It starts snowing on the first day of school, and that doesn’t even make the list of the top three weirdest things to happen by homeroom.
The first weirdest thing is that Hyejoo shows up late.
“Where is she?” Jiwoo asks, frowning at the empty desk in front of her. WHERE ARE UUU, she texts, the fifth of similarly-worded messages she’s fired off in the past three minutes. The message marks itself as ✓ READ 8:18 AM, and then the telltale three dots appear. Jiwoo waits. The three dots disappear.
“Was she always this bad at texting?” Jiwoo says, tapping out a string of stressed-looking emojis.
“Stop worrying,” Yerim says, from beside her. She’s doodling a star on the corner of her desk with a purple glitter pen. “She probably got distracted by a dog on her way to school. We’ll never see her again.”
“It isn’t like her to be late,” Chaewon insists, twisted all the way around in her seat to talk to them. She looks unaffected, but her mechanical pencil is tapping a nervous rhythm against the back of her chair. “Remember that time she accidentally showed up an hour early? On a Saturday?”
Jiwoo darts a look at the front of the classroom. Their teacher’s still preoccupied with pretending not to play Solitaire on his desktop computer, so she pulls her phone out from her sleeve again, types: HAVE U BEEN KIDNAPPED BY ALIENS Y/N??
The three dots, again. Jiwoo waits with bated breath. Finally:
I’m coming. x 🥀
Jiwoo stares at it.
“Did she reply?” Chaewon asks, twisting a strand of pale hair around her finger. “She didn’t reply to me. What’d she say?”
“It’s some kind of alien code,” Jiwoo says.
Yerim peers at the screen over Jiwoo’s shoulder. “Whoa. Who hurt her?”
Which is when the second weird thing happens: Hyejoo slinks in through the classroom door, hood of her oversized black sweatshirt pulled low over her head, the chunky soles of her combat boots dragging against the floor.
“Whoa,” Yerim says. “Who hurt you?”
Hyejoo doesn’t say anything, just gets into her seat in front of Jiwoo. Their teacher doesn’t even notice. She starts taking books out of her bag, which has undergone a makeover with various pins and patches: skulls and broken hearts, a dagger dripping blood, Marceline from Adventure Time in bat form with fangs bared.
Jiwoo and Yerim exchange a glance. This calls for delicate measures.
Slowly, Jiwoo reaches forward, and pokes Hyejoo’s back with her pencil.
Hyejoo turns around. “What?” Her eyes are rimmed with heavy black liner. “I told you I was coming.”
“Hyejoo,” Jiwoo says very seriously, still poking with her pencil. “Have you been possessed by an alien consciousness? Blink if yes.”
Hyejoo swats her away. “I’m fine.”
“I like the new look,” Yerim says cheerfully. “You look so cool! Like you’re gonna beat me up for my lunch money! What do you think, Chaewon?”
Chaewon is staring. Eyes wide and startled. At Yerim’s question, though, she snaps out of it, shakes her head.
“It looks, uhh, really good,” she says, and then, clearing her throat: “You look really good.”
“Seriously?” Jiwoo demands. “This is the girl who cries at puppy videos and can't talk to strangers! Come on. Did you secretly join a gang? Are you on the run? Did you have to change your identity? I won’t tell, I promise!”
It’s no use. Hyejoo has returned to furiously unloading supplies from her bookbag. The tips of her ears, poking out from under her hood, are flushed red.
Weird, Jiwoo thinks, narrowing her eyes. That makes three.
But it’s junior year. Anything may as well happen, right?
Like Jungeun Kim taking red-lipsticked selfies in the front row, whose vlog channel exploded in subscribers during the summer after she and senior cheerleader Jinsol Jung officially became an item. Or Yerim, who went on extended vacation to Los Angeles while Jiwoo was stuck making smoothies for minimum wage and returned half an inch taller, surpassing the height at which they’d remained faithfully identical since puberty. One moment ago they were all pimply preteens making dubsmash videos in Jiwoo’s room, and now even baby-faced Hyejoo is growing up. Jiwoo sighs, chin propped up on her palm, idly twirling a pencil in her hand. She’s the only one still stuck in the same place, it seems, while everyone else is discovering themselves, or love, or Evanescence. It’s so unfair.
The screen in the corner of the classroom flickers to life. After a truly painful animation of the school’s logo, complete with bouncing PowerPoint transitions, the feed cuts to two girls sitting at a desk, blinking into the camera.
“Good morning, Blockberry High,” the first girl says, a beat late, sitting straight-backed with a neutral expression on her face. “Welcome back to another exciting school semester! I’m Hyunjin Kim, and I’ll be one of your student announcers for the year.”
The other girl grins straight into the camera. “What’s uppppp, Blockberries!” Hyunjin’s smile wavers, but stays strong. “I’m Heejin Jeon, your trusty co-announcer!” She sticks her thumb and forefinger into a V, and slots it under her chin, posing. “Together, we’re 2Jin. You can count on us for all the information you’ll need to survive this year!”
“Thank you, Heejin,” Hyunjin says, not once breaking eye contact with the camera. “First, a congratulations to senior student Haseul Jo, who has become a final candidate for a prestigious scholarship to the Icelandic Academy of the Arts.”
“Way to go!” Heejin breaks into applause that echoes a bit too loudly on her mic, sending a bout of grating feedback through the school, then pulls her hand into a fist pump. “Good luck, Haseul—we’re all rooting for you!”
“Yo, when did Heejin get a conch piercing?” Yerim whispers in Jiwoo’s ear. “It looks good.”
Jiwoo pouts down at her desk, still sulking. “Should I get a conch piercing?”
Yerim stares at her. “Are you crazy?”
“Next, a reminder that soccer tryouts are tomorrow in the gym before school, bright and early at 7 AM.” Hyunjin says. A glint enters her eye. “Let’s bring the Blockberry Bobcats to victory this season!” She stares into the camera unblinkingly; the or else is clear. Jiwoo shivers.
“And don’t forget that the annual talent show is back on this year,” Heejin chimes in.
Jiwoo perks up. Yes! The talent show! Her time to shine!
But Heejin’s still talking. “Sadly, our music teacher is away on maternity leave, so this year’s auditions will be overseen by a senior student volunteer instead. In fact, she’s here now to give you all some more info on the talent show. Take it away, Yves!”
“Yves?” Yerim hisses. “Did she say Yves?”
On screen, a girl in blazer and skirt—ridiculous, Blockberry High doesn’t even have uniforms—steps into frame. A swish of her long black hair, silky smooth and luxuriously straight. Yves looks up, into the camera, and smiles.
Jiwoo’s pencil snaps in half in her hand.
And as if on cue, outside, the first flakes begin to fall.
WATCH: my girlfriend does my makeup + Q&A
kimlippie 82,456 views 6.3k likes 70 dislikes
u guys are such couple goals, even ur hair matches. lipsoul otp!!
Omg it’s so cute that you guys got together after jinsol puked on your shoes at a party and fell asleep in your bathtub <3
where can i buy that gay rights shirt
In the cafeteria, Jiwoo pokes at one of the fries on her plate with her finger. The fry wobbles. She pokes it again. It wobbles. She pokes it again. It wobbles.
“Heh,” she says. “Heh.”
“What’s wrong with her?” Chaewon says.
“I don’t know, but it’s scaring me,” Yerim stage whispers back.
“Leave her alone,” Hyejoo says, not looking up from the angry black scribbles in her notebook. “She’s clearly being tortured by some deep psychological struggle right now.” She nods sagely. The line of studs and piercings along the shell of her ear bobs up and down. “You guys don’t get it.”
Yerim scratches her head. “Okay, now I know something’s really wrong, but I just can’t quite put my finger on what.”
Jiwoo snaps her head up. “What’s wrong? Nothing’s wrong! I’m fine!” As if to prove her point, she snatches up the fry and eats it. “Mmmm. Fries.”
Yerim points a finger at her accusingly. “Something’s up with you, I can tell. You’ve been acting weird for the past week. Staring into space and laughing nervously to yourself. Don’t your cheeks hurt from pulling that soulless smile?”
Jiwoo only grins wider. “It’s nothing!” she singsongs through her gritted teeth.
“Nuh-uh!” Yerim leans in, up close and personal, and stares straight into Jiwoo’s eyes. Oh crap. Jiwoo tries to hold them open for as long as she can, but in the end, she blinks first.
“Fine, you win,” Jiwoo says, furiously blinking away the moisture in her eyes. “It’s no big deal, alright? I’m just thinking. About things.”
“Never a good sign,” Chaewon agrees, eyes wide and serious.
“Things?” Yerim prompts.
Jiwoo scuffs the toes of her shoes back and forth against the floor. “Things... like... the talent show,” she mumbles.
“What! You’re nervous about the talent show? You love dancing in the talent show!” Yerim gasps in horror. “Don’t tell me—you’re not participating this year?”
“No, I am,” Jiwoo says. “I just... I just don’t see why she has to be involved with it.”
She immediately stuffs another handful of fries into her mouth to avoid taking any more questions. Everyone else follows her gaze to one of the bright shiny posters taped up on the cafeteria wall. A gleaming smile, a glassy stare: VOTE YVES HA FOR STUDENT COUNCIL PRESIDENT (AGAIN)!
