The darkest of shadows, even the ones that slumber deep in the corners of one’s heart, can awaken on the second midnight of November.
At least, that’s what Eunbi’s traditional mother always liked to say. It was always her favorite excuse to keep her youngest child from attending any exciting season festivities.
She’d take one look at the clasped hands and dramatic pout that tiny Eunbi would make… then mercilessly deny her desire to tag along with the Kims whenever they set off to lead the newly passed spirits home.
Eunbi didn’t really understand what her mother had meant, at the time. She wasn’t meant to yet. But now, now that she’s of age and still very much best friends with the eldest Kim daughter, so she’s finally able to witness what the whole fuss is really about.
And so far? It’s almost anticlimactic.
There’s so much dust and old air. Not exactly suffocating, but still stuffy. And worst of all...
“It smells like a cemetery.”
Yewon cringes delicately. “Just say it smells like flowers, you absolute dork.”
“What? It’s pretty spooky. Sets the mood pretty well, don’t you think?”
“... if you say so.” Eunbi can’t fathom the strange tone Yewon’s voice takes, how it bends the same way it does whenever Dahyun says something particularly spacey. “Come on, we’ll miss it if we stay here any longer.”
A silly salute finally gets the corners of Yewon’s lips twitching. “Yes ma’am. Lead the way.”
Yewon offers her hand and they both set off in the direction of the drop spot, where most of the spirits are most likely to pass by. Instead of standing in the middle of the rocky path, Yewon leads them to a collection of rocks and boulders overlooking the stretch of road.
“So we’re just gonna sit down here?” Eunbi asks, disbelieving, as Yewon bends down and makes herself at home on one of the smoother stones. Yewon blinks, tugs the other girl down with her.
She sighs. “Can’t you just… can’t you just be quiet? For two whole seconds?”
It’s weird, to see Yewon so nervous. So awkward. She hasn’t been like this in a while, the whole wobbly knees and bitten lips peg. Her hand is sweaty, and Eunbi runs her fingertips along the back of it in an attempt to get her to calm down.
“Are you scared or something?” Eunbi pitches her voice down, speaking with the tone she only ever uses for the shyest of flowers come spring time, when it’s the Hwang family’s turn to cast their magic. “Is that why you called me here this year?”
Despite all her efforts to be gentle, Yewon yelps and squeezes Eunbi’s hand with a little too much force. The both of them bump into some of the weird knick knacks scattered around, knocking down paper pinwheels and origami cranes.
Distantly, Eunbi recognizes the craftsmanship as Yewon’s; they must be special charms, or whatever keeps the demons at bay.
“... No?” Another strange squeak. “My parents are the ones handling the spirit stuff this year. Like always? We’re fine.”
True to form, Yewon’s parents appear on the path below, journals and pens out and ready to take note of the names of the dead. They pay no heed to the girls sitting above them, too engrossed in their duty to say hello.
“Besides…” here, Yewon trails off and lifts their joined hands, gesturing at the clear view stretching across them. “I wanted to show you the islands while the smoke around here clears up.”
She wiggles shyly. “I always went up here whenever I got too scared, with all that bad energy. It’s like my secret little spot.”
Yewon gives Eunbi a look. The now it’s ours goes unspoken.
Suddenly, everything clicks.
“Oh my god!”
Everything must click for Yewon too, because, because—
Eunbi can’t help but point teasingly at Yewon’s expression. Because right now, Kim Yewon looks like the cutest gaping fish in the whole entire universe.
“Please… by the Gods, Eunbi. Shut up!”
“Noooooo!” With a playful pout, Eunbi slaps her best friend’s shoulder. “You were trying to make this a date! A date date.”
“Why am I the one feeling embarrassed right now?” Yewon cries. “You’re the one stupid enough to… to not even get what I’ve been trying to hint at for a literal decade!”
“Ha?!” Eunbi is stupid, but she’s definitely not that stupid. “It’s not like you actually said anything. What are you talking about!”
The air pops even more, and Eunbi unconsciously grabs at Yewon’s hands, like they’re fourteen and barely reigning in their magic again. It only makes the atmosphere around them more frantic, and oh. This is what Yewon meant.
“I’m talking about how I always wait for you after class and make you lunchboxes when you’re busy. Or how you’re always my first thought every morning and how you’re the last thing I think of at night. I mean, I’m pretty sure I literally tell you this? Like all the time?”
At first, Eunbi thought the flush that spread oh so prettily on Yewon’s face was angry, confrontational. But now, but now. “Do you get it now?”
Beside them the pinwheels spin and spin and spin.
The strange shadow in Eunbi’s heart... isn’t so much a monster. It stretches and yawns: an awakening of the unexpected, but still very much welcomed, kind.