friend, best friend. Besides Krystal, she couldn't think of another individual she loved as much.
"She's my friend! Stephanie means everything to me!"
"If you fail to comply with our only wish, we will press charges against you for endangerment."
Before she knew it, she silently started shedding tears. Her breath hitched, finding it difficult to breathe or find the right words.
"This isn't fair!"
"Life isn't fair, Sooyeon! Get over it!"
The security guard stepped into the room, and she knew she had to depart, even if it meant without saying goodbye to Stephanie. Jessica turned around and started packing her work, shoving the items into her backpack with much haste. She then pushed past them.
"I hate both of you!"
"You bring shame to the Jung surname," Mrs. Seo stated, watching the teen as she violently swung the door open and exited.
Once the door slammed shut, Juhyun flinched and glanced at her parents discussing something privately. Her eyes lingered on them before her gaze shifted towards an unconscious Miyoung.
She wouldn't find out until years later who and what they were chatting about. For now, though, she felt dejected with the sudden change of events and rules.
"I learned later on that you suffered some type of brain trauma. I didn't believe it in the beginning. I honestly thought everything was a rumor that got spread around. Stories and gossip said you finally resumed your education but transferred teachers or classes because you were behind on schedule from missing a month of work.
The first time I saw you after the incident, you became Tiffany. I don't know when or why it happened, but it did. I obeyed the rules Mr. and Mrs. Seo instructed. I felt so guilty that I indirectly almost killed you, so I figured the least I could do was listen.
I've spent years watching you from a distance, wondering if fate would allow our paths to cross again. While I don't know everything that happened after you left, I do know my feelings have remained the same; regardless if you're Stephanie or Tiffany. From the moment of leaving the hospital until Monday afternoon, I spent these last nine years doing what I thought was best for everyone. Now that you're here, we're friends, more than friends...I don't know if that was the right thing."
Jessica deeply exhaled, afraid of seeing Tiffany's reaction. At the same time, she felt relieved. The biggest lie she had hidden finally was spoken and out in the open.
'No more secrets,' she thought.
While she had been too scared to face the latter, she conjured enough strength to watch them both. She glanced at the two other women who refused to make eye contact, much to her disappointment.
Neither of them said anything. It made Jessica feel uneasy that there was no comment. For a fleeting moment, she even thought maybe this ended up as a mistake. Something else she'd feel accountable for and believed she shouldn't have confessed.
Maybe it was better to live with the guilt that ate her conscious alive.
Tiffany stared into her lap and cried from the revelation, leaving her head obscured from view as Seohyun wept even harder, avoiding eye contact with either of the two. She felt guilty, too, but for personal reasons unbeknownst to either.
Jessica was about to say something, but the sudden movement from the youngster prevented her. Seohyun began shaking her head, her black locks bouncing with the sudden movement.
"That's not everything," Seohyun wept and balled her fist, trying to calm herself to speak coherently.
"I know, there's a lot to this story. I was kind of hoping you could clarify a few things. Like, maybe, the things I missed out on when I wasn't around."
"That's not what I meant."
Jessica narrowed her eyebrows in confusion. Instead of her face softening - it became tight. She didn't anticipate there was something else. "What are you talking about, Seohyun? I just worded everything verbatim about what happened."
"You don't know, do you?"
Jessica slowly shook her head and carefully watched the other woman. "Know what?"
They met each other's gaze amongst everything, even momentarily forgetting Tiffany was crying herself.
"I can't believe they never told you. That makes me wonder if Krystal knows - "
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Jessica asked. This time, she summoned enough force to sit up. Something about this topic caused her anxiety to grow with each second.
"I don't know if I should tell you, Jessica."
"Seohyun, please, tell me. I don't like where this is going!"
The youngster waited, truly contemplating this. When she saw Jessica's imploring eyes - she couldn't resist the truth.
"They never told you that you suffered the same trauma Tiffany experienced!"
There was a delayed reaction. Jessica was baffled, unable to detect if the latter was lying. Why would she, though?
"What? Seohyun, that doesn't make sense!"
"I - "
"How could I suffer the same trauma? I remember everything, unlike Tiffany!"
"I-I don't know, but it's the truth!"
"Nobody has ever mentioned this! Why am I just now finding out!?" she clamored.
"They never told you for the same reason they never told Tiffany! They thought it would be better if you never found out! Yours wasn't as severe at Tiffany's but still substantial."
Jessica's mouth fell agape before she sealed her lips, tearing the oxygen mask from her face. "I want to see my medical records this instant! I cannot believe this! It's too improbable!"
"Stop being so stubborn, Jessica!"
"You know this is can't be real!"
Seohyun abruptly stood from the chair, allowing it to slide across the floor, before raising her voice to match the older woman, "You need to accept the truth! They probably never told you this because they knew how you would react!"
Jessica remained silent, completely and utterly taken aback. The latter pushed the chair aside and stomped over towards the door before