“Yves?” Yerim says. “I thought it was kinda weird she was in charge of auditions, but it kinda makes sense, too. She’s been student council president for the last three years, hasn’t she?”
“I heard she used to be a model,” Chaewon says.
“I heard she dances ballet.”
“I heard she studied abroad in Europe.”
“I heard she’s a Gemini,” Hyejoo adds darkly.
Yerim pouts. “What’s that supposed to mean? I’m a Gemini!”
Jiwoo rapidly swallows her food so she can keep this from going on any further. “Why do you all know so much about her! What are you, obsessed?”
Yerim and Chaewon blink at her.
“We’re not obsessed,” Chaewon says. “She just naturally grabs a lot of attention, doesn’t she?”
“She does,” Jiwoo says morosely.
“And she’s so pretty,” Yerim sighs, clasping her hands to her chest.
“She is,” Jiwoo agrees sadly.
Yerim peers at her. “I didn’t know you were close with her. What, are you friends?”
“No,” Jiwoo says, glum. “She’s my mortal enemy.”
Even Hyejoo is staring at her now. Judgmentally, from over the top of her sandwich, which, okay, if she’s eating egg salad from the cafeteria, she’s got nothing to be acting superior about.
“Yves?” Yerim repeats. “Did she do something? Did she say something mean? Oh my god, did she pretend to be your friend just so she could use you for your math homework until she got bored and dropped you like a hot potato and spread a rumour around the whole school that you had mono?”
“That’s weirdly specific,” Chaewon says. “Also, Jiwoo sucks at math.”
“Hold up,” Hyejoo says, slowly. “Are you, by any chance, jealous of Yves?”
“No!” Jiwoo knocks over her juicebox in her vehemence.
Hyejoo squints at her. “Then... do you want to be her friend?”
Jiwoo can feel her face burning. She sips furiously from her juicebox, and keeps on sucking even when there’s nothing left.
“No,” Jiwoo says when she has to eventually come up for air, but it's too weak and too late. She can see the light of misunderstanding dawn upon all three of her friends’ faces, one after another. Like a set of traffic lights. Green, yellow, red for STOP THINKING RIGHT NOW BEFORE YOU GET THE WRONG IDEA.
“It’s not like that!” Jiwoo yells, making an X with her arms. “Why would I want to be her friend, anyway? She’s Yves. She’s too pretty, too tall, too good at everything! She doesn’t even know me!”
“Poor baby,” Yerim cooes. “Don’t be shy! She'd love you. It’s impossible not to. You’re like a Disney princess. Talking animals would probably want to follow you everywhere.”
Jiwoo slaps her palms against her reddening cheeks. “I don’t want talking animals!”
“Really? Not even baby ducklings? Bunnies? Tiny adorable kitties?”
“A wolf,” Hyejoo pipes up dreamily.
Yerim wrinkles her nose. “You sure about that one?”
Jiwoo waves her hands wildly. “Hello! We’re talking about my problem here!”
“Which is what, exactly?” Chaewon says, not looking up from her phone.
“That Yves isn’t a talking baby duckling,” Yerim says, pinching Jiwoo’s cheeks.
“I’m telling you,” Jiwoo says, through the stretch of her cheeks. “She’s gonna see me make a fool of myself at the talent show auditions and we’re gonna be enemies for life. I’m gonna have to move schools and change my name and grow out my bangs. You’ll see.”
“That’s the spirit,” Yerim says, serene, and steals the last of the fries from Jiwoo’s plate.
Written on the wall of the last stall on the second floor girl’s bathroom:
i wanted to despise you
but my heart won’t let you go
they say that time heals
but even those words become pain for me
i couldn’t get over you
^ damn shakespeare u ok?
FUCK DA HATERZZZ
HJJ + HJK <3
The truth is, Yves didn’t do anything. She didn’t say anything mean. She didn’t even pretend to be Jiwoo’s friend just so she could use her for her math homework until she got bored and dropped her like a hot potato and spread a rumour around the whole school that she had mono.
No, what happened was way worse than that.
The first time Jiwoo met Yves Ha, it was winter.
Back then, Jiwoo was only a freshman. So she actually ran when she was late for school. It wasn’t such a smart idea, though she didn’t realize it until she was already skidding on the ice. Her bag went flying, her arms flailing. Her decidedly short and inadequate life—too much time spent watching dramas where the couple worth rooting for didn't even end up together, not enough dogs petted—flashed before her eyes in a whirlwind of snow and sky.
A warm grip around her waist.
“Are you okay?”
Jiwoo stared up at her saviour. A fall of long, black hair; eyes wide in concern. Her lips rosy pink, cheeks flushed in the cold.
Snow was falling down all around them. Like a scene from a romance movie. Or maybe a forewarning of disaster.
In a moment Jiwoo would never, ever admit to anyone, she found out Yves smelled faintly of apples.
“Um,” Jiwoo said.
Then she realized the position they were in, and yelped. Scrambled to stand upright, shoving Yves away.
“Hahaha,” Jiwoo said. “I’m so clumsy.” She had an urge to pull the drawstrings of her coat taut, hiding her face in her oversized puffy hood forever.
In the distance, the school bell rang. Jiwoo seized upon it like an escape route.
“Well, bye!” Jiwoo made a run for it. Clearly, she hadn’t learned anything from her near-brush with a concussion. There was a far greater threat to avoid, after all.
“Excuse me,” Yves called after her. “Is this your Naruto phone charm? I think it fell off.”
“I’VE NEVER SEEN THAT BEFORE IN MY LIFE,” Jiwoo shouted.
“Oh,” Yves said. “Okay.”
And then she pocketed it.
Jiwoo’s mind short-circuited.
“Um,” Jiwoo said.
Yves smiled at her, which wasn’t a fair move to pull when Jiwoo was still trying to think of a way to ask for the charm back. Like, oh, I think that belongs to my good friend Jungeun. Jungeun Kim, you know her? Tall and talks too much and totally uncool? Yeah, her taste in anime is so entry level. Now can I please just take that back so I can throw it at her head.
Yves walked away.
Jiwoo walked into a snowbank.
That winter was the city’s worst ever recorded blizzard.
Until now, that is.
“Meteorologists are calling this the freak storm of the century,” Hyunjin says on the screen. “We haven’t had snowfall this early in the year since... well, ever.”
“Better break out your gloves and scarves!” Heejin says, and then turns to her co-announcer. “Hey, Hyunjin, aren’t you glad for this weather?”
Hyunjin blinks slowly, caught in mid-shuffle of her announcement papers. “Why?”
“Because you’re a snow angel,” Heejin says without skipping a beat.
A long pause. They stare at each other, Heejin’s smile still plastered on her face.
“Um,” Hyunjin says. “Tomorrow’s lunch special is mac and cheese?”
At her locker, Jiwoo sucks in a breath. Blows it back out again, her bangs flying up. Nods determinedly at her reflection in the tiny mirror taped to the back of her locker, and slams it shut.
Someone flicks her ponytail. She turns around to see Jungeun, sauntering away down the hall in the midst of the after-school crush.
“Break a leg!” Jungeun calls over her shoulder. “Remember your superpower!”
Jiwoo cups her hands around her mouth. “I WILL!”
But her smile fades fast when she stares down the door of the auditorium. Relax, she tells herself. You’ve auditioned for the talent show so many times, by now. You’ve practiced your routine enough to perform it in your sleep. What’s so scary about it, now?
She imagines Yves watching her, eyes tracing every step, every spin on the stage, and shivers.
“Stop it,” she huffs out loud, and pushes open the door.
As she’s waiting in line backstage with the rest of the other candidates—a group of guys in bucket hats, two magicians eyeing each other in animosity, a girl with a yoyo—she starts to doubt whether or not Yves is even here. Maybe she just imagined the announcement in a fever dream. It seems like something she would do. She puts on one of her brightest smiles to cheer herself up, and the student volunteer in charge of watching the line casts her a wary look, blowing a shiny pink bubble with her gum.
Her phone buzzes. It’s from Yerim.
so happy for you omg 😭
WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT I HAVEN’T EVEN PERFORMED YET!!
not that silly, can’t believe you’re finally realizing your dream of meeting yves in person
I’M NEVER TALKING TO YOU AGAIN!!!!!!
love you too 💜
“Next,” says the student volunteer, popping her bubble, and Jiwoo glances up from her phone to realize that there’s nobody left standing before her. She’s next.
“Coming right up!” Jiwoo chirps, forgetting her own plight for a moment. When it hits her again the smile drops from her face so fast the student volunteer visibly startles. Jiwoo pastes the smile back on, but it only seems to disturb her further, edging backward and away. Great. That’s got to bode well for her audition. Jiwoo sighs, takes another deep breath, and plunges forward through the wings of the stage to her doom.
Her footsteps echo loudly against the floor, taking her to centre stage. The auditorium is empty, save for the front row, where a lone figure sits. Dark hair perfectly parted down the middle. Blazer and skirt. Blank smile on her face.
It feels like Jiwoo’s swallowed a butterfly. Or maybe a whole flock of birds.
“It is you,” Jiwoo blurts.
Yves blinks at her. “Excuse me?”
