Stephanie Song was going to be a problem. Heck, no. Stephanie Song was already a problem. The way she clung to Tiffany reminded her of a show she once watched that featured koala bears. Those koalas sure were huggers. They hugged and never let go. Just like Stephanie Song right here.
Yeah sure, they were best friends. Tiffany looked pretty happy to be around her too. Heck, even Uncle Hwang chatted with her as though they were old neighbours. Well, it turned out that Stephanie Song had been checking in on Uncle Hwang while Tiffany was away in Seoul. Why hadn’t Tiffany ever mentioned that? What other things had Tiffany conveniently failed to tell her all this time?
Finally, she managed to drag Tiffany away to the bedroom after enduring the tour of the house, dinner and an extended conversation after dinner. But before she could even speak, Tiffany flopped onto the bed, flat on her back, seemingly oblivious to the buzz of unasked questions that had been bothering her the entire time.
“Don’t you have anything to tell me?” she asked as soon as the door was shut.
Tiffany rolled onto her side and looked at her. “You have more patience than I give you credit for.”
“Quit playing games with me, Tiff.”
Tiffany sat up and patted the spot beside her. “Sit.”
Taeyeon sat, but not as close as she usually would.
There was a sigh, then a shuffle as Tiffany closed the gap between them. “Stephanie is a close friend. She knows my dad well because we used to hang out here, after school.”
“Is that all she is? A close friend who visits your father when you’re abroad?”
“It sounds like you’re accusing me of something.”
“I’m not accusing you if you haven’t done anything wrong.”
“Wrong? What’s wrong with having a friend?”
“Nothing. There’s nothing wrong with having a friend. Sure, have friends. Go ahead. How many more friends do you have that I don’t know of?”
“Why the fuck are you taking up this tone on me? So I have a good friend who checks in on my dad and talks to me every now and then. What the fuck is your anger for? Where is it coming from?”
Taeyeon looked away. “She pisses me off. I don’t like her. And she sure as hell doesn’t like me.”
“Taeyeon, she’s my friend. She’s not like Denise and her insults. Steph is on our side.”
“Our side? Oh, I don’t know if she’s on our side. But she’s definitely on your side.”
“She helped me when I needed information about you, you know.”
“Oh really? She helped you to find me?”
“Well, her cousins aren’t into racing so there wasn’t anything they could tell her, but she did ask.”
“Which means she didn’t actually help.”
“Tried.” Taeyeon scoffed. “Anybody can try. But it’s meaningless if she didn’t get it done.”
“What are you trying to get at, Taeyeon?” Tiffany got to her feet and turn around, staring her down. “It sounds as though you’re jealous of her and you’re trying to tear her down when really, she has done nothing to deserve the accusatory tone you’re using right now.”
“Is she your first girlfriend? The one who got you through the hard times? The one who got you started on racing?”
“And so what if she is.”
“Oh great. First love.” Taeyeon threw her hands in the air. “I can’t compete with that, okay? I can’t compete with the heroine who saved you from your darkest days. I can’t.”
“Oh Taeyeon, why are you saying this? There is no competition.” Tiffany bent and Taeyeon found herself face to face with beautiful, soul-sucking eyes. “You can’t compare to her, but neither can she compare to you. You’re both important to me. In different ways.”
“Try sitting out there watching the three of you chatting happily the entire time. From the airport to your house. Then dinner. After dinner. You three are—you don’t need me here.”
“Hold up, hold up. I don’t know where all these thoughts are coming from but you need to toss them right out the window.” Tiffany climbed onto Taeyeon’s lap and straddled her. Taeyeon tried to pull away but Tiffany wouldn’t let her go, wrapping her arms around to lock her in instead. “Taeyeon. Look at me. Hey, look at me.” With her face held firm by Tiffany’s two hands, Taeyeon didn’t have much choice in the matter. “I. Love. You. Do you hear me? Do you understand?”
Taeyeon nodded just barely, her cheeks squished by Tiffany’s hands. And as though to drive her point home, Tiffany’s lips pressed onto hers, nuzzling her. Gently at first, the kiss soon gained momentum and passion and soon, she was breathless, her chest rising as her body reached for air. Tiffany pulled away and they pressed their foreheads together, unwilling to be separated.
