Jeno sees her for the first time behind a computer screen and falls in love immediately.
It's easy to do, Jeno guesses, because the girl is so pretty and Jeno is super gay. YouTube is funny that way, anyway, where it sells you a personality instead of an icon, so all the vlogs and the tweets and the drama feel like something you're personally involved in. At least, that's what Jeno supposes; she's never really watched that many beauty vloggers before.
Honestly, Jeno isn't even into makeup. She doesn't like anything that sweats off, and she doesn't like waking up early to put it on, and she doesn't know how to put it on. She doesn't even know how she found this account, buried underneath layers and layers of recommended videos and cat compilations.
But the girl is super pretty, so Jeno clicks really fucking fast.
It's a review of something sparkly. Jeno knows that within the first thirty seconds, because the opening shot is off a desk that's been completely covered in glitter, and a sweet voice saying, "So...there's some kickback."
The voice is high and bright and cute, and then it cuts to a clip of the girl from the thumbnail, also covered in glitter. "Hello, sunshine!" she says, cloying, and then she makes a face, nose wrinkling. There's something shiny high on her cheekbones, and her lids are painted gold and deep purple. It's a lot of makeup. "Today I'm reviewing something everyone has been asking me to review for...forever? Because I'm basic, and I'm also late, so everyone has seen this palette in action already, probably?" She holds up a colorful square of cardboard, and it's pretty big, covers most of her face except her brightly colored eyes. She's so pretty. Every time she blinks her eyelashes are like fans, and her lids are so...sparkly.
Jeno is sitting in her bedroom wearing a sports bra and sweats without underwear because it's laundry day. Is this what someone looks like when they're put together? Do put-together people shine this much? This girl's mouth is so pink? Like, obviously it's lipstick but it's so pink? And her hair is so pretty, perfectly curled and dyed light brown. So pretty.
"But, whatever." The girl shrugs. "That just means I had to get more creative, so I'm less of a basic bitch." She grins. Perfect white teeth, no lipstick smudges in sight, unlike when Jeno wore red to the prom and ate most of it. "Didn't really succeed, had some issues, we got there, it's fine." She claps between her words and then holds her hands out for silence. "You should see...well. We'll get to my thoughts at the end, yeah? But, if you wanna see how I got this look, and hear all my thoughts, stick around — click like, subscribe, yada yada." She snaps, and the scene cuts.
Her face is bare.
Her long, pretty hair is held back with a headband that's got little cat ears on it, and Jeno's heart stops, skips approximately two beats, before Jeno realizes that the girl is super pretty without makeup, and then her heart is shocked into action again, zap zap zap.
She’s got tan skin, a little red from whatever she put on it beforehand, and her eyes are so dark and beautiful, and the faces she makes are so funny. A cute, round face, and a pretty neck. The sweater she's wearing is too big. There are freckles on her shoulder and cheeks. Moles.
Would Jeno kiss them all? Absolutely.
Jeno doesn't care about makeup, doesn't know a damn thing about anything, but Jeno is very gay, and the girl is very pretty, so Jeno watches the entire thing.
Her name is Sunny; at least that's what she goes by. Her hair has been brown, black, silver, and bright red, and Jeno doesn't have a favorite. Sunny is kind of a dork, has a very bright sense of humor, and is very talkative. She smiles a lot. She makes Jeno smile.
It's usually just her, and she shoots late at night (early in the morning? sometime between the sun going down and coming up). Sometimes her roommate makes faceless appearances, walking through the background half-asleep to find the hairdryer before dipping out again.
"I hate her," Sunny says, blank-faced as she creates a smooth black line on her lid, but twenty minutes later she takes a break to cook the girl breakfast.
Sunny can cook. Sunny can create literal art on her face. Sunny can dress herself in something other than sweatshirts and leggings.
It's very stressful for Jeno, all things told.
"Nana," Jeno asks three days after seeing that first video, having binged watch late into the night in a spiraling marathon of sleep-deprivation and lesbian feelings, "how do I become a pretty girl?"
Jaemin looks at her incredulously. "You're like, such a pretty girl. What are you talking about?" He gives her a once-over. "You're objectively hot. You know this. I've told you this. Where is this coming from?"
Jaemin has definitely told Jeno this, and Jeno is definitely appreciative, but she feels very much like a trashcan right now. "I want to be a pretty girl who knows how to do makeup and looks like a human instead of a like, blob of gray fleece."
"Okay," he says slowly. "That's valid. But also, why?" He laughs, just a little. "You’re a very pretty blob of gray fleece. You've never cared before. You're a pretty girl either way. Why make yourself another type of pretty girl? All girls are pretty girls."
Jeno thinks about Sunny, and the way her mouth looks with gloss on it, and the way she's so funny and she smiles so big and she dresses so nicely. "God, I'm so gay." She holds her head in her hands.
Understanding flows between them. "Oh, I know what this is." Jaemin takes a long sip of his coffee. Jeno isn't sure how that much caffeine hasn't killed him yet. "This is a gay problem."
"It's a big gay problem," Jeno admits. She was late to practice this morning because she'd watch Sunny open a ton of PR packages until six in the morning. "She's a pretty girl and I want to be the same kind of pretty girl so we can be together forever."
"Slow down there, lesbian," Jaemin snorts. He leans back in his chair. His uneven dye-job looks almost good in the bad lighting of the student center, good enough that a couple of the passers-by stare, and then some of them look at Jeno too, and then Jeno covers her face with her hands because she doesn't need staring in the middle of her homosexual breakdown. "I'm not letting you get married until you've been dating for at least two weeks."
Jeno kicks Jaemin in the shin. "Shut up."
He laughs, because he's mean, and because he doesn't care about Jeno's feelings. "Dude, you don't have to wear makeup or anything. You're hot. You have abs. You've got an awesome smile or whatever. Smile at her. Wear a crop top. You're fine."
This is all good advice, and advice that Jeno has known and utilized in the past to get what she wanted, but it's a little more difficult right now. "She's on YouTube, though?"
Jaemin throws his bagel at her.
Jeno gets home from rehearsals at midnight, takes a shower, and lays in bed — wide awake.
It's partially because her sleep schedule has been so fucked recently, with all the staring at Sunny's lips, but it's also because she's wired for all the choreography Sicheng just slammed into her head. She's exhausted. Soccer practice this morning was gruesome, and she barely finished her homework for Econ, and Sicheng is an actual tyrant.
And Jeno really wants chocolate.
It's 2 o' clock when Jeno sighs and throws on a shirt and shoes and walks out of her dorm room, keys in hand. Her roommate Jisung is asleep in the other bed, and doesn't twitch even as Jeno shuts the door behind her.
She's not wearing a bra and her hair is greasy and it's too cold to be out here in sandals but whatever. Jeno wants chocolate so she's going to get chocolate, end of story. She drowned herself in Gatorade all day and now she wants chocolate.
There's a corner store by campus, so she doesn't bother heading to her car, just shoves her hands in the pockets of her pajama pants and braves the long walk into the night before that neon light creeps into sight. It's not quite cold enough to need a jacket, but Jeno wishes she had one anyway. She wants something to hold onto.
Chocolate is easy to find. Jeno enters the store and ignores all the other patrons and heads straight for her favorite aisle. She grabs as much yellow Gatorade as she thinks she can carry back but limits herself on the candy. She does a good job eating healthy (for a college student); she's not throwing everything away for something sweet.
Jeno's brain is full of white noise — rehearsals and practice and girls and sleeping — and she drifts towards the makeup aisle without thinking too much, balancing Gatorade and chocolate covered pomegranate.
She's not going to buy anything. Makeup is expensive, and what's more she has no idea how to use it. Sure, Jeno wants to be a pretty girl with pretty makeup, but the learning curve is too steep. Still, the dark circles under her eyes are too obvious at 3 in the morning, and she can almost forget how disastrous her makeup attempt was for prom when she's half-asleep.
There's someone else in the makeup aisle, quiet company.
