Taeyeon took Tiffany’s hand and squeezed it before letting go. Recently, words have become less and less important when she was with Tiffany. A look, a touch, a twitch of her lips. These little things said more than words ever could and it was with this assuredness that she belonged to another, that she entered the burger bar. Noeul had chosen the place, a bustling, popular eatery that attracted a younger crowd. She resisted the urge to grab Tiffany’s hand as she made their way through the young adults that filled the seats on their left and right and it struck her that she had become so accustomed to Tiffany’s touch that not having it left her feeling rather empty. She tucked that thought into the back of her mind as she drew closer to Noeul. Her friend was waving at her, wearing the same bright smile that hadn’t changed all that much since high school.
“Hey.” She gave Noeul a warm smile before turning to Tiffany. “This is the friend I told you about.”
“Hi,” said Noeul, extending her hand. “I’m Noeul.”
Taeyeon watched, amused by the way Tiffany smiled as they shook hands. It wasn’t completely natural and Taeyeon had a feeling it was the kind of smile Tiffany used for ‘business-only’ occasions.
“Tiffany…are you the racer…?” asked Noeul as they sat.
“Tiffany is a racer for Hyundae. She won the two Roulette races so far.”
Noeul’s gaze intensified and her voice rose in frequency as she said, “Oh my God. You’re the Tiffany Hwang.”
Taeyeon caught Tiffany’s eye and had to hold back her laughter as she nodded. “Yes. She’s the Tiffany Hwang of Hyundae.”
“You’re much prettier in person. In fact, I’d say you look stunning.”
The urge to burst into peals of laughter as Tiffany shifted uncomfortably was strong but she managed to suppress it to a giggle. “It looks like you have a fan, Tiffany.”
Tiffany’s smile grew more business-like by the second. “I’m just a racer.”
“You’re a great racer. The best.”
Tiffany opened her mouth to say something but Taeyeon kicked her before she could say what Taeyeon thought she was going to say. Noeul was blissfully unaware of Taeyeon’s involvement in street racing and she was happy to leave it that way.
“She is.” Taeyeon patted Tiffany’s shoulder. “She’s gonna win The Roulette. There’s no doubt about it.”
“She’ll win for sure. I watched the races and no one even came close to taking over her.”
“One of the Samjung racers is pretty good. And she’s getting better with every race,” said Tiffany.
“There’s like what—three races left?”
“I don’t think she stands a chance against you. Congratulations, champ.”
Tiffany cleared her throat and Taeyeon had to pinch her thigh to stop herself from laughing out loud when her girlfriend said, “Thank you,” in a controlled, neutral tone.
But her laughter died an instant death when Noeul reached across the table and took Tiffany’s hand with an admiring look in her eyes. “You’re an inspiration to women everywhere. We should be the ones saying thank you.”
“I’m not sure if women everywhere consider me to be an inspiration; especially after I announced my relationship with Paul.”
“Ah,” Noeul dismissed the fact with a casual wave of her hand, “those women are just jealous that you are blessed with everything—talent, skill, beauty and love. How they wish they could be just like you.”
“When did you become so knowledgeable?” Taeyeon teased. “Not too long ago, you were pleading forgiveness for your ignorance of racing and now here you are talking like a pro.”
“I learn fast.” Noeul shrugged. “It’s the only way to keep up. That,” she grinned, “and the fact that Mr Im explained everything to me at The Roulette during the last race.”
“So that’s how…” Taeyeon smiled. “How’s work? Are you doing well at Ssamyoong? Do you like Mr Im?”
Noeul nodded with a smile. “Mr Im is a great boss. And I have a mentor showing me the ropes so everything is going well.”
“That’s great. I’m happy for you.” Taeyeon grinned. Noeul hadn’t let go of Tiffany’s hand yet and if she knew anything about Noeul, it was a sure fire sign that the woman was interested. Sitting back and leaning against the cushy seat, the tension in her body ebbed as her level of amusement rose.
“Well, should we order our food? I’m ready to eat.” Noeul finally released Tiffany’s hand to take a menu. “The beef steak burger is a must-try according to my colleagues.” Taeyeon watched as Noeul handed the menu to Tiffany. “The salads are good too, apparently. I’ve been dying to try them ever since my colleagues recommended this place.”
