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blue lemonade

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Seulgi’s knees weaken and they almost buckle that she ushers and steadies herself on a chair.

Her throat is dry, and she is turning paler by the second. A bead of sweat breaks on her forehead. She feels like she’s going to be sick. It was a lot to take in. The words she heard didn’t feel real.

Irene leapt to her feet and pours her a glass of water, and slides it to her on the table.

“Are you alright?” Irene asks, biting her bottom lip as she settles on the chair across.

Seulgi gulps the cold water down her parched throat. She heaves, and rests both of her arms on the tabletop. Color seeps back to her face. Then, she gives Irene a long, penetrating glance, like she’s trying to decipher the woman before her. This causes Irene to shift uneasily in her seat.

All the days are coming back to her in a blur, like streaks of taillights in the night.

“S-sorry,” Irene stutters, lowering her eyes. Her face is warm like a whistling kettle’s steam. There is a part of her that is relieved, and a part of her that is scared. “I’ve been spouting lies, but the cat’s out of the bag now, so I decided to come clean.”

It was a good thing Joy noticed and figured it all out, she muses. She might have not had the courage to spill the truth otherwise.

Irene continues, still looking at her fidgeting hands, “And I know it’s not a good look to confess only when I got caught, but I really want to set this straight—“

“Irene, don’t make me say it,” Seulgi presses. Her nerves have calmed down now.

Seulgi’s slow, but she isn’t stupid.

“W-what?” Irene glances up, perplexed. What were the odds that Seulgi’s thinking about the same thing that she’s thinking?

Since she hears no response, she rambles on, “But everything else was genuine. I wanted to get closer to you, and I wanted for us to be friends. I made dinner for you because I wanted to. I wanted to see you—“

“No,” Seulgi interrupts, almost laughing. “I know that. Don’t muddle this any further.”

“Okay,” Irene breathes audibly. The outcome doesn’t matter, and there’s not a lot of chances she can tell it as she means it. It has to be now. She’s blushing hard, and there are waves somersaulting in her stomach. “I like you, Seulgi.”

Seulgi sighs heavily. It’s like dark clouds have been swept by the wind and the skies are clear, making no room for the dreary rain. So this is how it feels, she ponders.

“Did I hear that right?” Seulgi asks with a cheeky smile. “Me? Not the blue lemonade?”

“God, you’re so silly,” shoots back Irene. She buries her face in her hands, a little embarrassed. It hasn’t sunk in that this moment is happening, and that the foolishness of what she has been doing is finally paying off.

Seulgi bends over the table and reaches for Irene’s small, soft hands, taking them away from her face. Irene doesn’t want to meet Seulgi’s eyes, but she’s waiting.

“I like you too, Irene,” Seulgi utters. It sort of feels strange to hear herself speak it aloud.

There’s a meaningful silence that comes; a silence that’s shared between them.

 

 

 

 

They don’t really know what to do after.

Seulgi is huddled with Irene at the couch, and they’re watching a local drama. On their laps are pillows, with honey buttered chips and drinks on the side. The room is dim, and they’re basking in the blue light of the tv screen.

It doesn’t take more than five minutes but Seulgi finds herself staring at Irene instead of the television. Irene notices this, so she angles her head up, and cutely grins, “Hm?”

“I can’t believe it,” Seulgi mutters, not looking away.

Just about a day ago she’s been agonizing over catching feelings, and now it turns out that she’s liked back by her crush. Nothing about this feels real, it’s like she’s in the middle of a dream, and yet the skin of her palms tingle when she laces her fingers with the other’s.

Irene smiles—that smile that has always hit like a punch in the gut, leaving her frail and defenseless.

“Neither can I,” murmurs Irene, just low enough for the other to hear. “I was afraid you weren’t catching on. I took so much trouble to get to this point. Ah, I feel embarrassed thinking about it.”