Someone with long, long hair is sitting on the floor, cross-legged, FaceTiming someone in the middle of the Walgreens. "This is...I should be asleep right now but I'm buying makeup I don't need," says a tired voice, whining.
Jeno laughs, surprised.
The person looks up at her, eyes droopy, and Jeno's brain short-circuits. Big brown eyes, long brown hair, tan skin, mouth open in a tiny o.
Jeno drops everything she's holding.
Sunny catches it on her phone, horrifically, before she processes the mountain of Gatorade that's rolling around on the dusty floor of the corner store, but they're both flushed red and embarrassed. Sunny is muttering under her breath and pushing the packages she's collected onto the floor as she hands Jeno bottle after bottle. "Sorry."
"For...what?" Jeno asks, holding her treasures in one arm while she tries to fish the final bottle out from under a display of illuminating powders (Jeno knows what that is now). "I just almost dropped lemon-lime on your head."
Sunny laughs, and it sounds a lot different than it does on camera; not quite as big or robust, but small and unsure. "I..." She laughs again. "Sorry." She throws her makeup haul in the basket at her feet, because she isn't a trash heap like Jeno and doesn't need to balance everything in her two tiny hands. "You surprised me. Sorry to scare you."
Jeno tugs at her shirt. There's toothpaste by the collar. "You didn't scare me. I just..." have been watching your videos for the past week like a starving man seems too forward, but there's a light dawning on Sunny's face and Jeno thinks she's been caught anyway. "I like...your channel."
For what it’s worth, Sunny looks surprised. “Oh?” She scratches her cheek, still a bit flushed. “I’m surprised! I don’t have that many viewers.”
“Ah.” Jeno runs a hand through her hair, trying not to flinch at the reminder that it’s a mess. “Maybe it’s fate then?” Gay fate, the lesbian gods smiling upon us. She licks her lips and makes sure nothing actually comes out of her mouth.
"I was filming for a video," Sunny says slowly, very quiet, "but cameras aren't allowed in here." She’s rolling mouth, deep in thought. Her voice is a lot different off camera — maybe it’s just because she’s sleepy, but her words are much slower and she’s got a bit of a Southern drawl. Everything is much rounder. “So don’t snitch. This is the closest Walgreens.” Her hair is tied up in a ponytail but it's messy, and there are pillow marks on her cheek. Jeno wonders if those will show up on camera or not.
"They won't hear a word from me," Jeno says. She gives Sunny a once over. Her legs are out there, long and pretty. Jeno has never seen Sunny's legs. "I didn't know you had a bottom half." It sounds rather stupid, but also it's past Jeno's bedtime.
Sunny runs a hand down her thigh absently. Her sweatshirt covers her palms. "I put on my legs when I need to go outside." She looks at her phone, sitting uselessly on the floor, probably still recording. "Do you want to say hello?"
"Hello?" Jeno says dully, before realizing Sunny is talking about the video. "Oh, oh no. I'm trash. I look like trash." She puts her hands over her face. "I don't even do makeup. I'm...uh?" She laughs at herself. She can't quite pull herself together.
Sunny tilts her head to the side. "How'd you find my channel, then?"
"Cat videos," Jeno tells her uselessly.
She laughs. "Sure." Like that makes sense. "Are you looking for something? I can help!" Sunny looks into her basket. "I don't...need any of this anyway."
"I...uh..." Jeno looks over the long shelves and displays, all of the colors, and wonders why she even came over in the first place. "I wouldn't even know where to start."
Sunny looks at her, and her eyes aren't wide — in fact, they're rather shrewd, looking Jeno up and down, and the smile on her face is not wide and friendly but small and sharp. "I'm an expert, don't you know?" She grins, and Jeno has to stop herself from dropping her shit all over again. "So...what do you want?"
"I want to be a pretty girl," Jeno tells her, jittery. I want to be a pretty girl so I can hold your hand, please.
"Ah." Sunny tosses her ponytail over her shoulder. "You don't need any help." And the soft smile makes it feel a bit like flirting, if Jeno can convince herself she’s not manifesting a girlfriend in this Walgreens tonight. But Sunny looks over at the display she'd been sitting in front of, and her fingers trail over some of the products before she looks at Jeno again and plucks one from the shelf. "But I think this would look nice on you."
Jeno doesn't even look at what it is. Her eyes are on her shoes. "Thanks." She takes it, doesn't check the price or the product or anything, just focuses on keeping herself together long enough to leave this Walgreens with her dignity intact. "I hope, ah, I hope your video goes well."
"Oh, shit." Sunny blinks and dives for her phone. "Thanks for reminding me. I still have to film everything."
"Good luck." Jeno smiles, as easy as she can. She knows she has a pretty smile.
Sunny takes a deep breath, bites her lip. "Do you go to school here?"
Jeno is wearing a raggedy NCTU Dance t-shirt from two years ago, and it's a little too small, and she tugs at the hem awkwardly. "Ah, yes. I'm..." Does she introduce herself? "I'm Jeno."
Sunny smiles. "I'm Donghyuck."
Jeno really wasn't going to buy anything. She doesn't know how to do makeup, doesn't have the time or the money, but she buys the lipstick Donghyuck pressed into her hands — a pretty pink, rosy — and holds it in her sweaty hand the entire way back home.
Jaemin nods good morning to Jeno when she walks into their first class together, his coffee cup three quarters full. Within the next fifteen minutes, the coffee is finished, and Jaemin finally turns to her and says, "What are you wearing?"
The professor, lecturing, ignores him.
Jeno is also tempted to ignore him, because she feels silly, but she can't ignore him, because she feels silly and needs reassurance. "Lipstick."
"Okay." Jaemin takes another sip of his coffee and rattles the ice. He squints. "Why?"
"Because." Jeno covers her head in her hands. "It felt like a good idea this morning." For about a half hour after she put it on, and then she walked out into the daylight and now it feels horrible. She feels like everyone is looking at her like she has two heads, like the light pink color is more noticeable that realistically it could be.
Jaemin hums. Jeno is lucky, because Jaemin isn't physically capable of teasing her until his second coffee of the day, and this is likely the first. There's no guarantee, though. Still, she thinks she's safe because there's no light in his eyes. He rests his cheek on his palm and looks at her, straw between his teeth. "It looks nice."
She frowns. "Don't make fun of me." Jeno puts her fingers up to her mouth, taps her lip and looks at the pigment on her finger tip.
"I'm not." Jaemin stirs his ice life more coffee will appear if he wills it to be so. "It looks nice on you. I'll pretend like you didn't go buy makeup after my pep talk because it hurts my ego, but it's not bad." He laughs.
"I..." Jeno almost bites her lip before remembering there's something there. "Someone else picked it out for me."
Jaemin raises his eyebrows. "Who? You only know me, my girlfriend, and the barista that's been trying to get your number for the past three months."
"Uh." Jeno stares at him. "What?"
Jeno moves on. "It was...a pretty girl." She pretends to look at the professor, pretends to pay attention to the lecture, but all she can think about is 1) her crush probably lives nearby and 2) how pretty she was in the shit lighting at before the sun came up.
Donghyuck is a nice name. Jeno's about to write it in the margins of her notebook like the massive lovestruck idiot she is.
Jaemin squints at her. "You're so fucking gay."
Jeno takes the lipstick off in between classes, rubbing her fingers rosy pink and washing wax and pigment down the sink, but she leaves the tube in her backpack, in case she feels like trying again.
There’s a routine that Jeno has established; she goes to practice, goes to her classes, goes to rehearsal, and then watches YouTube until her brain can embrace the sweet void of sleep. Usually this involves her sitting in her bed in her underwear eating chicken and rice and typing up an essay on her phone.
Sunny — Donghyuck, Jeno reminds herself many times a night and often in the middle of lecture, completely unbidden — is always the first channel she looks for. itsalwaysSunny has had another pretty large boost of popularity in the past month or two, and the content she’s been rolling out has been both consistent and high-quality. Honestly, if she is a student on campus, Jeno has no idea how Donghyuck does it.
