– 11 –
Jessica’s expression wasn’t right. The life in her eyes had flickered out. And it wasn’t hard to figure out the cause. Jessica had just been on the phone with Crystal to tell her about the DNA test procedure. Enough said. But Yuri didn’t want to worsen Jessica’s mood so she asked no questions, opting instead, to comfort in the physical way. A hug proved effective in achieving her objective but while Jessica appeared to feel better, the same couldn’t be said for her. Her dislike for Crystal was growing by the second.
It wasn’t a jealousy issue. She was clear about where she stood. She was confident in their relationship. Crystal’s appearance did not threaten her in the least. This she could safely say, even though it was her own conclusion. She had a good reason to dislike Crystal and the reason was simple. Crystal made Jessica sad.
It had been the warmth in Jessica’s eyes, among other things, that had attracted her when they first met. But what was even more amazing that her eyes, was her warm personality. Yuri was determined to protect such a gentle person. She wanted to be the one Jessica could rely on, as inadequate as she was, and had succeeded in doing so. And as they hugged for the longest time, Yuri smiled at the memory of how they came to be. And how her life changed forever.
“Kwon Yuri! You’re fired this instant!”
Yuri turned pale. “No…please don’t fire me.”
“I can’t keep you here. One of these days, you’re gonna get into trouble. I love you and I’d love you to work here but you won’t stay off driving. I can’t risk the whole business like this.”
“Please, please, please…I swear, I only drove because there was nobody else around.”
“Yuri, you can’t drive without a license. It’s just not an option.”
“I promise, I won’t drive ever again.”
“You’ve promised me like a hundred times before…but look at you now. Caught driving without a license. If I were a traffic policeman, do you think your excuse will be accepted?”
“I’m sorry to interrupt but may I ask what the problem is?”
Yuri turned and stared, as did her boss. They’d totally forgotten about their customer.
“My apologies, Miss…”
“Miss Jung. I’m really sorry. You see, Yuri here has no license to drive. I’m so sorry for putting you in danger. Please pardon us.”
“She had no license to drive?”
Yuri could only look down at the ground in shame. She knew she was in the wrong. But the temptation had been too great. No one had been around when Jessica called the tow service. It was her one chance to drive the tow truck and get back before anyone returned. She shouldn’t have done so, she knew. And she was sorry now.
“I’m afraid so.”
“But she drives so well. How is it possible?”
“She drives well but she’ll never be able to get a license.”
Never. Yuri hung her head.
“I’m sorry. This is personal. But the fact remains. Yuri drove without a license and put your life in danger. Even then, I hope you’ll forgive her since you’re unharmed.”
“There’s nothing to forgive. I’m not upset over this. Yuri drives better than some people who have a license. At no point did I feel endangered. I don’t think you should fire her because of this.”
“Miss Jung, you’re very kind, but this is between Yuri and I. She’s promised not to drive many times before. But I’ve caught her driving just as many times. I can’t trust her anymore.”
“Well, the problem lies in the license, isn’t it? It isn’t in her driving skills.”
“So if she gets a license, you’ll have no reason to fire her, right?”
“Yes, of course, but you see—”
“She’ll get a license.”
“Miss Jung, I’m afraid you’re not privy to the circumstances of Yuri’s situation. I’ve tried to help her to get a license before. It’s not as easy as you think.”
“Well, if I can get her a license, will you still fire her?”
“You? You’re gonna help her to get a license? But you’ve only just met her.”
“She risked her job helping me to get out of the rain. If she hadn’t come, I might still be stuck on the road getting drenched. And she did it all even before meeting me.”
Yuri stood still amidst the verbal ping pong between Jessica and her boss. She was stunned by the way Jessica stood up for her. She knew she had it coming. Her boss was right. Yet, here was a stranger standing up for her. Going to the extent of making a promise to save her job. Was Jessica an angel sent down to Earth to save her?
She snapped out of her thoughts just in time to hear her boss agreeing to Jessica’s deal and blinked in surprise. Jessica had managed to save her job for now. Holy Mickey kart wheels.
But to get a license? A deep, heavy sigh reverberated within her chest, unvoiced.
“Why are you smiling like that?”
Jessica’s soft voice popped her little thought bubbles and she blinked. “Was I smiling?”
“Yes,” Jessica smiled and tugged the ends of her lips with slender fingers, “like this…like a cute little kid with ice cream.”
She blushed. Jessica could still make her feel shy at times. “I was remembering.”
“What were you remembering?”
“Your argument with Carson.”
Jessica looked lost. “When did I argue with Carson?”
“On the day we first met.”
“Oh…” Jessica smiled, “that day…”
Yuri hugged Jessica again. “I love you.”
Jessica laughed. “Because I argued with Carson?”
“No,” Yuri pulled away, “because you—wait,” her eyebrows furrowed as she figured it out, “You’re just teasing me.”
Jessica giggled. “You’re learning.”
“But I mean it. I really love you so, so much. You changed my life. You saved my life.”
“Stop it. I didn’t do that much. You did most of it on your own.”