Jiwoo’s face burns. “I didn’t say anything!”
Yves arches an eyebrow. “Right,” she says. A clearing of her throat. “Could you introduce your name, your grade, and the routine you’ll be auditioning with, please?”
Straight to business, then. Not that there’s anything else that would be happening here. Jiwoo’s traitorous palms are sweating. She wipes them surreptitiously on her dress. “My name is Jiwoo Kim, I’m a junior, and I’m going to perform a dance routine,” she rattles off, the corners of her mouth pointed perfectly upward. Perhaps a bit too perfectly. Yves is eyeing her with a look not unlike that of the terrified volunteer Jiwoo’d left backstage. She bites her lip, racks her brain for something to make her seem less intense, more approachable. “Um, I’m a Libra?”
Yves’ pen pauses over her notepad. “Sorry?”
Jiwoo darts her gaze around desperately. “Music, start!”
The music, thankfully, starts, launching Jiwoo straight out of disaster and into the steps she knows by heart like a fine-tuned Pavlovian reaction. She tries to lose herself as best as she can in the rhythm, to concentrate on the click of her heels against the stage, but the spotlight’s got nothing on Yves’ focused gaze, quietly burning like a candle down to its quick, and Jiwoo’s the melting stub of wax, or else a moth, flitting around her in circles on the stage. SURELY YOU’RE MY DESTINY, the speakers belt out, and Jiwoo flings out her arms, wonders if Yves still smells like apples.
When the song ends, she holds her ending pose as long as she can, arms thrust out in the air, chest heaving, smile straining on her face.
The scratch of pen against paper.
“Fine,” Yves says eventually, and then, a little lower, almost a mumble, like Jiwoo wasn’t intended to catch it: “Cute.”
Jiwoo’s head spins.
“Thank you,” Yves says, looking up from her notepad. “That’ll be all. The results will be out in a few days.”
“Thank you,” Jiwoo grits out through her teeth. Spins around and somehow makes it off the stage, and out the door.
Outside, the snowstorm is in full blast.
I’m declaring war on Yves Ha.
“This week’s soccer game against the Polaris Panthers was postponed due to the weather.” Hyunjin narrows her eyes at the camera. “Again. Of course, this doesn’t mean practice is cancelled, so all of you better show up on the field after school today. The snow’ll give us a real edge against our next opponents.” She sighs. “Whenever that will be.”
“That’s too bad,” Heejin says, swaddled in a thick scarf and sweater beside her, “because you’re a real keeper.”
“Actually, I’m a forward,” Hyunjin says, her face utterly blank. But a corner of her mouth twitches, imperceptibly.
Heejin misses it, if her groan is any indication. “That’s not what I—okay. Anyway. Moving on.” She pushes her round-rimmed glasses up the bridge of her nose with her palm. “Reminder to all students that there is to be absolutely no snowball fighting on the school premises, no matter how funny the look on your friend’s face is when you nail them in the back of the head.” She smiles wistfully, gazing into the distance as though lost in deep memory. Hyunjin coughs politely, and she snaps back out of it. “Right. No snowballs. Oh, and one more thing: the results for the upcoming talent show will be out tomorrow! So to all our talented Blockberries waiting out there, you’ve got that to look forward to!”
Jiwoo is not looking forward to anything. Quite the contrary, in fact.
“She said CUTE,” Jiwoo says, slamming her fists on the table. “Can you believe that?”
Across the table, Vivi hums noncommittally. Keeps sketching in her book.
“She didn’t say it was spectacular, or showstopping, or even good. She said it was cute. What’s that supposed to mean!”
They’re in the art room. Technically, Vivi’s the only one who’s supposed to be there, as a senior working on her final art portfolio. But Jiwoo always likes coming here, for the crayons and paints they’ve got handy for stress relief, and also for Vivi, the greatest conversationalist Jiwoo’s ever met. Jiwoo doesn’t often hang out with seniors, but Vivi’s different. She’s cool. She’s an exchange student from Hong Kong and doesn’t treat Jiwoo like a baby. Yeah, she mostly just sits there and ignores Jiwoo turning the peaceful, quiet atmosphere everybody else probably comes here for on its head, but she doesn’t kick her out, either, which is the most Jiwoo can ask for.
“I mean, who says that?” Jiwoo clutches at her face. “Who would just, like, say that to another person? Was she trying to kill me? I haven’t done anything to deserve that! I’m innocent!”
“Maybe it was something you said,” Vivi suggests. Her voice is low, every syllable slow and soft. It’s like listening to a warm, wise oracle of truth. “Have you thought of that?”
Jiwoo thinks back to the approximately 1.5 conversations she’s had with Yves by now. It isn’t a pleasant thought. “Ridiculous,” she says. “A talent show judge should stay neutral! Impartial! Unbiased to the conversational skills of the contestant!”
“Orrrrrrr,” Vivi says, dragging the word out long and deliberate, “maybe it was something you didn’t say.”
Jiwoo freezes. “What? What are you talking about?”
Vivi shrugs. “I dunno,” she says, returning to her sketchbook. “Just wondering why you’re telling me all this, and not her.”
Jiwoo blanches. She imagines it—marching up to Yves, opening her mouth. That’s about as far as she gets into the fantasy: her standing there with her mouth open, Yves standing there waiting, a patron saint of patience. She raps on her own head to try and get the vision moving forward, but it’s stuck like a frozen TV screen. Something wrong with the hardware, evidently.
“Vivi, you’ve got to help me,” Jiwoo pleads, clutching Vivi’s arm. “You’re a senior. You’re old and mature and whatever. You’re experienced with these things, right?”
“With dating?” Vivi speaks up, still focused on her drawing. “Sorry, I haven’t met anyone special yet.”
“Really?” Jiwoo says, narrowing her eyes. “But you’re, like, the dream girl. No one’s confessed to you yet in an embarrassing display in front of your locker?” Then the context of the conversation sinks in. Jiwoo’s mouth drops open. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN, DATING?”
Vivi sets down her pencil and lifts up her sketchbook to show Jiwoo the drawing she’s been working on. It’s a doodle of Jiwoo, her eyes screwed up tight and her tiny fists flailing, jumping up into the air. An arrow is shot straight through her heart, labelled YVES in neat letters.
“You’re evil,” Jiwoo gasps in realization.
Vivi’s eyes crinkle up into half moons.
Jiwoo jumps to her feet. “You’ve defiled the purity of the sacred art room with all your dating talk,” she declares. Her voice cracks embarrassingly on the word dating, but she forges on. “I can never come back here again. Goodbye.”
Vivi waves at her on her way out, which is when it occurs to Jiwoo that maybe this was her plan for getting rid of her from the beginning. That girl is diabolical. Jiwoo shudders. Seniors.
2018 TALENT SHOW FINAL RESULTS, Page 1
BAE, Yubin: Song
BAEK, Jiheon: Guitar
CHOI, Yoojung: Dance
JEON, Jungkook: Drums
KANG, Rena: Rap
KIM, Jiwoo: Dance
KIM, Yerim: Song
LEE, Mark: Rap
An early snowfall does have its perks, once you get used to the roads of slush and the radio channels deciding to confuse the entire world by playing holiday music before Halloween’s even close to rolling around. For one, the shops are all scrambling to bring in their winter lines, meaning Jiwoo snags a ton of cute fall pieces to wear next year for a steal. Also, nobody wants to buy smoothies in this weather, so Jiwoo can usually spend her shifts pretending to sweep the floors while her coworker Yeojin plays phone games behind the counter. Not bad for a September that has the nerve to turn dark outside at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
“Yo, Jiwoo,” Yeojin says. She’s wearing fuzzy rainbow socks that end high above her winter boots and there’s a pencil sticking out of one of the four buns in her hair. “Remember that time you missed your shift and I covered for you by telling the manager your pet frog died?”
Jiwoo pauses in the middle of lip syncing into her broom handle like a microphone. “What do you need?”
“Why do you think I need anything? I’m just saying. Anyway, something came up this weekend and I was wondering if you could cover my shift for me. Thanks so much, you’re the best!”
Jiwoo eyes her suspiciously. “Why, what’s this weekend?”
“Nothing,” Yeojin says, not looking up from her phone game, but she’s such a bad liar, her entire mouth twitches like it’s allergic to itself. Jiwoo stalks over with her broom, leans across the counter and stares.
“Ugh, you ruined my combo! Okay, fine!” Yeojin slams her phone down, crosses her arms. “I’ve got a date or whatever.”
Jiwoo shrieks loud enough to wake the dead, including any fictitious pet frogs. “WHAT! But you’re a baby!”
Yeojin throws a plastic lid at Jiwoo’s head. “You’re so annoying! See if I ever lie for you again!”
“Yeojin Im, you get back here,” Jiwoo says, lunging over the counter, broomstick still clasped in hand. “When did this happen? Who is it? How old are they? What's their Instagram?”
Yeojin, to her credit, puts on quite a chase around the empty shop and doesn’t give up a single lick of information, no matter how hard Jiwoo wheedles. Since when had she built up an immunity to Jiwoo’s charms, Jiwoo wonders. And besides—Yeojin is a baby, no matter the fearlessness with which she faces their manager or a demanding customer or the world. Jiwoo was the one to train her when she started working, face full of puberty-induced acne and braces on her teeth. Now Yeojin practically runs the place. Everyone is growing so fast! Even winter’s come early! It isn’t supposed to be like this! Is it?