Honestly, Jeno can barely survive doing her own shit. Between rehearsals and classes, she's spread thin. Sometimes she looks in the mirrors and all she sees are her own dark circles, but there's little she can do for that if she wants to check all the boxes. Jeno can't imagine doing all of that and trying to make videos — she can barely get herself to reply to text messages half the time.
But every video Donghyuck posts seems calm and effortless, and she's always smiling, and she barely looks like she's dying, so Jeno isn't sure she's even a student.
When this video pops up on Jeno's notifications, she recognizes the background. Drug Store Haul | Midnight GRWM it says, in big letters, and when Jeno clicks on it she wonders if this is the video Donghyuck had been making that night. It's a couple weeks after, and sure Jeno has been thinking about it every minute since then (pretty girl, pretty girl, pretty girl) but it'll be interesting to see the footage still. Jeno wonders if the clip of her making a fool of herself will make it into the final cut. God, she hopes not.
On video, Donghyuck is walking into the Walgreens with her camera concealed in her pocket, and she’s whispering in a way that could not been subtle. “I got bored and can’t sleep so now I’m making a video,” she hisses. Jeno recognizes the display of Hershey’s Kisses the store hasn’t taken down since Valentine’s Day. It’s a bit surreal. “So we’re doing a full face of drugstore makeup I haven’t tried before? But that’s a really long title. I’ll think of something better when it’s not…ass o’ clock.”
The seconds are ticking down until Jeno knows she made her unfortunate arrivals.
“Do I want to do a red or…” Donghyuck rubs her eyes. She looks the most exhausted Jeno has ever seen her look on this channel, far more tired than she’d appeared to Jeno in the store. "This is...I should be asleep right now but I'm buying makeup I don't need.”
And there’s Jeno’s laugh. She sounds extremely startled on camera, and her voice is different. She had been right though — Donghyuck had successfully captured Jeno’s massive fumble with her phone, even if the shot is just Jeno’s ratty sweatpants and lemon-lime raining from above.
The editing is good. The footage cuts right after Donghyuck’s camera drops to the floor. It’s a good gag.
Suddenly they’re back in Donghyuck bedroom. “Well, that was fun.” She puts an over-large bag on her vanity and stares into the camera. Her cheeks are bright red, as is her nose. Jeno is learning that Donghyuck without makeup is just flushed all the time and it’s unbearably cute. “I ran into a viewer and almost got assaulted by Gatorade. It’s the first time I’ve ever been recognized in public! Nuts.” With a laugh, she pulls out her extremely long Walgreens receipt. “She was...very cute.”
Jeno’s heart stops. The chicken on her fork flops back into the Tupperware and rice gets on her sheets. She really needs to stop eating in bed.
“If you’re watching this, please know that you are very cute,” Donghyuck is saying, toasting the camera with a can of coffee that she should not have been drinking at that time of night. “And I hope you like the color I picked out for you! I hope you’re studying hard.” Her fingers pet the receipt paper absently. “Please...please know you are very cute. So cute. Okay, uhm...” Donghyuck laughs. She claps her hands together. “Cut!”
The video moves forward to Dongyuck actually doing her makeup, humming songs under her breath, and she only makes one more mention of Jeno — “That corner store always has people in, no matter what time it is, but at least the company was easy on the eyes this time.”
The comments section on this video is brutal for Jeno’s heart.
u r a lesbian ):
| itsalwaysSunny Born and raised
Girl crush?????? LMAO how cute was she???????? scale of 1-10
| itsalwaysSunny Weren’t you listening? So Cute.
did you get the girls number??? :o also you should throw that foundation out — i’ve been using that product and it keeps breaking me out?? TRAGIC
| itsalwaysSunny I liked the finish but I can feel my skin screaming at me! And no it was not that kind of nighttime excursion! Lol maybe next time ;)
Maybe next time.
Jeno falls asleep and dreams of one very pretty girl.
Around the time that school really kicks into gear, Jeno gets another hint about the girl of her dreams: she is, most likely, much closer than expected.
“Okay, so one of my friends is an art student, right?” Donghyuck is tapping product on her lip with a finger and Jeno finds the action extremely distracting. “I think she’s actually going to kill someone soon.”
That matches what Jeno knows of art students — midterms are hell for everyone, but the art showcases happen in the second half of the semester and last until finals, so everything from now on is a mad rush to complete something worth showing. Many of Jeno’s dance friends are also in the traditional arts. The studios are a hell house. Everyone cries much more often now, and they cried plenty before.
There’s a freshman named Jisung that’s supposed to be doing a duet with Jeno for the faculty showing — it’s a big deal for a freshman to be in a faculty piece — and he had to touch her waist yesterday and nearly burst into tears. Jeno’s pretty sure it was stress and isn’t offended, but he had learned quickly enough after his breakdown.
“I’m lucky,” Donghyuck is saying, brushing a deep burgundy over her lid. “Because my degree is like, not...not like that.” She laughs, and then tilts her face into the viewfinder to see it on camera. The eyeshadow is nice, but the way the light hits her skin is much nicer. “My friend is...so she’s doing this project where the point is to create something that has parts of themselves in it, so she’s making this bird’s nest halo thing? With all of these feathers and she’s tying them together with her own hair?”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen her cry before but there she was, on the floor, crying and tying feathers on the apartment floor…” Donghyuck laughs, and it’s a little wicked. “She’s seen all my breakdowns, so I think it’s fair game, but it was a little jarring.”
Jeno can understand that — she doesn’t think she’s ever seen Renjun cry before.
And Donghyuck is talking about Renjun. Jeno knows exactly what project Donghyuck is talking about, because Jaemin will come into classes with feathers on his clothes and complain about them incessantly. “My girlfriend is a talented artist and I’m becoming a down pillow,” he says, almost everyday, almost fond.
Donghyuck knows Renjun.
In fact, it sounds like Donghyuck knows Renjun well.
Jeno calls Jaemin in the middle of the night. “The girl of my dreams knows the girl of your dreams.”
“Does that mean you and I are soulmates?” Jaemin’s voice is thick with fatigue, but he can’t be too exhausted if he still has the heart to be greasy. “Wait, who is the girl of my dreams?”
“Mmm, debatable.” Jaemin groans into the receiver. “I think I spaced out in the middle of the game. I feel like I’ve only been playing for ten minutes. I don’t remember the last three hours.”
“How is Renjun not the girl of your dreams?” Jeno demands.
“In my dreams, the girl isn’t so mean to me.”
Jeno laughs. That’s a lie and they both know it. “I’ll tell Renjun.”
“Bitch, I’ll tell Renjun. She knows.” Jaemin snorts. “But wait, she knows your YouTube girl?”
Jeno picks a pit at the fraying of her sheets. “Donghyuck was just mentioning one of her friends making an art piece with her own hair.” She feels a bit silly now, that her knee-jerk reaction was to call Jaemin. It’s not a big deal. There’s no reason for her to be freaking out. She chews on the corner of her nail.
But if Renjun knows Donghyuck, that’s only a small step before Jeno knows Donghyuck. Jeno would really like to know Donghyuck.
“Well, shit.” Jaemin shuffles a bit on the other end of the line, and Jeno can hear him laughing at her even if he isn’t making any sound. They’ve been friends for too long — maybe they really are soulmates. “I can ask her about it?”
“No...it’s okay.” Jeno swallows. “I can ask her.”
“Uh, sure.” Jaemin sounds dubious. “If you say so.”
“Yeah.” Jeno squares her shoulders. “I can totally ask her.”
Jeno is not sure she can ask her.
The big issue is that Renjun terrifies Jeno. Not in the way that she thinks Renjun might actually murder her, but in that Renjun is extremely powerful and Jeno knows this. Renjun also knows this. Renjun is more than comfortable using her own power against anyone and everyone. So Renjun might murder Jeno on accident because she is so powerful and Jeno isn’t sure she’d feel bad about it.