“I can’t even begin to imagine,” Seulgi admits. She rubs her thumb over the other girl’s knuckles. “I’m so overwhelmed. Joy was right, there was something odd about the way you approached me. I shrugged it off because I didn’t want to believe you had underlying intentions, but it came in a form I didn’t expect.”

“Aren’t you creeped out? I didn’t know what I was thinking either,” Irene pouts.

“A bit, maybe.” Seulgi spares a glance at the tv briefly, the characters in a heated argument, then back at the person beside her. “But this wouldn’t have been possible if you didn’t make your move.”

It’s true, the first few days she met Irene, she didn’t so much think of anything as acknowledge that her beauty is spellbinding. Conventionally pretty girls were the bane of her existence. She’s way too fragile for them, and so over the years she has learned to put up walls, deny any flicker of emotion that surges within her toward anyone she remotely likes.

Jisoo has left a scar on her that she won’t be able to erase, but it’s all behind her now. This time, she’s ready to take this on, and she doesn’t want to let go.

“Phew,” sighs Irene. She is satisfied to hear that her efforts weren’t wasted. “It must be the dinner date, isn’t it? I plucked so much of my courage to do it, with my friend’s prodding. I’m really glad you came.”

“My friend urged me to go, too. You should meet her sometime,” Seulgi says. “But yeah, I was stopping myself hard from liking you, but that kiss on the cheek has totally crippled me. The effect was too strong. I mean, what are the chances I get that from you? I didn’t even think of ever having it.”

Irene giggles and leans her head on Seulgi’s shoulder. “I like you Seulgi, since the first time I laid my eyes on you. I knew you were perfect for me. I just knew. Don’t ever doubt that.”

Then they stay like that, comfortable in each other’s company, getting to know each other for the better of an hour.

 

 

 

 

“Can I kiss you?” Seulgi asks later.

They’re standing by the door, and her feet are restless like a saltshaker poised over a plate. The house falls hushed again, and the walls seem like they’re closing in. For a heartbeat, Seulgi thinks of not leaving.

But with a finger on the other’s lips, Irene shakes her head and says, “Not today.”

“Maybe after five more purchases of blue lemonade? I’ll give you a discount.”

Irene laughs, throwing her head back, and slaps her lightly on the shoulder. “I want you to dream of it. Kiss me in your dreams, under the stars.”

Seulgi brushes a lock of hair behind Irene’s ear. “I will.”

Then, she presses her lips on the shorter girl’s forehead before she goes out into the hollow of the night.

 

 

 

 

Seulgi doesn’t dream. Instead, she lies awake in bed, going over the days that have passed where she saw Irene. It makes her giddy, and she can’t help thrashing her legs when she thinks about a flustered Irene during their game of Jenga. That, and when she threw her arms around her when the fireworks peaked at the sky.

She can’t take the silly grin off her face.

It was hard for her to fall asleep. This is all so new, and her excitement is through the roof. She’s really dating someone now, and it is Irene. It’s just too good to be true.

Seulgi had initially wanted to spend her summer idly, because she has been spent and exhausted after the school year. She thought it would be best to take a break. But Joy comes nagging her about a resort that would soon open in town, and to grab the opportunities it was offering. Summer jobs are a worthwhile way to kill the time—earn some cash, and have something substantial to put on a curriculum vitae. She caved in and thought to give it a try.

And who knew that this is where she’d meet her first probable girlfriend.

She places a pillow over her face to muffle her giddy screams. She’s so happy, it’s beyond describing into words. There’s a girl who’s so interested in her that she buys lemonade drinks despite not liking them. Just to see her.

Not long after, she descends into unconsciousness, hugging a pillow like she’d do if Irene was beside her.

 

 

 

 

Irene stirs once sunlight drifts into her room.

After making her bed and doing exercise for about an hour, she heads to the kitchen to prepare breakfast. She cracks some eggs for her pancake mix, whisks it to the batter with a mixer, then cooks. She piles three pancakes to her plate and pairs it with a hot cup of chocolate drink.

Then, she phones Yeri.