The ring of the bell on the door.
“Welcome,” Jiwoo says automatically, putting her customer service smile back on as she spins around on her heel, and then just keeps on spinning.
“Uhhhh,” Yeojin says. “I can help you over here?”
“Thanks,” says Yves fucking Ha, shaking the snow from her hair like a real-life shampoo commercial. Jiwoo gets caught up in watching and almost trips over herself. Yeojin shoots her a look—it could read either are you okay or are you having a seizure; Jiwoo chooses to believe in the first—as she takes the order. Yves glances in her direction, once, and Jiwoo immediately goes back to sweeping the floor. Spotless as it is.
“Hi,” Yves says. Jiwoo is still attacking a spot on the floor that’s probably just part of the tile pattern, so she almost misses when she says: “It’s Jiwoo, right?”
Jiwoo whips her head up. Yeojin is working the smoothie machine. Yves is waiting by the counter, head tilted slightly, looking straight at her.
“From the auditions,” Yves says. “I remember you.” She smiles. “I’m Yves.”
“I know,” Jiwoo says.
Behind the counter, Yeojin’s eyebrows shoot up. The smoothie machine whirs faster.
“I mean, uh,” Jiwoo says. “Yeah. I remember you, too.” She’s gripping the broomstick so tight she may as well be strangling it. “Um! Nice to see you!”
Beyond all belief, Yves is somehow still smiling. The apples of her cheeks are pink from the cold. “I really liked it.”
“Your performance. I’m excited to see it in the talent show.”
“Really?” Jiwoo feels like she’s watching the scene unfold on a screen rather than living it. This is the part where she would chuck popcorn at the screen, griping with Jungeun over the sloppiness of the script. “Ah... wow. I mean, thank you! It means a lot!” This is where Jungeun would start imitating the protagonist’s nervous laughter, and then they would probably stop the movie and put on Stranger Things instead. Come on, Jiwoo; something genuine. Something real. “I’m not the best at dance, but it’s really fun!”
Yves shrugs. “It was refreshing, among all the aspiring rappers we had sign up.” A hint of teeth, then, in her smile. “I thought you did perfectly fine.”
“Cute?” Jiwoo says without thinking.
“One medium Raspberry Peach Burst!” Yeojin announces, plopping the smoothie on the counter with a thud. “That’ll be $7.79!”
Yves’ smile wavers. Jiwoo’s heart goes out to her. It’s practically highway robbery.
“Thanks,” Yves says, and pulls out her wallet.
Jiwoo drops the broom.
There, hanging off Yves’ wallet: Naruto's winking face, sticking his tongue out at her.
“You,” Jiwoo says.
Yves turns to her again. “Me?”
Jiwoo tries again. “That.”
Is that a flicker of—something, some emotion suspiciously close to amusement—on her face?
Jiwoo narrows her eyes. The flicker disappears. Yves’ smile is perfectly even, wiped clear of any clues. There is only the slight tilt of her head, waiting, expectant.
“Nothing,” Jiwoo mumbles. “Sorry.”
“Oh,” Yves says. The smile is gone. When did that happen?
Yves puts her wallet back in her purse, takes her smoothie. She’s not even wearing any gloves, Jiwoo thinks petulantly. Her fingers are gonna freeze. Who gets a smoothie in this weather, anyway?
“Okay.” A pause. “I’ll see you around, then.”
The bell rings, again. A brief burst of winter wind, and then the door is closing behind her.
Jiwoo sinks into one of the stools at the juice bar and sighs.
Yeojin is waiting for her, leant across the counter in an eerie reversal of their earlier positions. “Who was that?”
“You don’t know Yves Ha? Our student council president? God, Yeojin, it’s like you don’t care about the state of our school at all.”
Yeojin stares at her. “Uh... ’kay.”
Jiwoo sighs, again. A wave of dizziness has come upon her. She feels like an 18th-century heroine, ready to swoon at the first sign of adversity. Jungeun always hates watching period dramas, though, so Jiwoo doesn’t have any experience that can help her now.
“Does this mean you’ve got connections?” Yeojin says. “Can we get more pizza lunch days? Also, when’s the school gonna build more bathrooms? The one on the second floor is always crowded as fuck. What’s up with that?”
Outside, the snowstorm has already swallowed up any traces of Yves. There’s nothing to even show that she was ever here, except the dollar she left in the tip jar. She lets Yeojin keep it, and sweeps up the last of the snow tracked in from the floors.
untitled #12 by oliviahye | Free Listening on SoundCloud
360 plays 23 likes 7 reposts
saychuu at 0:04: OMG HYEJOO THIS IS AMAZING
heej at 0:52: nice hmu if u ever wanna collab
choerry at 1:08: these lyrics are kinda dark... if you ever need someone to talk to i’m here bb <3
princesschae at 2:16: I’ve been listening to this a lot lately... it’s nice. Lol
“Hey, Blockberries! Before you all get out for the weekend, just a reminder that last-minute talent show tickets can still be purchased on the school website, or at the door. Everyone's all looking forward to the show, so don't miss out!” Heejin winks into the camera. “Hey, Hyunjin. Are you a spotlight?”
“Why,” Hyunjin says, not even looking up from her papers. “Because I shine so bright?”
Heejin’s mouth opens and closes like a fish.
“I was gonna say, because you’re really hot.” She shoots a finger gun at her. “But that too.”
Hyunjin snorts, wrinkling her nose. “Mine is way more inspired.”
Heejin looks offended. “But mine gets the point across way faster!”
Hyunjin just shakes her head sadly. “Oh, Heejin. You’re slipping.”
Heejin’s mouth drops open in outrage, just moments before a PowerPoint transition takes the screen to a slide advertising a student discount at Chipotle.
That’s all Jiwoo sees before she’s hurtling out the school doors, running for the bus.
“Wait!” she shouts, sprinting through the snow. “Wait for me!”
The bus, miraculously, waits for her. She clambers on board sweaty and cold at the same time, which is the worst feeling she’s ever experienced, probably, and sinks into the first empty seat she sees, still panting for breath.
“Are you okay?”
Oh, no. This is the worst feeling she’s ever experienced. The slow, dawning horror as she looks up, and realizes just who she’s sitting next to. The bus has already lurched into motion, so it’s far too late to make a break for it.
“Do you want some water?” Yves asks, and starts unzipping her bag, as though she’s going to offer Jiwoo her water bottle. Jiwoo almost has a heart attack at the thought, and has to frantically wave her palms at her, shaking her head.
“I’m fine!” Jiwoo wheezes. “Or at least, I will be!”
Or at least—she would be, if she weren’t huffing and puffing next to Yves, sitting tall and poised in her graceful concern. Like a swan. Which would make Jiwoo a baby penguin, probably, a ball of sodden fur struggling in the shallows.
“You sure?” Yves asks, the line of her brow skeptical, and Jiwoo nods up and down, a smile on her face that she can’t feel.
A few minutes pass by in unnerving not-quite silence, like the dripping of a tap. Jiwoo is hyperaware of every movement: Yves brushing her hair behind her ear, turning to look out the window, shifting in her seat. Finally, when Jiwoo can’t take it anymore, she turns to Yves at her side.
“I’m really not as out of shape as I seem,” Jiwoo bursts out, right as Yves says, “You should dress warmer.”
They blink at each other, caught out.
“What?” Jiwoo says.
Yves coughs. “Even though it’s only September, it’s snowing outside. You should dress warmly.”
“I’m warm!” Jiwoo protests.
Yves raises a disbelieving eyebrow. “Your ears are bright red.”
“That’s—” Jiwoo shuts up. “You’re the one not even wearing gloves!”
Yves startles. “Gloves?” She looks down at her bare palms, shrugs. “That’s what pockets are for.”
“Unacceptable,” Jiwoo insists, and she darts out a hand before Yves can realize anything, closes it around Yves’ wrist. “See! You’re cold as ice!” She slips off one of her own mittens and tugs it down over Yves’ hand.
“What’s the point of this?” Yves says. “Now we’ve both got one cold hand.”
“But we’ve also both got one warm hand,” Jiwoo says.
Yves is staring at her, eyes wide in surprise. But her mouth is doing something funny. Jiwoo stares in dull shock: Yves is almost always smiling, whenever Jiwoo sees her, but this is the first time Jiwoo’s heard her laugh.
“I can’t argue with that logic,” Yves says, and she flicks Jiwoo’s forehead with her newly mittened hand.
“Ow!” Most of the blow was cushioned by the wool, but Jiwoo screws up her face anyway. “What was that for?”
“Nothing.” Yves smiles, innocent.
They’re not even friends. They don’t even know each other. They shouldn’t be joking around like this. Jiwoo pinches her own cheeks, squashes the nervous flutter of her chest. Turns to peer at Yves, out of the corner of her eye. The girl next to her wearing one fluffy pink mitten, at odds against her matching coat and skirt, her unruffled elegance.
“Why do you always look at me like that?”
Jiwoo startles. “What?”
Yves’ eyes are narrowed. “I said, why do you always look at me like that?”