“Are you feeling better now?”
Taeyeon nodded, still breathing hard.
“You should shower and get some rest. Jet lag’s a bitch.”
Waking up with Taeyeon next to her in the morning was nothing short of incredible. Waking up with Taeyeon in her bed, in her bedroom was more than incredible. Taeyeon actually came back home with her. Back to her hometown. It was magical. But Taeyeon’s little fiery burst last night was unpleasant. The woman had been acting so different after she woke up from her coma that she’d almost forgotten how volatile Taeyeon could be. Moody, depressed, pessimistic. Taeyeon and her issues had not gone off into the sunset, waving goodbye. They were still there, lurking in the shadows.
At this very moment, however, Taeyeon looked like an angel that fell out from the sky. The way she slept was beyond adorable and Tiffany couldn’t resist giving her button of a nose a little tap. Taeyeon frowned, wiggled her nose and rolled onto her back. Tiffany stifled a giggle and leaned over the sleeping beauty to press a kiss onto her cute little nose. Being the good sleeper that she was, Taeyeon continued to snooze, oblivious to Tiffany’s touches.
Tiffany sighed and lay on her side, watching Taeyeon as she slept. She hadn’t expected Taeyeon to feel left out yesterday and perhaps it was partly her fault. But she had lots to catch up with, what with Steph and all. She missed Steph and it had been wonderful to slip back into the familiarity. Maybe she would ask Steph to give them some alone time today. For a while, at least. That would give Taeyeon some time to adjust.
Decision made, she got up and went about getting things done. Her father was in the kitchen when she went downstairs and she couldn’t help the smile that stretched across her face.
“Good morning, Daddy.”
Her father turned and flashed a wide grin. “Good morning hon’. Where’s your girlfriend?”
“Breakfast’s almost ready. Get her down or it’ll turn cold.”
Tiffany brought Taeyeon out for a spin after breakfast and showed her around. Her elementary school was the first stop. Taeyeon had insisted on seeing the schools she went to, so they stood outside the walls of the school while Tiffany told Taeyeon what she could remember of her days in there. Her life in elementary school had been fairly ordinary. It was mostly about homework and friends. She was a good girl who did all her homework, she told Taeyeon.
Things were different in middle school however. Middle school started off well but her mother got sick and died when she was in 7th grade. That’s when things got rough. She had to struggle with the loss of her mother as she went through the most awkward period of time in her life—becoming a teenager—and things did not go well.
High school was the worst. Her father’s business took a downturn in her second year of high school and her friends did not take to her newfound poverty well at all.
“You know the story.” Tiffany sighed. “Let’s get out of here. This place depresses me.”
They headed to Tiffany’s favourite park and she showed Taeyeon the tree she used to sit under and read. It was away from the usual haunts of her rich ex-friends in school and it was right here that she found peace and quiet.
“You used to sit right here?” Taeyeon asked.
“Mhm. Right,” Tiffany pointed at the spot under the tree,” here.”
Taeyeon sat on the spot she pointed at and leaned against the tree. “It’s a nice spot.”
“It is.” Tiffany took a seat beside her and rested her head on her shoulder. “Nobody knew that I came here. Most of the kids at school would go to a mall. Some of them hung out at one of the golf courses that their fathers were members of, practicing their swings. But none of them would ever come here.”
“Golf? At that age?”
“Our school has a golf team. What can I say, it’s a rich school’s niche.”
“Hey, hey, you’re pretty well off yourself.”
“Yeah, but I wasn’t born into a rich family. My cash is hard earned. I’m not like those materialistic people who dumped you when you needed them most.”
“Not all of them were mean. Most of them didn’t do anything. They just avoided me, that’s all.”
“That’s bad enough.”
“It was pretty rough, but Steph helped me through most of that.”
“Does Steph know about this place?”
“Did you come here with her?”
“Is this where…” Taeyeon trailed off but Tiffany knew what she wanted to ask.
Tiffany laughed. “It’s just a first kiss, Tae. You’ll get all the rest.”
