The sensation of Taeyeon’s lips on hers lingered for the next few hours, all the way till darkness fell. It lasted through dinner, her bath, up to the point where Tiffany got into bed and snuggled under the sheets. There she lay, comfortable and blissful after a good day out with her girlfriend. But she didn’t go to sleep. She was waiting. Waiting for someone to call. And that someone was about to call in three, two, one . . .
“Hello, boo,” Tiffany answered the call even before the first ring ended.
Tiffany giggled. “Are you going to work now?”
“I’m getting ready.”
“I wish you didn’t have to go to work at this time.”
“Just for this period of time, baby. Till this job is done.”
“Who are you protecting this time?”
“You gotta stop asking. I really can’t tell you.”
“And don’t pout.”
“I’m not pouting.”
Tiffany stopped pouting. “I’m not pouting.”
“Alright. I gotta go now.”
“I will. Sweet dreams, baby.”
Tiffany blew a kiss into the phone and grinned when Taeyeon returned it after a pause. Maybe with this kiss, she wouldn’t have a nightmare tonight.
She still did. But it wasn’t as scary and gruesome as the other nightmares had been. No blood, no guns. Just a chase that ended with her being caught. She woke up breathing hard with her heart pumping fast and sat up in bed, looking around in a panic.
“I’m okay. I’m safe,” Tiffany said to herself, remembering what Dr Kim said about these nightmares. After taking a few deep breaths, she felt calmer. Taeyeon was right. It did get easier with time. She could get over it. It was alright.
She washed up in her bathroom and made her way down to the dining room. Her father was having his breakfast there and the sight of him still triggered unhappiness in her after almost three weeks.
“Good morning, dear.”
“Morning, Dad,” Tiffany replied without enthusiasm.
“Did you sleep well last night?”
“Did you have a nightmare again?”
Tiffany exhaled through her nose. “It’s not like you cared when it mattered, did you.”
“Honey, I really—”
Tiffany stood up in a huff, interrupting her father. Turning to a household staff, she instructed the woman to bring her breakfast up. “I’ll eat my breakfast in my room.” And with that, she left the table and marched straight back to her room before her father could ask her to stay.
When she got back to her room, she realised that she had a missed call from Taeyeon. A smile replaced the frown instantly and she quickly made a call to Taeyeon.
“Good morning, babe,” said Taeyeon, sounding rather subdued.
“Good morning, boo.” Tiffany frowned, not liking how her girlfriend sounded. “Did you get injured or something?”
“No. I’m not hurt. I’m just tired.”
“Then you should rest.”
“I’m going to. I just wanted to call before that.”
Tiffany pouted. “I miss you already.”
“I’ll pout if I want to pout. If you don’t want me to pout, come over and cheer me up with a hug.”
Taeyeon chuckled. “Just a hug? That’s all you need?”
Tiffany scoffed. “That’s all I need but I’m not so sure about you.”
“You’re such a big liar.”
“Look who’s talking. You’re the one who said we should wait. Then less than one minute later, you’re the one all up in my face kissing me like a hungry jellyfish.”
“Hungry jellyfish? Are you comparing my kiss to a jellyfish?”
“A jellyfish is a compliment. If I wanted to insult your kissing proficiency, I would’ve said you kiss like a toilet pump.”
“Now you’re just trying to piss me off.”
“So what if I am?”
“Are you talking about me?”
“No, I’m talking about the pretty girl I’m protecting right now.”
Tiffany’s nostrils flared. “What? What pretty girl?”
“My new client’s daughter. She’s rich like you and very pretty too.”
“Are you serious right now?”
“Quit your job. Right now.”
“You’re not allowed to protect pretty girls.”
“What about you? Am I allowed to protect you?”
“You’re supposed to protect me. I’m your girlfriend.”
“I can protect you and her too.”
There was a little groan, followed by Taeyeon saying, “Please don’t scream into the phone. I almost went deaf because of that.”
“I’m gonna go over there and tie you up so you can’t go to work tonight.”
Taeyeon chuckled. “Do you know where I live though?”
Tiffany opened her mouth but shut it when she realised that she didn’t. And her unhappiness rose another level. “When’s your next off day? I want to see your place.”
“You can see it from the outside anytime you like. I’ll give you the address.”
“I want you to bring me in and show me around.”
A short laugh came through the phone. “My apartment isn’t that big. You won’t need to be shown around.”
“I’m not only your guest. I’m also your girlfriend. You have to give me the royal treatment.”
“Are you really that desperate to see my apartment?”
“Okay, okay. I’ll arrange something. How about after your next session with Dr Kim?”
“Is that your off day?”
“Yeah. I arranged it that way.”
“To match my counselling day?”
Tiffany blinked, feeling a little surprised to hear about this. “Okay.”
“So I’ll pick you up from your house and send you to Dr Kim. Then, I’ll bring you to my apartment after that.”
Tiffany grinned. “I can’t wait.”
Tiffany’s third session with Dr Kim was four days later and that was the next time she saw Taeyeon again. Despite the daily phone calls and texts they sent each other at random times of the day, Tiffany missed Taeyeon a lot. It was a kind of withdrawal to go from practically living in the same house as her bodyguard, seeing her at all meals, having her presence within reach, to this distant, far away relationship where she barely got to see her girlfriend. And to make things worse, it was compounded by Taeyeon’s working hours (late night) alternating with hers (day time).
