“What’s the matter with your girlfriend.”
“Steph, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize for her. She’s got issues.”
“It’s been a crazy up-and-down ride for her recently. She—”
“And now you’re making excuses for her.”
Tiffany shook her head. “I’m not—”
“Steph… you are you trying to kid? Even I can see the quick temper and I’ve barely known her for two hours.”
“It’s not like that.”
“Yeah? What’s it like then?”
Images of all the fights and quarrels they had since their first meeting flooded Tiffany’s mind, making her hesitate. Steph wasn’t going to be convinced even if she shared Taeyeon’s history with her, neither was it any of her right to tell without Taeyeon’s permission. “It’s our style,” she managed to say at last.
“Your style? What style? You aren’t the flare-up-over-nothing type of person. You are sweet and reasonable. You don’t yell and storm off in front of a new friend.”
Stephanie was right. She was never prone to volcanic eruptions of anger. She was always the ‘talker’ who persisted and persuaded to get her way. But never once was she cowed by Taeyeon’s outbursts. Never once had she backed down or let Taeyeon steamroll over her. If anything, she stood strong, held fast and weathered the storm. Yes, Taeyeon had a temper that—given a spark—would burst into a stream of angry words, fired to hurt. Yes, Taeyeon wasn’t the most polite person in the world. But it wasn’t anything she couldn’t handle. And Taeyeon had great capacity to love too, once unlocked.
“I know Taeyeon didn’t mean to come off that brusque.”
Stephanie didn’t looked convinced. “I hope she’s treating you well. Don’t let her get away with anything.”
“Taeyeon didn’t leave my side the entire time I was in a coma. That’s the extent of her concern for me. You have nothing to worry about.”
Stephanie held her stare for a moment before dropping it. “Fine. But it is a fact that your father misses you a lot. I’m not trying to stop you from doing anything. It’s not like I have any say in that matter anyway.”
Tiffany rose to her knees and leaned over to hug her friend. “Steph, you do have a say. I treasure your opinion. I know that you’re always looking out for me.”
“You went to Seoul anyway. And you’re gonna go back again.”
Stephanie waved her reply away and shook her head. “It’s okay. I understand. It wouldn’t be the first time, would it.”
It wouldn’t. This is why we broke up in the first place. You wanna stay, I wanna leave…
Tiffany sighed. “No.”
“But hey, what the heck. Why are we talking about this when you just got engaged last night. I’m sorry, I ruined the mood.”
“It’s okay. I’ll talk to Taeyeon later.”
“She must really hate me now.”
“She dislikes people in general. Like by default. Don’t worry, she’ll warm up to you eventually.”
Stephanie smiles. “Should’ve known that you would be able to tame the wildest horse in the universe.”
Tiffany grinned. “Or rather, the fastest racer in the universe.”
Taeyeon was back in her house when she returned. Lying on her stomach in bed, reading car magazines as usual. This girl was predictable when it came to things like that. It was car magazines or a racing game on her phone. Taeyeon really did live and breathe cars, in all forms.
“Hey love,” said Tiffany, flopping beside her girlfriend on the bed. She laid her hand on her thigh, testing the waters a little. Taeyeon didn’t pull away, instead, grunting a reply like a disgruntled old man. “Anything interesting in there? Does Moonracer appear in it?” she asks, shifting to lie flat on her stomach, close to Taeyeon.
Tiffany pressed a kiss on Taeyeon’s ear. “Look at me.”
Taeyeon looked, lips downturned, sulking.
“You know that I love you, right?”
Her words softened Taeyeon’s stone cold eyes a little. “I still don’t like Steph. I don’t want to go out with her anymore.”
“She’s just tough love, you know, the kind that says what needs to be said. There are no hidden meanings in what she says.”
“Of course, she just wants the best for you and the best is right here, where home is. I understand.”
“I’ll be the one who decides what’s best for me. I’ll talk to my dad about it.”
“It’s okay with you that your dad will feel lonely when you’re not around?”
“It’s not okay but he will understand that my happiness is not only here at home.” Tiffany snuggled closer to Taeyeon. “My happiness is with you too. And my job. I mean, my life can’t just be about my dad and that’s why he allowed me to go to Seoul even though he was against it.”
“Your happiness is with me…?”
“Yeah, you make me happy.”
“How do I make you happy.”
“I’m asking you.”
Tiffany rolled onto her side and took a good long look at Taeyeon. Then, she smiled. “Just like that.”
“Just like what.”
“Like that. You, being you.”
“You’re not making any sense.”
“I’m making perfect sense. What I mean is, you don’t have to do anything dramatic to make me happy. I mean, us lying here together makes me happy, makes me smile.”
