My First and Last Gift to You

The Bunny and The Bear
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Joohyun’s eyes are on the movie playing on the large living room TV, but her mind is elsewhere. Early this morning she had an elaborate plan to spend an evening with her best friend-slash-roommate. The first step of the plan is to catch the said best friend-slash-roommate before she left for work by waking up before dawn, carefully stepping out of her room and moving to the sofa, not forgetting to turn on the television with a hushed volume to make it seem like she spent the night there. Hopefully, that way she could add a twinge of guilt that would guarantee the plan’s success.   She was confident the plan will work. It had to, lest she let an entire day to waste. And for a workaholic like Joohyun, an entire working day not spent working in her office is sacrilegious.   Just a little after 5, the door to her roommate’s room creaked open, showing the occupant in a training gear carrying a bag with a change of clothes. At the sound, Joohyun acted as if she had just woken up, sporting a raspy voice along with it.   “Seulbear…?”   Kang Seulgi, aptly nicknamed Seulbear by Joohyun, froze on her way to the fridge. Her eyes were wide, directed at the lump of blankets and pillows in front of the TV.   “Hyunnie?”   “Mmm…” Joohyun stretched on the sofa before trudging to the kitchen island. Even if her eyes were half-closed, she inwardly grinned when she saw how Seulgi’s eyes naturally scan her from top to toe, went slightly wider at the collarbone peeking from her oversized tee. “Are you going to work?”   “Uh…” pausing to jump-start her mind, Seulgi cleared before answering, “Yes, I am. Gonna have a bit of a jog and weight training beforehand, though.”   Leaning on the kitchen island, Joohyun stretched once more, adding a yawn to make it more believable. “You’ve been coming home late these days, I’m starting to get worried.”   “Is–Is that why you slept on the sofa?”   “I wasn’t when I went to sleep last night,” the editor whined, voicing the lines she had prepared. “But I kept tossing and turning in my bed, worried for you, that I moved to the sofa to watch something. Finally got some sleep a few hours ago.”   “Oh… I’m sorry if I wake you,” Seulgi replied morosely that Joohyun felt bad, but she had to be steadfast.   Guilt-tripping Seulgi was a part of her plan. Joohyun knew very well that the dancer came home late the night before when the editor is usually already sound asleep. That meant, when Joohyun relocated to the sofa, it was way past midnight, way off of her usual sleep schedule.   At least that’s what Seulgi thought.   “Care to join me in a movie marathon later? It’s been a while since we’ve done that…” Joohyun asked her question with a pout, holding back a smile when Seulgi frowned, studying the kitchen floor instead of meeting her eyes.   “Sure,” the dancer finally answered with a tight-lipped smile.   “Great, I can’t wait,” Joohyun beamed.   The first step of her plan went exactly as she planned and Joohyun was more confident than ever. Her afternoon then consisted of her precisely scheduling her work time and sleep time, making sure she had enough sleep to stay awake in the evening with Seulgi. The last step of her plan would be to welcome Seulgi with her favorite snacks and a list of movies to be chosen.   But that was the morning and afternoon. As the clock beside the TV shows that the night is getting later and later, Joohyun’s confidence in the success of her plan is falling. According to her plan, by now she should be snuggling on Seulgi’s side, snacking on fattening snacks while watching the chosen movie in the warmth of her large duvet. Yet, here she is, slowly munching on caramel popcorn, a random rom-com movie playing on the TV, buried in a freshly-laundered duvet, but no roommate by her side. The messages she sent are left unread and the calls have gone through voicemail.   Joohyun releases the heaviness in her chest with an exhale, deciding to scrap her plan altogether as midnight is closing. Even though Seulgi has been working late for a while, she’s usually home by eleven. Any later than that means she’s spending the night somewhere else, irking the older woman more. Can’t Seulgi at least let her know if she’s needed somewhere else?? Not that Joohyun doesn’t need her.   