“I didn’t do it on my own. I did it with you.”
“And your mom.”
“If it weren’t for you, my mom would never have agreed.”
“Everything would have been useless though, if you hadn’t worked so hard to get your license.”
Yuri giggled. “That’s because I wanted you to praise me. I wanted to see you again. And again. And again.” She squeezed Jessica tight, making her squeal. “I was afraid of losing you. I was afraid of disappointing you. You believed in me. I couldn’t let you down.”
Jessica shook her head. “Nah, you tried so hard because I’m gorgeous and you can’t get enough of my beauty,” she deadpanned.
“I still can’t get enough of you.”
“That was a joke, silly.”
“It’s not a joke. It’s a fact.”
“It’s a fact that you played the most important part in everything. Give yourself some credit too. Say ‘I got my license because I worked hard for it.’ Say it.”
“I got my license because I worked hard for it.”
“Good girl.” Jessica smiled. “Learning to deal with your hyperactivity wasn’t easy. You put a lot of effort into it. Your doctor was so proud of you too. Remember?”
Yuri blushed and nodded. She would never forget the day she showed her doctor the license. Her doctor’s smile had never been happier. She was thankful for her doctor too. “Speaking of which, how about we ask her out for a drink sometime?”
“Sure, I think she’ll be happy to see how well you’re doing now…doing an auto mechanic degree…assembling cars all by yourself…you’ve come a long way, Yuri. From a car groomer to a super mechanic. I’m so proud of you.”
Yuri blinked as Jessica planted a wet kiss on her lips. Then, she smiled, closed her eyes and kissed Jessica back, all else forgotten.
They walked along the river, enjoying the light breeze and tranquillity. It was a precious moment to her, one that she hadn’t imagined possible back when she was still in LA. It had been a faraway dream, an unreachable goal. But this was real. Taeyeon was real.
She’d been more than surprised when Taeyeon called her just before bedtime and asked to meet her. All sorts of questions had popped up in that instant but all Taeyeon wanted was company, it seemed. So she changed out of her pyjamas and into a casual outfit of t-shirt and shorts as soon as the call ended and hurried down to where Taeyeon was waiting for her.
Taeyeon seemed to be in a strange mood. Quiet, simmering, not angry…just out of sorts. She wanted nothing more than to hug her but she wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. She didn’t know Taeyeon well enough to ascertain, so it was better to remain quiet for now. But as it turned out, Taeyeon broke the silence first.
“You’re coming to Hongdae, right?”
Tiffany sighed into the cool night. “I can’t race, remember?”
“You’re not racing, but you can cheer for me. Be my personal cheerleader. Wear a miniskirt and wave your pompoms. Get my blood pumping.”
“He doesn’t want me anywhere near the races.” She could sense Taeyeon’s impending displeasure and braced herself. But there was no blow up. Odd. Instead, Taeyeon’s voice remained calm. Lifelessly calm.
“Why. You won’t be racing anyway.”
“No association is best, he said.”
Taeyeon laughed suddenly. “No association?” She waggled her finger between them. “What is this then. Pretend?”
“No one is around to see us now. That’s the difference.”
“So I’m your secret. Your secret affair.” Taeyeon’s laugh was hollow and she didn’t like it one bit.
“No, you mind. Don’t ever say never mind when it isn’t true.”
“Well what do you expect me to say then. You’ll have a perfectly legit reason to stuff down my throat, no matter what I say. Anyway, I’m used to this. I can be a secret. I can be invisible. It’s no problem.”
“You’re not a secret, alright. You won’t be once The Roulette is over. Just wait, okay.”
“What if I don’t want to wait. What if I’m sick of waiting. What if I wait my whole life only to find out that it’s never gonna happen.”
“Taeyeon, I promise you. The Roulette. My contract with him covers up till then. That’s it.”
“You keep saying that. But who knows what the future is gonna be. All I care about is now. Here and now. And right now, you’re not going to Hongdae.”
“Would it make you that happy if I go to Hongdae.”
“I’ll get my winner’s kiss. And afterwards we can go back home and fuck all night.”
“I’m not a trophy fuck.”
Taeyeon shrugged. “I like to fuck after racing. Is that a terrible sin?”
Tiffany stared at Taeyeon, long and hard, their eyes tussling for control over each other. “Sometimes…I don’t know whether to believe you or not. It’s so hard to figure you out.”
Taeyeon threw her head back and laughed. “Don’t bother figuring me out. No one can. Not even myself.”
“Why did you call me tonight?”
Taeyeon’s laughter caught in her throat and her eyes clouded over. “Don’t ask.”
“Why do you have to make things so difficult.”
Taeyeon’s hollow laugh made a comeback. “Take me or leave me. Ask no questions.”
Her eyes followed Taeyeon’s back as the woman widened her strides and walked ahead. A hornet’s nest of questions and mysteries. Taeyeon was exactly that. Yet, as dangerous as it seemed, she was determined to unravel the mysteries and find the answers…maybe even solve a few problems…even if it meant being stung to death. She didn’t know why she couldn’t let Taeyeon go. She didn’t know why her feelings for Taeyeon were so strong. But she knew one thing. Life was too short for regrets. And the last thing she wanted to do was regret not truly knowing Taeyeon, the woman.