Renjun is also an extremely pretty girl and Jeno has a hard time with those, even when they’re dating her best friend.
So, it’s less that Jeno is terrified of Renjun, and more that she finds Renjun very difficult to talk to.
Renjun looks at her in disgust. “Puppy eyes, Jeno? Really?” The soft downturn of her mouth is cute, but the way her hair is sticking out of her ponytail makes her slightly more approachable. “I’m not giving you a random friend’s number, no way.”
They’re sitting in the quad by the fountain, Jeno having accosted Renjun with a pastry as a peace offering and a desperate plea. The pastry is only crumbs in Renjun’s lap now, but the other girl didn’t just eat it and walk away, which Jeno considers a tentative success.
“Why not?” Jeno’s puppy eyes really are powerful, and Renjun is beyond vulnerable — even if she pretends she isn’t, Jeno has seen her with Jaemin. Jeno plucks a feather from Renjun’s hair. “I’m trustworthy!”
“I know you’re trustworthy,” Renjun says, which might be the best compliment Jeno has ever gotten from her. “But…” The gears turn. She grins. “Who’s to say I even know a Donghyuck?”
Jeno has made it this far without mentioning her near obsession with Donghyuck’s YouTube channel. Renjun is already powerful and does not need to be given any more fodder to terrorize Jeno with. “Uh.” Jeno licks her lips. “I just...I saw you guys together in the valley.”
“Like I’d ever hang out with her in public.” Renjun sticks out her tongue. “Gross.”
Jeno makes a wounded sound. “You don’t mean that.” Donghyuck is everything.
“Put your heart-eyes away, please. They’re making me sick.” Renjun looks at Jeno carefully. “Maybe...I could be convinced to give your number to Donghyuck,” she says, equally careful, horribly coy. Fear churns in Jeno’s gut. “But...I would need something in return.”
“What...what do you want?” Jeno blanches. “The best I have to offer is like, Jaemin’s terrible middle school photos.”
“Like I don’t already have those.” Renjun snorts, tossing her hair over her shoulder. “Help me with my project and I’ll talk you up to Donghyuck.”
Jeno blinks at her, hesitant. “What...kind of help?” She neither knows Renjun well nor does she trust her, and for good reason. Renjun has enabled every single one of Jaemin’s bad ideas for the past year, and seems to enjoy mischief for no other reason than the chaos involved.
“Nothing much.” Renjun’s lips curl into a smile, licking jam off her fingers, and says, “It’ll be worth it, won’t it?”
Renjun is the villain of Jeno’s coming of age film.
Helping Renjun out with her project could have involved the painstaking process of using the head of a needle to attach hair to feather and feather to branch, but luckily it only involved volunteering to help facilitate the showcases for the rest of the year.
Truthfully, Jeno doesn’t really need the extra activities — even though soccer is in the off season, the training on top of her dance rehearsals is a bit brutal — but she’s a big fan of staying busy, and she’ll admit she’s spending more time on her computer than she has before.
YouTube is a hole that has sucked Jeno under, and there are plenty of pretty girls putting pretty makeup on their faces that Jeno can watch while she eats her chicken and rice in her bed. Jeno likes it when they collaborate with each other, or do funny tags, but she keeps going back to itsalwaysSunny.
Donghyuck just...has something.
There’s something about her that Jeno truly likes. Not just her face but the things she talks about and the way she acts with her roommates and the talent she has. The way she presents herself...it’s engaging. Charismatic, certainly, and bubbly and fun and a little sarcastic, but Jeno keeps thinking of that night in the corner store. She thinks about the difference in Donghyuck’s voice, the way her smile was a little sharper, and the way she’d pressed the lipstick into Jeno’s hand.
Was she flirting? Jeno kind of wishes she could go back and ask her.
All signs point to Donghyuck flirting with Jeno at 2am in a Walgreens while Jeno looked like a trashcan and nearly decapitated her with lemon-lime. Jeno checks on the boxes:
Donghyuck is a lesbian, confirmed
Donghyuck called her cute in her video
Donghyuck called her cute in her video knowing Jeno might see it
“But what if I do all of this just to talk to her and then she’s like, haha I’m the girl of your dreams and I hate you get wrecked?”
“Doing all what?” Jaemin asks in disbelief, zipping up the back of Jeno’s little black dress. “Putting on heels and tear tickets at the gallery?”
It’s the night of the first in a series on showings. The art students work in rotations, with three days of showings every other week. Renjun’s class is in charge of curating the exhibits later this month and the girl is near pulling her hair out over it, but Jeno’s debt made her the perfect unwilling assistant. She’s been running around getting papers signed and following up with artists for the past two weeks.
“The heels are a big allowance, okay?” she says, tottering in her stilettos. Her mom bought her these when she graduated high school. Now, as a junior, it’s the third time she’s worn them. They still smell like they just came out of the box. “Dealing with Renjun at high stress is also a lot. I’m valid.”
Jaemin whistles between his teeth. “You’re telling me.” He laughs. “She’ll be like this until the end of the semester, you know.”
Honestly, Jeno likes being helpful, and she wouldn’t have minded helping Renjun out in any case. The more time they spend together the more Jeno legitimately likes her; she’s not as terrifying as Jeno first thought. There’s certainly bite behind the bark, but Renjun is fiercely loyal and has a wicked sense of humor. She’s able to handle Jaemin six shots of coffee in with a masterful hand, and her professionalism with the showcases has also been commendable.
She just hasn’t really held up her end of the deal.
“Do you think I should just DM her?” Jeno had asked frantically in the middle of writing an essay for her Literature course, question pointed at Renjun who blinked at her blearily from where she’d been kissing high at Jaemin’s pulse.
“Donghyuck,” Jeno said, petulant. Quite frankly how dare Renjun forget when Donghyuck is the only reason her and Renjun are currently on speaking terms? “I have her social media from her YouTube account. I could just like...slide into the DMs.”
“If you think that’s a viable option,” Renjun had replied, unflappably breezy, and sighed into Jaemin’s neck.
Jeno wasn’t even sure whether she should have been there, but Jaemin said it was okay for her to come over to the dorm and she was pretty sure Jaemin and Renjun wouldn’t actually do anything blatantly in front of her Wendy’s salad and the textbook she was slaving over.
Not certain, but pretty sure.
Renjun is spectacularly unhelpful considering Jeno agreed to be her bitch for the semester.
There was, however, a judgemental tone in her voice that hinted Jeno probably shouldn’t. Besides, Jeno isn’t confident enough to do that, slipping into messages just to flirt and get a girlfriend or at least a kiss or two.
Now, several weeks after meeting the living, breathing version of the girl Jeno fell in like with over social media, she isn’t any closer to holding Donghyuck’s hand — much less getting kisses. Instead she’s wearing dress shoes and lipstick and trying to pretend she knows things about art.
“What if this is all just a ploy to get free labor and I’ve fallen into Renjun’s trap?” Jeno asks Jaemin, smoothing down the thick material of her dress. It’s overly structured and makes her look a little bit older, but it’s not bad. She looks alright; good, even, if she’s handing out compliments. The only issue is that she’s having a homosexual breakdown.
She’d spent the hour before Jaemin came over watching Donghyuck do an Easy Smokey Eye Tutorial for Any Occasion and come to the conclusion that Donghyuck’s artistry is beyond even what Jeno understand it. She washed her face and watched the muted tans and browns spin down the sink, the shimmer on her fingertips smudging her door as she opened it to let Jaemin in.
Jaemin knows more about makeup than Jeno does, if she’s being honest, but the end result is good and that’s all that matters even if it’s frustrating.
“Renjun will come through,” Jaemin assures her, lounging on Jeno’s half-made bed in his dress pants and button up. There’s product in his hair and tint on his lips and he looks like he’s going to a museum to get laid. “She always does.”
“What if it’s all just a trick?” Jeno whines. “What if she doesn’t know Donghyuck at all and I’m ruined forever?”
“Well.” Jaemin clicks his tongue. “I’ll share Renjun with you?”