It has indeed been a while since they spent some time as best friends, just lounging on the living room, filling the silence with conversations about how the day went and ignoring whatever it was playing on the TV. Often they would fall asleep on the sofa but neither didn’t mind; the sofa is large for the two of them and being the warm bear that she is, Seulgi doesn’t mind being snuggled by Joohyun.   That changed, however, last Valentine’s Day evening.     “I like you. And not in a you’re-a-nice-unnie-and-I-like-you kind of way. I like-like you, Unnie.”   They are spending what’s left of the day of love together eating ramyun on the kitchen island and Joohyun is stunned at the sudden confession. “Uh… That’s not the answer I was expecting,” the editor chuckles nervously.   Truly not the answer she was expecting at the question ‘why didn’t you spend today with someone you like’ she directed at Seulgi. Can you blame her though? Both of them (well, Joohyun, at least) came home after a long day of work and chose a midnight snack, talking about nothing and everything in between bites as usual.   A confession, however, is not expected to be included in ‘everything’.   “I’m sorry, I’ve been feeling this way for far too long and I can’t keep it to myself anymore. I like you, Hyunnie.”   By then, they’ve been living together for almost a year. Seulgi moved into Joohyun’s apartment last February because her building owner kicked her out. Having lived by herself for a while in an apartment that was too big for one, Joohyun gladly invited her to be a roommate and shared the rent fee.   “Too long? How long exactly?”   “Well, for a start… I wasn’t kicked out of my apartment. The building owner upped the rent fee and I saw it as an opportunity to moved here. You kept saying how you needed a roommate and I wanted it to be me.”   “Okay,” Joohyun responded, not even concealing how disappointed she is because Seulgi has not been honest.   “I thought by moving here I’d get your attention. Besides, I’m kinda worried because I’m not the only one who thinks you neglect your well-being sometimes.”   Seulgi has indeed been taking care of her well. Making snacks, reminding her to eat or sleep earlier, even picking her up when she’s too inebriated to go home by herself after a dinner meeting. It’s nice to be taken care of by someone, even more so by someone as attractive as Seulgi.   Of course, there are times when Joohyun thought that it might be nice to be in a relationship with Seulgi one day, but today is not that day. The timing isn’t ideal for now with the piles of manuscript waiting for her. As much as she hates doing this, Seulgi has a right for a clear answer from her.   “I think you’re a great person, Seulbear. What we’ve had is good and you’re more than just a roommate for me... You’ve become one of my best friends I don’t want to ruin that because I can’t be committed to anyone but my work right now.”   It’s true; Seulgi has been a stable part of her life. Joohyun would be devastated if she lost that. Even seeing how crestfallen the dancer looks almost makes her take back what she said.   “I see…” Seulgi responds, dejected.   “You deserve someone better. I’m really sorry…” Joohyun adds with a whisper, afraid to break Seulgi’s heart more.   “No, it’s okay. We’re still roommates, right? I’d rather have that than none at all.”   As much as Seulgi tries to say that cheerfully, her eyes betray her with a tear. Chuckling to ease the heaviness in the air, she wipes it with her sleeve, resuming to eat. They both know, though, their appetite for ramyun has long gone by then.     Despite what Seulgi said, Joohyun has been seeing less and less of the dancer. Since that Valentine’s Day, the two only meet in passing despite living in the same apartment. At first, Joohyun let her be, giving her roommate a break with some distance; she understands that it’s not easy to live with the person who rejected your feelings.   It’s been more than a month since then and Joohyun has had enough. She misses her best friend-slash-roommate and craves for a shared moment, hence the elaborate plan she formulated.   However, as the digital clock shows that it’s only minutes to midnight, Joohyun decides to admit that her plan has failed. With a little more force than necessary, she presses the Power button on the TV remote, engulfing the living room in silence. She has to clean up the abundant snack and pizza she had delivered in case Seulgi missed dinner to go home and join her.   