Said girl slid out from under her soon-to-be built race car and smiled at her girlfriend. “What’s gotten you so excited?”
Jessica squatted and beamed into her eyes. “Krystal called to say she’s done the test. Results will be out in a few days.”
“Oh. That’s good.”
“You’re not still hoping that Krystal isn’t my sister are you.”
“W-Wha…of course not. I wouldn’t hope for such a thing. Not I…”
“You’re lying. I know when you’re lying, Kwon Yuri. I know exactly what you’re thinking.”
“Relax, I’m not mad. I know you’re just worried about me.” Jessica kissed and hugged her. “But I know she’s my sister. I just know it. She doesn’t look much like me…but she looks like Daddy…her eyebrows, the way they slope down, are just like Daddy’s…”
“Maybe her attitude will change when the DNA test proves we’re real sisters. Maybe she doesn’t think it’s true yet, that’s why she’s so cold to us. This DNA test will change things. I’m sure.”
Jessica’s scent wafted over her as she spoke, and she dug her nose deeper into Jessica’s hair. It was best to remain quiet. She didn’t think Crystal’s attitude was going to change for the better. She didn’t think the DNA test was going to improve the situation. Basically, there was nothing she could say that wasn’t a lie. So she was better off quiet.
“Anyway, guess who’s gonna be racing in Hongdae?”
“It’s just for fun, Hongdae is one of the smaller races. You don’t have to sweat it.”
“But I’m just a mechanic.”
Jessica pulled away and glared at her, fierce and intense. “You’re not just a mechanic. You’re a genius mechanic. You’re building your own car. And you’ll race in your own car.”
“I’m not sure I should race, Sica…”
“Nonsense. Your doctor said you’re good to go. She’s not worried about your HD, she’s more worried that the race is illegal.”
“My car isn’t ready either.”
“It’ll be ready for Hongdae.”
“I haven’t test driven it yet.”
“There’s plenty of time before Hongdae.”
“Sica…” she groaned, there was just no getting out of whatever Jessica had set her mind on. If there was anything she wished to change in Jessica, it was this.
“You’re not getting out of it. I’ve decided. You’re going. It’ll be good for you.”
“It’s a complete waste of your money. It’s five million won that you could’ve spent on something else.”
“It’s not a waste of money when I’m spending it on someone I love. I know you’ve always wanted to race. Hongdae is the perfect circuit for you. It’s short, not too long, and it’s a friendlier race. Besides, I’ll be in the race with you. Don’t you want to beat me in a race?”
“There’s no way I could beat you in a race.”
“Really? I think you stand a good chance, Yuri. Wanna bet?”
“What’s the bet on?”
“I’ll do anything you want me to if you win.”
Jessica grinned and nodded. “Anything. And you don’t have to do anything if you lose.”
The deal was too good to pass up on. “Okay. I’ll race.”
“How many racers are there?”
“Anyone I know?”
Taeyeon chuckled. “Let’s see how good she is then. It should be fun. Anybody else?”
“Tiffany isn’t here, if that’s what you wanna know.”
“I know she isn’t here.”
“You know? How do you know.”
She bit her tongue. Shit. She’d spoken too soon. “I just know.”
“No, no, no. You can’t lie to me. Tell me the truth. You’ve been in touch with Tiffany ever since that dinner party, haven’t you.”
“I don’t have to say a thing since you already know everything.”
“I knew it. There had to be a reason for your good mood recently. It must be Tiffany. I knew something was up when you didn’t blow your top at work after meeting your mother. Tiffany’s been keeping you happy huh.”
“Tiffany…she might be part of the reason…”
“Are you two together for real?”
Taeyeon shrugged. “Nothing’s real.”
“I’ve heard a few things about Tiffany, you know. It seems she was interested in you even before she came to Seoul.”
“Where did you get that from.”
“Racers from her circuit over in LA.”
Taeyeon snorted. “LA? You know people in LA?”
“You do know I was born in America, right. I just never really lived there.”
“So this friend of yours knows Tiffany?”
“Not my friend…more like a friend’s friend. Anyway, word on the street is that Tiffany was asking about you and the Seoul racing scene.”
“Is that so…”
“Looks like Tiffany’s really into you.”
“Wipe that disgusting grin off your face.”
“I’ll wipe it off if you tell me what’s going on between you and Tiffany.”
“Forget it. You can wear the grin for as long as you like.” Taeyeon opened the door of her car and got it, making a show of ignoring Sunny’s giggles. She knew she wasn’t fooling Sunny but she wasn’t ready to invest any real feelings in Tiffany yet. Besides, she had a race to win. It didn’t matter if Yuri the mechanic was in it. It didn’t matter if there were LA drivers in it. It didn’t even matter that Tiffany wasn’t here to cheer her on. When she drove, it was for herself. Her liberation. Her exhalation. Her release. And that was all that mattered.