“A salad sounds good,” said Tiffany.
“I’ll bet you eat really healthy, don’t you. Being a pro racer and all.”
“What about you, Taeyeon?” Tiffany asked.
“I’ll go for the beef steak burger Noeul mentioned. It sounds good. You should take Noeul’s recommendation too. She knows her food.” Taeyeon could see the confusion in Tiffany’s eyes as she answered and her inner evil grinned.
This is gonna be fun.
Taeyeon kept a straight face as she started the engine. It was hard; her sides were bursting with the laughs she had held down in her tummy the entire time. Especially at the end, when Noeul had given her and Tiffany a hug before waving goodbye. Noeul had held on to Tiffany that little bit longer than necessary—another sign that she was interested. Then there was Tiffany’s face when Noeul asked them if they were really not together. The gleam in Noeul’s eyes was unmistakeable the moment Taeyeon affirmed that she and Tiffany were just friends. In truth, she had enjoyed the discomfort that Noeul put Tiffany in too. It was a kind of payback for Tiffany’s deal with Paul which still pissed her off, even though she had accepted the way things were—kind of.
“Is Noeul like this with everyone?”
A choked back laugh had Taeyeon shaking. “No. Just those she’s interested in.”
“Are you kidding me right now?”
“That’s Noeul for you. She sees, she likes, she pounces.”
“Was that how it was when you got together with her too?”
“Yeah. She was all over me from the moment we met.”
Tiffany pouted. “TMI, Taeyeon.”
“We were holding hands by Day Three and kissing before the week was over.”
“I said. T. M. I.”
“Stop the car.”
“Stop the car. Now.”
Taeyeon stole a look at Tiffany. She didn’t look happy at all. What the fuck was it now? She turned into a smaller lane along the road and parked it along the side. “What’s going on? Are you angry?”
Why?” Tiffany’s eyes spoke a thousand and one words, a dark swirl of feelings that Taeyeon couldn’t understand so she asked again. “Why are you angry?”
“Don’t you get it?”
“No. I really don’t. Honestly.”
“Oh my God. You’re so—fuck.” Tiffany opened the door and got out, slamming the door behind her.
Taeyeon flinched, blinking in surprise. Was this one of Tiffany’s infamous PMS moods or did she do something wrong? Key fob in hand, she got out of the car as well and hurried after Tiffany. Fortunately, her girlfriend wasn’t running but she was taking quick steps and long strides so Taeyeon had to jog to catch up with her.
“Hey,” she said, as soon as she was within earshot. “Hey, slow down.” Tiffany didn’t slow down so she was forced to grab the woman’s arm to stop her. “Hey, come on. Don’t do this to me. Tell me what’s wrong.”
“Everything.” Tiffany tried to wrench her arm from Taeyeon’s grip but she clung to her arm with two hands.
“You were fine before dinner. What happened?”
“The dinner. Noeul. You.”
“More hints please?”
“This isn’t a fucking joke, Taeyeon.”
“I get that it isn’t a fucking joke. But how can I say or do anything to fix it if I don’t even know what you’ve got stuck up your ass?”
“You should know.”
“No, I don’t. And why the fuck should I know. I don’t have a mind reading app that can tell me what you’re thinking.”
“You’re telling me you don’t think you did anything wrong all night?”
“No. I don’t think I did anything wrong. I’m waiting for you to tell me.”
“So you don’t think there’s anything wrong with the way you shoved me to her the entire time?”
“What the fuck are you talking about. I didn’t shove you to her.”
“You didn’t? What was it you said when she said she likes pink? Huh? Oh…Tiffany loves pink too. You two would get along so well together.” Tiffany’s eyes flashed with intense anger. “Fuck you, Taeyeon.”
“But you love pink.”
“That’s not the fucking point.”
“Well, I’m sorry but I don’t get your fucking point.”
“You had a good time leading her on, making her think she has a chance with me. What are you trying to do, huh? Are you trying to set her up with me?”
“That’s not—that’s totally not. I was just having fun okay? You looked uncomfortable with the whole Noeul-come-on and I thought it’s funny. And I thought I’d get back at you since you’re the reason why we can’t tell her we’re together.”
“So to get back at me for something I can’t help, you’d push me to another woman.”