“Guess what?” she questions, with a smile so wide it could reach her ears.

“Guess what…?” Yeri repeats, her voice hoarse. “I say guess what, you woke me up in the middle of my sleep. It’s seven a. m. for corn’s sake!”

Irene sighs, but her mood is well-suited for banter. “Okay, it seems like you don’t want to hear the news so I’ll hang up.”

“Wait!” Yeri shouts. There’s a bit of shuffling that is heard. “Spill the tea!”

“Spill the what?” Irene furrows her brows. She places the phone on her shoulder and presses it on her ear while she cuts a slice of the pancake. The butter knife sinks through three soft layers of it.

Yeri groans on the other end, “Just tell me what’s the news!”

“Oh,” mutters the older girl.

“Well?”

“Seulgi… she… we’re dating!” Irene sinks her teeth on her bottom lip. She sips her hot drink before adding, “I confessed, and she did, too.”

“OMG!” Yeri gushes, now sounding even much more awake. “Are you sure?!”

“Why would I be making that u—“

“It’s just… this is really happening fast! I can’t believe you were able to snag her! Irene! It worked! Your plan worked!” Yeri is almost incoherent, and she keeps on making squealing noises.

Our plan has worked,” Irene reiterates while munching. “Also, we’re not official yet. Still at getting-to-know stage, but I think it will work out. I don’t mind the pace… slow down, speed up, I’m all good.”

“There’s a little more than two weeks left before we go.”

“I don’t even want to think about it,” Irene says, holding the phone back in her hand. She hasn’t really thought about it in the slightest: distance going in between them, separating them, far apart. “I just want to enjoy this while it lasts.”

This time, it’s Yeri who audibly sighs. “I’m seriously very happy for you, though.”

“Thanks,” she replies with smile. “I owe you one.”

“Of course, I’m Kim Yeri.” Yeri scoffs over the line. “I make things possible.”

 

 

 

 

Joy greets her with a, “So how did it go?” when she gets to the kiosk.

“Bad,” Seulgi lies, pulling the best frown she could. “I found out she actually doesn’t drink the blue lemonades she’s bought, and I was so disillusioned I stormed out of her house.”

It is a glaringly bright Thursday morning, and the air is thick and still. Joy is already perspiring from the humidity. She thinks she’s the one that’s going to melt instead of the ice cubes on their drinks.

“Eh?” Joy asks, baffled. The edge of the counter hits her lower back. “That’s what you got from it? That she’s nothing but a liar?”

Seulgi puffs her cheeks and nods.

Unni, I’m sorry but that’s so dumb!” Joy exclaims, crossing her arms. She never thought she’d see the day that she sides with Irene. “So what if she lied about the lemonade drinks? Don’t you get it?! She buys it just too see you! Irene took the all the trouble visiting our stall regularly because she has the fattest crush on you! C’mon, don’t go crying about being brokenhearted if you’re gonna overreact.”

“You’re the one who’s overreacting,” Seulgi answers, turning to the sink. Deep inside, she’s laughing.

Tch,” Joy loudly hisses. She wipes the sweat off her forehead with a handkerchief. “I don’t get you at all. I thought you were head over heels in love with Irene! She’s the best girl around, and you’re letting her slip away just because you want to angst over some damned blue lemonade bottles!”

“Date her then, if you want,” Seulgi says, grinning at the knife as she washes it.

Joy is lost. “What on earth is wrong with you?!”

Seulgi drops the knife on the sink, doubles over with a hand clamped over her mouth, and laughs out loud. She moves to look up at Joy, who is rendered dumbfounded in front of her, and she’s so red tears are coming out the corner of her eyes. She’s laughing so hard her stomach hurts, and that she’s growing another chin under the other.

“What’s so funny?” Joy looks almost pissed now.

“Sorry.” Seulgi is rubbing the tears from her eyes. “I was just messing with you.”