Jeno throws a tube of mascara at him with practiced precision.
She has not gotten a single text message from an unknown number. She has not seen Donghyuck a single time on campus, has not been invited over to Renjun’s dorm when Donghyuck just happens to be there, nothing. When Jeno asked about whether Renjun had given Donghyuck her number, all Renjun said was, “don’t worry about it.”
Jeno is worried about it.
She’s been sifting through Donghyuck’s videos with a practiced eye, trying to catch hints of any people in Donghyuck’s life, any landmarks Jeno might recognize or be familiar with. She listens to the sleep voice of Donghyuck’s roommate and thinks she might have heard it in one of her dance classes but can’t place it. Donghyuck goes out to get Sonic and Jeno recognizes the dent in one of the orange trash cans.
It’s only pathetic when Jeno thinks about it for more than a single second.
“I’m not sure how you would even talk to her at this point.”
“God, I know.” Jeno tucks her hair behind her ear, crunchy with hairspray and bleach. As soon as midterms were over she dyed it all blonde, platinum, in a mid-semester crisis, and it only turned out kind of bad. She’d cut off half of it afterwards to save the ends, but it looks okay if she puts product in it. Her mom told her she’d pay to have Jeno go to a salon next time, but that’s less fun than having Renjun slather your head in toner as soon as you submitted your final essay. “Full disclosure, I’m very gay and struggling.”
“I know.” Jaemin rolls his eyes and checks his watch, some shitty thing with a velcro he’d bought at Walmart approximately four days ago after he flushed his nicer one down the toilet. “This is not news but I’m thankful you feel you can share this with me.”
Jeno smooths that rosy pink color over her lips and thinks it doesn’t look so bad this time, with the mascara and the bb cream and the nice dress. She tilts her head to the side and her hair falls a little in her eyes.
Jaemin is smiling at her gently in the mirror. “It looks really nice on you.” He laughs when she wrinkles her nose. “Seriously! I mean it. I meant it the last time, too.”
“Well.” She twists the lid back on and tucks it into her purse. “For the night, I’m committed.” She turns precariously on her heels. “Let’s go.”
This is the nicest Jeno has looked since she did her scholarship interviews last year. There’s something really powerful about walking across campus with her legs out and a handsome man on her arm. Jaemin pulls focus, and if Jeno gets self-conscious about the looks they get she can tell herself eyes are on him instead.
“You look great. Stop freaking out.”
“This is a five minute walk,” Jeno says, about to chew the color off her lips before she stops herself. “Let me freak out for five minutes.”
“Jeno, I’ve known you for years and you’ve been freaked out the whole time.”
She sniffs. “True but mean.”
“Renjun is rubbing off on me.” He wiggles his eyebrows lecherously, shimmying just enough, and Jeno is laughing by the time they make it to the art building.
They’re there quite early, ready to set up tables and make sure everything is where it’s supposed to be. Jeno kicks her heels off to the side while she helps Jaemin heave a handcarved bookshelf into place. All the art students are tiny for whatever reason, and Jeno is the second tallest person here even in bare feet on the studio floor. The faculty yells at her about safety approximately five minutes after she’s labored, but Renjun thanks her with a big smile so it’s worth being chewed out.
“You look really good tonight,” Renjun says, tracing her fingers down Jeno’s arm in a way that makes her think Renjun and Jaemin are really perfect for each other. “That’s good!”
Jeno laughs a little uncertainly. “Uh, thanks?”
Renjun hums, showing all of her teeth in a wicked grin that reminds Jeno what true fear is. “Don’t say I never did anything for you.” Ominous.
About two hours later, Jeno puts two and two together when she sees a vision in white float through the gallery doors. She’s got a tiny plate with snacks on it already, struggling to keep the grapes from rolling onto the floor, and she tucks her brown hair behind her ear before looking around the packed venue.
Jeno breathes out like someone punched her in the gut. “Fuck.”
The faculty member blinks at her in alarm but has other things to worry about that random cursing.
Donghyuck really is beautiful. Her dress is draped nicely and fits her well, not too nice for a college student to have but nicer than anything anyone else is wearing, in Jeno’s completely unbiased opinion. There’s gold on her shoulders and highlight on her cheeks when she moves under the fluorescent lighting. Her legs are so…
For someone who only puts on her legs when she needs to leave the house she sure has a good pair.
Jeno grabs a cup of cider from a nearby tap and drinks it all in one gulp. It’s better than frantically roving her hands over her hair and dress to make sure everything is perfectly in place — it’s not, and Jeno is a hopeless mess, and no amount of fine tuning will make her more on Donghyuck’s level.
Donghyuck is an angel.
Even with the cider Jeno still feels a bit parched.
Donghyuck takes out her phone and taps at it, looking up momentarily to scan the room again, and Jeno supposes it is only natural that they make eye contact when Jeno is staring at her like she’s never seen a human before.
She doesn’t imagine the way Donghyuck freezes like a deer in the headlights, nor does she miss the way Donghyuck’s face slowly falls into an easy smile. Grapes precariously rolling on her little plastic plate, Donghyuck trots her way over, the gentle curls in her hair bouncing behind her. “Hello!” she says, too loud. “I know you, don’t I?”
Jeno laughs nervously, nearly crushing the empty plastic cup between her sweaty hands. Donghyuck is wearing heels too, but she’s a couple inches shorter than Jeno and she’s looking up at her with her eyes very wide and very pretty. They’re very dark, with muted plum and shimmery brown and there’s a pearly gold in the inside corner and it’s all very distracting. Her lips are a glossy nude. Her collarbone is just...out there. There’s so much to stare at.
“We met at the corner store,” Jeno says, whenever she remembers she has a tongue and it works.
Donghyuck tilts her head. “Jeno, right?”
Jeno smiles shyly, her heart swooping down into her stomach and then up into her throat. “Yes.” She rolls her lips between her teeth gently, a nervous habit. “I’m surprised you remembered. You have a lot more followers lately.”
“I don’t get recognized that often, still,” Donghyuck says. “You’re my first.” It is suggestive — Jeno is pretty sure it’s suggestive. Not certain, but pretty sure. Donghyuck looks at Jeno sweetly through her fake lashes though their difference in height is minimal. It’s effective as much as it’s purposeful. Jeno flushes with warmth. “Do you remember my name?”
“Of course.” Jeno grins at her, and she grins back. “Donghyuck.” She wipes a sweaty hand down the side of her dress, smoothing out a wrinkle that doesn’t exist. “I...was really disappointed I haven’t seen you around.”
Donghyuck licks her lips, still shiny with gloss, still distracting. “I live off campus.”
They stare at each other some more.
“Um.” Donghyuck clears her throat. “My friend bullied me into coming today, but I’m glad she did.” She taps her fingers along her thigh, an unusual display of nervousness that Jeno doesn’t usually get to see on camera. That drawl is back, although she is talking quite a bit faster than she did at Walgreens.
Jeno thinks it’s really cute. Sunny and Donghyuck are both very cute. “Renjun, right?”
“Ah...yes.” Donghyuck runs a hand through her hair, shaking the curls so they fall delicately over her shoulder. Her nails are painted a pale yellow. She looks at Jeno innocently. “Do you know each other?”
“She’s dating my best friend,” Jeno admits, and Donghyuck doesn’t look terribly surprised by it. “I realized you knew each other when you talked about her art project, but…” She frowns. It sounds like Renjun didn’t mention Jeno the way she said she would. “I tried to get your number from her.” A rare display of boldness. Jeno squares her shoulders, and in this moment she doesn’t stop herself from looking Donghyuck up and down. “It seems she couldn’t be convinced.”
Donghyuck swallows slowly, and she tilts her head and looks at Jeno in a way that is just coy enough to hide the rosy color on her cheeks. The corners of her smile twitch ever upward. “She might have mentioned you.”
Jeno raises an eyebrow. “Really?” She doesn’t know why she’s surprised. She rocks a little on her heels. “What did she say?”