So when Taeyeon’s handsome black car came cruising into the parking lot of her studio, Tiffany’s spirits soared and she beamed from ear to ear as she got on.
“Hey, you,” said Taeyeon as Tiffany climbed into the seat next to her. “Have you had lunch?”
“Yeah.” Tiffany smiled. “You?”
“I had a kimbap.”
Tiffany leaned over the emergency hand brake and took a closer look at her girlfriend. “You look tired.”
“I am tired. But seeing you makes me feel better.”
A smile burst out on Tiffany’s face. “I’ll make you feel even better.” She leaned in and closed her eyes and planted a peck on Taeyeon’s cheek.
Taeyeon smiled. But she said, “That’s not good enough.” Puckering up her lips, Taeyeon tapped and winked. “I want a real kiss.”
“But you asked me to wait. I’m only doing as you said.”
“Right, you are suddenly the most obedient girlfriend in the world. Ha ha ha.”
Tiffany pouted. “I’m not gonna give you a real kiss until you quit protecting the pretty girl.”
“It’s my job, Tiffany. I’m not gonna quit.”
“Then I’m not giving you the kiss.”
Exasperation marred the brightness that was in Taeyeon’s eyes before. “I won’t force you to do something you don’t want to. Buckle your seatbelt.”
Her ex-bodyguard stepped on the accelerator before she could buckle up properly and the car sped off from the parking lot. She glared at her ex-bodyguard, aware that she had done it deliberately but the woman kept her eyes on the road and refused to look her way.
When they got to Dr Kim’s office, Taeyeon went up with her but Tiffany could sense the unhappiness stewing under the surface. She took her hand nonetheless and she felt better when Taeyeon didn’t object to it. So hand-in-hand, they headed up to Dr Kim’s office and she turned to Taeyeon just before entering the room.
“See ya in a while.”
“See ya,” Taeyeon responded with a curt wave and sat on the couch in the waiting area.
With one more glance at the woman who was now staring at her phone, Tiffany entered the room and lay on the reclining chair as she did the last two times. But to her surprise, Dr Kim asked her to sit up.
Dr Kim came around to her and sat on his doctor’s chair. “Let’s just have a regular chat, shall we?”
“Is there anything you feel like talking about today?”
“It’s about the nightmares. Is there anything else I can do? I just wish I could stop having nightmares.”
“Have you tried what I suggested?”
“Yes, just before going to sleep I calm myself down. And I’m talking to myself after waking up from my nightmares.”
“That’s very good. Keep it up.” Dr Kim offered a smile. “Do you find it easier to handle your nightmares now?”
“My nightmares are not as scary as before. I had no nightmares the night before. But last night, I dreamt I was being chased again.”
“Did you manage to escape?”
Tiffany shook her head. “I dreamt that I got caught and that’s when I woke up. It has been like this the last few times this past week.”
“Are there any other things bothering you?”
“I’m still anxious when it’s dark but it’s getting better.”
“That’s good. Very good. You’re doing well.”
“But it’s taking so long.”
“Your mind is taking steps to manage the bad memories. You have already made very good progress in digesting it. Tell yourself you have done well. Encourage yourself. And if you feel up to it, I would still recommend revisiting the hotel. Your mind will be able to reset its memory of the place and dispel the remaining trauma. Go with Taeyeon. It will be good for her too.”
“Is she still seeing you?”
Dr Kim shook his head. “I can’t tell you that, I’m afraid.”
“I just wanna know if she’s okay.”
“Why don’t you ask her? She will be able to tell you more.”
“She’s pissed with me. She’s not gonna tell me today and I don’t wanna wait.”
Dr Kim chuckled. “Taeyeon is a very kind person. Very gentle too. Don’t worry.”
Thoroughly unsatisfied with Dr Kim’s lack of cooperation, Tiffany was suddenly eager to end the session. “So are we done here? Can I go?”
“You make the call. Are you able to manage your anxieties by yourself now? Or do we need to talk through it a little bit more?”
Tiffany thought for a bit. “I’ll try to handle it myself.”
“Good. You sound a lot more confident about it than the last two times I asked you. We’ll end here for today. I won’t charge you for the full hour. Just a short consultation fee. I won’t insist on another session either. If you feel ready to fly off on your own wings, I’ll be here cheering for you.”
Tiffany hopped off the chair with a smile. “Thank you, Dr Kim.”
“Are you still bringing me to your place?” Tiffany asked, once they were in Taeyeon’s car.
“It’s okay if you don’t wanna go.” Taeyeon shrugged. “I can send you home.”
“I want to go.”
“No! Your place!”
“You don’t have to shout.”
“I’m shouting cos you’re being irritating on purpose.”
“I was only clarifying.”
“You’re so full of shit.”
“Can you stop with the insults!”
“I’ll stop if you stop.”
“You’re so immature.”
“Oh, and you’re so much better.”
“Okay. Stop. I’m gonna shut up so you will shut up too. Let me focus on driving us safely to our destination.”
Tiffany opened her mouth but thought the better of it. Safety was important. She just had to wait till they got to Taeyeon’s place. Once inside . . .