Joy goes from confusion to horrid realization to indignance. She lurches to her feet, and holds Seulgi by the shoulders and shakes her. “Unni! I can’t believe you!” She whines, like a kid whose toy got pried away by their parent. “I was so ready to fight you! Oh my god, I can’t really believe you did this to me!”

“Irene told me it was you who blew her cover,” Seulgi explains. The laughter has died down, the red in her cheeks fading. “You were right about her. She was indeed hiding something.”

“See? I told you! I might have just gone a bit overboard but I trust my gut-feeling.”

Seulgi sighs, darting her gaze far into the horizon. The sea and sky are infinite, just like what she’s feeling right now. “It’s all so surreal.”

Joy breaks contact with Seulgi and clasps her hands. “So, have you two kissed?”

“I wanted to,” Seulgi mutters, biting her lower lip. “But she said to save it for later. Under the stars.”

“She’s one hell of a romantic,” Joy opines. “Who would’ve thought? But then again, she did buy bottles of drinks she doesn’t even drink just to get closer to you. Not quite an analogy, but it’s like the little mermaid giving up her voice so she can walk on land and find the prince. Romantics go beyond where realists stop themselves.”

“Haven’t I told you how much I love having you around?” Seulgi asks.

“I know, unni.” Joy smiles, flattered. “I know.”

 

 

 

 

 

To: Irene ( ♡ 3  )

how’s your morning?

 Sent

 

From Irene (  ♡ 3  ♡  )

I’m great! :)

I jogged and stretched and made pancakes

I did some reading too

And a bit of cleaning!

Should I visit you?

 Seen 10.31

 

To: Irene (  3  )

oh dont bother

it’s hot out

 Sent

 

 

From: Irene (  3  )

Alright

Think you can join me for dinner later after work?

Let’s do it outside

What do you think?

 Seen 10.34

 

To: Irene ( ♡ 3  )

what do i think?

i cant wait until shift’s over!!!

i want to see uuuuu   

 Sent

 

From: Irene ( ♡ 3  )

Haha so clingy

Just kidding I can’t wait to see you toooooo 

By the way, did you dream of me? :p

 Seen 10.39

 

To: Irene (  3  )

i didnt

but i will keep dreaming about kissing you

 Sent

 

From: Irene (  3  )

Don’t worry

You don’t have to dream about it ;)

 Seen 10.42

 

To: Irene (  3  )

hahaha youre so funny

stop teasing me

i might get distracted from work

 Sent

 

From: Irene (  3  )

Whatever…

Anyway, wear your best clothes!

 Seen 10.45

 

 

To: Irene (  3  )

whats the point

youre just gonna take them off from me

 Sent

 

From: Irene (  3  )

Shut upppp that’s not what we’re gonna do tonight

 Seen 10.49

 

To: Irene (  3  )

okay i was just kidding… haha… unless?

 Sent

 

From: Irene (  3  )

GOOD BYE KANG SEULGI

GO BACK TO WORK

 Seen 10.52

 

To: Irene (  3  )

hahaha

i will ;)

see you later

 Sent

 

 

 

 

They are already cleaning up the kiosk for closing when Joy spots Wendy from afar and she crouches under the counter.

“Why?” Seulgi asks, collecting the bills from the register.

Wendy runs toward the stall, the wind pressing her loose tank top against her torso. Her hair is tied up and her earrings glint in the sunlight. When she settles on one of the stools in front of the counter, her skin is conspicuously damp.

“Where’s Joy?” she asks, panting.

“Uh…” Seulgi’s voice trails. There’s a tug on the hem of her pants, which could only mean that it’s Joy telling her to cover for her. “She’s already gone home.”

Wendy beams, “Well, that’s great! I didn’t really want to bump into her.”

Joy is gaping her mouth, shocked at the words that she just heard. But then again, she shouldn’t expect for her friend to be fine. They weren’t just meeting in the middle. Wendy’s confession has been too sudden, and she doesn’t really know how to deal with it.

They’ve been pals for three years, and perhaps Wendy has long been wanting to tell her, but couldn’t because she’s dating other guys. This summer where she’s free and single might have been her friend’s only chance.