Donghyuck’s coyness melts into a grin. “That she has a friend who is my type.”
Jeno grins back.
“You’re not really going to flirt the entire time, are you?” Renjun’s voice comes shrill from behind, and Jeno is so startled by it that she nearly drops the trash in her hands.
It’s only when Renjun marches over that Jeno realizes how close she got to Donghyuck, how far in each other’s bubbles they were, and how forward she had been. Donghyuck looks at Renjun with wide, overly innocent eyes. “Isn’t that why you keep me around?”
Renjun huffs good naturedly. “I would like to show you my work, but I’m sure Jeno would love to keep you company.”
“That’s true,” Jeno says, too fast. Totally not desperately. Not at all.
Donghyuck laughs. It’s such a good sound. It sounds different in person than on camera, just like Jeno remembers it. “Why do I have to choose?”
“Because I said so,” Renjun says. “Just give me like, ten minutes, okay? And then you can go back to awkwardly circling each other in front of Mrs. Campbell and the cubed cheese.”
Jeno covers her face with both hands.
“Don’t pull me! I’m coming!” Donghyuck keeps looking at Jeno over her shoulder even as Renjun pulls her into the other room. “Ten minutes only. Clock’s ticking.” She pulls out her phone and Jeno can see her set the timer.
“I can’t believe you like flirting more than you like art.”
“How can you not believe that?”
Jeno welcomes the butterflies in her stomach and only thinks about eyes and shoulders and long hair a reasonable amount.
Ten minutes isn’t too long to wait.
Sunny MUA 🌻 @itsalwaysSunny
To the cute girl who gave me her number today — so blessed. so moved. so grateful. cant believe this is my life. never going to take it for granted. always going to give back. thank you
| @puregirlrenjun you’re welcome
| @sunnysideup WHO. WHOOOOOOO? I WILL GIVE YOU MY NUMBER PLEASE TAKE IT
| @jenojams :)
Jeno had gone through almost the entire showing thinking that Donghyuck was never coming back ever and they were destined to pass each other by like gay ships in the night before a flurry of white squeezed out of the crowd exited and said, “Hey, give me your number!”
It had truly been a moment of euphoria, watching Donghyuck smoothly typing Jeno’s digits into her phone. Her phone case was baby pink, Sailor Moon in bed playing on a GameBoy, and her background was an ugly picture of Renjun. She laughed as she waved goodbye. Her hand touched Jeno’s arm and lingered there far longer than necessary until she was swept away into the night like a vision.
Jeno is not a poet but she is a bit of a romantic, and Donghyuck makes her feel gooey, like everything is melting.
The greatest gift in meeting Donghyuck for a second time is also the greatest misfortune; it solidifies her as a human being in the real world. She is a tangible creature, she definitely has legs (which are really great), and she has Jeno’s number. She could literally text Jeno at any time.
“Stop looking at your phone,” says Jaemin.
“Okay,” says Jeno, still very much looking at her phone.
The excitement is real. Her skin is buzzing any time she gets a notification. Every time her chat for a marketing group project dings Jeno panics for at least two minutes even after she checks who it’s from. There are butterflies. Jeno isn’t really sure how she cultivated them but they are there and they flutter like they are dangerous.
It’s harder to watch Donghyuck’s videos now, at least in the way that Jeno did before. Mooning over a girl she’s never met is unreasonable in a reasonable way — quite frankly Jeno thinks it’s part of the human experience — but obsessively consuming content of someone who Jeno could actually end up kissing is unreasonable in an unreasonable way. Unreasonable and kind of cringey, which is why Jeno only does it when she’s really tired and needs the emotional support of a pretty girl telling her she’s beautiful.
It is different though. These days, when Jeno sits down and eats in her bed and runs through playlists waiting for the exhaustion to settle into her bones, Donghyuck smiling on the screen makes the butterflies simmer into something rather fond. Jeno finds herself grinning more often these days.
Donghyuck does end up texting her about a week later.
It is...a lot of exclamation points. Jeno doesn’t even have the brain power to think it’s funny; it matches her own state of mind.
And Jeno only freaks out about that for about an hour until she realizes she will be late and ugly to meet the pretty girl at the coffee shop off campus and throws on her ratty sneakers before running out the door.
“Hey,” Donghyuck says, when Jeno slams the front door of the Shoppe open like the Hulk and stands in the doorway breathing heavy from the running she’s done. Just a hey, very casual, with a little hand wave and a sip of her drink like nothing is wrong. “The way you text is really scary.”
Jeno puts down her computer case with a small huff, the flush on her cheeks enough to hide her embarrassment. “Sorry.” She scratches her neck, fingers running over the unusually short hairs at the nape. She’s not used to the cut yet, still has a habit of rolling blond hair between her fingers. “I…” Can Jeno admit that Donghyuck makes her nervous? “I’m not like that all the time,” she says instead.
Donghyuck’s computer is not what Jeno thought it would be — whatever she thought. She imagined something a little pristine, kind of perfect, but the reality is it’s an admittedly nice laptop with stickers overlapping the entire case and smudges of color all over the outside. It’s kind of dingy looking, some of the sticks peeling up and others faded in places. There are bulky headphones around Donghyuck’s neck, nice Bluetooth ones, and she taps her manicured fingers (black now, and filed with precision) over one side. “You seem really nice,” Donghyuck says, and it’s a little stilted but a little doting.
Jeno sits down in the booth, settles herself in place without looking away from Donghyuck’s face. She’s definitely wearing makeup, but it’s soft. The whole effect is soft in a way her YouTube makeup usually isn’t. There are a lot of pinks, a nice sweep of blush on her cheeks and nose, and Jeno thinks these are her actual lashes. It’s not quite glamorous, but her skin is glowing and the warm brown color on her lips looks very receptive to kisses. Jeno would absolutely test that hypothesis at the drop of a hat, or an encouraging word.
It really puts into perspective Jeno’s messy ponytail and her Dad sweater and her leggings. Jeno doesn’t even moisturize every day. Jeno is a mess.
Donghyuck’s brown hair is rolled up into a bun on the top of her head with a pencil stabbed through it, and it flops as she tilts her head. “Aren’t you going to order something?”
“Oh.” Jeno jolts, electrified, and trips over herself trying to scoot back out of the booth. “I’ll be right back.”
The Shoppe is a go-to for local college students, because the Starbucks is too crowded and too expensive. The coffee shop is pretty standard, despite it’s alternative branding, but Jeno thinks all coffee shops exist in a liminal space anyway. There’s always brick, lots of warm tones, lots of place to sit, lots of background noise. There’s a bookshelf in the corner with tattered old children’s books. Jaemin had once walked in and donated an entire box full of Dr. Seuss books and no one could figure out where he got them. There’s a small batch of old vinyls but no record player. There are plenty of plants but Jeno thinks half of them are fake. Sometimes there’s a cat. The days when there is a cat are better days.
“The usual?” the barista asks, a handsome guy with nice eyes. He is always here, and takes Jeno’s order more often than not.
“Yes, please.” She pulls out a wad of cash and three quarters she dug out of her drawer.
Jeno orders a smoothie with mango and strawberry and small pastry because she likes the jam here. Coffee doesn’t suit her, especially not in the afternoon. Especially with a pretty girl waiting around the corner to set off her nerves.
She waits patiently, one eye on the back of Donghyuck’s head.
“I haven’t seen you around recently,” the barista says. Jeno forgets his name and the nametag is covered by the machine he’s using. “Have you been busy?”
“Dying just a little,” Jeno admits, pulling at the collar of her shirt. It’s always too warm in here, possibly from the plants that are not fake, possibly from the people. She smiles. “What about you?”
The man looks a bit struck. “Uh. Yes.” He clears his throat and focuses on his hands until her order is ready.
Jeno makes her way back to her table after thanking him, licking whipped cream off of her fingers. Donghyuck watches her carefully as she sets up her work space, but Jeno only notices after wiping her hands with a napkin and rifling through her bag for a pen. She slaps her notebook down on the table and looks at Donghyuck over the top of her computer. “Sorry.” She smiles, still pulling the collar away from her skin. “Am I not paying you enough attention?”