“Of course not. I wouldn’t have done it if it were any other woman. I only did it because it’s Noeul and I know what she’s like. And I knew I could have fun because you wouldn’t cheat on me. It was just a bit of fun.”
“FYI, it wasn’t fun for me. It felt like you didn’t care about me. Like you can just walk away from me anytime, no tears, no pain. You weren’t even the slightest bit jealous when she held my hand.”
“I was. At first.”
Tiffany stared straight into her eyes at her words. She stared back, matching intensity for intensity, and grabbed Tiffany’s waist, pulling the woman’s hips to hers. “Now you listen. I was jealous, okay? When she first put her hand on yours, I wanted to slap it off and tell her that you’re mine. But I couldn’t. Guess how that felt, huh?” Tiffany’s eyes watered but she went on. “I was goddamn pissed, okay? I was pissed that I couldn’t hold your hand in the burger place. I wanted to hold your hand so much but I fucking couldn’t. I. Fucking. Couldn’t.”
Their eyes seared into each other and Taeyeon felt her own tears burning in her eyes as she continued, “I wish you didn’t have that deal with Paul but you do. There’s nothing I can do about it since leaving you is not an option so I just have to suck it up and deal with it. And this was me dealing with it, okay? I wanted to make you as uncomfortable as I was. So I did. And I had fun while doing it. Is that so fucking wrong?”
Tiffany ‘s eyes closed and tears fell and rolled down her cheeks. Her neck craned forward as Taeyeon found her eyes closing; her lips parting the slightest. She sank into it as soon as their lips touched; all tension leaving her body at once. By instinct, she pressed forward, harder, to get more and in doing so, also gave more. Tiffany was there with her in the kiss, taking and giving too. And in that moment, Taeyeon could think of nothing but Tiffany and her thumping heart.
“By the way, I don’t like it any more than you do.”
Taeyeon shot Tiffany a glance before she made a left turn. “What do you mean?”
“I’m referring to my deal with Paul.”
Taeyeon shrugged it off. “It’s a done deal. Gotta wait it out.”
“I want more than anything to have a steady, boring relationship with you but there’s always so many things in the way.”
“Boring?” Taeyeon raised a brow. “Why would a relationship with me ever be boring?”
“I don’t mean it in that way. You know what I’m trying to say.”
“I know. But I’m saying a relationship with me will never be boring.”
“Is that right.”
“Are you sure I’ll never be bored with you? Ever?”
A smirk was Taeyeon’s only response.
Tiffany chuckled. “You’re too damn cocky, Kim Taeyeon.”
“It’s called confidence, Tiffany Hwang.”
“Too much of it is called arrogance, woman.”
“It seems to attract women, this arrogance thing.”
“It wasn’t arrogance that got you this girl.”
“Oh yeah? What got you then? My drop-dead gorgeous beauty?”
Tiffany shook her head.
“My goddamn sexy body?”
“It’s fast, it’s sexy. What’s there not to love.”
“Heh heh, very funny.”
“Face it, Taeyeon. If it weren’t for your car, I wouldn’t be your girlfriend today.”
“Are you serious right now?”
“Are you jealous of your car right now?”
Words failed Taeyeon.
“Nothing to say? Some pretty lady got your tongue?”
“Shut up, pretty lady.”
Tiffany laughed, a deep and rich sound that made Taeyeon smile in spite of herself. It was moments like these that made it all worth it. That she had Tiffany beside her in her fast, sexy car, filling her heart with a nice, warm buzz.
Paul returned to his car, satisfied with the outcome of the third race of The Roulette. Tiffany had clinched the first position as expected and Denise had managed another sixth position finish, putting them in a good spot to win the Constructors’ championship. With just two more races to go, Paul was confident of dominating The Roulette overall. This would show them. That he, Paul Kim, could run Hyundae and run it well.
Not only was Hyundae doing well in The Roulette, it was also doing well with its academy and reputation as a car maker. The Moonracer was popular with the rich; good reviews had followed post-launch and the sales have been healthy. It was a success and an important one. It was one of the badges he could wear when he met his grandfather. But the shiniest badge, and one that was totally bogus, was Tiffany. His star racer…and girlfriend. Girlfriend. The thought weighed on his heart. How he wished he didn’t have to pretend to have a girlfriend. How he wished.