Taeyeon pushed her car magazine to the side and turned onto her side too. “That’s all? Just like that?”
“Mhm.” Tiffany brushed Taeyeon’s fallen strands of hair and tucked them behind her ear. “What about you? Do I make you happy?”
“Sometimes…” Taeyeon shifted and pulled her close and Tiffany adjusted so that her head rested on Taeyeon’s arm, “you make me happy, sometimes you make me mad, sometimes you make me sad, but you always make me feel…”
“What?” Tiffany asked, her curiosity piqued.
Taeyeon grinned. “Horny.”
Tiffany rolled her eyes as she shoved Taeyeon away. “You’re such an idiot.”
“Did I just ruined my chance to get laid?”
Tiffany sat up, “Be serious, Tae. I really want to know.”
“I am serious.” Taeyeon shrugged. “Every time I see you, I just want to kiss you. I want to be close to you. I’m so attracted to you, I can’t even—”
Tiffany kissed Taeyeon’s lips hard. “You—” she said between kisses, “are the” —another kiss— “best” —a kiss on the nose— “and most” —a kiss on the lips again— “horrible girlfriend ever.”
Taeyeon snorted but didn’t break the chain of kisses. Instead, Tiffany felt a hand sliding down her back, venturing to darker places and smiled. She was in for a very good time.
“You have to bring this.”
“Bring it.” Yuri stuffed the Mickey Mouse plush toy into Jessica’s luggage and strapped it in.
“It’s taking up my clothing space.”
“You didn’t complain the last time.”
“The last time was a long, long trip back to the States with no definite return date. This isn’t that sort of trip!” Jessica stared at her luggage in dismay and frowned when she heard a muffled laugh. “Soojung! Stop laughing and help me out here!”
“I’m with Yuri unnie on this one.”
Jessica let out a long-suffering sigh a shook her head. She locked her luggage and wheeled it out of the room before turning back. “Oh my God. This is not happening. Tell me this isn’t happening.”
“It’s happening, unnie. It’s real.”
Jessica hugged Krystal with everything that she had. “I had almost given up hope on finding you. Almost. I’m so thankful that I didn’t.” She locked gazes with Yuri over Krystal’s shoulder and smiled. “All thanks to you.”
Yuri hugged them with a smile. “I’m going to miss you so much.”
“What about me?” Krystal asked.
“I’ll miss you too,” Yuri answered with a grin and ruffled Krystal’s hair with affection. “Take care of each other, okay?”
“Of course, unnie will take good care of me.”
“I meant it both ways.”
Krystal laughed. “I know. I’ll take care of unnie for you until you join us.”
Yuri nodded and hugged them again. And Jessica sneaked a kiss on Yuri’s cheek before pulling from the hug to land one on her lips. “I’ll see you soon.”
Krystal gave Yuri another hug and waved goodbye. “See ya at Sepang, unnie!”
“Paul, thanks for the recommendation. She loves the ring.”
“I’m glad. I’m assuming the both of you are smooth sailing now? Stable and everything?”
“We are, sort of. Nothing is ever too stable with Taeyeon, you know that.”
“Makes your life exciting.” Paul chuckled. “Be careful what you wish for.”
“Is your man happier now that you’re here?”
“He’s happier.” Paul’s tone lightened. “So am I. It’s a good thing, this move. I’m happy I did it.”
“It’s what you deserve.”
“Mhm. But I actually need a favour from you.”
Tiffany shook her head, already knowing what he would going to say. “No. I’m not going to race when I’m not ready.”
“You always are. That’s why I brought you over with me.”
“Why do you want me to do it?” Tiffany refrained from pointing out the fact that his grandfather had kicked him out in the first place.
“I know what you’re thinking. But part of Hyundae is my hard work too. And yours. T.I.T.S wasn’t part of the game plan but now that women’s racing is up and coming in Asia, many companies think it will create more exposure for the sport if they participate in this international event—even if it may be out of their league. Everyone has to start somewhere, right?”
“If I go, it’ll be with Denise,” Tiffany said with a shudder.
Paul chuckled. “You’ll have crew with you. Don’t worry, you won’t need to be alone with Denise.”
Tiffany sighed. “Give me a day to think it over.”
“A day it is. I’ll check in with you tomorrow.”
Taeyeon came into the room as the call ended. “Who was that?”
“Oh? What did he want?”
“Tae, Paul asked me to race for T.I.T.S. I asked for a day to consider it.”
Taeyeon snorted and laughed. “T.I.T.S.”
“You’re such a kid when it comes to these things.”
“But it’s funny. I mean, didn’t they realize what they were getting into when they named the race?”
“People like you would.”
Taeyeon sat on the bed, sidling up to her and they made themselves comfortable together. “Do you want to join the race?”