Donghyuck eyes the movement of Jeno’s collar before putting her chin on her hand. “I’m just trying to guess what you ordered.” She smiles, lips picture perfect. She has her headphones on now. She’s adorable. She’s so incredibly cute. “I figured not coffee. You seem the tea type.”
“I like tea,” Jeno admits, stirring her smoothie. “If I’m here long enough I get their chai sometimes.”
“Are you not planning on sticking around?” Donghyuck sounds disappointed even in her teasing.
Jeno laughs. “How much attention do you need?”
Donghyuck sighs dramatically. “So much.” Her fingers tap on her chin. “When there’s a cute girl involved, my need for attention raises exponentially.”
It is not news that Donghyuck thinks Jeno is cute. It is, however, the first time Donghyuck has admitted it to Jeno’s face. She smiles close-lipped, biting the edge of her straw, bubbling over. “I’ll provide. I’m very reliable.”
Donghyuck hums again. Her eyes flutter down to her keyboard and it’s quiet for a moment. “Do you want to see what I’m working on?”
When Donghyuck turns her computer around Jeno sees a lot of things she doesn’t really understand. It’s video footage in an editor, with lots of different tracks and clips stitched together, but the image it creates is one Jeno remembers — Donghyuck with her pretty brown and purple and gold, her mouth open and a brush pressed to her lid.
“This is the night of the gallery, right?” Donghyuck is just wearing a button-up, the collar hanging off of her shoulders, but Jeno recognizes the makeup. “You looked so nice that night.”
“Well…” Donghyuck rolls her lips for a moment before straightening her shoulders. She tucks her hair behind her ear. “Thank you. You looked really nice, too.”
“I think you look nice all the time,” Jeno breathes out all at once, before shoving her straw back between her teeth. Drinking her smoothie is less dangerous than openly longing for Donghyuck like a loser.
Donghyuck raises her eyebrow, almost in a challenge, but the pink on her cheeks is more pronounced now and her eyes shine a little brighter. “Even at 2am in Walgreens?”
Jeno sighs thinking about it. “Especially then.” 2am Walgreens Donghyuck is the Donghyuck than Jeno pictures when she closes her eyes — that first meeting, that sleepy voice, that lipstick pressed into her palm. “Uh...is that weird?”
“I don’t think so.” But Donghyuck primly turns her computer back around and looks very intensely at the screen. “It’s nice. I would say that’s my worst.”
“I wasn’t wearing a bra,” Jeno says, because she’s stupid.
Donghyuck looks like a deer in the headlights. “Uh—”
“Just like…” Jeno clears her throat. “We were, uh, both at our worsts.” She taps her toes awkwardly against the vinyl flooring, a nervous tapdance. “But your worst was pretty good, I think. You know?” Is that weird? she wants to ask again, but clamps her mouth shut.
“I know.” Donghyuck slouches back in her seat like she’s been exhausted, but the look she gives Jeno is wry. Jeno gently adds this expression into her rolodex of Donghyuck, another flavor. It’s weird. Jeno knows it’s weird. “Your worst wasn’t so bad, either.”
Jeno tries a trick she’s seen other girls do, one she’s pulled herself when she wants free drinks at a bar, and she looks up at Donghyuck slowly, straw between her teeth. She quirks a smile at the last minute.
By the time Jeno clicks her pen open Donghyuck’s feet are touching hers under the table.
If Jeno runs to Jaemin’s dorm, throw open the door, completely ignores Renjun in his lap, and screams, “I had a date!” then no one can judge her except for God.
Renjun will judge her (“we know!”) but Jeno doesn’t care.
She had a date. Her butterflies are more dangerous than ever. Jeno’s phone dings and she barely registers Jaemin physically pushing her out of the room — she’s too focused on sweeter things.
Donghyuck pulls illicit lipstick out of her purse in the abandoned student center at four in the morning and Jeno just goes along with it.
“I just want to know what you think about it,” she says, because clearly Jeno has a lot of experience with different formulas and colors and totally knows how lipstick is supposed to feel.
The first drugstore lipstick is still sitting on Jeno’s bedside table, half-empty. She never wears it outside, really. She puts it on when she has nowhere to go and stares at herself in the mirror until it feels right and then she sends Donghyuck a picture and receives lots of hearts in response before she washes it off.
It’s the hearts she really wants, anyway.
Hearts are what Donghyuck is giving her right now, practically bubbling over in her eyes as she waves a nondescript cream lipstick in front of Jeno’s nose. “Just let me put it on you!”
Jeno goes cross-eyed looking at the component (she learned that word three weeks ago). “Put it on me?” She blanches, pushing Donghyuck’s hand aside. “Can’t I put it on myself?”
Donghyuck raises her eyebrow at her and pops off the lid, twirling up the pullet to reveal a vampy purple-red. “I don’t know,” she says, “can you?” It’s not fair. Donghyuck knows Jeno has never even attempted a color that dark.
Jeno can just picture the dark smear all over her mouth. “That’s fair.” She swallows.
She’s been talking to Donghyuck for about a month at this point, chatting and texting and brushing hands but never anything more. Their arms touch and Donghyuck is very affectionate in general, clinging onto Jeno’s shoulder and running her hands through the dark roots of Jeno’s hair. Jeno won’t say the touching doesn’t light her on fire, but Donghyuck has never pushed any further.
It’s not that Jeno is waiting or anything. It’s just…
Jeno likes to be sure.
She’s pretty sure, but not certain.
It’s hard to convince herself she’s not certain when Donghyuck talks to her this way, looks at her this way, but Jeno is sure about one thing — if Donghyuck wants to put her in vampy makeup and send her out into the world looking like a glamorous and uncomfortable mess than that’s what she’ll do.
Jeno asked Donghyuck to come over into their lounge to help her stay away for finishing this project. but the essay is written and the presentation is sent to Google Drive to be reviewed in the morning and Donghyuck is still here. They’ve been talking for about an hour, the only interruption being the RA from the fourth floor wandering in to cook midnight noodles.
It’s strange, because Jeno hadn’t realized until he was banging around with pots and pans how much it really felt like they were in their own little world. Donghyuck’s shoes were lost under the couch in the hours of yesterday and Jeno’s laptop is wedged between the cushions. Jeno has a mug of coffee held between her hands but Donghyuck seems to be running purely off of her own energy. She’s far more awake than she hasn’t any right to be, but it’s a little softer in the early hours.
“I don’t have a brush.”
Jeno blinks at her, shifting her legs from where they’re pulled up to her chest. “A brush?”
“A lip brush,” Donghyuck says. “So I’ll have to go in from the bullet.”
It’s very late and some of those words really don’t make sense in Jeno’s brain but she says, “That’s fine,” anyway.
Jeno puts her mug down on the side table and Donghyuck scoots closer on the couch until Jeno can feel the warmth of her body. Jeno stops trying to focus on the lipstick itself and just watches Donghyuck lean in.
Her hand shifts the cushion by Jeno’s hip and they both sink further into the couch. Her forearm brushes Jeno’s shoulder.
The intense focus of Donghyuck touching the bullet to Jeno’s lips is a heavy shot. Jeno doesn’t even breathe.
If she were watching closely enough she'd see Donghyuck’s hand shake, and Jeno is always watching Donghyuck closely.
“Do you do this with all your clients?” Jeno asks once purple has been swiped over her mouth. Donghyuck is fully leaning over her, so closely that Jeno could whisper and Donghyuck would hear it like a yell.
It’s supposed to be teasing, but Donghyuck frowns anyway. “No.” She blinks rapidly, twisting the makeup down but leaning more heavily into Jeno’s space. “Do you feel special?”
“Mmmm.” Jeno pops her mouth. The feeling of the cream is heavy and strange. “Am I pretty yet?”
Donghyuck holds her by the chin, looking at her handiwork. “I think so.” Her smile softens. “But I always think so.”