Paul kept his smile up as his grandfather clapped his back. “You’re doing well.”
“When will I get to meet your girlfriend?”
“When the time is right.”
“And when will the time be right?”
“Soon. After the Roulette.”
“Good. I would like to make it official as soon as possible. But your girlfriend will need to be ready for marriage. Is she?”
All of the world’s light narrowed to a point in his head, and the pressure inside it seemed too much to take at once. “Marriage?”
“What did you expect, Paul? Nothing less than marriage will secure your position as CEO and Chairman.”
Is your girlfriend ready to be Mrs Kim?”
Paul could not answer this question. How was he to answer it? How was he to tell his grandfather that Tiffany was never ever going to marry him; that he never want to marry her either? “I’ll have to ask her,” was all he could come up with.
Granddad Kim nodded and patted his shoulder. “You do that. And remember to ask nicely or she might say no,” he joked.
Paul forced a laugh and a smile that had no hope of reaching his eyes. Just as he had no hope of ever becoming the CEO or Chairman now.
Tiffany entered Paul’s office with a smile but it melted away as soon as she saw the look on his face. “What’s wrong? Did something happen?”
Paul nodded, his breath heavy, and Tiffany knew that something had gone very wrong. Her blood ran cold, but she couldn’t for the life of her, think of anything that could have gone wrong recently.
“Yes? I’m listening.”
“My granddad wants us to get married.”
Paul let out a short, hollow laugh. “My reaction exactly. Except that I couldn’t show it.”
“Granddad is testing me. Or at least, I think that’s what he’s doing. He’s suspicious and he wants me to commit.”
“But—Paul, I can’t marry you.”
A cold, self-deprecating sigh later, Paul said, “A rejection even before I asked the question. Even worse than I expected.”
“Paul, you weren’t really going to propose to me, were you?”
“What about your boyfriend? Does he know yet?”
“I haven’t told him anything.”
“You can’t be serious.”
Paul shook his head. “I did think about it for a second but a fake marriage is out of the question. I’m not going that far for this. I’d rather lose everything I have than to marry you.”
“Gee,” Tiffany said dryly, “thanks.”
A sudden laugh rang out in Paul’s deep voice. “That didn’t sound too flattering for you. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. I understand where you were coming from.” Tiffany shrugged. “I wouldn’t marry you for the world either, so we’re even.”
The joke evaporated and the heavy gloom resettled around them.
“What are you going to do then?” Tiffany asked, her voice soft and gentle.
“It’s all or nothing. I’m going to show my hand.”
“You’re going to come out to your granddad?”
Paul gritted his teeth and nodded. “I think it’s about time my granddad got to know who I really am. And if he can’t accept who I am…”
Tiffany kept silent. As easy as Paul made it sound, she knew it was a difficult moment for him. It hadn’t been easy for her to come out to her father but she was blessed to have a father who accepted it well. In fact, he had already known it for a while and had been waiting for her to be ready to tell him. But harsher realities like Paul’s granddad existed too and sadly, was the case for many others as well.
“Anyway, I would like to thank you for your help. I know it’s been a very difficult time for you and I appreciate you sticking through with it even though it made things unpleasant at work. And with Taeyeon too. I can imagine the hell you had to go through with her; if my boyfriend is anything to go by.”
“Nah. Don’t worry about it. It was all part of the deal. You came through with your half so I came through with mine. Taeyeon and I would never have happened if it weren’t for you, so we owe you too.”
“I guess you can tell her that the whole act is off now. I’ll ‘leak’ the news after The Roulette is over.”
Tiffany reached for Paul’s hand and squeezed it. “You’ve always got me behind you. I’ll support you all the way.”
Paul’s smile was weak as he patted her hand. “Thanks, I appreciate it.”
“Honey, I’m home.” Tiffany padded into the bedroom, dropping her bag on the couch along the way. Tucked in bed like a cocooned caterpillar was her girlfriend, ear plugs on, thumbing away on her phone. She threw herself on the bed, deliberately crashing into Taeyeon and the woman looked up, irritated.
“Watch it man. You ruined my high score.”
“What high score?”
“This song. I was this close,” Taeyeon held up two fingers, whiskers apart, “to getting a perfect game.”
