Chapter 4My Sanctuary | My Prison
It’s happening again.
Even though it’s been a few weeks since Jessica first confronted Taeyeon about their rocky relationship, their conversations seem to have had little effect because they’re now sitting in an interview and Taeyeon is pulling the same stunts. Taeyeon cracks a punchline and everyone laughs; Jessica even gives the other girl a playful pat on the leg and she doesn’t miss the way Taeyeon immediately crosses her leg while swiveling slightly away in her stool. The action might not be seemly significant to any outsider, but it stings Jessica.
Jessica likes to think she’s been demonstrating the patience of a saint, but Jesus Christ, Taeyeon is such a dense, complex, stubbornly frustrating wall to break through.
It’s another typical evening in their dorm with a bunch of the girl’s sprawled over the expansive U-shaped couch, some watching TV, others on their phone and some reading, but they’re all there simply being in each other’s company. But as always, work is a steady constant in their nine lives and Yoona is the first to stand from the couch when she has to leave for an evening drama shoot. Tiffany goes next, being the social butterfly she is, she’s got other friends to catch up with over dinner and drinks. Sunny and Yuri are already out filming overnight for their variety show and Sooyoung and Seohyun are home for the weekend.
So lastly, it leaves Hyoyeon awkwardly sitting on the couch, separating Taeyeon and Jessica.
Hyoyeon curiously looks form the TV and glances between the both of them: Taeyeon’s engrossed in the music show and Jessica’s busy thumbing through a magazine. She smiles to herself and she tries to speak clearly when she announces to both of them, “well, it’s getting late, I’m going to go shower,” Hyoyeon grins as she stands from the couch.
“Sure,” Taeyeon replies absentmindedly, fixated on the music program, but Jessica looks a bit more startled once she realizes what’s happening.
Jessica spins around in her seat on the couch to watch her blonde, mischievous groupmate walk backwards down the hall. ‘HYOYEON!’ she dramatically mouths for the girl to read.
Hyoyeon widens her eyes and points her index fingers in the air, drawing little motions between Jessica and Taeyeon. ‘TALK TO HER,’ she mouths back in silence and Jessica gives her the biggest eye roll she can muster because—seriously—they have talked multiple of times about the same situation and made microscopic progress over it. In fact, it has just made things more difficult between them now that Jessica knows her groupmate has a crush on her. But how could Hyoyeon possibly know the complicated depths to which her groupmates shared? ‘JUST TALK,’ Hyoyeon mouths once more before she turns around and heads for the bathroom.
Jessica spins back around in her seat and collapses onto the couch with a sigh. She glances to Taeyeon on her right and the girl doesn’t look bothered that they’re alone together. But then again, Taeyeon’s gotten very good at pretending everything’s okay, but Jessica knows it doesn’t take much to blow her whole defense down.
What the hell.
Jessica waits for the sound of the shower to turn on from the down the hall before she decides to dive right in. “You're doing it again,” she bluntly says, not hiding the irritation in her voice.
“Doing what?” Taeyeon looks away from the music show at Jessica. “Since when is watching TV a crime?”
“Not that,” Jessica sighs crossly, “I'm talking about at the show today.”
“What about it?” Taeyeon asks with brows wrinkling in confusion.
“Seriously?” Jessica can’t believe that the girl’s genuinely puzzled. “You know? You keep doing that evasion crap.”
“Oh, geez, sorry.” Taeyeon shifts her weight uncomfortably on the couch. “I-I'm not trying to be mean to you,” she tries to explain while starting to fidget her fingers around each other. “It’s just…I guess it’s a bad habit when you’re around sometimes. It’s just—you know—it's…it’s hard for me to be around you.”
“Oh.” Jessica swallows nervously, not sure how to feel about that statement. “Sorry,” she whispers, feeling like all there is between them lately is just constant apologies and it’s starting to get repetitive. “I guess I'll, um, I’ll just go then,” Jessica starts to stand from the couch only to have Taeyeon reach out and snag her fingers into the hem of her shirt.
“N-no! Wait! That's not what I meant.”
“Well it sounds a lot like your life would be easier if I just vanished.”