“Goddamnit. This is too much.”
“We all have to start somewhere, right?” Tiffany kissed Taeyeon’s ear, sneaking a flick of her ear lobe with a quick tongue. “You lost yours to someone else too, you know.”
“Yeah, but to be in the exact spot where it happened…”
“We can kiss here too.” Tiffany smiled. “Make a new memory here for us.”
Taeyeon grinned. “What a good idea.” She shifted sideways, dragging Tiffany’s legs over hers and wrapped arms around her waist as Tiffany threw hers around Taeyeon’s neck. “Ready?” she asked, her grin as wide as the horizon.
Tiffany simply leaned in and sealed the deal. Safe to say, it was a long time before either of them spoke again.
A lengthy make out session later, they decided to stop by a fast food joint for lunch.
“McDonald’s, Carl’s Jr or Taco Bell?” she asked Taeyeon as they got into her car. “Or pizza?”
“You want pizza, don’t you.”
Tiffany grinned and leaned across to kiss Taeyeon. “You’re the best. Pizza it is!”
They pulled into a parking lot and Tiffany took Taeyeon’s hand as they walked to Domino’s. Taeyeon looked at their clasped hands and squeezed. Tiffany smiled. And they swung their hands as they walked.
Later, as they sat, chewing on pizza, Tiffany decided it was a good time to clear things up. “Tae, what was going on last night? Why were you so upset?”
Taeyeon shook her head. “I’m—I’m sorry.”
Taeyeon’s gentle apology surprised Tiffany. “Taeyeon…”
“I forgot about you. I forgot that you haven’t come home for a long time and you’d miss your friends and family a lot.”
“Taeyeon,” Tiffany reached for Taeyeon’s hands and held them firmly, “I didn’t intentionally keep Steph a secret from you. When I’m with you, I don’t really think about the past. Steph and I, we broke up because we went different ways and decided to be friends instead. I don’t have that kind of feeling for her anymore. She’s more like family now. Like a sister.”
“I get it. I know.”
Taeyeon nodded. “You said you love me. I believe you.”
Tiffany smiled. “Give me a kiss.”
There was a gleam in Taeyeon’s eyes as she leaned over the table which got Tiffany going as well. She leaned forward to connect their lips and pulled away with a wide grin. The happy cloud inside was ballooning as they sat there, grinning. This trip would be good for them. Being away from the racing world and its pressures would give them time to get to know each other better. And Tiffany intended to use the time as optimally as she could.
Of course, work wouldn’t leave her alone. But she was grateful for her team’s tipoffs about Vincent’s latest policies and plans for the company. She was just saying goodbye to Jimin when Taeyeon came out from the shower.
“Who was that?”
“Oh. So anything up at Hyundae?” Taeyeon asked as she flopped onto the bed next to Tiffany.
“Vincent talked to Krystal already.”
Taeyeon paused while towelling her hair dry. “Oh? And how did it go?” she asked.
“Jimin said it was a short talk. Krystal didn’t agree to his offer.”
“I didn’t think she would.”
“Yeah, neither did I. But that means he doesn’t have anyone to send for The International Tuscan Series.”
Taeyeon snorted with laughter and rolled onto her back, towel strewn across her stomach.
“What’s so funny?”
Taeyeon couldn’t answer her—she was laughing too hard—and it took a while before she could talk. “You—” she giggled, “you probably won’t win it anyway.”
“What do you mean.” Tiffany frowned. “I’d definitely be in the running for a top spot if I raced.”
“No, you don’t.” Taeyeon lapsed into another bout of laughter.
Tiffany slapped her thigh. “Explain yourself. You don’t think I’m good enough?”
Taeyeon’s face was red by now and she shook as she tried to explain. “Denise would probably have a better chance than you do.”
“Taeyeon,” Tiffany almost growled, “you’d better be joking right now.”
“Don’t you know what The International Tuscan Series is about?” she asked, looking as though she were about to die of laughter.
“It’s Tuscan car racing. What else is it about.”
Taeyeon shook her head. “It’s about T-I-T-S.” Another burst of ridiculous laughter consumed her and it was hopeless.