“Which is more important—your girlfriend or the game.”
Tiffany grunted in exasperation as her girlfriend returned to her game on the phone. “Taeyeon, I have something to tell you.”
“What?” was the reply, Taeyeon’s eyes never leaving her phone.
“Will you just stop the game and listen?”
“Wait. After this song, okay?”
“Fuck this.” Tiffany got off the bed in a huff and stomped to the bathroom. She slammed the door shut to vent her displeasure and with that release of pent up irritation, she calmed down a little. Taking her clothes off a little too roughly, she stepped into the shower and blasted cold water on herself. The cold came as a shock but she welcomed the jolt. She needed to cool off.
The sound of the door opening alerted her to Taeyeon’s entrance. Her eyes opened and she looked up from under the shower to see her girlfriend standing outside the shower. As always, the heat of emotions that radiated from Taeyeon’s eyes arrested her and held her hostage. There was no escape. And in some ways, she didn’t like how susceptible she was to Taeyeon; more effort was required to make her stand against Taeyeon when needed.
Water fell around her like rain. Taeyeon stood outside, dry and clothed. Yet, the forces of attraction worked like the opposite poles of a magnet, pulling, drawing them nearer without moving. The woman did move then, arms stretching to pull her loose tank top off, thumbs slipping under the waistband to push her little pair of shorts off. She stared as Taeyeon shed her clothes and stood naked before her. The woman joined her in the shower, under the cold water. She jumped from the cold shock and reached to turn off the shower before locking gazes again.
“What’s wrong?” she asked. The low rumble of Taeyeon’s voice was like a drug designed to warm every cold cell in her body. A drug that she craved.
“This clearly isn’t nothing.”
“I don’t wanna talk about it anymore.”
“’Don’t be a bitch.”
“Can’t help being a bitch.”
“You wanted me to listen. Now, here I am. All yours.”
Tiffany lifted a finger and traced a line from Taeyeon’s collarbone down the centre to her naval. “Yes, you’re all mine now. And I’m all yours.”
The corner of Taeyeon’s lips twitched. “That’s always been the case.”
“Even more so now.”
With narrowed eyes, Taeyeon breathed, “Meaning?”
“My deal with Paul is done.”
She nodded. “We don’t have to pretend anymore. Paul and I are ‘officially’ broken up.”
The smile that stretched Taeyeon’s lips into a happy curve was akin to watching a sun rising through shifting clouds. “Really? Why did you break up?”
Tiffany grabbed Taeyeon and hugged her. “I’m sad.” She burrowed her face into Taeyeon’s shoulders and tightened her hug.
“Why are you sad? This is good news.”
“Not for Paul.”
Taeyeon pushed her and broke their hug. Her sun rise smile had turned into an impending storm of a frown. “What do you mean.”
“Paul’s granddad. He’s not accepting of Paul’s sexuality. Paul did the whole thing to secure his position as CEO and Chairman but apparently, his granddad will only give the positions to him if he’s married.”
Tiffany nodded. “Paul has to marry me to become the official CEO and Chairman of Hyundae. But he doesn’t want to go that far. Neither do I. So, he’s going to say no to his granddad and come out to him.”
“Wow. That’s fucking hard to do.”
“It is. It’s tough. I don’t know if he will still be here after The Roulette.”
“Why wouldn’t he be here?”
“His granddad might kick him out and send him back to America.”
“What about you?”
“Me? What about me.”
“Will you still be here after The Roulette?”
“Why wouldn’t I be here?”
“If the granddad is going to send him away, won’t he kick you out too? I mean, you’re the fake girlfriend who conspired and lied.”
“I didn’t think about it that way…”
Taeyeon hugged her tight. “Don’t go back to America. Stay here with me.”
Tiffany hugged her back. “I’ll stay here and you can take care of me.” She giggled. “I’ll stay home and be a housewife. You’ll be the wife who goes out to work and rake in the big bucks.”
Tiffany pulled back and looked straight into Taeyeon’s molten chocolaty eyes. “Wife.”
A mildly constipated grimace appeared on Taeyeon’s face but Tiffany didn’t want to deal with the insecurities that were embedded in there. Instead, she opted for the physicality that Taeyeon was comfortable with and kissed the heck out of her lips.