One semester. Six visits. And lots of messaging back and forth later . . .
Yoona stares at her phone while sipping coffee in the staff locker room. It’s time. Before this, she had been just a student. Then, an undergrad. Now, she’s still an undergrad but she has a job—albeit just part-time at a café. She has her own money now. She has the money to buy Ms Kim a drink now.
But how is she going to ask Ms Kim out? Casually? Formally?
Hello. R u free tmr?
I’m busy till 4pm. Planning on visiting again?
Yoona bites her lip as she contemplates her next reply. Should she try to slip it in now?
I was thinking coffee at 2some. 5pm ok?
Am I asking for too much? Will Ms Kim meet me outside of school? Yoona’s nail-wrecking nail makes a comeback until Ms Kim’s reply comes.
Why don’t u come to school to see me?
After a few taps on the table, Yoona types a reply.
I’m not your student anymore, Ms Kim. We can meet at a café now, right?
Ms Kim’s reply comes much faster this time.
Oho. But u still call me Ms Kim.
Out of respect and good manners haha. But honestly, I’m working at a café this summer break. I’d really like to give u a coffee treat. It’s my turn to buy the coffee.
Oh…y didn’t u just say so? Ofc I will come and visit your workplace. Where is it?
Yoona grins as she gives Ms Kim the address of the café. Tomorrow is going to be a good day.
“What’s wrong with you today?”
Yoona winces as she puts her finger under the tap to cool it. “Nothing.”
“You burnt two fingers already. If this continues, you’ll end up burning all your fingers by the end of your shift.”
With a sheepish smile, Yoona turns to Gil, her co-worker. “I’m just a little distracted. But I’ll be careful for the rest of this shift.”
Gil grins and jumps back, posing like a bodybuilder. “Is it because of me? I’m the distractor, right?”
Yoona rolls her eyes. “Don’t claim credit that isn’t yours. It’s my friend. She’s coming here in a while.”
“A friend? Is she pretty?”
“Prettier than me.”
Gil leans in towards her. “Seriously?”
“You’ll find out later.”
“If she’s not pretty . . .”
“What? Whatcha gonna do? You shouldn’t judge people by their appearances.”
“Why so serious? I was only joking around. You know that you’re my favourite.”
Yoona puts a firm hand on Gil’s shoulder. “I already have someone in my heart.” Patting his shoulder, she adds, “Friends forever?”
Gil shakes his head. “Never say forever. I might have a chance one day.”
Yoona laughs. “Good for you.”
“Excuse me,” a voice says from behind.
Yoona stops laughing and turns around. “M-T-Taeyeon! You’re here!”
Ms Kim’s eyes are wide open in surprise and her jaw is almost hanging loose. “Yoona? Yes, I got off work a little earlier so I came straight here . . .” Ms Kim’s eyes wander onto Gil, who is nudging Yoona way too obviously.
“This irritating guy is Gil. You don’t have to pay any attention to him.”
“Hey, be nice.” Gil steps forward and shakes Ms Kim’s hand over the counter. “Nice to meet you, Taeyeon. May I call you that? You must be Yoona’s friend so you’re younger than me too.”
Gil turns around to Yoona. “Did I make a mistake?”
Yoona goes around the counter and brings Ms Kim to a table at the corner. “What would you like to drink?”
Ms Kim takes another look at Gil. “What’s going on?”
“I’ll explain later. For now, coffee. My treat. What do you want?”
“What do you recommend?”
“How about something sweet? Caramel?”
“Caramel macchiato, iced,” Yoona tells Gil. “Make it two.” He signals okay with his hand and Yoona takes another look at her watch. There’s twenty minutes left on her shift. “Give me a minute,” she says to Ms Kim, then goes back behind the counter to Gil.
“Hey Gil, mind covering the rest of my shift for me?”
Gil glances at the clock. “You only have twenty minutes left to go. Don’t worry. Go accompany your friend.” He grins. “And by the way, you lied. She’s pretty, but you’re still prettier.”
Yoona giggles and slaps his arm for his cheekiness before taking off her apron and putting it away in the back. While in the locker room, she takes the chance to freshen up, comb her hair and reapply a little makeup. When she returns, the drinks are ready so she picks them up and brings them to the table.
Iced caramel macchiato in hand, Yoona slides onto her seat opposite Ms Kim and is once again, taken on a magic carpet ride by those beautiful clear eyes of dark chocolate brown.
“You look extra nice today, M-Taeyeon.”
Ms Kim raises a brow. “Why are you calling me by my first name?”
“Because I’m not your student anymore.”
“And why does your boyfriend think I’m your friend?”
Yoona straightens her back. “Firstly, he’s not my boyfriend. We’re only co-workers and friends. Nothing more. Secondly, aren’t you my friend? Or have you never considered us to be friends?”
Ms Kim is blinking in uncertainty. “Friends? Have you always seen us as friends?”
“I’ve looked at you as a friend since the first time I visited you after graduating.”
Yoona leans back with a sigh. “I’m disappointed.”
“I really thought you might see me as a friend. Even if it’s just a little bit.”
“It’s not that I don’t see you as a friend. It’s just, well, I was your teacher . . . and I’m much older than you. I feel like I should be guiding you, helping you. Like a senior helping a junior.”
“Can’t the senior and junior become friends?”
“Of course, that’s possible.”
“I’ll hold you to that.” Yoona smiles. “Anyway, the way we’ve been texting is pretty much like friends would, so it’s not like everything has to change drastically.”
Ms Kim looks up in the air as though recalling their text message conversations. “Now that you mention it, we do text each other pretty casually.”
Yoona’s smile widens. “Hey friend.”
Ms Kim stares at her for a moment, then smiles too. “Hey friend. Don’t forget that I’m still older than you. I’ll still whack your head if you do anything outrageously wrong, understand?”
Yoona giggles. “I understand perfectly.”