Guilt dilates in Taeyeon’s eyes when it’s not far from the truth, but she’s trying to be a better person; she’s trying to handle her situation with grace, but she feels like she’s failing miserably at it. She lets her fingers go slack from the girl’s clothing, but Jessica doesn't walk away. “Did I hurt your feelings today?” Taeyeon asks softly.
“It’s fine,” Jessica replies, feeling too old to utter back words that sounds like an elementary school kid. Yes you hurt my feelings.
“Sorry, it’s sort of like a defensive reflex. It happens when I panic or get confused—you know that already, right?”
Jessica sighs tiredly, letting her eyes drift close. “Taeyeon we have got to figure out how to coexist properly. Fans are already picking up something’s wrong and it’s all over the net.” She opens her eyes to stare down at her leader. “There are already rumors about you trying to kick me out of Girls’ Generation.”
“That’s absurd,” Taeyeon frowns. “Sica, it’s not like I'm not trying to cut you out of my life.”
“It kind of feels like it.”
“It's n-not—” Taeyeon sighs, “I can't cut you out of my life; we're members and we're going to be stuck together—hopefully—for a long time. I just need to find a way to,” Taeyeon swallows nervously, “t-to get over you.”
Once Jessica realizes that Taeyeon is willingly and openly talking about her feelings, she slowly sits back down, a little closer than before. “Taeng,” she starts cautiously, “have you always known you were, uh…?”
“I’m not gay,” The girl blurts out and there's a sudden tension in the air when that word is spoken for the first time between them.
“Okay,” Jessica immediately backs off and she’s starting to find it a bit easier to navigate Taeyeon’s triggers now that she’s caused so many of them. It’s already a miracle that Taeyeon’s talking about herself to someone, so Jessica counts that as a blessing and chooses not to push.
Apparently Jessica gauges right because the sudden stretch of silence forces Taeyeon to speak again. “I mean, I,” Taeyeon sighs, “m-maybe I’m just…b-bicurious?”
Jessica just nods. “Being bicurious is normal,” she shrugs. “I think most girls go through it in high school and college anyways.”
“It doesn’t feel normal,” Taeyeon mutters quietly, more to herself than Jessica.
“You’re just hitting adolescence late,” Jessica offers her a soft chuckle to try to ease the tension and she likes that it makes a small smile cross over Taeyeon’s lips. “We debuted when we were nineteen and lost most of our teenage years to training, so it’s not like we had a lot of time to figure ourselves out before we got thrown into this industry. It’s okay if you’re still growing up at twenty-two.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Taeyeon sighs and nods at the analysis, but she has another thought irritating her, so she summons up her confidence to ask Jessica, “w-why aren’t you disgusted or mortified about this?”
Jessica looks baffled. “What? Why would I be?”
“A-aren’t you uncomfortable around me now? I mean, I kissed you.”
“I don’t know,” Jessica shrugs and thinks it might be partially for her American-upbringing. Maybe she’s just naturally more open-minded than the country she’s living in now. “Are you...sure you actually like me and it’s not just some sort of bicurious confusion?”
Taeyeon blinks at the question and lets it sink in for a bit. “M-maybe, I don’t know. I never thought about it like that.” She breathes deep and Jessica thinks Taeyeon seems a little relieved by the new thought. “You’re right. M-maybe I’m just confused,” Taeyeon mutters, slouching back into the couch and staring absentmindedly at the TV. “C-can I ask you something?”
“Why are you being so nice to me though?” Taeyeon whispers. “Shouldn’t you should hate me for being so petty and immature about this whole thing?”
Jessica shakes her head because Taeyeon doesn’t understand the depth of which she loves her members. “We’re Soshi,” Jessica says quietly, simply, effortlessly and shrugs, “we’ll get through it together.”
“Whatever you’re going through, I’ll help you through it—if you want, that is. I know you said it’s hard to be around me, but, you know, I’m here if you want to talk things out or anything.” She thinks about reaching out to hold onto Taeyeon’s hands to comfort her, but Jessica catches herself in time before she accidentally sets the girl’s emotions off again. So she just tries to soothe Taeyeon with what words she can. “You don’t have to be alone in this.”
