After the phone call with her manager, she spent the time she had before starting her shift by doing several household chores. Wendy isn’t usually so engrossed with doing mundane tasks at home, but her growing anxiety has her acting out of character these days.
She started off by dusting the floating shelves in her bedroom. Grabbing the chair in front of her study table, she drags it towards the other end of the room, just below the floating shelves. The white shelves were adorned with photo frames and albums she has collected over the years. She carefully brings each article down, wiping off dust that stubbornly clung to each object. Wendy robotically repeats the same process as she brings each picture frame and vinyl album on display down, until she comes across a group photo from her high school days. She brings the photo frame with her and sat on her bed, carefully observing the faces on it.
After graduating high school, Wendy quickly learned that people could leave your life just as easily as they entered it. She also learnt that promises made, especially by naïve and young high schoolers, are more likely to be broken than kept.
She bitterly remembers her group of friends back in high school. Wendy wasn’t popular nor was she a no one. She had a small group of friends that she would stick to. Wendy didn’t feel the need for huge friend groups anyway. Something about quality over quantity.
Wendy remembers the promises she made with those friends – to try their hardest to be friends with each other even after high school was over. They promised that their friendships could exist outside locker rooms and cafeterias. They promised that they would continue to support each other no matter what.
What a load of bull.
Looking down at the picture frame, she carefully examined each face and sees that all of them have deserted her – except Seulgi and her. She wasn’t angry anymore. She got over that on her first year of secretly seeing a psychologist. She’s allowed to be a little bit resentful from time to time though. She’s left with a bitter taste in as she pondered if her life could be different now, had she had the same support she had from those friends back in high school.
She can’t blame them for leaving though. During her first semester after high school, she became distant. She was finding it hard to grow used to the more independent learning approach her university was offering. Aside from that, the new environment led to her anxiety escalating further, causing a massive drop in her grades. To many, a pass is acceptable. But in her family, simply getting a pass can get her kicked-out of the house and disowned – so she kept this a secret.
Aside from Seulgi and her, no one had bothered to check up on her. She happens to be a workmate. So it’s not like she had a choice in not seeing her. Wendy’s got to admit though, she was a great friend. If she hadn’t fallen for her and Wendy didn’t feel like absolute every time she saw her, they’d probably still be close. And so, Wendy lost her too.
Seulgi on the other hand, was persistent when it came to spending time together, especially when Wendy began to keep to herself. And if Wendy was to be honest, without that persistence, she doubts her friendship with Seulgi would’ve lasted too. Wendy didn’t really try to see any of her old friends, nor did she try to keep communication with them, unless they had initiated it. She expected them to just know how she felt. She expected them to know that she was struggling, which was unfair because she never said anything. And maybe that’s why Wendy was so bitter. Because she knew deep down, it was her fault none of them stayed to begin with.
She realises now that it’s futile to recreate any of the good memories she had back then and instead chose to let it be the way they are. Memories.
The low humming of her phone snaps Wendy out of her reminiscing.
2 notifications from Ddeulgi.
Hey you disappeared last night
Are you okay?
Yeah sorry. I kinda fell asleep.
Are you sure you’re okay?
You’re kinda being suspicious
I swear I’m okay
You don’t have to worry about me all the time you know
I don’t know seungwan
I don’t trust you
Last time you said you’re okay you almost did something stupid
I promised you I wouldn’t do it again
So stop worrying mom
Okay fine I believe you :(
But you’ll tell me right?
If something’s wrong?
Of course I would
I tell you everything
I just wanted to check on you before getting in the car
I’ll see you tomorrow okay?
I got you stuff from here!!!!!!
I’m very excited to see the stuff you got!!!
You’re not excited to see ME back?
Who was gone for 2 weeks.
How could you seungwan
Oh don’t be dramatic
You know I missed you, you
I missed you too seungwan :)
Kay bye for real.
My parents are yelling at me
Thank you for last night
And I love you too
With a small smile adorning her face, she stood up and returned the picture frame back on the shelf.
With the clock quickly ticking to 1pm, she unashamedly groaned out loud in her seat. The bus was taking quite a while to get to the stop in front of the café she worked at. At the pace the bus was going, she was going to be late. To be fair though, it’s not the bus driver’s fault that a car decided to break down in the middle of the road causing the traffic to remain stagnant.
Maybe it’s the way Wendy uneasily fidgeted on her seat, as if scratching an itch she couldn’t quite get rid of. Or maybe it’s the way she keeps shifting her eyes between the front of the bus and the window just adjacent her. But something about Wendy’s mannerisms screamed ‘notice me’, drawing the attention of the girl right beside her.
“Are you okay?”
Wendy was startled. People (aside from Seulgi) don’t really ask her that question, and most certainly not a stranger. She’s probably being dramatic. An innocent and harmless ‘are you okay’ from a stranger hardly counts as concern.
“Sorry. Yes. I’m good. Was I bothering you?” Wendy unsurely replied.