“Like what? I don’t look at you like anything! I don’t look at you at all!”
Yves purses her lips. Jiwoo expects further argument, but to her surprise, it doesn’t come.
“Okay,” Yves says instead, and looks away.
Jiwoo panics. That wasn’t how it was supposed to go. But how was it supposed to go, exactly? She slips her phone out of her pocket, taps out a message with her non-mittened hand: SOS can u be arrested for looking at somebody
Her phone buzzes a few minutes later. girl you need to get some sleep. She can practically hear it in Yerim’s pitying voice. Jiwoo sighs, stuffs the phone back into her pocket.
They’ve lapsed back into a silence. Yves is turned away, looking out the window. The bus rolls unevenly over hills and potholes, but at least the heating’s turned on. Jiwoo is toasty warm in her seat, like she’s swaddled in her blankets at home, in her bed. She sinks further down into her puffy coat. Outside, through the fogged windows, the skies are already darkening, mistaking the hour for later than it really is. Jiwoo yawns. She’s always bogged down by a deep exhaustion these days, whether from the relentless ache of rehearsals or the drowsy downpull of winter. Yerim’s right. She just needs a good night’s sleep, and then she’ll be back to normal again. Bright, cheerful Jiwoo Kim, a smiling vitamin full of energy. Her eyelids flutter.
She opens them to a faceful of warm fleece.
This isn’t my pillow, Jiwoo thinks, and then: oh, no.
She jerks up, backward, like she’s been stung by a bee, off Yves’ shoulder, where she’d somehow managed to fall asleep.
“I’m so sorry!” Jiwoo shouts, face burning. “I don’t know what came over me.”
“It’s okay,” Yves says. “You looked like you needed it.”
Her smile reads as weirdly tentative. So much for being a vitamin—Jiwoo’s made this awkward for everyone. She hurriedly pats down her hair, gathers her bag.
“That’s my stop!” Jiwoo announces, a bit too loudly, and scrambles for the door.
It isn’t her stop. She trudges home through the snow, one hand freezing in the cold. But the walk is longer than she’d expected, and the wind is howling something awful. Jiwoo squints forward, at her path through the darkness. Funny. It almost seems as though the trees are tilting sideways; as though the world is going fuzzy. Bad static.
She does still smell like apples, Jiwoo thinks, before everything turns dark.
Blockberry Bobcats @blockberryhigh
WARNING: temperatures are dropping to an all-time low tonight. Call a ride—do not walk home through the storm! #snowstorm #weatheradvisory #blockberryhigh
3 Retweets 9 Likes
bean @frogyeojin Replying to @blockberryhigh
@blockberryhigh Lol why don’t you just cancel school already :/
20 Retweets 58 Likes
Jiwoo is standing on the stage.
Everything is in place for the talent show. Her dress, washed and ironed; her hair, pinned up with a black ribbon. All the seats are empty, but she can’t see them through the darkness, anyway. Only the spotlight shines on her, a circle of perfect light.
Before her stands Yves.
They stare at each other for a long time. It doesn’t even occur to Jiwoo to speak. Yves is looking at her, and does not look away. Neither does Jiwoo.
Around them, confetti falls in delicate showers. It’s funny. In certain angles, they look almost like snow.
After a while, Yves lifts her arm. Draws it backward, behind her; curls her fingers into the shape of a heart.
She winks at Jiwoo, taking aim, and shoots.
The arrow hits Jiwoo straight in the chest, and she falls backward, lands soft in a pile of shiny red confetti.
Overhead, Yves steps into her frame of vision. Leans in close, as though assessing the damage she’s made. Her smile is satisfied. She opens her mouth, and says:
“Oh, my god, are you alive? Are you dead? Please don’t be dead. That would suck. Hello?”
Jiwoo opens her eyes. Everything is cold. She’s lying in the snow, and the girl hovering over her looks like she’s having a panic attack.
“I’m gonna call 911,” the girl says, and Jiwoo blinks.
“Wait! That’s okay. I’m alive. Look.” Jiwoo wiggles her fingers.
The girl stares at her, unconvinced.
“I’m alive,” Jiwoo insists.
“You’re getting in my car,” the girl announces, “we’re warming you up right now.”
Jiwoo latches onto the word warm. “Sounds good,” she agrees, dazed. So what if this girl is a serial killer. Jiwoo’s survived a snowstorm, at this point, and a bus ride with Yves, all in the same day. Nothing can touch her now.
The girl’s car is parked haphazardly by the side of the road, lights still on and doors left open. Jiwoo almost recoils at the strong scent of caffeine that pours out of the car; the cupholders are all filled with old coffee cups. But it’s warm, as promised, so she gets in, after shaking off all the snow caked to her coat and hair.
“What happened?” the girl says, in the driver’s seat, still freaking out. She cranks the thermostat to full blast. “Did you know you can get frostbite in as little as 2 minutes? Do you still need me to call 911? How many fingers am I holding up?”
“I’m okay!” Jiwoo holds up her hands in a placating gesture. “Really. I’m fine. Thank you for helping me, though. I’m not really sure what happened.” She thinks back. “Maybe I fainted?”
The girl stares at her. “You fainted?”
Hey, Jiwoo wants to protest, weirder things have happened, but the girl’s plowing on.
“Actually, no, that’s not unbelievable at all, I mean you were walking in a blizzard, come on. You don’t even have a hat on. Are you crazy? Did your car break down? Were you running from a bear? What on earth possessed you?”
Jiwoo thinks of Yves in her dream, coy smile on her face, fingers drawing back the string, letting go. Boom.
“I just wasn’t thinking clearly,” Jiwoo says with a laugh, but it peters out after a while. She fidgets with her hands. For the first time, realizing: this might be just a little bit worse than she thought.
“Obviously,” the girl says. “You nearly gave me a stroke, you know. I was driving home when I saw you lying in the snow, and I almost crashed my car.” She’s still talking fast, but her words are coloured with relief. Jiwoo twists in her seat to look at her. Thick hair tucked under a knit cap, a long, pointed nose, sharp chin. Something oddly familiar.
“Hey,” Jiwoo says, in slow recognition. “You’re that student. The one getting into Iceland. Haseul Jo.”
“Ding ding ding. That’s me.”
“Wow!” Jiwoo says, eyes widening. It's like being in the presence of a celebrity. “Congratulations! That’s so exciting!”
Haseul snorts. “There's nothing exciting about it right now. Just work, work, and more work.”
Jiwoo fingers at the hem of her sleeve. “Still,” she says. “It must be a really incredible experience.” She eyes the coffee cups. “And... stressful?”
“You’ve got no idea.” Some of the manic energy returns to Haseul’s voice. “It’s crazy—I’ve been working for this for so long, and it’s still not mine, because so many other people want it, too. Isn’t that crazy? You realize your dream isn’t just your own. But that just makes me want to fight for it harder, because if so many people are chasing it, then it must mean it’s worth something, right?” She shakes her head. “But it’s not even real, yet. Which is a really weird feeling, because I’ve been wanting it for so long it feels like it’s a part of me, already, it’s a part of my life—but it’s not.” She rubs at her eyes. “Ugh, what am I even saying. I need coffee.”
Somehow Jiwoo gets the feeling she’s been wanting to say this for a long time. “You’re working so hard,” she says carefully. “That’s always worth something.”
“Yeah, well,” Haseul says, peering at her eyebags in the rearview mirror. “At the very least, this whole experience is teaching me a lot of things. Like how to prioritize. No more wasting time on should-I-or-shouldn’t-I. If you want something, you gotta work for it. But you also gotta know if it’s really what you want. It’s only fair. To yourself, and also to everyone else.”
Jiwoo can feel the warmth settling back into her body, blood circling her heart. She clasps her hands together in her lap. One bare, one mittened.
“It sounds a precious dream,” Jiwoo says. “You should be proud of it.”
Haseul sighs. “It’s gonna be my death someday,” she says. But she doesn’t sound particularly sorry about it.
“Hey,” Jiwoo says. She smiles. “Thank you.”
Haseul squints at her. “For picking you out of the snow? How heartless would I have to be to leave you there?”
Not just for that, Jiwoo thinks. But she keeps it to herself.
“Wow,” Haseul says after a while, peering out through the windshield. “That’s some storm, huh?”
Jiwoo looks out at the swirling snow.
“Yeah,” she says, not without a pang of guilt.
WATCH: my gf cheerleading in a snowstorm <3
kimlippie 29,285 views 3.2k likes 18 dislikes
Wow... I’ll never underestimate cheerleaders again
why tf is it snowing there?? it’s not even october yet
4:19 lol @ the team captain yelling at the referee... mood
Jiwoo barely makes it through her front door before she’s dialing the number into her phone. One ring; two.
“Jiwoo?” Jungeun’s voice is scratchy, as though from sleep. “What’s up?”
“Were you taking a nap?” Jiwoo demands, peeling off her coat and boots.
“So what! I was tired, okay? I just got back from Jinsol’s soccer game, and it was snowing so hard, I think my camera took water damage. And we didn’t even get to hang out after ’cause she had to study for a chemistry test.” Jiwoo can hear her pouting through the phone. “We’ve got a date this weekend, though! We’re going ice skating! I told her I don’t know how so she has to teach me, but I lied. It’s gonna be hilarious.”