“Thank you.” Taeyeon’s good at listening to her fellow member’s problems, but she’s always been awful at expressing herself. She’s not sure how to express her gratitude to Jessica for her patience and open-mindedness because it’s not exactly how Taeyeon would have imagined anyone's reaction to her secret. “A-and you won’t tell the other girls?”
Jessica sighs. “Well, I don’t think it’s exactly a bad idea if you tell the other girls—”
“I don’t want to.”
“Not even Tiffany? Taeng, I really don’t like keeping secrets from them—”
“Please don’t—at least not until I figure things out for myself. Okay?”
“Okay,” Jessica nods and hears the shower shut off in the background. Even though the bathroom’s all the way down the hall, she drops her voice to a whisper. “Someday, I hope you won’t be scared to talk about yourself with everyone.”
Taeyeon scoffs a laugh. “Yeah. Me too.”
“Taeyeon-ah,” Sunny calls for the girl’s attention over their lunch break one afternoon, “you feeling alright lately?”
The girl in question tries not to roll her eyes and make hideous sounds of annoyance because she’s not sure how many more reiterations of this question she can handle. She finishes chewing a mouthful of kimbap before she sets her chopsticks down to look at Sunny. She puts on the same show she has for everyone else. “Fine, I’m just tired. You know how I get sometimes.”
“Sounds like a steaming pile of bull to me.”
“Don't talk like that, it's not Soshi like,” Taeyeon tells her pointedly, never forgetting the responsibilities she carries to maintain their image; never forgetting how much they've endured to get where they are. She's not about to let her foul-mouthed friend ruin it and she sure as hell isn't going to ruin it by being Kim Taeyeon and not SNSD's beloved kid leader, Taeyeon.
“You know,” Sunny picks at her pile of kimbap with her chopsticks, “you were sleep talking the other night.”
Taeyeon feels a chill starting to spread through her body because she sure as hell can't remember her dreams, not even after her members tell her after all the embarrassing things she says the next day. ‘For the love of God, please tell me that I didn't say anything about Jessica’, she desperately prays.
“W-was it bad?” Taeyeon asks cautiously.
Sunny frowns before answers the girl. “You kept saying: ‘why won't you just die?’ Do you know how scary it is to hear your roommate say something like that?”
Taeyeon winces when she was expecting something silly or embarrassing, but this phrase is definitely not what she predicted. “Sorry, I think it was a really bad nightmare the other night,” Taeyeon sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose as flashes of fragmented images pass through her mind. “Now that you mention it,” Taeyeon frowns when she does remember, “I think it was a serial killer or something.”
“Oh,” Sunny actually looks a bit relieved, “I was worried you were dreaming of, uh…”
“You?” Taeyeon offers the joke, but Sunny doesn’t laugh.
“Honestly, I was worried you might be thinking of someone closer to home.”
“Did you think I was dreaming of Sica?” Taeyeon fills the blank in for her.
Sunny sighs when it feels like they’re all dancing around the same glaring pink elephant in the room. “Are the two of you really okay?”
“We were, uh, fighting over something dumb before, it was my fault, but we talked it out.” Taeyeon’s not totally lying when she gives Sunny a super abbreviated version of the situation. “Really, we’re fine now. Sorry if I’ve been moody, it’s just that—”
“You’re tired and stressed,” Sunny nods, knowingly. “I get it. It’s a hard life. You should try to get more rest when you can, Taeyeon-ah.”
“I have trouble sleeping these days,” Taeyeon mutters and rubs at her brow, careful not to smudge her makeup, “and apparently when I do sleep, I’ve been having nightmares.” She pauses and her forehead crinkles at the sudden foggy images that start to fill her memories. “Actually…I think I've been having a lot of nightmares lately,” she says sadly when she remembers the horrible onslaught of gruesome images followed by a numbing pain.
“Maybe lay off those horror movies you love so much then,” Sunny tells the girl before she resumes finishing her lunch.
Taeyeon doesn’t want to read too much into it, but she thinks her subconscious is trying to murder a part of her.
Jessica’s in a dressing room, finishing off the final touches on her lipstick before she looks up from the mirror on her lap to find Taeyeon looking down at her. She’s pleasantly surprised that Taeyeon’s willingly seeking her out and, best yet, there’s a thin smile on Taeyeon’s lips—it’s small—but it’s genuine. So, Jessica sets her forgotten makeup down on the table in front and turns her full attention to the other girl.