“No, you’re okay. You just seemed…” the girl next to her said, seemingly trailing off into her own thoughts.
This made Wendy chuckle. She doesn’t know why, but this stranger was looking at her with so much warmth and worry. She’s a mere stranger, but the girl looked at her as if ready to examine and scrutinise whatever invisible force was causing Wendy so much distress. If it was Wendy in the stranger’s position, she would’ve minded her own business. I mean sure, she’ll think about what’s bothering the other person and imagine ways of helping them out, but that’s all it’d be. Kindness wanting to burst out but left to be stored in the recess of her imagination. But then again, Wendy’s anti-social attitude these days make it hard for her to exercise goodwill for others.
“Yeah I’m okay. Just a little worried about the traffic jam.”
The stranger nodded with understanding, urging her to continue.
“I have to go to work,” Wendy said quickly, not really knowing how to explain her strange behaviour. Well, it’s only really strange when someone notices. To most people she’s just a spastic girl, that should’ve scared any strangers from wanting to talk to her. But not this one.
“Well, you fidgeting around isn’t gonna make the cars go any faster,” the girl jokingly replied.
“I guess so,” Wendy said, not knowing what else to say.
“If it makes you feel any better, I’m also trying to head to work. If this traffic doesn’t get any better, at least you’ll be comforted to know that we’ll both be late,” the stranger said with such happiness.
That happiness perplexed Wendy. How can this stranger feel so positively about being late for work? Here she was ready to piss her pants if the cars don’t move any faster than 20km/h.
Wendy’s a little envious of the stranger. She still has a gleaming light within her. An ability to see the positivity beyond a storm of negativity. What was it again? Optimism. That word has long escaped her vocabulary and being, chased away by her own reality. Wendy wouldn’t call herself pessimistic though. Pessimism would mean that she sees the worst aspects of everything. She’s more of a realist. It’s not her fault that her reality felt like the worst.
Feeling somewhat uplifted by this stranger’s positivity, Wendy says with a small, but genuine smile, “You know what? It actually does. Thank you.”
Wendy was late.
That fact didn’t come as a surprise though. What did come as a surprise is when the stranger she met at the bus got down on the same stop as her. She didn’t think much of it at first. Her stop was the second last stop before the bus goes back around again. So, it was unsurprising that most people are going to be dismounting at the same location as her. But then, she started heading the same direction as Wendy.
Oh my gosh. For once in my life I was friendly to a complete stranger and now she thinks I’m easy. I’m going to die!
Was what ran through Wendy’s mind when she started speed walking to safety of Velvet Café. Perhaps with more people around, the stranger would just give up on trying to kill her.
But of course, Wendy was just being dramatic. She was foolish for ever thinking that her life was interesting enough for something like that to happen to her. She learns this little fact when Taeyeon excitedly walked her way – or at least Wendy initially thought it was her way. Taeyeon walked right past her to greet the bus stranger.
“Ahhh Joohyun! You finally got here! Let me introduce you to your trainer for the day.”
Wendy stood there dumbfounded. She was completely embarrassed. For a moment, she had gone insane, thinking that the friendly stranger was trying to kill her. Maybe if she was thinking clearly enough, she would’ve remembered that it was broad daylight and no murderer would be stupid enough to commit any crime when the whole world can still see them. Maybe if she wasn’t so engrossed in her own little world, she also would’ve noticed that Joohyun pulled an apron, exactly the same as the one she kept in her own bag. But Wendy didn’t and she was irrational.
“We’ve actually met,” Wendy choked out, incredibly flustered by the situation.
Taeyeon curiously glanced at her, prodding her to speak, while Joohyun looked at her amusedly.
“Yeah, we did actually,” Joohyun smirked, “we were in the same bus and she was my fidgety, squirmy seatmate.”
“Sorry,” Wendy lowly whispered, proceeding to bow lowly for letting her own stress cause other people stress.
“That’s okay. You were funny,” Joohyun appeased, throwing her a smile. “Anyways, I’m sorry for being late Taeyeon. There was an accident on the road and I didn’t prepare for the traffic. I’ll be more mindful next time.”
Seeing Joohyun’s amused smirk placated Wendy temporarily, even though she was still 10 seconds away from throwing herself off in front of a bus.
“Ah don’t worry about it. The café’s been a bit slow today and Wendy here was also late, so really, no harm done.”
“Sorry,” Wendy repeats, rubbing her nape embarrassingly. So much for first impressions. She was the trainer! Her first impression shouldn’t include tardiness.
“Oh come on. It’s just me Wendy. You know I’m lenient with these kinds of things. Stop looking like you’re about to get fired. Besides it was only five minutes. I didn’t even realise both of you were late until Joohyun mentioned it.”
Wendy finally looked up with a bashful smile. She turns to Joohyun to finally introduce herself, “Hi I’m Wendy, your spastic bus seatmate and right now, you