Jiwoo just lets her talk as she flies up the stairs to her room, flops down on her bed. She doesn’t say anything, because she knows if she does, Jungeun’d be able to hear the stupid grin on her face right away. The familiar chatter in her ear is comforting as a hug from an old friend.
“Hello?” Jungeun says. “Did you hang up on me? I know you didn’t, I can hear your breathing.”
“I’m here,” Jiwoo says. “I just... I dunno. I wanted to talk to you.”
“Sure.” A pause. “Did something happen?”
Jiwoo stares up at the ceiling. “No? Not really? Kind of?”
“Wow. Is this about your talent show audition? I saw that you made it in, so what’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” Jiwoo says. “It’s just... there’s this girl.”
“Jiwoo Kim,” Jungeun says, her voice low and threatening. “Are you asking me for relationship advice?”
Jiwoo buries her face in her pillow. “I don’t know,” she says, muffled. “But I’m asking for something.”
Jungeun screams into the phone. Jiwoo winces, pulls it away from her ear. “I’ve only been waiting for this moment for fifteen years! Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”
“I feel like I haven’t talked to you in forever,” Jiwoo admits. “I thought you’d be too busy, or something.”
“Busy? Doing what?”
Jiwoo curls a strand of her hair around her finger. “Well, you know. You’ve got your YouTube channel. And your girlfriend.”
“Jiwoo Kim,” Jungeun says, again, in the same scary tone. “You think I can’t handle more than two things in my life at once? Who do you think I am?”
Jiwoo bites her lip. “It’s not you,” she says. “Or at least, it’s not just you. It’s everyone. Everyone’s moving so fast, Jungeun! Did you know Yeojin’s dating? And Hyejoo’s going through her goth phase? And it’s snowing in September and everything’s happening so fast, and.” She stops short, blows out a huff of breath. “And I’m still exactly the same.”
“What are you talking about?” Jungeun says. “First of all, I’m gonna be stuck with you forever, duh. So you’d better look forward to it, ’cause we got the whole rest of our lives ahead of us. Second, Yeojin is Yeojin—who can stop her? Hyejoo is Hyejoo—please. The girl was always destined for a goth phase. Don’t pretend you didn’t see it coming. And you? You’re you, and that means doing whatever the hell you want whenever you want, whether it’s having a crush on somebody or not.” She pauses. “So? Do you, or do you not?”
Jiwoo hesitates. Yves in her mind’s eye, letting loose the arrow, letting go. But also Yves, a tacky charm she’d saved on her wallet, one hand in a pink fuzzy mitten, shoulder soft enough to rest on. Her face warms at the thought.
“I think I do,” she admits.
“There,” Jungeun says. “Was that so hard?”
“Yes!” Jiwoo insists. “You don’t understand! She’s like—she’s too good to be true. And I’m me. It’s never gonna happen!”
“Come on. It can’t be that bad. Who’s this girl?”
“Ah.” Jiwoo’s laugh lands somewhere between nervous and hysterical. “Well, I don’t know if you know her. You probably don’t, really. It’s a big school. So many people. Her name’s Yves Ha?”
Short-lived silence, again. Jiwoo holds her breath.
Then the screaming starts anew.
“Welcome back to school, Blockberries,” Heejin says. “Hope you all survived the blizzard this weekend! Our Bobcats certainly didn’t, as they were crushed in the game this weekend against the Panthers 2-10. Better luck next time, Bobcats!”
“It won’t be luck,” Hyunjin says, glowering at the camera. “It’ll be cold, hard practice, that’s what. Speaking of which—practice today after school. Don’t forget.”
“In other news,” Heejin continues brightly. “The talent show is tonight, so don’t forget to clear your evening and buy your tickets. Also, the Science Club is recruiting, so if you’ve got your eye on the upcoming science fair, come share your ideas in the lab today after school.”
“Aren’t you signing up, Heejin?” Hyunjin asks.
Heejin blinks. “For the Science Club? Why would I?”
“Because we’ve got chemistry.”
Heejin freezes. Her eyes narrow, then go very, very wide.
Hyunjin smiles innocently.
“You did not,” Heejin says, her mouth curling up in unabashed delight, in awe.
“I told you.” Hyunjin shrugs. “I can do it better.”
“Oh, it is ON,” Heejin says, slamming her fist down on the desk.
Which is when Jiwoo closes her locker door, and startles as she comes face-to-face with Hyejoo.
“Hyejoo! You scared me!” She stares at her. “Were you waiting there this whole time?”
Hyejoo’s face looks pinched with dejection. “I have to tell you something,” she says.
Oh, my god, Jiwoo thinks, this is it. She’s gonna tell her the reason she started dressing like she walked out of a Twilight fanfiction, and it’s going to be bad. Jiwoo’s head spins from the possibilities. She’s dying of leukemia. She’s moving across the country. She was replaced by an evil twin, and she’s here to kill Jiwoo. Damn it, she knows Jiwoo’d never be able to fight back against Hyejoo’s freakishly long limbs and cute chubby cheeks.
Hyejoo takes a deep breath. “I like Chaewon,” she says in a very small voice.
Jiwoo’s heart flips over in her chest. None of the above.
“Oh,” Jiwoo says. The shock numbing her from the inside out. “Hyejoo. I didn’t know.”
Hyejoo fidgets with the tips of her fingers poking out from her sleeves. “I know. But now you do. I just had to tell someone.”
Be calm, Jiwoo tells herself. Be rational, be cool, please for the love of god be helpful.
“HYEJOO,” Jiwoo wails, and throws her arms around her. “I’m sorry!” She feels an inexplicable prick of tears at the corner of her eyes. “I should have known!”
“What?” Hyejoo mumbles into her hair. “How could you have known?”
“I don’t know! It seems like the kind of thing I should have known!” Jiwoo clutches her tight. “I’m your friend! I’m supposed to know these things! I’m supposed to be here for you in your time of need!”
Hyejoo shakes her head. “I didn’t want anyone to know. When I realized it, I wanted to keep it a secret. I didn’t want it to change anything. But it’s not going away, and the more time that passes, the more sure of it I am, and I want...” She hesitates. “I just want someone to tell me that it’s okay.”
“What!” Jiwoo clings to her. “Of course it’s okay, Hyejoo! What are you talking about?”
“I mean, that it’s going to be okay... that everything’s still going to be the same.”
“But Hyejoo,” Jiwoo says, pulling back. “This is wonderful.”
Hyejoo stares at her.
“It’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me,” she says.
Jiwoo gapes. “What? But Chaewon loves you—” Hyejoo full-body flinches. Okay, maybe not the best word to use. “I mean, you and Chaewon have been inseparable since forever. If you just spoke with her—”
“I can’t,” Hyejoo says, miserable. “I don’t want her to hate me.”
Wow. And Jiwoo thought she was bad.
“Hyejoo,” Jiwoo says, slowly. “This is Chaewon we’re talking about. Chaewon who cried in fifth grade when she found out butterflies only live for, like, two weeks.” Hyejoo’s still silent. “Hyejoo. This is Chaewon. You know her.”
“You don’t understand,” Hyejoo says, shaking her head. “You can’t.”
Jiwoo sucks in a breath, overcome with realization. She’s right. Jiwoo can’t understand, what it feels like to fall in love with your best friend, with someone who has hinged your entire world. What it’s like to live that close to that person, instead of watching them from a safe distance. To talk to them every day, to listen to their deepest fears and secrets, to know them inside and out. All this time Jiwoo thought she had it hard, when in reality, this is so much scarier, isn’t it? And Hyejoo’s been living with this all by herself. No wonder she turned to winged eyeliner for comfort.
“Hyejoo,” Jiwoo says, gently. “Chaewon cares for you a lot. Regardless of whether or not she’ll return your feelings... She won’t want to hurt you. You have to believe that, at the very least.”
Hyejoo casts her eyes down. “Maybe,” she mumbles. Her long hair is hiding her face. At this proximity Jiwoo has to tilt her head back to look at her.
“Hey, Hyejoo,” Jiwoo says. A pause. “What are you so tall for?”
Hyejoo punches her arm. “What does that have to do with anything?” But she’s startled into a laugh, and Jiwoo laughs, too, loud with joy and relief, something inexplicably tender. Hyejoo, close as she’s ever been.
“Thank you for telling me,” Jiwoo says, and squeezes her tighter, just because she can.
“JIWOO KIM,” comes Yerim’s voice from all the way down the hall. “HOW COME I HAD TO HEAR FROM CHAEWON THAT YEOJIN SAID THAT HASEUL FOUND YOU HALF-DEAD IN THE SNOW THREE DAYS AGO.”
Hyejoo blinks. “What?”
Jiwoo’s smile freezes on her face. “Oops.”
Yerim and Chaewon fall upon her, practically tackling her to the ground. Jiwoo has to defend herself with her life, batting them away with her colour-coded binders. But in the chaos and commotion, she sees what she hadn’t before. Hyejoo, staying close to Chaewon. Not touching. But not shying away, either.
Everyone is being brave, Jiwoo thinks. So maybe she can, too.