“Hey, yourself,” Jessica says, returning the small smile.
“I, um,” Taeyeon pauses to swallow her embarrassment and Jessica watches the girl’s hands nervously twist around each other, probably because Taeyeon’s uncomfortable being the type of person to initiate her thoughts over a conversation. “I just want you to know that I’m trying—I-I’ll try to do better today,” she says vaguely, but the younger girl knows.
Jessica smiles till her cheeks hurt when she realizes their conversation from a few nights back may have successfully sunk past the girl’s thick skull properly. She absolutely hates seeing Taeyeon in shambles like this while trying to stay strong for everyone else. Jessica doesn’t feel whole without all nine pieces of her soul and she’s trying desperately to get one broken piece back together. Maybe things don’t feel normal between them yet, but it feels like progress and that’s something, which is better than nothing.
“Sica?” Taeyeon voice drifts in hesitantly when she’s worried about the girl’s lengthy silence, which feels absolutely deafening to Taeyeon’s shaky nerves.
“S-sorry,” Jessica laughs, lost in her own in cloud of thoughts and feelings. “Thanks in advance,” she smiles at the thought of getting the two of them back on the right track. “Taengoo, we’re going to be okay,” she tries to offer the girl some solace.
Taeyeon smiles and tries to ignore the way her cheeks are starting to flush. “Come on,” Taeyeon motions for Jessica to follow her towards to the studio set, “this one should be a fun one.”
“It’s time for our segment of IDEAL WORLD CUP!” a choir of hosts’ voices and Soshi members chime together in the opening greeting of the show. They go through their usual greetings, introductions and even showcase their new song before they sit down and start asking individual members about their ideal types. Their answers vary from vague statements of, ‘bad boys’ and ‘sensitive guys’ to just pure visual preferences like, ‘someone with a great smile’ or ‘kind eyes’.
When they finish their intro, they finally get into the game of showing the girls two different men before they all vote on who’s more attractive. After a few rounds where the girls are squabbling over each other’s choices, the host asks Taeyeon to come up for an individual round.
“Oh? Okay,” she laughs nervously as she stands from her seat to move to the front of the stage.
Jessica shifts anxiously in back, suspecting that the poor kid leader is struggling to keep up her façade as she feigns interests over guys and their broad shoulders. Even though it’s hardwired into their profession to lie, Jessica can’t help but to think how awful it must feel to lose yourself in an image just to please their audience. The ice princess isn’t sure if she’s developed some sort of strange sympathy pain when she feels an awful ache in the pit of her gut, wondering if Taeyeon felt the same way about this whole program.
“TOP versus G-Dragon! In three, two, one!”
Taeyeon hits the button and G-Dragon’s picture is highlighted. When the hosts all whoop over her answer, Taeyeon just giggles and politely hides her shy smile behind her hand.
A new set of juxtaposed images comes on screen and Jessica feels a sting in her gut when she watches Taeyeon, too bright and too coy for the cameras as she presses the button again, selecting Kang Dongwon this time. As Sooyoung and Taeyeon bicker over the man in question for fun, Jessica stays quiet in the back row. She uncrosses and re-crosses her legs, shifting uncomfortably in her seat.
Jessica’s always been bad at catching onto things right away; jokes often flew over her head when punchlines were delivered; she had a bad habit of spacing out during interviews (like right now); and her fellow members for her habitual no-filter remarks that always sparked uncomfortable silences they deemed the Sica-Effect. Today is no different as it takes almost an hour into recording before Jessica realizes the stinging feeling in the pit of her gut is…is…
She takes a sharp inhale when she realizes what’s happening; when she understands why Taeyeon has been occupying her thoughts day in and day out.
“Sica, who would you chose?” the host suddenly asks, pointing at side by side pictures of 2PM members: Taecyeon and Nichkhun. She tries not to lets her gaze fixate for too long on the back of Taeyeon’s head, so Jessica smiles bright, gives a well-timed giggle and points to the right. She catches the glance that Taeyeon tosses her over her shoulder and Jessica tries to ignore the flutter in her stomach.