“I don’t think you should say that,” Seulgi remarks. She’s transferring the earnings into a bag of Ziploc. She’ll have to submit it to the resort’s office later.

“No,” Wendy cuts in, putting her palms flat on the countertop. “It’s not that I’m holding a grudge or anything. I just… I don’t think I’m ready to pretend that I’m okay when I see her.”

God, I don’t want to hear any of this anymore, Joy thinks, puckering her lips in annoyance. She covers her ears with her hands, and begins to feel her legs are aching. However, the attempt to block the voices was futile.

“Do you really like her that much?” Seulgi stops whatever it is she’s doing and looks straight at Wendy.

“To a point that it hurts,” Wendy admits, staring down unhappily at her pale hands. She didn’t even cry after they talked at the bus stop, but loneliness rears its head in different forms. “I think I’m stupid. I mean, I knew what it was that I was running into and yet I still told her I love her, out of nowhere, all because I felt that it was the right moment. And now, I feel like my soul got sucked out of me.”

Joy hugs her knees and curls into it, woebegone.

Seulgi pats the top of Wendy’s head. “Love makes us do the stupidest things.”

Wendy snorts, “That’s what I heard them say. Anyway, wanna take this to the noraebang? Sing… and drink?”

“You’re drinking? Again?!”

“Nope.” Wendy wags a finger and corrects, “I’m drowning my sorrows.”

Joy almost groans in frustration. Come on, she thinks.

“I’d love to, but I can’t go,” Seulgi tells her.

“You’re letting me out there to die?!” Drinking alone is the worst; there’s no one else to share her ruminations with, and she’s left to wallow in her own thoughts.

“You see… I’m dating Irene now and I have to—“

“Wait a minute!” Wendy leans away from the counter, taken aback. Her eyes grew a size larger one would think her eyeballs might pop out. “Already?”

“No label to it yet,” Seulgi reveals timidly, drumming her fingers on the counter. “We’re still working on getting there.”

“My, Seulgi! I am so glad that you’ve finally sorted that one out. I knew she was into you!”

Wendy is awashed with relief. She doesn’t have to see Seulgi worrying about dealing with her feelings anymore. And for once, her friend is moving on from the pain of the past. It’s the best surprise she could get from this summer—deriving happiness from another’s happiness.

“Ah, what would I do without my friends,” Seulgi mutters, a hint of mirth glinting in her eyes. “Anyway, I am really sorry.”

“Okay,” Wendy says, resigned. “I guess I’ll have to sing my heart out all by myself. You enjoy your date with Irene, and don’t worry about me. Alright?”

“Alright.”

Beneath the counter, Joy is contemplating hard.

 

 

 

 

Seulgi puts on a purple floral dress that barely reaches her knees, two-inch heels, and wears her hair half-up. Then she dabs light makeup on her face, some rose lip tint on her lips, going for a simple look.

She is a bit jittery, but is also stoked to meet Irene.

Glancing one last time at the mirror, she exhales to release tension. I look neat and nice and I will impress her. That’s right, I will.

She can barely remember the last time she was in this get up. There were no formal university events that she had to attend, and she is basically unaffiliated, not part of any school organizations, or clubs, or sororities. It feels extremely nice to be adorned in something pretty, for once.

Seulgi arrives at their decided rendezvous – a restaurant that is a bit less affordable but anyone in town can vouch for its quality. However, she is stumped to find Irene conversing with a handsome guy - very comfortably, at that - and for a moment she wonders what it is about she’d get into.

Irene spots her in the sparsely crowded place, and waves a hand to call her over.

“Come here!” she yells, and when the girl approaches closer, she introduces the guy. “I bumped into my childhood friend, Sehun.”

Seulgi bows and shakes his hand, quite dazed.

“Sehun, this is… uh… my friend, Seulgi,” Irene stammers, gulping a spittle down her throat.

Seulgi thinks it is going to be a long night.