Halfway through cleaning the food, Joohyun hears a familiar beeping on the door and she freezes. Sure enough, in comes Seulgi who is visibly surprised to see her still up and about.   “Hey…” Joohyun greets. As much as she is bitter that Seulgi is AWOL, she is also glad that she’s home okay.   “Hey. I thought you’re already asleep.”   It is said with no emotion whatsoever that Joohyun is so close to just leave the conversation whatsoever. Instead, she decides to confront the dancer. “I was waiting for you. And you were supposed to go home earlier for the movie marathon you agreed to.”   Seulgi only glances at her from time to time as she puts her shoes and coat away. “Yeah, sorry about that. I had an urgent thing to do after work.”   “Kang Seulgi, you could’ve told me. I waited for you,” Joohyun grits her teeth, taking Seulgi’s nonchalant answers personally.   “I’m sorry, okay? I’ll make it up to you. I had to be somewhere.”   “Where? I left you tons of messages and probably called you dozens of time and none went through!”   “I was at my girlfriend’s place!”   And just like that, Joohyun feels her heart dropped to her stomach in a blink. She has to hold the side of the island for a footing because she feels strength leaving her body. “What…?”   “I was at my girlfriend’s. She invited a bunch of friends over and I helped her host.”   The editor swallows with difficulty, adamant on hiding the quiver in her voice, “Y–You have a girlfriend?”   “Yeah, we’ve only been together for a week or so.”   A part of Joohyun wants to ask if she knows her but her mind is already busy processing the fact that Seulgi is not single anymore that she just stands there, trying not to break down.   “I’m sorry. Maybe we can watch movies some other time, yeah?”   If Seulgi said that apologetically, Joohyun can’t even recognize it. She isn’t even sure if hears the door to Seulgi’s room close or the sound of her heart breaking. When she finally realizes that she has been standing in the kitchen for a tad too long, she wipes the wet trail her teardrop left and trudges to her room.   If Joohyun didn’t have trouble sleeping before, she will definitely lose some sleep that night.   #   “Seulgi’s dating one of her co-workers.”   Joohyun blinks, clearly taken aback at the sudden information that just came out of Seungwan’s mouth. “I didn’t even ask you, why are you telling me that?”   Seungwan rolls her eyes, confusing Joohyun further. “Well, you might as well, Unnie. For the last thirty minutes, you’ve been talking about how Seulgi has been distant and this and that. I know you’ve been pleading for an answer, I’m making things easy for you.”   “That doesn’t mean I really want to know,” Joohyun mutters, picking on her mango bingsoo.   “Why not? Isn’t that the main reason why that bear has been distant?”   “Maybe, but they’ve only been dating for about a week and she’s been avoiding me for more than a month.”   “Wow, you’re really counting the days,” Seungwan chuckles.   “How can I forget? She’s been like that since Valentine’s Day.”   “Yeah, she took that rejection hard, Unnie.”   Joohyun’s eyes widen. “How do you know that she confessed? Did she tell you??”   “She tells me everything, Unnie,” Seungwan winced when Joohyun’s jaw drops. “I told her that you’re not ready for a relationship yet but she was adamant. I mean, you both working overtime that day was a warning from the universe and that dumb bear ignored everything.”   In awe at the flurry of information, it takes Joohyun a few seconds to process everything. “Wait, what do you mean I’m ‘not ready for a relationship’? Is it because I work so much?”   “Obviously. You’d rather spend your time working than doing something about your feelings for Seulgi.”   “What feelings? Where did that come from?”   “Let’s see,” Seungwan taps her chin, “you don’t realize it but there’s this look you do to Seul. And you favor her over us, whether you admit it or not. At first, Sooyoung and I thought it’s because you know us through her so you two are closer that way, but no. It’s also easier to invite you to hang out with us when Seul joins–“   “Okay hold up, hold up,” Joohyun stops the blonde before it’s obvious that her face is reddening, “I don’t have a look for Seulgi!   “Yeah, you do, you just don’t realize it. Heck, I didn’t realize it until Sooyoung pointed it out. That kid is sharp when it comes to these things.”   “Alright, whatever. About the invitation thing, I still don’t get what you mean, but yes, I need time before I can be comfortable around new people, okay? So while it’s true that I did decline some of your past invitations because Seulgi didn’t join–“   “Unnie, at that time we’ve known each other for almost a year, by then you’ve slept over at my place many times already,” Seungwan deadpans.   “I’m just more comfortable when Seulgi is around, okay?” Joohyun counters, starting to get exasperated for being put on the spot.   “Is that why you’re stressing? Because she’s not around anymore? Or is there another reason?”   “Seungwan, I miss my roommate, okay? She’s been one for more than a year already, she’s my best friend at this point.”   Joohyun says that with such despondence that Seungwan almost feels bad for confronting her. However, she has had enough of witnessing the two being so obvious and vague at the same time. It’s starting to hurt them and the sooner they realize the pain source, the better.   “Seul tells me you two spent so much time together doing nothing. What do you feel when sharing those times with her?”   Releasing a shaky exhale, Joohyun frowns and puts herself at those times. It might’ve been a while since they’ve had them but when she closes her eyes she can still feel it. “It’s… calm. Work might be exciting and I love it but it also puts me on edge sometimes. Kang Seulgi, she… she makes me forget all those things with her stupid stories and warm hugs. With her, I don’t need to worry about what’s waiting for me outside; all the deadlines and responsibilities.”   “Then why did you reject her, Unnie?”   “What we have is perfect, Seungwan. Well, had. At that time, I was not sure if I can be committed to anybody, be in a relationship.”   “Even if it’s with Seulgi?”   “Especially because it’s Seulgi. She’s such a good friend to me and I don’t want to lose that.”   “But Unnie… You’re losing her as we speak. She has a girlfriend to commit her time with.”   “I know, okay?” Joohyun snaps, glancing towards the ceiling to prevent any tear to fall. She takes her time in calming her breathing before adding, “I gave her space because I know I’ve hurt her. But when she told me she’s with someone now, it just struck me. Not only am I losing her as a friend, but I’ve also missed my chance to be with her…”   The blonde is rendered speechless. She knows that Joohyun has to accept that she has a feeling for Seulgi but hearing her confession just breaks her heart. Slowly, she moves towards Joohyun, rubbing her back to calm her down.   “You know, I know I’m not Seulgi…” Seungwan whispers, passing a couple of tissues for Joohyun when she’s stopped sniffling, “but I can give you warm hugs too. I’m nicknamed Olaf for a reason.”   Joohyun chortles, wiping her wet cheeks. “Will Sooyoung be okay with that?”   “She’ll understand. You might need to buy her some chicken afterwards.”   Although she’s still sniffling, Joohyun weakly laughs and accepts the hug. “Thanks, Seungwan.”   “You’re welcome, Unnie. Please remember that Sooyoung, Yerim, and I are always here whenever you want to hang out and stuff.”   “Yeah…” Joohyun exhales, willing to not shed more tears. Admitting her feeling and saying them out loud still feels raw but she’s feeling better.   “Speaking of hanging out,” Seungwan drawls as she plays with the melted shaved ice, “do you have any plans for your birthday?”   “If this is your way of scouting whether you can plan out a surprise party or not, you’re doing a pretty crappy job.”   “Okay, first of all, we’ve tried surprising you before and it failed horribly. We’ve learned our lesson so this time we decided to just plan something that fits your busy schedule.”   Joohyun laughs, remembering last year when the four younger women prepared a surprise birthday party, unknowing that Joohyun’s coworkers preceded them. Alas, by the time Joohyun was home, slightly tipsy from all the drinks her coworkers poured for her, they were all asleep in the decorated living room, still holding their party hats and props.   They eventually gave Joohyun the party they prepared in the morning, singing happy birthday half-awake and not even bothering to
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Some of you early readers are lucky bcs I forgot to lock the update 😅
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