Jeno couldn’t tell you which one of them leans in, but she can tell you Donghyuck is warm and soft and sharp and sweet and she melts beautifully. The way her body fits into Jeno’s is something precious.
She can also tell you that the lipstick smears, and it stains, and Donghyuck laughs as she wipes the ruined mess off of their faces and leans in to kiss Jeno again.
Jeno is finally certain. Thank God.
Sunny MUA 🌻 @itsalwaysSunny
Just a tip! Purple lipstick stains very bad. This is not actually a tip it is just a fact. Was going to have swatches for you today but………….
| @jenojams I will test for you again if you want :)
Donghyuck has fucked up this cut crease at least three times. “God,” she huffs, wiping excess concealer off her flat brush. “I’m a mess today and I will not apologize.” She flips her hair over her shoulder primly. There’s yellow all over her fingertips and a smear of aquamarine on her wrist.
“Miss Sunny: too gay to function.”
“Shut up.” Donghyuck throws a makeup brush at Mark where she sits at her desk and points aggressively at the camera. “Future Sunny, cut that out.”
Jeno hums, hiding her smile behind her hand. “Am I making you nervous?”
Mark snorts, nearly knocking over one of the photo umbrellas.
“I have so many makeup brushes,” Donghyuck warns her roommate, spinning around in her computer chair. “I have near limitless projectiles and you can’t dodge to save your life. Watch yourself.”
Donghyuck is a fuller version of a person than Sunny is. Jeno really likes Sunny, thinks Sunny is adorable and powerful and intelligent, but Sunny is gross. Sunny doesn’t have a bathroom sink painted a million different colors. Sunny doesn’t make dick jokes even though she has never seen a dick. Sunny doesn’t have a beer can sitting alarmingly close to her computer system. Sunny doesn’t spend too many hours editing her content because she gets distracted by anime or dog videos or online shopping. Sunny is a shadow.
Donghyuck is kind of incredible.
The first time Jeno went over to her house was alarming — not because it was extraordinary, but because the ways in which it was unusual were not the ways Jeno pictured. Their living room is a mess of PR boxes. Donghyuck has to take huge pins of cardboard to the recycling center every Thursday on collection day, but the rest of the week it’s stacked up, makeup packing sandwiching pizza boxes. Donghyuck’s makeup collection is sprawled out into the kitchen, an entire drawer of skin care sitting beside the cutlery.
There are other ways this place is special. Mark’s grandma always sends him novelty plates with funny phrases on them and they’re all stacked above the plastic cups. There is a wall full of printed out photos of dogs that Donghyuck finds on the street with their names stamps on the bottom with a label maker (featuring Jeno tucked into the corner, just for fun). There’s a leg lamp that they found at the dumpster and a ton of clothes tied up for donation in the corner because Donghyuck gets sent too many things.
Donghyuck off camera is much better than Jeno could have imagined.
She wants to be a makeup artist for editorial photography but is getting her degree merchandising. She’ll eat almost anything but hates the smell of mango. She can quote the entire script of Shrek at any given moment and likes touching Jeno’s arms so much she does it without thinking.
“I invited you here, into my house, and you mock me,” Donghyuck whines. She looks wild with half a face on. “Friendship cancelled.”
Jeno sets her chin on her hand. “We’re friends?” she asks mildly, eyes pinched in a smile. They made out for an hour before Donghyuck set up the camera for this video.
Donghyuck looks at her flatly, dusting fallout off her face with a fluffy brush. She manages to look so pretty and so ridiculous in equal measure. “What I said to her goes for you, too. I’m not afraid to make this a war zone.”
Jeno laughs without fear. She’s a lot better at dodging than Mark.
Her hair is growing back out, her roots back to their dark black, and it’s down past her shoulders again. The first time Donghyuck invited her over she’d gone to the effort of styling it, but now it’s just tied up on the top of her head. She had rehearsal this morning and is still wearing her sweats. The sweatshirt Donghyuck is wearing on camera is one that she stole from Jeno a month ago. It looks good on her.
They’re not dating, but…
“Are you sure you don’t want to do the girlfriend tag with me?” Donghyuck asks, dabbing concealer on her lid for what seems like the millionth time. “I’ll pay you in Taco Bell.”
“Tempting.” This is the first time Jeno has ever been here while Donghyuck is filming. “I don’t think your viewers would like me very much.”
“I think they would like you too much,” Donghyuck says, laughing. “Nicer and prettier than I am? I’ll be relegated to the funny one.”
The subtle mentions of their non-relationship on Donghyuck’s social media have been well-received by most, but Jeno isn’t sure she’s ready to brave the fires of a prevalent online presence. Sunny keeps getting subscribers and Donghyuck keeps getting drowned in more and more work. Jeno is happy to help out, happy to be a disembodied voice, and happy to leave it at that.
Maybe when she’s actually Donghyuck’s girlfriend things will be different.
“Hyuckie,” Mark drawls, looking at the playback on her computer, “you’re staring too much again.”
Donghyuck rips her eyes away from Jeno and trails the pink on her brush across her cheek with a curse. “I give up. I’m cancelled!”
Jeno really really likes her. She’s pretty sure.
“You guys have seen me do a cut crease before,” Donghyuck is telling the camera, smoothing concealer over her lid. “Today you get to see me do it...four more times.” She laughs. “I hate myself.”
Jeno looks at her fondly, looks at this girl she’s found and kissed. Jeno tucks her bare feet under herself like this is her house, like this is home. There’s clutter and harsh lights and the room is too warm. She feels her face flush.
“You’re really pretty,” she tells Donghyuck, after Donghyuck has finished tapping gloss into the center of her lips.
Donghyuck looks at her in surprise. “Thanks,” she says, laughing and wiping product off her fingers with a wipe. “I try pretty hard, you know. This isn’t easy.”
“You don’t have to try hard.” Jeno is warm and flushed and home, and she’s happy, which is something special. “You’re always pretty.”
Jeno could see herself holding Donghyuck’s hand for a long time. A girlfriend tag doesn’t sound so bad, the more she thinks about it. Down the line, maybe, when they’re truly settled into each other.
Donghyuck smiles at her, and it’s that oy smile she had at the gallery, at the Walgreens, at the coffee shop — the one that says she’s thinking something sweet and planning how to make it happen. “I’ll get you on camera eventually,” she says. “I’ll pay you in better than Taco Bell, if you want.”
“Maybe later,” Jeno replies softly, and then she narrows her eyes at the shine on Donghyuck’s lips. “You can start paying me now, though.”
“Uh, no? I literally just put this on.”
“You’re…” Donghyuck huffs. It’s hard to say no when they want the same thing anyway. “Just...let me film the outro.”
“I’m literally still here,” Mark says, looking at the two of them from the desk.
Donghyuck trails more liner on her lower lash line. “That’s on you.”
Jeno kisses the gloss off Donghyuck’s lips and helps her tie up the cables and watches as Donghyuck cooks stew in her bizarrely clean kitchen. She listens as Donghyuck hums under her breath and they kiss another time. It’s not an exciting night, but it’s good. Donghyuck is warm by her side, collapsing into her on the couch and spilling broth over her hands but laughing anyway.
Their thighs touch. Donghyuck’s hand finds its way to Jeno’s thigh and that’s that. Jeno is certain. Truly, irrevocably certain.
She sighs into Donghyuck hair. “I think girlfriend sounds really nice.”
Donghyuck grins. She grins with her whole body, like the sun is inside. “Good.” She brings Jeno’s hand up to her mouth and kisses her knuckles. “Let me know when I should start buying you Taco Bell.”
It’s a quiet night.
Jeno isn't even into makeup. She doesn't like anything that sweats off, and she doesn't like waking up early to put it on, and she doesn't know how to put it on. She doesn't know how she found Sunny, how she found Donghyuck, or how she found such a good moment.
But Donghyuck is more than Sunny, and Jeno is so gay, and — more than anything — she’s glad she clicked so fast.