Tiffany nodded, her cheek rubbing against Taeyeon’s shoulder. “Yes.”
“So why didn’t you agree to it straightaway?”
“I wanted to ask you first.”
Taeyeon looked down at her as she looked up, and their eyes met. “You would say no if I say no?”
“Mmm, maybe. It depends.”
“If you decide to race, your stay here will be cut short. Your best friend won’t be happy.”
Tiffany smacked Taeyeon’s stomach, making the woman groan. “Be serious. I’m asking you. Not her.”
“So my opinion is more important than hers?”
“It’s not like that. You know that. Tsk.” Tiffany frowned. “You’re beginning to piss me off, Tae.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll be serious. I’m not against the idea as long as you feel ready to race.”
“Really? Didn’t you want me to rest and recuperate?”
“I’d like you to take a break, yes. It’s been really great just being here with you too. But if you wanna race, your heart’s not gonna be here anyways.” Tiffany stared at Taeyeon, unblinking, until the other woman raised a brow. “What.”
“Are you really Taeyeon? Kim Taeyeon?”
Taeyeon laughed. “Of course, I am. What nonsense are you asking.”
“You just…seem…so different suddenly.”
“I’m capable of being nice too, you know.”
“I know, I know. I’ve known that since I saw you with Hayeon in the hospital.” Tiffany smiled. “I’ve always known it was there, inside you.”
“So there’s no fucking wall blocking you out now?” Taeyeon smirked.
Tiffany grinned and pulled Taeyeon’s lips down to hers. “No”—kiss on the lips—“fucking”—another kiss—“wall.”
Taeyeon grinned. “So are you racing or what.”
“I think, yes.” Tiffany snuggled into Taeyeon’s arms, secure in love. “I’ll race.”
Her father wasn’t pleased. Neither was Stephanie. But her mind was made up. She was going to race. Because she wanted to and because it was her favour to Paul who had done so much for her. And before the week was up, she was all packed and ready to go. Funny how her departure was just as speedy as the first time.
A round of reluctant goodbyes later, Tiffany set off for Seoul with Taeyeon by her side. It was back to business.
The first order of business was to meet with Vincent and the crew. She emerged from the meeting with no more good feelings for Vincent than when she went in but the crew members were the same people as those who worked with her in The Roulette and she was glad to see the warm smiles on their faces. Denise was distant but that she could handle. The meeting was important but she found her mind drifting to Taeyeon as Vincent rattled on. Taeyeon had gone to meet her family and she wanted to know how it went.
Taeyeon drove to the restaurant she now knew fairly well after dropping Tiffany off at Hyundae. It was strange, dropping her girlfriend off at work. It felt domestic. She’d only dropped Hayeon off at school before. That was as domestic as she ever got. This was a whole new level. And the fact that it didn’t feel weird at all was probably the weirdest part of the whole thing.
Her thoughts soon turned to her family, however, and the things she wanted to say. Would Uncle Im be alright with what she wanted? There was only one way to find out.
Uncle Im and her mother were already in the private booth when she arrived.
“Where’s Hayeon and Yoona?” she asked after greeting them.
“Hayeon went to the toilet. Yoona is coming after her meeting ends.”
“What would you like to have?” asked her mother.
She flipped through the menu. “Seafood spaghetti.”
“What about you, Taewon?”
Taeyeon cringed at the honeyed voice her mother reserved for Uncle Im. He seemed to like it very much, considering how wide his smile was as he conveyed his choice. So this was how her mother charmed all those men. She definitely made it work, to her credit.
Hayeon’s return to the booth was Taeyeon’s relief from the awkward situation. And the quiet as well.
“Unnie!” Hayeon shrieked and almost knocked her over with a lung-crushing hug.
“Hayeon, Hayeon, I can’t breathe,” Taeyeon laughed.
“I don’t care. I miss you so much, unnie.”
Taeyeon smiled and swept the hair out from Hayeon’s eyes. “I miss you too.”
“Did you…” Hayeon faded off and cleared her throat.
Taeyeon grinned. “Yes.”
Hayeon’s excitement was reborn. “Oh my God, what did she say? Did she say yes?”
Taeyeon nodded and laughed when Hayeon’s shriek reached new heights, causing both Uncle Im and their mother to cover their ears.
“Hayeon!” their mother scolded. “Watch your behaviour. Go back to your seat.”
Hayeon apologized and returned to her seat but the excitement and joy in her eyes could not be extinguished.
“Do you mind telling us what it’s all about?” asked Uncle Im. “You’re making us very curious.”
“I proposed to Tiffany and she said yes.”
“You proposed?!” Her mother’s eyes bulged in shock, darting between Uncle Im and Taeyeon.