Written on the wall of the last stall on the second floor girl’s bathroom:
all the petals of the flowers
that bloomed in my heart fall
my tears are on the tips of my toes
At the edge of the darkness
On the way home after sunset
That’s where I saw the moonlight
(I love this song!!)
you know it?
Yeah I listen to it all the time... it’s nice. Lol
Y’all can’t text each other or some shit?
<3 HJK + HJJ
“Good evening, Blockberry High, and welcome to the annual talent show! I’m Hyunjin Kim and I’ll be one of your MCs for the night.”
“And I’m Heejin Jeon, your other MC for the night. Our talented students have been practicing hard for this, so get ready for a night to remember!” A conspicuous pause.
“No. Don’t even try.”
Their voices ring out loudly even backstage. Jiwoo smooths out the skirt of her dress. Some of the other performers are looking at her weird, but she ignores them. She’s been smiling for forty minutes straight and doesn’t intend to stop anytime soon. It’s your superpower, Jungeun told her once; as long as you smile, nothing can ever go wrong. And they were just kids, but maybe some small part of Jiwoo still believes it.
Beside her, two of the rappers are executing an overly complicated good-luck handshake slash fistbump ritual. A magician shakes quarters out from her sleeve. Some guy is twirling his drumsticks, knee jittering, a conductor of movement. One by one, they’re all called forward, through the wings and onto the stage.
It’s almost time for Jiwoo’s performance. She’s standing in the wings, straightening out the collar of her dress.
Jiwoo whirls around. The smile falls from her face. Her cheeks are sore.
“Yves?” Jiwoo gasps. “What are you doing here?”
She looks—out of breath. Panting slightly, strands of hair out of place, sticking to the sweat of her neck. Her fingers tugging at the hem of her jacket.
She looks perfect.
“I just wanted to say.” Yves hesitates. “Don’t be nervous. You’re going to do great.”
And what does that mean, Jiwoo thinks, mind spinning like the tumble of a wheel down a hill, but Yves’ face is open and waiting and—anxious, as though she doesn’t know what comes next, as though she hadn’t even considered it before she came here, and only now is she giving it a second thought, now that the moment is moving away from them, losing hold the longer Jiwoo waits. So maybe it doesn’t mean anything at all. Or maybe it means Yves Ha, student council president, model slash ballerina slash transfer student, stealer of phone charms and mittens and hearts, had come just to wish Jiwoo luck.
Everything else falls away. Jiwoo takes a breath, says, “Thank you.” A smile creeps upon her, then, one sudden as a knee jumping up in reflex; one that possesses her to say—“It’ll be cute, right?”
And—to Jiwoo’s wild delight—Yves blushes, bright red.
In the intimate half-darkness of the wings, Yves’ smile lighting up the shadows, Jiwoo feels as though on a cusp of a secret world. One shared between the two of them, familiar strangers. Jiwoo’s heart is light in her chest, enough to coast away on, as though it has grown wings.
Everyone else is being brave, Jiwoo remembers, and she rises up on the tips of her toes, leans in, and darts a kiss on Yves’ pinkening cheek.
“...and next up, please welcome Jiwoo Kim to the stage!” comes Heejin’s booming voice.
Jiwoo startles, full-body, and jerks away. “Oh,” she says. Her lips burn. “I’ve got to—”
She turns, plunges out of the darkness and into the light; comes dashing out from the curtains, a sweep of dark green velvet, and casts her brilliant, terrified grin upon the audience.
Later, she will only remember her performance in bursts: the bright heat of the spotlight, the click of her heels, the sharp turn of every step on the stage. The audience, too, exists in flashes: Jungeun’s film camera, recording; Yerim’s answering grin in the first row; Vivi nodding her head along to the music. But Jiwoo hardly sees any of them. Straight ahead in her mind’s eye, she is looking at Yves, that expression of soft shock upon her face, and Yves is looking back.
EVENTUALLY I FALL INTO YOU, the music croons.
Is that snow in the air, or confetti?
The world erupts into applause. Jiwoo holds on, for as long as she can, the smile luminous upon her face.
Then the fall.
When Jiwoo wakes up, everything is quiet, almost muffled. If she strains her ears, she can hear distant voices, soft as snowfall. Like being inside a very warm, cozy mitten, Jiwoo thinks fuzzily, and then she opens her eyes.
She’s in the nurse’s office. Stark walls, uncomfortable cot, a square window. It’s snowing outside.
“You’re awake,” comes a voice. Jiwoo turns to see the nurse, and—Jiwoo’s eyes widen—standing next to her is Yves, face unreadable. Jiwoo shoots upright into a sitting position, blankets falling away from her on the cot.
Behind the nurse, through the slit of glass on the closed door, she can make out familiar faces, crowded around each other. Yerim, Jungeun, Chaewon, Hyejoo, Vivi, Yeojin, all elbowing each other for space. Jiwoo makes a panicked face at them. Yerim says something Jiwoo can’t hear, hands cupped around the glass; Jungeun waggles her eyebrows unhelpfully in Yves’ direction. Yeojin sticks out her tongue.
The nurse draws the curtain over the door without even looking, shutting them out.
“You’re fine,” she says. “You fainted on the stage, but it looks to be from exhaustion, not any underlying health conditions, and you weren’t hurt in the fall. This student was able to reach you quickly, and get you here. You’ve been expending a lot of energy lately. Can you think of what might be causing it?”
Outside the windows, snow whirls past the glass.
“Oh,” Jiwoo says, her voice small.
“Well, whatever it is, you’d better put a stop to it as soon as possible. Lots of water, lots of rest, and don’t even think about any strenuous activity anytime soon.” The nurse shoots her a sharp look. “Have you got a ride home?”
“I’ll take her,” Yves cuts in.
The nurse turns her unimpressed gaze on Yves. “Do you have a car?”
Yves hesitates. “Uh... no?”
“My friends can take me home,” Jiwoo says quickly. “It’s fine!”
“They’d better,” the nurse says, with a sniff. “I’ll leave you to it, then. Just remember—only one visitor allowed in the room at one time.” She turns, sweeps out the door.
“I got you a granola bar,” Yves says. “From the vending machine.”
She thrusts it into Jiwoo’s face. Jiwoo blinks, slow. Takes it.
“Thanks,” Jiwoo mumbles, and then: “Did you really carry me all the way here?”
Yves’ face is still red. “What else was I supposed to do? Drag you?”
She isn’t smiling. Jiwoo looks at her, standing there at the foot of the cot, and sighs. Shifts over, and pats the space next to her.
“Come on,” Jiwoo says. “You’re probably tired, too.”
“No, you’re really very light,” Yves says.
But she hops onto the cot, next to Jiwoo. They sit there, shoulder to shoulder. Jiwoo, holding the granola bar in her hand; Yves, still holding onto the wallet she’d bought it with.
Naruto's gleaming face, winking at them both.
“That’s mine, you know,” Jiwoo says.
“Okay.” A pause. “You WHAT?”
“You were so quick to leave it behind. I thought I’d hold onto it in case you wanted it back. And then it just grew on me.” Yves shrugs. “It’s cute.”
“You keep saying that!”
Yves’ mouth parts in an o of faint surprise. Then her eyes narrow. “Why do you think? I haven’t exactly been subtle.”
“You can’t seriously be this obtuse. You’re the one who kissed me! ”
“You came to my performance! What was I supposed to do? Not kiss you?”
“No!” Yves says immediately. “You can’t take it back.”
“Well, good!” Jiwoo fires back. “I didn’t want to!” She pauses. “What are we even fighting about?”
“I don’t know,” Yves admits. “But it feels like we’ve been doing this since the beginning, doesn’t it?”
They lapse back into silence, Yves staring moodily at the closed door.
“Your friends are all really worried about you.” Yves’ mouth turns down again. “You must have been really stressed.”
“Not really,” Jiwoo says. “Just... scared, I guess.”
Yves turns to her, expression curious. “Scared of what?”
Of you, Jiwoo could say, but it isn’t true, not really, not anymore; in all her strangeness, her unexpected frequency in Jiwoo’s life, and all the excitement she has brought into it, she has become familiar, too. It’s something larger, maybe: the forward momentum that has made all of this possible, has landed them here. The storm she can’t see anything through.
Now that it’s reached them, though, it’s not so bad. The fear of not knowing what comes next, but the thrill, too.
“You know,” Yves says. “I don’t like smoothies very much.”
Jiwoo whips her head around to narrow her eyes at her. “What?”
“I don’t really like sweet things,” Yves admits. “I only went there because...” She bites her lip. “Well, you already know.”
Jiwoo gapes at her. “WHAT! But you spent like! So much money! And you’re so—” She cuts herself off.
Yves frowns. “So what?”
“You’re the student council president,” Jiwoo blurts.
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“You’re a model!”
“I posed for some Instagram pictures when I was, like, fourteen.”
“You do ballet!”
“When I was a kid, sure.”
“You’re a Gemini!”
Yves raises an eyebrow. “Really?”
“You’re Yves Ha,” Jiwoo says helplessly. “You’re the prettiest, coolest girl in school. Everyone is jealous of you. You have to know that. There’s no way you don’t know that.”
Yves snorts. “Please. If anything, I was jealous of you.”
