– 48 –
“What are you doing here?” Taeyeon asked as soon as Yoona disappeared into the apartment.
This was not the kind of response Tiffany had expected to hear from Taeyeon. It sparked an indignant fuse within her and her nostrils flared, ready to breathe fire. “Is there any reason why I shouldn’t be here?”
Taeyeon gave her hair one more rub with her towel before lowering it. “Aren’t you supposed to be avoiding me?” she said, an eyebrow raised.
Tiffany bit her lip. That much was true. But it didn’t make her feel any better about the situation. “I don’t care about all that. I will see my girlfriend if I want to. Nobody can stop me.”
“Girlfriend? Am I still your girlfriend?”
“Am I not? Or do you have a new girlfriend to replace me already?”
“Fuck you, Tiffany. I don’t have time for this. What are you here for.”
“I’m here to visit you and your new girlfriend to give you my blessings.”
Taeyeon snorted. “Thank you so much for being such a gracious ex-girlfriend. Is there anything else you’re here for?”
Taeyeon’s flippant attitude was the most irritating thing in the world and Tiffany lost what was left of her cool. “Yes, I have plenty more reasons to be here.” She stepped into the apartment, forcing Taeyeon to move backwards and slammed the door shut. “I fucking hate you. I can’t believe you have a new girlfriend already. Is our relationship a joke to you?”
“You fucking broke up with me! Am I supposed to sit around crying all day after you dump me?”
“I didn’t fucking break up with you. You were the one who fucking broke up with me!”
“You’re the one who‘s gonna marry your fucking boss!”
“I’m not gonna marry him. It’s an engagement.”
“Engagement today, marriage tomorrow. When will it end? When you’re fucking pregnant with his kids to convince everyone you have nothing to do with me?”
“You’re fucking ridiculous.”
“That’s my fucking business.”
“Go fuck yourse—”
“SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Yoona yelled, her face turning blue from the effort. “I’m not unnie’s girlfriend. And I will never be unnie’s girlfriend, you got that? I have a girlfriend and I love her very, very much. You two obviously love each other to death too so just stop it. Quit yelling at each other.” Yoona grabbed their hands and dragged them to the couch. “Sit!”
Tiffany sat and so did Taeyeon.
“Now. Talk. Talk it out like adults. Or you’re gonna say something you regret and lose each other.” Yoona grabbed her bag and walked to the door. “Talk,” she added, looking pointedly at Taeyeon before leaving the apartment with an unapologetic slam of the door.
For a moment, both Taeyeon and Tiffany sat in stunned silence, staring at each other. Then, Tiffany bit her lip and stared at her lap. “So she isn’t your girlfriend?”
Taeyeon sighed and slumped against the couch. “No.”
“One night stand?”
Taeyeon shot her a sharp glare. “No.”
Tiffany took a deep breath. “In that case, I owe you an apology. I’m sorry.”
“You should be.”
“You should’ve told me before I got angry.”
“You pissed me off with your stupid assumptions first.”
“What was I supposed to think?”
“What. I’m not allowed to have friends visit to cheer me up when I’m depressed?”
“Do I look happy to you?”
Tiffany shook her head.
“Anyway, you shouldn’t be here. You made your choice. Stick to it.”
“Choice? I didn’t make a choice. What are you talking about?”
“You weren’t here when I got back. You made your choice.”
“I left because the office called me in for work. I tried to call to tell you but you didn’t answer my calls. I thought that was your way of breaking up.”
“I thought you left because you chose Hyundae over me.”
“Why didn’t you even read my messages? If you’d read just one…”
“I wasn’t in the mood to.”
“Well, fuck. We’re so screwed up, we’re a disaster waiting to happen.”
Taeyeon giggled. “We’re fucked.” She giggled some more and it quickly escalated into loud laughs.
Tiffany wasn’t amused. “It’s not funny. The past three days were hell for me. Literally, hell.”
Taeyeon’s laughter died just as quickly as it started. “I felt like shit too. Sunny threatened to fire me if I didn’t ‘take a day off to cry my heart out’. Her exact words.”
“That’s nice of her.”
“Not that it helped much. Staying home is worse than going to work. It only gives me more time to mope over our breakup.”
“We haven’t broken up. We don’t have to break up if we can just find some way around this.”
“It’s a fucked up situation, Tiffany. There’s no way out.”