Taeyeon lifted her chin. “Yes, I proposed.”
“I didn’t realize that proposals could be contagious,” Uncle Im joked and their mother turned to him, stunned, her eyes widening in surprise when he continued to say, “Congratulations are in order then. Invite Tiffany for dinner sometime soon. I’d like to meet her again.”
“Aren’t you against their relationship?” asked their mother.
“Against?” Uncle Im smiled and shook his head. “I’m not against it at all. I really have no idea where you got that idea from. Didn’t I clarify it earlier?”
“I thought…I thought you were just being nice…because of me…”
“It’s not just because of you. I don’t think anything should stop a person from being with the people they love. That’s all.”
Hayeon made a funny sound and Taeyeon looked away as their mother kissed Uncle Im right in front of them. Heck, this was not an image she wanted imprinted in her mind. Fortunately, they were saved by the sliding of the doors. The kiss was stopped and in stepped Yoona. Thank God.
Yoona’s eyes wandered over them, her lips curled up slightly. “Everyone seems cheery. What’s the good news?”
“Unnie proposed to Tiffany unnie and she said yes!” Hayeon announced, not waiting for anyone else to explain.
Yoona’s eyes lit like a fire in the dark. “Really? Wow, congrats, Taeyeon unnie!” She strode over and Taeyeon was engulfed in another hug. It was hug-overload day today.
Yoona settled down after that and dinner followed. Taeyeon enjoyed it more than she thought she would. Uncle Im was really one of the best things in her life, she thought while chewing and swallowing. Without him, this would never have happened. She would never have imagined that she could sit and have dinner at the same table with her mother like this.
“Taeyeon, did you give my proposition some thought during your time in the States?” asked Uncle Im as they waited for dessert to be served.
“And have you come to a conclusion?”
Uncle Im leaned forward on his elbows and Taeyeon could feel all eyes on her. “What’s your decision?”
“I would like to join your racing team and race in the Tuscan series.”
Uncle Im stared. It was evident he hadn’t expected this request coming from her. “You are asking to join Ssamyoong as a professional racer?”
Taeyeon nodded. “And join the Tuscan series.”
“You’ll need to get a license to be a professional driver. I’m afraid there won’t be enough time to get you one for Tuscan.”
“I have a license.”
“You do?” went Uncle Im, Yoona and Hayeon. Only her mother remained relatively quiet.
“My friend made me get one a long time ago. I’ll have to get it renewed but my friend can get it done very quickly. In fact, it’s being processed as we speak.”
“And this friend of yours is…”
“Hyoyeon. She has many contacts in the industry. I get to skip the queue when she helps me.”
“I see.” Uncle Im leaned back and stroked his chin. “Interesting. Our racing team is indeed lacking racers at the moment and Jean hasn’t expressed much confidence for racing at Tuscan.” His eyes caught Taeyeon’s and gleamed. “Are you confident about this?”
Taeyeon raised her chin and nodded. “I’m confident in all things racing.”
“Alright. I accept your decision. The company will be informed tomorrow. I’ll need you to meet everyone after that and we should be able to send a team to Tuscan.” Uncle Im rubbed his hands and grinned. “There’s hope for Ssamyoong now.”
Taeyeon locked gazes with Hayeon, then with Yoona. All three of them could hardly contain their excitement but Uncle Im couldn’t know that Hayeon and Yoona had seen how good Taeyeon is at racing on the streets. This was one secret they had to keep. A secret among sisters.
Dinner ended and Taeyeon excused herself to fetch Tiffany from work. She smiled and waved goodbye to her new family, and thought she could actually get used to this. She could.
Tiffany got into Taeyeon’s car after the long day at work, clutching the dossier that contained all the necessary information on T.I.T.S and smiled at her girlfriend. “Waited long?”
Taeyeon shook her head. “Just a while,” she said, meeting Tiffany in the middle for a kiss.
“How was dinner with the fam?”
“Good. Uncle Im congratulated me on my successful proposal and said he wants to have dinner with you.”
“Okay. What about your mother?”
“She was quiet.”
“That sounds promising.”
“Tiff, I have something to tell you.”
“I’m joining Ssamyoong’s racing team and we’re gonna race at the Tuscan.”
For a moment, all became silent as Tiffany stared at her, blinking every other second. Then, she shrieked and launched herself at Taeyeon. “Is it true? You’re not trolling me, right? Right?”
“I’m not trolling you. I’m telling you the truth.”
“Oh my God, oh my God! This is the best news ever.”
“Are you sure?”
“What do you mean?”
“You won’t be winning the championship with me racing against you.”
“Oh, don’t be too sure. You may be good on the streets but the circuit’s my thing.”
Taeyeon smirked. “We’ll see.”