“Me?” Jiwoo repeats, gawking. “Why on earth would you be jealous of me?”
Yves’ eyes dart over to the door. The curtain is still closed, but through it, they can make out the silhouettes of the people still standing there. Jungeun’s distinctive high ponytail; Yeojin’s four buns sticking up to make up for her shortness; Vivi making bunny ears behind her. Yerim and Chaewon, talking; Hyejoo, terribly tall, listening. All of them, waiting to see if Jiwoo is alright; all of them, waiting for her.
She turns back around, to face Yves, sitting beside her, quiet and alone.
“Oh,” Jiwoo says, stunned.
“Maybe everybody is jealous of me,” Yves says, not meeting Jiwoo’s eye. “Maybe everybody wants to be me, whatever. Who cares. But you’re the one... you’re the one everybody wants in their life. Wants to be their friend.”
She lowers her gaze, down to her lap. “I wanted it, too.”
Jiwoo feels like she’s been struck by a sledgehammer. “But Yves,” she says. “You’re amazing!”
“Why? Because I dedicate my after-school hours to planning food drives and prom? Because I have good posture and look put-together?” Yves snorts, again. “None of that means anything.”
“Yes, it does!” Jiwoo says, with a sudden fierceness that surprises even herself. “You—you look mature, but your sense of humour is totally uncool! Your laugh isn’t graceful at all! You’re very observant, and you’re always paying attention. You always...” She hesitates. “You take care of me.”
Yves stares at her. Eyes wide.
Jiwoo pokes her. “You have a big heart. You’re just—” and a smile is coming upon her again, far too strong to be stopped—“shy. Aren’t you?”
“Hey,” Yves says, scowling. “I liked it better when you were calling me a model and, what was it, the coolest person in school.”
“Wow,” Jiwoo says, laughing, “we’re so dumb!”
“We were both waiting for the same thing,” Jiwoo says. “Isn’t that dumb?”
Yves is totally smiling, even if she’s trying to hide it. “Speak for yourself.”
“Hey,” Jiwoo says, as something occurs to her. “The smoothie shop. How’d you even know I worked there?”
Yves shrugs. “Jinsol’s on the student council, and her girlfriend told me. Jungeun Kim, you know her?”
Jiwoo blinks. Once, twice, three times. Then screams into her fist.
“Whoa,” Yves says, taking Jiwoo’s wrist and dragging her hand back down. Then: “Wow. How are your hands so warm?”
Jiwoo latches onto her palm, doesn’t let go. “All the better to melt you with,” she says in an exaggerated, low voice, and then breaks into giggles.
Yves rolls her eyes. “Oh my god, you are so lame.” But she catches Jiwoo’s eye, then, as though almost by accident, and they fall into a strange, anticipatory silence. Yves’ hair, soft against Jiwoo’s shoulder. Their legs, laid out on the cot, slightly touching. All that’s been said has cleared out any pretenses left between them, and Jiwoo looks at Yves’ face, remembers what it had felt like: to lay a kiss upon it.
“Jiwoo Kim,” Yves says, staring Jiwoo straight in the eye, every word weighted with intent. “Will you go on a date with me?”
“I’ll do you one better,” Jiwoo says, just as serious. “I’ll be your friend, too.”
They dissolve into giggles again.
“Now eat your granola bar,” Yves says, mustering up a coolly stern expression.
Jiwoo glances down at the wrapper. It’s apple crisp flavour. Of course. She rips it open, takes a bite.
“Hey,” Yves says. Her voice full of wonder. “I think it’s stopped snowing outside.”
“That’s a good thing, right?” Jiwoo says, mouth full.
“I don’t know,” Yves says, tone wistful. “I kinda liked it. It felt so magical. Like the last thing you would ever expect, but once it’s gone, you miss it.”
Jiwoo beams. “Thanks!”
“Nothing.” Jiwoo wipes the crumbs from the front of her dress. “Hey, we should probably get going. This place smells like Lysol.”
“Right,” Yves says. Peering at the door. “They probably think we’ve killed each other in here, or something.”
“Nah,” Jiwoo says with a wince. “I guarantee they’re probably thinking something else.”
Yves’ eyes widen. “In that case,” she says. Her voice pitches low, sultry. “Should we give them something to talk about?”
A piece of granola bar falls out of Jiwoo’s open mouth.
Yves tastes better, anyway.
“Good morning, Blockberries! Hope you all had to chance to recover after last night’s truly once-in-a-lifetime talent show! Everyone who didn’t go, your school spirit sucks. Also, you missed out on a real heart-stopping experience.”
“Isn’t that joke kind of in poor taste?”
“What? Jiwoo’s fine; she texted me like three minutes ago. Hey, Hyunjin. Are we two power lines in a thunderstorm?”
Hyunjin eyes her. “Sure. Why not?”
“Great. Then will you go out with me?”
“That’s... actually not bad,” Hyunjin says grudgingly, and then her eyes widen, at Heejin’s expectant face. “Wait. Are you asking for real?”
“Dummy, I’ve been asking for real the whole time!”
Hyunjin stares at her. The gleaming grin on Heejin’s face. The space of a held breath. Then, before the entire school, Hyunjin breaks into a slow, stupid smile.
“Yes,” Hyunjin says. “I will, you loser.”
The school goes wild.
Jiwoo claps and cheers along with everyone else, closes her locker door.
“Hey,” Yves says. Leant up against the lockers, next to her. “How are you feeling?”
Jiwoo beams up at her. It feels like her whole body is stretched in a smile, lifting up at the edges, trying to reach her. “Good! Great! Perfect!”
“Only one of those was necessary,” Yves says, amused. “Did you sleep a lot last night? Like you promised?”
“Sure I did,” Jiwoo singsongs.
“Liar!” Yves says immediately. “I saw that cute penguin video you sent me at 3AM! Do you want to faint again?”
“Why’d you ask if you already know the answer!” Jiwoo protests.
Yves crosses her arms, shakes her head disapprovingly. Jiwoo snakes her arm through Yves’, leans up close, grinning.
“Stop being so LOUD.” Yves swats at her.
“I didn’t say anything!”
“Ugh. Come on, let’s get you to homeroom.”
Jiwoo walks with her, still clinging onto her arm. “Are you walking me there?”
“Just to make sure you don’t faint on the way,” Yves says.
Jiwoo lays her head on Yves’ shoulder. “You’d carry me, anyway!”
“Oh, my god,” comes a voice. “It’s happening, it’s really happening.” Yerim descends upon them, eyes bright, practically radiating glee. “You guys are so cute!”
“I’m happy for you guys,” Chaewon says, shyly.
“Thanks,” Yves says, but she brushes her hair behind her ear as she does it, which means she’s feeling just as shy. Jiwoo’s got her all figured out. She squeezes her arm tighter. “I’ve heard a lot about you guys. It’s great to finally meet you.”
“Didn’t I tell you?” Yerim whispers in Jiwoo’s ear. “Disney princess! A talking baby duckling!” She frowns. “Or is it the other way around, with you two? I can’t tell.”
“Shut up,” Jiwoo hisses, batting her away, but she can’t keep the smile off her face. “Hey, Hyejoo. Is that a stick-on butterfly tattoo on your arm?”
Hyejoo scowls. “Nobody was supposed to see that! How was I supposed to know the snow was gonna melt and it’d get too hot to wear my leather jacket?”
“Isn’t it so weird?” Yerim says. “The moment the snow stopped, it all melted so fast. It should be autumn, still, but it’s so warm all of a sudden, it feels like spring in September. Everything’s green, outside. I actually saw flowers on my way to school today. What could be causing it?”
Jiwoo catches sight of something strange. Chaewon, biting her lip, flushing a faint pink; casting a sideways glance at Hyejoo, who doesn’t seem to notice. Still rubbing at the butterfly imprinted onto her skin.
“I haven’t the faintest idea,” Jiwoo says with a smile on her face. “But I think it’s a sign of great things to come.”
“Oh, I think the great things are already here,” Yves mutters in Jiwoo’s ear, and they’re holding hands, by now. They’re not subtle; some people are watching them, in the halls, heads turning to stare. But it’s junior year, and anything can happen. Like snow in September, or else spring; like growing up or falling in love or moving forward, through every surprise, every precious miracle.
And outside, the last of the snow shakes from a tree branch in the wind; reveals the beginnings of a flower blooming there.
kimlippie ME N MY BFF <3 vlog of our double date dropping tonight 9pm, don’t miss it! 💋
jinsoulie: babe ur so hot <3 Liked by: kimlippie
heej: hey jiwoo nice conch piercing ;) Liked by: saychuu
saychuu: OMG U SAID U WOULDNT POST THIS I LOOK TERRIBLE!!
loveyves: @saychuu um excuse me... how dare you talk about my gf like that Liked by: saychuu
kimlippie: @loveyves @saychuu omg gross get a room
choerrydreams: AHHHHH MY BABIES Liked by: princesschae
saychuu: @choerrydreams YOU’RE YOUNGER THAN ALL OF US!!
choerrydreams: @saychuu MY BABIES WHOM I RAISED WITH MY OWN HANDS
saychuu: @loveyves <333333333333333333333333
kimlippie: @saychuu @loveyves I SAID GET A ROOM!!