Tiffany blinked, taking two seconds to process what Taeyeon said. Then, it dawned on her and she slapped Taeyeon’s thigh in indignation. “You’re an idiot, Tae. Get your mind out of the gutter. Seriously.”
Taeyeon took one look at her, and laughed all over again.
“Stop laughing or you’re not sleeping with me tonight.”
“It’s funny, don’t you think it’s funny?”
“It’s not funny when I’m compared to Denise like that.”
“Tiff, it’s just a joke.”
“I don’t like your joke.”
“What if I told you I love your T-I-T-S more than anybody else’s in this world.”
“Still not happy.”
“Wow, you’re hard to please.”
“You’re being totally insensitive.”
“Loosen up, I wasn’t being serious at all. I mean, T-I-T-S…” Taeyeon shrugged, “It’s hilarious.”
“You just put me down with my much despised teammate’s breast size and you think it’s funny? What if I said Steph’s breasts are nicer than yours, huh. How would you like it?”
“Alright, alright. I’m wrong. I’m sorry. Geez. I didn’t know you’d be so touchy on this subject.”
“Live and learn.”
“I want you to know that your boob size is just right to me. You don’t have to feel insecure about it or anything.”
The look on Taeyeon’s face was too much. A snort slipped out and that was the crack in her veneer. Taeyeon was on to her in an instant.
Tiffany laughed and rolled onto her back. “You should’ve seen your face. You were panicking so bad.”
“Well played, Tiff. Well played.”
A few more laughs bubbled their way out before Tiffany managed to calm down. But one look at Taeyeon’s sulky pout set her off again and it wasn’t until Taeyeon jumped on her with a growl that she finally stopped. Her lips curled into a knowing smile as Taeyeon leaned on elbows, lips hovering just above hers. Their breaths mingled, gaze locked and all urges to laugh died as their lips touched.
“Welcome to the club, you’re officially one of the best racers in the industry and people are trying to poach you.”
Krystal blushed. “Stop teasing me, unnie.”
Jessica giggled. “It’s hard not to.”
“Sica is actually very proud of you. She told me in secret,” said Yuri with a grin.
Jessica smacked her arm, making her wince. “Secrets are not meant to be divulged.”
“You didn’t say it was a secret.”
“So what’d you hit me for,” Yuri whined.
“To touch you. I can’t keep my hands off you.”
Krystal pushed back from the table and stood. “I’m done. You two are making me sick.” She took a few steps away but stopped and turned around to add, “By the way, you’re definitely in the team for T-I-T-S, unnie.”
Jessica perked up at the mention of the race. “Really?”
Krystal grinned and nodded. “They’re sending the two of us.”
“That’s awesome!” Yuri jump to her feet and hugged Jessica. “You’re back on the team. You did it!”
“Unnie clocked one of the fastest times in the previous training session. They’d be stupid not to put her down for the race.”
“This calls for a celebration.” Yuri grinned. “Let’s go out tonight. How does BBQ and noraebang sound?”
Krystal raised her arms and whooped for joy. “It sounds great! Let’s go!”
Jessica grinned, her heart lighter than it had been for the past few months. Her perseverance had finally paid off. She was back on track.
On the other side of the world, two cars made their way to a deserted road down in Sleepy Hollow. It was quite a long drive just to get there but it was the nearest safe space for racing. The two cars came to a stop, one in front of the other and the women driving the cars stepped out.
“This is it. This is where I practice.”
“It’s pretty quiet around here.”
“Mhm. Perfect for driving past the speed limit.”
“You’ll have to show me the way.”
“I’ll show you everything.” Tiffany shivered in delight. “You have no idea what a dream come true this feels like to me. Heck, this is beyond my wildest dreams.”
“Well, it is happening. You’re here with me. I’m here with you. It’s our dream come true.”
Tiffany’s eyes gleamed in the dark. “But dream come true or not, I’m not gonna go easy on you.”
Taeyeon smirked. “You’d better not.”
“Don’t worry, you’re not winning this time.”
“Oh, I’m not so sure about that, Tiff.”
Tiffany grinned and kissed the smirk off Taeyeon’s lips. “We’ll see. But first, the run through.”