“If there’s a will, there’s gonna be a way.”
“That’s what people say to comfort themselves when they’re out of hope.”
“Taeyeon, I’m trying my best to persuade Paul not to fake the engagement.”
“But that’s not the only problem, is it.”
“What do you mean?”
“I know they want to take you out of The Roulette. And I know it’s because you’re with me. I’m bad news for you, Tiffany.”
“No, no, no. They held a vote to decide. I’m still in The Roulette. The votes kept me in. I’m safe.”
Taeyeon shook her head. “No, you’re not. They can always hold a vote again. If they’re set on getting rid of you, they’ll find all sorts of ways to do it. And if you’re seen with me…”
“They have no proof that you’re a street racer. They can’t remove me without proof.”
“That’s not what you said before. You said it’ll affect your image. You said it’ll affect Hyundae’s future.”
Tiffany buried her face in her palms. “I don’t know,” she said, muffled by her hands, “I don’t know anything any more. But I know I can’t lose you. I can’t.” She felt Taeyeon’s arms wrapping around her and leaned into it, yearning the familiar touch so badly.
“I don’t want to lose you either,” said Taeyeon, muffled by Tiffany’s curls, “but what can we do?”
“Taeyeon…” Tiffany was at a loss for words. The tremour in Taeyeon’s body betrayed the extent of pain the woman was suffering and her heart squeezed painfully at the realization. She tightened her arms around Taeyeon even more as the woman dug deeper into her curls, a weak attempt to hide the tears that were surely welling up now. “I love you. I fucking love you, Taeyeon. Have faith in us.”
Taeyeon sniffed and pulled away from Tiffany’s shoulder. Their eyes met and Tiffany could see the redness in them. She raised her hands to thumb stray tears off Taeyeon’s cheeks and caressed her face. Taeyeon tried to twist her face out of her hands but she would not allow it. No, Taeyeon was not going to run away from her. Not if she had anything to say about it.
Tiffany pressed a kiss onto her trembling lips. “We can do it. You and I. We can find a way.”
Taeyeon’s eyes were shut as she said, “My life is screwed up, okay. I’m used to it. You may not be, but I am. You just gotta take the shit and walk with it. Pretending it doesn’t stink as fuck won’t make the stench go away but that’s what you gotta do. That’s reality.”
Right then, Tiffany saw it. She saw the fault lines in Taeyeon’s heart, the poorly laid foundations of her self-esteem. She saw the girl who curled up and grew spikes, by instinct, at the first sign of danger. It was a self-preserving mechanism; one that had been necessary when she was much younger and lacked the maturity to deal with problems in her life. Now, as an adult, Taeyeon was doing the same thing and Tiffany finally understood the reason why Taeyeon had asked her to choose.
“We’re not gonna cut our losses. I know what you’re thinking and I’m telling you, no. You don’t have to take the shit and pretend it doesn’t stink. What you need is the most powerful detergent in the world to overpower the stench.”
“What the fuck are you talking about.”
“Love is your detergent, Taeyeon. My love.” Tiffany smiled as she pressed Taeyeon’s hand on her chest. “You have all of it and there’s tons stored in here.”
“Fuck. Don’t do this to me.”
Taeyeon’s head hung low so Tiffany tilted her chin up to meet her eyes. “Will you trust us and fight? Or would you rather take the fucked up three days we spent broken up and multiply that a thousand days more?”
The struggle in Taeyeon’s eyes was real. But it spelt hope for Tiffany.
“I’m not gonna leave you, Taeyeon. Unless you’ll be happier without me. I know it’ll suck to have your girlfriend pretending to be somebody else’s girlfriend but it’ll only be for a little while. Once it’s done, I’m out. I’ll quit Hyundae if I have to.”
Fire flashed in Taeyeon’s eyes as she said, “No. You’re not gonna quit Hyundae. I’m not worth it.”
An inferno surged through Tiffany’s veins and she had to curb the urge to shake Taeyeon hard. “Maybe you’re not worth it,” she said, “Maybe I’m not worth it. But you and I…we are.”
Taeyeon shook her head but said nothing more. Tiffany recognized a victory when she saw one. She planted a quick kiss on Taeyeon’s lips and punctuated it with a hug. Inside, her heart was resolute. Those three days were enough to teach her a valuable lesson. She wasn’t going to let Taeyeon go ever again.